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Tom Ricketts adds insult to injury

TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts speaks Feb. 14 OmahNeb.  |  Nati Harnik~AP

TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts speaks Feb. 14 in Omaha, Neb. | Nati Harnik~AP

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Updated: July 3, 2012 10:33AM

Next, they’ll roll out the watermelons, and the fried chicken won’t be far behind.

The Ricketts family may need to scrub up their political skills, but they have the art of pandering down cold.

The owners of the Chicago Cubs were sent scrambling by the revelation that their family patriarch, Joe Ricketts, was considering deploying a staunchly conservative SuperPAC to fund racially offensive attack ads aimed at President Barack Obama.

The blowback has imperiled the Rickettses’ hopes for subsidies from Chicago’s amusement tax and other largess from the city. Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts, son of Joe, says his father never planned to execute the Jeremiah Wright strategy.

After the SuperPAC debacle, Mayor Rahm Emanuel refused to return an apologetic phone call from Tom Ricketts.

Now, the Rickettses are furiously lobbying black folks.

For this lifelong Cubs fan, that adds insult to injury. It’s pathetic enough that this South Side native has been waiting for salvation since the team broke my heart in 1969, the Cubs’ season from hell. Now, the Rickettses have discovered African Americans and acknowledged that we may have clout. Look around during any of the packed game days at Wrigley. The faces of color are as scarce as cheap eats.

Last week, Tom Ricketts and his emissaries phoned aldermen who are part of the Chicago City Council’s 19-member Black Caucus, as well as the Rev. Jesse Jackson of Rainbow/PUSH. On Thursday, Tom Ricketts appeared on WVON-AM (1690), the city’s only black-owned talk radio station. WVON dispatched a news release announcing the “exclusive” interview as Ricketts’ “first appearance on Chicago’s urban talk powerhouse.”

You know folks are desperate when they start schmoozing us.

The Rickettses also can count. They will need City Council votes to get their deal done.

Our communities are so bereft of resources that when rich folks come calling, everybody has a hand out.

On WVON, Ricketts made vague assurances that the Cubs organization hires black folks in management and funds recreational facilities and other efforts in black neighborhoods.

Ald. Will Burns (4th), who represents Hyde Park and Kenwood, got a call. He’s looking for more. The Rickettses “have to prove . . . the utility of a government investment in Wrigley Field, and that it would benefit the rest of the city of Chicago,” Burns says.

Our government is slashing vital lifelines to everything from mental health services to Medicaid, cuts that could decimate already underserved black and Latino neighborhoods. Before one tax dollar goes to a rich guy’s play toy, the Rickettses need to stop the whining, show us a little respect and make substantial investments in job creation, minority purchasing and education in our communities.

They can keep the watermelon.

A footnote: Last week, I wrote about the Chicago Youth Boxing Club, part of the “other Chicago” that was ignored during NATO.

He didn’t want me to tell you this, but Tim Tuten, co-owner of The Hideout, has donated $600 to buy the kids some speed bags and sparring gloves.

Tim, you’re a champ.

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