Posts Tagged ‘Chicago’



It was in a cold, gray October rain, late on a Saturday afternoon, that Trump slipped into Chicago. The eyes of the city aimed at college football games, cleaning the house, doing errands. Trump’s usual grand entrance to the city, civic trumpets blowing, military guards and closed expressways; all that would come later as he spit out all the dog whistles and hate speak to the loyalists, raked in the money and pounded out tweets. Now it was just Trump and the white hooded figure of a blood red eyed creature he would call “Stephan” who would lean down and whisper in Trump’s ear every few minutes as if giving instructions from very far away.

Their jet having landed in a private airfield north of the city amid gated communities bursting with heavily armed amateur security guards. Car and driver waiting, Trump and Stephan folding themselves into the back seat for the quick ride to the unnamed street corner tavern off of Montrose Ave on the north side of the city.  I’d tell you exactly where but you’d never find it. Like lots of taverns, it was bathed in a  perpetual twilight, even darker now from the rain. Empty except for a man in a gray raincoat sitting against the wall at the end of the bar, face hidden in the shadow of a faded blue Chicago Cubs cap, rhythmically tossing a 16-inch softball just above his head, catching it and tossing it up again. 

In the middle of the bar, hunched over a ginger ale, was my old great Uncle Lester “The Lip” Lapczynski. Wisps of white hair and a beat-up madras sport coat that broke every law of good taste. 

Trump pushes open the bar room door, motions for Stephan to go first—in case danger is lurking—sees Lester at the bar and says “Where’s this Royko guy I been hearing so much about?” To which Lester turns his back on Trump and Stephan—as if turning some distant cheek—and bellows with a force like a righteous wind, “What about the PLUMBERS, putz? The spray from Lester’s protruding lower lip drenching Trump’s face and beading up on his hairspray.

Trump looks at Stephan, who shrugs his shoulders as Trump turns back to Lester who screams it even louder and wetter this time. “The PLUMBERS numb nuts!  The PLUMBERS!”

“You are just like Stinky McGoohan from the old neighborhood!” Lester sprays. “Fact is you could take lessons from Stinky. You KNOW there is a Stinky in EVERY neighborhood.”

“I’m the President of the United States. Didn’t you see it on TV? I had more people at my inauguration than ANY President ever! And I won it fair and square. And what does this have to do with plumbers? I came here to see some hot shot named Royko. They say that if he was still writing, I’d be nothing more than American histories’ big “Ooops!” And so, I make this trip to Chicago with all your crime and everything and this Royko guy doesn’t even show up! What’s the matter,” Trump flashes an evil grin, “this Royko guy come down with a bad case of bone spurs?”  

Stephan clears his throat, motions Trump over with a crooked first finger and whispers in his ear and not skipping a beat, Trump says to Lester, “Bone spurs? I never said bone spurs. You sure that wasn’t the media or the deep state or Hillary talking? And what’s this all about the plumbers?”

‘That deal you made for the plumbing in your eye sore, building on the Chicago River?’

‘I’m a biness man! I make a lot of deals. So what?

Yeah so, I’ve heard Mister Business man,” said Lester, drenching Trump so thoroughly that his hair started to change color “You can explain later how you can loose money on casinos when you’re the house. What I’m talking about is how you somehow managed to make your deals with the plumbers, the unions and even the poor saps who spent millions for the condos go bad. The kind of deals where you can only when if the other guy loses. All those pipes bursting in your building and the water cascading down from floor to floor. Hedge fund guys and all those other biness men checking into the hotel across the street because the plumbing went bad in their 3 million-dollar condos. All because you wanted to stick it to some plumbers.” Lester was on a roll now. “See Junior, and I can call you Junior because you turned out just like the old man. Also, just like Stinky McGoohan. Always making sure the other guy lost first. That’s what really did it for you and Stinky and all the other Stinkys in all our neighborhoods, making sure the other guy lost first. You dressed it up with every kind of spin. But it was really just about making the other guy lose first.

“Yeah,” snarled Trump. “Well if you’re so sure you’re the good guys, if you’re so sure this ain’t a cut throat world, then how come your big hero, your Mister Royko didn’t show up? Hmm? What’s he? Not tough enough? Well I don’t have time for this. C’mon Stephan, lets leave these weak ass losers.” 

And with that, Trump and his white hooded companion turned, opened the tavern door and didn’t see the 16-inch softball come flying out from the end of the bar, zooming like a home run blast to the open skies far above the retreating deal maker and his pal.

They never saw the 16-inch softball ball fly off into the unknown distance. 

They never saw Royko look up from his end of the bar . . .

Nod his head. Tip his Cubs cap. And smile.

Ethical Government in Chicago?


Test the actual soil underlying Chicago City Hall.

No one would be surprised if trace elements of ethical lapses were somehow ingrained in the earth.

It’s been that way since the first Indian standing watch one dark night on the shores of the Big Lake watched the first smiling white man jump from the canoe, yell a hearty hello and set the standard price for anything as being ten cents on the dollar.

With a wink and a handshake. It’s always been that way. Because we’ve always been able to pay the cost. Be it in dollars, culture, human suffering, a strange kind of pride or even bottled up rage. We have always paid the cost for turning away from the smoke of the roaring ethical fires.

But now we can’t afford that anymore. The money’s shriveled up. So now it might change.

Yesterday, Mayor Emanuel appointed an Ethics Reform Task Force unlike any ever seen in this city.

A group of four who have made careers based on being ethical.

Their task is to review Chicago’s Ethics Ordinance. And then make it work. Make it stronger.

Cindi Canary will chair the Task Force. Cindi Canary is a groundbreaking force in city and state ethical reform. Her organization is the “Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.” Pore over any tiny or large steps forward in the fight for government accountability in Illinois and you will find her name.

Alderman Will Burns, who along with counterparts like Alderman Ameya Pawar, has been part of the new crop of city leaders. Leaders who focus on social justice organizations ranging from The Mikva Challenge and the Shriver Center for Poverty Law to The Common Pantry—Chicago’s longest operating Food Pantry.

And if there is any concern at all that real political change needs more than sunlight to make it work, Sergio Accosta, the third member of the group, is a former supervising U.S. Attorney specializing in areas like criminal civil rights.

Turns out that civil rights violations are still crimes.

But it’s the fourth member of the panel that brings the golden soul of the city into the mix of this new effort. Her name is Dawn Clark Netsch. She’s a former State Comptroller, State Senator and gubernatorial candidate. All facts. None of which give substance to the story of why she could be the soul of the new ethics machine.

It’s a short story—but its telling.

Back when there were only two telephone companies, I opened up the effort to sell the little telephone company, MCI, into Illinois State Government. I found a partner to help me learn the backstreets, darkened hallways and phone numbers of Springfield, a state political capital that made Chicago look like Andy Griffith’s home town Mayberry.

In the rotunda of the state capital, pretty much every door was closed up tight to me and my little telephone company. Most times no one even wanted to talk. And I mean not even talk about the weather. Everyone but Dawn Clark Netsch.

It was a simple thing. She didn’t know me. I never made a deal with her. Never even a formal meeting. But she was accessible. She talked to anybody. Even me. And that simply didn’t happen anywhere else. Not without access. Not without knowing someone who knows someone else.

Flash forward decades. I’m walking my dog in the Old Town neighborhood of Chicago. And she’s walking her dog. She stops. She chats. That regular nodding hello that fellow dog lovers have. She’s still open to the world.

And that would be the first key strategy of the new ethics task force.

Be open to the world.

The Mayor tried to do that in his transition. But he failed. You still had to be in the club. The great blogger driftglass’s 2 rules of Chicago politics:

1. There is a club.

2. You’re not in it.

Those two rules still own the day.

But what if that could change? What next?

Next is a mapping of the problem as a systemic problem. It’s not a problem where catching one rogue rascal with his hand in another’s pocket solves anything. It’s about a system.

And third, it’s about performance standards and measures that sound a bit different from the norm.

Turns out that notions of confidence, integrity, pride and passion really can be measured in the laboratory of opinion.

So the right people are on board. All four of them. Especially my hero, Dawn Clark Netsch.

And the right strategy can be put in place:

1. Accessibility and Transparency from those who serve the public.

2. Mapping the system to really grasp the full problem.

3. Performance standards and measures—to drive the real, concrete action that could produce something none of us have ever seen before, something most of us think isn’t even possible.

A renewed Chicago. Known for the ethical standards we practice.

This group could make it happen. And if they need any help?

I’m ready now.

Course, I don’t really know anybody.

But I’m ready and qualified now.

Do you suppose that matters?