Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Chicago's slanted Skyline

Was anyone surprised to see the obvious bias in the Skyline's roundup of 43rd Ward aldermanic candidates (Nov. 23)? Tim Egan, husband of Marlena Miglin, got first position among the four challengers and made up the bulk of the article. But what would you expect from a newspaper whose society coverage begins on the front and occupies seven of their 16 pages of so-called news?

And - oh, my - there's the happy Miglin mishpoche again, in Ann Gerber's gossip column on Page 9! She's out stumping Marilyn's fundraiser for Tim Egan! That pretty squarely shoots down Dechter's and Burmahl's lame-assed excuses for failing to inform the public about my street cleaning warning system. Even though my product is a public service, they say they place candidates' press releases in a special category of promotional material, as if it is something any less relevant to the public eye than an announcement of some service by the alderman, or by Children's, or by Old Town Triangle. I suppose Felicia Dechter might have published it if I were Marilyn Miglin's son? Will she publish an announcement of Vi Daley's ripoff of the product?

The two longtime public advocates, Rachel Goodstein and myself, were placed at the end of the story as the "me too" candidates. It's noteworthy that Rachel and I not only have lived in the ward longer than any of the others, we've also put more volunteer hours in for our community and received the least attention from Skyline.

And why, after twice sending in my photograph, would Skyline "inadvertently" fail to print it among those of the other candidates? Could it be that they didn't want competition for their favorite son in the race, Tim Egan? Tim's okay looking, but so am I. The Nixon-Kennedy debates taught the media all it's ever needed to know about image control. Skyline has refused to make good: "We regret the error, but we're not going to publish your photo," said the editors.

My family has never appeared on the society pages. Most of Skyline's readers have never had that privilege. I am a third-generation journalist; my father was longtime editor of the chronically broke Near North News. With a pedigree like that, I don't have a quick leg up as a candidate, but as Skyline editor Beth Burmahl said, I "must know how the business works." I appreciate the refresher.

Read what you will into the paper’s election coverage. If given the proper forum, we "second class" candidates will earn the admiration of Gold Coast and Lincoln Park voters without the dubious help of Skyline's sycophantic writers and editors.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Tuesday...

For years, I've been one of the city's most outspoken critics of political hiring and firing. Yesterday, Donald Tomczak, the mayor's former patronage lieutenant, was finally sentenced for Hired Truck. He's a product of "old Chicago," his lawyer says. And I agree with that, and I can't blame him for how he grew up. Plenty of the kids I remember from blue-collar Lincoln Park are part of the patronage game today. It's really the mayor who is responsible for the unavoidable effects of patronage.

The guys at the 43rd Ward Streets and Sanitation office are also products of "old Chicago." And I'm sure they're afraid I will fire them if I am elected. After all, I'm also a product of that old Chicago.

But I just called them to sympathize after I discovered that in our Diversey Harbor neighborhood, Wednesday often comes before Tuesday. "We know that," Anthony Nagli groaned.

Here is an example: this month, according to the permanent signs, the south side of Wrightwood will be cleaned on the third Tuesday and the north side the third Wednesday. So drivers and the sweeper know it's always going to be two days in a row, right? Wrong. This month, that Wednesday comes a week before the corresponding Tuesday. Confused? Look at a calendar. This anomaly occurs several times a year.

For this and related reasons, the sign system is very confusing to everyone involved. It is the result of a lack of clear thinking about the complex systems and processes involved in running the city's services. The permanent signs need serious rethinking. (Read my plans for that.)

Any major problems with street cleaning are ultimately our alderman's fault.

And in case it's not clear: I am opposed to political hiring and firing. No ward employee loses his or her job just because I take office. Except the alderman.

Forget old Chicago. Let's see what we can do in a "new Chicago." As the feds are so fond of saying, "Stay tuned."

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Imitation: The finest form of flattery

What a creative alderman we have in the 43rd Ward.

In July, after citywide media showed me talking about Vi Daley's huge ticketing error in the Diversey Harbor area of Lakeview, she turned around and publicly claimed credit for fixing it. She didn't even thank me for discovering and correcting it. I had already spent three days dealing with Bill Kenan at the Department of Revenue, who promised me the problem would be fixed, long before Vi Daley got the phone call from Fox 32 informing her about the problem.

Now, to help deal with ticketing issues, Vi Daley has put very expensive cameras on the cleaning trucks, to boost punishment for a hopelessly unfair system. Since she's so lazy she doesn't put signs up more than a few hours before ticketing, I had a better plan: tell people about street cleaning a couple of days earlier, and maybe they'll move their cars more often. It won't cost the city a penny more.

To help people, I just released a new service, the 43rd Ward Street Cleaning Early Warning System. People who park on the street can enter an e-mail address and a list of blocks they park on, and my software notifies them three days in advance of when their blocks are about to be cleaned. Pretty good idea, right?

But, lo and behold! Look what just appeared in Vi Daley's e-newsletter, about two hours after we'd finished blitzing cars throughout the ward with our notice:

Alderman Vi Daley will unveil her new web-site in the coming days. One major change was suggested by a resident who regularly uses the calendar. [That must be me! You're welcome, Vi.] You will be able to enter your address and receive email notices about up-coming street-cleaning on your block. We hope to extend it to include notices about re-paving, movie shoots and possibly, snow removal.

I coded alongside volunteers to develop my package. Vi will probably use her deep slush fund, composed of our own Democratic Party money and developer kickbacks, to finance a cheap imitation. Or is she going to use taxpayer money? That would be pretty wasteful, since there's already a product out there: mine. But you know she likes using your taxes in this way.

I'll also take my 72-hour advance notice ordinance to City Council the day I take office. In my ordinance, the city will be forced to put up signage at least 72 hours in advance and keep tight records. If they don't put up signs enough in advance, they can't legally issue tickets. Simple, huh? Why didn't Vi Daley come up with it? Now let's watch as she introduces this ordinance moments before the February election, then claims credit for it. Or maybe she'll get Mayor Daley, or some other alderman, to do it for her so it's not so obvious.

Vi Daley can't come up with one creative idea, so she has to steal from others. Some people lead, others follow. What kind of alderman do you want, a leader or a follower?

(Read my position statement on this issue, which includes other ideas that Vi Daley will probably steal)