Saturday, December 10, 2005

Dick Kay, City Desk, Congresswoman Bean and Cong. Kirk

Congresswoman Melissa Bean [D-Barrington, 8th CD] is the guest on Dick Kay’s City Desk [NBC-5] tomorrow, Sunday. I would set your TIVO or VCR or yourself for about 9:10 am to 9:30 am. on Ch. 5 in the Chicago Metro area When you take out the ads, City Desk is only about 10-12 minutes, but it seems as if you never can be sure of the exact start and end time.

The show is well worth watching. Kay and Congresswoman Bean have a good, substantive conversation. The show was taped on Friday and I was lucky enough to watch the taping, as I have done recently with some of Kay’s other tapings. I have been a long time watcher of City Desk, but the difference between watching it in-person and watching it on TV is similar to the difference between watching baseball on TV and being at the stadium. Both are good, but the latter is definitely more fun, and, of course, you see and hear a lot more.

Among other topics, Kay and Cong. Bean discuss the Patriot Act, trade, the Central American Free Trade Agreement ["CAFTA"], labor standards in the trade context and the House’s recent vote on extending the dividend and capital gains tax cuts to 2010.

Although not discussed on tomorrow’s City Desk, there are some similarities to the political challenges facing Cong. Bean in the 8th CD and Cong. Mark Kirk [R-Highland Park] in the 10th CD. Bean, a first term U. S. Rep., upset 35 year Republican incumbent Phil Crane in 2004, 52 to 48, after losing to him 57-43 in 2002. The 8th CD is clearly the stronger of the only two Republican CDs in the Chicago metro area, with Bush winning the 8th CD, 56-44 over Kerry in 2004. Bean, a Democrat, must be sensitive to the Republican leanings of her District and must “straddle,” some issues.

5th year North Shore Cong. Mark Kirk won an open seat in 2000 with a two-point razor thin margin of victory over former State Rep. Lauren Beth Gash. Kirk received a late endorsement in a ten candidate Primary from his predecessor and former boss, 21 year moderate Republican Cong. John Porter, and that support helped Kirk, as well, in the General Election [Porter was very popular with the 10th CD Dems].

Moderate Republican Kirk has been sensitive to the Democrat drift of his district and he has been blessed by weak and poorly financed opponents in the last two elections, with Kerry beating President Bush 53-47 in the 10th , while Kirk drubbed Lee Goodman 64-36 in 2004. Much of that drubbing and his prior wins in the 10th CD were due to Kirk’s ability to co-opt traditionally Democratic constituencies, e.g., pro-choicers, gay rights activists, environmentalists, pro-Israel segments and pro-gun control groups. Kirk, like Bean, also must straddle some issues.

Back to Dick Kay, tomorrow’s show could be Kay's last on City Desk. Kay, in an unprecedented move for him, is taking seven weeks vacation and will think things over as to what he does in the future.

City Desk is the only show of its type still existing on the local CBS, NBC and ABC news stations in Chicago and NBC-5 should be applauded for keeping the show going this long. Also worthy of note is the local Fox affiliate’s [WFLD –32] effort in the last year with Fox Chicago Perspectives every Sunday from 8:00 am to 9:00 am. By my count, that show often has 25 minutes, or so, of local, state and National Public Policy and Politics discussion. I have been critical of several aspects of that show. Nevertheless, the local Fox station should also be applauded for taking a look at whether a public policy and politics show can be a viable commercial product.

City Desk’s origins pre-date Kay and go back to 1955, when Mayor Richard J. Daley came on the scene—and was a guest on the show—and it is hoped NBC-5 will keep City Desk and the political news tradition it represents alive and well, irrespective of what Dick Kay decides to do in the future. However, it should be remembered that Kay has been in the business for 46 years and that kind of political perspective, experience and store of knowledge is well worth exploiting, in the best sense of the word.
Jeff Berkowitz, Host and Producer of Public Affairs and an Executive Recruiter doing Legal Search, can be reached at