Archive for the ‘Chicago-esque’ Category
Chicago related, duh
Former USPS building, now to be? Casino? who knows…
Bill Davies bought the site, but I don’t know if his plans have yet been finalized.
Bill Davies, the secretive British investor who wants to redevelop the old Chicago Main Post Office, is making a new bid for credibility with revised plans for the massive building that straddles Congress Parkway.
His latest proposal, which got its first airing at a community meeting Tuesday night, calls for making the federally landmarked building a mostly residential and parking complex and the centerpiece for surrounding hotel rooms, stores and offices.
Davies has hired Chicago architect Joseph Antunovich of Antunovich Associates to craft the plans for a first phase of 5.2 million square feet, more than what’s in Willis Tower. It would include a 1,000-foot-tall building east of the post office, and a later phase envisions a tower that would top Willis in height.
Jon Hilkevitch of the Chicago Tribune reports:
The Divvy bike-share service, less than two months old, surpassed the 150,000-trip mark Friday, according to CDOT. About 5,000 annual Divvy members are enrolled, at $75 each, and more than 37,000 24-hour passes have been sold, at $7 each.
More than 458,000 total miles have been logged on individual trips since the service was introduced June 28, and the trips have averaged roughly 18 minutes each in recent days as more docking stations have opened, according to city transportation data.
Also, the three-speed bikes painted “Chicago blue” have logged more than 11,000 miles a day in recent days this month, with some weekend days exceeding 25,000 miles, the data show, based on the start and end points for each trip.
The service, dubbed Divvy to reflect the divide-and-share nature of bike-sharing, is not designed or priced for users to hog the bikes on leisurely, hourslong trips. Customers are supposed to use the bikes for 30 minutes or less on each ride. Riders get unlimited trips lasting up to a half-hour; after that, overtime fees are charged.
While on the one hand calling the public response to the Divvy program “beyond expectations,” city officials have set a high bar for ultimate success.
(click here to continue reading Divvy bike-sharing program, almost 2 months old, getting in gear, data show – chicagotribune.com.)
I signed my company up for Divvy Bike membership about two weeks ago, wanting to wait until the opening night jitters were worked out, and have been using the bikes for short trips around my office. I’ve taken more than ten rides so far, experiencing only one incident of faulty station – but a Divvy Bikes employee was on hand and took my bike to a different location for me. Also once the station I was planning to use didn’t have any bikes in it, but the next station was less than 2 blocks away. One other minor issue I encountered was that the amount of force you have to use when docking a bike surprised me, and at first I couldn’t get the bike to dock, but eventually a fellow Divvy-rider did it for me. I returned to favor to another rider the next day.
I own a bike of my own, but having a Divvy bike membership encourages brief bike rides; times where I might have taken a cab, or walked, instead I’ll jump on a Divvy bike. Of course, it’s summer right now, and Chicago has been having a beautifully mild season, the real test will be in mid-January. I’d also like to be able to travel farther, this will be possible when more stations are installed. Currently only 160 out of a planned 400 are active, less than half.
Regardless, I’m happy to support the idea of more bikes in Chicago. More bikes on the road means less cars, in general, and also encourages the government to install more bike lanes, which encourages more bikers, and so on.
As part of an interesting discussion of the planned development on Randolph and the Chicago River, 150 N. Riverside, we read this aside about Boeing’s infamous unfriendliness to civilians and tourists…
[Alderman Brendan] Reilly has been emphatic in noting that this will be a public park, not a publicly accessible private park. When Hines finally agreed to build its park at River Point, the Texas developer tried to start negotiations over how many days a year it would be available to the public. Reilly said words to the effect of “Homey don’t play that” and sent Hines packing until it realized that Chicago isn’t Houston and you can’t just build whatever you want without regard to the neighbors.
The Hines park will now be open all year round.
Neighbors, however, are worried that the the 150 North Riverside park will be significantly less than promised. They don’t want a repeat of what’s going on one block to the south at the Boeing building. When the Seattle aircraft maker moved here, what used to be a nice, welcoming public plaza became a fortress with security guards harassing the locals for walking through what’s supposed to be a public riverwalk, threatening tourists for the imaginary crime of camera possession, and keeping the place behind locked gates more often than it is open. That is also the case up the street, where the residential development north of Kinzie Street keeps the public riverwalk locked up. If you want to legally access it, you must go to a security office and ask a guard to unlock it for you.
The developer is trying to assuage the locals fears by promising to deed the 150 park to the city. But then he repeatedly states the park will be open “dawn to dusk.” City parks are open until 11pm. And it’s not like city parks have a stellar track record of openness, access, and not trying chasing tourists away because they’re holding cameras. When it’s not snowing, there are parts of Millennium Park repeatedly locked off for private events, and some parts that are closed to the public for big corporations for months at a time.
(click here to continue reading Grand Plans for “Millennium Park Lite” Come With West Loop Office Tower | The Chicago Architecture Blog.)
Really, if you are walking through this area with a camera, Boeing’s guards (some of whom have weapons on display) will come to full attention, and gods forbid if you step towards their building with your camera at the ready. A very, very unfriendly neighbor, to say the least. Many, many years ago when I was a dew-faced young lad, I worked a temporary job here, when Morton Salt’s HQ was here (or nearby, memory is a funny thing) – I remember sitting by the Chicago River eating my lunch in a pleasant, public plaza. You would probably have to duck bullets if you tried this today, or at any time since Boeing moved in circa 2001.
Back to 150 N Riverside: we are personally not opposed to a new development here, especially if Alderman Reilly can enforce the public park aspect of the plan. The Loop, west, and the West Loop areas are drastically underserved by greenspace. In an ideal world, 150 N Riverside aka 400 W Randolph wouldn’t be a building at all, instead, the City of Chicago could construct an elevated public park above the tracks, just like Millennium Park itself! But we are realists, so that’s simply a fantasy.
For your amusement, a few other photos of the general area in question, as it looks today. Double click to embiggen…
Waiting for the 216
The parking meter debacle will always be Mayor Daley’s legacy, and a stain on Chicago’s history. Daley made this decision, rammed it through a compliant City Council, and then decided not to run for Mayor again, leaving behind a budget in shambles.
An after-the-fact investigation (PDF) by the city’s inspector general concluded that the decision to enter the lease contract lacked “meaningful public review” and neglected the city’s long-term interests to solve a short-term budget crisis. Specifically, it found that “the city was paid, conservatively, $974 million less for this 75-year lease than the city would have received from 75 years of parking-meter revenue.” That’s nearly $1 billion that could have been used for better police and fire protection, longer library hours and many other services that would benefit the public good rather than private profits. By Dec. 31, 2009, Chicago had only $180 million left from the $1.15 billion parking meter deal, forcing the city to consider alternative sources of revenue rather than relying on long-term reserve funds generated by the parking meter lease.
Parking rates increased to as much as $8 for two hours. The initial contract required seven-day-a-week paid parking. The city was able to negotiate out of that requirement but in exchange had to extend paid parking until 10 p.m. Downtown business owners have blamed the increase in rates for a decrease in economic activity.
Taxpayers are further harmed by the contract’s fine print, which says that they must reimburse Morgan Stanley and its Qatar-based business partner for any time the space is used for anything other than parking — including parades and festivals. The city is prevented from performing routine road maintenance that would occupy a parking space on all but a few days a year without paying a penalty.
Perhaps most egregious, Chicago cannot build parking lots for the entire duration of the contract because they might compete with the outsourced parking meters.
In fact, the “noncompete” and “compensation” clauses mean the city won’t be able to make, for 75 years, fundamental economic development, land use or environmental policy decisions — anything that would affect the revenue of the parking company. Roderick Sawyer, alderman for Chicago’s Sixth Ward, has called this parking privatization scheme “outrageous for taxpayers, undemocratic, and un-American.”
(click here to continue reading Cities Need to Weigh Costs of Private Partnerships – NYTimes.com.)
Of course, the experience of privatization hasn’t stopped the current mayor from selling off more of the city’s assets as quickly as he can find bidders.
A preliminary agreement for a 62-year lease, not yet spelled out in a contract, calls for Denver-based transportation behemoth the Broe Group to invest a minimum of $100 million, and perhaps as much as $500 million, over the next 10 years in the port to modernize its infrastructure and draw new business. In return, Broe would retain 90 cents of every dollar in new revenue generated by port operations, with the remaining 10 cents going back to the port district, a hybrid city/state entity. Broe also will pay the agency $1 million a year.
The shared revenue would be used to pay down the district’s debt, around $30 million, and its pension liability, around $5 million, Forde said.
Emanuel said the project ultimately would create 1,000 new jobs.
The district’s board approved the framework Friday and authorized Forde to negotiate the contract, which could take about 60 days. The district anticipates port improvement work would begin next year.
The move to private management is the latest step in that direction by local and state government, and bears some resemblance to the privatization of management at the McCormick Place convention center. In both instances, public boards appointed by the mayor and governor will continue to have oversight.
A major question is whether such a deal robs the public agency of potential future revenue — a major criticism of the city of Chicago’s privatization of parking meter operations. Currently, the district’s operations are supported entirely by rent and fee payments.
Transportation expert Joe Schwieterman, a professor at DePaul University, said such a negative scenario is possible, in theory, if the industrial segment of the economy were to take off, robbing government of revenue.
(click here to continue reading Private operator Broe Group to invest in Port of Chicago – chicagotribune.com.)
and you have to wonder at the timing of articles like this:
When Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Sunday that a private company would take over management of the Port of Chicago on the city’s Southeast Side, it was evident port operations were not shipshape. For one thing, the port lost money every year for the past decade, until last year.
Now it’s clear the port — run by a government authority — was more deeply troubled.
A blistering 155-page report by the Illinois Auditor General released this week details instances of rampant mismanagement at the port, sloppy record-keeping, issuance of no-bid contracts for sizable purchases and generally poor oversight by the Illinois International Port District. The district owns and operates the Port of Chicago as a landlord, leasing land, buildings and docks to private operators.
The report details numerous shortcomings in how the port operated, from big-picture failings such as having no long-term strategic plan for developing the port, to day-to-day operating failures, such as not having written leases with some tenants and many instances of poor or non-existent record-keeping.
It noted the district’s policies governing use of port facilities and services, including rates for dock and wharf fees, hadn’t been updated in 30 years, since April 1983, also noting the rates are the lowest among several comparable ports.
(click here to continue reading Audit of state port authority turns up widespread mismanagement – chicagotribune.com.)
There were credible rumors1 that Google was going to move into the West Loop, but then Google signed a lease in River North instead. However, according to Crain’s Chicago, it still might happen:
Google Inc. is mapping new office territory in Chicago. The Mountain View, Calif.-based technology giant is in talks to move its Chicago office to the city’s meatpacking district, where it would lease more than 200,000 square feet, sources say. If a deal is struck, it would dramatically reshape the gentrifying Fulton Market-Randolph area, where foodies flock to a thriving restaurant row but major office tenants have yet to arrive. Landing one of the world’s most recognizable companies would bring instant legitimacy to an office market now made up of small tenants in low-rise loft buildings.
… “Google is an unbelievable engine,” says Chicago tenant broker Bob Chodos, a principal at Seattle-based Colliers International who is not involved in the Google deal. “Wherever they go gets bigger.” Google’s employees, mostly in sales, are outgrowing the Kinzie Street tower where the company’s lease for about 150,000 square feet expires at the end of 2015. As Google expands here, it is expected to need more than 200,000 square feet, and possibly up to 300,000, sources say.
Enter Sterling Bay Cos., which reached an agreement to buy the 10-story Fulton Market Cold Storage warehouse, the tallest in the neighborhood, in 2011. The Chicago developer is converting the existing building and an attached new structure into about 540,000 square feet of office and retail at 1000 W. Fulton St. by late next year.
In addition to Google, Boka Restaurant Group—which includes chef Stephanie Izard’s nearby Girl & the Goat and Little Goat Diner—is finalizing a deal for a steakhouse on the ground floor of the former meat storage facility, sources say.
Already, construction of a Soho House hotel is underway near the intersection of Halsted and Randolph streets. Nobu Hospitality Group, whose owners include actor Robert De Niro, in March confirmed its desire to put another boutique hotel and a Japanese restaurant on Randolph.
(click here to continue reading Has Google outgrown River North? – In Other News – Crain’s Chicago Business.)
I’ve taken a few photos of this building over the years…
- which I swear I blogged about, but now cannot find [↩]
Wow, that’s unexpected. Sounds like the Union caved, but perhaps I’m wrong.
A 10-year strike at the Congress Plaza hotel in downtown Chicago, believed to be the longest hotel strike in history, has ended.
A attorney for the hotel said Unite Here Local 1, the union representing cleaning and maintenance workers, has offered an unconditional return to work as of midnight Wednesday.
The union confirmed Thursday morning that it is ending the strike.
“The decision to end the Congress strike was a hard one, but it is the right time for the union and the strikers to move on,” Unite Here Local 1 President Henry Tamarin said in a statement. “The boycott has effectively and dramatically reduced the hotel’s business. … There is no more to do there.”
Tamarin said when the strike started, the standard wage for room attendants was $8.83 per hour — a wage contract workers still make. The city wide standard for room attendants is now $16.40 an hour, he said.
(click here to continue reading 10-year strike at Congress Plaza Hotel is over – chicagotribune.com.)
Make no small plans, right? Choose Chicago is floating the idea of privately financed tourist attractions.
A group of Chicago tourism officials and civic supporters who want to give the city’s image and economy a boost is examining a slate of ideas for new attractions and amenities that include light shows playing off downtown skyscrapers, airborne glass cable cars running along the riverfront and designated luxury cars on the transit line to O’Hare.
The brainstorming is taking place under the auspices of Choose Chicago, the not-for-profit that serves as the city’s convention and tourism bureau. Bruce Rauner, its chairman, is leading the push, along with significant input from hotel investor Laurence Geller, Broadway in Chicago President Lou Raizin and Chicago Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts.
The broad outlines of the vision, which aims to draw as much as $30 billion in private investment, are expected to be disclosed Thursday at the annual meeting of Choose Chicago. Other ideas include plane rides along the lakefront and perhaps an architecturally stunning casino complex if gambling is approved for the city.
“We said, ‘Let’s be aspirational and aggressive, not just incremental,’ ” Rauner said. The aim is to boost visitor numbers from nearly 44 million in 2011 to 70 million annually, which, if achieved, would blow past the 50 million Mayor Rahm Emanuel would like to see by 2020.
(click here to continue reading Group gets ‘aggressive’ with ideas for tourism.)
So what are the plans under consideration?
Among the ideas under consideration, according to Rauner and other sources:
- Dramatic light show-type illuminations of city buildings and structures, such as bridges.
- A luxury casino-anchored entertainment complex, along the lines of the Marina Bay Sands, a massive resort in Singapore designed by Moshe Safdie and built for more than $5 billion. Such a project would depend on getting state approval for a downtown casino.
- Tourism “carriages” on the CTA between downtown and O’Hare International Airport, which would be set up as sorts of club cars, where travelers could get drinks and help with their luggage, among other amenities.
- Glass-bubble airborne cable cars — with air conditioning in summer and heat in winter — that would take visitors along the river from Navy Pier to the point where Wacker Drive turns south.
- A float plane port on Northerly Island, where tourists could take plane rides up and down the lakefront.
- A jazz and blues hall of fame on the Near South Side
- A lakefront botanic garden
- A technology park for children
- An architecture festival, similar to Biennale cultural festivals in Europe.
Pretty much all fun ideas in the abstract. I’m not crazy about a casino, and the City hasn’t even legalized gambling yet, but I have no moral objection to people throwing away their money, so why not make it architecturally significant?
One does have to question the motives here, however. No organization is going to donate money to the City of Chicago without some strings attached. What are they? They claim to have enough private money to create all these marvels, but I would be very surprised if there weren’t some kick-ins from Chicago, financial or otherwise. Especially because Bruce Rauner has an agenda…
Interesting. I’ll have to get a better photograph of this place.
Much less well-known is the West Chicago Street Railroad’s (WCSR) former powerhouse, still standing in the West Loop at Washington Street and Jefferson Street. Equipment in this building drove two cables: one that pulled cable cars through the tunnel under the Chicago River along Washington Street and around the downtown and another shorter cable that pulled cars from Washington Street and Jefferson Street to Madison Street and DesPlaines Street.
This former WCSR powerhouse at Jefferson and Washington streets drove the cables that pulled West Side cable cars through the tunnel under the South Branch of the Chicago River and around two downtown loops. It is now the headquarters of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 134. The building was vacated in 1906, and for decades it housed the Chicago Surface Line’s Legal and Accident Investigation Department. Subsequently, it was modified—more substantially, perhaps unalterably, than the NCSR’s powerhouse on LaSalle Street. Several dormers were added at the roofline, the rear portion of the building was extended, and the smokestack was removed. Most significantly, a large stone wall covers much of the first floor. Today, the building serves as headquarters for Local 134 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which also hosts the monthly meeting of the 20th Century Railroad Club.
(click here to continue reading Cable Car Remnants | Forgotten Chicago | History, Architecture, and Infrastructure.)
Update: a better photo
I’ve mentioned this, at least in passing, and maybe only on Twitter, but the Merchandise Mart is now home to several tech businesses, as is the entire area. Enough of a trend that the stately New York Times noticed:
Once a dormant area of empty warehouses, the River North section of Chicago has evolved into a nexus of dining, night life and, most recently, an aspiring rival to Silicon Valley. Its 45 square blocks are home to the headquarters of Groupon, the Chicago offices of Google and several hundred technology start-ups.
Now River North’s digital transformation is extending to one of the neighborhood’s most storied — and decidedly low-tech — commercial addresses. The Merchandise Mart, a Depression-era behemoth of limestone, concrete and steel that has long been synonymous with fabric bolts and furniture, is becoming a destination for the city’s digital set.
“River North as an area has become very tech-savvy and very tech-cool,” said Todd O’Hara, founder and chief executive of Toodalu, an app-building start-up that moved into the building this year. “The Merchandise Mart is definitely kind of the pinnacle of all of it because of everyone coming in.”
The biggest newcomer, Motorola Mobility, plans to relocate its headquarters from the suburb of Libertyville to four floors of the mart next year, as well as take up a big chunk of the building’s roof space for entertaining and group events.
It is the third major technology company to sign a lease with the mart since December, and 175 or so small tech businesses like Toodalu sublet space.
(click here to continue reading Merchandise Mart in Chicago Attracts Tech Start-Ups – NYTimes.com.)
I’d include the nearby West Loop area too, there are plenty of examples there too – Threadless and so on. I think it’s cool, since for the most part, tech businesses are happy with industrial-esque spaces with exposed brick and mechanicals. In other words, they are not moving in and destroying every building in their wake to build cookie-cutter WalMarts and Targets, or bland corporate HQ. Schafer Condon Carter even restored a beautiful old wreck of a building on W. Madison.1
And the Merchandise Mart, while a beautiful building on the outside, does need a little bit of modernization, at least from what I’ve seen of the interior.
The new tenants also cite the proximity of commuter rail lines, the abundance of parking, bike locker storage — and the energy around the River North neighborhood. According to BuiltInChicago.org, a Web site dedicated to the tech sector, the area had nearly 7,500 tech jobs as of last month.
“This is, like, the hottest place in the city right now,” said Kevin Willer, the chief executive of the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center, which manages 1871, a nonprofit digital hub that provides space to start-ups in the mart.
That hub has helped convert the 12th floor into a lively area of curving sofas and people on Razor scooters, but even the mart’s new fans say the aging giant remains a place largely associated with “a lot of dark, dreary rooms,” as Mr. O’Hara, the Toodalu founder, said.
Opened in 1930 by Marshall Field & Company, now defunct, the mart had been owned by the Kennedy family under Joseph P. Kennedy Enterprises for more than a half century before being sold to Vornado in 1998. With 4.2 million gross square feet, it is among the largest commercial buildings in the world.
The recent influx of tech tenants has brought stark change. The designers of the tech offices have been allowed to gut and renovate spaces. (In the process, some historical gems, like a metal and brick fire door found at 1871, were left to meld with the newly designed areas.) The mart is installing a distributed-antenna system, to be finished by year-end, which will improve cellphone reception and wireless connectivity throughout the building.
Some of the tech companies are configuring their new spaces with a hopeful eye to the future.
Razorfish, the digital marketing and advertising company owned by Publicis, consolidated its disparate Chicago offices into the mart’s 12th floor nearly a year ago, installing conference tables of reclaimed wood and a keg refrigerator with two rotating beers on draft.
Razorfish hired about 100 more people since opening its Chicago office, which was built for a capacity of 400, according to Lori Schram, the company’s facilities manager, and plans to expand its space within the mart.
And 1871, whose name alludes to the year of the great Chicago fire and the innovation that happened during the rebuilding of the city, has so far accepted 175 companies out of 600 applications for space, Mr. Willer said. Tenants of 1871 pay monthly rent for either shared or reserved space and qualify for seminars, tech events and access to venture capital firms and angel investors in the hub.
and that’s a good excuse as any to show a few more of my favorite photos taken in the general area…
Merchandise Mart Reflects
- though SCC is not a tech company, but an ad agency. Close enough. [↩]
A Sunday night rain storm; my soundtrack was Townes Van Zandt and bottle of decent enough red wine. And the sound of falling water.
and the actual 30 second video, theoretically… (Flash, sorry)
Kudos to Ms. Toni Preckwinkle for speaking the truth. Earlier editions of this story didn’t mention the subsequent dialing back…
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on Tuesday said former President Ronald Reagan deserves “a special place in hell” for his role in the war on drugs, but later regretted what she called her “inflammatory” remark.
The comment from Preckwinkle, known more for a reserved, straight-ahead political style, came at a conference led by former Republican Gov. Jim Edgar, who’s now at the University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs.
Preckwinkle was defending the recent move by the city of Chicago to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana by allowing police to write tickets, saying out-of-whack drug laws unfairly lead to more minorities behind bars.
Downstate Republican state Rep. Chapin Rose of Mahomet questioned whether such an approach includes drug treatment for those who are ticketed. Preckwinkle said no, arguing that drug treatment should be part of the health care system, not criminal justice. She said Reagan deserves a “special place in hell” for his involvement in “making drug use political.”
(click here to continue reading Preckwinkle regrets saying Reagan deserves ‘special place in hell’ for war on drugs – chicagotribune.com.)
If I ever have a chance to meet Ms. Preckwinkle, I’d like to shake her hand – too many politicians bend their knee to the War on Drugs, despite the facts.
While President Richard Nixon is generally credited with starting the war on drugs, critics contend Reagan ramped up the issue for political purposes during the 1980s.
“Ronald Reagan wasn’t the first or the last, but he was certainly the most prominent at the very beginning,” Preckwinkle told the Tribune in a phone interview.
The resulting policies have had the effect of sending young African Americans and Latinos to jail and prison in disproportionate numbers, she said. They also have driven up government costs and damaged communities, she said.
“Drug policy in this country has been in the wrong direction for 30 years,” she said. “I think that’s something they should acknowledge. If I had it to do over again, I certainly wouldn’t say anything quite so inflammatory. But my position basically remains the same.”
Jeralyn Merritt, of the seminal blog Talk Left, wrote this about Saintly Ron back in 2004:
three of [Reagan’s] less-than-endearing legacies deserve to be highlighted
Mandatory minimum drug sentences in 1986. This was the first time Congress passed mandatory minimum sentences since the Boggs Act in 1951.
Federal sentencing guidelines: Under this new method of sentencing, which went into effect in 1987, prison time is determined mostly by the weight of the drugs involved in the offense. Parole was abolished and prisoners must serve 85 percent of their sentence. Except in rare situations, judges can no longer factor in the character of the defendant, the effect of incarceration on his or her dependents, and in large part, the nature and circumstances of the crime. The only way to receive a more lenient sentence is to act as an informant against others and hope that the prosecutor is willing to deal. The guidelines in effect stripped Article III of their sentencing discretion and turned it over to prosecutors.
The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988: This law established a federal death penalty for “drug kingpins.” President Reagan called it a new sword and shield in the escalating battle against drugs, and signed the bill in his wife’s honor… Did the law nab Pablo Escobar? No. The law’s first conquest was David Ronald Chandler, known as “Ronnie.” Ronnie grew marijuana in a small town in rural, northeast Alabama. About 300 pounds a year. Ronnie was sentenced to death for supposedly hiring someone to kill his brother-in-law. The witness against him later recanted.
As a result of these flawed drug policies initiated by then President Reagan, (and continued by Bush I, Clinton and Bush II) the number of those imprisoned in America has quadrupled to over 2 million. These are legacies that groups like Families Against Mandatory Minimums are still fighting today. Even George Shultz, Ronald Reagan’s former secretary of state, acknowledged in 2001 that the War on Drugs is a flop.
In Smoke and Mirrors, Dan Baum, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, provides a detailed account of the politics surrounding Reagan’s war on drugs.
Conservative parents’ groups opposed to marijuana had helped to ignite the Reagan Revolution. Marijuana symbolized the weakness and permissiveness of a liberal society; it was held responsible for the slovenly appearance of teenagers and their lack of motivation. Carlton Turner, Reagan’s first drug czar, believed that marijuana use was inextricably linked to “the present young-adult generation’s involvement in anti-military, anti-nuclear power, anti-big business, anti-authority demonstrations.” A public-health approach to drug control was replaced by an emphasis on law enforcement. Drug abuse was no longer considered a form of illness; all drug use was deemed immoral, and punishing drug offenders was thought to be more important than getting them off drugs. The drug war soon became a bipartisan effort, supported by liberals and conservatives alike. Nothing was to be gained politically by defending drug abusers from excessive punishment.
(click here to continue reading Reagan’s Drug War Legacy | Alternet.)
I moved to Chicago in 1994, and the heat-wave of 1995 surprised me. I was used to living in extreme heat in Austin, several of my cheap apartments didn’t have air conditioning. But Chicago was not culturally or politically prepared to deal with the heat of that summer. This year’s heat-wave was taken a lot more seriously by city officials, as Eric Klinenberg reports:
the most visible human drama of climate change is happening in cities. Cities are not merely the population centers where dense concentrations of people are trapped and exposed during dangerous weather events. They are also “heat islands,” whose asphalt, brick, concrete and steel attract the heat while pollution from automobiles, factories and air-conditioners traps it. City dwellers experience elevated heat at all hours, but the difference matters most at night, when the failure of high temperatures to fall deprives them of natural relief. For the most vulnerable people, these “high lows” can be the difference between life and death.
Americans began to take urban heat seriously after 1995, when a record-breaking heat wave — three days of triple-digit heat — baked Chicago. Ordinarily, heat waves fail to produce the kind of spectacular imagery we see in other disasters, like earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes and floods. Heat doesn’t generate much property damage, nor does it reveal its force to the camera or naked eye. Heat waves are invisible killers of old, poor and other mostly invisible people. Until the summer of 1995, medical examiners and media outlets often neglected to report heat-related deaths altogether.
But the great Chicago heat wave changed things. It caused so much suffering that at one point nearly half the city’s emergency rooms closed their doors to new patients. Hospitals were not the only institutions stretched beyond capacity by the heat. Streets buckled. Trains derailed. The power grid failed. Water pressure diminished. Ambulances were delayed.
There were “water wars” in poor neighborhoods, where city workers cracked down on residents who opened fire hydrants for relief. There were surreal scenes at City Hall, where members of the mayor’s staff declined to declare a heat emergency, forgot to implement their extreme heat plan and refused to bring in additional ambulances and paramedics.
And there was Mayor Richard M. Daley, telling reporters: “It’s hot. It’s very hot. But let’s not blow it out of proportion,” while the morgue ran out of bays and the medical examiner had to call in a fleet of refrigerated trucks to handle the load. When the temperatures finally broke, 739 Chicagoans had died as a result of the heat wave.
Chicago learned from the disaster, and today it is a national leader in planning for the next acute heat emergency. The city compiles a list of old, isolated and vulnerable residents, and public workers contact them when dangerous weather arrives. City officials and community organizations promote awareness and encourage residents to check in on one another. The local news media treat heat waves as true public health hazards. Everyone knows how perilous the new climate can be.
Unfortunately, Chicago keeps getting reminders. In the early July heat wave, despite its improved emergency response system, Chicago reported more heat deaths than any other city or state. And this week the Union of Concerned Scientists released “Heat in the Heartland,(PDF)” a study that reports an increased incidence of dangerous hot weather throughout the Midwest in the past 60 years, including elevated evening temperatures and more heat waves lasting three days or longer. Along with Chicago, the report singles out St. Louis, Detroit, Minneapolis and Cincinnati as being at risk, but also cites public health research predicting more heat waves in towns and cities throughout the Midwest and Northeast.
(click here to continue reading Is It Hot Enough for Ya? – NYTimes.com.)
Rising temperatures are not just a concern for the future. Dangerously hot weather is already occurring more frequently in the Midwest than it did 60 years ago.
The report, Heat in the Heartland: 60 Years of Warming in the Midwest, presents an original analysis of weather data for five major urban areas — Chicago, Cincinnati, Detroit, Minneapolis, and St. Louis — as well as five smaller nearby cities.
The results from the analysis are clear: Hot summer weather and heat waves have been increasing in cities in the nation’s heartland over the last six decades on average. The report documents this trend, explores its health implications, and looks at what the largest cities are doing to adapt to these changes and protect their residents.
High temperatures can lead to dehydration, heat exhaustion, and deadly heat stroke. Very hot weather can also aggravate existing medical conditions such as diabetes, respiratory disease, kidney disease, and heart disease.
Urban populations, the elderly, children, and people with impaired health and limited mobility are particularly susceptible to heat-related illness and death.
Now if only someone could come up with a good (non-financial) reason for the Tea Party and other GOP factions to support a national policy dealing with climate change…
Mitt Romney’s campaign is attempting to link Barack Obama to the corruption of Chicago-style politics of a different era
Amusingly, Jacob Weisberg has much the same reaction as I did to the nonsense phrase: Chicago Style politics, but expresses his disdain a bit more forcefully, in an article that begins…
If I hear one more person accuse the Obama campaign of practicing “Chicago-style politics,” I’m gonna kick all his nephews off the park-district payroll. I’m gonna send some precinct captains over to straighten him out. Mitt Romney and his surrogates don’t understand what Chicago-style politics means. No one seems to have told them that it’s been gone for 25 years. And they don’t get that Barack Obama, in his Chicago days, never had anything to do with it.
Chicago-style politics, in common parlance, refers to the 1950s-1970s era of the Richard J. Daley machine. If you want to read a great, short book about that world, I recommend Boss by Mike Royko. The strength and durability of the Daley machine was its ethnically based patronage network, a complex system of obligations, benefits, and loyalties that didn’t depend on televised communication with a broader public. It was a noncompetitive system that in its heyday had a lock on urban power and the spoils that went with it.
One of the most memorable phrases from that era comes from a story often told by former White House Counsel Abner J. Mikva, who described attempting to volunteer on a local campaign in the late 1940s.
“Who sent you?” asked the cigar-chomping 8th Ward precinct captain.
“Nobody sent me,” replied Mikva. “We don’t want nobody nobody sent.”
The machine was dominated by the Irish and centered in Bridgeport, the rough-and-tumble neighborhood that was the ancestral home of the Daleys. Bridgeport’s antithesis has always been the liberal, multicultural enclave of Hyde Park, the University of Chicago neighborhood where the Obamas—and Bill Ayers—live. (The other thing the precinct captain told Mikva was, “We don’t want nobody from the University of Chicago in this organization.”) Hyde Park’s 5th Ward was the only one out of 50 to elect an independent alderman until the late 1960s, when political reformers like my parents and their friends on the North Side began to challenge the Daley machine.
By the mid-1980s, the independents had mostly finished off the Daley machine—thanks mainly to the Shakman decree, still very much in force, which prevents any political consideration in hiring, firing, and promotion, with the exception of a thin layer of policy positions. This meant that when Harold Washington, a black machine politician turned reformer, was elected in 1983, he controlled only a few hundred city and county jobs, instead of the 35,000 Daley had at his disposal. By the time the younger Richard M. Daley was elected mayor in 1989, the Chicago machine was, like the Italian Mafia, more legend than force. Chicago-style pizza still exists. Chicago-style politics, equally deplorable in my view, no longer does.
Whenever I hear a bloviator utter the phrase, “Chicago-style politics”, I stop listening to what they are trying to say. Richard J Daley died in 1976, and so did his “style” of politics. Richard M Daley’s style did not depend upon the same ruthlessness, nor does Barack Obama demonstrate any of the same traits. Seriously, read a book about him, like “Boss” or something by Mike Royko.
Not that facts get in the way of political campaigns…
With Chicagoan Barack Obama in the White House and his hometown famed for cutthroat politics, it was perhaps inevitable that rivals would seize on guilt by geography to try to discredit him.
The city’s latest star turn as villain to Republicans began in recent days as Mitt Romney, Obama’s all-but-certain challenger in November, fumed while Democrats intensified attacks on his finances, tax returns and record as a private equity manager.
“Chicago-style politics at its worst,” the former Massachusetts governor and Bain Capital founder declared in a refrain quickly picked up by his campaign surrogates.
Ed Gillespie, a former Republican National Committee chairman, accused the Obama campaign of using “classic Chicago-style politics” to try to splatter mud over Romney’s credentials.
To Rove, the attacks on Romney were “gutter politics of the worst Chicago sort.”
Former New Hampshire Gov. John H. Sununu took it further: “Can you imagine coming out of Chicago politics, where ‘politician’ and ‘felon’ are synonymous? You’ve got two governors in prison today,” he told CNBC, conflating the misdeeds of Chicago Democrat Rod R. Blagojevich with those of downstate Republican George Ryan.
Dennis Goldford, an expert on presidential politics at Drake University in Des Moines, said the Republican imagery was an attempt to insinuate that Obama is a disciple of a throwback big-city political organization built on muscle and seediness.
“It strikes me as odd, because Obama was really not part of that old-style Chicago machine,” Goldford said, adding that the strategy seems geared toward swaying older voters who remember lore about the Richard J. Daley era in Chicago.
“But for college students, history is yesterday,” he said.
Politically, there’s less risk for Republicans in ripping Chicago than virtually anywhere else in the country. The city votes reliably Democratic, and Chicagoans have been known to take a perverse pride in their city’s tough-guy political reputation.
Even Obama has played it up in the past. During his 2008 run for president, he quoted from the movie “The Untouchables,” in which Sean Connery describes the “Chicago Way”: “He pulls a knife, you pull a gun.”
And without question, Chicago has seen a goodly share of high- and low-profile officials and operatives shipped off to prison over the decades, and Republicans would like to prod voters into thinking that some of that dirt surely must have rubbed off on Obama.
But political wrongdoing knows few geographic bounds. On a per-capita basis, North Dakota endured more than twice as many federal corruption convictions as Illinois over the last decade, according to Justice Department data. And politicians don’t complain about North Dakota-style corruption.
Chicago may be in the cross hairs of conservative political stereotyping because of Obama, but the city has company.
San Francisco, home of House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and a hotbed of liberal causes, is often referred to in sneering tones on the campaign trail. Boston and its environs get picked on as a nest of effete intellectuals, even by Romney — who holds two Harvard degrees, served as Massachusetts governor and maintains his official voting address there. The spin is that if Romney can govern successfully in Massachusetts, he can do so anywhere.
Still, bashing Chicago has developed into something of a reflex among partisan finger-pointers. Some hail from parts of the country with less than pristine political reputations themselves.
In Louisiana, a City Council candidate from suburban New Orleans in March accused a rival of stealing a political consultant, and said that such “Chicago-style tactics will backfire,” according to media reports.
(click here to continue reading On campaign trail, Chicago’s a popular villain – latimes.com.)
We’ve discussed1 which state is the most corrupt, and by most measures, Illinois isn’t even in the top2 ten, despite what is frequently shouted on television. And yes, even though Illinois has had several governors sent to prison, Illinois still isn’t the worst.
The stories go on and on. Open records laws with hundreds of exemptions. Crucial budgeting decisions made behind closed doors by a handful of power brokers. “Citizen” lawmakers voting on bills that would benefit them directly. Scores of legislators turning into lobbyists seemingly overnight. Disclosure laws without much disclosure. Ethics panels that haven’t met in years.
State officials make lofty promises when it comes to ethics in government. They tout the transparency of legislative processes, accessibility of records, and the openness of public meetings. But these efforts often fall short of providing any real transparency or legitimate hope of rooting out corruption.
That’s the depressing bottom line that emerges from the State Integrity Investigation, a first-of-its-kind, data-driven assessment of transparency, accountability and anti-corruption mechanisms in all 50 states. Not a single state — not one — earned an A grade from the months-long probe. Only five states earned a B grade: New Jersey, Connecticut, Washington, California, and Nebraska. Nineteen states got C’s and 18 received D’s. Eight states earned failing grades of 59 or below from the project, which is a collaboration of the Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity, and Public Radio International.
The F’s went to Michigan, North Dakota, South Carolina, Maine, Virginia, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Georgia.
(click here to continue reading State Integrity Investigation overview: 50 states and no winners – State Integrity Investigation.)Footnotes:
Since I was looking for this Chicago Transit Authority citation recently, I’m posting it here so I can find it easier in the future. Proper usage is important, especially if you know there is a proper usage.
As far as I could tell, Grid Chicago didn’t actually make this a blog post, but their Twitter conversation was picked up by a few outlets, including the Chicago Tribune:
You may have wondered, as you climb aboard a CTA train: Are you about to ride the “El” or the “L”?
Grid Chicago, a blog devoted to energy-conscious transit issues in the city, asked on its Twitter feed last week which usage people prefer — the single “L” or the longer “El.”
Among the responses came one from the official CTA Twitter account:
— cta (@cta) February 9, 2012
That’s not to say the “El” isn’t used, despite the fact that only parts of the city’s rail system are elevated. Time Out Chicago, a publication devoted to covering arts and entertainment in the city, is among those preferring “El.”
“El” can also be found in some book references. For instance, in his 1947 collection “The Neon Wilderness,” Chicago author Nelson Algren refers repeatedly to the “El.”
“She put her hat on the dresser and sat by the window, looking out at the night-fuming neon all the way down Congress to the El,” Algren writes at one point. Though, in fairness, some credit (blame?) East Coast editors for changing the usage.
(click here to continue reading Chicago train system: Is it the L or the El? – Chicago Tribune.)
I’ve had a few of my photos published by Grid Chicago – they are good people, and have a good mission. Check ‘em out…