Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Chicago's slanted Skyline

Was anyone surprised to see the obvious bias in the Skyline's roundup of 43rd Ward aldermanic candidates (Nov. 23)? Tim Egan, husband of Marlena Miglin, got first position among the four challengers and made up the bulk of the article. But what would you expect from a newspaper whose society coverage begins on the front and occupies seven of their 16 pages of so-called news?

And - oh, my - there's the happy Miglin mishpoche again, in Ann Gerber's gossip column on Page 9! She's out stumping Marilyn's fundraiser for Tim Egan! That pretty squarely shoots down Dechter's and Burmahl's lame-assed excuses for failing to inform the public about my street cleaning warning system. Even though my product is a public service, they say they place candidates' press releases in a special category of promotional material, as if it is something any less relevant to the public eye than an announcement of some service by the alderman, or by Children's, or by Old Town Triangle. I suppose Felicia Dechter might have published it if I were Marilyn Miglin's son? Will she publish an announcement of Vi Daley's ripoff of the product?

The two longtime public advocates, Rachel Goodstein and myself, were placed at the end of the story as the "me too" candidates. It's noteworthy that Rachel and I not only have lived in the ward longer than any of the others, we've also put more volunteer hours in for our community and received the least attention from Skyline.

And why, after twice sending in my photograph, would Skyline "inadvertently" fail to print it among those of the other candidates? Could it be that they didn't want competition for their favorite son in the race, Tim Egan? Tim's okay looking, but so am I. The Nixon-Kennedy debates taught the media all it's ever needed to know about image control. Skyline has refused to make good: "We regret the error, but we're not going to publish your photo," said the editors.

My family has never appeared on the society pages. Most of Skyline's readers have never had that privilege. I am a third-generation journalist; my father was longtime editor of the chronically broke Near North News. With a pedigree like that, I don't have a quick leg up as a candidate, but as Skyline editor Beth Burmahl said, I "must know how the business works." I appreciate the refresher.

Read what you will into the paper’s election coverage. If given the proper forum, we "second class" candidates will earn the admiration of Gold Coast and Lincoln Park voters without the dubious help of Skyline's sycophantic writers and editors.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Four years ago as a resident of the 1st ward, the author of this blog, calling himself a reformer, sacrificed any credibility he might have had by spreading lies throughout the 36th precinct of the ward on behalf of Manny Flores. Manny was the real deal according to the blog scribbler and spurious man of the people who now calls the 43rd home.

I’m reminded of Mr. Zelchencko’s lies on behalf of Flores every day when I walk by the last affordable grocery store in the 1st ward; check that, the bulldozed lot that once was the last affordable store. Thanks to a backroom deal made by Zelchenko’s “friend of the common man” candidate, the site will soon be home to a large chain grocery store; a store that based on every reliable study will result in more traffic than the section of Chicago Avenue it will blight can handle.

I’m reminded of Mr. Zelchenko’s lies when recalling that Manny Flores ducked the Big Box ordinance vote, out of town on someone else’s dime that day. Too bad for those who think a living wage might be a good idea; those damn poor people don’t come to fundraisers.

I’m reminded of Mr. Zelchenko’s lies when recalling how the paragon of virtue and the paragon of virtue who pimped for him pulled the wool over all of our eyes with promises, yes promises, of a real down-zoning plan in our disappearing historic neighborhood. Manny instead went for the easy money of the developers, and his champion moved away. So much better to paint oneself a reformer when your past misdeeds are now someone else’s problem.

I’m reminded of Mr. Zelchenko’s lies every time I look at the money Flores continues to take from developers, over half a million at last count, while signing off on the zoning for every prosaic condo development that crosses his desk.

Yes, dear voters of the 43rd ward, this just scratches the surface of what Manny’s useful idiot helped to bring about in the 1st ward. Good luck and God bless if you choose to bring this plague upon your house.

6:28 AM  
Blogger Peter Zelchenko said...

Your clarity about the situation is so crystalline, and your use of words so well known to me, that it's unfair for you to be concealing your identity and, even more, wrongly accusing me in this way.

And yet you also know very well that since taking office Manny Flores has betrayed nearly everyone except a tiny handful of political allies. In fact, you and I have had conversations about that. Therefore, to call me a "liar" and a "pimp" for Flores is totally disingenuous. "Useful idiot"? On that one, I'll make a deal with you: I'll accept the title if you will publish your name. But, as you know, you can't do that.

And you are also well aware that I revile the man's politics. You might find it interesting to know that he has recently betrayed me as well, regarding my own candidacy.

Your name-calling is unfair. Ask yourself: What would I possibly have had to gain by "lying" about Manny Flores, as you claim I did? You know I fought relentlessly to keep Dominick's out. You know I have been fighting for affordable housing and good jobs for years. You know I was on the side of residents regarding East Village development. And that hasn't ever changed.

I wasn't the only person naive about Flores. There have been thousands. That he wasn't the messiah was our naivete. And yet, despite his enormous flaws - ones that I now acknowledge make him ill-suited to hold public office - Manny Flores has been marginally better for the city than his predecessor, Jesse Granato. But real progress takes time.

And you can see that I have never gone into hiding, as you have. You cannot call me a coward. I will put my name on deed and error alike. And so I apologize to Chicago for helping to bring you the bad part of Manny Flores.

10:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Peter, guess again. You and I have never had a conversation regarding Manny Flores’ performance in office. I never called you a coward, and choose to remain anonymous because, as you well know, the man you worked so hard to foist upon us is not above retribution for the sake of retribution.

Just to clarify a couple of points. The reasons anyone would be comfortable questioning your integrity in this regard are as follows: You were well aware of the selfish, personal motives of many of those you worked side-by-side with to help get Flores elected, yet still chose to pretend that you were on the side of the angels.

You breezily claim that Manny is de facto better than Granato. Why, because Manny returns your calls? Your guy Manny has taken more money and been in bed with more developers than Granato while at the same time pretending he’s about reform. In my book, that’s worse.

You stood by silently as Manny put less qualified relatives on the payroll.

Long after most of the things I cited in my original post happened, you were still seeking Manny’s support for your 43rd ward run. That’s as cynical, politically motivated and selfish as anything you’ve so loudly (and often times correctly) criticized others for.

You cannot have it both ways Peter. You sound contrite, and even convincing, as you now repudiate most of what Manny has done, but sadly that didn’t prevent you from using a quote from him in your campaign piece.

So yes, Peter you have done some good things, fought for some important things, but it’s your black and white, good versus evil, no nuance view of the world (or I should say, your view of the world of the 1st ward) that now has many questioning these things.

12:17 PM  
Blogger Peter Zelchenko said...

You are talking nonsense. From his first weeks in office, I have criticized Ald. Manny Flores relentlessly. Nobody has been as outspoken about it as I have. Just a month or so after he took office, he was furious with me for something that I said in the Reader. We have had many late-night shouting matches in his car about it, some lasting for hours. I've skewered him publicly twice this month already, in the column.

The day he was forming his "community organization," I saw that he was politicizing it. I created a huge scene there and forced him to balance it out with some reformers, but to no avail. To this day, he has not developed the apolitical community council that he promised for the ward. Effectively, the 1st Ward Organization has done little more than shift power from the Polish to the Latino West Siders.

I use Manny's name and seek his support, Jesse White's, and those of others who no longer have use for my independent voice, because the public happens to admire them for their power. Yet if a miracle were to occur and they were to throw in their support for me, they had better assume there will be no political strings attached, such as jobs or support for a position of theirs that makes no moral sense.

I may hold my nose when I do it, but I am entitled to use quotes of theirs and even seek their support - at the very least, expect them to sit out and not support my opponents. This is all that remains, what belongs to me after setting aside my life to change theirs.

And I promise you: Manny Flores, Jesse White, Cynthia Soto, John Fritchey, Vi Daley, and others around the city can't help but have respect for my politics and my abilities, even if they may chuckle at my naive idealism and my lack of funding. Is it quixotic? We shall see.

Ask any one of them why they would rather have me on their side. And then ask them why they can't have me on their side anymore. Because Chicago has a rare opportunity to change in the near future - no strings attached.

So, what am I, my friend? A liar, or a gull? You write from the shadows with your sanctimonious tone, and yet you won't admit to those who may read this what the truth is. Again: Am I a liar, or a gull? And what are you?

You have made the claim that I'm a liar and you yourself know that this is demonstrably false. That in itself is a lie and a libel. I had to believe Manny Flores would do well for the community on other issues, even though I knew he would not back me on the Dominick's matter.

You have made the claim that I'm a gull. I'll cop to that! We all are. That is why I am running - because the alternatives here are more of the same. And yet if there is a marginally better alternative than what we have, I am going to support it. We can't predict just how fair a person will be until they take office. That is one reason we need term limits.

And, so, the truth comes out: You are afraid that Manny Flores will take it out on you if you reveal your identity! Do you think I have nothing to lose? Why am I not afraid?

My friend, Chicago is where it is today because of cowards like you who are too trembling to put their name on their convictions. It is you who are our danger, not Manny Flores.

10:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are many ways beyond posting on a blog read by maybe 100 people, or selling one’s soul to run an unfunded campaign for office to accomplish what needs to be accomplished. I choose to add my name when it will serve a purpose, not in venues where it does little good and has no impact. Last time I checked, you were not employed in a position where a call from an alderman can take food out of your child’s mouth. And whether you’ll admit it or not you know that’s just the type of thing the guy whose support you so crave would do.

You spend too much time tilting at windmills, too little time getting the real work done. Selective anonymity beats relying upon the lukewarm support of people who have continually betrayed what you claim to stand for.

Contrary to your sanctimonious claim, Chicago is in fact where it is today because of people like you, willing to make a deal with the devil to suit your own ambition. One lone voice of reform in the city council, especially one who is willing to attach himself to the very people who make it the cesspool it is to get there, is not the vehicle for change. It is only the status quo with a new face and a new name.

The only true change is going to come when the guy from New York is done rounding up the latest round of crooks and liars. Remaining anonymous and seeking justice is preferable to advertising one’s name in a fleeting attempt to join their club.

Up until your support of Flores, I had nothing but respect for the work you do. I continue to respect much of it. I truly believe you are too intelligent, certainly more intelligent than Flores, to have completely had the wool pulled over your eyes by him.

I will leave you for good with this thought: there are figurative bodies buried all over that campaign you were involved in, what a public service it would have been for you to have spent less time arguing ethics with a man who has none and more time finding where those bodies were buried and blowing the whistle. Yes, my friend, oftentimes anonymity is the honorable thing, the right thing, the only thing.

Good night and good luck.

12:03 PM  
Blogger Peter Zelchenko said...

Well, now that this person has left, I can make some things clear.

I am certainly in a position where a call from a public official can take food out of my child's mouth. In fact, it has happened to me before. This person is well aware of the risks I have taken for my community. There have been nights when I sent my son away and was afraid to go to sleep.

Of course I am concerned about this. But three things cause me to stay the course: (1) I have nothing to hide. (2) This needs to be done by someone and, as you see by the previous poster, most people are not willing to step forward. (3) Like other reformers, I have enough friends that if something bad were to happen I would have lots of help. Considering the stakes, it is worth the risk.

Left unanswered by my former neighbor's scorched-earth screed was how he can justify calling me a liar or a pimp. Furthermore, if he really understood me, he would not consider my politics at all black and white.

The story of the future of the 1st Ward, the 32nd Ward, the 43rd Ward, and elsewhere in Chicago is being written as we speak. Let's not let pessimistic and cowardly fools dissuade us from believing in real change in the city.

This man clearly is very savvy about politics - he seems to understand much more than I do, and is less naive. If he truly comprehended all of this before Flores was elected, then he himself is to blame for not speaking up at the time, to me and to our neighbors.

But thank goodness for him that his family is intact. This man is the story of Chicago and why corruption runs rampant here.

1:34 PM  
Blogger Carter O'Brien said...

Yes, my friend, oftentimes anonymity is the honorable thing, the right thing, the only thing.

As the kids say:


blaming anybody but Manny Flores for Manny Flores' actions is ridiculous, and has nothing to do with the politics and situation in the 43rd ward.

Only one person here is advocating the status quo, and that's our anonymous friend.

8:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's an easy statement to make unless you've been previously slimed by Flores and his useful idiot. As for the staus quo, I'd be supporting anyone who is not Vi Daley or the "journalist."

11:42 AM  
Blogger Carter O'Brien said...

AThat's an easy statement to make unless you've been previously slimed by Flores and his useful idiot. As for the staus quo, I'd be supporting anyone who is not Vi Daley or the "journalist."

So are you supporting anybody in either the 1st or 43rd ward races?

You're playing loose with facts & chronology - you can't blame any of Manny Flores' actions or words after the election on anyone but Manny, period.

You should either prove this conspiracy theory or give it a rest already.

You don't seem to have any solutions to the problems we all face regarding corruption, except posting anonymously, not exactly a way to bring about change.

3:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having campaigned on Mr. Flores' behalf, Zelchenko made representations regarding Flores' positions during that campaign. Flores has rejected all of those positions since. Mr. Zelchenko either lied, or Flores lied to him. Even giving him the benefit of the doubt that it's the latter, his use of Flores' "endorsement" in this campaign is, at best, disingenuous.

As for corruption, Zelchenko is well aware of what went on during that campaign and well aware of many of the deals, jobs given, favors granted since. Exposing that would be a fine way to battle corruption.

As for who I support. Anyone but Manny Flores in the 1st and I'm unimpressed thus far with every candidate in the 43rd, so I haven't decided.

3:38 PM  
Blogger Peter Zelchenko said...

Well, I'm unimpressed with you, Sir. I have you narrowed you down to one of two of Jesse Granato's favorite sycophants, RA or DS. I already demonstrated that it's Manny who has fallen back on various commitments to the 1st Ward - I didn't lie, I believed he would handle the East Village situation, create a community planning board, be reasonably clean in politics, not take developer money, and at least would give us a hearing about Edmar. Aside from Edmar (which he told me beforehand he wouldn't commit to), I had no way of knowing how he would perform on these points. Ben Joravsky warned me repeatedly, and I was not convinced. Still, I suppose he's been better than Granato. Was there another alternative? You, perhaps?

My columns have regularly criticized Manny and his position and his politics. I've been outspoken about it. You know this and you're still pushing your argument that I'm a liar. He's actually been pretty good about my tone and still being friendly with me.

That's why I'm going to delete this thread in a few days. It's clear that it's intended only to attempt to damage my reputation in my home ward (using a spurious argument) and not for anything actually constructive.

You think I'm a fool for leaving this around for people to see? It doesn't matter to me. I'm for truth, my friend. I don't have anything to fear from this kind of thing being public.

As for using Manny's name in an endorsement, I repeat: it's all I can take away from our relationship. I deserve that for all I did to get him into office. He's not any more "evil" than any other compromised politician. He just doesn't understand what real reform means, and he's not nearly as creative and dynamic as any of us imagined he was going to be. And that means he still believes I have integrity. Or else he was lying about that.

1:07 AM  
Blogger Carter O'Brien said...

dear "anonynmous":

Peter has responded to all of your specific questions/issues/problems, none of which have anything to do with him, personally.

If you were serious about reform, you'd be supporting him, instead of trying this quasi-Machiavellian backstabbing.

It's pretty clear to me that your intentions are not honorable, and thus it is not Peter that comes off poorly here, it is you and those like you who shoot down real reform in this City.


9:24 AM  
Anonymous Mr. Thong said...

The easiest and least productive political stance is to be purer than everyone.

Kudos to Peter for doing something about the world.

Nuts to anonymous holier-than-thou types whose "political activism" takes the form of essay-length blog comments.

Flores has been terrible, but to argue that Granato was better somehow because he admitted he was a dumb thug is ridiculous.

10:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Only a self-serving weasel could rationalize removing a series of critical, yet informed, comments. Now we know your true colors- you’ve lost your credibility and my interest in your candidacy.

7:43 PM  
Blogger Peter Zelchenko said...

Since it's so important to you, I'll leave it up.

I suppose now you'll tell me I'm too indecisive to represent the community. There's no pleasing some people, especially when they're anonymous.

8:55 PM  
Blogger Carter O'Brien said...

ONow we know your true colors- you’ve lost your credibility and my interest in your candidacy.

well you SAID that in your first post, why do you keep repeating yourself?

quit "tilting at windmills" (to use your phrase) and go do something productive for your city besides badgering somebody trying to make a difference.


8:39 AM  

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