Thanks Chicago Sun-Times TIFs Need Reform!!

Study shows TIFs are ripe for reform

April 24, 2007
In recent years, local governments, especially Chicago’s, have relied on tax increment financing districts as if they’re a magical and painless solution to their economic development needs. But now a new report from Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley exposes some of the myths behind TIF districts and recommends some worthwhile reforms. His report should not be ignored.
When a TIF is created, the city determines the value of all property within its boundaries in the first year. For all taxing bodies, that base is used for the next 23 years to determine their share of the property tax pie, which essentially means their property-tax take is frozen for more than two decades. But property taxes are not frozen — they increase as the value of property in the district increases. The extra taxes generated by the rise in property value go into a pot that the city uses for development.

One of the myths of TIFs is that those taxing bodies are not losing money, because property values would not have increased if the TIF hadn’t spurred development. But as Quigley’s study found by comparing areas within a TIF with those outside a TIF, “there is evidence that a significant portion of the growth taking place inside the TIF districts would have happened even without the TIF, which means that the property tax revenues of local taxing bodies do in fact suffer.” Taxpayers suffer too, because dollars diverted to TIFs are dollars that must be collected elsewhere.

Quigley proposes several reforms. First, he wants the state’s TIF laws be changed so that the base year is adjusted for inflation annually, to help taxing bodies keep up with natural increases in their costs. He also proposes requiring an analysis of the effects on taxing bodies before any TIF is created; requiring TIFs to have detailed budgets tying every dollar to a spending goal; requiring TIFs to better account for surplus amounts each year, and requiring all taxing bodies affected by a TIF to have a say on a joint review board that oversees them. He also wants the county’s representative on the review board to vote as directed by the County Board. And he would replace Chicago’s TIF oversight board, which he says is too much of a rubber stamp for the Daley administration, with neighborhood-level oversight.

Those and other proposed reforms — such as making information about TIFs more easily accessible, particularly on tax bills — should not be seen as anti-TIF. Instead, they are ideas that would improve oversight, temper some of the negative effects of TIF districts and make the process far more transparent.

Many people have been beating this drum long enough, Thanks Ben Joravsky. Patrick McDonough

6 Replies to “Thanks Chicago Sun-Times TIFs Need Reform!!”

  1. If the TIF legislation was originally created to help areas with little to no prospects of attracting investments from the private sector, ie., as in Chicago’s West and South sides, then when, why, how and who changed this, to allow TIF’s to be imposed upon areas where there has been no lack of private sector investments?

    When did the practice of using TIF’s in this way begin?

    Why did this occur?

    How were the provisions and statutory requirements TIF’s were created with changed?

    WHO were/are the individuals responsible for these changes?

    Can we assume the answer to the last question will be ‘All the USUAL SUSPECTS’?

  2. Patrick, I’ve been following this exchange on Ben’s Clout City comment board, an article focused on the Stone / Dolar run-off in the 50th ward, and I thought you might find it interesting, if not worthy of posting on your site.

    This fellow Gordon seems to have a good idea here, I wonder if the Reader will pick up on it, or if you find it intriguing.

    >>>Randy Gordon
    April 22nd – 1:31 a.m.
    I have been thinking a great deal about this problem, because I care about the future of this ward. I would assert that there are a considerable number of unexamined assumptions in the current discussion of the issue.

    I think that we can take some precedent from similar situations that have occurred in the past.

    One particular situation comes to mind. Very often, when a senator dies, his (or her) marital partner is appointed to replace him or her, on the theory that they were a team that would have governed jointly, at least in the view of those that voted for them. In out culture, a 21st century marriage is a merger of equals and acts as a single unit for many purposes of law.

    Along the same lines, it can hardly be denied that Bernie and Alana, as his chief of staff were a team, and were elected as a team.

    Certainly, the focus on Alana during the campaign by Bernies opponents validated that view.

    If Alana had not repeatedly been brought up as a campaign issue perhaps an argument against this theory could have been made.

    However, one can hardly state that the voters were not aware of the possibility when they elected Bernie, and thus tacitly approve a possible appointment of Alana as his replacement.

    In addition, it should also be pointer out that Bernie has not resigned or died and there is no evidence that he intends to do so. (retire, not die. I presume that latter is not an intentional act, at least on Bernies part.) Without an evidence of intention or action, one can hardly presume nepotism or justify acting a priori.

    Also, if Bernie retires or dies, it is the Mayors responsibility to appoint the best suited for the position to replace him.

    There is only a short list of potential candidates for the position, since an alderperson has a responsibility for tens of thousands of residents and requires experience to act effectively.

    Mayor Daley would hardly be acting responsibly if he put the wards residents at risk by appointing a unqualified person to the position.

    There is a distinct possibility that Mayor Daley would appoint one of the other alderpersons defeated in the last election on the theory that they are the most qualified person for the position.

    However, I would like to state that I believe, at least, that Alana is the most qualified candidate. She has 12 years experience, is second in command of the ward and familiar with it’s issues, and has the loyalty of the other ward staffers. Former Alderpersons would be less familiar with the ward and it’s issues.

    I have no idea if anyone else is also qualified, but if you feel Mayor Daley should appoint someone else, if the time comes when this is a decision to be made, please feel free to state what their qualifications are and why they would be better suited than Alana for the position. There is not reason to presume that Mayor Daley would reject a valid argument for another candidate for the position.

    Finally, there is no real reason to believe that Alana even wants or would accept the job. To my knowledge, she has not even made a public statement about it. As I have stated before, there are many reasons why she might not want it.

    damn it, Randy!
    April 22nd – 11:28 a.m.
    For a minute there, as I read the first few sentences of your post, I thought you had written another well balanced, thoughtfully diplomatic essay on reasonable methods of fair and equitable governance.

    Then I read further, and was disappointed to find that your diplomacy degraded into what can only be described as pragmatic, political pandering.

    Now, don’t get me wrong, I can see that posting the raw truth would do little to encourage civil behavior amongst both factions, the bare majority of the ward’s voters who favor Stone and the almost 50% of the ward’s voters who do not.

    And, of course, there are few souls who, still having to deal with things as they are, would publicly state the raw truths about the Daley machine’s means, methods and motivations.

    I am tempted to believe, after reading and thinking about all the elements contained in your several postings, that YOU would be a more well-balanced choice for alderman, of this, or any, ward, regardless of your publicly stated tendencies towards cooperation with those proven ‘benevolent dictators’ we have come to know and, if not despise, certainly resent, for all of the reasons obvious to you.

    The fundamental problem with pragmatically accepting being ‘benevolently ruled’ is that we are still being ruled, and not so benevolently as we are repeatedly told.

    Maybe there will never be a time when we can trust even a bare majority of our ‘elected officials’ to be honest, to treat our tax dollars as if THEY had to work their asses off to earn it, as we had to do, to be able to pay it.

    It’s not merely the arrogance, the assumption of superiority, of those in control of the taxing and spending, of the making and enforcing and interpreting of laws, rules, regulations, ordinances, etc., it’s the ABUSE of same, the USE of same for their personal gain, gain of wealth, gain of control/power,

    While I believe I understand your reticence at plainly and publicly stating the raw truths on these subjects, if things are to change, these raw truths must be faced and addressed.

    To say, or suggest, that Daley would be appointing anyone other than another ‘rubber stamp’ is, while pragmatically consistent, essentially dishonest.

    True Democracy may not be easy, may not be ‘practical’, may not even be ‘civil’, from time to time, but it’s the only means we have to be as free as is possible.

    If being ruled by not-so-benevolent dictators is what the people want, honest elections will show this.

    This election cycle has shown that things are beginning to change, that the people are beginning to realize how not-so-benevolent their ‘leaders’ have been, are, and will continue to be, should the voters choose to fail to actively participate, not only at election time, but at all times, thinking about the many harmful effects that result when they allow the ‘foxes’ to guard the henhouse.

    I could quote the elements of any of your posts, item by item, and provide what I believe is the ‘raw truth’ about each of your many less-than genuine stated perspectives, but that would be too easy, albeit very tempting.

    People have to think, reason, seek truth and decide for themselves what they believe.

    Politicians seek to influence public opinions in whatever way is most beneficial to themselves.

    The people will only have honest government when enough individuals do the work required.

    To state the obvious:









    Randy Gordon
    April 22nd – 2:55 p.m.
    Well, I thnak you for your thoughtful response. However, I must respectfully disagree with your assertion of political pandering…and I strongly object to the idea that I woould be reticent about any issue.

    This is a ward full of adults, capable of evaluating any argument. anyone might propose, including mine, yours and Hughes, among other. We do have different points of view, however.

    And in my view, governance is neither good or bad, benevolent or arrogant, it is simply effective in bettering the lives of its constituents or it is not.

    In my post, I was answering one specific question, what should be done about Bernies succession, as posed by Hugh and others.

    THe truth of the matter is, turnout was incredibly low, less than 1/6 of the ward cared enough even to vote.

    So, if Bernie is unavailable to fufill the remainder of hist term for an reason, most of the ward couldn’t care less who replaces him.
    So lets take a look at Mayir Dailey’s options. He hast to appoiint an alderperson pro tem, someone has to make the final decisions in the ward.

    Now, a lot of people are assuming that Naisy should be the obvioous. But think about what that means.

    First of all, the election was not “rank in order of choice”, it was an “one or the other” For whatever reason, the people of the ward have clearly stated that Naisy is not their choice for alderperson. Now, I don’t thinnk Naisy would have made a bad alderperson, but thats not relevant.

    If Mayor Daley were to appoint her (or any of the other candidates, he would be effectively reversing the election. Think about the implications of that. If an election could be reversed that cauaully, no elected official would feel safe, because some overenthusiastic supporter of his opponents might take unilateral action to ensure that. THe courts would never allow Mayor Daley to get that far.

    So, we would have to have an appointment followed by a new election, in which the same candidates (and any others) might participate. The question is when should this election take place.

    THe election needs to be fair, which means not giving an advantage to the candidates from the previous election, because they have their campaign financing and “get out the vote” machinery in place, doesn’t mean any new entrants to the race would require time for a chance to achieve parity…and officially, that time is the remaining time until tyhe next scheduled election.

    WHich means, that, whoever Daley appoints is essentially alderperson for the remainder of the term.

    Which leaves the question of whom to appoint. Now, Daley can’t pick whomever he thinks the voters might want, because the only acceptable method for determining that is a fair election, and for previously stated reasons, that is impossible before the next scheduled election.

    Since Daley is mayor, elected by the entire city, including the residents of this ward, it is his job to determine what he feels is the best possible candidate since he has no right or ability to determine what the electorate would wish. He does, however, by virtue of the election, have the express permission to act on their behalf

    Whikle voters may choose a new alderperson because they wish a change in direction, Mayor Daley has no right to do so.

    WHich means that when he is evaluating someone to fill a position, he has to do so completely on the basis by examining only their qualifications, which in this case, is how effectively they have executed similar responsibilities in the past. It is hard to see anyone except another or former alderperson or their chief of staff (who often acts as their proxy) being able to claim such experience.

    Randy Gordon
    April 22nd – 3:57 p.m.
    A comment on your other points.

    If you accept that government rules with the consent of the people, then you have to accept that voting is right, not an obligation. In any of the electorate wished to be left alone, and not involve themselves in politics, that is their right, and the rest of us must respect that decision.

    Just because we care about political issues, doesn’t mean anyone else does. It appears that a large proportion of the electorate want nothing more than to live their lives, raise their kids, tend their gardens, and occasionally go out for entertainment, and consider that a full life.

    Provided they are not harming anyone, I can’t see any justification exhorting them to do more. It is their life, their pursuit of happiness, and you have no right to ask them to live up to your expectations.

    You believe that the best way for political social change is by placing the proper candidates in office.

    You couldn’t be farther wrong. I have known many, who, with the best intentions, worked their way up to a position of power only to find that they were entrapped in a web of obligations, debts and responsibilities that bound them tighter an any fly in a spiderweb.

    On the other hand, well, have yoouever considered the story of Christ, just from a human point of view? (and yes, I am Jewish, but I am not talking about the religious aspects).

    Christ never really amounted to much in his lifetime. He associated with the pooorest of the poor in the remote hinterlands, and taught them little more than the world would be a much better place if everyone was nice to each other.

    But,2000 years later, and many generations removed, those actions echoed so loudly that they moved millions of people, with no thought to themselves, came to the aid of the Katrina Victims, and the Tsunami victims, and the hundreds of other random acts of charity that pervade western civilization.

    Now that is true social change. Not whether “Uncle Joe” ran Congress in 1910, or Alarc sacked Rome.

    And thats why I have no ambitions for political office. Electoral office is for the wealthy, to pretend that they are making a difference….but they never do.

    I try to help the least regarded members of our society, the homeless and the senior citizens, and have no pretensions as to whether I am making a significant difference in the scheme of things. I could not care less; it is just the right thing to do.

    But there are millions of others like me, doing the same thing and we are making a real difference; all those little acts add up.

    And thats the real path to social change. Be nice to each other, eventually it will catch on.
    on the other hand….
    April 22nd – 7:52 p.m.
    Okay, Randy, since you insist….

    I will try to keep this as brief as possible.

    A few observations.

    There are three basic types of human beings.

    Those who are naturally helpful.

    Those who are naturally hurtful.

    Those who are naturally opportunistic.

    Those whose nature is to be helpful will do so, even when being helpful is not in their own best interest.

    Those whose nature is to be hurtful will do so, even when being hurtful is not in their own best interest.

    Those whose nature is to be opportunistic will be helpful when it benefits themselves and will be hurtful when it benefits themselves.

    As might be expected, the helpful and the hurtful are both in the minority.

    The opportunistic are the majority.

    For there to be fairness, justice, equity, honesty, kindness, balance, peace and general safety for close to all, the opportunistic majority must believe that being helpful is most often in their own best interest.

    That is what government is for.

    That is why tolerating opportunistic, let alone hurtful, individuals in government is so harmful, not merely to a small minority of citizens, but to most all of us, opportunistic, helpful and even hurtful individuals.

    Now, to some of your assertions.

    “If any of the electorate wish to be left alone, and not involve themselves in politics, that is their right, and the rest of us must respect that decision.

    Just because we care about political issues, doesn’t mean anyone else does. It appears that a large proportion of the electorate want nothing more than to live their lives, raise their kids, tend their gardens, and occasionally go out for entertainment, and consider that a full life.

    Provided they are not harming anyone, I can’t see any justification exhorting them to do more. It is their life, their pursuit of happiness, and you have no right to ask them to live up to your expectations.”

    The problems with the above are numerous.

    Do you really believe that these non-participants approve of the huge amount of waste and misuse of the hard earned dollars they are ‘forced’ to pay, in so many insidious ways and for so few truly beneficial-to-them purposes?

    Do you really believe that these ‘I don’t want to be bothered’ folks feel this way for any other reason than they’ve been conditioned to believe that, no matter what they do, things will always remain as they are, politicians will always be somewhat corrupt, there’s no way for the common citizen to have any meaningful or effective influence on the ‘powers-that-be’, you can’t fight city hall, etc., etc., etc.?


    “You believe that the best way for political social change is by placing the proper candidates in office.

    You couldn’t be farther wrong. I have known many, who, with the best intentions, worked their way up to a position of power only to find that they were entrapped in a web of obligations, debts and responsibilities that bound them tighter an any fly in a spiderweb.”

    I hoped for more honesty from you, Randy.

    You know that the main reason that the above occurs is that the system is corrupt, the system being PEOPLE, not some mythical being, but ordinary people, primarily opportunists, more than willing to exploit, deceive, manipulate, scheme, plot, scam, steal, and do whatever they can ‘get away with’, to gain wealth and the power to gain wealth.

    For you to accept, and even promote, the concept that honest, naturally helpful individuals cannot resist the temptations and pressures to compromise their natures, is to make me suspect that you are not who you portray yourself to be.

    Granted, you may have found your calling, and I’m not suggesting that you don’t know yourself, as, to quote Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry character, “A man’s GOT to know his limitations”, but I find it to be unpleasant, at best, that you believe you are speaking for many, when you are likely speaking for only yourself.

    Sure, ‘the people’ have a right to be ‘left alone’, that’s exactly what the established power fucks refuse to do.

    They pick our pockets 24/7/52, robbing us of the wherewithal we could be using to do more of the things you purport you are currently doing, ie., BEING HELPFUL.

    To encourage anyone to ‘let sleeping dogs lie’, as if those ‘sleepy’ voters don’t really want honest and naturally helpful people ‘governing’ them, is to reach a point in your life that is, I believe, not worthy of who you are.

    I said I’d try to make this short, so I’ll leave it at this:

    Without bringing religious beliefs into this, Christ said a lot of very interesting things, a lot more than merely ‘be nice to each other’.

    Whatever your religious background, I humbly suggest you try reading just the purported words of Christ, not as religion, but simply as intelligent ideas, coming from an historical person who was murdered for his honesty.

    Randy Gordon
    April 23rd – 2:28 a.m.
    What I know is that this is the Westridge community. From it’s beggining, it was formed as a refugee camp, and as a halfway house to the American dream. I will say this as clearly as possible. NOBODY, and I mean NOBODY, tells our residents what they must do or believe. Not you, not me. This is a community where we practice tolerance for everybody.

    You have stated you viewpoint, your opinions,quite clearly. I respect that, as I do Hughs much less sophisticated versions of the same.

    But in my viewpoint (which I hold as valid as yours), they are, at best, oversimplifications and at worst, a profound misunderstanding of the realities of a multicultural government.

    So lets take an example to illustrate. Lets take a US rep, call her Jan, and see what she faces as a legislator. (I know, I ragged on Jan, that doesn’t mean I don’t have empathy for her also).

    She has good intentions and some ideas that are non mainstream. To be elected, she had to raise a lot of money. Thats not corruption, just the simple fact that there are a lot more voters in her district than she can ever interact with, and there are no free ways of doing so.It costs a lot of money for most people to get the word out.

    So she arrives in Washington, and finds that most of the work is done in committees and subcommittees, and her party, not her, decides what committees she is on.

    That is a practical matter. You can’t have everybody on all committee, there is too much work to do. How do you decide who gets which committee? The obvious answer is by support of the other members. as a relatively new rep, Jan doesn’t have that many debts to call in, so even if she wants, say. appropriations, she is not going to get it.

    Even so, she theoretically has some power. But consider this, Her vote affects millions of people, and no human being has the time or energy to become an expert on all the areas she might vote on. So she depends on reports by research services, her permanent staffers and, well, lobbyists. You might think relying on lobbyists is corrupt, but consider this…who else but the companies in the industry know the issue. Yeah, they are e probably slanted, which is why she has permanent staffers and CRS, but who else can she turn to? Professors have their own agendas, and social activist have theirs, they are just as slanted.

    But Jan is honest, so she studies the reports for as long as she can, and prays that she isn’t making too huge a mistake. This is where a lot of corruption starts. All representatives are overwhelmed, so there is always a temptation to take shortcuts just to survive.

    Some take performance enhancing drugs, not for recreation, at least at first, but just to stay focused.

    Some feel their lives draining away under the pressure and decide they deserve a treat as a reward. Thats how Duke Cunningham started out.

    And some just cling to a few basic concepts and throw everything else away. Rohrbacker is a good example of that.

    And, of course, there is the political attack dogs, Like Mica, that take refuge in putting all the pressure on their party, and, of course, the occasional intellectual whack jobs like Issa.

    And some, amazingly enough, hold up under the strain, like Poe and Reid. I have no idea how they do it.

    Jan hasn’t fallen to any of those weaknesses, as far as I can tell. But she hasn’t been very effective, either. To advance her agendas, she has to get alliances with other reps, and her agenda’s are often far enough out of the mainstream that other reps (who have their own agendas) don’t see any reason to support her unless she offers something in return.

    Thats pretty common, many relatively new reps have the same problems. It is hard to get enough reps to support any issue, and even if they get it out of committee and vote it into law, it still has to be funded. There is not enough money for everything, so the house HAS to triage whats important, so thats another alliance that has to be built. How is that corruption?

    Now lets assume it passes the senate, just to save opening another can of worms. She still has to get the bureaucracy to implement it, and, well, they are very conservative and will push back on just about anything they don’t like.

    So if Jan wants to make a difference, what can she do? She can’t force other representatives to do what she wants, they represent hundreds of thousands of people also. She is honest, but she makes deals to get at least a portion of her agenda implemented, even though it means trading support for agendas her constituents don’t care about or even object to. That is not corruption, it is simply the only way to get a a congress of equals to act together to achieve a goal of one of their members.

    Suppose she was dishonest or corrupt (as far as I know, she isn’t, and I probably would have heard). What difference would that make to the process?

    ANd yes, there is a lot of wasted money (Far less than you might think, actually. Much of the money that was wasted in, say, Iraq, actually went for legitimate purposes that the government wants to keep secret.)

    But there is money that appears to be waste, earmarks, for example. But what they really are is bribes to get various reps agenda passed. More importantly, those earmarks contribute to that reps districts’ needs.

    I have a hard time calling that waste. Not only do we in the 9th get our fair share of earmarks, do we really have the right to judge what other districts consider their important needs? A “bridge to nowhere” may seem silly in Illinois, but in the remote Alaska wilderness, it might represent a vital link to the future of their state. More importantly, what did we, as the 9th district, get in return for that, and would that appear silly or wasteful to the residents of Alaska?

    Te hard political truth is that by the time you factor everyones interests into account, it is a miracle anything gets done. What you call corruption, I call the essential lubricant that makes the gears of government mesh.
    Randy Gordon
    April 23rd – 3:16 a.m.
    One other point. Yes, I am Jewish, but I also belong to 4 churches (2 Chinese, one black and this little rural church straight out of the Andy Griffith show)and occasionally visit a Hindu temple in the west burbs. My quote was from a recent sermon I heard.

    But yes, I did simplify it, and, as technically an unchurched, I debated whether I had the right to even include it.

    In the end, I decided it was within the spirit and goals of how that church outreached, and it did illustrate the point I was making perfectly.

    In Judaism, we have a saying “He who saves a single life, it is as if he saved the whole world”.

    That quote isn’t about saving lives, it is about the significance of the individual acts each of us make each day. You may dream about changing the world for the better and I wish you the best of luck. Many in our community tried t hat, Westridge was a leader in the early civil rights movement, for example.

    But many in the community just want to make it to the next day, and the rest have other ways of contributing, and thats just as valid.

    Lets use a Jewish example this time.

    Everyone has heard that Jews consider themselves the “Chosen Ones”.

    What most people don’t know is that it doesn’t mean that Jews are superior, just that they are held to a higher standard of conduct. We Jews actually have a contract with G*D that states that if we we uphold our part of the bargain, everything will turn out all right in the end(that contract was probably the start of the tradition of Jewish lawyers)

    Religious Jews, like myself, internalize that attitude, believe it without any possibility of question. The acts we do as individuals count, even if they are not important in the scheme of things.

    And that attitude is part of the heritage, the gift, that the Jewish Community of Westridge has left for future residents.

    What you do as a citizen here counts, from the least politically active to those like me, you and Hugh.

    But noone counts more than anyone else, we are a community of equals. If you want to jusge someone, do it in a community where making yourself feel superior by belittling others is socially acceptable, we will not tolerate you using any of us as props for your ego or your ambitions.
    interesting choice
    April 23rd – 3:36 a.m.
    That is an interesting choice you made, to use a national example, instead of a local one.

    Once again, you find it serves your purpose to avoid discussing local corruption.

    This ‘grease’ you speak of is all too familiar to us residents of Crook county and this ‘system’ of ‘one hand washes the other’ is also not a foreign phenomena.

    What did someone say, ‘all politics is local’?

    And ‘good government is good politics’?

    And what did that someone do during his ‘reign’?

    Take a tour of the west and south sides of our city, if you want the answer to that one.

    And what are his progeny doing now?

    Is there any doubt that a whole lot of fraud is being committed ‘daley’?

    Is there any doubt that the greatest amount of tax dollars being ‘stolen’ are those doled out legally?

    Because the thieves are the ones who make the laws? Who administer the laws? Who interpret the laws?

    After all that you’ve expressed, we still come back to what is your basic position., namely, nobody should try to change things, nobody should try to persuade others to try to change things, nobody should even pose the question of whether things should be changed.

    You say you respect the opinions of others, yet you state that those opinions are less than informed.

    Are you saying that we have the government that we want, that the vast majority of our fellow citizens are fully supportive of this system of ‘greasing the wheels’, that, the vast majority believes that, as long as ‘I get mine’, I don’t object to ‘you getting yours’?

    Is this the profound understanding that I’m not getting?

    “Those whose nature is to be opportunistic will be helpful when it benefits themselves and will be hurtful when it benefits themselves.”

    “The opportunistic are the majority.

    For there to be fairness, justice, equity, honesty, kindness, balance, peace and general safety for close to all, the opportunistic majority must believe that being helpful is most often in their own best interest.

    That is what government is for.”

    Perhaps a clearer way to put this is to say that ‘That is what political leadership is supposed to be’.

    Leadership not focused on pandering to the wealthy and, thus, powerful, nor to the selfish majorities, whoever they may be, but focused on inspiring the majority to think, to realize and to understand that we are not cats and dogs, fighting for scraps, we are human beings, capable of more than animal behavior and responsible for being more than dogs and cats. (no offense to the dogs and cats intended, as I’ve known some truly wonderful dogs and cats)

    The only thing necessary for ‘evil’ to flourish, is for good to do nothing.

    I would think that the residents of the Westridge community would understand this all too well.

    Randy Gordon
    April 24th – 4:20 a.m.
    You ask what you are missing.

    Well, one thing you are missing is that not everybody shares your assumption that all politicians and government is corrupt, or even any. There are a few residents of our community, does that make everyone in the community corrupt?

    Another thing you are missing is that politics is not about leadership. Politicians are civil SERVANTS, not civil leaders, and their job is to serve their communities and their constituencies. Leadership comes separately, and the Westbridge community has many leaders.

    THe assumption that any alderperson is a leader, is a false one. an alderpersons role is very clearly that of an ombudsman between the city and the residents.

    More importantly, what the residents the Westbridge community understand is that they are adults, and are capable of taking responsibility for their own actions and lives, and if they want someone else to tell them how to do it, they can choose whomever they wish. It is called a democracy, or sometimes a free society.

    ANd I have repeatedly said that that I am not in the slightest opposed to change, I have worked hard and sacrificed a lot to create social change my entire life, in this community and in the wider world.

    If you want to be a leader, if you want to make changes, you are going to have to do it the same way I did it, go out among those you would lead, and convince them to follow you.

    But don’t look to politics and elected office to give you that power, it cannot and doesn’t. What it does give you is the responsibility to bargain for shared resources with other stakeholders on behalf of the community. You are an agent, s servant of the community, not a leader.

    Thats one of the reasons I used Jan as an example. She is a US Representative, not a leader, and while I can’t agree with much of her politics or style, that doesn’t make her corrupt, or even wrong for the position.

    What I was trying to do was explain the difficulties of her position, because earlier I analyzed her endorsement of Naisy, and I wanted to show that I was not making any wider comment on her fitness for the position.

    I really wish I could make you understand that I am not panderingto anyone, and never have. I do not even have a wish to lead, except by example.

    What I do is what I have done for many decades. Itry to help, as unobtrusively as possible, and when I speak, it is only for those who cannot speak for themselves.

    Which sometimes includes politicians, such as Bernie and Jan, and Alana. They have been good and faithful servants of the Westbridge community, and have done nothing to deserve the slander and innuendo’s. I have never stood idly by while a wrong was committed, no matter what the cost, and now, at the end of my life, I am not going to start.

    I do not like fighting, never did. I am religious, but I really don’t know if there is a heaven or an afterlife, or even if the world is as meaningless as Nietzsche would have it. (Though, on the other hand, Nietzsche dies, insane and alone, of syphilus, so there is at least some proof G*d had the last word)

    What I do know, is that I want my last thought to be that noone is worse off for my having resided on this earth.

    And thats the final point you are missing. All your writings assume that it is up to you to make the world a better place, that you are the hero, and the rest of us are just props in your story. I wish you luck in trying to enlist others in that epic..

    Over the decades, I have learned that the world is complex, and no single person or set of actions can achieve that goal, lofty though it might be.

    The best anyone can do is refrain from making it worse. It is up to the mass of humanity as a whole to make things better, and that isn’t something that can be achieved by leadership. only ny consensus.

    When Bernies and my generation started the civil rights movement, it wasn’t to lead the world anywhere. just to make things better for minorities. To the extent that any success was achieved, it was not by the marches and the riots, it was by millions of little actions, by people whose names were never known to history, for others whose names are also lost. There were no heroes and no villains.

    thank you, Randy
    April 24th – 10:50 a.m.
    I hoped that I was not mistaken in perceiving you as a person of reason.

    You have not disappointed.

    I’m sure you understand that some of the words I have posted have been used to stimulate further discourse.

    One of the things I’ve noticed in my long life is that, not only do the ‘good’ and naturally helpful individuals sometimes stand by and do nothing, they also remain silent, when silence is the most harmful element in a given situation.

    The majority of your comments are right on target, truths that, while unpleasant to accept, are still true.

    One of the many problems we, as a society of human beings, have, is that our ‘elected officials’ want us all to see them as leaders, NOT as ‘servants of the people’.

    This perspective is, obviously, the one that empowers our ‘public servants’ to lead us around by our noses, in whatever direction THEY so choose.

    Granted, there are limitations to where we allow ourselves to be led, though I disagree with your assumption that every one of our fellow citizens is a well-informed, fully aware ‘adult’, capable of NOT being fooled, repeatedly, by those who strive to do so.

    The examples of our so-called ‘servants’ acting contrary to the wishes and benefits of us all are numerous and, seemingly, unending.

    Trust that I am not ‘missing’ any of your points, not a one, and, that I have no illusions about the ‘ways of the world’, nor, any ambitions to be ‘the hero’.

    What I do have, is a desire to share my life’s experiences and observations with any who would be motivated to do just a little more thinking about life, and a little less resigning themselves to remaining silent and doing nothing.

    I do appreciate your taking the time, and making the effort, to share your thoughts on life with me, and any others who read these posts, because that is the primary reason why I’m posting comments at all.

    To stimulate thought, discussion, questioning and the sharing of same.

    Those ‘in power’, who present themselves as essentially ‘servants’, yet behave as ‘leaders’, albeit, ones who often attempt to lead us where THEY wish us to go, prefer us all to be thought-less, rather than thought-full.

    I say this from experience.

    Your generous participation in this forum has been, is, and, hopefully, will continue to be, extremely helpful to all who choose to read and consider your thoughts, opinions and observations.

    I hope you will find the time to contribute your thoughts on the wide variety of issues raised in the articles written and posted here.

    Once again, thank you.
    Randy Gordon
    April 24th – 6:56 p.m.
    You are welcome.

    And I thank you, I have thoroughly enjoyed this discussion.

    However, I do have to apologize, my last post came out harsher than I intended. In my defense, I did say that expository writing was not my strength.

    And so it ends. I probably won’t be posting again. It has been fun, rising to the defense of my beloved Westridge community one final time, but it is an indulgence; there are real people, in the real world, out there that I could be trying to help.

    Alana, Naisy, Salman, and the others who participated(and yes, especially you, Hugh) remember that the community you fight over isn’t a prize in a game, it is an inheritance that generations of former residents fought for, and within it is contained the seed of endless possibilities for the future.

    Don’t let that seed die.
    uh, Randy….
    April 24th – 7:15 p.m.
    I hope you will reconsider.

    “I probably won’t be posting again.”


    “…but it is an indulgence; there are real people, in the real world, out there that I could be trying to help.”

    I know you are intelligent enough to understand that, by expressing your thoughts and ideas, even in this seemingly small venue, you do much to encourage those who read, and think about what they’ve read, to increase their ‘engagement’ in those activities which are helpful.

    If you would see that posting your ideas, opinions and wisdom is a practical and effective means to stimulating interest in exactly what you physically do every day, thus potentially increasing the number of human beings efficiently participating in helpful activities, inspired by your example and encouraged by your insightful commentary, you might find that the small amount of time it takes to rip off a few choice paragraphs would be well worth the effort.

    Like you said, you’ll likely never know just how many you’ve inspired to join the ranks of the helpful, but I assure you that there will be more than you could imagine.

    I, for one, will continue to engage in the discussions, as long as I retain the use of my 8 fingers and 2 thumbs.

    Please think about the potential value of sharing your experiences and insights with the rest of us, we need all the reasonable input we can get.
    Randy Gordon
    April 26th – 4:07 p.m.
    *Sigh* posting is addictive…

    I have no wish to inspire anyone. My path in life is not necessarily the right one for anyone but me, and I am not so certain about even that.

    But I do want to say something about the Reader, because you called it a small venue.

    I first encountered the Reader many decades ago when a friend (a Chicago Today reporter) was complaining that an editor spiked his article, supposedly because it would offend one of the publishers friends. He told me about the alternative newspaper movement, of which the Reader was the exemplar.

    That was in the days before journalists decided objectivity was impossible, or at least unprofitable. Frankly, I can sympathize, though I hate the fact that the result of that decision was that the most respected journalist today is a comedian on basic cable presenting fake news; Journalism is a business, after all.

    But, as the value of objectivity degraded in the public forum, and the idea of free speech fled before the “sturm and drang” of partisanship, the nature of public discussion changed.

    Every difference of opinion, every decision, was not a matter for thoughtful debate, it was a war to be won, without regard to ethics or scruples.

    I am not afraid of attack, but, as a reporter, you know that sometimes the more zealous proponents of a position go way beyond literary tirades. Over the decades, I have been subjected to some truly extraordinary experiences along those lines (and suffered greatly as a result).

    While I am not afraid of retaliation (or I wouldn’t post under my real name) it is a horrible diversion from activities I consider important.

    And it is not my responsibility. There are many different forces in society, such as the government, the military, the financiers, the faith based,…and the journalists.

    The role of journalists was meant to be the guardians of truth, the last line of defense against an unbalancing of any the other forces in society.

    And, at times, they have been magnificent. The New York Post strike of the early 1990’s, for example, was one of journalisms (and humanities) finest hours.

    But slowly, inexorably, the decision to abandon objectivity had its consequences, not the least of which is that any discourse, from a simple blog to the halls of congress, degrades into a mixture of childish bickering and open warfare, because there is no one left to defend objectivity.

    Do you know how old a profession journalism is? The first investigative reporter died because he was thrown off a cliff by some villagers angry that he exposed a scam at their village market.

    You may have heard of him. His name was Aesop, and he is better known for his cautionary fables.

    Journalism arose because it is a primary ingredient in any successful civilization. Journalism is important, and the Reader was created to be one of the bastions of the profession.

    And, for the most part, it is still fulfilling that function. Granted, quite a number of its articles have been anti machine politics, but that was in the interests of presenting a balanced view.

    But it is the Readers responsibility for objectivity, not mine. For one thing, you can afford the lawyers that are one of the inevitable consequences of such activities.

    I have things I love, and I will defend them when it becomes necessary, as I have in these threads.

    But I am no quixotic warrior jousting against the windmills that grind the chaff of society, that role is reserved for journalists.

    I understand that the Reader wants to encourage the participation of it’s readers in these blogs, but this isn’t the way to do it. Do you really think most have the patience to wade through the endless succession of fifth grade level diatribes for the occasional interesting post?

    Thing is, the Reader has more untapped potential (and untapped revenue streams) than almost any other newspaper (or media) in America. But to realize any of that, it has to remember that journalism is a skill, and requires more effort from it’s practitioners than a keyboard and a venue.

    People will pay for value, and nothing has more value in the news business today than local news and analysis. Readable and believable analaysis.

    That takes a lot of effort You complained that i did not use a local example earlier. Lets take a simple, and often controversial, responsibility of an alderperson, approving a development permit.

    A failed development can blight an area for decades. Did you know that even a basic list of questions needed to be answered in that situation covers dozens of pages?

    One of those questions is the economic resources of the developer, which is why you see a lot of development going to “the rich and powerful”.

    I bet a lot of people would be more interested in learning about the real reasons for a decision than in another entry in the endless stream of accusations of corruption, they must be getting bored with it by now.

    Bread and circuses eventually are not enough, sometimes you want some meat, instead. The Reader might find it very profitable to go into the sandwich business.

    In anyone at the Reader is willing to listen, I would be more than happy to donate my ideas and delineate them further, offline (and off the record. Years reading IRE-L has taken it’s toll)

    reRandy G.
    April 26th – 5:45 p.m.
    And you keep saying that essay writing is not you forte’…..
    if you have the time…..
    April 26th – 10:36 p.m.
    Well, Randy, if you have the time, I know that I would certainly be interested in “I bet a lot of people would be more interested in learning about the real reasons for a decision……”.

    The only thing preventing this seems to be the reluctance, of many in authority, revealing same. Hence, the journalists’ difficulties in getting information, even when fully complying with the FOA requirements, to the letter.

    And, the obvious problem of having confidence that we’ve been given ALL the data relevant to a request, makes it the ‘guessing game’ we deal with, every time we seek to report on anything that ‘some people’ don’t want reported on, in a meaningful and thorough manner.

    Corruption rearing it’s ugly head, again.

    Thank you, for not resisting the “posting is addictive…” feeling.

    I suspect that, the more you participate, the better informed we all will be.

    knowledge is powerful
    April 27th – 12:34 p.m.
    If R. Gordon, or anyone with experience and understanding, would post honest, accurate, clearly written and concise essays on the ACTUAL workings of our ‘public servants’, governmental procedures and practices, both ‘on the record’ and ‘behind closed doors’, us voters, potential or active, would be VERY interested.

    We all KNOW the generalities, what we lack are the specificities.

    And, there’s not much available on the ‘nitty-gritty’ of our ‘representatives’ real life activities.

    The Devil is on the Details, so knowing the Details permits us all to know the devils in our midst.

    Some of us would like to know the details.
    Randy Gordon
    April 28th – 6:44 a.m.
    Actually, if you knew the details, you would be bored to death. You want details, but what you want is not always what you need, and in this case, details are the antithesis of what you need.

    Let me illustrate with an example. Back in the late 1990’s, a large Wall Street firm was considering starting up a TV financial news channel to compete with CNBC and I got the chance to give some input into how the new channel should be structured.

    The company wanted to use mostly analysts, but I felt that some mainstream reporters might make it a more interesting channel, the idea being that they would relate better to the small investor that was flooding into the market at the time.

    I started reading the Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE-L) newsgroup, (which was wide open at the time) to identify some reporters I could suggest the company tap for the channel.

    I identified one, and when I suggested him to the company, the reaction was immediate.

    “Reporters always get it wrong”, they said. I argued that was an unfair stereotype, so they suggested a little experiment.

    Picking a topic at random out of that days paper, they suggest I contact the journalist by email and just discuss the issue with him.

    The topic to be discussed was a proposed state law regulating journalists interviews with schoolchildren on school grounds; proposed in reaction to an incident where a reporter had traumatized a grade schooler some time earlier.

    So I contacted the reporter (not telling him about the news channel job), and exchanged email discussing the law. It took practically no time for the reporter to decide that if I supported the law, I had to be a pedophile.

    So I went back and told the executives, “yeah, maybe it isn’t a good idea to use mainstream journalists.”

    As it turned out, the company decided to postpone creating the TV channel for a while. A year or so later, however, the idea was revived.

    I was still reading IRE-L, and I had learned that the particular journalist I had been proposing for the channel had been under a lot of stress (his mother was dying of cancer) at the time we exchanged emails.

    So I decided to give the experiment another try…picking a less controversial subject (and still not telling him about the potential job). The email exchange didn’t go many better this time either; he accused me of running a some sort of unspecified scam. I gave up at that point.

    However, the psychology of it confused me. It took me a while to figure out what had happened.

    Reporters and politicians are very much alike, they work from incomplete information and impossible deadlines to develop a coherent understanding of an issue.

    It is also complicated by the fact that everybody they deal with has an agenda of their own, and is trying to construct a social reality that twists the facts to match their agenda.

    Politicians and reporters compensate for their lack of perfect knowledge by guessing the missing facts based on their estimations of what they believe the most likely agendas of their sources of information are.

    The problem is, the pervasive influence of Hollywood style storytelling in our society shapes their views; there is a Hollywood style evildoer hole in their comprehension, and they have to fill it before they feel they comfortable.

    The fact is, however, that real life is rarely as dramatic as a Hollywood script. Millions of people lead perfectly ordinary lives, without ever doing anything particularly interesting, let alone evil, and are perfectly happy with that state of affairs. They simply don’t care about not fully understanding the world around them.

    And what of those who want or need to understand? They think they want details, because they need those details to fill in the villain shaped gaps in their world.

    But that isn’t what they need, only what they want. What they need is a replacement of Hollywood stories with reality based ones, a true understanding of the world around them.

    I would think that the Reader would understand this better than anyone. For decades now, “The Straight Dope” has been a leading feature of the paper.

    Read most of the posts in this thread. We live in a society that constantly prefers spin over facts. Our moral compasses seem calibrated in RPM’s.

    Didn’t it ever strike anyone at the Reader that it was remarkable that The Straight Dope, whose express mission is to replace spin with facts, was so popular?

    Personally, I think it is because, at some level, people feel uncomfortable living in a world scripted according to Hollywood standards, they need something more anchored in the reality they encounter every day. They already have 500 channel cable if they want fantasies.

    And thats my first proposal for the Reader, the “Straight Dope” on politics.

    Not a boring list of scholarly facts, the fluff of a newspaper article, or the vast epic of a holywoood plotline, but an explanation of how the process really works, how non corrupt politicians grapple with their responsibilities and make decisions and how those decisions sometimes seem corrupt.

    Since Watergate, every journal, every media, has been looking for the next “Deep Throat”, the next expose that will catapult them into stardom.

    It is not working out for them too well. Respect for journalists is at an all time low, as is the number of media outlets/newspapers in America.

    The Reader might find it profitable to experiment with an alternative, to consider breaking away from the herd, at least in one section, and start following its own path. It certainly has achieved it’s greatest accomplishments by doing so in the past.
    April 28th – 11:10 a.m.
    Well, Randy, you just get better and better with every post.

    Truth is what I, for one, am seeking, truly.

    Whether that truth is what I was expecting, or a complete surprise and contradiction of my opinions, doesn’t matter, at least to me.

    At this late stage of my life, I’ve had about all the exciting entertainment a single human being can handle, and still remain relatively sane.

    As I suspect you’ve noticed, my perspectives, to date, are that there does exist a small, but proportionally harmful, number of ‘people’ who, by hook and/or by crook, do much damage to the large number of ordinary folks, my being one of these many, who simply want to earn an honest day’s pay, for an honest day’s worth of work, without having a painfully large percentage of my earnings snatched from my pocket, for no reasonably good purposes, by the aforementioned little group of ‘not-so-petty’ thieves.

    I can determine when someone in the ‘private sector’ is attempting to ‘sell’ me ‘less’ for ‘more’, when someone in the ‘private sector’ is trying to get ‘more’ from me, while paying me ‘less’, and I’m relatively free to decline doing ‘business’ with those in the ‘private sector’ who I believe are not being fair and honest in their dealings with me.

    I, as with the rest of us ‘ordinary’ folks, don’t presently have an effective option to do the same, when ‘dealing’ with our elected officials, those they employ, and/or those who participate in activities directly concerning the hard-earned dollars that are plucked from my pockets through the force of taxation.

    Without opening the other can of worms, namely the social and day-to-day living conditions that are impacted by the same ‘elected officials, government employees, etc.’ enforcements of the force-imposed ‘laws, rules, regulations, policies, etc.’ created by same, just the effects of taxations do much to diminish our potential quality-of-life experiences.

    One can decide to accept these factors as if they were just another ‘force of nature’, like a passing thunderstorm, and do one’s best to make the best of the day, and that may end up being the only sane and rational thing to do.

    My desire to understand the practical mechanics of our present political workings is a result of my observations that these ‘workings’ are too often overly beneficial to the small, minority of those ‘connected’, and painfully detrimental to the vast majority of the rest of us all.

    Your observations on your experiences with ‘journalists’ reveals the fundamental weaknesses in the individuals who think of themselves as journalists, but fall far short of the definition of same.

    Seeking the truth, however far the truth is from one’s expectations, ambitions and desires, is what a true journalist is all about.

    Like the character of detective Joe Friday, from Dragnet, a true journalist is seeking ‘just the facts’, letting the readers determine what those facts mean.

    Your suggestions to the Chicago Reader are excellent and insightful.

    I hope that the Reader’s editorial authorities will jump at the chance to act on them, no matter how difficult it may be to execute these ideas and suggestions.

    An active ‘post-a-question and get-an-answer’ type service, combined with an open comment board, for the rest of us non-journalists to offer our ‘two-cents worth’ on any question, would do much to help the Readers’ readers to begin to understand the means and methods of their own governance, and, thus, hopefully lead to a much more informed and effective citizen participation in the ‘political processes’.

    Whether a voting public’s increased understanding will lead to improvements in all of our lives, to greater participation and to changes in the way our ‘elected’ public ‘servants’ behave, remains to be seen.

    I, for one, would like to see if a more informed electorate will result in a more honest, fair, beneficial and truly helpful crop of ‘public servants’ being elected.

    While there are elements of ‘drama’ in many of my posted comments, that drama comes from the activities I observe, namely, the contradictions, deceptions, and convoluted mumbo-jumbo that our present bunch of ‘public servants’ routinely ‘appear’ to feed us, whenever, wherever and in whatever way ‘appears’ to serve their own purposes.

    It may not be that they are ALL shitheads, but, as the saying goes, it only takes a few rotten apples to spoil the barrel, and, I suspect that we’re burdened with more than just a few.

    Thank you for improving with every post, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Reader were to offer you the job of running the ‘alternative’ you suggested, though I know you’ve got better things to do.

    Randy Gordon
    April 29th – 12:01 a.m.
    “Running the alternative”? Well, I would love to be involved, anyhow.

    Like everyone else who posts publicly, I too have an agenda, and it is this.

    After this horrendous election, I want peace, in my community, and in my city. I want to remind everyone of what we, as a city and a community have achieved, and what we will achieve in the next decade.

    But you are incorrect in thinking it would be difficult to implement.

    In actuality, the only software you would need for what I envision is the open source and free Drupal wiki ( It would only take a few hours to set up.

    I would do it myself, but I really need the Reader to do it, not me. The Reader is Chicagos own community newspaper, supported by local businesses, and I feel strongly that
    newspapers should be one of the pillars a community is built on.

    The Reader can do more than Investigative reporting and entertainment news, the Reader, and the thousands of small businesses that support the Reader, can work together to strengthen the community, as well (and make a nice profit at the same time).

    Let me explain further. Back in the 1990’s, there was a television show on PBS, called “Ethics in America”
    (free at
    I want the Reader to do something like that, but updating it for the internet, turning it into an interactive game, and involving their advertisers, as well.

    Here is how it would work.

    Drupal is a free prebuilt PHP/MySQL web application, that you can customize with a browser, that can handle enormous numbers of hits, multiple languages, and most importantly, collaborative book creation.

    Whoever maintains this website could put it up in a few hours. If they have problems, the Drupal community is one of the friendliest on the web.

    Then the real work begins. The Reader needs to recruit prominent politicians and civic leaders to contribute their thoughts on a specific scenario, say, a proposed development of an abandoned theater (To use an example from Westridge).

    The scenario is posted as a chapter in Drupals book module, and the public is solicited to submit their comments on what they would do.

    Note that the submissions go into a moderation queue, and are not yet readable by anyone but Reader staff. The reader staff picks out the most interesting ones, and publishes them, along with the comments by the civic leaders and politicians on what they would do in the scenario.

    Then, like in “Ethics in America”, the scenario is picked further apart, and the process is repeated.

    The end result is that the Reader has just now written a chapter in a book (with Drupal, you can generate a publishable book easily from its collaborative book module) that it can market.

    But it does not end there. The Reader staff gives points for each submission, and these points can be redeemed at local Reader advertisers for discounts (Drupal has a very nice rating system). You can even add in an “American Idol” like user voting mechanism.

    The top points winner could also get some sort of civic award (perhaps not from the Pew Institute, but at least from the city. I bet Chicago politicians would love to see something from the Reader that didn’t involve suggestions for incarceration). The grand prize could be something spectacular, like no city taxes for that year. Lesser prizes could include bonus grade points for students in CPS, as well as things like partial scholarships.

    Everyone wins. It promotes faith in our city government, promotes the Readers advertisers, promotes the Readers circulation (and the rates the Reader can charge), and best of all, since Drupal can handle multiple languages, it can bring the non English speaking ethnic groups into the discussion, which, when the book is published in June , 2009, should make one impressive statement to the International Olympic committee and bolster Chicago’s bid to become the “first city” for international business.

    The software and maintenance is free (Drupal pretty much runs itself) the bandwidth is probably already in the Readers web budget, as is the disk space.

    The real cost is the human effort, to recruit the political leaders and the advertisers, promote the idea, and judge the results. However, I am willing to bet that the City and the various political and civic stakeholders would back this to the hilt, and there would probably be no dearth of volunteers to help with the judging.

    Like I said, the Reader has enormous untapped potential and revenue streams. This is just one of the ways it can tap them.

    Thanks for taking the time to read and consider.

  3. A couple more posts on the above subject.

    April 29th – 1:35 p.m.

    Randy, you’re full of surprises, indeed.

    Brilliant idea, well thought out details, the best of intentions.

    God, I hope this isn’t destined to be one of those ‘no good deed goes unpunished’ experiences!

    I’ll do what I can to spread the word on this concept; with a little bit of ‘pre-anticipation’ , on the part of the readership of the Reader, the evidence of a ‘demand’ for this interactive medium MIGHT spur the Reader to actually implement it!

    Oh joy!”

    “Randy Gordon
    April 30th – 7:34 a.m.

    Well, look at it this way.

    Just how badly could the board object to having every student in the Chicago public school system being given the Reader as a homework assignment for their social studies class? I bet the advertisers aren’t going to hate having hundreds of thousands of school kids will disposable cash seeing their advertisements, as well.

    Look, the Reader was founded in the 1970’s to provide an alternative to the mainstream papers, and an outlet for “hard hitting” articles.

    Two generations later, there are plenty of alternatives, and in a polarized society as this, hard hitting is hard to distinguish from spin.

    But the changing times have hit the mainstream as well. The Trib and Sun are outmoded in an age of Internet news and videophones.

    The one newspaper format that still has an advantage is the Readers long format. Journalism is still a profession, not an avocation, despite all evidence to the contrary, and the skill to produce such articles is still something that requires training.

    Thanks to the Internet, everyone has the means to be a newspaper publisher. It does not mean, however, that they have the talent or skill to be a journalist.

    But journalism has never been about investigation, that was just a fad inspired by the Post and Watergate. It is about communication, and about education.

    And right now, the public the Reader serves needs that more than anything. We live in a polarized world, never hearing anything but what we want to hear.

    And this week, millions of illegal immigrants are in our streets, because they think everyone else can’t hear them. And, many others, throughout the city, keep quiet for fear of being singled out.

    This isn’t a proposal for some silly school project. This is an attempt to open up channels of communication that are rapidly closing, to give voice to those that are afraid to speak.

    We can’t live like this, at war with ourselves.

    The right hand cannot war against the left forever, we need both hands to build a future, for ourselves, and for our children.

    We need a way to talk to each other, not at each other. So I proposed this as a moderated format, so cyberbullies cannot intimidate anyone, and in multiple languages, so everyone has the ability to give voice to their thoughts.

    And, most important, it is by the Reader, famous for their antiestablishment articles, who can give credibility to the assurance that posting your thoughts does not mean exposing yourself to retaliation by the authorities.”

    “re Randy
    April 30th – 11:05 a.m.

    Please don’t take this the wrong way, but I gotta tell you, you just keep getting better and better at this essay writing thing you once stated you were not all that good at. 🙂

    If the Reader doesn’t pick up on this, (pardon my ‘French’), fuckin’ brilliant idea, then they must have lost interest in both being a paper worthy of being called ‘journalistic’ AND a profitable business.

    Hell, SOMEBODY could implement this, and do well just selling ads on the Web!

    Well, it’s only been a few days that your post has been up, I’ve been posting it a bit, (hopefully with no objection from the author), with the nature of this form of communication being quite rapid, some reaction should be forthcoming.

    Ben and/or Mick, are you out there???

    Do you guys ever read the comments on your articles????

    I’ll keep on plugging away on this, Randy, as it’s the first really practical idea I’ve come across, sort of a focused Wiki, with the goals being just as lofty, ie., “to give voice to those that are afraid to speak.” & “to build a future, for ourselves, and for our children.” & “and in multiple languages, so everyone has the ability to give voice to their thoughts.”

    Like I said, BRILLIANT IDEA!!!”

    What do you think about this concept?

  4. I really hope people get their act together and vote also. Thanks to Patrick McDonough for keeping the heat on!

  5. A bit more on what I think is a really good concept.
    “just wondering
    April 30th – 4:40 p.m.
    Here’s what looks like the final word on this idea, from the source of same:
    “Randy Gordon
    April 30th – 3:58 p.m.
    I suspect that we have been the only two reading this thread for some time.
    If you are interested in the issues that this proposal is addressing, Katherine Barrette & Richard Greene of Governing Magazine, have spent years looking at these issues, and their latest article
    discusses a related issue. They are quite knowledgeable and respected regarding applications of technology to state governance, and could be both quite supportive and establish this form of government auditing and management as a franchise for whoever implements it.
    You are welcome to full ownership of the idea, for whatever it may be worth, if anything. Run with it, I have no further interest beyond making the original proposal, I have to get back to my own work.
    Good luck.”
    Will anyone ‘take this idea and run with it’?
    well, maybe not so final…..
    May 2nd – 1:45 p.m.
    “Thanks, Randy
    April 30th – 4:34 p.m.
    By the tone of your most recent post, I suspect you’ve determined that the ‘addictive’ nature of posting comments has worn off, and that this last post may well be your last.
    Hopefully not, but, in the event that it is, I thank you for this wonderful idea, I’m kicking myself for not thinking of something similar!
    But then, what this lack of inspiration on my part teaches me is that I am still vulnerable to not seeing the forest for the trees.
    Thank you for the entirety of the rationality of your comments, you’ve remained civilized in an environment that is not commonly all that civil.
    Good luck to you, in all that you choose to do.
    Randy Gordon
    May 1st – 6:59 p.m.
    “Midway in the journey of our life
    I came to myself in a dark wood,
    for the straight way was lost.
    Ah, how hard it is to tell
    the nature of that wood, savage, dense and harsh —
    the very thought of it renews my fear!
    It is so bitter death is hardly more so.
    But to set forth the good I found
    I will recount the other things I saw.
    from Inferno, Canto 1
    The greatest gift of G*D was to forgo robbing each of us of that small share of glory that results from choosing our own path through those woods, even if we choose to ascend to Heaven via a path that winds through Hell.
    The Reader doesn’t seem interested in walking this particular path. Neither did the Sun Times (mainly because I wasn’t related to the publisher) or the Tribune (mainly because of a total lack of courage)
    I wish you luck in getting any traction. One suggestion, you might want to ally with Pete Zelchenko a community activist, aldermanic candidate, techie. He probably has a more jaundiced view of Chicago politics than you do , but he would love this sort of thing.
    If you do, I would suggest your first topic be illegal immigration. I want to propose a compromise that I think would benefit all sides, without leading to unwanted political, ethical or economic repercusions, based on my decades of research and experience in the competitive strategy of nations.
    However, I cannot even propose it because the din of irrelevant discourse would drown it out. I need to get the public discourse to a far less hysterical level before the idea has even have a chance of a fair hearing. I suspect many others also have their own suggestions.
    I have always felt that there are very few problems that cannot be solved when rational adults sit down together and discuss a solution. But to attempt that, we need to talk out the irrational fears, first, on both sides.
    That means a moderated forum, where amateur spin artists and would be demagogues cannot divert the discussion from the issues. I have tried. I cannot make it happen. Perhaps you will have better luck.
    If you get anywhere, let me know. I can help you flesh out the business case.”
    Sooooooo, is Randy correct?
    When he says:
    “The Reader doesn’t seem interested in walking this particular path.”?
    “Neither did the Sun Times (mainly because I wasn’t related to the publisher)…”
    “…..or the Tribune (mainly because of a total lack of courage)”?
    Is the Reader truly satisfied being merely a ‘journalistic’ version of a mud-slinger?
    Does the Reader truly believe that there is enough time left, in the lifespan of our galaxy, for any amount of ‘mud-slinging’ and/or ‘investigative reporting’ to have anything more than a minimal effect on reforming political corruption, thus enabling honest government, at all levels, to become a reality?
    Shall we all conclude that even the lofty Reader does not truly want an end to corruption in government?
    Or that the greatest number of citizens having a most efficient and practical means to voice their opinions in a way that our ‘public servants’ can no longer ignore CAN be an engine of positive change?
    Is it possible the Reader doesn’t find this idea/proposal to be worth trying, to see what might develop from citizens having the opportunity to ‘speak their minds’ in such a forum?
    Or that the Reader has chosen to join the ranks of the ‘compromised’ major media outlets?
    What, precisely, is the Chicago Reader’s position on this proposed idea?
    Besides remaining silent?”
    Maybe it’s not a world-shaking idea, then again, maybe it could be.
    Read and think about it, please?

  6. The Internet offers an opportunity to bypass the established, compromised mass media, the ‘dog and pony show’ sham ‘public hearings’ occasionally held by our ‘public servants’, and the sincere, but impotent, efforts of the small group of ‘investigative’ journalists, and go directly to the source of all of our woes, economic, social, political and governmental, namely, we, the people.

    Although it seems to be a difficult task, to inspire the large number of sheeple to morph into actual, thinking people, it may not be as impossible as it has, to date, proven to be.

    With an active, vibrant and honestly moderated arena-of-opinion, such as is proposed by the above series of comments, there just might be sufficient stimulation of thought to act as an effective catalyst for ‘flushing’ the toilet that our governments have become.

    We sleep in the beds we have made for ourselves.

    Wake up, sleepy citizens!


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