Monthly archives: May, 2008

Assault with M&Ms?

Our “Land of the Free and Home of the Brave” can be awful odd sometimes.

A report out of Iowa from the Associated Press tells the story of a college student who was arrested when he allegedly struck an officer with some M&Ms:

Sean McGuire was arrested early Sunday at a convenience store after Drake University security guards noticed the colored candies falling on the ground around the officer. When the officer turned around, an M&M hit his shoulder, according to a police report.

According to the report, McGuire said he threw the candy at the officer because he was “sticking up for his friend.”

I’d love to know what the judge does with this one.  Our courts have become extremely intolerant in recent years.

For now, this kid is out on $1000 bond.


Park Forest to be cut in half after CN acquisition of EJ&E

Canadian National in Chicago

One thing is certain regarding the proposed acquisition of the EJ&E railroad by Canadian National: it’s not good news at all for Park Forest.

There’s no other way to put it. The municipality, which is about 30 miles directly south of Chicago’s Loop, would most likely be cut in two unless CN builds either an overpass or and underpass at the railroad crossing on Western Avenue.

Representatives from the Village of Park Forest attended a meeting on April 29 with representatives from Canadian National and returned with information provided by CN that clearly demonstrates that most CN rail traffic will be diverted from the Chicagoland Metro area and end up in Park Forest’s back yard. In essence, Park Forest will be become a town cut in half for most of the day, while traffic along Orchard Drive will continue to increase.

Police, fire and Emergency Medical Service response times will also be adversely effected.

If the viaduct under the tracks at Orchard should ever flood…. Well, do the math. Orchard Drive is the only access to the north end of town from the police department and fire station.

According to information gathered by the Chicago Operating Rules Association (C.O.R.A.) from the October 2007 Canadian National application to the Surface Transportation Board, Forest Park, IL, will see rail traffic decrease to 0 trains per day from 5.4 trains per day, while Park Forest, IL, will see traffic increase from 8.6 trains per day to 31.6 trains per day. The story is even worse in the Joliet and Walker, IL, areas, where rail traffic will increase from 18.5 to 42.3 trains per day. Traffic between East Sidling/Eola and West Chicago will increase from 10.7 to 31.6 trains per day.

Northwest Indiana also suffers if the deal goes through, with rail traffic increasing from roughly 10 trains per day to more than 29 trains per day. Gary, IN, will see traffic increase from 11.8 to 31.8 trains per day.
CN Rail Map
The map on the left details the shift in rail traffic in the Chicagoland area. Click here for full-size PDF . (Graphic: CORA)

Where is the extra traffic coming from? Easy — it’s coming from Chicago and municipalities lucky enough to be closer to the Loop.

Compare these numbers with other communities along the current CN tracks inside the EJ&E belt that surrounds the Chicagoland area. The CN tracks that currently run parallel with the Metra Electric Line will lose almost all of their daily traffic. Markham will drop from 19.5 to 2.0 trains per day. Riverdale, Kensington and Wildwood will drop from 8.4 to 2.0 trains per day. Blue Island, which currently sees 14.9 trains per day, will see only one. Tracks in the Chicago Loop will drop from 4.6 and 6.4 trains per day down to zero trains per day. Schiller Park drops from 19.3 to 2.0 trains per day. Hawthorne goes from 4.5 to zero trains per day.

CN acknowledges they received substantial public comment about the increases in traffic. In a Surface Transportation Board Corrected Decision document dated April 23, 2008, CN says “Many commenters suggested that the Board should require CN to install highway/rail grade separations or change rail operations wherever vehicle delays or safety risk would exceed the existing conditions.”

CN makes vague promises on this point, saying the Environmental Impact Analysis (EIS) will “address vehicular delays at rail crossings and intermodal facilities due to increases in rail traffic operations as a result of the proposed transaction. Estimates of typical delays will be made for highway/rail at-grade crossings that have an ADT of 2,500 vehicles per day or are within 800 feet of another crossing. Vehicle delay analysis will be done for traffic levels in years 2015 and 2020. Detailed analysis also will be conducted at highway/rail at-grade crossings that have an ADT of less than 2,500 vehicles per day, but have unique circumstances that make such evaluations appropriate.”

Any way we slice it, Park Forest loses in this transaction, unless CN does the only appropriate thing and builds an overpass or underpass on Western Ave.

(Photo: CN)

R. Kelly trial finally under way

The Chicago media is calling it the “R. Kelly Porn Trial.” After successfully delaying proceedings for six years, Kelly’s attorneys made last-ditch efforts to further delay the inevitable. The defense claimed that potential jurors would be influenced by pre-trial media coverage, specifically mentioning recent articles in the Chicago Sun-Times.

The Sun-Times reported Friday that a potential witness in the R. Kelly trial — who would testify to having a threesome with Kelly and an underage girl — was allegedly paid by an aide to the singer in order to get back an incriminating sex video.

“There is no escaping the fact that the Sun-Times will be in every news box in Cook County,” said defense lawyer Marc Martin.

That’s very flattering for the Sun-Times, but it’s hardly true. While circulation of the Sun-Times is respectable, there are no doubt people in Cook County who do not regularly read the paper or follow its stories online. I would bet that there are plenty of people in Cook County who have never heard of R. Kelly, never heard one of his songs or don’t know that they have, and could care less who he is.

It is astounding that this case has stalled in the courts this long, and the court is making every effort to ensure the press is locked out of the initial proceedings:

Exactly how the opening moment of a trial six years in the making played out is unclear, however, because sheriff’s deputies barred reporters from entering the courtroom. In a case kept shrouded in secrecy by Cook County Circuit Judge Vincent Gaughan, the opening moments of the trial were also behind closed doors.

Kelly, 41, faces 14 counts of child pornography for a videotape authorities say was shot between Jan. 1, 1998, and Oct. 1, 2000, and shows him engaging in a variety of sex acts with a girl as young as 13. He has pleaded not guilty.

Six years.

I have no doubt R. Kelly will get a fair trial. If anything, the six-year crawl to justice simply bolsters arguments that the Olympia Fields resident has been treated with more fairness than most others who are accused of crossing the law.

50 Superdelegates ready to endorse Obama

Without providing specific names, The Huffington Post reports that 50 superdelegates are prepared to endorse U.S. Senator Barack Obama for President of the United States.

Rep. Lacy Clay (D-MO), Sen. Barack Obama’s Missouri co-chairman and pledged Obama superdelegate, said Obama will gain the support of 50 undecided Democratic superdelegates later this week, according to the Columbia Missourian.

It’s over. While Senator John McCain may sound magnanimous, friendly and at peace, he’s got to be nervous. This is the Republican Nightmare and the Democrats’ dream.  Senator Clinton would have been a great nominee, but Barack will be incredible.

It’s gotta be Obama

Barack Obama

The stage is set for tomorrow’s primary elections in Indiana and North Carolina. 218 delegates are up for grabs: 84 in Indiana and 134 in North Carolina.

If any Democrats are undecided, listen: It’s gotta be Obama. Here’s why.

First, let me be clear. If Hillary Clinton somehow wins the nomination, I will fight for her as if the future of the world depended on it. But if anyone in North Carolina or the Hoosier state has any doubts, go with Obama.

Don’t worry about the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. We all have a crazy uncle in our families. I had the highest respect for Rev. Wright until last week. The National Press Club appearance was unnecessary and narcissistic. He says he’s not a politician but a pastor. I don’t buy it. He’s sounding more and more like a politician attempting late night comedy — and that’s never a good thing.

Forget the Reverend. No matter who wins the nomination for the Democrats, we’re going to find a lot more people they know or knew who occasionally went off the deep end. And we’ll find the same for John McCain. Remember, John McCain’s wife Cindy has already been outed for drug addiction, and steeling the drugs from her own nonprofit medical organization.

Oh, my.

Look, we need Barack Obama. Hillary is wonderful, but she’s running on a 90s redux platform, and that’s not good enough for the primaries. Yes, Bill was wonderful back then, but his time has passed.

I’m not endorsing change for the sake of change. I’ve had the pleasure of talking to Barack Obama on a few occasions, and I am convinced he’s the best candidate for President of the United States. Lock it up now, and we can spend the next six months convincing rest of America that Barack Obama will help us rediscover what it means to be an American after 8 years of the Bush Administration throwing America in the mud.

It’s gotta be Obama. It’s time for change. It’s time for Barack.

(Photo: Barack Obama at the Rialto Theater in Joliet, IL, courtesy eNews Park Forest)

Finally some good news for Todd Stroger

At long last Cook County Board President Todd Stroger is getting some good press, and from the Chicago Sun-Times, no less. The Sun-Times has been extremely critical of Stroger’s recent blunders, as has the Chicago Tribune. This time, however, Stroger gets some good news:

Cook County Board President Todd Stroger is set to hand control of the county’s struggling health system to a panel of nine health care and industry executives he says “reflects the cultural, gender and racial diversity” of the county.

And Stroger’s choices are largely drawing praise.

The paper lists the names of those Stroger has chosen.

In March, the Chicago Tribune reported that Palatine, IL, was looking into ways that it could secede from Cook County. The issue in Palatine is not necessarily Stroger’s incompetence, but the higher taxes proposed by Stroger.

The Cook County Board needs to get a handle on all of this, or other municipalities on the outskirts of Cook County will consider like measures. There are strong arguments to be made for secession. Cook County’s equalizer may make sense for the City of Chicago, but it only makes a bad situation worse in the suburbs.

The first thing we need to realize is that taxes in Illinois make no sense. No one thought this mess through from start to finish. The Illinois tax code is a hodge-podge of nonsense.

Municipalities on the outskirts of Cook County are wise to consider other alternatives.