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Transcript: The Mincing Rascals 8-24-22

This is a rush transcript, forgive the errors! 

John Williams (HOST):

Today is Wednesday. It’s August 24 2022. Where is our summer going? It’s also 2:37 in the afternoon. Hi, this is John Williams. This is “The Mincing Rascals” podcast. We normally broadcast some of this on Saturday nights. We won’t this Saturday night so make sure you share our podcast today with all of your friends. You can hear me weekdays on WGN radio from 10 to 2.

Heather Cherone  

I’m Heather Cherone of WTTW news.

Brandon Pope  

I’m Brandon Pope, host of “On the Block” on WCIU with Block Club Chicago.

Eric Zorn 0

I’m Eric Zorn, the weary publisher and author of The Picayune Sentinel weekly newsletter.

John Williams  

Before we go down the “weary” road. Let’s hear it for Brandon Pope who, by the way, if you saw the video pre roll of this episode, has not been on the podcast for a while. He’s been busy with his job and life.

Eric Zorn  

And he’s been working out.

John Williams  

He’s been lifting weights. Is this just the camera? Are you just that unbelievably hunky?

Brandon Pope  

I think it’s just the usual. I’ve been eating less pizza and drinking less beer. So this is a trimmed down version of me, I guess. I’m working on it.

Eric Zorn  

Brandon’s show has kept him away from us for a long time.

John Williams  

How’s that going, Brandon?

Brandon Pope  

It’s been good. I had some friends joke that I’ve been doing an intensive training program as if I’m like training to fight somebody on the show or something, but I promise you I’m not.

Eric Zorn  

You can kick Jon Hansen’s ass now.

Brandon Pope  

Hansen! Man! But no, the show has been amazing. We’ve had some great guests some really great neighborhood stories. Working with Block Club has been amazing. And the best part is just being able to hear the feedback from people and people that are watching and it’s really fun to see,

John Williams 0

Mr. Weary. Why are you weary today?

Eric Zorn  

I’m  weary of this monuments debate that we’re having in Chicago that we’ve had for so long about the Columbus statues and the monuments. It feels like round 10. It feels like we’ve had these debates for a long time. I’m really tired. But here we go. Let’s talk about it again.

John Williams  

Yeah, we will in just a minute the Monuments Commission has returned with their recommendations to the mayor. And we will do that probably as our second topic. But let’s, let’s start here. If you don’t mind: President Biden today announced some of the details of a federal student debt forgiveness plan == $20,000 of forgiveness for Pell Grant holders;  $10,000 if your debt isn’t via a Pell Grant. You’ve got to earn less than $125,000 per person or  $250k per household.  Parent Plus loans are not included. Missed it by that much. There is also an undergraduate schedule that would cap payments to 5% of monthly income. That’s the skeleton of it. There’s a lot more details.

First, I think in order to talk about this, you need to consider the principle and then consider the details. My  overriding principle is that  people should pay their debts. But student loan holders won’t be the first to not pay fully what they owe, including billionaires who declare bankruptcy as some of you have reminded me. So maybe more important to me than the bold print is the fine print — who, how much when, and why? I would prefer that they simply said you can never pay more than the original loan amount plus that amount in interest I heard today from someone who borrowed a little over $20,000, a long time ago, and now decades later, still owes over $70,000. The New Yorker last week had a story about a woman who was in her 90s and having borrowed $60,000 currently owes over $300,000, and she’s been paying, if you get behind in the interest,   sometimes you can never catch up.

Brandon Pope  

I think you’re gonna find this to be a very popular proposal, even though I find it odd. You have a lot of people, younger people, who have been railing on Joe Biden trying to get him to do something about this because he did promise to do this during the campaign. He does it. And now all I see online is, well, that’s not enough.We need more we need more. I understand the sentiment because on average women  borrow about $12,000 or more; for black women that number even balloons to $24,000 initially. And, of course, as you mentioned, with the interest charges, it gets even larger. So I understand the sentiment. You wish it was more money. But $10,000 is going to be a lot of relief for a lot of people. I mean, I know so many people that are logging on right now to the Federal Student Aid website and trying to figure out if they had a Pell Grant or not.

John Williams  

That’s what I’ve been thinking. The first thing I said to my wife was, “Is that a Pell loan that our kid had?” I don’t even know.

Brandon Pope  

Definitely a win for Joe Biden right now. We’re gonna have to see how it impacts the midterms and things like that. Yeah, he ran on this. He made it happen.

John Williams 

How about you, Heather?

Heather Cherone  

I would just say that I think that Biden’s proposal that he laid out today —  and   it’s going to be challenged in court and it’s not clear if this is exactly your sort of how it’s going to be — but it really addresses that problem with the interest payment that you’re talking about.

So the way that this proposal works now is that you can basically enroll in what’s called an Income Based Repayment Plan.  And right now, that calls for you to pay no more than 10% of your “discretionary income.” So you go through this whole formula that deducts for  food,  rent,   transportation and that sort of thing. And then you pay 10%, of whatever’s left.

But what Biden wants to do is to cap that at 5%. And he also says that this would mean that if you’re enrolled in this program and  5% of your discretionary income payment can’t even cover the interest on your loan, they’re going to waive the rest of the interest, so it’s not going to keep rolling over. And that’s how people have gotten into the situation where they borrowed $20,000,   20 years ago, and they now owe $60,000, because they’ve been making that minimum payment, but just like on a credit card, that interest has been rolling over and rolling over and rolling over.

So you’re gonna hear a lot of conversation about those top line numbers that $10,000 And that $20,000 for Pell Grant holders. But that is a fundamental, significant change to how the federal government makes people who cannot afford student loan payments, pay them back.

And I want to be very clear that we are only talking about federally backed student loans. So if you went to a private loan servicing corporation, and you signed on the dotted line and took out a loan, this does not apply to you. The federal government has very little ability to  deal with those loans, because those are loans, no different than a car loan, or a mortgage or a personal loan.

So I will say that I firmly believe that there are two types of people in this world: People who have suffered or struggled and emerged from that and say, “You know what, I don’t want anybody to ever suffer like that again. And I’m going to do what I can, however I can to prevent other people from going through what I went through.”

And then there are people who suffer and struggle and endure an emerge from that and, and want everybody to suffer in the same way.

I personally live my life as a journalist to try to help people, not to say “Well, I suffered and you have to too, bucko. And  we’re really seeing that sort of debate play out. Businesses all over the country got forgivable loans to pay payroll during the pandemic, all of those loans were forgiven. We heard nary a peep of outrage from anybody about that. And I would just suggest that this is a very similar situation.

Eric Zorn  

Well, we have heard peeps of outrage about  the fraud in the payroll protection loans.  There’s a lot of there’s a lot of anger about  the fact that a lot of those loans were bogus, the money was abused. I think that to frame this as you’re either cold-hearted because you want everyone to suffer the way you suffered or you just want to help people is a little bit facile. Because there are a number of families — I certainly know them– where the families really sacrificed. They didn’t take vacations, they didn’t buy new cars, they really wanted to put their get their kids through college debt free. And then there are other families who said, well, we’ll take out loans when we get there.

And now this isn’t a full loan forgiveness, but there is this feeling of like, Hey, I play by the rules. And now people who say “I played by the rules, I saved a lot of money, and I didn’t suffer but I certainly sacrificed.”   And  the people who didn’t do those sacrifices are getting that money. I see that.

I don’t see that as like a dispute between kind and cruel people. I see it as a debate about what we do about loans.

And I also think that we need to incorporate in this conversation talk about how high the cost of college has gotten. That’s got to be part of the discussion.  It is absurdly expensive. And people who are just looking for a leg up who are looking to get themselves out of tough circumstances have taken out loans based on the idea or the promise that it’s going to pay itself back, and then they find themselves in a hole that they can’t get out of.

I really liked Heather’s explanation as to what’s going on with the interest because I think that is really the problem here. It’s not like a lot of people aren’t willing to try to pay back the money they borrowed, but they’re not willing or they’re not able  to pay back the money with all the interest piled up on top of it. And they end up harming the economy because they can’t buy new cars they   can’t go on vacations, they can’t buy houses, they can’t get the economy churning the way the economy should churn because they are saddled with this kind of debt.

So  this is a complicated a complicated situation. And I don’t know that it’s going to be a win for Joe Biden. I’m certainly perceiving in social media they this sense that that,   certainly from the right, that this is a giveaway to people who go to college that most people in America don’t go to college and that they’re not getting any benefit from this. What about medical debt? What about the other debts that people take on that they can’t pay back? So it’s I’m not sure how it’s going to play right now. I’ll be interested to see what the polling shows,

John Williams  

I’m not sure. It doesn’t strike me as a slam-dunk political move that Brandon may think it is. I mean, people will take the money. But I wonder how many people will take the money and say “We shouldn’t be doing this,” you know, kind of looking sideways, saying  ” all right, this is working for me.” But  isn’t this going to eat into some of the savings that the inflation Reduction Act was supposed to generate?

Heather Cherone  

I would just suggest that  that there’s another way to think about people who took out massive amounts of student loans — and that, luckily, that wasn’t my situation.

My family was not in a position to save for my college education, that just was not a possibility. So I got admitted to Northwestern, I wanted to study journalism, I would have moved heaven and earth to enroll. And when they put the papers in front of me to say, okay, you’ve got to borrow X amount of money, I signed it without looking at it, because I was determined to make my dream of becoming a journalist, real, and everybody told me, “It’s good debt, it’s fine. It’s nothing to worry about. This is not you running up the credit card by going to Macy’s or Nordstrom, or you know, flying off for a vacation or an Acapulco or anything like that.”

So I didn’t think twice about signing those papers. And I was lucky enough that when I got out of college, the economy was good enough that I could get a job in journalism, and I could start making those payments back.   I was also able to consolidate that debt at an extremely low interest rate so that I never paid massive amounts of interest, so   I paid it off, give or take, 10 years or so after I graduated. That’s just not the case of most people.

So if you’re now saying, look, you’ve got to be really careful about what student loans you take out for college, you’ve got to you know, really think about your earning potential. That is the conversation that did not happen when I was going into college, and that I do not believe is going on now.

Should there be systematic changes to what college costs? Sure. But let’s not forget that, as a country, we all decided that high school was necessary to produce citizens who could participate in our democracy and economy, so we made high school free, that became a function of the government. We have all now decided that college is necessary to  be a professional,  to get a white collar job. And we have not yet made that commitment as a society now, and that’s where a lot of this problem has come from. So if we’re changing the terms of that, then we have to think about the  hole that so many people are in and sort of start to correct for that.

John Williams  

I completely agree with that. It’s 12th grade versus 16th grade. I think that, at least up to your junior year, education should be free. And a lot of states junior colleges are free or   affordable. But  t the idea that a 12th grade education is enough is pretty antiquated. One of my listeners today, said that in order to get a lower interest rate, they consolidated their federal loan into a private loan, which had much better number, the Federal Interest rate stays with you forever, it could be 7- 8%. So you’re like, that’s too much over the years. So they consolidate it to a private loan at a lower rate. But that means they’ve paid off their federal student loan. Now along comes $10,000 or $20,000 of forgiveness. They still have a loan, but it’s with somebody, some other servicer, they get they’re out of the loop on this. That was somebody being proactive and doing it right. And there’s a million stories about people who just missed the boat or don’t get a chance to participate in this program. But 8 million plus people do. It’s easy to focus on the exceptions. But the rule is this is there for a lot of people. And I still want to know what you guys think. Is this good for Joe Biden or or Democrats in the midterm?

Eric Zorn  

We’re just not sure. With abortion,  it’s pretty clear that that issue is going to play well for the Democrats. This issue. as Brandon said, you’re seeing on social media people saying “It’s not enough. It’s  too stingy. He’s not giving us what we really need here.” And, “He broke his promise,” because I think  people were saying that he all but guaranteed that he was gonna get rid of all   student debt. So it’s a big number or a $50k. And so there’s a huge number that didn’t get realized.  I am going to say that –net net- – this is probably not good for Biden, but it’s not a significantly bad thing for Biden.

Brandon Pope  

I’m really interested to see what the polling is going to be like after this. Because I think, with the midterms, the question is going to be about energy. And it’s going to be about what base is most energized. The Democrats for the longest have depended on younger voters, but younger voters don’t vote, at least all the numbers show they don’t vote in the same numbers as older voters, right. So here, you have an issue here that impacts younger voters, overwhelmingly, and really a lot of voters but younger voters, especially who have been a part of this college system, they entered a game they didn’t know the rules to they were told it was good. I was told it was good day. And they find out wow. Now I owe all this money. What do I do with it? So I think the key is gonna be messaging. How does Joe Biden his administration, and how the Democrats go across the country and communicate this? If they don’t do the messaging? Well, then it could be like Eric said, and people, you know, start to doubt it a little bit, it probably hurts a little bit. But if they message this, right, the Biden administration, so far has had all of a sudden a few legislative wins. So if you wrap those things together and package those up, as this is what we’ve done so far, it could be a big bump for them going forward,

John Williams  

I guess. Yeah, we’ll just have to wait and see. And even after the election, it’ll be impossible to parse out what were the factors that cause somebody to win and somebody to lose, but in general, and by the way, I just wanted to mention this,  Michael Miller, the economist at DePaul sent us this note, I just wanted to read it. It’s a paragraph that said to my producer Pete, “During today’s interview on student debt, John mentioned that Northwestern tuition went from $5,400  40 years ago to $62,000 now, and he asked what is the current value of $5,400 given inflation?  The answer using the CPI inflation calculator on the BLS website is that something that costs $5,400 in 1982, would cost $16,966. Today, tuition of course, is much higher than that.”

Miller says I mentioned to John that college tuition has gone up about three times faster than inflation overall. And that’s just about right. When you multiply $16,009 by three, it gets you to about $62,000. The rate of inflation in college tuition, college textbooks and healthcare are in a league by themselves. He said on the show, the three things that have gone up the most are health care, college textbooks and college tuition over the last couple of decades. And those numbers bear it out. $5,400 is probably books now, at Northwestern as opposed to tuition.

Eric Zorn  

There was a CNBC/Momentive poll that was taken just the other day, and it found that 32% of Americans are in favor of loan forgiveness for all Americans who have student debt, 34% say only borrowers in need should have their loans forgiven, and then a similar, but slightly smaller share — 30% — said no one should receive student loan forgiveness. And you know, this is all split up by age and by party affiliation. But what you’re seeing, I think, is  kind of 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 split.   It seems to me that Biden’s proposal would satisfy two thirds of those people.

John Williams 

Depending on your definition of need. I mean, it’s $125,000 Does that strike, you as a little high Eric?

Eric Zorn 

Yeah, it does. It does strike me as a little high. So  that’s why I think that the effect on this is going to be small, and, I predict, slightly negative. But I’m willing to be wrong for once.

John Williams  

And you know, what else was pointed out to me is that the colleges are just too expensive now. And yet everybody wants their kid — and every kid wants — to have a really terrific college experience for two or four years. Not everybody. But that’s an item that a lot of people aspire to for their children. So one of the drivers in this is parents who want their kids to go to Northwestern or Penn State or some of the other schools I’ve heard in the last couple of days that are really expensive. And the reason those schools are so expensive now is because they want to provide the most attractive quality of life for those kids for four years. So the rec center and the student center and  some of the amenities on campus and all of that stuff ,to say nothing of the people costs and health care insurance for professors. It’s it’s just become a very, very expensive thing.

Brandon Pope 

Another factor here. You look at high school education. So many high schools have shifted focus to college preparedness, almost making it like if you’re a kid who doesn’t want to go to college, you’re a weirdo. You’re an outlier.

Now we’re seeing recently there’s a great report from Chalkbeat, a two-parter about the rise of vocational education within CPS, and how the new CPS CEO Pedro Martinez is trying to usher that in and bring   in as many schools as possible to vocational programs. You just need to  give kids more options, more pathways and tell them, hey,  there are  other things than going to an expensive University. You  can make a really decent living.  When you talk to anybody in the trades,  they say they’re desperate for entry-level employees.

And if you want to be a plumber or electrician, in not a very long time, you’re north of $80,000  or something like that. That’s  what I sure hear a lot. And, obviously, community colleges are quality places for education. That was  where I got my first little degree and then I transferred to one of the most miserable colleges in the state by every ranking service that exists. SIU Carbondale.  I was able to sit up and take fluids, but, you know, I think doesn’t matter. It’s more what you do than where you go in the long run.

Maybe out of the gate if you went to the U of C, or Northwestern ,more doors will be open for you. But 10 years down the road?  I think it matters how hard you’re applying yourself and not where you started.

John Williams  

The Chicago Monuments Commission has turned in their recommendations. After unrest in 2020. A group here and a similar one statewide has studied the history and advisability of various monuments and statues in the city. The Chicago group has suggested the Christopher Columbus statue stay removed from public land. Others, including ones of Abraham Lincoln should possibly be given more context, Mayor Lori Lightfoot, I can’t figure out where she is on all of this. She says it needs further study. She does not necessarily agree with all the recommendations that come in structurally removing reliefs from bridges and places and taking down statues she reminded us is a task. It’s not like you just throw a rope over everything and hand it to a mob. The Commission also suggested that eight new monuments be commissioned, including one to the victims of gun violence in the city. My advice to the mayor would be to not be the sole decider on all of this, I wouldn’t want these decisions, I would empower a commission and say it was up to them, it was up to the city council.

Eric Zorn  

So you want a commission to review the results of the commission?

John Williams  

And I will do that until the last day of my last term.

Eric Zorn  

Then  I will call for another commission to review the results of your commission that reviewed the original commission.

John Williams  

I think that’s where we’re going right now. Didn’t she say it needs further study or something?

Brandon Pope  

Needs a working group? Yeah, you get a working group together.

Eric Zorn 

And a white paper, I want a white paper from the working group.

Heather Cherone  

She’s between a rock and a hard place. I mean, she launched this commission   at the height of those social justice protests in the in the after the death of George Floyd, and then   got caught between the very politically active Italian American joint civic committee, and is now in a situation where she promised to put the Columbus statues back.

Of course, if you remember, it was only they were only removed temporarily because of the public safety threat. And now she’s really sort of, you know, opened up, sort of, she’s in the middle. And there are people who are really angry about this, and there are people who,  want the monuments back and they want the monuments untouched.

And then you have people who are on the other side of the issue, who are really angry thatshe sort of promised this racial healing and reckoning that just has not taken place. And it’s two years later, and so much of that energy that, you know, sort of was everywhere in the summer of 2020 is just nowhere now. And it’s not clear to me that there’s any real answer other than ,well,, we’re going to keep working on it.

But let’s be clear, some of these monuments that were flagged by the Commission are in layman’s terms, nuts. There’s an ode to the first white child born in Chicago. Many of these monuments depict Native Americans and American Indians in subservient roles to white people. It lionizes  the white settling of the Midwest ,and a lot of it is just strange. Why does Chicago have a monument to the Supreme Court Justice who presided  over the decision of Plessy v Ferguson, which legalized segregation?Can anyone explain why that is appropriate?

Eric Zorn  

I agree with you, Heather. Melville Fuller  was an attorney for the South Park Board of Commissioners. And he made several decisions that were instrumental in building Chicago’s parks before he went on to preside over Plessy v. Ferguson as chief justice.  But there is a tangential reason why there’s a bust of Fuller there. I think that one’s gotta go. I think that’s a pretty easy call to make . Maybe Melville Fuller  did some nice things when he was an attorney for the  South Park Board of Commissioners,  but to be associated with one of the most, if not the most odious Supreme Court decision in history? And to have it  down on the south side? It’s  really a bad look. And, and there are there are others as Heather points out.

John Williams 

But maybe that’s an easy one. But that’s where the problem becomes right there. Because now you’re keeping score.   How do you decide whose sins are greater than their contributions?

Eric Zorn 

I would ask your commission to decide.

John Williams  

Brandon, you’re on that working group, right?

Brandon Pope  

That’s the job I wanted, though. I mean, this is tough. Being mayor is tough. Can we acknowledge that? You have to appeal to such a diverse swath of the community. One of the big factors here is cost. When I was looking through this report, one of the things I flagged was these these pieces on the Michigan Avenue Bridge, and they depict Native Americans as foils to colonization, which sounds like a good reason to remove them.

But if you take action to remove that, that’s part of the infrastructure of the Michigan Avenue Bridge. That’s tough to do. It’s going to cost a lot of money and manpower. So there are still a lot that factors in to this. Remembering the Columbus statute is one thing, but we’re talking about, like infrastructure and stuff like that, but but there’s no doubt — as Heather mentioned — that we do need to really examine– it’s long overdue–    who are we honoring.

Mayor Lightfoot is arguing we don’t want to erase history. I agree with that. That’s why we have museums. We have some great museums in Chicago, and put them in there. But to have them on display usually represents a city value.

Eric Zorn  

That’s really true.  There’s a Tribune editorial this morning that I thought really misses the mark because it sais,  “these are just works of art, and that nobody is perfect. We’re smart enough to  know the difference. ”  No, a statue to Christopher Columbus is not like Columbus Drive or Columbus, Ohio. Nobody thinks immediately of Christopher Columbus when they hear the Buckeyes are playing in Columbus, Ohio.  That’s  not how people think when they see a statue honoring Christopher Columbus, that’s different. That honors him and it’s in it is not subtle.

A friend of mine suggested that we should bring back the talking statues. Do you remember those from a few years ago? You would go to the statues and you would if you scan a QR code, or you’d put in something into your browser, and the phone would then give you a one-minute or two-minute discussion about the person the statue represents. So it was it was  a way to connect the context into some of these things  people talk

Abraham Lincoln was not a perfect man, Abraham Lincoln said some things that were that were so racist that he would be canceled for them today. But Abraham Lincoln’s overall contribution to democracy and to and to the country we have today is undeniable. So to put that into some sort of context for people so we say yeah, we realize these people are flawed. Everybody in history is flawed by today’s standards. But to to allow for context is is really important.

I just want to say one thing about putting the Columbus statues back. The Italian American Civic Committee wants there to be the 24-hour armed guards protecting the statues I don’t want my money going to protect statues that could be in should be on private property. It doesn’t make any sense to me. If a statue is that controversial — is that polarizing — let them put it up in their in their own yards or their own in their own patios, wherever they want to put it. Let them them buy the land and put it up there. But I don’t want taxpayer money going to pay for it. Police officers are armed guards guarding these things. That’s   nothing but trouble.

John Williams  

Yeah, well, that’s not gonna happen either. What about some contextualization, Eric, on the radio, you said the other day they should have a QR code and when you go up to the statue , you could scan it and it would say, “Here’s the thing about Abraham Lincoln. He’s terrific. This is the land of Lincoln But just so you know …”‘

We’ve got Jefferson and Washington and and here in the land the Lincoln Lincoln with an asterisk by their names right now, and I don’t think Lincoln comes down. I’d leave Jefferson and Washington up . But they were slaveholders. It’s funny, though, isn’t it? Because generally, when you do put a statue up to somebody, it is to exalt them. It’s not to contextualize them. If, if you’re going to start doing that, then every single statue will say, but just so you know, you know, at the bottom, there’s always going to be a PS and they’re gonna go, he kicked his dog once or, or worse.

Brandon Pope 

Give it to the working group. Let them let them work it out.

John Williams  

And ad for Darren Bailey, includes, in large type “Chicago violence is coming to the suburbs.”  And in that ad, you see an image of Lori Lightfoot, even though she’s not Bailey’s opponent, and her dark skin is made even darker in the ad, as is everything else. All of the colors, including the blue banner behind her, are darker than they originally appeared, presumably to create a more ominous message.

Lightfoot called it the ultimate dog whistle. The a wasn’t done by Darren Bailey, per se, but by a PAC that’s supporting him. Does the mayor have a fair point here? Does she rightly criticize this ad for darkening the hue of everything, including her?

Heather Cherone  

She certainly thinks she has a point and she called it the oldest, most racist dog whistle to take somebody who’s black and to make their skin darker, trying to threaten  white people who might feel scared.

Dan Proft, who is the head of the PAC that was behind this, told me that he absolutely did no such thing and he called   the governor and the mayor “inveterate race hustlers.”  So,   you’ll have to do with that what you will.

Eric Zorn

This is not the first time this has happened. If you’re old like me, you remember when Time Magazine darkened OJ Simpson’s skin on on the cover, and, of course, that happened to former President Barack Obama, I’m sure numerable times.

I don’t know why we’re giving somebody with the kind of record that Dan Proft has any sort of benefit of the doubt.

Heather Cherone

At yesterday’s press conference, the mayor was asked about this — before NBC News’ Natasha Korecki  published her story —  by Amy Jacobson, who is the radio partner of Dan proft  on AM 560, The Answer. Even before the article was published. And I thought that was an interesting way to wield the power of your access to the mayor’s press conference.

Brandon Pope  

I’m sorry, Heather. What? You lost me there. The order of events is significant how?

Heather Cherone: 

Before Natasha Korecki published her story about this ad, the mayor was asked about it by Amy Jacobson, who is the radio partner of Dan Proft.   Natasha had reached out to Dan Proft for comment about it. So  we didn’t know what they were talking about when this question happened. And it was clear that that Amy Jacobson had behind the scenes knowledge.

John Williams  

If there’s nothing to this accusation, then why is it that she was already well briefed on the pending accusation? At least they saw it coming? If, in fact, it wasn’t intentional.

Eric Zorn  

If Dan Proft cared about this, if Dan Proft had any real awareness self or otherwise, he would have looked at that video and said, “Wow, the mayor looks really dark. Are we sure this is going to match the video?”  Because he remembers — because he’s not a fool — remembers the OJ Simpson controversies. He remembers the controversies about darkening the skin of Obama and Karen Lewis and people like that. This is   a dog whistle.  It was   extreme negligence on his part, at best –at best– extreme negligence. And   I am with Heather. I’m not sure you give a guy like Proft the benefit of the doubt.

John Williams  

Well, Brandon do you think that was playing by the rules? Because that’s the name of the committee that did it.

Brandon Pope  

I think two things can be true. The GOP and Democrats –really, a lot of people–  have had a history of using racist dog whistles in  advertisements, marketing and things like that. And so, you know, it’s tough to give the benefit of the doubt. On  n the other hand, there are political ads all the time,where  they’re trying to portray doom and gloom from the other side, and what do they do to do that? They use a filter, and they darken everything to   show doom and gloom.

Do I think that they had malicious intent? I’m not quite sure. I really think this is just a political jab where they tried to do a dark-filter Chicago, so   Democrats are so bad. Oh, and the Dems do that too, for the Republican ads as well. So, you know, I look at it, it’s tough to be mayor and  Mayor Lori Lightfoot  has a tendency to kind of be  the woman who cried wolf, sometimes.

John Williams  

By the way, for the record, Heather just went, “Wow, yeah.”

Brandon Pope  

She is very quick to accuse someone of being racist or homophobic, for usually attacks that have nothing to do with race, or sexual orientation. So after you cry, wolf, so many times, we   know how the story goes. It gets a little bit tougher to  be on her side on something. So I  feel like it was a little bit of a reach from her.

I can understand. I have no right to tell her whether she should be offended or not, or tell any person any Black person when they should be offended by their skin being darkened in an ad. And who knows how I’d feel if that happened to me? But   I looked at it like,  political ads do this. They use a filter.  And the whole ad ,if you watch, it is filtered darkly when they’re talking about Chicago.

Eric Zorn  

Brandon Pope, what is he thinking? Any benefit of the doubt kind of goes away when you realize that in this same ad, they make the claim that Governor Pritzker is behind mandatory release of violent criminals, which is just not true. I mean, it’s simply a lie. And so then you say, well, Dan Proft’s s group is just lying about this in this ad. But  we have to believe him when he says  he didn’t darken the skin tones or there was no racist intent. I don’t know. I think you can’t have it both ways. You can’t tell an outright lie in an ad. And then and then ask for the benefit of the doubt.

John Williams 

That’s an interesting point. And if you want to vilify Lori Lightfoot, it’s a sufficiently bad picture of her anyway, that you didn’t have to make her look darker or more ominous. She  looks grim. She’s got what looks like light sweat on her. And it’s just a very unflattering photo.

Everybody always does that when they’re featuring their opponent in the ads, even though she’s not even the opponent.

Then again, this is consistent with a campaign that continues to call 2.7 million people residents of a hellhole. It’s like they’re just throwing stuff against the wall, hoping for some sort of backlash.

Heather Cherone  

Darren Bailey spoke downstate today, and he stopped short of calling Chicago a hellhole, but he did say that Chicago was like the OK Corral, which,  okay. He also called the Chicago Public Schools a disaster. And one of my earliest political memories of the U.S. education secretary under President Reagan calling CPS “the worst school district in America.”

I remember just being absolutely outraged by that because–  I’ve said this before–I don’t understand how you can hope to be elected governor by running down the state’s biggest economic engine.  But apparently Darrin Bailey thinks it’s going to work for him. He has not shied away from it.

John Williams  

It’ll work for him in Effingham I mean, this  is great stuff in Southern Illinois. People love that, right? But not only does the Chicago area and the city of Chicago generate more income than downstate, but also our schools in Chicago Public Schools have more kids learning on grade than Rockford does.

And Danville does  need to be fixed. But I’m so weary — Eric, there’s your word — wasn’t very the word you used when we started this thing? Here, it can be the word of the day.   But it’s just so easy to just say everything is the worst in Chicago. And if we get Lori Lightfoot and Kim Foxx and JB Pritzker out of there, it’ll be it’ll be better.

It’s already better than many of the municipalities in this state. Oh, and just one last note about all of this. Darren Bailey’s love/hate relationship with the word “hellhole.” Did you guys see the Scott status? editorial cartoon in the tribune I think two days ago. It’s just a cartoon of Darren Bailey with his loud mouth open. And it says,

Eric Zorn  

Illinois’ actual hellhole

John Williams  

It was brutal.

Eric Zorn  

A Mincing Rascal emeritus!

John Williams  

I sent him a note after that, because I hadn’t talked to him in a while. And I said, Boy, you made your point today, my friend, and sounds like he’s doing okay. Speaking of politics, let’s just segue over to the city.

Heather Cherone 40:24

So Tuesday is the first day that candidates can pull papers and hit the streets and start collecting the signatures they need to qualify for the ballot. So if you are running for mayor, you need 12,500 signatures from valid, actually alive Chicago voters who give you their actual address. Now, you would think that sounds like a lot. And it is, but you actually need three times that amount, if you want to be sure to make the bail.

John Williams 41:01

Why do you say that. I’ve heard you say that before. And what why is it three times, so many?

Heather Cherone 41:05

People will give you a fake name or a fake address, or they’ll give you their real name and their real address, and it will turn out that they are not registered to vote, or they are not registered to vote at that address, or they simply do not exist in totol. And so forever. So the rule of thumb is that one out of every three signatures you get is going to be valid. And that is why you need so much money, part of the reason to run for mayor.

Eric Zorn 41:35

And isn’t isn’t it also true that you might get someone to sign with a real name real address and they’re a registered voter, but they have already signed for another mayoral candidate?

Heather Cherone 41:45

So that’s technically correct. But like that’s like super technical so that means that you that you’re that signature has withstood sort of the initial scrutiny. And then you’ve got somebody footing the bill to compare that your petitions to everybody else’s petitions. So yes, you can only sign as a voter one person’s petition. And that’s also another way to get knocked off the ballot. But there are a host of rules that you have to follow to like you have to have the numbers, the pages numbered in a certain way. They can’t be stapled together, they in order, they have to be you know, there are a lot of technical issues involved here. So all of the people that you have seen, say I am going to run for mayor, I guarantee that not all of them are actually going to make the ballot and even even really well funded people are not going to make the ballot because there will be people who will say look, that person is my biggest competition in this race and I am going to scrutinize every petition signature they turn in in November, and I’m going to do my best to kick them off the ballot. And as I remember, if I remind you in 2019 Toni Preckwinkle tried desperately to get Lori Lightfoot kicked off the ballot work. But in an alternate universe…

John Williams 43:06

What a lot of what lousy work for an intern to go through

Heather Cherone 43:10

Oh no. We are definitely not trusting interns with this. If you trust an intern with this, no disrespect interns, you are not going to be on the ballot if you hire unpaid interns or low paid interns to do this work. There’s a whole cottage industry of lawyers who specialize in this who hire people who pay people who know how to go out and do this and this is their every you know, they do this for every election and this is not a small part of how they make their living.

Eric Zorn 43:38

So there there have been people who are pulling the ground acting like they’re gonna run for Mayor. Tom Tunney is perhaps one of them Brandon Johnson, Pat Quinn, certainly, maybe it LaShan Ford. There are other names I’m sure who are been kind of flirting with the idea publicly flirting, Judy Frydland e And so they’re all these people who are not quite in yet. But if this petition, private starting on Tuesday, they’re gonna have to jump in pretty quickly, because that’s how their points out. It’s expensive and time consuming. And you have to gather way more signatures than you think you’re going to need. And you can’t wait around until November, December. If you want to get on the ballot and even when’s the petition deadline?


Heather Cherone 44:24

The first day you can turn them in is November 21. So


Eric Zorn 44:28

So people have to get they have to jump in the game or say they’re not going to run. Yeah, right.


Heather Cherone 44:35

If you cast your memory all the way back to 20 tene. It was the Tuesday after Labor Day that Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced he would not seek a third term. He had petitions on the street at that very moment. I will never forget this. I was walking into City Hall. I passed one of Brahms petition passers he asked me if I would sign it and I declined. And then I walked into a press conference where Are he says, actually going to be lots of people who, who pull petitions who can’t get enough signatures or who think better of it. And there are people who have said nothing, nothing to anybody who are out there getting ready to run so, but it really that sort of once it’s Labor Day, as Eric, you know, put it, it’s time to either pull the plug or not like that’s when you’ve got to make a decision, because the the field is going to solidify. And you know, you got to raise at this point, like millions of dollars. So what I one of the things I will be watching for is to see which of the aldermen who’ve said they’re going to run for mayor are actually going to run for mayor because they can’t run for city council and for mayor, they’ve got to pick one. So I imagine that at some point, people like Roderick Sawyer and Raymond Lopez and Sophia King are going to have to think very seriously about whether they think they can actually defeat Lori Lightfoot. or risk losing their seat on the city council.


John Williams 46:05

Well, I’d keep my bird I keepin the hand if I were them.


Eric Zorn 46:07

Sophia King is already in, right. Stacy Davis Gates, the Chicago Teachers Union President said just a couple days ago, she’s not running. Which means that you’re expecting ,Heathe,r that the CTU –Chicago Teachers Union –support will go to Brandon Johnson, the Democratic Cook County Commissioner, if he decides to run. Is that fair to say?


Heather Cherone 46:28

He’s a paid CTU staffer. So he knows those people. He has very deep connections, he has a deep progressive record on the Cook County Board where he used champion things like the the tenants rights ordinance that prevents people from being evicted and or you know that you have to you can’t be prevented from renting an apartment because you have a criminal record. And he has a lot of support in those in those communities. So the theory is, and this is only a theory is that there has to be if the progressive wing of the Democratic Party in Chicago is going to defeat Lori Lightfoot, they’ve got to pick a candidate. And I think I said this last time, whether who which candidate that is I think is unclear right now. But if and then the hope is that you force Lori Lightfoot into a runoff, or that you end up in a in a runoff against somebody like Willie Wilson or Paul vallas or Raman Lopez, who’s one of the more conservative side of things, and then you can sort of run as sort of the progressive champion, because it doesn’t seem that way now, but Lori Lightfoot appeared as sort of the progressive reformer candidate in 2019 20, practically, never really got traction, sort of pointing to her truly decades long record of of, you know, passing progressive legislation and championing progressive causes. I don’t know that’s going to work for Lori Lightfoot, this time around, because she has a record that is in some respects, very, not progressive. And we heard her say yesterday for the first time that she will propose an increased in 2023, to the budget of the Chicago Police Department, which is $1.9 billion in 2022. So that is going to give somebody anybody who’s progressive, a way to criticize her approach to public safety.


Brandon Pope 48:24

I’m curious how what’s going to what the outlook is going to be? Because that’s an interesting dynamic you bring out there, Heather, she’s got a record now. But I’m curious if the electorate now where they wanted a progressive candidate who was anti corruption, and, you know, the life of a campaign did a great job painting Preckwinkle when anyone she ran against is like, in bed with corruption, and Ed Burke and stuff like that, without that there this time around. I’m wondering, with the rise in crime and things we see if you’re going to see more conservative candidates like a Paul vallas have a better shot than maybe a progressive candidate, would that take well, we’re likely to a runoff


Heather Cherone 49:00

Four months ago, that was certainly the conventional wisdom that that the mayor was more vulnerable from her right than she was from her left. But I don’t know that that is actually sort of where things stand right now. And I definitely don’t know whether that’s going to be where things stand in February of next year. But we saw a number of races in the primary one by people who championed defund the police who were stalwart progressives who defeated candidates who were more moderate. And I think that complicates sort of the path for somebody like a Willie Wilson or Rehman Lopez or Paul vallas, because if there’s an appetite for progressive policies, and you are under estimating that then you’re in a bad situation, because, you know, perhaps we are post George Floyd protests post George Floyd protests backlash, and that means we’re sort of in this whole new place. And it’s it’s anybody’s game.


Eric Zorn 50:00

Do you think that crime will be a less salient issue in this election because it’s going to be held in late February when it’s cold and crime rates are traditionally low during those during those months? Right now, crime stories are top of mind in the summer. But when it when we get into the winter, maybe some of these issues begin to fade a little bit in terms of how they energize voters and that people aren’t aren’t looking for to elect a police officer type to the mayor’s office.


Heather Cherone 50:31

Yeah, it’s it’s really possible. But , the last couple of Januarys have been extremely violent in Chicago, and that there certainly, you know, has not been sort of the the kind of hot weather crime, like big gatherings and that sort of thing. But there were high profiles, murders. And on really, really cold days in Chicago, and, you know, I don’t know if that pattern will continue. I also think it’s harder to talk about crime right now, because we heard the mayor yesterday saying, Well, look, murders down 18% shootings are down 18% from 2021. The issue with that, of course, is that 2021 was historically hugely violent year. So it’s like, yes, things are slightly less bad than they were at their worst point in more than two decades. That’s a difficult argument for Lori Lightfoot to make to voters, especially not crazy engaged voters. It’s also difficult for people who want to capitalize on that crime rate, when Lori Lightfoot can point to statistics like that and say, look, at least it’s getting better. It just makes it sort of a more complicated and less clear cut issue. And we all know that if you can’t sort of summarize it in 30 seconds, you’re gonna lose a lot of people because they are clearly not devoted listeners to them in some rascals or watchers, where I will be more than happy to go in depth on this.


Eric Zorn 52:02

Heather that is on them if they if they’re not listening to the Mincing Rascals, it’s on them!


John Williams 52:07

. I was thinking I was just thinking, to Eric’s point ,that you know, a lot of crime doesn’t happen in the cold winter months. Let’s not forget that Jussie Smollett was assaulted on a cold, cold January day. And with that bit of wisdom from me or host, let’s wrap this one up. Heather. Thanks as always for being on t”The Mincing Rascals and Eric and Brandon Pope,Be ladies and gentlemen, the new and improved Brandon Pope.


Brandon Pope 52:37

I’ll do my best


John Williams 52:39

maybe one of your biceps would just swing by


Brandon Pope 52:43

next time a tank top I think is what you want.


Eric Zorn 52:47

I’ll do a bro tank nexttime


Heather Cherone 52:49

We are very close to sexually harassing Brandon Pope. I feel I’ve got to stand up for him.


John Williams 52:54

that’s a bad thing. Right? Okay.


Eric Zorn  

It’s gonna cost the city a fortune in bronze if you ever have to make a statue of you.

Heather Cherone  

Eric brought it back full circle.

Brandon Pope  

He sure did. Watch out now.

John Williams 

We are produced by Ben Anderson and Pete Zimmerman. I’m John Williams. We’ll drop another podcast on you next week.

Heather Cherone  

That was fun.

Eric Zorn 

That was a lot of fun

Brandon Pope 

It was great.

John Williams  

Williams out!   See ya’