During a radio interview recently, new Chicago Public Schools chief Jean-Claude Brizard suggested his $250,000 salary was actually quite low and that he needs this lofty pay because he has “a family to feed” and he has to “be able to pay the mortgage.”
I wonder if he considered the children and mortgages of the 1,200 teachers who were laid off and the expenses all CPS teachers face when he revoked their negotiated salary increases.
I hope Brizard will at least lead by example and return 4 percent or $10,000 dollars of his own salary.
We know it would be tough to run a household on only $240,000 but we all have to sacrifice to balance the CPS budget!
Best city council committee for gauging how the council actually works
For years, the Committee on Finance, chaired by City Council dean Edward Burke, has had the bulk of responsibility for reviewing significant legislation and financial transactions before sending them to the full council for approval. In May, however, Mayor Rahm Emanuel convinced aldermen to give some of the responsibilities to a newly formed committee, Workforce Development and Audit, and to name his leading council ally, 40th Ward alderman Patrick O'Connor, as chairman. Both committees need oversight themselves in the coming years, since they'll be the conduits for Emanuel's promised "reform" agenda. But the Committee on Public Safety offers a better example of how the council functions—and doesn't. Under council rules, the committee—called Police and Fire before Emanuel renamed it this spring—has jurisdiction over the city's police, fire, and emergency management departments, which together account for more than a third of the city's $6.2 billion annual budget. But an analysis last year by the nonprofit Chicago Justice Project found that just 1 percent of the items on the committee's agenda from 2006 to 2009 had anything to do with crime or violence, while 40 percent concerned the donation of used vehicles to other municipalities. Things haven't changed much since then. During the last six months, city officials, candidates for office, and the public were engaged in critical discussions about officer deployment, gun violence, community policing, and the impact of budget problems on public safety. Yet the committee didn't meet to address any of those issues. And while it recently quizzed new police superintendent Garry McCarthy for several hours before unanimously approving his appointment, it has only considered a dozen other legislative matters since December—four of them concerning more vehicle donations. In other words, it has tremendous responsibility and power but rarely does anything with it—just like the council as a whole. —Mick Dumke
Welcome to the first official 41st Ward E-Newsletter!
These newsletters are designed to inform residents about news and events going on all throughout the 41st Ward.
My staff and I are committed to improving the delivery of city services by making the 41st Ward office more accessible to you, the constituent. Please ask your friends and neighbors to visit our website at http://www.ward41.com/ to subscribe to this newsletter.
**Due to a technical error, you may have accidentally received a draft version of our first Ward-E Newsletter. Please accept my apology and disregard that last communication.
41st WARD COMMUNITY CLEANUP DAY
WHAT: Community Cleanup
WHEN: June 25, 2011 (9:00 AM - 11:00 AM)
WHERE: Edgebrook Metra Parking Lot
As part of an effort to keep our neighborhoods vibrant and beautiful, my office will be coordinating a Community Cleanup Day in Edgebrook. This event will be the first in a series of events aimed at cleaning up our communities all throughout the 41st Ward.
Come join your neighbors and members of my staff as we spruce up the area around North Lehigh Avenue (between Touhy and Devon). My office will supply refreshments and all the necessary tools, all you need to do is show up and have a good time with your friends and neighbors. To learn more about this exciting event, please contact Nick Haak at 773-594-8341 or by email at email@example.com.
A controversial concessions contract at O’Hare Airport is now becoming a question of “Will He?” or “Won’t He?” surrounding Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration. A Tribunereport asks if the new mayor will move along with the proposal he inherited from outgoing Mayor Richard Daley, or if he will re-start the bidding process again.
Either way, this issue could prove to be one of Emanuel’s first major uphill battles.
One of the problems with the proposed multimillion dollar, 25-year lease of Terminal 5 to Westfield Concession Management is that it involves a clout-heavy company. Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart’s brother, Tim, and the president of the Chicago Police Board, Demetrius Carney, both lobby for Westfield. The bid was approved by Aviation Commissioner Rosemarie Andolino. Progress Illinois has previously covered the deal. Again and again, we’ve noted the multiple times a vote on the lease was postponed by City Council due to the the lack of votes needed to pass it. Aldermen were worried as they remembered -- and continue to live through -- the backlash from the parking meter deal, which the concessions deal has been compared to on numerous occasions.
Some issues already in the news about the concessions proposal is the length of the lease and the fact that current workers have only been promised an interview for rehire. At the heart of the controversy, though, is the money. UNITE-HERE estimates the city could lose $132 million to $147 million in revenue should the council ratify the Westfield deal; the lower numbers are based on the firm's promised capital investment and rent that they would pay to the city. The union has contended the current company running Terminal 5 (the international terminal), Chicago Aviation Partners, would be the best deal.
Larger potential problems with the deal remain to be unseen. The exact terms of the proposal aren’t being released to the council, which has prompted eight aldermen to request the submitted proposals from all bidders. UNITE-HERE, the union representing some workers who could lose their jobs under the Westfield contract, has also demanded to see the proposals to no avail.
Facing such push-back, Westfield has attempted to sweeten the deal by adding clauses allowing the city to terminate the contract without cause in 10 years. The company also increased the city’s share of revenue to match the consumer price index and promised that some current workers would be able to keep their jobs for at least 60 days after the contract began. Still, UNITE issued an updated analysis (PDF) earlier this month, which pointed out that the incumbent concessions company will generate $394 million in revenue over 20 years of the lease versus an estimated $288 million from Westfield.
“Westfield's proposal still appears to be worse than the other two bids the City received and could cost Chicago taxpayers as much as $129 million relative to other proposals,” a spokesman said in an email.
Alderman M. O'Connor has been assigned to the following committees:
1. Committee on Aviation
2. Committee on the Budget and Government Operations.
3. Committee on Committees, Rules and Ethics.
4. Committee on Education and Child Development.
5. Committee on Housing and Real Estate
6. Committee on License and Consumer Protection.
7. Committee on Public Safety.
8. Committee on Transportation and the Public Way.
I'm looking forward to a complete overhaul of CDOT and better communication too. I hope Alderman O'Connor invites Mr. Klein to the 41st Ward to assess the area for pedestrian and cycling improvements as well as implementing ideas as to how to best use CTA and Metra land.....
When it comes to the one-two punch of the new Mayor, Rahm Emanuel, and his appointee for Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner, Gabe Klein, it's safe to say that the future of this city's urban planning is cycling and transit oriented... for real... and perhaps for the first time ever. These two are in lock-step when it comes to their goals for Chicago. Emanuel campaigned on a promise to build 25 miles of new bike lanes per year, and both he and Klein are on the record as major advocates for public transit efficiency and partnerships.
Klein, a highly-sought after transportation administratior, whom many speculate had turned down offers to run a couple of state DOTs, said 'yes' to Emanuel, and that may turn out to benefit Chicagoans who are looking for some progressive leadership. Klein ran the D.C. DOT for a couple of years - where he instigated a bike share program, beefed up city bus service, and installed electric car charging facilities. Before that, Klein was a regional Vice President of Zipcar.
Klein spoke to "Double Yellow Lines" on the phone from his new office at CDOT, an office by the way, that doesn't have a locker room... meaning the committed bike commuter says he'll likely join a nearby gym, lest he grow too pungent for his new staff... How did you get hooked up with Mayor Emanuel?
You know, I heard I was one of the first hires in the Emanuel administration… but I actually, I really didn’t know the Mayor all that well. I did work closely with his brother, (Dr.) Zeke Emanuel in D.C.… we did some cycling advocacy together. I think the main thing was I was recommended to (Rahm Emanuel) by some high profile officials in the transportation world... the Secretary of the (Federal) Department of Transportation, for example. How often do you bike commute?
I’ve been riding or walking or taking the bus to work every single day. What kind of bike to you ride?
I actually have six bikes – 2 are here with me in Chicago, a Masi – that’s my commuter bike. It has thicker (hybrid-type) tires – a wooden crate, fenders... My racing bike is brand new Wilier… It has Sram componentry… a local company, made here in Chicago (World HQ in Old Town) … so I’m only riding Sram here (laughs). I’m also having my Vespa shipped out from D.C., so that should be fun. What’s your favorite part of cycling to work?
It’s such a great way to see the city. It's a postitive, and up-beat way to get to work, you're able to get some air. The best thing about it though is how fast it is here in Chicago… I live in the South Loop, and its 35 minutes to walk, 30 minutes walking and taking the bus… and just 8 minutes by bike. Can you sum up your goals for the coming year?
We are going to completely overhaul the face of the agency… people don’t even know about the wide variety of services CDOT provides. We’re going to work on the website, and push forward when it comes to social media, and getting information out to the public, that’s what I did in Washington. Also, CDOT has the potential to bring true innovation to public space and transportation in general in this city. The agency is in charge of a lot of the public space here in Chicago, and there’s so much that can be done. Holding events, putting in pedestrian and bike-related facilities, and we’ll continue to capitalize on our already strong relationship with the mass transit agencies. Our entire agenda for the upcoming months will soon be released… and when it is, we’ll be publishing it on our website for everyone to take a look at.
Illinois to study idea of corporate license plates
SPRINGFIELD -- Illinois is looking at allowing corporations to put their logos or advertisements on state license plates, something that has proven successful in raising revenue in Texas.
Sen. John Mulroe, D-Chicago, this spring passed a measure to have the secretary of state’s office study whether the state could make money by allowing corporations to sponsor license plates.
The special plates would be offered to Illinois motorists at a discount, and the companies would pay the state to put their logos or ads on the plates.
The study is to be concluded by Jan. 1.
Mulroe said when he initially approached the secretary of state’s office, which is in charge of administering specialty license plate programs, “they said, ‘It sounds like a left-field idea, so let’s leave it in left field.’
“I responded, ‘We haven’t been playing too well in the infield, maybe it’s time to try something else.’”
Illinois already offers more than 70 specialty plates, everything from college-themed plates to those honoring the military and promoting nonprofits.
The hope is that the corporate-sponsorship initiative would raise revenue without raising taxes, Mulroe said. The purpose of the study is to gauge interest and try to determine how much money such a program could raise. Big business benefit?
The idea was brought to Mulroe by John Morgan of Chicago, who is creating a start-up that he hopes will solicit businesses on behalf of the state if the General Assembly signs off on corporate plates.
Morgan said he researched the idea for more than two years before bringing it to Mulroe. Larger corporations have expressed interest in having the ability to advertise on license plates, Morgan said, though he declined to mention any names.
One local company isn’t so sure of the idea.
“Any time the government gets the private sector involved, they tend to make a mess of it,” said Charles Hough, director of operations for Springfield doughnut shop Mel-O-Cream.
It wouldn’t necessarily benefit small local companies like Mel-O-Cream to have their logo on license plates in Chicago, he noted.
“If you had a big business like McDonald’s, maybe then it would make sense,” Hough said.
However, the advertising has worked for one small company in Texas, the only state to currently allow corporate logos on license plates.
The Texas program is different from the Illinois proposal. In Texas, the state government contracted with a third-party vendor, My Plates, to produce specialty license plates.
In Illinois, all the plates are produced by the state.
Austin, Texas-based hamburger joint Mighty Fine Burgers produced a custom plate with a cheeseburger on the side, My Plates spokeswoman Kim Drummond said.
The idea was so new and quirky that the news media statewide picked up the story, gaining the company much publicity, Drummond said.
Mighty Fine Burgers also did a tie-in campaign with the license plates, offering $100 in free food to customers who bought the custom plates and kept them on their vehicles for one year.
My Plates produces corporate license plates for six companies, including Ford Motor Co., Dr Pepper and real-estate franchise RE/MAX.
“License plates are like little billboards running around the state of Texas advertising your company,” Drummond said.
Since My Plates started producing specialty plates for Texas in November 2009, it has sold 489 corporate plates, most of those within the last year. Their sale has raised $51,805 for the state’s general revenue fund, Drummond said.
Unlike Illinois’ proposal, consumers don’t receive a discount or any incentive to purchase the corporate-sponsored plates.
Morgan, who brought the idea to Mulroe in Illinois, has also introduced it to the state of Florida via a lobbyist he knew. That bill was killed in committee May 7.
California looked at taking license plate advertising a step further than what is proposed in Illinois.
The California General Assembly considered last year using electronic license plates in the state, which would also be capable of displaying advertisements. That bill also died in committee.
Wednesday’s City Council meeting had far more laughter than conflict, with four hours of resolutions, committee updates, appointments and just a little good-natured discussion of which side, South or West, was indeed “the best side.” Here are some highlights:
Emanuel’s appointments passed with flying colors and the most notable was the confirmation of Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy. Chicago’s new top cop was heralded without reservation, despite a couple subtle, half-hearted boos of displeasure came from the back of the public gallery. All other voices were raised in support:
Alderman Brendan Reilly, whose 42nd ward is essentially the front lines of the ongoing “mob” attacks near the city’s lakefront said that Chicago had “things to overcome” in terms of crime.
Alderman Ray Suarez discussed the need to “put a stop to these downtown...beatings, that are giving us a bad name.”
Near the end of the remarks period, Ald. Robert Fioretti made mention of social media and “staying ahead of the curve” as it pertained to crimefighting, but beyond those three references, little more was said about the lakefront attacks.
Ald. Richard Mell cited the cops he spoke to as seeing him favorably “as a grunt, like they were.”
Ald. Ed Burke cited McCarthy’s experience on 9/11 and described him as a “leader in the war on terror.” In describing his career, Burke said that “to say [it is] stellar is an understatement,” and as a former Chicago cop himself, Burke offered McCarthy what he called “the highest compliment, cop to cop” when he called McCarthy “the real police.”
Finally, on appointing McCarthy, Rahm stated that “this is one mission that of everybody here...you’re going to touch their lives. No other appointment will touch as many constituents.”
Other business included:
Ordinances: Ald. Ed Burke and Patrick O’Connor’s push for random drug tests of all city workers, including Aldermen themselves, as well as a hold on the potential $2 increase to access the Adler Planetarium.
Other confirmed appointments: Richard Rodriguez as head of Environment, Mona Noriega as head of Human Relations, Michelle Boone as head of the newly consolidated Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, Gabe Klein as head of Chicago’s Department of Transportation (fresh from running Washington DC’s transit system).
Resolutions: Most notably one honoring World War II veteran, prisoner of war and distance-running Olympian Louis Zamperini, who at age 94 received the first city resolution offered by Mayor Emanuel.
The next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, July 6th.
A $66 million-a-year program that allows Chicago aldermen to choose from a menu of neighborhood improvements just might be in jeopardy as Mayor Rahm Emanuel grapples with the city’s $1.2 million-a-year structural deficit.
Budget Director Alex Holt sent shock waves through the City Council this week when she told aldermen during closed-door briefings with department heads that “no funding source” has yet been identified to bankroll next year’s “aldermanic menu program.”
The treasured program allocates $1.32 million yearly to each of the city’s 50 wards to spend on infrastructure repairs of the local alderman’s choosing. The smorgasbord includes everything from street, sidewalk and alley repairs to new street lights, speed bumps and surveillance cameras.
Now, aldermen angered by a new round of city price hikes for menu items have to worry about whether the program will survive at all.
Ald. Danny Solis (25th), the powerful chairman of the City Council’s Zoning Committee, urged Emanuel to look elsewhere.
“It’s wrong for the menu program to be perceived as a slush-fund for aldermen. You’re not shortchanging aldermen [if you eliminate it]. You’re shortchanging our constituents,” Solis said Friday. “It’s not like paying for a clerk or a secretary. Aldermen depend on that money to get things done in their wards when they can’t depend on city revenue to do it.”
Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) said his constituents would be “outraged” if the menu program bit the dust.
“They’ve been waiting a long time — in some cases years — to get streets repaved because we don’t have enough money every year. Filling potholes just won’t work anymore. A lot of streets are completely torn up. They look like the lunar surface,” he said.
Peter Scales, a spokesman for the city’s Office of Budget and Management, said Holt assured aldermen during the private meeting that the 2011 menu program would continue.
But when talk turned to the city’s “long-term financial planning,” Scales quoted Holt as saying the Emanuel administration was “starting to look at the funding sources and scope of the capital program for 2012, which includes the menu program. She added, however, that the city had not yet determined those details as it is very early in that process.”
The Chicago Sun-Times reported last year that 13 aldermen had left at least $500,000 of their $1.32 million-a-year allotment on the table and that four closed the books on 2009 with more than $1 million unspent. Nine others failed to use between $250,000 and $500,000, records showed.
Unspent money stays in an alderman’s account for future use.
At the time, now retired Ald. Helen Shiller (46th) said she didn’t spend $1.15 million because “menus came out late” and because she is deliberate.
“I can spend the money. That’s not the issue. The issue is I like to do it in a comprehensive manner,” she said then.
Waguespack accused the Chicago Department of Transportation of “falling behind,” leaving $711,623 in his account.
City Hall subsequently acknowledged that the 2009 menu program got off to a late start after the $2.5 billion privatization of Midway Airport collapsed for lack of financing.
Proceeds from the 99-year deal were supposed to bankroll the capital program. A replacement bond issue was not approved until June of that year.
As a car pulled up to the boarded-up Northwest Side house Friday, the driver called out to a group of young women brandishing trowels as they leaned into a small square hole cut into the front yard.
“What are you looking for?” the driver asked.
“There was an old schoolhouse here — ” one of the women replied.
The driver sped off without waiting for her to finish.
DePaul University Associate Professor Jane Eva Baxter and her team of 25 students get that quite lot — disappointment that the archeological dig they began in April on the edge of the Billy Caldwell golf course doesn’t offer a sexier promise.
But the rusty nails, the shards of red brick, the occasional child’s toy — all sifted from the dirt — are helping the team recreate a sense of life at the one-room schoolhouse that stood here in the 1840s.
A local group — The Old Edgebrook Historical Society — is hoping to convert the current dilapidated clapboard structure into a museum that would, among other things, house many of the archeologists’ findings.
“I care deeply about local history and I care deeply about the history of ordinary, everyday people,” says Baxter, explaining her interest in the project.
Ordinary farmers likely pooled their funds in the 1840s to build the schoolhouse on what was then Jefferson Township, a small settlement outside the city, Baxter said.
Where golf carts now glide between manicured greens, farmland once stretched as far as the eye could see, she said.
Baxter and her students have found pieces of “writing slates,” which were re-usable and cheaper than paper. On Friday, one student found a decorative black bead.
“People often think of pioneer families as living very simple lives,” Baxter said. “But this isn’t from a simple outfit. So they would have had some finery, they would have had some nicer clothes.”
The beauty of archeology, Baxter said, is that the earth doesn’t lie.
“You can write whatever you want in your diary ...,” Baxter explained. “But the stuff we throw away is actually indicative of what we have and used and what our lives were like.”