Review: ‘The City’ podcast tells sordid tale of illegal dumping on Chicago’s West Side

I wish I had time to listen to podcasts, this one sounds fascinating…

No Parking

Chicago Tribune’s Steve Johnson:

“Anytime you see anybody drive over (to) a vacant lot in a limo, you know it’s no good.”

When you’re a reporter trying to bring a complicated story to life, quotes like that — wry, sharply worded, evocative of a much larger scenario — are pure gold.

And in the promising, new Chicago-focused podcast “The City,” chronicling the battle over vacant lots in North Lawndale that became illegal dumping sites in the 1990s, lead reporter and narrator Robin Amer recognizes that quote for the gem that it is.

It comes from Gladys Woodson, one of the residents who tried to fight the illegal dumps, a story that would lead to FBI surveillance, court cases and a picture window into city corruption during the early years of the reign of the second Mayor Daley, the podcast asserts.

The first episode of “The City” debuts Monday, under the auspices of USA Today and available there and on iTunes, Stitcher and the like. In it, the host promises the first season’s Chicago illegal dump story will be one of “corruption, apathy and greed,” a story dark enough to stun even hardened city dwellers.

(click here to continue reading Review: ‘The City’ podcast tells sordid tale of illegal dumping on Chicago’s West Side – Chicago Tribune.)

Politicians and other elite from the dinosaur era (i.e., pre-internet) escaped being judged for a lot of bad behavior. I can just imagine stories like this becoming viral in today’s hyper-focused era. 

Cities Need to Weigh Costs of Private Partnerships

The city is sucking the life out of you and you just give coins
The city is sucking the life out of you and you just give coins

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 –

Mayor Emanuel
Mayor Emanuel

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 –

Increased Risks
Increased Risks

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 –

Chicago Style Politics is Ancient History

The Written Word A Lie
The Written Word A Lie

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 –

Blago Jogging on May Street
Blago Jogging on May Street

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.

For instance:

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.)

  1. but I’m too lazy to look through my vast archives at the moment []
  2. bottom?? []

Mayor Daley’s Legacy

Picasso on The Cross
Picasso on The Cross

Eric Zorn lists a few of the problems Richard Daley left for his successor. There are others that could be added, such as the Silver Shovel investigations, or even the continued abuse of TIF monies for real estate developers, but that’s a post for another time, as these ten are pretty devastating when you consider the bad place the City of Chicago is in because of Daley.

Wednesday marks the anniversary of Mayor Rahm Emanuel tagging in for Daley, yet even at this chronological distance, the former mayor continues to be a looming baleful presence in the news, more a subject for fury than nostalgia.

Consider, in no particular order, these 10 things:  

1. Recent revelations that Daley took advantage of obscure provisions in the law not only to avoid more than $400,000 in pension contributions but also to boost his retirement pay to $183,778 a year.

2. News that the dreaded privatization of parking meters in 2008 was worse than we thought: Chicago Parking Meters LLC, which has been cheerfully jacking up rates since buying 75-year rights to meter revenue for $1.15 billion, is billing the city $14 million for the offense of taking meters out of service for repairs and other street closings, and pursuing an additional $13.5 million claim related to parking for the disabled.

3. Headlines announcing that Daley, who quickly burned through most of that $1.15 billion parking-meter payout in an effort to conceal a structural deficit in city finances, was hired by Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP, the law firm that — wait for it! — billed the city $663,000 for helping negotiate the parking-meter deal.

(click here to continue reading Change of Subject: Daley, a year later— No thanks for the memories.)

Mayor Emanuel
Mayor Emanuel

and this might be the worst:

5. The ever-growing realization that toward the end of his 22 years in office, Daley was frantically moving money around and playing budget tricks instead of taking on the painful job of resetting priorities to restore the city to fiscal health. “That set of choices has been avoided over the past decade,” said Emanuel one year ago of the $636 million budget shortfall he inherited.

“We cannot ignore these problems a day longer,” he said.

“Because of the appalling lack of stewardship by you-know-who,” he did not say.

Mayor Daley did some good things for the city, I won’t deny it, but at what cost? Is having a sparkling downtown worth all the corruption and crony capitalism?

Parking Meter Firm Bills City Another $2.1 Million

Put Money in the Parking Meter or else!
Put Money in the Parking Meter or else!

Gee, thanks, Mayor Daley and your rubber-stamp city council! Privatization strikes again…

While Chicago’s infamous parking meter lease deal quietly celebrated its third anniversary the first week of December, the city was releasing documents chronicling more evidence the privatization of the city’s more than 36,000 parking meters turned out to be more costly for taxpayers than originally imagined.

Financial statements, released by the Chicago Inspector General’s office via their Open Chicago government transparency initiative, reveals what many critics of the lease deal had feared–the city would end up owing or paying Chicago Parking Meters, LLC millions of dollars in compensation when any sort of change or activity by the city impacts parking meter revenue for the company.

Financial statements for the company show that CPM has billed the city an additional $2,191,326 in “True-up Revenue” through the end of 2010.

As the notes from the independent auditor’s report by accounting firm KPMG LLP to the financial statements explains:

“The Company has an agreement with the City, whereby, the Company receives compensation from the City in accordance with the Agreements in the event that the City implements changes to the System, which reduces the Company’s revenues (True-up Revenue).”

These same notes reveal the city owed CPM $533,290 in True-up Revenue for 2009 and $1,658,036 for 2010.

(click here to continue reading Parking Meter Firm Bills City Another $2.1 Million |


Street festivals seem to be the biggest culprit:

According to the over 500 pages of contract with CPM, these events could include any situation which would require the city to remove a metered space from the system (installing a loading zone, moving a bus stop, etc.), or if a tax on metered parking is imposed by the city, or when metered parking is temporarily out of commission during a closure.

While removing a metered space is usually handled by adding another space or spaces elsewhere in the city to compensate CPM, the most likely culprit for this over $2 million is street closures.

Closure is defined as anytime metered parking is taken out of commission for a prolonged period of time due to any street work, be it to replace a broken water main, for street repairs or resurfacing or even for a street festival.

Under the terms of the lease, any time this occurs above an annual allowance, CPM can file a claim for the loss of potential revenue due to street closure.

But wait, there’s more indignity!

Shamrock Shuffle No Parking Zone

Last week Chicago Parking Meters, LLC sent the City a bill for $13.5 million in revenues they lost from motorists with handicapped parking placards parking for free in metered spots. Today our friends at The Expired Meter report the company also sent the City a bill for an extra $2.1 million in what they call “true-up revenue” related to street closures.

Our analogy comparing the parking meter deal to herpes becomes even more apt.

(click here to continue reading Parking Meter Company Bills City for Street Closures: Chicagoist.)

As Tax Receipts Lag, Another Hole Opens in Chicago Budget

To Soldier Field
To Soldier Field

Another entry in the stadium boondoggle file – an already-overstuffed folder full of corporate welfare for the 1%. They get to own the teams, act like big shots, but we the taxpayers get to pay the debts.

A recent audit of the city-state stadium authority’s books revealed that for the first time, hotel tax revenues are not yielding the amount needed to pay off the debt that the agency took on 10 years ago to rebuild Soldier Field.

The shortfall means that Chicago’s bottom line, which is already sagging, will take yet another hit, because the city is required to come up with the money under the Soldier Field deal.

Officials for the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority said Thursday that the shortfall would not be as bad as it was first feared and should not be repeated next year. Still, one of Mr. Emanuel’s new appointees to the authority’s board looked at the debt service payments due in the next 20 years and expressed concern that the problem could get far worse, even if tourism revived and hotel tax revenues rose again.

“The city has to begin to plan for some significant outlays,” said Jim Reynolds, an investment manager and new member of the board, who was attending his first agency board meeting since Mr. Emanuel replaced the three hold-over mayoral appointees on the seven-member panel.

Thursday’s meeting took place in the agency’s offices at U.S. Cellular Field, built on the South Side more than 20 years ago to keep the White Sox from moving to Florida. State lawmakers created the I.S.F.A. to guide the ballpark’s $150 million construction and then to operate the facility.

The new fiscal problem for City Hall, however, stems from the Soldier Field deal and represents another time bomb that Mr. Emanuel inherited from Mayor Richard M. Daley. To keep the Bears in Chicago, Mr. Daley pushed successfully for the authority to issue almost $400 million in bonds for the $606 million Soldier Field renovation.


(click here to continue reading As Tax Receipts Lag, Another Hole Opens in Budget –

and Mayor Emanuel isn’t so happy about the mess the Daley Gang left behind:

The $1.1 million shortfall was disclosed in an independent audit obtained by the Tribune through a records request. The firm, , declined comment.

Earlier in the day, Emanuel said that Chicago taxpayers should not be treated like cash machines to help cover renovations at the two sports facilities. He said he wants a healthy Chicago sports industry to add the city’s quality of life, but it should not come at taxpayer expense.

“I don’t want the taxpayers of the city of Chicago to be treated as if they’re just an ATM machine; they’re not,” he said at an unrelated news conference.

The mayor recently replaced three members of the authority’s board with veterans of the financial services industry and said he “gave them clear instructions” about what role he wanted them to play.

“You’re not there for yourself, you’re not there socially, you’re there as the voice of the taxpayers of the city of Chicago,” Emanuel said.

(click here to continue reading Mayor: Don’t use taxpayers as ‘ATM machine’ to cover costs at U.S. Cellular Field, Soldier Field –

The clouds in july are mostly in the plain
The clouds in july are mostly in the plain

whether or not there was an extra $1,000,000 the City of Chicago was liable for or not, this year, we still covered most of the costs of both Soldier Field and U.S. Cellular Field, and pay at least $5,000,000 every year, and sometimes more:

This was the first time the tax revenue fell short since 2001, when a new law allowed the authority to issue bonds for renovations at Soldier Field – changes that at the time officials like then-Mayor Richard Daley and others said were needed to keep the Bears in Chicago.

At the time, the agency provided more than $400 million toward the $600 million project, which included some money for work at U.S. Cellular Field. The ISFA increased its debt, but the city agreed to cough up the extra money if hotel tax revenue fell short. Soldier Field reopened in 2003, but cost overruns made the total for the entire project about $690 million. A Tribune analysis showed the public portion was actually about $432 million.

The $1.1 million transfer was disclosed in an October independent audit that the Tribune obtained via a public records request. This goes beyond the annual $5 million subsidy the city provides already.

…More recently, the agency has come under scrutiny for its deal with the White Sox. The Tribune and WGN-TV reported last month that the authority picked up the $7 million tab to build a restaurant outside the stadium but allowed the team to keep the profits.

(click here to continue reading Chicago taxpayers helped pay for work at U.S. Cellular Field, Soldier Field – Chicago Tribune.)

The Daley Legacy Is Corruption

Everything Must Go

Not to say that Mayor Daley did nothing positive for the City of Chicago, because he did some good things too, but at best his legacy is mixed. Too many examples of greed and corruption, like:

For years, City Hall maintained that Mayor Richard M. Daley’s son, Patrick Daley, had no financial stake in the deal that brought wireless Internet service to city-owned O’Hare Airport and Midway Airport.

But it turns out that the younger Daley still reaped a windfall of $708,999 when Concourse Communications was sold in 2006, less than a year after the Chicago company signed the multimillion-dollar Wi-Fi contract with his father’s administration, company documents obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times show.

Concourse disclosed its investors to the city, as required. Patrick Daley wasn’t one of them.

But he still had a stake in Concourse’s success, the company documents show, and profited as a result when the company was sold after winning the city contract.

Daley’s role was as a middleman who lined up investors for Concourse. Among them: M. Blair Hull, the millionaire commodities trader who mounted an unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic Party’s nomination for U.S. Senate in 2004.

On June 27, 2006, nine months after it signed the potentially lucrative city contract for airport Wi-Fi service in Chicago, Concourse was sold — at a 33 percent profit — to Boingo Wireless Inc. for $45 million.

Three days later, Patrick Daley got his first payment as a result of the sale, the documents show — for $164,789.

Over the next 17 months, with Daley now serving in the U.S. Army, he got four more payments resulting from the sale, totaling $544,210, the documents show, for a total of $708,999.

Shortly after Patrick Daley received the last of those payments, his father’s City Hall press secretary, Jacquelyn Heard, told a Sun-Times reporter in a Dec. 3, 2007, interview, that Patrick Daley “has no financial interest with the Wi-Fi contract at O’Hare.”

(click here to continue reading Former Mayor Daley’s son profited after airport Wi-Fi deal – Chicago Sun-Times.)

So next time you read a hagiography of Mayor Daley, remember this aspect too.

Daley and Duff, BFF

State Street Renovation 1996

Not that surprising, really. Only would become surprising if anything ever came of it, especially since Mayor Daley is no longer mayor.

In the annals of Daley administration scandals, the name Duff still ranks high.

The politically connected Duff family — campaign supporters of Mayor Daley — won about $100 million in city business, in part through what prosecutors said were bogus claims that they deserved breaks that are set aside for women-owned businesses. Those claims unraveled as James M. Duff pleaded guilty in 2005 to fraud and racketeering, among 33 federal charges.

Daley knew the Duffs, went to their parties, benefitted from their campaign fund-raisers — but downplayed his ties to the family, which, during his tenure, got city cleanup and janitorial work from City Hall at Taste of Chicago, O’Hare Airport and the Harold Washington Library Center,among other lucrative city business.

For anyone keeping score, newly released FBI files show that agents who were keeping tabs on the late John F. “Jack” Duff Jr. — the family patriarch who was an ex-con, disgraced union boss and self-described pal of the late Chicago mob boss Anthony Accardo — had a source who told them “it was common knowledge that Jack Duff Jr. and Mayor Daley were close friends and that Jack Duff Jr. had direct access to the mayor.”

The FBI files on Jack Duff, who died in 2008 at 82, were released to the Better Government Association in response to a federal Freedom of Information Act request. That law allows the release of certain law enforcement files after a person’s death.

(click here to continue reading Mayor Daley’s name turns up in FBI files on embezzler John F. Duff Jr. – Chicago Sun-Times.)


links for 2010-09-14

Green Alley, signed by Richard M Daley…

wonder if some of Daley’s naming rights will be revoked, now that he’s no longer Mayor For Life? His name is emblazoned on seemingly 30% of the entire city of Chicago

Alderman Fioretti- Daley Being A Child

Pretty funny actually. And is Daley running or not? Lots of people are speculating, even people who don’t live in Chicago city limits.1Mary Bartelme Park

[Mary Bartelme Park, aka Adams and Sangamon Park]

Second Ward Alderman Robert Fioretti says he hasn’t yet decided whether he’s running for mayor next February, but his flirtation with the idea appears to have gotten the attention of Mayor Richard M. Daley.

At least that’s Fioretti’s take.

Daley told Fioretti and community groups this morning that he’s planning to dedicate a new park Thursday at the corner of Adams and Sangamon on the near West Side. The only problem is that Fioretti and the groups had already planned a dedication ceremony there for this Saturday, and the alderman thinks the mayor is simply trying to upstage him.

“He must be very frightened of something,” Fioretti said. “That or he’s just being the child that he is.”

Rosa Escareno, a spokeswoman for the mayor, said Fioretti is flat wrong. The mayor’s office has been planning to dedicate the new park for weeks, she said, but because Daley has a conflict Saturday they decided to hold a ceremony tomorrow.

“The mayor has numerous park dedications we’ve been trying to get on his schedule,” Escareno said. “We had this time open up.”

Martha Goldstein, executive director of the West Loop Community Organization, said community leaders have worked on the park with the Chicago Park District and city officials for nearly a decade. She said she didn’t know anything about the mayor’s event until today but planned to attend.

“We’re excited he’s coming,” she said. “We were disappointed when we’d heard he wasn’t coming Saturday.”

(click to continue reading Alderman: Daley Being A ‘Child’ / Chicago News Cooperative.)

and a classic Daleyism, for your pleasure, even if it was uttered by a staffer

Escareno said Daley isn’t available Saturday—she said she couldn’t say why—and so his schedulers were planning something for the middle of next week. But when they learned about Fioretti’s plans they decided to move the mayor’s event up.

It didn’t make sense to dedicate a park that’s already been dedicated,” she said.

But now that’s what Fioretti will be doing Saturday. Escareno says he’s welcome to attend the mayor’s event tomorrow. “The alderman is invited, and we’re hoping to have him on the agenda.”

“Less than 24 hours notice for this?” Fioretti said. “This is just unfortunate.”

Inflated Importance Toned

[former buildings at Adams and Sangamon]

and from the Chicago Journal a few months ago:


The two names usually used as shorthand for the West Loop’s new park are the Chicago Park District’s administrative-feeling Park #542 and the more informal (and geographic) Adams-Sangamon Park.

Recently, Ald. Robert Fioretti’s office pitched an official name for the space to park district superintendent Timothy Mitchell.

The honoree: Mary Bartelme.

Born near Halsted and Fulton in 1866, Bartelme became the first female judge in Illinois in 1923 and the second female judge in the nation, according to a biography of Bartelme written by Brian Hays, Michael Levy and Gwen Hoerr McNamee and included the Chicago Bar Association’s 1998 book, 125 Years of Women Lawyers in Illinois.

After being admitted to the Illinois bar in 1894, according to the biography, Bartelme began her legal career as a probate attorney with Barnes, Barnes & Bartelme.

Her practice, however, ultimately focused on the plight of children and young people during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when Chicago was industrializing and immigrants were filling the city. In 1897, she was appointed Public Guardian for Cook County, the first woman in the country to fill that role. She used the post to improve the lot of teens and children in Chicago who needed assistance. It was a role that brought her into close contact with such renowned social reformers of the era as Jane Addams, the founder of the Hull House settlement house on the Near West Side.

(click to continue reading Fioretti pitches name for West Loop park | News | Chicago Journal.)

Wikipedia entry on Ms. Barthelme:

Mary Barthelme was born in Chicago, the daughter of an Alsatian immigrant Balthasar Bartelme and his wife Jeannette. She had two sisters and a brother, and attended West Division High School. She graduated from Chicago Normal School, a teachers’ college, and taught for five years, before deciding to attend law school, at the age of 25. In 1892, she enrolled at Northwestern University Law School, from which she graduated; she was admitted to the Illinois Bar by 1894.

Known as a social reformer, during the Progressive Era, Mary Bartelme devoted much of her life to the reform of juvenile laws and the welfare of children. In 1897, she was named Cook County Public Guardian, the first woman in this post.

She became known throughout Illinois as a tireless advocate for children; her compassion for the girls who came before her earned her the nickname “Mother Barthelme.”  She would later acquire another nickname– “Suitcase Mary,” because when she sent girls to foster homes, she always provided them with clean clothes, packed in a new suitcase.

Bartelme believed that there was dramatic social neglect of girls, that parents must speak frankly with their daughters about sex, and that poverty was the main cause of delinquency. In May 1912, she was named an Assistant Judge in the Juvenile Court of Cook County.

Then, in March 1913 Bartelme convened a special Girls’ Court, which heard cases of delinquent and dependent girls, many of them prostitutes. All personnel in this closed court were female, which was felt to encourage a more open discussion of sexual and other private matters. Bartelme later established three Mary Clubs for girls who were not able to return to their parents, supported by volunteer services, as an alternative to state institutions. The first two clubs, which started in 1914 and 1916, accepted white girls; the last one, started in 1921, accepted girls of color. More than 2,000 girls passed through these group homes in a space of ten years.

In late 1923, she was elected Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, and she was re-elected in 1927.   After a distinguished career, she retired in June 1933. Prior to her official retirement, in May, more than 2000 well-wishers honored her with a luncheon, at which she was praised for her many achievements.

(click to continue reading Mary Bartelme – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)


  1. Chicagoland is a big area, but most of those folks don’t vote in the municipal elections, right? []

Daley as Patron of the Arts

Really? Mayor Daley? I guess one could argue that the downtown has been revitalized since the 1990s, certainly more after-dark options in the Loop than there used to be.

Wicked TRI-X 400

The downtown Chicago Theater District honored Mr. Daley on its 10th anniversary, led by Broadway in Chicago, the potent operator of downtown theaters, as well as by the Goodman Theatre and the 250-theater Chicago League of Theatres. The celebratory tone came amid the mayor’s difficult year, replete with an awful economy, budget travails, the suicide of a top ally and his lowest popularity ratings in years.

“No one has worked harder and risked more than Mayor Daley,” declared Lou Raizin, president of Broadway in Chicago.

Mr. Raizin alluded to the Loop’s distinctly melancholy state not long ago — before the refurbishing of several theaters like the Auditorium, the expansion of Loop university campuses, and new restaurants — and the benefits of the revitalization for his firm. They include annual audiences of 1.7 million, a decade of payrolls totaling $100 million and the impact on other sectors, like hotels, with 6.7 percent of local hotel occupancy attributed to people coming to town to see his shows, like the musical “Billy Elliott.”

Some Daley critics might have winced upon hearing Mr. Raizin present the case for tax increment financing, or TIFs. They’re a development tool, used nationwide, that Daley has relied on to, critics say, benefit developers at the expense of other public entities such as public schools and parks. They’ve been essential to the downtown theaters, he said.

And if the activity in the Loop at night leaves a lot to be desired, you cannot deny the failure of previous mayors to turn matters around. Remember Jane Byrne’s ignominious State Street Mall gambit?

Roche Schulfer, executive director of the Goodman, called what has happened with the theater district “a signal achievement in urban development and private-public partnerships,” lauding the mayor’s “vision, tenacity and courage.”

Mr. Daley’s arts record is solid and goes well beyond the time he stood on the “Jersey Boys” stage and exhorted Chicagoans to go watch theater. For all the caricature of the monosyllabic, middle-brow politician, the mayor has been a force, in part due to his world travels and a propensity to borrow the ideas of others.

Whether it’s fiberglass cows on street corners, the handiwork of world famous architects or teaching Chinese in the public schools, the mayor has a sophisticated sensibility akin to a plodding baseball pitcher’s sneaky changeup — it’s frequently missed.

(click to continue reading Chicago News Cooperative – Daley Takes Center Stage as Patron of the Arts –

Cadillac Palace BW

So I guess let the Mayor have his moment, he won’t be in office much longer, doling out the TIF dollars.

Mayor Daley’s Fence Inspectors haven’t discovered this alley yet

Probably because the lot is owned by the Hyatt, and the Pritzker family can’t afford to clean up their property.

Developed in SwankoLab for iPhone using Jerry’s Developer and Larry’s Developer

After issuing only one fine for a landscape ordinance violation from 2005 until 2008, the city issued 51 in 2009, according to records from the Department of Administrative Hearings. The city meted out $29,000 in fines to businesses last year for landscape ordinance violations. Ninety percent of the violations cited a lack of the required fencing.

Deadlines for putting up fencing were phased in by area. Other parts of the ordinance require trees, hedges and screening of stored trash.

This alley has been this decrepit for several years, but I think the Hyatt purchased the lot in 2006 or 2007, and obviously they have higher priorities than urban beautification.

Turning a blind eye part two
Turning a blind eye, part two.
Another view of the fence and little shack of a lot owned by the Hyatt. Small businesses get fined by the City for eyesores like this; big corporations, not so much.

Removing Prime Time Parking Restrictions

Personally, think the parking restrictions are a good idea. I have enough trouble getting into my building during rush hour, if cars are blocking the impromptu extra lane, the congestion will only magnify.

Evening float home

Mayor Richard M. Daley’s administration is planning to remove rush-hour parking restrictions on some of Chicago’s busiest streets.

City officials say the move will help businesses and make those streets safer, but it also appears likely to slow traffic and generate more money for the private company that runs the city’s parking meters.

Transportation Department officials sent letters to aldermen last month informing them of the change. In a letter to Alderman Scott Waguespack (32nd Ward), the city said rush-hour restrictions would end on stretches of North Clybourn and Lincoln Avenues that have meters and “pay and display” parking fee boxes. The restrictions had prevented motorists from parking at the metered spaces from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays.

Mr. Waguespack remained unconvinced after meeting this week with Transportation Department staff members. “Is this about safety or about increasing revenue for the parking company?” he said.

[Click to continue reading Chicago News Cooperative – The Pulse – Prime Parking Space Is Opening Up –]

Somehow this decision sounds more like a solution proposed by the private parking company.

TIF Slush Fund

Mayor Daley’s budget is in deficit, municipal projects don’t get funded, schools don’t get funded, yet developers can get as much TIF money1 as they need, no matter what. No consequences, no strings. Just plain ole corporate welfare.

Half Done

A city panel approved another major increase in financial assistance for planned Loop apartment development that has struggled to get off the ground because of rising costs and the tough lending climate.

The Community Development Commission signed off Tuesday on a $34-million tax-increment financing subsidy to help pay for the conversion of a vintage Loop office tower at 188 W. Randolph St. into a 310-unit apartment building.

That’s more than four times the $8 million in TIF funds the city initially approved for the development back in 2006, when its total cost was estimated at $79 million.

But the projected cost had soared to $139 million in 2008, and the project’s developer, Village Green Cos., went back for more. The city complied by hiking the subsidy to $20 million.

[Click to continue reading Loop project poised to get another big TIF boost – Chicago Real Estate Daily]

Via Lynn Becker, who adds:

When, in 2006, a developer announced plans to rehab Vitzhum & Burns Steuben Club Building at 188 W. Randolph, an $8 million dollars contribution from the massive Central Loop TIF was going to kick in about 10% of the $79 million cost.

But wait – there’s more! The project is also getting $40 million dollars in tax-exempt bonds from the state, plus $37 million in tax credits. You, lucky taxpayer, kick in almost half of the project cost and the private developer gets the building. Socialism, Chicago style.

When Draconian cutbacks are effecting everything in Chicago from the CTA, to the schools, to 4th of July Fireworks, the city is diverting another $26 million in tax revenues to an economically unsustainable development.

[Click to continue reading ArchitectureChicago PLUS: Welfare Queen]

Really disgusting. The Vitzthum & Burns Steuben Club Building is not a cookie-cutter square box, but it isn’t in the upper echelon of Chicago architecture either.

from a CBS Chicago report (presumedly based on the press release from Village Green Companies)

The Community Development Commission approved a plan to redevelop the vacant and historic Randolph Tower at 188 W. Randolph St. into 310 apartments, retail and commercial space, according to a release from the CDC.

The action recommends the designation of Village Green Companies as the developer for the proposed $145 million renovation.

Plans call for the mixed-use building, formerly known as the Steuben Club Building, to be converted into 168 studios, 98 one-bedroom and 44 two-bedroom units, the release said. Sixty-two of the residential units will be made affordable to households at or below 50 percent of median area income.

Village Green bought the 45-story office building out of bankruptcy in 2005 and will convert the 80-year-old structure into apartments. Plans also include 9,500 square feet of ground floor restaurant and retail space. Village Green will occupy 11,400 square feet on the second floor as its Chicago regional office.

Amenities will include a fitness center, swimming pool and spa. A social club will be located on the 38th and 39th floors, offering 360-degree views of the skyline and Lake Michigan, the release said.

The Gothic-style building will have extensive work done to preserve its historic terra cotta façade and other ornamental details and a gut rehabilitation of the interior.

The CDC also approved a redevelopment plan for the proposed Randolph/Wells tax increment financing district. Creation of the district will support the renovation of Randolph Tower and help redevelop other underutilized and vacant buildings in the area.

[Click to continue reading
City OK’s Rehab Of Loop Tower, Home For Teen Mothers On West Side –

Hey, build for the future, right? Demand for new condos might be low now, but in twenty years…

Via EveryBlock’s hyperlocal news

  1. tax increment financing []