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The Mechanics

Environment/Sustainability Sun Jun 21 2015

Touring the Deep Tunnel and Thornton Quarry

The Thornton Reservoir
Construction equipment on the bed of the future Thornton Reservoir. Trucks on the Tri-State Tollway can be seen above the quarry.

On Saturday, I joined the Southeast Environmental Task Force (SETF) on one of its tours of Chicago's goliath infrastructure. The tour featured the future site of the Thornton Composite Reservoir, the largest such reservoir in the world, and a Deep Tunnel pumping station 350' below ground at the Calumet Water Reclamation Plant. Both are part of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD)'s gargantuan Tunnel and Reservoir Plan, the multi-decade, multi-billion dollar project designed to protect the Chicago region from the flooding and pollution caused by overflowing sewer and stormwater infrastructure.

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David Schalliol

Chicago Public Schools Tue Aug 26 2014

Chicago Students Want a Democratic School System

In 1995, Richard M. Daley convinced the Illinois General Assembly to do away with elected school councils and place Chicago Public Schools directly under the mayor's control.

Since then, CPS has operated under a model whereby the mayor directly appoints school board members and district CEOs -- currently Barbara Byrd-Bennett.

Chicago Students Union (CSU), a student-run organization formed in 2013 in response to CPS school closures, is pushing to end that system of mayoral-control.

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Emily Brosious

Local Government Mon Jul 07 2014

Illinois AG Takes Aim at ComEd Rate-Hike Request

8872944622_a33f5342fa_o.jpg
Photo by Arvell Dorsey Jr. via Flickr

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan wants to block part of Commonwealth Edison's latest rate-hike request, saying it violates state law.

Madigan accused ComEd of asking customers to pay for $87.9 million in employee bonuses -- an illegal practice in Illinois, she said.

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Emily Brosious

Local Government Wed Mar 12 2014

Sun-Times Political Website Hosts Youth in Politics Forum

IMG_0042.jpgThe Chicago Sun-Times is serving up politics, deep dish style.

Early & Often is the paper's brand new website for all things Chicago, Springfield and Washington politics. It includes traditional news stories but also video stories, a data-portal, aggregated content, opinion pieces and event coverage and listings--all in one place.

"We are confident you'll find Early & Often to be the most comprehensive look at the local political scene," wrote Jim Kirk, Sun-Times publisher and editor-in-chief, to readers in yesterday's paper.

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Nenad Tadic

Privatization Tue Jul 16 2013

Proposed Bill Paves Way for Water Privatization Boom in Illinois

Water resource management, with impacts sweeping across public health, food production, security, energy, industry, and environmental sustainability, is one of the most consequential economic and societal drivers today.

Legislation currently on Governor Quinn's desk could dramatically alter the way Illinois manages its own water resources. House Bill 1379 would allow Illinois American Water and Aqua Illinois, two of the state's largest private water companies, to expedite acquisitions of municipal water systems and increase customer rates to fund their expansion.

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Emily Brosious

Local Government Tue Jul 16 2013

Symbol or Model? Evanston's "'Assault Weapons' Ban"

The Evanston City Council last night, July 15, unanimously passed an "assault weapons ban" ("AWB") ordinance to the cheers of many in the council chambers, and -- a rarity -- the approval of even many gun owners. The ordinance passed under a perceived municipal rush to pass something, anything, under the recently-enacted Illinois concealed-carry ordinance which purported to strip home rule municipalities of their power to regulate so-called "assault weapons" (undefined in the state law) after 10 days of the state bill's enactment. For those interested, the pre-emption section, now codified at 430 ILCS 65/13.1, begins on p. 122 of the 168-page bill.

The Council in liberal Evanston, on the North Shore where there is no political downside in supporting any gun control measure and no political upside to opposing any, previously considered a version of the ordinance at its July 8 meeting but directed staff to address complaints that the ordinance was over-reaching and, like most such legislation, mainly banned firearms on the grounds of cosmetic or user-preference features (such as thumbhole stocks) rather than lethality. The version of the ordinance ultimately passed dealt with the issue by eliminating all of those cosmetic features as a grounds for banning a rifle, and using magazine size (15 bullets or more) as the definer -- as arbitrary limits go, one that has broader acceptance. For handguns, the definitions were left largely intact, mainly banning features that allow a handgun to be transformed into a short "long gun." For shotguns, again removable magazines remained as the main differentiater.

Depending how you look at it, the maneuver was darned clever, or pointless, or both. However, the end result may be that Evanston may avoid costly litigation, an outcome devoutly to be wished.

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Jeff Smith / Comments (2)

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

State Politics Fri May 24 2013

The Case for an Illinois Fracking Moratorium

What would happen if a tornado hit a million-gallon tank full of fracking wastewater in southern Illinois? I don't know for sure, but I suspect the result would be to spray the countryside with poisonous waste. If legislators don't know, they need to pass a fracking moratorium, as five Illinois counties have already called for, alongside any bill that would open up Illinois to fracking.

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Jeff Smith / Comments (3)

Police Tue May 07 2013

South Suburban Chronicles

The tarnished legacy of indicted community officials no longer lies in Chicago ranks but has indeed spread to the south suburban areas of Cook County. Three villages are now victim of the all too familiar spirit of greed and exploitation that infests those in leadership. After the embarrassing episode of Jesse Jackson, Jr. that shattered the 2nd congressional district, three south suburban towns face again the deception and humiliation from community officials.

Most recently, former Crestwood Police Chief Theresa Neubauer was found guilty of 11 counts of purposely reciting false claims to environmental regulators. As Crestwood water head, she repeatedly lied to state regulators about the quality of the village's water that was chemically altered. She claims two other individuals including former longtime Mayor Chester Stanczek are guilty of the tainted water scheme that possibly harmed the 11,000 residents. Neubauer also implies both were well-aware of vinyl chloride remnants in water that was used for 22 years until 2007. Neubauer possibly faces that maximum of five years in prison and $250,000 fine for each count. Even after nearly seven hours of deliberation, the mother of four still proclaims her innocence. "I suppose today I have to say I am the unfortunate person that the village of Crestwood hired when I was an 18-year-old girl," said Neubauer. She resigned from her post May 2.

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Sydney Corryn / Comments (1)

Ward Politics Mon Dec 17 2012

Participatory Budgeting: Could It Work Citywide?

At first blush, Vallejo, Calif. and Chicago couldn't seem more different.

The most immediately noticeable difference is in population. The official city website of Vallejo lists its population at 117,798. Chicago's website lists a population of 2,695,598 -- nearly 23 times that of Vallejo.

Physically, the city of Chicago is also bigger. According to the cities' respective websites, Chicago covers 237 square miles of land, while Vallejo only covers 53.58.

But while these two cities, separated by half a country and 2,103 miles (according to Google Maps), seem almost polar opposites, they do share at least one common trait: participatory budgeting.

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Bill Mayeroff

Ward Politics Wed Nov 14 2012

Arena Thinks Participatory Budgeting Could Expand

Participatory budgeting, at least at the moment, is not what you would call a widespread phenomenon.

Only four of the city's 50 wards -- the 5th, 45th, 46th and 49th -- are taking part in the process, wherein ward residents -- rather than aldermen -- get the chance to decide what to do with $1 million of aldermanic discretionary funds, which are known as "menu money."

But Ald. John Arena, whose 45th Ward encompasses a large chunk of the Northwest side from Nagle to Elston and from Devon to Waveland, thinks that more aldermen could soon jump on board.

"I think it will spread some more," Arena said Tuesday. "I think it'll expand over time."

The 49th Ward has gone through the participatory budgeting process every year since 2009, but the other three are new to it this year. Arena, who was elected last year, said that from almost the beginning of his term, he was thinking about bringing participatory budgeting into the ward.

"I was intrigued by it because it's a very transparent process," he said.

Participatory budgeting is a four-step process. Last month, each participating ward held several community meetings where residents could spitball ideas for how to spend the money. Step two will take place between now and March, when residents who asked to be community leaders will meet to decide which projects will wind up on the final list for residents to vote on. Step three will be the vote in May and the final step is implementation of the projects residents voted for.

Arena believes the process could work in other wards, though he was unsure about whether it could work at a citywide level. While he doesn't know if any aldermen are thinking about jumping on the participatory budgeting bandwagon any time soon, he knows at least one alderman -- Scott Waguespack of the 32nd Ward -- did consider it.

Arena does believe, however, that residents would like to see participatory budgeting expand into other parts of the city.

"I think the city of Chicago is engaged in their government," he said.

Bill Mayeroff

Bottom of the Ballot Fri Nov 02 2012

The Bottom of the Ballot: Cook County Offices

bottom of the ballot - cook county offices - chicago electionsWhile "Dogcatcher" isn't on the ballot in Chicago, there are several positions that may leave you wondering, "What exactly do these people do?" In particular, the heads of several county-wide agencies that will be up for a vote next week. While some of these positions may seem obscure, they actually do play a major role in the day-to-day life of Chicagoans, especially when it comes to legal or property-related issues. Here's an explanation of what they do and who the candidates are.

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Mike Ewing

Ward Politics Tue Oct 09 2012

49th Ward residents pitch ideas for capital improvements

If you had an extra $1 million that had to be used to improve your neighborhood, what would you do with the money?

A group of about 30 residents of Chicago's 49th Ward got to answer that very question Monday evening. The group packed into a room in the fieldhouse at Loyola Park for the first of seven "neighborhood assemblies" to discuss the first step of the 2012-2013 participatory budgeting process.

Participatory budgeting, said 49th Ward Ald. Joe Moore, is a process by which residentsparticipatory49_02.jpg decide how he should spend $1 million in discretionary funds awarded to each alderman (known as "menu money") for infrastructure improvements in their ward. The 49th Ward, Moore said, was the first place in the United States to implement such a process when it started in 2009.

"The 49th Ward has been on the cutting edge," Moore told the crowd. "Every person has an equal voice. It's not just me making the decisions about how that money's spent."

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Bill Mayeroff

Republicans Tue Sep 04 2012

Do Major Romney Donors Like Rahm More Than the Chicago Republican Party?

chicago republican partyOn Sunday, the Chicago Republican Party called on Rahm Emanuel to cancel the speech he will give tonight at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC. In a statement, Party Chairman Adam Robinson wrote that it would be inappropriate for the mayor to leave Chicago while the city was still dealing with a looming Chicago Teachers Union strike and a seemingly never-ending murder epidemic, and demanded that he "provide immediate, visible and specific leadership to address the twin crises facing our city."

Originally, Rahm planned to arrive in Charlotte on Tuesday and stay through Friday. But yesterday, he announced that he would cut his trip short and return to Chicago on Wednesday night -- denying that his new plans had anything to do with public pressure.

While the Chicago GOP makes a valid point about the mayor's priorities, there might be another underlying reason why the group is so eager to attack him: Rahm Emanuel gets more time, money, and attention from the rich donors funding Mitt Romney's presidential campaign than they do.

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Jason Prechtel / Comments (2)

Media Fri Jul 13 2012

Friday Morning Worth a Read

Some items of interest for you all:

  • CPS principals and assistant principals accused of falsifying information to qualify students for free or reduced lunches after internal investigation. [Joel Hood, Chicago Tribune]
  • Local governments are feeling out how to enforce "Green" and LEED standards in the courts. [SSRN Papers]
  • Union janitors protest granting of contract to firm that laid them off last night at Mayor's Office, push for ordinance to hold contractors accountable. [Progress Illinois]
  • The President's "Midwestern Problem." [Whet Moser]
  • Mayor Emanuel's new initiative may not be so new. [Mick Dumke--Chicago Reader]
  • One for the geekertons: Why Is a 98.6-Degree Day So Miserable? [Slate]

Ramsin Canon

Mayor Fri Jun 29 2012

Life in the Neoliberal City: Post-Partisanship Wins!

America's big cities (and major metropolitan areas) are the laboratories of policy, if states are the laboratories of democracy. In metro areas and cities, universities, professional organizations, and trade associations and economic alliances are capable of exerting outsize influence and try to implement to approaches to social and economic problems that, again, are more easily identified and addressed because of high population concentrations in relatively small geographic areas.

Tell the nation! Draw near all ye with David Brooks columns bookmarked for other than hate reading purposes: Chicago and America's big cities have achieved post-partisanship! The very post-partisanship our President talked about on the campaign trail. As the post-partisanship machine takes firmer hold of our cities, it will move upward, capillary-attraction speed, to the states, until finally--finally!--we achieve the post-partisanship paradise pundits prattle on and on about.

What does that post-partisanship look like? Let Mick Dumke and Ben Joravsky tell you:

Welcome to part two in our ongoing series on the mayor's millionaire's club, in which we pore over the mayor's daily appointment schedule with the aim of shedding light on how the mayor prioritizes his time--and his far-reaching connections...

[O]nce again, we found that his days were loaded with rich guys, campaign donors, powerful contractors, union busters, charter-school supporters, City Hall insiders, aldermanic brownnosers, and other favor seekers.

But during these three months Emanuel found time for another type of visitor: major funders of conservative attacks on President Obama. As such, the mayor's calendar offers a glimpse of what passes for bipartisanship in Chicago--and shows the ways in which wealth and access, at least as much as party identity or ideology, have come to command the attention of politicians, leaving everyday people out of the conversation.

Meanwhile...

As a whole, appointments with neighborhood groups or community leaders were largely missing from the mayor's schedule. [Amisha] Patel [Director of the Grassroots Collaborative] says her group's requests for a meeting with the mayor have been ignored. She notes that Emanuel continues to find job subsidies for profitable corporations and developers at the same time he's cutting library hours, neighborhood services, and public-sector positions. "Let's talk about job creation but let's do it in a full way."

In fact, like many up-and-coming Republican stars, the mayor has shown a willingness--some would say an eagerness--to take on organized labor, especially the teachers union. He's also an avowed supporter of charter schools, paying them about as many visits, and arguably more attention, as he does regular public schools.

Post-partisanship means staying away from the organized (and thus cantankerous) disaffected and powerless, and hew to the already powerful and wealthy who must know what's best.

If this were just a Chicago phenomenon, it may be dismissed as yet another quirk of Chicago's sui generis politics.

It's not though! Phew, right? Post-partisanship lives to fight another day! In the form of...

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Ramsin Canon

Privatization Tue Apr 24 2012

Capital Strikes, Capital Flight, and the Wholly Privatized City

In approving with no modifications Mayor Emanuel's infrastructure trust plan today, the City Council took another step towards ensuring their own irrelevance and wholly privatizing the operations of Chicago. It also took another step towards building up the Mayor's 30-second campaign commercial for whatever higher office he's envisioning (so far, he's got "won the longest school day in the country" and "made the tough decisions to balance the budget"; of course, "took on the special interests (workers)" is a given). They can't be wholly blamed, though. There's little room for them, or any local (and even state) legislatures to maneuver. The corporate tactics of capital strikes and threats of flight have proven their worth. Cities and states have been starved for well over a decade, and now we're reduced to auctioning off what we own to meet our obligations.

In a piece on the Infrastructure Trust last week, I said that it wasn't an inherently terrible idea, in part because there's really no other feasible way to raise the money. Issuing general obligation bonds wouldn't be terrible different, the federal government doesn't spend money on infrastructure any more (at least not in a direct way not routed through private pockets) and the city's wealthiest institutions and individuals are unwilling to pay higher taxes--in fact, are unwilling to pay any taxes that aren't offset by massive welfare entitlements, as the ongoing tax increment financing boondoggle demonstrates.

Taking a step back and considering the broad view, this is an astounding progression of events. Over the last 25 years, Chicago's corporate and political leadership has drained the city of revenue through creation of TIFs as a condition to invest capital in neighborhoods--the whole point of a TIF is that available capital is being withheld until the public provides better incentives for its investment. The billions of dollars diverted into these funds contribute to not only to budget shortfalls but, amazingly, increase taxes on middle class taxpayers, as the school district and other bodies have to raise their tax levy to meet their obligations.

At the same time, the city's corporate powerhouses not only withhold investing capital without generous givebacks, but also threaten to leave if their taxes (euphemistically called the "business climate") are not satisfactory.

The result is a public sector starved of revenue which must then turn to selling off (or "long-term leasing-off") its assets. This in turn, by the way, reduces a city's credit-worthiness even more, making it more difficult to issue bonds in the future and narrowing the city's tax base.

This isn't just random dot connecting; it's actually how investors view Infrastructure Trust vehicles. Consider this bit of finance news from last year:

Earlier this month AMP Capital Investors was appointed by Irish Life Investment Managers to advise on its $1.5bn Irish Infrastructure Trust. The fund is expected to acquire key assets such as airports when the Irish government begins selling down assets to meet its obligations.

And this:

[The Irish trust] will provide crucial liquidity to a sector which has, and will continue to be, squeezed of capital. At the same time valuations for infrastructure assets should be low, given the weak macroeconomic outlook, with BMI anticipating a double dip recession to hit in 2012.

Investors in infrastructure trusts are not interested in helping communities (we, a community, are leasing the assets) getting to a place of healthy revenue capable of meeting obligations and investing in long-term projects. To the contrary; the more a community is starved of revenue, the more it'll have to auction off assets. The more it has to auction off assets, the fewer options it has to raise revenue. And on and on.

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Ramsin Canon

Health Care Thu Apr 12 2012

Politics in Woodlawn: Occupation of the Mental Health Clinic

clinicdemands.jpg

Politics. A candidate for office envisions his 30-second campaign commercial. He wants five solid accomplishments he can read as bullet points. At least one, he knows, needs to be about saving the taxpayers money. To look into the camera and say, "Faced with a budget deficit, I made the tough decisions and cut X million dollars from the budget."

The thirty second commercial is meant to drive a narrative. So the value of X is less important than the fact of savings. And the consequence of that X is even less so.

Despite what we've come to accept, that campaign commercial is not politics--it's the ephemera of politics.

Politics is what is happening at 63rd and Woodlawn, on the border between a rich neighborhood and a poor one. There, twenty Chicagoans, most of them consumers of mental health services critical to their ability to survive and function in society, have barricaded themselves in a city-run mental health clinic as a last-ditch attempt to save the facility from closure, to ensure they can keep getting the services that mean little to millions of Chicagoans but mean the world to them. Mean everything to them. Make the difference between quality of life and unbearable hardship.

In order to cut the budget, Mayor Emanuel moved to consolidate twelve mental health clinics into six, and privatize the city's six public health clinics. The closure of the Woodlawn facility means consumers of these services will be forced to travel longer distances, into unfamiliar neighborhoods, and seek services from unfamiliar caregivers faced now with more burdensome loads.The uninsured may face serious gaps in care.

Impassioned pleas to the Mayor to negotiate to mitigate anticipated consequences of this "cut" have gone unheeded for months. So health care consumers--not some "special interest," not a political interest group, but people with serious mental health conditions--have done the only thing left to them, as they face the closure of their clinic at the end of the month: occupy it to force the Mayor to negotiate.

Despite assurances that there will be no change in quality care, the consumers of services have not been assuaged. One must assume that is not for no reason; that the closure of their clinic, the severing of their relationships with their care givers, will have some effect not accounted for. So they've thrust themselves physically into the bureaucratic machine to stop it and force those making decisions to deal on something of an even level with those who feel the consequences of decisions.

To do this, they entered the facility late Thursday afternoon, and beginning at 4 p.m., used cement, impromptu fencing, chairs, vending machines, and chains to barricade themselves inside the clinic, where they are prepared to stay.

Meanwhile, outside, nurses, clergy, local residents, and other allies--as many as forty as of 10 p.m.--sat in front of the doors to protect their friends within. No less than fourteen Chicago Police Department vehicles, along with several County Sheriff's department cruisers, had blockaded the section of Woodlawn between 63rd and 64th Streets. After the news media left around 10:15, plainclothes cops in hoodies and jeans arrived. The atmosphere began to feel a bit more tense, as those assembled outside began speculating as to when the police would move in and try to remove the occupiers by force.

A press event is planned for ten in the morning at the clinic. In the meantime, the Mayor has a decision to make about the politics of campaign commercials versus the politics of human need.

IMAG0376.jpg

Ramsin Canon

Election 2012 Fri Mar 09 2012

Out of Turn: The Story of the Will Guzzardi Campaign

By Caroline O'Donovan

"Loving Chicago is like loving a woman with a broken nose."
—Nelson Algren

will_guzzardi1.jpg"Do you want a beer?" Rebecca Reynolds, campaign manger for Will Guzzardi, shouted at me from across the back room of Cole's bar on Milwaukee Avenue. "I usually buy so many beers for people during a campaign, but I haven't this time. I need to catch up!" Last week, 20 days before Election Day, the Guzzardi campaign, an agile, grass roots operation that is fighting for its life against the Berrios family and the Chicago machine, held one of its final fundraisers. Between the craft brews and the Guzzardi supporter wearing magenta velvet, a campaign button and stilts, the mood could best be described as jubilant.

Six months ago, Will Guzzardi announced his candidacy for state representative in the 39th District in that very same room. That night, the bar was filled with his friends, a large group of 20-somethings, and Will Guzzardi, with a new haircut, a red tie and a pressed suit, became a candidate.

Guzzardi, looking eminently more comfortable but infinitely more tired up on stage Thursday night, drew a narrative of how far he and his staff had come since he called the incumbent Representative Toni Berrios and told her he'd be challenging her in March.

"I sat down with a lot of people when I was getting started," Guzzardi said, "And I remember one of those conversations like I was yesterday. Someone said to me, 'You'll get 20-30 percent, and you'll be out of Chicago in three months.'"

Everyone booed. One of the most noticeable differences between this crowd and the one that gathered back in September are the call-and-response style shout-outs. The noticeably older, new supporters come from political organizing backgrounds, from groups like the Illinois chapter of Democracy for America and the local Democratic organization, 1st Ward First. That group, a project of Alderman Proco Joe Moreno, assembled at Cole's as a tacit endorsement of Guzzardi. With the alderman's blessing, they will continue to work with the campaign through Election Day, shoring up Guzzardi's efforts to Get Out the Vote.

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Mechanics

Chicago Public Schools Fri Mar 02 2012

Democracy Disappearing: Is It Time for Local School Councils to Elect Their Own School Board?

The Chicago Board of Education, having proven itself unconcerned with parent concerns that do not match their own person concerns, and unresponsive to popular political pressure, fail the test of participatory democracy that institutions like school systems need to stay vital and innovative. The last vestige of democracy in the school system, local school councils, may need to do something drastic to make the Board of Education as irrelevant as they seem to think parents are.

In 1988, Chicagoans made an impressive step forward in democratic school governance, amending the state's relevant education statute to provide for, among many other things, elected local school councils with authority over hiring, structuring, and budgeting at local schools. These councils, or LSCs, were novel then and continue to be rare. LSCs are composed of members of the public, parents, teachers, the school's principal and student representative with non-voting authority. The LSCs are not merely advisory bodies, but were designed to make schools responsive to the community and give parents a vested interest in the operation of the local schools. When the reforms were first proposed by state Sen. Art Berman (D-Edgewater) in 1988, they were considered radical but necessary--and for a very interesting reason that resonates today:

The new legislation would make some of the most radical changes ever to be undertaken in this country as a way of scrapping the power structure of a failing public school system. It would break up the monolithic control wielded by the central Board of Education and, instead, set up 11-member mini-school boards, comprised chiefly of parents, that would be elected and have the responsibility of governing each of the city`s 595 public schools.

The idea is that control at the school-based level cannot help but be an improvement over decades of unresponsive management by a bureaucratic, heavily politicized, and rigidly centralized Board of Education.

(Bonita Brodt, "School Reform's Achilles Heel: The Parents" Chicago Tribune, 20 November 1988).

The major concern, shared by power-friendly elites like the Tribune, was that unsophisticated parents would be too susceptible to pressure from outside groups. As an example, that same Tribune article pointed out one community organization that was pressuring parents using race-baiting tactics in East Side:

At Bowen High School, 2710 E. 89th St., a community group called the United Neighborhood Organization (UNO) has become so heavily entrenched in what began as a parent fight to oust the school principal that the parents have been split bitterly along racial lines and observers now call it UNO`s crusade, instead.

Yet, LSCs have proven remarkably resilient and insulated from this type of pressure. While complaints about principals bullying untrained LSC members are common, the concerns that LSCs would be unsophisticated cats paws or rubber stamps for powerful interests have not born out. Democracy has proven its value as not just a box to check but for its creative power and capacity to ennoble those who feel they have a meaningful role in it, rather than just being a passive consumer.

School privatizers like Mayor Emanuel, his appointed Board of Ed, and his CEO Jean-Claude Brizard, are hostile to LSCs and parent governance. That is to say, whatever their rhetoric, their actions in aggressively pursuing closure of public schools in favor of charters (which do not have LSCs) indicates either outright hostility or indifference amounting to the same thing. This can't be disputed so long as actions are weighted greater than press releases.

The only nod to democratic control of schools the current administration has given is of the "check-the-box" variety, where the Board, before voting unanimously to pursue a Mayoral policy, holds hearings where there are no procedural options for parents to actively and meaningfully participate in decision making. Instead, the Board holds the hearings to say they held them and continue to pursue the precise policy dictated by the Mayor and his CEO.

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Ramsin Canon

Crime Fri Jan 20 2012

Housing & Crime in Uptown

by Ronnie Reese

Shelly Friede, a single mother of three, looked a high-ranking member of the conservative Vice Lords street gang in the eye and asked a question.

"Are you trying to shoot my children?"

That was seven years ago, when Friede first moved into subsidized housing in the 4400 block of North Magnolia in Uptown. Her 24-unit courtyard building stood in Black P Stone Ranger territory and had been riddled with bullets from a drive-by shooting by the rival Vice Lords.

Two years later, Friede was pregnant with her youngest child, Sebastian, when her family came under fire again. This time, it was an internal dispute among the P Stones as "they shot down the gangway, then shot over my head," she recalled.

The physical landscape of Uptown has changed a great deal since Friede's first run-in with violence there. Wilson Yard, a former CTA rail storage and maintenance facility destroyed by fire in 1996, has been redeveloped to include residential apartments, a Target and an Aldi supermarket. Nearby, a mid-rise residential condominium sits on the former site of the 46th Ward office in the 1000 block of West Montrose Avenue.

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Mechanics / Comments (9)

Education Wed Jan 18 2012

How to a Spot a Manufactured Crisis

newtrierhs.jpgI recently discovered that my alma mater, New Trier High School, did not make AYP (Annual Yearly Progress) mandated by the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act this year. (See here for the letter sent home to parents). Yeah, that New Trier. The one with all the awards, the trophies, the students going on to Ivy League schools, and the highest SAT/ACT scores in all of Illinois for open-enrollment schools. It's the same school where all those kids from Chicago protested in front of a few years back with Rev Meeks to highlight the unfair school funding practices in Illinois. It's the one written about in the infamous book (and still an enthralling read 20 years later) by Jonathan Kozol, Savage Inequalities. It's produced some big shots like Donald Rumsfeld (sorry about that one, world.)

Oh, and Happy Birthday NCLB! You just turned 10 this past Sunday. Now the only question is... when will you die? Because NCLB has proven to be a failure of epic proportions. Quite a few articles have come out to commiserate, oops, I mean commemorate, the occasion including Fairtest.org's NCLB Lost Decade Report, and this Wapo piece by Valerie Strauss, and this blog by education great Diane Ravitch.

As a little bit of background, the No Child Left Behind act was signed into law back in January of 2002 and was the first major piece of legislation to come through Congress after the 9/11 attacks. Looking back, many Congressmen admit they probably wouldn't have agreed to the bill, on either side of the aisle, if they weren't focusing so hard on appearing united after the terrible events that past September. (In many respects, the passing of NCLB was Shock Doctrine at its finest.) The act itself set a timeline to hold schools "accountable" by testing grades 3-8 every year and punishing schools that did not meet their AYP. The punishment generally involved withholding much-needed federal funds, and after a certain number of years on probation, the school would be eligible for disciplinary actions such as firing all the staff, handing the management of the school over to a private charter school operator, or closing down the school. (Starting to sound familiar Chicagoans?)

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Katie Osgood / Comments (2)

Urban Planning Tue Dec 20 2011

Regime Theory in Chicago: A Case Study

This week, Chicago Parking Meters, LLC, the shell consortium that owns our once-public parking meters, has sent the city two bills: one to compensate it for parking by the disabled, and one to compensate it for street closures. Despite some lap yapping from the Mayor, the city has little choice but to pay these bills, either in full or mostly-in-full.

The parking meters are bemoaned as an anomalous poor choice by Mayor My Predecessor, and Mayor Emanuel has regularly shifted between jokey anger and sighing resignation as to it. The truth is though that Mayor Emanuel will have his own Parking Meters deal--probably several--before his Mayoralty ends, and that his power to govern the city--to actually govern city, not just move numbers around between departments to create superficial savings and issue press releases--is not a function of his ability to "lead" but a function of his ability to creatively supplicate.

How does Chicago's government operate? The way it actually operates is fundamentally different from the way it apparently operates. The "apparent" part: it writes laws and enforces them evenly. The way it actually operates: it makes up for a deficiency to act on its own by seeking out powerful investment institutions to partner with, offering up its coercive authority in exchange for badly needed capital. Those agreements are the regime we actually live under, not the laws on the books.

The fundamental shift towards neoliberalization of the economy and government at federal and state levels has changed how Mayors and Councils "govern" cities if they really govern them, in the classical civics-class sense, at all. Of course Emanuel, as one of the political architects of one of neoliberalization's most important structural supports, NAFTA, is not a victim of neoliberalization but an important figure in its rise. That fact is one of the reasons national elites rushed to fund his campaigns for Congress and the Fifth Floor.

In the Neoliberal City, laws, regulations, and rules are less important than relationships between political leaders and wealth, or capital. Mayor Emanuel explicitly ran for office touting his ability to "leverage" his relationships with wealthy elites. He even comically justified his immense fundraising from out-of-state and global financial elites by pointing out that because the rich like him, he'll be able to beg goodies out of them for the public.

The regime that runs the city is not about legislation and enforcement, it is about bilateral agreements, where government promises to use its power for the benefit of investment, or capital, to the greatest extent possible. Carving exceptions to law is as important, if not more important, than legislating itself.

The most stark example of this is the "Memorandum of Understanding" between the City and the University of Chicago, an agreement that could usher in major changes to the Hyde Park/Kenwood area, that was agreed upon in bilateral negotiations between the Mayor and the President of the University. The Mayor told the press he was moved to go into these high-level negotiations with the University after the President told him that in China, such building projects only took six months, whereas the bureaucracy here would lengthen it to years.

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Ramsin Canon

Chicago Sun Dec 04 2011

Occupy Chicago Joins Motel Occupation

Visitors to Pastor Corey B. Brooks Head onto the Roof

At 7p.m. tonight, Occupy Chicago will hold its first overnight occupation on the South Side following a general assembly on property owned by New Beginnings Church. The church is hosting the event in conjunction with its own occupation of the derelict Super Motel at 6625 S. Martin Luther King Blvd, which is across the street from its main sanctuary. Its pastor, Corey B. Brooks, has been camping on the roof of the motel for a dozen days and fasting on water alone. He plans on camping on the site until the church raises $450,000 to raze the former motel and build a community center with mixed-use, mixed-income development on site.

Pastor Brooks said that he was "excited" when contacted by Occupy Chicago. "I think that anybody who -- especially when they're not from this area -- wants to come lend support, we've got to be open to that." Ultimately, the pastor hopes that he can play a role mediating between the group and Mayor Emanuel. "I want to have good relations with everybody. We are the church. We're not supposed to be at war with anybody ... We bring about peace."

Follow developments in the motel case on the Project H.O.O.D. website and through Pastor Brooks' Twitter account, CoreyBBrooks. Occupy Chicago is online at http://occupychi.org.

Additional photographs follow.

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David Schalliol / Comments (1)

Ward Politics Fri Dec 02 2011

Are You Concerned About the Ward Remap?

Since we're past the deadline for the City Council to agree on a new ward map, this is as good a time as any to start talking about it here.

For the record, I live in one area that will be affected by the remap process. I've been to meetings regarding the ward remap. This includes neighborhood meetings as well as public hearings about the remap.

If you've followed the stories about this we already know what the deal is. Basically the blacks of Chicago who have lost 180,000+ and the Latinos have gained 25,000+ people. Of course the Asians don't have enough numbers to justify giving that ethnic group their own ward. Also I read that even the city's Polish community want their own ward.

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Levois / Comments (9)

Budget Thu Oct 13 2011

Inspector General Provides Spreadsheet for Budget

Well, the title basically says it all, but the IG's office has provided .xls and .csv format versions of the Mayor's proposed budget (appropriations only). It's pretty useful, though it'd be helpful if you could play with the columns a bit to make it a bit easier to read--the description of what things are being appropriated for is way to the right. Check it out here.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

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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Mechanics

Local Government Thu Sep 29 2011

Chicago History Museum to Host Discussion on Current Political Climate

On October 4, the Chicago History Museum will host a discussion on our current political climate entitled, "Politics Today: Red, Purple, and Blue." The discussion is part of the museum's In the K/Now series of discussions, which occur monthly. Moderating the discussions is Laura Washington, columnist for the Sun-Times.

"We will cover both [Cook County and Chicago], particularly the debate in the City Council and on the Cook County Board over budget cutting measures like furloughs, police, cuts to vital service like police, fire and health care, and tax increases," Washington said.

According to Ilana Bruton, Public Programs Coordinator for the Chicago History Museum, the different discussions for In the K/Now have various sized crowds depending on the topic.

"We try to choose hot, contemporary topics that effect Chicagoans today and include a diverse group of panelists," Bruton said.

Panelists for the October 4 discussion will be 43rd Ward Alderman Michele Smith, Michael Mezey, political science professor at DePaul University; and Christine Dudley, a political and public affairs consultant.

"Being 'in the know' is all about making today's history relevant," Bruton said. "Everything in the museum was at one time contemporary and it is important to continue to stay relevant and remind ourselves that history is ongoing."

For this discussion, a historical perspective for the political strife will be examined.

"We will ask the panelists to look at moments in history when the parties and political operatives were at odds," Bruton said. "We will talk about some of the frustrations with politics today and talk about solutions to stop the bickering and opportunities to forge towards bipartisanship."

The event is free and open to the public, although attendees can reserve seats on the Chicago History Museum's website. The discussion is scheduled to run from 6:30-8 pm.

Monica Reida

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:

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Mechanics

TIFs Tue Aug 30 2011

Carole Brown on Chicago Tonight Talking TIFs

What jumped out at me was Brown saying that the public was mistaken in believing that tax increment financing districts were meant only to address blight. An area being blighted is actually in the TIF statute as among the necessary conditions for creation of a TIF. Hard to see how those statements can both be reconciled.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Public Transportation Fri Aug 26 2011

Growing Pains: The Red Line Extension

by Christopher Gray

Eddie Davis waits in his dapper suit for customers to arrive at Bass Furniture, but buyers and even browsers are few and far between these days for the Roseland landmark at South Michigan and 115th Street.

Business has been down for years, while Davis continues to pay the mortgage on his store and warehouses, which have sold new furniture on the Far South Side for generations.

"As much as I would like to stay in the 9th Ward, if I had the resources, I would move," Davis said.

The days when far South Michigan Avenue was a thriving commercial corridor with competing department stores are long gone, but Davis said business was much better even 10 years ago when a strip mall sat cater-corner to his store.

The mall was bulldozed for redevelopment in 2004, and the neighborhood has been waiting ever since for a grocery store to anchor the neighborhood on 115th. Roseland is completely without a supermarket, making it one of the city's largest "food deserts."

"It has impacted our business tremendously," Davis said. "We need foot traffic. We need people."

An Aldi store may yet anchor that location within the next year, but Bass Furniture could some day benefit from another development: a new El station a few hundred yards to the south, part of the proposed Red Line extension.

"We've been here 70 years," Davis said. "If it takes 10 years for the train, we hope to be here in 10 years."

Mayor Rahm Emanuel campaigned on an overhaul of the Red Line as his highest transportation priority, and within his first 100 days in office, the CTA has showed the beginnings of that process: the agency won $8.4 million in federal dollars to conduct environmental studies for Red Line improvements.

The environmental studies will take two years, and push out the finish line of a Red Line extension until at least 2017, but Joe Iacobucci, a strategic planner at the CTA, said any delay is hardly the biggest obstacle the project faces.

"The two main barriers are finding capital funds and operations costs," Iacobucci said. "We're still a ways to go, but we're still pushing this through as fast as we can."

When Richard M. Daley was mayor, the Red Line extension had to share CTA planning time with extensions to the Yellow and Orange lines as well as a new inner-city connector route called the Circle Line. Under the new mayor, those projects appear shelved, and only the Red Line extension remains active. But now the extension is sharing funds with improvements to the existing Red Line on the North Side.

In the spring, the CTA initiated its "Your Red" campaign, which, reflecting Emanuel's Chicago 2011 Transition Plan, takes a three-pronged approach to the Red Line: overhaul the dilapidated north branch of the Red Line and the suburban Purple Line for $2.4 to $4 billion; replace the rails, ties and ballasts of the Dan Ryan branch of the Red Line for $700 million; and extend the Red Line to 130th Street, through the Roseland neighborhood to Altgeld Gardens, for $1.2 billion.

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Mechanics / Comments (2)

Open Government Wed Aug 24 2011

Transparency Ex Post and Ex Ante

democracybyspreadsheet.jpg
Since taking office just about a hundred days ago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has pleased open government and transparency activists by creating a myriad of tools and data portals to open government information. All city employee salaries have been made easily accessible by the public, as well as 311 service requests, building permits, lobbyist data, and more.

At the risk of acquiring a John Kass-style cheap hater reputation, I had a good amount of fun making light of these actually impressive initiatives on Twitter, where I may or may not have referred to them as "democracy by spreadsheet." Recently, WBEZ ran a report looking at whether the Mayor's transparency initiatives were more appearance than reality.

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (2)

Aldermen Fri Aug 12 2011

Decoupling Waste from Ward Map: Garbage as Politics

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is reportedly steaming ahead with plans to unlink the collection of Chicago's residential garbage (for single-family homes, two-flats, and three-flats) from the time-honored ward-by-ward provision of this critical municipal service, a move that may leave some aldermen equally steaming. The potential $60 million savings in play here from collecting garbage along routes that make the most sense for Streets and San, rather than by political boundaries, should make this a no-brainer. So why opposition? Because, while many think of politics as trashy, in Chicago, trash is politics.

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Jeff Smith / Comments (3)

Labor & Worker Rights Wed Aug 03 2011

The Mayor's "War" With Labor?

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73 President Christine Boardman had harsh words to say about Mayor Emanuel, calling him a liar and his claims that he is working with labor leaders to find solutions to the city's stubborn budget deficit. According to a report by Dan Mihalopoulos in the Chicago News Cooperative, Boardman accused the Mayor of "spinning the press like crazy," and "not telling the truth," about his cooperative attitude towards labor, characterizing his rhetoric as "B.S." B.S. is American slang for "bullshit" by the way.

Quite an accusation; it certainly tracks with previous reports about Emanuel's general approach to labor relations, which amounts to "there's a new sheriff in town," along with "the art of media control." Taking the long view, it also jives with Emanuel's having reportedly encouraged the administration to "Fuck the U.A.W.," during the auto bailout and engineering the passage of the labor-hollowing NAFTA bill in 1993.

The local media has been characterizing Emanuel's approach as "getting tough" on labor. But of course, this is a non sequitor. Mayor Daley was hardly friendly to labor, particularly over the last ten years, with the exception of some of the building trades. The city labor force has declined by about 6,000 since 2002. The Mayor race-baited labor unions during the Wal-Mart fight and poured enormous effort into undermining the teachers' union. Unions are on their heels across the country and had little clout under Daley and even less under Emanuel.

Boardman's accusations may just be a function of her frustration rather than an accurate accounting of Mayor Emanuel's approach to public employees. The totality of his record on labor relations--an economic and social issue, not solely a political issue--should not just be ignored, as though it has no bearing or provides no context. Emanuel has a record of targeting labor as a political foe to be dictated to, not a potential partner or constituency with legitimate policy concerns.

Ramsin Canon

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

Media Tue Jul 19 2011

The Incredible Editorial of James Warren

Chicago News Cooperative's James Warren's editorial, "Warren: Rahm Exercising Art of Media Control" is not what you'd expect it to be. Or rather, was not what I expected it to be. When I see a headline like that in my reader, attributed to a well respected journalist, I expect it to be a critique. It's not; it's praise. Why would a member of the media praise a politician for controlling (really he means manipulating) the media? I'm not certain. From what I can glean, it is because Mayor Emanuel's use of this "art" will help him slay the "monsters," i.e., city workers' retirement money, et al.

Mr. Warren in his own words:

Chicago's Jardine Water Purification Plant, the world's largest filtration facility, helped make something crystal clear last week about the heat-seeking missile known as Mayor Rahm Emanuel: The Missile is playing a confidence game, all puns intended.

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Ramsin Canon

Whittier Elementary Thu Jun 30 2011

Whittier Update: Two Stories

A story on the on-going fight over the Whittier fieldhouse (La Casita) at the Tribune relays the Chicago Public Schools line that they are being frustrated by left wing ideologues who keep changing their demands, while a piece at the RedEye (by GB contributor Yana Kunichoff) looks at the money involved as they relate to the parents' demands:

$1.4 million: allocated to Whittier by Ald. Danny Solis (25th) from the Tax Increment Financing funding.

$364,000: The money from the $1.4 million TIF fund allocated first to demolish, then renovate the field house.

$564,000: The total amount of money raised to build a new, green field house

$750: Prize money awarded to the Whittier Parents Committee by the Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization (PERRO) for the environmentally friendly design of the proposed La Casita.

Priceless?: More than 50 people came out last Friday at 5 a.m. to block the planned construction of the library in the school building instead of the field house and halted the construction for the day.

Reminiscent of the first Mayor Daley blaming all civil disorder on "outside agitators," the Tribune article casts the Board of Education as helpless in the face of irrational leftists:

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (7)

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.

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (3)

Good Government/Reform Fri Jun 10 2011

Inspector General: Minority Contracting Program "Beset By Fraud and Abuse"

Chicago's Inspector General's Office (IGO) has released a scathing study of the city's minority- and women-owned business program, calling it "beset by fraud and abuse," and cataloging the fundamental problems with the program. The MWB program has popped up in a variety of different scandals, with organized crime and corrupt politicians abusing technocratic discretion and inherently faulty oversight for personal gain in subversion of the program's purpose.

Among the recommendations for correcting the program:

  • Shifting the City's focus away from MWBE certification to monitoring MWBE compliance
  • Accurately tracking and reporting actual payments to MWBEs
  • Establishing meaningful contract-specific goal setting for program participation
  • Granting waivers from MWBE goals for construction contracts where appropriate to allow for honesty in contractor bidding and ensure better MWBE compliance
  • Collecting penalties from firms that do not satisfy MWBE requirements

You can sniff which recommendation most addresses the corruption problem: certification versus monitoring. Certification means a firm is certified as minority or woman owned in an obscure bureaucratic process, which essentially grants certain contractors a privilege they carry with them. This makes that certification extremely valuable and low-risk: once you have it you are most likely to keep it, and you just have that one hurdle, certification, to cross. A lack of on-going monitoring of compliance makes the creation of phony minority- or woman-owned businesses extremely attractive, and makes "smoothing the process" of actually getting it much easier.

The full report is after the jump.

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Open Government Wed Jun 08 2011

City Employee Salaries Brought to You by the City

You have to give it up so far to Mayor Emanuel's tech team. They have been on a steady drive to make available as much general data as they can think to get on-line, and provide it in a supremely easy-to-manipulate way.

Their latest is a salary database for all city employees. You can get in there and do custom searches, save views, and even embed results. For example, here are the highest paid people in the Mayor's Office:

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (3)

Good Government/Reform Tue May 24 2011

Redistricting Circus is Back in Town

By Dick Simpson

Now that we have the mayor inaugurated and our federal and state income taxes paid, we can turn our attention to the political circus of figuring out which elected officials represent us. Legislative redistricting occurs in three rings and it is hard to keep your eye on all three at once.

The three redistricting arenas are congressional districts, state legislative districts and Chicago's aldermanic wards. Theoretically, four legal principles apply:

  • Districts must be equal in size.
  • Protected minorities cannot be gerrymandered to prevent them from electing members of their own race.
  • Districts should be contiguous.
  • Districts should be compact.

But redistricting is governed even more strongly by two political principles: incumbent protection and partisan advantage.

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Mechanics

Op-Ed Wed Apr 13 2011

Youth In Play: Ameya Pawar and the People

This editorial was submitted by Cali Slaughter and Harishi Patel.

If anyone reminded young, progressive Chicagoans of the potential of the underdog in our most recent election cycle; it was Ameya Pawar. Pawar, an Indian-American, just 29, is not only going to be the youngest member of the Council when inaugurated on May 15; he is the first Asian-American elected to the City Council.

His rival, Tom O'Donnell, was personally selected by incumbent Eugene Schulter, who boasted a solid (albeit rusting) thirty-six year rule over Chicago's 47th.

O'Donnell was buttressed by loads more money and he possessed that inevitable confidence accompanied by the endorsement of a handful of Chicago's old guard. It seemed that minimal effort would be necessary for a landslide victory.

Oops.

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Mechanics

Good Government/Reform Mon Mar 14 2011

Time for Participatory Budgeting to Grow?

This article was submitted by Austin Smith.

In most communities, residents who see the need for an infrastructure project must send letters, make phone calls and attend meetings. In the 49th Ward, they simply need to vote.

The North Side neighborhood uses a process known as participatory budgeting, which puts the fund allocation decisions in the hands of the community itself.

In 2007, Ald. Joe Moore first learned about the concept from a presentation by Josh Lerner, director of the Participatory Budgeting Project. Over the next few years Moore further researched the potential to use the process for city funds known as menu money. In fiscal 2010, his ward became the first jurisdiction in the United States to implement participatory budgeting.

SMITH_PB6.JPG

Each ward receives the same amount of menu money, last year that amount was about $1.3 million, and it can be used for any infrastructure projects the Alderman's office chooses. Ald. Moore created a four-step election process whereby any resident who is 16-years-old or older can propose and ultimately vote for expenditures, regardless of citizenship or voting eligibility.

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Mechanics / Comments (1)

Election 2011 Sat Jan 22 2011

Giving to Chico and Emanuel, by Institution.

Some "people" who give to candidates are not people at all, but institutions. It's a storied tradition in Chicago politics for "people" with names like "29 N. Michigan Ave, LLC" to give tens of thousands of dollars to their favored candidate. Here are some of the institutions that gave big money to Gery Chico and Rahm Emanuel in the race for mayor:

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Election 2011 Wed Jan 19 2011

The Next Mayor's Power Instinct

Miguel Del Valle is being considered the progressive candidate for a variety of reasons. His record of independence from so-called "Machine politics" is considerably free of the spots found in those of Emanuel and Chico in particular; no organizational or professional ties to Mayor Daley. His policy positions on schools and teachers, the environment, and housing position him to the left of the field. While these positions are more liberal, they are also not controversial; meaning that, generally speaking, they are probably not significantly to the left of the average Chicagoan.

But there's something deeper in Del Valle's politics that may warm the cockles of a progressive's heart while simultaneously causing the city's power players, including its media organizations, to tremble with febrile dreams.

Based on his public statements about the relationship of the Mayor to the City Council, Del Valle appears to believe that conflict compels collaboration which leads to stronger results. In other words, by formally decentralizing power so that no one party or institution can simply act-and-make-so, they will be forced to negotiate one with the other on terms equitable to each, and thereby the best feasible solution will emerge.

Del Valle told the Sun-Times this:

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (7)

Mayor Mon Jan 17 2011

Who Sends the Somebodies? Building a Mayoral Campaign

The Mayor's race has a settled field. Four major candidates have emerged: Rahm Emanuel, Gery Chico, Carol Moseley-Braun and Miguel Del Valle. Now that they know their opponents, the campaigns are now in a furious infrastructure-building phase based on what their leadership and staff believes is their electoral Path to Victory.

"Path to victory" is a media concept, really, meant as a sort of executive summary of the realism of the strategies of a campaign's communications, field, and fundraising arms (note the absence of research and policy). The realism of a given campaign's path is subjective, and journalists often use poll numbers as a quasi-objective measure of its likelihood.

In big-city politics, these paths to victory are in practical terms processes of growing social, economic and community networks to generate cash and organizing activities -- door knocking, neighborhood meetings, get-out-the-vote (GOTV) volunteers. Each candidate is building their campaigns on these networks, jealously guarding them from other candidates and meticulously cultivating relationships within them.

This isn't about popular support. Candidates will appeal to voters only after they've built campaigns from the ground up; that goes for all the candidates. Despite the simpler narratives, none of these politicians simply flies in with a message and organizational capacity in hand. All of these candidates need to build networks of supporters through outreach to individuals and organizations that will, in the final weeks of the campaign, generate popular support from a voting public that tends to not pay attention until the last few weeks. Despite notions that voters come in foreseeable blocs, they are actually quite discerning, and no one candidate can be pigeonholed into narrative characters.

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (2)

Mayor Wed Dec 22 2010

Rahm's Education Video and Some Light Recycle-ry

Rahm's campaign has released this video to detail his education plan. I'm still working with the campaign to respond to some questions about the plan's details.

Here's one irrelevant piece of trivia: Rahm's campaign has used this expression, "There's nothing wrong with Chicago's public schools that cannot be fixed by what's right with Chicago's public schools." This had a familiar ring to it, and then it occurred to me:

Ramsin Canon

Local Government Wed Dec 22 2010

Better Government Association Adds to, Restructures Board

The Better Government Association recently made some significant changes to its board of directors -- and its overall governance structure -- in an effort to broaden and strengthen its connection to Chicago's minority communities and to expand its reach in Illinois beyond the collar counties.

bga_bulldog.jpg"We passed a package pertaining to the roles of board members, and added job descriptions for board members and for officers, and the board voted to elect new officers for the beginning of 2011," said Andy Shaw, president and CEO of the BGA. "We spent the fall coming up with a new list of board officers, new committee chairmen and a new list of board prospects that we could recruit and ask to join us, and several weeks ago we approved seven new board members, the most so far. We can add five to 10 more, I believe. The seven we approved are very formidable, it's a very impressive group."

At its last meeting, the BGA board of directors voted to add seven new board members, including David Hoffman, former Chicago inspector general and senate candidate; Graham C. Grady, partner at the law firm of Bell, Boyd & Lloyd; Robin Steans, executive director of Advance Illinois; Tamara Edmonds Askew, director of the American Bar Association's Section on State and Local Government; M. Hill Hammock, former chief administrative officer of Chicago Public Schools and former vice chairman and COO of LaSalle Bank; Mary Lee Leahy, influential Springfield attorney; and Jack Modzelewski, president of client relations at Fleishman-Hillard. An eighth new member, DePaul University general counsel Jose Padilla, is expected to be confirmed at the next board meeting January 21, when the others will be seated for the first time.

Additionally, Rod Heard, partner at law firm Barnes & Thornburg, was named chairman of the board, Phil Clement, global chief marketing and communications officer of Aon, was named vice chair. And Shaw's title was changed from executive director to president and CEO.

The BGA also created a new tier to its oversight structure: "life trustees," which is made up of former board members who have each served for several decades. Moving these senior board members to the life trustee board made room for new blood, Shaw said, "people who understand government, are committed to improving it, and have the contacts and resources to carry on our mission."

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Andrew Huff

Election 2011 Fri Dec 17 2010

Tis the Forum Season: Mayoral, Aldermanic Candidates Gather

This post contributed by Yana Kunichoff.

On a sharp, chilly Tuesday evening, a crowd of people that appeared to represent the full racial, ethnic and social diversity of Chicago gathered in the UIC Forum on the south-west side for the New Chicago 2011 mayoral forum.

Organized by a coalition of over 26 community organizations "united for a fair, progressive Chicago", including the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, the Southwest Organizing Project and the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, the forum was a rare opportunity for grassroots leaders to come together and hold mayoral candidates feet to the fire before an election that has galvanized Chicago's community organizing base like few others have.

Seven candidates whose petitions for mayor received at least 35,000 signatures were invited. Gery Chico, Danny Davis, Miguel Del Valle, James Meeks, Carol Moseley Braun and Patricia Watkins were present at the forum, with the announcement of the notable exception, Rahm Emanuel, greeted with boos.

The forum focused on five key issues - violence, human rights, education, jobs and housing - with testimony from a community member on each, a question, and then one minute for the candidates to speak on the subject, and a mystery question pulled out of a Cubs' hat at intervals.

On stage in front of organization representatives decked out in the orange, green or yellow T-shirts of their organization, the mayoral candidates cut stark figures in their regulation business attire. During the forum, the candidates traded jibes, spouted rhetoric and offered solutions to some of the biggest problems affecting the city on the lake.

Here is a run-down:

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Mechanics / Comments (2)

Mayor Thu Dec 09 2010

Early and Often: Emanuel's Kids and CPS

Chicago's great new local politics reporting site, Early and Often is reporting on the efforts of Mayoral hopefuls Miguel Del Valle and Gery Chico to pin Rahm Emanuel on his commitment to making Chicago's public schools institutions worthy of the ideal of equality of opportunity. Dan Mihalopolous reports:

Almost as soon as mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel balked when asked Tuesday whether he would enroll his three children in Chicago Public Schools, rival Miguel del Valle's campaign fired off a brief news release to emphasize del Valle's "history as CPS father and alumnus."

....

Soon after del Valle's missive...Gery Chico also sought to capitalize on the situation[:] "There is something to be said for leading by example and having a personal stake in the system you seek to reform," Chico said in the statement. "I would never tell a parent what decision to make for their own child, but personally, I wouldn't feel comfortable asking parents of more than 400,000 public school students to do something I wouldn't do myself."

Ramsin Canon

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

Elections Sun Oct 31 2010

No Friends in Politics: Doherty v. Mulroe on the Northwest Side

This article was submitted by David Jordan

It's personal.

Two sons of Irish immigrants, mutual childhood friends from the old neighborhood, are in a close, nasty fight for a state Senate seat on Chicago's Far Northwest Side.

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John Mulroe (next to the young woman) at a party in the North Austin neighborhood in 1979. Photo courtesy of Brendan Egan

Like me, both Brian Doherty - for the past 19 years the city's sole Republican alderman--and his foe in the November 2 election, John Mulroe--appointed to the seat in August after a long-serving fellow Democrat resigned from it--graduated from St. Angela School, in the North Austin neighborhood on the West Side. I am SAS '74, Mulroe is '73 and Doherty, '71.

Neither candidate for 10th District senator--Doherty, 53, a standout amateur boxer as a young man, who started in politics as a volunteer to a Northwest Side state representative 30 years ago; Mulroe, 51, a mild-mannered but tough and tenacious accountant-turned-lawyer, who is a relative political neophyte--is pulling many punches in the bout, which has been heavily financed by both party organizations.

Both candidates, like me, are from big Irish Catholic families.

Mulroe was the third of five children, all boys. The family, like mine, lived for several years in a two-bedroom apartment in a two-flat with relatives occupying the other flat, near tiny Galewood Park, a North Austin neighborhood hangout for countless youths, including me and several of my nine siblings.

Mulroe's father, a longtime laborer with Peoples Gas, often carted a gang of us kids in his station wagon to various sporting events.

On the campaign trail, Mulroe often recounts how he began his work career at age 13 as a janitor's assistant at St. Patrick High School, an all-boys Belmont Avenue institution, where I was a year behind him, just as I had been at SAS, where he later was a director of the St. Angela Education Foundation.

In the 1980s, while Mulroe was working days at Arthur Anderson as an accountant, he attended Loyola University law school at night. Then he served as a Cook County prosecutor for six years before, in 1995, opening a small, general legal practice in an office that is a block from Doherty's aldermanic office, down Northwest Highway in the Edison Park neighborhood, where the senator and his wife, Margaret, live with their two sons and two daughters.

Similarly, Doherty, the third of nine children, was a presence in my youth. My father, the late Jack Jordan (SAS '38), St. Angela's longtime volunteer athletic director, became close to the future alderman while working as a manager for the Chicago Park District boxing program.

At the time, the future alderman was in the midst of his amateur boxing career, in which I remember seeing the slim Doherty out-pound heavier boxers on his way to a 19-2 record and Park District and Golden Gloves championships.

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Mechanics / Comments (21)

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)

Classroom Mechanics Wed Oct 20 2010

Classroom Mechanics Oral History Project: Mark

classroommechanics.jpgAs Mark and I are sitting in a Northwest Side coffee shop, the baristas make the unfortunate choice to blare a Black Sabbath album at a volume that makes it difficult for me to hear myself, much less Mark's stories from teaching. But despite the cacophony in the air around us, Mark is unfazed. A young white science teacher, Mark takes teaching in an all-black South Side high school very seriously; when I comment on the deafening roar of the music, he gives me a look that indicates he barely noticed it. He has given the topic of his school and his students his utmost attention--little can break his train of thought.

A native of a northern suburb, Mark went to school at an elite private university out of state, returning home to teach. He was first hired to teach high school in a rich, mostly-white neighborhood, but was pink-slipped; after substitute teaching for a year on the South and West Sides, he was hired at a high school on the South Side, where he now lives. Several times during his tenure as a sub, he taught at schools where a student had been killed the day before.

In his early twenties, he's about as young as a teacher can be. In conversing about his experiences, however, one could easily mistake his seemingly seasoned demeanor for that of an educator with a decade of experience.

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Micah Uetricht / Comments (2)

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?").

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Mechanics / Comments (1)

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.

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Education Fri Oct 01 2010

Whittier Field House Library Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

Parents of students at the Whittier Dual Language School opened a new library in the occupied Whittier Field House on Thursday, September 30, with the help of the Chicago Underground Library and donations from as far away as Florida. The following photographs are from the ribbon cutting ceremony that officially opened the library at 5pm with speeches, song, prayer and -- of course -- some reading.

Read Cinnamon Cooper's piece about the field house occupation for background information.

Putting Finishing Touches on the New Library at the Whittier Field House
Putting finishing touches on the new library.

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David Schalliol / 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

Education Sat Sep 18 2010

Parents and Students Occupy Whittier School Fieldhouse

arms.jpg Several dozen parents and students completed the third night of an occupation of a Pilsen elementary field house Friday night, protesting the planned demolition of the allegedly dilapidated structure. The sit-in has withstood several visits by the police - at one point they threatened arrests then abruptly left after more than 100 students, parents and community members pushed past barricades to support the protesters - and scored the promise of an interview with Ron Huberman to discuss turning the field house into a library for the school.

cop2.jpg

The field house of Whittier Dual Language School, at 1900 W. 23rd St., has been used as a center for after-school programs and community meetings. According to Gema Gaete, an activists with Teachers for Social Justice and Pilsen resident, parents found out that the building was set to be demolished in November 2009, when a budget detailing the proposed spending of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) money allotted to Whittier was released.

ballboy.jpg

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Mechanics / Comments (5)

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.

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (8)

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)

Elections Tue Aug 17 2010

How Did Joe Berrios Fail to Buy JoeBerrios.Com?

This would be understandable in, say, 2004, when political consultants were still treating the internet like an embarrassing nerdy friend in middle school. In 2010, when it is basically the cornerstone of communication in the United States, it is mind boggling that the Joe Berrios campaign did not buy JoeBerrios.com. Berrios is the Chairman of the Cook County Regular Democratic Organization--the organization that was once synonymous with the Chicago political Machine. If there was any doubt that the Machine is gone--and that even Machine Lite may be faltering in the face of a new era of political communication--it is the fact that the Berrios campaign was not together enough to buy their Chairman's eponymous domain.

It may be mostly a moral victory for Forrest Claypool*--how many votes for Cook County Assessor will truly be changed by diligent googling--but it should be a humiliating lesson for Berrios and his team. What's worse, Claypool's side is not treating it as a mere moral victory, using the domain to go after Berrios' character pretty seriously--and devastatingly, by using third parties like the Better Government Association and the Trib.

There's probably a strong instinct for schadenfreude in this case, given Berrios' terrible reputation among the city's political media. But if you're of the more charitable type, take a look at his big ol' smile and imagine him sadly typing his own name into his web browser and seeing a screaming headline calling him pay to play personified.

wbbm0519josephberrios.jpg

Sittin' there all sad, hitting refresh...

*Note his campaign URL.

UPDATE, 2:15PM: According to Scott Cisek at the Cook County Democratic Party, JoeBerrios.com has been owned for over two years. The Berrios team apparently believes an ally of out-going assessor James Houlihan gave the domain to the Claypool people.

Tom Bowen, spokesman for the Claypool campaign, took that wryly. "Berrios has been an elected official since 1988."

Bowen did confirm that the domain was donated to the campaign. "Someone contacted us and thought that Joe Berrios was such a bad choice for public office that he wanted to help...whatever way he could." Bowen was not able to immediately confirm or deny whether it was in fact a Houlihan ally who provided the domain.

Cisek indicated that the Berrios people are preparing an official rebuttal to what he called "libel" and misleading quotes on the microsite.

Of course, the real story is the content of the site, not the origin of the domain purchase--though for internet geeks it provides a good meme to get re-interested in history's longest campaign season. We'll await Berrios' reply for a proper evaluation.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

City Council Wed Aug 04 2010

A Remade City Council and Mayor Daley's Last Term

Is Machine Lite doomed?

Chicagoist's political guru Kevin Robinson reports on rumored aldermanic retirements before the upcoming February 2011 municipal elections, indicating that we may end up seeing as many as nine or 10 new faces in the City Council by next year, to add to the half dozen or so freshmen who came in in 2007. If this scenario plays out, seasoned mayoral allies could be replaced by neophytes, always an unwelcome change for a long-time incumbent executive.

If the Mayor runs again (and I don't see how he can't), he'll almost certainly win, though with a significantly smaller margin, even if he only gets token resistance from a dimly suicidal opponent. That potential challenge will certainly not be what dissuades him; in fact, a challenger emerging will probably whet his appetite and prove he's still got the muscle -- and perhaps more importantly to his psyche, the popular support -- to crush all comers.

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon

Local Government Tue Aug 03 2010

Introducing the Widget...the EveryBlock Widget

Look to your left. What do you see? Probably the edge of your monitor. Look to your right? And there? Ah! Something new!

It is in point of fact a widget courtesy of EveryBlock, everybody's favorite data liberators. In partnership with Every Block, Mechanics is going to be experimenting with providing hyperlocal news and data for the city and your neighborhoods. We hope that as EveryBlock's ever growing database of, erm, data, uh...grows, Mechanics can provide you with both the microlocal and macrolocal, focusing on longer issue and policy pieces as original content while also giving you the quick local news hits that traditional media was never great at providing.

Currently the widget is set to focus on City Hall, but you can enter your own zip code and get government actions -- such as building permits, liquor licenses, etc. -- and blog and news pieces that mention your neighborhood.

For more on EveryBlock's effort to expand their reach, check out EveryBlock co-founder and friend of GB Dan O'Neil's post at the EB blog.

Ramsin Canon

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.

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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.

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Mechanics / Comments (3)

Environment/Sustainability Sun Jul 18 2010

Clean Power Ordinance for South Side Plants Gets a National Boost

This article was submitted by Chris Didato.

On Thursday, two national environmental groups, the Sierra Club and Greenpeace, joined Alderman Toni Preckwinkle and the Chicago Clean Power Coalition in their effort to pass an ordinance that would limit the emissions of two South Side coal-fired power plants by 90%. At the press conference, held in Pilsen's Dvorak Park, with Midwest Generation's Fisk plant looming in the background, included several aldermen and community supporters, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune, and Global Warming Campaign Director Damon Moglen. All gave the Chicago Clean Power Ordinance their support.

The proposed ordinance, introduced by Alderman Joe Moore (49th Ward), would have the two coal-fired power plants in Chicago limit their emissions of "particulate matter" (or soot) and carbon dioxide.

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Mechanics

Crime Thu Jul 01 2010

A Culture of Torture: Mark Clements, Jon Burge, and the Chicago Police Department

[This article was submitted by freelance journalist Michael Volpe.]

"Nigger boy, you gonna cooperate?" a 220lb. Chicago police officer screamed as he pounded on the chest of 16-year-old, 120lb. Mark Clements. As the beating continued, pain shot out from Clements' chest and exploded into the rest of his body. He gasped for air, struggling to breathe, in excruciating pain. Clements say the officer, whom he identifies as John McCann, had a way of getting his knuckles to the tenderest part of the bone.

Clements could barely read. He hadn't even finished seventh grade but he was smart enough to know what the cops wanted. They wanted Clements to confess to an arson that occurred at 6600 S. Wentworth six days earlier. The beating went on like this for nearly 30 minutes, but still Clements remained stubborn. He'd gotten into enough fights in the neighborhood to be able to withstand a beating.

Clements remained quiet and refused to give in even as welts grew in his chest from the officer's fists cracking his bones. Then, they stopped hitting Clements. Instead, Clements says, McCann grabbed his balls and squeezed. This was a pain he'd never experienced before. There was only one thing that would stop it.

"Yeah, yeah, I'll cooperate," Clements said, in unbearable pain. That's how Mark Clements remembers and recounted that night nearly 30 years after it occurred (neither the Chicago Police Department nor the Cook County State's Attorney's office would respond to requests for comment for this article). A few hours later, at about 2am on the morning of June 26th 1981, Mark Clements would sign a confession to an arson at 6600 S. Wentworth six days earlier that killed four people. A year and a half later he'd get four life sentences and become the youngest person in the history of the state of Illinois to receive a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

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Mechanics / Comments (12)

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)

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.

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Ramsin Canon

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

Urban Planning Mon May 17 2010

Hilarious Change at the Department of Zoning

One of my favorite hyper-specific blogs, the Department of Zoning Oversight Fellowship Forum (DOZ-OFF) reports on a potentially encouraging change over at the DoZ:

Here at DoZ-OFF we were living on a prayer, fed lean from the table scraps left by Zoning, indoctrinated to believe our captors were our saviors. No more! A policy change at Zoning has opened the door for us to get fat off the land, or at least to save us the wait. Zoning no longer accepts walk-in appointments! Since May 1st, zoning plan examination reviews for building permits are scheduled exclusively through the online building permit application process. No more waiting; no more snoozing. No more subversion? Well, two out of three ain't bad.

Ramsin Canon

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.

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Jeff Smith / Comments (1)

Good Government/Reform Mon May 10 2010

Transparency Walk Back?

Illinois passed a pretty impressive Freedom of Information law last year. The act went into effect this year, to the tempered joy of journalists and transparency reformers everywhere.

Now a bill has been sent to Governor Quinn by the General Assembly (HB 5154) that would prohibit release of personnel records of government employees. This is of particular concern to police department watchdogs, since those records would contain evidence of discipline for abuse of power or abuse, critical tools for independent police oversight. Having a strong FOI law is so critical to transparency and so clearly in the public interest, that something like personnel records becoming public has to be considered at worst a necessary evil, and at best, a key component of improving operations in government.

That's on the one hand. On the other, even government employees should have some reasonable expectations of privacy, particularly those who are not in a significant policy-making or implementing area. These are not elected officials who opened themselves up to public evaluation. The fact that their personal performance reviews will be fully available to the public upon written request may deter ambitious climbers and subject long-time employees to invasions of privacy. That said, the Springfield Journal-Register has a pretty convincing Op-Ed that falls on the first hand: there is such a huge public interest in keeping this law strong that significant evidence should be required to constrict it, and there simply is little evidence that the disclosure of evidence would lead to abuse.

Ramsin Canon

Aldermen Mon May 10 2010

Alderman Balcer Wins the Muzzle

Last year Aldermen James Balcer covered up a mural that depicted the Chicago Police Department's "cop-in-a-box" lightpole cameras in a critical way. Free speech and public arts advocates cried foul, but Balcer won the acclaim of...well, I'm not sure who, exactly, but probably a lot of people who still use expressions like "damn hippies" and "crumb bums".

Now he's won an actual award for his brave act of censorship: via Edmar of the Bridgeport International, we get this:

3) Chicago Alderman James A. Balcer

The private owner of the property and the artist have a right to some due process before an alderman simply orders troops out."

- Ed Yohnka of the ACLU reacting to Chicago Alderman James Balcer ordering the painting over of a mural on private property.

For claiming the authority to destroy a work of art based on his personal assessment of the work's content, a 2010 Jefferson Muzzle goes to...Chicago Alderman James A. Balcer.

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Ramsin Canon

Education Fri May 07 2010

The Unhelpful Voucher Conversation

Megan Cottrell at True/Slant has decided that the defeated measure to create a pilot voucher program in Chicago has "doom[ed] thousands of poor children to an inferior education." This type of hyperbole, besides being indefensible, has helped make real reform of our schools impossible. No, defeating a voucher program proposed in a vacuum is not what is "dooming" anybody. One reason is that inside of an education regime with high-stakes testing that results in ham-fisted school closures and displacement and punishes rather than fixes problems in our schools, a voucher program only takes students more likely to succeed already out of the system, and--well, should we say "dooms hundreds of thousands of poor children to an inferior education"? No, I think that's too loaded.

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (5)

City Council Fri Apr 16 2010

Pastors Add Pressure for More Wal-Mart Stores

Well it seems that the proposed Chatham Wal-Mart was talked up in this article from the Chicago Defender:

The fight to get another Walmart built in the city has been intensified by a coalition of pastors and community activists who said Ald. Ed Burke (14th) has a "noose" around the neck of the South Side Chicago by holding back the proposed development of store on West 83rd Street.

Rev. Larry Roberts and about 200 pastors, who collectively represent about 100,000 congregants, have taken their message to Burke several times to no avail and now urge Mayor Richard M. Daley to flex his muscle to "make it happen."

Roberts said it's time for Burke to move the Walmart issue out of the City Council finance committee - which he chairs - so the Arkansas-based retail giant can proceed with building the store in Ald. Howard Brookins' 21st Ward, and eventually in other areas on the South Side, particularly in the Englewood and Pullman communities.

"Burke and Daley see what's in front of them, but their non-reaction is the downfall of the economical advancement of the South Side. Our areas are dormant and Burke has a noose around the necks of the South Side residents," Roberts, pastor of Trinity All Nations Ministries, told the Defender.

Since whether or not any future Wal-Marts must be considered in front of the full City Council, we're going to hear a lot about the fact that Wal-Mart doesn't pay their employees a "fair living wage" (however that's determined). So in this story, this is of note:

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Levois / Comments (2)

Democrats Thu Apr 08 2010

Forrest Claypool's Frontal Assault

Former County Board Commissioner Forrest Claypool has announced he'll take on County Democratic Party Chairman and Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios. Claypool in announcing his independent candidacy called Berrios a "clear threat" to Cook County taxpayers. That strikes a similar tone to his slogan when he ran for the Board Presidency in 2006, "It's YOUR Money, Vote Like It". Claypool's 2006 voters provided a base for Toni Preckwinkle's 2010 primary victory; good government Lakefront and suburban voters whose primary interaction with County government is to pay it. Preckwinkle's resounding primary victory may have provided a template for Claypool's path to an independent victory.

Still, going outside the Democratic Primary process is a cardinal sin in local politics. Taking on the Party Chairman is even more of an affront to party discipline, and making the Assessor's office an organizing focus for the good government wing of the party--as against the traditional Machine Lite elements--must be particularly galling for the party faithful. This is because party-connected attorneys have long made property tax appeals a lucrative revenue source.

If Claypool can get on the ballot, watch him gobble up the Preckwinkle voters--whether that will be enough to overcome Berrios' party line advantage is impossible to predict, but it could exacerbate a rift in the Machine Lite ruling coalition. Mayor Daley and the county party rely on a truce with the "Lakefront Liberal" good government groups on major issues; Claypool candidacy could force a public break between the party and independent organizations that would rub raw some sores.

Keep in mind that getting on the ballot is no sure thing--Claypool will need 25,000 valid signatures, and none of his petition-passers can have passed petitions during the primary. And with the Party apparatus behind him, Berrios will surely be scouring the petitions for technically invalid signatures.

Ramsin Canon

Education Wed Apr 07 2010

Local School Council Elections

Chicago's system of Local School Councils provide a unique opportunity for residents to democratically participate in the management of neighborhood schools. Unfortunately, they're also one of the most underutilized; LSC elections are often fairly uncompetitive, and public information about their operations is scarce (the Board of Education conspicuously keeps no data on these meetings).

To their credit the relaunched Center Square Journal is inviting residents to get involved and get information about the LSC elections and operations in the Northcenter, Lincoln Square and Ravenswood Manor area:

As Chicago's public schools struggle with tremendous budget issues and as Coonley and Bell Elementary schools are preparing to hire new principals, the next group of LSC members will deal with important issues. Historically, LSC Elections also have low turnout, so your vote can make a big impact on your local school's future.

Ramsin Canon

Labor & Worker Rights Mon Mar 22 2010

Pete's Market and Workers Rights

When Raul Real decided he and his co-workers needed a union, he knew his bosses wouldn't be happy. He didn't realize, however, that his organizing would eventually cost him his job and lead to his arrest at his former place of employment.

Real is one of a number of former workers at the Chicagloand grocer Pete's Fresh Market who are levying charges against the company including firings for union activity, threats based on immigration status, and gender and pregnancy discrimination. Company officials say they have engaged in no wrongdoing, and that the majority of workers have no desire to be represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 881.

But workers who claim the company abused them have begun to speak out, pressuring the company to recognize the union. Real claims his organizing first led to his firing, and that his participation in a recent protest at a southwest side Pete's resulted in his arrest.

IMG_2980.JPG

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Micah Uetricht / Comments (13)

Urban Planning Tue Mar 09 2010

Why Shouldn't You Pay for Parking?

I've spent the last couple days reading studies and articles on the changing attitudes towards parking policies and zoning regulations, in favor of encouraging sustainability, walkability, and public transit. The case is made over and over again that parking is artificially cheap in big cities--particularly in Chicago--because of the way zoning regulations are written requiring parking be allocated as a ratio to square footage, and the general nature of parking meter costs (i.e., they aren't priced by market forces).

The idea is parking should be more expensive to make it more available (i.e., it'll be easier to find a spot), and to encourage people to make "active transportation" choices. Ideally, the increased revenues generated would be put directly into promoting bikeability and walkability as well as public transportation. This would need to be matched with zoning regulations that take away the incentive to build parking structures that encourage sprawl.

So my question to you all is: should the City of Chicago pursue a policy of making parking prohibitively expensive for most people in order to encourage "better" behavior? Should we encourage "the market" to determine parking costs?

Or would that just piss you off?

Ramsin Canon / Comments (9)

Education Thu Mar 04 2010

City Hall, Teachers Union Showdown: It's Complicated

The Chicago Teachers Union pension is statutorily separate from that of the rest of Illinois teachers, and for years performed better. The pension has performed poorly recently, and schools CEO Ron Humberman--a Daley lieutenant who ran the CTA for the Mayor after stints at the Police Department and emergency services--has been talking tough about the need for a drastic overhaul of how the pension is funded.

According to schools monitor Catalyst,

Last week, CEO Ron Huberman started his doomsday budget press conference by saying, "You are going to hear me talk a lot about the pension."

Pension costs have long been an issue for CPS, and costs have now skyrocketed to $587 million--three times what the district was required to pay into the teacher's pension fund just three years ago.

As a quick fix, Huberman hopes to convince lawmakers to simply reduce Chicago's additional payment by about $300 million, which would cut the nearly $1 billion deficit by about a third.

To stem the problem, various solutions have been proposed: higher employee contributions, raising property taxes, or rediverting the money in the city's enormous tax increment financing (TIF) districts back to the schools (the bulk of those funds were originally supposed to go to schools). Given that the Mayor's administration has performed dazzling feats of privatization in order to avoid raising taxes (or the appearance of raising taxes) employee give backs are the only tool available that can cut into the deficits the district faces. Typically, the CTU has been pretty easy to tame.

This year, however, may be different.

Catalyst notes, as Greg Hinz did earlier this week, that the effort by City Hall to change the pension funding system could be complicated by internal union politics.

Catalyst:

Stewart faces a tough re-election campaign this spring. In fact, her union caucus recently lost two seats on the Pension Board to the new, hard-line caucus called CORE (the Caucus of Rank and File Educators). It was a major victory for CORE, whose members say the Pension Board needs better watchdogs to protect it from a cash-starved district administration and prevent mismanagement. CORE still lacks a majority on the Pension Board, however.

CORE is but one of several opposition caucuses; former insurgent CTU president Deborah Lynch heads PACT; ousted former Vice President Ted Dallas is associated with the CSDU. Several other smaller groups are also clamoring for change.

Stewart is regularly accused of being too close to the Mayor and too unwilling to stand up to him on issues like Renaissance 2010 and the draconian "turnarounds" that have costs so many teachers their jobs and so many students needed stability. The prospect of losing the presidency of the 30,000+ member CTU may just be what is needed to stiffen her spine.

Similarly, the prospect of a hard line causing a more adversarial caucus to take power in the union leading up to his reelection in 2011 may be giving the Mayor pause in his effort to dismantle the public school system as the centerpiece of his urban education "revolution". The union election is in May. Keep a wary eye on the maneuvering between now and then.

Ramsin Canon

Neighborhoods Mon Mar 01 2010

How to End Cheap Parking

Should government planning policies be aimed at slowly phasing out cheap parking, to force cities to plan for efficiency and redundantly, and drive up demand for public transportation to ensure its continued expansion? Here's what one California legislator is trying to do (via GOOD):

California state senator Alan Lowenthal has stirred up a nest of idiots hornets with his Senate Bill 518. Lowenthal, recognizing that providing lots of subsidized parking is only enabling our addiction to cars, has introduced legislation that would incentivize cities to start reforming their parking rules.

His legislation would work like this: There's a buffet of different parking reforms, and each is worth a different number of points. A city can choose whichever reforms it wants to enact and if their points total reaches 20, it gets an edge in getting state funding. The reforms are wide-ranging. A city could, for example, install parking meters in high-demand areas (five points), raise parking meter rates to reflect market prices (10 points), or entirely scrap the requirements that new residential buildings come with a minimum number of parking spaces (20 points). You can see all the reforms and their point values here.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (2)

Machine Lite Tue Feb 16 2010

Debbie Downer Returns

So having recovered from spending the last couple weeks shaking and crying in a dark corner somewhere in Pilsen after the Hoffman defeat, and bringing all of you down with me in my last post, I'm back to depress the masses yet again with a Chicago tale.

I was reading this article today, written back in January, about state House speaker Michael Madigan. It was filed in the Tribune's "Watchdog" category, which I was browsing in need of some civic inspiration--something I've been severely lacking as of late. It's about Madigan trying--and, of course, succeeding--in using his influence to drum up business for his tax law firm. See, after a developer sought and received zoning changes for his newly acquired downtown property, Madigan swung by his office to see what other properties might need his firm's services.

"When Mike Madigan calls and asks for a meeting, you meet with him," the developer says. "I mean, I was born and raised in this town."

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Danny Fenster / Comments (2)

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)

Chicagoland Fri Feb 05 2010

Now What? Taking on the Southwest Side Machine

I'm not entirely sure how I should feel after Tuesday's elections. Over a year of work on behalf of Rudy Lozano's state legislative campaign culminated in the single most bizarre Election Day I've ever experienced. Being there, at the Strohacker Park Field House at 4am on that snowy Tuesday morning was just the latest in a long list of "being there" days. Being there meant endless meetings plotting strategy, developing platforms, and setting up committees and what not to get the petition drive going. Being there meant the thrill of hearing words I wrote delivered in front of over 300 volunteers and supporters at Little Village High School on a warm August evening. Being there that day also meant having to go to the bathroom for 2 hours while collecting signatures and singing every Billy Idol song I knew waiting for the light at 25th and Pulaski to turn green before I wet myself. Being there meant days when we had big groups of volunteers knocking on doors for signatures and nights when it was just me, my 6 month old in a Baby Bjorn and Manny walking around Archer Heights. It was about late nights updating databases, running over to the Chicago Board elections for data CDs and ultimately, serving as a precinct captain on Election Day.

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Jacob Lesniewski / Comments (5)

Chicago Wed Jan 20 2010

Twitter and the Chicago News-O-Sphere

Woke up on the couch I call bed the other day, rolled over and popped open my Mac. Email; check. Facebook; check. Grab some coffee, head back to couch. Twitter feed; new updates from @ChicagoCurrent, @WBEZ, @chicagonewscoop, not to mention the dinosaurs.

Checking my twitter feed in the morning is sliding comfortably into that sacred place once occupied by pouring over the broadsheets, grey paper no longer splayed out across the table, coffee in hand, trying awkwardly to fold the page back upon itself.

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Danny Fenster / Comments (4)

Media Tue Jan 19 2010

Center Square Ledger Launches Today

Last year, political consultant and occasional Mechanics contributor Mike Fourcher and former Chicagoist, TimeOut Chicago, and current Playboy editor (though not strictly speaking a playboy editor) Scott Smith organized the Chicago Media Future Conference to help new and traditional media types get their bearings and at least begin to talk about what the media was going to look like in the future.

Fourcher may know: today, along with Patrick Boylan, he is officially launching the Center Square Ledger, "Your Definitive Neighborhood Guide to North Center, Lincoln Square and Ravenswood Manor".

There are some "microlocal" (or "hyperlocal" depending on your preference) political stories there: specifically about the heated Madigan-Steans state Senate race. As local politics bleeds out of the large media outlets, local media like the Ledger will be the only place to get verified "news" (as opposed to message board or forum gossip) about these kinds of street fights. At least, that's the thinking: the reality is that the Sun-Times and the Tribune haven't been covering these kinds of politics for years, and not without good reason.

Neighborhood papers have always existed, and always provided coverage of these local street level politics that are of interest to a pretty narrow group of people. But as reporting talent drifts away from the big institutions and spreads itself across the web, outlets like the Ledger may end up not only picking up where shrinking traditional political media left off, but actually creating something new: a new strata of good political journalism at a level of focus we've never really had, and infinite availability.

Ramsin Canon

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.

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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)

Chicago Thu Jan 07 2010

Rumble in the Park

You have to care at least a tiny bit who your elected representatives are to leave home on a cold wintry night in Chicago, so naturally, the showing last night at the Wicker Park Field House for the Fritchey-Matlak debate was slight (yes, Chicago, I'm saying you don't care who gets into local office--please, prove me wrong).

Fritchey and Matlak are running for the Cook County Commissioner seat to be vacated by Forrest Claypool, representing the 12th district. Fritchey is currently a state rep and Matlak was alderman of the ward encompassing Bucktown and Wicker Park before losing the seat in 2007 to Scott Waguespack.

Steve Rhodes, a brilliant mind of political wit if there ever was one, considers Fritchey's time in Springfield impressive. The best that can be said for Matlak, on the other hand, is that he's no longer in office. He angered residents as alderman with his cozy relationship with real estate developers in the area and lack of communication with residents. When I heard Matlak was going to be there, I was excited for a good Chicago brawl, but things remained fairly civil save for one outburst at the end. A resident approached Matlak and exchanged some words, then walked out of the room shouting "you know damn well what I'm talking about!" Matlak donned a confused look that was hard to take seriously. I asked the guy what the beef was, but he responded brusquely "this is between me and Matlak."

A source familiar with the situation tells me that Matlak approved spot zoning on both sides of the man's home, which is now sandwhiched between two so-called McMansions.

The candidates began seated at a fold-out table before a crowd of forty or so residents, nudging one another and sharing some laughs and whispered words. When it came time to speak, the two danced that same old dance; one pointed out the others flaws then conceded that that's not what's important--"it's the issues that matter"--and the other followed suit.

Most residents I spoke with didn't quite share the impressions of Rhodes. They voiced disappointment with the lack of choices, a lose-lose set of options. "It's like two of the same guys up there talking," said one.

I headed back out into the winter evening and biked down the road, past the six corners, past bulging new condos and corporate retail chains.

Danny Fenster

Chicago Thu Jan 07 2010

Lori Healey Overcomes Obstacles, Goes to Work for Developer

None of my business who John Buck Co., a "blue chip" property developer, wants to hire to "drum up more public-sector business."

Lori Healey, formerly a top aide to Mayor Daley, one of the designers of the much-celebrated and adored late 90s early 00s TIF boom, and head of the Chicago 2016 Bid Committee that did so fantastically well, will "start next week as a principal at Chicago-based Buck, where she'll focus on building the firm's pipeline of public sector projects. Government work hasn't suffered as much in the recession as other commercial real estate market sectors.

"Ms. Healey, 50, would seem tailor-made for the job." Indeed.

Healey of course worked for the city department (Planning and Development) involved with TIF planning, approval, and management, from the late 90s through the turn of the century. As recent investigations have demonstrated, those TIF funds have gone disproportionately to corporate welfare, to the joy and approbation of the Chicagoans for whom Healey ostensibly worked.


Andy Shaw: TIF funds constitute corporate welfare

After her work expanding TIFs, but before her gig heading up the non-humiliating public relations undisaster called Chicago 2016*, Healey helped implement the widely-praised noticed Plan For Transformation at the CHA.

At the City, Healey specialized in luring private dollars for development.** Now in the private sector, Healey will lure public dollars for her bosses.***

Where the Left and Libertarians agree is that government and business have become too interdependent, to the point of being nearly indistinguishable. Where they diverge is who started it.

*

** See also ***
*** See also **

Ramsin Canon

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)

Local Government Wed Oct 14 2009

Mapping the Plan for Transformation

With the Chicago Housing Authority's Plan for Transformation in full swing, it's hard to keep track of the location of new mixed income developments -- not to mention which of the old family developments haven't been demolished. Because the CHA website doesn't have the entire listings, I submitted a request for the full data and mapped it.

The family developments are indicated by blue markers, while the mixed income developments are indicated by targets. Additional information listed on the mixed income development tabs state which public housing project was the original development. Approximate addresses have been substituted where the exact addresses of developments were not listed by the CHA.


View CHA Properties in a larger map

David Schalliol / Comments (2)

Olympics Wed Oct 07 2009

Talking about the Olympics from the Hood to Downtown

A vid by Marc Sims talking to Randy Evans discussing the Olympic bid. Of course this video had to have been filmed not too long after we found out that Chicago won't be hosting the games in 2016. Basically the discussion revolves around the impact of the games in a given city, especially the possible impact in the areas surrounding Washington Park. In other words they're arguing that the Olympics would cause a negative impact.

Levois / Comments (1)

Cook County Mon Sep 28 2009

Truth about the Cook County Sales Tax

This leaflet was handed out at the recently held Chicago Football Classic on Saturday. In fact they had children hand these leaflets out before game where two HBCU (Historically Black College/University) football teams Mississippi Valley State University had defeated Alabama State University 10-3 at Soldier Field. Of course this wasn't the only political activity there on that day as Congressman Danny Davis, Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown, and a woman named Kari K. Steele (from Chicago's Sixth Ward) were seeking petition signatures respective for County Board President and Commissioner on the Water Reclamation District.

Anyway, here's the flier explaining the purpose of the Cook County sales tax it doesn't seem to advocate for a reduction of it. In fact it seems to want to qwell some of the bellyaching over the fact that Cook County has the highest sales tax in the county.

Continue reading this entry »

Levois / Comments (1)

Education Thu Sep 24 2009

Charter Schools: Changing Lives

Today the Illinois Policy Institute is releasing a new short film about charter schools and their success in Chicago.

Entitled 'Charter Schools: Changing Lives,' the documentary profiles students, teachers and administrators in three Chicago charter schools: Chicago International Charter School's Ralph Ellison campus, Noble Street Charter School's Pritzker College Prep, and the Urban Prep Academy for Young Men.

Continue reading this entry »

Richard Lorenc / Comments (6)

Column Wed Aug 12 2009

FOIA, TIFs, and Disarmament by Transparency

Government transparency: realm of nerds? Or power politics?

America's post-war political tradition has been one of transactional politics. People measure their government less on ideology and more on "results", typically meaning, "what they provide". One of the side effects of this is that advocates for government transparency--who come from all points on the ideological spectrum, in equal degrees of vociferousness--are seen as process-oriented and, well, nerds. Transparency in government, however, isn't just something for good government hobbyists or hard-bitten cynical journalists. "Realists" on transparency argue that the desire to know everything the government does ignores the reality that in order to get things done, Serious People need to negotiate behind closed doors (Cf., privatizing parking meters; Chicago's stimulus list). Transparency--the state erring on the side of openness and making all of its institutional processes immediately available for public inspection--doesn't necessarily need to make government operations impossible. Quite the contrary, actually; foreknowledge of public scrutiny could act as a form of disarmament. Over time, the presumption of openness could disarm cynics and foster a mode of interaction between the state and private actors that eliminates the competitive pressure to hide things from the public.

Or, instead of using ridiculous jargon like I did in that last sentence, I can use a series of cliches; if Information is Power, then true and full transparency is an immediate way to give Power to the People.

Recently, two major government transparency issues have come (close to) the public eye: an amendment to the state Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the City of Chicago's new TIF transparency website. A look at these two issues below.

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon

Local Government Thu Aug 06 2009

The Aurora Hotel Facilities Board

Lets say you are the second largest city in Illinois and a developer wants to put a new Hotel in the city...

By the way...

  • The land is zoned for that use.
  • The developer owns the land and two years ago modified the plans as requested by the city.
  • It's for a Hampton Inn, not some sort of 'funky' hotel.
  • They are not asking the city for a dime of money.
  • It's going to be next to a Meijer on Route 59, not much residential near by.
  • It's on the edge of town

Most people would think, new tax revenue, construction spending in this economy cool...

Well that would not be what the city of Aurora would think.....

Instead the City Council feels that they need to be the Hotel Facilities Board, here is some of the comments from the last committee of the whole meeting taken from the Beacon News

But Aurora's own studies show that demand for hotel rooms in the city has dwindled below zero, and some aldermen are concerned that any new hotel might mean trouble for those currently operating.

So they don't want to add a new hotel because the competition might be bad for existing hotels? Wow, what a benevolent government we have in Aurora that is willing to work to protect those businesses that are already in town by preventing competition. Is that the role of government? To protect existing business in town by preventing competition within town? Last time I checked we don't have a planned economy in Aurora. I am looking forward to the city preventing the addition of any more used car lots, tattoo parlors and Mexican restaurants since we have plenty of those and any new ones might take business away from the existing ones.

Like when the city offered $2.26 Million to bring Ballydoyle to downtown I am sure the city carefully considered the impact of bars in the city. Like the Roundhouse and Tavern on the Fox....

Oh yeah Tavern on the Fox closed shortly after Ballydoyle opened...

Alderman Rick Mervine, 8th Ward, said hotel buildings are notoriously difficult to repurpose, and his concern is creating more blight that the city would have to clean up. He said many hotels in Aurora have already gone out of business or been bought by lesser companies than they were approved under, and he doesn't want to see that happen again.

It's a clever new development policy; because you may not succeed we are just going to help you avoid the risk entirely. What a brilliant strategy, fortunately we have a downtown filled with buildings that we have been able to repurpose for city offices at street level as well as tattoo parlors.

We have a host of other buildings that we have been able to repurpose into used car lots!


View Larger Map

Just like we were able to repurpose two of the last places in town you could have seen a first run movie into a Bar/Restaurant and a pile of rubble!

Planned economies failed in Eastern Europe, let's not bring them to the second largest city in Illinois.

OneMan / 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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