A look at Lincoln – but don’t call him Abe

  • Written by Don C. White

 History-Don-White-logoIn years past, I have written about the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s death. 

Wednesday was the 150th anniversary of that sad occasion. Sunday was the 70th anniversary of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s death. In May, I am doing a display at the Green Hills Library in Palos Hills to honor these two fine presidents.
Let’s start with Lincoln. The first thing to tell you is that Mr. Lincoln did not like to be called Abe, so I won’t do that again. Most people who knew him in Illinois just called him Lincoln or Mr. Lincoln. His wife always called him Mr. Lincoln. While at the White House his secretaries called him the “Tycoon.”
Most of us know about Lincoln’s early years in Kentucky and Indiana.
He and his family moved to Illinois just as he reached his majority age of 21. His education was limited to a total of one year spread out over a few years. By the age of 28, he had already been elected to his second term in the Illinois State legislature. The year of 1837 would also see him be licensed to practice law in Illinois. By this time he had lived one half of his life.
Fast forward to 1860, and we find Mr. Lincoln traveling to New York in February to give a speech at the Cooper Union. Many historians have said this was the most important speech of his life so far. And I would agree. By November of 1860, he would be elected our 16th president and reelected in November 1864.

Chicago mayoral election was never close

  • Written by Ray Hanania

 Hanania-GrapevineThe nice thing about living in the suburbs, is that we’re laid back and we are armchair quarterbacks. 

We don’t want to live in Chicago, but we love to talk about it. And explain what’s wrong with it, too. We love to talk about Chicago elections because for the most part, suburban elections are so boring.
That’s why voter turnout last week in Chicago was about 40 percent, while the turn in the suburbs hovered around 11 percent in many races.
So, if you don’t care about suburban races, why should I waste my time writing about them?
Last week, Mayor Rahm Emanuel easily won re-election, even though for most of the past eight months, everyone was saying he was in trouble and that Cook County Commissioner Jesus Chuy Garcia was a potential threat to unseat him.
But in the end, Mayor Emanuel won a landslide victory over Garcia, and it’s worth looking at why. Emanuel received 55 percent of the vote and Garcia got 45 percent. Where I come from (40 years of covering Chicago elections) that’s an enormous landslide in a hotly contested race
Emanuel had more money. Garcia raised a whopping $5 million, in a large part because he had some heavyweights on his side, like the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and the Service Employees International Union.
But Emanuel raised $30 million and he didn’t spend it all.
The campaign ads went back and forth bashing each other and like Emanuel, Garcia never really said what he would do any different. But while an incumbent can blah, blah, blah his (or her) way through an election, a challenger can’t. They need to say specifically what they would do differently to justify why voters should oust an incumbent.
The only real message that came out of the election is that Emanuel was “humbled,” and he promised to “change.”
Yeah, right. Like any mayor of a major American city will change anything.
The real problem is that Chuy was just not that popular. He claimed to have the mantle of the old Harold Washington coalition, but the fact is many if not most African Americans voted for Emanuel. Why? Because Chuy was more about perception and less about substance.
The two worst problems are interrelated. Schools and crime. Chicago’s schools are sending more students to street gang careers than college, and so far no one has come up with a real idea on how to change it. I’ve suggested the only solution, forcing homeowners and residents to roll up their sleeves and become more involved in their neighborhoods, but neither Emanuel nor Garcia thought that was worth exploring.
It works in many suburbs where gang crimes have dropped significantly.
Chuy is hero among his supporters, but that won’t win many elections. I doubt seriously if he can run and win the office of Cook County Board President, if President Toni Preckwinkle decides not to run for re-election. He certainly can’t beat her.
But the interesting casualty of this election may be Garcia’s “close pal,” Congressman Luis Gutierrez.
Congressman Gutierrez’s district is 18 percent Puerto Rican, and more than 70 percent Mexican American. The fact that Gutierrez wouldn’t support his Mexican American ally might prompt Mexican American voters to abandon Gutierrez.
Now that would be an election worth seeing.
Ray Hanania is a former Chicago City Hall reporter and President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media consulting. Reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


It’s been fun, but I have to say Audi-os

  • Written by Bob Rakow


Bobs Column - The B SideAudi 5000.
The name of the 1980s luxury car morphed into a slang phrase to describe leaving a particular place after the car was plagued with a problem characterized by unintended acceleration.
Drivers complained that the car would lurch forward while their foot was on the brake. It turned out that the accelerator and brake pedals were unusually close together. But the slang stuck. “This party is boring. I’m Audi 5000.”
You don’t hear the term much anymore. Today, people “bounce” when they depart.
Times change and so does the lingo. But I’m writing this column—one of my favorite tasks each week—to tell you that I am Audi 5000.
About 18 months after joining the Reporter, I’ve decided to take another position in the publishing industry. This is my last issue. I have no doubt I’ll miss the work because nothing is quite like community journalism.
Want proof? I’ve come back to it twice after my full-time first stint in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I’ve also free-lanced for local newspapers throughout much of my career, and I’m likely to do it again. Don’t be surprised if you see my byline in this newspaper now and again—I figure to be available to pinch hit here and there if needed.
And, my agent and editor Jeff Vorva are negotiating a deal to keep the B-Side going in some form or fashion. So look for more of my thoughts and musings in this publication down the road.
I thought I’d use this column to thank or recognize several folks who made the job easier and more fun. Many of them I’ve known long before I started at the Reporter in August 2013, but I wasn’t lucky enough to have a column at other points in my career.
So, since I mentioned Vorva first, why not start with him.
I’m a better writer and reporter because him. I say that about few other people in this business. Jeff had an influence not only on me but on the paper as well. We started at the Reporter at about the same time, and I’m proud of our body of work.

Why not block the cheating rooftop owners?

  • Written by Ray Hanania

Hanania-GrapevineEven though I am a South Sider, I have been a Cubs fan all my life, since the very first day I realized girls my age loved the “Cubbies” and Wrigley Field was a great place to exploit for a first date back in high school.
(Yes, high school. I was a late bloomer in getting my heart savaged by the opposite sex.)
Still, I came to love the Cubs. Wrigley Field was always so much more fun, tightly packed in a gentrified neighborhood with lots to do before and after the game. And, the neighborhood was always safe, something I can’t honestly say about the White Sox ball park.
It doesn’t matter to me that the Cubs haven’t won a World Series in 108 years. I honestly love the game. I love the atmosphere. I love the food. I love the neighborhood. Maybe I don’t love the carefree “we don’t care where we urinate” fans. And most of all, I still love how women love the Cubs. (Maybe the Cubs should market a men’s cologne or something?)
I can accept the fact that the Cubs always fall short. But I can’t accept the demands by the owners of buildings adjacent to Wrigley Field who claim they have a right to profit off of the backs of the Cubs baseball team.
The building owners have renovated their rooftops so they can charge exorbitant entrance fees, and sell high-priced food and booze to the public, so the public can enjoy the Cubs games from across the street.
What right does a building owner have to sell the baseball team’s performance to their rooftop customers? That’s cheating.
Now that Wrigley Field is renovating, they also want to erect a larger scoreboard. And why not? The building owners argue the new scoreboard will block their view from their rooftops into Wrigley Field during the games.
I am sure Wrigley Field is as much as hassle to the Wrigleyville neighborhood as it is an economic boon. The businesses in the neighborhood profit enormously from the team, even if they haven’t won a World Series in more than a century.
The Cubs are a $1.8 billion franchise, the nation’s 5th most valuable baseball team, according to Forbes Magazine. I know homeowners and even local churches and organizations profit, too, from the games selling parking spaces because I have laid out the $40 for the parking privilege to be near the park. I have even shopped at the stores after the games.
 I also know that having a bustling, busy baseball park smack in the heart of the neighborhood has its problems. But most of those problems come from the drunks who fill the local bars that surround the ballpark.
In truth, Wrigley Field was there before much of the residential development, built in 1914. The Cubs are the oldest sports franchise located in the same city in the country. They set a record when they played in the World Series three consecutive seasons, beginning in 1906, winning in 1907 and 1908. A century of losses doesn’t change that record.
Tell the rooftop owners to find someone else to bully and exploit. Build out that stadium, Mr. Ricketts. Make it a better park. Do whatever needs to be done to create an enjoyable atmosphere for the park attendees, not your greedy next-door neighbors.
Let’s Go Cubbies!

Ray Hanania is an award-winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media consulting. Reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Enjoying a new communion, community

  • Written by Claudia Parker

Claudia Mug Shot-ColorTo be acknowledged is a beautiful thing.
I visited Worth United Methodist Church on assignment during their Sunday worship service a few weeks ago. I was there to probe into their members’ reaction to their pending church closure. Upon my arrival, I settled on the back pew hoping not to draw attention to myself.
But, I didn’t go unnoticed at all.
Ramona Paulumbo of Bridgeview was in the pew in front of me. She moseyed over to help me find my spot in the hymn book. She was like a one-person hospitality committee. She saw to it that I took part in communion. I hadn’t intended to. My plan was to inconspicuously snap a few photographs of the congregation while they took communion but she beckoned for me, so off I went.

At my church, The Apostolic Church of God, we take communion in individual tiny, sealed plastic, hourglass cups. The wine is in one end and a nibble of tasteless cracker in the other. The congregation remains in the pews as ushers pass them down the aisle until everyone has been served.
I can recall being horrified by my daughter, Donae, offering an explanation of communion one afternoon. She was four at the time.
“Church was good this morning.” she said. “I like community day because we get juice and a snack!”
She got a thorough Bible teaching on communion after that!
At Worth UMC, everyone strolled to the altar and stood in a single-file line to receive communion. Their pastor, Sung Kown Oh, literally broke apart an entire loaf of fresh baked bread and proceeded to pass out doughnut-hole sized portions, which we dipped into a wine filled Chalice.
I’m no wine connoisseur, I don’t even drink socially, but, if I had to guess, I’d say theirs was the good stuff.
A couple more dips of that, and I might have gotten tipsy.
At the conclusion of service, I was quickly approached by Patricia Hodges of Palos Hills.
“Uh oh,” I thought. “I better hurry to explain why I have a notepad and camera.”
It had been my intention to inform Pastor Oh, I’d be visiting when we spoke earlier that week, but I’d forgotten. Before she could even speak, I reached to shake her hand. “Hello. My name is Claudia Parker. I’m a reporter, for the Reporter newspaper.” I said.
With a warm smile and a tender touch she replied, “I know exactly who you are.”
I was thinking to myself. “You DO!?”
She continued. “Come.” She waved for me to follow. “We’re going to have refreshments in the fellowship hall.” she said.
Then, it happened again. I introduced myself to another person and I heard.
“Yeah, Claudia Parker, I knew I recognized you.” a voice from behind me said, “She looks different with her hair pulled back doesn’t she?”
It was a pleasant surprise to be recognized. I hadn’t expected that at all.
I said, “I take it many of you subscribe to our paper?” I heard a resounding “yes!” One lady said, “I read your column all the time.”
Helen Kristufek of Worth chimed in. “I used to be a columnist for the Reporter too.” she said. “But, that was many years ago. I’m old, I’m 86. Back then, they were a different paper.”
I felt an instant connection to the group.
Their affiliation to our paper and to me as a writer made it easy for me to talk with them. They treated me like they knew me and made me feel like I was a part of their church family. I walked out of there with pep in my step.
It felt good being acknowledged for my work by a collection of people I had never met.
I began purposefully looking for opportunities to acknowledge good qualities and behaviors I recognized in people each time I encountered them.
I’m not naïve or arrogant enough to believe Worth UMC treated me well because I work for this paper. I believe it’s their common practice. I hope we can all strive to be more open in receiving people we encounter.
Let’s all look for ways to acknowledge the good in people while choosing to show kindness to strangers as if they were family.
After speaking with my new friends at Worth UMC, I learned that many of them are uneasy about the imminent closing of their church.
After 130 years, they’re closing due to rising cost and low membership. Several members expressed anxiety about where and how they might fit into a different church setting.
However, I believe wholeheartedly that the seeds of good they’ve planted will produce good fruit. Good luck to you Worth UMC. Regardless of where you go, I pray you will be met with the same warmth and kindness you’ve shown to others.

  Claudia Parker is an Evergreen Park mother, author, runner whose columns appear the second and fourth Thursdays for the Reporter.