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The [Monday] Papers

Now incorporating The [Sunday] Papers.

Daley Dose
"Doling out city services at election time is yet another way that the Daley administration has used public resources for political gain," the Tribune reports, in "Trading Services For Votes."

Had enough yet?

Making Ends Meet
Dennis J. Gannon, president of the Chicago Federation of Labor, fires back today at Sun-Times business writer David Roeder's assertions that the big-box ordinance is evidence of union weakness, not strength. Roeder's reasoning is that a strong union would welcome the stores at any wage, and then go in and organize them. Roeder ignores the idea that labor might operate on several fronts at once with several strategies, as well as the impact of eviscerated labor laws on the ability to organize.

Gannon, however, takes a broader approach in his response, citing labor's historic victories that have improved workers' conditions for everyone, union or not. "Only when families can afford to make ends meet and afford quality health care will we see real improvement in our communities," Gannon writes (second letter).

Like maybe among the poorest of the poor, and the children they send to Chicago's public schools?

Neil Steinberg has this to say today about Chicago public schoolchildren - apparently based on surveys the paper used to do a long time ago:

"Half arrive at their first day of school unable to identify the colors red, blue, and yellow. Half are unable to speak in complete sentences. Half do not know how to hold a pencil or a crayon, never mind write with one. Half can't tell you their last names - heck, some kids show up for school and don't even know their first names, only a street tag - 'They call me Lil Man.' It takes a special parent to send their child to school without knowing his name - actually not so special, which is heartbreaking.

"The surveys were last taken a dozen years ago, but the situation hasn't changed."

Steinberg was reacting to the Rev. James Meeks's assertion over the weekend that Mayor Richard M. Daley's vaunted school reform has failed black kids.

"How can the nation's third-largest city be comfortable with the fact that only six out of every 100 high school students will graduate from college?" Meeks asked at a rally on Friday. That means the mayor, who brags about how great he's done in the area of education, has a 94 percent failure rate . . .

"These kids who started in kindergarten, they wasn't messed up when they started in kindergarten," "They were not messed up in the first grade. They did not get messed up until they enrolled in the Mayor Daley-run school system."

Aside from the fact that Steinberg is content to rely on newspaper surveys a dozen years old, I don't know how Steinberg knows that "the situation hasn't changed." Maybe he's been conducting his own surveys.

Steinberg not only condemns Meeks, but rises to the defense of Daley, "whom impartial observers laud for doing so much with a school system that was on life support when he showed up."

I'm not sure who these "impartial observers" are, but the success of the Daley era in school reform is hardly settled fact. As Alexander Russo, the education reporter and proprietor of the District 299 Chicago Public Schools Blog, noted on these pages, Chicago is now a cautionary tale, not a model, for cities considering mayoral takeovers of their school systems.

What's more, Meeks argues that test scores are worse now than they were before Daley took over the school system in 1995.

I don't know if that's true - and I don't put much stock in test scores as a way to evaluate a school district - but I do know that in 1997, I contributed to a Newsweek article touting new test scores as evidence of the school system's turnaround. The test scores had indeed risen slightly - but only enough to match what the scores had been in, if I remember correctly, 1989. That was the year Daley took office. That fact didn't make it into the article.

So, if by "impartial observers" Steinberg means all the great press the Daley Administration has gotten worldwide, well, I would suggest that great press rarely has anything to do with reality - except that it's part of the plan. I interviewed Paul Vallas early in his tenure as head of the schools; he had retained the previous superintendent as a consultant, and told me that he wasn't doing anything different than she had been doing, except that he had more money, more flexibility from the union, and more power to make changes than she had had. He also said that regaining the public's confidence - doing better, more aggressive public relations - was key. In fact, that part of the plan has probably been more successful than the part about educating the neediest kids.

I have no doubt the school system works better for many people now than it did before the mayor took responsibility for it - especially those who can clout their kids into the city's top magnet schools. And perhaps others. But I also have great doubt that progress has been made for those who need it most, and that is in no small part due to conditions kids face before even getting to school.

Steinberg wants to blame that on poor black people.

My question , though, is this: If the conditions Chicago's kids are growing up in hasn't changed in a dozen years, isn't that still a failure on the part of the mayor?

Council Wars
At least we're not another Detroit.

'I'm originally from Detroit and I thought that city council was a bunch of idiots, but Chicago's is making Detroit's look like geniuses."

- Sally Wright of Edgewater, in a letter (fourth) to the Sun-Times today

Here's what the chief assistant to corporation counsel Mara Georges wrote to her in an e-mail upon hearing that Edward Egan and Robert Boyle had been appointed as special prosecutors in the Burge inquiry, according to the Sun-Times today:

"They will likely be fair to the city and the CPD and our guess is that they will not be inclined to turn their investigation into the kind of unfocused witchhunt . . . that the [People's Law Office] and their ilk would ideally push for."

As opposed to Jon Burge, and his ilk.

"The special prosecutor even admits that 'all police officers refused to talk to us.' That happened by chance?" DePaul law professor Leonard Cavise wrote in the paper on Saturday, arguing that the statute of limitations does not yet apply to the Burge investigation because the cover-up continues to this day.

Tribune Tickets
"Though the Illinois Ticket Scalping Act prevents those putting on a sporting or entertainment event from selling tickets above their face value, [Tribune-owned] Premium Tickets sells some Cubs tickets for more than $1,400 above face value.

"The Cubs successfully argued [before the state Appellate Court] that they sell tickets to their brokerage firm, which then marks up the tickets - not the team - and they do that to compete with other ticket brokers," the Sun-Times reports.

As lawyer Paul Bauch, representing a couple of fans in the legal action, said: "Everybody else seems to think this thing was misleading and deceptive except the judges who looked at it."

Meanwhile, James Klenk, a lawyer for the team and the brokerage - but remember, there is no connection - says Premium Tickets "offers consumers a better product, at better prices, than other ticket brokers."

Perhaps - but a worse deal than you get from the Cubs box office.

Tribune Tactics
"Three billionaires hoping to buy the Los Angeles Times expressed their interest in separate letters this month to the paper's owner, Tribune Co. But each was told the newspaper was not for sale - at least for now."

In a separate announcement, Tribune Company announced the formation of Premium Newspapers.

Dusty Joel
Heard by a member of the Beachwood Nation on the Loop this morning: "Dusty Baker Must Get Fired" to the tune of "We Didn't Start The Fire."

Clay Dice
Reporting on another death possibly associated with a dice game gone bad, the Sun-Times reports that "The game was likely what some call 'happy-go-lucky dice shooting.'" The paper helpfully explains the rules, like how you win if you roll a seven first, or if you match your first number during later rolls. Side bets even get made, in what the paper calls "a game played for years in hallways and on street corners."

Sounds like fun. I wonder why it hasn't caught on.

Forked Tongue
From Jim DeRogatis's Pitchfork Music Festival review:

"At its best, it illustrated the enduring strengths of the indie-rock underground, thanks to spirited and wonderfully idiosyncratic up-and-comers such as Art Brut and Tapes N' Tapes and long-running underground heroes such as Mission of Burma and Yo La Tengo.

"But the festival also demonstrated the shortcomings of the often-insular indie-rock scene, offering a parade of acts championed by the influential Pitchfork Web zine. Too many of these bands lacked the charisma to captivate such a large crowd. They celebrated pointless quirkiness and uninspired amateurism, or they were just dreadfully boring."

The Beachwood Tip Line: Often dreadful, never boring.


Posted on July 31, 2006

MUSIC - Pandemophenia.
TV - NBC's Bicentennial Special.
POLITICS - A New Minimum Merger Maxim.
SPORTS - Beachwood Sports Radio: Unless Someone Dies.

BOOKS - The Legacy Of Racism For Children.


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