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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Gee, how will they vote?

Posted By on 05.07.08 at 04:08 PM

The Chicago Plan Commission is set to take up the Chicago Children’s Museum’s plans to move into Grant Park at its May 15 meeting, and the safe bet is on the museum getting its way. Why? Well, the commission rarely sees a high-powered zoning change it doesn’t like. Then there’s the rather vocal position of its most important member, Mayor Daley. And finally there's the matter of the individual loyalties and ties of all the other commissioners:

  • Linda Searl, chair: A partner in the respected Searl Lamaster Howe architectural firm, Searl is ten-year veteran of the commission, a donor to Daley’s campaign committee, and a longtime adviser to Daley and the city’s planning department.
  • Mayor Richard M. Daley: Didn’t we hear something about how he’s going to look out for the children?
  • Arnold L. Randall: As the commissioner for the city’s planning department, he reports to Mayor Daley.
  • Tom Byrne: As the commissioner of the city’s Department of Transportation, he reports to Mayor Daley.
  • David Weinstein: Now the president of the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center, a nonprofit affiliate of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, which receives thousands of dollars a year in city funding. He formerly served as the mayor’s “technology adviser.”
  • Alderman William J.P. Banks: The northwest side alderman chairs the City Council’s powerful zoning committee—which would take up this proposal next if the commission passes it. He's one of Daley’s staunchest council backers and proud of it.
  • Patricia Scudiero: Scudiero is the top official—officially the "administrator"—for the city’s Department of Zoning, which enforces and interprets the city’s zoning code. As the Chicago Tribune has reported, Scudiero formerly served on Banks’s zoning committee staff and worked for the planning department.
  • Alderman Edward M. Burke: Among his many intertwining business and political relationships, the City Council’s finance committee chairman has received numerous campaign contributions from museum board secretary Matthew Neumeier.
  • Leon D. Finney, Jr.: Finney was one of the mayor’s earliest and most vocal supporters in the black community, and the nonprofit he leads, the Woodlawn Organization, has received millions of dollars from the city for social service and public housing programs.
  • Alderman Mary Ann Smith: Smith often touts her independence but is usually a reliable council vote for the mayor’s initiatives. She’s enthusiastically supported the Daley administration’s ever-expanding use of TIFs, including several in and around her 48th Ward, and she’s got a record of using hardball tactics and backroom deals to eliminate political opposition.
  • Doris B. Holleb: The University of Chicago trustee and professor of economics and urban planning has served as a consultant to the city’s planning department and an education, economics, and cultural adviser to the Carter, Reagan, and Clinton administrations. Her husband, Marshall, is a widely respected preservationist and attorney who has donated thousands of dollars to numerous political campaigns, including those of aldermen Smith and Banks.
  • Lyneir Richardson: Richardson is a registered City Hall lobbyist for General Growth Properties, a real estate firm that develops, owns, and manages shopping malls in 45 states. The firm has received hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks around the country, according to a study by SEIU, which has been in a pissing match with it over procedures for unionizing employees.
  • Carole Brown: Besides being appointed by the mayor to chair the CTA’s board, Brown is a member of the Children’s Museum board.
  • Smita Shah: She’s the president and CEO of SPAAN Technology, which last fall received a $5 million city contract to provide engineering services for the city’s transportation department. The firm has also done work for the CTA and Chicago Public Schools.
  • George W. Migala: Migala’s a radio broadcaster and station executive at WCEV 1450-AM.
  • Alderman Patrick O'Connor: As Daley’s unofficial City Council floor leader, he’s about as loyal as they come. He’s currently got a campaign war chest of about $400,000, much of it contributed by developers, realtors, and construction interests.
  • John H. Nelson: Nelson, a $5,500 donor to Mayor Daley’s 2007 reelection campaign, is an architect with Harley Ellis Devereaux, whose work includes the Boeing Galleries in Millennium Park, the 18th District police station, and the Picnic Grove Pavilion at the Lincoln Park Zoo.
  • Nancy A. Pacher: Pacher is president and chief operating officer of U.S. Equities, an international real estate firm that has received millions of dollars in city business for property management and consulting work on TIFs.
  • Alderman Bernard L. Stone: Stone isn’t above berating a city official when he’s worked up during a meeting of the City Council’s buildings committee, which he chairs. He’s not even above stalling what he deems “stupid” ordinances some of these officials occasionally send him. But after more than three decades as an alderman, he’s not going to suddenly become an independent. Like most other influential aldermen, Stone receives thousands of dollars in political contributions from developers every campaign cycle.
  • Gracia M. Shiffrin: Now the senior director for development and construction programs for Catholic Charities, Shiffrin previously held several high-ranking positions in the Daley administration, including deputy chief of staff to Daley, assistant planning commissioner, and assistant corporation counsel.
  • Alderman Regner "Ray" Suarez: As chairman of the council’s housing committee, Suarez is a proud defender of the Daley administration’s housing and development record. He too is able to rake in campaign contributions—about $147,000 in just the last six months of 2007, when he wasn’t running for anything. As with his council colleagues on the Plan Commission, Suarez collected a good chunk of his cash from developers and construction companies. But he’s the only one who will be faced with a conflict of interest if the entity known as Fullerton Cicero Donuts ever has a matter before the commission. It gave him $1,025 last year.

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