What the Newly Inaugurated Mayor of Chicago Should Not Do

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Earlier today, Rahm Emanuel — the man who rose from being a so-called Democratic “political operative” to a member of Congress to a second term as Mayor of Chicago — stepped up to the podium to formally accept his job to run the city for another four years.

He reportedly made a rousing speech, which was reported in this fine article from the Chicago Tribune. His old boss, Bill Clinton, even was in town for the event.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

I’ll leave it to the established newsmen and women to offer commentary on Mayor Emanuel’s thoughts today, and what he and his administration needs to do to steer Chicago back to a more stable course financially, end the seemingly endless cycle of violence in some parts of the city, and usher in greater overall prosperity.

(As a home owner, however, I still want my trees trimmed, snow plowed and the garbage picked up regularly.)

Without question, the pundits and commentators are already pounding out articles and editorials offering advice. So, I’ll take a different track.

Mr. Mayor, I offer these three things you should not do during the rest of your term.

Mr. Mayor:  If you have to wear a sweater -- please not this way.

Mr. Mayor: If you have to wear a sweater — please not this way.

1.  Do not wear sweaters. We all remember that famous campaign commercial during the run-off election. You donned a nice (probably cashmere) dark grey sweater to show your softer side.  You told voters, that at times, you “rubbed people the wrong way.” To me, wearing a sweater sort of rubbed me the wrong way. Hey, you’re the mayor of Chicago; you look better in a suit. Thankfully, you didn’t have the sweater draped over your shoulders in Burt Bacharach fashion.

Keep these beauties in Chicago, where they belong!

Keep these beauties in Chicago, where they belong!

2. Do not participate in those “contests” with other mayors over sports. You know what I’m referring to: Should the Blackhawks, the Bears, the Bulls, the White Sox or the Cubs (Let’s not count out miracles: The Cubs are in second place) participate in a championship game, decline an offer to wager cheesecake, hot dogs, Italian beef sandwiches or deep dish pizza against food stuffs popular in the opposing city. These are just silly ways that local companies get exposure. (Some people call it “free publicity,” you know.)

3. Do not run red lights. I know, the Mayor isn’t behind the wheel when he and his crew are out making public appearances. Someone else is driving. But the media has had a field day reporting on the Mayoral motorcade’s frequent disregard for traffic signals.  Plus, it’s dangerous, for crying out loud! Tell the guy or gal driving to obey the law. Remember: Chicago has lots of red light cameras at many intersections around the city.

And, one more thing: Do not compromise on your integrity. We need a strong leader right now.


Advice for the Next Mayor of Chicago: Three Ways to Raise Needed Revenues

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

In a little over a month, Chicagoans will return to the polls to elect our Mayor, along with some aldermen. As you may have learned, the general election here on February 24 did not yield a Mayor.

Incumbent Rahm Emanuel was forced into a run-off race with Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, a Cook County Commissioner who — along with three other candidates — captured enough votes to prevent Mr. Emanuel from getting the 50 percent-plus-one vote majority need to win re-election.

First, best of success to both candidates.

Second, below are suggestions to whoever wins the election April 7 on tackling one of Chicago’s nagging issues: Raising needed revenues without raising taxes, cutting vital city services or enacting other draconian measures.

So, without further ado, three ways to build Chicago’s bottom line.

  1.  Expand the Number of Tiki Bars. For some reason, those of the hipster set have taken to faux Polynesian nightclubs that serve $13 drinks adorned with umbrellas, flowers and large chunks of pineapple. In Lost Lakeour humble Avondale neighborhood, the just-opened Lost Lake tiki bar has patrons lined up out the door, even on cold evenings. As noted from a Yelp reviewer:  “The room is tastefully decorated and comfortable; makes you feel as though you have been whisked away from the cruel Chicago winter to a Caribbean island.” Yes, a Caribbean Island that from the outside looks a lot like Diversey Avenue. But just think of the revenues Chicago would gain from liquor license fees and sales tax revenues if there was a tiki bar on every other block!
  2. Make it a “Long, Strange Trip” Every Weekend. This dead50Independence Day holiday Chicago will be invaded by hoards of the living Dead. You know who I’m referring to — Deadheads, or fans of the almost defunct band the Grateful Dead. Yes, the ultimate jam band will play three shows here as part of its final “Fare Thee Well” tour and mark its 50th anniversary of playing songs that last 47 minutes on average.  Tickets are expensive and very hard to come by, as noted in this commentary. Same goes for hotel rooms, and I trust sales of tye dyed T-shirts will be brisk, too. The result: Millions of dollars spent in Chicago. So why not have the Dead play Chicago every weekend in 2015! Even if the real Dead members won’t perform, just hire some look-alikes. Deadheads reportedly are usually in some alter state of consciousness and probably won’t know the difference.
  3. If You Smoke ‘Em, Pick ‘Em Up. As depicted in the Ciggiesaccompanying photo, some people in Chicago fail to properly dispose of cigarette butts after they’ve enjoyed a smoke. This causes not just unsightly litter, it detracts from the street scape and requires clean up. Here’s a potential solution to combat butt scofflaws and raise some cash: Institute a new law fining property owners for spent butts found on their property. Perhaps $100 per butt? As you can see from the photo above, there’s about $4,000 in untapped potential revenue from this one location.

So, there Mr. Next Mayor. My thoughts on ways to get Chicago out of hock.

And, if you’re wondering who I’ll vote for, here’s my answer: The right candidate.


This is All I Plan to Say About “Chicagoland”

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

It’s over.

Now, I’ll find something more productive to do on Thursday nights, rather than editorialize over the eight-part CNN “documentary” called “Chicagoland.”

When the first installment was aired in March, I shared these thoughts. Now that the series is over, I’m not pleased by the portrayal given to my city, and I’m in pretty good company.

chicagoland.twoReports I’ve read in the local media were not kind to the producers of this ambitious project.  And, this recent extensive piece in the Chicago Tribune offers some fascinating insight on the making of “Chicagoland,” charging that many scenes were staged.  What’s more, the report details the consulting services provided by a prominent Chicago public affairs to the production team.

But here’s what stung my sensitivities:

The Myopic Perspective. The name of the production, at least to me, inferred that “Chicagoland” would shine light on a broad range of topics and subjects, people and places — enough to provide an accurate, realistic perspective of Chicago and its environs in 2013, when the bulk of the filming took place.  After all, this tale spanned eight hours (minus commercials). Why did the producers virtually ignore the business community, the vital role played by transportation, the arts community, the suburbs for crying out loud!

Instead, we were subjected to scene-after-scene featuring Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Fenger High School Principal Elizabeth Dozier, punctuated with footage showing the aftermath of violence, followed by comments from Police Superintendent Gerry McCarthy.  And, as illustrated in the graphic above, these three people were the stars of the show.

The Gratuitous Cameos.  Bluesman Buddy Guy. Former Mayor Richard M. Daley. World-renowned chef Grant Achatz.  Conductor Riccardo Muti. These famous Chicagoans all got some face time during the series; but their time on camera really didn’t advance any story lines.

Why didn’t the producers convince a long-standing business person to share his or her perspectives? Or a leader from one of our institutions of higher learning?  We have a few good ones, you know.

The Lack of Anything New. Read the news reports.  Chicago has violence, and it’s gut wrenching, horrifying and and seemingly out of control in some neighborhoods.  It’s destroying the very fabric of what once were sound, stable communities.

So, did we need a mini-series disguised as objective film making to tell us and the rest of the world that people are routinely being shot and killed?  I say no.

One more thing: Less famous Chicagoans — people like me — also have insight on where the city’s been and can offer projections on where it’s going.   And, to their credit, the producers did feature some common folk.

But not enough.

Perhaps the next time a crew from California comes to town, they’ll talk to more of us.





Now, Thoughts from a Real Chicago Guy on CNN’s “Chicagoland” Series

By Edward M.  Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Those who get paid to comment have had their say.  Now, it’s my turn.

The topic: The controversial CNN series “Chicagoland,” an eight-part documentary of sorts about my home town.  Although with eight installments, “documentary” probably is a misnomer.  Perhaps “real-life urban mini-series” is more accurate.

chicagoland.twoIn the days before an after the debut episode March 6, the program generated the expected flurry of commentary.  After watching “Chicagoland” last week, I shut the TV off with these four thoughts in mind.

The Politics. Unquestionably, Chicago is known for politics, and with good reason. It’s well documented that for decades our elected officials have elevated politics to a high art.   From the onset, the first installment of “Chicagoland” centered on politics as it relates to two of our biggest problems:  Violent, often gang-driven crime in some neighborhoods and a financially strapped, under-performing public school system.  These two subjects were explored in footage featuring Mayor Rham Emanuel, Police Superintendent Gerry McCarthy and a remarkable woman, Elizabeth Dozier, principal of Fenger High School.  There was high drama, and there were poignant moments last Thursday; but I seriously question why the initial episode of “Chicagoland” focused so heavily on two topics and three people.  This set a tone of helplessness and despair.

The Problems.  Problems, Chicago has them, certainly, as depicted in Episode 1.  Headline-grabbing crime and a broken education system assuredly rank way too high on the scale.  But there was no mention in the first episode of the kind of problems that don’t make for combustible television and commentary.  Underfunded pensions, soaring taxes, gridlock-at-times traffic, the continued erosion of some outlying neighborhoods, out-of-control open-air drug markets — these and other issues plague Chicago .  Perhaps these will be covered later in the series, as they should, along with what’s being done to make things right.cnn-logo

The Good Stuff.  Politics and problems aside, a lot of good is taking place in Chicago. There’s tangible, big-picture stuff like a flurry of new downtown developments and revitalization — okay, gentrification — of some neighborhoods.  A new manufacturing sector — driven by technology — has emerged.  Cultural amenities and restaurants — and some professional sports franchises — are world class.  Like the other problems the city faces, maybe the producers of “Chicagoland” will address these later.

The Name. Reportedly, the name “Chicagoland” was coined by the legendary Col. Robert McCormick, editor and publisher of the Chicago TribuneTo me, it’s a silly title.  This metropolitan region has a lot of entertaining and attractive attributes.  But let’s leave the “land” monikers to all things Disney.  Besides, I never heard anyone from Chicago refer to the city or the region as “Chicagoland,” except in TV commercials hawking carpeting.

Clearly, the 60 minutes of “Chicagoland” Episode 1 got me and a lot of other people to take notice.  I plan to watch tomorrow’s installment, and perhaps I’ll have four more thoughts.

Here are some other thoughts from the PRDude on Chicago and politics: