Friday, September 18, 2009

Zappa says...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The other shoe drops

Mayor Morrissey has been warning us for months (mostly after his re-election ) that a second round of layoffs was on the way. Now it's here.

The mayor's office issued a statement late in the day, well after the 6 PM newscasts, from what I'm told by union brethren, and after the Rockford talk radio stations had yielded to syndicated programming and reduced power for the night.

But the mayor made sure that the Wanxiang (pronounced wang-chung, as best I can tell) groundbreaking was a top news story all day. The press was all too eager to oblige the space/time-killer that made their jobs easier.

How many times is this guy gonna pat himself on the back over something that was only marginally newsworthy months ago? I mean, really, what part of this story is new aside from the gold shovel photo-op? Nothing's new. It's just another attempt to polish a turd.

That's admirable, Larry. Announce that you're eliminating 60 city jobs (30 already through attrition, plus 30 more layoffs) the same day you re-announced you've created 60 for a private company being subsidized by debt to taxpayers. That's music to our ears. Should we thank you now?

Morrissey was recently quoted in the weekly as saying the cuts are nothing to apologize for. Really, Larry? Aren't you about to take another trip to China on the taxpayer dime? I and plenty of others can't even afford to take the family to the Dells, so you probably better not come home without 1,000 PetroChina jobs in your pocket, or we might begin to question your sincerity.

Mark my words, the city is going to be facing at least one civil/human rights lawsuit (re: Barmore), and it won't be cheap. My gut tells me the officers probably fucked up, and we need only look at the county to see how how much something like that affects us.

We're going to pay the Bachman family more than $15,000,000 for the questionable judgment of just one deputy. That figure is sure to rise, because there's still another civil suit waiting in the wings.

As for the latest city cuts, these are union jobs we're talking about, so I can only guess public safety is at stake since they're negotiating new contracts. This is where Doug Block is sure to re-emerge from hibernation for the first time since losing to Morrissey in April.

If he cares about winning an election, Block's sure to run again in 2013. After all, even Larry lost his first bid, but he'll be an even easier, doe-eyed target by the time the next election rolls around.

Larry wants the union employees to suck it up just like the unrepresented employees had to. After winning re-election without the support of the unions, Morrissey has nothing to lose by offering them a Cleveland Steamer now. I talked a lot about this during the mayoral race, and I still say the police and fire unions made a political misstep by not making concessions then, which they're going to pay even more for now.

On the other hand, it's just not right for the mayor and aldermen to take public dollars from public jobs and give them to private companies, but it's their show, and none were voted out of office this year. I suppose we get the government we deserve.

We the Taxpayers of Rockford pay more than our fair share for the services we expect the city to deliver, but they're telling us we're expecting too much because of the drunken sailor spending spree that leaves them broke. Yet the city continues accumulating new debt at full steam so they can offer incentives to private developers that really have nothing to offer us when all's said and done. Sure they can boast new jobs, but at the cost of how many others? It's only the "new jobs" that are mentioned come re-election time, and the challengers are often too inexperienced to have any knowledge of how easily they could overturn the status quo.

Now, after proposing another round of cuts to basic city service jobs, the mayor is gonna skip town for China, but I'm sure he'll send us a postcard if there's another flood.

Speaking of weather, pray we have a mild winter. Snow plowing was specifically mentioned as an operation that will suffer from the cuts. But that could change, because William Charles/Rockford Blacktop is overseeing Rockford's advisory budget committee.

If you ask me, when the cuts are made, my money is on snow plowing being spared. After all, if there's less plowing, the roads won't need to be replaced so soon, and Billy Chuck wouldn't want that.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Comcast Tax and Congrats, you own Church School!

In committee this week, aldermen started the ball rolling on a back-door tax increase that Comcast will collect on their behalf.

It seems our former cable provider, Insight Communications, fell somewhere in the neighborhood of $440,000 below the mark in its franchise agreement with the city over the years, before being muscled out of town by Comcast.

Good thing we caught that mistake, right? Wrong.

It's clear now that our civic mothers and fathers have number-crunchers working around the clock to find ways to fuck the taxpayers into solving their budget problem.

Comcast isn't gonna pay it. They're technically not the ones who owe it, but they're on the hook, so it'll be passed on directly to cable subscribers. That is, unless you hold your council accountable and demand they go after the ones who owe the money to all of us.

Your elected leaders think you're too stupid to realize it's you, not Comcast, who's being squeezed here. Pisses you off, doesn't it?

Let 'em know what you think. We'll be watching for you Monday night.

Now, if council members want to be heroes, they oughta sue Insight for the money owed. The city has quite a few lawyers on staff. In the best interest of Rockford and its taxpayers, why not put one or two of them on the case?

Oh, that's right. Their dockets are already full of other ham-handed failures, like the Church School debacle.

Church School, believe it or not, is an amazing structure, but one that has been neglected to near ruin. I, for one, think it can be salvaged, but let's keep its ownership and liabilities private.

Rev. Earl Dotson, Sr. and crew managed to pick the place up at a bargain rate many years ago, but nothing has been done with it, and it's become an eyesore, many say.

By the way, Rev. Dotson's kid, Earl Dotson, Jr., is one of Scott Christiansen's right-hand men, probably just so the chairman can say he has a black friend.

Anyway, Rev. Dotson's group claim they want to turn the place into some sort of community center, but it seems they can't even mow the lawn, and fines levied by the city have turned into liens.

It probably wouldn't have been a big deal on either end, except that an Indiana developer said he wanted to turn Church School into senior housing. That would have made the property produce taxes, and would have made the mayor and aldermen look like they're not ignoring the west side.

But Dotson didn't want to sell, at least not for what they were offering.

So, to loosen the gears, the Patrick Hayes legal team began foreclosing on the property. Since then, though, the city was passed over for a stimulus grant it was counting on to close the deal for the old-folks apartments.

This is just another example of the administration's best-case planning approach that led to optimistic projections for revenues, ignoring economic indicators that things were headed for the shitter.

Now you and I are gonna be stuck with Church School, and the cost of leveling it, which the Morrissey bunch seem hell-bent on. Jeez, couldn't Larry be a little more imaginative and perhaps consider -ahem- lofts?

Wow, that was hard to type with a straight face.

Anyone else pissed off about the inept legal beagles who can't seem to get a single thing right in this administration? They constantly choose the wrong battles, and they simply don't know how to treat people with respect and dignity. In short, they're a bunch of bullies who will try to win at any cost to you and I.

And they hardly ever win.

Just to be a complete dick, I think Rev. Dotson should look into securing historic protection for the building, which was erected in the 1800s.

And while Rockford's got Jesse Jackson's attention, Dotson might as well lump that onto Jackson's local agenda. Whether intentional or not, my black brothers and sisters have a legitimate case building against Morrissey.

Most of us remember how Jackson said he wanted to tear Obama's balls off for, in his opinion, talking down to blacks. I can only wonder what Jackson would do to Larry. As part of the franchise agreement, Comcast should carry that as a pay-per-view event. Remind me to call my bookie about this.

Holy cow. Speaking of Jackson, did anyone else think he sounded either drunk and/or heavily medicated as he gave his remarks to the council Tuesday night?

Jesse is a gifted speaker, but he must be saving the good stuff for bigger cities, 'cause what he said at council was shallow prattle at best. Nevertheless, everyone adored him.

It's fun that Jesse's here, albeit a little surreal. He's gonna lose interest soon enough, though, and Rockford will left alone in an awkward silence again. Jesse's not gonna deliver us. We're gonna have to do that ourselves.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Hands up and head down, Raoul returns to the table

The kids are back in school, and the chill in the air tells me it's time to cover the tomato plants and return to the blogosphere. (By the way, I'm looking into taking Rockford Rhetoric to the Internet airwaves in a talk radio format for interaction with live callers, but I want to be careful about disguising my real voice. Suggestions from techies are most welcome).

We had our first (indoor) fire of the season tonight, and the usual suspects began arriving for City Council debauchery around 4 this afternoon, after I sent notice that some of them were welcome in my home once again. The others are barred until they make good on bets from the general election. You know who you are, you Irish bastards.

Some folks are only able to endure summer months with the promise of football season in September. The derelicts that come around here, however, are junkies of a different sort. We call the cabin fever months "political season."

Right on time, things are heating up.

Mayor Morrissey and Chief Epperson have got their hands full after a couple of white officers may have stepped in a tall, steaming pile a week ago.

Some cops work their entire careers without ever drawing their service firearm on an individual. The two officers in question, however, have (justifiably, according to grand juries) employed deadly force before; in the case of officer Oda Poole, several times.

I might be mistaken, but as I recall, the mayor isn't typically part of press conferences related to use of force issues. The exception to that rule in this case suggests either an acknowledgment of potential wrongdoing on the part of officers, or that the mayor immediately understood the gravity of the situation, regardless of whether officers were justified in their actions.

Mark Anthony Barmore, who had a notable criminal history, led police to the House of Grace church as he reportedly tried to elude them. The officers didn't find God there, but Barmore did meet his maker, unfortunately.

From what I understand, "Prophetess" Sheila Brown was acquainted with Barmore and let him into the building, where a day care and pre-school were in session.

Can you imagine the shit that would have hit the fan if this had been a public school that offered refuge to an alleged criminal while children were present? Keep this aspect in mind. It will become an issue at some point as this unfolds.

Prophetess Brown, wife of "Apostle" Melvin Brown, the church's pastor, is reported to have witnessed the shooting, along with the couple's teenage daughter.

As I understand it, from their story, Barmore cooperated when police tried to take him into custody, allegedly emerging from a closet with his hands up and head down.

Unconfirmed rumors, however, suggest the Browns have reason to dislike the police. One source acquainted with the Browns said it is common knowledge at the House of Grace that Pastor Brown is/was what a number of my brethren would call an "O.G."

It is alleged Brown found God while serving a prison sentence, possibly for murder or attempted murder, according to the source's tentative recollection. The source further speculated the House of Grace hasn't been staying afloat on the passing of the meager collection plate alone.

While the day care/school portion of the ministry implies some form of state funding, the source suspects Brown has other means of income, about which he would not speculate. This is where the nature of the Browns' relationship with Barmore will become a facet of the investigation.

This is also where deeper legal questions could arise. In the eyes of the law, a relationship between the clergy and a parishioner is subject to the same privacy afforded to an attorney-client or doctor-patient relationship.

Also, it wasn't so long ago that a Mexican illegal alien took the world stage as she successfully sought refuge from deportation for months within the confines of a church not so far from Rockford.

As Linda McNeely deftly noted tonight, the church is an especially sacred place among the African-American culture. The fact that officers pursued their unarmed suspect to the point of shooting him to death in proximity to children does not bode well with the black community, nor should it. This is where my black brothers and sisters may have a legal leg to stand on.

There is really no reason for the situation to have escalated to this point, and I think Morrissey and Epperson are doing their best to acknowledge this. Chances are, the actions of the officers will be ruled justified, regardless of what transpired, but the powers that be must also be aware that the black community has them by the balls in any case.

When Jesse Jackson came to town over the weekend, he was apparently able to walk right into the mortuary and view Barmore's body. He claimed the only wounds on the corpse were three bullet holes in the back and a grazed neck. The wounds will be major evidence in the investigation, and they'll be consistent with both versions of what transpired, I suspect. Those whose minds are already made up won't be burdened by factual details, and that's why Jackson's visits may be unfortunate for our city.

Assuming Jackson did view the front and back of the body, eliminating the possibility of the bullets holes in the back as actually being exit wounds, this could be significant detail, however.

Nevertheless, according to witness reports, as many as 9 shots were fired at Barmore. Initial reports from police indicate Barmore tried to wrestle a gun away from one of the cops, leading to the use of lethal force.

"The suspect resisted:" I've seen enough movies and TV shows to know that's the excuse that's always given when a suspect winds up dead. But what if it's true? Would anyone in the African- American community believe it? This is where the situation becomes hopeless.

In the early 1990s, the world was witness to the savage beating of Rodney King at the hands of the notorious LA police. The resulting furor (the largest urban disturbance in American history) serves as a reminder of the power of hopelessness over fear. One need only look at Russia as an example of this principle.

For this reason, I suspect, Epperson and Morrissey are taking a decidedly sensitive approach, promising that justice will prevail.

But if the verdict in the OJ Simpson murder case in the 1990s is any indication, the black community will side with the black man over "the man," regardless of what an outside independent investigation learns about the circumstances.

I'll be the first to say I have more in common with a poor black woman than with a rich white man, but I suspect Rev. Jackson's appearances aren't going to help matters, but rather unnecessarily deepen the racial divide that's inappropriately been attached to this case.

It's a case of whether officers had no other choice but to open fire. Frankly, it's hard to imagine how it came to that, but it's probably best to keep an open mind. Let's see what "the system" decides, and then determine whether it is just.

Stay tuned, fellow Patriots, and love your neighbor 'til it hurts.