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The [Friday] Papers

The Tribune nicely dismantles this morning what is obviously a disingenuous ad campaign by ComEd in favor of dramatically raising your electric bills disguised as a grass roots effort fighting for some kind of utility justice.

The paper's reporting shows that Consumers Organized for Reliable Electricity, which has been placing full-page ads in the Tribune, Sun-Times, and newspapers around the state, as well as airing scare-mongering TV commercials, is a front group funded by . . . ComEd.

"But ComEd's name is nowhere to be seen as the voice-over raises the specter of the disaster to come if the Illinois legislature extends the freeze on electricity rates next week," Crystal Yednak writes.

ComEd President Barry Mitchell, who deserves a phone call from every ComEd user in the state, doesn't see anything wrong with the deception.

"Every organization that runs ads and performs activities doesn't put a disclaimer with respect to all their funding sources," he told the Trib. "That's a violation of the First Amendment."

Ah, yes. Barry Mitchell, First Amendment Freedom Fighter. I think the Society of Professional Journalists is considering him for an award this year.

Worse than ComEd's corrosive cynicism and failure to deliver model corporate citizenship, though, are the whores who signed on to the utility's print ads to give them their grass-roots patina.

Phillip Jackson, Martin King, Mary Gonzalez Koenig, Juan Rangel, and Cesar Santoy, I mean you.

Jackson is the loopy former head of the CHA who is now executive director of the Black Star Project, whose mission is to eliminate racial achievement gaps in education. I'm sure it won't surprise you to learn that ComEd is a funder of the project.

Martin King is the chairman of the Rainbow/Push Board of Trustees, and we all know how committed Martin Luther King Jr. was and Rev. Jesse Jackson is to utility justice.

Mary Gonzalez Koenig is the president and CEO of the Spanish Coalition for Jobs; Juan Rangel is the CEO of the United Neighborhood Organization; and Cesar Santoy is the executive director of the Hispanic American Construction Industry Association.

All apparently have been deeply involved in the fight to maintain just and equitable revenues for Exelon, ComEd's obscenely profitable parent company.

Or maybe these folks have just had a longtime jones for electricity rate structures.

The corporate hacks participating in this sham are those we've come to expect, including: Donald Jacobs, the dean emeritus of Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management - and a former member of ComEd's board of directors; Paul O'Connor, the executive director of World Business Chicago, on whose board Exelon's CEO sits; and David Vite, the president and CEO of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, who asks "Why can't a group of people get together and say what they believe on the issues?"

He forgot to add: "And do it in a way that deceives the public as to who that group of people actually represent?"

Vite, like ComEd's television commercials, also had the gall to raise the specter of a California-like energy crisis if the ComEd doesn't get its rate hikes. Unless Enron is back in business, that's not a real likely scenario - though California's crisis was also caused in part by a deregulation scheme very much like the one ComEd is fighting for here in Illinois.

The question now is whether legislators - and journalists - ought to give any credence to anything coming out of the mouths of ComEd executives and their puppets.

I'm leaning toward No.

Double Vision
I wonder how many folks involved with ComEd's lobbying campaign have also uttered disgust at the nature of our political system.

Phone Home
The Exelon Ethics Help Line: 1-800-23-ETHIC (1-800-233-8442)

Landmark Decision
"Pigs flew. When Chicago's landmarks commission stiffened its spine Thursday and throttled a plan for a spectacularly ill-conceived act of architectural taxidermy, the vote was a stunner," Blair Kamin writes in the Tribune this morning.

"Members of the Commission on Chicago Landmarks typically act like the old Soviet parliament and do what the Daley administration tells them to do. But four brave commission members heeded the warning of historic preservationists who argued, correctly that approving the plan [for the Farwell Building on North Michigan Avenue] would set a horrible precedent."

This is great news, but what does it say about the mayor? If the fact that a landmark building has been saved is so rare as to be stunning - and it is - add historic preservation to the list of this mayor's failures.

Now, what is he good at again?

Faceless, Nameless
Unfortunately, Kamin did not name the four members of the landmark commission whose votes saved the building - or the commissioners who voted to destroy it. Johnathan Briggs wrote in his news account that "Of the eight commissioners in attendance, four were in favor, three opposed and one abstained."

Briggs only named chairman David Mosena, who voted in favor of the plan, and commissioner Lisa Willis, who voted against it.

It sure would be nice to know who abstained, and why, and who voted to save the Farwell Building so we can track whatever retribution they face from the mayor or gauge the likelihood that they fold and reverse themselves.

UPDATE 5:30 P.M.: Lynn Becker has the vote here. It appears there were three brave commissioners, not four, who stopped the Farwell destruction. I'll have more on Monday.

Daley Double
On the two things Daley is most right about- the tax swap and gun control - he has failed most miserably.

"Passengers on the CTA Brown and Blue Lines can expect slower-than-usual rides during the weekend, officials said Thursday," the Tribune reports.

Slower than usual? What, they'll be running in reverse?

Oh wait, they already do that.

Marketing Bonanza
According to the laws of physics, you can actually become younger by riding the CTA.

Air Chicago
Both airports are full. But their contracting opportunities aren't, so no third airport yet.

What About Bill?
John Kass wonders this morning where Hillary Clinton will "stash" Bill during her presidential campaign, see as how he's such a "liability."

Yes, given that Bill Clinton left office with the highest approval rating in modern history, I see how that could be a problem.

Taxing Swap
"Chicago Native Sworn In As Massachusetts Governor."

Completes bet made on Bears-Patriots game. If the Chicago beats New England in the Super Bowl, we get him back.

Ammo Dump
Police who raided Tank Johnson's home last month found about 550 rounds of ammunition "on a stack of tires in the garage, in a drawer by a kitchen dishwasher, in an unfinished basement utility room and the master bedroom," the Daily Herald reports.

Team rules allow up to 600 rounds, so Tank is ready to go for the playoffs.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Armed to the teeth.


Posted on January 5, 2007

MUSIC - Lyric Opera Strike Settled.
POLITICS - USA Today's Op-Ed Disaster.
SPORTS - SportsMonday: Come On, Vic!

BOOKS - Chicago Book Haul: The Dial.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Chicagoetry: West Town Blues.

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