Monthly Archives: July 2008

Weak economy eases some, drops others out of workforce

It’s been a mean economic season so far, and it ain’t over by a long shot.

A couple of weeks ago, coffee behemoth Starbucks announced it would close 600 of its stores nationwide. Local Starbucks slated to close include those in Bloomingdale, Bolingbrook and Elmhurst, according to a press release.

And MRG Metromedia Restaurant Group, the parent company of Bennigan’s Grill & Tavern, announced this week it would file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and close all of its corporate-owned restaurants (eateries owned by franchisees will remain open, but I haven’t yet been able to determine which sites in the Chicago area are owned by the company). This came on the heels of an announcement by the corporation in June that it would not file for bankruptcy and close restaurants.

Many Starbucks employees will fortunately be absorbed by other stores — and how could they not? There are so many stores, some are located within a block of each other.

Workers at Bennigan’s, however, learned the hard way that they no longer had a job. Many reported to their restaurants to find the doors locked and small signs posted telling them that the company went bust.

The next photo I want to see of an newly unemployed worker is a stunned CEO who’s just discovered that he’s been locked out of his office.

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Lower gas prices show the Lord’s handiwork

Something startling caught my eye this morning, something I thought I’d never see again: gas prices lower than $4 a gallon. And this was in Cook County, no less.

The price of oil has apparently been dropping for the past few days. I saw the price at one gas station this morning in Cook County at about $3.99 per gallon, and then I saw it in DuPage County later today at about $3.89 per gallon. Happy days are here again!

Articles today in both the San Francisco Chronicle and Los Angeles Times both reported that Americans forced the lower prices because they were driving less — way to go. I also enjoyed an Associated Press article that came out yesterday with a headline that read, “Groups to pray for lower prices at gas stations.”

This is one prayer that was definitely answered.

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Is one federal agency trying to railroad local communities?

On Friday, the Surface Transportation Board issued its draft environmental impact statement on the proposed acquisition of the Elgin, Joliet and Eastern Railway by the Candanian National Railway. If the purchased is approved by the STB, some of CN’s freight train traffic would shift from western Cook County towns to those in DuPage and Will counties. A 30-day comment period will begin Aug. 1, and the STB will then issue a final report on the potential impact this merger would have.

U.S. Reps. Judy Biggert, R-13th District, of Hinsdale and Peter Roskam, R-6th District, of Wheaton have already issued statements expressing concerns about some of the draft statement’s conclusions, which downplay some of the potential consequences of the merger. CN had previously requested an expedited statement on its proposed acquisition, and local elected officials said such a merger would require a very thorough review.

The STB will conduct open houses/public meetings on its draft statement, including one on Aug. 28 in Bartlett. Let’s hope that members of the STB haven’t completely made up their minds on the deal and will be open to the concerns expressed by members of the affected communities.

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Marcucci’s choice not to seek re-election should have been made more formally

Here’s to wishing Elmhurst Mayor Thomas Marcucci all the best next year when he brings his public service career to an end. But here’s also to hoping that Elmhurst’s next Top Dog opts to make important announcements in a more formal setting.

During a golf outing held Wednesday by the Elmhurst Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Marcucci announced he would not seek a fifth term as mayor in next year’s municipal elections. He made his announcement to chamber members and some other city officials who were present.

“Mayor Marcucci stated that he decided to make an official announcement after receiving numerous queries from chamber members during his round of golf,” according to a press release issued by the chamber (yes — this news came from the chamber, not the city). “He played with City Manager Tom Borchert and Elmhurst College’s Ken Bartels as guests in a foursome hosted by Community Bank of Elmhurst Chairman William C. ‘Bill’ Gooch Jr.”

A chamber of commerce golf outing is one way of reaching a lot of people — except most constituents and members of the media. Marcucci could have issued a statement at the City Council’s meeting two days prior to the golf outing where all city officials were present, along with reporters who could have disclosed this to the public sooner. As of Thursday afternoon, I still haven’t seen anything about Marcucci’s announcement on the Web site for the Daily Herald.

Perhaps the folks there haven’t received the chamber’s press release yet.

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Glen Ellyn safety group spreads misinformation

A group whose stated goal is promoting safety in Glen Ellyn may be increasing residents’ anxieties by spreading misinformation.

The Glen Ellyn Coalition for Safe Neighborhoods has raised concerns about DuPage Public Action to Deliver Shelter. DuPage PADS operates overnight homeless shelters at 10 churches in seven communities throughout the county. Three churches in Glen Ellyn — Evangelical Covenant Church, First Congregational Church of Glen Ellyn and First Presbyterian Church — serve as PADS sites on selected evenings of the week.

Members of the coalition believe the presence of homeless people in Glen Ellyn increases the risk to public safety. On its Web site, the coalition references an arrest made June 14 at Evangelical Covenant Church. James Joseph was arrested for disorderly conduct and resisting a police officer while also being cited for public intoxication under a village ordinance, said Bill Holmer, Glen Ellyn’s deputy police chief.

The Web site then asks, “How did he get in if he was intoxicated?” PADS clients aren’t supposed to be admitted to the site if they are intoxicated.

Here’s the catch: Joseph wasn’t admitted to the site. Holmer said that people at the shelter called police after he became verbally abusive to them for being denied entrance. Officers stopped Joseph and questioned him as he was riding away from the site on his bicycle, Holmer said.

If the coalition wants to promote viable solutions to its concerns, it must first make sure it has its facts straight. A more detailed analysis of this group’s campaign against DuPage PADS will be printed in my column next week in Suburban Life Publications.

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There must be better reasons to boycott McDonald’s

The most well-known corporate entity in the world has incurred the wrath of several organizations.

On Wednesday, Liberty Counsel in Orlando, Fla., joined the American Family Association in Tupelo, Miss.; Naperville-based Americans for Truth About Homosexuality; and the Illinois Family Institute in Glen Ellyn to hold a press conference outside of McDonald’s corporate headquarters in Oak Brook to discuss their boycott of the fast-food giant. The groups are irked that McDonald’s has joined the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, donating $20,000 to the NGLCC and placing one of its executives on the chamber’s board.

The groups also take umbrage with a recent comment from a McDonald’s spokesman: “Hatred has no place in our culture,” Bill Whitman said in a July 4 article in the Washington Post. “That includes McDonald’s, and we stand by and support our people to live and work in a society free of discrimination and harassment.”

The NGLCC is a “radical homosexual activist organization that pushes the homosexual agenda, including calling for legislation of so-called ‘same-sex marriage,’” according to a Liberty Counsel press release. “In doing so, McDonald’s has publicly sided in the ongoing culture war against the majority of Americans who hold traditional family values.”

“McDonald’s should focus on food quality and safety issues instead of attacking the values held by the majority of people worldwide,” Liberty Counsel founder Mathew D. Staver said in the release. “Marriage between a man and a woman is the norm throughout the world. McDonald’s personal attack against those who support the traditional definition of marriage, while siding with a narrow group that promotes a radical redefinition, shows that company executives are out to lunch. McDonald’s might as well change their signs to read ‘billions and billions insulted.’”

The boycott may have some impact. The AFA ended a two-year public campaign against Ford in March “after the automaker largely stopped advertising its Volvo, Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles in the gay media,” according to the Washington Post article.

The groups have a right to air their grievances, but is this the appropriate issue to be fighting? Certainly McDonald’s has hampered individuals’ religious freedom in more serious ways than simply joining a chamber of commerce. It is the epitome of corporate America, after all, so joining a chamber of commerce is a no-brainer.

With all apologies to David Letterman, here is my Top 10 List of Better Reasons to Boycott McDonald’s:

No. 10: Shamrock Shake can’t always deliver on promise of heavenly bliss.

No. 9: Hamburglar has never repented for coveting his neighbors’ possessions.

No. 8: Golden Arches interfere with flight path of angels.

No. 7: Ronald McDonald believes the Egg McMuffin descended from the Fillet-o-Fish through evolution.

No. 6: Nutritional value information on menus unlocks the Da Vinci Code.

No. 5: Grimace once caused international uproar by claiming he was more popular than Santa Claus.

No. 4: Latest corporate Employee of the Month at McDonald’s bears suspicious resemblance to L. Ron Hubbard.

No. 3: No one has been able to use the phrase “two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun” in a hymn.

No. 2: Mayor McCheese insists he has authority to draft his own Ten Commandments.

And the No. 1 Better Reason to Boycott McDonald’s: The McRib — You call that thing kosher?

That’s my take on the issue. What do you think?

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