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Friday, January 30, 2009

Fritchey Versus Geraldo

Posted By on 01.30.09 at 07:52 PM

I have to admit that amid the shouts, screams, yelps, and other histrionics he directed at state rep John Fritchey during a recent TV exchange, Geraldo Rivera made a pretty good point about the "kangaroo court" that booted Rod Blagojevich out of office.

The New York Times lets Blago make a similar point in a story today. I guess the farther people get from Illinois the more sympathetic they feel toward the guy.

I do wish Rivera had calmed down long enough to give Fritchey an adequate chance to respond. It would be nice to hear some of Blago's impeachers explain their selectivity in condemning the wretched state of politics in Illinois and Chicago. I mean, almost all of these folks endorsed Mayor Daley in 2007--and that was after Hired Truck, the Duffs, Robert Sorich, and so on and so forth.

That said, a word of friendly advice for Fritchey: you can't play Mr. Nice Guy on these cable TV talk shows. It's not like Chicago Tonight, where the hosts politely wait for their guests to finish a point. This is like mud wrestling. If they yell at you, yell back. Here, study congressman Barney Frank battling Bill O'Reilly--he'll show you how to do it. 

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2/1--Free buffets at Super Bowl parties

Posted By on 01.30.09 at 07:44 PM

Don't let that supposed chicken wing shortage scare you away from the bars this Sunday; not only will there be wings, at a couple places there'll be free ones. Who cares if you don't like football? From 3:30 PM until kickoff, Reggie's Rock Club (2109 S. State, 312-949-0121) will offer a free buffet of hot wings, macaroni and cheese, chili, and veggie links. While you're there, enter their chili cook-off and competitive eating contests. On the other side of town, Addiction Sports Bar and Grill (1023 W. Lake, 312- 421-8845) will have a free buffet of chili, hot dogs and homemade potato chips at halftime. Go Bears?

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The Windy City Rollers: now in town

Posted By on 01.30.09 at 04:58 PM

The Windy City Rollers, Chicago's best-known women's roller-derby team, holds its season opener Saturday -- good news for red-blooded fans who can't wait for the baseball season to warm them up. Yet the best news is it no longer requires a trip to Cicero to see them: the Rollers are taking up residence at the UIC Pavilion, 525 S. Racine Ave. Tickets are $20 at the door, with gates opening at 5 PM for a 6 o'clock start of the bout. The Rollers are now second ranked in the nation; check out the team site here (including "Today's Derby Dame") or see a local WBBM Channel 2 report on them here

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February -- Free admission to the Art Institute

Posted By on 01.30.09 at 04:54 PM


Every day in February, general admission to the Art Institute of Chicago will be free of charge and tickets to the Edvard Munch exhibition, which opens Sat 2/14, will be half price. Free February kicks off at noon Mon 2/2 with the Consuls General Concert Series, music and dance performances in Fullerton Hall. And for that ever-elusive poetry crowd, the Art Institute will be hosting a talk and reading by three-term U.S. poet laureate Robert Pinsky Thu 2/5 at 6 PM, also in Fullerton Hall.

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Gov. Quinn, Political Innocent?

Posted By on 01.30.09 at 03:32 PM

Illinois has a new governor, and the new governor has already had his picture taken.

In the Sun-Times Friday, Abdon Pallasch called Quinn a "gadfly" and  "populist crusader." Mark Brown described him as the sometimes "pariah of Illinois politics because of his incessant pleading for reform." The editorial page hailed Quinn as "an agitator and gadfly in the best sense of the words."

In the Tribune, David Greising called Quinn a "Gov. Gadfly" who has "spent a career keeping populist causes in the public eye." A skeptical editorial page described him as a "gadfly and a political outsider" who always knew how to "latch onto a populist cause."

Rod Blagojevich is gone but it's still the same old Springfield with the same old cast of characters. Can our gadfly cut it? Or as I heard state senator Rickey Hendon bluntly put it Thursday night on Channel Two, "The biggest challenge that I see for Pat Quinn is to overcome the do-gooder, reformer image. Pat has to know that you have to grease the wheels -- that's the way it works -- to get things done around here."

Is the new governor a lamb thrown to the wolves?

Pat Quinn has wandered on the outskirts of the news for a long time, but he was a central character in a story I wrote for the Sun-Times in 1975. At the time Quinn was a political organizer for Dan Walker, who in 1972 had concocted such a powerful image of his own as a reformer, as the implacable foe of the Daley machine, as the political outsider who would fumigate the state, that he brushed aside Paul Simon in the Democratic primary and defeated the incumbent governor in November. Walker lasted one term, and afterwards, for reasons unrelated to politics, he spent 18 months in prison.

In 1974 Walker decided to meddle in some of Chicago's legislative races. He saw an opportunity in the old 17th District, which ran northwest from Western and North to Austin and Irving Park. He sent in Pat Quinn.

My story described Quinn as "a young, ruddy, handsome man variously described by acquaintances interviewed for this article as 'a real mover...brilliant...very impressive...damn believable...absolutely disarming...absolutely ruthless..."

Quinn decided Frances Boelkow, a 68-year-old community activist who lived with her retired husband in a second-story flat reached by outside stairs, would make a good independent candidate. She needed to be talked into it. "We never lose," Quinn told her. He didn't tell her there was already another independent in the race, Mike Holewinski, an assistant secretary of the Illinois Racing Board who was going to law school at night. Holewinski was young and dynamic, and had better connections in the district than Boelkow did. But Walker didn't like him and wanted to force him out of the race.

Holewinski wouldn't be forced. His campaign took off, and Boelkow's, after she drew a ballot position under his, collapsed. A friend of hers said, "Suddenly all these friends faded away....Pat put the problem on the table. She still had a chance but they were quite long. Frannie could run a low-level campaign but there'd be none of the flair of the original campaign. Then they went away. It had the tone of -- we're ditching you. Frannie broke down. I don't know if she slept the next couple of days."

Boelkow stopped campaigning and endorsed Holewinski. In the end, Walker endorsed him too. But the candidate Walker really went to bat for was Ted Lechowicz, one of the district's three incumbents (this was back in the day when the districts were larger and each elected three representatives). Lechowicz was a young machine Democrat, but Walker calculated that he was negotiable.

In the end, the 17th District sent Lechowicz, Holewinski, and John Leon, another machine incumbent, to Springfield. To quote myself, "As for Frances Boelkow -- she lost $600 out of her own pocket. 'I was used, abused, and bruised,' she would complain later. And before long she would have a heart attack. But she's on the mend."

Governor Quinn will be OK. He's played some hardball. And not just in the sandlots either. Here's a profile of him from that era, by Marcia Stepanek for Illinois Issues.

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1/31--Free talk on Chicago's Olympic bid

Posted By on 01.30.09 at 03:23 PM


Curious about Chicago's 2016 Olympic bid? The University of Illinois Chicago hosts a free public discussion on Chicago's plan and issues regarding the hosting of the 2016 summer Olympics at 6 PM this Saturday a its Student Center East, 750 S. Halsted, room 605. Members from several community organizations with an interest in the games will be on hand as well as representatives from No Games Chicago, the host group that is campaigning against Chicago's bid.  

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Notes on a promo stack

Posted By on 01.30.09 at 03:02 PM

Today is Take Out a Whole Stack of Promos Day at my workstation.

One of the discs I was most looking forward to hearing was Ronnie Milsap's gospel-and-hymns collection Then Sings My Soul. Turns out I shouldn't have been so excited, because instead of the rootsy, down-home hillbilly soul I had in mind, the six songs on the advance sampler sound like Ronnie Milsap backed by a karaoke tape. Bummer.

I thought Milsap might be fudging a little putting "Stand by Me" in the mix, Wikipedia notes that Ben E. King's song was based on a gospel song of the same name, so he gets a pass there, I guess. (I'm not letting him off the hook for the arrangement's marimba part, though.)

More fascinating is the truthy-sounding wikifact that the "I vi IV V" chord progression that "Stand by Me" uses--the so-called "50s progression" that underpins songs as varied as "Duke of Earl," "Every Breath You Take," and "2 Become 1"--is known in Finnish as "Aku Ankka kierto," or the "Donald Duck progression." I'm not so much fascinated by the "Donald Duck" thing as I am by the fact that the Finns--the Finns!(?)--have a special name for that particular progression that is theirs and theirs alone. And it is "Donald Duck." I hope it's true.


- The next time the NME calls anything--especially anything as awful as the Whip--"mutilatingly brilliant" I am going to murder an English person on GP.

- I'm still sort of "do not know if want" on Gentleman Reg's forthcoming Jet Black, but even if I don't like the final product I'm glad someone has taken such a dark and subdued approach to glam. 

- NCIS: The Official TV Soundtrack consists of two CDSs--two!(?)--named "Special Agent" and "Abby's Lab." I don't know anything about NCIS so I don't quite understand why "Special Agent" has John Mellencamp while "Abby's Lab" gets Nitzer Ebb, but I feel that Mellencamp and Nitzer Ebb appearing on the same compilation is an important landmark in music history.

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The heretofore only kind of Mighty Quinn

Posted By on 01.30.09 at 02:22 PM

One of the two Bens you should be reading weighs in on Pat Quinn: "I'm hard-pressed to think of a better type to run this crudely dysfunctional state than an irritating, self-promoting goo-goo." (Goo-goo = good-government type.)

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Pat Quinn on Schools And Taxes

Posted By on 01.30.09 at 12:35 PM

After Pat Quinn was sworn in as governor I recalled an interesting idea he floated in 2003 to address the state's education funding woes. He called it the "Robin Hood solution."

Quinn wanted to double the state income tax on Illinois's wealthiest residents and use the money to provide more money for education while weaning the schools of their dependence on property taxes.

I thought it was a pretty good idea, but it went nowhere. Now it's six years later and we're in much the same predicament -- chronically short on money for education and overextended on property taxes.

Of all the disappointments Rod Blagojevich served up in his time in office, I think his greatest failure is that he never consistently applied his abundant charisma, chutzpa, and roguish charm to any goal greater than raising campaign money, tormenting his tormentors, or, recently, entertaining the nation. Unfortunately he made no serious, sustained effort to find a more sensible way to pay for public education.

Now it's Quinn's problem, and good luck to him, especially if he tries to dust off this old idea. Already the state's business lobby and Republicans are gearing up to fight him if he tries to raise taxes.

They'll probably call him a tax-and-spend liberal. And as Dawn Clark Netsch can tell you: In Illinois politics it's safe to be anything -- even a hypocrite -- but a tax-and-spend liberal. 

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A history of Pat Quinn in Reader excerpts pt. 1

Posted By on 01.30.09 at 11:39 AM

"This guy Quinn, man, he's unbelievable," exclaims one slightly envious press aide for the city. "He's like Celozzi and Ettleson rolled into one. Wind him up and he does 20 minutes on parking tickets. It's too much." So, all right, Pat Quinn, confess. What's your real motive? No one really cares about parking tickets. What's in it for you?


He was 22 years old and fresh out of Georgetown University by way of west-suburban Hinsdale when he signed on as a field organizer in Walker's 1972 gubernatorial campaign. He took a job with the newly elected governor, but soon longed for another crusade. So he and his brother, Tom, organized the Coalition for Political Honesty. They pledged to lead citizens in a charge to reform state government. The leaders of the political establishment rolled their eyes in disbelief over that one.


"You have to have some inducement to get people interested. We have to let people know that we're here. The purpose of the amnesty is to give people an incentive to get them used to the idea of paying tickets." But that's not all. There's more. Quinn's got this whole rap worked out, an intricate philosophy, and it all has to do with parking tickets, democracy, and balancing the tax inequities between rich and poor.

Ben Joravsky, "City Hall's bill collector: Pat Quinn has a deal for you," 4/24/87 (this piece is pretty funny, by the way, in case you were thinking of not reading the whole thing)

In the past the [Cook County Board of Tax Appeals] was rife with corruption and abuse, as a battery of legal operators won hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks for their wealthy and politically well-connected clients. The board enjoyed four short years of reform when Pat Quinn was elected in 1982. In his first year alone, Quinn saw to it that the amount of rebates dropped from $444 million to $75 million, freeing up tax dollars for essential services, such as the schools. Then in 1986, Quinn stepped down to run for state treasurer.

Ben Joravsky, "Special election: a reformer runs for the County Board of Tax Appeals," 12/25/87

Political prophets struck out, according to political scientist David Everson's review of the claims and counterclaims made during the 1980 debate over Patrick Quinn's "Cutback Amendment," which reduced the size of the Illinois House of Representatives by one-third (Illinois Issues, July): "None of the proponents' claims were realized. The Cutback did not save money, reduce the number of bills introduced in the House or increase the competition for House seats. Nevertheless, in combination with the 1981 reapportionment, it did trigger some changes. The most significant of these has been the strengthening of the majority party's leadership in the House....The predictive record of the opponents of the Cutback is nearly as dismal. Their primary argument was that minority representation would be reduced." In fact, the percentages of women and blacks stayed about the same. The only minorities who lost out were dissenters within each party. "The Cutback virtually eliminated these moderate-to-liberal Chicago Republicans and independent suburban Democrats. And it probably helped create a House more dominated by its leadership." Mike Madigan, call Pat Quinn. You owe him.

Harold Henderson, "The City File," 6/26/91

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