Letters to the Editor

By Letters from Readers

Forrest Claypool

The column run on February 7 by Andrew Hammond (“Claypool Is Just What Cook County Needs”) on the Stroger vs. Claypool contest for the presidency of the Cook County Board was divorced from reality. Hammond presents it as a fight between a reformer and an old-line machine politician. In reality, it is just an internal machine contest for control of jobs and graft.

Hammond is apparently an exponent of the political system descried in Orwell’s 1984, where inconvenient facts are wiped out by dumping them in the “memory hole.” Contrary to Hammond’s account, Claypool’s political career did not start with his appointment as the superintendent of the Chicago Park District in 1993. It actually began in 1989, when he became Richard M. Daley’s chief of staff. After spending the next four years firmly embedded in the bowels of the machine, he was picked by the mayor in 1993 to tighten up the mayor’s control of the park district and duly appointed by the supine commissioners of the park district.

Claypool began his career at the park district by firing almost 1,000 workers and cutting services to the poorer sections of the city. The jobs lost were outsourced to private firms who had two big advantages. They were able and willing to contribute to machine political campaigns, without the risks of putting the arm on people with government jobs to make political contributions. They also had the ability to hire workers, many of them from the notorious Hispanic Democratic Organization, who were not subject to the court-ordered mandates of the Shakman decrees, which provided that government workers could neither be hired nor fired on political grounds.

Locally, he presided over the sudden demolition of the old gun club building on the grounds of the South Shore Cultural Center, just in time to keep it from being converted to a nature center. This served as a model for the midnight obliteration of Meigs Field by his boss, Mayor Daley.

Claypool openly flouted the Illinois Lakefront Protection law with his unilateral destruction of lakefront facilities. He had to be sued by the Friends of the Parks to force him to reveal some details of park district operations

He took the parks away from the people they are supposed to serve by privatizing as many revenue-producing facilities as possible, resulting in steeply increased fees for parking, golfing, boating, and many other activities. Local firms, which formerly sponsored concerts in park district locations, now find out that they are shut out by mysterious companies from Texas and other nearby locations, which are also, incidentally, generous contributors to machine-sponsored political campaigns.

Having established his credentials as a reformer by bringing the Chicago Park District more firmly under Daley’s personal control, Claypool returned to his old job as the Mayor’s chief of staff in 1998. He then served as campaign manager for Daley’s next campaign.

In short, Mr. Hammond is just advocating that, under the guise of reform, we replace a South Side black machine politician with a North Side white machine politician, both of them integral cogs in the Daley machine.

Alan Mora Dobry

Former Ward Democratic Committeeman

Denmark’s Cartoons

Rahaf Kalaaji’s editorial, “The Cartoons of Muhammad Are Only Racist Islamophobia” misses the point. The editorial ignored how Denmark’s “racist” government provides, by some estimates, the five percent of Muslims in Denmark with 40 percent of its country’s welfare payments. The editorial also glossed over how the recent protests started. Spontaneous mass demonstrations don’t often happen in Syria, Iran, or Pakistan. It was not until radical imams in Denmark decided to incite the population, several months after the cartoons were published, that this all began.

But the editorial’s largest failure comes from its conclusion, that Muslims would be “the first offended” if cartoons defacing Moses were printed. If they were printed? Israel and Jews are the constant focus of Anti-Israel cartoons in the Muslim world that make the nation out to be run by Zionist Nazis who were responsible for 9/11.

The truth is that other societies can still be offended and resist declaring fatwas and burning embassies. Evangelicals in America feel that secular liberals who run The New York Times have an anti-religion agenda, and try to find a Republican who can’t say they have seen a political cartoon that makes Bush out to be an inarticulate warmongering buffoon. I would also like to bring light to the Israeli Anti-Semitic Cartoon Contest (http://www.boomka.org/) where Jews try to outdo the Iranians at their own game with their own anti-Semitic cartoons. Perhaps it is not enough to ask for Muslims to respect our right to insult them, even if we respect their right to boycott. It’s time to ask, “Which is the greater phobia, the Western world’s ‘Islamophobia’ of the ‘Religion of Peace’, or the Muslim’s fear that they may be the victims of satire in an obscure newspaper published in Northern Europe?”

Noah Green

First-Year in the College

Hallowed Grounds

I share your feelings about Hallowed Grounds (“Say Uncle,” 2/14/06), the revamped Uncle Joe’s. I miss Bart Simpson staring down at me from the blackboard. I don’t care for the religious icons behind the counter, and I feel put off by the words “HAPPY HOUR.” I’m disappointed that the ambience has become more macabre.

In the past, if I had to choose between Uncle Joe’s and “the two large corporate institutions downstairs”—as Caitlin Doughty, general manager of Hallowed Grounds, referred to them in her letter to the editor—the choice was a no-brainer.

No longer.

In Doughty’s opinion, “It will also be a cold day in hell before our regular customers stop patronizing the shop simply because the name is different.” Well, no, not simply because the name is different. Because the atmosphere is different. Because I don’t feel so comfortable there anymore.

Do what you feel is best, Caitlin. I’m voting with my dollar, though. The next time I want a bottle of Naked Juice, I may well take that dollar downstairs—to Hutch.

David King

A.M., ‘04