Dear Mr. Mayor,
As a life-long Cub fan, I have been following the political events surrounding the Cubs rather closely. It seems that Tom Ricketts, who is the primary team owner, has a very wealthy father who lives in Nebraska. His father was thinking about donating to a Political Action Committee and publishing some political ads which are critical of our current president, your former boss.
As things unfolded, it became apparent you are livid they would consider doing such a thing. Many writers have pointed to the idea as stupid, how could they do something like that when the team is in negotiations with the city and looking for taxpayer funding to help improve Wrigley Field. In effect, the tune being played is something like, “How can they be so stupid as to anger the mayor, my God what are they thinking?”
Ah yes, Chicago politics at its finest. A little history is in order.
It was not too many years ago the owner of the White Sox wanted a new stadium. He wanted the taxpayers to build it for him, tax him as little as possible, so he could make a nice profit. Chicago politicians saw nothing wrong with that. Richie Daley was the Mayor and is a Sox fan. Of course he would do everything he could to spend taxpayer dollars, many millions of them, to build a new stadium.
The first step was to hire an engineering firm to provide political cover. The idea was to condemn Comiskey Park, say it is unsafe, so there was a real need for a new stadium. Oops! If memory serves me correctly, they said it was built like a fortress and good for at least another 50 years. What do they know? Somehow a second firm got hired and came to the predetermined conclusion the building was almost unsafe and something had to be done.
At that point, the Sox owner said that if a new stadium was not built he may have to move the team to St. Petersburg, FL. They had already built him a new stadium and were ready for him to come on down.
Well it got to the 11th hour; a deal for funding had to be struck by midnight or there would be no money for the Sox new stadium. As the minutes ticked by in the state house, phone calls went back and forth between state officials and the Mayor until a simple solution was found. They unplugged the clock in the chamber. That gave Chicago politicians more time to twist arms, make political deals spending even more taxpayer dollars in swaps for other political pet projects. The funding was approved and the clock plugged back in. The deal was cut before the midnight deadline on the only clock in the state that mattered, the one in the chamber.
Ah yes, Chicago politics at its finest. The fact that the legislature was spending taxpayer dollars against the will of the majority of the Illinois citizens was irrelevant, after all Ritchie is a Sox fan and wanted a new stadium.
It was not too long after that, the Cubs wanted to improve their stadium. Instead of asking the taxpayer to pay for it, the Tribune Company who owned the team at the time, was willing to pay for the improvements themselves. Of course that presented a problem, it would make it more difficult for the owners of the surrounding buildings to sell the seats on their rooftops and steal the product for their own profits. So the Chicago way prevailed once again. The City declared Wrigley Field a landmark and took over architectural control so those improvements were thwarted. That was OK though, Ritchie is a Sox fan anyway and the rooftop owners make lots of donations to the proper political party.
Now let’s fast forward a few years. Ritchie is gone, but Obama is a Sox fan and so is Rahm; funny how that works. The Cubs have new ownership and want to work with the city to make many necessary improvements to Wrigley. The idea being both the taxpayer and the new owners will contribute money to do so.
Oh my! Then it is learned that daddy is thinking about supporting a political ad being critical of the mayor’s former boss. How can they be so stupid?
The first crime is that I should have to be writing this. No sportswriter in Chicago would dare say what I am saying. They know the good mayor would unleash about 900 various inspectors on every facility they have in the state, they would find hundreds of code violations, massive fines would follow and they would be severely punished for speaking out against the mayor and/or his former boss. Ah yes, Chicago politics at its finest.
Let’s state some obvious facts:
The Chicago Cubs are the #1 tourist attraction in the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois. They are a big time economic asset to the community and generate a substantial amount of tax revenue for both the city and state.
The former Mayor and current Mayor are Sox fans.
If the Cubs pulled up stakes and left town (see Angels, Anaheim) the city would be losing a ton of tax money, real estate values in the neighborhood would plummet, and likely some local politicians would be held accountable.
Mr. Mayor, I would like to propose an idea. Let’s start by taking every registered voter in the City of Chicago. First thing is eliminate those who are actually dead, so now the list is probably culled down by around 40%.
OK, then we will have a public referendum on whether the mayor should be impeached because of abuse of power. Cub fans would vote yes and Sox fans would vote no. How about that Mr. Mayor, want to give that a try? We could even require the voters to present a photo ID to prove who they are. We wouldn’t want those pesky Cub fans voting several times under different names, now would we?
Everything I have read so far is stating that Tom Ricketts should be apologizing to the mayor. How could his father, who lives in Nebraska, have the audacity to exercise his right to free speech and even think about being critical of your former boss?
The worst adjective I could think of to describe Tom Ricketts is a bit naïve. On the other hand, for the mayor to publicly acknowledge his anger, and make it known it may factor into the negotiations with the city is an absolute abuse of power. Mr. Mayor, Tom Ricketts owes you no apology. You owe him and all citizens of Chicago an apology.
For those of you keeping score at home, let me summarize. The implication of every article I read was the Ricketts family was guilty of a misdeed. Being this is Chicago politics, the motive of the mayor and politicians would be to punish them so they never ever do something like this again. The idea being their misdeed would certainly hamper the negotiations, wink, wink! What was their misdeed you ask? There are no nasty political ads being blared about the nation. Nothing has transpired at all according to the articles I have read. It was the idea of even “thinking” about doing so which caused the ire of the mayor.
What has the mayor done wrong? So far he has done nothing wrong either……that is unless you would consider “thinking” about punishing the Ricketts family and looking for clever ways to do so an abuse of political power. I am criticizing the mayor for the same thing Mr. Ricketts is being criticized for…..”thinking” badly.
You may have forgotten, Mr. Ricketts could move his team just like Mr. Reinsdorf threatened to do. It would serve you right to have your legacy be that you are the Mayor that drove the Cubs, the city’s #1 cash cow, out of town and into the suburbs.
Mr. Mayor, might I suggest an alternative brand of Chicago politics. How about actually working in tandem with the Ricketts family? How about showing them it is really possible for the government and private business to work together for the benefit of all. Perhaps then, like many business people, they would not feel a need to even think of being critical of government.
Didn’t Sears move their national headquarters out to the suburbs a few years ago? I wonder how that is working out for Chicago.