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Monday, June 11, 2018

Could Dems survive without Michael Madigan at the top?

Posted By on 06.11.18 at 07:49 AM

  • Seth Perlman/AP Photo
  • Michael Madigan

As one sexual harassment horror tale after another emerges from Springfield, I'm coming face-to-face with the heretofore seemingly unthinkable: It's only a matter of time before Michael Madigan is forced to step down from his positions of power.

That would include giving up being chairman of the state Democratic Party and maybe even speaker of the house.

I've got mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I've never been a big Madigan fan.

Didn't like his style—too autocratic.

Didn't like the obvious conflict of interest between his profitable property tax appeal law firm—specializing in winning tax breaks for downtown property owners—and his influence in selecting the judges and assessors involved in the process.

Thought he was too wimpy on key issues like progressive taxation— especially in 2014, when Dems may have had the votes to implement it.

Really didn't like how he let Mayors Daley and Rahm get away with anything so long as they left him alone to do his statehouse thing.

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Thursday, May 24, 2018

Why did Carlos Ramirez-Rosa get kicked out of the City Council’s Latino Caucus?

Posted By on 05.24.18 at 05:00 PM

Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, 35th Ward alderman - JEFFREY MARINI
  • Jeffrey Marini
  • Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, 35th Ward alderman

At one time or another over the years, the City Council's been inhabited by drunks, philanderers, cokeheads, bribe takers, wire wearers, and various other miscreants of every race, creed, and color. But in all those years no alderman's been exiled from his own brood—until now.

On Wednesday, without fanfare or warning, the council's Latino Caucus voted to boot Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa from its ranks. He still gets to represent the 35th Ward—hey, the caucus doesn't have that much clout. It's just its way of letting him know he's out of the club.

"The knives are out," says Ramirez-Rosa. "Without notice, they voted to expel me. Never even a warning."

There are two explanations for his removal. The members of the Latino Caucus say he was bounced because—well, you can read their statement: "We have repeatedly informed Aldermen [sic] Rosa that the mission of the caucus is representing the best interests of Latino community and that the only way to accomplish this is to have robust partners that participate in the caucus' initiatives. After two years in office, he refused to engage our caucus in a meaningful way so that we could do the important work of addressing the issues in our community together."

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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Gadfly George Blakemore, Cook County Board's biggest nightmare, wins spot on November ballot

Posted By on 03.22.18 at 03:42 PM

George Blakemore - JEFF MARINI
  • Jeff Marini
  • George Blakemore

Fed up with the Cook County Board of Commissioners? Looking for a way to stick it to them? If you happen to live in the county’s weirdly gerrymandered Third District, you’ll have an opportunity in the fall election to present that august body with its biggest nightmare: "Chicago’s most concerned citizen," George Blakemore.

Blakemore, a teacher turned Maxwell Street vendor turned city’s most diligent watchdog (he’s been a vocal presence at county board and other local government meetings for years), emerged victorious in this week's primary elections as the Republican candidate for the Third District seat on the county board.

You might chalk that up to the fact that he ran unopposed. But in a district that generally votes about 95 percent Democratic, he managed to score nearly 2,000 votes (1,946, to be precise).

Who's to say that's not the beginning of a movement?

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Monday, January 8, 2018

Obama Center will not park cars on the Midway Plaisance, after all

Posted By on 01.08.18 at 06:25 PM

  • Eric Allix Rogers

The Obama Foundation, which in recent weeks has reaffirmed its plan to build an aboveground parking garage on parkland at the east end of the Midway Plaisance, did an about-face today, announcing that it "has heard" the voices of protest and will now put the Obama Presidential Center garage underground on land it has already acquired in Jackson Park.

The foundation had argued that the aboveground garage would still be parkland because it was to have been covered with grass.  Among those questioning that claim were Save the Midway, Friends of the Parks, the Cultural Landscape Foundation, and Jackson Park Watch.

Here's the foundation's statement, e-mailed by a spokesman for the foundation:

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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

It must be campaign time in Illinois, ’cause someone ‘blew the cap’

Posted By on 03.29.17 at 11:16 AM

Illinois gubernatorial candidate Chris Kennedy contributed more than $250,000 to his own campaign Monday. - ASHLEE REZIN/SUN-TIMES
  • Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times
  • Illinois gubernatorial candidate Chris Kennedy contributed more than $250,000 to his own campaign Monday.

Over the years, I've come to recognize the annual rites and rituals that indicate the start of a new season.

For instance, come April, the Sox and the Cubs have their openers, meaning spring weather can't be too far away.

And in January, folks line up to get their Forest Preserve picnic reservations, a sure sign that summer will arrive one of these days.

Finally, there's the lifting of the cap on campaign contributions, which rings in the true start of any political campaign. For the 2018 Illinois governor's election—still more than a year away—that occurred last week, thanks to Chris Kennedy, the well-to-do businessman running in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.

The cap lift is courtesy of an election reform passed in 2009, proving, once again, that when it comes to reform, you can usually expect Illinois lawmakers to take a bad system and make it worse.

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Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Chinese company at the heart of the proposed Kushner deal has ties to Michael Madigan

Posted By on 03.16.17 at 11:18 AM

Jared Kushner, left, with President Donald Trump in February - GETTY IMAGES / SAUL LOEB
  • Getty Images / SAUL LOEB
  • Jared Kushner, left, with President Donald Trump in February

As soon as I saw the story about a Chinese political/real estate dynasty looking to cut a deal with its U.S. counterpart, I went looking for the local angle. I figured an arrangement this "creative" just had to have some sort of Chicago connection.

If you missed it, Anbang Insurance Group—a major Chinese real estate company—is negotiating to buy the Kushner Companies' stake in a Fifth Avenue high-rise, according to an article in Wednesday's New York Times.

Anbang is run by Wu Xiaohui, who's married to the granddaughter of Deng Xiaoping, the former chairman of the Chinese Communist Party and leader of the People's Republic of China.

Kushner is the family real estate firm of Jared Kushner, who's married to President Donald Trump's daughter, Ivanka.

And you thought Chicago was rife with nepotism.

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Friday, October 28, 2016

A week after its completion, the new leg of the Riverwalk is almost done

Posted By on 10.28.16 at 11:49 AM

The Chicago Riverwalk on a sunny day - STEVEN VANCE
  • Steven Vance
  • The Chicago Riverwalk on a sunny day

Last weekend, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, city officials, and the guy who greased the skids on a $98 million federal construction loan, former U.S. transportation secretary Ray LaHood, celebrated the completion of the third and so far final phase of the Chicago Riverwalk.

"We have reclaimed this space to transform the river into Chicago's next great recreational frontier," the mayor said, according to a statement released by his office.

Then construction resumed. Maybe it'll be done next month. In the meantime, however, the Riverwalk is walkable.

I went on Thursday, a cold, gray day with a damp, bone-chilling wind. I didn't have to worry about crowds.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Let’s celebrate the loss of the Lucas Museum

Posted By on 06.28.16 at 01:24 PM

  • Illustration: Paul Higgins

The more I read about the departure of George Lucas's neofuturist storage unit, that unsightly blob of a building meant to house his movie posters and Yoda holograms, the sorrier I felt for the guy. He's 72 and he just wants a museum. "A legacy piece." Billionaires need their trap houses, too. This is America.

But by op-ed and column No. 100—each, by the way, with their own sophomoric Star Wars lead ("What was he trying to build over there, the Death Star?")—the happier I found myself.

First, that people actually preferred a vaguely lunar parking lot to a movie mogul's spaceship should, at the very least, make us all laugh. Rahm Emanuel and George Lucas were beaten by a group that calls itself "Friends of the Parks" fighting to protect a parking lot. This sounds like a real Chicago story, or in Star Wars vernacular, a saga. But it's really a postmodern political power play, a rollicking side-plot in a Pynchon novel come to life.

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Monday, June 13, 2016

Mayor Emanuel tries to sink CHA accountability ordinance that would force him to share power

Posted By on 06.13.16 at 04:30 PM

  • Joe Cyganowski/Pioneer Press
  • Chicago’s Lathrop Homes

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his allies on the City Council have effectively quashed a Chicago Housing Authority accountability ordinance meant to preserve the total number of public housing units in the city, grant the council some oversight of the agency, and affect future and ongoing public housing developments, including the redevelopment of the Lathrop Homes.

The "Keeping the Promise" ordinance was originally proposed in September 2014, following revelations that the CHA had stockpiled a surplus of almost $430 million while hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans languished in deteriorating units, homeless shelters, or on the streets. The Chicago Housing Initiative, a coalition of eight community organizations dedicated to housing advocacy, worked with 19 aldermen to introduce the legislation.

The ordinance would force the CHA to regularly report to the City Council on the state of its surplus funds, and ensure that 97 percent of these funds be dedicated to the Housing Choice Voucher Program, commonly known as Section 8. The CHA's reports would also have to include updates on the Plan for Transformation, an initiative to redevelop and rehabilitate the bulk of Chicago's public housing that was supposed to be completed in 2010. If the CHA failed to issue these reports or spend its surplus in the assigned manner, the council would be able to withhold city funds.

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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

National museum group head slams Friends of the Parks

Posted By on 05.31.16 at 06:01 PM

  • Lucas Museum of Narrative Art

The pressure to keep the force in Chicago is mounting.

Last week it was announced that former secretary of education Arne Duncan has joined the Lucas Museum board of directors. That's not a huge surprise, since Duncan (also a former head of Chicago Public Schools) once headed up the Ariel Education Initiative. The initiative is a project of John W. Roger's Ariel Investments, the firm headed by Lucas's spouse, Mellody Hobson.

But now, Laura Lott, president and CEO of the American Alliance of Museums (formerly the American Association of Museums), the major national museum trade and advocacy organization, is chastising Chicago and Friends of the Parks for turning down a chance to put the Lucas Museum on the lakefront.

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