We are like exhausted firefighters ... trying to appease the new assistant fire chief ... who says, "Why not try aiming AWAY from the fire instead of at it?"
The Cars Are Just a Drop in the Polluted Waters
Re "Sweet Fleet" by Mick Dumke, June 12
The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District is one of the very few major dischargers of municipal wastewater in North America that does not disinfect to kill pathogens although the Chicago River and the Cal-Sag Canal are increasingly being used for kayaking, canoeing, and wading. Also, unlike the sewage treatment plants for Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and many other cities, the big MWRD plants do not remove phosphorus although phosphorus pollution is known to cause major problems in lakes and rivers as well as the Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone.
One must fear that the message that the MWRDGC commissioners will take away from this article is that they need not worry about the big stuff since the press cares only about whether commissioners receive a car or other debatable perks.
Re: "Is Obama a Chicago Politician?" by Ben Joravsky, the Works, June 12
It seems to me that McCain and Obama are being held to different standards with different requirements for proof.
McCain has done favors—some pretty irregular favors—for lobbyists who have done favors for him. The "quid" and the "quo" of the quid pro quo are there, but nobody can prove the "pro." So, he's innocent until proven guilty.
Obama comes from the dirty world of Chicago politics. So, he has to be dirty even if you can't point to his doing favors for his donors.
What TIFs Are vs. What They Were Meant to Be
Re "Calling It a Rant Won't Make It Go Away," Letters, June 12
Once again, Ben Joravsky has done a first-rate job of reporting on the TIF scandal ["The TIF That Keeps On Taking," the Works, June 5], a brave act that he should be commended for. He missed one important point.
[Paul] Keller stated, "A TIF district cannot be created in the first place unless the area is 'blighted,'" which is completely false. Some of the TIFs are in the most affluent areas of the city, and I am sure Harold Washington is turning in his grave with the way Mayor Daley has manipulated the original intent of the TIF program.
I applaud Mr. Joravsky for his thorough reporting and his meticulous facts. He is the crown jewel of the Chicago Reader.
I am not "a lawyer for the Illinois Tax Increment Association." My law firm is a member of that association. And I said in the third sentence of my letter that I am a municipal attorney who has helped create many TIF districts. That seemed to me to constitute full disclosure.
I did not say that municipalities shouldn't be required to report TIF revenues and expenditures; they are required to report them to the state. I said that Ben Joravsky's complaint that they are not reported on tax bills doesn't make sense.
I don't know the specific basis on which the city of Chicago determined that the Central Loop area qualified as a TIF district, but anyone who wants to know can read the ordinance establishing it and the background studies. If it's not "blighted" today, do you think it might be because of all the TIF money which has been invested in it over the past 20 years?
And I can indeed contradict "The Doc's" claim of "diversion." One of the most common uses of TIF funds is for "public works"—improving water mains and sewers, building and improving streets, demolishing abandoned buildings, and so on.
I'm sorry that my letter "lost" Guy Fawkes. TIF is, as I said, a complicated issue and I tried to write as clearly as I could. But if Guy was truly "lost" how does he know that what I wrote was "drivel?"
Ben Joravsky replies:
I'm sorry I misstated Keller's connection to the ITIA. As I've reported many times, a program intended to eradicate blight in low-income communities starving for investment is widely applied to some of our wealthiest areas, where developers are lining up even without handouts from the city. That's why I call TIFs a reverse Robin Hood—it taxes us all to feed the well connected.
Allá's Beyond Barriers
Re "A Mexican Mutantes?" by Miles Raymer, Sharp Darts, June 12
I saw Allá open for Apostle of Hustle (see Broken Social Scene) at Schubas about a year ago. The booking was spot-on and the show was great. Definitely a weirdo show. Cliches aside, the music transcended the language barrier because I can't remember if Lupe was singing in Spanish or English.
It kills me to think that this album is going to be relegated to the Latin section. Yes, Allá may be on a cultural mission and steadfastly deliver it in Spanish and even receive a Latin/Alt Grammy, but it should be made abundantly clear that this is a Chicago band. Their message is a uniquely American one as much as it is Mexican. Perhaps Pan-American?
I bought the album last night and have listened to it five times already. The perfect soundtrack to a Chicago summer! Jorge: balance the advice of your fellow Latino artists with this: Look beyond the weird white kids and aim for everyone now. The album sounds mature and complete. It's beautiful. It's fit for all ears. Miles: All the comparisons are well-deserved. Even as Pet Sounds is the American Rubber Soul, Morrissey is an Elvis figure to many, and Allá are going to be the next Os Mutantes, let's remember that they're a Chicago band delivering excellent, important music on an ambitious, international scale.
Sign of the New Timeses?
Re: "Remember the Alamo?" by Michael Miner, Hot Type, June 5
It's looking like the Tribune has been bought by a man who hates newspapers.
While I've always admired [Rick] Kogan and his work, he should realize that in the new world, it's about the "story" more than the "word." There are great stories out there that can be better told through other means —like video—and journalists need to be aware that words are now just one tool in their storytelling palette. Specialization is a thing of the past, so good journalists must learn how to use words, video, still images, and illustrations to effectively tell the story in an informative and compelling way.
Also, the new bosses at TribCo may be a bit off-kilter, but you've got to give them credit for shaking off the moss that has enveloped the Tower. Frankly, they're doing their job of sparking discussion and debate among the staff, and hopefully through that the Trib will find a way to survive and thrive.
Frankly, I think the entire newspaper industry could use a few more Sam Zells to pull its head out of the sand and realize they must change and adapt with demands of the new readers.
It would be one thing if these kooky, high-paid, comfortable radio guys were dropping Mel Brooks-inspired memos on a staff of underworked, comfortable journalists. Problem is, many are just scraping by, working tails off, and likely face (more) layoffs if the experiments fail to pay the debts our grave-dancing CEO has loaded on this company. We are like exhausted firefighters aiming the hose at a raging blaze while trying to appease the new assistant fire chief with big hair and a sweater who says, "Why not try aiming AWAY from the fire instead of at it?"
Trib KoolAid drinker
I find these memos refreshing and new, and an indication that someone is looking to make newspapers survive and not just wither away. Okay, some are a little nutty, but you don't have to accept all of the ideas. Some are good, some are bad, but at least they are ideas that newspapers didn't encourage in the good old days of 20 percent-plus profit margins. Hey, in case you didn't notice, those days are gone. If you don't like to change, then move on and turn your desk over to someone who wants to make newspapers work again.
Fans of the superfan, less so the Cubs or MLB
Re "What Happens in the Bleachers Stays in the Bleachers" by Jeff Carroll, Our Town, June 12
Cubs will allow access to shoot commercials at Wrigley for any number of "sponsors" (see media-whore furniture brothers commercial), but turn the other way when local filmmaker could use assistance w/ MLB. Makes sense.
This is why I am not an MLB fan. Or at least not a fan of the ridiculous corporate structure. I grew up around Wrigely Field, and even though I only went to a half-dozen games in the 24 years I spent there, I always remember Ronnie Woo Woo walking around outside the field, talking to fans, and generally putting on a good face for the Cubs. Shame on the Cubs and the Tribune Co. for not supporting one of their most unique assets.
The moneyed forces holding Obama down
Re "Is Obama a Chicago Politician?" by Ben Joravsky, The Works, June 12
Obama will be linked to not only Daley, but all the power players (money) that have funded this incarnation of JFK "light." He will not be able to hide the facts, and the corruption that Daley calls progress will come to light and those anchors such as Rezko will sink him to the bottom of the Chicago River.
you all are delusional if you think Obama is going down due to an association with Daley—Chicago corruption is so complex that nobody outside of cook county understands it, much less voters a thousand miles away. most people around the country don't either know or care to know about Daley's bad side, they just see millennium park and go "oooh, he revitalized the City!"
this is of course why Daley built it in the first place. it is beautiful, but more importantly, it's a distraction from the crumbling infrastructure, schools, etc.
but back to the point, Obama won't be linked to any of this stuff.
Dealing in Stolen Property
Re "Who Owns Antiquity?" by Deanna Isaacs, the Business, June 5
[James] Cuno is a defender of the so-called "universal museums," now called "encyclopedic museums" and perhaps more correctly, imperialistic or totalitarian museums. The museum that never has enough of anything and seeks a total control of all cultural objects by all means, including the use of force by the army of the country where the museum is situated—Louvre, British Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago.
These museums now lament the end of the imperialistic and colonial period in which they amassed most of their stock. This was the period when the Europeans could take virtually from any country whatever cultural object they desired. That period is, mercifully, at an end and Cuno and co. are agitating for the return to that system, so-called partage system which enabled the Europeans to take away massive archaeological objects from countries like Egypt. Cuno labels those who seek the return of the stolen cultural objects as nationalists but what about those who fight to keep the objects in the museums of the West, are they internationalists or what?
This new book does not advance in any way the debate about the restitution of cultural objects. On the contrary it will only help to solidify the known positions. That leading museum directors do not understand the desire of Africans and Asians to recover their stolen cultural objects is a sad commentary on the cultural landscape of the world. The perspective would have appeared better without the addition of this book which will only serve as additional object for heated controversies and it comes from a museum director of one of the leading museums of the Western world.