The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

More on Tribune BK filing

First, hoping to capitalize on their sterling reputation for honesty and good management, Tribune claims that the Cubs sale will continue as planned:

Tribune Co. did not include the franchise and Wrigley Field in its bankruptcy petition, allowing the media company to retain control of the sales process. Nonetheless, Tribune Co. will have to keep creditors informed about the auction, and the winning bid will have to be signed off by a bankruptcy judge, sources close to the situation told the Chicago Tribune.

Moreover, the bidders are unsure of how to proceed. "I really don't know enough to comment," said one bidder. "Some very complex issues have arisen."

Some issues, yes. I'm sure publisher Tony Hunter can clear things up:

What does all this mean for our readers, viewers and advertisers? As a practical matter, very little. Tribune is continuing to operate its media businesses, including its newspapers, television stations and websites. And, at Chicago Tribune, we remain dedicated to providing you with the level of service and news coverage you've come to expect from us every day.

The decision to restructure our debt was driven by the dramatic and unexpected operating conditions we've encountered this year. We have experienced the perfect storm -- a precipitous decline in revenue and a tough economy has coupled with a credit crisis, making it extremely difficult to support our debt. All of our major advertising categories have been dramatically impacted.

In other words, we had no way of knowing that taking on $8.2 billion in debt during a credit crisis while denuding our news departments of reporters under the direction of a man who doesn't actually read newspapers could, in any way, get in the way of us transferring vast amounts of wealth to our major shareholders. Hoocoodanode?

Sad. Very sad.

Tribune files for bankruptcy protection

It's official:

The Chicago Tribune's parent company was working with bankruptcy advisers at investment bank Lazard and law firm Sidley Austin to weigh financial options, sources told the Chicago Tribune for this morning's paper.

Tribune Co. has been struggling under a $13 billion debt load since real estate magnate Sam Zell took the company private last December in an $8.2 billion leveraged buyout. The company faces a deadline today on $70 million of unsecured debt it took on before Zell's deal.

More:

Analysts have said the sale of the Chicago Cubs baseball team by the end of this year is critical to keeping Tribune Co. within its existing debt covenants, which prohibit borrowing more than nine times its earnings before interest, depreciation and amortization.

But even a potential windfall of a Cubs sale might provide only temporary relief if the Tribune Co. and its advertisers continue to be dragged down by the current economic crisis, which has compounded the effects of splintering audiences for media companies.

My question is, did Zell expect this outcome? Or did he figure, as others have done in the past, that because he made a lot of money in one arena he was therefore qualified to work in another?

Obama: Republic Windows workers deserve what they earned

After eight years of having a president who could barely speak English, and having him say the most reactionary, anti-labor things possible when he did manage to croak out a polysyllable, this overwhelms me with joy:

"When it comes to the situation here in Chicago with the workers who are asking for their benefits and payments they have earned, I think they are absolutely right," [President elect] Obama said Sunday....

"Have we done everything that we can to make sure credit is flowing to businesses and to families, and to students who are trying to get loans? And to homeowners who have been making payments on their homes but are still finding their property values so depressed that it becomes very difficult for them to make the mortgage payments?

"That's where the rubber hits the road and that's going to be the central focus of my administration."

I could cry, I'm so happy. For the first time in, I think, ever, I feel like my vote wasn't a compromise.

El to resume normal operations Dec. 29

Still mulling over intergenerational conflict as I am, at least I have some good news about Chicago's infrastructure:

[T]he CTA today announced that Purple Express trains in the Loop will resume operation traveling clockwise on Monday, December 29. In April 2007, when three-track operation began at both the Belmont and Fullerton stations, the CTA moved Purple Express trains to travel in the same direction as Brown Line trains (counter-clockwise around the Loop) to supplement Brown Line service and help ease congestion in the Loop during three-track operation.

With fewer Brown Line trains in service as a result of three track, Purple Express trains were rerouted in the Loop to mimic Brown Line service and help customers more quickly exit the downtown area.

This won't make the ride any warmer, but it will make it faster.

Forgot to mention, it won't make it any cheaper , either.

Obviously bad privatization in Chicago

I can't see any benefit to leasing out all the parking spaces in Chicago to a private company, even if my mayor and alderman can. In fact, it sounds quite appalling: street parking fees to double, profit motive over civic good in parking enforcement, no time for the Council to evaluate the proposal Mayor Daley handed them yesterday. Destroying Meigs was bad; this is much, much worse:

Parking meter rates will increase next month after the Chicago City Council today overwhelmingly approved Mayor Richard Daley's plan to lease the spots to a private firm for 75 years in return for a one-time payment of nearly $1.2 billion.

Some neighborhood parking meter rates will quadruple next month. Neighborhood spots that used to cost a quarter an hour will cost $1 an hour---and jump to $2 an hour in 2013. The top meter rates in the Loop will increase from $3 to $3.50 an hour, rising to $6.50 an hour in 2013. Chicago will have some of the highest parking meter rates in the nation.

Ald. Richard Mell (33rd), who backs the deal, said 72 hours was enough time to review it.

"How many of us read the stuff we do get, OK?," Mell said. "I try to. I try to. I try to. But being realistic, being realistic, it's like getting your insurance policy. It's small print, OK?"

Thanks, Dick, for another intellectually-stimulating rejoinder to an impertinent question.

Does anyone remember the awfulness that resulted in historical times to privatizing tax collection? Does anyone see the parallels?

Feels like winter

Ah, Chicago in December: gray, sleet, snow, wind, rain. Builds character:

The snow has begun falling in Chicago, and more is on the way.

There are flurries downtown, though nothing is sticking. Matt Smith of the city's Department of Streets & Sanitation said in an e-mail that no trucks have been sent out, noting that "We have good air and ground temps and that could continue to be the case for quite some time."

Snow has started to accumulate on the ground and roads in the south suburbs around the intersection of Interstate Highways 57 and 80, according to observers.

The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for Boone, DeKalb, Kane, Lake, Livingston, and McHenry counties and a winter weather advisory for Cook, DuPage, Grundy, Iroquois, Kankakee, Kendall and Will counties.

Yesterday Parker and I walked about 8 miles altogether. Today he'll be lucky to go twice around the block.

Night flight last Sunday

I had to scrutinize my logbook to figure out when I last flew at night: 26 April 2006, in Nashua, N.H. So I took a flight instructor with me this past Sunday to get "recurrent." (Regulations require that pilots make three full-stop landings at night—further defined as 1 hour after sunset until 1 hour before sunrise—within 90 days in order to carry passengers at night.)

I had a good flight, they can use the airplane again, the instructor enjoyed flying with someone who knew how to fly (as opposed to a pre-solo student), and Chicago Center almost flew a jet up my butt. You can see the last bit in the KML, where I do two 360° turns, one of them at a mile-and-a-half short final. The jet got within 4 nautical miles of me before calling Chicago Executive Tower, which isn't illegal, but did make me a bit uncomfortable watching the TCAS. (Yes, the flight school now has a training plane with a TCAS. They are that cool.)

The Grey Lady sings our praises

Despite my joking about the inconveniences an Obama Presidency will bring to us in Chicago, we really are ecstatic that our guy won. It's so good, even the New York Times has acknowledged it:

In 1952, when an article in The New Yorker derisively referred to Chicago as the Second City, little offense was taken. It became a marketing pitch, with the thinking that second fiddle was far better than no fiddle at all.

But that gawking, out-of-town amazement — gee, there really is a city here! — has long outlived its currency. Well before Mr. Obama was elected as the nation’s 44th president — a fact that was proudly amplified by Mayor Richard M. Daley, who ordered up banners with a sketch of the president-elect to hang throughout the city — Chicago was experiencing one of its most blossoming periods in food, fashion and the arts.

Now, people around the country and the world are simply noticing.

And we're glad the world did.