THE BLOG
12/14/2012 05:56 pm ET Updated Feb 13, 2013

Budgets, Unions and Billborads

The City Council passed its six-billion dollar budget with only three dissenting votes yesterday, and on this week's Chicago Newsroom host Ken Davis welcomed the Reader's Mick Dumke and Sun-Times/WFMT culture critic Andrew Patner for a discussion about budgets, unions, billborads and handguns in carry-ons. Here's Ken's description:

The National Rifle Association has conferred its "Expert Rating" on Andrew Patner for his shooting expertise, so who better to weigh in on the Concealed Carry flap? Well, he did get his rating at Camp Minocqua in 1973, and has never owned a gun, so you decide.

How does the Reader's Mick Dumke react to news of the Court's decree that Illinois will become the last concealed carry state? "In some ways I find it comforting," he explains. "I sorta proceed from the assumption that there are people who are carrying already. Like elected officials." "Yes", adds Patner. "Concealed even from himself".

Speaking of Donne Trotter, Patner tips his hat to Mark Brown, who writes today that we may soon see something unprecedented even in Cook County politics - a candidate who shows up for his slating session with his criminal attorney at his side to answer the sticky questions about the gun in the carry-on bag at O'Hare.

Dumke has been following in great detail Mayor Emanuel's successful effort to place gigantic electronic billboards all along the City's expressway system. "It's not gonna be a static billboard, bottom line, the screen's gonna be moving around. It's gonna be more like a big TV screen as you're driving down the highway."

It's a big, complicated contract that involves decades of obligations from the city in exchange for a vaguely-defined payback over the years. Unlike with the parking meter mess, when aldermen admitted they hadn't read it, says Dumke, "This time Ed Burke says, I actually read through the contract and I don't understand what it says". "As he pushes it through", adds Patner.

"Any time you zoom in on anything," says Dumke, "it's like the law firms who put these together, they get city work and now they're working for the contractor on this deal for 20, 30 years. And it's, like, they're working both sides of it. They're lobbyists."

Two union stories get the panel's attention. The Michigan Legislature's pushing through of "right to work" legislation and the dismissal of at least 350 union janitors at O'Hare.

"The day that Obama's in Michigan saying -- we need unions, and we can't kick out unions - (the Emanuel administration) kicks these unions out," says Patner.

"The bottom line is, we're outsourcing more middle-class jobs," Dumke asserts. "We're downsizing more middle-class jobs and making them lower-class jobs. Making them below-living-wage kinds of jobs. The city, in its move toward efficiency over the past few years has shed thousands of jobs. And when you look at the maps of where these employees disappeared from, they're neighborhoods on the south, southwest and west sides, primarily, and not coincidentally, these are the same neighborhoods that have had skyrocketing foreclosures."

If you're more familiar with Andrew as a cultural and music critic, you might be taken aback at his ability to rant about politics. Here's a sample, dealing with the random assignment of Arthur Hill as judge in the RJ Vanecko trial:

"He sits on the bench and he makes a speech: I worked for Daley, I worked for Daley's political campaign. I worked for Richard Devine, I ran his political campaign. I worked for Anita Alvarez, the mayor put me on the CTA Board and gave me municipal bond work. But I can be completely impartial. I mean we just have lost sight that there's ever anything to be ashamed about."