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Jeff Bezos, the Mart's election connection and Dominique Jordan Turner at SXSW. 1

Polling for Bezos, SXSW stars & the Mart’s election connection

March 17th, 2018

Jeff Bezos’s team is coming to Chicago in a few days to scope out potential locations for Amazon’s second North American headquarters. Mayor Rahm Emanuel might consider giving the visitors a copy of a new poll showing Chicagoans support giving tax breaks or incentives to the corporate giant.


The poll was initiated by Max Temkin, the co-founder of the humorous Cards Against Humanity fun(ny) board game. No kidding.

It queried 500 registered voters on a range of issues, including whether to give tax breaks to Amazon.

The results shows 59 percent in favor of the idea, and 25 percent opposed.

“There is a little bit of an age pattern with people over 60 more likely to be opposed, but there is no partisan bent. Democrats and Republicans are within six points of each other, and it is rare for them to be that close on anything,” according to veteran pollster Jill Normington of Normington Petts in Washington, D.C. (She’s U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth’s pollster.)

This is the second poll conducted by Temkin and marketing consultant Melissa Harris. Their latest Temkin/Harris poll has an error rate of plus/minus 4.4 percent.

MART’S ELECTION CONNECTION: J.B. Pritzker and Chris Kennedy don’t have the same friend circles, so they’ve never been friends, per se.

Surprising, given they have so much in common: Democrats with storied pedigrees and who both lost their fathers. They celebrate their families, pursue work with a passion and give back to the community. Pritzker supports early-childhood education and Kennedy founded a national hunger-relief program.

“They’d see each other around town and say hello, but that was about it,” said a source close to one of the candidates and referring to their pre-campaign days.

There’s one area that they do have in common–the Merchandise Mart.

Pritzker is founder of the 1871 entrepreneurial center that’s located in the Mart, and Kennedy worked for MMPI, the real estate management company that owns the art deco landmark. He was with the company 25 years, including as president.

Kennedy stepped down in July 2011, right when Pritzker was recruiting big name entrepreneurs to support 1871. It didn’t move into the Mart until January 2012.

Though Kennedy was no longer running the Mart, he kept an office there and is described as being helpful to 1871 organizers.

Here’s hoping they can find similar common ground after Tuesday’s election.

Smolyansky, Rather

RECIPE FOR SUCCESS: Julie Smolyansky hit South by Southwest (SXSW), the music and tech fest held in Austin, Texas.

The CEO of Lifeway Kefir was there to talk about her book, “The Kefir Cookbook.” Journalist Dan Rather, who also spoke at the event, picked up a copy.

The cookbook shares her family’s immigrant story and the those “of exceptional women,” including Vosges Haut-Chocolat founder Katrina Markoff (read about her here) and former Ina’s Kitchen owner Ina Pinkney.

Smolyansky tells those stories through some 100 recipes using kefir, the backbone of Lifeway’s products.

The cookbook was a nice fit for SXSW as it includes a secret Spotify playlist connected to a handful of dishes.

“I wanted to bring a full experience together to my readers. Today’s consumers want their souls touched,” she told me.

One of Smolyansky’s favorite recipes? Chicago Scramble, which signifies “how bad-ass my mom’s hustle was.” Accompanying the recipe is a story about her mom traveling the city with a car filled with smoked sausages to sell at her deli in Rogers Park.

The cookbook resonated with media mogul Arianna Huffington, who recently hosted Smolyansky and her mom for a Women’s History Month event. “Honestly, it’s women’s day every day in my world,” said Smolyansky.


SPEAKING OF SXSW: Dominique Jordan Turner was a featured speaker at SXSW, too.

The president and CEO of Chicago Scholars mentoring program spoke about diversity in the workplace.

“I challenged people to think through a few reflective questions,” Turner told me after returning from Austin. Here are some questions she posed to the audience, and her response.

Who has never led you? “As an African American woman, many of my staff will tell me that I am their first black female boss. Why? How is that possible?”

What’s the cost of not being inclusive? “By 2044 we are projected to be majority minority country. States like Texas, California, Arizona and Hawaii already are. We’ve recently seen companies like H&M and Dove experience a ‘cost’ as a result of recent ad campaigns that didn’t reflect cultural sensitivity. There’s also several business cases that have been made by major institutions that show that companies with higher racial and ethnic diversity perform better.”

Why treat diversity like Valentine’s day? “One day/one month celebration or a true ‘relationship’ all year round? If truly committed, it shouldn’t be an initiative, but instead a business strategy.”


TY COMFORT: Ty Warner, the Chicago-area billionaire who created Beanie Baby, has come up with another plush toy. “Cito” is a search dog that honors those who suffered during the Montecito landslides in January.

At least 21 people died and two remain missing. There were dozens of rescues, including those of people found by search dogs

The slides damaged hundreds of homes in Montecito, as well as Warner’s hotel properties–the San Ysidro Ranch and the Four Seasons Biltmore.. They are reported to still be closed due to damages from the natural disaster.

Cito, like all the Ty Co. dolls, has a tag with a special inscription:

“If there is a fire or flood, even if there’s a lot of mud, I will help you find the way, if you are hurting or gone astray.” Cute.


A LEAF FROM HER BOOK: Great Books Foundation, a Chicago-based nonprofit, has named Valentina Texera-Parissi as CEO.

She replaces Joseph Coulson, who left to become president of Harrison Middleton University, based in Arizona.

“My goal is to extend the reach and the impact of the foundation’s mission to promote civil discourse, civic engagement and a more just society,” Texera-Parissi told me. She plans to beef up programming that encourages conversations among students and adults. The foundation has a $4 million annual budget.

Texera-Parissi was born in Caracas, Venezuela, and with her family lived in South America, France and Puerto Rico before landing in the United States when she was 13.

“I grew up immersed in new cultures and learned multiple languages,” Texera-Parissi said. She remembers being the only international student in her Fort Wayne, Ind., middle school. “I believe those experiences have shaped how I see the world and how I approach new situations and challenges, with an open mind and a positive attitude.”

SCHMOOZING CRACKDOWN? The Associated Press says the new federal tax law would hinder how companies entertain customers and clients at sporting events. Until this year, it’s an expense that they could partially deduct from their tax bill. “But a provision in the new law eliminates the long-standing 50 percent deduction in an effort to curb the overall price tag of the legislation and streamline the tax code,” the story states.

I’m curious how this will affect companies with seats at Chicago’s top-tier sports venues. Here’s where they sit at Cubs games.

Additional content: The annotated list of billionaires who impact Chicago.

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One Response to Polling for Bezos, SXSW stars & the Mart’s election connection

  1. Pingback: A Leaf From Her Book | The Great Books Foundation

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