I am not a fan of football – I couldn’t name five starters on any NFL team – but while reading about the Draft Town event that muddled up downtown traffic all weekend
When N.F.L. executives chose last year to move the draft for the first time in a half-century, the decision was based as much on issues in New York as opportunities elsewhere.
But the three-day event in Chicago went so well that the league now faces a new choice: whether to return here next year or move the draft to yet another city.
On Thursday and Friday, 110,000 people visited Draft Town, the free fan festival in Grant Park across the street from the theater where the draft was held. On Saturday, larger crowds were expected when selections in the fourth through seventh rounds were announced at the festival. The crowds far exceeded the league’s original estimates.
Many fans who came to Chicago were from N.F.L. cities within driving distance — Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Green Bay, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Minneapolis and St. Louis — giving the draft a Midwestern feel.
“How could we not come?” said Alex Paszkowski, a Packers fan who drove 90 minutes from Milwaukee with two friends.
The league attracted sponsors for its fan festival and persuaded the host city, Chicago, to contribute. The success of the event this year could give the N.F.L. leverage in negotiations with other cities.
“When you negotiate with the N.F.L., you usually lose,” said Allen Sanderson, an economist at the University of Chicago, who added that while the draft helped market the city, it did not provide many economic benefits.
Wait, does that mean the City of Chicago got hosed by the NFL? One of the largest corporations on the planet – a nonprofit corporation even, for some crazy reason – needed a cash-strapped city’s funds to host an event that benefits only the NFL? /shakes fist at Rahm Emanuel Mayor 1%…
Progressives do have a history with Mayor 1%, Rahm Emanuel, and it isn’t a pleasant one. Sadly, it does look like Rahm-bo might squeak out a win over Chuy Garcia, but the special runoff election isn’t until April 7th, so there is still hope.
Digby writes, in part, a bit of the history:
Way back in the day (a decade ago) when the Progressive Netroots were just starting to organize, the first “scalp” any of the left leaning movement activists took was that of a Democratic hack from Maryland named Al Wynn when they backed a progressive challenger by the name of Donna Edwards. Edwards defeated Wynn in 2008 and is now running to replace Senator Barbara Mikulski who recently announced her retirement. In each congressional cycle Netroots progressives have fought a number of hard-fought primaries, losing more often than they won (just like the Tea Party) but slowly managing to make the House of Representatives a bit more progressive than it was before. Congressional representatives like Matt Cartwright, Beto O’Rourke and Senators like Jon Tester were backed strongly by the grassroots of the party and managed to unseat incumbents. Nobody in the beltway noticed or cared, of course. (Progressives always forget to order their tri-corner hats and Betsy Ross wigs…)
But over time, it’s had an effect and not just because of the “scalps” they took, but because all of those hard fought races, whether won or lost, showed the incumbents that there was a restive group of activists out there who could challenge the status quo. And aside from primary challenges, progressives in congress from Keith Ellison and Alan Grayson in the House to Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Baldwin in the Senate were enthusiastically supported by Netroots groups like, Move On, DFA, PCCC and Blue America (disclosure: I am a principal in that group) among a number of others, a support which translates into small donor involvement, campaign volunteering and strategic advice as well as engaged in grassroots activism for progressive congressional initiatives. It’s made a difference. The House and Senate today have progressive wings that are active and vocal in a way they did not a decade ago.
Rahm Has A Message For You…
Back in 2006 when all this really started to come together there was one Democrat who quickly determined that this nascent progressive movement was a major threat to the status quo. His name was Rahm Emanuel who was, at the time, an Illinois congressman in charge of candidate recruitment for the congressional Democrats. If there’s anyone who can take credit for being the catalyst for this long term Netroots commitment to elect progressives to congress it is him. His crude dismissal of grassroots concerns was blatant. His contempt for anyone who disagreed with his centrist Blue Dog/New Democrat philosophy was palpable. While his wholehearted support for big money interests was seen as the ultimate in strategic brilliance by the beltway elites, it repelled Democratic activists everywhere.
Despite the fact that lame-duck George W. Bush and the war in Iraq were so unpopular that virtually anyone who could draw a breath who had a D after his or her name could have won, the conventional wisdom said that Emanuel’s DCCC win in the off year election of 2006 was a validation of his political savvy. (In case you were wondering, Emanuel wasn’t elected to congress until after the Iraq war resolution but was on record supporting it, saying that the U.S. needed a “muscular projection of force” there. You can let the shrinks sort out just what that language says about him …)
When the newly elected President Obama tapped him as chief-of-staff, you could hear progressives screaming “nooooooo” across the land. And when he departed to run for mayor of Chicago, the collective sigh of progressive relief (everywhere but Chicago) was just as audible. He is, in other words, the symbol of everything progressives are trying to change about the Democratic Party.
And right now, in Chicago, a progressive is giving him the personal challenge of his political lifetime. Political observers were stunned last month when a longtime Illinois politician by the name of Jesus “Chuy” Garcia forced Emanuel into a runoff for his second term as mayor. Perhaps stunned isn’t really the right word. Apoplectic is more apt. After all, Emanuel has a seemingly unending supply of money with which he tried to buy off every bit of institutional support and his network of elite friendships goes all the way up to the White House. But it turns out that his arrogance and corruption may be too much even for a city that is anything but starry-eyed about such things.
Gee, Rahm, did you think that nobody would notice this? Not a good way to win re-election, environmentalists are motivated voters, with long memories…
Faced with public outrage about gritty black dust blowing through Chicago’s Southeast Side, Mayor Rahm Emanuel talked of forcing towering mounds of petroleum coke out of Chicago and outlawing new piles with costly regulations.
But the fine print of a zoning ordinance unveiled Tuesday by the Emanuel administration opens the door for greater use of the high-sulfur, high-carbon refinery byproduct in the city.
Under changes outlined at a hearing of the City Council’s powerful zoning committee, companies would be allowed to store and burn petroleum coke in Chicago if “consumed onsite as part of a manufacturing process.” The special exemption also would allow companies to burn stockpiles of coal.
KCBX Terminals, a company controlled by industrialists Charles and David Koch, already is defending a lawsuit filed by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan that accuses the company of violating air pollution laws at its facility off Burley Avenue between 108th and 111th streets. Another Madigan lawsuit urges a Cook County judge to cite KCBX for violating water quality and open dumping laws by failing to prevent petcoke and coal from washing into the Calumet River at its 100th Street storage terminal.
A separate state order required Beemsterboer Slag Co. to remove petcoke and coal from its 106th Street storage terminal.
KCBX has a contract to store petcoke generated by the BP refinery just over the Indiana border in Whiting. To process more heavy Canadian tar sands oil, BP recently completed an overhaul of the refinery that will more than triple its output of petcoke to 2.2 million tons a year – a figure Emanuel has frequently cited when vowing to crack down on the dusty piles.
“It’s unfortunate the city is undercutting the mayor’s very clear statements,” said Henry Henderson, a former Chicago environment commissioner who heads the Midwest office of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “This is a retreat.”
I wonder if there were any Koch-Dollars involved? Sounds suspiciously like there was some back channels being worked here by somebody…
Yesterday, a hearing on Chicago’s proposed ordinance to ban new and expanded petroleum coke operations gave us a good example of why this town often deserves its international reputation for political shenanigans.
The City Council’s Zoning Committee had set a hearing to move on the ordinance that would significantly restrict transportation, disposal and use of petroleum coke in our communities. Based on weeks of discussions with the City authorities, and the stated goals of the Mayor, everyone thought they were coming to a hearing in the City Council’s zoning committee to weigh in on new rules on the handling and usage of the ashy oil refining waste (as well as coal) which has appeared in massive mounds on the Southeast Side.
But instead, John Pope, sponsor of the ordinance and Alderman of the 10th Ward where the piles reside, tried to pull a switcheroo.
But the Alderman’s new version eliminates the prohibition on petcoke and coal users. That means big facilities that burn the stuff, like cement manufacturers and dirty energy producers, are free to open and expand across many city districts.
Given recent maneuvering in the area, it is likely that he has a couple of users clearly in mind: a cement plant and the formerly aborted Leucadia coal gasification plant.
And it opens the door to expansion of the blight. While the oil refining waste has largely been seen along the banks of the Calumet River on the Southeast Side, it is important to remember that there are plenty of other potential destinations in town. In our testimony at the hearing, my colleague Meleah Geertsma noted that under current law, facilities in almost any of Chicago’s “Planned Manufacturing Districts” have the right to bring big piles of petcoke and coal. The City has 15 of these zones, which include places like the Clybourn Corridor, Goose Island, the Chicago/Halsted Corridor, Pilsen and West Pullman.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.