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The [Tuesday] Papers

State legislators, public interest groups, and reporters ought to read the 218-page gambling expansion bill now before the General Assembly - and supported by the governor - awfully closely, because state senate president Emil Jones is at it again.

The Sun-Times reports this morning that "tucked within" the bill is a $32.8 million bailout of the female and minority insider investors in the failed Emerald Casino.

Apparently the politically connected - including Chaz Ebert, Connie Payton, and former Chicago Bear Shaun Gayle - expect to be granted risk-free investment opportunities when the fix is in, even if the fix goes kerflooey.

"Jones (D-Chicago) is believed the driving force behind the language protecting Emerald investors," the Sun-Times account says.

This on top of last week's report that the bill was also a bonanza for Chicago State University, one of Emil Jones's favorite pork bellies.

"Republicans attacked the proposal, in part, because it would divert 2 percent of revenues from the four casinos to Chicago State University, potentially handing the school a $40 million windfall that would double its take from the state," the Sun-Times reported.

"The university has been a Jones favorite. He has steered state funds to the university when other colleges faced deep cuts, and Chicago State has named a building after Jones and given him an honorary degree.

"This week, the university was hammered by Auditor General William Holland for misspending funds, including on a pair of 'leadership seminars' its president attended on cruise ships in the Caribbean and Mediterranean.

"In committee, Jones initially said Chicago State wasn't in the legislation. But the GOP pointed out the specific language in the 218-page bill that would assure the university a multimillion-dollar windfall, prompting Jones to quietly tell a dissatisfied and surprised Senate Democratic colleague that the bill could be amended."

So who is the fabricator now?


Meanwhile, Rod Blagojevich's total lack of effective leadership has consigned the state to yet another year in which education, health care, and mass transit will remain unaddressed in any significant way and House Speaker Mike Madigan is content to sit back and protect his fiefdom.

Welcome to Illinois, where governing is child's play.

Gucci Governor
"When Gov. Rod Blagojevich's proposal for a new $7 billion business tax crashed in the legislature, he railed against the influence of high-powered, arm-twisting lobbyists who 'eat fancy steaks' and 'shuffle around in Gucci loafers,'" the Tribune reports.

"But the cadre of influence-peddling lobbyists at the Statehouse includes some of Blagojevich's closest political allies, including chiefs of staff during his tenure as governor and congressman, the current and former chairmen of his now-subpoenaed campaign fund, a campaign spokesman and one of his top fundraisers."

Piniella's Pen
Like Don Baylor and Dusty Baker before him, the Cubs' roster limitations are bringing out the worst instincts in our fair manager.

We have a few suggestions.

Train Pain
"While Loop stations were being beautified for the benefit of tourists, the overall infrastructure of the CTA rail lines deterioriated and commuters shared the pain of service cuts, interruptions and derailments," Avery S. Buffa of Chicago writes today to the Tribune, which is calling on riders to "share the pain" of additional fare hikes.

Avery goes on to blame the mayor.

Dumb and Rich
More millionaires live in Cook County than any other county in the country except one. Paige Wiser has a few questions for them, including "What are you still doing here?"

Parking Posse
I found it hard to be outraged about the city's top parking ticket scofflaws profiled in the Sun-Times on Sunday. I'm kind of rooting for them.

Consider: "Revenue from parking has increased since at least 1999 - $77 million that year, compared with $106.3 million in 2006 - even as the number of tickets written has decreased."

I'm surprised that the number of tickets written has decreased - that doesn't sound right to me - but collecting more than $100 million to firm up the mayor's budget is nothing but a corruption tax.

What those figures confirm to me is that the fines have been increased to unreasonable levels - a lot of $50 violations that are out of whack with reality and the marketplace.

Worse, vehicles are now bootable at three violations instead of five. It's a cash cow for the city.

Let's face it, the last thing the mayor wants is a violation-free city; he'd have to pare back a few contracts to his buddies in order to balance the budget.

Campaign Coincidence
I've lived in the First Ward far beyond the tenure of Manny Flores so I can report first-hand that there's been a noticeable uptick in the amount of literature hitting our mailboxes here from the alderman's office.

Can it just be coincidence that, after years of paltry communications and low-visibility, the alderman is getting in touch with his constituents just as he embarks on a congressional campaign?

The latest was a postcard announcing that new light poles are coming with 250-watt fixtures and 50-watt ornamental "piggyback" features.

You know what? Our light poles are fine. Spend the money on the schools or the CTA.

This on top of new gadgets that will signal via red or green light if street sweeping has taken place and it's safe to park your car again.

"One of the biggest complaints we hear related to street sweeping is from residents who avoid parking for the duration of posted street sweeping parking restrictions because they don't know whether the sweeper has come by yet and they don't want to risk a ticket."

I'd have to say that's, um, bullshit.

Once a month, city workers used to tie orange signs around trees a day or two in advance to signal that street sweeping was about to commence and parking was prohibited on this side or that side of the street.

Residents could clearly tell when the sweeper had already been by and would often go ahead and re-park on the prohibited side. It was never a problem.

Now most of the ward is coping with permanent signs about monthly street sweeping dates - signs that blend into the visual clutter and, due to their permanence, became forgettable. This is what I hear the biggest complaints about.

While residents have made some adjustments, for at least the first few months pretty much every car on every block on the streets in my neighborhood was getting ticketed - at $50 a crack. The number of residents still getting ticketed seems to my eye to be more than what it used to be. And for what?

The old system worked; the new one doesn't. That's what residents - including myself - complained about. All I got was a snotty e-mail reply about how the alderman would prefer city workers to actually be working instead of posting street sweeping signs once a month.

I thought that was working. Somebody's got to do it.

I wonder how much money has been spent on this new system - and why the police couldn't just agree to not ticket anyone after the sweeper has been by. Though that's never really been a problem.

But then, reducing tickets isn't the goal. Apparently it's up to us to, as Avery Buffa points out, "share the pain."

I just wish we could share it with Emil Jones and Manny Flores instead of with ourselves.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Come to the light.


Posted on May 29, 2007

MUSIC - Who's Next In Chicago Rap.
TV - Tribune-Nexstar Deal Is Bad News.
POLITICS - Big Soda Hates You.
SPORTS - The Ex-Cub Factor.

BOOKS - Wright Brothers, Wrong Story!

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - The Bad News About Human Nature.

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