Monthly Archives: November 2006

Problems not solved

“Black Progress” Through Politics,” by Walter Williams opens with this:

Blacks and Hispanics, especially blacks, are the most politically loyal people in the nation. It’s often preached and taken as gospel that the only way black people can progress is through racial politics and government programs, but how true is that? Let’s look at it.

He goes on to inspect conventional wisdom that may have special meaning for Oak Park, where block-by-block westbound Chicago segregation stopped in the late ‘60s and race relations are never far away. He notes startling economic gains by blacks before politics went their way.

In 1940, poverty among black families was 87 percent and fell to 47 percent by 1960. . . . [I]n various skilled trades, the incomes of blacks relative to whites more than doubled between 1936 and 1959. . . . [T]he rise of blacks in professional and other high-level occupations was greater during the five years preceding the Civil Rights Act of 1964 than the five years afterward.

In 1940 a mere 15% of black children were born outside of marriage, in contrast to today’s 70%. By the mid-’60s, when sociologist, later UN ambassador and senator, Daniel Patrick Moynihan sounded the alarm about breakup of the black family, the rate had risen to 26%.

Crime has become a horrendous problem, having reached “a level . . . unimaginable to most Americans and unimaginable to blacks of yesteryear.”

In 2005 “blacks were six times more likely than whites to be homicide victims, and 94 percent of black victims were murdered by blacks,” so that “the overwhelmingly law-abiding residents of [black] neighborhoods [live] . . . in fear of assault and battery, rape, robbery and various forms of intimidation.”

The neighborhoods have become “economic wastelands.” Their “most stable” residents leave. From political leaders comes no relief. Instead come government programs, cementing blacks’ dependency on them, as Democratic candidates did at the Oak Park Library last spring. Republicans at an earlier meeting — not as well organized — talked policies to help small business.

In Oak Park, school discipline and achievement come to mind as what angers blacks. Many a step has been taken to alleviate this anger. Focus has been on school programs. But how much difference have programs made? Not much. We would have heard about it. Rather than eliminating the problems, we have lulls between storms of protest and heightened political activity, such as the recent pressuring of state legislators to order up a study followed by a report finding no evidence of unfair discrimination, followed by another lull.

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Squabble by Dems

Democrats struggle to get House in order
Party’s diversity will test its unity

is the head on p-1 Chi Trib, bottom left. Story by Zuckman reads well, has the Will Rogers item up front, reference to his

once-clever statement that he was not a member of any organized political party, he was a Democrat.

But to make their struggle the price paid for diversity, that shibboleth of contemporary socio-political talk, as in the head, is suspicious. We are used to newspapers talking this way about Dems. It’s conventional wisdom. When splits occur among Republicans, however, it’s a fight between conservatives and moderates, with sympathies in direction of the latter.

And of course, there’s the admirable distance achieved in reporting Republican announcements or tactics. You can count on it: no reporter will be fooled by Karl Rove. With Dems, on the other hand, there’s affection: there they go again, those lovable rascals.

So I see it. I could be wrong.

Rummy’s war

Amer Spectator has a credible critique:

Donald Rumsfeld tried to run a businesslike war. But warfare is not business; it is not fought at the margin. By striving to do just enough to win, we have done too little. The right strategy is to do too much.

Citing ongoing Brookings Institution reports — its Iraq Index — Harvard Law prof William J. Stuntz concludes:

More soldiers mean less violence, hence fewer casualties. The larger the manpower investment in the war, the smaller the war’s cost, to Iraqis and Americans alike. Iraq is not an unwinnable war: Rather, as the data just cited show, it is a war we have chosen not to win. And the difference between success and failure is not 300,000 more soldiers, as some would have it. One-tenth that number would make a large difference, and has done so in the past. One-sixth would likely prove decisive. [Italics added]

As in cities, “more cops on the street” is the answer. 

If the goal is to cut our losses, the best move is not to pull back, but to dive in–flood the zone, put as many boots as possible on the most violent ground. Do that, and before long, the ground in question will be a good deal less violent.


Sausage fight

Chi Trib has a front-pager that belongs in a neighborhood section, if there were one on Saturday, but to the general reader I know best, myself, is meaningless.

Lawsuit over sausage cuts family links at plant, stores

Bobak brothers sever ties; ruling sets limits on wholesale operation

has intense meaning to the Bobak family and their customers — and the story made the cut to the web site page, getting even bigger play than hard copy — I’m sure.  For the first three paragraph-sentences — a triple lede — we are given so little information, it hurts:

When Stan Bobak discovered what his brother was doing, he was shocked. Then he got angry.

But in a way, he also was relieved to have solved a mystery: So that’s why John wasn’t ordering as much sausage as he used to.

The accusations of a betrayal are as sensational as they sound.

Look.  I do not know Stan Bobak and am not in a position to feel his pain, or shock or anger, whatever.  I am glad he was relieved, of course, on general principles, and I am in general prepared to be shocked or even angry that John had cut down on his sausage order.  But neither do I know John.  And if the accusations of betrayal are as sensational as they sound, I would like to figure that out for myself, rather than be told before I know what the hell they are.

The story continues as best it can, already dealt a body blow by its amazingly leisurely lede that but for the sausage reference might have been about marital infidelity — for not ordering sausage substitute hanging with Stan’s wife — or murder — for not ordering etc. put not showing up for weeks on end.

A reorganization occurred, presumably of the sausage company, which we are told is well known — sorreeee, I didn’t know!  One brother would handle the sausage, the other the kielbasa etc. 

But then Stan says he caught John making his own sausage and trying to pass it off in his stores as those made in Stan’s plant on Chicago’s Southwest Side.  [Make that “Stan caught John,” etc., “he says,” if you don’t mind.]

This crucial info comes in the fifth paragraph-sentence, too far down, folks, for your usual Saturday breakfast-table-reader who is dedicated to Father Tribune from his youngest days but does have other things to do and read.

End of next ‘graph, we get the local angle: John has three stores, in Burr Ridge, Orland Park and Naperville.  So.  This one’s for YOU there, in and around those three marvelous towns.  Why did not Chi Trib say so in the first place?  The rest of us, in Oak Park and elsewhere, could have gone on to various AP and LA Times stories strewn throughout today’s paper, wishing happy reading to sausage-buyers and -eaters in those three marvelous towns, strewn over the southwest suburbs.

You can also buy this stuff at Jewel or Dominick’s stores or on Archer Ave. near Midway airport.  Fine.  Is it tasty?  The issue was decided in favor of these locations in federal court.

“In retrospect this could have been solved very easily,” said Stan Bobak, the eldest of the three Bobak sons. “John could operate as many as 100 retail stores if he wanted, God bless him. But we would handle the wholesaling. But he didn’t do that. He started making sausage.”

That’s it!  The buried lede!  It all began when John started making sausage!  Do that and cut the story in half, and you have the makings of what might bring back or keep a few readers.  Forget your media bias, undeniable though it may be.  Forget your absence of local coverage: we have it here, gone terribly astray.  Here is the answer to hemorrhaging circulation for mainstream newspapers: Look in your every story and FIND THE BURIED LEDE, damn it, before they BURY YOU!

And offer a free quarter-pound of kielbasa to all who can prove they read the WHOLE STORY, stem to stern.

The mayor and the tattler

Mayor Daley says convicted and sentenced 11th Ward politician Donald Tomczak “disgraced his family. Basically, he destroyed himself.”  He talked that way just the other day about his former aide Forrest Claypool, who did not endorse Daley’s choice for county board president.  It’s what comes to mind for Daley.  He thinks familially, or we should say tribally.  Tomczak stole money from the public, whom Daley is sworn to serve.  But that’s not what comes to mind for him.

Daley had hired Tomczak in 1989 after saying he’d fire him, because his people had muscled Daley’s in the just completed campaign.  But he apparently valued the man’s ability to get things done.  Asked about this, he said he did not “care what allegiance [people] had as long as they were doing the job,” citing what his father, the first Mayor Daley, had taught him, and his “church beliefs,” which enjoined that he “never be vindictive.”  This is sickening.  Days after virtually threatening Claypool, he preaches forgiveness.

Chi Trib’s John Kass is buying none of it.  Daley “protected” Tomczak, who

ran trucks on water projects, took at least $400,000 in bribes and commanded armies of political patronage workers hired in violation of federal court decree.

He quoted a prosecutor:

“Clearly, some of Mr. Tomczak’s crimes were condoned, they were facilitated and I believe in some respects they were honored by high-ranking portions of the City of Chicago.”

As for disgracing oneself,

When Daley’s guys do federal time with their mouths shut [Tomczak’s isn’t], the mayor praises them, or sends their sons $40 million in city contracts.

It’s Tomczak’s tattling that got him the mayoral condemnation.

Meanwhile, back at the county, the interim board president has made higher-paying work for an employee close to the Stroger organization, billing it as reform.

Eighth-ward supporter Joann Robinson is set to get an $11,000 raise from her current forest preserve job. She’ll be making $91,000 while overseeing a seven-person department that includes a newly-created deputy HR director who will be making $65,000 a year.

Her unenviable task?  To make sure hiring is on the up and up. 

“Business as usual,” said the soon to be destroyed Claypool, describing it as:

“Raise property taxes to pay for more bureaucracy and [lucrative] jobs for political patronage appointees. If this is indicative of the type of reform we can expect going forward, it’s going to be a rocky four years.”

Get ready.

He’s the man

I’m voting a long-term contract for Comcast repairman Ernest, who came to our house the other day and solved a months-old problem that had mystified two repairmen before him.  They didn’t know they were mystified, thinking they had solved the problem.  In fact, if Comcast does not go along with my vote, I am calling for a senatorial investigation.  Our own Sen. Harmon would be a good one to lead this.  Long contract for Ernest!

This county ain’t ready for reform

Black politicians have to learn how to wink and nod like white ones. They are entirely too obvious in their corruption, as in freely discussing the jobs they expect to get as payoff for supporting Todd Stroger for county board president.

“If percentages are based on jobs, then I’m doing damn good,” Ald. Howard Brookins (21st) was overheard telling Ald. William Beavers (7th) [at a victory party], referring to the vote he got out for Stroger and the county jobs he expects in return.

“I expect him to reach out to a good guy like me for recommendations for qualified candidates in top jobs he has control over,” Ald. Isaac Carothers (29th) said, complaining about the lack of West Siders among 26,000 county employees.

Even with FBI nosing around, such supporters as Brookins and others are expecting rewards, not to mention Stroger’s “godfather,” Beavers, who won his own county board seat and will be Stroger’s “muscle,” per S-T.

Race pride is all well and good, but jobs and the power that comes from controlling them are what keeps machines oiled.

Meanwhile, S-T sins against the light with this editorial comment, with which they are stuck in view of their ridiculous campaign endorsement:

By electing Todd Stroger president of the Cook County Board, voters handed him and the Democratic Party the responsibility for cleaning up the mess that is county government. The question looms about whether he is sincere about doing that, or whether he filled his campaign with empty promises of reform merely to defeat Republican Tony Peraica.

Perish the thought.

Nicer this time

Newly seated trustee Galen Gockel did not always get along with V. Mgr. Swenson and V. Pres. Trappani. Taking on the assignment, he

“was intrigued by the prospect of having a cordial relationship with the village president and the village manager, a phenomenon which was not always available to me when I served my full four-year term previously.”

Race is the thing?

Sun-Times’s Mark Brown and Mary Mitchell see mainly race in the county board presidency race.

The political divide between Chicago residents and Cook County suburbanites — and between blacks and whites — was on stark display

said the one.

[T]he outcry over the way Todd Stroger ended up on the ballot resulted in a [black] backlash and cranked up loyal Democratic ward bosses,

said the other, even if nobody knows better than blacks “how poorly county government is working.”

Mitchell is saying blacks also know better than anyone else how to cut off their noses to spite their faces.

[T]hese are the people who can tell you in great detail what improvements are needed at Cook County Jail because a disproportionate number of African Americans have relatives locked up there.

A lot of African Americans can also point out the failures at John H. Stroger and Provident Hospitals because many black families have depended on these hospitals for medical care over the years.

And, unfortunately, the faces of the youth detained at the Juvenile Detention Center are also overwhelmingly African American.

It didn’t matter, says Mitchell, because inheritance works for others, mostly white, and they bowed to “the tit-for-tat factor.” That’s dumb, but Mitchell doesn’t say so, letting it go at presumably informed analysis.

The most she allows herself, and we should appreciate her restraint, is to hope Todd Stroger “comes into his own” as board president.

As for Brown, it’s not new that blacks and whites vote differently, “but there had been signs in recent years that [a city/suburban, black/white split] was starting to fade as Democrats increased their numbers in the suburban areas.”

Not this time, when corruption was the dividing issue. It bothers him to see the vote “break down along racial lines” for any reason, however. Why? Because “no matter who wins, [this election] has disrupted the alliance that I think has produced the best results for Chicago and Cook County residents, that being the collaboration of progressive white Democrats and African Americans, often in conjunction with independents and Republicans.”

The best results? Not for residents and users of county jail, hospitals, and juvenile detention center, per Mitchell. He worries that this racial divide will interfere with defeating Richard Daley for mayor. But rather than enabling Daley, it demonstrates Daley power.

In any case, he entertains nothing like Mitchell’s fond hope for young Stroger, expressing his own fervent hope that “nobody actually expects [him] to bring real reform to county government.” In this he also parts company with his own paper’s deeply mysterious editorial board.

The seating of a trustee

The seating of Galen Gockel as interim village board member last night was a dramatic event in its way. One trustee had no idea he would be sworn in right away and even checked with the clerk to see if she was ready to do so. She was, meaning she had the papers ready for him to swear to and sign, but she added that she was ready for anything, meaning apparently that she could save the papers for later, which no one in his right mind would deny her since she had nothing to say about it.

As soon as the uninformed trustee, Marsey, announced his being uninformed, two things happened rapidly: the president, Pope, who had called trustees up about his idea a few days earlier, said it was his fault, which seems accurate, since Marsey seems usually to know what’s going on; and another trustee, Milstein, shot back that he knew it, leaving it for us to maybe guess that it was not Pope’s fault at all. Who knows?

Milstein followed immediately with his announcement that since the president was acting firmly and with dispatch, they had no business questioning his decision (paraphrase here), to which the president responded saying he was grateful for Milstein’s support — reaching out to touch him fraternally in the next chair — but that Marsey was within his rights to question the decision. Marsey had done so without prejudice to Gockel, whom they all know from his past time on the board, but noted that the criteria for picking him applied to two other past board members, whom he named.

He also had questioned filling the slot at all, the one left vacant by resignation of trustee Baker, who pleaded need for time with family, having earlier complained in a newspaper about length and frequency of meetings. The new trustee, not a veteran of their previous discussions, would be “a drag on the dynamic” they had achieved by these discussions, said Marsey, specifically about the budget, which will be soon calling for their approval. (Gockel said later he’d been following them on TV in the budget discussion, for which he deserves a medal in addition to his newly allocated board seat.) Marsey also questioned the “manner” of filling the interim slot.

Trustee Brock said adding the seventh trustee — let the odd man, she said — in was a good thing, in case of a tie vote on the budget, which is to consider a bad if not worst-case scenario, when they could not agree. Trustee Johnson presented himself as a convert to President Pope’s proposal, having at first wanted a more “collaborative” process; it had taken him a few days.

This is when Marsey asked Clerk Sokol if she was ready, stating his preference for waiting two weeks. A time for public comment had looked preferable to Johnson too, he said. But he decided there was no need for it, because “we all know Galen,” which if they don’t now, they never will, he being probably the most prolific overall living vote-getter in Oak Park, with careers behind him on school, township, and village boards covering maybe 20 years. He was on the elementary school board in 1976, when our oldest was being prepared for kindergarten. I think I have that year right.

Marsey’s concerns carried no water, however. Milstein perhaps least of all would object, recalling as he said that he and Gockel had stood on the same side of a budget vote a few years back when both were on the board. This is when Milstein made his blanket avowal of support for Pope in the matter.

In a matter of minutes, the deed was done: Gockel was sworn in and pointed to his seat, with the understanding that he would not stand for election in April. He delivered a eulogy of sorts for the resigned Baker, sympathizing with him on the need to be with family. When Pope implied Gockel wouldn’t be saying much right away, Gockel told him not to be sure of that.

In any case, it was a coup for Pope, who apparently was clearer on the matter with Milstein than with Marsey when informing the trustees of the proposed Gockel seating, when lining up votes for him, that is. Pope has a tentative way about him that can be deceptive and could become a Frank Paris in the office, Frank being the longtime unthwartable River Forest board president. But that’s a big leap beyond last night’s scenario, dramatic or not. Who knows?

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