Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Street-cleaning ticketing problems

(View photos)
(Read July 5, 2006 press release)

As if the orange paper signs weren't causing enough headaches, our campaign volunteers have discovered a major street-cleaning ticketing problem in the Lakeview area where new permanent signs have been placed - all streets from Fullerton to Diversey, east of Clark, are affected, including Hampden (Deming-Diversey), Arlington (Clark-Lakeview), Lakeview (Diversey-Fullerton), Deming (Clark-Lakeview), Pine Grove (Wrightwood-Diversey), Lehmann (Diversey-Wrightwood), and Drummond (Clark-Lehmann). We have seen the problem this Tuesday and Wednesday, June 27 and 28, on several of the streets in the area. Hundreds of cars have been improperly ticketed just this week, and if it has been occurring for months, then we are talking thousands of cars.

The problem is that the new permanent street cleaning signs have been posted, but the alderman hasn't updated the schedule that she sends to the Department of Revenue and the police. People are correctly assuming they can park on these streets but are being ticketed by people who aren't paying attention to the new signs.

We are opposed to the new permanent signs. In many ways, they're even worse than the old ones, which are bad enough, as many neighbors can confirm. We have a better solution that we'll be revealing in the coming months.

You shouldn't have to put up with this. Please be patient as we work to resolve this issue. I've put in a call to the Department of Revenue to see if we can resolve this for everyone ticketed. In the meantime, everyone should contest their tickets by mail to get it on the record, just in case. (Use explanation #6: "The illegal condition described in the compliance violation did not exist at the time this notice was issued.")

Anyone who has been ticketed should e-mail us immediately at with their information so that we may keep you posted on our progress. Include your name and address, auto license number, date and location where the ticket was issued, and citation number from the ticket.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Police brutality in Chicago

A woman who had been struggling with drugs, while held on a traffic warrant, died Monday in police custody after repeatedly asking for medical assistance and being told by police that she would not be treated. (Frank Main, "Woman who died in lockup asked for help: witness," Chicago Sun-Times, June 14, 2006.) I knew another woman, May Molina, who died in police custody in 2004 under similar circumstances.

This January, after police got rough with a gathering of mourners who overflowed onto Western Avenue, 36-year-old union engineer Brenda O'Connor was treated to handcuff torture by a Chicago Police sergeant - in front of her stepdaughter. I later followed up and took her down to Police Headquarters so that we could file a report to the Office of Professional Standards. Having seen this before, I have no illusion that there will be any action in response to Brenda's complaint, though it has been corroborated by several witnesses.

In fact, I personally was a victim of police brutality - when I tried to stop a police officer from framing a Middle Eastern man for an accident which he himself had caused.

Just this week, the Reader featured on its front page and Web site "The Police Torture Scandal: A Who's Who." For years the Reader has been following CPD's torture program and this article summarizes the activity and points back to the numerous articles they've published on the subject since 1990.

It's inconceivable to me how such things can happen so regularly in a place called "civilized."

On June 6 at St. Clement School, Lincoln Park Neighbors United for Peace held a forum on the torture at Guantanamo. We saw video footage of the suffering caused by our own troops, and authorized by our own top leaders. But you don't have to travel far to see cases of police dispensing "street justice" and callous disregard. It's right here in our city, every single day.

The son of the deceased woman said of her, "She taught me to treat everyone the same way - from the president to a bum - with respect. It doesn't look like they treated my mother with much respect." People in custody should be treated with no presumption of guilt. That is not the job of the Chicago Police Department, and it is nobody's job to do physical harm to a person or ignore their legitimate requests while in their care.

It's time for a culture change. They're putting video cameras on the streets in our troubled neighborhoods. I believe we need video cameras in the jails, and outside monitors and jail inspectors. And probably a lesson for some of our police officers on courtesy, ethics and limits to authority.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The weakest link

I'm often told accidents don't happen by accident in Chicago. When I hear such things coming from normally reasonable people, I tune out. I reply with some stock response about conspiracies or a favorite quote from Tocqueville: "In America, there are factions, but no conspiracies."

In planning matters, we are repeatedly hearing Ald. Vi Daley passing the buck on "accidents" that keep happening under her watch. Just yesterday, I was told by a zoning expert that the alderman must have lied to Lincoln Central Association regarding the passage of a minor zoning adjustment for the development at 1932 N. Burling, the biggest McMansion yet to come to Lincoln Park. At a meeting on the matter, as reported in LCA's newsletter:

"Neighbors strongly objected to the height increase. Ald. Daley interrupted, informing the crowd that the city’s zoning administrator had already granted the request, because immediate neighbors had not objected. One neighbor whose property adjoins the site had not been notified, however. Ald. Daley suggested he file a complaint." (Lincoln Central Association, Spring 2006, p. 4)

Oops! "Already granted the request"? My expert told me that Zoning Administrator Tom Smith would never make a move without an alderman's approval. He strongly believes what really happened was that Ald. Daley probably passed the buck and allowed Smith to be the bad guy for a change which she herself had tacitly approved. And my source has probably attended more zoning hearings than some of the Zoning Committee's own members, so he knows what he's talking about!

We already heard last year that the historic Hayes-Healy building next to the Fullerton El was "accidentally" demolished by the CTA when "landmarks division [sic] officials mistakenly approved a demolition permit for the project." (Ben Joravsky, "Above the Law: Why is the Armitage el stop exempt from historic preservation?" Reader, March 3, 2006, p. 8) Oops again! And as if that weren't already enough, Mrs. Daley also claimed that a "miscommunication" between three agencies caused the CTA to go ahead with changes to historic station lightpole and handrail treatments that the community didn't get a chance to disapprove of. (ibid., p. 9)

And I've heard other stories. How many accidents are going to happen in this ward?

The worst part about these community process tragedies? Had Mrs. Daley properly used her power and leadership authority, most of these things probably would not have happened. And if so many "accidents" are really happening without her approval, she should not be sitting on her hands, she should be inciting a riot. Instead, she hides behind a shield of helplessness.

When people I know start indulging in conspiracy theories, my eyes tend to glaze over. But tacit approvals, passing the buck, the "done deal" plea, feigning helplessness? These are things that don't require full-blown conspiracies. All you require is a weak link.