The [Monday] Papers
"The brouhaha over Sam Zell's plan to sell the naming rights to Wrigley Field obscures a far more significant issue," Blair Kamin warns in the Tribune this morning.
"By arguing that the City of Chicago should 'relax' landmark restrictions on the ballpark, proponents of a deal that would have a state agency buy and renovate the park would undermine decades of carefully structured protection for Chicago's architectural treasures.
"The deal would almost surely embolden some property owners of landmark building throughout Chicago - there are 259 individual landmarks and 49 landmark districts across the city, encompassing more than 9,000 properties - to go back and challenge landmark status that the City Council had previously approved.
"And that would wreak havoc with legal protections for the city's architectural and historical treasures that were set up 40 years ago to safeguard such structures as Louis Sullivan's former Carson Pirie Scott & Co. store or Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House."
The Tribune Company has already chipped away at the glory that once was Wrigley Field. The city shouldn't let Sam Zell complete the rout.
"It hasn't been an issue in Boston, where the Red Sox have made major, approved changes while staying within the landmark designation of Fenway Park," the Sun-Times's Greg Couch wrote on Friday.
But this is just part of an all-out assault on the Cubs brand by a really rich guy who now owns a large company with nearly unmanageable debt loads. Thanks, Tribune!
Just when you thought there was peace in Wrigleyville . . . brace yourself for another round of fights about night games, concerts, rooftops, congestion, urination, and the last breath of life from the golden goose.
"Sam Zell does not care about you, Cubs fans," Couch writes. "It's nothing personal; it's business."
More to the point, it's his business - but none of yours.
Of course the name shouldn't be sold to the highest-bidder. I thought that'd be a no-brainer, but maybe I overestimated the amount of heart left in a beaten-down populace.
"The indignation that's being thrown on this fire is humorous," the Tribune's Rick Morrissey writes. "Some things are worth fighting for; this isn't one of them."
Really? Then wake me up when one of them comes along.
Of course it's worth fighting for. It's ours.
"A fifth starter for the Cubs, an experienced center fielder, Alfonso Soriano's hamstring? Valid concerns. The name of the ballpark? Way down the list," the Sun-Times's Carol Slezak writes.
Fifth starters and hamstrings come and go. Wrigley Field is the constant . . .
"The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It's been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again. Ohhhhhhhh, people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come."
Not everything in life should be sold to the highest bidder. Only those without souls believe otherwise.
San Francisco Treat
How 'bout it, Chicago?
Maybe we'll have The Cell on the South Side and The Zell on the North Side.
"Maybe we can get Jerry Reinsdorf to buy the naming rights to Wrigley Field and change it to Comiskey Park," a reader suggests to the Sun-TImes's Elliott Harris.
In that way, comedy and journalism are truth-telling twins.
Michaels' comment reminds me of a time many years ago when I was, wrongly, trying to pin down a journalist friend on his place on the political spectrum when he finally - and rightly - threw up his hands and said to me, "Whatever's the status quo, I'm against it!"
"'We have a sick political culture,' said Jay Stewart, the executive director of the Chicago Better Government Association, 'and that's the environment that Barack Obama came from.'
"Stewart says he does not understand why Obama has lectured others about corruption in Washington and Kenya but 'been noticeably silent on the issue of corruption here in his home state, including at this point, mostly Democratic politicians.'
"There was no immediate comment from the Obama campaign."
There never is.
"But a review of court records, including new details of Mr. Rezko's finances that emerged recently, show that the lot purchase occurred as he was being pursued by creditors seeking more than $10 million, deepening the mystery of why he would plunge into a real estate investment whose biggest beneficiary appears to have been Mr. Obama," the New York Times reports.
"As Mr. Obama and Mr. Rezko were completing the property purchases in June 2005, Mr. Rezko was fighting to keep lenders and investors at bay over defaulted loans and failing business ventures. But he side-stepped that financial dragnet by arranging for the land to be bought in his wife's name, making it the only property she owned by herself, according to land records."
The Times article makes clear that Rezko was involved in a complicated financial shell game that ensnared an oblivious - or uncaring - Obama.
The article also makes clear - as have others - that Obama has not been forthcoming about his real estate deal with Rezko nor the full nature of their relationship. Some might go so far as to say that Obama has been untruthful as he has employed a strategy of obfuscation.
"When the transactions were first reported, Mr. Obama said only that he had asked Mr. Rezko, as a developer, whether he thought the house was worth buying. But last month, Mr. Obama's campaign staff said the senator also recalled walking around the house and the adjacent lot with Mr. Rezko," the Times notes.
"Some critics say that given Mr. Obama's longtime emphasis on ethics, it is puzzling that he would have been so involved with the Rezkos on the house and lot deals after questions had begun to crop up about Mr. Rezko's political and business activities.
"For at least two years before the property purchases, news articles had raised questions about Mr. Rezko's influence over state appointments and contracts. There had also been reports that the F.B.I. was investigating accusations of a shakedown scheme involving a state hospital board to which Mr. Rezko had suggested appointments.
"Also, Chicago officials had announced that they were investigating whether a company partly owned by Mr. Rezko had won public contracts by posing as a minority business.
"As a result, said Jay Stewart, executive director of the Better Government Association in Chicago, Mr. Obama 'should have been on high alert.'"
Instead, he has made a series of statements to national media outlets like this one to Good Morning America that clearly are not true: "Nobody had any indications that [Rezko] was engaging in wrongdoing."
Perhaps Obama has buyer's remorse. The question is, will voters?
The Beachwood Tip Line: Against it.
Posted on March 3, 2008
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