Thursday, December 29, 2011

Fran Eaton takes her shots but she's more of a hypocrite than anyone

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Fran Eaton calls me a "character," but I wonder what she would call herself if her writing wasn't so far up the butts of the Tea Party conservatives and the extreme wing of the Chicagoland Republican party.

Eaton writes a PR puff piece for the Illinois Review, a conservative Republican publication that gives her a platform to promote her extreme rightwing pals. I should say it's not about her hiding behind the Republican Party coats that bothers me; there are a lot of great Republicans out there. But Eaton is a phony. She wants people to think she can analyze politics objectively but she can't. Her writing is stilted and her naalysis is handed to her usually by her political buddies who feed her the inside "scoops" she passes off as news.

This week, I wrote about how State Rep. Kevin McCarthy has decided not to run for re-election, and speculated based on my 35 years of covering Chicagoland politics, that he was stepping down on a high note rather than facing off with Republican Renee Kosel. Kosel is a powerhouse in Republican circles and not one of the nutjobs that Eaton usually pals around with. Eaton has taken shots at me before. I covered Chicago politics for 35 years including 16 years covering Chicago City Hall (from Daley to Daley 1976 through 1992). So although my family is Republican (and so is my wife) I lean towards the Democrats since there is no real Republican presence in Chicago at all.

And Eaton took off on me again, this week attacking me in her usual wet blanket and pacifier in mouth style.

What angered Eaton this time? Well, in analyzing the McCarthy decision not to run, I wrote critically of Jeff Junkas who ran against McCarthy in 2010. Junkas is a rightwing Tea Party activist and is a personal friend of Fran Eaton. During that battle against McCarthy, Eaton played an active role in trying to diss the other Republican in the race, Molly McAvoy Flynn and also Cook County CommissionerElizabeth "Liz" Doody Gorman.

Well, Eaton decided to use her political column in Illinois Review to defend Junkas' honor.

Her biggest points:

1 - I am a media consultant
2 - I also write for several newspapers (several in Chicago and several in the Middle East)
3 - I am "friends" with Liz Gorman
4 - I criticized Junkas' junky campaign

Guilty on all counts. But I am upfront about my relationships, unlike Eaton who hides hers to pass herself off as "objective." She's not objective at all. But she is transparent.

Eaton basically argues that I mix politics and journalism. Wow. Being accused mixing politics and journalism by Fran Eaton is like being called ugly by a pig. If anyone uses her column to pimp for her political pals it is Fran Eaton. (Here's a profile the Chicago Reader wrote about the openness of my journalism-consulting balancing act.)

At least I am up front about my work. Yes, I am president and CEO of Urban Strategies Group. I have seven political and government clients. When I write my columns I openly identify myself as being a media consultant or a political consultant. When I write about someone that is a client, I point it out. When I write about someone who is a political "friend," I point it out.

One of those clients is the high profile Town of Cicero and Town President Larry Dominick, who I not only work for as spokesman but admire. (Eaton, remember, writes also for the Southtown/Star which is owned by the Chicago Sun-Times. I worked at both newspapers years ago and loved the Southtown and loved the old Sun-Times. But today's Sun-Times is nothing near what it used to be two decades ago. And people like Eaton only help bring it down even more.)

It's called "ethics," Fran. Something you clearly lack besides being a horrendous political writer. (Who learned you politics anyway? LOL).

It is true that I am "friends" with Liz Gorman. I admire her and I think she is the best political force in Cook County that the Republican Party has. That came AFTER I spent three years criticizing her and questioning her actions. And that makes me far more objective than the politically partisan Fran Eaton could ever be.

The truth is that Fran Eaton was and basically is Junkas' campaign manager. How did I find that out? When Eaton asked to interview Gorman, Gorman called me and asked me to attend as a writer I did. Eaton mentions this meeting but turns it upside down pretending that she was there to write an "objective" story. Baloney. Eaton was there as an activist for Jeff Junkas. During the entire interview, Eaton kept trying to push Gorman into supporting Junkas. She kept slandering Flynn (who I met several times but Eaton apparently can't locate) in the hopes of undermining Flynn's candidacy against Junkas. Junkas eventually won the Republican primary and went on to get his ass kicked by the weak McCarthy.

Ironically, Eaton questions Gorman's support of Junkas. But the truth is that had Gorman gone south on Junkas and helped McCarthy, the unknown Junkas and Tea Party activist would never have come within 117 votes in Orland Township where Gorman is the Republican Committeeman. In fact, the vote shows that Gorman came out strong for Junkas.

Eaton goes as far as to attack House Speaker Michael J. Madiganwho is one of the most brilliant politicians in Illinois history and in the Midwest. I've known Madigan for 35 years, since the very day I started working at the Southtown in the 1970s. We've had our ups and downs. Like Gorman, I've criticized him and I have praised him, too. Eaton? Well, she hates Democrats, hates moderate Republicans and is a groupie for the Tea Party nutjobs who have, in my opinion, undermined the Republican party's honor.

Fran Eaton is no journalist. She's a political hack doing hack jobs for her pals. And the Illinois Review does't care as long as those hack jobs align with their political bend.

I'll put my credentials up against the smarmy Eaton any time. I have four Peter Lisagor Awards for column writing from the Chicago Headline Club. A sigma Delta Chi Award from the SPJ. Best Ethnic Columnist in America (2007). And two Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, among many more.

What does Eaton have? Well, she has her political chums who spoon feed her most of her worthless drivel. if the word "creepy" applies to anyone, it applies to the hypocrite Fran Eaton and her unethical writing and her efforts to disguise her political activism. Eaton loves to dish it out but she has a skin so thin her screaming rants are notorious. Eaton is pals with right-wing Republican Dan Patlak who is running for another term on the Board of Tax Review. He's only taken $300,000 in donations from the lawyers who appear before the board. You won't see Eaton writing about that, but she will be attacking Patlak's challenger Sean Morrison who Gorman supports.

Click HERE to read Eaton's political consulting analysis for the Illinois Review.

Click HERE to read my analysis of  McCarthy's decision to step down.

The truth is Junkas is a horrible public candidate, Gorman is the best thing that has ever happened to Southwest suburban Republican politics, and Eaton is a flaming hypocrite.

By the way Fran, I host a Sunday morning radio show on WSBC AM 1240 from 8 until 11 am ( And I'm happy to expose your hypocrisy there this Sunday, too!

-- Ray Hanania

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


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Cook County, IL, December 28, 2011 – This morning, the Cook County Electoral Board ruled unanimously in favor of Sean Morrison, Republican candidate for Cook County Board of Review, First District. The electoral board granted the Motion to Strike Dan Patlak’s objection petition against Morrison.

Patlak had contended publicly that Morrison had not filed his Statement of Economic Interest or the receipt for the document. However, according to the plain language of the statute, “The receipt is not required if the Statement of Economic Interests is filed with the same officer with which the nominating papers are filed.” [10 ILCS 5/7-12 (8)]  A copy of Morrison’s Statement of Economic Interest that had been certified by Cook County Clerk David Orr’s office was presented to the electoral board this morning.

“We are very pleased with our victory today before the Cook County Electoral Board,” said Morrison. “However, I find it very disconcerting that my opponent is not familiar with basic Cook County election law and would mount such a frivolous challenge to my candidacy wasting valuable county resources and taxpayer money. That does not speak well for his candidacy or his knowledge of the law.”

Morrison filed more than 7,000 signatures to run for the Cook County Board of Review – thousands more signatures than were required. Patlak also mounted an unsuccessful challenge to Sean Morrison’s candidacy in 2010. Patlak is the incumbent commissioner at the Cook County Board of Review.

Morrison says that “politics as usual” permeates the Cook County Board of Review and that his opponent personifies the problem. He recently challenged Patlak on his serious conflict of interest of aggressively soliciting contributions from the very property tax attorneys who appear before him. With more than 90% of Patlak’s fundraising (more than $330,000.00) coming from these attorneys, Morrison has condemned this “shakedown” and called on his opponent to limit attorney contributions to $250.

Self-made businessman, Sean Morrison, 44, is the President and of Morrison Security, Inc. headquartered in Alsip, Illinois. Morrison Security has more than 1,000 employees nationwide. Morrison’s extensive pro bono work includes work with LEADS Organization and the Cook County Human Trafficking Task Force. Morrison was recently awarded the LEADS 2011 Humanitarian Award for his work in helping solve exploited and missing children cases over the years. He lives with his wife, Lora, and two children in Palos Park.

For more information, visit

Monday, December 26, 2011

Coyotes in a Winter lull

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You might not see them. You might not catch a glimpse. But they are out there. In the twilight of the passing night. Prancing on tip-toes through the shine of the street light, darting from shadow to next. You can stare down the street or through a neighbor's yard. Under the yellow light above a porch or in the faded reflection of a full moon above in the night sky.

They pace themselves cautiously. Not afraid but vigilant. Looking. Smelling. Listening for signs of humans or prey. Small animals that are lost or left wandering the night outside the safety of the home.

You can see their elegance, if they let you a glimpse. They don't pose for portraits or stop to trade glances or attitudes. They're on the prowl for prey or safety. Their destiny in the wild. A wild that was once a forrest or a prairie of tall grass and oaks now a canvas of manicured front lawns, shrubs, Malibu lights and concrete sidewalks and driveways with cold steeled cars.

They walk carefully on their tiptoes. But they don't hesitate. Werewolves of the night. Grey coats of thick fur. Silverish hue in the distance. Their long snouts distinct and piercing black eyes.

They emerge in the middle of the night as the stars are bright. Where do they hide? Where do they spend their daytime? The forest? Large clusters of Italian carved evergreens? An old, abandoned garage? Under a rotting porch or gazebo? Waiting for the sun to go down and the streets to clear of cars and headlights and the loud echoes of racing engines. For the people to retire to their heated homes, heat exhaust billowing like white smoke from the roof stokes? The eeriness of the smoke as it sales like a soft haze in the night sky, slowly until it evaporates into the chilled air.

Dead silence outside. Maybe a train in the distance, making them four legged hobos and transients past your window.

They are not easy to spot. But when you do, they is an elegance to the madness of animal charm. Dangerous yet appealing. You don't want to get too close. Cross paths with the wild. Just watching as they move in their stealth from out of one dark shadow to the next.

-- Ray Hanania
using Blogsey for iPad

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The absolute best restaurant to eat a fine dinner for a great holiday

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Normally, I love to cook for the holidays. But this Christmas, we decided to take it easy and instead of slaving over the oven, we wanted to go out an enjoy a great meal. There are a lot of restaurants where you can enjoy a great meal, but there is only one in the Southwest suburbs where you can really enjoy a fabulous meal worthy of Christmas or even New Years. That's 94 West Steak and Seafood, 15410 94th Avenue in Orland Park.

94 West is the absolute finest restaurant where you can get one of the best meals not only for quality but even for price. We ordered the Prime Rib. Now, my son ordered the 18 ounce Mary Prime Rib and I ordered the 18 ounce Johnny's Cut. I thought, for some reason, that the cuts would be pretty normal. But the Prime Rib I got was huge. I mean huge! It melted in my mouth it was so good.

Alison got the Sea Bass which was phenomenal. And We had the buffalo shrimp and the buffalo calamari as starters. Wow!

I figured this was one of the best Christmases we have had in a long time. The weather was beautiful -- one of the first Christmases I can remember where we didn't have any snow. Not a snow flake. It felt like a slightly chilled California with a clear blue night sky and bright stars.

What a perfect Christmas. Thanks to owners Brian and Maria Sjord. What wonderful hosts and phenomenal food. Try it.

DOn't forget that they have a Special New Year's Eve dining evening planned from 11 pm until 3 am only $25 a person including a while roasted Filet Mignon carving station. Lobster Newberg saute station, Scottish Salmon, Tilapia, snow crab and more. Reservations for open menu available from 3 pm to 5 pm.

Visit for more details.

-- Ray Hanania

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas joy comes to needy family and kids in the Town of Cicero

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I live in a middle class suburban community where taxes are rising but the property isn't as expensive as many others. It's a nice place with beautiful homes, some more beautiful than others. Still, I consider myself fortunate. Despite all the great stories about the beauty of Orland Park, there are stories all around us and everywhere that make you cry. We  have our  needy families. Increasingly, families are finding it harder and harder to put food on their table, to pay bills or to provide the basics to their children. It's that way in a lot of communities. And government budgets are tight and there's little that many communities can do.

I head up my own company, Urban Strategies Group, which provides media consulting services to about a dozen or so clients. What else does a former newspaper man do in an era where newspapers are collapsing or are being bought up by greed-driven corporations and investment robber barons? You share your writing skills and your communications knowledge.

One of my clients, my most significant one, is the Town of Cicero. Cicero is a beautiful place. I met my wife there. I love the Town. It's lived under a dark cloud for many years before. A few years ago, its former mayor, Betty Loren-Maltese, was sent packing to jail for stealing $12 million from the Town to enrich herself. New homes. New Cars. It was disgusting, according to the judge. Released after nearly 8 years and the majority of her property confiscated by the feds, she spends most of her days in anger bashing people on her Facebook page. Oftentimes, she bashes me. In a way, I feel sorry for her. She's a pathetic remnant of someone who had so much opportunity to do good but instead used her greed to rain money and privilege on herself until they threw her in the hoosegow.

But why waste more time talking about her?

Today, the Town of Cicero has a mayor, Larry Dominick, who is often criticized by the Chicago Sun-Times -- every mayor in Cicero has been criticized from the beginning of time. He's tough and brushes off the attacks, knowing that the Sun-Times avoids similar controversies in communities that the newspaper loves. (It's easy for the newspaper to pick on a community where you have no base and nothing to lose. Here's one of their misleading controversies.) But Dominick has a heart made of gold when it comes to families and little kids. And it makes me proud to see all that he and the Town's board  do for the residents of the Town of Cicero.

I could list all the great things he's brought to the Town that in their zeal to criticize Larry Dominick, the Sun-Times never covers. He built a beautiful government Town Hall. Some people wonder why do the people of Cicero deserve a modernday, beautiful Town Hall? Why? Why shouldn't the people of Cicero have government buildings and services like many other communities? A lot of the criticism is based on racism -- the town is majority Hispanic -- or it is all about politics from hacks thrown out of office who want back in. Why should the people of the Town of Cicero have a great Town Hall they can be proud of? Orland Park has a beautiful one that cost just as much to build. Are the people of Orland Park or Winnetka or Hinsdale or Evanston any better than the people of the Town of Cicero?

I'm not trashing the other communities, or Orland Park. I love Orland Park, too. It has great schools, a popular shopping mall and one of the best Police Departments in the region. But Cicero has all that, too. And a lot more that most people don't even get a chance to read about in today's ailing media.

Dominick brought a lot more. They have a huge community park where every Summer the weekdays and weekends are filled with festivals, concerts, movies, carnivals and fun. He built a huge community center where they hold classes for new citizens, have a huge gymnasium where programs for seniors, families, teenagers and children are held. They celebrated the Houby Day festival there, but they also celebrated holidays for everyone, including a memorial in the memory of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

How many non-African American communities hold ceremonies honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr? Maybe a few, but not a lot.

Under Dominick, Cicero launched a program to hire disabled residents to give them jobs. There are 18 employees with disabilities in the Town who I meet and greet every morning when I go there. Their faces are
filled with smiles. They love to work.

They're building new industry in Cicero, something that isn't happening much in other communities choked with empty storefront businesses and still factories and large industries. Wirtz Beverage Illinois decided that Cicero was worth it, and the are relocating their statewide operations from several facilities to a new central hub in Cicero. More than 1,000 employees, most coming from other communities, will be working there everyday, and seeing firsthand what Cicero has to offer.

A few weeks back, Dominick received a grant to build a professional ice hockey stadium and they named it in honor of a local boy who grew up in Berwyn and on the streets of Cicero, Blackhawk's great Bobby Hull. The new Bobby Hull Community Ice Rink has kids and families on its ice every day. They don't have to break fire hydrants to fill their backyards to build an ice rink like they did recently in another community that I read about in the news.

Senior citizens get councils and meetings in many communities, but in Cicero they get real life. They get support and help to clean their yards and all kinds of programs that keep them busy enjoying their sunset years having spent their lives working. The schools are phenomenal. A few months back, the Town named a section of Austin and 25th Street in honor of Joe Mantegna, outside of the school where several inspirational teachers helped him build the foundation that led to his Hollywood success. He was proud to come back to Cicero and tell the people how much he loved them.

I could go on and on about the great things Dominick is bringing to the Town of Cicero. There's a lot. You can click here to read about all of their stories (in English and in Spanish, too). But what impresses me the most is Dominick's dedication to little kids and families in need.

Two weeks ago, Dominick hosted a Christmas party for 2,500 needy families and their children. The community center was packed. I mean jammed packed with people who brought their kids to get a little cheer. They gave them gloves and hats and toys and a great meal.

This past weekend, nearly 800 families in desperate need, brought their children to meet Santa Claus. The Town gave each family a Ham and each child received a beautiful toy. About 30 of the town's employees volunteered to act as Christmas Elves to greet the children, get their age and go back into Santa's den and bring them out a toy for Christmas.

Yea, there are all the stupid Sun-Times "controversies," stories usually exaggerated way out of proportion -- you wonder what the point of the stories is, except maybe it's more about the newspaper itself collapsing. But I saw the smiles on the faces of all those kids and watched in awe as each one of them clutched toys large and small walking out with their mothers or their fathers excited about the Holiday Season.

That's what Christmas is about. And that's what good government is all about too. A government that cares more about what its constituents want, rather than caring about the politically motivated stories of a dying newspaper that is coughing out its last breaths of yellow journalism.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone.

-- Ray Hanania

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Beautiful lunar eclipse from Orland Park

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The Lunar Eclipse on Saturday morning was beautiful. It wasn't easy to see the whole event from Orland Park, but we managed to see the "Penumbra" of the Earth's shadow cover the Moon and give it a reddish hue. Just before the moon set in the northwestern sky, the "Umbra" of the Earth's shadow (the darkest core of the shadow) began to cover the top left crest of the Moon. As that shadow grew on the Moon, the Moon made it's way down and north, out of site.

We were able to follow the lunar eclipse using our iPads. As the sun cast the Earth's shadow completely over the Moon, the sunlight light up the sky and the moon turned red again.

The first time I ever saw a solar eclipse was in the 1960s when I was young. We were at O'Hare airport waiting for a relative to arrive at the gate in the airport. Back then, anyone could walk right up to the gate and wait to greet people. (Today, only those who travel can wait at the gate and everyone else not traveling has to wait in the outer lobby past security.) There was no security back then. I was young, maybe nine years old at the time.

My father took a piece of paper and punched a tiny hole in it with his pen that he kept in his jacket pocket. He told me not to look at the Sun and then took the paper with the hole, held it flat towards the Sun and then with the other hand held another sheet of paper so a small dot began to appear on the second sheet of paper. As he carefully moved the two sheets apart, the dot turned into a brilliant replica of the Sun and you could see the Sun being covered by a little black circle. Eventually, it was completely covered by the Moon and the dot turned into a black spot with a bright circle around it.

The Lunar eclipse was easier to stare out and exciting. But technology made it a more fascinating experience. Friends in California and in Hawaii who had more time to watch the Earth's shadow cover the moon messaged me on Facebook to share their photos.

It all reminds us that there are some things that mean more than money, and that there are some things that can still manage to bring a family together to enjoy something so spectacular.

-- Ray Hanania

Thursday, December 1, 2011

While visions of Jewel-Osco numbers danced annoyingly in my head

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I love to shop at grocery stores. It's a lot like shopping at the hardware stores. Jewel is my favorite, although I continue to fight against the computer self-check out sections. (Those computers always give me a hassle.)

But I have been collecting those little green playing cards that Jewel gives you when you buy food. It's part of their "Wish Big, Win Big, Holiday Giveaway." But deep down I doubt I am going to win much of anything except maybe $5 -- if I am lucky -- or a few "instant winner" tickets so I can get two more tickets, suckering me in even more.

Here is how it works. You get a game board with pictures of products on it. Sections of the pictures have numbers and you get little green square playing cards that you have to open (not easy) and then find four numbered playing pieces, numbers 1 to 85. (Each number represents an image slice of a specific product.

You open the playing card and then carefully tear away the coupon and then tear away each of the four playing tabs. Each tab gets glued onto its numbered space on the playing board, which is a flimsy sheet of glossy green paper.

Now being a baby boomer, I have certain habits that I am sure some consultant explained to Jewel. I love to spend money on food. I love to play grocery store games. I'm addicted to grocery store games, actually. I don't love to play them at all. It all began int he 1960s (maybe 1950s) when my mother used to collect S&H Green Stamps and I would help her lick the backs and put them in the stamp book. As each book filled up, you could turn in books for certain prizes, like a Waring Blender. Of course, I was only 5, so it was fun. Plus, the glue tasted good. That got me hooked on White Paste glue which I ate along with my lunch at school each day.

But, I have some issues, of course. What respectable curmudgeon wouldn't have a few issues with a game of stamp giveaway at a grocery store? First, there is no real system to the ticket giveaways when you shop. When you make a purchase, the cashiers give you the playing cards with the little tabs that you have to cut away to place on the game board. There is no rhyme or reason to how they are given out. One day I spent $111 and got one ticket. One day I spent $20 and got six. When I shop at a Jewel in a "poorer" community, it seems like I get more playing cards. When I shop in richman's Orland Park, it seems like I get fewer gaming cards.

At first, it's fun to rip them open and locate them on the board. The board is empty. Nearly every one will find its place. But after a while, it becomes harder to find a piece to paste onto the game board.

You need six tickets numbered 1-6 to win the $250,000. I'm missing 1, 4 and 5. I need two tickets to win one of the 8 cars they are giving away (numbers 22 through 25, I have all but 22 and 25.) I need only one ticket to win the one of 75 big screen TVs (42--45, I need 44). And one ticket to win the $500 Jewel-Osco Gift Card (50-53, I need 50).

So I collect the little bastards when I shop. I want to say know, but you never know. What if you get that number 50 and don't check? You have to check. Arrrgh! That's what is so annoying. I have to check. So, for the past week, I have been collecting them, placing them on the dinner table. Starrign at the growing pile. I figure, if I collect enough, I will find one of them.

I have three of four tickets (46-49, I'm missing 46 (Reddiwip)) to win an Apple iPad2. (Nooooooo! Not an iPad2? And I need only 1 ticket to win a digital camera (62 through 65, I'm missing 62.) There are 500 of those cameras.

I can already see where I am headed. The statistics don't lie if you read them right.  There are 60,000 $2 prizes and 8,000 $5 prizes. 500 digital cameras and 100 Apple iPad2s. There are four $50,000 prizes and eight cars valued at $25,000 and again, only two $250,000 prizes.

I keep all of the old tabs, just in case. What if I glue the wrong number on the wrong spot by accident. It could happen? These concerns haunt me throughout the day while I am working.

Oops. I have to run to the Jewel to get some lunch from the deli section. Caesar's Chicken salad. Gotta go. And get one of those last few tickets before the contest ends Feb. 8 -- last day to get a ticket is Feb. 1. So, I have time. Bye.

- Ray Hanania