Monday, December 31, 2007

The beginning of the end?

I just got a new piano. Actually, it's an old one, a beautiful 1941 Baldwin Acrosonic, replete with scratches and a sloppy action. It was sitting in the trash behind Cosi near Parker School last week, and my friends Hugh and Patrick helped me roll it the two blocks home. Hugh tried some beautiful Beethoven sonatas on it and it's in tune, although the action needs some work.

It's 2 a.m., and again I'm awakened by the De Paul students yelling and peeing outside my window. Several of them do it at once, as if it's a men's room. They can hold their loud conversation right outside the window. Sometimes they pee right onto the window. They'll do it again around 4 a.m., when the Apartment closes. It's like clockwork. So, I'm sitting here at the piano, sketching out a sharps chart based on the "circle of fifths," while trying to get to sleep again. It's like counting sheep for geeks. Sharps can go on forever, you know. You can have a million sharps in a key. Theoretically, at least.

The kids pee on the walls and windows here because the 13 bars on the block kick the kids out and they can't get back in, not even to pee. The restaurant next door doesn't have a public bathroom. (Even people who buy burritos there can't use the toilet!) I asked Vi Daley (our alderman) and Chuck Eastwood (her candidate for committeeman) for some porta-potties on the block, for barricades or guards at the alley at strategic times, for some new law about businesses and toilet policy, or even to pressure the bars to supply some resolution to the problem. The bars, you see, rake in millions in liquor sales on this block, so I thought maybe they'd be able to afford to do something about the problem they create. Vi vaguely promised to publicly finance some strong lights in the alley, but she never followed through. This was almost three years ago.

You see, Vi and Chuck didn't want to offend their big supporters, the bar owners on Lincoln Avenue. Bo Burleson (Kendall's, Kelsey's, Kincade's), Sam Sanchez (John Barleycorn), and the Halligan owners are all buddies of theirs. What they did instead was to create a new tax (actually called an SSA) on Lincoln Avenue, charging residents primarily with Christmas decorating, snow shoveling, sidewalk power-washing, and trash cleanup for the bars and restaurants on the block. Who prompted Vi and Chuck to create this tax? Burleson and Sanchez. The new tax, raking in an additional $150,000 annually, was passed right under the nose of an unsuspecting public. Now, when Vi and Chuck want a location for a fundraiser, these bars will provide it. See the pattern?

A few blocks away, Vi and Chuck are dealing with another problem, the Latin School soccer field issue in Lincoln Park. A few years ago, the public said "absolutely no way" to this field. No handouts of our most precious public parkland to a private entity. It couldn't get much more clear than that. Then, just before this past aldermanic election, Vi and Chuck let them sign the contract right under the nose of an unsuspecting public. Now, when Vi and Chuck want a fundraiser, they'll invite rich Latin parents. See the pattern?

There is no limit to the number of sharps you can add to an issue. Theoretically, at least. In 2002, the public raised hell about the Latin field and officials were forced to back off. This year, Vi and Chuck added another sharp to the Latin field issue by quietly letting it pass, under our noses. They can sweat a little, do a public relations dance, then shrug it off as a little victory. But in doing this, Vi and Chuck have added just a little more tension to their existing public opinion. (Join the Committee to Keep Lincoln Park Public for angry activity on this issue.)

With the two slick SSAs Vi and Chuck passed in the 43rd Ward recently, they have added another couple of sharps to their elaborate composition. When they continue to ignore residents' needs on this block regarding security and safety, while catering to the business interests, Vi and Chuck have added another sharp to the composition. Same tune, different key.

The tension builds.

Theoretically, at least.

Related entries:
Piss and vinegar I
Piss and vinegar II
Piss and vinegar III

Latin School I
Latin School II

Reader SSA article