Saturday, July 26, 2008

Time for the Annual Chicago Budget Hearings

AUGUST 19, 2008 Falconer Elementary School
3020 N. Lamon Avenue
AUGUST 20, 2008 Central West Regional Center
2102 W. Ogden
AUGUST 21, 2008 South Shore Cultural Center
7059 S. South Shore Dr

Register to speak between 6 - 7pm.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Recent Murders in Austin

I was watching the news yesterday when I saw the broadcast on the march that took place from Central to Lorel on Chicago Ave. Most interesting were all the excuses given as to why we are experiencing the sudden increase in shootings.

I'd like to point out that the 15th district police station used to be right at Lorel and Chicago Ave until Ald. Caruthers stole it to place it on west Madison Ave just feet from Oak Park.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Rev. Jackson shouldn't get a pass on Obama statements

One of my favorite passages from the Bible is from Ecclesiastes 3:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

I thought of that passage when the recent flap occurred over Rev. Jesse Jackson's comments regarding Senator Barack Obama. You know the one. It's where Rev. Jackson used vulgar language about wanting to cut off Senator Obama's private parts.

Rev. Jackson has run for the office of president. He did it in his time. But his bid for that office never took off. Hence, he never had a season.

Rev. Jackson also had his time when he established the phrase, "I am somebody." But as popular as that saying was, Rev. Jackson never took hold in the black community the way Dr. King did. Hence, he never had a season.

I could go on, but I'm sure you get my point. Everyone gets a time. No one is guaranteed a season. What Senator Obama has right now is not only his time, but he has an entire season. That is the reality that Rev. Jackson has to accept.

Some have blamed Fox News for releasing the videotape of Rev. Jackson making his crude statement. However, I blame Rev. Jackson himself-especially for referring to black people as "niggers." There has been little outrage over Rev. Jackson's use of that word. Many are making excuses, but I don't buy it. If a white person had been caught saying the exact same thing, they would have lost their job and been referred to sensitivity training.

Yet Rev. Jackson is being given a pass. Why? Was his calling us "niggers" any different than anyone else using the word? No one can make me believe that he said it because he loved us. In my opinion, Rev. Jackson's words were not just those of an elitist who feels he is better than the rest of us; they were also the words of someone who wants us to do as he says and not as he does.

Rev. Jackson will never have a season. He also has had his time.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Red-light violation law unfair to car owners

Last year, I wrote a column regarding getting a violation notice in the mail-the dreaded red-light violation. The city showed me three pictures on the notice. The first picture was an empty intersection; second picture was my SUV with the brake lights on; and the third picture was my license plate. Based on the notice, I contested the ticket because nothing in that notice showed a violation.

However, when I went to the administrative hearing, I was offered the chance to see the tape. "Tape?" I said.

Sure, why not.

So the administrative hearing officer pulled up a chair. In a few moments time, on came a video of my SUV approaching the intersection, pausing and then making a right-turn on red. The hearing officer explained that the city requires a full stop and not a pause.

"That's not me driving" I told the hearing officer. But because the city has made the violation akin to a parking ticket and not a moving violation, the owner of the vehicle, and not the driver, is now responsible for the ticket.

Since it was my son driving my SUV, I was left with no recourse and was forced to pay the $90 ticket (the price has now increased to $100). That ticket was a painful lesson to me. What the city has done is shift the responsibility for irresponsible driving when it comes to the red-light cameras to the car owner regardless of who's behind the wheel. Yet, if the same moving violation is caught by a police officer, the ticket would go to the driver and not the car owner. Is that fair? I don't think so.

When a person runs a red light, they endanger others, as well as themselves. So if the purpose of the cameras is to address the danger of people running red lights, then the violation should go the driver's record. If the true meaning of those cameras is to prevent accidents, then everyone's car insurance rate should be going down since we would be a safer city to drive in.

A few weeks back, I was contacted by Mark Saxenmeyer from Fox-32 News. He wanted to interview me after seeing my column in the Austin Weekly News about my ticket. After telling him my story, he informed me that the Minnesota State Supreme Court had recently struck down their red-light camera law. Basically, their legal decision was that those cameras violated their state law requiring uniformity in driving laws.

There is also a lawsuit in Illinois arguing the exact same thing. I'll keep you updated on its outcome.

Now there are some people who don't mind tickets going to the car's owner. But what if the same thing applied to those who use a gun to commit a crime? Imagine the outrage if a gun owner was held responsible for a crime done by someone else using their gun?

But putting the sole responsible for red-light violations on the car owner also places a huge and unfair economic burden on us. Imagine if someone gets mad at you, takes your vehicle and proceeds to run 50 red lights without the "pause." That can theoretically place a $5000 burden on the vehicle's owner. What if that angry driver did it over multiple days? Worst, imagine how insensitive the city would be as you tried to get out of owing them that amount of money?

The truth is that those cameras are nothing more than a revenue-generator for the city, and does little to change the bad driving behavior of some people.

Copy this link to see the video of my interview:

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Chicago Will get a Casino - Why not in Austin?

It is good to see that my opinion regarding the future of the Brach factory is causing discussion. Because without discussions like those that have been occurring online and in this paper, certain truths would be conveniently left out of the discussion.

Let's get one thing clear: The Brach site closed down permanently on Dec. 31, 2003. Not a decade ago as Roman Morrow erroneously stated in his One View column last week. Also, I try to always back up my opinions with facts and not just mindless ranting. So I told the story of Danville, Va. to make a point about land use and not the racial makeup of that community.

But that leads me to question why Roman Morrow would bring up race? Because if race is a part of the equation, then white people kept their manufacturing land and landed a manufacturer while black people want to put a school on theirs, thus permanently guaranteeing that the average Austin resident will never work there.

I am offended, insulted and flabbergasted that Roman Morrow would take my support of an economic engine such as my idea for a Black Entertainment District and myopically limit himself to just the casino and hotel portion. He then-conveniently, after mentioning those two aspects-proclaims to everyone that I am at it again and to not believe my hype, which is that I just want to "get my groove back." Since that type of vernacular in the context of a casino and hotel is a subtle reference to one's sexual life (ala the film How Stella Got Her Groove Back), I took note of the inference and am responding loudly to that type of assault on my character and my morals.

Great lesson to our young people, Roman Morrow. When you can't make a valid argument, go off base with a personal attack so that the facts never get addressed.

Mr. Morrow, the Brach site is definitely about Showtime at the Austin Apollo. How many of our young people if we had such a venue could go on stage and perform? How many jobs would be created as hundreds of young people who now currently roam the streets with nothing to do could go to an entertainment complex in their own community and see live performances? How many future Tyler Perrys are unable to develop their talents simply because of the lack of venue spaces in the Austin community?

I have not seen the agreement that ML Realty got. But anyone who has read this column over the years knows I have written about the abuse of TIF money. Money that was given to Coca Cola to relocate to Division and Cicero (another ML Realty property) so that Benito Juarez High School could expand and get a soccer field. TIF money given to the Washington Square Mall (North and Cicero) after selling the land to the developer for one dollar. TIF money has been offered for years, and I haven't seen any protests or letters to the editors in this paper howling about the situation. But now that certain individuals have set their sights on the Brach site, all of a sudden there are concerns about TIF money.

The Brach site is currently privately owned. If the owners don't want to sell (and since a government agency now would want to buy it, I am sure the price will escalate two-fold), then the only action is eminent domain-a costly legal process that will be paid for by us taxpayers.

Has anyone done any studies on the EPA aspect of that land? In today's world, you can't just take manufacturing land and turn it into land where our children will spend a good portion of their day without making sure the site is safe from toxins. Everyone, of course, remembers how long it took Washington Square to be built because of the problems with toxins at that site-from 1988, when protestors first marched, until 2002 when Cub Foods opened.

Mr. Morrow, it's nice to quote a study done over 10 years ago and mention the crime statistics for it. But let me tell you about Chicago's current crime stats. We don't have a casino, and we are having murders of three or more people, plus a number of shootings every weekend. If unemployment is at 6 percent nationwide, it's closer to 60 percent for young black people. Those are the same young people being killed or doing the killing every weekend. Yet I am not seeing the same murder rates for anyone coming from or going to the seven casinos in the Chicago area (Majestic I & II, Resorts, Horseshoe in Indiana or the Grand Victoria-Elgin, Hollywood-Aurora or Harrah's-Joliet). When I spoke to a senior about why she goes to the boats, she told me she feels safe there. No shootings. No robberies. It is one of the few times people of all ages and races can mingle and not worry about gun or physical violence.

Let me again remind everyone that Mayor Daley wants a land-based casino. And what Daley wants, he gets. So while some in the black community act as if we don't have gambling already on our sidewalks and exorbitant lottery sales every day, the Northwest Side has been proposing that the old Marshall Field warehouse at Diversey and Pulaski would make an excellent location for a casino.

So whether one likes it or not, wants it in our community or not, there will be a land-based casino at some point in Chicago. We are in dire need of jobs locally and thus as a community we need to weigh our economic needs by determining and providing for our future. A school can be placed in the middle of any residential neighborhood. A business cannot.

Lastly, what has amazed me most in all of the verbiage is the energy being exerted regarding a new school. How come I haven't seen the same sort of energy being used to deal with current problems in our schools or the lack of summer jobs for young people? Why is that? Just this past 4th of July evening, I watched as about 25 young people ran up and down North Avenue. They were all dressed up with nowhere to go.

They first congregated in the cul-de-sac in front of my house. I went outside and stood on my porch, armed with my trusty cellphone. I watched them. They watched me. They cussed. I grimaced. They apologized. I nodded. They moved on. But they moved on to nothing. No dances. No skating rinks. No mall. No community place to hang out. So the corner became the hanging spot.

Hmm, that brought up a thought. If the Brach site became a new school, based on the drawings that were shown in last week's paper, are all those black dashes a wrought iron fence? Guess the young kids won't have that as a hangout spot either. And the drawing also shows a huge soccer field and not one single outdoor basketball court.

Yeah, Austin residents, those folks protesting for a new school at the Brach site are interested in providing a site for children, but it's not necessarily your children they have in mind

Friday, July 04, 2008

Be a good neighbor if you know what's good for you

Every now and then I get inspiration for a column based on conversations I have with people I meet. Today's column fits that category.

I was out the other day and got to talking with someone. They were tired. They were under pressure at work. All they wanted was to be able to come home to peace and quiet. But where they live, that isn't possible.

You see, they live next door to inconsiderate neighbors. You know that type of neighbor. They send their children out to play and not once look outdoors to see what those kids are up to. Their children are the ones swinging on the trees, trampling the flowers you spend hours planting, running through the grass that you keep neat and trim and throwing rocks with no regards for other people's property. Those neighbors have a "don't care" attitude, because in their minds, we live in a ghetto and if you attempt to keep your property otherwise, they have made it their life's agenda to make it look, sound and smell as bad as possible.

I am forever perplexed by those neighbors who believe the ground is their garbage can. Potato Chip bags, Flaming Hot bags and whatever drink they drank are tossed to the ground as if litter doesn't have to eventually get picked up by someone. Worst are the ones who encourage their children to drop garbage on the ground, thus guaranteeing the cycle of littering in the black community will go on through eternity.

As I listened to this lament about neighbors, the person said something that scared me. Despair and lack of hope had them say something I hope they didn't mean. The person longed to harm their neighbors. At first I pooh-poohed the idea. Then I said something that caused me to sit back and rethink. As I told the person they weren't the kind of person to ever do something crazy, it soon dawned on me that those are precisely the type of people who would do something crazy.

So I decided to write this column so that any of you out there who have inconsiderate neighbors can share this column with them to let them know what kind of stress they're putting their neighbors through. When you live without considering others, people do tire of it. And when people tire of it, they can and will do something out of frustration.

If you like loud music, put on headphones so you can enjoy it without bothering your neighbors. If you have lots of children and grandchildren ripping and running up and down the sidewalks, then take them to the park so that they can enjoy themselves screaming and hollering where it won't bother others. If you have lots of company, use your backyard to entertain them and not the front stoops and sidewalks.

Being a good neighbor is quite simple. Just do unto others as you would want them to do unto you.