Working on a pitch about beer appreciation, I came across this epigram attributed
to emperor Julian the Apostate
, who ruled the Romans for three years (360-363) and has been described by historians as "the military commander, the theosophist, the social reformer, and the man of letters:"Wine from the vine has a fragrance like nectar;
wine from barley stinks like a goat.
Wine from the vine comes from Bacchus, son of the goddess Semele;
wine from barley comes from bread.
The Roman Empire didn't crumble because of open homosexuality
. Poor taste in booze did them in.
“If you have a giant fucking pile of money and a bunch of dumb fucks running against you, DREAMS DO COME TRUE.” -- @MayorEmanuel
Two years after he admitted publicly
that he’d like to be mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel
’s fantasy became reality in the Windy City. Last night, the former White House chief of staff creamed the rest of Chicago’s mayoral field in a low-turnout
race to replace retiring Mayor Richard Daley
, netting 55 percent of the vote en route to victory. As expected, Emanuel did well along the city’s wealthy lakefront and in white ethnic wards in his old congressional district, but also wracked up huge numbers in majority-black districts; Carol Moseley Braun
, an awful campaigner who was anointed the “consensus black candidate” by a small bloc of aging African-American pols, did not win a single ward
in a city that boasts a plurality of black residents -- a rather stunning data point.
Now that his seat in City Hall is secured, what types of policies
can Chicagoans expect the Emanuel administration to pursue when it takes over the nation’s third-largest city in May? It’s still hard to say definitively: Emanuel himself has no experience in municipal government, his camp did not go out of its way to be specific on the trail, and the campaign coverage focused disproportionately on the horserace (and particularly the challenge to Emanuel’s residency). Still, we have hints on a few key topics that we can parse briefly: Budget cuts and pensions payments.
Emanuel will inherit a city that just closed a $655 million budget deficit with a series of one-time revenue tricks; Chicago still faces both a structural imbalance
and rising pension costs. Few programs, in other words, are likely to be expanded
anytime soon. He’s identified $500 million
in potential savings he’d pursue right away, a plan that includes both vague changes (“streamlining bureaucracy”) and concrete steps that hold some promise (a comprehensive wellness plan focused on the sickest members of the city workforce). He’s also indicated that he would push for cuts in pension benefits for current public employees, a move most legal experts consider unconstitutional. Taxes.
Though he oversold
the benefits, and a real fix would require legislative action in Springfield, Emanuel deserves credit for backing sales-tax reform. Essentially, he wants Chicago to lower its overall levy (one of the highest in the nation) but broaden the number of transactions subject to the tax to include discretionary services that wealthy people disproportionally use. It’s smart and progressive, which means it probably doesn’t have a shot in hell at becoming law. He’s also called for more transparency in the city’s tax increment financing system, a development tool
intended to eradicate blight that Mayor Daley used as his own mayoral slush fund. Don’t expect fundamental alterations to that system, though; the same developers and corporate execs who the current administration showered with unnecessary TIF subsidies firmly
supported Emanuel’s bid. Education
: If you like the Obama
administration’s approach to education reform, you’ll like Rahm’s, too. The Democrat has called for a local, privately funded version of “Race to the Top” fund, wants to expand the number of charter schools and teacher training academies (possibly to allow for a more school “turnarounds
”), and supports efforts to extend Chicago’s school day as well as overhaul Illinois’ flawed teacher-evaluation system. Emanuel solicited
hundreds of thousands of dollars from contributors to Stand for Children, a new and powerful education advocacy organization
in the Michelle Rhee mold. Environment
by the Sierra Club, Rahm’s energy and transit platform is pretty solid. He wants to target the city’s least efficient neighborhoods for (modest) energy efficiency upgrades, bolster the city’s bike infrastructure, set guidelines for transit-oriented development projects, and devote more resources to inter-city rail and burgeoning bus rapid transit routes. The one blind spot is his lukewarm support for an ordinance that would force two aging (and dangerous
) coal-fired power plants to shut down quickly or convert to natural gas.
The major test for Emanuel will be whether or not he can foster sustainable development in the city’s outlying neighborhoods, areas that missed the wave of growth the Daley administration helped foster in Chicago's business district and adjacent wards. If he can, voters might keep him in this “dream job” for several more terms.Cross-posted at TAPPED.
An Election Day mixtape
, courtesy of Boss Tweed (aka, @jonathandoster
- Politican (Reprise) - Aloe Blacc
- Are You Ready? - Sly & the Family Stone
- You Must Believe Me - The Impressions
- I'm the Shit (Benzi and Willy Joy Remix) - Gucci Mane
- Represent - Nas
- Tough Guy ft. UGK - Outkast
- Large on the Streets - Vado
- Give Me Just a Little More Time - Chairmen of the Board
- Make Me Yours - Bettye Swann
- I Choose You - Willie Hutch
- The Champ - Ghostface Killah
- I Don't Love You No More - Kings Go Forth
When three Chicago Democrats ran in a primary election 22 years ago for the opportunity to fill the chair left vacant by the surprise death of legendary mayor Harold Washington
, local political junkies expected a knock-down, drag out fight. They were ultimately disappointed. State’s attorney (and first political son) Richard M. Daley
coasted to victory over interim mayor Eugene Sawyer
in a mild campaign reporters characterized as “surprisingly ho-hum” and “a lackluster tussle between mediocre candidate.” USA Today
ably described Daley’s strategy at the time: “stick to one theme a week, avoid too many questions from reporters, and make sure every appearance looks good on TV.” (He also quietly raised loads of cash from a network of lawyers and developers that David Moberg dubbed
the “new Chicago machine.”)
There are a lot of parallels between that race and today’s election. In Chicago, Rahm Emanuel’s
mayoral victory is a fait acompli
at this point; the only real question
is whether he reaches the 50 percent threshold needed to win outright tonight or whether he will be forced into a runoff with the second-place vote-getter on April 5. Emanuel has run a steady and sober campaign
against an underwhelming batch of contenders. He gained sympathy points from many Chicagoans during the prolonged (and sometimes ridiculous) hearings surrounding his residency. He also brought in a considerable haul early in the cycle (before Illinois’ new campaign finance contribution limits kicked into place), which allowed him to blanket television stations with ads and devote more time down the stretch to meeting
potential voters as opposed to donors.
Election officials expect somewhere between 40
and 50 percent
of registered voters to participate today, which would be on the higher end for a recent municipal race. (The polls close at 7 p.m. CST.) It’s snowing here, but not like when “The Crippler”
hit a few weeks ago, so the weather shouldn’t impact turnout too much. The more folks who vote, the better positioned Emanuel will be; he’s polling well
across all portions of the city and the organizations pounding the pavement for another contender, Gery Chico
, particularly on the influential Southwest side, will lose some of their influence if the voting pool is deep.
The mayoral race is just one among many that will fundamentally reshape government here. Eleven aldermen are following veteran Mayor Daley out the door, either to retire or switch careers. Several others face decorated challengers and a frustrated electorate. In total, half of the 50-member City Council could be freshmen when the new body convenes. Those rookies will represent a global city facing grave provincial problems: a budget held together by Scotch Tape and prayers, an investment deficit threatening to stunt future growth, and a jobs crisis that predates the Great Recession and is felt acutely in heavily black and Latino neighborhoods.
Emanuel will likely win the city’s top job. But it’s worth asking why he wants it in the first place.
We will have more on what policies we can expect to see from an Emanuel administration tomorrow. In the meantime, the Sun-Times
does a great job of tracking results, so check out their election hub here
.Cross-posted at TAPPED.
It’s Election Day in Chicago, the apotheosis of what I considered
an underwhelming, often boring campaign season. Even so, I plan on swinging by my local polling place later today to carry out my humble civic responsibility. And you can rest assured that dozens of mayoral and aldermanic candidates will follow another well-known Windy City tradition: urging residents to “vote early and often.”
While Daddy Daley, Big Bill Thompson, and/or Al Capone may have popularized that local political maxim, historians claim
that it was probably a New Yorker -- John Van Buren -- who was the first to deploy
the phrase publicly. And Van Buren, second son of our eighth president, was an interesting character in his own right. He graduated from Yale in 1828, was elected Attorney General of New York in 1845 (prosecuting
several tenant farm crusaders in his most famous case), and later served as chief spokesperson of the Free Soil Party
, which fought against the expansion of slavery into the western territories. A skilled campaigner, Van Buren’s New York Times obit
identified him as “the most popular stump speaker in the northern states.”
Unfortunately, he was also dogged by poor health, succumbing to kidney failure on a trip back from Europe in his mid-50s, as well as subpar judgment skills, reminiscent
of future presidential children. According to one tale, Van Buren got so deep into an Upstate New York poker game that he was forced to make a massive and unorthdox wager
to recoup his losses:A bizarre tale cherished by generations of northern New Yorkers is that [Elena] America [Vespucci] took up with Van Buren's son, the dissolute lawyer John Van Buren. Playing poker with [landowner George] Parish one night, John lost $5,000 and in desperation put up America as a stake. "I shall play you the lady against my losses, Mr. Parish ... on the toss of my last gold piece," he proposed. And, says legend, Parish won America on the flip of that coin.
While the story has never been fully verified, the “dark-eyed, well-formed Italian lady” at its center was
Elena America Vespucci, a descendant of the man
for whom this wonderful land was named. And if that anecdote doesn’t stir your democratic soul on Election Day, I don’t know what will.
Happy President's Day, boys and girls. I haven't watched this video in several years and am not sure if it holds up, but man oh man did I think this was funny when I saw it in college:
Expect a legitimate post tomorrow ...
While trying to get a few projects off the ground on this unseasonably lovely Friday, I've been listening to The Impressions. I suggest you do the same. (I spent 15 minutes looking for a video of "Loves Happening
," but this cut will do.):
See y'all next week!
Borders filed for bankruptcy
yesterday, which basically bites.
Yes, Borders (and Barnes & Noble) probably strong-armed
publishers into giving large retailers massive discounts independent operators couldn’t secure. And yes, many of their wounds are self-inflicted
: weak leadership, too many unprofitable stores, sinking
DVD and CD sales, and poor adaption to the digital age.
Still, I’m sympathetic. About a decade ago, Borders opened up a store by Lincoln Mall in Matteson, and it was literally the only book store I could get to as a teen without driving at least 25 minutes. Like so many of its new locations, it probably didn’t make Borders HQ a ton of money, but it always seemed
crowded. It’s a big loss for a region starved for retail options.
It’s also ironic (and sad) that the business strategy of the Ann Arbor mainstay was undercut by improvements in technology, given that the company’s success depended largely on the ingenious way its founders utilized computer software to manage its inventory. The Borders brothers’ early computer system used past sales, local tastes, and seasonal preferences to predict what books consumers were aching to purchase on any given day. This allowed the company to stock deep titles without hemorrhaging money or wasting precious floor space. From a 2000 paper
(PDF) by Daniel Raff, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School: Shelf space appeared to be the bookseller’s main commercial constraint. Unsold books could, after all, be sent back to the publishers for an extended period if they remained in good condition and if the book paid the freight and stood the packing and working capital costs. The Borders brothers thought they could ‘make money selling one copy each of $7.95 books if they and their associates could use the shelf space efficiently by choosing the books intelligently and getting very good at knowing when they had chosen wrong. Doing this effectively involved complex considerations far beyond the powers of intuition of even the most gifted buyers … Shelf space was most valuable when its owners had a good idea of what to put on it.
It worked, too. The percentage of books that Borders returned to publishers, according to a 1991 New York Times
article, was only 8 percent, “well below the industrywide average of about 40 percent.” And they carried obscure titles difficult to locate before the Internet made anything simple to obtain.
So good on ya, Tom and Louis. Despite your subsequent dot com failures
, you make the University of Michigan fam proud.
I've got a short profile of Will Burns in this week's Reader
, my first contribution (and hopefully not last!) to that fine rag. Burns is a solid lefty state representative running to take over for Toni Preckwinkle in the 4th Ward. There's not really a graf suitable to pull out on its own, so go read the whole sucker here
A few stray thoughts:
*Will is hilarious and very generous with his time.
*Space constraints made the piece read a little choppier than I would have liked, but that's the way it goes sometimes.
*Left on the cutting room floor was my analysis of why he's coming home to run for the City Council: commuting to Springfield sucks, especially with a young kid (his daughter is three), and a smart political operator can get a lot accomplished in media-heavy Chicago, where you don't have to pay heed to the wishes of the Speaker.
*People from Hyde Park are charming and wonderful, but they are sooooo Hyde Parky.Hope y'all enjoy it!
Electric cars like the Chevy Volt and the (well reviewed
) Nissan Leaf are the talk
of this year’s Chicago Auto Show
, the largest and longest running automobile showcase this fine land has to offer. Each year in February, over 1 million people saunter around 1.3 million square feet of McCormick Place floor space, surveying the latest innovations in car manufacturing and design. I was pretty bored by the whole spectacle the few times I attended as a teen, but for many locals, the auto show is one highlight of the city’s often depressing winter.
Chicago’s first show, held all the way back in 1901 at the Chicago Coliseum
, was a bit smaller in scale than the current iteration; it included roughly 65 “horseless carriages” and one 20-foot-wide indoor track for demonstrations. “It is the intention of the management,” the Tribune
reported on the eve of the show, “to show the progress and evolution in the motors used to propel vehicles from the old style, cumbersome, slow acting shafts to the compact and powerful machines now in use.”
How avant garde was that initial exhibit? The year before, there were a mere 8,000
registered cars in the entire nation. The conference took place just three months after a one-armed mechanic named Patillo Higgins
struck black gold at the Spindletop
oilfield in East Texas, launching the modern petroleum industry. I imagine that discovery looked something like this:
Whether prescient or just serendipitous, Chicago got into the auto show game at the right time. Fifteen years later, with fuel cheap and plentiful, Henry Ford and company would crank out 1 million cars annually. And S.A. Miles, the manager of National Automobile Shows, estimated
that the city netted $1,000,000 (about $20 million in 2009) for its efforts.