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The Mechanics

Op-Ed Tue Jun 03 2014

Where is Chicago's Progressive Mayor?

rahm emanuel nose handChicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's plunging popularity was reflected in a recent Sun-Times poll, in which just 29 percent of respondents reported that they would support Emanuel if the election were held today. The results confirmed what was already obvious to most Chicagoans--a vast majority of the city dislikes our mayor.

What still remains to be seen is whether a candidate will emerge who has the ability to successfully rally that energy and unseat him.

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Rachel Anspach / Comments (3)

Chicago After Daley Tue Dec 10 2013

When The City That Works Stops Working

1979blizzard.jpgThe believed reason as to why Jane Byrne won the 1979 mayoral primary is almost the stuff of Chicago legend. Not too long before the primary, a large blizzard occurred in Chicago and the city did a terrible job of responding to the blizzard, largely in the form of not plowing the streets. The next month, Byrne won the primary with 51 percent of the vote, defeating then-Mayor Michael Bilandic and then won the mayoral election in April 1979 with 82 percent of the vote, becoming the city's first and only female mayor.

Why Byrne won is actually rooted in reasons much deeper than Bilandic's administration doing a horrible job responding to the blizzard. Bilandic was the first post-Richard J. Daley mayor and as a result, the Chicago government was in shambles.

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Monica Reida / Comments (9)

Mayor Fri Nov 22 2013

4 Reasons Why Rahm Won't "Get Started" on the French

Over the past week, a list of travel warnings about several U.S. cities on the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs website made its way through newsrooms across the country.

The page gave detailed crime warnings about entire streets, neighborhoods, and even suburbs for French tourists to avoid in places like New York City, New Orelans, Boston, L.A., Baltimore and Miami. In Chicago, travellers were simply advised to "Avoid the West Side and the south of the city after 59th Street." After numerous complaints from angered residents and politicians of the listed cities, the French Embassy issued apologetic statements, and revised their web advisory.

When asked about the offending entry during a press conference, Mayor Rahm Emanuel quipped, "Don't get me started on what I think of the French." He then smiled, and added, "No, no, I don't think that'd be good," before launching into a speech on why people were coming to Chicago, the "Most American of American cities."

While the quote made for an amusing headline, there are at least four good reasons why Rahm Emanuel will never say a single negative word about the French in public for the rest of his time in office.

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Jason Prechtel / Comments (0)

Event Mon Nov 18 2013

Event to Celebrate Book 'Mayor 1%: Rahm Emanuel and the Rise of the 99%'

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Haymarket Books will host a celebration launch and discussion Tuesday evening for Chicago journalist Kari Lydersen's new book, Mayor 1%: Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Rise of Chicago's 99%.

Chicago Reader columnist Ben Joravsky, Grassroots Collaborative executive director Amisha Patel and Chicago Teachers Union organizer Brandon Johnson will join Lynderson for a panel to discuss her latest work.

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Emily Brosious / Comments (0)

Mayor Fri Sep 13 2013

Bloomberg Already Has a Mayoral Successor: Rahm Emanuel

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Photo Credit: CBS

During Tuesday's high-profile Democratic primary (and far less dramatic Republican counterpart) in New York City, one name loomed over all the would-be mayoral candidates: Michael Bloomberg.

As recent articles and interactive infographics have demonstrated, the billionaire Republican-turned-independent three-term NYC mayor will leave behind a towering, complicated, and divisive legacy once he steps down.

The likely Democratic challenger, current NYC public advocate Bill de Blasio, emerged on a campaign slamming Bloomberg on education, taxes, poverty, and a "tale of two cities" mayoral legacy. His Republican opponent, former Metropolitan Transportation Authority CEO Joe Lhota, has begun to echo Bloomberg's own critiques of De Blasio, by dismissing the Democrat's campaign as "class warfare."

Regardless of who wins the November 5th election, Bloomberg's true mayoral successor -- in both style and substance -- doesn't even live in New York. In fact, Bloomberg's political heir is a face quite familiar to Chicago and the rest of the United States... Rahm Emanuel.

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Jason Prechtel / Comments (2)

Chicago Public Schools Wed May 22 2013

Nonprofit Breakfast Lets Students Shine During Difficult Times

In the midst of broken confidence in Chicago's education system, BuildOn, a nonprofit that establishes schools in developing countries and implements after school programs in urban cities hosted a fundraiser breakfast Tuesday at the Chicago Hilton. The hour and half morning event hosted by NBC 5 anchors Stefan Holt and Daniella Guzman drew business professionals, politicians and companies alike along with Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Guests were greeted by excited Chicago buildOn students, who reminded us with their enthusiasm that negative news stories do not define them.

Mayor Emanuel, Jim Reynolds, CEO of Loop Capital, and Jim Ziolkowski, founder of buildOn, each spoke briefly about the organization along with testimonies from current buildOn member Alejandro Garcia and alumna Amanda Perez.

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Sydney Corryn / Comments (0)

Daley Thu Apr 25 2013

Daley Bio Author Wants Readers To Draw Their Own Conclusions

Keith Koeneman wants the facts to speak for themselves.

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

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

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

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Bill Mayeroff / Comments (0)

Open Government Wed Apr 10 2013

King of the Rubber Stamp

By Dick Simpson

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is truly king of Chicago's rubber stamp City Council.

In his first two years in office, he enjoyed more support than Boss Richard J. Daley or his legacy, Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Mayor Emanuel has more control over the council than even Mayor Edward J. Kelly, a co-founder of the Cook County Democratic Machine.

This is counter to his claim a year and a half ago: "I said we were going form a new partnership between... the mayor and the city council — that voters didn't want Council Wars and they also didn't want a city council that would be a rubber stamp." But despite his claim, we got a rubber stamp council.

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Mechanics / Comments (2)

Rahm Emanuel Thu Jan 17 2013

Emanuel Questioned at Trib Event

rahm_02.jpgZack and Mia Schultz are thinking about leaving Chicago.

The Ukranian Village couple cites crime and a lack of decent schools to send their five-year-old daughter and (eventually) their other, two-year-old daughter to as the reasons. They've not yet decided to leave, they said Wednesday evening, but they're leaning towards it.

And not even reassuring words about the state of Chicago schools from Mayor Rahm Emanuel could convince them they should stay.

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Bill Mayeroff / Comments (2)

Law Mon Jul 30 2012

Dispatch from Chicago: Free Speech Meets Urban Planning at Chick-Fil-A

Should the City of Chicago deny Chick-Fil-A zoning relief because of the political opinions of its chief executive, Dan Cathy--and the political spending of the corporate parent?

Courtesy of Alderman Proco "Joe" Moreno and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a bit of an internecine row broke out amongst liberals in trying to answer this question. Immediately after the news was announced, I poked fun at the idea of using state power to punish businesses for their political activities, suggesting city officials were being a bit selective in singling out Chick-Fil-A. After all, Boeing, which was in the running to manufacture killer drones, not only is headquartered here, but is feted by the administration and receives tax incentives.

Things escalated after Adam Serwer, Kevin Drum, Glenn Greenwald and others published articles criticizing Alderman Moreno and Mayor Emanuel for setting a dangerous precedent, denying a business regulatory relief to which they would otherwise be entitled because of the political opinions and activities of its chief executive. Count me among those who think the City of Chicago has no business considering the unrelated political activities of applicants for land use relief when making a decision. This comes with several caveats and excursuses.

One threshold issue: Mayor Emanuel did not say he would deny Chick-Fil-A (and can I just take a moment to tell you how grating it is to type "Chick-Fil-A" over and over again?) any zoning relief, only that he opposed their entry into Chicago personally, in principle, because of the politics they embody. Granted, he was treading on thin ice given his rocky relationship with the Chicago Cubs and the staunchly conservative patriarch of the Ricketts family that owns them -- but expressing his displeasure at their business practices and expressing his opinion as to whether they would be welcome or not -- even encouraging a boycott -- is his own prerogative and in fact his free speech right; arguably, what he was elected to do.

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (4)

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 / Comments (0)

NATO-G8 Mon May 14 2012

Foreign Press: While You're Thinking Globally, Don't Forget Locally

The Grassroots Collaborative, a coalition of community groups, labor unions, and faith communities, has launched an initiative to invite the foreign press in town to cover the NATO Summit to take some time out for a bus tour of Chicago's neighborhoods, to give them a true taste of Chicago.

As part of the initiative, they've launched a video series featuring community leaders from Chicago's disparate neighborhoods talking about the community needs that have gone addressed for generations.

Here's Pastor Victor Rodriguez, from the Little Village neighborhood, talking about the lack of basic facilities faced by the neighborhood's kids, and how just a fraction of the $14 million being spent on parties and entertainment for NATO functionaries could change the lives of hundreds or thousands of Chicago children.

The NATO summit is being boosted by the city's leadership with the same trickle-down rationale Mayor Daley used to justify so much spending (and TIF-ing) in the central business district: by making Chicago a "world-class" destination, money pours in and that benefits everybody. Pastor Vic rightly wonders just why after years of these priorities, so little, if anything, has redounded to the benefit of Chicago's neighborhoods.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (0)

Rahm Emanuel Wed May 02 2012

Mayor Emanuel Talks Live

If you missed Mayor Emanuel's "live show" last night, here's the video. The mayor addresses school reform, food trucks, mental health funding cuts, small business licensing, transportation and infrastructure upkeep, crime levels, minority hiring and more. The first few minutes are just a title screen; skip to about 6:40 for the talk.

Andrew Huff / Comments (0)

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 / Comments (0)

Health Care Thu Apr 12 2012

Politics in Woodlawn: Occupation of the Mental Health Clinic

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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.

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (0)

Chicago Thu Mar 22 2012

Letters to Rahm Demand Restoration of Library Hours, Staff

Library advocates, employees, and AFSCME Council 31 members read letters written by concerned patrons out front of the mayor's office Thursday morning. After a long battle in the recent months Mayor Rahm Emanuel ultimately shortened library hours and cut roughly 100 staff members. Council 31 claims that restoring $1 million in funding would allow the Chicago library system to once again function fully.

"Rather than recalling about 100 part-time pages Mayor Emanuel laid off in January, the city is now working other employees overtime--and paying them time-and-a-half--to do page work such as shelving books," said Anders Lindall, the public affairs director for Council 31. "Since pages earned just $11 an hour, it stands to reason the city's overtime scheme is significantly more costly, but the union's repeated requests for relevant payroll data have gone unanswered. The public deserves to know whether the city is wasting money on overtime by its refusal to bring back part-time pages."

In the initial budget battle the mayor tried to slash $10 million from its coffers and 363 employees. The mayor conceded ground following public outcry and pushback from more than two dozen aldermen. The group delivered nearly 600 letters to a mayoral aide where he said the mayor would "most likely read them."

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Aaron Krager / Comments (0)

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 / Comments (0)

Op-Ed Wed Oct 26 2011

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

by John Norquist and Caitlin Ghoshal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mechanics / Comments (0)

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 / Comments (0)

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 / Comments (0)

Open Government Wed Aug 24 2011

Transparency Ex Post and Ex Ante

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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 / Comments (0)

Chicago Public Schools Wed Jul 27 2011

A Look Behind: Where and How to Send Your Kids to School

On Thursday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that he would not be sending his children to a school run by the CPS, but to University of Chicago Lab School in Hyde Park. Reaction to this announcement varied. One question that could be raised is why Mayor Emanuel didn't send his children to one of the magnet or selective enrollment schools in Chicago.

The deadline to apply to send a child to a magnet or selective enrollment school for the upcoming school year was December 17, 2010. And the process can be challenging.

Continue reading this entry »

Monica Reida / Comments (2)

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.

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon / Comments (0)

Chicago Wed Jun 29 2011

Emanuel: Chicago has Created Jobs but Threatens Layoffs

Mayor Rahm Emanuel pitched a room of more than 700 leaders from businesses, nonprofits, and government at the opening session of CGI America on Chicago's plan to create jobs in the city.

Prior to the speech it seems the Mayor has threatened to layoff hundreds of public employees pitting the value of public sector versus private.

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Aaron Krager / Comments (0)

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 Mon Jun 06 2011

"This is about trying to get information from my city government as a citizen and journalist": The Reader's Mick Dumke on His Lawsuit Against the City

Richard M. is now former Mayor Daley, hopefully moving on to projects that might challenge him a bit more than this softball governing-the-country's-third-largest-city stuff. Mayor Emanuel inherits more than a few challenges from the Daley era-one of which is a lawsuit filed in the final months of Daley's tenure as mayor by ace investigative journalist Mick Dumke of the Chicago Reader. Repeatedly stymied in his attempts to glean information from the city through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, Dumke took the issue to the courts, filing suit against the city claiming that their reasons for denying his requests don't hold any water.

Gapers Block recently spoke with Dumke via phone to discuss the suit, the city's apparently archaic technology, and transparency under the new mayor.

Gapers Block: What's your take on the city's reasons for denying your FOIA requests?

Mick Dumke: The city gave me two reasons for denying my requests. I find them both to be false. The first was that six months worth of the mayor's schedule would pose a security threat, because it could help establish patterns in his coming and going. To which I reply, everyone knows the building and floor where the mayor works. It's preposterous to me that giving the schedule of people he's meeting with in this office would somehow imperil him beyond the information that's already widely known. That, to me, was ridiculous.

More to the point, it's a misapplication of the FOIA. There are some security exceptions to the FOIA, but that's for information we would request about planning for terrorist attacks. It has nothing to do with protecting the coming and going or meeting schedule of an elected official. The attorney general sided with me on that argument.

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Micah Uetricht / Comments (0)

Rahm Emanuel Thu Feb 24 2011

Mayor-Elect's Transition Team

110222_rahm_emanuel_mayor_ap_328.jpg

Mayor-Elect Emanuel released the names and backgrounds of his transition team in a release today. Find the names below the fold.

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (0)

Mayor Tue Feb 22 2011

Make Your Mayor a Meme

Mayoral Candidate Macros

I'm honestly a little surprised nobody thought of this sooner. Now, just in time for Election Day, we offer Mayoral Candidate Macros. Take your pick:

Mayor Rahm
Mayor Chico
Mayor Del Valle
Mayor Braun
Mayor Van Pelt-Watkins
Mayor Walls

Make your own by clicking the button to the right of the macro. Don't forget to share your creations in the comments.

Andrew Huff / Comments (9)

Mayor Fri Feb 11 2011

Obama Endorse-athon

Personally I think President Obama has zero judgment when it comes to local municipal politics, built his Senate campaign by soliciting millionaires who made their fortunes on real estate and high-finance connections, and never lifted a finger to do a single thing to challenge the undemocratic status quo in Chicago when he was purring and cooing in the laps of power to worm his way into higher office, and should therefore keep his nose out of city politics.

All that said, for some reason people think we should care what Obama's opinion is about anything having to do with Chicago. For example, the Emanuel campaign released a radio ad meant as a quasi-endorsement by the President, and some enterprising fellow has posted this endorsement by Obama for Del Valle's City Clerk campaign:

ObamaDelValle by user6530020

Ramsin Canon / Comments (0)

Mayor Fri Feb 11 2011

How to Commemorate the 2011 Election

meeks_nickel.jpgModern mayoral elections in Chicago have usually assumed the aura of a coronation. But these are rare times in our broad-shouldered megalopolis on the lake. Four high-profile and viable candidates -- Rahm Emanuel, Gery Chico, Carol Moseley-Braun and Miguel del Valle -- are out in the campaigning trenches every day. Extend the media lens out a bit and two more candidates, Patricia Van Pelt Watkins and William "Dock" Walls, round out the ballot.

Continue reading this entry »

Ben Schulman / Comments (0)

Election 2011 Fri Feb 04 2011

Dueling Ads: Chico v. Emanuel on the "Rahm Tax"

Why would Rahm Emanuel's campaign bother responding to Chico's ad if they are as far ahead as we have every reason to believe they are?

Ramsin Canon / Comments (3)

Mayor Thu Jan 27 2011

Illinois Supreme Court Reverses Appellate Court, Keeps Rahm On

Decision just released. Analysis to come. Final decision on page 21.

Illinois Supreme Court Decision on Emanuel

Ramsin Canon / Comments (0)

Election 2011 Mon Jan 24 2011

Make Sense, Be Honest: Emanuel's Ballot Access

There's a lot of political schadenfreude going around in reaction to an Illinois Appellate Court decision to remove Rahm Emanuel from the municipal election ballot. A local objector filed suit to prevent Emanuel's candidacy, with the argument that Emanuel failed to meet the requirement that candidates for local office in Chicago both be a qualified elector (i.e., voter) and have "resided" in Chicago for a year before the election.

The latest turn in Emanuel's on-going legal troubles in getting on the ballot was a shock to many (but not all), and has naturally led to indignation at the injustice done to voters (i.e., "Let the voters decide!") and the justice of the universe ("He's buying the election! He failed to meet the letter of the law!")

I implore everyone to take a breath and consider their arguments outside of the election fight context for this one instance; in a post-Bush v Gore society, we can't afford any more "I'll cheer when it helps and screech when it hurts" approaches to legal decisions like this.

The Opinion and Dissent

The decision was split 2-1. The majority opinion is seductively argued. Basically, they build upwards from the idea that the Chicago election law is conjuctive and not disjunctive--in other words, it is an "and" not an "or." Where there is an "and" in a statute, that means that two distinct, non-redundant elements are necessary. The two elements in question here: (1) Is candidate a qualified elector? and (2) did candidate "reside" in Chicago for a year before the election?

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon / Comments (9)

Rahm Emanuel Mon Jan 24 2011

Third Time's the Charm: Rahm Emanuel Off the Ballot

An Illinois appellate court ruled 2-1 today that Rahm Emanuel should be removed from the ballot for mayor in the election next month, on grounds that he did not meet residency requirements. The ruling reverses the decision by the Chicago Board of Elections, which was upheld by the Cook County Circuit Court.

According to the Chicago News Cooperative, the court's ruling stated, "We conclude that the candidate neither meets the the municipal code's requirement that he have 'resided' in Chicago for the year preceding the election in which he seeks to participate nor falls within any exception to the requirement."

This battle isn't over, of course. Get ready for the appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court. And get ready for a fistful of expletives.

Read the full ruling below:

Illinois Appellate Court Decision 1-11-0033

Ben Schulman contributed to this story

Andrew Huff / Comments (0)

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:

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Election 2011 Sat Jan 22 2011

Giving to Chico and Emanuel, by Employer.

Rahm Emanuel and Gery Chico have raised the most money in the mayoral race by far. Below are lists of givers groups by their employer, with the total given by employees. This can give some insight into institutional support and support by sector, as well as give us a sense of who is bundling for whom. Obviously given Emanuel's comically enormous fundraising lead, there is more eye candy there, but these things are all relative. Take a look through the below lists and see if any givers grab your attention.

There is a pattern that shows what was suspected, namely, that Rahm Emanuel has very high-level financial and real-estate sector support, with Chico raising (non-comparatively) lots of money from law firms and construction concerns.

The vast majority of givers fall under three groups: "Homemaker," "Self-Employed" and "Retired." Not all givers were required to detail their employer, which is important to keep in mind.

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon / Comments (0)

Mayor Thu Jan 20 2011

Campaign Finance Reports Coming In, Hilarious.

Rahm Emanuel will get lots of attention (here's some!) for his mammoth and somewhat strange fundraising, but to be fair, that's mostly because his report popped up on the state website early, and there are lots of big names in there. Chico's report, on the other hand, is also considerably big, but will take more time to analyze because the names of local big shots jump off the page less readily.

I've been tweeting about the contents of both men's reports (Del Valle's and Moseley-Braun's are unavailable right now) all night. Here are some highlights from Emanuel's:

$300,000 from Haim Saban, a television producer known for Mighty Morph'n Power Rangers and He-Man.
$200,000 from the Mercantile Exchange, known for being immensely rich and trading derivatives.
$50,000 from Steve Jobs, known for actually owning things people think they own.
$75,000 from Steven Spielberg, known once for E.T. and Indiana Jones, now known for ruining E.T. and Indiana Jones.
$50,000 from Donald Trump, known for being copper-colored and unpleasant.
$100,000 from David Geffen, known for movies and music you used to like.
$100,000+ from the Pritzker family, known for owning Chicago.
$25,000 from Eli Broad, known as the founder of the Broad Foundation which teams with the Gates Foundation to push privatizing-scented education "reform."

More to come!

Ramsin Canon / Comments (0)

Mayor Wed Jan 19 2011

Emanuel on Regressive Local Taxes

Rahm Emanuel's campaign released a plan today to soften regressive taxes--particularly the sales tax--and compensate for the lost revenue by closing loopholes on "luxury" taxes paid primarily by people in upper-income tax brackets:

In comments he made before meeting with Crain's editorial board, Mr. Emanuel said his intention is to make the tax system simpler and less onerous, while also pulling in a bit more cash for the city.

"I believe if you close loopholes and simplify things, you can be more progressive and pull in more revenue," he said. "That's good for everybody."

Under one part of Mr. Emanuel's plan, he would ask the Legislature to extend the current sales tax that applies only to goods to cover services mostly used by upper-income groups -- items like private club memberships, pet grooming, limo rentals, tanning parlors and interior design.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (0)

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:

Continue reading this entry »

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.

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon / Comments (2)

Mayor Thu Jan 13 2011

Can't Paint with Band-Aids

As the ticking clock on Gery Chico's website indicates, the first round of the mayoral election is getting closer by the second. The final stages of the race are taking shape in arguments over who is best qualified to stir Chicago's ship straight as it fiscally sails to the bottom of Lake Michigan. And while the $600+ million budget deficit does balloon over everything, most of the talk emanating from the remaining candidates shows an equal deficit in meaningful ways to reshape and reform Chicago.

Each of the candidates have taken legitimate shots at criticizing some of Mayor Daley's failings, especially in regard to the botched parking meter deal, education reforms, and the continuing debate over privatization of city festivals and assets. There's been talk of lawsuits from Miguel del Valle and Carol Moseley Braun to cancel the parking meter lease, a call by Chico to outift every CPS student with a laptop, and in general, very controlled messages from the seeming front-runner Rahm Emanuel. With few exceptions, the race has simply been about band-aiding things that ail the city at present. Lacking in the discussion thus far is a concrete vision about pushing the city forward in ways that the citizenry interacts with it on a daily basis -- and especially, in the shape of the city's streets.

In flusher times than these, it was easy to see vision blasting forth from Mayor Daley's office, a concrete vision laid out literally in, well, concrete. Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin picked up on this most tangible part of Daley's legacy shortly after the mayor announced his intentions to retire. The recession, and Daley's imminent departure, have obviously changed this dynamic, as current economics continue to force everyone to maximize for the most effect with minimal cost. There's been a glaring lack of ideas and information put out by the remaining candidates for doing so though. Yes, times are extraordinary on local and state levels, but such trying circumstances are also chances to inventively implement low cost initiatives that continue to move the city forward and show the city is capable of action no matter what. More so, Chicago must be in a position to stay ahead of the curve to ensure that when good times return, the city is a position to capture renewed demand of services and its infrastructure without having to play catch-up.

Examples of such initiatives are easily seen in a series of recent low cost fixes in New York: turning Times Square into a pedestrian pavilion, or creating a new network of dedicated bike lanes to the cool cost of just $8.8 million. Similar quality-of-life projects, such as shrinking Lawrence Avenue, have just gotten under way in Chicago, but for the most part, these type of street level and impactful measures are not being discussed in the mayor's race. As easy as it would be to cast stones as this being a mayoral candidate's responsibility to take up, perhaps some of the reason we don't hear much talk about such initiatives is because Chicagoans tend to wait for a vision from the top, and not exert pressure on their elected officials from the ground.

With the city purse empty and Daley vacating the Fifth Floor -- things that seem seismically poised to change the city regardless -- the next few years actually have the potential be a tremendously effective and innovative time period. However things get accomplished, or wherever the initial spark lights, Chicago needs to see itself moving forward and maximizing incremental changes to the cityscape that make it a far more involved place. And whomever ends up occupying the mayor's office should encourage creating new ways the City and its citizens can interact with one another, recognizing that you can't paint a new vision of a place solely using band-aids. There's no better indication of how that process plays out than in design and use of the city's streets.

Ben Schulman / Comments (2)

Election 2011 Mon Jan 03 2011

"Old, Racial Games."

Congressman Danny Davis dropped out of the race for the Mayoralty on Friday, endorsing Carol Mosley-Braun, achieving through attrition what Black civic leaders were unable to achieve through acclamation, a "unity" candidate for Black voters.

Greg Hinz, on his blog at Crain's, laments the playing of the "race card" by Black candidates, saying, "Imagine the reaction if a bunch of white ward bosses had met with the stated goal of selecting one white candidate."

This canard stinks enough now for disposing. There are a number of things one needs to imagine before this thought experiment is properly controlled. Imagine first, for example, that white ward bosses represented city residents who made up about 75% of murder victims; imagine next that those white ward bosses represented city residents still living in neighborhoods that were typically 90-98% racially homogeneous as a legacy of segregation; imagine also that those white ward bosses represented wards where the unemployment rate was double that of the other wards. Suppose those white ward bosses were also hearing from their constituents about how the infant mortality rate was approaching Third World levels in their wards. Perhaps those white ward bosses would then have more incentive to work together under a consensus that wasn't merely, "Keep the other race out of power."

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon / Comments (8)

Rahm Emanuel Tue Dec 28 2010

Rahm Emanuel's Website Hacked Used for Purpose Not Quite Intended For, Which is Significantly Less Interesting.

UPDATE 3:50pm: Jumped the gun. This is a user-generated page; the Emanuel campaign website allows supporters to create their own fundraising page to direct people to. The Obama campaign introduced this into mainstream on-line political campaigning. Apparently there was some failure of whatever monitoring system is in place. Sorry everybody.

As of 3:40pm today, this was up on Rahm Emanuel's mayoral website:

rahmhack.jpg

Click on the image to expand.

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 / Comments (0)

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:

Continue reading this entry »

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 / Comments (0)

Chicago Wed Nov 24 2010

Mayor Harold Washington -- 23 Years Ago This Week

Harold Washington died 23 years ago this week--it'll be 23 years tomorrow. Reqiescat in Pace.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (0)

Mayor Tue Nov 23 2010

Burris Mayoral Run Likely A Longshot

It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that Sen. Roland Burris's name is floating around as a possible mayoral candidate. The soon-to-be former senator is notorious for seeking office regardless of his prospects. Public Policy Polling looked at Burris's chances and it isn't pretty:

Roland Burris is the latest name being bandied about as a possible Chicago Mayoral candidate but our most recent Illinois poll suggests he wouldn't be a formidable candidate there. 35% of voters in the city approved of the job he was doing as a Senator while 37% disapproved.

Certainly those are a lot better than his overall statewide numbers where only 18% of voters approved of him and 57% disapproved. But those are still pretty bad for a sitting Democratic Senator in an overwhelmingly Democratic city. For sake of comparison Dick Durbin's approval in the city was a 62/28 spread.

My guess is that Burris' best possible outcome as a Mayoral candidate would be making a runoff and getting blown out in it.

Daniel Strauss / Comments (0)

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 / Comments (0)

Chicago After Daley Sun Nov 07 2010

African American Leaders Choose Davis For Mayor

This post has been corrected to fix two errors. One was that the coalition had been deliberating for two months. The other was that the SEIU was likely to endorse Rahm Emanuel. I regret both errors.

Rahm Emanuel continues to look like a lock to succeed Mayor Daley but for what it's worth the coalition of black Chicago leaders have finally settled on a coalition candidate: Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-7th). Other names the coalition strongly considered included Carol Mosely Braun, state Rep. James Meeks, and Cook County board of Review commissioner Larry Rogers.

The decision shows that the black community is aware of how formidable an opponent Emanuel has become. Emanuel has name recognition, started out with $1.2 million in the bank (and is rumored to have since raised $3.6 million) and is likely to win the support of a lot of influential Chicago constituencies like the Hyde Park liberals who were early supporters of President Obama (and generous fundraisers). Emanuel has also begun to court Chicago's latino community.

So any candidate the African-American community chose would already have a tough battle ahead. And the pickings were slim. Meeks's social conservatism was likely to repel some potential supporters. According to the Tribune the coalition was worried that Braun's time out of Chicago's political world would hinder her campaign. I've personally been skeptical about Braun's chances since the good people of Illinois decided not to reelect her as a U.S. senator --one-term senators in blue states aren't usually commonplace although I'm sure Roland Burris would disagree. The coalition felt, in the words of its chairman, Ald. Walter Burnett, that Rogers "wasn't ready."

So really, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that Davis won the coalition's support. According to Early and Often, Burnett said that Burnett can raise a lot of money and understands the city.

"He can bring a lot of money home to Chicago," Burnett said [to Early and Often]. "Another thing in his favor is Danny used to be a alderman. He knows how city government works."

Chicagoist notes that the other finalists and Emanuel don't appear to be phased by the endorsement. Emanuel is still driving his Chicago for Rahm juggernaut along and Meeks and Braun haven't shown any sign of dropping out either.

Daniel Strauss / Comments (0)

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)

Chicago After Daley Wed Oct 27 2010

Activists Look to Color Next Chicago Mayor Green

Potential mayoral candidates take note: in a city where politics are often viewed through a prism of black, white, or brown, a broad-based coalition will be demanding that a green hue merit equal consideration. The Chicago-based Environmental Law and Policy Center (EPLC), one of the midwest's foremost think-tanks and advocacy centers, is spearheading a drive to bring issues of sustainability and environmental quality to the forefront in the Chicago municipal elections, which will rear their head the moment the dust settles on the Nov. 2 general election. ELPC already has a survey in progress to show that voters care.

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Jeff Smith / Comments (0)

Mayor Wed Oct 27 2010

Tom Dart Not Running for Mayor

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

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

Dart continues to run for re-election as Sheriff.

And Rahm speaks Spanish.

Ben Schulman / Comments (0)

Mayor Tue Oct 26 2010

Jackson Jr. Not Running For Mayor

This shouldn't come as much of a surprise but Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. isn't going to run for mayor. According to a statement Jackson gave to the Chicago Tribune he's more interested in getting the Abraham Lincoln National Airport built:

"I will continue to work hard on behalf of the people of my district, as I have for the past 15 years, to bring federal resources to Chicago and the South Suburbs for transportation, health care, education and economic development projects," Jackson said in his statement. "I will continue to work toward the construction of the Abraham Lincoln National Airport and the 15,000 jobs it will create by the time it opens for business."

Again, this isn't out of nowhere. Given the recent allegations of the Congressman's connection to the Blagojevich scandal and the revelations of a "social acquaintance" Jackson's viability to win the mayoral race was rather small.

Daniel Strauss / Comments (0)

Mayor Wed Oct 20 2010

Dart's First Financial Disclosure As A Possible Mayoral Candidate

Officially Sheriff Tom Dart is just running for reelection (although it's pretty clear he's going to run for mayor also), and because he's running for Cook County Sheriff again he is legally obligated to make campaign financial disclosures. Earlier this week the disclosure for his PAC Friends of Dart for the period between July 1-Oct. 3 was released.

The earliest donation came in late September, after Mayor Daley announced his intention not to run for reelection so every donation could have been toward Dart the candidate for mayor. Within this period Friends of Dart raised $170,000. Interestingly, $500.00 of that $170k came from Bettylu Saltzman, who The New Yorker's David Remnick described in his book The Bridge as President "Obama's wealthy friend and patron on the North Side." Rahm Emanuel's financial disclosure reports aren't due yet because the earliest and only election he's running for is in February, but it will be interesting to see if one of Obama's big name Chicago backers donated to Emanuel's campaign as well.

Besides Saltzman, other notable contributors include SEIU Local 73 B-Pac ($1,000) and the lobbying firm Nicolay & Dart LLC, the lobbying firm where the Sheriff's brother works. One of the oldest rumors of this still young mayoral race is that Dart would win the backing of the SEIU, which increasingly appears to be more than a rumor.

Did I miss anything? You can read the report below. Please let me know in the comments if you find anything interesting.

UPDATE: Readers have noted that Dart received $10,000 from the Burnham Committee, a PAC for Alderman Edmund Burke whose history has not always been squeaky clean.

Dart Pre Election Form Report

Daniel Strauss / Comments (3)

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)

Rahm Emanuel Mon Oct 18 2010

Rahm Takes Chicago, Willing or Otherwise

ON OCTOBER 1, Rahm Emanuel announced that he would be leaving his post as President Barack Obama's chief of staff to return home to Chicago to run for mayor. By the end of the weekend a few days later, he had released his first campaign video and launched his campaign Web site. The following Monday, he was walking Chicago's neighborhoods on a misnamed "Tell It Like It Is" tour. And by the end of that week, over 27,000 people had "liked" his campaign's Facebook page.

Emanuel made his move fast, with all the confidence of a longtime ally of current Mayor Richard Daley and a veteran operative who knows in the ins and outs of Chicago politics.

Still, Emanuel's reentry into Chicago politics wasn't received well by everybody at City Hall. A number of alderman were less than enthusiastic about Emanuel's campaign. Alderman George Cardenas told the Chicago Sun-Times, "He's gonna come here and run roughshod over everybody? I don't think so. It's a new day. People want a different path. People want somebody they can work with. They don't want another bully. I want someone who's gonna respect me and respect the people I represent."

Cardenas' posturing may signal the potential for behind-the-scenes infighting within the Chicago Democratic Party--not to mention some good political theater. But it's unlikely to affect the outcome of Chicago's mayoral campaign considering that voters have watched Chicago's alderman kowtow to Mayor Daley for the past 21 years.

Emanuel is entering the mayoral race with significant advantages over other candidates. In just the first week of his campaign, the media attention surrounding Emanuel dominated the news in Chicago, far outweighing the combined coverage of all other candidates.

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Bob Quellos / Comments (0)

Feature

How Lawsuits, Lobbyists and Parking Meter Deals Led to Ventra

By Jason Prechtel / 2 Comments

Cubic learned early on that if you don't win a contract through bidding, there are other ways to prevail. More...

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