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The [Thursday] Papers

Another day, another story about Fred Hampton Way.

Now comes Ald. Tom Allen, of the Fighting 38th, proposing to do away with or severely limit the practice of designating honorary street names.

And the mayor is apparently onboard: "Everybody will want a street sign--every citizen. Some corners will get three or four signs. If anybody reports that I was on such-and-such street and we don't . . . send an ambulance, we're liable," Daley was quoted as saying in the Chicago Sun-Times. "The aldermen have to look at it. I think they should do something differently."

So at least some good comes out of this: The mayor, who has lived here all his life and has been in office for 17 years, has discovered that many streets in Chicago have more than one name. Maybe for that contribution, we oughta name a street after Fred Hampton.

You have to hand it to the mayor. Sometimes Richard M. Daley is passive, sometimes he is aggressive, and sometimes he is passive-aggressive. But he is always inarticulate and wily.

The whole sorry spectacle does remind us--as if we need reminding--of the way Chicago's politics continue to be organized by that special combination of intellectual laxity and brute power.

The Chicago Rules I: Members of the city council in this town are so petty they'll even hand out dumb green* street signs as favors for political gain. Why not alleys, too? Because in Chicago, everything is an opportunity. (Look for the Illinois political delegation to finally pick up on this and convince their colleagues to start handing out honorary state names.)

*Update 2:44 p.m.: From today's Sun-Times: "Haithcock said she's not about to 're-refer' the matter to committee for a full-blown hearing. 'We've never had a hearing on an honorary green sign,' Haithcock said."

An astute reader points out that the signs are brown, not green. It appears from a cursory bit of research that honorary signs were originally green, but they were too easily mistaken for the real signs, so they were changed to brown.

The Chicago Rules II: It's okay to do the wrong thing until controversial black people are involved. Then we must immediately start doing the right thing--except for all the other wrong things people aren't mad about yet.

Granted, blacks and other minorities have been let into the Clout Club. But they are still seen as much as political tools as equals. And never forget that in Chicago race can still be used as a cudgel when it comes to exploiting the passions of potential voters.

By the numbers: The Sun-Times reports that the families of police officers killed in the line of duty have mobilized against the Hampton naming. "This man advocated violence toward police officers in the 1960s--especially with his phrase 'Kill the pigs,'" said the father of an officer killed on-duty by a drunk driver.

Number of pigs Fred Hampton killed: 0
Number of Fred Hamptons the pigs killed: 1

So yeah, you can see why they've mobilized.

But seriously: These families and others are upset because of Hampton's rhetorical flourishes about violence against cops. Here's a reconciliation plan: The families study up on the Black Panthers and the context of the times and meet with Bobby Rush to hash it out. They don't have to agree with each other, but each side might want to admit that the other side has a point.

Meanwhile, Hampton's family should clearly renounce violence against cops and volunteer to work with the upset families of killed cops to, I don't know, raise money for an urban anti-violence program or something. Because this spectacle is just that--a spectacle that doesn't seem to be enlightening anyone about why each side feels as passionately as they do.

And the police union (where is the police chief in all this by the way?) could acknowledge that their brethren assassinated Hampton. And then we could move on, everyone the better for it.

Aldermen need lessons too: Thomas formally introduced a proposal on Wednesday that would freeze the city's honorary street-naming program, the Chicago Tribune reported. As a backup, the paper said, Thomas proposed requiring that aldermen submit a biography to committee members of anyone they are proposing for an honorary street sign. Aldermen, Thomas said, are put in an "awkward situation" when asked by political supporters to name a street after someone who may or may not be worthy.

An awkward situation, yes, because you'd never want an alderman to say no to a political supporter asking for a favor. Because "political supporters" own "political checkbooks" that find their way into the "political bank accounts" of "politicians."

But submitting a biography is a good idea because, for example, members of the Transportation Committee couldn't have been expected to know who Fred Hampton was.

How about this? If your candidate needs a biography attached, he or she isn't worthy.

How they voted: The Fred Hampton Way proposal initially passed the city council's Transportation Committee without debate. Here are the committee members, according to the Website of the city clerk.

Chairman: Thomas R. Allen
Vice-Chairman: Carrie M. Austin
Members: Tillman, Beavers, Beale, Balcer, Rugai, Burnett, Carothers, Reboyras, Suarez, Doherty, Levar, Schulter

Caution is ever the byword of the Tribune: It's a small but illustrative example--the caption to a photo of a street with three different names on it says, "With so many signs, one could argue that it's hard to find the real name."

Yes, one could argue that. But the Tribune certainly isn't about to. Proposed caption: "What street is this?"

Killer Streets
Perhaps Alderman Allen isn't going far enough in ending the practice of honorary street names. Perhaps he should move next to repeal the honorary street names named after unsavory characters already littering our city. Submitted by Tim Willette.

8th: Henry the VIII killed more wives than Fred
Hampton killed anyone (divorced, beheaded, died,
divorced, beheaded . . . ). Also, offensive to Catholics
(esp. Irish).

Wells: How many people have died falling into wells?
Lots. And what about poisoned wells?

Canal: Same as Wells.

Cortez: After all . . .

Columbus: Acapella version of Cortez.

Superior: They say she never gives up her dead.

State: Killed even more than Church.

Ohio: Four dead.

Addison: The disease that nearly killed Kennedy.

Quincy: That medical examiner dude--at least one

Taylor: Take your pick.

Alternate solution: I propose we call it just "Hampton Way." Then each of us can imagine it's named for our favorite Chicago Hampton. Here's mine.

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In the Reporter today:

Our Country Punk Affairs Desk gets rolling with our first installment of "Alt-Country Corner": Golden Smog is back and, yes, we admit we saw that lame-ass Bucky Covington on American Idol last night.

Speaking of American Idol--and how can we not--today we have another installment of "What I Watched Last Night" including a Don Knotts tribute. If you want to help us make this a daily feature, join our TV team.

Check out our look at what would happen if, say, the Tribune (and others) ran an airline (red-eye flights would be short and dumb).

And discussions, debates and witticisms underway now in our Beachwood Forums.

Don't forget our Tip Line: Get your boss fired.


Posted on March 2, 2006

MUSIC - December In Chicago Drill.
TV - Don't Weaken Media Ownership Limits.
POLITICS - Another SRO Crisis.
SPORTS - TrackNotes: Mom.

BOOKS - How Stereo Was Sold To A Skeptical Public.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Chicago Footwork King's Bail Battle.

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