The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Cold, but not too cold

This winter Chicago has had below-average temperatures overall but nothing really cold. It's like a study in moderation, only unusual when you see the numbers rather than when you experience it:

Just one day this season has produced a sub-minus-17 Celsius low temperature and only one day has failed to climb out of single digits. Since the start of the three month (December through February) meteorological winter period, 38 of the 59 days—64% of them—have generated below normal readings.

It's a fact that except for New Year's Day, not a single day has produced a high over 4°C. And, the month of January has hosted only three days with highs above freezing—a fraction of the 141-year average of 14 above-freezing days to date. That's the fewest above-freezing days to occur in a January here in the 34 years since 1977.

Temperatures Saturday may poke above freezing long enough to turn the snow which has covered the ground here for 19 consecutive days a bit slushy. But a thaw capable of melting snow currently on the ground isn't in sight as we approach February 2011's arrival Tuesday, nor is a thaw expected in the week which follows.

The official temperature right now is 1°C, the warmest we expect it to be for at least the next week.

The fat lady sings: Emanuel stays on the ballot

Finally, this ridiculous exercise has ended. The Illinois Supreme Court ruled unanimously just a few minutes ago that Rahm Emanuel is a resident of Chicago, and therefore can stay on the ballot for city mayor:

The Chicago election board and a Cook County Circuit judge both ruled Emanuel met the residency requirements. The Supreme Court said the appellate court was in error in overrulling them:

"So there will be no mistake, let us be entirely clear. This court’s decision is based on the following and only on the following: (1) what it means to be a resident for election purposes was clearly established long ago, and Illinois law has been consistent on the matter since at least the 19th Century; (2) the novel standard adopted by the appellate court majority is without any foundation in Illinois law; (3) the Board’s factual findings were not against the manifest weight of the evidence; and (4) the Board’s decision was not clearly erroneous."

No kidding. And no surprise. The appellate court's ruling two days ago was one or both. The Supreme Court's opinion said what everyone knew (or should have known) in October, and slapped the Appellate Court pretty hard:

[T]he [Appellate] court determined that it was painting on a blank canvas, with no applicable authority to guide it other than the Moran quote. The court ultimately determined that, as used in section 3.1–10–5(a), "resided in" does not refer to a permanent abode, but rather where a person "actually live[s]" or "actually reside[s]." However, the court never explained what it meant by these terms, other than to say that the candidate does not qualify as a resident if this definition is used.

... Before proceeding to the merits, we wish to emphasize that, until just a few days ago, the governing law on this question had been settled in this State for going on 150 years.

(Citations deleted.)

In other words, the Appellate Court made up new law which they should not have done. Bad court. Bad court.

All right, this mini-farce is over. Let us resume our regularly-scheduled farce, already in progress...

Oh, not good: Illinois appellate court rules against everyone

The owner of the Chicago Blackhawks hockey team, and more importantly, of Wirtz Beverages, won a case against the people of Illinois today:

An appellate court tossed out Gov. Pat Quinn’s signature $31 billion construction program, widespread plans for video poker and higher taxes on candy and booze, declaring Wednesday in a ruling that they were unconstitutional.

The suit was brought by Chicago Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz, who runs a large liquor empire and opposed the liquor tax hikes included in the legislation.

The decision knocked out all four laws that represented the backbone of the public works program Quinn put together with bipartisan support two years ago. It was the culmination of an effort with legislative leaders who had found working with former Gov. Rod Blagojevich futile.

"This lawsuit was always about how the legislature passed this bill and the discriminatory tax on wine and spirits,” said a spokesman for Wirtz in an e-mail. “The decision affirms that and we are gratified by it."

So, according to Wirtz, increasing taxes on wine and spirits is worse than thousands of jobs lost and fixing the roads, bridges, and tunnels in Illinois. And now no one has any idea what the law will be, because the state will now appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court, keeping this in limbo for another two years.

I wonder why the Illinois courts of appeal have suddenly decided to thwart the people's will in two high-profile cases in two days? This will be interesting to watch.

The Last Word

Monday I cabbed out to the Gorilla Tango Theater near Chicago's Bucktown neighborhood for Chris Conley's and Kevin Sheehan's one-act play The Last Word. I loved it. I won't give anything away—at 30 minutes, any useful summary would spoil it—except to say that Sheehan and Conley have created an intriguing capsule of a world on GTT's tiny stage.

Becky Blomgren (Grace) brought her character to life with the right blend of vulnerability and integrity it required. The character has an odd trait that her mentor/antagonist Mandy (Whitney LaMora) takes for granted but should surprise her Zenish-hippie friend Trish (Amber Olivier) and the earnest but touchingly clueless Libby (Rosa SanMarch). The play remains faithful to the reality it creates, so that Grace's talent not only makes sense, but drives the story to its satisfying conclusion.

Conley (who also directed) confessed to me she'd like to tighten up a couple of bits in the script, and I think I know what she means. I hope she and Sheehan get the chance; I'd love to see a longer version that, for example, shows more of the relationship between Grace and Mandy before the argument that opens the play. But maybe not; it's a gem as it is, and I'd like to see more of Conley's work in the future.

The Last Word has one remaining performance on January 31st at 8pm. Tickets are $12.

Emanuel on the ballot...?

After yesterday's appellate court ruling, the Illinois Supreme Court has agreed to take the case immediately, but enjoined the Chicago Board of Elections from printing ballots without Emanuel's name on them:

"The Court is taking the case on the briefs filed by the parties in the appellate court," the order said. "No additional briefs will be filed in the Supreme Court. Oral argument will not be entertained."

Chicago election officials said about 300,000 ballots without Emanuel's name on them had been printed before the Supreme Court order. Those ballots will be quarantined and printing was to resume this afternoon with Emanuel's name on the ballot.

Did you hear a fat lady singing yesterday? Neither did I. Rahm Emanuel knows Malone's advice to Ness, after all.

Emanuel off the ballot...?

An Illinois Appellate Court has reversed the Chicago Board of Elections ruling allowing Rahm Emanuel to stay on our mayoral ballot next month:

Burt Odelson has argued Emanuel doesn't qualify to be on the ballot because the former White House chief of staff doesn't meet a requirement that the mayor of Chicago live in the city for one year before taking the office. "You can't mentally just have a residence," Odelson said last week after arguing before the appeals court. "You have to have a residence. You have to go somewhere."

Emanuel's attorneys have argued their client never abandoned his North Side home when he went to work in Washington, D.C. Both sides say they are prepared to take the case to the Illinois Supreme Court.

In the 24-page ruling, Justices Thomas Hoffman and Shelvin Louise Hall found that Emanuel didn't meet the one-year residency period required of municipal candidates, and that his service as President Obama's chief of staff didn't land him an exception for being away from home "on the business of the United States:"

Section 3-2's "business of the United States" exception is housed not only in the Election Code, but in a portion of the Election Code dealing exclusively with voter qualification, in fact in an Article titled "Qualification of Voters." See 10 ILCS 5/3-1 through 3-5 (West 2008).

As explained above, the Municipal Code sets forth two qualifications for candidates: they must meet the Election Code’s standards for a "qualified voter," and they must have "resided in" the municipality for one year preceding the election. The location of section 3-2's "business of the United States" exception—in the Election Code, and in an article of the Election Code dedicated exclusively to voter qualification—supports the conclusion that the exception applies only to the Election Code’s "qualified voter" standard, and not to any supplemental candidate qualifications located outside the Election Code.

Justice Bertita Lampkin dissented:

The majority failed ... to move past the issue of establishing residency to the relevant analysis, which turns on whether the candidate’s residency, which he had indisputably held, was abandoned when he worked in Washington, D.C., and leased his Chicago home.

The Board’s ruling—that the candidate in 2009 and 2010 did not abandon his status as a resident of Chicago and, thus, remained a resident of Chicago even though he was largely absent from this city from January 2009 until October 1, 2010—was not clearly erroneous. Intent is an issue of fact (Delk, 112 Ill. App. 3d at 738), and the majority acknowledges that the Board’s fact findings were not against the manifest weight of the evidence. This acknowledgment should have ended this case, and resulted in this court affirming the circuit court’s judgment, which confirmed the Board’s ruling that the preponderance of the evidence established that the candidate never formed an intent to either change or terminate his residence in Chicago, or establish his residence in Washington, D.C., or any place other than Chicago.

Because the candidate had established his Chicago residency, it is presumed to continue until the contrary is shown, and the burden of proof is on the person who claims that there has been a change.

Justice Lampkin further noted:

Finally, the majority’s decision certainly “involves a question of such importance that it should be decided by the Supreme Court.” Supreme Court Rule 316 (Official Reports Advance Sheet No. 26 (Dec. 20, 2006), R. 316, eff. Dec. 6, 2006. Consequently, I believe this panel should certify this case under Supreme Court Rule 316, which would permit review of the majority’s decision in the most expeditious manner possible. The majority, however, has refused to certify this case under Rule 316. As of the writing of this dissent, there is less than one month before the election and even less time for absentee ballots to be mailed out and returned. An opinion of such wide-ranging import and not based on established law but, rather, on the whims of two judges, should not be allowed to stand.

That means the Supreme Court may not hear the case in time for the start of early voting next week.

It's a good thing for Rahmbo that "Emanuel" is easier to spell than "Murkowski."

It happens every year

At least the sun is out:

We had days last year close to -17°C, but it was last this cold on 5 February 2009. Parker is bored, but even he didn't seem to want to stay outside this morning.

As an aside, because of the radiator in my living room the Inner Drive Technology Worldwide Data Center that I can't turn off, I have two windows open right now and it's still 24°C3°C above normal—over by the server rack.

Anniversary of "my god that's cold!"

Forecasters predict Chicago will get down to its coldest temperature so far this winter, -19°C, overnight:

What arrives Thursday night and Friday morning on gusty northwest winds is but a lobe of cold air off that vast wintry reservoir of air. If there's one piece of good news which accompanies the cold blast, it's that the chill is to hit hard for a day and a half then back off, giving way to a more moderate brand of cold air this weekend. But, while its stay here is to be comparatively brief, the near -18°C low temperature predicted at O'Hare is to be accompanied by 24-32 km/h sustained winds likely to generate dangerous wind chills under 20-below---and potentially as low as 30-below in a few of colder locations north and northwest of the city.

But on this day in 1985 we experienced -33°C, the coldest temperature recorded in Chicago. If I recall correctly that was one of only two days in my four years of high school when they closed the school for weather—because they couldn't start the buses.

At least the snowstorm pounding the central U.S. will miss us.

The worst part of living in Chicago

This time of year Chicago residents can easily forget the planet orbits an actual star that gives off actual heat and light. This month hasn't helped a bit:

If you're susceptible to SAD---Season Affective Disorder---a form of depression brought on by winter's short days and lack of sunlight, the past 9 days (since Tuesday, January 11) have no doubt been especially rough. The period has logged only 10 percent of its possible sunshine, we're told by veteran National Weather Service observer Frank Wachowski---a total of just 7.9 hours.

Under the best circumstances, a typical January is not one of Chicago's sunnier months. But this month's abysmal 10 percent tally falls far short January's average of 43 percent of its possible sun. That means Chicago area residents have seen less than a quarter of January's typical sunshine.

But good news! We'll have a couple of sunny days later this week. Yes, once that cold front passes and that pile of cold, dry air pushes on through, we'll have plenty of sun—and -16°C temperatures.


Update, 13:56 CT: Look! Up in the sky! It''s...the sun!