The [Wednesday] Papers
"The city of Chicago on Tuesday sought to put to rest one of its most persistent scandals, proposing a $5.5 million reparations fund for dozens of torture victims connected to former Chicago police Cmdr. Jon Burge and his so-called midnight crew of rogue detectives," the Tribune reports.
"[Flint] Taylor and other lawyers have said as many as 120 men, mostly African-Americans, were tortured from early 1972 to late 1991. Burge and his detectives had gained a reputation for solving brutal murders, rapes and deadly arsons in some of the South Side's most violent neighborhoods by obtaining confessions.
"Increasingly, however, suspects and their lawyers claimed that the officers used suffocation, electric shock and even Russian roulette to coerce the confessions, but those claims routinely were ignored by Cook County prosecutors and rebuffed by criminal court judges."
And by the media, which conveniently didn't make the Tribune's list.
"John Conroy 'did more than anyone else in all of journalism to expose police torture in Chicago,' Don Terry wrote last year in the Columbia Journalism Review," the Reader noted in 2011, as it celebrated its 40th anniversary.
"Conroy and the Reader kept the story alive for years until reinforcements arrived."
Which was almost a decade later.
"That coverage began with Conroy's 'House of Screams,' which ran on the Reader's cover in January 1990 - the story of torture within the brick walls of Area 2 headquarters, then at 91st and Cottage Grove . . .
"Conroy had expected the city's dailies to carry the story forward after the revelations in 'House of Screams' - but they didn't. Even the firing of Burge by the police board prompted mainly cursory coverage - not the systemic analysis Conroy had hoped for. So in January 1996, he wrote again about police torture for the Reader - the first of 22 pieces he'd author on the subject over the next 11 years."
Back to today's Tribune:
"Burge did not return calls Tuesday to his home in Florida.
But John "Jack" Byrne, Burge's former right-hand man, on Tuesday called the reparations deal a "scam perpetuated on taxpayers."
Why did the Tribune feel it was necessary to include this passage - to get the "other" side? It places a seed of doubt in readers' minds, even though multiple investigations including those by the police department itself as well as the most recent by special counsel Dan Webb concluded irrefutably that the allegations against Burge and his crew were true. Just because you reached the guy on the phone doesn't mean you are obligated to let him lie in your article.
"An ordinance calling for the reparations fund was introduced in October 2013. While a majority of aldermen professed support for the measure, it remained bottled up in the Finance Committee."
The passive construction of this passage makes it seem as if the ordinance somehow got stuck in a bottle for two years and nobody could get it out. Who kept it bottled up in the finance committee? We know who - Ed Burke and/or Rahm Emanuel. Say it - and tell us why they put a brick on it.
Now, this might seem to make for a great comedic opportunity and Burke is getting skewered on my social media channels, but I happen to think he might be right here. And I am not a fan of strip clubs - I find them depressing and degrading. But hear me out.
"Strip joint owners could offer the greater level of nudity if they clear a strict set of hurdles to obtain the proper licensing and zoning approval.
"The idea was first endorsed 14 months ago by the council's Zoning Committee but has languished since then."
Again, we have a proposal languishing in committee as if nobody is the languisher. But I digress.
"Asked Tuesday why the measure was being resurrected now, Burke said it was one of the last opportunities to get it approved before the new City Council is sworn in next month and all pending legislation that has not been voted up or down has to start the process over."
Okay. Does that mean Burke supports unlanguishing all proposals parked by mystery pols in committee for political reasons? But again, I digress.
"As originally envisioned by 32nd Ward Ald. Scott Waguespack, the ordinance aimed to end the unlawful impromptu conversion of adult bookstores, movie theaters and late-night bars into strip joints by explicitly outlawing strip clubs in places not licensed and zoned as 'cabarets.'"
Well, that seems to make sense.
"While the latest version of the ordinance still would do that, Waguespack withdrew support of his own ordinance after the Tribune detailed that the amended version allowed for greater nudity at strip clubs."
First, who amended Waguespack's proposal to do that? Another mystery member!
Second, here's the link to the Tribune detailing what the amended proposal would do because otherwise who the fuck knows what they're talking about? Invoicing the Trib now.
Third, from that link:
"But the amendment - which [Waguespack] said was altered after he submitted it in ways he did not at first fully understand - also would allow strip clubs serving alcohol to feature completely topless performers, something that is not allowed under current rules."
Who altered it? It's a mystery! Maybe it altered itself, then jumped in a bottle and couldn't get out.
Back to today's Trib:
"Under current rules, strip clubs that serve or allow alcohol cannot feature fully nude performers, and that won't change under the proposal. But if the measure passes at Wednesday's council meeting, dancers would no longer be required to cover their breasts in some strip joints where liquor is sold."
And this is where Burke may have a point: These rules are silly. If the city wants to ban strip clubs - and I don't know if it can do that legally, but I'm guessing it can - then ban them. If the city is going to allow strip clubs, then allow them. As it stands now, you can pay to watch fully nude strippers but not drink, or you can drink but watch only partially nude strippers. And by covering their breasts, the Trib and the council mean putting a little star on their nipples. Are we grown-ups?
"There are about eight licensed strip clubs in Chicago, and only one, VIP's, A Gentlemen's Club, on the Near North Side, serves alcohol, according to city officials."
So at seven strip clubs in Chicago, patrons go and drink soda? I just don't get it.
"In 2013, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration accepted a $2.5 million settlement from VIP's in a case involving a long-running dispute over how much skin could be exposed at the club."
The first link also explains Burke's interest: clouty club owners.
Back to today's Trib:
"In February 2014, when the zoning panel endorsed the measure, Burke cited VIP's while supporting the portion of the new proposal that would explicitly allow booze and partial nudity.
"There's been no police reports of any kind of misconduct," Burke said then of VIP's, which for 19 years fought the city in court to stay open. "The neighbors don't object. And frankly, a world-class city like Chicago in terms of entertainment ought to have realistic kinds of adult entertainment venues that don't create a problem in the neighborhood. There's no residences near this place.
And here's where I part company with Burke - I wouldn't call strip clubs "adult entertainment" but maybe "arrested adult development entertainment" that is hardly necessary to be a world-class city. I'd rather have an adult city council.
Maybe Drive Them Over To His House With A Gift
No self-respecting journalist submits interview questions in advance. Besides previewing your article, it just gives officials an opportunity to create even more canned responses than we come up against in the first place. An interview is an interview. You don't help your subject prepare for it. Rahm Emanuel and those around him are quite capable of answering questions about O'Hare without your assistance in creating content-free non-responsive sound bites.
Many if not most news organizations generally prohibit reporters submitting questions in advance. I've had editors who would have kicked my ass if I tried such a thing.
Daft Town USA
"Welsh said there will be no taxpayer money used."
As the Trib has reported:
"Details remain murky because as a nonprofit, Choose Chicago is not subject to public records laws. Three years ago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel closed the city's tourism department and transferred duties to the tourism bureau, whose budget now comes mostly from government grants."
Oh, so the government will pay!
"Welsh said sponsors and donations will cover the cost, estimating that Choose Chicago needs to raise about $3 million to $4 million - similar to the total to put on conventions. The NFL is making a 'big' contribution, he said."
"'There will be no taxpayer money used. Any responsibility will fall on this organization and the (Chicago) Sports Commission to raise the necessary funds,' he said."
Good, that's what we're paying you for!
"'While the city does not yet have a copy of the final agreement, the NFL and Choose Chicago will be responsible for any costs associated with city services during the event, and no taxpayer dollars will be used to host it,' city spokeswoman Shannon Breymaier said.
"Breymaier did not respond to a question about how the city could be certain of that without a written contract. But she said the city will invoice Choose Chicago for the total amount of city services used, saying that is common with large events."
Good, we'll just charge Choose Chicago . . . which is funded by . . . government grants . . . which it will use to raise money from sponsors. I'd like to see the final accounting, but Choose Chicago is no longer subject to public records laws, thanks to Rahm. Who swears no taxpayer money like that which funds Choose Chicago will be used.
Hey, when the bigwigs wanna have a party, we all have to get out of the way.
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Posted on April 15, 2015
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