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The [Tuesday] Papers

The Sun-Times oddly shows little interest in the shameful aldermanic pay raise that now looks like a done deal, pushing it to page 11, but the Tribune (admirably) goes to town on its front page this morning with wit and verve:

"Foie Gras Forbidden. Trans Fat Endangered. Car Cell Phones Restricted. One Thing Alderman Won't Ban: Their Raises."

No rational person believes the Chicago City Council deserves a pay raise, but unfortunately the City Council is populated by Chicago aldermen, not rational people, and in an affront to the just order of things, as set out by ancient Biblical law, the Enlightment, and the laws of physics, they get to decide their own salaries.

This doesn't happen in a two-party town, but there you go. This aldermanic pay raise is brought to you by the same people who brought you Todd Stroger, Dan Lipinski, the Hired Truck scandal and massively fraudulent hiring at City Hall.

Had enough?

It's true that the compromise measure linking the pay raises to the cost of living is better than the original proposal that would have awarded aldermen annual increases of $5,000 over four years, apparently to be delivered to aldermen's homes in brown paper sacks. But then that proposal was just an opening bid. The aldermen have still snookered you.

"I know that I work very, very hard," says Ald. Freddrenna Lyle (6th).

"We work very hard," says Ald. Isaac Carothers (29th) .

"If I stay in my office till 10 o'clock at night, my phone rings at 10 o'clock at night, because people know that we are going to try to do what we are supposed to do to help them," says Ald. Ed Smith (28th).

Well, would you take some time off if we paid you less? Please?

Or, can we pay you more to just sort of stay away, take some long vacations?

I'm sure many aldermen work very hard on constituent service, but they are aldermen, not ward superintendents. Those duties can be delegated. Where the City Council doesn't work hard is in its role as a legislative branch confronting the major issues facing the city, and as a watchdog on the executive branch.

On that count, the City Council deserves to have their pay docked, but unfortunately they have the power to judge their own job performance, declare it worthy, and dip into your pocket to push their pay into six figures.

Perhaps voters should determine aldermanic salaries in referenda every four years. I don't mean the old cliche about elections, I mean actually putting salary figures on the ballot. Why not? It would be like a job review. Just like, as the mayor and his minions like to say, private industry.

Or the pay of aldermen (and the mayor) could mirror the median income of Chicagoans. That would put them in a real constituent-oriented frame of mind. A Tribune graph this morning shows that in 1980, the median family income in Chicago was $18,776, while the salary of an alderman was $24,075. In 2004, the last year for which the paper had figures, the median family income was $47,186, while the 2006 salary of an alderman is $98,125.

"On average, Chicagoans per capita are paying nearly three times what residents of New York and Los Angeles are for the salaries of their public servants, noted Lisa Valentine, vice president and director of research for the Civic Federation, a local budget watchdog," the Tribune reports. "'It begs the question, are the Chicago ward constituents getting three times better representation, three times better services, and more efficiencies?'"

Big Box Blues
I'm experiencing a bit of clever deficit this morning, so I haven't come up with a witty way to link the aldermanic pay raise to the proposed ordinance before the City Council that would set a higher minimum wage for Big Box stores like Wal-Mart. But I would like to exchange the City Council for any 50 Wal-Mart workers and see if we're any worse off.

The truth is, I'm torn about the Big Box ordinance. I'd like the Wal-Marts of the world to pay their workers higher wages - even if it meant slight price increases, because I believe a high-wage economy is not only stronger than a low-cost economy, but also the only path to economic growth. But I'm not sure the approach of the City Council is the right one. I believe government has every right, even a duty, to enforce a minimum wage and other labor laws, but to start determining wage rules for particular sectors of the economy makes me uncomfortable.

But not as uncomfortable as the mayor and a coalition of black ministers joining Wal-Mart to make this a racial issue. To paraphrase Kanye West, Wal-Mart doesn't care about black people. I don't think they care about poor white people, either, but I most definitely don't think they care about black people.

"Meanwhile, residents of the Harold Ickes Homes on the city's South Side said organizers opposing the ordinance tricked them last week into attending a rally of about 1,200 people, heavily covered by the media, by saying that jobs at Wal-Mart awaited them there," the Tribune reports.

"'They said we were going to get some jobs, and when we got there, it was just a bunch of bullcrap,' said Cheryl Brown, 24. 'All they did was talk about how they were going to bring Wal-Mart to Chicago. People were mad.'"

Red Rod
"Customers will be able to take home unfinished bottles of wine from restaurants under a new law signed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Monday."

I take back (almost) every bad thing I've ever said about the governor.

Mancow Madness
Chicago Tonight is adding Mancow Muller as a commentator, apparently not bothered by the fact that he has admitted parts of his memoir were fabricated, that he lied to reporters about his age for years, and that he is prone to bold, hyperbolic statements whose veracity disintegrates with time and scrutiny.

The Tribune discovers MySpace. Ditches story about Friendster.

Think Pink
Customer feedback for the CTA.

Sammy Sighting
"On Feb. 2, 2005, the Cubs traded Sosa to the Orioles. He had slumped to .253 in an injury-plagued 2004 but still hit 35 homers. 'I hit 35 home runs, and that was like I was hitting 10. They probably know what [35 homers] means now."

- "Sosa Can't Believe He's Not A 'Hero,'" Tribune

The Beachwood Tip Line: Goes best with red.


Posted on July 25, 2006

MUSIC - Holiday Hullabaloo.
POLITICS - Bank Profits Soaring.
SPORTS - Chicago vs. Michigan, 1903.

BOOKS - Dia De Los Muertos Stories.

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