Voters, just say 'no' to Proco Joe
Mercy, sure, but a not a political comeback
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Eric Zorn is a former opinion columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Find a longer bio and contact information here. This issue exceeds in size the maximum length for a standard email. To read the entire issue in your browser, click on the headline link above. Become a paid subscriber to receive each Picayune Plus in your email each Tuesday.
Former Alderman Moreno deserves a second chance, but not in public office
I’m surprised that outgoing Ald. Tom Tunney, 44th, has endorsed former 1st Ward Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno in Moreno’s bid to reclaim the seat he lost four years ago.
Moreno … pleaded guilty (in 2021) to obstructing justice and giving a false report to authorities (after he) was accused of lending his Audi to a woman he was dating and then reporting it stolen. … (He also) pleaded guilty to a DUI and speeding after he was charged … with drunkenly crashing into several cars on a posh Gold Coast street. … He also faced an allegation of sexual harassment dating back to 2014 from a former staffer, which Moreno denied, and got in hot water for alleged threats against the owner of the building that housed the former Double Door music venue.
Moreno blames his lapses on alcoholism triggered by the suicide of a close friend. He says he is now sober and has a clean slate because he successfully completed the “second-chance probation” handed down by his merciful honor, Cook County Judge William Hooks and so technically has no criminal record. And yes, alcoholism is real and pernicious. It was likely why he slammed into eight parked cars on North Astor Street at the end of 2020 with a blood-alcohol level four times the legal limit.
And maybe it’s why he got embroiled in a little controversy in 2018 when he flashed his ceremonial aldermanic badge while trying to enforce a parking regulation.
But the insurance fraud? Read Block Club Chicago’s summary of that caper:
In May 2019, with only days left in his term, Moreno was arrested on felony charges of insurance fraud and obstruction of justice, with police and prosecutors saying he let Liliya Hrabar, a woman he was dating, get arrested in the car he loaned her after falsely reporting it stolen.
Text messages from the time show the couple was on good terms both before and after Moreno reported the car stolen on Jan. 4.
The day before he filed the report, the alderman wrote to Hrabar, “Meet at my house at 11 you can have my car,” according to messages Hrabar shared with WGN at the time.
Almost four years later, Moreno maintains the situation was a misunderstanding. He also said he doesn’t remember loaning Hrabar his car because he was “abusing hard alcohol.”
“I didn’t really drive my car much. I loaned it out all the time. … The misunderstanding was that I didn’t remember loaning the car to her,” he said. …
“This wasn’t [a] misunderstanding, it absolutely wasn’t.” Hrabar said. “I had the car for almost a month. How can you not know where your car is for a whole month? …And we keep talking and texting. How? How do you not know where your car is?”
Remember, he had Hrabar arrested.
Hrabar insisted to her arresting officers that the Wicker Park alderman actually loaned her the car — and showed them text messages to prove it — but Moreno didn’t respond to police inquiries to check out her story, so they arrested her on a charge of criminal trespass to a vehicle, prosecutors said.
That’s sustained criminal shittiness, if you will forgive my deployment of the vernacular, that can’t be blamed solely on John Barleycorn. Moreno, 50, should be allowed to rebuild his life, sure, but not as an alderman. Even by Chicago’s low standards for aldermanic comportment and opening our minds and hearts to find forgiveness, no, just no.
Notes and comments from readers —lightly edited —- along with my responses
I received many comments, letters and messages regarding the news that WTTW-Ch. 11 is moving its flagship daily news program “Chicago Tonight” to 10 p.m. from 7 p.m and cutting the length to a half hour from an hour. Here is a representative sample:
Nancy McD. — Ten p.m.? Jeez, that’s past my bedtime.
Kar U. — I prefer “Chicago Tonight” in its one-hour iteration. A full hour allows the program to be in-depth and local. But the new time slot —- competing with the major stations at 10 p.m. — is a bad idea.
Karen K. — I like the new time. I’m usually working or rushing around in the early evening. And with Trevor Noah leaving “The Daily Show,” I’ll need something to watch at 10 p.m.
Christopher D. — Why does “Chicago Tonight” want to compete with all the 10 p.m. local news shows? Right now public TV offer a nice one-two combo, with “PBS NewsHour” at 6 p.m. for national news and then “Chicago Tonight” at 7 p.m. for local news.
Diana L. — I can’t understand why “Chicago Tonight, The Week In Review,” the Friday night episod, is only 30 minutes. Seems like it should be allotted more time to cover all the interesting and important local stories.
I agree. I also think the panel discussion should go light on sports unless there is a huge sports story in town.
Craig B. — “Chicago Tonight” was envisioned as a newsmagazine, rather than a conventional newscast. I'm a long-time viewer and I believe these upcoming changes could diminish its quality.
I’m probably an even longer time viewer, as I remember when “Chicago Tonight” envisioned itself as the city’s nightly news conference. When it was half an hour up until 2002 the show featured one topic — usually very topical and newsy— that a panel discussion covered in depth. It was while participating in one of those panels — on gambling expansion if I recall correctly — that I first met then-State Sen. Barack Obama, whom I found stunningly impressive.
The newsmagazine concept has been around for the last 20 years.
John C.P — The original “Chicago Tonight” under host John Callaway focused on local mostly political news, with a panel of interviews from local experts, activists etc. Now it seems to want to summarize all the news, and I’m not sure what the point of that is.
Yes, it was not originally intended to be a substitute for a newscast, but rather a supplement.
Marc. M — The current show is way better than the local commercial stations. It does more in-studio interviews with alderpersons, state representatives, administrators, the mayor, etc. It also features good panel discussions with multiple experts and elected officials on to discuss and debate major issues. I hope none of that gets lost in the new format
Eric D. — it will be nice to have, you know, actual news and analysis again at 10 p.m. as opposed to infotainment on the local network affiliates these days. I'm a big fan of co-hosts Brandis Friedman and Paris Schutz.
They’re a good team, I agree.
Beth S. — I hope that in cutting the length of the program they don’t shortchange arts coverage.
Christian A. — If when you say “Chicago Tonight” is likely to be “sharper” at half an hour you mean less expansive, slicker, and more superficial, you might be right. Goodbye arts and culture and discussions with top academics. I have the TV off by 10 p.m. anyway. Well, it was a good run. I feel like this is the end of a long friendship. Bummer move.
I’d urge skeptics to watch first before passing final judgement.
Rich Samuels, former “Chicago Tonight” reporter — Give them a chance. I worked with news director Jay Smith for a number of years. I believe he can make it work.
Tom S. — I used to watch “Chicago Tonight” every night, but it has become so liberal with wokeism that I quit watching. It used to be more down the center in the past and it is too bad that it has veered so far left. And, I am not a MAGA Trump supporter...just a regular conservative.
JMCC — “Chicago Tonight” has become an identity-obsessed social justice vehicle and the new set looks like a bad send-up of “The Jetsons.”
Lorraine L. — Why not keep “Chicago Tonight” at 7 p.m. and just repeat it at 10 pm?
The show already does rebroadcast at 10 p.m. on WTTW-prime — 11.2 on your antenna; 367 on Comcast and 37 on RCN — and at 5 a.m on WTTW-Ch. 11.
Kent F. — I wonder how much of WTTW's decision to move Chicago Tonight is based on competing with Channels 2, 5, 7, and 9 at 10pm, and how much is PBS getting fed up that network shows in the Chicago market running one hour later on weekdays. And any time there is a multi-episode film by Ken Burns, I wind up recording it. With an 8 p.m. start time, instead of 7 p.m., it goes past my wife's bedtime of 9 p.m.
Kathleen M. — I like settling in for an hour.
On other topics..
Kevin W. — The latest batch of tweets was excellent. Best in a long time.
Marc. M — I found nothing amusing about any of the the tweets again this week. But persevere. Keep on keeping on. I look forward to the day when I am amused, and the drought will probably make that feeling even better.
Daniel B. — You dropped the (foot)ball in your item on the on-field heart attacked suffered by Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin. You referred to an American sport as “easily the the greatest sport of all”. I’m afraid you let your guard down and allowed an American centric view to creep in. All that was required was an IMHO, a maybe, or a “what many consider” just to convey less certainty and possible condescension towards those who don’t agree with your absolute statement. Growing up in Argentina, while I’m still celebrating last month’s victory, I won’t claim that soccer (true football) is easily the greatest anything, although clearly the most popular sport on earth. I know better, and realize that Americans may not capture its essence. I’ll take a Stanley cup final over a Super Bowl any day.
I recognize that taste and cultural backgrounds figure into sporting preferences and I trust it’s understood that many similar assertions in the Picayune Sentinel reflect my opinion. I grew up playing organized baseball and basketball and understand those sports as well or better than I understand football, yet I consider football to be a vastly superior spectator sport. Not only is every play an elaborate, 22-piece chess match between coaching staffs, but the fans also get 30 seconds or so to review the previous play and to contemplate the upcoming play.
Cassidy B. — Thanks for all those “Ya gotta …” recommendations from local newsfolk. Lots of good pointers.
I enjoyed putting that list together. I might revive the idea in a few months, and instead of asking for any old recommendation, make the request more specific. For example, I’m very interested in what books people like and why.
Jay G. — For those who like science and history, for book recommendations I recommend almost anything by Simon Winchester, but particularly:"The Map That Changed the World - William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology" and"The Perfectionists: How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World." I also recommend Dr. David Schneider's "The Invention of Surgery: A History of Modern Medicine: From the Renaissance to the Implant Revolution."
Ya gotta see these tweets!
I often run across tweets that rely on visual humor and so can’t be included in the Tweet of the Week contest (the template I use for that poll does not allow me to include images). Here are a few good ones I’ve come across recently:
This one is no longer timely so I won’t include it in the poll, but toward the end of last week it was all over my social media feeds:
I also enjoyed this one from Tribune photographer John J. Kim, but didn’t include it in the final five:
Now here are your finalists:
Vote for your favorite. I’ll share the winner in Thursday’s main edition.
There’s still time to vote in the conventional Tweet of the Week poll!
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