Clout City

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Aldermen raise serious questions about billboard deal, then advance it anyway

Posted By on 12.04.12 at 08:25 AM

Despite intense study, not even Alderman Ed Burke could figure out what the hells up with the city's latest privatization deal.
  • Al Podgorski / Chicago Sun-Times
  • Despite intense study, not even Alderman Ed Burke could figure out what the hell's up with the city's latest privatization deal.
You know they did.

A Chicago City Council committee signed off Monday on Mayor Rahm Emanuel's latest privatization deal—even though, after nearly five hours of testimony, aldermen still didn't quite know how it added up for taxpayers, what its shortfalls might be, or exactly which companies were included in putting it together.

In more than a few places, they weren't even sure what the contract said.

"As I tried to go through these documents over the weekend, I have to admit, I don't really have the expertise to understand them," said Ed Burke, who's read a few contracts in more than four decades as an alderman and attorney.

Mayoral aides were happy to help.

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Friday, November 30, 2012

Here comes another city privatization deal forged behind closed doors

Posted By on 11.30.12 at 10:00 AM

Rahm Emanuel doesnt need a business degree--or a bidding process--to know when hes cut a good deal.
  • Sun-Times Media
  • Rahm Emanuel doesn't need a business degree—or a bidding process—to know when he's cut a good deal.
This is one of three posts to win a Peter Lisagor Award for Blog, Individual Blog Post, Affiliated.

One hundred and fifty-five million bucks is a lot of money. Or maybe it isn’t.

It’s more than most of us have to spend on holiday gifts this year. But is it the right price for letting a private company put up dozens of billboards on public land around the city for at least 20 years?

I don’t have any idea. You probably don’t either. And the people getting ready to authorize the deal certainly don’t have a clue.

That would be the aldermen in the Chicago City Council, whose budget and zoning committees are scheduled to weigh in on the billboard agreement Monday morning.

“Is it a good deal at $155 million? I don’t know,” says Joe Moreno, alderman of the First Ward. “Could we get $300 million? I don’t know. We’ve never leveraged these assets before.”

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Friday, November 23, 2012

Abbate case is just the tip of the iceberg in city legal payouts

Posted By on 11.23.12 at 10:00 AM

A federal jury awarded Karolina Obrycka $850,000 after she was beaten by an off-duty Chicago police officer.
  • Tom Cruze/Sun-Times Media
  • A federal jury awarded Karolina Obrycka $850,000 after she was beaten by an off-duty Chicago police officer
If only it were an isolated incident.

Last week a federal jury ordered the city of Chicago to pay $850,000 in damages to bartender Karolina Obrycka, blaming a police code of silence for her 2007 beating by off-duty cop Anthony Abbate. The jury also found that investigators all but shrugged off the attack until a video of it surfaced weeks later.

Almost as soon as the decision was announced, a debate was underway about the award. Some argued it seemed relatively low given the viciousness of the assault. City officials vowed to fight it, even though they've already devoted an estimated $5 million to the case. Abbate, though, joked about the cost of the verdict to the Sun-Times: "I think I got a Visa card in my wallet."

Yes, the whole thing is a real knee-slapper. Meanwhile, the taxpayers are left with the tab—again.

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Friday, November 16, 2012

Why your alderman (and mine) always votes yes on the Chicago city budget

Posted By on 11.16.12 at 10:00 AM

Alderman Ed Burke: befuddled that anyone would vote no on Rahm Emanuels budget
Mayor Rahm Emanuel made a keen observation after the City Council voted 46-3 to approve his 2013 city budget on Thursday:

"Reform never ends."

It's true—the reform process has been under way in Chicago for decades, yet somehow things just never seem to get fixed.

Take the city's $8.3 billion budget as an example. Passing it was essential, the mayor said, to "right a ship that had gone wrong."

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Preservationists sue, win temporary protection for Goldberg's Prentice Hospital

Posted By on 11.15.12 at 03:33 PM

Preservationists filed suit in Cook County court against the city and the Chicago Commission on Public Landmarks this afternoon, seeking to reinstate landmark designation for Bertand Goldberg's Prentice Women's Hospital. The designation was rescinded by the landmarks commission two weeks ago, immediately after it was bestowed.

Judge Neil Cohen granted an immediate stay that will protect Prentice from demolition until their case is resolved.

Plaintiffs, Landmarks Illinois and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, claim that a rushed process employed by the commission—which collapsed proceedings that usually take months into a single afternoon—is illegal, and that the commission exceeded its bounds by making a decision on economic-impact issues that, according to law, are supposed to be considered by the City Council. In addition, the suit charges that previously prepared documents used by the commission during that meeting are evidence that the outcome of votes taken that day was predetermined.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Mayor Emanuel ensures parking meters remain in private hands

Posted By on 11.14.12 at 08:00 AM

Its up to Mayor Rahm Emanuel to decide to fight the meter privatization deal
There's a major reason Chicago hasn't been able to get rid of its street parking privatization deal: because Mayor Rahm Emanuel has fought to keep it in place.

That's the gist of a ruling Tuesday afternoon by a Cook County judge, who found that the 75-year privatization agreement may be "a bad deal" but can't be declared illegal as long as the city claims to be benefiting from it.

At issue was a 2009 lawsuit filed by attorney Clint Krislov on behalf of the IVI-IPO, a public-interest group. The suit argued that the deal illegally privatized the government's right to set parking and traffic policy and restricted the options of future city officials.

But the city teamed with Chicago Parking Meters LLC, the company that controls the parking system, to contest the suit, even after Mayor Emanuel publicly vowed to pursue every avenue he could to get out of the agreement.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

"Future Prentice": How's this for global, Rahm?

Posted By on 11.13.12 at 06:00 PM

  • Courtesy of Chicago Architectural Club
Architects from 13 countries have contributed 71 entries to the the Chicago Architectural Club's "Future Prentice" competition.

Three winning entries, chosen by a panel of jurors last week, will be announced Thursday; you can get a look at them in a related exhibit opening at the Chicago Architecture Foundation Friday.

The exhibit, "Reconsidering an Icon: Creative Conversations About Prentice Women's Hospital," will include a slide show of all the entries, along with invited designs from ten young Chicago architectural firms, plus local starchitect Jeanne Gang's spectacular tower-on-tower concept. It's cosponsored by CAC, CAF, and the Chicago chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

Unfortunately, while architects around the world were busy dreaming up designs for reuse of the iconic Bertrand Goldberg structure, Mayor Rahm "Global Destination" Emanuel sealed Prentice's fate by siding with the building's owner, Northwestern University, in its anti-landmarking campaign.

Landmarking would have interfered with NU's plans for imminent destruction.

Which will will soon make the whole conversation moot.

Unless (who knows?) the mayor drops in at CAF and spots something that'll inspire a Prentice reprieve.

The exhibit will be open November 16 through February 8, 9:30 AM to 5 PM daily, at 224 S. Michigan; it's free.

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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Even on election night, some Republicans have a little love to give

Posted By on 11.08.12 at 06:46 AM

Illinois comptroller Judy Baar Topinka: saying whatever the hell she wants
  • Seth Perlman/AP
  • Illinois comptroller Judy Baar Topinka: saying whatever the hell she wants
I was sitting next to state comptroller Judy Baar Topinka on election night, trying to act like a gentleman, when she muttered something like, "What the heck is going on with this thing?"

At first I thought she was talking about the election. Then I realized she was merely having a difficult time removing the microphone clip from her lapel.

There were good reasons for my mistake. We were on camera, part of a Google / NBC / Reader live webstream of the returns, and they were adding up to a series of losses for Topinka's Republican colleagues, from the "bloodbath" in the General Assembly to the missed opportunity to get Barack Obama out of the White House.

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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Reader did election night

Posted By on 11.06.12 at 06:36 PM


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Saturday, November 3, 2012

What a robbery in Edgewater says about the police staffing debate, part two of two

Posted By on 11.03.12 at 10:00 AM

Residents and business owners say the visible presence of police has helped revitalize Bryn Mawr Avenue.
  • Mick Dumke
  • Residents and business owners say the visible presence of police has helped revitalize Bryn Mawr Avenue
This is the second of two parts. You can read the first one here.

Experts caution that what's true about policing one neighborhood in one city isn't necessarily true for another. And one incident hardly makes for a trend.

But at the very least, the October 8 robbery of the Bryn Mawr Jewelry Company shows why so many people think that police visibility impacts public safety—and certainly the perception of it.

Twenty-five years ago east Edgewater was a different place than it is now. After years of disinvestment, commercial districts were "saturated with businesses such as auto body shops, warehouses and pawn-shops," Crain's wrote in 1990. Prostitution, drug dealing, and holdups were common. The residential corridors on Winthrop and Kenmore were pockmarked with vacant lots, and poorly managed apartment buildings were set on fire so often that the area was nicknamed "Arson Alley."

The 20th police district, which includes most of Edgewater and Ravenswood, had 16 murders, 849 robberies, and 48 arsons in 1991. By comparison, in 2011 there were five murders, 171 robberies, and six arsons.

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