Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Marred by Hate Crime in Flossmoor

A neighbor discovered this note on the front door here in Flossmoor:

Jesus wasn't a nigger
The homeowner was, of course, horrified. This hate crime was reported to the Flossmoor Police, and presumably to the Cook County Commission on Human Rights and the FBI (and other federal agencies).

But while I am interested in the criminal issue here, I am more outraged from the flawed moral and biblical assumptions behind it. Because the note was wrong. The perpetrator of this crime would undoubtedly have considered Jesus a nigger, if he knew the real (historical) Jesus. There's no question about it.

I assume that our perp relies on modern western art or his own racial prejudice for his depiction of Jesus' appearance. But there is ample evidence to refute our innate desire to picture Jesus in our own likeness. In fact, "the earliest depictions of Jews, which date from the 3rd Century, are - as far as can be determined - dark-skinned." Much like the depiction published by Popular Mechanics in a Christmas past.

As New Testament scholar Dr. Mark Goodacre put it:

There is absolutely no evidence as to what Jesus looked like. The artistic depictions down the ages have total and complete variation, which indicates that nobody did a portrait of Jesus or wrote down a description, it's all been forgotten....

In contemporary parlance I think the safest thing is to talk about Jesus as "a man of colour."
"And Jesus probably did have some African links. The Gospel of Matthew describes the family's flight to Egypt [Matt 2:13-15], "where, presumably, his appearance did not make him stand out." But "it is important to realize that in Old Testament times Egyptians were black, not Arab. Arabs first conquered Egypt when Moslems invaded Egypt shortly after the death of Mohammed," in 639 or 640 AD.

Jacob, son of Isaac, led his family into Egypt to be with his son Joseph, who had risen to prominence in Pharaoh's court. [Gen 46] Eventually, the

Israelites went into captivity in Egypt and during the 400 years the Israelites were in captivity in Egypt they and their descendants intermarried with non-Israelites. (The Israelites were in Egypt 430 years, 400 in captivity.) The group of over 600,000 men plus women and children that left Egypt under Moses was a "mixed multitude". Ethnically, their ancestors were a combination of Hamitic Egyptians and Semitic Israelites. Although the Bible lays out Jesus' ancestors through Shem, it does not mention that His ancestors would have had Hamitic blood from this intermixing, e.g. on their mothers' sides.
That Joseph and Mary could hide their young child from a powerful King actively looking for them testifies to their ability to blend in. But only Herod felt threatened by the newborn Christ child. Outside of the moment of his birth, the rest of the world seemed not to have noticed him. In fact, his humble beginnings -- even his flight from the land of his birth -- speak to a niggardly existence.

Jesus lived in poverty, even when the family moved to Nazareth in "Galil hagoim—Galilee of the strangers." He had neither wealth nor influence, and he was far from the center of both in his land. He was born in another person's stable (which, according to numerous scholars and commentators, could have been a cave in one of Bethlehem's hillsides.); he rode another man's donkey on his final journey and he was buried in another man's grave as a final resting place.

Our perp in here in Flossmoor wouldn't recognize the King of kings had he met him:

His hair and beard would have been black, curly and bushy – untrimmed in obedience to the command in the Law. [Leviticus 19:27] The Bible says He was not physically attractive. [Isaiah 53:2] Beauty, in God’s eyes, comes from within. [1 Peter 3:3-4]

But, God’s thoughts are the opposite of man’s thoughts. [Isaiah 55:8-9]
A nigger, if you will.

But the fact that one could historically and theologically describe Jesus Christ in such a way does not excuse the thoughtless and racist act of someone right here in Flossmoor. In fact, we should all be horrified by this note left on one of our neighbor's door. Not only is this not in the Spirit of Christmas, no matter how you define it, it is also not in the spirit of the community that we've built here in Flossmoor. Racial intolerance (as well as theological ignorance) is not welcome here. The fact that Flossmoor will be a part of the FBI's statistics on hate crimes for 2009 is a mark against us all, a black eye for our community, a despicable act that shames us all.

We are fortunate to live here. 2009 has been a great year for our little village. I'm saddened to hear that it may end on this sour note...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Team Obama Serves



A group of volunteers from Team Obama (Team HOPE in the New Year) participated in the Respond Now Christmas "store" for the less fortunate among us. We had a great time, thanks to Sheena Patton, our intrepid leader!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Judge John Griffin Explains Judicial Elections



On Tuesday, December 8th, Cook County Judge John Griffin spoke to "Team Obama" (now Team HOPE) at the Flossmoor Station about the process by which we choose judges in Illinois.

This video is 16:15 long.

Team Obama was formed from the grassroots volunteers who were mobilized on behalf of Barack Obama's presidential campaign out of the South Suburbs and have chosen to "stay together and stay involved." It's meetings are open to the public. The group does not make endorsements and encourages participation in the political process as participants see fit.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Dorothy Brown Before Team Obama



On Tuesday, December 8th, Circuit Cook Clerk Dorothy Brown spoke to "Team Obama" (now Team HOPE) at the Flossmoor Station about her campaign for Cook County Board President.

Dorothy talked about her four point improvement plan for county government and took questions from the audience.

This video is 37:27 long. It can be downloaded by clicking here.

Team Obama was formed from the grassroots volunteers who were mobilized on behalf of Barack Obama's presidential campaign out of the South Suburbs and have chosen to "stay together and stay involved." It's meetings are open to the public. The group does not make endorsements and encourages participation in the political process as participants see fit.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Dan Hynes Speaks to December Meeting in Flossmoor

On a blistery December 8th, the state Comptroller Dan Hynes came down to the South Suburbs of Cook County to talk to a packed room for "Team Obama" (now Team HOPE) at the Flossmoor Station about his campaign for Governor.

Dan started off about his experience with Barack Obama, from the 2004 Senate campaign to the presidential campaign, including observations on his first trip to Iowa as a surrogate speaker. From there he launched into a detailed explanation of the fiscal crisis that faces Illinois, as well as other problems that face the state. Hynes then answers questions from the audience.

This video is 42:22 long. It can be downloaded by clicking here.

Team Obama was formed from the grassroots volunteers who were mobilized on behalf of Barack Obama's presidential campaign out of the South Suburbs and have chosen to "stay together and stay involved." It's meetings are open to the public. The group does not make endorsements and encourages participation in the political process as participants see fit.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Rich/Bloom Political Deal Falling Apart?

At the August Rich Township Democratic meeting, Democratic committeemen Tim Bradford and Terry Matthews beamed with pride as they announced the (unofficial) slated candidates for the 15th Subcircuit openings: George Scully (Flossmoor/Bloom Twp), Lindzey Jones (Olympia Fields/Rich Twp) and T.J. Somer (Chicago Heights/Bloom Twp). I say that they were the unofficially slated candidates because slating wouldn't occur until after filing; Tim Bradford told me that he was confident these would be the slated candidates because he was chairing the slating committee involved.

Upon this announcement, people like me (who aren't exactly a part of the Regular -- or Machine -- Democrats in Cook County) were told to fall in line, although in much nicer language. "Don't question the deal," I was explicitly told, which indicated just how precarious the whole thing was to start off with.

Of course, Democrats across the 15th Subcircuit had all kinds of reasons to "question the deal." First off, T.J. Somer was formerly the Bloom Twp REPUBLICAN committeeman before he switched parties to run for judge. So the spectre of the local Democratic party chairs endorsing a former Republican party chair was a bit much.

But then George Scully -- who resigned his state House seat (to which another Republican powerhouse was appointed) to be appointed to the bench this year -- quickly separated himself from "the deal." If I hadn't been at the Rich Twp Democratic meeting, I might never have known that Scully had any connection to the Bradford/Matthews slate.

Word was that it was against convention for appointed judges to work against each other. John Griffin (Palos Heights/Worth Twp) was appointed to the bench by the Supreme Court at the same time as Scully, so it wouldn't do for Scully to be supporting a candidate (Somer) running against Griffin.

Those were hardly the only problematic issues. The stated reason for the "deal" (as it became known) was because the east side of the subcircuit was under-represented -- which is true. The statement that we (those of us on the east side) had no representation among judges on the subcircuit bench was false. But why coalesce around Somer, who was not only a recent Republican party chair but also comes out of the whole Bloom Township/Chicago Heights/Republican mess? Not coming from here, quite frankly, I'm always a little uncomfortable with anyone who has even tenuous connections to the Mob or the political culture that grew up around it in Bloom Township/Chicago Heights.

It doesn't help that there's an ongoing federal investigation into all of that.

That's not all. Both Bradford and Terry Matthews can be criticized for not looking amongst Democratic activists for people to appoint, promote or slate. The South Suburbs is blessed with rich political talent and highly competent people among Democrats; we don't need to look to Republican officials to fill Democratic vacancies.

The new wrinkle to all this is the endorsement of judicial candidates by the Chicago Federation of Labor. As part of this process, I am told, candidates were specifically asked if they would support all the endorsed CFL candidates, basically pledging not to work against any other candidate who received the CFL endorsement.

All three CFL endorsed candidates, Jones, Scully and Griffin are said to have agreed to this. For Scully, this was an easy pledge to make. He had distanced himself from the announced deal in August almost immediately. Scully ran his own race from the start, and really made the effort to stay out of the other two races that Matthews and Bradford had announced support for. And Griffin, coming from the west side of the subcircuit, was never party to a deal to begin with.

For Lindzey Jones, though, agreeing to this would complicate things. Jones and Somer apparently planned on splitting the costs of their mail program. When I asked him if allying himself with former Republican partisan Somer wouldn't hurt him, he expressed confidence that their mail program would overcome any negatives that might result.

But sending out multiple pieces of mail jointly with T.J. Somer would be exactly the opposite of what Jones has now (apparently) pledged to do -- which is to not work against any other CFL-endorsed candidate.

This is not an instance where local party chairs got outmaneuvered -- which is what I think they were initially afraid of -- but where the facts on the (political) ground have altered dramatically. The Chicago Fed brings to the table considerable resources and has stated an intention to get involved in this primary to the same degree that they were involved in the 2007 Chicago Aldermanic races. Which means they will get money, talent and volunteers to their endorsed candidates. Very, very few candidates could refuse that kind of help -- or jeopardize it once they got it.

So the question is, is the much-discussed "deal" between Bradford and Matthews now caput? Is Somer officially left out in the cold?

Perhaps because I've known of Chicago Fed head Dennis Gannon's work in 2007 and 2008, I can say this: standing up to (and, perhaps, slighting) Tim Bradford and Terry Matthews would be much easier than standing up to Gannon. While Bradford and Matthews may be concerned about their "juice" in the (political) game, Gannon brings gallons of certified Vitamin C (and D) to the table. The Rich/Bloom "deal" is dead. It is only time before all the parties involved realize it...

Friday, November 13, 2009

Joan Murphy on the Hot Seat?

The Chicago Federation of Labor released their local endorsements yesterday. But it was more interesting in what they didn't do rather than what they did.

They withheld endorsement in the Cook County Board President's race, a seeming slap in the face to Board President Todd Stroger. But they also postponed endorsements in the County County Commissioner's races.

From their press release:

The CFL postponed making any endorsements for Cook County Board of Commissioners until after an important budget vote tentatively scheduled for next Monday. The vote would be whether to repeal a portion of the county sales tax creating a budget deficit that would harm county services and the frontline workers who provide them.

It would be premature for the Chicago Federation of Labor to endorse candidates for the county board with this measure looming overhead,” said CFL President Dennis Gannon. “The county budget is about vital services and the frontline workers who provide them to residents. We cannot endorse individuals who plan to balance the budget by slashing services and laying off men and women for political gain during an election year.”
While the CFL's press release mentions one issue it expects to be considered in Monday's budget meeting ("a vote to ban regulated video gaming in unincorporated Cook County") most people are interested in whether the Board will take up the half-a-cent repeal of Todd Stroger's sales tax increase.

The Illinois General Assembly passed -- and the Governor signed -- a measure rolling back the number of votes needed to override Todd Stroger's veto of the half-cent repeal of the sales tax increase (there are 12 Democrats and 5 Republicans on the Cook County Board). Monday's meeting is a special board meeting "to vote on rolling back the county’s controversial sales tax by a half-penny." Suburban Democrats -- specifically Joan Murphy -- are now on the hot seat.

Joan Murphy has been the very definition of a flip-flopper on the Cook County Board. First she proposed a two cents sales tax increase, then she voted for Todd Stroger's one cent sales tax increase before she voted to repeal half the increase.

But the CFL has thrown a wrench into her political calculation. The Chicago Fed made it clear to county commission challengers that they would be supporting the incumbents who supported the sales tax increase. Preserving jobs is the CFL's number one priority, and area labor unions are smart enough to realize that it is their workers -- and not those hired through the patronage system -- that are on the chopping block if county revenues fall.


Which leaves Murphy in a political quandary. Murphy represents the 6th Cook County Commission District in the South Suburbs, which borders both Will County (with a sales tax rate of 7.00%) and Indiana (with a sales tax rate of 6.0%). Like those who live in Deborah Sims' district, residents in Murphy's district have a daily choice between shopping in Cook County with its highest in the nation sales tax or taking a short drive to shop. Both Sims and Murphy deny that it effects businesses in their districts, but one assumes they know better.

The political heat from constituents about the sales tax burden was why Murphy switched from supporting Todd Stroger's tax increase to voting for a partial repeal. But Murphy also desperately needs the Chicago Fed's support.

Murphy couldn't afford to alienate voters, having one of the weakest bases of support in the Southland. She reported only $25,419.66 COH at the end of the last disclosure period and faces a formidible opponent from attorney John Fairman who has garnered support from village mayors throughout the gerrymandered district.

The CFL has been talking about being a force in the 2010 Cook County Commission races like it was in the 2007 aldermanic races. In 2007, the CFL endorsed candidates and sent full-time staff into several wards. The CFL and member unions gave endorsed candidates between $10,000 and $50,000 and had volunteers on the streets over the last two to four weeks before election day. On election day, it sent as many as 60 volunteers who worked all day to help elect favored candidates.

This is help that Joan Murphy desperately needs. Hence the dilemma. She voted for repeal because of the differentiation between tax rates in her district and Will County and Indiana stores. But the Chicago Fed is making Monday's vote a factor in its endorsement process. And the CFL's endorsement clearly has to be a consideration in Murphy's vote(s) on Monday. She really can't afford for the Chicago Fed to make a "No Endorsement" in her race, as they did in the Board President's race. She needs their help to win re-election. I doubt the CFL minds that it will be influencing at least one commissioner's vote on Monday.

Nick Kaleba, spokesperson for the Chicago Fed, described the delay in endorsing county commission candidates this way:

We look at the commissioners' complete records, including where they stand on balancing the budget on the backs of frontline workers and at the expense of vital county services. Monday's vote does not necessarily guarantee an endorsement or non-endorsement from the CFL. But with the vote just around the corner, it was necessary to hold off endorsing candidates until we have a more complete picture of their records.
The only other commissioner that faces a similar dilemma is appointee Edwin Reyes, who replaced Roberto Maldonado, who was appointed as 26th Ward alderman this summer. Reyes faces Xavier Nogueras (who was Maldonado's choice to replace him on the board) in what is likely to be a hard-fought primary.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Scandal-plagued Sims' solution: Eliminate the competition



Cook County Commissioner Deborah Sims has been all over the news lately. She betrayed her promise to her fellow County Commissioners and voted to save Todd Stroger's tax increase -- just another "Soldier for Stroger" -- giving Cook County "the highest sales tax rate in the country at 10.25%." She uses taxpayer money to lease a Cadillac for $804 a month. She refuses to obey the law, even though she "approved the ordinance, which requires documentation," "refusing to hand in any receipts." Now we find out taxpayers are footing the bill for Sims to be "chauffeured around town at taxpayers' expense."

So no one can be surprised that this scandal-plagued politician wants to throw her opponent off the ballot. It seems that Deborah Sims, and her fellow Stroger allies, made the determination that she can't survive the Democratic primary, given the lack of trust between her and her fellow County Commissioners -- and the lack of faith between her and her constituents.





Sheila Chalmers-Currin filed several times the number of signatures required to get on the ballot. But Illinois isn't a reform state and it allows anyone who lives in an electoral district to challenge the petitions of someone who wants to get on the ballot.

People told the intrepid challenger that Sims would do this. But Currin comes out of the New Politics tradition in Illinois (as evidenced by President Barack Obama), and likes to think the best of her opponent. So she expressed a bit of surprise and a little sadness when I told her that her petitions had been challenged.

Deborah Sims likes to justify her unyielding support of Todd Stroger's tax increase as protecting poor people. By this, one assumes she means the poor people in her ward in Chicago. She doesn't seem much interested by the poor in Ford Heights or, really, anything in the South Suburbs (despite the fact that more than 60% of her constituents live outside the city of Chicago). One notes that she could be using her contingency dollars to help the poor in her district insteading of paying for her Cadillac. Sims could be using her staff to help the people in her district instead of using them as her private chauffeur or taking them with her to form a protective bubble around her in public.

She could. But she doesn't.

In Chicago, politicians can generally be divided into two kinds. The politicians who use their office for their own personal gain are clearly the most common. Deborah Sims falls into this category. The fact that we have paid for her use of a fancy, expensive car added to the fact that she uses her staff for personal aggrandisement (which appears to be far more important than any official roles they might serve) provides clear evidence of that.

But not all politicians are like that. While this is not a disease unique to Chicago, the fact that Chicago is all about doing business does promote this kind of insiduous behavior among those involved in politics here. There are some -- the brave, the few, the honest among us -- who want to use public office to promote the public good (and not their own personal aggrandisement), but any outsider would be struck by their rarity.

President Obama was certainly one of the latter, someone who wants power to promote the public good. So is Sheila Chalmers-Currin.

Which explains why Deborah Sims and her fellow Soldiers for Stroger are eager to throw Sheila off the ballot. Sims can't survive such a comparison. As the evidence of Sims' corruption grows, and Sims' overwhelming neglect of the majority of her County Commission district becomes more obvious, even a weak challenge represents a major threat.

There are clear thinking political operatives outside of the South Suburbs who believe that there is no way that Sims can win this time, given the numerous scandals that whirl around her like a hurricane. But in the South Suburbs, this isn't quite so clear. People don't really know who their County Commissioners are. It is difficult to vote out the incumbent if one doesn't know who is the incumbent. This lack of name recognition by the average voter (as evidenced in our Issues Survey in three townships in the South Suburbs last summer) is matched by a lack of political muscle throughout the South Suburbs. Most of the party organizations in the South Suburbs are anemic, at best, and the more famous among us are petrifying.

Instead of a vibrant, active political atmosphere in the South Suburbs, there continues to exist a culture of fear where people learn not to question their elected officials and to not get involved in local politics. While that culture of fear was broken by the mobilization of activists and volunteers in the South Suburbs on behalf of Barack Obama, politicians like Deborah Sims are working overtime to tamp down whatever residual enthusiasm remains for Hope and Change here.

Deborah Sims has proven to be an adept wheeler and dealer and an effective fearmonger, which has only solidified her position within the political powerbases that do exist. While there is general acknowledgement that Sims has done little for the South Suburbs (I have no doubt that Sims is a worthy representative of her constituents in Chicago, and especially those in the 34th Ward), the existing Democratic party organizations will support an incumbent, the slated candidate in the race.

We can expect this race -- should Sheila Chalmers-Currin survive her ballot challenge -- to be a low-dollar, low-information campaign. Regardless of the fact that Sims has breached the trust of her fellow Commissioners or broken the faith of a majority of her constituents, Sims remains a formidible opponent of the South Suburbs. Residents of the South Suburbs have grown accustomed to being sacrificed to the private deals between pols like Sims and the various "power brokers" in our communities.

We can also expect the media, both newspapers and television, to continue to cover the scandals that surround Deborah Sims. But given the shrinkage of newspapers in the last few years, and the lack of viewers for local news, will this matter? In the end, it will come down to voter contact and election day operations. We know that Sims will benefit from the patronage workers in (and from outside) the district. Can Currin mobilize enough volunteers to match it? We won't know until February 2nd.

What we do know is that the South Suburbs will continue to be embarrassed by Deborah Sims until then.

NOTE: You can help Sheila Chalmers-Currin survive the Stroger/Sims challenge of her nominating petitions by donating through ActBlue. As we have learned through trying to pass health care reform, it's not enough to change the President -- we have to change legislators, too! Do what you can to bring Hope and Change to the Cook County Board of Commissioners.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Republicans Running as Democrats in South Suburbs

When Democrats go to the polls in the South Suburbs this February, they are likely to be surprised by a few names. Top of the list will be Bloom Township Supervisor "T.J." Somer, who was the Bloom Township Republican Committeeman before he resigned to run in the Democratic for judge in 2008. Somer wasn't just a Republican, he was the Republican challenger to Jesse Jackson Jr in 1995, a GOP office holder (Bloom Township Supervisor) and Republican party leader. At the height of the Florida ballot fiasco in November 2000, Somer made it clear where he stood:

"I think it's pretty clear here that I'm the Republican and he's the Democrat," Somer said this week by phone from his office.
Now he wants to be the Democratic nominee for judge. This is problematic on so many levels.

My biggest complaint is that Democrats don't need to dip into the Republican ranks to get good people to run in the South Suburbs. The South Suburbs has a tremendous pool of talent on the Democratic side, and we don't need crossover votes to win elections. While that may have been true decades ago, it certainly hasn't been true since I've lived here (in this millennium). I've got no problem with TJ running as a Republican for office, but he apparently thinks he can't win with that label attached to his name:

Somer is the latest example of someone changing his politically partisan label in hopes that “joining the other team” will give him a better chance at winning. After all, it is not that Somer has anything significantly new in his background.

HIS HOMETOWN USED to be a Republican bastion in the south suburbs. Officials who controlled Chicago Heights politics were white ethnics (largely Italian) who leaned toward the GOP because they saw the party as their political instrument that kept them from being bowled over by Chicago city government.

Shifting parties is just a sign Somer can “smell the coffee,” so to speak, of his changing community. Growing African-American and Hispanic populations in Chicago Heights (along with a federal investigation of the Chicago mob during the 1990s that sent former Chicago Heights Mayor Charles Panici to prison) have changed the town’s politics.
Now Gregory Tejeda seems to think that "There really is little difference between people of Democratic and Republican persuasions, particularly if they come from the same region." But I disagree. In this particular case, I'd argue that it's deceitful.

Judicial races are what we call low-information races on the ballot. Without a great deal of information about the candidates, voters are forced to rely on political cues or brands to help them make their choice for who to vote. One of the primary political cues we have is party affiliation. Being a Democrat means something to most Democrats, and they can articulate what it means. Somer apparently thinks he needs the Democratic label to win election in the South Suburbs. But voters will go into the fall thinking that the (D) means the same thing to Somer (if he were to be the nominee) as it means to them.

Consider about the vast differences between Republican judges and Democratic judges. Justices Antonin Scalia and Stephen Breyer talked about the different judicial philosophies recently at the University of Arizona College of Law:

Using his "originalist" philosophy, Scalia said he likely would have dissented from the historic 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision that declared school segregation illegal and struck down the system of "separate but equal'' public schools. He said that decision, which overturned earlier precedent, was designed to provide an approach the majority liked better.

"I will stipulate that it will," Scalia said. But he said that doesn't make it right. "Kings can do some stuff, some good stuff, that a democratic society could never do," he continued.
There are also dramatic differences between Democrats and Republicans in the areas of sentencing on drug possession -- which have led to sentences being much stiffer on African-American defendants than on white defendants -- and other crimes. And Somer's service as a Chicago Heights cop forces one to question his exposure to racial profiling.

I don't know if TJ Somer shares Justice Scalia's interpretation of the law, I don't know where he stands on the disparities between sentences given to whites and non-whites in drug cases and I couldn't begin to guess if Somer would be sympathetic to law enforcement if they were accused of racial profiling, but -- most likely -- we will never know. Judicial candidates are prohibited (by convention) from answering all but the most vague questions about how they will rule in future cases.

What I do know is that TJ Somer -- like Antonin Scalia -- was a Republican before he decided he wanted to be a judge. I have no reason to think that Somer's judicial philosophy will be more akin to Breyer's than to Scalia's. Which is why I'd argue that attaching the Democratic label to TJ Somer's name is deceptive. We can't trust Somer to act as a Democrat from the bench.

The argument that some have given is that we don't have enough judges from the eastern side of the 15th subcircuit, that the western (and more Republican) end is over-represented on the bench. And I have some sympathy for that argument. But we have enough legal talent among real, long-time Democrats here in Rich, Bloom and Bremen townships without having to bring in Republican ringers to run as Democrats.

What no one can tell me is why I should prefer a Republican-turned-Democrat from the Eastern side of the subcurcuit to a real Democrat from either side. A real, long-time Democrat is much more likely -- it seems to me -- to be more sympathetic to the disadvantaged, the dispossessed, to consumers and taxpayers than TJ Somer. Somer may understand what is necessary to achieve power in this area, but I have real doubts that he understands what it is like to be threatened or abused by power, and I'm not sure how sympathetic he'd be to *people* in his courtroom. Before he deserves the chance to run under the Democratic brand, he needs to prove that he understands what that means to the rest of us, that he can be trusted with the Democratic label.

The constraints of judicial propriety makes that virtually impossible. Why risk it? Democrats should choose a real Democrat, someone who can properly be labeled with that brand, this February to run as their Democratic nominee next November. It's not only the safe choice, it's the smart choice...

Friday, October 23, 2009

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Robin Kelly (Finally) Returns Home to Talk about Treasurer Race

On October 13, the state Treasurer's Chief of Staff Robin Kelly returned to the South Suburbs to talk to a packed room for "Team Obama" at the Flossmoor Station. Prior attempts to schedule the hometown favorite had been thwarted by the special session.

She started off talking about why she left the General Assembly to become Alexi Giannoulias' Chief of Staff. She laid out her reasons for running and what she hopes to accomplish as state Treasurer.

As one would expect from a Chief of Staff (and an experienced politician), Kelly has a clear vision for what she wants to do as Treasurer. Robin Kelly spoke about how, since she joined Treasurer Giannoulias as his Chief of Staff, the two have worked as a team. She clearly wants to continue the numerous reforms begun in the Treasurer's office during their tenure.

This video is 13:12 long.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Will Our Teachers Strike?

Parents in Flossmoor School District 161 recently got a letter that read:

An open letter to the Taxpayers of and Parents of children in
Flossmoor School District 161:

The Board of Education and the Teachers’ Union currently have an unresolved negotiation ongoing to renew the recently expired teachers’ contract. Given the current state of discussions and the fact that the information available to the public is incomplete, we feel it is necessary at this time to provide facts to our community.
The key issues, near as I can tell, is the inequity between what teachers in SD 161 get paid (relative to teacher salaries in the rest of the state), and what administrators get paid in SD 161 (relative to administrator salaries in the rest of the state).

The Illinois report card for Flossmoor SD 161 [PDF] notes that the average teacher's salary for the district is $50,400 while the average teacher salary in Illinois is $60,871. Meanwhile, the average salary for administrators in the district is $131,804 while the state average is $105,117.

So while teachers in Flossmoor make an average of $10,000 less than teachers around Illinois, our administrators are averaging $25,000 more!

The argument I've always heard for the reason that we pay our administrators so much more was twofold: that we wanted to attract the best school administrators possible and that Flossmoor wasn't that cheap to live in.

Which makes sense. But shouldn't the same hold true for our teachers?

Our property values aren't held up by having the best administrators in the country, they are held up by having the best schools. The best schools are not defined as having the "best administrators" but having the best teachers and having a healthy, productive work environment for students to learn.

So what am I missing? Not only does it seem unfair that our teachers are being paid less than the state average (but expected to perform above the average), but they seem to be expected to live, well, elsewhere.

I'd rather have our teachers living in our community -- or at least able to afford to live in our community. That keeps them invested, because it's not only their job but it's their neighborhood.

If you asked me -- and no one did -- I'd say that Illinois schools have way too many administrators in the first place. They have more than double the number of administrators that were in the public schools I attended, which were regarded (at the time) as some of the best in the nation. It is clear to me that this was because we had extraordinary teachers, not a large number of administrators who were highly paid.

We don't have children in public school anymore, but we do have an interest in maintaining the integrity and property values in the community where we live. I would hope the school board would share that same interest. There are undoubtedly many places that the school board could make cuts, but teacher salaries aren't among them. Our schools should be better than average, our teachers should be better than average and their pay should reflect that expectation.

Below average? Flossmoor isn't a below average community. That's the message we should be sending to the SD 161 school board.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Flossmoor Fest Extravaganza

What a difference a year makes!

We have a mayor who finally believes in the future of Flossmoor. That optimism about our village and its potential can be seen in this year's Flossmoor Fest. Walking over to the baseball fields and that difference jumps out at you.

Last year, Flossmoor Fest was a victim of the weather, but the way that its cancellation was handled left area merchant's high and dry. This year, though, not only the weather cooperated, but local merchants and village government seemed more in sync.

The morning started out with a parade that wound its way throughout the village. The H-F Marching Band sounded great, and our village kids were having a good time. My wife noticed that the corvette was having trouble going "marching speed." Probably too many horses under the hood.

At the Fest, lots of good smells and good eats. Flavor, Fresh Starts and the Flossmoor Station were all represented. And, of course, people were making their way up to The Caboose for some yummy ice cream.

The gloom that was over Flossmoor last year has lifted. Over and over, people talked about the difference a year makes. The Flossmoor Fest is evidence of that. What a difference a year made!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Four Illinois Post Offices Remain on Closure List

Visitors to the Flossmoor Post Office have asked several times whether the small downtown office was on the post office closure list. No one seemed to know, and more than a few residents were worried. We like our little post office (and the people who staff it).

But now we know that Flossmoor isn't on the list. In fact, no south suburban post office is on the list. The four locations that remain on the closure list in Illinois are all in Chicago:

Chicago-Finance Station L 4642 S. Bishop 60609-3240
Chicago-Finance Station N 2148 E. 71st St 60649-9997
Chicago-Finance Station W 10422 S. Ewing Ave 60617-6217
Chicago-Lincoln Park Postal Store 2405 N Sheffield Ave 60614-9998
The Postal Service has marked 413 post offices nationwide for possible closure or consolidation, according to the new list announced on September 2nd.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Flossmoor: Tuesday Village Mtg on Ash Borer

The mayor writes:

I am letting our residents know that Nancy Pollard, who is a horticulture educator with the University of Illinois Extension Department, will be updating the Village Board on the emerald ash borer situation at the board meeting on Tuesday, September 8th at 7:30 p.m. The meeting will be at Village Hall. This will be an excellent opportunity for the Board and our residents to be educated on the ash borer and to receive the most current information on the problem.

Could you please pass this information on to your neighbors and Flossmoor contacts.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Deborah Sims' Suburban Problem

In reality, it shouldn't have been a surprise that Deborah Sims reversed her vote and upheld Todd Stroger's veto of the recent tax increase repeal. It was a surprise that she ever voted to repeal the tax increase in the first place.

Sims is as loyal to the Strogers as one can be. As a resident of the 5th County Commission district, this would be less distressing if we actually got something from her loyalty. You wouldn't know it unless you drove around the county, but the condition of county property, facilities and roads are much worse in the South Suburbs than in the Western and Northern suburbs.

While this neglect suggests to people that the South Suburbs just doesn't care, it is really evidence of the lack of money spent by county government in the Southland and a massive failure of leadership on the part of those who represent us.

Deborah Sims. Joan Patricia Murphy.

Deborah Sims can vote with impunity -- or so she believes -- because of several factors. First of all, she doesn't really represent the South Suburbs, she represents her Chicago Wards -- and, specifically, her loyalists are very proud of her residence in the 34th Ward. If Sims can get the votes out of the Chicago Wards and Thornton township, then she wins. Her work -- her neglect of the Southland -- is evidence that she understands this political calculation.

Hence her continued loyalty to Todd Stroger. Thus her neglect of the Southland.

Unlike the Northern and Western suburbs, people in the South Suburbs don't really know who their county commissioners are. We conducted issues canvasses down in the South Suburbs this summer, and while the number of respondants in each county commission district was small (~200), the results were not. Joan Murphy had almost no name recognition in her district and Deborah Sims was only a little better. The numbers aren't statistically significant, because an issues canvass conducted by volunteers via door to door canvassing isn't methodologically sound, but Sims had less than 10% name recognition in the South Suburban doors we knocked. (I'd assume that it was higher in the city.)

There's a good reason for this. In the decade that I've lived in Flossmoor, I've never seen Deborah Sims in the South Suburbs (except for once before at Frank Z's annual summer picnic) until petitions started being passed this year. Over that time, she may have conducted one Southland appearance (probably always in Thornton township) a year. Sims simply doesn't leave the city that often. When she does, she certainly isn't coming to the South Suburbs.

In the place of presence, Sims has built up a culture of fear. Opponents are confronted, with the purpose of beating them down. Pretty standard political tactics for Chicago machine wards. My own experience with Sims' loyalists seems pretty typical. Down in Springfield, for Governor's Day, a Sims' supporter asked me about why the political group I work with had allowed Sims' opponent to speak before the group. "Lies and misleading facts" were being used against the commissioner.

You know me, I'm fairly blunt. "The South Suburbs," I told her, "are getting f*cked and where's Deborah Sims? You can't be surprised that there's a lot of anger out there."

With irony dripping from every word, she replied: "It's those MEN on the county commission. That's why. They don't care about the South Suburbs."

I didn't have the heart to explain to her that it wasn't the job of "those MEN" (I can't properly explain the disgust with which she referred to the male commissioners) to care about the South Suburbs. They don't represent us. They are supposed to care about *their* districts.

I was struck by the admission of failure on the part of Sims' loyalist. The South Suburbs are getting screwed because we don't have effective leadership. The South Suburbs are screwed because our elected leaders can't negotiate effectively with the rest of the board. The South Suburbs are screwed because everybody on the board already knows how she is going to vote.

With the Strogers. The South Suburbs (two thirds of the voters in her district) be damned.

This admission of failure to lead on the county commission is reinforced by her work with Southland representatives in the General Assembly to get state money for South Suburban projects. Deborah Sims is quite proud of her working with our local state reps to bring in money from Springfield. I'm not complaining, but where's the money from Cook County? I pay county taxes, too, and it seems that the only benefits we see down here from Cook County are the politically connected county employees who have two and three county jobs. Many of them appear to work outside of the South Suburbs, so while they may be politically useful, they aren't helping to better *our* communities.

In an environment of fear and an absence of knowledge about who their county representatives are, voters in the South Suburbs may be more willing to consider the recommendations on the palm cards they are given at the polls. Even if both sides wage competitive campaigns and spend real money courting votes, the lack of name recognition on the part of Deborah Sims and Sheila Chalmers-Currin (in the 5th) and Joan Murphy and John Fairman (in the 6th) will be problematic. As Doug Price, one of the few organizers in the South Suburbs, pointed out, voter anger won't know who to direct itself at if voters don't know who is the incumbent.

On the other hand, there's a real possibility that both Sims and Murphy could be outspent in this election cycle. Neither one had much cash on hand in the last report, and both are aware that they face an angry electorate. Conventional wisdom down in the Southland is that neither Sims nor Murphy will get the endorsements of the newspapers. While the unions are generally expected to endorse the incumbents, unless they import workers into the South Suburbs it's hard to imagine that this will have much effect. Local AFSCME members say they expect their union to support Sims and Murphy, but they say they won't vote with their union leadership. They may feel differently if the union has an actual presence down here -- especially if they have to walk by a union member to enter the polls.

We should never forget that political machines -- of all varieties -- are more effective in low-informational races. Whether or not these county commission races are low information is up to opponents. It is the incumbents who benefit otherwise.

In the end, Deborah Sims has to do two contradictory things: have a strong presence in the South Suburbs (especially in Thornton township) and hope that voters don't realize who she is. Todd Stroger won't be successful down here -- John Stroger wouldn't have done that well if Forrest Claypool's campaign had tried to compete in the South Suburbs.

If Democratic reformers want to break the stranglehold that the machine has on the Cook County board, they will have to take over these two seats. Which won't be difficult in this particular political environment. Voters in the South Suburbs are pissed and there is no reason to expect them to be loyal to the machine. Toni Preckwinkle figured this out early, and has found the Southland to be a rich hunting ground. The era of Sims and Murphy is fast fading from the scene...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Quote of the Day

“We’ve got [rookie Xavier Fulton] playing everywhere. We’ve got him playing guard, playing tackle. You’re talking about a smart kid. He has Jeremy Zuttah-type qualities. He’ll be another guy in the mix.” -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Former Rep. Robin Kelly Runs for Illinois Treasurer

In a packed room in Chicago, Robin Kelly, former state Representative for the 38th district and current Chief of Staff to state Treasurer, Alexi Giannoulias, announced her own bid to become Illinois' state Treasurer on Monday.

Robin was introduced by Michelle Mills, who testified to Robin's presence as a role model in so many people's lives, Ralph Martiere, who observed that, if Robin is elected, there won't be a scandal in the Treasurer's office, and Debra Graham, who became friends with Robin after Robin had endorsed her opponent to the Illinois General Assembly.

This video lasts little over 13 minutes.



Disclosure: I am coordinating Robin's petition drive to get on the ballot.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Wisdom of Braun, the Wisdom of Us

Flossmoor voters clearly made the right choice in the last municipal elections and we see more confirmation of that every day. Recently, USA Today observed:

Federal cash is now the No. 1 revenue source for state and local governments, surpassing sales and property taxes, the government data show.
You may recall that this was a key issue in the recent campaign, with a clear choice between the two mayoral candidates. The two candidates laid out their positions at the League of Women Voters debate held at the Flossmoor Library on March 19th.

Paul Braun framed the debate this way:

Washington has decided to pump 787 billion dollars into our economy and my question is, will Flossmoor be there to take advantage of that....

we also need to be federally involved, as well. I'm committed to go to Washington, if necessary, to go knock on doors to get the funds that are necessary for our town. Because with those funds, that takes the pressure off of us, our taxpayers, the resident's tax burden. Some of you may have seen that a number of our recent mayors went to Washington and that we did not.
Our former mayor replied:

Washington will not reduce your tax dollars but good solid commercial developments in our TIF area will.
Take a drive down Volmer Road to see how far the former mayor progressed on that point.

Paul Braun was clearly right. Whether we like it or not, federal dollars are flooding municipal coffers. We need that grant writer, we need that money, we need help -- even in affluent Flossmoor. The wisdom of the voters never ceases to amaze me...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Matteson Mayor still generates skepticism

Once viewed as an up-and-coming progressive leader, Matteson Mayor Andre Ashmore continues to make decisions that raise questions about his commitment to open and responsible government. Today's Southtown Star raises new concerns:

The owner of the new car dealership that's getting a tax break from Matteson to open in the Matteson Auto Mall let current Mayor Andre Ashmore use his billboard for a campaign spot during Ashmore's successful mayoral run in the spring.

[...]

Ashmore said his ties to Miller and auto dealer Bob Hawkinson had nothing to do with the Matteson Village Board's July 20 vote to give a tax break to Hawkinson to open a new Kia dealership in the auto mall.

"I can assure you that one has nothing to do with the other," Ashmore said. "They've always supported not only my campaign but other campaigns I've worked on. They've been supportive."

Hawkinson is a longtime Matteson businessman. He owns Hawkinson Nissan in the auto mall as well as the billboard located off Lincoln Highway and Ridgeland Avenue that Ashmore used during his campaign.
On its own, this tax break might not seen indicative of Ashmore's rejection of Obama-style politics and exploitation of Chicago-style politics. But when added with other actions, like the inherent conflict of interest in promoting his wife, the pattern is becoming increasingly clear.

The South Suburbs will never advance politically if it continues to adopt Chicago-style politics. By pitting neighbor against neighbor, village against village and township against township, the kind of politics that Andre Ashmore seems to be employing only condemns the South Suburbs to economic and political stagnation, perhaps even to political and economic poverty. Mayor Ashmore may lead us into a race to the bottom, but there's no victory there...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Flossmoor Standout Fulton Featured

The Southtown Star has a nice piece about Tampa Bay Rookie Xavier Fulton. The article really does show the common sense nature of the former H-F player:

"Everything moves faster and the players are more athletic," he said. "You have to do your homework, study the game films and be ready for anything. Sure, it's been fun to sit down and have lunch with an All-Pro like Ronde Barber, but you can't lose your focus. I'm getting paid to play football."
We'll be watching...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Braun Keeps Promise of Change

Newly-elected Mayor Paul Braun promised that change was going to come to Flossmoor. Anyone who has driven down its main roads knew that change was needed. Our former mayor brought in a "good friend" who was in serious financial difficulty to tear down five tax-paying businesses on speculation that he could develop the property.

That property (and the other property on Volmer) has sat vacant for four years -- a monument to a failed vision.

That was predictable. I attended the village board meeting where the zoning changes (extremely favorable to the former mayor's friend) were approved. And I predicted there that this developer would have trouble -- despite the fact that it was the height of the building boom! Had the former mayor -- or village board -- done its due diligence, they would have known that, too.

Newly-elected Mayor Paul Braun, though, has risen to the occasion! He told me, "I think you're going to like your new view," (my property overlooks the blighted area that our former mayor brought to Flossmoor) and the Southtown Star tells us:

The village of Flossmoor has hatched an agreement with a Frankfort developer to maintain a highly visible piece of vacant land that has become an eyesore on Flossmoor Road near downtown.
As you can see from the picture to the right, village employees removed the sign that the former owner (my understanding is that this property is a part of bankruptcy procedings) had up -- and which had not changed for several years.

But this is definitely a work in progress. While the plan seems to be to clean up the property from the original destruction of those five tax-paying businesses (as well as the damage done to the property since), it's not done yet. There remains several mounds of gravel, tree limbs and dirt. We can only hope those are removed soon.

Still, you got to give props to the new mayor. Our former mayor had a very lazy approach to business and government. His friend was never pushed to clean up the property and the former mayor certainly never considered thinking of how to use the village government to take action.

Mayor Braun is much more active in protecting Flossmoor. We are told:

All of the costs for the work will be placed as a lien against the property and will be paid by the developer when the property is sold or a permit to develop it is issued, whichever comes first, village officials said.
This could have happened sooner. Regardless, Mayor Braun has done it. And that's the important thing. The change we were promised has clearly arrived...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Matteson Moves in Wrong Direction

The SouthtownStar reports that the wife of Matteson Mayor Andre Ashmore has been promoted and given a raise by the village of Matteson.

The mayor claims that "We have nothing to hide," but this promotion of a spouse is still an embarrassment for Matteson and the South Suburbs. It signals that politics as usual is still alive and casts a pall over Ashmore's leadership. This single act demonstrates that the corrosive system of patronage and reserving jobs for family members has spread from Chicago, infecting the Southland and poisoning our politics.

Mayor Ashmore hints that his wife is qualified "and maintained he had nothing to do with his wife landing a new job." Even if this was true, it's hardly a credible claim.

So why even try to make it?

Giving a job to your spouse is never going to look legitimate. Especially not in Illinois. Toni Ashmore will forever be tainted as the woman whose husband is the mayor. And she will have to live with the whispers that, if not for her husband, she wouldn't have gotten the job. Regardless of how talented or deserving she is.

Ethics are not the standards we have in good times, but the standards we hold unto when we are tested. Both Toni and Andre have been tested here, and they have come up short. Both have exhibited a lack of sound political judgment. Both have settled for the decaying political culture that has driven Illinois to the depths where we currently reside.

The Ashmore example stands in stark contrast to the example provided by President Barack Obama. Obama's message of change is being translated into moving the country forward. Ashmore's message of nepotism harkens back to the old corrupt system of patronage that has basically ruined Illinois. And it tells us that the connection between Rod Blagojevich and the Ashmores is stronger than we realized.

This is no small matter. Trying to bring good, honest government to the South Suburbs will undoubtedly be difficult. And we have to keep our eyes upon the fresh young faces that emerge, looking for evidence that this is their intention. It appears that Mayor Ashmore is looking more to Mayor Daley as a model than to Barack Obama. And that's a shame...

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Farewell Open Thread

Got a memory you want to share? A farewell comment to the outgoing mayor? This is your chance.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Flossmoor Getting the Change Braun Promised

Not even sworn in yet, mayor-elect Paul Braun has already taken steps to alleviate Flossmoor's tax burden while still improving services. On Tuesday, May 19th, Braun led a delegation of Trustees (Philip Minga and Diane Williams), our village Clerk (Pam Nixon) and our village Manager (Bridget Wachtel) down to Springfield to lobby our state legislators for funds. This is a radical departure from the past, where our soon-to-be former mayor sought "Home Rule" status so that he could raise our taxes at will.

Flossmoor's delegation met with Senators Toi Hutchison and Maggie Crotty and Representatives Anthony DeLuca and Al Riley. Braun tells us:

We were very well received and we were able to press three Flossmoor projects for possible funding. The projects that we requested funding are for replacement of street lighting in the central downtown business area (Sterling & Flossmoor Rd) $500K; reconstruction of the Brookwood Bridge $115K; and storm sewer replacement/rehab for the Flossmoor Hills area $200K for engineering and $1M cost.

All of the legislators told us that Flossmoor's timing for funding requests is excellent as all of the legislators are submitting funding requests this week. All four legislators also told us how pleased they were to see Flossmoor being more active and involved in State affairs.

When we met with Senator Crotty, we were also able to speak with IDOT Director Gary Hannig about problems we have been having with the last resurfacing of Flossmoor Road. Director Hannig promised us he would look into the matter and get back to us.

It's exciting to realize that the village of Flossmoor has stepped into the modern age, recognized that we are connected to the rest of the south suburbs and become more aggressive in getting funding for the projects we need. Change has come to Flossmoor. Oh, Happy Days!

Paul Braun will be sworn in on June 1st at 7:30pm. There will be a short village board meeting and a reception afterwards (cake and coffee). Everyone is invited to inaugurate this transition to the 21st century!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Stimulus Dollars Assigned to the South Suburbs

In a prior post, I noted the project requests from the South Suburbs in Cook County. I wrote:

Mayors in Illinois made a request totalling $3 billion, representing all the requests in the state listed in the report. But the villages of County Club Hills, Dolton, Flossmoor, Hazel Crest, Markham, Robbins or Steger were absent from these requests.

Now we get our first indications of where recovery money is actually going in the South Suburbs. Recovery.org is using federal contracts to track recovery dollars, and found these IDOT projects funded for the South Suburbs:

Recovery Funded Projects in COOK

Reconstruction, Intersection Improvement, Lighting, Utility Adjustment
PHOENIX (IL), HARVEY (IL), MARKHAM (IL)
Illinois Department of Transportation
FEDERAL ECONOMIC RECOVERY SPENDING. IDOT Proposed Projects for American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009. District 1. State Highways. COOK COUNTY. Route/Street: US 6, 159TH ST. Location: I-294 (TRI-STATE TOLLWAY) TO ILL 1 (HALSTED ST) Miles =2.33. Impr...
Project Type: AdvanceNotice
Estimated Value: $21,110,000
Estimated Jobs: 274

Resurfacing
DOLTON (IL), CALUMET CITY (IL), CHICAGO (IL), SOUTH HOLLAND (IL)
Illinois Department of Transportation
FEDERAL ECONOMIC RECOVERY SPENDING. IDOT Proposed Projects for American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009. District 1. State Highways. COOK COUNTY. Route/Street: I 94, BISHOP FORD EXP. Location: 130TH ST TO US 6 (159TH ST) Miles =4.29. Improvements: RES...
Project Type: AdvanceNotice
Estimated Value: $8,900,000
Estimated Jobs: 116

Bridge Deck Overlay, Bridge Joint Repair
CALUMET CITY (IL)
Illinois Department of Transportation
FEDERAL ECONOMIC RECOVERY SPENDING. IDOT Proposed Projects for American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009. District 1. State Highways. COOK COUNTY. Route/Street: BURNHAM AVE, FAU 2943. Location: OVER STATE ST, RRS & GRAND CALUMET RIVER. Improvements...
Project Type: AdvanceNotice
Estimated Value: $4,960,000
Estimated Jobs: 64

Construction Engineering
CHICAGO (IL), CALUMET CITY (IL), DOLTON (IL), SOUTH HOLLAND (IL)
Illinois Department of Transportation
FEDERAL ECONOMIC RECOVERY SPENDING. IDOT Proposed Projects for American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009. District 1. State Highways. COOK COUNTY. Route/Street: I 94, BISHOP FORD EXP. Location: W OF M L KING DR TO US 6 (159TH ST). Improvements: CONSTRUCT...
Project Type: AdvanceNotice
Estimated Value: $2,000,000
Estimated Jobs: 26

Bridge Deck Overlay
OAK FOREST (IL)
Illinois Department of Transportation
FEDERAL ECONOMIC RECOVERY SPENDING. IDOT Proposed Projects for American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009. District 1. State Highways. COOK COUNTY. Route/Street: I 57. Location: AT 167TH ST. Improvements: BRIDGE DECK OVERLAY. Est. Cost: $1,000,000. Ci...
Project Type: AdvanceNotice
Estimated Value: $1,000,000
Estimated Jobs: 13

Resurfacing
HOMEWOOD (IL)
Illinois Department of Transportation
FEDERAL ECONOMIC RECOVERY SPENDING. IDOT Proposed Projects for American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009. District 1. State Highways. COOK COUNTY. Route/Street: DIXIE HWY, FAU 2843. Location: GOVERNOR'S HWY TO 183RD ST Miles =1.08. Improvements: RESURF...
Project Type: AdvanceNotice
Estimated Value: $900,000
Estimated Jobs: 12

Resurfacing
HOMEWOOD (IL), EAST HAZEL CREST (IL)
Illinois Department of Transportation
FEDERAL ECONOMIC RECOVERY SPENDING. IDOT Proposed Projects for American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009. District 1. State Highways. COOK COUNTY. Route/Street: 175TH ST, FAU 1618. Location: GOVERNORS HWY TO DIXIE HWY Miles =0.75. Improvements: RESURFACI...
Project Type: AdvanceNotice
Estimated Value: $420,000
Estimated Jobs: 5

Construction Engineering
CALUMET CITY (IL)
Illinois Department of Transportation
FEDERAL ECONOMIC RECOVERY SPENDING. IDOT Proposed Projects for American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009. District 1. State Highways. COOK COUNTY. Route/Street: BURNHAM AVE, FAU 2943. Location: OVER STATE ST, RRS & LITTLE CALUMET RIVER. Improvement...
Project Type: AdvanceNotice
Estimated Value: $400,000
Estimated Jobs: 5

Signing (New)
DOLTON (IL), CALUMET CITY (IL), CHICAGO (IL), SOUTH HOLLAND (IL)
Illinois Department of Transportation
FEDERAL ECONOMIC RECOVERY SPENDING. IDOT Proposed Projects for American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009. District 1. State Highways. COOK COUNTY. Route/Street: I 94, BISHOP FORD EXP. Location: 130TH ST TO US 6 (159TH ST). Improvements: SIGNING (NEW). ...
Project Type: AdvanceNotice
Estimated Value: $175,000
Estimated Jobs: 2

data generated at 6:30am on May 21, 2009

According to the site, there have been 81 projects funded in Cook County valued at $318,260,019.00 of recovery dollars. Of these, there are 9 projects (or 11%) valued at $39,865,000 (or 12.5%), generating 517 jobs in South Suburbs (and Chicago in related projects).

Again, we find that the villages of County Club Hills, Flossmoor and Hazel Crest are absent from these projects. As we learned during the campaign, this was deliberate on the part of the outgoing mayor of Flossmoor. Even if the need exists (which it does), the defeated mayor choose not to focus on stimulus money, believing instead that Flossmoor would benefit more by his long-time interest in the blighted TIF district he declared on Volmer Rd. Of course, those lots have been vacant for years (much of it more than 10 years) and no one believes that large tracts of land will be developed in the midst of the worst recession since World War 2.

Which may be why Flossmoor voters soundly rejected his candidacy.

Otoh, the H-F school district not only chased -- but has received -- stimulus money to help fund building on the H-F High School campus:

Non-Recovery Funded Projects in COOK

High School Addition and Remodeling of Science Classrooms
Location: Flossmoor, Illinois
Industry: Demolition, Salvage, and Excavation, Contractor - Electrical, Construction - Educational Buildings, Contractor - Heating, Ventilating, Air Conditioning, Refrigeration, Construction - Hospitals and Medical Facilities, Research and Development Facilities, Construction - Industrial, Warehouse and Animal Care Facilities, Contractor - Plumbing and Piping, Construction - Renovation, Rehabilitation and Historic Preservation

There's a lot of irony to these desperate results given the fact that the mayor rudely lectured the superintendent after the community rose up against the outgoing mayor's request to sell alcohol at retail across the street from H-F High. For context, it is appropriate to note that no retail outlet in Flossmoor currently sells packaged liquor. The outgoing mayor sought to make the location across from the high school the first in the village -- something that residents didn't take too kindly to...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Deborah Sims Sticks with Stroger, Sticks It To Taxpayers

At a time when people in the South Suburbs are absolutely furious over the level of taxation we endure -- especially when compared to the level of services we receive -- 5th District Commissioner Deborah Sims cast the deciding vote to uphold Todd Stroger's veto of the Cook County Board's repeal of his controversial sales tax increase.

the county board voted 12-to-3 to roll back the 1-percentage-point tax increase that was approved last year. The higher tax pushed the county's share of the sales tax to 1.75 percent and made Chicago's overall sales tax 10.25 percent - the highest of any major U.S. city.

Deborah Sims had been absent from that first vote, but the Stroger loyalist found her way to vote on Tuesday. She couldn't let Todd down this time -- the rest of us be damned!

Sims, who resides in Chicago, said of her constituents:

We don't have any businesses in my community to leave.

But Sims seems to forget that she is supposed to represent the South Suburbs, too, where there are numerous businesses. And there have been businesses that skipped over the county (or state) lines in the suburbs. Between the massive increases in our property tax bills simultaneous to the ten percent increase in our sales taxes, taxation is one of the most frequent complaints from residents in the South Suburbs.

But Deborah Sims doesn't care about us. In fact, she seems to forget that she even represents us. You could be forgiven if you thought that the last time Sims came down to the South Suburbs was in 2006 -- when she was campaigning for our vote.

The fact is that the South Suburbs is a disproportionate part of the 5th Cook Co. Commission district. Even in 2006, when the Chicago numbers were a bit larger, there were 61,926 Chicago registered voters in her district, while 130,786 registered voters lived in the South Suburbs. More than two-thirds of her voters live in the suburbs -- where businesses have left because of her support for Stroger's sales tax increase.

Both New York City and Los Angeles county have sales taxes that are two cents less than what we find here. It is extremely difficult not to think that the extra two cents is our corruption tax, the daily tax that we pay to fund corruption and patronage that seems to benefit only the machine hacks like Deborah Sims. Sims was right when she said, "You're mistaken if you think this is not political, because it is." Sims' loyalty lies with Todd Stroger and the relatives he employs, not with the good people of Cook County. It is political, and we know where Sims' political loyalties lay: with Todd Stroger.

Voters in the South Suburbs need to think about that -- and remember it on election day...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Toni Preckwinkle in the South Suburbs

On May 12, Ald. Toni Preckwinkle came down to the South Suburbs to talk to "Team Obama" at the Flossmoor Station as part of her outreach to the suburbs as she gathers momentum in her race for the Cook County Board President. She mentions near the end that the previous evening she had been in Glenview (in the north suburbs).

She started off talking about what the Cook County Board does and her approach to County government. But she quickly turned to answering the questions of the 50-odd people who showed up for our May meeting.

What was obvious from the beginning was that Ald. Preckwinkle was prepared to be the Cook County Board President. She was knowledgeable about Cook County government, the office of President as well as the politics involved. She didn't pretend to know the local quirks of the South Suburbs but expressed an interest to learn and the presence of mind to assign someone who's responsibility would be to represent our concerns and interests in her office.

The video is 43 minutes and 32 seconds long, but I forgot to push the "record" button at the start of her speech. There is approximately 5 minutes missing at the beginning.

Monday, May 4, 2009

CVS Withdraws Request to Sell Alcohol in Flossmoor

When the 5 representatives of CVS were presented to the meeting, they were all smiles. Roger Molski, outgoing mayor, gave them bad advice. "Address your remarks to the Trustees," he told them, "because they are the ones who have a vote."

This was only the most recent indicator of Molski's detachment from Flossmoor. Because it wasn't the Trustees that CVS needed to win over, it was the community. The meeting started with 3 Trustees publicly committed to voting against allowing the drug chain to selling packaged liquor across the street from H-F High School. But given the smiles that the CVS people walked in with, it was hard not to think that the deal was in. The other 3 Trustees (Mitros, Minga and Hoag) seemed inclined to vote for the granting of the liquor license, and Molski would break the tie (obviously, in favor of CVS).

What was obvious from the start was that CVS didn't really appreciate Flossmoor. Nor did they exhibit any understanding of the unique character and charm of our community. And they certainly had absolutely no appreciation for the importance of Homewood-Flossmoor High School to the community or our property values. Given that their primary contact had been with the mayor (for 6 and a half years, he told us last night), this cannot be much of a surprise.

The district manager for CVS tried to make two main arguments in support of granting them a liquor license. His first argument was that packaged liquor was already available from Jewel, which was less than a mile away from H-F. And that is true, although no one seems to think that kids are walking up to the Jewel from H-F. They won't even walk to the McDonald's that is across the street from Jewel, so it's really hard to imagine that Jewel is an alternative to what CVS was asking to do.

His second point centered around the specious claim that, well, CVS had a store across the street from Crystal Lake South High, and they didn't have any of these problems. Of course, as you can see, CVS is not located "across the street" from Crystal Lake South High School. It appears that a water treatment plant is located across the street from the High School.

Rather, CVS appears to be down the street from the high school and you'd have to walk past at least one neighborhood to get there. IOW, they lied to us. This can't be that much of a surprise, given the fact that Roger Molski -- the person they've apparently been dealing with -- has always been a little loose with the truth, as well. We have to accept the fact that CVS probably took their measure of our community through him and decided that they didn't have to really tell us the truth if they wanted to get what they wanted. We've been poorly served, and last night's meeting was the direct result of that.

We can only hope -- and expect -- change with the new administration.

In the end, the CVS representatives saw that this proposal had severely alienated them from our community, and perhaps has caused them irreparable harm. Many, many residents of Flossmoor reacted to their interest in selling packaged liquor in a retail store with horror. We don't allow that in Flossmoor, and we certainly didn't want our first store to sell hard liquor at retail to be across the street from the high school. More than one resident said to me, "I don't want the CVS store across the street from the high school, but I certainly don't want them selling alcohol."

It is clear that CVS has a lot to learn about Flossmoor. It doesn't appear that they are really interested in dealing with the village any differently than how they treat Harvey or Chicago Heights. They keep talking about their Neighborhood Drug Store model, but we already have four drug stores within a mile of where they want to locate. There isn't a real community interest in adding a fifth drug store to serve the village. So acting like they are doing us a great service is, well, stupid.

CVS isn't likely to be integrated into our community fabric with that attitude, and it certainly didn't help that they were willing to lie to us to squeeze an extra one percent of profits out of the store. They were willing to risk our children, our property values, and our community values for an extra one percent of profits. That's not a good neighbor. They've got a lot of bad will to overcome with these kinds of tactics.

The CVS representatives left the meeting looking pretty sullen. It certainly didn't help that they had to walk past a gauntlet of village residents who had more to say, and not all of it pleasant. But the fact is CVS withdrew their proposal to sell hard liquor in Flossmoor -- for now. Village residents will have to remain eternally vigilant as long as CVS is here to keep them from trying this again. Village politics has probably been changed forever, as we can expect the chain to try to dominate them in the future, in order to build support for allowing them to sell packaged liquor. I suppose Flossmoor got a little less charming last night. What a legacy to begin a business with...

Flossmoor Candidates on the Record about Liquor Sales across from HF

The League of Women Voter's debate at the Library last month included this exchange about the controversial proposal to sell alcohol across the street from Homewood-Flossmoor High School:

Q: How does a convenience store with a liquor license across the street from 3,000 students fit in with the character of Flossmoor.

BRAUN: It doesn't, in my opinion. State law normally requires that there be no liquor within I believe it's about 100 feet of a school itself and this is just outside of that. Now, I'm going to go out on a limb. I was not in favor of liquor for this going forward. I inquired at the time that the developer came before the village board in terms of what percentage of the retail sales are going to be liquor-related and its less than 8%. And my follow-up question to the developer was, if Flossmoor does not grant a liquor license, will this project go forward, and the answer was yes. This is not a deal killer based on what I've heard so far. So again, I expect to be contacting lots of residents and get community input in terms of what the village thinks about liquor across from the high school but going forward, I don't think it's a proper location.

You'll hear others say that well, they can go down to the Jewel or they can elsewhere, well let them go elsewhere! I don't think we need that across the street from the high school, at this point, I don't think it sets a proper example. Not that I'm against alcohol, for heaven's sake, but again, the high school district doesn't want it. 233, I've talked to the school board, they do not want liquor at that location, so that tells you something right off the bat. If they don't want it, I don't see why the village needs to press this if in fact we can confirm that this is not a deal killer, so to speak, for this establishment.

WILLIAMS: I'm not supportive at this point of hard liquor being sold, of packaged liquor, being sold in our community at all...

As we speak about this today, though, we don't sell packaged liquor, hard liquor in Flossmoor. They sell it in communities around us that are relatively close, it's available to people who would like to buy it. My biggest concern, even beyond the high school, is that it may attract people to our community to buy that liquor that we don't necessarily need to have attracted to our community...

But as I see it today, not only because of where it's located, across the street from the school, but because of the people it might attract, I can't support hard liquor being sold in town.

MINGA: At this point, I still have an open mind on this.

CRUM: As far as the liquor license is concerned, I'm a wine con, but I don't think that a wine store, a beer store, or a liquor store across the street from the high school is a proper place for it. And if it's proposed I would vote no.


What this means is that three trustees (Braun, Williams and Crum) have public committed to vote against Molski's proposal to sell liquor across the street from HF High School. There are six trustees on the village board.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Roger Molski's Final -- Vindictive -- Act

If you aren't a parent of a teen at HF High School, you probably don't know about Roger Molski's plan for selling liquor across the street from the high school. Having damaged Flossmoor by bringing in his friend to "develop" the property half a block from the train station in Flossmoor (the huge empty lot on Flossmoor Road), Molski seems intent on further hurting the village by degrading the reputation of HF, our community's greatest asset and the main pillar to sustaining our property values.

Roger Molski seems intent on making HF High School like the southside high schools in Chicago where fights often break out at athletic events. Imagine the consequences of alcohol being available right across the street from the high school when people come to visit for athletic events. Fights are much more likely to break out, kids are much more likely to drive drunk, and the school's reputation is much more likely to be negatively effected.

It is Molski's final, and most vindictive, act on the village. I guess he's showing us.

The school board for District 233 is so horrified by Molski's plan that they sent this letter to parents of high school students:

April 29, 2009
Dear H-F Parents/Guardians,

As you may know, a new CVS Pharmacy will be constructed on the comer of Flossmoor Road and Kedzie Avenue. Without your help and support, alcohol will be sold at this location which is directly across the street from the high school. Our concern for student safety is paramount.

Over the past six months we have worked hard to articulate our student safety concerns by attending several meetings of the Flossmoor Village Board and the Flossmoor Planning Commission. We have also met with the Mayor, Village Manager and the Village Trustees to voice our concerns that arise from having the pharmacy directly across the street from the high school. Our discussions have been productive to ensure the safety of students; however, it has come to our attention that the Village Board is now planning to grant a liquor license to the new CVS pharmacy to sell carry-out alcohol.

High school, middle school and elementary school children will be walking past this location on a daily basis. The potential issues that would put these children and our schools in jeopardy quickly become real when alcohol is factored into the mix. We are adamantly opposed to the CVS Pharmacy proposal to sell alcohol now or at any point in the future.

We request that you show your support by attending the next Flossmoor Village Board meeting on Monday, May 4th at 7:30 p.m. at the Flossmoor Village Hall to convey to the Mayor and Board of Trustees that granting a liquor license is not an acceptable option at this location. Additional parking is available at Parker Junior High across the street from the Flossmoor Village Hall. If you are unable to attend, please call the Village Hall at (708) 798-2300 to to express your disapproval of having liquor sold across the street from the students in our community. We look forward to seeing you at the meeting and having your support.

While we may never know why, Molski is pushing hard to have this license granted to CVS before he leaves office. As I've mentioned before, a CVS selling alcohol across the street from the high school will create tremendous downward pressure on our property values. It's not simply a safety issue, it is an assault on our greatest asset in Flossmoor.

Looks like Molski wants his revenge before he leaves the village.

You can sign an epetition to have this question placed on the ballot in the next village election: "Shall the sale at retail of alcoholic liquor be prohibited on any property within 1000 feet of a public school in the village of Flossmoor?" This will give Flossmoor voters a chance to vote on whether they agree that our property values should be degraded by Roger Molski's last act as mayor...