A lot of Chicagoans want to see Rahm Emanuel's second term as mayor end prematurely. Weeks after the release of the Laquan McDonald dashcam video, calls for Emanuel's resignation have not slackened, and one published poll shows an outright majority of Chicagoans favoring such a resignation. Emanuel has been adamant that he will not resign. In turn, some have looked for some other process by which he might no longer mayor.
The leading contender for such a process is House Bill 4356, introduced by State Rep. La Shawn Ford (D-8). HB4356 provides for a mechanism of recalling the mayor by public election. HB4356 now has five co-sponsors -- perhaps fewer than might be expected, but perhaps more given that the legislature is out of session. While the Tribune took a look at HB4356 this week, publishing what was essentially a hatchet piece, even that article suggests the idea is at least going to stick around for a while.
My take is different from the Tribune. I think recall legislation, whether in the form of HB4356 or some other bill, has a decent shot of passage. It has already lined up some interesting co-sponsors, and prominent politicians such as Lisa Madigan and Pat Quinn have come out in favor of recall at least conceptually. I think it's extremely unlikely that Rahm Emanuel will ever be recalled, but that will not stop legislation from proceeding. The credible threat of recall is important enough that enough political operators will allow it to stay on the table.
HB4356 is of course subject to amendment, and competing bills could also be introduced that would offer different processes. Still, even though it is a largely speculative exercise to consider all of the permutations of how recall legislation might proceed, it is worth stepping back and regarding some of those possibilities. Key distinctions regarding different processes may lead to significantly different results in terms of who might replace Emanuel -- even if no recall ever takes place. The details of pending and prospective state legislation could therefore be of critical importance for the fate of not only Emanuel but the entire city.
Ben Kolak of the Scrappers Film Group contributed to this report.
It was Rahm's night, and he spent it surrounded by friends and family. Riding a hefty 56-44 margin (in a runoff where less than 40 percent of registered voters went to the polls), Mayor Emanuel sealed the deal on a victory he thought he'd won last February. So it was a new, "nicer" mayor who gave a gracious acceptance speech, but mostly he basked in the glow of "Rahm Love" -- and even threatened to give some back.
Stump Connolly, chief political correspondent of The Week Behind, will be covering the Chicago mayoral race with his new pocketcam and offering periodic video reports exclusively on Gapers Block as the campaign unfolds.
Spring is supposed to be time for decluttering your closets. Me, I'm de-cluttering my politics. Mainly by boiling it down to asking candidates, "Whose side are you on?"
Yes, there are other questions. Are you a force for real reform, or a go-along-get-along with the rigged political structure? Will your policies lead to a more equal society or a more unequal one? Do you work for short-term fixes or long-term solutions? Are you fighting the growing surveillance state, or silent while we slide towards 1984? Are you down with war, or doing real work for peace? Will you fight to stave off environmental disaster, or will you be just more political dead weight as crises loom?
But, mainly - coursing through all of the above -- for whom will you govern? In tough fights, will you stand with those who speak truth to power? Whose side are you on?
In the Chicago mayor's race, hard decisions are coming down the pike. Taxes will need hiking no matter who wins. So fairness is paramount.
There have been seven debates so far in this mayoral race, with one more scheduled Tuesday at 7pm on WTTW-Channel 11. Nielsen ratings show the encounters are drawing a relatively small TV audience: 98,000 viewers on public television and about 322,000 on NBC's first head to head debate. But three of those four viewers live outside the city of Chicago, so if you measure only registered voters in Chicago (and factor in 2011's turnout of 42 percent), the direct impact of the debates is negligible -- unless you add in the other media coverage. We asked reporters who have both moderated and covered the debates about the long tail of mayoral debates. In other words, who's watching?
Stump Connolly, chief political correspondent of The Week Behind, will be covering the Chicago mayoral race with his new pocketcam and offering periodic video reports exclusively on Gapers Block as the campaign unfolds.
A Mexican and a Jew go to a Southside Irish Parade. Sounds like the beginning of a bad bar joke, doesn't it? So what do they do when they get there? Run from one side of the road to the other, handing out high fives like crazed lunatics. If you want to run for office, you have to throw yourself out there and do all kinds of silly things. Only in Chicago... in a close mayoral election. Happy St. Patrick's Day.
Stump Connolly, chief political correspondent of The Week Behind, will be covering the Chicago mayoral race with his new pocketcam and offering periodic video reports exclusively on Gapers Block as the campaign unfolds.
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 water.
The problem many Chicagoans have with Mayor Emanuel is not that their feelings were hurt because he's a mean-o.
People who have had their schools close, or seen friends, relatives or neighbors lose their jobs, or lose their mental health care, because of the mayor's policies, would not feel better because that news came to them by singing telegram.
Only a pronounced alienation from the reality of working class life in Chicago could cause someone to think the mayor's problem is one of tone and not substance.
Chicago is waiting for the early bus in the cold. It goes hard on you and it nickel-and-dimes you. You have to be hard to survive and creative to get on. Chicagoans have earned not only being listened to, but a part in running things themselves. Not just quietly obeying imported technocrats and unaccountable "social entrepreneurs."
Last Saturday, we went "Running with Rahm" - a marathon attempt to hit seven campaign offices in a day (with a stopover to call on Willie Wilson). We caught up with him at the 27th and 45th ward offices and discovered the old Democratic machine is anything but dead.
Stump Connolly, chief political correspondent of The Week Behind, will be covering the Chicago mayoral race with his new pocketcam and offering periodic video reports exclusively on Gapers Block as the campaign unfolds.
This is a story of life, love, and property damage. It is a story involving crystallized water, piled some 19 inches deep. The story forces us to confront greed, manipulation, logistics, and physics. The characters include the legendary and the ordinary, from Rahm Emanuel to a bus driver whose name we'll likely never know.
On Tuesday nights, the Chicago Media Bowling League takes to the lanes at the legendary Fireside Bowl. Gapers Block fields a team in the league, and I happen to be on the team. The main reason I am on the team is because I have my own ball. His name is Floyd.
Yes, this is a story about a bowling ball, and yes, this is also a story about a mayoral election. First, though, this is a story about a city and a snowstorm.
Rahm Emanuel opens his re-election campaign with a rally at the Cinespace Studios in Lawndale Dec. 6, 2014. The event is not on the mayor's public schedule, admission is by ticket only, and lines from every speakers are posted on Twitter moments after they are spoken.
Stump Connolly, chief political correspondent of The Week Behind, will be covering the Chicago mayoral race with his new pocketcam and offering periodic video reports exclusively on Gapers Block as the campaign unfolds.
For six months in Chicago, there may be a rare, once-a-decade opportunity to get some answers. If that sentence seems magniloquent, that's because I had to start big since the subsequent sentence is, "That opportunity is the 2015 Chicago municipal elections."
That opportunity is the 2015 Chicago municipal elections. Chicago is defined by confluence; in the first instance, literally, as sitting at the confluence of Lake Michigan, the Chicago River, and the Chicago Portage, the connection between the Great Lakes and Mississippi watersheds. Soon after, the nation's railroad flowed together there; now, it's the confluence of the nation's air travel and trucking. Today, it is also a confluence of some of the country's biggest challenges.
Income inequality, gentrification, rising housing costs, under-resourced schools and creeping privatization, under-served mental health services, police brutality, street crime, segregation, environmental justice, exploitation of undocumented workers, police militarization, un- and under-compensated care work, wage theft, unemployment, over-crowded jails, hyper-criminalization, lack of government transparency, and crumbling infrastructure. These issues intersect on the orange-lit streets of the Great American City. Chicago is a beautiful city and livable city. It is also suffering.
First, the news you already know: Karen Lewis is likely running for mayor. Toni Preckwinkle isn't.
Since the news broke on July 15 that Preckwinkle is out of the race, some dominant themes seem to have emerged. The first, probably best epitomized in Ben Joravsky's "five stages of grief" article, has been lament over the person who was seen as most capable of beating Rahm Emanuel stepping out of the race.
Following closely behind is a reassessment of Lewis. It was easier to imagine what a theoretical Preckwinkle campaign might look like. It's harder to imagine that with Lewis. Preckwinkle was a multi-term alderman and is now Cook County Board President, who has expressed many views on many issues over time. Lewis, as President of the Chicago Teachers Union and having never held public office, has had little occasion to talk about things like potholes, tourism, and appropriate police deployment. There's also the question over what form Lewis's campaign might take, given that it would likely take form outside of existing entrenched political structures.
I took the Green Line out to Garfield Park to meet Amara Enyia at one of her favorite spots, Inspiration Kitchens. The restaurant, located right by the Garfield Park Conservatory, provides jobs and training to homeless individuals. Enyia explained to me that the menu (which looked delicious) is kept affordable so that residents of the neighborhood can actually afford to eat there. As we chatted in this sunny space over lemonade and iced tea, Enyia explained her vision for the city to me.
Enyia is sick of status quo in Chicago politics -- in which resources are focused on the wealthy and many communities are left in poverty--and she has decided to do something about it. Earlier this month, she held a rally to launch her candidacy as a progressive alternative to Chicago's current mayor, Rahm Emanuel.
The business model for Inspiration Kitchens is right in line with Enyia's view of how the city should function -- a local business that lifts up community members, uses local and sustainable ingredients, and provides a positive space for the neighborhood.
The Chicago Sun-Times released a poll on Saturday showing 29 percent of Chicagoans surveyed would vote for Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the upcoming 2015 election.
Other results from the poll showed 27 percent of those surveyed didn't know which potential candidate they would vote for, while 26 percent said they would vote for Cook County Board president Toni Preckwinkle, 10 percent for Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis, 5 percent for Ald. Robert Fioretti (2nd Ward) and 3 percent for former 9th Ward Ald. Robert Shaw.
Emanuel responded to the poll by saying on Wednesday, "There's ups and downs....You stay true to your principles. You stay true to who you are and you don't change. You stay committed to making sure there's results and you stay true to what you believe in."
The Tribune released a story the same day saying an Emanuel campaign aide had emailed the Tribune with story ideas that could paint Preckwinkle in a negative light. She has maintained she is focused on running for reelection for her seat and continuing to improve Cook County.
Preckwinkle recently appeared on WTTW's "My Chicago" and was asked by host Mark Bazer if her and Emanuel get along. She responded with a long pause before saying, "We work together."
Photo courtesy of University of Chicago Institute of Politics' Facebook Page
The University of Chicago's Institute of Politics hosted a discussion last week on leading America's largest cities. The discussion featured Mayors Bill de Blasio, Rahm Emanuel, Eric Garcetti and Kasim Reed, of New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles and Atlanta, respectively.
About a fifth of the country lives in one of these four metro areas.
CAFA has plans to meet with DePaul's president again on Feb. 20, as well as Jeff Bethke, DePaul's treasurer. In the organization's second meeting with the administration, it hopes to make many arguments to persuade the university heads to back out of the project and not pull out a nearly $70 million loan.
An award from the American Institute of Architects is the latest bit of positive attention the new Focal Point Community Campus has received since the plan was announced December 2012.
Focal Point will serve the Little Village area as well as North Lawndale, Pilsen, Brighton Park, Back of the Yards and Archer Heights.
HDR Architecture, the firm behind the project, conceives the campus as "both an anchor and change agent" serving the neighborhoods surrounding the barren post-industrial area once occupied by Washburne Trade School.
The idea for a healthcare campus originated with Guy Medaglia, CEO of Saint Anthony Hospital and Chicago Southwest Development Corporation. According to Jacinda Adams, director of marketing and public relations at the hospital, Mayor Daley approached Medaglia wondering what Saint Anthony would do with the land once occupied by the Washburne. Rather than simply building a new hospital, Medaglia proposed the healthcare campus as a self-sustaining model in a time when state and federal resources are dwindling.
A new facility for Saint Anthony Hospital, which is currently located in a 118-year-old building at 2875 W. 19th St., will be one of many components of the project.
According to the American Institute of Architects, Focal Point stands out as a healthcare facility because of the multi-pronged approach to community health care it aims to accommodate -- the model includes retail space, an educational center, childcare facilities and areas for recreation. Adams said non-profit programs offered at Focal Point will be subsidized by the revenue generated from tenant spaces and other profit-making initiatives to ensure needed services will not falter due to a lack of funding.
Cook County Jail has drawn attention to itself lately for collecting large amounts of Chicago's mentally ill, so much so that it has become the largest mental health facility in Illinois.
The story is particularly inflammatory given Gov. Pat Quinn's corresponding funding cuts to Illinois mental health facilities, and the closing of six Chicago mental health clinics last year.
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart has been vocal in condemning the incarceration of Chicago's mentally ill, who he says are regularly falling through the cracks of an at-capacity (and underfunded) prison system despite his best efforts to provide therapy and medication to those in need.
"This is a population that people don't care about and so as a result of that there are not the resources out there to care for them," Dart said in an interview on CBS 60 Minutes Sunday night.
In saying this, Dart touches on an even larger issue with the U.S. criminal justice system -- it has become a place for unwanted members of society to collect. Of course, those suffering from mental illnesses are but one group who, as we regretfully phrase it, "fall through the cracks." One could easily add to this list the poor, those with drug or alcohol addictions and a heartily disproportionate number of African-Americans and Hispanics.
The city of Chicago is littered with historians. Depending on where you are in the city, people can remember and share stories of buildings, businesses, train lines or movie theaters that used to be in certain locations that are no longer there. For example, many people on the South Side can remember how the Green Line used to stretch all the way to Stony Island, but has now been reduced to only going as far as King Drive. No matter where you are in the city, if you talk to enough people you will find out what used to be at certain corners or how certain buildings used to look.
Our Mayor Rahm Emanuel, though, is betting that the citizens of Chicago will not remember and will forget everything he has done.
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.
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.
The First Lady of the United States is returning home to focus on the issue of escalating violence. Michelle Obama is addressing community leaders at a luncheon April 10, titled, "Working Together to Address Youth Violence in Chicago," hosted by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Everyone loves it when first lady comes to town; it reminds us that we can produce greatness in the midst of raging chaos.
Her speech is bound to be encouraging but will civic organizations and business participation help alleviate the socioeconomic factors in street violence? It's no longer about sunny appearances, glitzy fundraisers and networking opportunities but initiatives and changes that will transform even the most broken.
When Seth Lavin asks questions, he gets answers. Lavin is a local teacher, parent, and education observer, and briefly published a newsletter following Chicago education news. He's a thoughtful man who has recently been active in the school closure process -- or, "process" -- surrounding Brentano School in Logan Square. Frustrated with the Chicago Public Schools' posture during the closures, Lavin recently posted 10 questions to Twitter meant to question CPS's assertion that its school closure process and the related charterification was purely data-motivated (what I and others would refer to as "technocratic").
CPS felt the need to respond to Lavin's thoughtful questions. Their responses are forceful, but hardly get to Lavin's essential point: if school closures don't really save money, if the past closures haven't improved outcomes for children, and if the main criteria for closing schools, "underutilization," doesn't itself harm student outcomes, why is CPS causing these communities so much pain, ignoring the outrage in the community, and undermining community schools?
One could add: and why are they doing it to support and institutionalize a program of charterification when charters can't be said to be as efficacious as they claim, and scandals like the United Neighborhoods Organization (UNO) scandal are becoming more frequent and acute?
I envy Lavin. I doubt CPS would have answered my 10 questions. I don't need to doubt actually; these are precisely the questions critics of the privatization of the Chicago school system have been raising at least since 2005.
Zack 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.
Most coverage of this has focused on the company's plan to focus on broadcast TV and potentially sell off its newspapers (including the Trib and the Los Angeles Times), WGN, and Chicago magazine, among other assets over a several month-long process. Prospective buyers for the newspapers include News Corp. mogul Rupert Murdoch, who has ties to several of the new board members.
However, there's another prominent figure with several links to Tribune Company's new owners -- Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. In fact, individuals connected to all three controlling firms have previously donated money to his political campaigns.
Privatization is the modus operandi of the Emanuel administration, inherited from a clear precedent set forth by former Mayor Daley's policies. The city is broke and many private businesses are ready to put the capital up front to solve our problems -- for a small profit, and sometimes a large cost for us. Several of these recent privatization contracts stand to outlive the people who signed them as well. The Reader reminds of the 99-year-long lease of the Skyway. There's others too. Such as the parking meter deal -- just a few years into a 75-year contract and already the city and the company Chicago Parking Meters LLC have begun to sue each other. At least we only have 71 more years to go.
Chicagoans ought to be concerned about Emanuel's deal to sell off more parts of the city to advertisers for two reasons. One, because of the familiar sentiment that it was brokered under questionable circumstances. And two, because we should start discussing how far we want this city-brought-to-you-by-our-sponsors to go. That second part isn't an easy discussion to frame; calling that process nebulous would be putting it mildly.
I met with skepticism the Tribune's report that Mayor Emanuel responded to CTA riders' consternation over hikes to the cost of daily, weekly and monthly passes by suggesting they can choose to either drive or use public transit:
The mayor suggested commuters who don't like the new fare structure are free to get behind the wheel, setting aside the fact many Chicagoans who rely on the CTA to get to and from work don't have cars. "Now you, as a commuter, will pick. You can either drive to work or you can take public transportation, and the standard fare will stay the same," Emanuel said.
This is a stupendously politically tone-deaf thing to say. But forget about the politics of it; it's wrong on the supposed policy justifications as well.
Actually, let's go back to the politics of it. Mayor Emanuel has faced a persistent perception that he's more friendly to big business interests than to working class Chicagoans. Two reports -- one from the Reader and one from the Trib -- have focused on the mayor's meeting agendas, full as they with millionaires and lacking in community voices. The first teachers' strike in a generation aided in this perception, particularly given articles like this one from Reuters pointing out how out-of-town wealthy donors were bankrolling his fight against teachers. Early in his Mayoralty he faced outrage over the closure of mental health clinics for poor Chicagoans.
Whatever the reality of his concern for working-class Chicagoans, the perception isn't great.
Last week began with the Jewish New Year, Constitution Day and a continuing teacher's strike at the Chicago Public Schools.
Rosh Hashanah celebrates a new beginning and new opportunities. It comes at the beginning of the school year as well — a chance to learn new things for millions of students.
Usually, we overlook Constitution Day, which was Monday, Sept. 17. At the University of Illinois at Chicago this year we celebrated it with a discussion of the First Amendment to the US Constitution by Loyola Law Professor George Anastaplo and the kickoff of a campaign to register hundreds of college students to vote in this year's election.
The First Amendment, on which we focused at UIC's Constitution Day, states in part: "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
Just a couple days prior, the also-controversial Vice magazine posted the first episode of their two-part documentary, Chicago Interrupted, about the organization on their website. Like last year's critically-acclaimed documentary, The Interrupters, the web mini-series interviewed local "violence interrupters" Tio Hardiman and Ameena Matthews while showing raw footage of their attempts to mitigate brewing street conflicts. After playing audio of off-camera gunfire at the end of a botched interruption attempt, the second part (released Monday) ended with Matthews expressing hope to Vice's film crew that their documentary would start conversations and compel people to stand up against the cycle of violence. She added, "I don't want people, America, Chicago to get desensitized...to what's not right."
As it turns out, Vice is using Chicago Interrupted to start conversations. Unfortunately, those conversations are less about Chicago violence and more about a fantasy action video game called Dishonored. In fact, the CeaseFire doc is a prominent part of a special multimedia program Vice created just to market the game.
Last month, Rahm Emanuel made a curious remark in an interview with Bloomberg BusinessWeek about his plans to upgrade Chicago's infrastructure. While explaining how his newly-created Chicago Infrastructure Trust would operate, he claimed that the United States had the world's most capitalist economy, yet was also "the only economy that still does its infrastructure on a socialist model, state-owned."
Rahm's old boss, President Barack Obama, currently oversees the country's supposed "socialist" road-building enterprise. But if he gets re-elected, he may actually follow Rahm's lead in advocating more private investment in infrastructure projects. In fact, he has been trying to create his own version of the Chicago Infrastructure Trust on the federal level since before he was elected.
On 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.
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.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel's recent proposal to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana sparked wide debate in the media. The Chicago Tribunequestioned it, Ben Joravsky of the Chicago Reader called for full legalization, and Whet Moser of Chicago Magazine questioned whether legalization in Chicago was really possible.
Give it up for Mayor Emanuel, who, faced with a shortage of public safety resources (which moved the police union to put up a billboard demanding more officers), has come out publicly in support of legislation that would make possession of less than 15 grams (about 0.5 ounces) a municipal infraction subject to fine, but not arrest unless circumstances otherwise warrant them. Mick Dumke of the Reader has done yeoman's work on the issue of marijuana arrests and all the resources they suck up (and the needlessly long rap sheets they generate).
Police Superintendent McCarthy has said that arrests for small quantities of marijuana tied up 45,000 hours of police time last year. The movement to decriminalize possession (as opposed to trafficking) is growing, with fifteen states decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana.
The Fraternal Order of Police has not yet issued a statement about the possible legislation.
A bit about Chicago's teachers voting to authorize a strike should talks with the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) break down:
First, a strike authorization is not a call for a strike. Unions are, by statute and traditionally, democratic institutions. Leadership is elected and by-laws approved by the membership. Some organizational decisions require a direct vote by membership (e.g., election of the union leadership) and some through representative bodies--in the case of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), the House of Delegates, composed of delegates elected by members. Because public sector employees are not covered by federal labor law, they are regulated by state laws. So state statutes give public sector workers the right to organize and determine the rules by which they operate. Thus, members delegate authority to the union leadership and other bodies--for example, negotiations are conducted by a negotiation committed chosen by the membership. Similarly, the membership delegates authority to call a strike action by vote. That is what happened; the membership voted to permit leadership to call a strike should one become necessary.
Chicago's teachers voted nearly unanimously to permit a strike should negotiations fail. Ninety-two percent of members voted, and ninety percent of members (but ninety-eight percent of those voting) expressed support for a strike should one be necessary. The analog would be Congress voting to give the President authority to conclude a trade treaty (called "fast-track") without having to return to Congress for ultimate approval; except the strike authorization was more democratic, since all members were permitted to vote.
Beginning today, over 20,000 Chicago teachers will vote on whether or not to authorize their bargaining committee to call for a strike should negotiations with the Board of Education over new contract terms fail. For authorization, 75% of non-retiree union members would need to approve. The voting takes place over three days. This high threshold is the result of legislation passed last year. As state public employees, teachers' collective bargaining rights and terms are governed by state, rather than federal, law.
The legislation in question, known as SB7, was passed after intense and stealth lobbying efforts by Stand for Children, a well-funded non-profit that operates at the state level to encourage entrepreneurial changes to public education that incrementally privatize school systems. Stand for Children co-founder Jonah Edelman famously bragged at a conference that they used access to important and influential political figures like Rahm Emanuel and Michael Madigan, and insiders like Jo Anderson to tighten restrictions on the Chicago Teachers Union. Part of the strategy was to take away one of the union's more potent tools, the strike threat. Unable to take away the right to a work stoppage, Stand settled for a 75% approval threshold.
Now, it is looking like Stand's strategy might backfire, if teachers ultimately vote to authorize a strike. After all, the question teachers will vote on is whether to authorize a strike, not whether to go on strike. Arguably, winning an authorization vote by 50%+1 would not be a real show of strength. A significant portion of teachers would have expressed their opposition to a strike, and maintaining the strike, once called, would be exceedingly difficult. The organizational capacity teachers build by being forced to get over 75% means a resilient strike, should things come to that, and a battle-tempered organization prepared to push hard during negotiations.
Besides the mechanics of it, there are the underlying social conditions that are bringing this to a head.
When civic leaders like Mayor Emanuel, his billionaire backers on the World Business Council, or the Commercial Club, talk about making Chicago a "global city," they don't quite mean making it a shining beacon to the world's reformers struggling to make the world a better, more egalitarian place; they mean they want to make it attractive to the already wealthy and powerful. They want to showcase it as a potential playground for those who can enjoy its luxuries; in a piece for Huffington Post, Tammy Webber quotes Richard Longworth from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs:
"We ought to be known for something more than the old stockyards, smog or Al Capone, but we aren't," said Richard Longworth, a senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. "People are surprised when they visit, and that's why" Mayor Rahm Emanuel wanted the summit.
"We have to stop being a surprise," Longworth added.
When you do that, you create a stark relief between those who enjoy the recreation and those who can't pay the price of admission.
The litany of protests planned for the NATO Summit reflect this. If Chicago is to be a locus for convening the powerful, the powerless are going to want to confront them. Activists and reformers from all over the world are targeting the NATO Summit for what it represents: war as a priority, even while a devastating recession has thrown tens of millions of families into the dread of economic insecurity.
Today, Code Pink is marching on President Obama's reelection headquarters to protest "endless war" in Afghanistan and the killing of innocent families with remote-controlled drone attacks. On Saturday, the Mental Health Movement is planning to protest in Mayor Emanuel's neighborhood against the closure of six mental health clinics at the same time the Mayor and his business supporters are raising tens of millions of dollars to provide refreshments and entertainment for some of the most powerful people on Earth.
In turn, the city has a choice; are we going to treat activists and protesters as criminals-in-waiting and militarize our public safety (and expand our already troubling surveillance state) to the same degree that we become more and more global a city? Or accept that with global money come global problems and preserve Chicago's historical place as a center of intellectual and organizational freedom?
The introduction of equipment like the Long Range Acoustic Device, or LRAD, is not a good sign. Excellent at dispersing people because of the intense pain and sometimes long-term damage it causes, LRADs win the approbation of police forces because they appear harmless, even while causing real damage--in the words of some experts, a form of "acoustic assault."
Just as the city has been thrown into turmoil for its residents--street closures leading to business closures, traffic snarls making it difficult for people to move around, and intense security cordons that are discouraging residents from moving through areas of the city they'd otherwise enjoy on a weekend.
As we become more of that type of "global city," with more permanent institutions meant for the global elite, will a sanitized corridor controlled and maintained by militarized police empowered with new surveillance tools itself become institutionalized? In other words, is this the first of occasional nuisances, or the trial run for the long-term "globalization" of a portion of our city meant to create a comfortable space for the global elite at the expense of local desires, wishes, and needs?
It needn't be. Insofar as hosting events does indeed bring needed money into the city, that's a good thing; and protests and activists are integral to reminding the city's leadership why we need that money: to promote economic security for all of us and remember our priorities.
A global city is one that provides an example to the world, not a warning.
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.
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.
This morning a coalition of organizations opposed to Mayor Emanuel's proposed Infrastructure Trust Fund urged City Council Finance Committee members to vote on the proposal, calling it "the Great Chicago Sell-Off."
The idea of an infrastructure trust is to avoid funding needed and desirous infrastructure projects--such as public transit upkeep and expansion, building modernization, etc.--with debt. So instead of issuing general obligation bonds, attractive to borrowers because they're backed by property and other taxes the city has unlimited power to raise, the city would get private capital from wealth funds, banks, and other institutions, on the idea that the project would be administered by and in part controlled by that institutions, which would earn a return on its investment over the term of the interest.
So as a hypothetical example, the City wants to build a bus rapid transit line up and down Milwaukee Avenue. Rather than issue bonds that put the city further in debt, members of the Infrastructure Trust like, Macquarie and JP Morgan, put up $500 million to widen Milwaukee Avenue, put in the appropriate curbs, compensate the parking meter consortium for the lost spaces, buy the buses, and put in street signs and benches. In return, Trust members would be given a property interest in the BRT for a period of say 50 years, with the revenue generated either being divvied or going directly to them, either in full for the period of the agreement or up to a pre-defined ceiling that allows a nice return.
In the abstract, there's no real problem with this. We as a city don't have a lot of options. Illinois is broke beyond fixing and the federal government lost its appetite for funding major urban infrastructure projects generations ago. The general atmosphere of anti-tax hysteria makes general obligations a safe investment in theory but risky in practice. If these private institutions are willing to put up the money to develop the city's infrastructure for a similar or even slightly higher rate of return that the city would pay to bond holders, then there is no real loss to the city.
The abstract privatization isn't the problem, of course. It's the reality of it. Consider the hypothetical. In that hypothetical, the Infrastructure Trust would need to reimburse another privatizer, the consortium that bought the parking meter concession, for loss of spaces. This is a considerable cost over the life of a project. The city's agreement with that consortium tied our hands when it comes to planning our own city.
Consider in turn this story about the privatized downtown parking garages. In that agreement, the City promised not to permit competing parking garages to open up nearby. From the investor's point of view, this makes sense; they want a safe investment. From the public's point of view, it's an outrage. First of all, it's hard to see how such a promise serves the public interest, since it reduces competition for parking and thus protects a high-priced monopoly. But also, it seems like an outrageous delegation of the city's general legislative powers.
Privatization is supposed to make things more "efficient" by introducing "market-signals." In reality, however, privatization of public assets usually means binding the city's legislature--meaning us, the people--to long-term agreements that bind our ability to plan and design our city as we please, and keep us indebted to private interests, many of them with no real interest in making Chicago a better place.
A similar problem popped up with the parking meter concessionaire, too as a result of disability parking and its supposed deleterious effect on their bottom line. These agreements also tend to include arbitration agreements that are costly and keep "the City" (i.e., you and I) from going to Court over disagreements in an adversarial system that lets sunlight into operations.
Concessionaires are looking for safe, long-term investments. The more city assets they de facto control, the safer their investment, because the density of privately-controlled city infrastructure cuts into revenue generating opportunities for the city (which in turn makes it more expensive to issue bonds).
The safest investment are those that are most amenable to making a profit--more "monetizable" if you will. This inverts the rationale of infrastructure building. It's why Chicago has such a maddeningly redundant train system. The original lines were privately built, operating under charters granted by the City Council. The train operators knew the best and quickest way to make their money back was to have their train line touch the central business district, thus the creation of the Loop. But the whole point of infrastructure is not to maximize existing revenue opportunities, but to build up and out--to create new ones, even where there is risk, serving the underserved, and experimenting with new forms of infrastructure.
From a planning perspective, the concern with an Infrastructure Trust is that it privatizes our infrastructure decision-making. Rather than building and developing for the common good and to serve the underserved, we will be building and developing only where it is safe to do so, for the smallest cost for maximum return. And where such a decision may conflict with grander, more expensive, and potentially less lucrative plans, the binding, long-term agreements wins out.
As the story on the Monroe Garages indicates, these agreements are also often counter-productive. They lock the city into protecting non-competitive behavior for extremely long terms, with penalties that make forcing change or cancelling agreements costly enough to inhibit public innovation. It makes no sense for the city to agree not to permit competing parking garages, just as it made no sense for the city to guarantee the existence of parking spaces--and think how this inherently impacts the city's ability to move towards a more transit-friendly, bike-friendly planning posture. Consistent privatizing of assets creates a hodge-podge of potentially conflicting property interests owned by outside parties that keeps the city--us--from planning for a future that could, and should, look quite different from today.
From a democracy perspective, the Trust presents the twin problems accountability and transparency. Aldermen had to fight to get the Mayor to include a legislator on the body that makes decision--presumably an alderman he appoints--which does not augur well for the accountability and responsiveness of this body. It creates another appointed body immune to public pressure that further concentrates power in the person of the Mayor.
If we want a legislature that is independent of the Mayor, it'd be nice if it had some power distinct from his. With such limitless control over the Board of Education, the CTA, the CHA, and all the city's planning bodies, much of the reason the City Council can't cultivate any independence is that it has very little operational authority.
Asset privatization will create some jobs, it will modernize or improve some public assets, but it will not do so in a way that is publicly-driven, held well to account or even necessarily money-saving in a long-term sense. It isn't an inherently bad idea, particularly given the absence of lots of other options.
The problem in other words isn't privatization per se, it's privatization per quod.
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."
Supporters and employees of the Chicago Public Library (CPL) will hand-deliver more than 500 letters tomorrow to the office of Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The letters were written by patrons of the CPL and gathered from SaveChicagoLibraries.com, according to a press release from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31.
SaveChicagoLibraries.com was home to a petition against the cuts to library funding, services and staffing that was part of Mayor Emanuel's 2012 Budget. As a result of laying off 181 employees--although AFSCME says the number is 176, the 76 neighborhood branches were closed on Mondays. After outrage from Aldermen and Chicagoans, Mayor Emanuel restored some funding and positions at the CPL. In the aftermath of the situation, Mary Dempsey resigned as the commissioner of the CPL in January and was replaced by Brian Bannon.
The letters that are being delivered will also be read aloud. According to the press release, this is modeled on a prior protest, "Story Time at City Hall."
According to the press release, the laid-off employees could be returned to work at barely $1 million a year.
The protest will occur at 10:15 a.m. tomorrow at City Hall.
My disdain for primary elections comes from living in Iowa. After turning 18 and moving back to Iowa--I had been living in Chicago on my 18th birthday--I obtained a new driver's license and registered as an independent. June arrived and I drove over to the University of Northern Iowa bookstore to vote.
I was asked if I wanted a Republican or a Democratic ballot.
There was a problem with this: There were some Republican candidates I wanted to vote for due to their stance on multiple issues and some Democratic candidates I wanted to vote for. Flummoxed, I said "Democratic" and voted with a party I did not belong to.
According to a press release from Grassroots Collaborative, the WBC was supposed to raise $65 million for the G8 Summit's expenses for security and social events. Those who will gather outside of the WBC offices will call on the WBC to utilize its clout to raise $100 million.
According to the press release, the requested amount of money could create 41,666 summer jobs for teenagers, 10,810 parent patrols for a school year or 4,358 positions for people to watch vacant foreclosed properties. Grassroots Collaborative feels that these jobs would help create safer neighborhoods.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel is the chairman of the board of directors for WBC.
Mr. Mayor, why won't you tell this woman what your staff was saying about her dead grandchild?
That's the devastating question Chicago Tribune reporter David Kidwell leaves unasked at the end of his forceful article on the Mayor's refusal to release his staff's internal communications regarding the city's plan to build a network of red-light cameras across the city. I'm not giving a blockquote to encourage you to read the article. Go ahead, then come back. Or, open it in a new tab and switch back and--you know what, you know what you're doing.
The full transcript of Kidwell's contentious interview with the Mayor, released by the Tribune as a companion piece to the article, is a winding, gruff dialog between approaches to transparency, accountability, and even democracy. At times frankly insulting ("I mean this insulting so get it right") and at times sounding like legal wrangling in a courtroom ("You said there is a disconnect. That's a conclusion. How do you know there's a disconnect?"), Kidwell and Emanuel argue about just what transparency means and just how voters are supposed to hold their elected leaders accountable.
Throughout the interview, the Mayor is frustrated that the Tribune seems to have decided what "transparency" means--e.g., full access to internal administration decisionmaking--and passes judgment on his commitment to his transparency pledge based on their interpretation. The Mayor repeatedly chides the Tribune for ignoring the will of the voters on the matter--diminishing the Tribune's concerns as out of step with the type of transparency people want. This is, at first glance, the "voters don't care about process, just results" philosophy.
But that's not all it is, and--I can't believe I'm writing this--I have to side, with some reservations, with the Mayor.
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.
A little friction met the Emanuel administration's to-date smoothly-rolling program of partially privatizing the school system this week. First, a report in the Tribune indicated that charter schools, which are privately run schools operated on tax money, do not perform any better than public schools on average and in many cases are considerably worse. Particularly troubling for privatization advocates--who are found in both political parties and in a wide swath of the political spectrum--was the suggestion that it is in fact poverty that drags down those charters performing worse. This fact is often brought up by privatization opponents and downplayed by its champions as mere excuse making. From the Tribune report:
More than two dozen schools in some of the city's most prominent and largest charter networks, including the United Neighborhood Organization (UNO), Chicago International Charter Schools, University of Chicago and LEARN, scored well short of district averages on key standardized tests.
In two of the city's oldest charter networks, Perspectives and Aspira, only one school -- Perspectives' IIT Math & Science Academy -- surpassed CPS' average on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test, taken by elementary schoolers, or the Prairie State Achievement Examination, used in high schools.
Next, Emanuel's choice to spearhead his school-turnaround effort brought the word "cronyism" into coverage of his administration, always a quick way to convince Chicagoans the new boss is the same as the old boss. This week the Emanuel administration announced a turbochargedCompStat program for the public schools and the expansion of the privately run Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) program, handing them six more schools to turn around. AUSL has a mixed to poor record with school turnarounds, and is connected to the Mayor through a number of campaign and policy staffers and his choice to head the Board of Education, David Vitale, raising questions of the propriety of the choice. Interestingly given the mantra of privatization advocates that public school supporters use poverty as an excuse, AUSL head Martin Koldyke defended their record by blaming kids for being slow to catch on.
Emanuel was reportedly testy when asked if there was a conflict of interest in his choice of AUSL given his political connections to them. Asked directly if there was a conflict of interest, the Mayor answered a wholly different question:
It is not a conflict to give kids a good education. It's the responsibility I have as mayor.
Whether there was a conflict or not, this controversy, if it is that, lays bare one of the problems inherent to privatization of public trusts, namely, the ease with which, at worst, actual conflicts arise, and at best, the appearance of conflicts arise. Mayor Emanuel's political connections to AUSL leadership are undeniable; whether they motivated in whole or in part his decision to hand them more business isn't as germane as the ease with which he is able to hand them business, the lack of meaningful checks to that ability, and the absence of transparency in the decision. It is worth nothing that another major charter operator, United Neighborhoods Organization-Charter School Network (UNO-CSN), is headed by a co-chair of Emanuel's Mayoral election campaign, Juan Rangel. From the outside looking in, the lesson is obvious: if you want to build a successful school operator, at the very least it helps to have strong political connections.
Now that the privatization train has started rolling, it will be more and more difficult to stop, and the Mayor's ideological dedication to the principles underlying certainly grease those tracks. It is unfortunate that the years-old warnings that charters were unproven went unheeded. We now are looking at a class of powerful and connected rent-seekers with intense financial and professional incentives to preserve the system. If it bears out that charter schools offer not meaningful advantage over public schools, we have solved no problems while likely creating a whole new class of them.
The City Council voted today to pass Mayor Emanuel's budget unanimously, 50-0. Chicago News Coop reporters Hunter Clauss and Dan Mihalopoulosdescribed Aldermen's comments as "near worshipful" though not without acknowledging the necessary pain that will come with cuts to front-line workers, library and mental services, and elsewhere.
The budget affects deep cuts, particularly around staffing, to close the $600+ million budget deficit the city faced. The budget came in at $6.3 billion. Aldermen lauded the Mayor for being inclusive in the planning process. While under Mayor Daley unanimous budget votes were often used as evidence that the Council was a mere "rubber stamp" for the Mayor's prerogative, a unanimity does not necessarily entail that. Aldermen seemed to feel like they got their words in during the preparation process, which is arguably much more important than voting against the final budget. Tracking how the budget has changed from its initial form to today would be more instructive; unfortunately that process is not particularly transparent, or at least self-evident.
AFSCME Council 31, which represents thousands of city workers, released a statement upon passage of the budget bemoaning the deep cuts to basic and needed social services:
"We're very disappointed that aldermen have voted to reduce access to libraries, cut mental health services, privatize health clinics and cut hundreds of good jobs. Many aldermen voiced serious concerns about these cuts today. While the vote is over, the work of minimizing these harmful cuts is an ongoing process in which AFSCME and our labor and community allies will be fully engaged.
Yesterday, mental health advocates staged a sit-in outside the Mayor's office that lasted into the evening to protest the cutting of services at about half of the city's mental health facilities:
The second protest will occur at 6pm and will address the proposed privatization of primary care clinics run by the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH), closure of mental health clinics in the city and proposed layoffs from the Department of Family and Support Services, according to a press release from AFSCME. The protest will be a candlelight vigil, and participants will speak-out against the planned cuts and closures. AFSCME Council 31, STOP, Mental Health Movement, City employees affected by the cuts and advocates will be participating.
Mayor Emanuel's press shop is tireless. They must have three shifts going at full speed. They are particularly busy on days when the City Council is in session, as they send out press releases regarding the Mayor's initiatives and how they fared. Here's what the Mayor applauded, eased, introduced, commended, and proposed:
MAYOR EMANUEL APPLAUDS CITY COUNCIL FOR ENDING HEAD TAX FOR CHICAGO BUSINESSES
Today, Mayor Rahm Emanuel applauded the City Council for passing a City ordinance that ends the City's "Head Tax" - fulfilling a pledge made by the Mayor and the Administration to phase out the tax which is a deterrent for businesses to start and grow in the City. Under the Mayor's plan the "Head Tax" will be reduced by 50 percent in 2012 with its complete elimination occurring in 2014.
As part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's preliminary 2012 budget [PDF], all Chicago Public Library (CPL) branch locations will have eight hours cut from their schedule. In addition to those hour cuts, the city announced that 284 positions would be cut, approximately a third of the staff for the system.
Among the positions that will be cut are librarians, library clerks and library pages. Pages are part-time employees responsible for shelving and other tasks that keep the library running smoothly.
According to AFSCME Council 31 spokesman Anders Lindall, in addition to the library employees that will be laid off, there will also be 268 vacant positions that will be eliminated.
"Given the expansion of the library system, that capacity is needed," Lindall said.
The CPL has experienced deep cuts in the past two years, starting in 2009 when then Mayor Richard M. Daley laid off more than 100 library employees. The following year, hours were cut in an attempt to get by with a reduced staff.
"What we're seeing from Mayor Emanuel would be an action that would repeat and compound Mayor Daley's mistake," Lindall said.
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.
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.
According to a press release from the Mayor's office, the reduced hours are expected to save the city $7 million. The press release says, "While many other cities across the country are shuttering libraries in these tough economic times, Chicago will keep all of its libraries open by reducing service hours across the board. Despite reducing the weekly hours, all of the programs and services Chicagoans use at the libraries will remain intact."
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.
The Chicago Inspector General, Joseph Ferguson, released a report this morning with recommendations to the city government as to how it could close its considerable budget deficit.
There is constant harping in this space (e.g., from me) about the need for democratic control of institutions and meaningful public input into public processes. Any more than a little complaining about constant deference to more or less unaccountable technocrats. Make no mistake, though--technocrats and experts--and insular bodies--do have an important role to play. One of the best things about "third party" bodies that are insulated from politics yet still part of government is that they can make findings and issue recommendations free of the type of political considerations that the elected incorporate into everything. (Which is just one of many reasons why the IG's office should be well-funded and protected from meddling).
At the same time, being part of government means the recommendations these bodies make carry more weight, generate more instant attention, and carry some imprimatur of officialdom. So I read the IG's report with some interest late last night and early this morning.
One of the things that will strike you right from the executive summary is that a number of these recommendations could save enormous sums annually with fairly straightforward actions. It takes only another moment before you realize that they would be unpopular either with powerful special interests or with casual voters. Creating a 1% city income tax, for example, would cause a stir, and Mayor Emanuel has not shown the particular style of political courage necessary to try something like that. Similarly, this administration is unlikely to take the common sense step of eliminating some of the legions of appointed supervisors who supervise ever fewer employees but enjoy high salaries and benefits.
By Ferguson's estimation, that latter change could save the city as much as $100mn a year.
The option that generated buzz this morning was transforming Lake Shore Drive into a toll road, which is unfortunate because there are a lot of other common sense suggestions that, in the short term at least, could balance the city's budget without necessarily wreaking havoc among working families, including (from a release):
· Eliminating all Tax Increment Financing Districts to increase tax revenues to the City's general fund by an estimated $100 million annually
· Increasing the work week of all City employees to 40 hours to save approximately $40 million annually
· Create a Commuter Tax estimated to generate $300 million in annual revenues
· Implement Congestion Pricing for vehicular traffic that is estimated to generate an additional annual revenues of $235 million
· Broadening the City's Amusement Tax which would produce an additional $105 million in annual revenues
A lot of this is necessarily unlikely. They would be major, if simple, changes, and Emanuel's entire political career is one of risk-aversion, and the City Council is not really equipped to take any initiative. Still, having a body in government that can put forward options and recommendations like this, to at the very least make the public aware of what is conceivable and possible--and what politicians are unwilling, for their own person political reasons, to do--is essential to good government.
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.
Yesterday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel celebrated closing in 100 days as the leader of our city by touting some of his accomplishments. Some of the steps forward include better transparency and saving taxpayer money but he also accompanied it with a public opinion poll on the side.
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.
The City is currently faced with a $635.7 million deficit for the upcoming budget year. Since the City is cutting programs that seem as if they would be necessary in order to save money, what could possibly be cut, or reduced in funding, to save the budget?
Taste of Chicago is, for those unfamiliar, a massive food festival that occurs for 10 days in Grant Park. In order to save money, in the past five years the Chicago Country Music Festival has been eliminated and merged with the festival, along with several other music festivals. This was the first year that the Chicago Park District ran the festival, as opposed to the Department of Special Events, which merged with the Department of Cultural Affairs. Prior to leaving office, Daley did attempt to privatize Taste of Chicago, but only found one bidder, who wanted to charge admission to the festival.
Here's the important thing: Taste of Chicago is free for admission, which is great if you're there for the music. If you want to eat the food, you have to buy tickets and use those tickets to pay for the food.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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:
On Monday, the Tribune reported on Mayor Emanuel's first weekend in office, spent working with the University of Chicago on a package of zoning and permitting issues. The University is in a constant state of reshaping Hyde Park according to its growth and development plans, and the City wants to ensure that those plans jive with the the City's and resident's hopes and plans for the area.
The Tribune's story focuses on Emanuel's roll-up-your-sleeves approach to making government "smarter," a theme that was integral to the Mayor's marketing package during the election season. Specifically:
The first actions of any new executive are heavy with symbolism...So what did Mayor Rahm Emanuel do during his first weekend in office? He went to City Hall on Saturday morning in jeans and a dress shirt and met with top officials from the University of Chicago to hammer out an agreement on, of all things, zoning and construction permits.
It was a nice little story about a new Mayor dedicated to overhauling government. What jumped out at me though was that in a story about major development plans in Hyde Park, Hyde Park's alderman, Will Burns, was not mentioned.
Apparently, Burns noticed this too, because within a few hours, he posted this on Twitter (read from the bottom up):
Cruising down the Milwaukee Avenue bicycle lane towards the Loop in brilliant sunshine, it occurs to me that we've been blessed with perfect weather for a momentous occasion, the passing of the torch from Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley to mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel. The inauguration is taking place at Millennium Park's Pritzker Pavilion, the gleaming stainless-steel explosion that will serve future generations as the strongest visual reminder of Daley's reign. It's surely one of his proudest accomplishments as mayor.
When I reach Millennium Park there's a festival atmosphere and the police are in an unusually good mood. At the Washington Boulevard entrance to the park a few officers cheerfully direct me to the Randolph Street entrance, where a few other friendly cops send me pedaling back south to the Monroe Street entrance. There I'm finally able to lock up my bike and go through a bag search, metal detector and wand wave-down by some very polite security guards.
I'm a little late for the event and I've missed the musical prelude of the Chicago Children's Choir performing "One Day" by Hasidic reggae star Matisyahu, possibly a nod to Emanuel being the city's first Jewish mayor. But I'm in time to hear the breathtaking voice of Grammy winner Heather Headley singing the National Anthem.
Mayor Emanuel's PR shop released a list of his first actions in office: the issuing of executive orders meant to limit the revolving door between government and the lobbying industry, and re-issuing orders by our last Mayor, Mayor...uh...what was his name again? Anyway, by Mayor What-His-Name limiting who could give to the Mayor, as well as lobbying procedures and restrictions.
From the release:
This afternoon, Mayor Emanuel signed three Executive Orders creating significant new ethics rules, fulfilling his campaign pledge to enhance transparency and accountability in City government. The Mayor also signed three Executive Orders on ethics originally issued by Mayor Daley.
The first Executive Order prohibits new appointees from lobbying City government for two years after leaving the Administration. Lower level employees are barred from lobbying the departments or agencies in which they work and appointees to boards and commissions are barred from lobbying the board or commission on which they sit.
The second Executive Order protects City employees against pressure to give gifts or make political contributions to their superiors, including department heads and the Mayor.
The third Executive Order prohibits City lobbyists from making political contributions to the Mayor.
Mayor Emanuel also reissued three important Executive Orders on ethics that were originally signed by Mayor Daley. These include a ban on political contributions to the Mayor from the owners of companies that do business with the City, an order requiring City employees to comply with the hiring oversight rules adopted in connection with the Shakman litigation, and an order reaffirming that it is the duty of every City employee to report wrongdoing to the Inspector General.
Reserve judgment on their potential efficacy, though: as of five p.m., the Mayor's press office is saying the executive orders themselves are not available. Request for clarification as to whether the actual language of the orders was complete was not returned as of five p.m. We will update with any clarification.
UPDATE, 5:35 p.m.: The Mayor's office has released the executive orders, find them below the jump.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel's Inaugural Address
May 16, 2011
Remarks as prepared:
Honored guests, Mr. Vice President, Dr. Biden, Mayor Daley, First Lady Maggie Daley, Members of the City Council and other elected officials, residents and friends of Chicago.
Today, more than any other time in our history, more than any other place in our country, the city of Chicago is ready for change.
For all the parents who deserve a school system that expects every student to earn a diploma; for all the neighbors who deserve to walk home on safer streets; for all the taxpayers who deserve a city government that is more effective and costs less; and for all the people in the hardest-working city in America who deserve a strong economy so they can find jobs or create jobs -- this is your day.
As your new mayor, it is an honor to fight for the change we need and a privilege to lead the city we love.
We have much to do, but we should first acknowledge how far we have come.
Mayor-Elect Rahm Emanuel announced his selection of Newark's Garry McCarthy for the top post in the Chicago Police Department a week ago, and only a few days later, the Department of Justice announced it would be investigating structural and on-going violations of civil and human rights by the Newark Police Department. The investigation is the result of a comprehensive petition filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Jersey. (For copies of the ACLU's cover letter and petition, see below the jump).
After Emanuel's selection of embattled Rochester schools chief Jean-Claude Brizard as CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, this revelation could prompt some reasonable speculation as to whether McCarthy was the best choice to lead a department that has regularly been accused of insensitivity to human and civil rights. But while the fact of the investigation warrants scrutiny, judgment of McCarthy himself should be withheld until the nature of the ACLU's allegations are better understood.
The petition is enormous, coming with a supplement (also included below). The ACLU alleges that the problems are structural, and go back decades; McCarthy has been leading the NPD since 2006, so the relevant inquiry is not whether there were problems under his supervision, but rather whether those problems decreased, or whether there were affirmative steps to address those problems during his time leading the department.
This is an important distinction between Brizard and McCarthy: Brizard's tenure in Rochester was characterized not only by an apparent unwillingness to work with important stakeholders, but also little to no evidence of improvement of results. This overall picture raises serious questions about what exactly endorses Brizard for his promotion to head of one of the largest school districts in the country (CPS has twice as many students as Rochester has residents). The DOJ investigation says nothing about the potential improvement under McCarthy.
Almost forgot this: the Tribune delves into Mayor-Elect's campaign finance reports, finds huge sums from finance industry, including firms doing major business with the city; finds significant overlap with Mayor Daley's funder base. It truly is a new-esque day:
Donors from the financial services industry made up the largest block of income for the campaign, totaling at least $4.9 million since October, according to the newspaper's analysis. There were more than a dozen contributors whose companies currently help manage investments in the city's billion-dollar pension funds -- a slice of city business that doesn't fall under Daley's version of the contribution ban.
And finally, I'd like to propose we hire this guy to sing the procession song at Emanuel's lavish inauguration ceremony; substitute "Mayor" for "Queen."
Yesterday Mayor-Elect Emanuel named his choice to lead the Chicago Public Schools as CEO. The CEO position was created by Mayor Daley along with his moves to put the Board of Education firmly under his control (the so-called "Amendatory Act" of 1995). The CEO to a large degree manages the Board as much as the Board manages him; this is common in institutions with C-level offices. In Chicago, the CEO's operational relationship with the Mayor as his agent to effectuate policy makes this even more the case.
Emanuel has chosen Jean-Claude Brizard, who headed up Rochester's schools from 2008 to present, and before that worked as an area executive in New York City's school system. He leaves Rochester not as a conquering hero, but as a controversial figure whom teachers and parents accused of an autocratic style of leadership in pursuit of an idealized vision including privatization and weakening teachers' bargaining power. The Emanuel campaign released some media-friendly quotes from various people lauding Brizard. The thought leaders quoted in Emanuel's release include Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education; Robert Duffy, New York's Lieutenant Governor; Seventeenth Ward alderman Latasha Thomas; the President of the University of Rochester; the executive director of the association of Superintendents in New York; a deputy Mayor of New York City; and the head of the Young Women's Leadership Network. The accolades variously credited Brizard's "command of the issues" and courage and leadership.
Here's a representative quote:
Jean-Claude Brizard performed yeoman service in New York City as deputy to Joel Klein and here in Rochester as superintendent. He is incredibly smart, has a very impressive command of the pivotal issues in K-12 education today, and is quite sophisticated in addressing the intricate politics of a complex public school system. He also is indefatigable and determined to achieve the best for his students. I will miss him greatly in Rochester. I wish him the very best in Chicago.
A reporter for Rochester's ABC affiliate has helpfully gathered the high-profile stories about Brizard. The collected articles don't conflict with the Emanuel team's intended sense of the man, insofar as they reveal someone who is willing to pick fights and act courageously and with determination to achieve his vision of what is "best for his students."
The Mayor-Elect wants to hear from the public on the public transportation and accessibility. You guys are smart and, since you read political blogs, probably opinionated. Why don't you head on over and share some specific proposals. Actually some good ideas popping up in the comments already.
What follows is a wildly fictionalized retelling of events based on campaign finance disclosure documents. The donations below all came in between October 11th and 14th, 2010. Emanuel officially announced his candidacy on November 13th.
On October 3rd, 2010, Rahm Emanuel broke his silence. It was time to step out on the stage and make his announcement: he wanted to be mayor. Well, not quite. He said he wanted to hear from Chicagoans as he prepared to run for mayor. Barely a month after Mayor Richard M. Daley announced he'd be fading into retirement, and Mr. Emanuel could not just sit passively by and watch the city be torn apart by geographic, class, and racial division. He loved this city.
Daunted by the idea that, no matter what his natural inclination to retire to a quiet life of the mind, only he could speak for the people, he could wait no longer. Average Chicagoans were hurting. While some neighborhoods were gentrified into unaffordability, others continued to decay into violence, joblessness, and misery. Meanwhile, income inequality sharpened. Rent by declining revenues, services to the neighborhoods had been declining. The public school system frustrated students and teachers with high-stakes testing that had not proven their value; organized street crime had worked its way into the schools via a form of interpersonal capillary attraction, making reforms difficult if not impossible. Public transportation suffered from a lack of imagination, even while the city began relying on regressive policies--increased ticketing, market-priced parking meters--to stay afloat and confined people to the neighborhood.
Public workers who worked for decades on the assumption they would be able to retire saw their pensions squandered by politicians, only to have those politicians, and the enormous corporate concerns that underwrite local civic groups, turn around and blame them.
Jeremy at Do312 has a point: I've never seen Rahm Emanuel and Tony Danza in the same place at the same time. He may be onto something with this. Both Danza and Emanuel do count dancing among their many talents (tap-dancing in the former's case).
Maybe Gery Chico can use this to some advantage in his next round of ads.
Is a policy of charter expansion a sound reform plan for our schools? Agreeing our schools need reform doesn't mean we need to accept any reform plan, but only the best reform plan. The argument for charter school expansion rests on a number of premises and inferences: mainly, that collectively bargained work rules make it more difficult to cultivate the best teaching; and that sharp competition between schools will increase efficiency and improve outcomes. For critical thinking purposes, let's take a look at this argument and see if there are any pressing objections.
Let's concede for a start that a major problem with the public schools is work rules that make firing and incentivizing teachers difficult, thus confounding the efforts of school operators to cultivate the best teaching.
Does that mean that school administrators should be allowed to fire teachers with "bad cause or no cause at all"? In other words, is the only alternative to the status quo its exact opposite?
Basic reason says this is not the case. There must be other possible and viable alternatives. For example: the grievance procedure could be simplified or changed; peer review could be instituted or, within the range of options, grievance steps could be reduced. The "good cause" standards could be independently policed or more explicitly stated, etc. These are all possible alternatives, and assuming that charter proponents believe no binding work rules is the best solution, we can infer that a minimum of binding work rules would still be better than the status quo. So these alternatives are also viable.
Knowing there are possible and viable alternatives, we still needn't jettison the proposed solution (banning of union rules) unless it is either not possible or not viable, leaving a preferred solution somewhere in between.
The expansion of private school operators promised by Rahm Emanuel and Gery Chico will turn teachers into at-will employees. This impacts who gets fired and how, but that isn't the primary objection. More importantly it adversely effects the maintenance of professional standards. Charter teachers regularly complain about being made to teach classes they are not qualified to teach or grade levels they are not certified to instruct. Even if this is merely anecdotal, the fact that it is possible and not remediable should disqualify it as a structural reform. Lack for formal grievance makes it difficult for teachers to prevent their own termination, but it also makes it impossible for the professionals to police the profession, which by definition unravels the profession itself. As a policy, it is not clearly viable.
As the Chicago Tribune's David Kidwell revealed last night, Burke is responsible for slating both Thomas E. Hoffman and Shelvin Louise Marie Hall, the two Appellate Court justices who wrote yesterday's majority opinion. There is no direct implication of Burke's involvement with the ruling, but if the state's high court does choose to hear Emanuel's appeal, the Honorable Anne M. Burke, the Alderman's wife, awaits their argument. It would appear that Burke would recuse herself from the case, although that's unknown at this time. Whatever the end result, Ald. Burke has cast a large presence over the election.
Emanuel Supporters at the corner of Dearborn and Washington
Rahm Emanuel's campaign organized a demonstration at the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners office tonight following an Illinois appellate court's 2-1 ruling that he does not meet residency requirements to run to be Chicago's mayor. For their efforts, several dozen demonstrators showed up, some with handmade flyers, most with official "Rahm for Mayor" signs. While the demonstration only lasted a few minutes before leaving the office, the issue will be around until the Illinois Supreme Court rules on the case.
There's a lot of political schadenfreude going around in reaction to an Illinois Appellate Court decisionto 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?
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.
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:
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.
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."
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.
In further proof that 2011 is not an analogue of 1983 or 1987, but in some ways bears closer resemblance to 1979, City Clerk and former state senator Miguel Del Valle has garnered the endorsement of two political organizations with strong independent/reformer roots, especially in the critical lakefront wards, namely the Independent Voters of Illinois (IVI-IPO) and the Northside chapter of Democracy for America ("DFA"). After winning the official backing of IVI-IPO's board last week, Del Valle was endorsed handily by the lakefront DFA group last night, with only Carol Moseley Braun, who appeared and spoke before the group earlier in the evening, showing any other support.
To say that Danny Davis's withdrawal from the Chicago mayor's race, and his endorsement of former U.S. Senator Carol Moseley Braun, changes the landscape is understatement. The emergence of one, and only one, strong African-American candidate in a field where no one is named Daley would be noteworthy under any condition. But for that candidate to be a history-making personality who now also happens to be the only woman in the race is an earthquake of far greater magnitude than the tremor felt in Chicago a few days ago. Effectively narrowing the field to four strong candidates, west sider Davis's weight being thrown to South Sider Braun now makes clear what had always been true but not recognized by some: the ascendacy of Rahm Emanuel to City Hall, despite numerous advantages, is not an inevitability. Some other person, including Carol Moseley Braun, could be the next mayor of Chicago.
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.
Politico's Mike Allen reports that former President Bill Clinton will endorse Rahm Emanuel:
EXCLUSIVE: Former President Bill Clinton has agreed to endorse and campaign with Chicago mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel, who served in his White House from 1993 to 1998, ultimately as Senior Advisor to the President for Policy and Strategy. In January; date TBD. Clinton has been focused on the William J. Clinton Foundation since Nov. 2, so this'll be his first political appearance of the new cycle. Expect to hear about Rahm's role in passing the COPS initiative, which added 100,000 cops to the streets and helped drop crime rates to a 26-year low. This dream team - marrying WJC's charm and Rahm's doggedness -- will help popularize the POLITICO view that when Emanuel qualified for the ballot, he all but became the next mayor of Second City. Election is Feb. 22, with a possible runoff April 5.
Before Emanuel served in the Obama Administration he was a senior adviser to President Clinton so this isn't totally out of the blue. The endorsement will also further cement Emanuel's chances as Clinton is popular among both Democrats and Independents.
As I write this, the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners has just denied the challenge to the mayoral candidacy of Rahm Emanuel. Late last night, about a day-and-a-half later than expected, hearing officer Joseph Morris recommended that Emanuel be allowed to stay on the ballot. Morris's report is posted at Early and Often and possibly elsewhere by now.
Morris's recommendation, with which the Board agreed, focuses on whether or not Emanuel "abandoned" his residence, following the logic of a post-Civil War Illinois Supreme Court case in which a judge was allowed to keep his position after a couple years in the army. The analogy is not particularly compelling, because the statute at issue today is an Illinois Municipal Code re-write that was enacted more than a century after the Civil War. Sure, if you focus on "resident" as a noun, or "residence" as a status, Emanuel wins -- because those terms are legalisms determined largely by declaration and intent. Emanuel should be able to vote in Chicago -- and has.
The issue is that in addition to saying that a candidate has to be an "elector" of the city, which already includes the requirement of "residence," the statute, Section 3.1-10-5 of the Illinois Municipal Code, also has the requirement that the candidate have "resided," as a verb. The question is whether owning real estate out of which you've completely moved your family, and which you're only using for income and a storage unit -- which is good enough to vote -- still constitutes "residing" in a city, and simply incorporates the legalistic "elector" residency definition as its own, or whether using two separate phrases implies something more.
Normally, in interpreting statues, a court assumes that language wasn't meant to be surplus or nonsense but was put there for a reason (that may give legislatures too much credit, but it's the rule). Since the "elector" requirement already incorporates "residence," saying you have to also "reside" suggests some affirmative action, more than legal technicality, is also necessary. That's the wrinkle that makes the strongest legal appeal. It's also a salient political point.
Why does it matter? Why should anyone care? The Tribune says "he's a Chicagoan" and that ends the discussion. But one gets the impression that the Trib, like many, would applaud Silvio Berlusconi being a candidate if they thought he could get the CTA to run on time, or Chicago's fiscal woes straightened out.
Fact of the matter is, not every person who has real estate in a city gets to run for office. Not even every voter. Let alone every person who might be qualified to run the city. The law, on its face, seems to want candidates to have actually lived there. Recently.
Is it an unreasonable requirement if a state says that, in order to be a municipality's chief exec, a candidate should have spent the last year living as one with the people of that city: chafing under its traffic congestion, suffering the injustice of its taxes while millions are paid out for insider deals or lawsuits against the city, dodging the bullets on its streets and the dog poop in its parks?
A principal problem with government these days is the disconnect, the gulf between those who govern and those who are governed. The chief fail of top-down management is that too many at the top are clueless about who and what policy soaks when it finally trickles down to the bottom. So, yeah, where you live matters. So does how you live. One of the reasons the Current Occupant has survived scandal and deficits is that, in appearance and speech, many Chicagoans accept him as one of their own.
Will Emanuel get such a pass? I was not advising any candidate at the objection hearing. But if I was, I would have asked, maybe, only one question: "Mr. Emanuel, what does it cost to feed a meter these days in Chicago?" Because pretty much anyone who really resides here knows that.
It's unfortunate that the legalistic issue of "residence" is emerging as the biggest consumption of ink and bandwidth to date, rather than, say, schools or pensions, transit or debt. But whether or not Rahm Emanuel survives the legal test, the question of where he has lived remain legit. Where are your head and your heart? How well do you really understand how most of your future constituents do live? That is a perfectly legitimate challenge, that every candidate, in some form, and in more than one forum, should have to answer.
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:
First Rahm Emanuel gets Labor Secretary Hilda Solis to stump for him and now he has Juan Rangel, the head of the highly influential Hispanic United Neighborhood Organization, co-chairing his campaign. All together it looks like Emanuel is trying to corral two key votes that would give him a big lead in the race: unions and Hispanics. When the mayoral race began it seemed like neither of these constituencies were going to line up behind Emanuel. Indeed, it seemed like they were going to be the lifeblood of whoever Emanuel's opponent would be.
Now, it's important not to call the race yet. Emanuel hasn't locked in the unions or Hispanics but he's taking steps to do it.
It's also worth noting, as Lynn Sweet does above, that Solis is the first Obama Administration official to come out to campaign for Emanuel.
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.
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...
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...