Friday, August 1, 2014

Amisha Patel's idea for keeping track of aldermen

Posted By on 08.01.14 at 03:30 PM

Amisha Patel (right) wants to help you know your alderman.
  • Kevin Tanaka/ Sun-Times Media
  • Amisha Patel (right) wants to help you know your alderman.

I got a call the other day from Amisha Patel, one of the city's leading progressives, telling me the Indigo Girls were coming to town to throw a fundraiser for the anti-Rahm cause.

At least that what I thought she was telling me.

I got all excited and said: "Wow! You got the Indigo Girls to do a fundraiser? That's pretty impressive. How did you pull that off? I thought all the rockers and rappers were with Mayor Rahm."

"No, not the Indigo Girls," she said, after she was done laughing. "Indiegogo—you know, the fundraising site that's like Kickstarter."

Oh, my bad. You know, they say the hearing's the first thing to go . . .

Patel—executive director of Grassroots Illinois Action—and her allies are trying to raise $10,000 to put together a website that tracks what aldermen do as opposed to what they say they're going to do.

"It would research, collect, and analyze the City Council's voting records, campaign contributions, and stances on important issues," says Patel. "We could generate scorecards of how aldermen are really voting."

In the abstract it makes a lot of sense. But then, this being Chicago, it can get complicated.

For instance, you, the voter, should know if Alderman X campaigns as a TIF reformer, and then turns around and votes for something really wasteful—like Mayor Emanuel's $55 million (and counting) TIF subsidy for the DePaul basketball arena/Marriott hotel boondoggle in the south loop.

Haven't heard me rail about that in while, now have you?

That project will divert tens of millions of property tax dollars from the schools while turning taxable land into tax-exempt land. Meaning it will also raise your property taxes to compensate for the tax dollars the schools and city and county won't be getting from the South Loop land on which the project's being built.

And all to build a hotel that could have been built without a subsidy as well as a basketball arena that DePaul doesn't need 'cause no one wants to go to their games in the first place.

Oh, don't get me started!

If we had a site tracking the voting records on that debacle, we'd have to vote 47 aldermen out of office.

That's because only three aldermen had the guts to defy the mayor on this boondoggle. Come on down, Aldermen Scott Waguespack, John Arena, and Robert Fioretti!

In fairness, Alderman Nick Sposato almost voted against it, so that's got to count for something.

The point is, a lot of our so-called progressives are really not all that progressive when the mayor starts twisting their arms. So sometimes voter ignorance is bliss.

Like I was saying, this stuff can get really tricky.

Patel's hope is that if Chicago voters knew the truth about the people they elect, they might not elect them in the first place.

In theory, I agree with her.

In practice, well, I'm so jaded about the voting habits of ordinary Chicagoans that I'm thinking of taking away their voting rights for at least an election or two and endorsing a system in which I alone determine who sits in office.

Hey, I couldn't do worse than you guys did in that last mayoral election, Chicago.

Then again, considering that I once voted for Rod Blagojevich—well, maybe that's not such a great idea.

Anyway, if you want to know more about what Patel and the progressives are up to, here's their site.

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