Daley Wants to sell Chicago down the river

Ok, headline writing is not my forte, but if Mayor Daley sells Chicago’s fresh water to private corporations, there just might be rioting in the streets.

Blue Moon

Michael Hawthorne writes:

Mayor Richard Daley says any part of city government is up for grabs if the price is right.

But if he is tempted to dangle Chicago’s vast water system as his next lease deal, he might want to first consult Atlanta, which is still smarting from a botched experiment with privatizing a big-city water supply.

Or the mayor could look someplace closer to home, like Bolingbrook, one of dozens of suburbs and downstate communities furious about steep rate increases imposed by a private water operator.

Daley is searching for more jackpots as his administration draws heavily on the money it reaped from leasing parking meters and the Chicago Skyway to ease the city through the recession. The mayor recently told the Tribune editorial board that he has met with consultants who outlined new privatization deals, but he would not provide details.

“Everything is always on the table,” Daley said, though mayoral aides later insisted that nothing immediate is in the works.

If Chicago tried to sell off its water department to a private company, it would be the largest U.S. city to do so. Such a deal also would run counter to movements in dozens of smaller towns across the suburbs and the rest of the nation, where local officials are having second thoughts about private control of public water.

[Click to continue reading Leasing water system could be a risky move for Chicago — chicagotribune.com]

Water Pumping Station tonemapped

One of Chicago’s great assets is its plentiful fresh water. Why give this away for pennies? And what percentage would be pissed away on corrupt consultants/buddies of Daley?

Chicago’s recent parking meter privatization fiasco is still lingering in everyone’s minds, I’d be extremely surprised if Mayor Daley will be able to push through a water program as easily. The public opinion is already strongly opposed to a water boondoggle, if the internet poll currently hosted at the Chicago Tribune is any indication1.

Working the Fire Hydrant

  1. currently 97% opposed []

Mayor Daley Places Olympian Bet on Chicago 2016

Mayor Daley has famously only lost four votes in the City Hall rubber-stamp room called the City Council, but the residents of Chicago are less sanguine about the economic benefits of hosting the Olympics.

Heart versus Head

The Second City is weary after months of recession and Illinois corruption scandals, and angry about everything from rising taxes to deepening potholes. The city is especially skeptical of Mr. Daley’s Olympic push: After pledging Chicago wouldn’t pay a cent should the Games lose money, the mayor later said Chicago would cover any potential shortfall.

Mr. Daley, re-elected in 2007 with more than 71% of the vote, now has a career-low approval rating of 35%, according to a recent Chicago Tribune poll. In public meetings, citizens rail that he has become isolated, thin-skinned and autocratic. Only 47% of Chicagoans support hosting the Games.

Mr. Daley, asked about his falling approval ratings and concerns over cost overruns and corruption, shakes his head.

“You have to have vision,” the 67-year-old mayor said in an interview this month as he shuttled between appearances in the back seat of his black sedan. “You can’t start second-guessing yourself.”

Mr. Daley says the Games will transform Chicago and update its international image from a meat-and-manufacturing hub to the Paris on the Prairie its planners envisioned. Chicago’s Olympic committee has said the Games will generate tens of thousands of jobs and a $13.7 billion economic boost for Chicago. Last week, Anderson Economic Group LLC estimated that spending in Chicago would be more modest, around $4.4 billion.

University of Chicago sports economist Allen Sanderson is more skeptical still. “When you say the word ‘billions,’ special-interest groups start salivating,” he said. “This is Chicago, so yeah, I expect some cost overruns.”

[Click to continue reading Mayor Places Olympian Bet on Chicago’s Bid for Games – WSJ.com]

The Olympics last for what, two weeks? But preparation has to start seven years in advance? Yikes.

Apparently, Chicago has integrated without much notice:

As other Midwestern cities emptied, Chicago grew. In the past 10 years, it added parks and trees, luxury residential skyscrapers and 36 million square feet of commercial development — nearly twice as much as Los Angeles. Between 1989 and 2008, Chicago’s median household income rose 2.7%, in 2008 dollars. Over the same period, incomes in Rust Belt cities Detroit, Cleveland and Indianapolis shrunk 11% or more.

By 2008, Chicago had become the eighth-most integrated global city in the world, according to Foreign Policy magazine, behind Singapore and ahead of Seoul.

Mind Detergent

And Obama is going to personally persuade IOC officials in Copenhagen after all, for some reason.

Less than two weeks ago, President Obama lamented that he was too busy to go to Denmark to lobby for Chicago’s bid to host the Olympics. “I would make the case in Copenhagen personally,” he said, “if I weren’t so firmly committed to making real the promise of quality, affordable health care for every American.”

Evidently, his commitment to health care is no longer quite so time consuming. Mr. Obama announced Monday that he would fly to Copenhagen this week after all to lobby the International Olympic Committee for the 2016 Summer Games.

Mr. Obama changed his mind and decided to take a gamble no other American president has taken at the urging of his close friend and senior adviser, Valerie Jarrett, who has been deeply involved in promoting Chicago’s bid. He hopes to trump the presence in Copenhagen of his counterparts from rival countries seeking the games — Brazil, Japan and Spain — and duplicate the success that Tony Blair of Britain and Vladimir V. Putin of Russia have had in recent years by personally lobbying for their nations’ bids.

Moreover, aides noted that it would be a relatively small time investment. Mr. Obama will leave Thursday evening and fly overnight, arriving in Copenhagen just in time to join Chicago’s final presentation Friday morning, when he and the first lady will address the committee. He returns to Washington on Friday afternoon.

[Click to continue reading White House Memo – In Pitch for Games, a Gamble for Obama – NYTimes.com]

I don’t buy the argument that the President can only perform one task in a day. Maybe GWB was limited that way, but most modern politicians are adept enough to chew gum and walk at the same time. Still, I question whether the Olympic Games are worth wasting a President’s limited agenda upon.

Click here for some other posts discussing the 2016 games

Reading Around on August 27th through August 28th

A few interesting links collected August 27th through August 28th:

  • Solipsism « Earthpages.ca – Think Free – This is the philosophical position that only the subject exists and all impressions of others and the outside world are illusory.

    While many dismiss solipsism as an extreme or strange view, others say it is logically impossible to prove or disprove

  • d r i f t g l a s s: Da Mare Would Like To Apologize – "If you've never been to a public meeting where Da Mare or one of his goofs are having their political pipes rodded, let me tell you right off the bat, you should go. Over the years I’ve been to several, and it really is about as purely little-“d”-democratic an exercise as any big city could hope for: In front of Da Mare and the assembled heads of his every office and department, any citizen can step up to the microphone and “Cry Harold”"

    Awesome description: I have to go to one of these sometimes

  • Review: Snow Leopard Review | Mac OS X – Page 1 | Macworld – if you later try to launch a PowerPC app, Snow Leopard will pop up a window to explain that you need Rosetta and offer to install it for you (via Apple’s Software Update utility). I can only assume that making Rosetta optional is an attempt by Apple to goad users to upgrade their apps and to shame developers who still haven’t recompiled their apps to run on Intel chips. But given that most everyday users have no idea which of their apps are Intel-native and which are PowerPC, this seems unnecessarily harsh.

Chicago Children’s Museum move stalls out

About a year ago, we had a flurry of posts opposing the move1 /2 /3 /4 /5 /6 /7 of the Chicago Children’s Museum from Navy Pier to a semi-subterranean location in a corner of Grant Park.

Daley Bicentennial Plaza

Just a year after winning hard-fought City Council permission to move to Grant Park, the Chicago Children’s Museum has hit a financial wall, raising a real prospect that its highly controversial new facility in the park’s northeast corner may never be built.

A moribund economy now may have a better chance of blocking the project than lawsuits by parks activists and neighborhood opponents. Fundraising has foundered while projected costs have climbed by tens of millions to $150 million or more, Crain’s has learned. Sources close to the project say odds now are 50-50 at best that the Grant Park plan will proceed.

As a result, the museum is considering its options, including downsizing the proposed facility, getting a cash infusion from the Chicago Park District or extending the lease on its current space at Navy Pier as far as 2025.

Museum board Chairman Gigi Pritzker, who was not available for comment, could tap her personal fortune to bail out the project, were she so inclined. But short of that, signs are multiplying that the proposed facility is turning into one more headache for Mayor Richard M. Daley, who spent considerable political capital pushing the museum plan through the council in June 2008 over the opposition of the local alderman, Brendan Reilly (42nd).

According to the museum’s latest available income-tax return, filed in May with Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s charitable trust division, the museum had $28.1 million in “pledges receivable” as of June 30, 2008 — just $1 million more than it did a year earlier. Much of that is believed to be a continuing naming-rights commitment for the proposed facility from Northbrook-based Allstate Corp., which says it still backs the project.

[Click to read more details of Museum move stalls out | Crain’s Chicago Business]

Of course, wealthy heiress Gigi Pritzker could fund the construction out of her own vast wealth should she choose to, since she was one of the driving forces behind the whole fiasco, but the whole point was to get taxpayers to pay for the museum’s new location. Kind of like one of those sports stadium deals we fulminate against now and then. The Chicago Children’s Museum is a private museum, thus any profits collected will remain in the museum, and not the City of Chicago.

  1. for instance: Setback for the CCM juggernaut []
  2. or: Fight for Chicago’s treasured lakefront []
  3. or: Subterranean museum []
  4. or: The Grant Park land-grab []
  5. or: Chicago astroturf alert []
  6. or: Keep childrens museum out of Grant Park []
  7. or: Daley vs Reilly []

Reading Around on May 17th through May 19th

A few interesting links collected May 17th through May 19th:

  • New York State Aims for 100 MW of Rooftop Solar Power by 2015 : TreeHugger – photo: Seth Anderson via flickr.

    And thanks to TreeHugger staff for learning from their little mistake – proper credit to photographers is not difficult, makes everyone happier, fitter.

  • The 1871 fires – Disarranging Mine – Did you know that on the night the Great Chicago Fire started, October 8, 1871, there were many more fires across the Upper Midwest?
  • Gabriel Villa’s Mural Destroyed « mediating the medium – "I recently received a disturbing e-mail from the artist Gabriel Villa that began with “The city white washed my mural.” In it Villa explained how the mural he began in Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood at Kaplan’s Liquors 960 W 31st St, as a part of Version>09 was destroyed by the city only days before its completion. I had been documenting Villa’s progress as a part of this year’s festival and I am sadden by the news of its destruction. He was granted permission by the owner of the building to paint the mural and this forces me to ask, what was the real reason for this censorship?"

    Despicable. Censorship at its most heavy handed. Welcome to Daley's Chicago

Reading Around on May 14th through May 15th

A few interesting links collected May 14th through May 15th:

  • Alderman says he had this mural destroyed | Chicago Public Radio Blog – Man, that sucks, especially since the owner of the building gave the artist permission

    "This week artist Gabriel Villa was putting finishing touches on this mural in Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood. Now someone has brown-washed the work. Ald. James Balcer (Ward 11) told WBEZ this morning that he called the city’s Streets and Sanitation Department to have it destroyed."

  • Liquid Dilemma: Godzilla vs. Ralph Records – I stumbled upon a collection of LPs from San Francisco based label Ralph Records, mostly recorded in the 80s and now out of print. They blew my mind. The record dealer claimed that he got them directly from the keyboardist of weirdo experimentalist band, The Residents.
  • Shaquille O'Neal's Secret Performance Enhancement Recipe – TrueHoop By Henry Abbott – ESPN – Shaquille O'Neal was on Atlanta's 790 The Zone and was asked if he had ever taken performance enhancing drugs. He proceeded to described his recipe as follows:

    Frosted Flakes Athletic Performance Enhancement Cereal.

    They ain't even out yet…

    For all the little kids, the Performance Enhancement Cereal is you take the Frosted Flakes, and you take the Froot Loops, and you mix them together, and then you get some of them sliced bananas and you put them on that thing, and then you get a big old bowl. The kind of bowl if you pull out out your mother say, "Boy, you better put that bowl back!" And, then you pour that milk … "You better get a job eating all that milk."

Reading Around on May 1st through May 5th

A few interesting links collected May 1st through May 5th:

Reading Around on April 16th

Some additional reading April 16th from 17:21 to 20:40:

  • Chicago Reader | The Works | Ben Javorsky for Mayor! Responses to your responses to our story about Chicago’s parking meter lease deal By Ben Joravsky – I heard Daley on the radio say, “You have to monetize your assets or else they become liabilities.” What an idiot. Never took an economics or accounting class at the U. of C., that’s for sure. Vote the idiot out. —South Looper

    Now, now, don’t harsh on Mayor Daley. He didn’t have time for economics or accounting—he was too busy studying for that bar exam for the third time.

  • Daily Kos: Why yesterday's protests were stupid – What was the message? Too much taxes? I didn't see many bank executives and Wall Street types out on the streets. And coming on the heels of the biggest tax cut in American history, almost entirely directed at the middle class, this message didn't have much salience. Furthermore, the theme of these protests "taxation without representation", was pretty silly considering that these people did have representation. It's just that they lost the elections, which sort of happens in a democracy. "Representation" doesn't mean you always get your way, it means that you have a vote. So it was an indefensible frame to base the protests around.

    That's probably why the crowds didn't easily rally around it, deciding to freelance it instead. So there was talk about pork barrel spending! And bail outs! And wanting to stick a knife in Obama's eye! And secession! And Obama's birth certificate! And Obama taking away their guns! The American taxpayers are the Jews for Obama's ovens! Obama is Hitler!

  • GO TO 2040 Blog -Edible Change is Enticing at 4th Annual Food Policy Summit – "In its fourth year the summit Edible Change! Building Networks for Policy Action, hosted by the Chicago Food Policy Advisory Council (CFPAC) reached full capacity bringing together over 250 people from the Chicago area and around the region with amazing diversity of geography, ethnicity, and age to talk, learn, and share stories about food. "

    photo of produce by me

Reading Around on April 9th through April 12th

A few interesting links collected April 9th through April 12th:

  • Technic News » Can the Statusphere Save Journalism?Recently, I enjoyed a refreshing and invigorating dinner with Walt Mossberg. While we casually discussed our most current endeavors and experiences, the discussion shifted to deep conversation about the future of journalism in the era of socialized media with one simple question, “are newspapers worth saving?”

    photo by swanksalot

  • Gapers Block : Mechanics : Chicago Politics – The Erosion of Daley and the Coward DefenseThe excuse we always hear (off the record of course) from Aldermen, community groups, think tanks, and the rest, is that taking on the Mayor is just too darn scary. He’s too powerful. But what makes him powerful, like all bullies, is the constant refusal of anybody to stand up to him. And of course, it isn’t fear: its convenience. That whole “…but he’s our sonofabitch” mentality. We saw how well that worked with Augusto Pinochet and Saddam Hussein.
  • Washington Post Reporter Says It’s Not His Job to Check the Accuracy of People He’s Quoting – talk about stenography to the powerful. Why would anyone read the Washington Post with this sort of attitude towards politicians? Can just read press releases at the Senator’s website for all the good Paul Kane does.

    Pathetic. and this quote makes me laugh, perhaps not in the way Mr. Kane intends:
    Someone tell Media Matters to get over themselves and their overblown ego of righteousness.

Everything In Its Place

Reading Around on April 9th

Some additional reading April 9th from 09:50 to 15:24:

  • Fair Use for Fair People – Anil Dash – “Both independent bloggers on the web and the Associated Press are in the news this week for asking for appropriate credit for their work when it’s excerpted for fair use by online news aggregators. But the web natives frame their argument in terms of respect for the reader and defending the credibility of the information being published, assuming correctly that their businesses will grow if they honor these principles. In contrast, the AP leads with its business argument first, establishing an atmosphere of legal threats and aggrieved arguments about licensing fees with no mention of what readers want, or what respect they have for the very stories they’re ostensibly fighting to present.
  • Daring Fireball Linked List: Kottke on Extreme Borrowing – “And yes, this is yet another instance of me standing up and saying that I’m doing it right where others are doing it wrong, so suck it.

    quoting myself (Twittered):
    I’ve had a blog nearly ten years, and visitors hardly ever click-thru to the original article. Like 1 in 10, or 1 in 20. I don’t know if the click-thru failure is a failure on my part (probably) or on the part of my visitors (maybe), but hasn’t changed w/ time. So when big-dog blogs like AllThingsDigital or HuffPo take 3 graphs from an indie blog, doubt much traffic gets generated to the indie blog. Of the last 100 visitors to my (tiny) blog, 3 clicked to another site (and 2 more clicked a photo, and one to an Amazon link).

  • Extreme borrowing in the blogosphere – “So I guess my question is: why is All Things Digital getting put through the wringer receiving scrutiny here for something that seems a lot more innocuous than what thousands of blogs are doing every day? Shouldn’t we be just as or more critical of sites like Huffington Post, Gawker, Apartment Therapy, Engadget, Boing Boing, Buzzfeed, Lifehacker, etc. etc. etc. that extensively excerpt and summarize?
    More discussion (with interesting comments) of the All Things Digital mini-dustup which feeds into the whole copyright vs. blogosphere vs. corporate media discussion that is the story of 2009 so far.
  • Chicago Reader | FAIL: The Story of Chicago’s Parking Meter Lease Deal – How Mayor Daley and his crew hid their process from the public, ignored their own rules, railroaded the City Council, and screwed the taxpayers | By Ben Joravsky and Mick Dumke – “How Daley and his crew hid their process from the public, ignored their own rules, railroaded the City Council, and screwed the taxpayers on the parking meter lease deal“For me, am glad I hardly ever use meter parking (CTA, bike, walking are always better options), but I can see why folks are outraged.

Daley and his Parking Meter Scandal

Doubt if this particular Mayor Daley scandal has percolated into the national news media yet, but it is only a matter of time.

No one in Chicago has been happy about the recent hike in parking meter rates, but by last week the frustration had become outrage, and the outrage had become a political problem. Since the city’s speedy decision in December to lease the meters for 75 years in return for about $1.2 billion in quick cash, what you get for your quarter has declined precipitously. Worse, residents are fed up with the tickets they’re receiving thanks to broken meters and outdated labeling. Some are boycotting meters by parking on side streets or not driving at all; others have tagged or vandalized them.

Finally, on March 31, city officials called a press conference to confront the problem—or at least to offer up someone who could take the blame so the Daley administration didn’t have to. They presented one Dennis Pedrelli, chief executive officer of Chicago Parking Meters, the private entity that’s now responsible for operating the meters. Pedrelli delivered a mea culpa. “We regret any issues that occurred,” he said. “We are working as quickly as possible to address those issues.” He promised that the company wouldn’t raise rates or write any more tickets until it had fixed the broken meters and posted accurate information.

But the event didn’t touch on what’s really behind the parking meter problems: the deal that put the city’s 36,000 meters in the hands of Pedrelli’s company. Once city officials decided to privatize the meters, they rushed into a deal with little regard for the financial risks or potential impact on the public, turning control of a revenue-generating city asset over to a company that had just qualified for federal bailout funds.

[Click to continue reading Chicago Reader | FAIL: The Story of Chicago’s Parking Meter Lease Deal – How Mayor Daley and his crew hid their process from the public, ignored their own rules, railroaded the City Council, and screwed the taxpayers | By Ben Joravsky and Mick Dumke]

Citizens get angry over the kind of corruption that directly effects them every time they drive in the city; Daley better watch out if he wants to remain Mayor-For-Life. I’m voting against him in the next election, should he decide to run again.

Fixing Another Parking Meter

Not sure if this Department of Revenue employee was repairing a vandalized parking meter, or just a damaged one, but I suspect vandalization as he repaired several on this block or W. Randolph.

–update 4/10/09

Ramsin Canon of Gapers Block has an excellent article expanding on the topic

Progressives, do you think your constituencies will forgive you for your silence, cooperation, and collaboration? Do you think your legitimacy will survive what is now growing into more than a decade of utter silence? Do you think making demands on behalf of some corner or slice of the city will make up for refusing to take on the system that forces you to beg in the first place? It won’t. Your irrelevancy grows with each day you refuse to dissent in any meaningful way. Spending money to replace one group of aldermen, state legislators, or whoever, with another group that have to work with the same rotten system is not an effort at real change; it is political posturing meant to extract more concessions from a system left untouched.

The excuse we always hear (off the record of course) from Aldermen, community groups, think tanks, and the rest, is that taking on the Mayor is just too darn scary. He’s too powerful. But what makes him powerful, like all bullies, is the constant refusal of anybody to stand up to him. And of course, it isn’t fear: its convenience. That whole “…but he’s our sonofabitch” mentality. We saw how well that worked with Augusto Pinochet and Saddam Hussein.

[Click to continue reading Gapers Block : Mechanics : Chicago Politics – The Erosion of Daley and the Coward Defense]

Daley had better watch out, the public rage at his administration is palpable, and growing.

Reading Around on April 9th

Some additional reading April 9th from 09:50 to 09:50:

O’Hare’s toll taker

Corruption? In Chicago? Surely1 you jest.

Within the past year, three businesses donated money to Alderman Patrick Levar’s campaign fund shortly before or after getting backing for potentially lucrative airport leases from the Chicago City Council committee he oversees. Mr. Levar, 57, is the longtime chairman of the Aviation Committee, a necessary stopover for many companies looking to cash in on the throngs of travelers at O’Hare and Midway airports. A range of concessionaires, from McDonald’s franchisees to Nuts On Clark, have sought the blessing of his panel recently.

The 45th Ward alderman’s campaign fundraising records show numerous donations from airport vendors, some with a keen interest in how his Aviation Committee votes. What’s more, Mr. Levar solicits some of these vendors for campaign fundraisers, although he insists he puts them on his mailing list only if they give him a business card and ask to be included.

[From Chicago Business News, Analysis & Articles | O’Hare’s toll taker | Crain’s ]

Alderman Levar, predictably, has no idea why these companies are singling out his campaign to donate money to, and furthermore claims that Daley is the real decision maker.

Mr. Levar says he doesn’t really hold much power, since the Daley administration chooses contractors before submitting them to his committee, which decides whether to forward things on to the full City Council for final approval.

“They go through a process — I don’t pick them,” Mr. Levar says.

Still, he plays a central role in determining whether businesses get to tap passenger pocketbooks at city-owned O’Hare and Midway.

  1. and stop calling me Shirley. I’m obligated to type that or I’ll lose my Airport pun license []