The new era of column tapas

10/24/2012 10:00 PM

By Bonnie McGrath

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There comes a time in the life of all columnists when the deadline approaches and well, there’s nothing to write about. All the big news in the area is not so big — or it’s already been written about pithily and with a strong point of view by me or someone else.

In the old days, columnists used to get long, thoughtful and well-written letters to the editor — many written better than the columnist to whom they were writing — and it was days like I’m having today that the columnist could bring them out and retype the best parts, if not the whole letter. Each letter took up space and was those many words less that the columnist had to compose. And the columnist could respond with an edgy, defensive and sarcastic answer that was geared to entertain readers.

But those days are over. People who read columns today put their own edgy, defensive and sarcastic — not to mention anonymous — comments online, to which most columnists don’t respond.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a “Slats Grobnik” with whom to have an imaginary conversation that I could commit to print, like everyone’s favorite columnist, the late Mike Royko, had. When Royko had a dry day, he could pull Slats out of his head and chat with him about anything, and everyone got a kick out of it. Or he could send his leg man or woman (researchers and writers who assisted him at the paper) out to get a story. I can’t do that.

But it’s a new era and I have a new idea: column tapas. Small plates of column fodder that fall into various categories. Perhaps, an idea I already wrote about where there’s a little bit of new news but not enough to justify a whole new column, or perhaps an idea that just hasn’t developed enough — or I don’t know enough about yet — to justify a whole column. Or even a blog post.

So pour yourself a glass of sangria. Here’s some column tapas.

It looks like the new voter cards that were mailed recently have our new South Loop ward and precinct numbers on them, causing more confusion and anxiety for South Loop residents, who currently land in one of four “new” wards that now “serve” our community. Mine went from Ward 2, 22nd precinct (which I loved because it was nothing but 2s) to Ward 3, precinct 26. Some of the polling places have changed, too. But the question that I exhaustively wrote about months ago remains, and is stronger than ever now: Who really is my alderman? When the powers that be send a voting card that tells you you’re in a different ward, do you start badgering your new “unelected” alderman — or do you stick with the old one who you and/or your neighbors put in office? There’s still more than two years (and another county/state/federal election) to go before the next municipal election, when the new boundaries will really make a difference. So this premature imprimatur takes many of us by surprise.

I love the new talking point being utilized by a smart, strong-willed and (hopefully) effective group of South Loop activists who want to salvage the old Jones College Prep High School for use as a neighborhood high school when the new Jones building is finished and ready for business next year on South State Street. I covered the subject several months ago — the idea of tearing down what I consider (if nothing else) an architecturally significant piece of mid-century architecture to straighten out a street that doesn’t need straightening makes me sick. But what pleases me is the latest way the group is framing the issue (and Republican political wordsmith Frank Luntz, love him or hate him, couldn’t have done a better job): “Why are you using OUR TIF money to build a selective enrollment school for the whole city and simultaneously tearing down what should be OUR neighborhood high school?”

Here’s a question I’d like to ask: How come we citizens are constantly being invited to “clean and green” our neighborhood streets? The city thinks it’s being generous by passing out brooms and dustpans via the ward bosses. How come the Streets and San guys can’t clean the streets? Too many coffee breaks? I think we South Loopers need to spend our Saturdays relaxing, not doing street cleaning. Or at least working so we can earn the money to pay our hefty taxes that go to pay the hefty salaries of the Streets and San guys.

Or is all that money going into the TIF funds to build selective enrollment schools that don’t serve our community?

The Near South Planning Board sponsored a very interesting event in the neighborhood recently: speed-dating for babysitters and parents. The Columbia College dorm at Polk and Plymouth had its lobby set up so parents and Columbia students interested in babysitting could meet briefly to see if there was any chemistry. The students came armed with not only their best foot forward, but with resumes and business cards. It looked like there was a lot of examining going down on both sides of the babysitting equation, and that some good matches were forming. Would love to hear the official results; and I hope that NSPB keeps tabs on how many babysitting “marriages” come out of such efforts.

How many readers have noticed that South Loop School is the most frequently (if not only) school used for official CPS roll-outs and run-ups and other citywide newsmaking events? New name and face to head the schools? Introduce her at South Loop School. Need a school to help name the new dolphin calf at the Shedd Aquarium? Get the students at South Loop School. This has gone on year after year. Is it just because the school has a great location? Probably the school closest to City Hall and CPS — not to mention the Shedd Aquarium. Or is there something else that draws politicians — and other movers and shakers — to South Loop School?

Who knew? The iconic neighborhood burger, beer and curly fry joint, South Loop Club at State and Balbo, is being taken to task by the feds. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment against the place because they say the owners and managers sexually harassed a number of female employees. And when the women complained, they were either fired or forced to quit, says the suit. Stay tuned. When the EEOC picks up your case, it’s serious.

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By Connie Remkus from South Loop
Posted: 10/25/2012 8:50 PM

Hi Bonnie. I definitely agree with your question for the city about their clean and green get togethers.Please add my name. The city workers are getting too many coffee breaks.We see all their vehicles parked illegally in and around Starbuck's on Roosevelt. And interesting info about the South Loop Club. I visited one server there during the day a while back, and all the gals were afraid of theirboss.Youcould tell. Keep us up2date. Yea tapas!