The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

No next year for Zell

Sam Zell is fast-tracking the Cubs sale from Tribune:

Mr. Zell expects to select a finalist from the five remaining bidding groups and submit the deal for Major League Baseball's approval sometime in December, a person familiar with the sale says.

He is fast-tracking the sale — despite a credit crunch that seemed to put his year-end deadline in doubt — as pressure mounts to raise as much as $1 billion to chip away at the mountain of debt from his 2007 buyout of Tribune. With cash flow plummeting from weak advertising sales at Tribune's newspapers, selling half the team probably wouldn't raise the cash he needs. He has other assets to unload, but it would be difficult to do so quickly in a tough credit market.


The five bidders believed to still be in the game include Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban; Chicago bond salesman Thomas Ricketts; Chicago real estate mogul Hersh Klaff; New York investor Marc Utay, and Houston businessman Jim Crane. ...

Difficulty unloading the Cubs for top dollar would spell trouble for Tribune. When Mr. Zell engineered his $8-billion buyout last December, he agreed to keep Tribune's debt to less than nine times cash flow. But as the economy slowed and ad sales dropped this year, cash flow sank, down 45% last quarter, Mr. Courtney estimates. That forced Mr. Zell to accelerate his debt repayments and to sell Newsday this year for $650 million to pay off loans.

The one good spot in all this: at least the Cubs never got spanked 37-3 by cheeseheads. Sheesh. Why can't we sell the Bears instead?

The downside of the upside

Chicago almost universally loves that one of our own will be president. It turns out, only some of us predicted certain inconveniences:

The dramatic increase in security around Barack Obama since the election has made a sizable impact in the Loop, where the president-elect is running his transition office at the Kluczynski Federal Building, straining an already-stretched Chicago police force and city budget.

The police coverage is around-the-clock, with about 25 officers, essentially one from each district, assigned on two watches, and 10 officers and a sergeant assigned to a third watch, said FOP President Mark Donahue. The union has been told the detail is temporary, only until the incoming administration heads to Washington on Jan. 20.

Some involved in the complex security efforts said they understand city leaders have grown concerned about the potential cost of the extra manpower. [Chicago Mayor Richard] Daley has proposed laying off almost 1,000 city workers and raising taxes and fees to close a $469 million budget shortfall, which he has described as the worse fiscal situation in his 19 years in office. Now the city will have to foot the security bill, at least upfront, and hope it will be reimbursed.

More good news in Chicago

I took a couple of days off to visit my dad for his birthday. Any chance I get, I go to San Francisco, even though Chicago has become the center of the Universe temporarily. The Chicago Tribune reported this morning another bit of happiness from home: the original Goose Island Brewpub will remain open, instead of closing at the end of the year as threatened:

John Hall, Goose Island's founder and chief executive, said he reached a last-minute deal with the pub's landlord to stay at 1800 N. Clybourn Ave. for three to five years, averting the closing of the home for Honker's Ale and other brews.

"I'm thrilled," said Hall, who bought everyone in the place a beer. "They called me last week and said we want to try to do a deal. We compromised in a week on something we couldn't do for a long time."

Hall said he couldn't talk for the other side, but he indicated the weak real estate market may have helped get the agreement done. In April, Hall had said that the landlord, CRM Properties Group, had asked for a significant rent increase, reflecting the popularity of the trendy neighborhood.

Possibly I'll go there tomorrow to celebrate.

My Congressman just resigned

I'm in the Illinois 5th, which has had quite some turnover in the past 15 years: Rostenkowski (1994), Flanagan (1996), Blagojevich (2002), and now Emanuel. Emanuel was by far the best of the bunch, and I'll be sorry to lose him in Congress—but he's the right guy to be Obama's Chief of Staff.

In other good news, Obama officially won North Carolina, bringing his total electoral votes to 364.

The next 75 days

The Chicago Tribune has a photo essay on what Obama's victory may mean to Chicago. Key points (to me, anyway): The unfair outflow of state resources to the Fed (we get about 70c of every Federal tax dollar we pay, compared with, say, Alaska that gets about $2 back), our Olympics prospects, and what happens when Air Force One lands at O'Hare.

Some updates

Not all election-related (corrected):

  • California Proposition 8: The Wall Street Journal reports the referendum passed, meaning more than half of Californians believe it's still 1957.
  • Minnesota Senate: State law requires a recount after the offical tally shows Franken less than 600 votes (of 3 million cast) behind Coleman. Franken released a statment a few minutes ago. (I originally said Franken requested the recount; apparently Minnesota law requires one with a margin this small.)
  • North Carolina President: State officials report a margin of 12,000 (in favor of Obama) out of 4.2 million votes cast, but say it will take days to count all the provisional ballots.
  • Chicago weather: Truly, this is a golden age here, as we're once again flirting with record warmth and sunny skies. Yesterday we hit 22°C, just shy of the record (24°C); right now it's already 20°C, again just shy of the record (22°C).

Meanwhile, down the ballot


I cared about some other races last night. First the good news:

Illinois 5th: Rahm Emanuel got re-elected handily, but it appears he may resign today to become President-elect Obama's chief of staff. That means two major vacancies in Illinois: our junior senator (our senior one got 74% of the vote for his own re-election), and my congressman. Rumors are that Gov. Blagojevich will appoint my former congresswoman, Jan Schakowsky (Ill. 9th), or Illinois Attorney General (and Blagojevich's most dangerous foe in the 2010 Democratic Primary) Lisa Madigan, to Obama's Senate seat, and who knows to Emanuel's House seat.

Illinois 14th: Bill Foster handed race-baiting Jim Oberweis his sixth election defeat, 57% to 43%. Jim, please, your family wants you to save your millions and go home. So does the rest of the state.

Cook County States Attorney: Anita Alvarez got 70% of the vote over smarmy and nasty Tony Peraica. Good. Now sit down and shut up, Tony.

Indiana Presidential: Indiana pulled through last night for the first time in my life, 50% Obama to 49% McCain.

Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, Nevada, and Florida Presidential: Also very nice to see, especially Pennsylvania's 600,000-vote margin of victory.

Colorado Senate: Mark Udall over Bob Schaffer, 52%-48%.

New Hampshire Senate: Jean Shaheen over John Sununu, 52%-45%.

New Mexico Senate: We got another seat in a 61%-39% blowout as Tom Udall defeated Steave Pearce.

North Carolina Senate: Wow, calling her opponent "godless" really backfired on Elizabeth Dole, who lost to Democrat Kay Hagan by 400,000 votes.

Pennsylvania 12th: John Murtha should have gotten more than 58% of the vote, given his stature in the House, but at least his unbelievable gaffe ("some of my constituents are racists") didn't get him turfed out.

But, you can't win them all:

Illinois 10th: Dan Seals lost to milquetoast Mark Kirk, 46% to 54%.

Illinois 16th: A childhood friend just moved to Western Illinois and brought her Democratic vote with her. Sadly, though, that part of the state leans right the way Parker leans against trees, so Republican Don Manzullo goes to Washington with 61% of the vote.

Illinois constitutional convention and recall amendment: A majority of Illinois voters don't like change, even when it's a good thing. They're happy to keep stinky office-holders in office until they're convicted of felonies, and they're happy to keep funding schools with a medieval, property-tax-based system that punishes poor students and gives us palaces like New Trier in towns that could afford it anyway. We need to end this system, and only changing our constitution will permit that change. But we have to wait until 2018 before the next call for a con-con, ten years in which a million kids will endure crappy schools and a million homeowners will endure high property taxes.

Minnesota 6th: Michelle Bachmann, who thinks we need another McCarthy Commission, squeaked past El Tinklenberg 46%-43%, about 12,000 votes. On the other hand, Bachmann was polling in the 70s only last month, and I'd bet this is her last term.

West Virginia Presidential: When was the last time West Virginia went to the right and Virginia went to the left? 1920, when progressive James Cox won Virginia and West Virginia voted for conservative (an mental midget) Warren Harding. Good choice, guys. Keep in mind the reason we have West Virginia in the first place: it has a lot to do with American race relations and a President from Illinois.

And still no decision:

Alaska Senate: You know, it put things in perspective about Sarah Palin (whose 15 minutes are now officially over) that convicted felon Ted Stevens is apparently 4,000 votes ahead of Democrat Mark Begich. He may, in fact, win. Fortunately Alaska law no longer allows the governor to appoint interim Federal office holders; they'll have to have a special election once Stevens goes to jail.

California Proposition 8: Sadly, it looks like California will take a step back into the last century as the anti-gay proposition leads 52%-48% right now. But they're still counting.

Minnesota Senate: At last report, Republican Norm Coleman led Democrat Al Franken by less than 800 votes. I'll be watching this today. Update, 9:06 am: The official count is now less than 600 votes apart; Coleman has claimed victory, but Franken has exercised his right to a recount. We won't know the outcome of this race for a few weeks.

Missouri Presidential: McCain up by 8,000. If Missouri officially goes red, I will laugh out loud. We keep hearing that Missouri reflects the nation, but you know, this would be the second time in three elections they've gotten it wrong.

North Carolina Presidential: It looks like Obama won by about 12,000 votes, but no offical call yet.

Virginia 6th: Democrat Tom Perriello leads Republican Virgil Goode by 1200 votes in this mostly-rural district that includes Jefferson's home Monticello.

(Sorry about the lack of links, there were just too many to do, so I conceded defeat to them.)

Too exciting to blog about

I'm heading up to the Rogers Park neighborhood to watch the returns come in with some friends. Rogers Park has an old-leftie vibe to it (in parts). I expect the place I'm heading, the Morse Theater, will have a friendly crowd. (I hope they have food, too, because I'll be starving.)

Polls already closed in Indiana and Kentucky; several more states hit in half an hour. I'm always excited on election day, but never quite like this.