Saturday, February 26, 2011

Preckwinkle lives up to her promise

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I wasn't convinced but she did it, pushing through the continued repeal of the remaining portion of the Todd Stroger 1 Percent Sales Tax that was led originally by Cook County Commissioner Liz Gorman. Gorman persistently pushed the repeal and Preckwinkle made it a part of her campaign platform.

It's a little surprising Not surprising was the hemming and hawing from several pro-tax commissioners like Deborah Sims.

But the tax was rolled backed 1/2 percent before the election, thanks to Gorman's persistence. And now it's rolled back another 1/4 percent, leaving 1/4 percent remaining to be phased out by 2013. That isn't soon enough, but what choice to taxpayers have in Cook County?

The tax was doing great damage to the county and it is unnecessary. The County should trim back waste -- starting with Sims. But voters in her district want to be taxed out of existence so the county is stuck with her for four more years.

The rollback will SAVE taxpayers $180 million a year, a small amount to makeup for county officials who can easily trim back waste. Gorman had several budgetary savings proposals that Preckwinkle had killed -- not that Preckwinkle is against eliminating waste. It might just be she doesn't want to be one-upped by Gorman.

-- Ray Hanania

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Super bowl flub should make us rethink anthem singers

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Super bowl flub should make us rethink anthem singers
By Ray Hanania

You can do a lot of things at the Super Bowl.

You can fumble the ball repeatedly so the other team scores touchdowns. You can spend millions of dollars to make a crappy confusing Super Bowl commercial.

But you can’t screw up the National Anthem. And that’s what pop singer Christina Aguilera did to everyone’s surprise.

Instead of singing “Oér the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?” Aguilera sang this line, that she made up when she couldn’t remember the words. “What so proudly we watched at the twilights last gleaming.”

There were several moments when she was singing the song that a few thoughts came to my mind as I waited to watch Super Bowl 40 begin so that we could get to the commercials. Let’s face it, I am a Chicago Bears fan and I hate both the Pittsburgh Steelers and especially those cheese heads from Wisconsin, the Green Bay Packers.

Like when she added that sound like she was gargling on national TV in the middle of her National Anthem rendition.

I remember the very first Super Bowl. I was 14. It was exciting enough without all the fancy-schmancy distortions and “renditions” of the National Anthem. We didn’t have any of the so-called exciting “Super Bowl” commercials.

We just had an exciting football game. The focus wasn’t on some hot looking singer – although Aguilera could lose a little weight. She was looking a little rotundish-like. The focus back then wasn’t on some Ad writer’s creative skills in making a commercial to convince us like mindless cattle to run out and buy beer or some usually foul-mouthed rap singer telling us to buy a car.

It was on the game. “All American” is what we called football because we were just so proud of the human talent on the football field. Although maybe we did try to sneak a few peeks at the cheerleaders, who have been replaced by big-money signing talent like the clichéd-singing Black Eyed Peas.

And that’s another thing. The Super Bowl commercials were not that great. In fact, some of them were stupid. Really stupid. Are we so mindless that when the Advertising World psyches us up with all that pre-promotion marketing that we’re afraid to admit the commercials suck?

The National Anthem is actually four stanzas, not the most popular one that we all sing. It was written in 1814 by Francis Scott Key as he watched the bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British. A lot of American lives died there for our freedom. Not for a Bud Light. Not for a new car. And not for some aged rock star, Ozzy Ozbourne leering at a girly-faced Justin Bieber to promote some Best Buy buy-back program for cell phones and computers.

The Star Spangled Banner became the National Anthem in 1931. And when people sing it, they should be thinking about what it stands for not how it can be used to promote someone’s career or sell toilet paper.

You know what would be great for next year’s Super Bowl? Instead of singing the National Anthem, we have a Second Grade school teacher up on the TV screen walking the American people through the actual words of the National Anthem and discussing its real meaning and why it’s so important that we learn how to spell, we learn how to add and we learn to memorize correctly things that are important to this country.

Of course, getting the Chicago Bears to be in the Super Bowl would be another great idea, but they just stink.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist and political media consultant.)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What a mess along Lake Shore Drive in Chicago -- blizzard followup

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The biggest story besides the 20 plus inches that made Tuesday night's snow storm the third worst in Chicago history is the traffic jam that sits like an auto cemetery along the north stretch of Lake Short Drive. More than 1,000 cars were stuck on the drive as a result of building snow, accidents and waves from the lake.

Many motorists remained in their cars until their gas was exhausted, as long as 10 hours, though they were able to make their way over the medium fence and cement blocks to St. Joseph's hospital and other warming centers that did their best to help.

City tow trucks tried to slowly remove the one thousand abandoned cars but late into the night tonight, most remain stuck in the roof-high snow drifts that are making it near impossible to efficiently remove the cars.

Here is what AP reported in a sad testimony to the mounting confusion and problems:

Chicago - Dozens of motorists were stranded for over 10 hours on Chicago's iconic Lake Shore Drive after it was shut down as a blizzard battered the city. Although cars have been relocated from the roadway, there was no indication when the drive would reopen to traffic.
City officials said that 1,000 cars were stranded on the roadway overnight. 
City officials said if you abandoned your car on Lake Shore Drive, you can call 311 to try to locate it. All vehicles have been relocated to three city lakefront lots -- Wilson Ave., Belmont Ave. and Chicago Ave. -- plus one lot on Wells Street.  Drivers will be able to retrieve their cars for free.
City officials said early Wednesday that multiple lanes of cars and buses became stuck on the northbound lanes of the city's crucial thoroughfare because of abandoned vehicles, multiple accidents and generally poor traffic conditions.
I like the way they report that the cars are being removed to three lots, when they are really being removed to four lots. And if you abandoned your car on Lake Shore Drive, you can call 311 to "try to locate it."
Yikes. Lame duck Mayor Richard M. Daley's chief of staff Ray Orozco, the former Fire Department Chief, said he is responsible for the decision to keep Lake Shore Drive open.
But I ask, why wouldn't the city have kept Lake Shore Drive open? Can you imagine the complaints from whiny Chicagoans if they shut down Lake Shore Drive? It would have been worse than what happened.
Chicago and Orozco deserve credit for doing their best to help people who tried to get home Tuesday night. Are we going to blame Chicago for the blizzard/ They predicted that the blizzard would bring even more snow than actually hit the Chicagoland area. It's not like we were not prepared. But Chicagoans are sometimes the biggest babies if things don't go their way. They want Chicago to do everything for them and in fact Chicago did a lot providing help and doing their best to sort through a Lake Shore Drive auto cemetery mess.
It may take days for some of the motorists to find their cars on the three lots where they were moved, but that's all just a part of the blizzard. It's the way it is.
I don't think anyone has the right to blame Orozco or the city for doing their best, even if Lake SHore Drive remains a mess through -- my guess -- Friday and maybe in to the weekend. The motorists stuck on Lake Shore Drive made the choice to take Lake Short Drive home knowing the city was going to be slammed with a major storm at 3 PM -- it's not like we were not warned sufficiently. They were told and yet many including all those stuck on Lake Shore Drive did not leave work until after 4 pm.
It's just the way it is, a tragic story in a horrible blizzard.
But like I have already written, we live in Chicago and the winters here can be hell. Whether it is the worst snow storm or the region's third worst, it doesn't matter. We made the choice to live here so QUIT WHINING about the snow.
The real problem are the motorists and homeowners who selfishly care only about themselves, shoveling snow in to the street, trying to drive through two feet of snow and then are surprised when their car gets stuck in the middle of a neighborhood side street and then blocking that street and preventing city plows from clearing the snow.
And when the snow is plowed, where does it go? It has to go on the side of the street where the cars are parked and the motorists clean the snow off their cars pushing it back in to the street.
Can anyone really wonder why Chicagoans get in more fights over parking  spots in front of their homes reserved with chairs, pinochle tables and wine and cheese serving trays?
People should assume responsibility sometimes and quit always blaming government.
-- Ray Hanania

Let's be honest: Most Chicagoland residents LOVE heavy snow

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I was there at 14 during the 1967 snow fall when we didn't have snow blowers and everything was done with a shovel. And in 1979, when the snowfall became the momentum to push out the Chicago Democratic Machine -- briefly -- and make way for a so-called reformer who turned out to be worse than the Machine. And then there was blizzard of 1999, which was bad but never as memorable as 1967 or 1979.

In 1967, we had a Georgian home on Chicago's Southeast Side on south Luella Avenue. We had a sidewalk in the front and the back. The snow piles were huge. I think it happened on a Thursday just before the weekend. The cars were covered in snow along the curbs. Snow plows didn't come through at all for a day. They focused on the main streets. It was family fun.

Nowadays with more people living in the suburbs with long and wide driveways and suburban governments that have little talent and no budget visions, homeowners have to have a snow blower. I was lucky this year. I did buy a motorized snow blower with a tall blower. The scoop is 20 inches tall and 18 inches wide. It replaced the small Toro snow blower that I had for some 20 years and gave to friend. It stillw orks and it's perfect for small driveways and sidewalks.

When we looked out the window this morning, the snow was 18 inches against the glass front door. The drifts had piled the snow three feet against the garage. It was deep. And the driveway is some70 feet long and 15 feet wide, it was covered in two feet of snow.

But it only took two hours to clear the snow. The streets are still a mess. An Orland Park snow plow went by about three hours before barely clearing anything, just a fast zip through. The plow drivers can be great people or jerks, some pushing the snow in front of your driveway on purpose. Most I've talked to are good but this morning the driver took a turn right in front of the house and pushed a wall of snow in front of the end of my driveway.

No Problem. I have a new snow blower.

And it was fun. Slicing through 18 to 24 inches of snow a few inches at a time and shooting the snow onto the grass area.

Let's face it. We love snow. Otherwise, why would we be living in Chicago?

It was fun to watch the news reports pre-empt regular programming to report on the snow. The focus is always on Chicago where there are always problems. But it was nice to see so many people helping each other.

I have no videos or film of the 1967 snow fall. We had a Bell and Howell black and white 35 mm camera, but that was always seen as something you used in the summer for record fun, not work that is fun.

But we took some videos of this year's snow fall which was predicted late on Monday and filled the public with apprehension and fear. Woodfield Mall announced on Tuesday that it would shut down and the Orland Park Mall shut down, too. Nearly every school closed.

This year I experienced the first ever thunder-snow blizzard. Last month, we had thunder and lightning during the snow blizzard. We had the same thing last night. Thunder and lightening. I'd never seen that before in my life. Never heard of it until this year.

Fascinating. Fun. I hope though that everyone did well and that people managed to live through this. As much as it can be fun, a blizzard can also be dangerous. I hope everyone did well and had help from neighbors if they needed it.

-- Ray Hanania