Monday, July 31, 2006

Late to the party

Rich Miller, for Capitol Fax, writes about Sunday's Tribune article on how Mayor Daley holds city services hostage until the weeks before contested elections:

Miller writes that the Tribune is very late in coming up with this information, and goes into detail about my book, which was the first publication to go into depth about the subject. His lack of appreciation for my writing skills aside, it is about time the Tribune took notice of this.

Friday, July 28, 2006

"Big box" ordinance passes 35-14

The city's "big box" ordinance passed Wednesday with a veto-proof 35-14 vote. This was a watershed event for the City Council, since it demonstrates for the first time in 17 years how the council should operate under the so-called "weak mayor" system. Debate was robust and all views were permitted to be clearly and fully expressed. The mayor made no threats and was civil.

The vote breakdown was also interesting. The mayor's most reliable followers, including Mrs. Daley, voted against the ordinance after being pressured by the mayor and by aldermen in wards who were promised to receive the first Wal-Mart stores. Following were the "no" votes (personal thanks to Ramsin Canon of Gapers Block; this has not been published elsewhere that I know of):

Haithcock (2nd), Tillman (3rd), Hairston (5th), Beavers (7th), Balcer (11th), Troutman (20th), Brookins (21st), Carothers (29th), Austin (34th), Mitts (37th), Natarus (42nd), Daley (43rd), Tunney (44th), Stone (50th).

Liberal Helen Shiller (46th) of Uptown left the room for an abstention, since she has a Target going up. I believe this was not a bad move for her under the circumstances. Alds. Balcer, Natarus, Daley, Tunney, and Stone are the mayoral loyalists. I can only speculate on the true inner motivations of these aldermen. Some of them have large numbers of Republicans in their wards and may have bent to conservative pressure. Some were asked to vote no by other aldermen in poorer wards who have been promised Wal-Mart stores. Some loyalists, I am sure, imagine that their fealty to the mayor will accrue them benefits.

Whatever their motivations, I believe there is a very good reason for the other 35 aldermen to have voted "yes" for this ordinance. I admit it is a blunt and imperfect instrument, yet I think it is fair, mostly because it serves to keep billions in revenue, that would otherwise be spread across the globe in management and profit, within in the local economy.

Most importantly, this ordinance buys Chicago a little bit of time: perhaps for a couple of years it holds the world's largest corporations at bay until we have the opportunity to properly develop mid-size supermarkets and other essential services. I am in early-stage discussions with some aldermen on something I drew up last year in response to the closure of many small independent supermarkets. The plan is provisionally called the Essential Services Initiative and it involves land allocation and tax benefits for mid-sized, locally owned basic-needs businesses to enter areas all over the city. Please contact me for details on this.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

More street-cleaning ticket victims

Residents on Cleveland Avenue were inconvenienced today despite their best efforts at avoiding a ticket for street cleaning. The alderman's Web site listed today's street cleaning route but did not include the east side of Cleveland Avenue between North and Armitage in the list of streets to be cleaned. Yet the 43rd Ward superintendent's office had it on their list. They cleaned the street and the Department of Revenue ticketed.

This is not the first instance of the mismatched schedules between the alderman and her ward office. A constituent called the two offices to confirm these new inconsistencies. The disclaimer from the alderman's office is "the schedule is subject to change." But when I called Streets and Sanitation, they said that the schedule has been in effect for three years.

Cleaning was scheduled only on the following streets: Cleveland from Blackhawk-Clybourn, Hudson from Armitage-North, Mohawk from Blackhawk-Clybourn, Sedgwick from Armitage-Blackhawk.

I've discovered dozens of small problems in the street-cleaning ticketing system that are affecting hundreds of Lincoln Park residents every week, and possibly hundreds of thousands in the city yearly. I have plans to improve this system so these problems almost never occur, and residents have good recourse when they do.

To those affected, you should contest the tickets and call on Alderman Daley (773-327-9111) to pressure her to write a letter to accompany your request or have the Department of Revenue reverse all of these tickets. (Her office already told one constituent that they would not do that). Include the following documents in your contest:

(Letter of contestation)
(Web site screen shot)

At the same time, despite the schedule calling for it, no street cleaning was done this week in the area between Fullerton and Lakeview, east of Clark Street, due to serious errors that our campaign discovered and which was broadcast on WGN and will appear in upcoming editions of Inside and Skyline.