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Where’s your bike helmet, Mr. Mayor?

Mayor Rahm Emanuel columnist Neil Steinberg participate Divvy bike neighborhood tour Oct. 14 as part Chicago Ideas Week. | Ashlee

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and columnist Neil Steinberg participate in a Divvy bike neighborhood tour on Oct. 14, as part of Chicago Ideas Week. | Ashlee Rezin/for Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 17, 2013 6:17AM

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s contention that speed cameras are all about safety and not revenue sounds a mite hypocritical when he is photographed riding through a Northwest Side neighborhood on a Divvy bike without wearing a helmet. The example was clear, because almost none of his entourage also rode sans helmet.

Mike Koskiewicz, Portage Park

Two sides to issue

A Sun Times Oct. 15 letter to the editor said: “Anyone who declares themselves a Tea Party Republican is guilty of treason. They do not believe in democracy or the Constitution of the United States. If the Democrats don’t take back the House, we are doomed to failure on every issue.”

I’ve no doubt a good many could be found who would say that, “Anyone who declares themselves a member of the Democrat Party today is guilty of treason. They do not believe in democracy or the Constitution of the United States. If the Dems aren’t stripped of power in Congress and the White House, we are doomed to failure on every issue.”

So which opinion are we to believe? In this case, neither statement gives a lick of evidence to back up what is said, yet there are droves on both sides who would unquestioningly agree with one or the other.

If we are doomed to failure, I believe it is precisely because of this narrow-mindedness: It blinds us to the truth. It’s high time we put partisanship on the back burner until we have had time to digest what we hear, study up on the issues, discuss them, and be open to whatever the truth has to tell us. Patrick Henry once said, “For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.”

We would be wise to heed those words.

John Babush, Big Rock

Wrong on torture commission

The Sun-Times Oct. 13 editorial, “Torture commission gets beaten down” is flawed, misleading and diminishes the obligation the taxpayer-funded body has to keep the family members of murder victims informed of its work. The editorial mischaracterizes the mission of a taxpayer-funded commission that has, in the opinion of many, lost its way.

I support any effort to examine whether innocent people have been wrongfully convicted based solely on confessions coerced through abuse at the hands of police. That said, the Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission should spend less time and taxpayer dollars looking at cases where guilt is indisputable (based on physical evidence and the appellate process) and more time on claims involving potentially innocent individuals.

JoEllen Pueschel is my sister. On August 29, 1983, Reginald and Jerry Mahaffey broke into her home and murdered her husband, Dean, in front of her eyes. The Mahaffeys then brutally raped her and murdered her. The Mahaffeys also beat their 11-year-old son, Rick, and left him for dead. The mountain of evidence against the Mahaffeys leaves no doubt about who committed these horrific crimes. The Mahaffeys’ own brother turned them in to police. Investigators recovered Pueschel family possessions in the Mahaffeys’ residence, including JoEllen and Dean’s wedding video. And Rick positively identified the Mahaffeys as the offenders.

Both the Illinois Supreme Court and the Federal Appellate Court held that even setting aside their confessions, the evidence of the Mahaffeys’ guilt is “overwhelming.” Both state and federal courts denied them new trials. This case and others like it have no place before this commission. Instead, the commission should focus efforts and taxpayer dollars where they’re needed most by reviewing cases that have not received the scrutiny that other settled cases have.

This summer, without considering the evidence or these previous court decisions, this commission began to set Jerry Mahaffey on the road to freedom.

The law requires the commission to notify victims of these proceedings. Yet our family learned of the recommendation for a new trial from the media. The commission has failed to notify at least nine victim families and offers no evidence that they contacted any victim families. Disturbingly, the commission has failed to provide even one piece of information to my family that indicates it now has procedures in place so it can comply with laws requiring victim notification. So, for the Sun-Times to characterize a systemic problem as a mere “clerical omission,” underscores its lack of understanding of the commission’s role and function. If this failure to notify victims was a mere “clerical omission,” then, why didn’t any commissioners ever wonder why none of the 28 victim families ever appeared at its meetings?

The editorial is misleading when it states the commission’s job is to examine only whether physical abuse occurred, without regard to overwhelming evidence of guilt, and without regard to justice or previous court decisions on this issue. Nothing in the law creating this body limits its focus in that way. It was never intended to be a “super court.”

And finally, the commission in its current form is incapable of doing its work fairly or objectively (as the law requires) since some of the members have conflicts of interest based on their past advocacy for the same individuals who have petitioned the body for review.

Let’s work with the commission, lawmakers and other elected officials to ensure that the work this commission does is in service to justice to those with a valid claim, and to the families of murder victims.

Joseph J. Heinrich, Elgin

Iraq shutdown

If anyone wants to see a country that’s really shut down, look to Iraq. The catastrophe our $3 trillion criminal war there caused continues apace. So far this year, more than 6,000 Iraqis have died in sectarian violence unleashed by our March 2003 war. Our military was kicked out on Dec. 31, 2011, because we couldn’t negotiate immunity from the Iraqi government for servicemen accursed of violent crime after that date. In 2005, we built a $730 million Citizen Kane-style Xanadu embassy, our largest in the world, to control our newest Middle East ally. Now it stands nearly empty as we withdraw most of our diplomatic staff from a country we’ve given up on. At the end of the year only 1,000 diplomatic personnel protected by 4,500 security folks will remain. Our puppet government under Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, has come to life Pinocchio-style and is cozying up to our main bete noirs there, Iran and Syria.

Meanwhile back in Texas, the architect of the Iraqi shutdown, George W. Bush, is chopping wood and riding his bike relentlessly while he ponders his sinking place in history as our worst president and biggest war criminal.

Walt Zlotow, Glen Ellyn

Tragic slaying of Wisconsin wolves

It’s a sad and disgusting day in Wisconsin today when you can now kill one third of the state’s wolf population in one hunting season within a year and a half of wolves being delisted from the Endangered Species List in this state. I’ll tell you what that says about Wisconsin politics: the cronyism, collusion and conspiracy between bear hounders and our legislators, including Gov. Scott Walker, is thick and lined with deep pockets to further the agenda of 1 percent to 2 percent of the entire state’s population who want to kill wolves.

This state’s made a mockery of democracy, as has its Department of Natural Resources. Ultra-conservative politicians have taken this state hostage and have passed legislation favoring the mass “thrill-killing” of black bear, coyote, bobcat and now the wolf. Screw the wildlife watchers and non-consumptive outdoor recreationalists; now we have to be careful that we, or our dogs or horses, don’t step in a snare or leg-hold trap set in one of our state parks or forests; we must be vigilant of marauding half-starved hound dogs terrorizing the wildlife in our north woods; and we have to endure the sickening sight of dead animals strapped to the hoods of pick-up trucks as if they are newly anointed ornaments testifying to the hunter’s stealth and cunning at killing a wild animal for nothing more than a skull or pelt.

All for the kicks of the one-percenters, they’ll send the wolf straight back to the Endangered Species List in this state in a hurry, which will subsequently upset the North Woods ecosystem that this apex predator has so greatly improved since their return to the landscape. The contempt and disrespect that Wisconsin politicians and special interest hunting groups have for the iconic Timber Wolf and the majority of the citizens who are opposed to any wolf hunt is made abundantly clear today.

Elizabeth Huntley, Kenosha, Wis.

Thanks for not raising taxes

The Northwest Connection Chamber of Commerce of Chicago thanks the Cook County Commissioners and the board president for not raising any new additional taxes on Chicago and Cook County businesses. This is a valued effort because of the $150 million budget deficit.

In the past five years, the increased taxes, fees, and decreased business sales have made it more difficult for local businesses to thrive or survive in our community market. The Northwest Connection Chamber of Commerce applauds and thanks local leaders for making government more efficient in Cook County.

Pete Schmugge,

executive director,

Northwest Connection Chamber of Commerce

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