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The Mechanics

Economic Development Thu Jan 22 2015

New Chicago Microlending Initiative to Aid South Side Businesses

CNIMFG.JPG
Obama cabinet members met Monday at Ain't She Sweet Cafe in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood to announce a new microfinance initiative on the the city's South Side. / Photo courtesy of SBA

Small Business Administration (SBA) administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet was in Chicago Monday to announce a $750,000 investment in Chicago Neighborhood Initiative's Micro Finance Group (CNIMFG) -- the latest federally approved microlender serving Chicago's South Side area.

"CNIMFG is committed to bringing affordable microfinance solutions to low-income individuals or small business owners who do not have access to traditional sources of financing," said Erica King, CNIMFG's Vice President of Lending.

Continue reading this entry »

Emily Brosious

Economic Development Fri Oct 31 2014

How an Overlooked Rauner Job Creation Plan Caused Problems Across America

Plenty of words (and dollars) have been spilled over Bruce Rauner's Illinois gubernatorial campaign.

But for all the attack ads and in-depth exposés, one significant Rauner policy proposal has managed to evade scrutiny, even though it would forever change the state's relationship to the private sector.

Buried in the billionaire candidate's now-infamous endorsement in the Sun-Times is the following:

In addition to modernizing the tax code, Rauner would turn the state's primary economic development agency, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, into a creative public-private partnership.

Tax code policy, sure. But turning which agency into what?

Continue reading this entry »

Jason Prechtel / Comments (2)

Economic Development Tue Oct 22 2013

Bronzeville Organizers Seek Living Wages and Local Hiring Practices at Walmart's Newest Chicago Store

A caucus of nine Bronzeville pastors wants Walmart to agree to pay living wages and hire from the community when the store opens its newest Chicago location at 47th and Cottage Grove Avenue.

Roderick Wilson, executive director of the Lugenia Burns Hope Center and a spokesman for the caucus of Bronzeville pastors, said the group's main concern is that the community be able to prosper from Walmart's expansion into their neighborhood.

Continue reading this entry »

Emily Brosious

TIFs Fri Jul 12 2013

County Clerk Orr Sounds Quiet Alarm on TIF Overuse

Cook County Clerk David Orr, in a half-hour July 12 press conference releasing his office's required 2012 tax increment financing ("TIF") revenue report, highlighted the enormous amount of revenue siphoned from Chicago and Cook County taxpayers into TIF districts, and called for early declaration of surpluses within Chicago to fund needs like schools. Observing that billions of dollars have flowed into the now-over-500 districts, Orr released a video (embedded below) on the Clerk's website to help taxpayers grasp how the little-understood mechanisms work.

The video's tone suggests a school science filmstrip, kind of quiet in view of the alarming numbers, but this is government, not advocacy. At 2:41, over soothing guitar arpeggios, a pleasant female narrator says, "In most cases, taxpayers outside the TIFs pay more to generate the revenue requested by [their own] taxing districts." TIF critics such as the Reader's Ben Joravsky have hammered relentlessly on this, how TIFs hike your taxes, but it's easy to miss in the video unless you pause.

Orr's press conference was both longer and stronger than the official video. Noting that Chicago's collective TIF districts pull in half as many tax dollars as the City itself, Orr expressed concern that so "many taxpayer dollars are diverted into the Loop," charged that "not enough is being done in the neighborhoods," and that there has been little transparency as to how $5.5 billion in TIF dollars has been spent. He urged Mayor Emanuel and the City Council to declare a TIF surplus this year "as soon as possible" for the benefit of Chicago Public Schools, asking, "How do you explain to the kids in many of these schools that gym, music and art classes are cancelled while profitable businesses downtown ... received 25, 30, 40, 50 million?" Good question.

While Orr's remarks centered on Chicago, they echoed the same requests made by pressed suburban taxpayers for more transparency and accountability, better metrics, declarations of surpluses, and early retirement of no-longer-needed districts.

Overall, the video capably illustrates TIF workings and numbers, whose magnitude needs time to sink in, and Orr deserves credit for shining further light on what is now a gargantuan but opaque component of local governmental taxing and spending.

Jeff Smith

News Fri Feb 08 2013

Chicago Lights Urban Farm Nears Sale to CHA

By Ian Fullerton

The Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago has confirmed that it is looking to sell its Chicago Lights urban farm to the Chicago Housing Authority. The deal -- about two years in the making -- could net $3.2 million for the Fourth, but would set the future of the farm property on unsure footing.

Located on the 400 block of W. Chicago Ave, the farm, which has been operational for about three years, provides job training, youth employment and volunteer opportunities to residents in Cabrini-Green.
 
In a statement sent to the congregation on Jan. 26, Calum MacLeod, executive associate pastor at the church, said that the agreement will include a two-year leaseback option at "no leasing cost" to the Fourth. This would allow Chicago Lights -- the church's charitable arm -- to continue operations at the farm during that period, "while alternate sites and opportunities are pursued for the mission outreach currently taking place there," the pastor said. The contract also includes a potential two-year extension.

MacLoed's letter marked the first time that the Fourth has identified terms or a potential buyer for the farm, even after CHA voted to buy the farm's two parcels in November.

The Fourth has stated that it intends to use the farm sale proceeds to help pay for its recently completed Gratz Center, a $42 million addition to its Gold Coast headquarters. The church had hoped to fund the projection by selling the "air rights" above the 142-year-old cathedral to a neighboring developer, but that deal fell through due to resident opposition. The church has been in talks with CHA since 2011, according to the Fourth's website.

The Chicago Lights farm, which originally opened in 2003 as a community garden, sits on a block that was once lined with public housing; today, only a stretch of rowhouses -- mostly condemned, with a few rehabbed -- remain north of the site. Work on the new Jesse White Community Center, planned for the parcel east of the farm, began last summer.

The sale will "be brought to the congregation" at the Fourth's annual meeting on Feb. 10, said MacLeod. A final vote will then by carried by the presbytery.

Mechanics

Economic Development Fri Jan 04 2013

Entrepreneur-in-Chief: The New Model City

Jamelle Bouie, a moderate liberal writer for The American Prospect, tweeted this:

...around the same time that Mick Dumke, a left-leaning Chicago Reader reporter, wrote this:

Desperate for money, state and local governments around the country have explored all sorts of privatization deals, or public-private partnerships, as advocates prefer to call them. Florida, Arizona, and other states have sent inmates to private prisons. Detroit has considered outsourcing management of its street lighting system...Chicago isn't just part of the trend. For more than two decades, it's been one of the privatization leaders. "You could say they're at the head of the pack," says Leonard Gilroy, director of government reform at the libertarian Reason Foundation. "Chicago is reflective of the outsourcing that's been going on for years."

Not long after, we read about this:

Beginning January 1, Chicago's parking meters will be the most expensive in North America. It'll cost drivers $6.50 per hour to park in the Loop. Near downtown the rate will be $4 per hour. Other metered areas throughout the city will be $2 per hour.

and this:

For Skyway drivers, tolls are going up from $3.50 to $4.

and this:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration will explore the possibility of privatizing Midway Airport but will take a shorter-term, more tightly controlled approach than was employed by former Mayor Richard Daley's team on the city's first go-round.

All the while, Mayor Rahm Emanuel continues to be lauded by left-neoliberals and fellow travelers for his aggressively pro-business economic development policies, including mass privatization. Meanwhile labor unions and community organizations scrambled to find a critique of these policies that will resonate with a public increasingly incensed with a policy atmosphere that regressively taxes them while slashing jobs and services.

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon / Comments (3)

Urban Planning Thu Aug 23 2012

Design for Good: A Target on State Street

City Target, State and Madison
CityTarget at State and Madison. Photo by Ken Smith

When Walmart unveiled designs to expand its presence in Chicago, the mega-retailer was met with fierce resistance by activists who feared the behemoth's presence. While unions were leading the call against Walmart's labor practices, there was an attendant concern over how the big-box would fit within the city's borders. This concern was not abstract, but rather fed by the numerous examples of gluttonous, low-slung Walmart stores that gobbled up land with abandon. With the design of a majority of Walmart's stores setback far from the street amidst a sea of parking, their typical model hardly fit within an urban context, even on a corner as disinvested as North & Cicero on Chicago's West Side.

One of the largest concerns when large-scale retailers encroach upon a neighborhood is that their presence will blot out all surrounding commerce and consign the entire neighborhood to a store's shadow. Even in struggling communities, where any sign of economic development may be welcome, strip-mall development can distort the landscape into one hegemonic bloc. Rather than being emblematic of a place that can anchor a community, the development of strip-mall centers within urban areas is but a temporary node that functions for one purpose: cheap commerce. Should the space go black, the community is left fallow.

Continue reading this entry »

Ben Schulman

Chicago Fri Jul 27 2012

Either I Just Skewed A Chicago Cultural Plan Town Hall Meeting, Or This Whole Thing Is A Farce

After taking a close look at the Chicago Cultural Plan draft released last week, I wanted to hear what other people had to say about it. More importantly, I wanted to hear how representatives of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events and their consulting firm, Lord Cultural Resources, would talk about such a dense, buzzword-filled document to a room of concerned Chicagoans. So I went to Malcolm X College on Tuesday night for the first of four town hall meetings dedicated to the plan, hoping to get some clarity.

The first sign that something was amiss was when I registered and was promptly given a transponder. I was informed that I would need this to vote during the "audience participation" part of the town hall -- nevermind that the implied goal of a town hall is audience participation.

Continue reading this entry »

Jason Prechtel / Comments (5)

Chicagoland Tue Jun 19 2012

Chicago: The Second-Rate City?

I posted an excerpt to this City Journal column last week to my Sixth Ward blog. You may have also seen it on YoChicago last week as well. The column was written by former Chicago resident and the author of The Urbanophile blog, Aaron Renn. He wrote about his column on his blog and was interviewed about it last week as well

What I highlighted were his conclusions:

Some of those challenges defy easy solutions: no government can conjure up a calling-card industry, and it isn't obvious how Chicago could turn around the Midwest. Mayor Emanuel is hobbled by some of the deals of the past--the parking-meter lease, for example, and various union contracts that don't expire until 2017 and that Daley signed to guarantee labor peace during the city's failed Olympic bid.

But there's a lot that Emanuel and Chicago can do, starting with facing the fiscal mess head-on. Emanuel has vowed to balance the budget without gimmicks. He cut spending in his 2012 budget by 5.4 percent. He wants to save money by letting private companies bid to provide city services. He's found some small savings by better coordination with Cook County. Major surgery remains to be done, however, including a tough renegotiation of union contracts, merging some functions with county government, and some significant restructuring of certain agencies, such as the fire department. By far the most important item for both the city and state is pension reform for existing workers--a politically and legally challenging project, to say the least. To date, only limited reforms have passed: the state changed its retirement age, but only for new hires.

Next is to improve the business climate by reforming governance and rules. This includes curtailing aldermanic privilege, shrinking the overly large city council, and radically pruning regulations. Emanuel has already gotten some votes of confidence from the city's business community, recently announcing business expansions with more than 8,000 jobs, though they're mostly from big corporate players.

Chicago also needs something even harder to achieve: wholesale cultural change. It needs to end its obsession with being solely a global city, look for ways to reinvigorate its role as capital of the Midwest, and provide opportunities for its neglected middle and working classes, not just the elites. This means more focus on the basics of good governance and less focus on glamour. Chicago must also forge a culture of greater civic participation and debate. You can't address your problems if everyone is terrified of stepping out of line and admitting that they exist. Here, at least, Emanuel can set the tone. In March, he publicly admitted that Chicago had suffered a "lost decade," a promisingly candid assessment, and he has tapped former D.C. transportation chief Gabe Klein to run Chicago's transportation department, rather than picking a Chicago insider. Continuing to welcome outsiders and dissident voices will help dilute the culture of clout.

YoChicago focused on the issues of demographics. Also, at another blog, Newsalert, they point to the issue of "one-party rule."

Is Chicago a "third-rate" city? Why or why not?

Levois

Taxes Thu Dec 29 2011

Tax Break Bill Gives Incentives for Broadway Shows

Part of the recently passed "Tax Break Bill," or SB 397, includes the Live Theater Production Tax Credit Act. This act will give any for-profit production that does a long run or a pre-Broadway run in Illinois up to $2 million in tax credits for one fiscal year.

The only other state that has a similar tax credit for theatrical productions is Louisiana, although New York City also has a tax exemptions for theatrical productions.

Continue reading this entry »

Monica Reida

Economic Development Tue Nov 29 2011

The State's Tax Break Plan for The CME and Sears Holdings

According to the Tribune, the State Senate has approved a plan that would give tax breaks to two specific companies, although the House of Representatives overwhelmingly rejected the Senate plan. The proposed plan would give incentives to Sears Holdings Corp. and the CME Group Inc., which is the parent company of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Board of Trade, to stay in Illinois.

The companies had threatened leaving the state over the rising income tax and there have been other stories involving other companies wanting to leave Illinois, including sandwich company Jimmy John's.

Continue reading this entry »

Monica Reida

Op-Ed Wed Oct 26 2011

Rainwater In Context: Is Chicago's Water Rate Increase Money Down the Drain?

by John Norquist and Caitlin Ghoshal

As many cities face both costly aging infrastructure and looming budget deficits, public administrators are turning to fee increases to finance system fixes.  Most recently, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's proposed 2012 budget outlines an up-to-25% increase in the annual fee for water and sewer services. The Congress for the New Urbanism supports Chicago's water modernization efforts, but the Mayor's proposed fee lacks a direct connection to urbanism and green infrastructure.

A rate increase that only patches sewer pipes will flush taxpayers' money down the drain. If this water rate increase only helps the City rebuild - instead of renew - water infrastructure, the same stormwater problems will plague the City's streets.  Innovative and context-sensitive rainwater systems are not only sustainable and environmentally friendly, but also cost-effective. Green water infrastructure, the type(s) as proposed in CNU's Rainwater-in-Context initiative, helps reduce stormwater runoff and its stress on the sewer system.  Permeable pavement, alternative street design, and other context-sensitive rainwater systems protect urban watersheds like Chicago's - undoubtedly one of the city's greatest assets.

The current state of disrepair of Chicago's water infrastructure should be viewed not as a liability that can only be remedied through higher rates for fixes, but rather as an opportunity to create longer-lasting, more sustainable systems that securely plant Chicago at the forefront of green design. As the Mayor is wont to say, "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste." Dense urban areas like Chicago have inherent environmental strengths (especially when compared to conventional sprawl patterns), and incorporating urban-minded water infrastructure can only enhance this standing. In committing to both green infrastructure and new urbanism, Mayor Emanuel has the opportunity to realize sustainable practices that reinforce the urban environment and protect the City's and taxpayers' assets for the long term.

Chicago helped pioneer interdisciplinary water and street planning, such as its Green Alley program. Dedicating water rate increases to broadly implementing urbanist green infrastructure keeps Chicago a leader in sustainable water policy.  Mayor Emanuel's budget proposal to address inefficient water pricing is only part of a more comprehensive solution to better managing Chicago's watershed.  Green - and urbanist - water infrastructure will shower rewards on both local government's coffers and taxpayers' pockets.

John Norquist is the CEO & President of the Congress for the New Urbanism, served as Mayor of Milwaukee from 1988-2004, and is the author of the book The Wealth of Cities

Caitlin Ghoshal is the Program Manager for the Congress for the New Urbanism, and served as a Mayoral Fellow in the Office of Mayor Rahm Emanuel during the Mayor's first 100 days of office.

For more information on CNU's Rainwater-In-Context, please visit http://www.cnu.org/rainwater.

Mechanics

TIFs Tue Sep 06 2011

A Look Behind: Mayor Emanuel's TIF Commission; What They "Do and Don't"

Last Monday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel made good on his campaign pledge to reform the Chicago's sprawling Tax Increment Financing (TIF) program. So it would seem from scanning the headlines. Or maybe it's time to double-down on cynicism, because nothing has changed.

Hard to say, really, since there's been precious little analysis of what Emanuel's TIF reform panel actually proposed.

(For a quick refresh of how TIFs work, click here and here.)

So let's take a look. At bottom, their report urges the city to adopt four simple, technocractic habits:

Continue reading this entry »

Mechanics

Chicago Thu Aug 11 2011

Action Now Tries to Help BofA but Member is Arrested Instead

Earlier this week Action Now board member Marsha Godard tried to deliver a stack of violation notices to Bank of America headquarters. She entered as customer trying to receive assistance and help bring attention to the plight of vacant homes on the South Side. Instead of simply accepting them and calling it a day, Bank of America called the police and had her arrested for criminal trespassing.

Continue reading this entry »

Aaron Krager

Chicago Tue Jul 05 2011

Raise the Minimum Wage?

Illinois is tied for the third highest minimum wage in the country, only outdone by Oregon and Washington, despite that advocates are calling for an increase is a stagnant economy.

A coalition of organizations are calling upon elected leaders to pass legislation to increase the minimum wage one year after the bump up to $8.25 per hour. Working 40 hours a week for 52 weeks equates to a $17,160 salary - without taking time off.

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Aaron Krager / Comments (3)

Economic Development Mon Jun 13 2011

Pardon the Incredulity: Chicago Mercantile Exchange Threatens to Leave

This week the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, a major commodities derivatives and futures exchange, announced it may leave Chicago and is trying to sell one of its buildings. Citing their tax burden as too onerous, they stated that they may have to move out of state to protect their shareholders. If the story seems familiar, it is because it almost identical to the story heavy equipment manufacturer Caterpillar played out in the press a few months ago.

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon / Comments (3)

Chicago Thu Jun 02 2011

Crap[s]: A Chicago Casino

Should we bring casino gambling to Chicago, as Mayor Emanuel is aggressively pushing for? I've never been able to come to a solid decision on this issue, whether to oppose or not. Casinos are regularly trotted out as solutions to sagging tax revenues, particularly in declining urban areas like Providence, Hartford, Detroit and Cleveland. And while there is some initial surge in revenues, if Providence and Detroit are our glimmering examples of the wonders of casino gaming development, I'm not certain we should be encouraging their development here in Chicago.

Of course, Chicago is much different from Providence and Detroit. Chicago is a major convention city, the third largest city in the country, and the capital of the Midwest. We already draw huge numbers of tourists and conventioneers. Given that, the social ills that accompany casinos may not manifest; and perhaps their main function of merely sucking more money from low-income workers to enrich the casino developers and provide a trickle of extra tax revenue will be substituted for actually making money from tourists.

One thing does seem safe to say: if a casino attracts new tourists, it will make the casino operators very wealthy, which will have an attendant (small) impact on tax revenue. But it will not have any appreciable effect on other businesses. The Boston Federal Reserve Bank released a paper evaluating a proposed casino in Rhode Island and included this:

In general, whether a casino will benefit or harm a local economy hinges on whether the casino is likely to attract tourists to the region. Destination casinos, such as those in Las Vegas, essentially export casino services to tourists, bringing in new dollars to the local economy. A dollar spent by a tourist in a destination casino may fund a local supplier providing food and beverages to the casino, which then spends that income on other goods and services in the local economy, thus multiplying the effect of the first dollar spent. The tourist, however, does not generally spend much in the communities surrounding a resort-style casino. Steve Wynn, a major casino operator, expressed this point to local businessmen in Bridgeport which also considered a casino, in the 1990s: "There is no reason on earth for any of you to expect for more than a second that just because there are people here, they're going to run into your restaurants and stores just because we build this building [casino] here." Therefore, the main ancillary benefits are from indirect spending in the local economy spurred by tourists to a casino, rather than direct spending by tourists at local restaurants or shops.

(emphasis added).

In other words, the economic impact is strictly trickle down, and rests on some pretty big assumptions. So, in that way it is certainly a risk.

I have to believe however that Chicago given its existing reputation and infrastructure and steady convention business would be able to benefit from an appropriate casino (i.e., something a little classy). Most cities that pursue casino development do so to bring in the tourists; Chicago's casino would be another way for our extant tourists to spend money. If--if--we know that most of the casino's customers would be tourists, it's a good idea. If not, it's just another massive trickle-down project done out of terror of spooking away fragile mega-corporations who flee at the scent of any taxes that prompt a fair share.

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon / Comments (3)

Privatization Thu Mar 24 2011

Mayor Daley on Privatization

Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Aldermen Mon Feb 21 2011

Changes in the 50th Ward: From Devon to the Alderman's Office

This feature was submitted by Alizah Salario

Last summer, Chicago's 50th Ward alderman and Vice Mayor Bernard Stone was contemplating retirement -- until Mayor Richard Daley announced his own.

"I feel it's my duty to come back," said Stone, noting that no matter who is elected, Chicago's next mayor will be a "neophyte."

At 83, Stone is Chicago's oldest and second longest-serving alderman. The days when he chugged throughout the ward in a motor home to speak with voters may be long gone, but Stone's sense of obligation to his constituents hasn't changed in nearly four decades.

Yet the four challengers vying for Stone's City Council seat -- attorney Michael Moses, architect and community activist Greg Brewer, CPA Debra Silverstein, and 26-year-old community organizer Ahmed Khan -- insist he hasn't answered the call of duty during his past term, and that's why they're angling to change the ward's future. Though the candidates up against the 10-term incumbent diverge on the issues, they agree on one thing: the 50th Ward needs change.

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Mechanics / Comments (6)

Environment/Sustainability Tue Dec 21 2010

So Many Shades of Green

As the first decade of the new century comes to a close, the term "sustainability" deserves inclusion on the long list of buzz words and popular trends that have made up the cultural canvas in recent times. All sorts of green boosterism has arisen in the past few years as a clever marketing tool, especially from companies most vulnerable to the march towards sound environmental practices, as seen in commercials from the likes of BP and Toyota. The use of the word sustainability as a catchy marketing term doesn't diminish the legitimate intent behind the process that seems to be taking place, but its lazy application is reminiscent of 19th century bloodletting or perhaps more aptly, the mid-'90s Saturday Night Live "Crystal Gravy" commercial. Remove the direct impediment -- the bad blood, the heavy brown sludge of gravy, the easily seen sprawl of space and pollution of unclean energy -- and the problem is magically solved.

Again, there's no doubt that the intentions behind the greening of resource use is a real and noble purpose, but the problem with the majority of the current commercialization tactics being employed is that it makes something serious and concretely needed feel like a fad. The call for sustainability is being treated as an emotional argument, which tends to create a chasm between those who intrinsically feel compelled to agree with sustainable practices, and those who don't. Therefore, it ends up becoming a divisive issue between those who "get it" and those who fall on the periphery of the argument.

Continue reading this entry »

Ben Schulman / Comments (2)

Economic Development Sun Nov 21 2010

The Return of Andrew Mooney

Mayor Daley announced this week that Andrew Mooney would be taking over the newly created Department of Housing and Economic Development in an interim capacity.

Mooney was appointed by former Mayor Jane Byrne (1979-83) to take over the Chicago Housing Authority shortly after the notorious Charles Swibel was ousted. Mooney was only 30 at the time. In his book Fire on the Prairie, Chicago Reader reporter Gary Rivlin wrote this about Mooney's appointment:

Worse still was the man Byrne chose to take Swibel's place, a thirty-year-old named Andrew Mooney. Swibel had hired Mooney the previous year to serve as executive director, and the same HUD report that scored Swibel criticized Mooney as ill-prepared to contend with the serious fiscal, administrative, and physical problems confronting hte CHA. Mooney had no managerial experience or any management training, and he acknowledged as much when he confessed to a HUD investigator that he had been appointed primarily because of loyalty to the mayor....The furor that followed was as intense as it was predictable. Hundreds amassed at City Hall on the day the three appointees were scheduled to appear before the City Council. Some arrived as early as 7 A.M., but few were granted a seat inside. The doors were not opened to the public until the council chambers were already packed with city employees slipped in through a side door. Byrne ducked out a back door after the vote, eluding both the public and the press. When demonstrators gathered outside Byrne's apartment, she had them arrested.

Mooney is 58 now, and in Mayor Daley's Chicago, probably significantly less concerned about people turning out to protest a Mayoral appointment to head a major City Department. It will be interesting to watch the docket of proposals coming before the Department of Housing and Economic Development as various parties anticipate the changing of the guard on the Fifth Floor. It will also be interesting to see if Mayoral hopefuls like Rahm Emanuel and Gery Chico meet with Mooney in the "interim."

Update: Mooney apparently made his comeback in stages: On 12 November, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced her transition team chairs, and Mooney is listed as the subcommittee chair for economic development.

Ramsin Canon

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)

National Politics Tue Aug 24 2010

Pittsburgh, and the Magic of Failure

In recent years, Pittsburgh has developed an almost exotic allure as a successfully reborn, recast city. Since its near complete collapse in the early 1980s, when 85,000 regional jobs were lost as the steel industry decayed, Pittsburgh has been shaking off demographic decline and slowly morphing into an updated version of its former self -- if not as a manufacturing colossus, at least in terms of having thriving street-life, dense, small-scale development supported throughout its neighborhoods, and a sense of economic vibrancy. This percolating renewal culminated, or at least achieved validity, with President Obama's decision to place last year's G20 Summit in Pittsburgh.

Obama's decision to do so set off a small media frenzy about Pittsburgh's determined grit and resiliency, with odes from Newsweek, The Atlantic, and Forbes all heralding the rejuvenation of one of America's most overlooked urban jewels. Of course, the G20 boost was just landing on the tail end of a long-arc of reformation, as the New York Times had noted even earlier in 2009. On a recent visit just a few weeks ago to the city nestled at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, the amenities, vitality, and cultural options available seemed to be mammoth for a place of its size.

Walking through the Cultural District downtown, crossing the Sixth Street Bridge to the Pirates' PNC Park (adjacent to the Andy Warhol Museum), heading a bit north to the devastatingly beautiful Mexican War Streets Historic District (home to avant-art capital The Mattress Factory), crossing over to the hipster haven of Carson St on the South Side, exploring the teeming Old World-Bronx-circa-1950 feel of the Squirrel Hill neighborhood, scarfing down the overwhelming deliciousness of the Saturday morning open-air food market that is the Strip District, or randomly stumbling into a milonga during the Lawrenceville neighborhood's First Friday evening artwalks, it isn't easy not to get caught up in the Pittsburgh reincarnation story. (Not even mentioned: Oakland, home to Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh; Shadyside, the host to some of the most impressive homes anywhere in the country, and many other neighborhoods of the 89 distinct 'hoods that make up Pittsburgh proper.)

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Ben Schulman / Comments (14)

Urban Planning Fri Aug 13 2010

Let's Make Parking Policy Fun!

How market-pricing of parking can clear up congestion and make your life better (supposedly): now with fun graphics and cartoons!

SFpark Overview from SFpark on Vimeo.

Ramsin Canon

Aldermen Thu Jul 01 2010

Joe Moore, Champion of Progressivism, Defends Pro-Walmart Vote

Back in 2008, The Nation magazine's John Nichols named Alderman Joe Moore of the 49th Ward the country's most valuable progressive local official. The bestowing of this distinction upon Moore sent some Rogers Park residents into a tizzy. (Although the extent to which residents were actually upset is difficult to gauge--in the 21st century one yahoo's pissed-off blog post can become fodder for reports of residents foaming at the mouth, ready to march up Sheridan Avenue with pitchforks to Moore's office.)

Moore has always been a somewhat polarizing figure--folks tend to really, really like him, or really, really hate him. (Granted, this could be more of a reflection of Ward 49 residents than Moore himself.) Whatever your opinion on the man, though, it seems illogical to accuse him of not being a progressive.

But the MVP alderman took to the Huffington Post today to defend a vote for a company whose name makes most progressives recoil in disgust: Walmart.

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Micah Uetricht

Urban Planning Tue Jun 15 2010

The Story at South Works: Malling the Lakeshore?

Op-Ed Contributed by GB Contributing Writer Bob Quellos

Last week, the Chicago City Council approved a $96 million TIF for the South Works development site, the largest ever given to a private developer in the City of Chicago. The plan for South Works calls for the eventual building of over 17,000 dwelling units on the 500-acre site at the location of the former U.S. Steel South Works, near 79th Street and east of U.S. 41. The project is to be run by a development group that includes the Chicago-based McCaffery Interests. The first phase of construction is scheduled for groundbreaking in 2012; located on a 77 acre portion of the site, it will compromise an astounding million square feet of retail space alongside residential dwellings. Decades from now if the project eventually is completed, it will create an entirely new neighborhood along Lake Michigan on Chicago's South Side.

But if you had $96 million dollars to invest in the City of Chicago what would you do with it? Would you build the infrastructure for a new neighborhood, or perhaps take a shot at filling the ongoing budget hole that is wrecking havoc on the Chicago Public School system. Perhaps you would find a way to put the over 1,100 employees at the CTA who were recently laid off back to work and restore transit services that were axed. Or maybe (hold on to your seat, this is a crazy one), reeling with disgust from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico you decide to make a ground breaking attempt to move Chicago away from a dependance on non-renewable resources and invest the $96 million dollars in wind power that would provide free and clean energy to some of Chicago's poorest neighborhoods.

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Mechanics / Comments (7)

Education Fri Jun 04 2010

Chicago Merit Pay Program Was Not Uniquely Flawed

Maybe it was the policy postures of Clinton era--I don't know--but for some reason, this mythology that all social problems can be solved through the awesome force of "markets" and a business ethos has been wholly absorbed by liberals, particularly big city liberals. We can all agree that capitalism has created an awesome amount of wealth and raised the quality of life for many people. Isn't that enough? Do we have to admit the profit motive and corporate governance to every area of human relations? Does it mean corporate CEOs know the solutions to all our problems? Must we be thankful, rather than terrified, that JP Morgan Chase is trying to underwrite our schools?

The little local kerfuffle over the failure of Chicago's pilot teacher merit pay program is another example of petty liberals assuming "seriousness" by just accepting that a corporate approach can solve social problems if only properly designed. Can't it be that some things aren't like profit-seeking entities, and therefore those models can't be transposed onto them? Isn't it possible that some things we as a society want are going to be expensive, big, and not anything like, say, Wal-Mart?

The fact is, Chicago's merit pay experiment failed not because of some illicit design flaw, but because pay for performance for teachers is fundamentally flawed, from its head to its toes. It's nothing new. It's been tried since the 18th Century--yes, the 18th Century--and has failed fairly consistently. In fact as cited in that report, the sole serviceable model--the one in Denver--is even low-rated by its supporters in that school system, who admit that lots of other expensive things are required for even modest improvements.

Here's Cottrell's take:

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Urban Planning Wed May 19 2010

South Shore Developer Lost Property to Foreclosure

Southworks_Field.jpgThe principal developer of the proposed massive redevelopment at the former U.S. Steel South Works site, McCaffrey Interests, lost one of their featured developments, The Market Common Myrtle Beach, to foreclosure last week.

The project--termed, perhaps ominously, The Market Common SouthShore--will feature nearly 14,000 new residential units, 800,000 square feet of retail and residential construction, and a 1,500 slip marina (finally!). Covering nearly 400 acres of a recently industrial zoned lakefront area, the Market Common SouthShore will rely on a massive $96m TIF subsidy and be developed in several phases over the next 20-45 years. The Market Common Myrtle Beach site also used TIF dollars.

Since 2000, McCaffrey Interests has given $27,100 to local campaign committees, including $3,850 to 10th Ward Alderman John Pope, $7,900 to Finance Committee Chair Ed Burke, $2,550 to 7th Ward Alderman Sandi Jackson, and $5,000 to Mayor Daley. Obviously all four of these local pols would have direct input into the Market Common plan.

The City's Plan Commission granted approval to the first phase of the project on April 21st, and the Community Development Commission gave their blessing on May 11--just a couple of days before the Myrtle Beach foreclosure.

Given its scope and cost, the Market Common could end up changing the South Side Lakefront completely. We'll be looking a little more closely at the plans over the coming weeks. A spreadsheet of McCaffrey's political giving is below the fold.

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Ramsin Canon

TIFs Wed May 12 2010

Midwest TIF Gets a $32 Million Raise

This Op-Ed was contributed by Valerie F. Leonard, a community development consultant on the city's West Side.

The City Council approved an ordinance on April 14, 2010 to increase the redevelopment budget for the Midwest TIF district from $100,500,000 to $132,865,000. This represents a 32% increase from the district's original budget. The City of Chicago's Projected TIF Balances Report 2009-2011 indicates that the Midwest TIF is projected to have a cash deficit of -$6,842,003 at the end of 2010 if every project on the schedule is implememented, and projected 2010 incremental tax revenues of $13,000,000 materialize. The projected deficit is expected to grow to -$7,213,492 by the end of 2011.

Midwest TIF Graphic-Redevelopment Budget.jpg

Midwest TIF Boundaries.jpg

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Mechanics

Immigration Thu Apr 29 2010

Immigrant Rights Picket at Wrigley Field: Boycott Arizona!

Wrigley picket

Immigrants Rights Activists Picket outside Wrigley Field.

Chicago is finally getting some spring weather. In Wrigleyville, thousands of fans are enjoying the weather and catching a baseball game. Jeering the other team has a long history in sports, but today over 200 supporters of immigrants rights picketed outside Wrigley Field to protest against the Arizona Diamondbacks and Arizona's anti-immigrant SB1070 law.

The law forces law enforcement in Arizona to stop "suspected illegal immigrants" and make them prove their citizenship in order to avoid arrest. Leone Jose Bicchieri, the executive director of the Chicago Workers Collaborative explained that the law would "only increase racial profiling in Arizona." Describing what the law tells police to do, "You better go out today and you better stop suspected undocumented immigrants. When you say, 'Well what does that mean?' They say 'well you know, suspected undocumentented immigrants.' That means dark people."

Immigrants and civil rights groups across the country have begun a nationwide boycott against the state of Arizona in order to pressure the state to rescind the law and to prevent other state from passing similar laws.

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Matt Muchowski / Comments (1)

Wage Theft Tue Apr 27 2010

Wage Theft Crime Spree: What Will Stop It?

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Victor Hernendez addresses a rally in the state capital in Springfield. Hernendez was a victim of wage theft.

You work assuming you'll be paid, but too often, workers are simply denied what they're owed. It happened to Kim Kambra who worked at Jericho Products in Springwood. "They didn't pay me. I worked over 55 hours a week and they paid me for one week out of the last 10 weeks. My house went into foreclosure and I lost the legal rights to my house even though I still live there."

Kambra was one of many Jericho employees who were not paid. Computer programmer Bill Van Dusen worked for 12 years at Jericho but for three months in 2008 and another three months in 2009, Dusen was not paid. "I had to use the money we saved for our kids' education to pay our bills."

Jericho went beyond not paying their employees. The company "stole our deductions for health insurance and child support. They collected that but didn't pay it to the proper person they needed to pay it to," according to Van Dusen.

However, Jericho's owners have been paid handsomely. Kevin Lynch, one of the owners of Jericho Products would have wild venison for his dogs and chrome parts for his car delivered to the company while three employees' homes went into foreclosure.

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Matt Muchowski / Comments (1)

Chicago Tue Apr 27 2010

Wobblies Return to Chicago

A new tenant has moved in to a street level office space on Irving Park. Driving past the office past dark, you can see a neon sign in the window that reads "IWW." On closer inspection a number of fliers and posters are tapped up to the windows, letting passer-by's know about upcoming rallies and benefit concerts. The Industrial Workers of the World have returned to Chicago, where under the leadership of a new General Secretary Treasurer, they hope to revitalize their organization and the labor movement.

The Industrial Workers of the World, or as they are often called, the Wobblies, were founded in 1905 in Chicago. The first industrial union, they allowed women, minorities, immigrants, skilled and unskilled workers to join. The IWW was always radical, calling for a society where "from each according to their ability and to each according to their need," was a reality.

The Wobblies led successful fights in the early 20th century, organizing seamstresses and lumberjacks and leading free speech fights throughout the country. However in the Red Scare of 1919, the wobblies became a target. Many members were deported, jailed or intimidated by the FBI. For decades the IWW was a shadow of its former self. The radicalism of the 1960's gave the group some life, but since then the IWW has remained a small group which many claimed resembled a labor history club more than a real union. That most members didn't even have contracts with their employers, but were individual dues paying members, didn't help.

However in the last decade the wobblies have watched their membership rolls increase. The 1999 protests in Seattle against the World Trade Organization seem to have awakened a generation of young people to labor issues and the war in Iraq seems to have radicalized them.

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Matt Muchowski / Comments (3)

Budget Thu Apr 08 2010

Participatory Budgeting in Rogers Park Unleashes the Creativity of the People

democracy in real time

The residents of Chicago's 49th ward will vote on Saturday to determine what to use $3.1 million of city money on. The far north side ward was covered with fliers urging residents to vote in what is the first attempt in Chicago to use a democratic process for determining how to use infrastructure funds.

Each ward is given a budget to use for infrastructure, and the money is usually spent by the Alderman's office on permanent items such as street lights and pavement repairs. However Alderman Joe Moore in the far north side ward decided to open the process to the community and to let residents vote on proposals created in open committees.

The Mess Hall, an artist space with anarchist tendencies has a display that highlights the various proposals on the ballot. The space has had extended hours and has been packed with residents hoping to find out about the proposals.

Some of the proposals include: street lights, repaved streets, police surveillance cameras, bike lanes, historical markers, dog parks, decorative and educational bike racks and free wi-fi.

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Matt Muchowski

Labor & Worker Rights Thu Mar 18 2010

Warehouse Workers Demand Justice

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Warehouse Workers for Justice Rally Outside the Housewares Show at McCormick Place.

On Sunday, March 14, Warehouse Workers for Justice rallied outside the McCormick Convention Center, which was hosting the International Home & Housewares Show, to demand justice from Bissell, a vacuum manufacturer. Clergy, warehouse workers and community members rallied to call attention to Bissell's role in the firing of workers who were trying to organize a union.

Warehouse Workers for Justice was founded by the United Electrical Workers union and helps warehouse workers organize and fight for their rights. The group has had substantial support from churches in the Joliet area; Baptist, Pentecostal, Catholic and Unitarian Universalist have all provided support for the Warehouse Workers for Justice.

According to United Electrical workers organizer Mark Meinster, Bissell is one of hundreds of manufacturers that store their goods in the Centerpoint Intermodal Center in Elwood, Illinois. Since Chicago is the only place on the continent where all of the major rail lines meet, corporate America has made Chicago the third largest storage warehouse hub in the world, after Singapore and Hong Kong. The Centerpoint Intermodal Center is actually a designated foreign trade zone, so corporations like Wal-mart and Bissell do not have to pay duties on the products shipped through the center until they are shipped out of the center and toward retail outlets.

The companies that store their goods in the warehouses use a system of contractors and sub-contractors to employee temporary employees instead of full time employees. According to Meinster, "It's very easy for these employers to hide behind other companies in terms of liabilities for labor law violations. And that's what Bissell is trying to do here." Warehouse Workers for Justice have filed several complaints with the Department of Labor, and their attempts to meet with Bissell have been blown off. Which is why they felt it was important to take their message to the public, Meinster says. They want to "make sure those retailers [at the convention center] know that they are selling a sweatshop product."

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Matt Muchowski

Urban Planning Wed Mar 17 2010

Park Place: Parking Policy and Public Transportation

Tn-500_MON_TD_BB_Blu_ParkPlace.JPG"The Parking Meters" will not mean just "the parking meters" in Chicago for at least another generation. The popular outrage over privatization of the city's parking meters was one of the largest expression of popular discontent of the Daley era, and caused a crack, albeit a fine one, to appear in the Mayor's monolithic governing coalition. Given as we are to think of government and politics as a collection of personalities, the Daley administration's ham-handed negotiation and rolling out of the parking meter privatization have taken center stage. The concession agreement has been treated as a political disaster, with reports that the entire lease was undervalued adding to rage over an opaque process.

But are the projected sharp increases in parking costs and the potential coming of variable or market rate pricing projected over the coming years really a blessing in disguise?

Indeed, urban planners have been arguing for more realistic parking costs in cities for years, and market pricing is increasingly looked at as a critical component to make cities more "sustainable" -- that is, more efficient, less dependent on exhaustible sources of energy, more carbon-neutral, and more conducive to healthy lifestyles. These (largely academic) planners looked at the abundance of cheap parking and deduced that the prevalence of cheap parking stimulated demand, and that the abundance was a result of direct and indirect government intervention. This is primarily in the form of mandated creation of parking in the zoning code. As a result, non-drivers end up subsidizing drivers, since developers build the cost of parking construction and maintenance into their business models. What's more, in outlying areas mandatory parking lots create expanses that incrementally push commercial and residential districts further and further apart, making alternatives to driving -- particularly walking and biking -- less feasible.

A two for one solution appears: make parking sensitive to demand (i.e., increase the rates) and reinvest the revenue in foot and bike friendly urban design and public transportation. Result: efficiency and diversity of transportation options.

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (9)

Labor & Worker Rights Wed Mar 10 2010

Chicagoist Looks at Life Inside The Beast from Bentonville

Kevin Robinson at Chicagoist continues his great coverage of Big Blue, sitting down with some employees to get an inside look at life on the floor:

Linda Haluska, who works at the company's Glendale store, stocks the Health and Beauty Aids (HBA) section on the overnight shift. "On a nightly basis, when a truck gets in, I might have three pallets of cosmetic items to stock, which is about 50 boxes. That's quite a bit for one person." HBA is four aisles, and there are two aisles of cosmetics, each about 40 feet long. The pallets come in loaded with boxes of small items. "One aisle may have between 300 - 500 individual products: mouthwash, deodorant, toothpaste, bath and body wash, pads. And that's just one department."

Ramsin Canon

Education Mon Mar 08 2010

UIC Students, Faculty, Staff Demand, "Chop From the Top!"

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UIC Students, Faculty and Staff Rally Against Budget Cuts.

Several hundred students, faculty and staff rallied at the University of Illinois Chicago campus on March 4th, to demand an end to budget cuts that target the poor. They rallied in the Quad, before marching around campus and marching to University Hall where the administrative offices for the school are. It was part of a national day of action to defend public education.

SEIU Local 73 chief Steward Joe Iosbaker led the crowd in chants, "They Say Furlough Day, We Say No Way! They Say Cut Back, We Say Fight Back!" and the sarcastic, "They Say Fee Hike, We Say, Yea, Right!"

At University Hall SEIU members served Soup to passer-by's "to prepare us for what we'll be eating if the budget cuts go through." They then sang a parody of Gnarls Barkley's Crazy, "Is UIC crazy? They must be crazy,to think that they can defeat, local 73."

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Matt Muchowski

Labor & Worker Rights Thu Mar 04 2010

Jobs With Justice Tells Wall St. "You Broke It, You Bought It!"

A crowd of 100 gathered in Federal Plaza on March 3, to demand that Congress tax Wall St in order to provide for a jobs bill. The rally was planned while Senator Bunning was filibustering a bill that would have extended unemployment benefits. Now that Bunning has withdrawn his filibuster, organizers used the opportunity to point out how much more needed to be done.

Organizer Susan Hurly explained, "What they did last night to extend unemployment for 30 days is rather pathetic in the light of the crises that we are facing. We are here to say that we need more, we need a federal jobs program" with better and long unemployment benefits. She continued, "Wall Street broke it, they gotta buy it."

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The Senate Soup Kitchen intended to highlight the need for a jobs bill.

Matt Muchowski / Comments (2)

Economic Development Fri Feb 19 2010

A Real Solution to the Food Desert Problem

Food deserts have become a concern du jour our city's political establishment, as the Big Blue Beast from Bentonville uses their existence as an excuse to bigfoot the retail market in Chicagoland. In previous posts I've argued that while food deserts are a problem, inviting in a corporate actor that tends to drive down wages and liquidate competitors (thus potentially just displacing food deserts) not to mention send profits back out of state isn't necessarily the best solution. Why not use some of that $70-million-for-the-Olympic-bid style muscle to raise funds for a program to encourage local entrepreneurs to step up and fill the need in the market, with proper quality and wage controls?

Turns out, according to Urban Farm Hub, Philadelphia has just done that--and fairly cheaply:

Brianna Sandoval of The Food Trust, based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, discussed the need for understanding the needs of food retailers. In the Fresh Food Financing Initiative, a $120 million funding pool created by public-private partnership provides incentives to operators to open shops in areas where they might not otherwise have done business. Businesses have to be located in low or moderate income census tracts and areas considered underserved based on size of businesses and proximity from other stores.

Programs also aim to improve access to healthy food in existing stores. In one case study, a local store increased sales from five types of fruits and vegetables to 20 types, and moved the fresh food to become the centerpiece of the renovated store. In another example, small refrigeration units for fresh fruit salads were added to a network of 40 corner stores. This change also resulted in new jobs as entrepreneurs moved in to provide the packing and distribution of the fruit salads.

All of these programs demonstrate the financial pay-offs of integrating community food systems into a city or region's economic development plans.

These are the types of solutions that would win the support and involvement of local residents--not to mention that they would likely come from locals if they had a real opportunity to participate in governing their city. Instead, they are just encouraged to beg for whatever meager jobs megacorporations are willing to dole out (that is, when those megacorporations aren't just fabricating that support).

Ramsin Canon / Comments (2)

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Feature

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...

Civics

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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