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Thursday, February 29

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The Mechanics

Daley Thu Apr 25 2013

Daley Bio Author Wants Readers To Draw Their Own Conclusions

Keith Koeneman wants the facts to speak for themselves.

When he started writing First Son: The Biography of Richard M. Daley, Koeneman said he wanted to keep his opinions out of it and let the readers decide how to interpret the facts about the former mayor's life and legacy.

"I tried really, really hard to be very, very balanced about his accomplishments and his mistakes," Koeneman said, before he sat down with the Chicago Tribune's Rick Kogan for a public discussion of the book. "I tried to make it an interesting life story."

The book, Koeneman said, is the first biography of the 22-year mayor, though there are many about his father (and also former mayor) Richard J. Daley. He doesn't know why there hasn't been a biography about the younger Mayor Daley until now, though he thinks it could be because potential biographers may have been afraid to upset the mayor while he was still in office.

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Bill Mayeroff

Op-Ed Thu Oct 06 2011

Mayor Emanuel Should Learn from His Predecessor's Mistakes

This Op-Ed was submitted by Celeste Meiffren, Field Director of Illinois PIRG

No one will argue with the fact that Chicago's budget situation is dire--and has been for some time now. But Mayor Daley masked the drastic fiscal situation in Chicago with year after year of short-term budget gimmicks. The hope now is that, as he puts forth his first budget proposal next week, Mayor Emanuel will learn from his predecessor's mistakes, and avoid a lot of the budget shenanigans that Mayor Daley was known for.

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Chicago Thu Jul 28 2011

No Amount of Austerity: Fixing Chicago's Budget

Chicago's enormous structural budget deficit, which could reach $700 million next year, is due in part to the cratering of the economy, particularly the free fall of revenue from real estate-related taxes and fees. But it is also due to the symbiotic lack of political will by politicians and political appetite by voters (and interest groups) to make painful decisions to meet the problem. The problem, by the way, is obvious: the city (you and me, the people who live in the city, not the abstract City) made promises to our employees--particularly our public safety employees, cops and firefighters--that our revenue simply cannot meet, and will not be able to meet without tax increases as well as cuts and reforms.

According to the Civic Federation, the city has a $14.6 billion dollar pension liability that is unfunded. To meet this liability, the city can rededicate revenue committed elsewhere to pension funding, raise contributions from current employees and decrease future benefits or eliminate cost of living adjustments, raise taxes, particularly property taxes, or some combination thereof. Solely raising taxes, particularly property taxes, would be politically unpalatable as well as eventually regressive--renters are already beginning to feel a squeeze. If we want to meet our obligations, some reasonable and fair combination of reform of the pension system, rededication of existing revenue (i.e., cuts to services in one place to pay for liabilities), and increasing revenue is necessary.

Yet the focus by the city to date has been almost wholly on "reforming work rules," in other words altering public worker contracts. Such reforms may very well be necessary, but they alone will not put a significant dent in the structural deficit. Mayor Emanuel and his team know full well that even with history's most efficient city government and not a single unionized employee, we would not be able to meet our obligations. Chicago News Coop columnist James Warren astutely observed that this is the strategy is meant to make future potentially unpopular actions--i.e., revenue increases--more palatable. If the Mayor also stokes unwarranted hysteria about thieving public employees, so be it.

The City's budget rests on several revenue streams. In descending order of quantity, the most significant of these are sales taxes, utilities taxes, the "personal property replacement tax" (a convoluted tax that boils down to a corporate income tax), transportation and recreation taxes, and business taxes. Licenses and fees provide a significant chunk, as do--or rather, did--income from parking meters.

Between 2007 and 2010, these revenue streams declined immensely, the biggest being the transaction tax, which is mostly a real estate transaction tax, which declined by over 40%, or $120 million, in that time. To make up these shortfalls, Mayor Daley recklessly privatized city assets. These privatization schemes (and they were schemes) amounted to little more than major borrowing programs that take up-front payments to compensate for revenue shocks. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, University of Chicago Professor Julie Roin characterized the supposedly bold privatization moves this way,

"Politicians are calling these deals privatizations, but what they really are is secured loans....Whether you collect the revenue and pay it out to creditors or just divert the income stream to begin with is just inconsequential in terms of the financial ramifications of the transactions."

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Ramsin Canon

Daley Thu May 05 2011

The Measure of a Mayor, The Legacy of a Man

Throughout 2002, Mayor Richard M. Daley waged a public and backroom battle with federal aviation officials to expand the no-fly zone around the city's central business districts. He was met with resistance by bureaucrats and the business users of Meigs Field, who argued that the restrictions would hamper the ability of pilots to use the typical approaches to Meigs and potentially make it more hazardous. The Mayor didn't let up, and pressed the issue; he was granted some temporary restrictions on flights around the CBD, but didn't get the scope he wanted.

The mayor pressed the issue, insisting the CBD was under threat and that Meigs essentially represented a security threat by its mere existence. He responded to the protests of Meigs Field users dismissively, characterizing them as millionaire vanity pilots whose selfish concerns were irrelevant to the average Chicagoan.

Friends of Meigs Field, an advocacy group composed primarily of the little airport's heaviest users, smelled a rat. Meigs was not a big money maker for the city, and Daley clearly had designs on the prime lakefront property. They lobbied furiously to keep the field open and operating, meeting rank indifference, to say the least, from the mayor.

At the same time, Daley was trying to get federal approval for the expansion of O'Hare Airport. His biggest stumbling block was the stubbornly independent junior senator from Illinois, Republican Peter Fitzgerald. Throughout 2002, Fitzgerald was considered a top-tier target for national Democrats, and his reelection chances were in jeopardy. Throughout the last few months of 2002 and the first months of 2003, rumors swirled that Fitzgerald would not run again. Fitzgerald stubbornly refused to permit expansion of O'Hare, and Governor George Ryan walked a compromise path that demanded that any expansion of O'Hare be conditioned on the continued operation of Meigs; Daley agreed to some nominal concessions the Friends of Meigs characterized as minor or hollow. Their saving grace was that they had friends in Governor Ryan and Senator Fitzgerald.

The Little Airport that Could, in other words, was proving to be a pain in the mayor's ass.

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Daley Wed May 04 2011

Daley Bows Out

Mayor Richard M. Daley presided over his last City Council session today. Here's unedited video of his final address, courtesy of WGN.

Andrew Huff

Chicago After Daley Mon Mar 28 2011

Dalegacy Measuring In Earnest

ChicagoNow has a post up about how we will measure Mayor Daley's success as mayor. I've been kicking around a broad analysis myself, but I feel more and more like there just isn't a good way to evaluate his legacy without defining "success" or "failure" in ways that prejudice the results. Thoughts?

The city's per citizen debt burden is now worse than that of whole states. Chicago residents are being strangled with $5,399 per resident, a cost that tops every state's debt burden. For a benchmark, the highest per citizen state debt is Connecticut's at $4,859 per resident.

Additionally the city has other major problems including the failed parking meter sale, infrastructure troubles, and a constant stream of indictments and convictions of its politicians - the latter of which has been going on for decades. Chicago's corruption tax (the extra costs citizens endure due to endemic corruption) is one of the highest in the nation. So, what is this nonsense that Richard Daley has been a great and successful mayor? I wish I knew.

Update, 3/30::Commenter Jordan begins to lay out some good criteria and a case:

Any discussion about legacy is inevitably fraught with embedded biases and normative statements as fact, but at the very least we can (and should) try to encompass the length of Daley's time as mayor, the vast breadth of criteria that should be used, the overall health of the city, especially compared to other cities, etc. Criticize the TIFs, the parking meters, the CTA, whatever, and trust me I've done my share, but when you look at the whole thing (which you should), ask yourself where you'd rather live. Austin has a better music scene, but how's the architecture, and how long will it take for you to run out of good restaurants and neighborhoods and art museums and historic tours and everything else? (Okay, Austin is apples & oranges, but really, any city comparable to Chicago in terms of size and breadth, and I include the smaller major cities, either lack the array of institutions and features that make Chicago great, or are far less affordable than Chicago. Can Daley take credit for all of that? Of course not, but what he's done is help to foster a balanced city whose unmatched assets and (relative) affordability continue to thrive, with little of the racial and political rancor we saw before him. And no doubt there are big city problems here, some of which we can lay at his feet, but tell me which big cities don't have problems with crime, police-community relations, corruption, etc. That's not to say Daley doesn't have to take his lumps for a good chunk of the problems, and I'm not asking anyone to give him a pass for any of it -- just try to do a reasonable job at assessing it all. And any attempt that concludes blithely that Daley was a "failed mayor of a failing city" is simply not a real assessment. It's infantile and you shouldn't have linked to it.

Join him in comments.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (5)

Privatization Thu Mar 24 2011

Mayor Daley on Privatization

Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Education Tue Nov 16 2010

Daley Appoints Another Non-Educator to Head City's Education

Mayor Daley announced today the appointment of Chicago Community Trust CEO Terry Mazany to head up the Chicago Public Schools. The Sun-Times piece, in listing Mazany's qualifications, leaves out that he sits on the Board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

Mazany seems like a perfectly capable man, but his education qualifications to run the Chicago Public Schools are not immediately evident. Note: While Mazany has served as a public administrator in school systems in California, it was not in an educator capacity, which is the principle concern of critics. The Chicago Community Trust has created programs for increasing access to arts programs in schools and fund grassroots after-school programs, but has not delved into the structural problems facing the Chicago Public Schools.

In defending his choice of a non-educator to head the public schools, the Mayor reiterated the need to put a business type at the top of the schools, with the bizarre rationale that it has served the district well since he took over the schools in 1995. I'm curious; why do "market solutions" get infinite time to prove themselves? The schools have not appreciably improved--certainly not to a point that has satisfied privatization-focused reformers--in the fifteen years since the Mayor decided a "business model" would improve the schools.

Mazany was also a driving force behind the Renaissance Schools Fund, the private sector partner of the abysmal Renaissance 2010 initiative. Why any of this should endear Mazany to parents, students, and teachers is unclear. Renaissance 2010 is predicated on the idea that some students must fail, and that a school system should focus on giving an extra boost to students already more likely to succeed. This undermines the entire premise of public education. Is that the mindset we want at the top of a public school system?

Disclosure: The Chicago Community Trust funds the Community News Matters grant along with the John S. and James L. Knight foundation. Gapers Block is a grantee.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (3)

Elections Sun Oct 31 2010

Moving America Forward Rally with President Barack Obama Photo Essay

Democrats rallied on the Midway Plaisance in Hyde Park on Saturday evening for the "Moving America Forward Rally with President Barack Obama." The estimated 35,000 attendees heard performances by Chicago rockers Dot Dot Dot and hip-hop artist Common, as well as speeches by a variety of officials and citizens, including Mayor Richard M. Daley, Senator Richard Durbin, State Treasurer and US Senate Candidate Alexi Giannoulias, Governor Pat Quinn, Alderman and Cook County President Candidate Toni Preckwinkle and -- of course -- President Barack Obama.

A photo essay of the event by David Schalliol is below.

David Schalliol / Comments (2)

Mayor Wed Oct 27 2010

Tom Dart Not Running for Mayor

More is certain to develop with this story, but citing family concerns first and foremost, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart has declared he is not running for the mayor's office.

"I have found it impossible for it to be compatible between running for mayor and being a father and husband," Dart stated earlier today.

Dart continues to run for re-election as Sheriff.

And Rahm speaks Spanish.

Ben Schulman

Education Tue Oct 19 2010

Where Do We Go From Here on the Education Front?

This editorial was submitted by Valerie F. Leonard

The Chicago Public Schools has been under Mayoral control for the past 16 years. Under the Mayor's leadership we have had School Reform, Renaissance 2010 which called for school closings and reopening them as charter schools, and attempts to qualify for the national Race for the Top (which seems to have been modeled after the local Renaissance 2010 initiative). The changing of the guard in City Hall could have serious implications for the direction of education in Chicago.

The Chicago Tribune ran an interesting article regarding the fact that the State's standardized tests have been made increasingly simpler over the last 5 years. ("Students Can Pass ISAT With More Wrong Answers"). It should be noted that the article does not mention the fact that Chicago Public Schools lobbied the State to simplify the test 5 years ago.

At the same time, the Chicago Tribune's Editorial Board is urging the next Mayor to continue the course that has been laid by the current Mayor, and suggested that the new Mayor keep the current CPS CEO on board to continue the reforms that have been made. ("Reform on the Ropes?").

Continue reading this entry »

Mechanics / Comments (1)

Urban Planning Tue Oct 19 2010

Chicago is What Happens When You're Busy Making Plans

On the rooftop of the Harris Theater last Wednesday, over 800 people overcame the torrential rains to witness the adoption of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning's GO TO 2040 plan. CMAP, as it's colloquially called, is the regional planning organization of Chicagoland, and GO TO 2040 is their official, three-years-in-the-making guidebook that intends to serve as a road map for Chicagoland's growth and development over the course of the next 30 years. Paring its ambitious mission down to four main themes -- Livable Communities, Human Capital, Efficient Governance, and Regional Mobility -- the GO TO 2040 plan offers holistic prescriptions for the region as a whole, recognizing structural fixes are needed across all platforms.

Within its analysis, illustrations, and recommendations, CMAP, while never overtly saying so, lays claim to the argument that Chicago is effectively the main remaining relevant economic factor in the State of Illinois. (Obviously, the city is the largest and most influential in the Midwest as well.) And hence, given Springfield's antagonistic inability to recognize this, Chicago's relation to its state is simply a restraint on growth. It's Chicago's connection to Beijing, Sao Paulo, Shanghai, London, Dubai, almost anywhere but Springfield, that serves as the springboard to success for the region. Essentially, CMAP's plan is an argument that says in order maximize the global connectivity of Chicagoland to other global centers, the region's ability to successfully do so is directly correlated to the strength between its regional connections. With over 1,226 government units in the Chicagoland region due to myriad metropolitan agencies and functions, there is much room to streamline services and improve efficiency. And efficiency, used in the economic sense to mean the production of a good at the lowest possible cost that still provides benefit, plays directly into CMAP's call for sustainability.

Sustainability and tangibility are the two pillars on which GO TO 2040 rests. The plan promotes sustainability in its Livable Communities initiatives through the development of local food production, retrofitting programs to make older buildings better users of energy, and crafting local zoning laws to encourage mixed-use development of land. The Regional Mobility portion of the plan aims to improve mobility by increasing intermodal effectiveness, micromanage the budgeting process to bring transit agencies into fiscal well-being, and the implementing of five major capital projects, including extending the CTA Red Line south to 130th St, building the West Loop Transportation Center, and creating suburban highway connectors that flank the city and beyond. The Efficient Governance focus of GO TO 2040 is perhaps the crux of the entire plan. Any aspect of any plan must start with making access to government process and information more open and available, as CMAP outlines, and as detailed here in a earlier post, refocusing our taxing bodies into common sense vehicles.

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Ben Schulman

Chicago Thu Oct 14 2010

What's In The Budget?

This post has been corrected. Special thanks to Mechanics reader Aaron for clearing this up.

Mayor Daley released his 2011 preliminary city budget earlier this week and it's been creating quite a stir but how many of us have actually read the document? Here's your chance! Below is the actual budget. Sift through it dear readers and tell us in the comments what sticks out to you.

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Daniel Strauss / Comments (2)

Daley Thu Oct 07 2010

Durbin Knows Who's A Serious Mayoral Candidate

Early and Often reported today that on Chicago Tonight the other night Dick Durbin gushed about three (possible) mayoral candidates: Rahm Emanuel, Tom Dart, and Gary Chico. Why these three candidates? Well because they're the three most serious candidates. Emanuel and Dart are the two frontrunners. Chicago is close to Mayor Daley. As for the rest, well:

Bur Durbin did not have the same sort of praise for his former Senate colleague Carol Moseley Braun — “She loves this city and is being encouraged by some to get involved” — and said he disagreed with state Sen. James Meeks on gay rights.

Durbin had little to say about City Clerk Miguel del Valle: “I worked with him on education issues when he was a state senator.”

Durbin was not asked about the mayoral aspirations of U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, who is circulating petitions to get on the ballot but has not declared that he will certainly end up running.

This is all more a reflection on the strength of the candidates. Durbin is generally a no-drama guy when it comes to Chicago politics. He tries to stay out of that stuff as much as possible. The fact that he doesn't say much about Braun, Meeks and the rest is really an indication of how viable each mayoral prospect is. Durbin isn't worried about the backlash from the candidates that aren't Dart, Emanuel, or Chico now or later on, in all likelihood because there probably won't be much.

Daniel Strauss

Election 2011 Thu Oct 07 2010

From Plebiscite to Forum

Early and Often, the new Chicago politics reporting venture, had a story about a proposed "plebiscite" of Black political and community organizations to find a single candidate to represent the interests of the Black community. This was a compelling idea that could have really started something of a groundswell and, to some degree at least, consensus. It also generated possibly the best quote of the cycle so far, from state Senator Ricky Hendon, who said the original crowded Mayoral field "looked like the Universal Soul Circus." Bless that man's wit.

One of the organizers of the meeting, NEIU political science professor Robert Starks, is backtracking or correcting the record, stating that the second meeting of organizations will be a candidate forum rather than a plebiscite:

But less than 24 hours later, the chair of the meeting, Robert T. Starks, a professor of political science at Northeastern Illinois University, said "it's not going to be a plebiscite."

"It's going to be a forum, a candidates forum," he said, sighing deeply. "There will be no vote."

Ramsin Canon

Election 2011 Mon Oct 04 2010

Modeling an Open Chicago: Taking The City Back

This is the first in a series.

They know what's best for you.

cover2.jpgWith an open Mayoral seat, Chicagoans a generation removed from the last competitive election for that office are unsure of their footing. The media is either causing or reflecting that confusion, unsure where to start an analysis of what this election "means," what will determine its outcome, who the players are. Path of least resistance: we focus on the personalities running, the staff they're hiring, the money they're raising. Is this a new chance at democracy? Have we had democracy all along? Does Chicago need a strong hand? Or are we looking for the next Harold? White? Black? Latino? Man? Woman? Gay? Straight? Machine? Progressive?

The cat's away. The mice are frantic.

"Progressives" are eager to make this election a change election, to "take the city back" from what they perceive as decades of corporatist policies under Daley's leadership. Their archenemy is Rahm Emanuel, the insider's insider who has openly mocked progressive leadership nationally and who made a curious insta-fortune on Wall Street after his years in the Clinton White House. And, it should be noted, who made his bones raising money for Mayor Daley. Whet Moser of the Reader directs us to a painfully prescient piece by David Moberg from those days, wherein Moberg by simply looking at Daley the Younger's fundraising deduces that the "new Machine" will be run by big money rather than neighborhood patronage.

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Media Mon Sep 20 2010

Around the City Reads

Some good stuff to catch up on this morning:

CBS 2: Daley Mentored Others as He Shaped Chicago: But he's still "absolutely the best mayor in the country," Berry said. "Nationally there's no question he's been probably one of the most successful and important big-city mayors in the last couple decades."

Progress Illinois: Shift Expected at CAPS: The ground continues to shift at the Chicago Police Department. On Thursday, outgoing Mayor Richard Daley said he wanted civilians rather than uniformed police officers to run the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) program. Ron Holt, the CAPS director, told the Tribune that too many of the 200 to 300 officers assigned to CAPS were doing administrative and civilian tasks. Many are expected to be reassigned to patrol work.

In These Times Working Blog: Hotel Quickie Strikes Build Union, Workers' Determination for Contract Battles: Workers in Chicago, like most of these cities, are responding with overwhelming strike authorization votes, protest rallies, sit-ins and civil disobedience, campaigns to persuade organizations and individuals to boycott certain hotels, and-last week-a planned one-day strike against hotel union UNITE HERE's national target, Hyatt, in four cities.

People of Color Organize!: Solidarity With Whittier School Occupation: The Whittier Parents' Committee has been organizing for seven years to push Pilsen alderman Daniel Solis to allocate some of the estimated $1 billion in Mayor Daley's TIF coffers to their school for a school expansion - he finally agreed to give $1.4million of TIF funds for school renovation. Cynically, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has earmarked a part of this money for the destruction of the school's field house, which has been used for years as a center for community organizing and services. This would directly undermine the ability of the Whittier community to organize and struggle for educational rights. Parents are demanding to be part of the decision-making process.

Austin Talks: March against violence challenges community to fight back: Graham urged residents to take a stand against gun, gang and domestic violence. Rev. Jennie Jones of Pleasant Ridge Missionary Baptist Church led the group in prayer and pleaded for strength in the fight against violence plaguing Austin.

Chicago Union News: Adjunct faculty at Chicago college cries foul while trying to organize: With only a few weeks until fall classes begin, some part-time instructors at East-West University in Chicago's South Loop are still waiting to see if they will be hired back to teach after what has been a "messy" summer-long conflict involving efforts to unionize.

Ramsin Canon

Budget Wed Sep 15 2010

Daley's Last Budget

Last week's public budget hearings took on a bit of a different hue, what with the knowledge that these would be the last of the Daley Era. At the brand new Westinghouse High School in Garfield Park on Friday evening, Mayor Daley brought out 26 members of his cabinet to sit and listen to the public-at-large voice their concerns in regards to the upcoming budget for 2011. While the budget may have been the reason for the public meetings, the forum actually rarely addressed the meat of the budget itself, and instead provided different individuals and interest blocs a chance to present their grievances directly to the powers that be. In reality, the meetings are simply a larger version of an open night at the local Alderman's office, but with a grander spotlight and a strangely off-putting feel that the whole event might burst into a populist pep rally. (No doubt contributed to by the shiny newness of Westinghouse's gymnasium where the hearings took place.)

The majority of comments were reserved for individual appeals on personal issues, of which Daley and Co. did a fine job of showing how bureaucracy in numbers can be a great mitigator to address such matters, even if results are stunted. Nearly every City Department was in full display at the hearings, and not just being represented in proxy by one of Daley's cabinet chiefs, but situated with full information booths and staffers to provide guidance. Certain speakers vented about highly specific issues- a particular vacant lot, for example- and after their allotted time to speak was up, a handler or two would whisk them away from the microphone, lead them to the back of the gymnasium and seemingly begin the work of at least giving the appearance of starting the fixing process. In all, the hearings are function of good government, in allowing people to express the daily issues they confront as Chicago citizens that obviously have an emotional effect upon them. Issues are emotional. Budgets, however, are not, and it is the job of the budget to harness the emotionality of issues into concrete plans to try and remedy things as best as possible.

Continue reading this entry »

Ben Schulman

Election 2011 Mon Sep 13 2010

Chicago's First Latino Mayor--Gutierrez' Case

Is one of Mayor Daley's legacies ending the city's explosive racial politics?

Given the concerns that the race-based "Council Wars" of the 1980s could boil over again without a strongman at the top, that seems to be a hard case to make. Something that was truly ended wouldn't loom as an existential threat. The Mayor incorporated major identity groups into his ruling coalition using a not dissimilar approach from that of Harold Washington: minority contracting rules, grants and contracts to influential community organizations, and appointments of local leaders to influential city and state boards and commissions. He kept a balance that didn't fundamentally alter Chicago's racial politics, but merely placated the actors most willing or able to intensify those politics.

If identity does come to play an important role in the coming election campaign, years of idle speculation tell us that a Latino is the best placed to win the day. The Latino population has grown significantly in the last two decades--to approximately 25% of the population, when "Hispanics of all races" are computed--while the Black population has dropped by about 10%. Given the Black-brown affinity on economic issues and the prevalence of mixed white-Latino neighborhoods, there is some circumstantial evidence for that view. The candidacies of Luis Gutierrez and Miguel Del Valle could help us walk through whether there is a strong likelihood of a Latino Mayor in 2011.

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon / Comments (8)

Daley Thu Sep 09 2010

Mayor Daley on the Trail

Campaigns for Mayor are only memories for those of us born before the early 1980s. The 1989 campaign is only a vague memory for me--I was eight. But I do remember both of these ads.

One thing to note: after 1991, the Mayor always referred to himself in campaign material as "Mayor Daley". Not Richard M. Daley. He famously joked that he tried to teach his granddaughter to call him "Mayor" instead of "Grandpa." The man loved being Mayor of this city.

Here's a bonus: Harold Washington's hit on "Richie Daley":

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon

Election 2011 Thu Sep 09 2010

Rahm for Mayor: "Four More Years!"

Forgetting for a second (or preferably forever) the meaningless insta-polls people are doing, what exactly would you expect a Rahm For Mayor campaign to look like? Meaning, what would his message be? He obviously can't run against the Mayor's record in a meaningful way--and his many opponents will belabor that fact from beginning to end--so will he soft-pedal the Mayor's recent record? Promise to do the good but leave behind the bad? And how do you put that in a simple campaign message?

What would you suggest?

Ramsin Canon / Comments (3)

Daley Wed Sep 08 2010

"Bold Progressives" Try To Discourage Rahm

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee of the local "Bold Progressives" is circulating a petition to encourage it's members to...discourage Rahm Emanuel from running for Mayor. And we're off.

Yesterday, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley announced he would not seek re-election.

Within minutes, the media were reporting that Rahm Emanuel -- who as White House chief of staff has consistently urged President Obama to cave to corporate interests and Republicans on issues like the public option -- may run for mayor of Chicago.

Can you sign our pledge? "I will not support Rahm Emanuel in any future election -- for Mayor, Governor, or other office."

Then, please send this email to others.

To be clear, Rahm leaving the White House would be great. But by drawing this line in the sand, we're breaking through in the media with a larger point about 2010.

Here's a PCCC quote reported yesterday by the Huffington Post, Politico, and The Nation:

"Rahm is unfit to represent Democrats in office. He's a cancer on the Democratic Party.

Democrats' current 2010 situation is due to a weak Rahm Emanuel mentality that says water down real reform at the urging of Republicans and corporations, thus making Democratic reform less popular with voters than the real deal would have been.

If Democrats had passed the overwhelmingly-popular public option and broken up the big banks when they had the chance, they'd be cruising for a landslide victory right now."

Over 2,000 folks have signed the pledge so far -- saying we want bold progressives representing Democrats, not weak Democrats like Rahm.

Please help continue our momentum by signing then pledge today -- then pass this email to others.

Thanks for being a bold progressive,

Adam Green, PCCC co-founder

Ramsin Canon

Daley Wed Sep 08 2010

Scott Simon On Mayor Daley

As Ramsin wrote below, Mayor Daley's decision to not seek reelection is most likely the biggest piece of news for Chicago in the last twenty years. To understand the ramifications of Daley's decision I contacted NPR correspondent Scott Simon, host of Weekend Edition Saturday. He is also the author of numerous books including Windy City, a novel about Chicago politics during the death of fictional its mayor. Here's the Q & A:

Continue reading this entry »

Daniel Strauss

Daley Tue Sep 07 2010

When Everything Is Up For Grabs

Mayor Daley announces his decision not to run for reelection, and scrambling begins in every quarter of the city. Alliances, agreements, long-dormant quarrels and beefs--everything is up for review. The old way of doings things can't be taken for granted any longer.

His Elective Majesty is abdicating, and there is no dauphin for easy succession. When Leviathan is gone, political life can become nasty, brutish and short.

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Daley Tue Sep 07 2010

Daley Will Not Seek Re-Election

This is the biggest political news story Chicago has had in maybe twenty years: Mayor Daley will not be seeking re-election, according to several different sources.

Let the jockeying begin. Is the Regular Democratic Organization based in the County Party organized enough to anoint a successor? Will the Mayor tap somebody? Are we looking at an imminent run by Rahm Emanuel--just in time to step down after the mid-term elections? Will the rumors about County Board candidate John Fritchey turn into a run? Will the Mayor's tenuous coalition--Lakefront Liberals, South Side ward organizations and the Southwest and Northwest Side "ethnic" wards--hold together or will individual ambitions tear it apart?

Will the city's racial politics, subdued in deference to a Mayor who knew how to divvy up the goods, explode back into the fore?

Is there time for anybody to raise the money necessary to take on any candidate deemed a Daley-tapped successor?

Will the independent politics resurgent in places like the near Southwest Side provide the backbone of a legitimate independent candidacy? And with no Mayor Daley, what will "independent" mean?

Stay tuned as we follow.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (6)

Education Mon Aug 30 2010

Catalyst Report On Charters Demonstrates Duncan's Record of Failure

That Arne Duncan is a professional failure has never really been up for much debate. He achieved precisely zero of his objectives as head of the schools in Chicago, and failed upward into the President's administration mainly for his skills at self-marketing and the President's bizarre desire to appear "tough on teachers".

Catalyst Chicago in its latest issue[PDF] is digging into what teachers and parents have known since at least 2005: that the Renaissance 2010 program is a disaster, that privatization and charter schools have done nothing but increase opacity, decrease accountability, and aggravate the bifurcation of the school system; and that whatever improvement CPS has seen since the Mayor took over the school system in 1995 is due not to the free market unicorns sneezing their econowoozle magic on the evil teachers unions, but to gentrification.

As opponents of public school privatization have warned for years, the fascination with "innovation" and "entrepreneurial spirit" is hanging the hopes of a generation on buzzwords and sloganeering. There is no evidence, nor has there ever been, that introducing profit motive and private sector slash-and-burn sensibility would add value to education. Indeed, it hasn't been. What a surprise: firing master teachers and destabilizing the work force has NOT lead to an improvement in retention in poor schools and has not somehow magically improved classroom instruction.

As the Catalyst study points out:

  • On average, charters lost half of their teachers over the past two years, a turnover rate that rivals many low-performing neighborhood schools.
  • Only 16 of 92 new schools have reached the state average on test scores. Of those 16, just eight are charters. The rest are new magnet schools or new satellites of existing magnet and selective schools.

Just as public education advocates have been saying, introducing private operators into the school system with little oversight simply accelerates the problem of bifurcation. Charters are competing with each other for the best students and leaving the public school system to educate kids with poor performing kids, kids with learning disabilities, and kids from the poorest communities. Oh, and kids from multi-lingual households: Latino kids are particularly left behind according to the Catalyst study. The proportion of Latino kids attending high-performing schools has not increased at all since Renaissance 2010 began in 2004.

And, just as predicted, charters inherently prejudice students with highly involved parents, as this story heartbreakingly illustrates:

This spring, Charise Agnew was forced to confront the lack of school options in Roseland as she made an agonizing decision about where to send her older son, Dorian Metzler, to high school. Dorian was one of the top 8th-graders at Lavizzo, one of the lowest-performing schools in the city. In 2010, only about 44 percent of students met or exceeded state standards on the ISAT. Agnew had her heart set on Dorian attending Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep, a selective enrollment school just to the west of Lavizzo. She had him apply, and then she waited. But Agnew didn't know that Dorian needed to take an entrance exam. Few students at Lavizzo score above the 70th percentile on the ISAT, the cutoff to take the selective enrollment test. So there was no buzz in the hallway. A teacher might have asked about it, but the original 8th-grade teacher was fired and the class had a substitute for two months.

The end result is that no one tapped Dorian or Agnew on the shoulder to tell them about the entrance test. "I just had no idea," Agnew says.

Brooks is the only higher-scoring high school in the area. Agnew's first reaction was to take Dorian's transcript up to Brooks and try to talk to the principal. But selective enrollment school principals can be inundated with pleas from parents to offer their child a slot. Schools set up shields, and Agnew didn't make it past the foyer.

A woman like Charise Agnew is undoubtedly an involved and interested mother. But in an education system perverted by the neoliberal fascination with competition and markets, even her children end up losing out.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Daley Tue Aug 10 2010

Nobody Does It Better, Makes Me Sad For Ourselves

Governance by sloganeering results in things like this:

The private parking meter company that runs the metered street parking system in Chicago expects to reap at least $11.6 billion in revenues over the 75-year term of its lease deal with the city, according to a new report from Bloomberg News.

The Chicago News Cooperative recently reported that the 218 percent rate hike introduced since the parking privatization has barely reduced meter use, resulting in better-than-expected profits for the investors. The new profit estimate goes well beyond the earnings projected last year in documents uncovered by the Chicago News Cooperative, the first time that the internal financial projections of the privately held partnerships were disclosed.

Did you know profit-seeking organizations can do everything much better than government? It's a truism because lots of people say it. If you inject the profit motive into something, then it will work better. Every time. We don't need to study it. Just know that it's true because it's true.


Mayor Daley's reckless pursuit of "public-private partnerships" based solely on his wafer-thin rationale that the private sector can do everything better than government, has essentially cost the next three generations of Chicagoans billions of dollars both in lost revenue and jacked-up parking costs. At least, we should hope that is his sole motivation; because we could be less charitable and say that shameful impuissance also contributed. Mayor Daley is so terrified of making a "hard" (also obvious) decision regarding raising revenue that he would sell off city assets in a panic. This the "CEO Mayor" that BusinessWeek fell in love with?

Ramsin Canon

Chicago Tue Aug 10 2010

Ald. Leslie Hairston Eyes Daley's job

Ummm well Charles Thomas may well have his first woman or first black to express interest in running against Mayor Daley. Of course, one could only wonder if she'll run if Daley actually chooses to run for re-election next year.

South Side Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) said Monday she's being urged by people "at the grass-roots level" to run for mayor and, "I won't rule anything out."

"People are pleased with the job I do and pleased with my stance on the parking meters," said Hairston, one of five aldermen to oppose the 75-year, $1.15 billion lease that turned into a political albatross for Mayor Daley after meter rates soared and meters broke down during the transition to private control.

Continue reading this entry »


Chicago Mon Aug 02 2010

Not Your Typical Summer Read: Klinenberg's Heat Wave

Every summer, as the thermometer pushes 90 and the humidity makes a walk around the block sure to drench you in sweat, I have friends and family who complain about the heat. Usually I tell them two things: first, quit whining--you'll be trudging through sub-zero windchill in, like, two months, and longing for these days. Second, have you ever read that book about the Chicago heat wave that killed over 700 people?

Maybe I should recognize that people shooting the breeze about the weather don't want to get into a conversation about a massive natural and human-made disaster and the governance model that helped spawn it. But Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago is a damn good book--GB's own Book Club read it on the disaster's tenth anniversary--and I think people who want to understand how this city operates should read it.

On July 14, 1995, Chicago saw the beginning of a record-breaking heat wave where temperatures reached well above 100 degrees. The heat was brutal, and at the spell's end, over 700 Chicagoans lay dead. But Eric Klinenberg, a former Northwestern professor of sociology, writes in Heat Wave that "[t]he weather...accounts for only part of the human devastation that arose." The extreme temperatures laid bare the effects of the city's notoriously segregated populace, he argues, as well as a governing model that led to a city unprepared for the heat's devastation--unwilling or unable even to follow their own emergency plan.

Klinenberg is a good social scientist, of course, and states from the outset that his intention is not to place blame on any one public figure or institution for the devastation wrought by the extreme weather. But the "market model" Mayor Daley has pushed for city services such as water and parking does not come out of the book looking too desirable. Klinenberg also has an entire chapter, entitled "Governing By Public Relations," devoted to the mayor's office's astute defense of their handling of the crisis. The author writes, "While the city neglected to follow its own guidelines for coordinating an emergency public health reaction to the dangerous heat, the administration accomplished a tetbook public relations campaign to deny the severity fo the crisis, deflect responsibility for the public health breakdown, and defend the city's response to the disaster."

The book is full of rich analysis, from a comparison of the heat wave's effects in North Lawndale versus Little Village and the racial and gender dynamics of social isolation, to social service provision that "reflects a systemic prioritization of cost containment over life preservation"--there's even a table of denial (p. 181) that goes through all the different variations utilized by city officials to deny responsibility for the crisis. As you bake in the still-somewhat-sweltering sun this summer, consider picking up Heat Wave. It's not exactly the perfect beach read, but your comprehension of the state of the city in the second Daley era is guaranteed to improve.

Micah Uetricht

Daley Mon Jul 19 2010

A Potential Challenge to Mayor Daley From the 32nd Ward

Scott Waguespack, the 32nd Ward Alderman who took on and beat the fading remnants of the Rostenkowski/Gabinski machine in the Bucktown/Ukrainian Village/Lakeview ward in 2007, told the Sun-Times that he is considering taking a run at the Fifth Floor whether or not Mayor Daley still resides there. (He lives there right?)

Give the man credit. Waguespack has been a City Council pest, voting against the Mayor's budgets, embarrassing the Mayor's staff by doing the actual math on the parking meter lease, and hectoring the Mayor in public about tax increment financing, or TIFs. Management of his ward is another issue; Waguespack has faced on-and-off criticism by his constituents for perceived slips in service in the ward. Still, by announcing a potential campaign to call attention specifically to the Mayor's failings, he's going out on a limb. Plenty of politicians have been ready to criticize the way the city has been run and the "Chicago Way" but rarely call the Mayor out by name. Mayoral pretenders almost universally qualify their interest by adding that those interests are post-Daley.

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon / Comments (3)

Daley Mon Jul 19 2010

How To Challenge the Mayor

This is an Op-Ed by UIC Professor and former Lakeview Alderman Dick Simpson, courtesy of the Chicago Journal

Reading the tea leaves suggests Mayor Richard M. Daley will run for reelection this fall, asking for a seventh term from Chicago voters.

He hasn't announced his intentions yet, but the mayor is unlikely to decline taking another shot to sit in the big chair on the fifth floor of city hall for a simple reason: getting out now means leaving the city's top job and leaving Chicago in the lurch.

Getting out now means finishing his tenure scarred by the Olympic collapse. Getting out now means leaving while some of Daley's biggest projects -- the transformation of public housing perhaps most prominently -- remain incomplete, stalled out like a car with a shot carburetor.

Despite his demurrals and recent above-the-fray attitude toward the grit of electoral politics, politics courses through the mayor's bloodstream. He won't leave, at least not yet.

Continue reading this entry »

Mechanics / Comments (3)

Daley Sat Jun 19 2010

Gun Ruling May Trigger New Legal Fights

Well it should be apparent right now that if the Supreme Court of the US does rule against the City of Chicago's gun ban ordinances, the city itself may not want to concede defeat just yet. Almost like how Washington, DC, in light of the SCOTUS ruling last year, did attempt to play around with some ideas to maintain some gun control.

Continue reading this entry »

Levois / Comments (10)

Media Wed Jun 16 2010

What Mick and Ben Said

Ben Joravsky and Mick Dumke, the Readers' star political reporters, had an important piece in the Reader a couple weeks back analyzing the TIF budgets and how exactly the money is dispersed. Much of what they found reinforced the suspicion that a lopsided amount of TIF dollars go to pet projects in non-needy neighborhoods, thus flouting the purpose of the state TIF statute. Interestingly, some of what they found actually overturned some conventional criticisms of TIFs, for example that it was weighted towards the clout-heavy (as an example, Finance Committee Chair and light tenor Ed Burke's 14th Ward received comparatively little from TIF funds).

Here's one important thing about their piece: it revealed no scandal.

In the larger sense of good versus bad government and policy, it certainly could spark outrage. But in the traditional sense of public corruption or betrayal of public trust or even rank hypocrisy, the Reader piece didn't serve the narrative of corrupt politicians swindling the public. Instead, it very methodically made a case that the current policy regime was ill-serving constituents, and did it in a sober (though entertaining) way. Yet even with that sober tone, it was enough to get people's cackles up.

That is the type of reporting that is threatened by the collapse of journalism. Yet, at the same time, the dailies aren't really known for this type of research and journalism--the type that doesn't look for a scandal as a hook, but rather just tries to tell the story of how the city works fundamentally, and make a case for fundamental change. That's not advocacy, that's just stripping the system down, rather than dressing politicians down. It's an important distinction.

At the beginning of the year I wrote a piece, Getting Past Daley, that tried to make the case that focusing on political personalities is beside the point, that the corruption that causes such outrage when it's reported in the Trib or Sun-Times is a result of material conditions and powerful institutions, not the whims of quasi-criminal elites. When we began organizing against the Olympics, we were disheartened by how much people wanted to focus on the Mayor as the problem, when the problem is clearly deeper than him.

Joravsky and Dumke in their analysis of the TIF program actually bust some myths about how the TIF money is spent--it isn't going to the clouted necessarily, it is money luring money, not petty local political clout dominating the process. By breaking down the mechanics of the process, Joravsky and Dumke create outrage out of picayune politics, not sensationalized scandal:


About a quarter of all TIF spending, or $358 million, went to a single ward, the Second, which includes much of the Loop and gentrified areas on the near south and west sides. That's more than the bottom 35 wards got altogether.

Approximately $267 million more was spent in the 27th and 42nd wards, which include the Gold Coast and near west and near north sides. Together the three downtown wards received about 43 cents of every TIF dollar spent between 2004 and 2008.

Portions of the Second, 27th, and 42nd wards are in fact struggling economically--but those areas are largely missing out too. Some aren't covered by TIF districts; in other places the TIF districts aren't collecting much money. For example, the 27th Ward reaches into parts of Garfield Park where the landscape is dominated by empty factories and vacant lots, but little TIF money has been spent there.

When we get analysis like this--and it's reasonable to disagree with the analysis itself--then we can start to really figure out how to attack the problem, including the politicians we reflexively blame for everything, despite a rotating cast of characters falling into the same pattern over and over, endlessly repeating.

Ramsin Canon

Daley Tue Jun 15 2010

Assessing Daley

Crain's Chicago Business recently came out with what they claim is "the most comprehensive quantitative analysis ever of Mayor Richard M. Daley's two-decade tenure." Co-authors Greg Hinz and Steven R. Strahler back up their claims with a series of graphs and maps that illustrate the trends that have evolved since Daley came to power in 1989. The resulting portrait of the city through Daley is a nuanced one that shows the city cementing itself as a global center for business, a magnet for upper-income earners, a city generally safer than the one 20 years back, and a larger city to boot. As the article states, "For a town once dubbed the buckle on the Rust Belt, Chicago -- part of it, anyhow -- has made strong, even stunning progress in repositioning itself for the 21st century."

On a purely statistical basis, nearly all of the core metrics one would use to determine the relative health of a city have moved in a favorable direction under Daley. Violent crime has fallen in half, at a rate that far eclipses the national average. Educational attainment throughout the city is up, with Chicago now boasting one of the highest populations holding bachelor's degrees at 32.2%, even eclipsing other "creative class" magnets such as New York (though just barely), according to the Brookings Institute. Throughout the city, household median income is up nearly across the board in all of the city's 77 community areas.

Paradoxes ring throughout the data. Though street crime is down, institutional crime behind aldermanic and City Hall doors still remains rampant. In Daley's 20+ years, the city has seen 13 aldermen convicted of crimes, as well as a number of city officials close to Daley put away. (In Daley's defense, a small number of those convicted alderman served in the City Council before he came to office.) While the city's property tax base has grown 151%, its debt level has ballooned an astounding 263%. Chicago's pension obligations are only 42.7% met, and despite the gilded success of the Loop and many neighborhoods that flank it, the city has quietly, slowly continued to lose jobs since Daley's ascension.

Numbers always paint a conflicting portrait however. Their very tangibility tends to ignore the intangibles and cultural measures that make cities vibrant and successful places to live. While consensus over Daley himself is never clear, and usually very stridently held onto in either positive or negative fashion, there can be no denying that Daley has been an unbelievably effective leader in ensuring Chicago has remained relevant. Whether one wants to argue over the merits or demerits of how Daley has done and continues to do so, the fact that the city is a destination while the greater Midwestern region around it languishes speaks volumes to Daley's capacity to make certain Chicago is a place people recognize and engage.

Chicago has long been the nation's best and most innovative incubator of new ideas and forms. (The coasts have always been the best places to package and sell them.) And in the past twenty years, when it seemed as if Chicago at times might have suffered the same fate as other cities, it instead reinforced its position as one of the nation's elite business and creative centers. Namely, Chicago bolstered the idea of itself as a place for people to meet, mingle and exchange. When people do so, ideas inevitably are shared, evolve and take shape to produce a sense of cultural enterprise. From molecular gastronomy to Jeanne Gang's Aqua building to the city's insanely vibrant jazz scene, Chicago has had a tremendous run the past twenty years in terms of creative output and popular perception. Statistics will not reveal that. Perhaps Daley's greatest accomplishment- bully pulpit, inane ramblings and all- is the he has made sure Chicago remains a verb, while many other cities in the nation decay into unused nouns.

Ben Schulman / Comments (1)

Good Government/Reform Fri May 28 2010

Grades for City, Sunshine on the Aldermen

Thumbnail image for Simpson, Dick.jpgLess than a year from now, Chicagoans will decide whether or not to re-elect Mayor Richard M. Daley -- assuming he throws his hat back in the ring one more time -- and the incumbent aldermen who take another shot at city council.

Voters need a reliable scorecard to grade the performance of city government and a way to track when the mayor and the aldermen agreed and disagreed on the most important issues that came before city council during this past legislative term.

These two tallies are now available in an easy-to-use online format. Click over to to ChicagoDGAP check the Developing Government Accountability to the People Web site, a project for which I provided analysis of aldermanic voting patterns and served as a voting member of the citywide report card committee.

And the grades we gave out to our city government were not encouraging -- overall, the City of Chicago received a D.

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon

Daley Sat May 22 2010

Mayor exploits police officer's murder

Once again Chicago's Sixth Ward was rocked by another violent shooting. This time a police officer, Thomas Wortham, was murdered near his parent's Chatham neighborhood home by thugs who wanted to steal his motorcycle.

Wortham and his father exchanged gun fire that hit two of these thugs one of them fatally.

The next day Mayor Daley held a press conference to discuss Chicago's gun ban:

Continue reading this entry »

Levois / Comments (1)

Chicago Thu May 13 2010

Chillin' with the FOIA

Mayor Daley today announced that, henceforth, City Hall would not merely log (as required by law) but post online the names, requesting organizations, and documents requested for each Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA") request. The log is already posted online at the City's Department of Law web page, showing, for instance, that the Sun-Times's Chris Fusco is looking into the mayor's security detail, and that the Chicago Justice Project is investigating verdicts and settlements paid by the City in civil rights lawsuits.

Posting such a log is not required by state FOIA law and was done, the City said, in interests of transparency. But who is being made more transparent by this? Someone at the City doesn't seem to get that transparency is about making what government does more visible to citizens. Here, it's citizens who are being made more visible.

Maybe such a log will help avoid a few duplicative requests. But, overall, the immediate obvious effects suggest a curtailment, rather than implementation, of the purposes behind FOI law. NBC Chicago termed the measure "turnabout" and suggested that the mayor seemed "gleeful" in announcing it.

A couple of negatives jump out. For the average citizen, this provides just one more way in which your name can get spread around the Internet. Who might make commercial or even malicious use of a list of FOIA-requestors, one can only speculate, but there's little limit to the imagination of identity thieves, privacy invaders, data-miners and worse. The only possible impact on the average citizen is a chilling effect.

Continue reading this entry »

Jeff Smith / Comments (1)

Aldermen Thu Apr 15 2010

Feudalism in Chicago

An analysis by The Chicago Reporter shows that once appointed by the Mayor, aldermen are nearly unbeatable:

Daley appointees to the Chicago City Council seeking their first full term have won 90 percent of time. Click here to see a chart of the mayor's 35 city council appointments. Only former 49th Ward Alderman Robert Clarke, former 27th Ward Alderman Dexter Watson and former 7th Ward Alderman Darcel Beavers lost their first elections after being appointed.

The Reporter's research did show that the coronation effect lessened over time.

Ramsin Canon

Police Wed Mar 31 2010

Marvin Reeves is Free

There are very few injustices worse than the wrongful imprisonment of an innocent person--and the loss of decades of their life in incarceration. Reading the brutal story of Marvin Reeves, tortured by Jon Burge and friends into a false confession and stuffed in prison for nearly 25 years, the moral certitude of the maxim that it is better to let a hundred guilty men go free than to punish one innocent man is plainly self-evident.

MARVIN TELLS me to pull into an alley, and we get out of the car. He points to a boarded-up window of another large brick apartment complex. "This was where the bedroom was," he says. "It was my sister Sonya's apartment, and I stayed there sometimes. I worked just around the block at a mechanic's shop, and I would come here and park my car right here, outside the bedroom window, so I could see the car."

He goes back in time to the day--August 26, 1988:

It was 4 o'clock in the morning when the cops knocked on the door, and my sister Sonya went to answer it. She unlocked the door, but before she could open it, they busted the door in and broke her toe.

She started screaming--that's what woke me up. The next thing I knew, there were two cops at my bedroom door, guns drawn and pointing at me, yelling, "Nigger, if you move, I'll blow your fucking brains out." I had no idea what was going on.

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon

Education Tue Mar 30 2010

Daley Opposes Lifting of Residency Requirement for Teachers

I think the Mayor may have a point about the state legislature's recent action to lift a requirement that Chicago Public Schools teachers live in the city:

"If you say government employees don't have to live here, I guess maybe elected officials don't have to live here, too. You could start a trend. I don't have to live in the ward. I don't have to live in the city. I can work on a contract. I firmly believe that is the essence of keeping neighborhoods strong."

Of course, agreeing with the policy means the city needs to take bolder steps to insure there is affordable housing in Chicago; Chicago has been shedding affordable housing units, bifurcating the city into the upper middle class and the poor. But given the sheer number of city employees, and the fact that city housing will always be more expensive than housing in many bordering suburbs, lifting the residency requirement will result in another exodus of middle class residents--and valuable tax dollars.

I'm not convinced of this position, though--is there an argument to be made that the residency requirement is overly onerous or unfair?

The bill was sponsored by Senator Heather Steans of the north lakefront. Below is the roll call vote.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (5)

Daley Fri Mar 12 2010

Hell Hath No Fury Like the Reader Scorned

Not long ago, Mayor Daley's press office unceremoniously denied the Reader's entreaties to sit down with them for an interview that might actually force him to answer some of their many, many pieces on his administration and its shortcomings:


We respectfully decline your request for an interview.

Thank you.

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Daley Tue Mar 09 2010

Daley Calls for New State Laws on Guns

In response to the increasing gun violence that has long plagued Chicago, Mayor Richard Daley called for yet another law to restrict gun sales and to strengthen penalties for criminals who use them. Although new gun-control initiatives are announced every year, this one in particular brought on more attention because the U.S. Supreme Court is weighing whether to overturn the city's handgun ban.

In a statement, standing next to tables loaded with weapons confiscated by Chicago police, Daley says:

"The aggressiveness of the gun advocates is just one reason it's more important than ever that we work for common-sense gun laws focused on stopping the flow of illegal guns into our communities and keeping the guns out of the hands of the criminals."

Others, such as Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association oppose the initiative. Pearson states that instead of reducing crime, the new law would make it more burdensome to law-abiding citizens to obtain firearms.

"It provides a smokescreen for the mayor and many of the aldermen, so they don't have to deal with the real problems in Chicago," said Pearson, whose group is backing legislation in Springfield that would let people carry guns in public.

In addition to state law that would require gun dealers to be licensed, background checks and a limit on the number of handgun purchases to one per person per month, Daley is also asking the General Assembly to make it a Class 1 felony to knowingly sell a gun to a gang member as well as severe penalties for unlawfully using a weapon.

Deysi Cuevas / Comments (2)

Daley Thu Mar 04 2010

Here's the Story to Tell About the Mayor

Evan Osnos' long profile of Mayor Daley in the current New Yorker is a good example of Daleyology, the study of who exactly that man on the Fifth Floor is, and how he is so able to manage such an unruly city. The Kasses of the world like to insinuate an unholy relationship with the criminal underworld, bought-out ministers, and guys with thick necks (that's convenient to ignoring the plutocrats who actually run the show).

Is he "Mayor Rain Man" who knows every alleyway and micromanages dumpster cleanups and pothole filling? Or the urban CEO who manages a municipal organization by big picture fiat, as he was caricatured in Business Week?

Did he bring racial healing to a city blistered by a decade of conflict? Or is he the distilled expression of white revanchism against fleeting black empowerment in American cities? Did he save the schools? Or just juke the stats?

These are hard questions to answer, because Chicago is a tough city to figure. Are the schools better now than when the Mayor took office? Probably, yes. Did the Mayor bring racial healing to the city? Well, he has definitely brought a lot of the city's black leadership into his governing coalition. So that's something.

Osnos' piece follows the Mayor's line heading into his reelection and focuses on the "revolution" at the CPS as the cornerstone of his legacy. The Mayor is smart and knows where he has serious weaknesses--on infrastructure, on housing, on taxes, there's a point-counterpoint. On the schools the Mayor feels he has his flanks covered. That's where he's going to go. And, most likely, he will win his reelection handily.

Why does Mayor Daley, despite the scandals, the failing schools, the antiquated infrastructure and popular revulsion against the lack of democracy, hold onto power? This is the question self-appointed Daleyologists can never seem to answer. I don't know the answer; but I have a feeling there is a way to find out: write the story about the Chicago 2016 Bid Committee.

With big city economies cratering all around him, the Mayor was able to raise in the neighborhood of $70 million dollars to fund the Olympic Bid. At the same time he was able to get everybody that mattered--everybody--on board behind the push for the Olympics. Nobody, from the largest, most conservative institutions to the most active progressive advocacy group, was willing to step out against him on that issue. Part of this was probably because nobody thought it mattered very much: but the uniform unbroken silence, and the much-discussed order from the Fifth Floor--that the Mayor would never forget a betrayal on this issue--show that the Mayor was at least concerned about the possibility of pesky civic disruption.

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Daley Mon Mar 01 2010

Daley In Urbs In Horto

This New Yorker article by Evan Osnos on Mayor Daley (subscription required) is simply a must read. What Osnos does so well here is capture the complexity of Daley's image both in and outside the city. Daley is at once a revered politician that has really improved the city and also the man at the center of Chicago Machine politics. Fair warning though, the first few pages of the piece are rather flattering for Daley. And for good reason. The younger Daley is not his racist and corrupt father and Richard M. has improved the city, bringing in major attractions like Millennium Park and urban accomplishments like the new magnet schools, and a top-notch environmental policy. The city really is a prosperous exception to the exhausted rust-belt it's part of.

At the same time, Osnos also notes that Daley is no saint --which any Chicagoan could have told you. The sales tax remains too high, corruption is still ubiquitous, the city is a recent site of police torture (which, Osnos notes with too much forgiveness, Daley pretty much shrugs off), public service layoffs are here to stay apparently, and the Daley Administration still has an iron grip on any real political positions in the city. What isn't there though is any mention of the Shakman Decree or Daley's corrupt hiring practices. That's a pretty big piece of the reason Daley is corrupt and yet none of it is mentioned in the piece. It's odd.

Still, Osnos truly captures Daley in this passage when he compares Daley's general interest in good governance to sanitary fast food joints:

"But there is conspicuously little outrage -- no sense that he will attack corruption with the same intensity that he displays toward flies at Dunkin' Donuts."

There's also a interesting bit near the end of the piece about Obama's early relationship to Daley. Here's a taste:

They discussed a number of options, including the mayoralty--after Daley retired, of course-- but quickly settled on the U.S. Senate.


Obama and Daley shared a basic approach to politics as a constant negotiation of interests and ideals --Chicago's brand of Realpolitik.

Daniel Strauss / Comments (3)

Chicago Thu Feb 18 2010

A Riddle: Central Planning in the Carother's Case

Ike Carothers pled guilty to accepting a bribe to fix a zoning case for a developer, Calvin Boender. According to Ben Joravsky at the Reader, Boender sought the relief in order to develop a more profitable use (commercial and residential) despite the city's official position that the desired use for that property be industrial. A TIF was created with stipulations that the funding should only go to fund the creation of an industrial use. When previous owners tried to secure a rezoning, the city refused, citing their finding that the property should remain industrial. Eventually, Boender prevailed on Carothers ("prevailed on" in this case means "paid a bribe to") to back the subdividing of the property and its rezoning half of it to the more lucrative use. Carothers' attorney has stated that while his client admits to the bribe, the outcome was essentially a good one for the community (there's that process-versus-distributive justice thing cropping up again).

There are arguably two "process" abuses here: on the one end, the administration not going through an objective hearing processes to consider the rezoning to commercial/residential, and on the other end an Alderman taking a bribe to make that change regardless of that process. It's pretty easy to come to a libertarian interpretation and see that the problem is the government's ability to control the use of the land in the first place. The rule creates the corruption.

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon

Aldermen Thu Feb 18 2010

Intake Application for Alderman Leaked

I got my hands on a copy of the intake application for interviewees angling for one of the open Aldermanic positions. The city is asking residents who feel they are qualified to submit applications.

Intake Application for Employment as an Alderman

Ramsin Canon / Comments (2)

Daley Fri Feb 12 2010

Mayor Daley Calls Out War Protesters

I don't even know what to say about this. Mayor Daley at a recent speaking engagement lamented the absence of war protesters, calling them out for being fair-weather protesters. As we all know, protesting the war in 2003, when public opinion was in support of it and the entire mainstream political establishment was agitating for it, constitutes "fair weather".

The Mayor says that the protesters have disappeared because a Democrat is in the White House. So was the Mayor there with a bandana over his face and a Free Mumia patch on his arm last December when protesters were out against the escalation in Afghanistan? No, he was noticeably silent.

Watch the Mayor tack left. He needs those Lakefront voters that Preckwinkle won so handily.

And please, go listen to his earnest audio.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Chicago Thu Feb 11 2010

Free Parking?

It's the first good news regarding parking meters since the city's decision to privatize them in 2009. Last month, Mayor Daley proposed a free parking exception which will allow motorists one five-minute reprieve per year.

"The change will assist motorists who are occasionally ticketed for accidentally overstaying the time on their pay box receipt by a few minutes, despite trying to comply with parking requirements by purchasing adequate parking time," Daley said in a statement.

Drivers will have to hang on to their receipt in order to apply for a one-time freebie. The new ordinance also orders parking meter employees not to ticket cars whose time has immediately expired.

Deysi Cuevas / Comments (3)

City Council Tue Feb 09 2010

Daley: More Power to the Inspector General!

Mayor Daley on Monday announced that he was going to introduce an ordinance to the City Council that would grant greater power to the independent Inspector General's office, granting that office power to investigate aldermen, a power currently prohibited to it by law. Good government types are supporting the measure--to wit, Michael Shakman (of Decree fame), Joe Moore (49th)--as is the Inspector General himself. Tribune City Hall reporter Hal Dardick and Todd Lightly have a run down over at Clout Street.

Alderman Berny Stone is opposed to the measure, natch. But the reason he gives is somewhat compelling--that it would give the executive branch a cudgel to use against the legislative branch. Of course, this would be a more believable rationale were it not coming from the Vice Mayor who volunteered to get batted around by Mick Dumke on Chicago Tonight while defending the honor of the parking meter deal, and also had he ever supported any limit on Mayoral dominance of the City Council ever in the history of ever ever.

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Aldermen Tue Feb 02 2010

The 29th, the 31st.

The snuggly looking West Side Alderman Isaac "Ike" Carothers plead guilty yesterday to corruption charges for fixing a zoning case in favor of a developer who literally put a new wing on his house. This makes 29th Ward Alderman Carothers the 31st Alderman since the 1970s to be convicted of public corruption.

Ike simultaneously resigned his position as Alderman, creating a second vacancy in the City Council (with a potential third if Alderman Preckwinkle should win her race for the Cook County Board Presidency). Should that happen, Mayor Daley will have directly appointed 20 of the sitting 50 alderman in the City Council*. For those of you who work for the Mayor's Asset Leasing Financial Analysis Task Force, that's 40%. Now, some of those appointments have gone rogue--Ricky Munoz and Freddy Lyle, mainly--but generally it's a list of Mayoral deputies.

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon

Chicago Fri Jan 29 2010

No Shit

This just in from the always breaking, always facetious No Shit News Desk at Gaper's Block: "constant danger of illegal hiring at City Hall." Ah-chhhem: No shit.

So the IG, Joe Ferguson, filed a report Friday concluding that "the dangers of political hiring remain real and constant." Late last year the Mayor made mention of his plans to end the independent oversight installed in the wake of the 2006 trial of Robert Sorich , the mayor's former patronage chief who in that trial was found guilty of rigging city hiring for political concerns.

Weeks after the Sorich verdict the city found itself again in the grips of a campaign season. Two years later, as a journalism student at Columbia College, I wrote a retrospective, quasi-investigative story looking at one election that year that involved the real dangers in how political hiring effects city government (which I have since submitted to my esteemed and estimable editors for publication here--if you'd like to see it, let 'em know in the comments section).

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Danny Fenster / Comments (2)

Chicagoland Thu Jan 14 2010

Chicago Education in Danger of Being Parking Metered

"They never thought of the children first," Lillie Gonzalez exclaimed to several hundred people's applause at Malcolm X college. The small, but feisty, Latino community activist was speaking at the Democratic Alternatives to Renaissance 2010 conference organized by the Grassroots Education Movement (GEM) and the Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE) on January 9, 2010. Gonzalez was "one of the lucky ones," who was able to stop the closure of Peabody Elementary School in 2009 in Chicago's Near West Side. The planned closure of the more than a century old school was a part of Renaissance 2010, Chicago's program to privatize its public schools.

"Renaissance 2010 and 15 years of mayoral control are 15 years of failure." Explained Kenwood Community Organization organizer Jitu Brown. Describing the conference, Brown stated, "we want to begin to project what we think should happen in our schools... Our vision, not a corporate vision."

President Obama's appointment of Arnie Duncan to the Secretary of Education made the conference particularly important. "The first thing that Arnie Duncan did as US Secretary of Education is fly to Detroit and promise Detroit Public Schools major federal funds if they were to adopt the Chicago model," Pauline Lipman, a professor at the University of Illinois Chicago, explained.


Lipman pointed out that, "Renaissance 2010 is a partnership between Mayor Daley and the most powerful financial and corporate leaders in the city. What is their goal?" she asked before answering "to train a low wage workforce and to support real estate development. That's their education agenda. Their strategy is to hand public school to private operators, undermine the teachers union, phase out local school councils, the only democratic community voice we have, and replace neighborhood schools with selective enrollment schools and gentrifying neighborhoods."

"They have a long term plan. If they don't kick you off this year, they will pick you off next year." Lipman explained.

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Matt Muchowski / Comments (1)

Daley Thu Jan 07 2010

Pay No Attention to the Mayor Behind the Curtain

The Sun-Times published this editorial imploring Chicagoans to hold Chicago Public Schools CEO Ron Huberman's feet to the fire when it comes to his promises to fix the CPS.

The editors describe the new patches that Huberman promises to affix to the failed CPS practice of school turnarounds. "Turnarounds" are a CPS program where the Board of Education fires the entire staff at a school when test scores are too low. Due to the fact that these students are sent to other schools with low test scores, Huberman promises to ensure that these students have the opportunity to attend "substantially better" schools. To prevent repeats of the horrific beating death of Derrion Albert, the former CTA boss makes a nebulous promise of "safe passage" for students who have to travel further to go to neighborhood schools. This is often a problem when schools are closed and reopened as select enrollment or magnet schools, which is a key component of the Mayor's "Renaissance 2010" program.

Not once does Huberman mention that maybe the policies added no value to the lives of these students and exacerbated violence in schools because they are simply lousy policies. There is no reason to fix these experiments when it is clear that they do not work.

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Kenzo Shibata / Comments (1)

Aldermen Mon Jan 04 2010

Ald. Flores to Head Energy Commission, Daley to Replace Him

First Ward Alderman Manny Flores has accepted a position at the head of the Illinois Commerce Commission, an important consumer protection position. Flores was first elected in a rough street level contest with incumbent Jesse Granato in 2003. The First Ward, which encompasses parts of Humboldt Park, Wicker Park, and Bucktown, is a majority Latino ward with large gentrified pockets on its eastern end. The First Ward is also part of the power base of Congressman Luis Gutierrez, a critical supporter of Governor Quinn.

As per the municipal code, the Mayor will appoint Flores' successor. The Mayor has appointed approximately 30% of the sitting Council.

Alderman Flores gained some attention in 2009 for his various transparency initiatives--both on TIFs and the Olympics spending ordinance--and his green initiative, Green Economy Chicago, that encouraged residents to contribute ideas for new green business programs.

Ramsin Canon

Daley Mon Jan 04 2010

Getting Past Daley: An Open Chicago

Crains' Greg Hinz covered a new website, Next Chicago Mayor, that calls whence the next local executive. There's much fun to be had in voting for Bill Murray to run for Mayor, but that the site is getting mainstream coverage is telling of the fatigue people are beginning to feel for the Mayor's brand of power politics. But is Richard M. Daley the problem? Would just replacing him at the ballot box really fix any long-term problems?

Richard M. Daley infuriates people. Frustration mounts: the Mayor's long tenure in office and the unwillingness of elected officials and high-profile institutional leadership to frontally challenge him makes his critics feel helpless. Helplessness contributes to anger, to the point it becomes irrational. That element of the so-called "anti-Daley crowd" allows the Mayor's supporters to color all opposition as unserious, jealous, or neophytic.

Mayor Daley is powerful, but he isn't the problem, and the focus on him makes true grassroots democracy difficult to build. He has with the help of a diverse group of institutions and organizations rebuilt the Machine, though it looks quite different from the classical city Machine associated with his father. It's Machine Lite, and it doesn't wholly fit any particular political ideology or specific set of interests. Nor is it a reflection of one individual's thirst for political power: undoubtedly, the Mayor and his allies perceive the current political system as the best--or only--way to govern a city with a painful history of racial turmoil and class warfare. When the Mayor gets flustered and denies he controls a "machine" he isn't being duplicitous, he honestly believes it. He is surrounded by powerful people from different racial and ethnic groups, business and labor interests, who willingly cooperate with him precisely because they see a benefit to the concentration of power in the Fifth Floor.

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (5)

Chicago Tue Dec 29 2009

The Decline and Fall of Richard M. Daley

Like clockwork, it happens every year. It begins with the subtle deception of the changing leaves, a cold wind blowing in from the lake. Soon comes the onslaught of the brutal Chicago winter, the Hawk stalking 'round every corner. And every year, from behind a thick wool scarf, I declare: "god damnit, this is the last year I spend in this miserable city!"

Alas, I'm still here. But I swear to god, Chicago, if you don't throw this clown out of office in 2011, I'm gone.

And there's hardly been a more likely time to see that happen.

Continue reading this entry »

Danny Fenster / Comments (2)

Cook County Mon Dec 21 2009

The Cook County Wars

[Ed. Note: This is an editorial by UIC professor and former alderman Dick Simpson]
Simpson, Dick.jpgWhen it comes down to voting patterns, Chicago aldermen are easily dominated by Mayor Richard Daley, who has ensured the city council serves as a rubber stamp of his policies.

The reverse happens when the president of the Cook County Board of Commissioners, Todd Stroger, gavels a meeting into session. Members of the county board are in full-scale rebellion with Stroger at the helm, sharpening their rhetorical weapons and casting, more often than, nay votes on his priorities.

As he wades into a reelection campaign that could make or break his political career, Stroger must contend with the realities of his diminished executive power. He can't wield the bully pulpit like other politicians and he can't browbeat commissioners into sticking with him.

Take a look at the numbers my colleagues at the University of Illinois-Chicago and I recently compiled.

Since 2007, 23 of Chicago's 50 aldermen agreed 100 percent of the time with Mayor Daley's take on controversial issues that divided the council and required a roll call vote. Another seven aldermen cast their ballots with the mayor more than 90 percent of the time on such votes.

In other words, for the past two years, the mayor has been able to count on two-thirds of aldermen agreeing with his positions on the most contentious issues that come before city council the vast majority of the time. Stroger's hard-core supporters on the 17-member county board are few, however. Just four commissioners supported Stroger on divided roll call votes more that 75 percent of the time. They are William Beavers (100 percent), Jerry Butler (93 percent), Deborah Sims (92 percent) and Joseph Moreno (93 percent).

The trend is particularly evident in the battles to pass and then repeal an increase in the county share of retail sales taxes.

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon

City Council Wed Dec 02 2009

Mayor Daley's Budget: One Fine Piece of Assets, Pt. 2

Mayor Daley's budget, which relied on draining the reserve fund and making deep cuts (in some places) to last year's budget, passed easily today after some heated debate. Voting against the budget were Aldermen Flores, Fioretti, Dowell, Jackson, Munoz, Dixon, Waguespack, Allen, Reilly, Daley, Tunney, and Moore. In there you have a mix of Aldertypes: instinctual independents like Moore and Munoz; the newcomer class of good government types, like Waguespack and Reilly; and then some headscratchers--like usual Mayoral auto-votes Tom Tunney and Vi Daley, who represent well-heeled lakefront wards (Vi Daley, Lincoln Park; Tom Tunney, Lakeview). Then you have Sharon Dixon, who opposed the budget because she saw nothing in it for her ward, and was particularly incensed that TIF funds were not being fairly allocated; Fioretti who couldn't abide the drain on reserves with no long-term plan to replenish it--and presumably the same rationale for Flores (see interview with him, below). Alds. Dowell and Jackson, like Fioretti, argued that it was fiscally reckless.

The big sticking point for many, in fact, was the drain on the long-term reserve; Ald. Moore also expressed problems with the cut to certain health services.

There's no doubt that the budget represents stop-gap governing; much of the funds are coming from the leasing of assets that will stay in private hands for literally generations to come, and with the revenue from those assets controlled by private interests, the evaporation of the funds they created is literally taking away from future generations to avoid painful decision making today. To be fair, what the alternative is isn't clear. Aldermen offered lots of platitudes about mortgaging our future without any concrete solutions or proposals as to what to do about it; there isn't enough to cut, and nobody wants to propose tax increases.

The final vote count was 38-12. Alderman Burke recited the lyrics to "Tomorrow" by Annie.

Typically, Daley budgets pass with 49-0, 48-2 type margins. This 38-12 vote represents his worst margin of victory.

Ramsin Canon

Aldermen Tue Dec 01 2009

Alderman Flores Talks Budget, Part 1

I sat down with First Ward Alderman Manny Flores last week to discuss the budget and some other issues facing his ward, which encompasses parts of Wicker Park, Ukrainian Village, Bucktown and Humboldt Park.

Alderman Flores and I discussed his opinion on the structural problems with the city budget, highlighting pension obligations and the reliance on property taxes as a funding source for much of the budget. The alderman laid out a general idea that a new process that seeks a new formula for funding, particularly around pension obligations, would be necessary if we are to avoid not only budget shortfalls but the reliance on privatization as a solution.

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Daley Wed Nov 04 2009

Fast-Tracked Privatization Negotiations--Really!?

I came across this bit on a blog about transport project finance:

In separate news reports, Daley indicated that his administration is prepared to fast-track the Chicago Midway long-term lease without another auction process. The mayor would, instead, negotiation [sic] directly with the pool of potential bidders attracted to the airport in the previous process. Since the first quarter, traffic at Chicago Midway has rebounded with sequential gains in each month since March and positive year-over-year results from July. The improving passenger volume and newfound cargo flows bode well for the bidding process.

We own Midway Airport. The process should be open, with citizen review and real deliberation. After the parking meter debacle, that this type of "fast-tracking" could be discussed among these finance professionals in regards to Chicago's municipal assets is appalling.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (2)

Aldermen Mon Nov 02 2009

Drip, drip, drip: Budget Hearings

Aldermen criticize Daley for his use of financial reserves. In this Sun-Times piece, Aldermen Tom Allen, Anthony Beale, and Joe Moore are all quoted essentially accusing the Mayor of being financially irresponsible--and politically cowardly. The Mayor has designed much of his administration around the premise that as long as you don't yourself raise taxes and provide the basic services Chicagoans demand (snow plowing, garbage) you can reign forever. I don't know if these budget hearings will necessarily lead to some sort of Aldermanic revolt (not likely) but exposing the fiscal house of cards the Mayor has designed to avoid a tax outrage will harm his image as a shrewd "city manager," the image he's spent now two decades cultivating.

Ramsin Canon

Chicago Wed Oct 21 2009

Mayor Daley's Budget: One Fine Piece of Assets

Mayor Daley will be dipping into the city's reserves, specifically the $1bn+ fund created by the leasing of the city's parking meters to a private operator, to cover the enormous budget deficit of half a billion dollars that the city projects for next year.

The Mayor is holding to his pledge not to raise taxes and fees, saying that it isn't the time to ask families to pay more.

From Dan Mihalopolous and Hal Dardick, here's what some aldermen had to say:

"I think this is what reserve are made for," said Ald. Howard Brookins Jr., 21st. "Clearly, it's raining. While we don't know when this economic recovery will come, it's not going to be for a couple of years."

But Ald. Manuel Flores, 1st, said he was "very concerned" about dipping into the reserve fund. "That was intended for us to generate additional revenue through interest," Flores said. "You are selling off that asset. You are throwing that asset away."

"If the parking meter money is depleted within five years, then what happens for the next 70 years of that contract?" asked Ald. Scott Waguespack, 32nd, one of five aldermen who voted against the meter lease.

Ramsin Canon

Aldermen Wed Oct 14 2009

Solis to Head Zoning Committee

It's the oldest story in city politics. Tom Wolfe probably has about nine or ten 100 page short story sketches about it. Young firebrand activist organizes the neighborhood to fight city hall. Eventually professional activist gets to the point where his organization is powerful enough to challenge City Hall. City Hall grants community activist his/her demands; lures them in with job security and speeches about how being a grown up means learning that you have to work with the powerful to get anything done, and everything else is just naive youthful idealism.

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon

Daley Wed Oct 07 2009

Sun-Times Line of the Day

Without commentary on the content of the rest of the piece, the Sun-Times editorial board wins line of the day:

Mayor Daley said he wants the local cut of video poker money and will devise ways to regulate the devices.

No offense to the mayor, but given his parking meter debacle, our faith in the city's ability to regulate anything shaped like a box that takes your money is not exactly high.

Hyperspecific DIS!

Ramsin Canon

Olympics Thu Sep 03 2009

Call Me Monomaniacal

...but given the International Olympic Committee's pending decision, this is arguably the biggest public policy issue facing the city for the near future.

Here's No Games Chicago Co-Founder and GB contributor Bob Quellos on Chicago Tonight debating Lori Healy, respected Daley deputy and attack dog, and Alderman Manny Flores (1st).

Disclosure: I was among the other co-founders of No Games Chicago.

Ramsin Canon

Olympics Thu Sep 03 2009

No Cap on Public Money + No Oversight = Unmitigated Disaster

Good ol' Gentle Ben Joravsky over at the Reader reports on what a bunch of us got in our inboxes this morning: an oversight ordinance introduced by Ald. Manny Flores, and a "substitute" ordinance backed by Mayor Daley. Alderman Flores' staff sent out a side-by-side comparison a few hours later. Guess what? The Mayor's version sucks.

Manny Flores is a professional politician. It's not his, or any Alderman's job to be right all the time. It's our job to argue forcefully--or yell at the top of our lungs--to get them to do the right thing. Keep in mind that every sentient moment (evaporation of sentience is common in Zoning Committee meetings) of an Alderman's professional life he is hearing from lobbyists, deal-cutting colleagues, and a high-pitched voice from the Fifth Floor. So when Ald. Flores withdrew his Olympic spending cap--a bill that wouldn't have forestalled disaster had we been granted the Olympics, but which would likely have killed the possibility that we'd get it in the first place--we were justified in our booing and hissing.

Good on Alderman Flores for at least making a peep. Unfortunately, the only reasonable option, based on all the available evidence, is that we should not seek or accept the 2016 Olympic Games. Any other position on this issue is not nuanced, or pragmatic, or anything but wrong.

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Chicago Tue Sep 01 2009

Chicago Justice Project Makes a Connection Traditional Media Won't

As we said over and over again during the budget fight, politics eventually ends up on the streets. The activists, professionals, and politicians who duke it out in the halls of power are usually fairly insulated from the actual effects of their policies. We feel those out on the streets. We, the public.

So when Mayor Daley makes a move to close down mental health centers, some will celebrate "cutting waste", where waste = any social spending. Others will attack the Mayor's callousness, in the abstract. The local media will pick one of those tunes, typically, and sing in that chord. Meanwhile, the Chicago Justice Project makes the connection between the streets and politics that we rarely see anywhere else:

Anyone who pays even a minimal amount of attention to the Chicago media is constantly bombarded with evidence of our society's failures. This week is different in that we have proof of the fallout of a past failure (the shooting of a mentally disturbed homeless man in the loop) mixed with a forecast of what is to come based on decisions currently made by our political leaders (the closing of numerous area mental health clinics). Confused? Allow me to explain with examples drawn from the last seven days of Chicago's history.

Ramsin Canon

Education Tue Sep 01 2009

The Education Bubble

To the speculator, "saturation" is the filthiest word. When a market is robust and investments see steady and steep returns, all is good. When too many of his cohort are vying for the same investments, the rate of return diminishes.This situation forces these investors to get creative.

The "edupreneur"- a creature that is one part philanthropist and a thousand parts venture capitalist- is the paving the way for the newest, untapped market; our schools.

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Kenzo Shibata / Comments (1)

Chicago Tue Sep 01 2009

Farewell, David Hoffman. Now Let's Talk General Inspecting.

That former Inspector General David Hoffman is working with AKPD Media, the political consulting shop of David Axelrod, which counts the Mayor as a client, in his bid for the Democratic Senate nomination raised questions about just why he chose now to leave the IG's office and run for the US Senate. Such speculation is going to happen--"promote him out of here" is a perceived modus operandi of the Cook County Democrats. The last thing the Daleys and Madigans and Strogers of the world want is a local politician with a wide base outside of party auspices. There is rarely much evidence to prove that such "promote them out" schemes were intended or orchestrated.

Let's wish him well and appreciate the fact that he raised the stature and importance of a critical government office. And look to the future.

The sensitivity many may feel to Hoffman's departure is that, given his public disputes with powerful City Council factions and the Mayor himself, attacks on his budget or independence would have been politically risky. Hoffman seemed uniquely positioned to take on the powerful precisely because he had so publicly taken them on. This makes accusations of limelight-seeking easy, though perhaps paradoxical. High-level criticisms are what was needed, and would earn high-level attention. That very attention is what would have protected his office. Undermining his office would have been seen, quite rightly, as political retribution and would have outed those undermining him as being opposed to good and ethical government.

That is why it's up to "us"--the media, new and old, and the activists, left and right, and the people--to make sure that the Office of Inspector General, which clearly has enormous potential to be a force for local democracy and transparency, doesn't lose its increasing relevance simply because it lost its temporary caretaker.

So let's take a look at some of the potential replacements:

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Education Mon Aug 31 2009

The Great Inflation

The Sun-Times and the Chicago Teachers Union conducted a joint survey of Chicago Public School teachers that revealed that a shocking percentage--among High School teachers, more than half--have felt pressure to change a student's grade. Given the high stakes of the "percent graduating" statistics as a metric of public schools, it makes sense that the heaviest percentage would be among High School teachers. Still, more than a quarter of middle school teachers also reported feeling pressured to change a student's grade.

Of seven thousand teachers in CPS, fourteen hundred responded to the survey; while that provides more than enough for a statistically valid survey, it should also be considered or understood that the fact that it was self-selected to some degree could have altered the results.

With that in mind, this is still absolutely shocking, and adds yet another piece of evidence to the (well, my) on-going case that Arne Duncan was hardly qualified to be named Secretary of Education.

Obviously it was not Duncan pressuring teachers. According to the survey, the pressure came primarily from principals. But as the "CEO" of the schools, the buck must stop with him. And if principals felt the need to put the arm on teachers, that did not come from nowhere. There must have been in-turn pressure on them to meet statistical standards no matter what the cost.

While that pressure may have gotten Mr. Duncan the press needed to ascend in his career, it has done nothing for students.

Of course, this is not Duncan's school district. Many of these teachers had been teaching well before Duncan came on the scene--but the vast majority (64%) of teachers reporting have been teaching less than ten years, which puts them under either Duncan or Vallas, and certainly inside the Amendatory Act, Daley-control era.

Have our schools made progress since William Bennett described them as the worst in the nation in 1987? Perhaps; but with each new revelation and report, we seem to be getting further away from being able to actually answer that question.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (2)

IL-SEN Wed Aug 26 2009

IG Hoffman to Run for Senate

City Inspector-General David Hoffman, hired away from the US Attorney's office in the wake of the Hired Truck scandal, has tendered his resignation and will be entering the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate race.

During the Homero Tristan affair, IG Hoffman earned the scorn of Juan Rangel, CEO of a public education privatizing outfit called UNO, and Mayor Daley for being a political aspirant more concerned with making headlines to advance his career than being a fair dealer. Now the Mayor is saying he's not not sad (ie, glad) to see Hoffman go:

"No, I'm not," Daley said. "You want a headline that 'Daley's happy, smiling,' and all that. The sanctity of taxpayers' money -- people work hard, they want their money protected."

Hoffman's June report on the handling of the parking meter fiasco and his recommendations for how such asset sales/leases should be handled in the future helped keep the issue alive in the press and in voters mind and kept Mayor Daley on the ropes, just as the "transition" was beginning to infuriate residents. Hoffman's decision may come from the fact that with his current record of fighting the Mayor, and with the issues that are currently on the table, he'll never have a better chance. I have to wonder who was whispering in his ear, as well, goading him to get into a primary where he stands a considerably less than good chance of winning. He's going to have to raise a lot of money from lawyers, because the party apparatus, I imagine, will put the word out on him.

We could have used him at the city; hopefully his replacement is as independent and committed as he is (though hopefully a bit less ambitious).

Ramsin Canon

Daley Tue Aug 25 2009

A Different Kind of Do-Over in the Alleys

How about a kind word for our cuddly Mayor?

Inhabitat posts on the Mayor's initiative to "green" our 1,900 miles (over 3,500 acres) of alleyways, thus improving storm water run off and retention issues, remove impermeably services and urban heat island effects, among other potential advantages.

The inititative is a refinement of Chicago DOT's existing alley program which focused on creating more permeable surfaces. Chicago alleyways, which outnumber those of any other city in the world, are lacking in proper sewer connections causing serious flooding issues. Rather than simply opting for expensive sewer hookups, the city started retrofitting alleys with permeable pavements and pavers.

Our alleyways are one of my favorite things about Chicago. I have some very fond memories of running through and playing in alleys as a very little kid, and partying and otherwise escaping through alleyways as a man-child. Our alleys are a great asset and a great urban space; it's good to not just take them for granted, but always be thinking about what all that space--3,500 acres is a lot of acres--can be used for.

Ramsin Canon

Olympics Mon Aug 24 2009

Olympic Benefits: Made Up

The first two paragraphs of a recent Crain's Chicago Business piece by John Pletz are so juicily wonderful, so delicious, so perfect, that before I quote them for you, I want to give you the opportunity to go to the page itself and look at the picture next to the paragraphs, with local soulless plutocrat civic-minded booster Patrick Ryan and Mayor Daley, one filthy with lucre and the other filthy with power, staring at the words like accusations. Seriously, go there first and read them, then come back. While you're doing that, I'm going to continue working on this Freedom of Information Act request the city's aviation department (more on that later).

Are you back? Okay. For those of you that couldn't tear yourselves away, here's those paragraphs:

Mayor Richard M. Daley's prediction that the 2016 Olympics would give Chicago's economy a $22.5-billion boost vastly overstates the likely benefits of hosting the games, experts say.

"That's crazy," says Victor Matheson, a professor of economics at College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts who has studied the economic impact of the Olympics. "Anyone using this $22.5-billion number as justification to vote for the Olympics is being led down the garden path."

Games skeptics like myself have been saying this for years, literally years. There's no solid evidence that hosting the Olympics leads to any long-term economic benefit that is unique to having an Olympics. Particularly when you adjust for the massive costs overruns that have accompanied nearly all of the modern games, and certainly all the games in the new millennium.

Let's sum up the Bid Committee's case: there will be no structural improvements to infrastructure; the city has to promise to cover all debt with taxpayer money; there will be thousands of private paramilitary security on the streets of Chicago for months; certain beaches on the Lakefront, including 31st Street, will be privatized, thousands of luxury condos will be built subsidized by taxpayer money and introduced into a glutted market; and temporary service sector jobs that may just be replacing displaced jobs from business avoiding the city due to Olympic markups.

Why are we considering this again? Oh yeah; "we're" not. The unelected, unaccountable, and non-transparent Bid Committee is.

Disclosure: I was a co-founder of No Games: Chicago.

Ramsin Canon

Aldermen Thu Aug 20 2009

Dumke v. Stone, Cf. Globetrotters v. Generals

Watch Mick Dumke of the Chicago Reader take on Berny Stone (50th) over the Parking Meter Privatization deal. By "take on" I mean "throw confetti from a bucket on," or "pretend to throw a basketball to with a string attached to the ball and the hand". (Via Whet Moser at the Reader.)

Ramsin Canon

Daley Wed Aug 19 2009

Countdown to 2011...

Mayor Daley's house of cards continues to collapse. Leadership with a little vision could accelerate that decline by mounting serious opposition now.

This is a bigger deal than just popcorn headlines. This is keeping something in the news and in people's minds, and assaulting the Mayor's reputation as the "CEO Mayor" who "gets things done".

CHICAGO - The Independent Voters of Illinois-Independent Precinct Organization and board member Aviva Patt filed suit in Cook County Court Wednesday in an attempt to overturn the city's privatization of parking meters.

The suit, docket # 09CH28993, asks the court to declare the contract between the city and Chicago Parking Meters, LLC, illegal and void. The deal between the city and CPM violates state law because: the city did not have authority to lease city streets; the city cannot delegate police functions (parking enforcement) to a private company; the city cannot, through the 75-year lease, deprive future City Councils from the chance to exercise control over city streets; and the city cannot ask the Illinois Secretary of State to suspend driving privileges for violations at privately-held meters.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (2)

Aldermen Thu Aug 13 2009

Was Alderman Munoz Wrong?

Kids getting preferential admission because of who their parents are is wrong--although, of course, it happens in higher education all the time and basically creates America's version of a ruling class--but I'm not fully convinced that what Alderman Munoz did, in placing a call to request admission of his daughter to Whitney Young despite her grades, was wrong.

He is a parent. And parents call schools and ask for reconsideration all the time, particularly in cases where they want to keep siblings together (and I imagine for a dad, keeping his young daughter with her older brothers would be a particularly strong motivator). Should he not do what any other parent would do simply because he is an alderman?

Perhaps that is something you sacrifice when you enter public service. But if you put, "sacrificing basic parental prerogatives" on the list of things you sacrifice when you become a public servant, I'm not sure you'll ever get any quality public servants.

The background:

Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd) acknowledged Wednesday that his daughter was admitted to Whitney Young Magnet High School for the upcoming school year after he called the principal to ask that his daughter be allowed to follow in her brother's footsteps.

Perhaps the most interesting thing to come out of the follow-up was this bit of candid talk from the Mayor, who apparently has abandoned any pretension that the City Council's statutory powers are anything but a formality:

"As a parent, he is speaking for not only his family, but his own constitutents," Daley said. "They don't have to accept the child. They can refuse the child because [aldermen] have no power over the Board of Education. They don't fund them. They don't review their budgets or anything else."

The City Council does approve the Board of Education's property-tax levy and ratifies the mayor's appointment of school board members.

[Emphasis added]

I'm ambivalent. What do you think?

Ramsin Canon / Comments (5)

Daley Tue Jul 28 2009

Chi-Town Daily News on City Colleges Intimidation

No offense to my print journalism friends (may your Victrolas play joyous tunes) but reporting like this from the Chi-Town Daily News, who are covering the discrimination lawsuit at the City Colleges that implicates the administration in intimidation over personnel decisions, leads me to believe that democracy could potentially survive the death of ink. (Don't get me wrong--I love ink).

Here is staff writer Peter Sachs:

Last week, we reported that there was a culture of retaliation inside the City Colleges, citing the deposition of the district's former general counsel, now a circuit court judge. There's more to it.

Now that we've had time to go through yet more of the depositions, we find this:

"Non-African-Americans were easy to promote and were not punished as severely if they made a mistake, or if they did something that was not within procedures or the rules of the City Colleges."

That's Marnell Love, a former vice chancellor (read: high-level manager) inside the district's HR department, in his deposition in the Shaw lawsuit.

Speaking of promotions:

"I wanted to promote my employees who had outstanding records, and we had documented their performance ... and that they deserved to be promoted. And I had to promote other people that did not deserve it in order to get my promotions through, which, basically, I promoted everybody in the department."

Love goes on to talk about the tense work environment, festering upset over pay inequities, and infighting and feuding among some people in the HR department.

I've quoted too much. Please proceed and read.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Daley Mon Jul 27 2009

Daley Replaces Ocasio With Domino Commissioner Maldonado

Outgoing Alderman Billy Ocasio, who left to work for Governor Quinn, originally wanted accused homophobe Wilfredo de Jesus to replace him; he reneged on that and then the word was he wanted his wife to replace him. Mayor Daley decided to appoint popular Cook County Commissioner Roberto Maldonado to replace him, meaning now there will be a vacancy on the Cook County Board. Yay!

Here's an endearing little video of Roberto Maldonado, so that we can like him a little bit before he votes for the Mayor's plan to privatize Lake Michigan or smiles or whatever:

Ramsin Canon

Daley Tue Jul 21 2009

City Stickers II, the Legend of Daley's Incompetence

Drip, drip, drip.

Ramsin Canon

Education Mon Jul 20 2009

CPS (Illegally) Fails Special Needs Students

Chicago schools reporter and publisher of Substance News George Schmidt documents the utter failure of Mayor Daley's public schools to serve special needs kids. The Mayor's hostile takeover of the Chicago Public Schools with the 1995 Amendatory Act made him a hero with Mayors around the country and his "taming" of the Teachers Union an idol to education reformers who think privatizing education is the only way to improve it. Arne Duncan's tenure at the schools earned him a promotion to be the nation's top education bureaucrat. Why? Because they fired teachers. The only discernible record of the Daley administration is this: performance is little or no better, and the most experienced teachers, particularly if they're Black, have been fired. Congratulations, Team Daley!

Read the whole thing.

Principals, parents, teachers and students across Chicago are growing in the awareness that the Chicago Board of Education, for the past seven years under the leadership of Mayor Richard M. Daley and Michael Scott, has been systematically (and illegally) depriving the city's most deserving children of the public special education services both the law and common decency say they deserve.

The recent revelations that the principal of Prescott Elementary School, Erin Roche, had dumped as many special education programs as possible from his school in his drive to create an "elite" school for the children of a wealthy handful who have been moving into the area is not singular.

The closing of schools with programs for the neediest children, along with massive cuts in special education services and the sabotaging of the IEP process (so that teachers cannot prescribe one-on-one services for children) was a long-term policy of the Duncan administration (2001 - 2009).

Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Chicago Mon Jun 08 2009

Public Employees = Services for the Public

The big widely-known secret about the city's financial situation is that revenues are down and there are budget shortfalls, but the Mayor does have access to reserves built up through privatization over the last few years.

The Mayor has made efforts to balance the budget by cutting services--although this is couched as asking for givebacks from city workers--with disastrous results (e.g., the unplowed side streets). I think its important to always remind people that when you ask workers to take unpaid days off, or cut their pay, you are cutting the services that we often take for granted, and that make our city work efficiently, and better. The Reagan-era stereotype of the lazy public employee needs to die, because it's inaccurate. The reality is that your average public employee works in understaffed situations and is overworked. The reason your DMV lines are long is not because the DMV workers are moving in slow motion but because there aren't enough of them.

Here's AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Henry Bayer talking about city workers' negotiations with the Mayor.

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon / Comments (3)

Daley Tue Jun 02 2009

Joravsky Gives Volpe Two Thumbs Up, In Quotes

Man, I love Ben Joravsky.

Volpe* was supposed to appear at 2:45. But he didn't show up until 3:18. Hey, what's the fun of being the mayor's right-hand man if you can't make reporters sit around?

But let me tell you, it was worth the wait. What a performance! Volpe deserved a standing ovation when it was over, and it was all I could do not to stand up and cheer. He kind of reminded me of Jimmy Cagney, with his spunky, pugnacious defense of his man (the mayor) and their parking-meter deal. Lips quivering, voice occasionally cracking, he expressed outrage bordering on disgust that Hoffman--or anyone for that matter--could even remotely suggest that things didn't work as well as they should in Chicago.

As for defending the deal, it's pretty clear that the mayor's central argument is that $1 billion in the bank today is worth more than anything 75 years down the road. He and his aides may need a new one--fewer and fewer people seem to be buying that line.

*Former CFO, Daley Chief-of-Staff Paul Volpe

As I stated earlier, we shouldn't let this become an issue of whether the amount of money was exactly right. The lack of a reasonable process--and the bidders' rational expectation that there would be no meaningful public scrutiny, given our Mayor's reputation as the CEO Mayor--means that there was no way we got the best possible price. There's no one magic number that is exactly what we could have sold ("leased") our publicly-built-and-maintained-for-generations parking meters for. That negotiations happened behind closed doors and a final product produced for an up-and-down vote means that the bidder was dealing with a handful of negotiators rather than contending with an inquisitive if not hostile City Council and the large constituency organizations and stakeholders who would have participated in a review process.

Here's what I wrote in December '07:

The mixed reaction to the auctioning of the Skyway has emboldened the mayor, who seems to think that selling things you and I own is the best way to guarantee a city that works for you and me. Who knows how much the mayor is willing to prostitute the public trust? Who knows when our legislators will realize that the myth of privatization efficiency is just that, and stand up for us when the mayor tries to auction off our property?

It's not that we left $1bn on the table; it's that we never had a shot.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (3)

Daley Tue Jun 02 2009

...B-but, I thought he made the trains run on time?

UPDATE: Whet Moser at the Reader is following the debate on the numbers--what a luxury now. Whatever valuations the former city CFO, Paul Volpe, can throw out now are residing comfortably next to meaningless. This is a debate to be had before the decision is final. In most Public Private Partnership frameworks--believe it or not, most parts of the country have statutes that lay out exactly how PPPs can be entered into--there is a stage for negotiation after the best offer is accepted. Having this public debate about valuation THEN almost certainly would have gotten the city a better deal. Instead the bidder knew there was going to be a railroaded process because Chicago has the "CEO Mayor" who "gets things done". It misses the point to debate what the valuation "honestly" is because that number doesn't exist. The value is whatever we the public could have gotten out of the bidder for the deal, and without a period of debate and discussion, we'll never know. A request goes out; bids come in; agencies, committees, and panels review the proposals and make recommendations to legislative bodies; legislative bodies hold hearings and solicit public comment; then bids are accepted but opened for negotiation based on the aforementioned process. That's what a reasonable PPP process looks like.

So the Inspector-General's office has released their report on the parking meter deal, and guess what? Mayor Daley's incompetence may have cost us $1bn.

That's one billion dollars. If you want to wrap your mind around what that means, it could pay the salary of 1,000 cops for a decade; or 3,000 teachers for ten years. If the city had gotten a one-time shot of $2bn, we could have added an additional 500 hybrid buses to the city's fleet for 10 years and paid their drivers. Oh, the things we could do. Because of the Mayor's action, we don't have that money.

Maybe it isn't fair to call it incompetence; but the other option would be stupidity, so it would be better to go with that.

And of course it wasn't just Mayor Daley's incompetence, it was the City Council's cowardice, too, their maddeningly comical terror of the Fifth Floor.

And this has nothing to do with Democrats and Republicans--in this instance we have Democrats rubberstamping an essentially conservative policy. It has to do with a lack of democracy. People who argue for more transparency, more democracy, deliberation, public participation, are shrugged off by the professional political class as being unrealistic, idealistic, wild-eyed haters who are just sore because they aren't in the cool kids club.

But the policies democracy creates are almost always better--particularly over the long term--than the policies dictated by elites. Why? Because the policies dictated by elites will, over time, trend towards favoring those elites over everybody else.

So what a surprise, that the parking meter deal has proven to benefit Morgan Stanley and the Mayor over the people of Chicago.

The Inspector-General's report (via takes no position on Public Private Partnerships per se, but includes this:

Because the deal was presented to the City Council with very limited information and because the Council scheduled its vote a very short time later, there was no meaningful public review of the decision to lease the parking-meter system. What is standard in the PPP "best practices" model - informed deliberation, transparency, and full analysis of the public interest considerations - was not present here.

Of course not! Our aldermen are so scawed of da big scawy mayor. They tremble in fear that he'll send his scattered and demoralized "army" of geriatric precinct workers after them. Who knows; if they stand on principle, maybe they'll lose reelection and have to get a job. I can't believe its come to taunting our elected officials for being scaredy cats, but what else is left? What else do we have to do? They obviously don't respond to reason. So maybe taunts will work better.

I understand it's scary to have your job be threatened, but its not like the Mayor is going to kill you if you vote against his public private partnership proposal. He'll just get comically red-faced and blustery and call you a coward in a way that makes everybody in the city laugh at him.

(comme ca:


Mayor Daley the efficient city manager is an apparition; his years of consolidating control gave the appearance of an efficient bureaucrat making things run smoothly; but all things now controlled, we find that the "efficiency" of amalgamation is just a shift of decision making from a slow public process to a quick private one. Democracy maybe chaotic, scary, and sometimes even ugly, but besides being theoretically right, it is often practically right, too.

Richard Daley has a mixed record in office. He has a right to defend that record, and we shouldn't give in to the temptation to turn him into an always-bad caricature. But this is a fantastic blunder, and one that is a direct result of the lack of leadership in Chicago.

These types of things are destined to happen again and again if we don't soon form a real, on-going effort to identify and encourage new leadership in the city.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Event Tue Apr 28 2009

World, Biden Discuss Urban Economic Crisis

Meetings, summits, conferences. These are where catastrophic problems are discussed and noble solutions are alluded to. That tradition was upheld on Monday at the UIC-hosted and city-sponsored Fifth Annual Richard J. Daley Urban Forum cautiously entitled "Global Economic Recovery: Cities Lead the Way."

The three-hour event boasted 30 mayors from cities around the world contributing their hard-knocks experiences amidst the global recession. Much of the dialogue revolved around such big ideas as bureaucratic reform, infrastructure investment, and educational improvement -- all with very little specificity attached.

While Mayor Richard M. Daley, who Bruce Katz of the Brookings Institution affectionately referred to as the "dean of American mayors," may have presided over markedly higher budgets each year, he confidently assured the forum that urban success will be rooted in "cutting government spending," and "looking at outsourcing." Yet it was Mayor Hanna Birna Kristjansdottir of Reykjavik, Iceland, who described how she and the city council agreed to a pay cut as a measure of demonstrating what needed to be done across the board. From the back of the room, it was hard to see if the 50 aldermen in the front row were stroking their chins in a eureka moment.

Vice President Joe Biden topped off the chorus of international voices in support of significant federal reinvestment in the urban landscape by using stimulus spending items as bullet points. After rattling off a stump speech of spending measures (all of which could be reviewed at, he expressed his belief that American cities will soon gain a technological edge in the global economy by trading in "smokestacks for stethoscopes."

From the bowels of the predictable rhetoric and the guaranteed applause lines about wanting Chicago to host the Olympics in 2016, a few general themes did emerge. Tourism dollars wind up finding their ways to places that spend money on beautification projects and big box infrastructure improvements, making it clear that such expenditures go beyond short-term patronage.

Secondly, business partnerships must guide the educational development in this country through secondary school grants and product development in the universities. Norbert Riedel, a spokesperson for the Baxter International, discussed how partnering with several Chicago universities allowed it to make headway in adult stem cell research, anti-counterfeiting, and product safety. These relationships went onto to produce high-paying jobs in which companies groomed the work force to suit its needs. Gone are the days about worrying how corporate influence in the educational marketplace could corrupt the schooling process. As the Beatles once said, "All the money's gone, nowhere to go."

Prescott Tolk

Aldermen Thu Apr 16 2009

Three Bags of Tea for the Disloyal Opposition

It's hard not to guffaw like a frat boy every time I come across news or analysis of yesterday's "Tea Parties" (Rachel Maddow=genius). It is particularly hard to hear clips of protestors talking about how "it's time for us to wake up those folks in Washington to what people really think," as I heard over and over again on NPR last night, as if Obama wasn't just elected by fairly comfortable margins and doesn't enjoy 60% approval rating. (or even that a large percentage of Americans think the tax system is fair). Those of us who lived through the Clinton years had very few illusions about the ability of the "extra-chromosome right" as Al Gore called them to exist in loyal opposition. So we're now subjected to debates over Obama's role in promoting piracy, governors advocating secession, and whatever other outrages emerge from the miasma of the right-wing politics of victimhood.

Stepping away from the hypocrisy and potential danger of the inflamed rhetoric on the right, one can't help but be impressed with the fearlessness of conservative politicians, pundits, and activists. It doesn't matter that the last eight years are widely viewed as a series of exhibits on the failure of their essential ideology or that they were roundly repudiated at the polls in November. Even if their grievances are fuzzy and inchoate and their way out of the current situation is to apply the same medicine that got us here, only in higher does, they are so convinced of the dire consequences of not opposing the current president that they will engage in pretty ridiculous behavior to see him stopped.

It's becoming pretty obvious from the reporting of Ben Jovarsky, budget woes, and the three tires I've had to change in the last month that calling Chicago the city that works is a rhetorical stretch, to say the very least. A broke, pock-marked city that attempts to replace front line police officers with cameras, sell off all its assets to the highest bidder in return for slush funds for Mayoral fantasies of grandeur is not one headed down the right road. But yet we have a more or less completely compliant City Council that marches in lock-step with the flailing failing policies of our mayor while the media focuses on Todd Stroger's foibles while letting Daley's slide by. It's probably also true that the Mayor has done a great job of making himself, and not the tenant farmers of the City Council represent government in this city, so that voters and non-voters alike rarely hold alderman accountable. The situation is especially disappointing to those of us who worked hard to elect a slate of independent alderman, only for them to come back and say "you don't understand how scary the Mayor can be." Our city is crumbling and the most those who are charged with fixing it can say is that they can't speak out because of the hypothetical fear of losing city services in their wards

Maybe Chicago needs some disloyal opposition, some crazy "tea-baggers" who will throw caution to the wind and not be afraid of the retributive consequences, real or imagined. If right wing Republicans aren't scared of the President and Democratic Congress who just thumped them in elections, then why are we still electing alderman who defeat the machine candidate in their wards and remain afraid of the mayor?

Jacob Lesniewski

City Council Thu Apr 09 2009

Government for What?

Ben Jovarsky and Mick Dumke's dogged reporting has produced a fascinating, if predictable tale of Mayor Daley ramrodding questionable billion dollar privitization schemes through the City Council. It's no surprise that the Mayor and the pliant council are loath to engage in any sort of real public debate, but other news stories this week make the details Jovarsky and Dumke unearth much more troubling. Over and over again, the Mayor and his staff justify the quick and unexamined sell off of the city's assets for more funds for things like social services or neighborhood parks. But other stories this week seem to indicate that the Mayor has no intention of creating robust, quality city services. In other words, the Mayor and his staff are selling off revenue-generating city assets for no clear purpose.

The ChiTown Daily News first reported on the closing of four city mental health clinics, all on the South Side of Chicago. Budget director Paul Volpe, health commissioner Terry Mason, and Mayor Daley all cited state budget cuts as the reasons for the closing of the centers.

Continue reading this entry »

Jacob Lesniewski

Column Thu Apr 09 2009

The Erosion of Daley and the Coward Defense

I would like to take a moment from my current leave-of-absence to comment on Ben Joravsky and Mick Dumke's extraordinary piece from this week's Chicago Reader. Joravsky and Dumke's piece is in fact a perfect case study of much larger issues, namely, the utter failure of neoliberal public policy and the accelerating erosion of Mayor Daley's precarious political order. Both are implicated in an exhaustive piece that demonstrates how and why decisions that affect millions of human begins are made.

And I would like to direct this piece not just to our wonderfully loyal Mechanics readers, but also to the current under-class of political professionals, legislative and district staffers, public policy Masters students, and the rest of the "next generation" of leadership that think leadership means gripping the pant legs of today's elected officials and auctioning the public good off to private interests. And also to elements of the city's so-called "progressive leadership", which are, like Dorian Gray's portrait, at risk of transmogrifying themselves into the shakedown artists the hard-core right always accuses us of being.

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon / Comments (9)

Daley Wed Mar 25 2009

State Rep. pushes for child gun saftey education

I like this idea of gun safety education, but reading this story from Newsradio 78 it appears Daley doesn't even want that! Most of us already knows Daley's position. Guns are bad no matter what and I suppose one can conclude that if Daley had his way no one would even know what a gun is.

Well let's start with the legislation in question:

State Rep. Annazette Collins (D-Chicago) said she believes that education is the key to gun safety, and said a hands-on approach is the key to taking away the mystery and allure of guns.

"Downstate they teach you that guns are meant for hunting, for protection," she said. "Here in the urban cities, all they see are guns on TV and they gun down people."
Collins said she suggested gun education to help gain passage of House Bill 48, a measure that would require universal background checks prior to the purchase of guns and would ban private handgun sales.

Like was already stated Daley was opposed to it:

"It's the silliest position I've ever heard taken," Daley said.

Daley said putting guns in the hands of more children is the last thing the city of Chicago needs.

"It would be different if they have an interest and the family takes them so they're going out hunting," he said. "Don't you think we should concentrate on math, science, reading, attendance, keeping children in school, after-school programs? I think the representative should put her priorities in order."

Daley said there is already too much gun violence on Chicago's West Side, and said he believed Collins' proposal would only fuel it.

"If (she thinks) more guns on the West Side is going to help those people, she is greatly mistaken," Daley said.

I could agree, but Daley seems to assume that anyone with a gun=automatic criminal. That's not true, but it has been argued that gun control can only benefit those who choose not to obey them anyway. A person who is without a gun to protect themselves or their home might largely be defenseless against a criminal who would do great harm to them.

The Mayor doesn't appear to have great faith in this idea of a responsible gun owner. If Daley doesn't have faith in the citizen then does he have faith in his police? They carry guns and every now and again we hear stories that might cause people to lose faith in the police. Such as this story about the cop who loses it at a bar and he's about to go on trial.

Anyway, let's hear from you. Might it be beneficial to teach gun safety to young people? If we can educate them now, perhaps, they might be more reticent in pulling a gun on anyone. Hopefully they'll know that this isn't Hollywood and a gun is a very dangerous tool.

Let's not misunderstand guns are dangerous. They certainly don't belong in everyone's hands, but is it smart to not even allow some people an opportunity to understand gun safety?

Via 2nd City Cop who titles their entry "Common Sense Rejected".

Levois / Comments (2)

Daley Fri Mar 20 2009

Mayor Daley And Admiral Adama Have Nothing In Common

Over at Merge Jasmine highlights this comparison between Admiral Adama in the show Battlestar Galactica and Mayor Daley at Decider Chicago. The comparison is mostly way off though. For instance, Hunter Clauss, who wrote the piece, says this:

"Adama and Daley both like keeping business in the family name. When Adama was charged with appointing a captain to Pegasus--the second battlestar--he didn't think twice before handing the keys to his only son, Apollo."

Actually he did. There was a whole episode about the first captain of the Pegasus called The Captain's Hand. Apollo was the second one Adama appointed.

Next there's this:

"When a splitter group of the Cylons joined the ever-diminishing human fleet of spaceships, Adama wasn't ready to give them anything unless they gave up something first."

Again, that's up for interpretation. When the human refugees came to Earth and then (spoiler ahead!) decided to move on, Adama offered for the rebel Cylons that Clauss is talking about to "come along."

As far as I know, I think this is the one apt parallel:

"Adama handles this civilian government in a similar fashion as Daley--by ignoring them. When Adama wants to get something done--like outfit ships in his fleet with Cylon technology--he does it regardless of what the suits have to say. When Daley wanted to tear down Meigs Field, he sent the bulldozers out in the dead of night to rip apart the runway."

But Clauss doesn't end on an accurate note. Instead he finishes with something that, again, I think is misinterpreted (more spoilers!):

"After all these years, the good ship Galactica is finally falling apart--and the same can be said about the Chicago Transit Authority. Like the bone-chilling winters, CTA doomsdays seem like a regular occurrence. Too bad we don't have any of that Cylon magic juice to paint the tracks with."

But the CTA is getting some much needed funds to help repair it. It surely won't solve every problem but while Galactica has nothing but bandaids at best, help is on the way for our transit system.

So what's all this prove? Why, that I spend too much time watching science fiction, that's what! But speaking of Battlestar Galactica, the series finale was on a little while ago. My thoughts: eh. One thing I can say is that most viewers will probably walk away from it liking Adama. I wouldn't necessarily say the same about any time spent with Mayor Daley.

Daniel Strauss / Comments (2)

Education Thu Feb 19 2009

Soto School Closure Moratorium Bill Passes Committee

We all know that means little if Speaker Madigan (or Senate President Cullerton) wants to squash it, but good on Rep. Cynthia Soto for bucking the Mayor and his corporate lackeys on the Board of Ed and moving this moratorium on school closures through the General Assembly. The vote was 20-0.

Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, candidate for Rahm Emanuel's House seat, is a Chief Co-Sponsor. The bill has a Republican co-sponsor, Roger Eddy of Hutsonville.

The Board of Education has no standards for its school closures. It views our city as a "market" and is merely trying to increase the "market share" of the privatized schools so favored by the Mayor and the myopic mopes who purr in his lap on the Fifth Floor.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (2)

Special Election IL05 Wed Feb 11 2009

IL05 Candidates on Mayor's Transparency

A few days ago I wrote a piece about the Mayor refusing to make public his "shovel-ready" projects that would be kick-started by the federal stimulus/recovery/whatever bill that is passing this week.

I sent emails to the leading candidates in the Fifth Congressional District race to get their take on the Mayor's lack of transparency. Here's what I got back.

Tom Geoghegan

Whether it's the bank bailout or the stimulus package, Chicagoans have a right to know where their tax dollars are being spent. The Mayor must release where the stimulus money is going, just as the Fed and Treasury must tell us where the bank bailout money has been going.

Charlie Wheelan

As for Mayor Daley, I don't blame him for not making the projects public BEFORE the money is allocated. It would set off a round of political battles that might ultimately be irrelevant. Obviously once the money is actually allocated by the federal government, the process for selecting projects should be transparent. Or, if projects have already been selected, those criteria should be made public. It's not a terrible thing if the city already has a list of projects. Many jurisdictions are being criticized for NOT having done such planning. Indeed, this is why there are so few "shovel ready" projects around the country.

(Wheelan also provided his take on the stimulus plan in general, which was interesting enough to merit its own post.)

Rep. John Fritchey

I received a message from Rep. Fritchey's campaign noting that transparency is one of Fritchey's most important issues, but I did not receive a statement from the candidate himself.

Rep. Sara Feigenholtz

Rep. Feigenholtz did not respond at all, but she held a press conference today discussing this very matter -- prompted by my question, perhaps? (No.)

(via Progress Illinois, which you should be reading every day, right after you've read Mechanics)

Commissioner Mike Quigley

I did not receive a reply from Commissioner Quigley's campaign, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the email never reached them, so chalk that up to me.

Ramsin Canon

Chicago Sun Feb 08 2009

STOP: Stop Closing Mental Health Clinics

Why is the city closing down mental health clinics on the South Side?

Displacement? Gentrification? Making parts of the city superficially pretty for the International Olympic Committee?

My tendency is to think "all of the above" or, maybe, "six of one, half dozen of the other."

Southside Together Organizing for Power, a community group that does just what its name implies, came to that same conclusion when they began fighting the closures last year. Closing mental health clinics is a common way to attack a community's social safety net. Having grown up in and around Chicago, I remember the stories of the closures of mental health facilities in Uptown that led to an increase in homelessness for the most at-risk.

But more than that, it's just cruel. Providing this kind of health care benefits communities; it doesn't drain them. STOP intends to take that message directly to the Mayor on Tuesday, at 10am, at his City Hall office.

For more information.

Ramsin Canon

Daley Sun Feb 08 2009

Mayor Daley, the Blushing Flower

With hundreds of millions of dollars to stream into Chicago from federal sources, Mayor Daley is refusing to release "his" (actually, "our") list of "shovel-ready" programs that will be kick-started by federal monies.

I read this at the time and meant to post on it, but I wanted to think of something grandiloquently clever. But then I realized that would just be annoying and distract from the fact that our mayor, a supposed big-city politics tough-guy, is, in fact, just a hothouse flower, ready to wilt at the first hint of scandal.

"Yes, we do, we have our list, we've been talking to people. We did not put that out publicly because once you start putting it out publicly, you know, the newspapers, the media is going to be ripping it apart," Daley said.

In other words, because the city's media is mean to him (which means, I guess, they only agree with him 70% of the time or so, unlike "his" -- our -- legislature, which agrees with him 100% of the time), he is not going to release to the public, the list of public works programs that are going to be funded by public money.

Our money, our programs, our city, but we don't get details because our mayor is taking our ball and going home.

Besides revealing the Mayor to be unbelievably thin-skinned, this is a profoundly anti-democratic act. This isn't your money, or your developer friends' money, or President Obama's money, or Dan Lipinski's money, or Ed Burke's money, or Rahm Emanuel's money, or Jesse Jackson, Jr.'s money, or anybody's money but ours, our money. And our programs, and our city.


Ramsin Canon / Comments (11)

Education Wed Jan 28 2009

Teachers, Parents, Students Out in Force

After making Ron Huberman's first day on the job at CPS quite unpleasant (h/t to Progress Illinois), a large demonstration of hundreds -- inching into thousands -- of teachers, parents, and students will be demonstrating in front of the Chicago Public Schools building at 125 S. Clark Street, beginning at 3:30pm today. If you work downtown, you may want to head over there and check it out -- and send us pictures, while you're at it. We'll post 'em!

Mayor Daley's Board of Education is run by the business community and himself. It's enough already. How much longer are the people of Chicago just going to accept that "The Mayor gets his way?" Do you really think forever?

Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Daley Tue Jan 27 2009

Let's Get Real About Huberman

The tone seems to be pretty benign about Ron Huberman's appointment to lead the Chicago Public Schools, but really, is this anything but Daley-style machine politics?

Come on now, how exactly is education related to transportation? And beyond that, despite some serious improvements (slow zones, an ambitious digital tracking system), there's much work to be done. It's not the time for a leader to move on to something new and different.

Daniel Strauss / Comments (2)

Daley Fri Jan 23 2009

Daily Daley Does It Again

I just want to take a moment to direct you to the Daily Daley, which has had a particularly good few days; it will take a much longer post to discuss this insane assertion by our Elective Majesty:

Mayor Daley is urging President Obama to "think outside the box" according to this Sun-Times story. [Insert joke here] Apparently our bold reformer and Democrat Mayor Daley is in total agreement on this one with the Wall Street Journal story we referenced in yesterday's post:

"If they start leasing public assets -- every city, every county, every state and the federal government -- you would not have to raise any taxes whatsoever. You would have more infrastructure money that way than any other way in the nation," Daley said.

"But, that is thinking outside the box and very few governments ever, ever think outside the box."

Ramsin Canon / Comments (2)

Daley Mon Jan 12 2009

Give Daley His Due

This is good news, reported by Fran Spielman in the Sun-Times, that the city is pursuing $2.1bn to fund 50,000 affordable housing units in the city by the year 2013.

Affordable housing is one of those foundational issues that, if addressed properly, can have a ripple effect that addresses many other problems. When housing is available and affordable, ghettoization stops. It slows gentrification and can encourage more mixed communities. We could ask why the Mayor waited until after twenty years of unmitigated gentrification completely changed the face of dozens of neighborhood, but here at Mechanics we're forward looking, so we won't. Here's a tidbit:

Arguing that affordable housing is "more important than ever" in an economic downturn, Mayor Daley on Wednesday committed $2.1 billion to create 50,022 units of rental and for-sale housing by 2013....The financing crucial to any deal will come from federal and state funding, low-income tax credits, bonds, loans and tax-increment financing subsidies.

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon / Comments (2)

Daley Thu Jan 08 2009

That Efficient "City Manager" Mayor

Hey, who needs $153,000,000 in federal "anti-congestion" funds? Certainly not Chicago; it's not like we have a congestion problem. Via Crain's.

The administration this week quietly pulled back a pending ordinance that would have hiked fees and taxes for off-street parking in garages and on surface lots downtown by as much as $8 a day. The measure was supposed to be the stick for a big carrot: a $153-million federal grant announced last spring to begin a pilot express transportation system known as bus rapid transit....But the measure, which arrived in the wake of large hikes in parking-meter fess, drew strong opposition from business groups.

Thanks, "business groups." Every day, another crack in the foundation. The invincible Mayor Daley.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (2)

Daley Mon Jan 05 2009

Mayor Daley's Awesome, Or Terrible, Year

Fran Spielman sums up Mayor Daley's year:

The city he has led for 20 years became the center of the political universe -- and the 2016 Olympic front-runner instead of a mere finalist -- after the favorite-son senator he backed was elected the nation's first African-American president.

A month later, Chicago was back to being ridiculed as corruption capital of the world when Gov. Blagojevich was dragged off in handcuffs.

I doubt the Mayor is worried, but some Park Ridge residents are determined to make 2009 not-so-pleasant:

A Park Ridge man is urging the International Olympic Committee to remove Chicago from consideration for the 2016 games.

Arguing the Olympics will only add to the heavy O'Hare air traffic above his neighborhood, Gene Spanos mailed a letter to the committee's headquarters in Switzerland, asking that members meet with Park Ridge residents and also reconsider their decision to list Chicago among the finalist cities.

...and, of course, for Chicagoans, our 2009 will definitely be more expensive:

But with 2009 now in progress, Chicagoans now have no choice but to spend more on certain conveniences.

As CBS 2's Mike Parker reports, the fates give - suddenly lower gasoline prices in the latter part of 2008. But they also take away, if you put your car in most downtown and Loop parking garages.

The city tax is going from $2.25 to $3.

Ramsin Canon

Column Wed Dec 10 2008

Chicago, Open Up Your Pocket Books: Olympic Village Deal Back On

Perhaps while watching yesterday's breaking news regarding the arrest of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich you said to yourself, "Surely Chicago politics couldn't get more absurd." Well, try this one on for size.

As the U.S. housing market leads the global economy into its greatest crisis since the Great Depression, that whip-smart team over at the Mayor's Office has decided to bet our futures on yet another condo development. But this isn't just any condo development — this is an Olympic Village.

That's right. The deal to obtain the land underneath Michael Reese Hospital for Chicago's 2016 Olympic bid is back on. And the City of Chicago is about to take out an $86 million loan to acquire the land that is currently occupied by the functioning hospital.

Once they acquire that land, they plan to demolish the hospital and build housing for athletes who will participate in a two-week sporting event that may occur in Chicago eight years from now. How's that for absurd?

Continue reading this entry »

Bob Quellos / Comments (7)

Daley Mon Dec 08 2008

Day by Daley, Monday 08 December

You should've been gone, Knowing how I made you feel; And I should've been gone, After all your words of steel. Oh I must've been a dreamer, And I must've been someone else, And we should've been over (by now).

Oh Daley, our love holds on, holds on! Oh Daley, our love holds on, holds on.

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon

Daley Wed Dec 03 2008

Day by Daley, Wednesday 3 December

Like sands through the hour glass, this is the Daley of our lives.

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon / Comments (6)

Daley Mon Dec 01 2008

Day by Daley, Monday 1 December

Good morning, Chicago! The tryptophan out of your system? Or for you vegetarians, is the tryptophurkey out your system? Groggy-headed and weighed down with calories, take a few minutes to follow our local political what's-for; Mayor Daley is just getting into the swing of things himself, but we can take a look around town anyway. So, like sands through the hour glass, this is the Daley of our lives.

Public Force, or Palace Guards? In the olden days, there were no municipal police forces -- creating an accountable "public force" for the purpose of protecting citizens was a post-Enlightenment development. Before then, what you basically had was an extension of palace guards whose main concern was watching for outsiders and quelling bread riots -- protecting the palace. Keep just enough peace that His Lordship isn't present, but these guys weren't investigating home, er, shack, invasions. So it should frustrate you when we read about an alderman and the City Treasurer (did you know that was even a thing? I bet you didn't) having CPD protection:

"If there's a credible recent threat, they should have it. If it's just a courtesy of the office, they don't need it," said Jay Stewart, executive director of the Better Government Association. "When you're talking about layoffs, a slowdown in police hiring and [400 sworn police officer] vacancies, any way you can get more bodies on the street protecting citizens, the better" off Chicago will be.

More, More, More Bad News. Just wanted to make my second Andrea True Connection in less than a week. Successful. The bad news? Chicago's ranks of jobless ticked up again last month, to 6.9%.

Analysis By Cliche. I'm just as happy to criticize our Mayor when he goes off track, but all this stuff about the Chicago Machine, particularly its supposed nefarious ties to the President-elect, are really annoying. Like this bit from the Southwest News Herald:

From David Axelrod, who was nurtured on the Daley Machine, to the political organizing, which Barack Obama so proudly claims a lineage, Chicago's brand of one Party politics may be a model for the Obama administration in Washington, D.C. It is no mistake the president-elect joined Rev. Jeremiah Wright's South Side Chicago church. Obama wanted to learn the ropes of power politics and how it was played in the Windy City. There were no better teachers than Mayor Daley and his cadre of obliging aldermen who responded to the cracking of the political whip.

I've been more than happy to note in the past that then-State Senator Obama's media advisor was a guy with long ties to Mayor Daley, but Axelrod is not a Machine hack. He also worked for Harold Washington (there's a famous picture of him awaiting results with Washington). And the connection between Wright and Daley is a complete non-sequitor. Mayor Daley keeps getting re-elected by astronomical margins; the people speak loudest at the ballot box.

This Screams "Reality Show!" With all these contestants lining up to replace Rahm Emanuel in the 5th Congressional District, and with Mayor Daley's stamp of approval the likely tipping point that will nudge someone to first place in a crowded field, how can we resist the urge to make this into a rose-focused reality show, where each week Mayor Daley has the candidates do various things to win his heart, like hold a press conference where they talk about how much they hate Jesse Jackson, Jr., or vote for a budget that freezes funding for vital social services in their ward, or try to impress his brothers at a family get-together? Winners get a rose, a small transfer-in to their PAC; losers hit the bricks.

The name of the show? Mayor May Not.

Ramsin Canon

Daley Wed Nov 26 2008

Day by Daley, Wednesday 26 November

Mayor, Mayor, Mayor -- how do you like it? How do you like it? Mayor, Mayor, Mayor -- how do you like it? How do you like it? But if you want to know how I really feel, just get the cameras rolling, get the action going. Daley, you know my vote for you is real. Take me where you want to, then my heart you'll steal.

Surprise! You're Homeless! Phil Hersh in the Tribune:

During the campaign to make their city an Olympic host, Chicago 2016 officials have dwelled on the idea that the city is a well-kept secret. So it is no surprise the only video the bid committee has shown in all its presentations to regional Olympic committees is called "Chicago Surprises."

WBEZ, yesterday:

Claire Mahnn is a human rights attorney who participated in the study, Fair Play for Housing Rights: Mega events, Olympic Games, and Housing Rights. Mahnn is with the Geneva Academy for International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights. According to her research, previous Olympic games have displaced more than two million people around the world.

Turnin' Up the Heat on TIFs. Angela Caputo at Progress Illinois has a great piece on Mayor Daley's half-a-billion-plus slush fund, the tax increment financing district moneys that are open to little transparency and aren't subject to an annoying legislative appropriation process.

TIF districts now cover half of the city's acreage, each capturing new property tax revenue in the name of economic development. However, keeping tabs on the millions in off-the-books tax revenue has become virtually impossible, even for folks with an eye for municipal finance. At a community forum organized by the Independent Voters of Illinois- Independent Precinct Organization (IVI-IPO) last night, some reform-minded Chicagoans--including Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley--explored possible new game plans for bringing sorely needed oversight to the TIF system.

Pride Campus, Scuttled by Mayor's Buddies? The Chicago Journal's Jessica Pupovac gets into the details of just what suddenly happened to the city's planned "Pride Campus," a safe haven school for GLBT students. Mm, good reporting.

One week after the meeting, Mayor Daley voiced concerns, calling the proposal "controversial," despite overwhelming support at both public hearings. "There is this private meeting after the two public hearings and then-boom-all of the sudden, the thing is thrown into question," said Andy Thayer of the Gay Liberation Network. "What is the point of having these hearings if you can just scuttle the whole process with back door meetings with the mayor's buddies?"

Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Daley Mon Nov 24 2008

Day by Daley Monday 24 November

Poor old Richard M. sounded sad upon the radio. He moved a dozen or so hearts, in mono. Our mothers cried, and sang along -- well, who'd blame them. You've grown. So grown. Now I must say more than ever:

Come on, Daley. I swear (oh, he means) at this moment, you mean everything!

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon

Daley Thu Nov 20 2008

Day by Daley, Thursday 20 November

So I said to the Mayor, "You promised me, Mayor, that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life, there have only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?"

Mayor Daley replied, "Uhm, uhhhh....well...sure, yeah. B-b-b-but, the times when you have seen only one set of footprints in the sand -- is when I, well, carried you."

So is the Daley of our lives.

Budget, budget, budget! The economy is bad, and Mayor Daley can't be blamed for that. Hundreds of millions of dollars in developer givebacks in the form of TIFs we can blame him for. Also, why are our wealthiest corporate neighbors so happy to give millions for Millennium Park or to secure the Olympics, but so stingy when it comes to the city services so dear to their neighbors? Oh, that's right, because their "altruism" is really nothing of the sort, but an investment for a larger return. Mayor Daley's budget passed 49 to 1. Unbelievably, the only "nay" vote was Alderman Billy Ocasio (26th, Humboldt Park). The Mayor really hates votes against his budgets in particular; it's a "hang together or hang separately" kinda thing.

Ocasio didn't just vote against it. If there was such a thing as a "legislative dis track," it would look like this:

"Takes me and my community for granted. In my community, we are tired of receiving the false promises. Being told it is an 'ongoing process.'...[T]his administration believes that everyone and everything are expendable."


When asked about criticism, Mayor Daley sounded like a little kid putting on a tough face when the recess monitor asks if the other kids are being mean:

It's alright. No, it's alright. Anything else? =sniff=

I added the sniff. Break it down, Fran (I can call you Fran, right?):

But even with those concessions, the city still plans to shrink the size of 80 more garbage collection crews -- from two laborers on a truck to one. Aldermen from across the city have questioned whether smaller crews can keep pace with garbage collection and bulk pickups in densely populated wards. The tax package includes higher parking and amusement taxes and a laundry list of fees. But it's the mayor's $9 million plan to license garbage Dumpsters -- at an annual cost of $80 to $780 -- that has drawn drew the most fire. It comes on top of hundreds of thousands of dollars of façade repair and critical examination costs the city has already imposed on condominium residents. "They are being taxed up the yin-yang and it is bankrupting our taxpaying citizens. We cannot keep relying on the same population year after year after year," said Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th).

I bolded some tense disagreement in there just to show it has happened happens to all of us.

Are there any sixty-ish political operator Irishmen out there who can tell us if this has some deeper meaning?:

When the budget was approved, Dennis Gannon, president of the Chicago Federation of Labor, repeatedly waved from across the council chambers to draw Daley's attention...From the podium, the mayor nodded and winked back.

Some highlights from the budget? See if you can wrap your mind around this Chicago logic. First, the Nobel Laureates at the CPD shared this mind-blowing nugget with us two days ago:

Police: Bad economy may breed crime

Last week, Mayor Daley said this:

"Huge layoffs are coming in November and December. And next year, there's going to be [even more] huge layoffs. All the corporation CEOs have come in to tell me. That's just the beginning. It's not their end result," Daley told reporters after a City Council meeting.

Yet 49 of our 50 Aldermen agreed with this part of the budget:

• Slow police hiring to 200 in 2009, saving $10 million.

Feel safer, Chicago?

I hope, of course, that the coming spike in criminal activity is focused completely on the people who for years have been accusing me of being a socialist (sound familiar?) for saying that constant tax givebacks to businesses do not make our economy stronger, but only structurally bankrupt government, destroy infrastructure, and harm everyday people.

More highlights from the budget.

Why don't you take a quick minute to email Alderman Ocasio thank him for his brave vote yesterday?

Who Will the Mayor Support? Whoever Rahm Asks Him To. Fran reports that Mayor Daley's longtime Council floor leader Ald. Patrick O'Connor (40th, Lincoln Square/Rosehill-ish) tried to get Mayor Daley's endorsement for Rahm Emanuel's soon-to-be-vacant Senate seat. In his understated style, Mayor Daley demurred:

"There's about 25 candidates. First of all, Rahm Emanuel has not resigned. So there could be more candidates any day. There's more candidates to come. People have even called me and talked to me about running. How can you say you're for a candidate and the field is not full yet?" the mayor said.

Ramsin Canon

Daley Wed Nov 19 2008

Day By Daley, Wednesday 19 November

Mayor Daley, you came and you gave without takin'. But I sent you away, Mayor Daley! When you strong arm political opposition you stop me from shakin', and I need you today -- Mayor Daley.

City "Council" To "Vote" On "Budget" To"day." Wait, No, Actually Today. Our rubber stamp aldermen will offer some variety of hilarious token resistance to Mayor Daley's 2009 budget today. Included in this budget are the reduced layoffs, the insane Maxwell Street mark-up that pays for the bouncie houses, and a budget deficit that is so bad we have to cut city services, but not so bad that we will stop pursuing an unbelievably wasteful two-week event that will require billions of dollars of public money (cf., below). You can watch the proceedings live, here. Check out Progress Illinois' take.

Eyes On The Gold, Behind the Dream? Whose dream are CBS 2's "eyes on" in their insipid "behind the scenes" look at the Chicago 2016 committee's efforts to "win" the games for Chicago? Last I checked, nobody conferred with us about whether or not we wanted these things. Also, remember the good feeling and sense of community at Grant Park at the election night celebration? What a surprise: the unelected, unaccountable plutocrats that run the Chicago 2016 bid committee are using it against us. It's like when they used Martin Luther King, Jr.'s speech to sell insurance.

"We probably couldn't have paid for a much better commercial than the election night footage from Grant Park," Scherr said...In fact, it did so much that the bid committee is now cutting down a video with beauty shots of Chicago - and adding a second video featuring young people training for Olympic sports. It's a video designed to show the impact Chicago's Olympic dreams are already having on Olympic hopefuls. "We can create that sense to the IOC that we're not waiting for the games to come here, we're starting now," Ryan said.

And why shouldn't we trust Pat Ryan? Oh yeah. That.

No "Gay HS." Well, score one for...I'm not sure whom exactly. But the planned gay-friendly charter high school has been scrapped. Mayor Daley expressed his opposition to the school.

Ramsin Canon

Daley Tue Nov 18 2008

Day by Daley, Tuesday 18 November

You Hey, Ramsin, what's up with that Mayor Daley?

Well, he's one bad Mayor--

Shut your mouth!

I'm just talkin' 'bout Mayor Daley...

Why Won't He Come To My Party? When it was revealed in a profile before the 2007 elections that Mayor Daley kept a framed picture of himself with President W Bush (because remember, he has been Mayor since President HW Bush), I was at first confused...but then it made perfect sense. "Hey, your daddy helped you get the job too?" "Yeah!" "And you're often compared to him unfavorably?" "Omigod!" "And you have a lot of leftover hacks from his era that you deal with?" "This is freaking me out!"

Well, it looks like W won't be making it to the O'Hare runway reveal that is likely the cause of His Elective Majesty's crush on the worst president since James Buchanan. That's right, worse than Ulysses S. Grant.

This is just speculation, but something tells me that this president flying in for a reveal of a runway in the president-elect's hometown would be a little awkward, not to mention we'd all have to start quartering secret service agents, in clear violation of the oft-forgotten third amendment.

GLBT School Revote; Mayor To Get Sweaty, High-Pitched-y. Hat-tip to Chicagoist, who point out that the recently scuttled "gay high school" -- a safe harbor school for GLBT students -- is up for a revote after some retooling. The Mayor questioned the wisdom of the school, saying it amounted to segregation. While I don't necessarily agree with his argumentation (and who am I to argue with a man who has passed the bar, albeit on his seventeenth try), I think the Mayor was right to oppose this school on the grounds that it doesn't encourage understanding (or normality) of GLBT kids, but just whisks them away from real-life situations.

Fran Spielman reporting:

"You have to look at whether or not you isolate and segregate children. A holistic approach has always been to have children of all different backgrounds in schools. When you start isolating children and you say, 'Only 50 percent here, 40 percent here' -- same thing we went through with the disabled -- then you want to do that when they're adults," Daley said.

Status Quo Forms Alliance To Change Status Quo. Remember the insane argument that opponents of the Constitutional Convention -- an alliance of the most powerful interests in the state -- offered the people of Illinois? Namely that those nasty interests would take hold of the process?

The status quo powers of this state have been a roadblock to real reform of any type for a generation or more. So thankfully, they've decided to get together and pressure themselves for reform of Illinois' public schools. Wild-eyed idealists like Bill Daley, Dennis Hastert, and Jim Edgar are teaming up with King George III and The Nothing from The NeverEnding Story to create Advance Illinois.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (2)

Daley Mon Nov 17 2008

Day By Daley, Monday 17 November

Sigh. Like sands through the hour glass, this is the Daley of our lives...

Labor, Mayor May Reduce Layoffs. Americans are still getting over the many side effects that a generation-long Free Market Fundamentalist infection has caused, and one of them is the insanity of hostility to the unionized workforces that provide them services and raise the prevailing wage in a given community (not to mention spend those wages to raise aggregate demand). WBBM Reporting:

Union leaders have agreed to work-rule changes to reduce the city's overtime costs, the sources said. They have also agreed to drop their opposition to a partial shutdown of city government around the holidays.

In exchange, Daley has agreed to offer cash incentives -- at least $5,000 and as high as $15,000 -- for members of Laborers Local 1001 to induce retirements by eligible union members.

Chicago: The Murder Capital of the Big Three. How long will Mayor Daley's TIF slush fund stay inaccessible in the face of mounting murders? Of the nation's most populous cities, Chicago has suffered the most homicides. With an economic catastrophe around the corner, it will get worse. Much, much worse. It could make the crack wars of the late '80s and early '90s many of us remember very well look like childish horseplay.

Among the most populous cities in the United States, Chicago ranks at number three with a population of just under three million. New York City has approximately eight million citizens, while Los Angeles has fewer than four million.

Chicago made headlines in 1998, surpassing both New York and Los Angeles in homicides. Over the past decade, Chicago's murder rate declined with the exception of 2001 and 2006, when homicides were higher than the preceding year.

KassWatch: John Kass Actually Readable Today! So, phony tough guy John "Everyone's an Idiot but Me" Kass of the Chicago Tribune is usually unreadable through paragraphs of self-congratulatory and smug prose, but that doesn't mean he isn't often right, or isn't often turning in good reporting -- and he does both today. Read him -- here's a bonus: count how many times his mirror-gazing makes your eyes roll!

The Combine wants Fitzgerald promoted out of town. But President-elect Barack Obama has promised newspaper editorial boards he would keep Fitzgerald in Chicago to fight political corruption...That's the same President-elect Obama with Mayor Daley's guy Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff, and another Daley guy, David Axelrod*, as Obama's chief strategist. The mayor's brother Billy is one of Obama's chief economic advisers. Whew!

*Hmm...why don't you think Kass chose to refer to Axelrod as "Harold Washington's guy," considering Axelrod was a key consultant for the people's Mayor, as well as for Daley?

Ramsin Canon

Daley Thu Nov 13 2008

Day by Daley, Thursday 13 November

Oh, Chicago. Don't worry. Nobody can tell you're hungover. But shake those cobwebs off, friend, and get in the game.

The Only Thing We Have To Fear Is a Terrifying Economy. Mayor Daley was kind enough to let us know yesterday that the city is facing an unbelievable amount of layoffs in the coming 14 months. Apparently business leaders are warning him that the economy is in the worst condition since the Great Depression. Are you employed by a Chicago-area employer? Well, you're screwed. Hopefully they'll deem fit to tell you and not just the Mayor.

How bad is it? Let our fearful leader instill the fear himself:

"This is going to be all year, so it's going to be a very frightening economy," Mayor Daley said. "Each one tells me what they're laying off, and they're going to double that next year. We're talking huge numbers of permanent layoffs for people in the economy. It's going to have a huge effect on all businesses."

The mayor said the gravity of the situation cannot be underestimated.

"We never experienced anything like this except people who came from the Depression," Mayor Daley said. "When you have that many layoffs early - and they're telling me this is only the beginning of their layoffs - that is very frightening."

Nobody is advocating sugarcoating anything, but seriously -- can't you use some inspiring language? Can't you promise to look into how the city can use its vast resources (and it is the third largest city in the country) to soften the blow of Chicagoans? I don't know, something?

Fran Spielman has the story, too:

On Wednesday, the mayor was asked if he was still intent on keeping his hands off that Skyway money.

"So far -- unless everything goes into the bottom. Unless everything hits a Depression. That word is dangerous to use. But this is going to be a very difficult economy. I keep saying it. It's very, very serious," he said.

At the moment, Daley's tough times, 2009 budget is precariously balanced with 929 layoffs, slow police hiring and $52.5 million worth of taxes, fines and fees.

A final vote on the $5.97 billion spending plan is scheduled for Nov. 19. But, aldermen are threatening to introduce a slew of ammendments to soften the mayor's plan to license garbage dumpsters -- at an annual cost of $80-to-$780.

"No one is happy with the budget," Daley said.

Mayor Daley has many fine points along with his many bad ones. I think realism is one of his strong points. We'll see how he handles the potential breakdown of our city's economic fabric.

"They Didn't Die in Vain." Mayor Daley lectures Ald. Ed Smith on inappropriate politicking when an honor resolution was up for a vote:

On the day after Veterans Day, the mayor rose to lecture Smith about the need for war, painful as it may be, and about the young men and women who put their lives on the line to uphold the freedoms we hold dear.

"They represent the good of society. There's evil in society. Right in Chicago, there's evil....And men and women decide to stay on the side of good. They're out there serving and protecting us all over the world and right here in Chicago...They're doing that right now in dangerous conditions," Daley said.

"Just the last few weeks, we went to funerals for two police officers killed in the line of duty. They didn't serve in vain. They served with great pride. They dedicated their lives [to] serving and protecting...No one likes war. No one likes violence. But there are evil people out there. And all those who have joined the military understand what evil is all about."

Ramsin Canon

Daley Wed Nov 12 2008

Day By Daley, Wednesday 12 November

Oh, hello. No, I wouldn't mind if you sat next to me. What's that? You wonder what our irascible mayor is up to? Why, funny you should ask!

For like sands through the hour glass, this is the Daley of our lives:

Please, You'll Infect Everybody Else. This "leaked" organizational chart -- highly speculative, we assume -- lists CPS CEO and Daley BFF Arne Duncan as a front-runner to head up the Department of Education. A national Renaissance 2010? Now that's change we can believe in, if by "believe in" we meant "be terrified by."

Those Charmed Solis'...s.s. Not sure how to pluralize Solis, but 25th Ward Alderman and President Pro Tempore Danny Solis' sister, Patty Solis-Doyle, is being drafted into an Obama Administration, which with the Duncan and Emanuel connection means the Mayor must be salivating at his unprecedented access to the White House. It's funny -- President-Elect Obama cuts his teeth on the Harold Washington campaigns in the 1980s, builds his base among the city's progressive advocacy community -- Citizen Action, ACORN, etc., etc. -- and when he sweeps into the White House, the big winner is--Mayor Daley? That's either luck, or, much more likely, some kind of 4th dimensional political skill. Well played, Mr. Mayor.

My Job Blocks Hulu -- What Now? Well, John and Jane Q. Public, maybe you should really get your head in the game and watch our little emperors in action, as the City Council will be convening at 10a.m. You can watch the live feed here. Bad news: Alderman Brendan Reilly is not nearly as hilarious as the man he defeated, Czar of the Nuisance Ordinance Burt Natarus.

Screw Digital. I Keep Things Analog. No problem. Mayor Daley has introduced a large, streamlining -- well, at first glance, anyway -- of the executive branch, including the consolidation of the Planning and Zoning departments into -- wait for it -- a Department of Planning and Zoning. Enjoy.

Edited to Remove Post with Lost Link

Ramsin Canon

Daley Tue Nov 11 2008

Day by Daley, Tuesday 11 November

Good morning Chicago, and happy Veteran's Day! Please take a moment today to think about all the most terrifying war movies, like Saving Private Ryan or Full Metal Jacket, and then think about how awful war is and how grateful you should be that it wasn't you that had to save that ungrateful Matt Damon.

Like sands through the hour glass, this is the Daley of our lives:

Maybe We Won't Pass It--Psyche. When the budget gets really bad, the City Council suddenly has a reason to get "legislative-y", rather than acting like a coalition of ward executives. Why? Because they see the writing on the wall, which is that they are going to have to start competing for services in a threadbare budget. The result? Independence, or some reasonable facsimile. Or, what passes for independence in Chicago. From Fran Spielman:

"We are supposedly the legislative branch of government -- even though 99 percent of our job is out there catching spears for the administration," said Ald. Richard Mell (33rd), demanding "some respect" from the mayor.

Where City Council opposition exists*, a contested Mayoral election looms. Can the Olympics save you, Your Elective Majesty?

Escape From Chicago? When is the situation in a city seriously deteriorated? When key services disappear due to strikes. When is the situation really critical? When the people striking are usually impossible to organize. In our case, cabbies. Here's a pool of workers who speak a dozen different language, operate like independent contractors, and almost never see a "co-worker" except to honk at in passing. Drip, drip, drip.

Speaking of drip... Dan Mihalopolous and company report that the greeters that translate and direct traffic at O'Hare are on the chopping block. Goodbye, patronage jobs. Hello, increased confusion at O'Hare.

And finally today,

Richard M. is No Richard J., In a Good Way The Tribune's Washington political blog, the Swamp, makes the case that President-Elect Obama isn't the product of a Chicago Machine because there is no Chicago Machine. And while the Machine of Cermak-to-Daley has disappeared, the idea that there isn't a vaunted urban political organization in Chicago is ridiculous. Do they think the "Friends of Michael J. Madigan" are actually his friends? Please. The reason President-Elect Obama isn't the product of a Chicago Machine is that he didn't win the primary nomination or '04 general election on the strength of the Machine, and hasn't needed it for anything integral since--although its enormous fundraising apparatus surely helped him in early 2007.

*Why do I love writing about local politics? Because of quotes like this: "My goal is to try to exempt dumpsters on private property," said Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), who would pay the fee as the owner of Ann Sather's Restaurants.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (3)

Daley Mon Nov 10 2008

Day by Daley, Monday 10 November

Like Sands Through the Hour Glass--This is the Daley of our Lives. Wake up, Chicagoans! Get your head in the local game.

Is Somebody Gettin' Paid for Dat Satellite? Mayor Daley knows that only a combination of getting the 2016 Olympics and avoiding any tax increases can insure his easy reelection victory in 2011. Side effect? New and potentially illegal taxes:

The satellite industry is not going down without a fight. "We believe that federal law currently prohibits local taxation of satellite TV services while preserving the right of states to impose taxes," DISH spokesperson Robin Zimmerman wrote in an e-mail response to the Sun-Times.

I'm Not Going to Stand Here While You Go Negative on my Hero. The Mayor wants to make sure that President-Elect Obama's campaign pays for the extra security that was necessary for the Grant Park event last week, but he's not just going to stand there and talk in his normal voice while the media gets all negative about Chicago's favorite son.

Whither Patrick Fitzgerald? Speaking of the Mayor's newfound adoration of President-Elect Obama, one wonders about the fate of our federal prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, who has been an equal-opportunity, non-partisan ball-breaker. Will President-Elect Obama keep Fitzgerald around to wreak havoc in one of the most corrupt states in the union? Thomas Roeser, in his annoying GOP-talking-pointy way ("pro-abort"? Really? Is this 1996?), raises the question.

Ramsin Canon

Daley Fri Nov 07 2008

Day By Daley

Good Morning, Chicagoans! How was your night? Really? Interesting. Does it still hurt? No? I'm glad to hear that.

Oh hey! Clear those bleary eyes and get your head in the local game:

The 21st Century Commission Saves the Day The 21st Century Commission has solved all our problems, huzzah! It turns out, this is how we can make the city work better: privatize recycling, have a better website, and stop letting the city run elections. Daley likes the idea of a better website. Here's the Mayor's whole press conference, other topics included.

City Budget, Worker Lay-offs Remember that convenient story a month ago that scandalized us by pointing out that out thousands of workers, some are lazy? Well, thank goodness for that, because now we don't have to worry that the city is laying off nearly a 1,000 employees, and likely won't be able to fill cop vacancies.

Save the elephants!

Ramsin Canon

City Council Thu Nov 06 2008

Day by Daley

(With all due love to the Daily Daley.)

Good morning, Chicagoans! Take a sip of that coffee, ignore the smell from the next cubicle over, and get your head in the local game with your Day by Daley.

Block 37's Problem? Not Enough Subsidy. If you're going to suggest pumping more public money into a city planning travesty like Block 37, what better news day to do that than the day after America elects its first black President? This is why the guy has been more for almost twenty years. Don't front. Mayor Daley is proposing granting a $12m subsidy to developers to get a hotel built at Block 37. Maybe this $12m will finally tip this project from "giant money pit" into "awesome revitalization project that is a testament to His Elective Majesty's wisdom". What do you think? Why are you laughing?

Spend It On Public Housing? Gahahahha Two referenda in Lakefront communities dealt with the use of tax increment financing (TIF) money. One directed Aldermen to insist that 40% of TIF money go to public housing, the other that developers who receive money should be directed to hire locally and pay a living wage. Maybe these wild-eyed radicals didn't get the memo: asking businesses to do anything they don't want to equals socialism. Giving them public money is just public administration.

More Daley TIF Hijinks Check out Ben "TIFs! TIFs! TIFs!" Joravsky on municipal bonds tax levies um, TIFs:

On occasion the mayor and the council will directly dip into TIF reserves to pay for a project, as they did in the case of Millennium Park and are currently doing with Block 37. But by and large they finance deals by borrowing against future TIF dollars, selling bonds that get repaid with revenues they expect to collect in years to come. Last year, for instance, the city sold about $356 million in bonds to be paid back over the next 20 years with money collected in various TIF districts. The money was earmarked for building new schools.

Who says local politics is arcane?

Parking Tickets: The Cornerstone of our Democracy The financial Rube Goldberg machine the Mayor has built is collapsing around him, and he needs you to pay those damn parking tickets.

Pay it Forward, Candidate Moneybags. Mayor Daley wants the Obama campaign to pay the city back for the price of the victory event on Tuesday.

Ramsin Canon

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Parents Still Steaming, but About More Than Just Boilers

By Phil Huckelberry / 2 Comments

It's now been 11 days since the carbon monoxide leak which sent over 80 Prussing Elementary School students and staff to the hospital. While officials from Chicago Public Schools have partially answered some questions, and CPS CEO Forrest Claypool has informed that he will be visiting the school to field more questions on Nov. 16, many parents remain irate at the CPS response to date. More...


Substance, Not Style, the Source of Rahm's Woes

By Ramsin Canon / 2 Comments

It's not surprising that some of Mayor Emanuel's sympathizers and supporters are confusing people's substantive disputes with the mayor as the effect of poor marketing on his part. It's exactly this insular worldview that has gotten the mayor in hot... More...

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