Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Ryan's 22nd Century Media continues to grow in North suburbs

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The Orland Prairie isn't just a great and reliable newspaper. It's also a part of a successful media empire being built by Jack Ryan, the former Republican Candidate for the US Senate (whose decision to leave the senate race handed the post to then unknown Barack Obama). Ryan always felt he was bullied out of the race by vicious news media attacks against him by the major downtown Chicago news media, and he was right.

But Ryan has gotten his vengeance, building an empire of compelling and informative newspapers in the Southwest Suburbs under the banner of 22nd Century Media.

The newspaper chain includes editions in Orland Park (Orland Prairie), Tinley Park (Tinley Junction), Homer Township (Homer Horizon), Frankfort (Frankfort Station), Mokena (Mokena Messenger), New Lenox (New Lenox Patriot) and Lockport (Lockport Legend). This past week, though, Ryan has expanded his magnificent newspapers into the north suburbs taking on the Chicago Sun-Times' owned Pioneer Press Newspapers with newspapers by adding an edition in Glenview (Genview Lantern) to join his papers in Wilmette (Wilmette Beacon) and Winnetka (Winnetka Current). Ryan is a Wilmette Native.

Ryan's principle of journalism is ideal and not only a response to the ugliness that represents the mainstream media and the wild out-of-control online news media (with their vicious anonymous posters and personal attacks)/ It's based on a solid principle of journalism that has been forgotten: local coverage. Each of his newspapers focuses only on the communities where they are located. He calls it "hyper local."

He has plans to launch three more editions up north in Lake Forest, Northbrook and Highland Park where media choices are few and far between.

The truth is the Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune have pretty much abandoned local news coverage. The Sun-Times bought up most of the community newspapers in the area, gutting their staffs and plundering their advertising resources.

I saw the need for a suburban newspaper in the southwest suburbs back in 1993 when I launched The Villager Newspapers, consisting of 12 editions. It was very successful and popular. And although we had a strong advertising base, we never had the deep pockets you need to build a media giant. We ended up selling the chain and it was later gobbled up by Liberty Publishing.

Ryan, though, which is strong financial base, has put the newspaper on solid ground. Their online web site has a user-friendly system to navigate and find stories. It doesn't have the viciousness that dominate other local online news web sites,and postings are generally informative. Readers and submit and post their local news and photos online for others to see and read.

Ryan's newspaper giant could become the model for how print newspapers can survive in the Internet generation.

-- Ray Hanania

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Protests force three Cook County Commissioner holdouts to take furloughs

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In the past year, Cook County;s employees were slapped with 10 furlough days to off-set the growing deficit at  County Government caused by the poor leadership of former County Board President Todd Stroger. Instead of cutting the bloated bureaucracy, Stroger slammed taxpayers by adding 1 percent to the already overburdened Sales Tax.

The sales tax was repealed following a stubborn campaign led by Cook County Commissioner Elizabeth "Liz" Gorman. Ironically, Gorman was attacked by two Orland Park village officials -- Trustees Ed Schussler and Patricia Gira -- who claimed she was responsible for the county's terrible financial situation. Without getting in to the equally terrible financial situation of their Village budget, it was hypocritical since Schussler and Gira were partly responsible for the repeal of the sales tax rebate paid to Orland Park homeowners.

Orland Park increased the sales tax to grab funds from consumers, many of whom come to Orland Park from other communities. The rebate was intended to take the burden off of residents. But that came to an abrupt end.

In my book, increasing the Cook County Sales Tax by adding 1 percent is the equivalent of eliminating the Orland Park village sales tax rebate by Schussler and Gira. There is no difference.

But back to Cook County. This week, enraged by the declaration of five Cook County Commissioners that they would refuse to do what they imposed on county workers and they would not take furlough days to help the county saves money, three of them changed their minds. Or, should we say their minds were changed for them. Cook County residents pelted Commissioners Deborah Sims, Joan Patricia Murphy and Robert Steele to accept the furlough.

Imagine the gall of Murphy, who had originally pushed hard to increase the sales tax not 1 percent as Stroger sought but by 2 percent. Murphy claims she can't take the furlough days but will reimburse the county to the tune of $3,269.23, or the equivalent of what their $85,000 a year salary would have lost with the furlough days. She's too busy to take days off. As a PR person now and no longer a journalist, I have to admit that excuse is a brilliant deception, what we call in the business "spin."

Murphy thinks I don't like her, but she's wrong. I do like her. I like the Old Joan Murphy. I like the old Joan Murphy who put the taxpayers' interests above the interests of her political cronies. Murphy is a good person but her policies have been horrible. She should take the lead of Gorman, who has put the interests of taxpayers above her own.

And Schussler and Gira also should follow Gorman's lead instead of bashing her the way they have. It's bad enough the saddled Orland Park taxpayers doubling the village's debt by piling on a loan for a private developer to build a questionable apartment complex. Orland taxpayers are paying the $62 million to fund the Ninety7Fifty in the Park project. Why? Because the village officials have, over the past decade, done whatever they wanted.

Well, the furlough at Cook County won't off-set the mess that Stroger and his allies (Sims and Murphy) have put the county in over the years. And the sales tax rebate money the village has taken away from taxpayers won't cover the loan to the private developers who promised to pay us back. But it is symbolic.

Although, one word about promises. The developers have promised to repay the loan, which is essentially a mortgage in a time when mortgages are falling like dominoes. But promises are sometimes not kept, like when Mayor Dan McLaughlin promised to rebate the sales taxes of residents when he increased the sales tax so many years ago. Afterawhile, the politicians believe that promises can be forgotten and then will be broken.

We'll see. But don't be surprised.

-- Ray Hanania

Book Review: The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin by Joe McGinniss

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Sarah Palin has a lot of appeal on a lot of different levels. She's sexy looking, in the kind of dark way that when you're slightly high and your vision is blurred and you're sitting at a bar wishing you could dance with someone. Sarah Palin would fit the bill. She's also very topical. She has that wild personality. Edgy. She does the kind of things that attract the interest of a lot of different people from all walks of life. Much like a train crash or maybe more like an accident on the expressway causes cars to slow down and gawk in a "gaper's block."

Lot's of appeal on all kinds of levels. The kind of topic that makes for a great book, although frightening if she ever became president. And that's the only conclusion you can make after reading the new up-close perspective by veteran journalist and author Joe McGinniss in "The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin."

The book starts off a little sluggish. Hard to read. So much information. And McGinniss is clearly defensive, having been battered so hard by the Palin Machine. She has a cult following of whack-jobs and nut cases and they piled it on McGinniss as he lucked out and was offered an opportunity to live in a vacant home right next door to Palin and her mercurial husband, Todd, and their wildly Alaskan hill billy life-styled family. But if you stay dedicated to the cause and continue reading, the pace suddenly picks up after about 30 pages and it becomes a breeze as McGinniss describes how a woman who wants to be president went off the deep end with lies and slander to intimidate and strike back at the author.

Much of the book is about how the Palin's reacted to McGinniss moving in next door to their home and the lies that the Palin's promoted against McGinniss, hoping to bully him out. Even claiming that McGinniss was a Peeping Tom who was peering from his deck into the bedroom of the Palin children. (Not true of course, but that didn't stop Glenn Beck, the Cardinal of right wing Whack Job politics from promoting the story as if it were the gospel truth.

What's really fascinating about this book isn't just that it's about Sarah Palin, who is, like I explained a fascinating story like a breaking news tragedy or scandal. It's that the book isn't a lot of political mumbo-jumbo about how Palin stands on a bunch of far right wing issues like gun control, abortion and killing Bullwinkle. (Yes, Sarah Palin admits she loves to murder moose.) This book is about human nature, and about how one person, who many think could become the next president of the United States, reacts to crisis by fabricating issues, exaggerating the circumstances to build up her own popularity and will go to any length to get what she wants.

It's also about the regular substance that makes a book interesting as McGinniss lays out the sordid details of the Palin's pedigree that make for a eye-opening Jerry Springer episode.

I couldn't put the book down. I don't think you will either.

The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin
Crown Publishers, New York, 2011
320 pages

-- Ray Hanania

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Baby boomer reflections and reunions

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Reunions and baby boomer reflections
By Ray Hanania

I attended four high schools, but two of them got most of my classroom attention and time.

I spent Freshman and most of Sophomore year at Bowen High school. Moved out of the Southeast side during the White Flight era, and land at Bogan High school where I barely lasted a few months. I was "too dark." I nested at Little Flower, a Catholic high school, until we moved again to Burbank where I graduated from Reavis High school.

It sounds like too many changes but I learned much for each school. Of course, that means I also get invited to several high school reunions and I am pushing 40 years this week.

I attended the Bowen High school reunion last week and attend the Reavis High school reunion Saturday (Sept. 24).

High school was fun but it was a blur at Bowen. Most of my ties were with students who spend years with me at Hoyne and later Warren Elementary schools. By the time I got to Reavis, my brain was functioning better, although I still couldn't really get good grades.

I was passable. My English teacher helped the most, of course, when I was flunking Composition 101 and she intervened. Through her magic, she encouraged me to engage in writing, and the next year I became editor of the Reavis Blueprint. (I also published, two issues) of a Reavis underground newspaper that got me in some trouble, although then school administrator and Burbank Mayor John Fitzgerald thought it was creative and funny. (He was a great guy.)

But all the reunions make me think of how times really flies. I'm my dad's age now. Would he have been as funny as I think I am? It was a simpler life back them. Today, everything is about computers.

Growing up on the Southwest Side of Chicago, we enjoyed a simpler life: Granny Glasses, Gant Shirts, lucky loops (on the backs of our shirts that the girls snapped off and collected), Penny Loafers, Troll Dolls, slot car racing, hula hoops, TV shows that had just moved in to color like Batman.

Now, all that has been replaced by high technology, and high cost bills to pay for it all. Gasoline, once only 35 cents a gallon is now pushing $5. I worked at Burger King for 95 cents an hour and a Whopper only cost the price of a gallon of gas. Now, I make, well, a lot, and most of it goes to ridiculously high expenses.

TV isn't free any more. We pay Comcast Cable a fortune. I have a cell phone that drains my income and my time, and it really doesn't work that well.

Computers are amazing, and productive and fun, making it easier for us to communicate. Thanks to Facebook, I can remember who all my friends were 40 years ago, and who my friends are today. It's a memory supplement!

And I wear glasses as a necessity to read and not just as a fashion statement; that I have to hang the glasses on my shirt because my mind is drifting and I might forget where I put them.

Forty years of drinking pop -- Pepsi and Diet Coke -- hasn't given me cancer, although I really have to work to watch my weight.

And I take more prescription pills than I can even remember. I'm losing hair on the front and back of my head, and growing it in places I don't even want to say -- my ears, folks!

And my memory is going.

What are we talking about? I know you? Who?

(Ray Hanania is a media consultant and award winning columnist. Reach him at www.hanania.com.)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Jim Hickey letter to the editor on Casino expansion in Illinois

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Dear Editor:

The Illinois legislature is recommending that the state add five new casino licenses. The reasoning is that the sponsors believe that more casinos will bring more revenues to the State of Illinois and help to off-set the financial problems we face.

In reality, though, the gaming legislation will undermine the revenues that the State and many local communities like this one already receive from local casinos. In the 11th Congressional District where I am running for office, we have three casinos. Those casinos not only provide revenue to the state, but they also provide revenue to local communities in the district.

One of the five casinos is being earmarked from Chicago. I believe that is a serious mistake. It will drain revenues from the outlying suburbs and undermine existing casinos.

We can't turn to simplistic answers to solve our economic problems. We need creative ideas. I have many that I believe will help strengthen our economy. They include eliminating interest rate charges on student loans to make it easier for graduating students to more actively engage our economy: provide free wireless internet to Illinois residents; and, we need to fix gasoline prices, a critical component for economic recovery and seek alternative sources of energy. These will help to create jobs and bottom line will put more money in the pockets of tax payers which means they will have money to spend to get this economy working again

We need to think outside of the old boxes we have built around ourselves. We need new and creative ideas.

Thank you

Jim Hickey
Candidate, 11th Congressional District

Friday, September 16, 2011

HH Gregg, what's the big deal? Seriously?

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I was planning a nice Friday night to relax. Alison took Aaron to the Cub Scouts meeting but I got a call asking me to bring his uniform shirt and belt and neckerchief. She misread the meeting notes saying that you had to be in uniform. So, I had to jump in the car and drop the uniform off at the meeting. On the way back, I noticed the flood lights spinning in the night sky over the Orland Park Place shopping Mall.

Was Barnes & Nobles celebrating the closure across the street of Borders Books? I loved Borders and I already miss it. And then I realized it was the opening weekend of a new appliance and computer store called HH Gregg. Really it's all small letters, kind of the new thing in the 21st Century. "hh gregg."

Every conversation where the name came up, there was this excitement like, wow, it's going to be better than Best Buy or Comp USA when it comes to computers and technology, and appliances.


I don't think so. But, I love excitement, like everyone. The opening of a new technology store is exciting. So on the way home from my errand, I stopped by the packed parking lot of the Orland Park Place mall and barely found a parking spot. They converted the old sports store that was there. It's one of those stores where you enter this tall foyer and take these escalators to the second floor. (I assume the bottom part is another store you enter from the other side of the mall. Or, as they said in the movie Contact, it sure is a lot of space to waste!

It was exciting because there were so many people there buzzing around. Old men, grandpas like me, dragging behind their grandmas barely able to carry these large boxes of flat screen TVs. People rushing in and out. I wonder what they're all excited about? So I went in.

I was immediately disappointed. Partly because I am spoiled. I have everything. Half the place on the left was washers, dryers, dish washers, ice boxes -- okay, okay, refrigerators (I can't get over calling them ice boxes from when I was a kid) -- and freezers and stoves. It looked like the inside of a Sears Roebuck Store, honestly. On the right were the big screen TVs and the sound systems and the computers. Not a lot of computers but enough to create a crowd.

I walked through the whole place, trying my best to find something. Don't you want to buy something at a new store? I wanted to, but I couldn't find anything to waste my money on. I breezed through the computer section and then past the flat screen tvs and then paused and contemplated buying a sound bar for one of the flat screens I already have. It was only $279, a little bit cheaper than what I've seen at CompUSA (Tiger whatever). I almost bought it but couldn't find any real information to assure me that I could easily connect it to my TV. It said I could connect it to the Blue Ray Player I vowed never to buy (I have three) and to the flat screen TV using an optical cord. But how would I know they would really work? And, I bet I'd have to buy the two optical cords that actually involve better sound quality, I think. I didn't want to buy any additional cords.

I walked past it several times, each time looking. And then walking away. Finally, I just left, really disappointed. There was nothing there that was exciting. So I drove back to Best Buy just to satisfy that urge I had brought out because I had to leave the house. And I wandered around there, too, lamenting the fact that there are no more stores that sell great computer software. Everything is sold online nowadays and that's a real rip-off. Online purchased software is risky. When you download it to a computer, it's great. But if that computer crashes or you upgrade and buy another, forgetaboutit! You ain't getting the software you bought off one computer and on to the other without spending a lot of money on another software program.

Don't believe the lies. I've tried it with lots of downloaded purchased software and it doesn't work trying to move it to another computer. They can move the data files but not the software. That's why I prefer to only buy software that comes in a box on a CD. Period!!!

You can always get around the registration problems if you have the original CD and license and are moving it to a new computer.

Best Buy had nothing. That got me thinking. Maybe hh gregg isn't a bad store after all. Maybe it's not about hh gregg or Best Buy or any of the other disappointing technology stores. The truth is, the real problem is with the industry itself. We've gone from selling software in boxes on store shelves to online downloads that are unreliable and do not have a long use-life. (Don't let anyone BS you. It is almost impossible after 2 years to move a software program to a new computer that you downloaded. The best odds are with a software on a CD that you actually have in hand with the license and registration.)

The industry and the way we sell software has changed. And I am glad. Because it is saving me lots of money. I am a serial technology spender. I spend a lot on computers. Ever since I bought my first Coleco Adam Computer from Wards which lied and said my daughter would get a $500 scholarship if I bought the tape-driven computer machine. They lied. Promises from a retailer are promises made to be broken no matter who they are.

I bought the IBM PC Jr and then an IBM XT back in the day when a 5 MB hard drive was considered huge and we used those large 5 1/4 inch floppy discs. Now I use the iPad and that's a "whole-nother" problem, especially when you move to a new computer and try to sync the iPad through iTunes. I don't work!

But it is the industry that is disappointing. Lot's of neat new technologies in the works and available. But I have it all. And there is such a thing as technology overload, or technology hoarding, what physicians call "disposophobia," or the selfish act of greedily collecting stuff. That's me, Mr. Disposophobia, the selfish collection of possessions just to possess something.

And that's how hh gregg disappointed this disposophobic shopper. They had nothing I wanted to hoard.

-- Ray Hanania

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

If the terrorists really wanted to destroy America -- and had brains

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If the terrorists really wanted to destroy America -- and if (a big if) they had brains -- instead of targeting innocent people and iconic edifices, they would instead target the programming on American TV.

Yes, television. Americans live by several internal clocks, one that gets them up early each morning, one that pushes them to over eat high cholesterol fatty and unhealthy foods, and, most importantly, one that works on the bigger seasonal picture called the Fall TV programming.

Yes, Americans look forward to the Fall TV season. What else do we have to do with our lives in this country of excessive freedoms that are spoken about but not always available, and, well, excesses in general. We have too much of everything, including most recently, growing poverty. But we deal with the poverty the way we deal with all ailments and social problems, with even more apathy. We just look away. (Americans are taught at an early age, don't look in the eyes of the poor and you won't feel guilty about their suffering, or that you are spending hundreds of dollars are junk food while the poor have nothing.)

Our Fall TV season lineup begins in September, which happens to be a favorite month for terroristic actions. The terrorists have no brains and work by redundancy fueled by hatred. September is the month of the world's greatest terrorist attack against America and that's how it is going to be for a long time, a new religious holiday for the extremists that they can use to focus their energies. It's perfect.

The Fall TV lineup, even if it is cluttered with episodes that will either go nowhere and disappear or will waste all of our brain cells on mindless eye candy entertainment, is the target they should focus on.

I know what it's like to get hit in the heart of the American spirit. I've been hammered by the worst domestic terrorist I know, ComEd, the electric company. ComEd blackouts strike when they are least expected and most not wanted. Usually when I am at home, finally comfortably settled in my couch and ready to watch TV. And the electricity goes out. For hours.

I sit there for a while hoping it is just a bump, but it doesn't come back on right away. ComEd terrorist attacks are happening more and more frequently. (Hey, don't yell at me for minimizing the importance of the proper application of the word "terrorism" or "terrorist." We have already diluted it's meaning into meaninglessness. Is that a word? What's the difference when words have no meaning any more anyway?)

I'm already getting angry thinking about the last time the electricity failed and I couldn't watch TV. This is America, buddy. Land of the Free. Home of the Brave. And prime time schedule of mindless TV entertainment. The Book Tube -- and there is nothing sexual about that in a substantive way. Just theoretically speaking, of course.

Yes, disrupt the TV watching habits of Americans and you will have struck at the heart of all that is the true America. We love our TV. We love our TV programs. We especially love sitcoms, or situation comedies, as we are constantly told over and over and over again. Mindlessnesly. (Is that a word?) And you take that expectation away from us or disrupt the ability to watch TV and you have struck a blow to the heart of our American lives.

Now, nevermind that this season's lineup of new programming looks like it really sucks. Sucking is a relative thing. You can have 30 shows that all suck and there is still a ranking of which suck more and which suck less. The fact that none of them are good is not important. It's all about which pathetically wasteful time consuming TV show is better than the other pathetically wasteful time consuming TV show. We'll watch the "best" of whatever."

Maybe that should be our new slogan. "The Best of Whatever." That covers everything.

I've seen a billion commercials for "Whitney," the TV sitcom about a young stupid no-brain woman who is brutal to her boyfriend-husband or whatever, and supposedly reflects the real lifestyles of modernday Americans. She doesn't. But that doesn't matter. She's a flake and flakes are funny. And if you can get an American to smile, you have locked in their wallet.

I really LOVED Charley Sheehan in "Two and a Half Men." The show was okay but it was the perfect  environment for Sheehan's endless comedic talents. The guy is just funny even when he doesn't try to be funny. But he got greedy and the bosses at CBS didn't like that one bit so they slammed him out and replaced him with another anyone -- Ashton Kutcher. Ashton is a nice guy. A good actor. He's married to Demi Moore and i think he's even friends with Moore's ex-husband, Hollywood's Bruce Willis. (Moore is phenomenal, of course. She was born in Roswell, New Mexico which means there is a good chance her parents were aliens or aliens implanted their seed somewhere. Whatever.)

I'll watch it -- and be very angry if the terrorists somehow disrupt that premier because even if it stinks, the Ashton Kutcher Two and a Half Men series will be fun to watch just to compare it to the Sheehan version of the same show. Why wouldn't I watch it? The "Best of Whatever" principle applies here, too.

There's more. There is the TV series about the woman cop who gets beat up and has blackeyes on her face. It's her job. I don't know. Chelsea Lately, who is always good for the interruptus of the coitus of the mind, is moving to a better time slot. I think. Although I haven't watched her in a long time. She's a lot like subscribing to SiriusXM Radio just to listen to Howard Stern and the Spice Channel. Not having Stern on your car because you don't want to pay the extra $10 a month makes you think that there is something more to be had since SiriusXM with the regular channels totally sucks eggs. Seriously. It's just a rebroadcast of everything youa re already paying for on Comcast Cable TV now. CNN. HLB. Blah, Blah Blah> And The Spice Channel, which is supposed to be all about total sex talk, spends more time as an advertisement for the Mustang Ranch and porno Stars who are better seen performing and not talking.

Which gets me back to the topic. We have nothing to look forward to except for the "Best of Whatever." And you take that away from us and we will go berserk, and seriously mourn and be unhappy.

But, of course, the terrorists are too stupid to figure that out. First of all, you can't be smart to be a terrorist and especially a suicide bomber. They're idiots. The sooner they leave the better, with the least damage to our society. Bye bye morons. Terrorists are like most criminals who do stupid things not because they think them out but because they let their anger drive their actions. It's never done right and they get caught because no intelligent person would do what they would do. Most terrorists can't speak English well enough to understand the sophisticated vernacular of the typical TV sitcom performer, so they have no idea what is or isn't important on TV. It's all vanilla to them and if it isn't an extract, they don't like vanilla at all.

Anyway, enjoy the new TV season. As "best as you can. Whatever!"

-- Ray Hanania

Why do I go to a White Sox game? Hell-u-lar Field

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Why did I go to a White Sox game last night? It was so disappointing on so many levels. But my son won the seats as a reward for his academic efforts so it was to share his moment that I had to suffer with the White Sox.

It isn't the White Sox players themselves that disappoint me. Any White Sox player can become a Cubs player, some day. The Cubs lose but the Cubs fans go to the ballpark to enjoy the game, win or lose. White Sox fans actually think they are going to win the World Series again. Delusional!

I hate the stadium. It is so commercial and un-intuitive. Who designed that monstrosity of a public hassle? And to name it after a cell phone company only adds insult to injury. The cell phone companies are the biggest  rip-offs in our economy. They charge us an arm and a leg for service but they fail to provide adequate service. Not one of them. All of the services stink and they constantly drop calls. The cell phone industry doesn't work properly. it is plagued with bugs and failure. Co "Cellullar Field." Pathetic!

The parking around the stadium should be the easiest to get to but the fact is that it is easier to park at Wrigley Field -- built when? A few years after the turn of the 19th Century? -- than it is to park at Comiskey Park. There I said it. F-You Cellular Field! The parking there is horrendous. Some moron who flunked out of the Chicago Public schools -- and that is so hard to do, actually -- must have designed the parking lot patterns. And the idiots they hire to manage "security" around the park only make it worse. You turn on 39th Street to par and they immediately wave you away, even though the signs tell you to keep going to park with a ticket or for cash, they make you go around in circles on purpose. The signs are lies at White Sox park. The people hired to direct traffic are not directing traffic at all. They are mocking White Sox commuters.

A smart rat couldn't figure its way around the parking maze at White Sox Park! It's a hassle and an intentional mess. I think it might be a strategy to make life difficult for Sox fans so that they have lowered expectations before they get int he park and consume cases of beer and slosh around the F word like they were at the South Side Irish Parade.

The food at Sox Park is okay. It's not great. It is just okay and that's amazing for a politically connected place to give the food to people who are there only to make a fast buck rather than service the hunger pangs of the fans. What else is new?

The prices of food is not out of line with the prices at Wrigley Field or any other place. But the food at Wrigley is so much better.

Then there are the people. I think it is an anecdotal fact that South Siders are fatter than north siders, and maybe that's why the smartest south siders are also Cub fans and not White Sox fans. A lot of South Siders are heffers. (Who came up with Cows on Parade? A northsider mocking south siders, of course.)

And the souvenir shops had pure junk. At least at Wrigley Field I can buy my son an autographed baseball. Not at White Sox Abomination. Pure worthless junk.

But the drunks who stumble in to the White Sox games and then stumble out -- and are too afraid to walk through the local neighborhood even though many of the public housing units have been demolished to make them feel better -- don't care about the quality of the junk there because many of them  are dressed like slobs.

I actually sat there and watched a White Sox prodigy who was maybe 12 years old sit at his chair and spit constantly on the cement steps next to his aisle seat. His friend did the same. Spitting through the whole game. Fortunately a Cubs fan told them to stop. Who else would step up to the plate to teach them public manners?

Of course, the White Sox lost the game to the Detroit Tigers. But that isn't exclusive to the White Sox. The Cubs lose often. But when I go to a Cubs game, I go in knowing we have no chance in hell of winning anything. And it doesn't bother me because by the time I get to my seat -- which is just as expensive as the seats at the White Sox Rat Maze -- I am happy and hassle free and I am enjoying the food at the park. I'm content at Wrigley Field before the game starts, unlike the nightmare experienced at Hell-u-lar Field.

-- Ray Hanania

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Another major gunfight at the OK Corral -- the Orland Park Mall - Yikes!

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How many shootings have there been at the Orland Park Mall? That's what I asked my wife this morning as she sat at her laptop and read the stories about the manhunt for a shooter who attacked a shopper at the Orland Mall, shooting the woman in the arm with a gun outside of Penny's around 9 pm Friday night.

That will be a big draw for Orland Park. Thankfully we have the best Police Department in the nation to respond to it.

As my wife read through the stories, I kept asking her to tell me what was happening. That made me think of how our society has changed in the computer era.

"Didn't you hear the helicopters flying over the mall last night keeping us awake?" she asked.

I was fast asleep. "No. What helicopters?"

Cook County sent a helicopter to help track down the gunman, who is seems, was a woman attacker. That's even worse, I think. Male chauvinism maybe?

"What happened?" I asked.

After I pestered her with a dozen questions, my wife looked at me and said open your iPad and read the stories yourself.

No. I want someone to tell me the story. "I wonder if we can invent a little box that you put in the frontroom and turn on and some guy comes on the screen and tells you everything that happens instead of having to dig for the news ourselves?

Oh yea. That's called television news, something that is fast disappearing from our daily agendas. We used to watch the TV to get all the news that the newspapers couldn't get straight. The reports and videos were informative and fast.

Now, we have to scan the Internet news sites for news ourselves. I didn't get it any sooner on the Internet and only listened as I prodded my wife to tell me what was happening Saturday morning as I drank my black decaf coffee.

Maybe that's the problem. No caffeine to fuel the energy I thought.

Yea, I'm watching some dufus trying to tell me how to make millions using the Internet. "Just let the money come to you. I have this automated system and you don't have to do anything. You build the web site, use my three step system and blah, blah, balh."

It was "Paid Programming" on Comcast Cable, which has seriously deteriorated in the past few years. Comcast charges you for everything on its channel lineup, even old movies that are junk have to be bought. It's crazy. How did I let myself fall in to this Comcast Crap anyway? I need to cancel Comcast and try satellite, I think. Although Netflix has partially replaced my movie viewing habits. Netflix downloads are good quality but the selection of movies sucks. There really isn't much. So far no one has invented a great system for TV. We've only gone backwards into the Stone Age.

I want some guy, or girl, on TV telling me the Who, What, When, Where, How and Why of the news story. The updates and the conclusion. I don't mind reading about it later, if it interest me. And anytime there is a gunfight at the Orland Park Mall, it interests me. The thought of the suspect scurrying away and around the nearby homes at night is frightening.

Maybe Mayor McLaughlin can take some of that $62 million we're giving to his developer pals and boost up security around here. Yea, a gunfight at the Orland Park Mall isn't going to attract a lot of those wealthy rich people to move into the luxurious Orland Park apartments a stone's throw from the Mall. Although maybe that might get the thieves to stop focusing on robbing people at the Mall and focus on breaking in to the apartments of the very rich who are not so bright to invest their wealth in an apartment overlooking a Metra Train station.

Okay. There's too much to process here.

Back to the Boob Tube!

--- Ray Hanania

Friday, September 9, 2011

Breaking News Orland Park: Letter from Trustee Brad O'Halloran on Ninety7Fifty "Mr. Mayor, I respectfully must disagree"

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Letter from Trustee Brad O'Halloran on Ninety7fifty
Mr. Mayor, I respectfully must disagree.

I have been a Trustee in the Village of Orland Park for the past 18 years. While there have been many challenging issues during this time, none has had the potential economic impact on the Village’s finances to the degree the proposed “9750 On The Park” project will have. As such, it is the single biggest financial vote in 20 years. When I first became a trustee the Village’s overall debt was around  $18 million, today it is $79 million. The proposed 9750 project would almost double that debt to $144 million.  To put things in perspective, the 9750 project’s debt of $65 million is greater than the debt of the new police station, the Sportsplex, the new library, the new train station, the public works facility and the old police station renovation----COMBINED. Now that’s a big deal.

I received the final details of this deal in my weekly Village package on August 13th in the form of a 5 inch ring binder stuffed full of details. I’ve been trying to absorb them ever since. While it’s certainly true that I knew this project was in the works for quite some time, this was the first time I saw the final business terms and was given the third party report that analyzed the risk factors involved. In addition I always assumed there would be plenty of time for debate with public hearings and the traditional Village Committee process, prior to any final vote. Well, as we all now know the final vote is to occur at our next meeting on September 19th, after the public hearing this past Tuesday. So in addition to the statements I listened to on Monday, I’ve been soliciting my own input from the same neighbors, friends, former coaches and local business folk I’ve relied on for years and whose opinions I respect. And we’ve hit on some common themes.

1.)   This is no time for anyone to be doubling their amount of debt. If I wouldn’t do it as an individual or business, why would the Village ever consider it? If there is one common thread to the current problems in our state and country it is one thing, too much debt.

2.)   A partnership is just that. 50/50 or 60/40 or even 70/30, but 96/4, I don’t think so.

3.)   The Village has no business being in the Apartment business. If this is such a good idea then let the private sector have at it, but don’t risk my money by using public funds.

Of course there was a lot more banter, but those three were common to any discussion.

 So how did we get here today? Well, this project is perceived to be the linchpin of the Village’s downtown redevelopment. A vision the Mayor and this board have worked on for many years. A vision I must say I share and have supported to date. A vision that has been many, many years in the making. Unfortunately, I think with respect to the 9750 project maybe there’s been a little too much tunnel vision. Too much focus on the end result and the beautiful renderings and rosy projections and not enough focus on the economic uncertainty in both our state and country and the fact that these funds are the funds of our citizens. The same citizens that I have been so proud to represent for so many years. The same citizens that have entrusted me to represent them to the best of my ability.

The one thing I’ve always admired about the Village board and the Mayor is that we can disagree without being disagreeable. So in the end I guess I must concur with the folks I spoke with and the common sense input they offered and respectfully disagree with you Mr. Mayor and say no to the proposed financing of “9750 0n The Park “.           
                                                                                             Brad S. O’Halloran
                                                                                             Village Trustee                                                  
                                                                                             Finance Chairman
                                                                                             Village of Orland Park

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Senator Mark Kirk’s Efforts to Weaken New Consumer Agency Bad for Illinois Consumers

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For Immediate Release:                                             Press Inquires:
September 8th, 2011                                                     Brian Imus, Illinois PIRG, 312-399-3834
Dory Rand, Woodstock Institute, 312-368-0310
Karen Harris, Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, 312-263-3830

Senator Mark Kirk’s Efforts to Weaken New Consumer Agency Bad for Illinois Consumers

The landmark Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently took over as the nation’s chief regulator of financial institution compliance with consumer laws – mortgages, credit cards and other bank loans, including overdraft fees. Despite strong public support for the new bureau, Illinois Senator Mark Kirk is one of just a few Senators who have taken several positions that would undermine and weaken the new consumer protection agency.

Illinois Senator Mark Kirk is one of 44 U.S. Senators to sign a letter to President Obama opposing any nominee to head the bureau until the bureau’s power is first weakened.  He also co-sponsored legislation that would weaken the new bureau and legislation that would completely repeal the Dodd-Frank Act, eliminating the new consumer protection bureau. He is one of only 6 Senators who have taken the extreme position of signing the letter and sponsoring both rollback bills.

“All three positions taken by Senator Kirk benefit Wall Street banks and the business-as-usual approach to regulating financial institutions that caused the economic mess we face today,” said Brian Imus, Director of Illinois PIRG.

The President nominated former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, the current enforcement chief of the Bureau, as the CFPB’s first director. He’s already received strong support from Ohio papers and praise from the current Republican Attorney General of Ohio, Mike DeWine, who had defeated him. The Bureau will not have its full authority to protect consumers in the financial marketplace until a director is confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

“Despite signing a letter with other Senators opposing any nominee until the bureau is weakened, I hope Senator Kirk will evaluate Attorney General Cordray based on his qualifications,” said Dory Rand, president of Woodstock Institute. “Opposing any director for the new bureau, regardless of qualifications, isn’t in the interest of Illinois consumers.”

A recent poll shows that an overwhelming majority of likely voters both support a new consumer agency (74%) and want Wall Street held “accountable” (77%). 

“It’s critical that the Bureau has the ability to effectively enforce our financial protection laws. That’s why it’s important for Illinoisans to know where Senator Kirk stands,” said Karen Harris with the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law. “We encourage Illinoisans to let Senator Kirk know that they want him to prevent the banking lobby from weakening the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.”

#          #          #

For more information on how consumers will benefit from the CFPB, please read Ten Reasons We Need the CFPB. For information on the importance of confirming Richard Cordray, please download this fact sheet

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

I guess we know what the village of Orland Park's problem is ...

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Orland Park Says it needs to get it's message out:the problem is their message is already out and the public doesn't like it.

The Village of Orland Park has two full-time communications people to help promote their events and agenda. Apparently, they're not very good, their political clout and pedigree not withstanding.

Don't get me wrong. I think communications consultants and employees are important to every government, After all, having spent 30 years as an award winning journalist with front line professional journalism experience under my belt, I am a communications consultant today. My job is to know not only how to present a message for a client, but also to whom. Who is the audience? And, what message is most effective. Comes from years of experience, folks.

But I have also learned that when a government has two full-time communications employees who were paid last year $142,768 -- and no doubt far more this year to issue press releases touting Mayor Dan McLaughlin and his agenda -- and the mayor declares that clearly the problem with the village is that it is not getting their communications message out very well so they have to hired a third communications consultant. Houston. We have a problem.

Now, communications isn't rocket science. So they hired a friend of mine, Lloyd Betourney -- I say that knowing that chances are in the small minds of some of the village officials, being my friend may not be an asset. Betourney heads up The Public Response Group which mostly does political campaigns but was brought on specifically to manage "reputation management" for Mayor McLaughlin and the Village.

I'm not sure which one has the reputation management problem at this point any more. (I love the village and I like McLaughlin -- he's a decent guy but we find ourselves on the wrong side of issues many times.)

The Public Response Group will only be paid about $49,500 for their 18 month contract to help the village get its reputation in order. So that brought the amount taxpayers are spending to manage communications (and the very related aspect of reputation management) to -- let's see, I went to the public schools where class length was far longer than what we have today in Chicago and even in the suburbs -- $192.276. Again, this Chicago Public Schools alumni can figure out that represents last year's total and my guess is the salaries this year for the "two" village relatives on the payroll is probably higher. So, for the sake of sensationalism, let's just say the village is already, now, paying about $200,000 for communications.

But apparently in the month since Betourney's Public Response Group was brought on, the village of Orland Park has decided to bring on yet another communications firm. Yes, another PR group to handle the issues probably being ruffled by the village's misguided plan to build luxury condominiums next to the Metra train station. (Sure. Wealthy people are going to move next to a Metra Train so they can get to work? I don't think so.)

The new fourth PR Firm being brought is in going to deal with surveys of the public to determine, as one village official explained, if things like snow removal and street cleaning were still relevant to residents.

I'm a little surprised that someone would ask that question. Of course, they were probably told what to say when asked by the three Communications employees and consultants who I am sure got together to figure out why that amount of money wasn't going to their pockets.

And by the way, how much with the village spend to hire the fourth communications consultant? We don't know. Maybe the village needs to hire another communications consultant to help them figure that out. They'll take bids and they will do it publicly.

Mayor McLaughlin and the "IT Team" headed by Trustee Jim "Sunshine" Dodge -- that's his favorite saying -- are probably just doing their best to try and figure out why their originally intended message hasn't gotten out. And maybe they want to know why the message of the luxury apartment complex they want to build using taxpayer money seems to be mired in public rejection. And oh, the public so does not want that Main Street Ninety7Fifty complex with the nifty little name.

They just don't understand. The problem is that their message HAS already gotten out and the problem is that the taxpayers in Orland Park understand it very well and they don't want it.

Wow. And no one had to pay me for that communications advice. I can just hear the commotion at the Village of Orland Park's new Communications Consultant Armory Offices and the $280,000 in salaried and consulting employees screaming, "Let's put out 5 press releases and see if we can spin this differently folks!"

Why not? It doesn't bother them how much the village has to spend on consulting, on luxury apartments and on PR spin. It's taxpayer money anyway.

-- Ray Hanania

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Suburban Schools do more than Chicago Schools for their children

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I was fascinated by the debate in Chicago over the length of time schools kids spend time in schools. There is no question that the big concern is teachers is their excessive salaries and their pensions, not the children. And that's sad. The fact is Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who is not right about much, is right about the schools. Children need to stay in the elementary school classrooms longer than the 5 hours or so they are there now. Emanuel wants to increase their time in school and that's a great idea.

The Chicago news media (Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times) are preoccupied with the subject. But the truth is they don't care about school children at all either. They care about selling newspapers. Even the TV media which slurps up sloppy seconds on news, follows the lead of the Tribune and the Sun-Times reporting only on Chicago's school dilemmas.

Well let me give some information that no one seems to care about.

Suburban schools started one week before Chicago's schools and will probably remain in class days longer than Chicago's schools.

Suburban children are in class more than 6 hours every day and there is nothing wrong with that at all. In fact, Emanuel is right. School children should be in class at least 6 hours but the Chicago Teacher's Union doesn't agree. The issue for them is salaries and wages and costs. It's not about the children. Teachers complain about their salaries but they get great salaries and great benefits. But they always want more.

Chicago's Mayor Emanuel should win this fight and force the kids to stay in school longer.

It may be different from some kids in High school. There, the children in junior and senior year may have to work to help their families and staying in school longer might be a costly burden for them. But that's easily resolved by giving those children permits to leave school early.

The point is, children should be in school all day and at least 6 hours or more. That's where they learn. And if teachers don't want to be teachers, maybe they should join the unemployment line and see what it's like being without a job.

They have great healthcare benefits that are far superior than anything their students get. So quit whining, teachers and start focusing on what's good for the students. Your union has done far more for you than you deserve, getting more benefits than the students. While your salaries have increased, school programs have been cut.

I wonder if they teach about all this in economic classes?

-- Ray Hanania