Lake Michigan at Chicago

By John Ruberry

Chicago, which is for now America’s third-largest city, has suffered a rough 21st century. It is beset by a declining population, a high murder rate, soaring taxes, poorly-rated bonds, and burdensome public employee pension debt.

Now you can add lead in tap water to Chicago’s problems. Chicago pumps its water from Lake Michigan, which is largely lead free.

From an April Chicago Tribune article:

Amid renewed national attention to the dangers of lead poisoning, hundreds of Chicagoans have taken the city up on its offer of free testing kits to determine if they are drinking tap water contaminated with the brain-damaging metal.

A Tribune analysis of the results shows lead was found in water drawn from nearly 70 percent of the 2,797 homes tested during the past two years. Tap water in 3 of every 10 homes sampled had lead concentrations above 5 parts per billion, the maximum allowed in bottled water by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Alarming amounts of the toxic metal turned up in water samples collected throughout the city, the newspaper’s analysis found, largely because Chicago required the use of lead service lines between street mains and homes until Congress banned the practice in 1986.

It was the lead from service lines in Flint, Michigan that contaminated that troubled city’s drinking water. Service lines are the connecting pipes from water mains to homes, schools, and businesses. Upkeep of them, and their replacement, is the responsibility of the property owner in Chicago. And replacing those service lines isn’t cheap, it will cost a property owner anywhere from $2,500 to $8,000. A lead filter is a cheaper alternative.

The Flint water crisis was brought about when that city, in a cost-saving measure, switched from purchasing its water from Detroit–which gets it from Lake Huron–to the Flint River. Chloride corrosives from the river reacted with the lead in the service lines, putting dangerous amounts of lead into Flint’s drinking water. While the US EPA says no amount of lead is safe, the EPA action level is 15 ppb, which many Flint homes exceeded.

But there is no federal standard for tap water lead levels in regards to individual residences.

The Tribune article cited here discovered that some Chicago homes tested had lead tap water with amounts slightly above 15 ppb.

Chicago is currently replacing 900 miles of water mains, and such work can increase lead levels in drinking water, the EPA says. And that might be the cause of the high lead content in Chicago’s water.

Excessive lead levels are particularly damaging to children as it can lead to developmental problems. In fact, dangerous lead exposures among Chicago’s children could be a factor in the city’s high rate of violent crime.

The Chicago Park District may soon shut off nearly half of its water fountains on its crowded Lakefront Path because of the high lead content in its water. For twenty years I swigged that water when I was training for marathons.

Chicago’s two-term mayor, Rahm Emanuel, who is up for reelection next year, has been mostly quiet about the lead issue.

I’ll leave the final words for Randy Conner, the city’s Water Management Commissioner, “Chicago has the best drinking water and the cleanest drinking water that is ever to be found.”

Pass me the bottled water as I praise the day I moved to the suburbs.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit from Morton Grove, Illinois.

Even the most disengaged person in the country knows that for all the talk of artistry Hollywood is pretty much a PR machine.

Hollywood pushes all kinds of movies:  fantasy, action, comedies, kid flicks.  There are all kinds of actors, A list stars, character actors, unknowns, You see war, peace love and lessons, CGI and live action but when it comes down to it, all the special effects, big names, and locations are about creating an image and selling that image to you.

That’s the job of Hollywood, That’s PR.

The movie industry pulls out all the stops to do this.  According to Ad week the motion picture industry as a whole spent 3.2 billion in 2012 on advertising their product from TV to the Internet and everywhere else.

Looking at a single studio in 2013 20th Century Fox (or just Fox if you prefer) released 13 movies.  Some of them are pictures were big box office successes that you likely heard of ( The Wolverine, the Croods.)  Some of them you might not have seen at the movies but know the franchises.  (A Good Day to Die Hard) some that you likely never heard of or caught on cable (the Counselor) and some you might have heard of because of the sheer volumes of ads but you gave it a miss because it looked kinda lame ( The secret life of Walter Mitty).

The movies Fox made featured stars that are household names:  Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Hugh Jackman, Famke Janssen, Bruce Willis, Rosie Perez, Brad Pitt, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake, Ben Affleck.  You see them on posters; you’ve watched them on the morning show, on daytime talk on late night shows pitching their pictures.  You’ve seen the ads on TV, and the trailers and posters at the movie theaters when they came out and on Cable as you browse though the on demand menus.

In 2013 Fox spent $303,000,000 to promote those 13 movies.  While some of that money filled seats and some did not, it’s almost a given that even if you didn’t go to see those pictures if I rattled off their names you would have likely heard of them and even if you didn’t remember much about the movies you would know the stars.

Bottom line all that Hollywood PR money made its mark in your memory.


And that oddly enough brings us to the EPA and a report put out by a group called Open the Books.  As indicated by the name, they are all about transparency in government spending.

Their latest report details spending by the EPA from 2000 to 2014 and there are a lot of things in that report that really jump out at you.

Since 2000 they have given out double in grants than the entire Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has in total assets. (p1)

Their 2015 budget this year is higher than the budgets of 8 states (p1)

A full 1/3 of EPA employees (over 10,000) position make over $100 a year.  (p31)

But what really jumped out at me was the spending on PR:

198 ‘Public Affairs’ employees (FY2012) were employed by EPA. Since 2007, EPA spent over $141,495,571 in salaries and another $1.5 million in performance bonuses. The EPA also spent $15,093,088 with outside public relations consultants to further buttress PR. ‘Public Affairs’ ranked 16th most paid salary title at EPA since FY2007.


So between outside PR firms and internal “public affairs” employees that comes to over $150 million dollars over 8 years on PR.

To put that in perspective that’s more than the production budgets of the 2013 Fox releases , Runner Runner, A Good day to die hard and The counselor combined. Those three pictures featured Justin Timberlake, Ben Affleck, Bruce Willis, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Rosie Perez and Brad Pitt.

So given those facts three things immediately leap to mind.

How can the EPA spend 19.7 million a year on PR without, you know, actually promoting anything?

When Hollywood promotes a movie you see the posters everywhere, you see the stars on TV, you hear them on radio, you are bombarded with information to the point where even if you want to forget about a movie or a star, you can’t.  It pops into your head.

I defy anyone to come up with anything the EPA has promoted that you have heard of?  The only thing you have likely heard at all concerning the EPA concerning that nasty mine spill that turned a river orange.  That’s something  the EPA is doing their best to make you forget.

If the EPA is spending millions promoting something they’re doing don’t you think someone in the country might have heard of it?

If we aren’t the target of that 19.7 million a year pr WHO IS?

Ok if the EPA is spending 19.7 million a year to PR people and they aren’t trying to advertise or promote the EPA to the public and the taxpayer who are they spinning?

You’re talking a group of employees with an average wage of $90K that’s not chicken feed, you are spending the more than hit movies cost.  We know a movie maker is trying to sell their product to the viewing public, exactly who is the EPA spending all this money trying to sell?  Who is the target and what is their goal?

I mean Jem and the Holograms crashed and burned but at least people have heard of it?  What has the EPA done lately other than pollute rivers that we know about?

What is the EPA doing spending millions on PR people anyway?

 Have we run out of sites that need cleaning or inspecting?  Is the air and water so clean , the species so safe and our country so unpolluted that we have the extra to blow on this kind of thing?

I think those are excellent questions, I think it would be really interesting to get the answers.

Don’t you?

With the resignation of John Boehner a lot of pundits are talking about the GOP “crazies” who forced him out and even some members of congress are talking along those lines.

While all that spleen venting must feel good for them it’s a spectacular lesson on the difference between groups who vote for the GOP and groups who vote for Democrats this week.

With the resignation of Boehner the GOP is on notice that there are consequences for attacking the voters and the base. It demonstrates that if one decides to abandon the principles that the voters who elected you hold, there is a cost.

Meanwhile contrast this lesson with the following news out of the Southwest:

The president of the Navajo Nation slammed President Obama and Democrats for deserting the tribe’s 300,000 people after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) accidentally polluted a river the tribe depends on, leaving one-third of the reserve’s drinking water unsafe.

In an exclusive interview with The Hill, Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye again called on Obama and administration officials to declare the San Juan River a disaster zone.

In August, an EPA accident resulted in 3 million gallons of contaminated water flowing into the Animas River, which runs into the San Juan River. One-third of the Navajo Nation’s people rely on the Animus for water.

Mind you this isn’t a question of some abstract principle or deeply held belief, this is the drinking water of a population, a basic necessity for survival.

“We are asking the Democratic Party to have President Obama declare the river a disaster area — and we haven’t gotten anything. Nothing,” he said. “The Democrats? I don’t know what happened. We basically are Democrats. We always vote Democrat. But it seems like they’ve just walked away. And we’re not hearing anything that’s of value to us from the Democrats.

emphasis mine, you mean to say that you always vote Democrat and the people who you vote for without questioning take you for granted? Who woulda thunk it!

“With Obama, we’ve been asking for him to at least give us a call and tell us you are there to help us and walk with us. But we have heard not a word. It seems like they’ve just closed the doors and walked away,” Begaye said. “We were the swing vote for them for years and they haven’t done a thing.”

Let me offer a suggestion. At the Senate hearings Mr. Begaye said:

We don’t know whom to trust anymore.

Forgetting for a moment that these hearing were launched by a Republican Senate let me simply remind you that since the 60’s the Black community has completely embraced the Democrat party to the point where democrats have no fear of the black vote going GOP.

Ask how well that’s worked out for them.

Update: At the atlantic, via Instapundit my point about the black America & Democrats is made:

For the black voters who saved Barack Obama in 2012, the Great Recession and the slow recovery have been one long continuing catastrophe. Between 2007 and 2009, black homeowners were 70 percent more likely to suffer foreclosure than whites. Higher-earning black families were 80 percent more likely to lose their homes than their white counterparts.

and for the kids it was worse

Despite three years of supposed economic recovery, black children were as likely to be poor in 2013 as in 2010—and more likely than at any time since the early 1990s. Almost four out of 10 black children are now growing up in poverty, as against one in nine white children. More than 25 percent of the black poor now live in areas of concentrated poverty, triple the rate for poor white people.

Update 2: Missed a link fixed


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