Weekly Review 6/14/13

This week the Bulls broke ground on what is to be a 60, prescription shop 000 square foot practice facility adjacent to the United Center.  For the Bulls, and stuff the training complex will replace the Berto Center in the ‘burbs, thumb where the smaller facility can no longer accommodate the Bulls’ numerous staff and really big players.\n\n\”It wasn’t our first choice,” the Chairman told the press, “My first choice was to build a bigger building out in the Deerfield area. But the mayor said this was important to him. We want to be good citizens and so we went ahead and did it.”\n\nLike Judge Smails sentencing boys to the gas chamber, Jerry Reinsdorf didn’t want to do it; he felt he owed it to us.\n\nAnd Rahm Emanuel was right there at the groundbreaking ceremony to explain why we should all be so appreciative of the Bulls’ decision to practice playing basketball in Chicago:\n\n“It’s this type of investment that happened with the United Center 20 years ago that then spurred a series of public and private investments that have turned the Near West Side into an economic opportunity for the entire city commercially and residentially…This new training facility–after 20 years coming home to Chicago–will have as equal a value in economic opportunity, job creation and job growth for the entire West Side.”\n\nI hate to be the one to break it to the mayor, because he’s kind of on a roll with all this sports facilities and jobs talk lately, but he’s wrong about the United Center.  Rachel Weber, Associate Director of the Great Cities Institute at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said as much in a May, 2011 WBEZ Eight Forty-Eight interview on the subject.\n\nProfessor Weber attributes the development east of the United Center to the westward expansion of the Loop: \”I would say that the development that has taken place on the near west side has happened in spite of the United Center and not necessarily because of the United Center.\”\n\nWell then, Jerry Reinsdorf: “Tanks fer nuttin’!”\n\nBen Joravsky wrote about this Bulls practice facility agreement a while back.  Apparently, the Bulls move is quid pro quo for an extension of the juicy tax abatement deal that the owners of the United Center (Reinsdorf and Rocky Wirtz) enjoy with the city, due to expire in 2016.  Presumably those talks are underway but Riensdorf refused to comment at the groundbreaking.\n\nHowever, Reinsdorf did take a crack at defending the integrity of his existing UC tax deal because, well, why not?\n\n“[The United Center] was built with a tax formula.  All it gave us was a formula to fix the taxes.  It didn’t save us millions of dollars…For all I know, we ended up paying more taxes than we would otherwise have paid,” said Reinsdorf.\n\nI don’t think I’m being harsh, only frank, when I say that those are some shameless lies.\n\nFor one, there was a whole report released by Sean Dinces for the Chicago Teachers Union that detailed the tax savings enjoyed by the owners of the United Center from 2002 to 2007.  Dinces analyzed tax data and used tables and charts and detailed endnotes and lengthy appendixes on methodology.  If you want to know how much Reinsdorf was saving annually, here’s the chart from the report:\n\n\n\nThe Reinsdorf Defense in the face of this overwhelming evidence?: “We didn’t save millions, trust me.”\n\nAnd then the gall to suggest that he might be paying too much, but he’s not really sure?!\n\nJerry Reinsdorf is a tax attorney.  He worked for the IRS.  He made his fortune exploiting the tax system as the brains behind a real estate investment company he founded and then sold called Balcor (I don’t have time to go into it but look it up).\n\nThis is a man with a deep understanding of tax code and finance.  Sports agent David Falk, who negotiated with the man on behalf of Michael Jordan, said of Reinsdorf in 1988: ”He has a very sophisticated financial and tax background, so that highbrow issues, such as trust arrangements, annuities and insurance, often enter into the negotiations.” (See “No-Lose Road Game for White Sox,” Julia Flynn Siler, New York Times, June 29, 1988: D1 accessed through Chicago Public Library website).\n\nHands-on and attentive to detail in player contract negotiations and Reinsdorf expects us to believe that he hasn’t bothered with the minutia of his twenty-year tax deal?  He might as well stand at the podium and declare to the people of Chicago: “I think you’re all idiots!”\n

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\nIn the midst of the fast tracking of Mayor Emanuel’s South Loop DePaul basketball arena deal, which will cost the city $55 million, Ben Joravsky discovered a Power Point presentation sent to a southwest side high school principal from the CPS central office requiring cuts to \”everything\” to reduce the school’s budget by $2 million.  Apparently, “everything” means “[c]ounselors, supplies, paper for the copy machine, teachers” and more.  Maybe those fired teachers and counselors can find part-time jobs selling Pepsi and hot dogs at the new arena!  Yay “job creation”!\n

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\nOver the course of some week, there will be evidence that people in positions of power who offend other people by propagating symbols of conquest understand that it doesn’t matter whether they intend to insult or honor historically subjugated peoples.  It matters only that people are hurt by it.  Yes, there will come a week when league commissioners, team owners, fans, stadium parking lot attendants—all of us!—will care about that above all else, and cease without question to propagate such symbols.\n\nBut that week was not this past week.\n\nA short while ago members of Congress (led by the co-chairs of the Congressional Native American Caucus) urged Washington Redskins ownership to change the name of their football team, and this week NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell responded with a letter.\n\nIn his retort, Goodell supported the name, eliciting all the tact and reasoning of people who support widespread use of the Confederate flag.  Goodell’s action prompted this open letter from Dave Zirin to Redskins owner, and generally repulsive fellow, Dan Snyder.\n\nTo bring this back around to Chicago, did you know that there was once a baseball team in this city known as the “Chicago Orphans”?  The club had the good sense to change their name to the Cubs in 1903.\n

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\nA couple of lighter notes to wrap up this unusually long WR:\n\nCouple the pleasure Michael Jordan took in dispatching his rivals on the court with news that Jordan, now owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, hired former New York Knicks center Patrick Ewing as a coach for the struggling NBA franchise and you get this crackerjack headline from the Onion.\n\nI disagree with Deadspin’s Barry Petchesky that “I love shinpads!” was the second greatest quote to come out of Andrew Shaw’s mic’d-up triple overtime goal celebration.  For me it was tops.  It may have been the first time these words of affection for standard hockey equipment had never been uttered, but Shaw spoke for all of all of us in Chicago who contributed to a game one 25.1 TV rating; for one fleeting moment, we all loved shinpads!\n\n 

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