Monday, December 31, 2007

New Years Eve on 87th Street

In only three pictures unfortunately but just my day there.

This used to be a Food Basket grocery store until recently now it is a Family Dollar store. This is at 87th and King Drive.
This is a branch of Illinois Service Federal bank. It was robbed back in May with the result being the death of a teller. The perpetrators were caught however.

Seaway National Bank or actually Seaway Bank & Trust Company as it will be known in the future. A simple cloth sign over the original sign that said Seaway National Bank. Next to the temp is the logo for Seaway National Bank but in light of the name change the N was blacked out.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Chatham Market

I drove thru Chatham Market today. I saw the new construction going up. I can only image what other stores are going to be there other than the Lowe's that's open for business and the proposed Wal-Mart there. Other store fronts are up and driving into the site at 83rd I'm glad there is a welcoming sign coming in, the sign stating "Chatham Market".

This site would be perfect for a grocery store. Though it's possible that a Wal-Mart might foot the bill. Excuse me a Super Wal-Mart though it would be nice to see a nice upscale Dominick's (with a cafe like the one on Roosevelt Road) return to the area since they left 79th Street and Dan Ryan a year or so earlier.

This could almost remind me of the shopping center on 95th and Stony Island. It opened in the last five or six years. While the 83rd location once was home to a steel mill, 95th and Stony was once home to a former hardward store, Courtesy Home Center.

You know what should be next assuming that the CTA can afford it. For those worked at Lowe's, the proposed Wal-Mart or any of the other establishments to set up shop up there should have some reliable and convient public transportation there that doesn't exist at the moment. You might have to walk to either Vincennes or over to the Dan Ryan to catch a bus. I guess it might be too much to ask for a bus to pick riders up in front of the store, yes?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Chatham Household & Business Data

Provided by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago here.

CTA farecard changes will take effect Jan. 1

I'd better get my Chicago Card soon so that I won't have to spend $5 to get myself one. If you have a new or replacement Chicago Card after January 1st you will have to pay a $5 fee. In addition 10 pack single ride transit cards are being discontinued in favor of transit cards that have $10 or $20 from the jump. And for those of you riding at reduced fare you will have to buy 20 tickets in two packs for $15.30. From the Tribune today.

Get your Chicago Card here!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

CTA offering penny rides for New Year's

Now if only this could get everyone to ride CTA for the New Years and that state officials could take seriously that CTA needs funding. That can only happen after the New Year however. From the Tribune...
The CTA will offer bus and train rides for a penny on New Year's Eve.

Starting at 8 p.m. Monday one-way rides on any of the CTA's bus or rail lines will cost 1 cent. The fare will be in effect until 6 a.m. on Tuesday.

Certain bus and train schedules will also be extended to accommodate passengers planning to ring in the New Year away from home.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Changed templates

There are two sidebars now with newsfeeds in the second sidebar. Archives, links, blogroll, and government links are in the first sidebar. The changes are forthcoming. The comments widget will be back, soon. Things will be back to normal eventually.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Hop on the Bus? Not in Gary

We've been hearing a lot about the transit woes in the Chicago area but let's go to Gary, Indiana where they may lose their bus service. There won't be service cuts or fare hikes, there just won't be any service at all unless they can find some money somewhere. Especially if the federal government won't come thru with some money. Courtesy of Chicago Public Radio.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Black Business Monthly

I found a new tabloid when I went downtown on Friday. There are issues dedicated to the cities with a sizeable black population. If you go to their website you will see issues from Minneapolis/St. Paul and Chicago with publications coming soon for Los Angeles and Tennessee. They really should have Atlanta, Georgia as an offering, perhaps they will one day soon.

Anyway the December 2007 issues has on the cover prominent black bankers in Chicago. We'll see Walter Grady, CEO/President of Seaway National Bank; Dennis J. Irvin, President and CEO of Highland Community Bank; Norman J. Williams Chairman/CEO of Illinois Service Federal Bank; and Gregg H. Brown of South Side Federal Credit Union. I don't know about the South Side Credit Union but the rest of the banks mentioned are black owned.

Check out the PDF version of the Chicago tabloid and hopefully you might see copies around the area in the future.

Retailers retrench

Maybe that Wal-Mart isn't coming to the neighborhood anytime soon. We'll see but lets see what Crain's says about that...
Target Corp., Home Depot Inc., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and other big-box retailers — buffeted by sagging sales and the housing slump — are pulling the plug on new-store plans in and around Chicago.

The pullback is another sign of the darkening outlook for 2008, as retailers turn cautious on expansion.

"The economy is in the crapper. Housing is going down the chute," says Richard Kopczick, mayor of Morris, which had expected to gain more than $1 million in sales taxes from a planned shopping center that's lost its key big-box anchors. "Lowe's backed off, and then Kohl's said they wouldn't come without Lowe's, and the whole house of cards collapsed."

The retailers' retrenchment hurts because retail and housing have been the primary sources of growth in exurbs like Morris, and city neighborhoods counted on new stores as an economic shot in the arm.

Minneapolis-based Target is walking away from plans for new stores in Morris as well as Antioch, Arlington Heights and at 76th Street and Ashland Avenue in Chicago.

Wal-Mart, of Bentonville, Ark., had stores planned for North Aurora, St. Charles, Crystal Lake, Elgin, East Dundee and Bradley; all have been either axed or put on hold.

And after Christmas, Atlanta-based Home Depot will shut down a chunk of the real estate department at its regional office in Arlington Heights and has told brokers it's not interested in new store plans. Home Depot has cancelled projects in Minooka and at Interstate 57 and 119th Street in Chicago.

Target and Wal-Mart did not return calls. Home Depot would confirm only that it's laid off some Arlington Heights personnel.

YoChicago's Quote of the Day!

Pretty funny and something to chew on.
"I sure am glad I'm not in the mortgage business. If I don't lend to lower-income people, I'm redlining; if I do, I'm being predatory…"

- Marc Andreessen, founder of Netscape
YoChicago post here and the attributing link here.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Guv calls special transit session for Jan. 2

This news has been out there for a while in fact. Hopefully they can get something done but let's not have too much hope. They've had all this time and they still haven't figured out this transit funding deal...
Governor Rod Blagojevich says he's calling lawmakers back into session on January 2nd to work on finding a way to pay for the Chicago Transit Authority.
Blagojevich says he considered calling lawmakers back into session this week but decided to wait until after the holidays on the advice of some legislative leaders.

Lawmakers have been unable to come up with a long-term funding plan for the CTA and other Chicago area mass transit agencies.

The agencies are promising service cuts and fare increases come January 20th.
According to the Capitol Fax blog the idea here may very well be don't mess with the legislator's holidays. A smart decision on that front but don't think the pain stops there. The governor wants legislators in Springfield to be prepared to be there everyday until there is mass transit funding.

A shopping center in Chatham

Originally posted on It's My Mind on March 20th, 2007.

Another video from YoChicago about Chatham Village Square on the corner of 87th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue. This shopping center contains a Target, Walgreen's, Cingular, Radio Shack, Foot Action, a military recruiting station, Game Stop, to name some of the places where you can shop. You also look across the street to see a more convention Chicago store front city scape.

You know I remember how this place used to look. And there was a Polks Brothers, Woolworth's there. Walgreens used to be on the corner of 87th and Cottage. There was a Sara Lee store, a bowling alley, even a People's Gas office to pay your gas bill. There was easier access into the lot. There was parking outback and near the street and come and go in either direction. If only there were pictures of how it used to look.

There is a reason why it looks different than it did say perhaps 10 years ago. There was a fire there and most of the center looked dormant. People's Gas left, over time a lot of establishments left (there is no bowling alley there anymore and Woolworth's closed all of their stores). Then when it was time to redevelop there was a lot of moving around. A lot of establishments like Walgreen's or Radio Shack was moved around over time there. Then eventually comes the plans for Target to come into the neighborhood.

These days for sure the big draw was that Target that opened in 2002. It's a great addition and no longer do Chicagoans who live in the general area of 87th and Cottage have to go to the suburbs to shop at a Target. Still this is a great intersection for business

Check out this post that describes this shopping center and shows its general area with pictures. There's even a nice discussion there too.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Aldermen Get First-Hand Look At Mail Delivery

More pressure on the mail carriers, yes? From CBS2...
Postal carriers on Wednesday are dealing with the busiest mail delivery day of the year, and some will be accompanied by Chicago aldermen on their routes.

As CBS 2's Kristyn Hartman reports, on Wednesday morning Ald. Ed Smith (28th) will leave from the post office at 4222 W. Madison St. in the West Garfield Park neighborhood with a mail carrier. The goal is to get an up close, personal look at the mail service in the ward on the busiest delivery day of the holiday mailing season.

City post offices have extended their hours and hired more than 1,300 seasonal workers to make sure packages and letters get between points in a timely manner. Smith and other aldermen will get to see what it takes.

The scrutiny follows negative news from earlier this year, which found that Chicago's overnight mail delivery ranked the worst in the entire country.

That prompted hearings to find out why, and people were critical

"What mail am I not getting?" postal customer David Barlow said on May 31. "Who's getting my mail, and what are they doing with it? Are they throwing it in the can or are they putting it back in the mailbox hoping that it might get to the right owner?"

Barlow was among those who testified at a congressional hearing in May, along with other unhappy customers, mail carriers and elected officials.
According to this article 7 aldermen plan to either walk a mail route or have a look at how the mail system works.

Previous Post
City mail delivery improves, study finds

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

City wants more time, info before deciding on super-center plans

There has been a debate on this for a while. People will say that Wal-Mart doesn't pay their workers enough while there are those who will just want the jobs more than wish that Wal-Mart pays better. Well I'm sure that debate isn't settled but now the debate is over whether or not Wal-Mart might add another location on 83rd and Vincennes.From the Sun-Times...
“We just don’t have enough information to make a decision” about the proposal to build a new super-center at 83rd and Stewart, said city Planning and Development Department spokesman Peter Scales.

Scales refused to spell out what information the city needs but doesn’t have before making a final decision.

“We want to move this project forward. But, we need to sit down with the developers and thoroughly discuss this. It’s our opinion that there isn’t a time limit on reaching that decision,” he said.

Peggy Kral, development director for Arcon Development, refused to comment on the letter sent Friday by Planning and Development Commissioner Arnold Randall. Wal-Mart officials could not be reached.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported last month that Arcon had written a letter to Randall asking for approval to build Chicago’s second Wal-Mart and first super-center that sells groceries.

The letter signaled the developer’s decision to forge ahead with a second Chicago Wal-Mart without City Council approval. It reportedly warned that a redevelopment agreement is due to expire in mid-December and that the city has no right to veto who the anchor tenant should be.

The ultimatum dropped the controversy that gave birth to the now-vetoed big-box minimum wage ordinance squarely in Mayor Daley’s lap.

The City Council re-zoned the site in 2004 on a promise that Wal-Mart “is not and will not be” part of the Chatham Market development. The site of the old Ryerson steel plant remains vacant.

This news about the Hyde Park Co-Op got me thinking

That story has been swirling around the local media as of late got me thinking about neighborhood grocery options in the general neighborhood.

There isn't a shortage exactly. I noted a vid of a small-time grocer in the neighborhood on this blog and I read somewhere that he got his start by working for another neighborhood grocer, a man by the name of Ernest T. Collins. I'll get back to him in a minute.

Anyway there's a couple of groceries on 87th Jewel's and I believe Cub Foods. There's an Aldi's along the Dan Ryan expressway somewhere past 75th Street. Until the last couple or so years there was a Dominick's on 79th off the Dan Ryan.

I might be missing a few along the way but let's get back to Ernest T. Collins.

He owned and operated The Food Basket. He was even a founder of Seaway National Bank as this bust of him at the bank denotes. Apparently he had three stores in the area one at 87th and King Drive, which by the way was still a grocery store until recently when it became a dollar store, another on 103rd Street and King Drive, and another at 79th and Yates. BTW, I got this info from an article I found about Chatham Food Center owner Leonard Harris and his background. I don't know about the 79th and Yates location but 103rd and King Drive is still open today.

Anyway I'm sure there are other grocery options in the area that provides fresh fruits and vegetable not snacks such as Hostess cakes and Jays potato chips. I have no doubt that we're not in the midst of a food desert but I'm sure that I haven't listed every possible grocery store neighborhood owned or not that exists. Perhaps someone out there might have some ideas.

Here's that bust that I've referred to. Located at Seaway National Bank...

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Gambling debate in Springfield

State Senators Bill Brady and Lou Lang talking about gambling expansion this morning on Channel 2's Eye on Chicago. Have a watch.

Chicago snowed in

A video from Channel 2. Enjoy!

A column about the Mortgage crisis

I suppose this is presented here just for some perspective. This blog is meant to be informative yes. Written by Tribune columnist Steve Chapman of the Chicago Tribune today...
The troubles arose because banks and finance firms offered mortgages to millions of people who, despite their imperfect credit histories, yearned to buy homes. The loans generally start out with a low interest rate that, after a couple of years, rises substantially. Some home buyers now discover that the reset payments are more than they can handle. On top of that, falling real estate prices mean some can't recoup by selling, because the home is now worth less than the mortgage.

This spectacle has brought forth recriminations from politicians who picture the lenders as James Bond villains, cackling at the chance to toss hard-working families out on the street. In fact, this course is almost as bad a deal for lenders as it is for borrowers. They typically lose up to half the value of the mortgage on foreclosures.

From listening to the critics, you'd never guess that. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) denounces "predatory lenders" for "driving low-income families into financial ruin." Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, blames everything on an epidemic of "abusive lending."

But lenders who made bad decisions are already paying the price. Many mortgage firms have gone bankrupt. And if these loans are so unconscionable, the question is not why the foreclosure rate is so high but why it's so low.

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, less than 5 percent of subprime adjustable-rate mortgages are in the process of foreclosure. The vast majority of borrowers are making their payments, keeping their homes and asking no one for a bailout.

Nor is it clear that soaring payments are the chief culprit. Foreclosures are most common in places where home prices are falling—such as California, Florida, Michigan and Ohio, which account for half of all foreclosures this year. Apparently many borrowers, seeing no point in paying off a $200,000 debt for the privilege of owning a $170,000 home, have elected to walk away from their obligations.

The remedies urged by Hillary Rodham Clinton, John Edwards and the like include placing a moratorium on foreclosures, freezing teaser rates for five years or more, and forcing lenders to reduce loan amounts to reflect deflated home values. These options are conspicuous for a couple major defects.

The first is that they punish lenders for the failings of borrowers. Why should someone who has kept the terms of a contract be penalized for the benefit of the party that didn't? A lot of people took a calculated gamble on interest rates and home prices. Had they bet right, they'd be reaping the rewards. Since they bet wrong, they are entitled to bear the consequences.

It's true that if lenders have committed fraud with phony information about their loans, they deserve to be separated from their ill-gotten gains. At the same time, honest ones shouldn't be punished for offering creative terms just because the loans sometimes go bad.

When we're talking about faceless institutions, it may sound reasonable to confiscate a share of their assets. But there's no reason to stop with these greedy usurers.

Say I sell my home at a handsome premium to someone who, we now learn, has been victimized by a "predatory" loan. Why should I benefit from the lending abuse? If the mortgage company has to sacrifice some of its profit so the buyer can avert eviction, why shouldn't I have to turn over a portion of mine? Most of us would fail to see the justice in this humane act of redistribution.
Anyone have any thoughts?

Let's hope Chicago doesn't turn into this

It's highly unlikely since unlike Detroit, Chicago has a more diverse economy. That is Chicago doesn't rely almost exclusively on one industry like Detroit for the most part depended on the auto industry. Still take this as a cautionary tale for not just Chicago but for other cities around the country. Large and small.

This video is courtesy of PubDef, a political blog based out of St. Louis. It was their way of making a comparison between Detroit and St. Louis.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Foreclosures Getting Worse In Minority Communities

A more updated story from the last post. Of course this is a problem from around the city. From CBS2...
Ruby Daniels says she's three months behind in her mortgage payment.

Two years after purchasing her home, her mortgage rate readjusted and her payments went up by 62 percent.

"We went from $569 to $924, so it's pretty rough for us," Daniels said.

Thousands of Chicagoans who purchased their home with a subprime loan are now in the same situation.

"This is a crisis that is going to have catastrophic impact, not only into our communities, but into this country and the global economy," said Sen. Jacqueline Collins (16th).

"Chicago is in fact the epicenter of this epic disaster," said Illinois State 's Attorney Lisa Madigan.

Madigan has opened an investigation into the lending practices of Countrywide, the largest mortgage lender. She says Countrywide and other mortgage companies have been targeting African-American homeowners.

"If you are African-American with an income higher than a $100,000 you are five times more likely to have a subprime loan than if you are white, Asian or Latino," Madigan said.

Last year, there were more than 72,000 foreclosures in Illinois -- just in the Chicago area, the number of foreclosures is up 42 percent over last year.

"It's a combination of greed, as well as patterns of race discrimination," Rev. Jesse Jackson said." "Fifty-three percent of all loans that went to Blacks were subprime."

Recent findings show almost three quarters of all foreclosures in the city of Chicago are in minority communities, an increase of 12 percent over the last decade. In 2008, the situation may only get worse as thousands of subprime loans are scheduled to reset.
Why would this only be a problem in black communities? Is it because those unfortunate souls just look at the money saved or money recieved and they fail to read the fine print?

Aldermen want residents to speak up about foreclosures

From the Chicago Defender. I want to point out in posting this the Sixth Ward angle. A quote from the alderman Freddrenna Lyle...
The 6th Ward alderman, Freddrenna Lyle said very few residents in her "equity rich" community speak up. The ward is made up several communities on the South Side where seniors comprise a good portion of the ward, she said.

"Many seniors in my ward have substantial equity in their homes, because they are sitting on homes that are either paid for, or very close to it. I've had a mortgage counselor tell me to watch out because the predatory lenders are watching my ward because it's equity rich," Lyle said. The 6th Ward had 251 foreclosures during the first six months of the year.

When Lyle's ward meetings and seminars are held, the people who usually attend aren't the one's who are having the problems. Very few residents approach the alderman about obtaining information for themselves or a neighbor.

"I beg people every month to come forward with their housing troubles. If you know you're neighbors are behind, urge them to call immediately," Lyle added, "Not the day before the Sheriff comes to put them out."

Friday, December 14, 2007

Gun scare at Chatham store

Story isn't exactly in the Sixth Ward but the shopping center is nearby at 87th & Dan Ryan. Vid from CBS2. Good news though despite the scare there was apparently no gun.

UPDATE: Here's a write-up from CBS2.

House cancels legislative session on gambling, transit

From Crain's Chicago Business...
Legislative feuding claimed another casualty Friday as House Speaker Michael Madigan canceled a session planned for next week on gambling expansion and blamed other leaders and the governor for more delays.
Blagojevich responded by saying he intended to call lawmakers back to work next week anyway.

Madigan earlier this week announced the House would return Monday to consider his massive gambling expansion proposal to fund statewide construction projects, along with aid for mass transit systems in and around Chicago.

But Friday afternoon, Madigan said he and Republican Leader Tom Cross decided to cancel the session because Blagojevich and other leaders aren't backing Madigan's proposed overhaul of the Illinois Gaming Board.

"Other legislative leaders and Governor Blagojevich have neither endorsed this proposal nor offered a sensible, equally stringent alternative," Madigan wrote in a letter sent to lawmakers. "To say the least, this is a puzzling state of affairs."

The back-and-forth comes as pressure builds for lawmakers to act on the two issues heading into the holidays.

Mass transit systems face major cuts in January if no state help is provided, but many Downstate lawmakers don't want to vote to help Chicago's transit systems without getting construction projects for their areas.
OK, I hope the transit riding public is paying attention. The political establishment in Springfield might need us to talk loudly here.

CTA unions say they won't walk out Monday

Not sure if time is what they need because there were plenty of time legislators had in Springfield to craft a plan for transit funding to be consider and they're still playing around with it. Then again I hate to see a shut down because of a labor dispute because government just hasn't been able to come up with a solution. From the Sun-Times...
The unions had a change of heart after meeting last night with a coalition of ministers who urged them to reconsider, said Rick Harris, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308, which represents CTA rail operators.

“We have decided not to pursue this further,” Harris said this morning. “We decided that we never wanted to put any detriment on the commuters, particularly in minority neighborhoods that rely on the CTA.”

Still, Harris said, “I’m not saying there won’t be any action in the future. But we’re trying to give legislators the ample time that they claim they need to get this done.”

The ministers group, Pastors’ United for Change, will hold a news conference at 10 a.m. today at Bethlehem Star Church, 9231 S. Cottage Grove Ave.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

CTA workers plan 1-day walk-off

Are those of you CTA riders nervous about this yet. I know I am and I have to get around on public transport. Look at this Tribune article...

Mass transit in the Chicago area would screech to a halt from Sunday night through Monday if all goes according to plan in a one-day "job action" that CTA labor unions have approved, union officials said today.

The threatened walk-off, which union leaders insist is not a strike, aims to send the strongest message yet to the governor and lawmakers in Springfield that the deadlock over transit funding must end now, according to the Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents CTA bus drivers, train operators and other employees.

If successful, the shutdown of all CTA bus and rail service for 24 hours would paralyze downtown Chicago and overwhelm transportation across the region. The CTA serves 40 suburbs.

The union's ultimate goal is to shut down all CTA, Metra and Pace operations to demonstrate the need for more transit funding and to restore balance to union pension funds and health care plans. But such a wide-spread walkout would require the cooperation of 19 unions at the three transit properties in the Regional Transportation Authority system.

"We want to make sure the public is aware of our job action ahead of time," said Rick Harris, president of ATU Local 308, which represents train operators and other employees. "We don't want to hurt the public."

"But we are fed up with the state funding situation in the legislature and the layoffs and service cuts in January," he said.

The CTA plans to lay off about 2,400 workers next month, eliminate 81 bus routes and raise fares unless new subsidies are provided to close a projected $158 million budget deficit in 2008.

In addition, the CTA's employee pension fund is underfunded and deteriorating fast. It is projected to go broke in 2012. Health benefits to CTA retirees could be cut off next summer due to underfunding.

Legislative leaders and Gov. Rod Blagojevich are at odds over how to raise new revenue for mass transit and pay for a new statewide capital improvement program.
I sincerely hope it doesn't get ugly before it gets better.

Gaming Expansion Has Huge Social Costs

Let's piggy back off of Mr. Paulus' comments for a second. Check out this story from CBS2.

An estimated $1 billion in new state government revenue is the payoff for flip-flops by legislative leaders and a governor who long claimed to oppose gambling expansion.

"In the spirit of compromise, I've accepted gaming, that I'm not for and don't want," said Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Unlike a general tax increase, most of this new money comes from just 10 percent of Illinois residents. That small group loses about $1.6 billion of the total $2 billion lost at casinos here each year.

Wagner is demanding a voter referendum on gambling expansion.

"Individuals within the city of Chicago should be allowed to have a voice," Wagner said.

A referendum in Arlington Heights was approved by a mere 26 votes to allow slot machines at Arlington Park. But that was back in the 1990s. The mayor resents not being consulted by state officials who want to put 1,100 slots in at the park now.

"We do not appreciate or welcome the pre-emption of home rule," said Arlington Heights Mayor Arlene Mulder. "[It] could bring more local addiction to gambling. It can ruin lives."

Gamblers now lose $2 billion a year at Illinois casinos. Losses could jump to close to $5 billion a year with this expansion. The government plans to skim a huge chunk of that loss for new roads, bridges, schools and mass transit.

A University of Illinois economist estimated those ruined lives cost society $3 for each $1 of new revenue from casinos. Because the Chicago area will bear almost all that burden, downstate is an especially big winner in this deal. Without having to put any skin in the game, the will get an equal share of new gambling dollars to spend on roads, bridges, schools and mass transit.
Of course this is nestled withing the political maneuvering and the possible revenue benefits, but if we look at the revenue benefits it makes sense to look at all the costs yes. The costs to those who are going to these casinos. Ultimately I think the decision whether or not to go to a casino is yours and yours alone and unfortunately a lot of people are going to be addicted. Even if that's the case, I would be under no illusion that gambling is the solution to the revenue problems of government.

Victory for the "blighted"

Clout City has the story about what happened with the Lincoln Square story. There was a demonstration outside of the Alderman's office and somewhere along the way the Alderman, Gene Schulter, announced that plans have changed. For now at least. Read on...

The city blinked.

That's the initial reaction from people in Lincoln Square regarding the city's retreat from plans to use eminent domain to force out all the businesses on the east side of the 4800 block of North Western. On the proposed deal the land would have been turned over to an undetermined developer, who would replace the existing buildings with condos and retail. Funding for the acquisition was to come out of the Western/North TIF.

It was actually one of the more interesting twists on use of the program. TIFs (or tax increment financing districts) are intended to subsidize development in blighted communities that would otherwise find it difficult to attract investment. In this case, however, 47th Ward alderman Gene Schulter was seeking public funds to keep private development out -- at least a certain kind of private development.

Schulter contended that the commercial strip, with its booming residential base, was starting to attract the interest of big-box chains. By beating the big boxes to the punch, he said, his plan would actually protect small businesses and help keep the community free of too much traffic and congestion. Sure, in this case protecting small businesses meant threatening them with government seizure of their property. But the declaration of eminent domain alone would help keep the Best Buys at bay: there's no market for land the city can snatch at will.

It was a classic case of the up-is-down, down-is-up logic peculiar to TIFs. As mandated by state law, the city commissioned a consultant's report, which argued that the area needed a TIF handout to stave off blight and underdevelopment. Meanwhile Schulter and planning officials kept insisting that tens of millions were needed to prevent overdevelopment.

Most TIF deals are consummated in the shadows, with hardly any opposition. This one attracted major heat from the start. Merchants and property owners on the block didn't want to sell, and resented the threat of being forced to. It was, they said, downright un-American for the city to snatch one person's property only to turn it over to someone else. The Castle Coalition, a national property-rights organization, rallied to the cause. On December 5 some 300 residents showed up for a rally at Chicago Soccer, a sporting goods store at 4839 N. Western. After the meeting, a large group of protesters marched over to Schulter's Lincoln Avenue office to demand that he drop the scheme.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Casinos -- good for the 6th ward?

Levois, the Master BlogMaster and mastermind of , recently wrote in a sister blog, It's My Mind, about his thoughts on gambling, and whether it would be good or not. You can check that here.

i have a very different opinion, which i think has been summed up best by candidate for the 7th District State Senate, Suzanne Elder:


In my neighborhood there are buses that pick up and drop off casino
customers, older customers, customers of color, customers with small, fixed
incomes, customers who don’t think of gambling as an afternoon’s
entertainment but as a chance, a shot at something better. Because I don’t
see these buses roaming the Chicago’s more upscale neighborhoods, it
suggests to me that gambling is more likely to work as a pernicious, highly
regressive tax extracted from those who can least afford
i strongly agree, and this definitely has implications for the 6th Ward. i see "luxury" buses (i.e. not a cheap yellow rental bus) on King Drive with stops at 79th & 87th listed on the front window. On Saturdays at 9am, there are two buses ready to pick up crowds of elderly African Americans near Tuley Park.

i have never seen this massive pick up before anywhere in the city! A few small buses here and there (such as off Argyle, with Asian immigrants, and Devon , with elderly Russian & South Asians nearby).

As Sue Elder stated, these casinos aren't simple entertainment that just happens to generate revenue (like the theaters or Navy Pier) -- this is really a deceception that is focused on those with little money who have placed a lot of hope in the casino trip.

Adding to the deception are the buses, with such "tame" names as "Irma J Tours". Does Irma J ever give tours of downtown, or the ethnic neigborhoods? Their website lists a few events -- but when you see them out, it seems like they mainly go to one kind of destination -- the kind that leaves people poorer, emotionally & intellectually as well as financially.

If the casinos didn't make so much money (as opposed to paying it out) from people in the 6th ward and other areas, would they spend so lavishly on such nice transportation and other incentives?

i'm new to the community, and have seen & heard (and tasted) a lot of great things in this community of Chatham, but this is one ting that is a problem.

What do others think?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

West Chesterfield Cultural Center

On 94th & Michigan where one day during the summer there was a fashion show going on. I saw a clown performing before the fashion show and they were charging admission to this event. As you can see here this is a Chicago-style bungalow with an unusually large front yard as a result of this home being so far back on this lot.

Related Posts

You see what goes on in the general neighborhood...
Here's that pic I promised...

Monday, December 10, 2007

A new bus terminal at Chicago State University

Last summer I discovered that Chicago State University (CSU) decided to terminate their lease allowing the CTA to terminate the 3 King Drive and the 4 Cottage Grove on campus. This article I just found today showed that CSU students were bellyaching about this decision.

It turns out unbeknownst to me at the time I discovered this that CSU was planning on building a new bus terminal closer to 95th and Cottage Grove and they're also planning to build a new Metra Electric station as well. It looks like there may be better coordination and that since Metra and CSU are neighbors it might mean that CSU may elect to promote and utilize the asset that wasn't used often enough.

Maybe the largely unused 95th Street Metra Station might actually get more use. Of course they might still have to fight for patronage from the CTA buses that roll by and of course there is the Dan Ryan Red Line down the street to the west. Hopefully that station won't look so dreary when they finally start and finish the project.

Oh originally I was going to discuss my vision for that site, but right now all I'm going to do is present some pics from around that area. Both old and fairly recent.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Friday, December 7, 2007

Save Lincoln Square!

Yeah I know another part of the city, but worth looking at. Actually I want to hone in on this aspect of this story from the Sun-Times...
And the process is jamming up Nick Toma, who bought the burned-out historic-looking building next to Walgreens for a million bucks. He planned to fix it up -- rent out the storefront and sell four condos with two parking spots each.

"I buy nice building to preserve it and make it nice like old Chicago," Toma says in fractured English.

But he says Schulter's office told him there are plans to tear his property down, and refused to sign off on the permits he needs to fix up the place.

"I'm starving trying to pay the mortgage," he says. "I lose money because of alderman. It's a good building. I could have been done by now. I don't know what I'm going to do."

Schulter denied holding up Toma. In fact, Schulter says there is no development plan, yet. That's something that the community has to come up with and agree on before he even starts a search for a developer.

How that happens exactly is anyone's guess -- possibly over beers at Huettenbar?

But Schulter won't wait to create the acquisition list until there's a plan the community supports. The process has to start now because doing nothing might allow big-box stores to set up shop in the ward's quaint European village. So on Dec. 12, the City Council will probably approve it on Schulter's recommendation.

"There are concerns about government and trusting government," he says. "But it's trusting a person that's concerned about you, and is going out of his way to make sure the community goes in the right direction."
So what's the process...
In Mean Gene's 47th Ward, "the community has say-so in the future of the neighborhood," the ward boss says.

Well, about 70 neighbors marched to Schulter's office in the bitter cold Wednesday night following a community meeting to say they're not so pleased with the Lincoln Square strategic plan the alderman is pushing.

It's the only plan anyone has seen. And it calls for giving the city authority to condemn buildings near Western and Lawrence, call in the bulldozers and give the cleared lots to big-money developers who will put up six-story condo buildings with storefronts and indoor parking garages.

"Those are just hypothetical ideas," Schulter says.

So, why did building owners in the 4800 block of Western get notified that their properties were put on a city acquisition list that's now set to get the City Council's rubber stamp on Wednesday?

"It's the very beginning of a lengthy process," Schulter says.
Well it looks linke Gene Schulter is listening. Yeah he's the alderman who represents these property owned who aren't happy with the idea that the city can just take their land. I hope they don't and I hope that Mr. Toma can make a return on his property!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

CTA Union Boss Threatens Work Stoppage

Channel 2 is the only outlet I have seen so far that has this story readily available. Of course this is the result of the continuing stalemate over transit funding in Springfield...

The president of unionized rapid transit workers announced the threat of a job action at a news conference originally convened by Mayor Daley.

"We don't know what type of job action it's going to be at this particular point. And hopefully, hopefully, it won't have to happen," union president Rick Harris said. "We cannot afford to wait. This spring, the health care part of our pension will be completely bankrupt."

Transit workers are also angry because more than 2,000 of them face layoff next month at the CTA alone. While denouncing the prospect of a strike, the system's president tried to sound empathetic.

"We will not tolerate a job action. It is not legal or appropriate. That being said, we are very sympathetic," CTA President Ron Huberman.

"I think it's a bad idea. I just don't see why, in the third-populated city in the U.S. like Chicago, that we have such a problem with public transportation," CTA rider Kevin Tyler said.

Unless state officials act by December 31, contract concessions made by transit workers will expire. They'd save the CTA tens of millions of dollars a year. Union leaders said Wednesday they would not extend that deadline.

Governor Blagojevich and legislative leaders are still negotiating over the telephone and behind closed doors. They say they hope the General Assembly could vote next week on a vast expansion of casino gambling that would include funds for mass transit.
In one of many interviews in light of that story that exposed Governor Blagojevich's work habits one of these men on the streets said that the Governor (or perhaps other leaders downstates) don't know that they're playing with dynamite. If these leaders can't come to an agreement on funding the Chicago Transit Authority, they're going to be messing with the livelihoods of many people who depend on public transportation.

South Side Jays Potato Chip Plant Closes

Check out this CBS2 story about the closing of the Jays plant on 99th Street and Cottage Grove. If you don't like to read just watch the accompanying video. It's a treat!

I know it's not exactly a 6th Ward story but the plant is nearby. This should get some play here as well.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

I was looking at some Aldermanic newsletters

Over at Ald. Freddrenna Lyle's website where there are an archive of newsletters starting in January 2007 up until July but I'm not worried. I'm sure that eventually any news letters will eventually be archived for those who are interested in news from the office of the 6th Ward Alderman. There one good source for info.

For instance I ran into this from the April '07 issue...

The No 2 constituent complaint/concern/request of March was a request that I stop the Bank of America from locating on 87th & Cottage Grove.

The building on the Southwest corner of 87th & Cottage Grove has been for sale for some time. A group recently bought the corner and sought a tenant for that site. They found Bank of America, which wishes to tear down the existing building and construct a bank with 3 drive-thru lanes. Because most large corporations visit the Alderman before they locate in a Ward and because this user will need a Special Use Permit to get permission for the drive-through lanes, I met with the developer and referred them to the Chesterfield Community Council. Soon thereafter I was besieged with calls from persons stating that we did not need another bank in our neighborhood and the location of a Bank of America at that site would endanger Seaway National Bank (which is black owned). I would never knowingly take any action to threaten or undermine any Black institution, period. I however can not use my office to prevent a lawful business from entering the market simply to protect a Black institution, either. To do so would be illegal. If people don’t want a Bank of America and it comes, I will assume that no one will patronize it. If they don’t get the returns they expect from the $1 million dollar investment they are speaking of, they will simply close up shop and move.
She right on the money in that last sentence. Besides Bank of America will put a lot of pressure on Seaway at that location. Zoning surely doesn't involve making it easy for a bigger company to come in and be competitive. Besides it all about competition either way, I don't expect that Seaway will be harmed by a Bank of America on the corner of 87th and Cottage, but they will have some pressure.

Who knows best case scenario, perhaps they'll prove themselves to be a better business than Bank of America will ever be. Of course that means competition, but that's what America is based on. Whether we like it or not.

Now I want to go back to something else here. This passage is from March '07...
**Recent Sun Times news articles have confirmed that one of the candidate for 6th Ward Alderman (who by the way persuaded more than 3,000 residents to vote for him), neglected to mention that his real job was that of a $84,660 a year driver for Ill. Dept. of Human Services Director Carol Adams, contrary to all of his statements and campaign literature.
Chicago Sun Times, Mar. 1, 2007.

You can fool some of the people, some of the time….
OUCH!!! At least that's my response to that passage. I almost wonder if putting that in her aldermanic newsletter was a fair shot or legal. Doesn't matter, but the person in question was her runner-up Eugene Davis and before the municipal election he has been in the news. I think he was mentioned on the Capitol Fax blog, although it wasn't mentioned that he had been running for alderman of the 6th Ward.

Anyway there you have it and you should get some of the latest newsletters. I'm sure there's some good info in there as well.

Oh speaking of the Alderman, I have been sluggish about it, but I want to post some videos that I have found of her. One had her appear on a Chicago Access Network program. Another was probably done by a professional videographer. There was also another good one where she gave a speech for a church group in what appears to be Millenium Park downtown.

I want to show those when I get the chance.

Chicago's Lincoln Square faces eminent domain threat

This was posted over at Illinoize. The information provided actually comes from a Roger's Park blog called The Bench

The City of Chicago is in the process of authorizing the acquisition of a block of thriving businesses in Lincoln Square in order to give the land to a private developer. The targeted block is located in the Western Avenue North Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District, and if the city approves the acquisition of our businesses, they can use eminent domain to seize our property if we don't sell.

Eminent domain is supposed to be for public uses, things like roads and schools – not to give our successful small businesses to wealthy, politically-connected developers.

We are not blighted, and we are not for sale.
Come to a community meeting at Chicago Soccer this Wednesday to hear why we’re TIFed off, how it affects you, and what you can do to help.

Wednesday, December 5th, @ 7pm
Chicago Soccer ● 4839 N. Western Avenue ● Chicago, IL 60625
Free food and drinks will be served.

Speakers will include:
Imre Hidvegi, Chicago Soccer
David Smarinsky, The Dental Corner
Tim Le, Decorium Furniture
Christina Walsh, Castle Coalition Coordinator, Institute for Justice
If you have any questions, please contact Imre at 773-271-2255.

Contact Alderman Schulter at 773-348-8400 or and tell him you oppose the use or threat of eminent domain for private development in the Western Avenue North TIF area.

Send us your comments at and we'll post them on the site.

Speaking for myself--John Ruberry here--these folks are right on the money. Lincoln Square is a pleasant community that does not need "urban renewal."
I just hope that this isn't the type of thing that could be done citywide when there's no need for engaging in activity such as this.

A quote

From the former President of Czechloslovakia/Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel...
Genuine politics - even politics worthy of the name - the only politics I am willing to devote myself to - is simply a matter of serving those around us: servind the community and serving those who will come afterr us. Its deepest roots are moral because it is a responsibility expressed through action, to and for the whole.
From the October 2007 Roseland Heights Community Association Newsletter.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Chatham Food Center

A grocery store located in the Chatham neighborhood on 79th Street near King Drive. This video is courtesy of YoChicago where they stopped by to visit the store's owner, Leonard Harris.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Aldertrack archives

Aldertrack was a website I went to so that I can follow the 2007 municipal elections. I've been trying to find their archives site that had all the contests for the 50 wards before the municipal election. I just now found it.

Oh and to keep this blog locally focused here's the archive for the contest in the 6th Ward.

The part of the site that is currently updated at the moments concerns the City Council's zoning agenda. It's worth a look if that's your interest. It's that site that is currently linked in the sidebar to the right.

Neighborhood establishments make The Food Chain

A blog from the Chicago reader mentions my favorite place for rib tips from Lem's in this post where they really talked about a neighborhood bar night club called Laristo's. They were going to a bar called New Apartment Lounge but they missed it for some strange reason. Great to see neighborhood establishments such as these get recognition in a much widely distributed publication.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

CTA President on CBS2 this morning

Ron Huberman talks with Jim Mora on Eye on Chicago about the continuing crisis with CTA funding.

Joe Zekas R.I.P.

 Joe Zekas ran the real estate news website YoChicago . If you have been following that site and their social media channels i.e. YouTube o...