Sunday, October 09, 2011

The Chicago Way Ideas Week Tour

There's this thrill running up my leg — and I haven't had it too often — but it sure has been tingling like mad ever since I heard about Chicago Ideas Week.

According to the website, "Chicago Ideas Week will bring the world's top speakers, together with Chicago's best thinkers, to create an ecosystem of innovation, exploration and intellectual recreation."

Excellent. Bring a bunch of politicians to Chicago, have them mix with Chicago politicians, feed them, and then encourage them to make speeches about how smart they are, and if that's not an ecosystem, I don't know what is.

"Meet the Press" is in town to help kick off the week on Sunday. Former President Bill Clinton will be hanging around, so you'll probably see him prowling the Viagra Triangle. But the highlight will be Monday's fantastic tour (only 15 bucks) by former Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago's fabulous Millennium Park, though I prefer to call it Billennium Park, since it cost about $50 million an acre. Sadly, Daley's tour is not open to the media.

Daley is expected to explain how he created the park, and how great it is. The prospect got me so tingly, I wanted to contribute to this "ecosystem" of ideas. And eureka, I think I've found it:

The Chicago Way Ideas Week Tour.

Daley could begin by opening it up to the media, particularly the "Meet the Press" crowd and other foreign correspondents. They'd rather hear Daley/Obama mouthpiece David Axelrod entertain them with songs of hope and change, but it's time the national media understood the Chicago Way.

The tour would begin at the park's Clout Cafe — Park Grill — where Daley's political adviser Tim Degnan somehow became an investor. Another investor was Daley's friend and fashionista, trucking boss Fred Bruno Barbara, who once, according to federal testimony, served as driver to Chicago mob boss Angelo "The Hook" LaPietra.

Once we fill up on those bland Clout Cafe chicken sandwiches, we could set off on our tour. First thing would be to stand before that gigantic $40 million silver bean, and look deep inside of it, to see all the wonders:

Like Chicago's budget drowning in $600 million or more of red ink, and all those contracts to cronies over the decades that sopped up the cash, all those hungry parking meters, and all those kids who drop out of school each year.

Stare further into the bean and you'd see businesses that received city development bucks and kicked into former first lady Maggie Daley's After School Matters charity, and all those cops who still aren't on the street because all the money is gone.

Daley could point out the city sewers that were inspected by President Barack Obama's political godfather, former state Senate President Emil Jones, who is now chairman of the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority. Jones spent decades as a political double dipper, crafting legislation and also inspecting city sewers. But legend has it that during all those years of sewer inspecting, Jones never smudged his camel-hair coat. Not even once.

We'd then drive down to Kenwood, to the president's home, the one that convicted influence peddler Tony Rezko helped him with, and then back across the city, to the federal criminal courts, where Rezko's confidant, Republican boss Big Bill Cellini, is standing trial on corruption charges.

After that stop, we'd need some sunshine and a happy place, and you know where we could find it? Stearns Quarry Park.

The quarry was in Bridgeport, at 29th and Halsted streets, a few blocks from the mayor's home, and it was where, decade after decade, city trucking bosses would dump their construction debris.

There was nothing illegal per se about the dumping. What was illegal was all the bribery and other crimes committed by city officials and trucking bosses in the city's infamous Hired Truck program. So City Hall covered up the quarry, to erase our political memory. And it worked.

"Today," proclaims the Park District website, "visitors to Stearns Quarry Park can go fishing in a pond that retains old quarry walls; stroll along a wetland area that drains into the pond; watch for birds and other wildlife attracted by the site's vast range of native plants; fly kites in an open meadow; or take in the views of the cityscape."

Ponds. Kite flying. Meadows. Nice.

Later, Daley might want to take the "Meet the Press" panel to Division Street. There in 2004, a slight, 5-foot-3-inch, 125-pound David Koschman, age 21, was reportedly slugged by Daley's muscular nephew, Richard J. Vanecko, 6-3, 230 pounds.

Koschman died, there were no charges, and according to the Sun-Times, the files went missing, the Rush Street police detail didn't see anything, and nobody knows nothing.

Official Chicago doesn't have any idea what happened, even during Ideas Week.

Thanks to John Kass

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