Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Constitutional convention

My mother roomed with Zorita "Zoe" Wise in Hyde Park in the 1940s when they were both idealistic college students, even before Zoe met her future husband Abner Mikva. They were involved in political organizations even then. And I personally remember everyone in our family -- children included -- working very hard at Dawn Clark Netsch's first political campaign office in Old Town. The Mikvas and the Netsches were dreamers once upon a time. Their present-day position requires some explanation.

Once in the clouds, it is difficult for a person to see clear to the ground, where the rank-and-file citizen is stranded. Netsch and Mikva have traveled for too many years in the glamorous, rarefied air of our state's realpolitik, and my experience has shown me that they are out of touch with the people's needs in many ways.

"Lakefront liberal" is now an oxymoron. The people who power these organizations understand the system too well to do us any real good. They are blinded either by their loyalties -- as I believe Mikva and Netsch sometimes are -- or else by their ambitions -- as is the younger generation that is sucking up to them. This has gradually redefined what "liberal progressive Democrat" means in Illinois and across the country. It is time to step back and take a very close look at things. A constitutional convention will do that.

Netsch and Mikva deserve our gratitude for their decades of service and their consistently progressive platforms. But they are out of touch. They do not appear to be willing to acknowledge that our political system is rotten to the core. The movement of massive campaign dollars coming from powerful interests is impossible to resist, because if you resist you will not survive politically. This makes it extraordinarily difficult to oust an elected official who is doing wrong for our state. But that is the only power Netsch and Mikva trust us with. It's like giving us a rubber hammer so we won't hurt ourselves.

Many people I worked hard for to get into office over the years have the appearance of serving us well, and when I confront them they do make a persuasive point that they are indeed accomplishing some things. But the fact is that they are bound by masters more powerful than they are. These masters permit them to make the appearance of achieving big things for their constituency, but they do not let them get uppity.

When all is said and done, they cannot buck the status quo in meaningful ways, for fear of losing their funding or being targeted by a bigger fish. They are too cautious, because they want to stay in office for a very, very long time. But this is inconsistent with the notion of democracy -- of "people rule" -- because enough time in Springfield, swimming in corporate lobbyists and cocktail parties (not to mention all of the out-and-out bribes), will take the "person" out of even the most moral of us.

The question of a constitutional convention hinges on this schism of ensconced politicians on the one hand, and the average citizen on the other hand.

This is our best opportunity to bring real real people to the table, to put them on a level playing field with all of the vested interests, from big corporations to fat-cat politicians to -- yes, admit it -- often myopic big-media outlets. A constitutional convention gives you and me the opportunity to make real change, to dream of a future where people can once again believe in the political system.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Stop the Boot! Sign the petition!

My old friend the Parking Ticket Geek has had his great site up, theexpiredmeter.com, since March. I have always admired this masked crusader for the intrepid way he deals with parking tickets. Now he's on a mission to stop Mayor Daley's two-ticket Denver boot proposal.

PTG tells me that Daley's plan -- which we all know is just more of the same revenue-at-all-costs (to us) doctrine that the mayor has espoused since taking office -- will hit working-class folks the hardest, but it will also take its toll on all neighborhoods. He urges everyone to sign the online petition right away to "Stop the Boot."

Lincoln Parkers are particularly aware of the problems with parking tickets. You will recall in 2006 when I publicized a screwup around Lakeview and nearby streets, where hundreds of cars parked on blocks with the experimental new street-cleaning signs were ticketed on the wrong day! The city was unapologetic, suggesting people simply pay the tickets, until we raised holy hell and they backed down.

The Parking Ticket Geek is reporting on and answering questions about this sort of mess full time, and a lot of us are grateful. One amazing story similar to our Lakeview eruption involves a renegade towing company, reportedly acting on Mayor Daley's orders to boost tows, hitting an entire block of cars in Pilsen one quiet weekend morning. District 12 police took the residents' side and ordered the cars be taken off the hook.