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The [Friday] Papers

I've been too tired and too busy this week to post as much new material as I've meant to, so I hope to clear off my desk, so to speak, over the weekend and freshen up each section. Please check back often over the next few days.

A couple new pieces today, though, that I'd like to call your attention to. First, Thomas Chambers, our man on the rail, has a great piece on the new reality show Jockeys. Tom is now writing Track Notes for us every Friday. His work is first-rate. We don't have all the tech tools yet that I'm dying to have on this site, and we remain sadly underdeveloped pending a few more dollars, but really, nobody can beat the quality of our content. And that's really the point, isn't it?

Also, I think my Mystery Maher Theater is pretty good; it's the latest in our long-running and popular What I Watched Last Night feature.

Plus, we're still getting new tales in for our Peoples Gas Journal. And, finally, if you haven't gotten to Jeff Huebner's "The Broom of Wicker Park" yet, please do so now. Then come back for today's Papers.

Olympic Insanity
The 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney cost $5.9 billion. The 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens cost $15 billion. The 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing cost $43 billion. The 2012 Summer Olympics in London are up to $13.5 billion. Chicago 2016 officials say the Olympics here will cost $4.7 billion.

We all know that isn't true.


Via Chicago Tonight last night:

The Chicago 2016 website says the Chicago Olympic bid is 100 percent privately funded.

So no city workers or officials have spent any time at all on, say, venues and logistics? Including the mayor?


"There are no tax dollars associated with the actual operating costs of the Games themselves," Chicago 2016 President Lori Healey said on the show.

Do "actual operating costs" include security, transportation and housing? Or does that just mean the starter's pistols will be funded by Aon?


Healey also said the bid does not rely on funding from the stimulus bill; it is "based upon the transit system as it is" and further improvements already approved by the federal government.

So no need to notify the IOC when the CTA uses stimulus funds to fix slow zones and repair tracks.


"'Host cities always claim they will spend much less than they end up spending,' said [Stefan] Szymanski, an expert on the economics of the Olympics," the Tribune reports.

"That's in part because tough bidding competition spurs candidate cities to promise more and more extravagant games and because the politicians who bid for the Games are rarely the ones who actually put them on.

"'That's the problem for Chicago, the winner's curse,' he said. 'You only get the Olympics by paying more than they're worth'."

The online version of this story ends there, but here are three more paragraphs in the print edition:

"He compared promises made by Olympic promoters - that the Games will boost development, spur economic activity and create jobs - to those made by American professional sports teams who want taxpayers to build them new stadiums.

"In both cases, the promised benefits rarely materialize, he said, and taxpayers get stuck with the bill. But 'I think the public knows exactly what's going on,' he said.

"'They know the figures are stupid,' Symanski said. 'But they want to keep their team' - or their chance at playing host to the Olympics."


Remember the selling point about how compact the Chicago Games would be? Not so much anymore.


Here's the official bid book, released this morning. I haven't had time to read through it, but feel free to alert me to any goodies.

Meter Madness
"The city is getting $1.15 billion to outsource management of its 36,000 meters over the next 75 years to Chicago Parking Meters LLC," the Sun-Times reports.

Um, the city isn't just "getting" $1.15 billion. We're giving that money to the city - plus whatever profit margin our new parking meter overlords soak us for.

It's like money-laundering or loan-sharking. We give the money to the new parking meter company to make up for the money they're paying to the city - with interest.

Today meters in the Loop go to $3.50 an hour. And that's just the start of it. Loop meters will cost $6.50 an hour by 2013.


"Most meters around the city will now need to be fed every day, including Sundays. Most Loop meters will need to be fed 24 hours."

That, my friends, really sucks.

Size Matters
"The Chicago Tribune laid off about a dozen staffers in its newsroom Thursday, said people familiar with the cutbacks," the Sun-Times reports.

"The layoffs, a response to reductions in advertising and circulation revenue, come a week after the paper's publisher Tony Hunter, warned of 'rightsizing activitie at Chicago Tribune Media Group, which includes the paper and its RedEye edition, plus Chicago magazine."

Wouldn't "right-sizing" mean hiring a reporter for every neighborhood?

Cat Scanned
"'Yesterday, Jim, the head of Caterpillar, said that if Congress passes our plan, this company will be able to rehire some of the folks who were just laid off. And that's a story I'm confident will be repeated at companies across the country,' Obama said," the Sun-Times reports.

"After Obama's speech, [Jim] Owens said, 'That's one of the things I wanted to clarify because I don't want false expectations: If we sign this stimulus bill, that doesn't mean we can start hiring right away.' The 22,000 layoffs would still happen - and probably more. Only 20 percent of the stimulus bill covers ]hard construction' projects of the type that would benefit Caterpillar, and those would not really help the country until the end of the year, at which point Caterpillar might be able to begin re-hiring, he said."

And even then, those jobs aren't coming back. Caterpillar will just right-size.


Does the stimulus bill contain any provisions for retraining Caterpillar workers as computer programmers or nurses? Those are just two of the fields with continual labor shortages.

Friday Funnies
"Our Gang Tot Grew Up To Be Stripper."

On the other hand, no. Too easy.

Random Data Points
From the Trib:

* Number of homeless students in Chicago public schools: 9,696.

* Number of reported rapes in Chicago in 2008: 1,567.

* Number of Canadians have died from taser guns: at least 20.

Fashion Icon
"The U. of C. Medical Center ranks near the bottom among Cook County non-profit hospitals in the rate of free care it provides to indigent patients even as it reaps tens of millions in tax benefits based in part on its promise to treat the uninsured, the Tribune found.

"Records obtained by the Tribune also show that regulators have cited the hospital for transferring patients to other hospitals without records to show that doing so was in the patients' best interests.

"And, in 2006, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services fined the medical center for a 2002 case in which the hospital is alleged to have refused to accept a 61-year-old man suffering from stomach pains after it learned he had no insurance. He later died at another facility. At least since 2000, no other Chicago hospital has been fined under federal patient dumping laws, records show."

This is the program spearheaded by a very well-rewarded Michelle Obama, with assistance from David Axelrod and Obama pal Eric Whitaker.

Taking the Fifth
More uncoverage from the race to replace Rahm Emanuel.

There may have been a time when penning cutesy profiles of each candidate in a campaign had some value, but there's nothing in these that I can't learn from going to the candidates' websites.

The Tribune's piece today, as well, is a rehash of what's already been discussed and dispatched of by those following the campaign on the Web (though it's nice to see Feigenholtz once again acting like a weasal by not admitting she commissioned a sleazy poll; Fritchey also isn't off the hook for connecting her to a notoriously unreliable clout list without proof that something untoward happened.)

How should the campaign be covered? In the old days, at least in other cities, there'd be a story a day. These days, if I ran one of the papers, I would have set up a website for the campaign and fed all the coverage into it, created a place for candidate press releases, assigned a reporter to fact-checking all claims, track the money, and make daily blog posts. After all, we're talking about the congressional seat that has spawned Dan Rostenkowski, Rod Blagojevich and Rahm Emanuel. Plus, it's the right thing to do, it would engage readers, and the cost is very low.

Programming Note

* Mr. Obama Comes To Chicago. Our to-do list.
* Blago [Hearts] U. Hey, that can't all be winners.

Bruce [Hearts] U
* From the underrated side two of Tunnel of Love, maybe because side one sucked so bad. Valentine's Day.

Acoustic, solo version:


The Beachwood Tip Line: Burning up.


Posted on February 13, 2009

MUSIC - They Flirted With Disaster.
TV - A Quincy Top 10.
POLITICS - Private Equity Comes For Janesville.
SPORTS - P.S. The White Sox.

BOOKS - You Think You Know What's Good For You?

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - A People's History Of Uptown.

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