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The [Thursday] Papers

1. Give the gift of breaking up.

2. The best love letter appearing anywhere in the world today that isn't based on a Bob Dylan or Replacements song.

3. The best news appearing anywhere in the world over the last 24 hours:

"After years of hinting at it, Rhino/Warner Bros. Records finally announced plans to reissue the first four albums by Minnesota rock legends the Replacements on April 22, complete with bonus cuts, new liner notes and remastering," the Star-Tribune in Minneapolis reports.

"Rare tracks being dusted off for the reissues include oft-bootlegged B-sides and outtakes such as 'If Only You Were Lonely,' 'Bad Worker' and Staples in Her Stomach'; the solo demos by Westerberg that got the band signed to Twin/Tone; alternate takes of classics such as 'Answering Machine,' 'Sixteen Blue' and 'Customer,' plus cover songs including Hank Williams' 'Hey Good Lookin',' T. Rex's '20th Century Boy' and even the Grass Roots' 'Temptation Eyes.'"

4. On the surface, I thought Roger Clemens was easily a better witness than accuser Brian McNamee in their testimony on Wednesday before a congressional committee. Clemens came off as strong, forthright, folksy, earnest and honest. McNamee came off as a squirmy punk with a history of lying. But the facts that emerged were not on Clemens' side. And in the end, reality and facts are more important than appearance and performance.

5. "Chicago Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez is prominently featured in a recent issue of Dominican cockfighting magazine, En La Traba, in which he is pictured with several roosters that he raises for fighting," the New York Times reported on Wednesday in an article about ballplayers caught up in cockfighting controversy.

"Of roosters, he said in the magazine, 'When I'm in the Dominican Republic, I'm dedicated entirely to them.'"

6. "Mr. McCain's advisers said that the candidate, despite his signature legislative efforts to restrict the money spent on political campaigns, would not accept public financing and spending limits for this year's general campaign," the Times reports.

"But in 2007, Mr. McCain did agree to a non-aggression pact with Senator Barack Obama to accept public financing, about $85 million each for the general election, if the Democratic nominee did the same.

"Mr. Obama, who is raising money at a rate of $1 million a day, has since said he will not use public financing for the fall campaign."

I guess the new politics doesn't start at home for either of these guys.

7. Or this one.

"Illinois Senate President Emil Jones Jr. is so frustrated with the legislative process that he wrote a letter to the editor ('Tax Credit,' Voice of the People, Feb. 7) calling on a fellow Democrat in the House to release one of his Senate bills from the House Rules Committee," Cynthia Canary of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform writes to the Tribune today.

"The government reform community in Illinois knows the aggravation of having one legislative chamber pass a bill unanimously only to have the leadership of the other chamber hold it hostage in the Rules Committee.

"That's exactly what Jones did with House Bill 1, which would prohibit large state contractors from making campaign contributions to the officeholders awarding the contracts."

8. Or this one.

"During the year that Mayor Daley's son had a hidden ownership stake in a sewer company, the business not only landed lucrative deals at City Hall, it also got work from another local government - the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago," Tim Novak reveals in the Sun-Times.

9. In yesterday's column (last item) I criticized the Tribune for turning valuable Op-Ed space over to the mayor and his propaganda, particularly while the mayor refuses to answer reporters' questions on so many fronts. I've also criticized the Sun-Times on the same grounds over the years.

Ben Joravsky of the Reader shows why this is such a bad practice.

"Now, in today's Tribune, there's an Op-Ed by the mayor that tells a few more whoppers about his role in our property tax system," he writes at Clout City.

Aside from Joravsky's disection of the mayor's media-enabled propaganda, it just so happens that Joravsky wrote about the mayor and property taxes this week in his The Works column. The highlights:

* "The central agent causing Chicago residents to be overtaxed is not the assessment system or even the review board. It's the mayor himself. In a nutshell, we're paying too much in property taxes because he's spending too much in property taxes."

* "The problem is that Daley's budget is built on a giant scam. He and his acolytes have blanketed the city with tax increment financing districts, which feed property taxes that could otherwise go to the city, county, schools, and parks, etc., into bank accounts that the mayor dips into whenever he pleases."

* "Amazingly, and appallingly, these slush funds don't appear anywhere in the city's budget - or on your property tax bill, for that matter. Yet the party line for city officials is that TIFs don't raise property taxes, and so they don't hesitate to create more and more of them. There's a TIF born almost every month now."

* "Anyone who's not a shill for the mayor will admit, at least privately, that TIFs raise property taxes. But hardly anyone wants to speak out publicly, for fear of attracting the mayor's wrath. And so the mayor is free to pretend he's an advocate for the beleaguered bungalow owner, fighting to keep a cap on property taxes even as he's jacking them up by millions of dollars a year."

With a helping hand from the local Op-Ed pages, which apparently see themselves as extensions of the mayor's public relations office.

10. Speaking of doing City Hall's bidding, the big front-page Sun-Times story today is a 21-paragraph wet kiss to the mayor's plan to privatize Midway Airport without a single critical voice.

(The Tribune's article wasn't much better; at least it was buried inside the Metro section where no one will ever see it. And Crain's also uncritically featured the story - "Mayor Richard M. Daley's plan to privatize Midway Airport is gaining altitude," ha ha - on its cover this week.)

If the mayor says it, there's no need to check it out?

Why not save money by just publishing the press release and eliminate the middlemen?

*

Bob Reed wrote last November that he was skeptical the airlines would play ball with Daley. Apparently they've come around, but Reed also wrote this in a post titled "Ground Plans to Sell Midway Airport":

"Hmmmm, let's get this straight. City Hall concedes its doing an inadequate job. And instead of improving and tightening operations, it's going to unload the place to the highest bidder. And that's good for the tenants and the city?

"Let's put it this way: When's the last time a new owner bought an apartment building and didn't raise the rent?

"Whoever buys Midway will start out in the hole by billions. That owner will quickly look to maximize revenue (by raising tenant rates) and cut costs by trimming operations and services. ('Hey, Sam, turn those runway lights off, that cost money!')

"I'd sleep better at night knowing Midway is being run by the city, as it has for the past 50-plus years, than by some private equity group that's just interested in it as a flight of fancy financing."

*

Similarly, Lynn Becker wrote last fall:

"In August, Crain's reported the city was talking with Macquarie Bank, which did the $1.8 billion 2004 deal leasing the Chicago Skyway from the city, about a possible similar deal to bail out the city from its {CTA super]station from Hell. It would become the latest addition to the mayor's ongoing fire sale - with Midway airport next - of Chicago's assets. The mayor gets a huge pot of money upfront in exchange for a 99-year lease, and unseen future residents, onto the fifth generation, get stuck with the problems. And if you don't think there's a good chance of there being problems, check out Fortune magazine's cautionary article where one analyst portrays Macquarie's business model as bearing 'the hallmarks of a Ponzi scheme.' In the case of the Skyway deal, Fortune reports: 'In 2007 the Skyway will pay interest of just $129,000 on $961 million of debt. But the interest payment for 2018 is to be $480 million - that's not a typo.'

"Mayor Daley has been in office nearly two decades. He still struts down the street in his pinstripe master manager suit, but the threads have begun to fray. Can Chicago's media and civic elite ever bring themselves to call him to account? Or will they persist in seeing only what he wants them to see, the emperor's new clothes, until the garment completely disintegrates and we find only Abe Beame underneath?"

To be clear, I don't know if privatizing Midway Airport is a good thing or not. Maybe it's the best thing in the world. My point is that I don't know - because I'm certain I'm not getting all sides of the story, at least from the traditional mainstream media.

The Beachwood Tip Line: A private-public partnership.



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Posted on February 14, 2008


MUSIC - The Weekend In Chicago Rock.
TV - Slow TV Chicago.
POLITICS - Dangerous, Low-Wage Industries Depend On Immigrants, Refugees.
SPORTS - Wrong Foot Louie vs. The Fireball Kid!

BOOKS - Meet Chicago's American Writers Museum.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Meet Limo Bob.


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