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The [Wednesday] Papers

Jury selection begins today in the federal corruption trial of four aides to Mayor Richard M. Daley, including Robert Sorich, who was once the mayor's patronage chief.

Federal prosecutors rarely lose these cases, and the official preview of the evidence in the case is rather damning, not just to Sorich and his pals, but to Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Which makes me a little curious about what U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez is up to. He's spent the last couple days campaigning for mayor - if you saw his appearance on Chicago Tonight last night (or apparently his speech the other day) - it's nearly impossible to conclude that he's not running for mayor.

The weird thing about Gutierrez's nascent campaign, though, is that he's not talking about corruption on the eve of perhaps the gravest moment for Daley.

Instead, he's talking about how he would have spent his energies on Chicago's schools instead of building Millennium Park or, now, chasing the Olympics.

A valid position, but a strange one to build a campaign around at just the moment when the Daley Machine may come tumbling down.

Far be it from me to suggest that Gutierrez is providing the mayor with a welcome distraction. Conspiratorially, that is. But his attacks are actually, at least accidentally, providing the mayor with a little cover.

Consider the stories in today's papers. Fran Spielman at the Sun-Times does her usual job of stenography in typing up the mayor's response to Gutierrez's latest jabs, describing himself as the most courageous mayor in the land. Gary Washburn at the Tribune presents a somewhat more sober report, though you still have to wonder if reporters challenged the mayor on any of his assertions.

(Is it settled history that Daley asked for control of Chicago's schools, rather than having it thrown in his lap by devious Republicans? "[W]hen Illinois lawmakers considered the measure giving the mayor school policy authority, Daley lobbied against it and only grudgingly embraced the law," says Stateline.org in "Chicago School Takeover Seen As Model For Urban Reform," just one of many similar reports. And hasn't it been documented that the "Plan for Transformation" is, in many respects, a failure when it comes to public housing residents, as opposed to, say, developers and politicians? )

In each case, Daley was able to present himself - in between trips to the Middle East and China as an Olympics-level international statesman - as a man who took on the city's most intractable problems and won

It strikes me as odd in this place and time in Chicago for Gutierrez to base a campaign on education. This is one of those rare moments when the campaign has a chance to be based on a choice between corruption and clean government.

A true reform candidate could certainly argue that the benefits that flow from clean government would include more funding for schools, and that might be effective, but to ignore the rot of City Hall borders on bizarre.

And yet, when Gutierrez talks of the city needing fresh faces and new viewpoints, he doesn't mention the dirty contracts and hiring schemes that have come to define the new Daley Machine.

Instead, his highest priorities, he said last night, are teacher pay and more charter schools.

To his credit, Gutierrez is addressing the city's lack of imagination about what Chicago might look like had there not been a Daley reign. Perhaps Millennium Park would not exist, but perhaps that's half a billion dollars and growing that could have been better spent elsewhere, not to mention the man-hours of energy and effort that could have gone into the schools, social services, or any number of other worthy areas.

Interestingly, Gutierrez said last night that his decision on running for mayor would not hinge on whether Daley or anyone else (such as Jesse Jackson Jr.) was in the race. I find that hard to believe, but at any rate Gutierrez, fresh from his star turn as a national pro-immigration spokesman, is showing that if he's a serious candidate we may actually get a serious campaign. Both he and Jackson actually have an ability to talk about the issues in public in a way our current mayor utterly fails at. It would be a crime, though, if corruption wasn't one of those issues.

Boss Jr.: The online version of John Kass's column today previewing the Sorich trial includes a link at the bottom to Kass's 1996 must-read magazine profile of the mayor.

Steno Job
Why not just hand the keyboard over to Todd Stroger and let him type in the story himself?

Scribble Dribble
Just like the rest of the nation's lazy media moralists, Jennifer Hunter didn't look it up. America's young adults are actually doing better than ever on that big geography test.

And while the Tribune corrected their own boneheaded error on the subject, they have still failed to correct its entirely wrong premise.

Drinking and Drugging Dribble
The Tribune's recent editorial about underage drinking did not mention a recent study claiming that underage drinkers account for one-third of alcohol company revenues, but The New York Times built a front-page story around it.

Oops.

The media loves stories about wayward youth - remember superpredators and teen wolf packs? - and they especially love stories about wayward youth and drugs. But those stories are usually misguided at best and outright wrong at worst.

For example, as I pointed out yesterday, the Tribune has so far let stand the recent Washington Post story about teen use of morning glory seeds as hallucinogens, despite this debunking.

Sometimes you have to wonder if reading a newspaper actually makes you dumber.

Rush Job
U.S. congressman Bobby Rush got the Sun-Times to publish his complaint (second item) about Lynn Sweet's recent story revealing that the charitable arm of SBC (now AT&T) gave $1 million to Rush's Englewood community center. Rush sits on the congressional committee dealing with telecommunications legislation.

Rush argues, as he did on Chicago Tonight last week, that because the House Ethics Committee verbally told him that there was no technical conflict-of-interest, there was no conflict-of-interest and therefore no story.

I'm sure we can all agree it's a good thing the House Ethics Committee doesn't edit the nation's newspapers.

Particle Boards
The editorial boards of the 100-plus newspapers that make up the Sun-Times News Group have given the matter great thought and come to the consensus that they are in favor of particle physics.

Caroling
As usual, Carol Marin gets to the bottom of the story. This week it's about how the governor is screwing manufactured home owners.

Field's Hands
The Sun-Times continues its bid to win over the new owners of Marshall Field's and their lucrative ad budget. Today it's the breaking news, promoted on page one and accompanied by two large photos, that Field's will upscale its hair salons in three Chicago locations.

Last month the paper gave Field's this big wet kiss.

Conn Job
Roe Conn joins the new Glenn Beck show on CNN Headline News tonight, reports Robert Feder. Wonder if Beck will ask Roe to wear leather?

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Posted on May 10, 2006


MUSIC - The Week In Chicago Rock.
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