The [Tuesday] Papers
* I won't be going to the polls today because I don't believe journalists have any business being members of political parties, much less helping them decide who their nominees for public office are.
* You can't vote for change if change isn't on the ballot. Newspaper editorial boards like to implore citizens to do their duty and even provide a list of endorsements for them to follow - you know, we'll do your thinking for you - but there is merit to the argument that voting for the clowns that fill up most of our ballots only enables and reinforces bad behavior.
For example, the Tribune has spent a lot of time calling for a revolution at the ballot box, yet it is endorsing the likes of Andy McKenna, Bobby Rush, Dan Lipinski and Deborah Mell. Hello?
"You can skip the election and, once again, give the insiders of Illinois and Cook County free rein to tax, borrow, spend, reward their cronies and generally lord it over you," the Tribune says today. "Or you can clip-and-carry the endorsements on today's Editorial page into the voting booth and rock their world."
Really? Voting for Dan Lipinski will rock the world of hacks, cronies and certified members of Machines and Combines everywhere? Andy McKenna?
As I've argued many times, we won't be able to rock anyone's world without structural reform. From December 2008:
"I'm not here to defend the electorate. For the most part, they are clueless. But . . . think about the ballot you look at every election. You are usually given the choice between one Machine candidate or two in any given race. What are voters supposed to do when they have to decide between, say, Rod Blagojevich and Judy Baar Topinka?
"So the answer to me is structural. I've never believed in term limits, but the last couple of years I've started to come around to the idea. Appointments to vacant seats should be replaced with special elections (Daley has appointed something like a third or more of the city council). It should be easier for candidates to get their names on ballots. Campaign finance reform is a must; as the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform likes to argue, nearly every major scandal seems to have campaign finance at its root. Election fraud - like funding ghost candidates to scare off opposition or split opposition vote - should be vigorously investigated and prosecuted. And, of course, the media could do a better job - and one of the ways would be to lead the charge for an overhaul of the state's Freedom of Information laws and for those laws to be vigorously enforced. It would be nice to see a real reform candidate with a real reform agenda who understands that reform begins with the very system itself."
* "Many of the pols who run Illinois and Cook County still hope you'll forget what they've done," the Trib says.
Maybe the Trib editorial board has forgotten the way Bill Lipinski resigned his congressional seat after winning re-election in order to install his son as his successor. And maybe the Trib editorial board has forgotten what it wrote in 2004:
"Swing a few miles west to Michelle Chavez's home in Cicero. She's running as a Democrat against GOP state Rep. Frank Aguilar. Again, not a single campaign sign outside her home, no fundraising, no campaign activities, no responses to a letter from the Tribune asking her for information.
"About a mile away, there's Ryan Chlada, a Cicero town employee, running as a plant against Democrat Dan Lipinski, freshly plucked from his teaching job in Tennessee to succeed his father, U.S. Rep. Bill Lipinski. Insiders say this is part of a deal: Chavez runs a non-campaign against Aguilar and Chlada runs a non-campaign against Lipinski. Both Aguilar and Chlada have ties to the Cicero Republican organization. Anger over the maneuvering in the Lipinski race has prompted a La Grange Park resident, Krista Grimm, to run a write-in campaign."
Then again, the Trib endorsed Dan Lipinski two years later.
And maybe the Trib has forgotten Bobby Rush's role in solidifying the seating of Roland Burris as U.S. Senator, which the paper fulminated against for months.
And maybe the Trib forgot Deb Mell's lone vote against the impeachment of her brother-in-law, Rod Blagojevich.
McKenna? Maybe the Trib didn't read this.
Yes, rock their world.
The editorial board might also want to implore the newsroom to go beyond its familiar blueprint for campaign coverage, which includes a pre-fab "duty" story on every major race and a shallow skim of whatever breaking controversy (briefly) catches their fancy.
* If the Tribune is really so concerned about "insiders and cronies" lording over us, why does it keep endorsing Mayor Richard M. Daley? The editorial page is right about shenanigans in county government, but sometimes I think its editors are just trying to reduce their own tax bills. Can't you just hire Michael Madigan or Ed Burke to do that for you?
* Any electorate who is deterred from voting by bad weather deserves what it gets.
Brown vs. Zorn
"Basically, we've had an intense four-week campaign. Some argue that's all we need, in fact pretty much all we can stand in this era of attack ads.
"But I see late-breaking campaign issues that have yet to fully develop: whether it's the late revelation that there may be legitimate questions about Comptroller Dan Hynes' handling of the Burr Oak Cemetery scandal or the report that Pat Quinn inexplicably has been paying himself interest on an old campaign loan."
ZORN: "Have come to believe that a month is plenty of time for anyone who cares even a little bit about politics to get familiar with the candidates, weigh their positions and their ads and cast a sensible vote. And that, if anything, shorter campaigns help level the playing field by giving less of an advantage to those with enough cash to bombard the airwaves with messages for months."
A couple points.
* The general election isn't until November. The primary should be held closer to the general election.
* Brown is right about issues not having been fully reported out yet. Now, you could take that to the extreme and you'd never get to Election Day. And shouldn't the issues surrounding longtime officeholders like Pat Quinn and Dan Hynes have already been sussed out? The real question here, though, is whether the media can put forth sufficient resources - assuming it wishes to do so - toward all the races and candidates it ought to examine in the new, shortened time frame.
* The new, shortened time frame is, as Brown notes, the result of Michael Madigan's evil ways - which were designed only in part to help an all-too-willing Barack Obama (and which Brown admits he was a sucker for). See above for structural reform.
* It's not about you, Eric. You've had sufficient time to judge the candidates, as have I. But have voters? David Hoffman, for example, is still just getting known to folks around the state. If he - and they - had more time?
* The argument about money is not persuasive. First, again, structural reform would level the playing field and render this moot. Second, a wealthy candidate can bombard the airwaves in a short period of time and be just as - if not more - effective than stretching ads over a longer period of time. Plus, the ads would still only come in the end. But over a longer period of time, a challenger might be able to raise more money after showing off some skills and raising doubts about money-created candidates like Alexi Giannoulias.
A longtime community activist who isn't named but whom we should suppose has tremendous insight.
"Quinn loses. Stroger wins. Hoffman wins but loses against Kirk Dillard in the general election."
Big surprise that Mitchell's "source" predicts a Stroger win. But maybe that source is Stroger himself because - hello - David Hoffman is running for U.S. Senate and Kirk Dillard is running for governor.
"I could see where he is coming from."
Mary Mitchell makes a lot more money than I do.
We need structural reform in the media, too.
"The matchup that I regret the most is that of Alexi Giannoulias and Cheryle Robinson Jackson," Mitchell continues. "I like them both."
"I first met Giannoulias during Obama's historic presidential campaign. He impressed me as a young man who was truly smitten by the political bug as a way of making a difference in people's lives."
What are the odds Mitchell hasn't read a single word - of Mick Dumke's reporting in particular - about Giannoulias's banking problems? Pretty good, I'd say. She's not really into research.
"And Robinson Jackson had vision. First, to distance herself from the Blagojevich administration before she was dragged down by her former boss' scandals."
First, even Jackson has dropped the "Robinson" conceit. Second, she had the "vision" to distance herself from Blagojevich because she didn't want to end up appearing before a grand jury.
"The guilty plea in the corruption scandal involving Ald. Ike Carothers (29th), a Daley ally, continuing the tradition of Chicago pols going from the City Council to a federal prison, is more likely to help Hoffman."
I dare Mitchell to find a single voter who's decision to vote for Hoffman was influenced by the guilty plea of Ike Carothers. Leave the punditry to the pros, Mary.
Some of us get things right, you know. If I could just take some credit, I had the Dillard socialist quote about Obama in February 2007 and predicted later that June that a run for governor was behind his ad for Obama.
Way to perpetuate the madness, guys.
"Ike Carothers, the longtime chairman of the City Council's Police and Fire committee, pleaded guilty to bribery, mail fraud and tax fraud for taking $40,000 in home improvements from a developer seeking zoning changes."
Maybe the family business ought to have been interior design.
"Ike Carothers' lawyer, Jeffrey Steinback, said Carothers 'deeply regrets' his mistakes.
"'I haven't yet met a perfect human being,' Steinback said. 'People engage in activities that they regret. I know this is something that Ike regrets deeply'."
I have deep regrets about many aspects of my life, too, but none of them are criminal.
"To some of his colleagues, Ike Carothers was a blowhard and a bully, an alderman who at times berated them as 'cowards' and, as a freshman, leapfrogged over senior Council members for a top committee post."
Huh, I wonder how he was able to do that.
"Carothers, physically large himself, coined the phrase 'heavy-lifters' to describe aldermen with the guts to support the $276.5 million tax package tied to Daley's 2008 budget."
"Next month he is scheduled to testify at the trial of [developer Calvin Boender, who is] accused of providing Carothers with $40,000 in home improvements for backing a controversial project in his 29th Ward," the Tribune notes.
"Boender has developed projects throughout Chicago and is well-known to a number of the city's more influential politicians. He has contributed generously to political campaigns, including to U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., and Ald. Ed Burke, 14th. He held a 2007 fundraiser in his home for Burke's wife, Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke."
The money Carothers pocketed might seem like small change, but consider:
"The zoning change had another, more personal economic impact. Prosecutors said that change meant an extra $3 million in Boender's pockets," the Tribune reports.
"Others benefitted as well, according to court records filed Monday. Boender hired Carothers' brother, Anthony, for security at Galewood Yards. The records also state that Red Seal Development Corp., Boender's partners in the project, employed Ald. Emma Mitts' daughter as a laborer and used Gutierrez's sister-in-law to sell real estate.
"'After Mr. Carothers found out that Mr. Gutierrez's sister-in-law was working for Red Seal, Mr. Carothers became upset and wondered why Red Seal could not be working with his brother,' according to the records.
"Gutierrez, who had lobbied the mayor to support Boender's project, has not been charged with any wrongdoing."
Daley will appoint Carothers' successor. Daley will also fill the seat of departing Manny Flores, who has gone to the Illinois Commerce Commission. In all the hullabaloo about whether a special election should have filled Obama's old Senate seat, nary a whisper was heard about the mayor's unique ability to fill city council vacancies. Structural reform, my friends. The rules are rigged against us even more so than the candidates on today's ballot.
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Posted on February 2, 2010
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