“Our alderman is the invisible man. Calls unanswered, things not getting done…. The job isn’t that difficult.”

Silence Stops Nothing

Re “The Dead Zone” by Ben Joravsky, July 3

The worst part of Daley’s dictatorship is that the only one who writes about it is Ben Joravsky. Where is the rest of [the] press? Where is the public outrage? I pay $7,000 a year in property taxes to support Daley’s TIFs. But the CTA still stinks. There are just a handful of decent schools. My own alderman, Mary Ann Smith, like the rest of the crew, won’t vote against anything the mayor wants. No one speaks out and the Daley dictatorship does whatever it wants.

Robert Jones

My Alderman’s MIA

Re “The Rusty Lamppost Theory” by Mick Dumke, Our Town, July 3

Good to see a new alderman getting things done right from the start.

We live in 32 and our alderman is the invisible man. Calls unanswered, things not getting done. Matlak sure was no prize but at least ward needs got taken care of. The job isn’t that difficult.

Good work, Fioretti. Take notes, Waguespack.

Must be nice

Careful With the Coulter Comparisons

Re “The Real Hunter S. Thompson” by J.R. Jones, Movie Review, July 3

Ann Coulter is HST’s literary heir?! I’ve read a lot of criticism on HST and never heard him compared to Coulter once. Thompson was a maverick whose politics could be best described as libertarian (aka: hard to pin down), and though they’re present in his writing, they’re not the focus. Thompson used his twisted perspective as a method for delving into the heart of topics that every American could relate to; just see the McGovern campaign’s quote on Campaign Trail you mention in your article. That book contains some of the most intelligent analysis of American politics I’ve ever read, something you’re not going to get from Coulter. She’s a reactionary talking head and attack dog, but most importantly: a propagandist. You won’t find her on a “journey to the heart of the American Dream,” she’s too busy forging a brutal highway to some fucked-up nightmare.


If you read the entirety of the last paragraph, I think it’s pretty clear that Jones isn’t so much comparing Coulter to Thompson than simply suggesting that Thompson’s biased form of journalism indirectly paved the way for the likes of Coulter. Jones even states that Thompson would be “less free with his words” if he knew he was opening doors for commentators like Coulter, which implies that there is a telling difference between the two figures. I believe Jones is being more generous in his “comparison” (which to me functions more as a healthy provocation, a la Rosenbaum) than many of [the] backlashes let on.


The Old Lady’s Not That Old After All

Re “Best Open Mike: Gallery Cabaret,” Best of Chicago issue, June 26

Fred (host of the later Sunday open mike) wanted me to thank you Dear Reader for recognizing the rare essence of Sunday Open Mike @ The Gallery Cabaret. And I want to thank you for the mention of my original act, Fairly Unbalanced, albeit by description rather than by name. I am the old lady; the metalhead is my “son-in-law” Greg and the Renaissance Faire Devotee his wife (and Fred’s daughter) Belinda (to whom I am Jewish Fairy GodMother). I do want to correct one error, though; I am a sexagenarian, not septuagenarian—won’t be 70 until 2112!

CJ of The Mythic Figs, Fairly Unbalanced, Pot Luck, etc.


If Eyebrows Could Talk

Re “Calling It a Rant Won’t Make It Go Away,” Letters, June 12

The letter from Paul N. Keller printed in your June 12 issue raised two eyebrows—both of them mine. One eyebrow was raised when he “fully disclosed” that he is a municipal attorney with 20 success notches in his TIF encounters. I don’t understand my eyebrow reaction when a municipal attorney supports a TIF request approved by the owner—I mean, administrative head—of the municipality.

The other eyebrow was raised by what was disclosed by not disclosing it. The state law (not the fault of the city to obey the law) allows a municipality to collect levied taxes into a “Special Tax Allocation Fund” for 23 years without revealing it on the tax levy document. It is seldom revealed by municipal attorneys and municipal representatives at the public hearings. This eyebrow was raised higher when the phrase “because it is controlled by _________” did not follow: “Labeling a TIF account (technically, it’s called a ‘Special Tax Allocation Fund’) as ‘essentially a slush fund controlled by the mayor’ is just ignorant and irresponsible journalism...” (I almost got into a TIF when I thought I was being sTIFfed by a STAF.)

One eyebrow was raised, again, when it was disclosed that when an area is declared “blighted” it allows tax revenue to be used to make it economically feasible for private developers to invest in development projects in the area declared “blighted.” It was raised higher when it was not disputed that the blighted area in the Central Loop TIF district generated about $110 million in one year (over $2 billion in 23 years, which includes over $1 billion for schools—more with extensions).

The other eyebrow was raised again when it was indicated that diverting revenue to who knows what private developer’s use is OK when that revenue would not have existed. This eyebrow was raised higher when it was undisclosed that tax break incentives to the developer may be used in addition to outright financial support. This same other eyebrow was raised still higher when the phrase “because the problems with TIF are________” did not follow: “The TIF Act is complex and far from perfect, but the problems with it are not those that Joravsky has been ranting about for four years...”

TIF-STAF accounts are permissible, not mandatory. The TIF act is complex—I wonder why. If the diversion of taxes by TIF-STAFs is beneficial to schools and the Park District, why is it necessary for the superintendent of schools to appear year after year in Springfield to try to put the blame there for the shortfall when the inauguration of a TIF should assume that the diversion of funds into TIF means the schools are fully funded? And why was a shortage of funds blamed when the Olympic-size Portage Park heated swimming pool opened three weeks late?

As a sidelight, my eyebrows are raised so high that no one recognizes me anymore. Is this grounds for a lawsuit? I should probably ask a municipal attorney for advice.

Ed “the eyebrows” Irsch

Dare I Laugh?

Re “How to Make Money on the Internet” by Deanna Isaacs, the Business, June 19

The story by Deanna Isaacs about those Internet money makers—that was a joke, right? You weren’t serious, were you? Those guys aren’t real, are they? That article was in fact a deft parody of breathless 1990s Internet-entrepreneur worship, wasn’t it? The people from the Baffler were behind this somehow, weren’t they? Sometimes it’s hard to tell.

David Stein

Dishonorably Charged

Re “The Oyster Whisperer” by Mike Sula, January 12, 2007

I am writing to you as a concerned reader and as an Army combat veteran.

I found the story to be interesting, however I do have a concern that [Mark Mavrantonis’s] military service may be fabricated. I have served in the Army for the past eight years and have worked with Army Rangers and Special Forces personnel in combat. From the story and my research I don’t think what he is claiming is possible. Did you vet these claims? In a day when U.S. servicemen and women are dying everyday in combat, making false claims of service or valor is not only distasteful but dishonorable.

Philip Aubrey

Mike Sula replies:

Mavrantonis now says he “exaggerated” his military record. According to a U.S. Army spokesman, he enlisted in 1987, served domestically as a Combat Engineer, and was discharged in 1995. He never served in the Special Forces.

Can You Trust the Herpes Test?

Re Savage Love by Dan Savage, June 19

My doctor, not a regular reader, recently mentioned coming across your column where you told everyone to get tested for herpes, and his reaction, he said, was “Oh no.” The reason, he said, was that the tests available for herpes are horribly inaccurate. There are apparently two main types of herpes, one more virulent than the other. Theere is no reliable test for the less virulent of the two; not only might it give a negative reading for someone who has herpes, but it’s capable of giving a false positive, and this happens fairly regularly. He gave me the impression that the test is better for people who have the worse type of herpes, but the test is only a little more accurate for that strain.

We need some better tests, but maybe your readers should know about the limits of the reliability of the only available test.