In With the New: Some resolutions for the city for 2009

2008 ended on a somewhat sour note for Chicagoans.

Sure, it was a bad year for most everyone in a lot of ways, but at least the election of the South Side’s favorite son, Barack Obama, gave us some inspirational hope to go on. Then Hot Rod Blagojevich stepped in and left us a nasty year-end surprise. For many across the nation–and indeed, here in Chicago–news that our beloved governor was trying to sell off Obama’s Senate seat and trying to get members of the Tribune editorial board fired for portraying him in a bad light seemed more like comical farce (I don’t know about you, but “It’s a fucking valuable thing, you don’t just give it away” has entered my regular lexicon of catchphrases) than a crime worthy of serious indignation. “Oh, it’s corrupt Chicago politics!” they say. But Republican efforts to associate Obama with the governor’s illicit behavior have largely failed, and for those outside the state’s borders, the news is no longer of much concern. It is, once again, our problem, and it is a problem we shouldn’t take lightly. As the new year begins, what better time to start bettering ourselves as a city. We at the Chicago Weekly would like to take a moment to run through a list of New Year’s Resolutions we’ve come up with for our beloved metropolis. Happy New Year!

– To start with the obvious: how about some responsible action from our governor? Sure, it’s not South Side (or even Chicago) specific, but all of us are affected by his cynical abuse of power, and all of us should be embarrassed that we’ve helped put him there. It’s probably unlikely at this point, but at some point he’ll have to leave office, eventually after which we should make a conscientious effort to vote in someone who won’t end up on the wrong end of a federal investigation for a change.

– The end of 2008 seemed to put to rest the utopian notion that Obama’s election had ushered in a new post-racial political environment. As scholars abstractly debated the issue of “Race and the American Voter” at the University of Chicago in December, debate swirled over whether Obama’s seat would be filled by another African-American. A likely contender was Jesse Jackson, Jr.–too bad his alleged pay-to-play offer will probably knock him out of the running regardless of who ends up filling the seat. Of course, the seat already has a tentative occupant: Roland Burris, the former state comptroller and the first African-American elected statewide in Illinois. Unfortunately, his racial status seems to be his biggest qualification to the position–by choosing an African-American outside the list of likely candidates, Blagojevich proved just how criminally brilliant he could be. With Bobby Rush on hand to all but dare the Senate to “lynch” the new appointee, race remains a hot button issue for us all. Let’s hope temperatures cool down a notch, so we can start looking beyond skin color and start appointing the best public servants we can; we sure haven’t done a good job of it thus far.

– In more South Side-specific news, the end of the year brought some bad news for the Bridgeport art community, as the construction of a new police station at 32nd and Halsted brought the closing of the renowned art gallery, 32nd&Urban. Citing “pushback from the police station,” which according to co-owner Lauren Pacheco was “dropping little hints here and there” about the gallery’s potentially problematic existence, 32nd&Urban decided to shut its doors. Granted, the space attracts a crowd well beyond its legal capacity, but the place had never been shut down or had any previous run-ins with the law. It’s a shame to see it go, but the owners promise to remain active on the scene–hopefully the police crackdown on “folks who are trendy” (as Pacheco describes her audience) doesn’t turn out to be a new trend in 2009.

– Finally, with the ongoing recession, entertainment is as crucial as ever. We here at the Weekly don’t cover sports much, but we recognize its importance in distracting society from its ills. That said, the White Sox and the Bears did pretty well last year–just not well enough. Maybe take a championship title home this year, give Chicagoans another reason to celebrate. It brings out the best in people. Not counting Blagojevich.