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Posts Tagged ‘taste of chicago’

by Christopher Brinckerhoff

Wanna know what’s up with healthcare reform? Me too. A recent trip to the northeastern quadrant of Iowa led me to the town of Waverly, population about 10,000.

This seemed like an ideal place to take the temperature of our country’s healthcare opinions because: One, about two years ago President Barack Obama got his start with a Primary victory in Iowa on the way to the top office in the nation, and two, since his inauguration Obama’s approval rating in polls has dipped from 80-plus percent to below 50 percent.

Arguably one of the contributing factors to this change in public opinion was the introduction of healthcare reform proposals. Business owners in this small Midwest town provided a revealing look into what folks think about healthcare reform, and why President Obama’s proposals have not always been met with open arms.

One Waverly business owner was concerned about the implications of expanding public healthcare. Bertil Anderberg, owner of two salons, Tren D Hair And More and Cost Cutters Family Hair Care, said America has the best healthcare system in the world. Why else would the Mayo Clinic be filled with international patients? he said.

The Tren D Hair owner, who grew up in Sweden, provides a healthcare option for his employees.

“I know all about socialistic healthcare,” Anderberg said. “That’s the worst possible thing they can do here. You are going to stay in line like a bunch of heifers to get some help from the doctor, and then he’ll give you a pill and say ‘come back next week.’ Then go in this line. He’ll give you a pill again and say ‘come back in two weeks,’ and then you’ll go back over here again.”

The business owners I spoke with related to the healthcare reform question with different, yet interesting and revealing, viewpoints.

American Family Insurance agent Kristi Demuth said she was conflicted by the healthcare conundrum. The 20-plus year insurance veteran said she sees healthcare reform from two different perspectives: the consumer and the insurance agent.

From the consumer point-of-view, Demuth said there are situations when people are denied insurance options based on non-recurring or dormant conditions. While she acknowledged the needs of insurance companies to impose these pre-existing conditions clauses, there are times when these rules impose undue financial duress on otherwise healthy individuals.

From the consumer’s perspective, loosening the pre-existing conditions clause would be an improvement, according to Demuth.

Demuth said she would also welcome reduced premiums. But that scenario becomes less likely if insurance companies make it easier for people with pre-existing conditions to purchase plans without as many strings attached. In fact, premiums would likely go up, not down, according to Demuth.

Waverly, Iowa American Family Insurance agent Kristi Demuth says she sees the healthcare reform question from two views: the provider and the receiver. Neither gives a clear answer. In fact, the opposite is true. It is complicated. Photo by Christopher Brinckerhoff.

Waverly, Iowa American Family Insurance agent Kristi Demuth says she sees the healthcare reform question from two views: the provider and the receiver. Neither gives a clear answer. In fact, the opposite is true. It is complicated. Photo by Christopher Brinckerhoff.

Demuth said more communication between doctors and insurance companies could reduce costs.

If you see a doctor who has followed your health history over a long period of time, and you have the same health concern, such as allergies, every year, an office visit might not be necessary in order to write a prescription.

“It’s different if you’re a brand new client to a doctor,” Demuth said. “I don’t have a problem with that. But what I struggle with is that continually having to go to the doctor when you know that’s what you have just because you’ve had it so many times.”

One business owner was disturbed by the concept of politically administered healthcare.

Government intervention could only make matters worse, according to Osage resident Vernon Martin. Countries with socialized healthcare put elderly folks at a significant disadvantage in terms of receiving care, the construction company owner said.

“I know a girl in Canada for instance, and she’s a nurse up there,” Martin said. “And what happens up there? The old people get pushed back. People that should be getting care, and they aren’t getting care because they aren’t sick enough to be serious. You know, you take a number. They don’t care. Right now at least the healthcare system is providing for the old folks.”

Martin, whose wife is also a nurse, said government intervention would translate into problems.

“The government’s trying to come in here and set up a health program that’s going to take care of everybody and supply everybody with everything – yeah right,” Martin said. “When has the government ever gotten their fingers into anything that they haven’t screwed up?”

While no clear solutions emerged from conversations with business owners in northeast Iowa, one reality did come to light: Americans, as a group, are at the same time passionate and mixed about healthcare reform.

Copyright 2009

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by Christopher Brinckerhoff and Albert Corvera

Before the Taste of Chicago began, security, vendors and Chicagoans weighed in on the celebration’s impact. Preparations for the city’s largest annual festival is one way to look at what the event means for Chicago communities.

At this pre-Taste, we spoke with a security guard, a business executive, and a teacher. All three said the crowd is the major attraction and concern.

University of Illinois at Chicago professor Gerri Gorman has lived in Chicago almost all her life, and she said she appreciates the city’s neighborhoods and diversity. Though she’s not going to attend the festival this year, Gorman said she used to attend the Taste when her children were younger, and the event wasn’t so large.

“But the crowds are becoming overwhelming,” Gorman said. “[The Taste] represents everything I find reprehensible in Chicago and in America. It’s too crowded. It’s too much consumerism. It’s excess; way too much of everything.”

On the other hand, a business executive said the Taste is a good opportunity for the vendors. Reggio’s Pizza president and CEO John Clark said his company has intermittently participated at the Taste since its inception 28 years ago.

Clark said it’s an expensive proposition to be a vendor at Chicago’s Independence Day fest due to labor, rising food costs and city commissions on the products they sell. But the promotional opportunity for Reggio’s Pizza brand makes it worth it.

“We don’t come out here to make a million dollars, but we do at least want to break even,” Clark said. “And, at the same time, be the beneficiary of this exposure. I’m hoping that the people that come here to the booth will like our pizza enough so [that] they’ll continue to frequent us during the other 50 weeks in the year.”

In addition to folks and businesses, organizers of the Taste provide security guards.

Ed Byrne has worked security for the Taste ten years. He said they prevent homeless from making homes out of the pre-Taste construction.

The veteran Taste security guard said July third is typically the busiest day at Chicago’s Taste. Byrne said that day has the highest attendence, and, therefore, safety concerns. Byrne summed up the high and low points of the event with one thing:

“The best is the people, and the worst is the people,” Byrne said.

Copyright 2008

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by Christopher Brinckerhoff

A Chicago seagull eyes some tempting scraps at this year’s Taste. Some say they don’t mind the birds’ presence. But according to experts, they present a serious health risk. Photo by Christopher Brinckerhoff.

A Chicago seagull eyes some tempting scraps at this year’s Taste. Some say they don’t mind the birds’ presence. But according to experts, the winged creatures present a serious health risk. Photo by Christopher Brinckerhoff.

Chicago – Over a million people loaded Michigan’s lakefront to observe the city’s freedom and fireworks celebration this Independence Day. But thousands more attended. And they didn’t spend any cash.

Taste of Chicago attracted thousands, if not millions, of seagulls, pigeons and other birds. The birds swooped, waddled and pecked their way through Grant Park. Scraps of litter and people offering food drew them in droves.

DeVry student and Columbia native Carlos Quimbay attended the Taste with his girlfriend, Marina Calbo from Ecuador. Quimbay said he was getting some scraps ready to feed the birds, but Calbo told him not to feed them.

“Don’t give them anything because I know they have their own form of finding food in the trees and in the ocean,” Calbo said. “That’s why there’s so many of them. I think it is inhumane for us to throw food at them. Look at how they fight.”

Chicagoans Alah Shatat and Ann Ruyz attended the Taste July 1. Shatat and Ruyz said they saw birds swooping closely to people’s heads. But they felt the birds had a right to be there.

“There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s part of life,” Shatat said.

Sanitation Department worker Gerard Ortense, who worked at the Taste, said they don’t have a problem with the birds.

“It’s the people that are feeding the birds is why they’re flying around like that,” Ortense said.

Chicago Department of Environment Spokesperson Larry Merritt said they do have signs posted on some of the beaches asking people not to feed the birds. Merritt said it’s a public health concern.

It’s what the birds leave behind that’s dangerous, according to Merritt. While the birds feast on human trash and hand-outs, they defecate more frequently in the same areas.

More bird poop at the beaches isn’t good because there is a thought that there’s a link to E. coli because the E. coli found at the beaches was avian,” Merritt said.

When asked if something should be done to stop people from feeding the birds, Ortense said, “What are you going to do to prevent it? They’re seagulls; they’re all over the place. It’s kind of hard to regulate them.”

Chicago Ornithological Society Secretary Randi Doeker, who has volunteered at the organization for eight years, said people should not feed the birds because they need to find food on their own, and feeding them alters their behavior. Some birds become more aggressive with people.

“But I don’t think that is specific to the Taste” Doeker said. “We share the same world, and we aren’t a predator species from their perspective. We may be a rude species, but we’re not a predator. We’re not chasing them down and trying to kill them.”

Additionally, laws protect some birds, Doeker said. There is an international treaty, The Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the United States signed that protects the seagulls because they are migratory birds from the Western Hemisphere. However, the law does not protect the pigeons because they are not a native species. The pigeons are from Europe, Doeker said.

“We don’t want them, just like we don’t want plants that don’t belong in North America because they don’t belong in the ecosystem,” Doeker said. “They take over and they dominate incorrectly. They are not contributing positively to the ecosystem.”

Doeker said House Sparrows are a non-native species that live in building crevasses, and have ousted other indigenous birds.

“They’re very aggressive, not with people, but with other birds,” Doeker said. “And they will prevent real Western Hemisphere birds from nesting in an area. Therefore, we get all these little House Sparrows instead of having the diverse collection of birds that we should have.”

The large number of Chicago birds living off human trash and hand-outs might seem innocuous. However, some birds pose a serious risk in the form of E. coli. Additionally, allowing non-native species such as pigeons and House Sparrows to flourish evicts native birds essential to our ecosystem’s natural balance.

One Taste attendee had a much simpler view of the birds.

“I just pray they don’t shit on me,” Quimbay said.

Two Taste of Chicago diners are joined by a clutch of seagulls along Lake Michigan. Photo by Christopher Brinckerhoff.

Two Taste of Chicago diners are joined by a clutch of seagulls along Lake Michigan. Photo by Christopher Brinckerhoff.

Copyright 2008

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