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The [Thursday] Papers

Dorothy Tillman is nuts. Her unhinged performance on Chicago Tonight last night, where she appeared with challenger Pat Dowell, wasn't quite the tour de force that Arenda Troutman turned in (second item) a couple months ago, but it was close. And the subject of the Harold Washington Cultural Center didn't even come up.

I think my favorite part was when the rarely exasperated Carol Marin seemed on the edge of losing her patience with Tillman as the embattled 3rd Ward alderman defended the condition of the ward, which Dowell described as filthy and filled with garbage-strewn lots.

MARIN: I drove through the ward . . . and saw a combination of development and a lot of empty space.

TILLMAN: You didn't tell me what part you drove through!

MARIN: I drove through the whole ward, alderman, I promise.


The truth is that all Dowell had to do to show herself the superior candidate was to sit there all stateslike - as she certainly appeared to be - while Tillman wildly thrusted paperwork of some sort that viewers couldn't see across the table to Marin, perhaps unaware that this was a television appearance, not an interview for one of Carol's columns.

For all the viewers know, the documents Tillman waved around were lists of relatives connected to the cultural center boondoggle.

Dowell's campaign message is a simple one: that Tillman simply isn't up to the job of managing the ward's challenges (crime and poverty) and opportunities (smart growth leveraging, in part, the ward's historic nature).

Tillman's campaign message is also a simple one: Am too!

Tillman, who is endorsed by Barack Obama, is also accusing Dowell of inflating her credentials as an urban planner and covering up her separation from the city planning department where she was a deputy commissioner - without any evidence that I saw presented.

"Yes, I'm an urban planner," Dowell said last night. "I don't think the alderman really understands what that means . . . I was involved in [developing the city's] planned manufacturing districts . . . bringing lights to Wrigley Field . . . the community benefits program for the United Center project . . . I was one of the major architects of the historic Bronzeville plan that this alderman did not participate in . . . [I've helped] save historic buildings that the alderman wanted to tear down . . . [to] save ramps along the Dan Ryan when this alderman didn't do anything . . ."

Tillman had no response to any of it, except to say Dowell was fired from her city job at the behest of the mayor. Tillman said she had the documentation to prove it, but never produced it.

"I was never dismmised from the city," Dowell said. "I resigned. I wanted to leave to do things within the community. I was asked to stay, but did not want to."

Dowell, of course, is largely backed by the Service Employees International Union - she supports the big-box living wage ordinance that the mayor vetoed last year. Tillman, who has taken an odd $400,000 or so in campaign contributions from developers, according to Dowell, voted against the big-box ordinance.

So the mayor has a keen interest in this race, like other runoff elections that could give big-box ordinance proponents the votes they need to reintroduce the measure and override the mayor's veto.

Wal-Mart, by the way, just deposited $100,000 into "a fund created by Mayor Richard Daley's supporters for aldermanic allies in tightly fought campaigns," the Tribune reports this morning.

Election Day for the run-offs is April 17.

Queen Dorothy
* Promotional material for a Tillman rally describes her as "Dr. King's Gift to Chicago." Yes, and I'm sure Dr. King would have opposed the big-box ordinance, too.

* "You can boo all you want!" Tillman surrogate Jacky Grimshaw admonished citizens at a forum recently that the candidate failed to show up for, according to the Reader. "But the bottom line is that Dorothy Tillman is the alderman of the Third Ward and she gets to decide where she wants to spend her time!"

*"The first week of operations with changes to the Red, Brown and Purple Lines has so far gone without major hitches," the Tribune says in a news brief.

Yes, the CTA runs great once you scare away all its customers. In fact, United is thinking of flying all of its planes out of the same airport to achieve the same results.

*"Six Flags Gets OK For More Alcohol."

Will be renamed Twelve Flags.

* "Bank Branches Thinner In Cities."

Newspapers, too.

Refreshment Stand
Sun-Times Editor-in-Chief Michael Cooke insists that the remake of the paper's nameplate, front page, columns, graphical display, and presentation is "not a redesign."

Well, Cooke's always had a funny way with the truth. My favorite was when he insisted to me that coverage in the paper of a supposed run on Sun-Times-sponsored cardboard mini-Bears medallions was "a legitimate news story."

So the paper's new look is not a redesign. "It's a refreshment," he says.

Okay, then. Let's get into it.

"We did a little research," Cooke told his former employee Robb Montgomery in a podcast. "The way we interpreted [it] was to go exclusively local [on the front page, I think he means] and make the word 'Chicago' a little bit bigger, a little more obvious. 'Chicago' is a great noun, it's a fabulous, fabulous noun . . . Friday the word 'Chicago' is gonna be blasted right across the page . . . column one to column six."

Money well spent!

"When the Tribune leads its paper with trade treaties in places far away from here, we think that's a good thing," Cooke tells Trib business writer (and former Sun-Times columnist) Phil Rosenthal. "We're concentrating very much on Chicago, and that's what the research told us."

So, what did the research say about trade treaties in places far away that will cost Chicagoans their jobs?

That's Stella!
I wonder what the Sun-Times's market research says about a grown woman writing a column for a major metropolitan newspaper that includes a gem such as this: "I have often heard people say that they hesitate to donate because they fear that the organs will be taken before they are good and dead. So, maybe there should be emphasis on assuring people that everything medically possible will be done to save your life before they take your stuff!

"I decided to check with the secretary [of state] about this, and [Jesse} White told me, 'The doctor who is trying to save your life will do everything possible to make that happen - and is not the same doctor who will remove your organs."

Bucktown Blues
Aldermanic challenger Scott Waguespack "estimates that 45 percent of the [32nd] ward's residents moved in during the last five years," the Tribune reports.

According to the paper, incumbent Ted Matlak said at a debate last month, "What's happening here is a microcosm of what's happening in the entire city. The capitalist forces have come here whether we like it or not."

Says Waguespack: "I'm not against development. I'm against people like [Matlack] jamming it down people's throats with no warning of what's coming."

The Great Daley Debate
"At the debate, the moderator asked Matlak and Waguespack if they consider Daley 'a great mayor' or 'the greatest mayor,'" the Tribune account says.

"Both replied that they consider him 'the greatest mayor' - although Waguespack's answer seemingly came a moment later than Matlak's immediate response."

At this point, I'll take it. Vote Waguespack.

Video Game
"Unlike the bartender story, there is no tape of [Christina] Eilman," John Kass writes in the day's must-read. "Without tape, official Chicago will stay quiet, TV news will continue to ignore her and unwitting taxpayers will pay her family off in a settlement, with City Hall praying this all goes away."

Cline Time
A Washington, D.C., police officer who says he got in a brawl here with the off-duty cop who happens to be the brother of bartender-beater Anthony Abbate also says he reported the incident immediately, the Sun-Times reports.

"But the Chicago Police sergeant and lieutenant who responded to the call 'blew it off' because the punch was thrown by one of their own," according to Terry Gainer, a former Chicago cop and head of the Illinois State Police who moved on to become assistant chief of the Washington, D.C. police. (I'm not sure if he's still there; the Sun-Times identifies him as sergeant-at-arms for the U.S. Senate.)

"Asked why the Washington cops waited 10 days to file a report, Gainer said, 'He didn't know what to do. He tried to report it out there and was rebuffed that evening by the responding sergeant."

Now, if a cop doesn't know what to do in this kind of situation, how do you think regular ol' citizens feel? Especially people of color? Cops have a customer service problem just like the U.S. Post Office and the Sun-Times circulation department. The difference is the gravity of the service. It's way past time for local journalists to lose their naivete about the way dealing with cops works for a whole lot of folks - a naivete mostly borne of never having to go through it themselves.

Cline Clari
I understand an item earlier this week about the Sun-Times describing Phil Cline as the quintessential Chicago cop may have been interpreted as a joke about Cline's weight. It was not intended that way - I do not as a rule joke about large people. I intended to convey my view that the paper perceived Cline as the quintessential Chicago cop because of his appearance, not that I did. I was also mostly, but not wholly, referring to his white skin.

Also, I believe the police department has a long-standing cultural problem. In fact, I think it's pretty obvious. I believe the same thing about the city's newsrooms. I'm bothered by journalists who feel the need to always write the caveat that the vast majority of cops are dedicated and even heroic people - just like I'm bothered by the need pols and pundits feel to constantly assure us they support the troops even if they don't support the war. It just strikes me as a defensive manuever borne of intimidation that creates a false debate.

Very few people think the vast majority of cops are bad - or don't support the troops. It should go without saying. But I'll say it this one time: My comments about the police department are generalizations about a culture that undeniably exists. The department is nonetheless populated by thousands of dedicated - even heroic - officers who truly protect and serve. I believe that in my heart; I don't like feeling pushed into having to declare it. But I will.

Editor's Note
This column got pretty long today and I didn't even get to Sam Zell or Obama's fundraising. Hey, I'm just one guy and it's early in the morning. But I'm also looking for more help as we continue to expand operations here. Drop me a line if you're interested in joining the team in any aspect of our operation.

The Beachwood Tip Line: A local call.


Posted on April 5, 2007

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