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The [Monday] Papers

"By his 28th birthday, Michael A. Alvarez - whose family is close to influential Chicago Ald. Richard Mell - already had worked for three powerful politicians: Richard M. Daley, Rod R. Blagojevich and Barack Obama," the Sun-Times reports

Now, at 31, Alvarez's political connections are helping provide him with an annual income topping $200,000 from three separate jobs in or involving government:

* He makes $70,000 a year as one of nine elected commissioners of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, the billion-dollar, government sewage-treatment agency that he hopes to lead after its longtime president, Terry O'Brien, retires in December.

* He has a $60,000-a-year public relations contract with the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, the state agency that owns U.S. Cellular Field.

* And now he has a lucrative, fast-growing lobbying practice at City Hall - having first registered as a city lobbyist in July, six weeks after Rahm Emanuel was sworn in as mayor.

Hey, maybe he's that good!

"Alvarez isn't the only elected official who also works as a lobbyist - others include Chicago Ald. Michael Zalewski (23rd) and Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin (D-Evanston).

"But Alvarez's lobbying work posed a potential conflict-of-interest problem for him earlier this month. One of his clients, Avaya communications, wanted the Water Reclamation District board to increase its contract by $242,000. Alvarez says he was prepared to abstain from voting, but the matter was removed from the board's agenda.

"'I don't think I have any more of a conflict than any other elected official,' Alvarez says . . . "

They all have equal conflicts of interest!

" . . . adding that he won't vote on any issue involving a client and would never help his clients get business from the Water Reclamation District."

In fact, he's developed some sort of potion that gives the district, its board and his clients amnesia whenever they need to forget who he is and who he works for. It's like medical abstention!

"Alvarez is the son of Patricia McEvilly-Alvarez and Jesus 'Al' Alvarez, a Cuban immigrant who worked in the Cook County Circuit Court clerk's office before retiring as a top supervisor in 2008. He grew up on the North Side, but his family later moved to Skokie so he could attend Niles North High School.

"As a boy, Alvarez romped around Ald. Mell's ward office as his father did volunteer work for Mell's 33rd Ward Regular Democratic Organization.

"'I've known him since he was knee high to a duck,' Mell says of Michael Alvarez. 'He's a bright young guy. I think he works hard.'"

He must; he's juggling an awful lot. I wonder how he keeps it all straight. Heh-heh.

"In the late 1990s, Alvarez worked two summers at the Water Reclamation District and began attending Northwestern University. In 2000, he landed an unpaid internship in the Washington congressional office of then-U.S. Rep. Blagojevich, Mell's son-in-law."

What a coincidence! Also: It wasn't really unpaid. Let's just say payment was deferred.

"Alvarez got a bachelor's degree from Northwestern in 2002. In early 2003, Mayor Daley's campaign paid him $2,930 to run Daley's Northwest Side field office, a campaign that ended with a landslide Daley victory over the Rev. Paul Jakes."

Daley always was a cheap SOB. Mell not so much:

"By that time, Blagojevich had been elected governor, and Alvarez went to work for the state as a deputy director of the Illinois Department of Employment Security - a job that Mell helped him get, according to a database that Blagojevich's office kept.

"Alvarez, who was 22 at the time, made $4,130 a month when he started with the state in May 2003. He got a 5 percent raise two months later, bringing his salary to $52,044 a year."

And here's where it gets even more interesting to those of you who still think Barack Obama was, to steal from John Kass, floated down the Chicago River in a reed basket one day as a baby, pure as the driven snow.

"He left the state payroll in November 2005 to become outreach director for then-Sen. Obama, a job that paid him $60,472 annually, according to Legistorm, a website that tracks congressional spending."

He reached out for Obama. He was good at it.

"He left Obama's staff in the fall of 2007 and started his lobbying and consulting business, which runs out of the Sauganash home where he lives with his wife and two kids.

"Alvarez was lobbying state and federal government officials and also doing public relations consulting for the Sports Facilities Authority when he was elected to his six-year term on the Water Reclamation District board in November 2010."

Because what's good for Michael Alarez is good for government. And Dick Mell. And a few other folks - not including us.

"As a commissioner, Alvarez has two assistants. One of them, Nancy Cullerton, is the wife of Chicago Ald. Tim Cullerton (38th). She previously worked for Alvarez's predecessor, Gloria Majewski, and is paid $87,794 annually.

"Alvarez filled the other job by hiring Yomaira Herrera, who makes $83,872. Alvarez says Herrera is a family friend with a background in human resources. She's also Mell's girlfriend."

That is so much better than I was expecting! Truly, bravo, Mr. Mell. Bravo.

"Alvarez, who has a $170,736 balance in his political campaign fund, says he intends to serve his full six-year term with the Water Reclamation District, a $1-billion-a-year government agency that treats most of the sewage in Cook County.

"He's hoping to replace the retiring O'Brien as board president. He needs votes from half of the other eight commissioners to do that. Mell has asked some of those commissioners to support Alvarez.

"Still, Alvarez says, 'If you talk about a Dick Mell guy, I don't know what that means. I'm as much a Mell guy as I am an Obama guy.'"


"I don't want to be in a country where we only are looking at success for a small group of people," Obama said on Friday, echoing his State of the Union message.

"We want a country where everybody has a chance. Where everybody has a chance. We don't want to become a country where a shrinking number of Americans do really well while a growing number barely get by. That's not the future we want. Not the future I want for you, it's not the future I want for my daughters. I want this to be a big, bold, generous country where everybody gets a fair shot, everybody is doing their fair share, everybody is playing by the same set of rules. That's the America I know."

That's certainly not the Chicago he knows, nor the Illinois he knows. And if that's the America he knows, that's the America of a far-off fantasy where even he doesn't reside.

Private Sector Vector
It's not just government ripping you off; it's the private sector too. Via Consumer World:

* "In the brutal world of online commerce, where a competing product is just a click away, retailers need all the juice they can get to close a sale," the New York Times reports. "Some exalt themselves by anonymously posting their own laudatory reviews. Now there is an even simpler approach: offering a refund to customers in exchange for a write-up.

"By the time VIP Deals ended its rebate on late last month, its leather case for the Kindle Fire was receiving the sort of acclaim once reserved for the likes of Kim Jong-il. Hundreds of reviewers proclaimed the case a marvel, a delight, exactly what they needed to achieve bliss. And definitely worth five stars . . .

"Researchers like Bing Liu, a computer science professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, are also taking notice, trying to devise mathematical models to systematically unmask the bogus endorsements. 'More people are depending on reviews for what to buy and where to go, so the incentives for faking are getting bigger,' said Mr. Liu. 'It's a very cheap way of marketing.'"

* 10 Things Electronic Retailers Won't Say.

* "On February 1, 2012, J.C. Penney is revamping its pricing strategy to one where it offers everyday low prices, and only runs sales a couple of times a month," Mouse Print reports.

"This is a huge departure for a company that, along with Kohl's, historically advertised huge discounts from inflated 'regular' or 'original' prices that they rarely if ever charged. In a New York Times article, JCP's new CEO even admitted that those regular prices were phony."

Johnson comes from Apple, so he knows a little bit about brand management. Like how to hide ugly truths from Americans.

What Camp Counselors Know
The shame of Joe Paterno's legacy.

Judges For Sale
Loyalty to the Democratic Party is the key selling point.

The Media And Missing Minorities
How the case of a missing Austin teen has been covered.

WBEZ's New Lineup!
A Beachwood exclusive.

The Beachwood Super Bowl Prop Bet
Enter now!

Books As Art
Each one an original experience.

Heat Hate
Has yours faded? In SportsMonday.

The Weekend In Chicago Rock
Rise Against, The Honeybees, XV, Ono, Rockie Fresh, Wastegate, Mucca Pazza, A Day To Remember, The M Machine and Los Campesinos! all played venues near you.

Programming Note
I'm back behind the bar tonight at the venerable Beachwood Inn. Drop off your Super Bowl prop bet or just enjoy the fine krausening of a cold Old Style. Or do both! 5p - 2a.


The Beachwood Tip Line: Connect Four.


Posted on January 30, 2012

MUSIC - Madonna vs. Moderna.
TV - Sundays With The Military-Industrial Complex.
POLITICS - Private Equity In The ER.
SPORTS - Suspicious Betting Trends In Soccer.

BOOKS - China Holding Swedish Publisher.


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