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The [Thursday] Papers

This is the first chance I've had to comment on Gary Marx's story in the Tribune on Tuesday about the two kids who dropped 5-year-old Eric Morse to his death in 1994 and then became the state's youngest inmates, "literally growing up in custody." It's a must-read.

"In recent years, now in their 20s, they quietly emerged from prison - only to return again and again," Marx writes. "With Rankins' release from a Downstate prison on March 6, both are free again, facing seemingly bleak futures. They've gone years without the counseling some say they desperately needed and possess limited education and job skills. But given their abusive childhoods and teenage years behind bars, the outcome isn't really surprising."

Not surprising, but terribly instructive.

"Their lawyers had argued the two needed to be placed in a treatment facility for troubled youths to have any shot at living normal lives. But acting on the recommendation of state child-welfare authorities, [Judge Carol] Kelly sentenced both to prison with one caveat - that they receive therapy and other services from corrections staffers.

"More than a dozen years later, attorney David Hirschboeck, who had represented Rankins, said the boys never got the help they needed in prison."

The boys were 10 and 11 at the time of Morse's death. They were left in prison to rot.

"Rankins, who has a 4th-grade education and is functionally illiterate, said he learned nothing in prison that would help him succeed in the outside world," Marx writes. "Rankins and his wife moved to southern Illinois near Connie's hometown. Rankins quit his only job after about a month and gave up trying to find work, embarrassed that he couldn't write well enough to fill out a job application. He also said he was afraid of being around people, of not knowing what to say."

Marx describes how Rankins loves dogs more than humans, but Rankins is not without a conscience. And that's what makes the story heartbreaking.

"For his part, Rankins has no intention of returning to Chicago and hopes he can find work as a garbage collector, a janitor or, best of all, working in a shelter with dogs. He said he will never forget Eric Morse and, during the interview last fall, pulled up his shirt and showed off a tattoo.

"Over his heart, a gravestone is etched in black ink with the name, 'Eric Mores 1984-1994.' Never mind that he misspelled Eric's name and missed his birth year by five years.

"'What we did, it was like an unhuman beast that had no feeling whatsoever,' Rankins said. 'And I live with that every day and night'."

The Daley Way
While I was taking another look at Marx's story, I flipped the page and saw a couple of paragraphs I had marked with a pen on the Trib's story about Al Sanchez's conviction.

"The 2006 trial and conviction of Daley patronage chief Robert Sorich revealed that the generations-old Chicago tradition of patronage hiring had continued to thrive in secret since virtually the beginning of the mayor's reign," the Trib reported.

And actually before the mayor's reign; testimony in the trial showed that HDO was formed while Daley was still the Cook County State's Attorney for the express purpose of getting him elected mayor - and keeping him there.

Road Show
"Mayor Daley's out-of-town travel is continuing at a frenetic pace - with 46 trips in the last 27 months, 19 of them paid for by Chicago taxpayers," the Sun-Times reports.

How much did those trips cost? City Hall won't say.

"In response to a Freedom of Information Act request, the city Law Department simply supplied a list of the trips and who paid for them. City Hall has said it does not maintain records of trips not funded by the city and that it would take too long to compile bills from taxpayer-funded trips."

How long could it take? Isn't there a file, for example, labeled "United Arab Emirates/Feb '09" with maybe some expense forms and receipts in it?

Daley Strategy
The mayor took a lot of media heat yesterday for his petulant and suspicious refusal to answer questions about Al Sanchez, but Daley and his chief propagandist, Jackie Heard, know that they can "take the hit" for a day or even two and move on because the media will move on as well. That's the problem. The media ought not move on. There's nothing wrong with peppering the mayor with the same questions every day from here to kingdom come regardless of what it is he wants to talk about. Beyond that, news organizations ought to have a strategy for how to cover the mayor, including his continual refusal to answer questions. The mayor has spent millions of dollars on media messaging and public relations advice; the Chicago media probably hasn't spent a collective two minutes developing its own strategy in kind. It's time they do.

Peoples Gas Journal
Let us review, because the story just got even better.

Last month I wrote about my little adventure with Peoples Gas and appended a handful of readers' tales that folks sent in in response.

Here are the key passages I would like to remind you of before I tell you what happened this week:

"So I got a notice in the mail that I had not responded to an earlier notice about a federally mandated meter inspection. Well, I don't own the building!

"Plus, they had my apartment number wrong. Have I been paying for someone else's gas? Is that why my bills went up so much starting last spring? I pay more for taxes than on actual gas! I barely use any therms at all! (I don't pay for heat.)"


And me on the phone with a Peoples customer service representative.

ME: My apartment is 3E, or just 3. You have 3A.

PEOPLES GAS: Are there two apartments on the third floor?

ME: Yes. Three East and Three West.

PEOPLES GAS: Maybe we call them A and B.

ME: Maybe!


I think you can see where I'm going with this.


So on Tuesday I tried to turn on one of my little stovetop burners to fry up some eggs and nothing happened. My gas was off. First I called my landlord, who suspected that Peoples had turned the wrong gas off because a tenant across the hall had just moved out. So I called Peoples and a customer service representative (a very nice one this time) assured me that my account was still active. She instructed me to call the Peoples emergency line and tell them I had a "no gas emergency." I did - and I dealt with a very nice women there too - and they sent a two-man crew over within an hour or so.

We walked down to the basement, looked at the meters, and the one guy obviously in charge said he saw the problem: my gas had indeed been turned off because the meter/account in my name was actually supplying gas to the apartment across the hall, while I had been getting bills for who knows how long for that apartment's gas. I knew it!

How long has this been going on? Who knows! Maybe for years!

How will it be resolved? The gas man will file a report and then my next bill should indicate whether I owe Peoples money from past incorrect billing or if they owe me money.

And if I owe them money, I just might mistakenly send it to another company's account. It would only be fair.

Calling All Chicagoans
All Hands On Deck!

We here at the Beachwood will certainly be doing our part. In fact, we officially invite the evaluation committee to stop by the Beachwood Inn for a beer - on us. It would be nice to chat.

Sweet 16
* Iced tea, Wanny, and Wakita. In today's installment of the Beachwood Brackets.

The Beachwood Tip Line: On deck.


Posted on March 26, 2009

MUSIC - Millions Of New Guitar Players.
TV - "One America News" is AT&T.
POLITICS - When Wall Street Came To My Mobile Home Park.
SPORTS - Tonyball, Bears On The Run, Eyes On The Sky & More!

BOOKS - China Holding Swedish Publisher.


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