Friday, October 2, 2009
Friday, September 4, 2009
But never fear, I plan to be back soon with more posts about our beloved mayor, King Richard Daley II.
In the meantime, check out this hilarious video about Mayor Daley, the Olympics, and violence in Chicago:
Friday, August 21, 2009
When it comes to all the negative press - as well as one awesome lawsuit - for Mayor Daley recently, I definitely share the hopes of a blogger at Gapers Block. Countdown to 2011:
This is keeping something in the news and in people's minds, and assaulting the Mayor's reputation as the "CEO Mayor" who "gets things done".To defeat Daley in 2011, we all have to start seeing the mayor for what he truly is. If Daley is the "CEO Mayor," then he is an executive much like the ones running Wall Street - a man concerned only with enriching himself and his cronies, no matter what the cost. For Wall Street, that cost is an economy in shambles. In Chicago, it's a broke and crumbling city.
Who knows, maybe this local business owner can give Daley a run for his money in the next mayoral election - Future Mayor Hopeful: "Wake Up Chicago":
Though he probably doesn't have much of a chance in 2011, I must admit, Sam Wolfson does have some pretty awesome signs hanging in his storefront - or, as Chicagoist put it - The Best Storefront Manifesto You'll Read All Day.
A lot of people like to complain about the city's leadership. Few people take their message to the streets.
But Same Wolfson, owner of String-A-Strand bead shop in Lincoln Park, has started a political manifesto in the street windows of his shop.
Wolfson has officially announced his 2011 candidacy for mayor via handwritten signs hung in his store's windows. He uses the window space to ask citizens for write-in votes and to post his own political propaganda. Wolfson touches on subjects that are crucial to both the minds and wallets of Chicago citizens.
“Wake up Chicago. We can’t be that stupid to put these corrupt politicians back in office,” Wolfson said in one window sign. “Especially Daley and Stroger who sold the people of Chicago down the toilet selling the parking meters and raising the tax to the largest in the country.”
We must vote every one out of office. These are some of the worst politicians in the country. No concern for the people of Chicago. Only for the money they can pocket. We must finally stand up and say "No More!"
Al Capone was a Piker compared to Mayor Daley and his band of crooks that run City Hall.
Photo via StrogerisaCrook.com
I cannot believe I have only uttered the name Todd Stroger but once on this blog. Lest you think I save all my hate for Mayor Daley, here is my Todd Stroger Post.
Get Ready for 4 More Years of Todd Stroger:
Ask anyone, even Cook County President Todd Stroger's closest pals, and they'll tell you Ol' Todd has bumbled his way through his first term.
Stroger has rankled reformers and regular folks by raising sales taxes and padding the payroll with friends, family and a certain steakhouse busboy.
His last budget proposal was so riddled with errors it had to be reprinted three times, though his staff read Government Budgeting for Dummies just before he took office.
County insiders swear Stroger spends more time shooting hoops at the East Bank Club than tending to county business. He's had trouble keeping his personal affairs in order. The IRS put a lien on Stroger's house because he didn't pay his personal income taxes.
Even some of his top supporters aren't too happy with the guy.
"Todd's problem is he's a little stupid and a lot lazy sometimes," one of Stroger's top 8th Ward lieutenants whispered to me during my days on the county beat.And for that, Stroger's the Rodney Dangerfield of Chicago politics -- the guy gets no respect, as he fights rumors he won't run for re-election.
I'm certainly not looking forward to another 4 years of Todd Stroger. I still cannot believe how he was shuffled into office after his father, former Cook County Board President John Stroger, suffered a stroke. And, in addition to all the issues mentioned above (you know - the busboy, the tax lien, the sales tax increase, the error-filled budget, the patronage), the idiot Cook County Board President also spent $24,999 of county taxpayer money to print but never distribute a wonderful publication known as Cook County Magazine:
Last November , the Stroger administration gave $24,999 to a publishing company to produce Cook County magazine, which would provide "regular, positive press -- to counter-balance negative press often found in the mainstream media." As the Sun-Times notes, $24,999 is "one dollar under the amount that would have required the approval of the full Cook County Board."
Unfortunately for Stroger, the magazine's first issue -- which features a profile of his father and predecessor John Stroger -- will never see the light of day. The administration has opted not to release Cook County because it contains too many spelling and grammatical errors:
Stroger spokesman Eugene Mullins said he has 5,000 copies of the issue in his office -- and that's where they'll stay.
"I was asked to review it and decided not to distribute it -- not because of content, but errors and omissions in the article" about John Stroger, Mullins said. "Judging on grammatical stuff -- something misspelled or that's not a complete sentence -- falls back on the president. And this is a Cook County magazine. I have to find a way to get rid of them. I'm not distributing them."
Money well spent once again, Todd.
Like the time you spent $5,000 of taxpayer money on an embroidered carpet.
Or the time the state of Illinois froze federal grant money for your job training program because of questionable spending and accounting practices.
For more fun at Stroger's expense, see ToddStroger.com.
Even better - check out Todd Stroger's very own blog.
I really liked this post: Being Todd Stroger Is Not Easy.
photo via NatalieDee
Thursday, August 20, 2009
So when you turn around
A new scandal is brewing
Daley knows nothing
It's none of his doin'
Now I have to move out
My taxes too high
Daley don't care
Let the middle class fry
And why should we change
Everything is so good
Who cares if kids are getting shot in the hood
We're cuttin deals for our family and our friends
2016's when the world's gonna end
Little Richie's gettin' richer
I have been waiting and waiting for someone to step up for all Chicago citizens and give Mayor Daley what he deserves. And government watchdog group Independent Voters of Illinois - Independent Precinct Organization finally made my wishes come true. They filed a lawsuit over Chicago's parking meter lease:
See the complaint here or here.
A citizens' advocacy group sued Chicago today in an attempt to have a court declare the city's deal to lease parking meters to a private company "illegal and void."
The suit, filed by the Independent Voters of Illinois-Independent Precinct Organization, claims the city did not have authority to lease its streets for an "excessive period" and that the city can't pay police to enforce parking violations for a private company. It also says the city can't ask the Illinois secretary of state to suspend driving privileges for failure to pay tickets issued at private meters.
More on the lawsuit:
The city's response so far has been predictable:
In their lawsuit, the Independent Voters of Illinois along with Chicago resident Aviva Patt charge the parking meter privatization deal "unconstitutionally obligates the city to expend public funds in order to police, enforce and maintain the privately held and privately controlled parking meter system" -- a violation of the Illinois Constitution which states "public funds, property or credit shall only be used for public purposes." Earlier this year, the city leased some 36,000 meters to Chicago Parking Meters LLC for $1.15 billion for 75 years -- a move drawing the ire of motorists who are seeing a steep climb in rates.
At the heart of the suit is a belief that portions of the agreement are illegal, says the watchdog group's attorney Clint Krislov.
"The streets are a public way that the city is not authorized to lease to a single entity," he said, noting that the term of the contract is "excessive." "It ties up public assets and commits city council beyond the term of this future city council. To tie up a public way for an excessive period -- government doesn't have the authority to do that," Krislov said, citing case law.
The City of Chicago Law Department had very little comment on the lawsuit but in a prepared statement, spokesperson Jennifer Hoyle said, “We have obtained a copy of the IVI-IVO’s lawsuit regarding the parking meter concession agreement. We have not been served with this lawsuit and it is not clear to us whether or not it’s actually been filed. However, based on our initial review we believe it is wholly without merit, both factually and legally. We do not believe it’s appropriate to comment in any further detail about this potential litigation, except to say that we will aggressively defend this transaction in court if the suit is filed.”See more coverage here.
Thank you IVI-IPO. I couldn't be happier right now. I will definitely be following this suit closely, so check back for more.
Also, in case you missed it - more good news coming out of City Hall. Former City Worker Accused of Writing Herself $20,000 Check.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
I thought I'd share this awesome post from the Chicago Daily Observer. Be sure the check out the whole post, because Don Rose (the author) definitely gets it - NO-lympics for Me:
It is clear, however, that the mayor and his business confederates are spending a lot of money as well as much political capital buying up the opposition...This is one of the reasons my agnosticism has morphed to antagonism. Daley Inc. just wants this thing too much, which is always a dangerous sign.
But what I see more and more is the old non-Olympic game of Chicago-style political scam. Daley and his business crowd are in this for more than civic glory. More like fun and profit at taxpayer expense, desecration of parklands and a stiff-arm to minority communities. (Most minority leadership, however, has been bought.)
Daley says the city’s financial commitment will be limited, but he won’t permit a City Council ordinance to cap the amount of tax money we taxpayers will have to cover. He’s been caught in several little fibs about exactly what long-term fiscal commitments he made to the International Olympic Committee.
Would it be too paranoid to suggest that Daley might have much more than personal grandeur at stake here?
Did you enjoy Monday's "reduced-service" day? It looks like some people didn't get the memo about Mayor Daley shutting down the city: :
You could not get a library book or see a doctor in a city health clinic Monday in Chicago, but you could pay a parking ticket or fight to un-boot your car, provided you'd wait in a line long enough for an amusement park ride. Cops, firemen and privatized parking meters were working, however, even if nothing else was.I love that the Department of Revenue is an "essential service" now that King Richard has run our city into the red. Gotta have the city workers out there making him some money, even as the rest of the city is completely shut down to save $8 million. I also noticed that my neighborhood is only getting one side of its streets scrubbed, since one of our street cleaning days happened to fall on Monday. I would have thought Daley would keep up with the street cleaning so he wouldn't miss out on all those parking tickets he gets from his lovely street cleaning scheme. Funny, even when those worthless street sweepers come through, my street is still covered in garbage and dirt.
From a security guard answering phones in the mayor's office at City Hall to a harried staff collecting payments of fines at one of the few city offices open Monday, confusion and frustration reigned in the City that Works, which by design wasn't officially working at all.
And, in case you missed it, Neil Steinberg at the Sun-Times had some nice words for Mayor Daley - Maybe Games Can Skip Mondays:
Every time a pothole opens up in the street, or an L train runs late, or a piece of old chewing gum is left on the sidewalk, Chicagoans must fight off an overwhelming urge to rush up to the mayor, hold the sooty fingertip of an otherwise pristine white glove under his nose and screech, "How is Chicago supposed to put on the 2016 Olympics when you can't even take care of THIS???"Also, NBC Chicago reporter Steve Rhodes takes on Chicago aldermen and their expense accounts in a wonderfully titled piece - Aldermen Buy the Darndest Things (It's not Easy Being a Dolt):
Which is wrong because we never apply that logic to our personal lives ("How are we supposed to throw Nathan a bar mitzvah party in 2014 if we can't even clean our garage now?") Also pointless because Daley is a foaming fanatic when it comes to the Olympics. This is life or death to him -- we simply must get the Olympics, in his view, we must, and if we don't, should the Olympics go to Rio, or wherever, don't be surprised if our mayor utterly snaps, and slips into some fugue state where he believes the Olympics are here anyway. Can't you just see him? A broken and pathetic figure, sitting by himself on a folding metal chair in an empty Washington Park, cheering imaginary runners as they fly by in his shattered mind.
Still, obvious though the point is, sometimes this job entails stating the obvious, and today, "reduced-service day" in Chicago, somebody has to say it: If we can't even keep the city open on a Monday in August, if we can't even allow Chicagoans to check out a book or drop by a shabby CHA senior center, then how exactly are we going to mount a world-awing spectacle that will top all those Chinese drummers? Remember, we not only want to host the Olympics, but we have to do a bang-up job of it. What's the point of going through all this and getting the Games, only to botch them? "Remember the Olympic Opening Ceremony in Chicago? That bit with the six trained dogs doing somersaults? That was swell."
The die is cast. We'll find out in October whether we will host the 2016 Olympics. Until then, The City That Works doesn't. At least not today....
Here's my bet: If any city could attempt to save money by giving its employees a few days off -- there are others to come -- only to end up spending MORE money than it would have spent without the sabbaticals, that city is Chicago. Mark my words: By the time they tote up the overtime, doing the work that should have been done Monday, and the lawsuits from citizens who needed some service and didn't get it, plus the amount stolen because whoever normally watches the chicken coop on Monday was home watching, "Jeopardy," it'll end up costing us more. Just wait
And, in light of last week's announcement that CPS will be raising our taxes, be sure to check out this article - Whose Fault is the CPS Budget Crisis?. Seems like there is plenty of blame to go around, including Mayor Daley and his wonderful TIF scheme.
Pity the poor alderman.
These people are paid a paltry $110,556 salary to do everything the mayor tells them to do, and they're supplemented by a measly $73,280 expense account.
Sure, that expense account alone is more than the typical Chicagoan makes, but aldermen have a tough job.
Lastly, for your viewing pleasure, check out this video featuring 1980's Chicago:
Monday, August 17, 2009
I often wonder why the eff people put up with the corrupt crap that goes on in Chicago. And I'm always glad to find out I am not the only one. From the blog cockroach people - The Mystery of Corruption:
Everyone involved in politics in this city knows that the system of fines and permits is used by the Machine to maintain its power. Who hasn’t heard about a business that refused to put up the campaign sign of a machine candidate only to be “visited” by a team of inspectors from every department imaginable? Who hasn’t noticed a brand new business that had no problem getting started because it happens to be owned by the alderman’s daughter? The bureaucracy is not merely inefficient and bad for business, it is also one of the many ways that the City perpetuates corruption. If the City were to alleviate the bureaucratic bloat, then what would happen to the time-honored tradition of bribing your alderman for a permit or zoning change?
It’s a mystery to me that Chicagoans–tired of all the scandals, tired of having their cars towed after two parking tickets, tired of being taxed for bottled water, and tired of their small businesses being shaken down–have yet to wake up and throw the bums out! When times were good, some may have looked the other way with regard to corruption and excessive taxation, but now, when every penny counts, I hope that Chicagoans will ask themselves...Is Chicago really the city that works?
Speaking of bureaucratic bloat, I also came across this great post regarding today's "reduced service day" for the city of Chicago. Chicago City Government Closed Today - Yet City Still Claims it can Afford 2016 Olympics:
It feels like the City has a lot of fat it can trim from the payroll so that it doesn’t have to shut EVERYTHING down for a whole day every once in a while. We’ve worked on projects for the City, and many people collecting checks from the government don’t do any actual work. There are people whose parents are political Ward Captains and other kinds of operatives in the Daley Machine who sit at a desk and read the newspaper all day. One friend of ours who works for the City has one of these “legacy” workers assigned to her team. His father is a well-known member of the black community loyal to Mayor Daley. So, the son collects a very large salary to sit on his legacy butt during the day, reading magazines, never doing any of the work he’s supposed to do. Our friend can’t say a word about him. His performance reviews are filled out by someone above her. He takes up space in her department and is technically on the books as being part of her team, but he’s free to do as he pleases, collecting big City checks.
How many of these guys are on the payroll?
How many other jobs out there are redundant, particularly in the Parks Department, where City workers are notorious for taking a crew of six guys out to dig a hole: one guy with a shovel, three guys leaning against the truck to keep it from flying away, another guy to supervise the shoveler, and a final guy to make sure the three guys holding down the truck don’t fly away with the truck.
The author also brings up some interesting points about the Olympics, so be sure to check out the full post.
I think former Alderman Dick Simpson really nailed it with this great quote about all of the corruption surrounding Mayor Daley (from the New York Times circa 2004):
Richard Simpson, a former Chicago alderman who teaches political science at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said political corruption had been an almost unbroken tradition in Chicago since the 1860's, including the two decades the mayor's legendary father, Mayor Richard J. Daley, was in office.
''To list all the scandals he's faced would be a book-length project,'' Mr. Simpson said of the younger Mayor Daley. ''Each time there's a new one, he makes a little change to the ethics ordinance or fires someone. His theory is that there are only a few rotten apples, but the real truth is that the barrel is rotten, and he's not ready to replace the barrel.''
Have you ever wondered what the taxpayer bill is for the 50 members of the our City Council? Well, the Chicago Tribune decided to look into this very issue:
The yearly city tab to keep all 50 aldermen in business tops $25 million. More than $15 million covers payroll for workers employed by aldermen and the committees they head.This is one way Daley controls the City Council. He lays off city employees and forces many others to take pay cuts, but then he gives the aldermen millions of dollars to control, increases their expense allotments, and sits compliantly while they vote to give themselves and their staffs a pay raise.
Aldermanic salaries are $110,556, although eight opted not to take the most recent raise of about $6,400, for an annual total of $5.5 million. That's all before the expense allotment of up to $73,280 each, which boosts city costs by as much as $3.7 million. Every alderman also has discretion over how to spend $1.32 million on ward improvements under Mayor Richard Daley's 2009 budget.
Daddy Daley gives his 50 little alderchildren a $75,000 allowance. Wanna know how they spend all that money?:
Chicago aldermen have used their newly expanded, taxpayer-funded expense accounts to hire relatives, lease expensive vehicles and pay for downtown parking, according to a Tribune analysis.See for yourself how each alderman spends this money here.
And then, maybe you will want to ask these aldermen some questions. Like, maybe they can explain why taxpayers need to lease cars for their part-time job. Everyone in this city is driving around in taxpayer-funded cars - City Council, CTA, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. Seems pretty ridiculous to me. As Mick Dumke said, it's A Perk That Needs to Die. Pay for your own cars like everyone else, you bums! It sure must be easy to sell off our parking meters and parking garages and raise fees on both when many of you park your cars on the taxpayers' dime.
Seriously. WHY THE HELL DO WE HAVE 50 ALDERMEN?!
New York has 51 city council members.
But NYC also has almost 3 times as many people as Chicago!
NYC population: 8,363,710, Chicago population: 2,853,114
Los Angeles has 15 city council members.
And LA is bigger than Chicago by 1 million people!
LA population: 3,833,995, Chicago population: 2,853,114
Houston has 14 city council members.
And Houston is nearly the same size as Chicago.
Houston population: 2,242,193, Chicago population: 2,853,114
And now, some words from everyone's favorite mayor, Richard "Dick" Daley.
Dick Hearts Rick - Daley defends 22nd Ward Alderman Ricardo "Rick" Munoz, who used clout to get his daughter into an elite Chicago public high school:
“As a parent, he is speaking for not only his family, but his own constitutents,” Daley said. “They don’t have to accept the child. They can refuse the child because [aldermen] have no power over the Board of Education. They don’t fund them. They don’t review their budgets or anything else.”
Sure, no one felt pressure to admit the alderman's daughter simply because the City Council doesn't control the CPS budget. Riiiiiight.
And that isn't even true anyway:
What Daley neglected to mention is that the City Council approves the Board of Education's property tax levy and ratifies the mayor's appointment of School Board members.
Daley should have just taken a cue from his father, King Daley the First, and told the reporters to kiss his ass:
The Mayor's father, Richard J. Daley, once famously sputtered that if reporters have a problem with a father helping his own kids -- think, for starters, son John and the insurance business -- they could kiss his ass. The late mayor's exact words: "If they don't like it, they can kiss my ass."
Dick Defends His Pick - Daley stands up for crony Michael Scott's deal to profit from the Olympics:
Dick Thinks He's Slick - Daley speaks about his call to shake up oversight of the city's scandalous minority business program:
Well the private sector does it too! What is this, kindergarten? That still doesn't make it alright. Got it, Dick?
"We want to make it much more transparent and much more effective for those that are applying," Daley said. "The Office of Compliance has become an expert in analyzing, tracking and monitoring processes and making them more effective."
Asked about the cases of fraud that have plagued the program, Daley said fraud also exists in the private sector, not just in government.
Meanwhile, some aldermen are still waiting for Daley & Co. to fulfill their promise to provide documents relating to the sale of Chicago's parking meters. How's that for transparency.
Sounds like a case for Reformer Man.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
So on Tuesday, the Chicago 2016 people didn't have a problem with Olympic Committee Member/developer/Chicago Board of Education President Michael Scott and his real estate deal near proposed Olympic venues. But then, on Wednesday, they changed their minds:
"Without knowledge of the facts" huh? Well, why don't you enlighten us. Because from what I've read, I'm definitely "perceiving" a conflict of interest. And you can keep telling us that he has no financial interest in the project, but I'm just not buying it. This is Chicago, people just don't do this kinda stuff unless there is money coming their way. It's the Daley way.
Michael Scott’s role in helping West Side ministers develop city-owned land near a proposed Douglas Park Olympic venue raised the perception of a conflict of interest and should have been disclosed up-front, Chicago 2016 acknowledged Wednesday.
“In hindsight, given Mr. Scott’s role as agent for the group, it is understandable that a third party, without knowledge of the facts, might perceive a conflict of interest,” Chicago 2016 said in a prepared statement.
Of course, you can take Daley's word for it. Here he is again defending Scott:
Listen Daley, I'm not buying this "he's doing it out of the goodness of his heart" crap. This guy's got 30 years of history with you. Do I need to say more?
Wednesday's statement was a bit of an about-face. It happened as Mayor Daley once again defended Scott, a trusted mayoral lieutenant with a 30-year history with Daley.
“He’s been on the West Side of Chicago …We have more vacant lots. ... There’s thousands of ‘em. People are trying to do something with all these vacant lots. He tried to get ministers or anybody to do something with them — not to benefit himself,” Daley said.
“No financial interest, no professional interest. Nothing whatsoever. He told everybody that. [He said], ‘I have no interest. I was trying to help the West Side of the city of Chicago.’ He hails from there. He has lived there for many, many years.”
Also, I had totally forgotten about Michael Scott's earlier appearance in the headlines. Check it out. From Chicago Breaking News on May 2, 2009 - CPS President Urges Principals to Push 2016 Bid:
See, this is how it works. Daley's cronies force the Olympic cause upon all us regular citizens and then Daley repays their loyalty with sweet real estate deals and contracts. Yeah, that sounds more like it.
The president of the Chicago Public Schools board, who is also a member of the Chicago 2016 Olympic committee, has asked all of the city's school principals to get on board with the push to bring the Summer Games to Chicago.
In an e-mail sent April 22 to principals, Board President Michael Scott said: "I am requesting that you register your school for Olympic Week in America. Please take a few minutes to identify a staff person who can register your school. ... You must sign up by Monday, April 27."
Olympic Week in America is a promotional effort to raise the profile of Chicago's bid starting Monday.
Peterson's e-mail stated that each school's participation would be graded as "gold, silver or bronze," with the lowest level including developing an "Olympic week proclamation," raising the Chicago 2016 flag at the school, and including Olympic-themed activities in the classrooms. The e-mail also said that a person from Scott's office would be following up by phone with the principals.
Although teachers union officials said Scott's e-mail was a heavy-handed attempt to force school employees to support the bid, the board president said that's not what he intended.
Still, the move smacked of coercion for some, including the Chicago Teachers Union, whose officials said several schools located near proposed Olympic venues have been slated for closing.
"The language in the memo didn't seem to leave participants much choice," said Rosemaria Genova, press secretary for the Chicago Teachers Union. "Many people favor the idea of the Olympics coming to Chicago, but it is difficult for principals, teachers and staff to participate in Olympic-themed activities when schools are closing in areas near Olympic venues."
Speaking of forcing the Olympics down our throats, what about an update from the ongoing Chicago 2016 Community Meetings? Well here we go.
These Chicago 2016 people think they are so clever with their non-binding Memo of Understanding on minority contracts, affordable housing, and local employment. Fortunately, Chicago citizens are calling them on their bullshit - Bronzeville Not Buying the Olympic Guarantee:
Now we just need to laugh Daley and his goons out of town. I'm going to start laughing now. Tell me when they are gone.
Apparently, Chicago 2016 thought that they had outfoxed the coalition -- and the public -- by handing them the MOU and walking away with some favorable headlines. Indeed, while appearing at one of the bid committee's community meetings in Bronzeville last night, chairman Pat Ryan attempted to trot out the document as "legally-binding" evidence that the South Side is in line for big gains. Luckily, the residents in attendance -- invited from the 3rd, 4th, and 20th Wards -- knew better.
"You're selling it like it's going to protect us," Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization's Jitu Travis told Ryan. "It's not. Where's the legally-binding document?"...
If last night's meeting is any indication, South Siders are catching on. When Ryan attempted to prove his confidence in the Chicago 2016 plan by offering to bet each audience member $1,000 that they won't pay for any of the Olympics, he was virtually laughed off the stage.
I came across this amusing blog post about our very own Dictator Dick Daley.
A Little Fascist, Doncha Say, Mayor?:
As if the mayor hasn’t saved enough money on campaign signs over the years, he’s found a new method: engrave his name into the ground. My girlfriend and I were walking around California and Fullerton a couple months ago. City workers had shut down the sidewalk for some sort of project, and now everything was clear and back to normal. They had redone the alley, except now it read “Chicago Green Alley. Richard M. Daley, Mayor.” No green campaign slogan necessary – instead it’s all around the city.
It’s downright fascist to live in a place where aldermen, local governments, and other governments pander to the mayor with signs above every festival stage...Hahaha! Why would we want to pore over the city budget when we have Mayor Daley to take care of it for us? Apparently you didn't hear - Daley's government is leading by example when it comes to transparent government. And he is more of a reformer than anyone!
At a meeting a month ago, in Chicago, I learned that the Seattle City Council has a 40-person office to pore over all details of the city’s budget. Chicago, with six times as many people and six times as many councilpeople and six-hundred times the legacy of corruption, has no such office.
Well, the anti-Daley/anti-Olympics movement just took a big hit. Ben Joravsky reports that First Ward Alderman Manny Flores is not following through with his plan to cap Chicago taxpayers' liability for the Olympics at $500 million. Who'll Be the Bad Guy Now?:
With Mayor Daley essentially asking for a blank check to pay for the Olympics, the taxpayers of Chicago could use a little boldness from their City Council. But Manny Flores, one of the few aldermen occasionally willing to stand up for good government, seems to be retreating from his vow to fight for a $500 million cap on public spending for the games.
It's clear that Flores originally underestimated the repercussions of what he put forward. Had the council adopted it, it would have torpedoed Chicago's chances...But even if it had no chance of passing, a public debate on the cap would have damaged Daley's Olympic efforts, shining a spotlight on the city's fiscal troubles—the soft underbelly of the Chicago bid—and providing a forum that could energize the opposition. Given all that, it's remarkable Flores found 11 aldermen to sign on in the first place.
In other words, Flores asked the bid committee to do the kinds of things that the city already claims to do but really doesn't. If the past is any predictor of future—and it usually is—the 2016 folks will say sure, no problem, we were going to do this stuff anyway. And then they won't do it, just like they haven't done it in the past, as the City Council stands haplessly by.
Be sure to check out the entire article here.
Then commence with the heavy sighing.
I will join you.
Of course this news is even worse when we see the status of all those private donations that are supposed to pay for Chicago's Olympic games:
The sum was raised from 3,600 supporters, or more than 1,000 more than attended last year's fundraiser. They paid at least $500 per ticket to attend the 2009 U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame induction ceremony at McCormick Place.
The first major fundraiser, in March 2007, raised $9.4 million, and the second, in July 2008, raised more than $12 million. This fundraiser comes at a time of deep recession and at a point when the bid has met its main targets.
Chicago's final fundraiser for its 2016 Olympic bid drew the biggest crowd yet, but raised only about $5 million Wednesday evening, the lowest tally of three major events aimed at luring private cash.
Remember, Chicago taxpayers aren't going to be on the hook for the cost of the Olympics. Mayor Daley said so. And we all know what that promise is worth.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Surprise Surprise, there's another budget doomsday in Chicago and your property taxes are going up! Even though Mayor Daley asked them not to and said tax increases would be a last resort, Chicago Public Schools are raising our taxes:
Faced with a “tsunami” of teacher pension costs, Chicago public school officials want to raise city property taxes by $43 million, or 1.5 percent, a new budget released today indicates....
And, [Chicago Schools CEO Ron Huberman] warned, even worse news is ahead. The next budget deficit, in fiscal year 2011, could top $900 million — a hole so big the system would have to increase class sizes and eliminate teachers unless “cost containment on the pension and wage fronts’’ is achieved, Huberman said.
The proposed property tax hike would be the 13th time in 14 years that CPS has raised property taxes for schools since Daley’s 1995 school takeover. Last year was the only time no such increase was levied, with Daley saying at the time, “Chicago taxpayers deserve a break. People are hurting.’’
This year, residents are suffering even more, with layoffs and furlough days mounting, houses locked in foreclosure, nest eggs shrinking and anger off the charts about the steep increases in parking meter rates.
And here's Mayor Daley defending this tax hike:
“They’re not raising property taxes. We’re abating 50 percent of the property tax. ... Instead of going up to $83 [million] or $100 million, we’re abating about fifty-some million,” Daley said.
“We’re abating almost 50 percent [of what the tax increase could be]. That’s what we’re doing. Any other questions?”
Uh, I got a lot of questions. Like ARE YOU SERIOUS? And, please go away. Wait, that wasn't a question.
Mayor Daley thinks because the tax hike is only half of what it could be, that it is somehow defensible. Defending the indefensible. Only in Daleyland.
And who is he to talk?:
Over the last two years alone, Daley has raised taxes, fines and fees by a whopping $329 million, including an $83.4 million property tax increase, the largest property tax increase in Chicago history.
The City Council also approved a 40 percent increase in the city's real estate transfer tax to bail out the CTA.
The mayor’s preliminary 2010 budget has a $520 million gap that can only be closed by cutting services, raising taxes or a combination of the two.
But wait! It looks like our compliant little aldermen are not pleased with the possibility of another tax hike:
“People are despondent. They’re frustrated. They’re sitting on the sidelines waiting for this elusive recovery to appear on the horizon,” Northwest Side Ald. Tom Allen (38th) said Tuesday.
“It’s a little less … politically radioactive when you’re talking about educating our kids. ... It’s not like handing out money to developers. But, part of it goes back to all the money we have tied up in [tax-increment- financing]. If that money wasn’t siphoned off to all the TIF districts, it would be available to education.”
Ald. Robert Fioretti (2nd) predicted that the $43 million school property tax increase would bring long-simmering anger among his constituents to a boil.
“This is clearly another step that’s gonna force more people out of the city. People are gonna say, ‘What’s the value of our education system? Where are we going with it?’” Fioretti said.
Speaking of budgets and taxes and Mayor Daley in our pockets, check out this tremendous post at Progress Illinois - Daley's House of Cards:
It means Daley has, for years now, been building a house of cards. Rather than facing the problem head-on and developing new sources of revenue, the mayor has chased short-term fixes. He has leased valuable public assets despite evidence that the deals represent a long-term loss to taxpayers. Meanwhile, he has watched hundreds of millions in public dollars flow towards his tax increment financing (TIF) fiefdom. Apparently, he is just crossing his fingers that the Olympic bid or a rejuvenated economy will save him from this downward spiral. In the midst of all this, the mayor has asked city workers to sacrifice again and again, despite the fact that the resulting savings are negligible.
Summary: Taxes for schools are going up for the 13th time since 1995...and things look even worse for next year...and Mayor Daley's still got over $1 billion in TIF funds...and he's handing it out to corporations and developers...and people are losing their jobs and homes...and mayor Dick's got a great idea - let's get the Olympics! One house of cards, coming right up.
Enough! Let's get rid of this bum Daley! DTMFA!
A great idea from Tribune columnist David Greising via Progress Illinois - Subject Olympic Committee to FOIA:
That whole FOIA thing might work out great when deals like this pop up. Speaking of Michael Scott, get a load of this:
If Chicago's taxpayers are to offer an indispensable guarantee, they should get more than the world's biggest swim and track meet. They should get, in fact, a tool that will provide a close-up view into the wheeling, the dealing, the high jinks and palm greasing that will make the 2016 Games uniquely Chicago [...]
In other words, the City Council should insist -- and Chicago 2016 should agree -- that the organizing committee become subject to the Illinois Freedom of Information Act [...]
Chicago 2016's demand that it needs an unlimited financial guarantee, not to mention $500 million from the city and $250 million from the state, makes organizing a Chicago Olympics a very public matter [...]
Openness should be the price of putting taxpayers on the hook for the 2016 Games.
Mayor Daley’s Chicago 2016 panel has no problem with committee member Michael Scott’s role developing a for-profit real estate project near a planned Olympic venue, according to a statement the organization released Tuesday night.So Mayor Daley's panel has no problem with Mayor Daley's crony profiting from Mayor Daley's Olympics. Sounds about right.
And one last thing - check out two great posts by Community Media Workshop on the potential effects of the 2016 Olympic Games on Chicago's parks and architecture.
Part One - Olympic Legacies: Give or Take:
In selling the games to Chicago's residents, meanwhile, promises of park enhancements and sports programs for kids, as well as affordable housing, have been featured alongside visions of jobs and boom times.And I thought this was very interesting:
But current plans put great burdens on parks, and they involve the imminent demolition of a major responsitory of the city's historic architecture (see part two).
In many cases promised "legacy" facilities seem designed not to meet actual needs of current park users but to accommodate the requirements of Olympic planners. In many cases they involve taking away existing resources while promising residual benefits sometime in the future.
In some cases they involve taking away facilities that have been only recently built.
Chicago 2016 did not respond to repeated requests for information regarding the source of funding for restoring Washington Park, relocating pools from the aquatic center to other parks, restoring Jackson Park's $500,000 track, or converting the open-air velodrome in Douglas Park into a year-round recreation center. Those costs don't seem to be included in projected construction costs; $400 million for the stadium is obviously a low-ball figure.I haven't heard too much about this subject, but I am definitely curous about these costs and who is going to pay them. Anyone heard anything?
Be sure to take a look at part two of the series - Architectural Legacy Threatened.
And, for more on these topics, check out Olympics 2016: Cementing Chicago's Future or Steamrolling its History? and A Promise Made to Be Broken.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
photo by Johnye West
More questions about the Olympics. Because when Daley is involved, you can never ask enough questions.
At Reform Cook County, Tony Peraica wonders what the major cost overruns on the Beijing, Vancouver, and London Olympics will mean for Chicago 2016 - All Signs Point to Olympic-Size Bum Deal for Taxpayers:
Huge project, billions of dollars, Mayor Daley...Yeah, I'd say bum deal for the taxpayers is spot on.
The experience of other major Olympic host cities, combined with the City of Chicago’s track record of botched budgets and deadlines for other projects, doesn’t bode well for any taxpayers hoping to avoid footing the bill for the 2016 Olympic Games.
All the more troubling given today's news about the City of Chicago's budget woes.
Despite Mayor Daley’s and Pat Ryan’s cheerleading for the 2016 Games … all signs point to a bum deal for the Chicago (and Cook County and Illinois) taxpayers.
A post from No Games Chicago draws parallels between the Olympic efforts in Vancouver and Chicago. Civil Liberties Nightmare and Worse - Learn from Vancouver:
I look back to 2003 and what is happening with Chicago’s Olympic bid is eerily reminiscent of Vancouver’s successful bid six years ago. Then, as now, bid boosters were promising local citizens the world: fame, wealth, and the host of goodies that would flow from a nod from the IOC. Vancouver’s then mayor promised that the 2010 Games wouldn’t cost the citizens ‘one penny”, that provincial and federal funds would be leveraged for local needs, and that the entire process would be completely transparent and accountable. Bid organizers promised a host of goodies including “the greenest Games ever”, an arts legacy, and “social inclusivity” (short hand for social housing). It was a lovely dream and many Vancouverites bought into it...Others have also hit on questions about the Olympics, expanded police powers, and civil liberties:
Six years later, a majority of Vancouverites who supported Vancouver’s bid are having serious second thoughts as the early predictions of the “nay sayers” and “party poopers” are turning out to be frighteningly accurate. Those who opposed bringing the Games to Vancouver, and I was one of them, noted that cost estimates for staging the Games were vastly underestimated while at the same time as the benefits were grotesquely overestimated. We were right, and in spades.
Civil liberties? Forget them. The security services have now concluded that the potential for domestic protests against the Games is a greater threat than Al Qaeda and legislation at all levels of government is aimed at suppressing legitimate dissent. Since those opposed to the 2010 Games don’t plan to simply give up and lie down, we now face the prospects of preventative arrests and the widespread suppression of civil liberties. If the current trends continue, February 2010 will see massive clashes between protesters and police.
So if this is Vancouver’s past, present, and future experience with the Olympics, what should Chicagoans think and do?
Chicago and the Olympics: Civil Rights Violations Ahead:
London's security budget is enormous, but it isn't out of step with recent Olympics. Athens spent $1.5 billion on security for the 2004 Summer Olympics, and Turin spent $1.4 billion on security for the 2006 Winter Games. Perhaps sticker shock is the reason why Chicago has yet to release any real information regarding the potential cost and size of security for the Olympics. It's hard to imagine that the cost of security for a Chicago Olympics wouldn't match match or far exceed the security budget for London in 2012.
In this atmosphere, Chicago residents should be certain that the cost of "security" won't be limited to monetary concerns. If past Games are any indication, residents of Chicago will find their civil rights on the chopping block.
Police Powers for 2012 Olympics Alarm Critics:
The government was accused tonight of giving itself draconian powers to clamp down on protests at the 2012 Olympics. Critics said the powers were so broad they would potentially give private contractors the right to forcibly enter people's homes and seize materials.
Opposition parties and civil liberties groups criticised the powers as top security officials announced plans concerned with keeping the games, to be held mostly in London, safe from terrorist attack and from "domestic extremists" and public order problems like disruptive protests.
Thought Police Working Overtime in Whistler:
Police Given Powers to Enter Homes and Tear Down Anti-Olympics Posters During 2012 Games:
Over the past few months, law abiding citizens along with dissenters of the 2010 Olympic Games have been visited in some form or another at home, at work, or by phone by the Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit (ISU).
When you have a billion dollars security budget to play with, the sky's the limit.
Police have been handed 'Chinese-style' powers to enter private homes and seize political posters during the London 2012 Olympics.
Little-noticed measures passed by the Government will allow officers and Olympics officials to enter homes and shops near official venues to confiscate any protest material.
Breaking the rules could land offenders with a fine of up to £20,000.
Civil liberties groups compared the powers to those used by the Communist Chinese government to stop political protest during the 2008 Beijing Games.
There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. you had to live - did live, from habit that became instinct - in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every moment scrutinized. - 1984
Mayor Daley's nephew Robert Vanecko just won't go away.
The Sun-Times also reports that Vanecko's company plans to build a high rise in the South Loop using city pension funds:
Vanecko's negotiations with the pension fund officials are outlined in e-mails and other documents that a federal grand jury recently subpoenaed. Authorities are looking into how the pension funds decided to invest with the mayor's nephew, even though his new company had no track record; acknowledged that, despite potentially big payouts, its investment strategy was high-risk, and had been turned down by six other government pension funds.Two weeks after the grand jury subpoenas were issued, Vanecko announced in June he would leave DV Urban by July 1. Neither the company nor pension officials would say if Vanecko has indeed left the company he started with Allison Davis, a longtime Daley ally in the city's African-American communities.
Vanecko must be banking on the Olympics. After all, it was Mayor Daley that said this economy isn't getting better any time soon and that the Olympics will be our economic savior. I mean, why else would Vanecko's company be spending pension funds to build a high-rise in the over-condoed South Loop? For the sake of the city workers whose pensions are on the line, I hope he knows what he's doing.
Next up for DV Urban Realty, the investment company Mayor Daley's nephew created to manage city pension money: building a $120 million high-rise in the South Loop.
Robert Vanecko and his company have a contract to buy what's now the South Loop headquarters of the National Association of Letter Carriers at 1411 S. Michigan, which they plan to knock down and replace with a 220-unit apartment building.
DV Urban -- which Vanecko owns with partners Allison S. Davis and Davis' son Jared Davis -- has spent more than $4.7 million from city pension funds on the deal, records show.
Monday, August 10, 2009
photo by Johnye West
As long as this Chicago Olympic nonsense is going on, there will be great(!) news coming out of City Hall.
First, as expected we have TIFs for the Olympics! City Creating TIF to Draw $100 Million to Transform Hospital into Olympic Village:
Ben Joravsky has some words about TIFs for the Olympic Village at Michael Reese Hospital. Check out his post More Magic Beans:
Chicago taxpayers must spend $100 million to transform the old Michael Reese Hospital site on the Near South Side into an Olympic Village.
On Wednesday, Mayor Daley's Olympic bid team confirmed the $100 million price tag to install roads, sewers and utilities, raising questions about how the Chicago 2016 committee and Daley can continually say the Games won't cost taxpayers a dime -- especially when the city is dealing with a fiscal crisis.
While Chicago won't know until October if it will win the 2016 Summer Games, the city has agreed to create a TIF district surrounding Michael Reese to generate the $100 million.
Look, people, if you truly believe these games are worth the fortune they will obviously cost us, or if you don't care about the public cost but think your business might somehow or other get a crumb or two from the Olympic pie, than go ahead, join the mayor's parade.Also in the news lately is a Daley ally - Olympic supporter, real estate developer, and Chicago Board of Education President Michael Scott. He has been subpoenaed in the ongoing federal grand jury investigation of the admissions process at elite Chicago public schools. Scott has also been exposed for his part in a deal to develop land near proposed Olympic venues:
But for your own self respect, please don't be dumb enough to believe the bull.
A member of Mayor Richard Daley's team working to bring the Olympics to Chicago has quietly arranged to develop city-owned land near a park that would be transformed for the 2016 Summer Games, potentially positioning himself to cash in if the Games come here, a Tribune investigation has found.Of course, Daley initially refused to answer questions about another one of his friends caught with his hand in the city cookie jar:
Developer Michael Scott Sr., an early member of the mayor's Olympic committee, leads a group planning a residential and commercial project on lots kitty-corner from the proposed Douglas Park sporting venues, a location where land values could jump if the city gets the Olympics.
Scott owns Michael Scott & Associates, a real estate development and investment firm. He also serves as president of the Chicago Board of Education, and was in the news earlier this week when he said he was subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury looking into admissions to the city's elite public schools.
Scott's designs on the public land are sure to reinforce concerns of residents that it's the mayor's friends who would benefit from Daley bringing the 2016 Olympics to the city. The story is a familiar one in Daley's administration, where City Hall insiders have personally profited from even the most civic-minded of projects, from recycling garbage to building Millennium Park.
But later, Daley gave in and offered up this wonderful explanation:
I'm sorry I can't answer questions every day. Every day, I do it enough," Daley said.
Asked by a Tribune reporter when he would be available to talk about Scott's project, Daley said the question insulted him.
"Oh, I do it everyday, you've been with me every day. Never insult me with that question," Daley said. "You're insulting me because every day I'm here, you're never here. And don't print that, so I know you'll print it."
However, the Tribune's Clout Street blog calls Daley's claims into question:
Mayor Daley denied Saturday that Michael Scott, a member of the Chicago 2016 committee, would financially benefit from a proposed West Side development near the site of a potential Olympic venue.
"He's not involved," Daley said after the Bud Billiken Parade, where he spent the morning riding a float blasting out the music of Beyonce. "He's supporting the Olympics. Everybody is supporting the Olympics."...
"The facts are wrong. The conclusions are wrong," Daley said, later adding, "He never had any interest -- none whatsoever."
Naturally, John Kass was there to comment on our beloved Mayor Chucky - Queries Unleash a Terrifying Alter Ego:
Scott...is listed as the project's developer. Letters of support from Ald. Sharon Denise Dixon (24th) refer to the project as Scott's development and made no mention of the ministers. Scott said she was mistaken in both letters, though he never asked her to change the wording. Also, in state incorporation papers, only Scott is listed as the only officer of the firm, WMC-I.
Daley attempted to dismiss that. "It doesn't matter, he had no interest," he said.
The mayor also accused reporters of trying to hurt Scott and the city's bid for the 2016 Games.
Many of you probably don't know this, but the mayor's office insists that reporters stay "on topic" at most of his public events.Oh what would we do in Chicago without a mayor who breaks into a sweaty, angry, "I'm the victim" persona whenever we dare to question his crooked ways?
"On topic" means that he'll talk about the stunt of the moment, so reporters can give oodles of coverage to the news managed out of the mayor's press office. Many days, the mayor's schedulers inform reporters he'll only accept questions "on topic." And then you see the stunt on TV, the ribbon cutting or the meet-and-greet with the children or the seniors, and you think you're actually watching the news.
But a few local reporters on Friday, including a young Tribune reporter named Dan Blake, figured they should act like reporters, not press agents. So they dared ask "off topic" questions about Michael Scott. That's when the Mayor Chucky came out.
"No," he said. "this is just gonna be on this."
Translation: Shut up and stay on topic.
"When do you think you'll be available next to talk about the deal reported about Michael Scott?"
"Oh, I do it every day," Mayor Chucky insisted. "You've been with me every day. NEVER insult me with that question! You're insulting me because every day I'm here, you're never here. And don't print that! So I know, you'll print it."
Huh? What? All Blake asked was a legitimate question about when the mayor would answer a legitimate question.
On Saturday, the mayor finally talked about Scott, but only long enough to deny, deny, deny and say reporters were making it all up just to hurt his feelings and ruin everything. "You come to conclusions, you're trying to hurt 2016. I don't know why. ...You come to conclusions!"