Thursday, January 31, 2008

Early Voting at Whitney Young Library-Last day TODAY!

I voted yesterday at Whitney Young Library at 79th & King Drive, & was # 373. I think the final total for that day was ~ 380 (Me & my wife were one of the last ones in for the day).

They used all touch screen voting booths...very quick & easy. There were many seniors out there, and woman who brought her 24 year old son -- all excited to vote, and no problems that we saw.

By the way -- that was 380 for that day ! The average was 200, my wife overheard. With today's totals and tomorrows anticipated, up to 4000 people voted early at Whitney Young Libary in the 6th ward. That's about as many as had voted the first day throughout the entire city!

Don't forget to thank the election staff for their hard work! They're great & friendly people... At least one , though, was so tired that she might not be there to work Feb 5!

The last day for early voting in Chicago is January 31. For early voting only, you can vote at any of 51 sites (one in each ward, plus the Chicago Board of Elections), not just the one for your ward. So you can feel free to bring a friend or co-worker from the North Side, or take a relative from the West Side.

For more information on Early Voting, go to the Chicago Board of Elections web page on Early Voting

On Tuesday, February 5, you have to go to your designated polling place.


You will see this site among the various websites in my links section. Well that address won't be any good since it will eventually be closed and redirected to EveryBlock. There isn't much difference between the two, EveryBlock serves other cities such as New York and San Francisco. It just allows you to keep track of crime statistics in your neighborhood. This site has been advertised in the bloggosphere for a while now.

Hat-tip to Chicagoist.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Voter Registration Tops 7.2M For Illinois Primary

Are you ready for Super Tuesday? From Channel 2...
More than 7.2 million Illinoisans can officially go to the polls and cast their votes on Super Tuesday.

State election officials say that number of registered voters for the upcoming February 5th primary election is slightly higher than the tally from 2004 but down from 2006.

But they say the latest number could be more accurate than previous registration counts.

That's because a new centralized state registration database has removed out-of-date or inactive registrations that some election officials have included in the past.

Assessing the clout in tax board race

Crain's talks about the tax board race...
After two years of Springfield brawling, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and Cook County Assessor Jim Houlihan reached a temporary truce last fall in their war over proposed property-tax caps. But hostilities have broken out on a new front this winter: the race for the swing seat on an obscure but powerful panel that reviews property assessments here.
Officially, the Feb. 5 Democratic primary contest for a seat on the county Board of Review pits incumbent Joseph Berrios against self-styled reformer and newcomer Jay Paul Deratany. But barely behind the scenes, the shadows of Messrs. Houlihan and Madigan loom just about everywhere in a contest with a certain snake-vs.-mongoose quality.

The designated heavy in this political drama is Mr. Berrios, a longtime Madigan ally who chairs the Cook County Democratic Committee, aka “the Machine.”

Mr. Berrios is a politician of the old school. He has raised millions of dollars in campaign cash the old-fashioned way, by soliciting lawyers, appraisers, consultants and others who appear before the three-member board seeking to reduce property assessments for their clients below the level set by Mr. Houlihan’s office. Assessment cuts ordered by the board amount to big money — $2 billion just last year by one count, most granted not to homeowners but owners of commercial property. Such actions have sparked quite a debate over whether something untoward has occurred or whether assessments on office buildings and the like are inherently more complex and subject to change.

Mr. Deratany, a 45-year-old lawyer whose only prior political experience was running for judge a few years ago, clearly is of the belief that it’s hinky. “I see (Mr. Berrios) — I can’t say it any other way — as corrupt,” Mr. Deratany puts it. “I see a guy (Mr. Berrios) taking money from lawyers who have cases pending before him.”

Mr. Madigan’s law firm regularly appears before the Board of Review on behalf of clients seeking a tax cut, Mr. Deratany notes. Because Mr. Berrios works part-time as a lobbyist in Springfield, that means Mr. Berrios is lobbying Mr. Madigan on behalf of clients at the same time that Mr. Madigan’s law firm is asking the Berrios board to cut taxes for its clients, Mr. Deratany concludes.
I don't know how true this is for most of the Sixth Ward, but also on the ballot is Larry Rogers who's running unopposed for re-election to his seat of the Cook County Board of Review. So Rogers is a colleague of Berrios.

Council to honor Mayor Sawyer on Friday

From the Sun-Times today.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Urban Gardening Tips

If you're a person who likes to garden this link is for you! I've been wanting to garden vegetable for years but I never get around to it. Hopefully you won't make the same mistake!

Hat-tip to InstaPundit!

Seniors' free rides begin March 17

Well, I had no idea they were going to start so soon. It's going to be almost less than two months from now that seniors with an RTA card will ride on Chicago area transit systems for free. From the Tribune...
The free ride begins March 17 for Chicago-area senior citizens.

That's the day the Chicago Transit Authority, Metra and Pace will open the doors for people 65 and older to ride buses and trains at no charge -- as long as they have a valid photo ID card issued by the Regional Transportation Authority, officials announced Monday.

The new program will be adapted from the RTA's current reduced-fare program for seniors, which allows residents of the six-county region to ride mass transit for about half-fare.

Seniors will be able to use this same ID card to ride for free, until sometime in the near future when a new "smart" card is developed, officials said.

Seniors who don't already have an RTA card can apply for them at more than 200 sites. Elderly tourists or seniors who don't live in the RTA coverage area -- even though they may commute from Kenosha or Kankakee, for example -- will not be eligible for the program. The RTA coverage area includes McHenry, Lake, Kane, Cook, DuPage and Will Counties.

While the rides are free, the expense will have to be borne by the transit agencies, which will have to absorb the estimated $30 million a year cost. On Monday, RTA Executive Director Steve Schlickman called that figure conservative and "manageable."

It remained unclear how many seniors will take advantage of the free rides. Census figures estimate that about 870,000 seniors live in the metropolitan area. The RTA has issued about 239,000 reduced-fare cards, and many eligible seniors do not take advantage of the program, officials said.

"We expect a surge in that number," Schlickman said.

The free rides come courtesy of the General Assembly and Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who pushed the controversial plan through Jan. 17 as part of legislation providing $530 million in new mass-transit funding.

Although the free rides begin March 17, it will be two weeks later, April 1, when a quarter percent sales-tax increase is levied in the six-county area giving the transit agencies the funding boost to head off "doomsday" service cuts and fare hikes.

Blagojevich added the free rides to the transit legislation, which was largely seen as a move to lessen the political fallout from breaking his vow to veto a sales-tax increase.

Seniors can register for reduced-fare cards at 165 N. Jefferson St. or at any of the RTA's service locations, which can be found by calling 312-836-7000 or by going to . Processing will take three to four weeks, the RTA said.

1st Chicago tavern busted for smoking

No one had to pay a fine at this place, that's kind of funny. I wonder what the economic consequences of such a convenient ban is going to be. From the Sun-Times today...
The excuses spread like wildfire.

"What's a gin mill without smoke?"

"This law is silly."

"If you get caught, I'll pay the fine."

Michael Trzaska is lucky neither he nor anyone else had to dig in their pockets after the Logan Square bar he co-owns earned the dubious distinction of being first Chicago establishment found in violation of the state's new smoking ban.

A city inspector saw two patrons at Helen's Two Way Lounge light up on Jan. 20 and wrote the bar up, but because the state law makes it difficult to write a ticket locally, Trzaska got off on a technicality, Chicago Health Department spokesman Tim Hadac said Monday.

A new city ordinance, expected to be approved by the City Council in a few weeks, will enable the city to enforce the statewide law, which calls for a $250 fine for the first violation, $500 for the second violation and $2,500 for each violation thereafter within a 12-month period, Hadac said.

Since the smoking ban took effect on Jan. 1, Hadac said the city has received roughly 150 reports of violations.

Lem's BBQ on Google Maps Street View

View Larger Map

Well it's great to see 75th Street on a nice warm sunny day. Well I can only assume it's a warm day! Perhaps you'll see more things like this here at the Sixth Ward.

BTW, I thought these pictures were odd.

What happened where the camera was covered up for the better part of a block! That's what I'd like to know. Blogger is owned by Google so can anyone from Google get back at me to explain. Thanks!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Videos of Alderman Lyle

I've been sitting on this for a while. The general pattern, if you've noticed, was that I try to do a video post or so a week. Now for right now I'm breaking that unwritten rule. Since I posted videos about everything else but out Alderman, I post this now because I don't want her to feel left out. Someone from her office has at least been reading the blog and I just want to say thanks for the advice, I hope someone is doing as you've prescribed! Enjoy this post.

Alderman Freddrenna Lyle was on this cable access program Election 2007 before her re-election on February 27th of last year. If you can't see the embedded video you can go here.

Alderman Lyle 6th Ward Highlight: A nice video highlighting some of the Alderman's accomplishments.

Sixth Ward Judical Subcircuits

As per the comment left by Jack Leyhane of For What It's Worth. We look at judicial candidates from both the 1st and 5th subcircuits.

1st Subcircuit -- Turkington vacancy
5th Subcircuit -- Bush vacancy
5th Subcircuit -- A vacancy

Cook Co. clerk: Election is drawing young voters

From the Daily Herald. I would say this is good news but the trick would have to be whether or not we can keep younger people engaged in the process. Unfortunately it's very easy to become disillusioned with the process.
Cook County Clerk David Orr says young people are showing an unprecedented interest in this year's primary election. Orr says a record number of high school students in suburban Cook County -- more than 800 -- have volunteered to be judges on Feb. 5. And a record 500 college students have volunteered to be equipment managers at polling places. He says young people's familiarity with computers will be an important asset as Cook County uses touch screens and optical screen paper ballots rather than punch cards. Students also make up 19 percent of the absentee ballot applicants so far, compared with 8 percent in 2004 and 2006. Officials attribute the increase to changes in the Motor Voter law and interest in the presidential race.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Under Daley proposal, Chicago home buyers bear full cost of transfer-tax hike

This was a part of the Transit bailout package that was passed and signed into law from Springfield. I regret that I didn't find this article until just now! From the Trib on Jan. 25...
Aldermen briefed Thursday by Chicago Transit Authority President Ron Huberman and a top mayoral aide said an ordinance imposing the increase will be fast-tracked for City Council approval, with a vote expected at the Feb. 6 meeting.

Some aldermen said they have not yet decided how they will vote, but others said they reluctantly will support it. The increase is expected to win passage.

"You're damned if you do, damned if you don't, but I am going to support it because I need the CTA for the people in my community," said Ald. Patrick Levar (45th). "I have a lot of seniors. I have a lot of people who need to go to work. They have to go downtown and they are going to take a bus or a train."

A CTA funding bill passed by the General Assembly earlier this month authorized the council to increase the transfer tax to help cover the transit agency's employee pension and health care costs.

Chicago's current transfer tax stands at $7.50 for every $1,000 of sales price, with the property's purchaser responsible for payment. The increase would bring the figure to $10.50 per $1,000, generating what officials said Thursday would be $63 million for the transit authority this year.

The buyer also would be on the hook for the additional $3, a decision that aldermen were told was for purposes of uniformity, said Ald. Bernard Stone (50th). The increase would mean someone buying a $300,000 home would pay an extra $900 in tax.

"You've got Congress talking about giving more money away [in a taxpayer rebate to stimulate the economy], and here we are trying to destroy the real estate market, which, if anything, is the machine that keeps the city going," Stone declared. "This is absolutely crazy."

Separate from the city's take, Cook County and the state impose combined transfer taxes of $1.50 per $1,000 on sellers -- taxes people generally notice only when preparing to close on a property.

The Chicago Association of Realtors, which vehemently opposes the proposed increase, has installed a calculator on its Web site ( ) to help property buyers figure out how much more they will pay by typing in the purchase price. The site also leads people to aldermanic phone numbers if they want to register their opposition.

The organization "is dismayed at the CTA's attempt to steamroll this particular ordinance through the City Council to pay for the CTA's mismanagement of its pension fund at a time when the entire economy is undergoing a correction," said Brian Bernardoni, the Realtors' director of government affairs.

The state legislation gives the City Council six months to act.

Former Mayor Eugene Sawyer paved road back to civility, mourners recall

From today's Trib, let's focus in on his sister contesting popular opinion that Mayor Sawyer was a puppet for white aldermen...
The funeral for the city's second black mayor, who served from 1987-89, was attended by local and state officials, including Secretary of State Jesse White, Cook County Board President Todd Stroger, U.S. Reps. Bobby Rush and Danny Davis and many current and past aldermen.

Sawyer, 73, died Jan. 19 after suffering a series of strokes this month.

"He was a gentleman," said White, who also knew Sawyer from his days as a basketball star at Alabama State University. "He taught us how to get along with one another and the art of compromise."

The state's political elite had gathered earlier in the week for the funeral for John Stroger, the first black president of the Cook County Board, who rose through Chicago politics at the same time as Sawyer. Stroger died the day before Sawyer, on Jan. 18.

"These men were trailblazers and door-openers who knocked down barriers for African-Americans," said Ald. Freddrenna Lyle, who now represents Sawyer's 6th Ward.

Todd Stroger, who replaced his father as board president, called Sawyer a man with "character and perseverance." Both John Stroger and Sawyer grew up in the segregated South and were inspired to enter politics because of the discrimination they faced, family members said.

"My father used to say they were some of the last cotton pickers," Todd Stroger said. "It came with a certain fire."

Roland Burris, former comptroller and attorney general of Illinois, told the story of how he sought the powerful alderman's support when he considered running for office. Sawyer quickly went about assembling the coalition together, said Burris, who went on to become the first African-American elected to Illinois statewide office.

On a personal level, Sawyer was a religious man who served as a leader and Sunday school teacher at his church. He enjoyed fine dining, live music and playing poker.

The soft-spoken Sawyer was mayor for just 16 months after being voted in by the City Council in 1987, filling the gap between two larger-than-life mayors: Washington and Daley. The controversial vote that put him into office ignited a racially charged debate because many black aldermen favored Timothy Evans, now Cook County's chief judge.

Sawyer lost the 1989 Democratic primary for mayor to Daley. Sawyer's son Shedrick Sawyer thanked Daley on Saturday for running a clean campaign against his father.

Before his stint as mayor, Sawyer served as alderman for the 6th Ward, a predominantly middle-class African-American neighborhood. That was where he was most comfortable, working as an advocate for his community and turning voters out to elections, his colleagues said.

Sawyer was raised in Greensboro, Ala., as the son of a self-employed mortician and home-repair contractor. After graduating from Alabama State, he was a math teacher in Mississippi before moving to Chicago for better opportunities.

He worked his way up the local Democratic Party ranks, becoming alderman in 1971 and holding the post for 16 years.

The funeral included songs sung by his daughter Sheryl McGill, head of the city's Department of Human Services. The service was followed by a special salute by police and fire officials outside the church. Sawyer was buried at the nearby Oak Woods Cemetery at 1035 E. 67th St.

During the funeral, Sawyer's sister disputed characterizations by some that he was a puppet for other politicians or reluctant to lead.

"For a city that was incited to protest, my brother brought calm," Shirley Sawyer said. "Harold Washington put ideas out there, and my brother carried them out."

Don't know anything about the judges on the ballots?

Check out this blog, For What It's Worth, where they talk about the various judges running for election in this cycle. Of course the coverage is throughout Cook County but I'm sure we can look at a sample ballot and determine which judges are running for the subdistrict for our area. Of course there are also judges running countywide as well. I almost wished they'd change the way judges are chosen. I wish there was a more appointment process involved than judges running for election.

Brookins for State's Attorney Video 4: The Basic

You get a glimpse of Brookins' record as Alderman of the 21st Ward. Then he goes shopping at the newest business in his ward Lowe's on 83th at Chatham Market. The hilarious part of this video was when as he pushes his cart out of Lowe's something falls out of his basket.

While I'm talking about Howard Brookins check out this post I posted at Illinoize. Well you might have to click a link that or you can look at my blog and watch the video.

Brookins for Justice.

Future Green Chatham

Read more about it here, but how about a blurb about some buildings that should be landmarks...
Three blocks of little houses, between 80 and 82nd and King Drive, and between 81st and 82nd and Calumet, are in the heart of Chatham. They were the beginning of a project of the 1920's designed by architect Richard Cramer. His project built small “Garlows”, or "Garage Bungalows” on the rear of the lots. As the owners became more prosperous, larger houses could be built in front. The Garlows would then be converted to garages. These "starter homes" were built to ease the path to home ownership, and were designed to fill society’s needs. Considerable interest in the architectural community in Cramer’s project resulted in an earlier series of articles in the Sun-Times. It has been suggested that these Garlows, the largest concentration of which is represented by the 3 blocks in Chatham, may be the largest collection in Chicago. In an earlier segment of WTTW’s “Chicago Tonight”, the Garlow story was brought to Chicago’s attention as a significant piece of Chicago history. Mr. Cramer’s initial project is brought to completion in the 21st century, with these creatively and intelligently designed houses.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Tommy Brewer for State's Attorney

I finally found a website for the mystery man from Evanston. I like his educational credentials going to Williams College in Massachusettes and going to law school at Northwestern. Looking at his qualifications, I see a south suburban connection here as well. He was a village counsel there. He has also worked for the Cook County State's Attorney for the Gang Prosecution unit.

Hmmm, while all I knew about him running for state's attorney was that he was running for state's attorney in addition to the fact that he's a defense attorney in Evanston. I just wonder what took him so long to get himself a presence on the internet. The first time I googled him I couldn't find a campaign website for him. That's not a good thing!

Best of luck to him all the same.

Public Affairs - Tony Peraica

This morning Public Affairs with Jeff Berkowitz posted their program with Tony Peraica. If you can't watch that on that page, here's the YouTube version. Tony Peraica is the only Republican running for state's attorney and you might know him for his run against Todd Stroger two years ago for county board president.

Jeff Berkowitz has interviews most of the Democratic contestants for state's attorney minus of course Evanston defense attorney Tommy Brewer. You can refer to this post here for links.

Friday, January 25, 2008

What the Helen talks about winning Aldermanic elections...

It's a very good post. If you don't know What the Helen made itself known to residents of the 46th ward of Chicago otherwise known nominally as Uptown (though that may not be the only neighborhood in the ward). Anyway a cautionary tale for those who want to run for Alderman anywhere else in the city three or so years from now.

State's attorney race 'totally up for grabs'

The state's attorney's race is up for grabs. I don't know who's going to win, but that's not to say I have my favorites. Of course apparently the rumblings have been that even the Cook County Democrats doesn't have a favorite either. From the Sun-Times...
In the 1950s, Cook County State's Attorney Ben Adamowski made life miserable for Mayor Richard J. Daley. So in 1960, Daley brought his political might to bear and defeated Adamowski.

With its authority to charge citizens -- including politicians -- with crimes, the Cook County state's attorney's office wields considerable power. The county Democratic Party has, in the past, worked hard to elect a handpicked candidate. But in 2008, the party appears to have left the race to chance.

"It is totally up for grabs," said UIC professor and former Ald. Dick Simpson.

Six Democrats are vying for the nomination in the Feb. 5 primary, and the Cook County Democratic Party has not endorsed any of them. And the race has not seized the public's attention.

"No one knows it's a race, and no one probably even cares. The presidential race is just sucking all the excitement out," said political scientist Paul Green of Roosevelt University.
More than half of the office's 70,000 yearly felony cases are drug-related, but alleged police misconduct has dominated the debates -- fallout from highly publicized alleged beatings by officers and the Cmdr. Jon Burge torture scandal.

The candidates have struggled to push their own issues. Brookins promises to bring diversity to the office. Suffredin pledges to crack down on public corruption. Milan says he will attack the homicide rate.

The campaign has taken detours into personal attacks. Several of the candidates have slammed Suffredin for his work as a lobbyist on behalf of casino companies. Brookins has come under fire for allegedly not paying his office rent and failing to maintain rental properties he owned -- matters that got him sued.

On Thursday, Alvarez produced court documents from Brookins' divorce and said they showed he was "deficient in child support."

The documents were mostly filed by Brookins' ex-wife, but in one, the alderman requested his child support payments be reduced.

"I have made every required child support payment," Brookins said, calling the attack "disgraceful."

Allen had raised the most money by the end of 2007, with $351,774 on hand. Since Jan. 1, Allen has taken in at least $125,590 more. But Suffredin could be beating him in the money race, with $271,436 at the end of the year and an additional $391,883 raised since Jan 1.

And no one knows how the presidential primary will affect the race. Women turning out in force for HIllary Clinton could help Alvarez, the only woman running. And "if there is a huge [Barack] Obama vote, on the surface it helps Brookins," the better-known of the two black candidates, Green said.
I think it was analyzed that Brookins expects that turnout for Obama's Presidential bid could help him get black votes. We'll have to see about that. I shouldn't be surprised that this race is being swamped by what many might consider a crucial presidential election.

Victory for clout in 21st Ward

Howard Brookins is running for state's attorney. If this dampens his chances this wouldn't be the only thing that would...
Take the fancy new brick homes springing from the old iron plant on the wrong side of the tracks at 105th and Vincennes in Ald. Howard Brookins Jr.'s 21st Ward.

Developers call it Renaissance at Beverly Ridge, but it's actually in Washington Heights. By calling the new subdivision "Beverly," after the wealthier more prestigious 'hood next door, the place sounds even better to buyers.

Regardless, Beverly Ridge gives hope to part of a neighborhood that has too many vacant lots, boarded-up homes and miscellaneous blight.

Brookins takes credit for scoring $87.1 million in public cash for the project developers, including $11.6 million from the city to entice developers to build.

Former Notre Dame free safety Patrick Terrell -- the same guy who broke up a pass in the end zone to help the Fighting Irish upset undefeated Miami in 1988 -- heads the joint venture with MGM Urban Properties.

In Brookins' ward newsletter, Terrell says, "Without Ald. Brookins' commitment, this project would not have gone anywhere."

After the deal was done, Brookins, who's running for Cook County state's attorney, says he remembers "asking these guys if we can refer people to them for work."

So, he did. One of the alderman's recommendations was his girlfriend, Ebonie Taylor, during his bitter divorce from his first wife, Nanette Brookins.

Ebonie Taylor, who married Ald. Brookins after his divorce was final, got hired to sell the Beverly Ridge homes -- which go for between $285,000 and $560,000 -- for straight commission.

Brookins said he didn't know exactly when his wife got the job, and she refused to answer questions about it.

When asked about Ebonie Taylor-Brookins' employment, Terrell got flustered and suddenly announced, "Listen, I got to catch a plane."
Neither Terrell's economic disclosure statement nor Brookins' ethics statements mention Taylor-Brookins' employment on a project that gets city funds.

Even if that seems a bit hinky to you, there may be nothing illegal about it. But government watchdogs say it raises questions about the redevelopment deal.
Brookins says he's done nothing wrong by recommending his wife for the job.

"Look, she's gotta work somewhere, and I know everybody. What does she do, not work at all?" Brookins said. "We both were not born to people of enormous means and she has to work. I could hire her as my chief of staff without any ethical questions, but I'm not doing that. I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't."

Besides, Brookins says his wife hasn't sold a home or made a dime at Beverly Ridge, yet.

"It would be nice if she could close some deals," Brookins said. "So she can get paid."

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Chicago home sales plunge in December

Well this story is probably one reason why aldermen on Chicago's City Council are bellyaching over the real-estate transfer tax...
Sales of existing homes in Illinois plunged in December, underscoring a dismal housing year that proved to be one of the worst in the U.S. in decades.
The Illinois Association of Realtors said Thursday sales of single-family homes and condominiums fell 27.7 percent last month to 7,719 compared to December 2006, while total 2007 sales were off 16.9 percent to 137,133.

In the Chicago metro area, home sales in December fell 33.2 percent from a year ago to 5,033. For the year, sales were down 20.5 percent.

The National Association of Realtors reported sales of single-family homes and condominiums dropped 22 percent last month from December 2006 to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.89 million units. Sales were off 2.2 percent in December from November.

For the year, national sales of single-family homes were down by 12.8 percent, the biggest drop since a 17.7 percent plunge in 1982.

In Illinois, the median home sale price for the year was $204,000, down 0.5% from 2006, while prices in the Chicago metro area gained 2.4% to $254,000.

“While coastal markets fuel the national headlines with severe home price adjustments, the value of a home in Illinois as a family’s long-term investment remains strong with modest price declines reported in some markets,” said Kay Wirth, president of the Illinois Association of REALTORS, in a statement. In December, the median home price in Chicago was up 1.1 percent to $247,800.
You know what would be more poignant, if I had a picture of a for sale sign taken right in the neighborhood!

An extreme L makeover...

Yeah I don't think I like how the new L cars might look. I guess I've been so used to the ones I see out there now! Then again I like that there are going to be some enhancements such as plasma screens for riders that will give them alerts with regards to service. Cameras that will allow an operator to keep tabs on what's going on aboard the train. Then there's this aspect I like...

The new cars are to be fully handicapped-accessible, and they'll also be powered by a new type of propulsion system that should provide a smoother and potentially faster ride.

Huberman said the L could reach speeds of 60 mph to 70 mph once slow zones on the rails are fixed.
Well something to look forward to much faster express service. Do you want to know where I'm coming from?

Check this out!!! The trains I rode back and forth didn't seem fast enough.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

CTA won't raise fares this year

Good news from Crain's Chicago Business...

Chicago Transit Authority fares will remain unchanged this year, in contrast to Metra, which will increase rates 10% next week.
CTA President Ron Huberman ruled out the possibility of higher fares during a CTA board meeting Wednesday, but left the door open for an increase next year. He said it depends on how much revenue is generated from fares, from a 0.25% increase in the sales tax rate for Chicago and suburban Cook County, and the agency’s expenses in each of the next two years.

For the immediate future, Mr. Huberman said he does “not anticipate a fare increase in 2008.”

Lawmakers recently passed legislation that staved off cuts in jobs and bus routes. Without such a solution, fares would have been increased to as much as $3.25 for train rides during peak hours.

Metra riders, however, will see a fare increase Feb. 1. The money will boost Metra’s operating budget and replenish its capital expenditures account.

On Wednesday, the CTA approved spending $26.6 million out of a pre-approved contingency fund to upgrade rail cars that will be delivered in 2011 to replace an aging fleet. The contingency fund had been approved when the CTA agreed to a $577-million contract to purchase 206 rail cars from Bombardier Inc. in Canada. The agency will test wireless and cellular technology that will enable it to diagnose problems and provide a video link to any car, which Mr. Huberman expects will provide a smoother, faster and safer ride on CTA trains.
And we may have some brand new cars on the system for the first time since the early 1990s. They'll be on the system next year.

Sun-Times sells Skyline, Booster and News-Star papers

Well the rumblings were out there for a while with this story the result being that these papers could be shut down permanently or sold. Well this Crain's article soothed those fears if there were any. Then I saw an announcement for these paper's new owners Wednesday Journal Inc, they own this paper called the Austin Weekly News.

Assuming no one stepped forward to make a purchase or anything like that I could easily see this as a good business opportunity. Especially if you believe that the mainstream press might neglect what's going on at the neighborhood level. If there were fears surely someone could step forward to fill a void even if it was a simple blog like the one you're reading right now.

Then again who knows the Sun-Times who seems to want to move on to bigger and better things most likely had no business in the community paper business and should just focus on being a major publication or having several major publications. The Sun-Times Group has been in the news a lot lately that company is struggling so perhaps they needed to get rid of some "deadweight". Either way some community newspapers have been saved from being defunct and lets hope some of the papers that exists in our communities don't take a turn for the worst either.

Service delivers healthy meals to South Side- and beyond

Read this write-up and watch this vid from Channel 7. It's not a bad option if you want to eat healthier but just unable to cook it...

Eric Paul is both a chef and an entrepreneur. With some help and encouragement from him mom, he recently started a home meal delivery service called Alter EatGo.

"The way we differ, is we offer a lot more menu variety. A lot of my clients said, hey, we eat breakfast ourselves, so we offer lunch and dinner; and then also I have a lot of clients that work out quite a bit, or athletes in college, so they say we needed more calories," said Chef Eric Paul, Alter EatGo.

He delivers meals within a 20-mile radius of Chicago. Options range from stir-frys to salads; even healthy pizza. He says the business really began as a way to service the African American community.

And here's some more information if you have the interest.

Alter EatGo

Black Women Hold Key To S.C. Democratic Primary

Alright how about some presidential politics. The lastest big time president primary is South Carolina and Channel 2 talks about a crucial group of voters who might help give Obama the edge when South Carolina holds their primary...

At the Diva Beauty Salon on Tuesday, black women were talking politics like never before, because, for once, politicians are focusing on them.

"We have a lot of Barack Obama supporters. We have a few Hillary supporters. It's kind of split," hair stylist Nora Gause said.

"I don't feel targeted, I do feel valued," salon customer Joyce Buxton said.

African-American women register and turn out in larger numbers than African-American men. So they're expected to make up 30 percent of the voters in Saturday's Democratic primary, and polls show many are still making up their mind.

"The fact that large numbers of them are undecided means they're going to be the crown jewel of this Democratic primary election in South Carolina," Winthrop University assistant professor Scott Huffmon said.

That means both sides have set their sights on wooing them.

"As African-American women in South Carolina, we do realize our importance and the leverage that we hold," voter Azora Anderson said.

The Obama campaign has won hearts and votes by sending field organizers to persuade black women in non-traditional settings, like beauty shops.

That gesture deeply impressed salon owner Sharon Robinson. "That's why I'm supporting Obama, because he came to places other candidates never thought about going," she said.

And when polls showed many black women backed Clinton because of their affection for her husband, the Clinton campaign sent the former president here to build support.

But most black women don't see the election as a choice between race and gender.

"I'm black first, and then I'm a woman. This is history for us because this is the first time we've had a black run, and he's a viable candidate," Buxton said.
I heard some chatter that suggests that when Oprah chose to endorse Obama over Hillary Clinton she ran into some flack because she isn't supporting a woman. If women are upset that she isn't support Hillary then here's the reality check. I could boil it down to Oprah supporting a fellow black person over a fellow woman. For some black females surely that trumps voting for a woman (of any race).

I'm sure there are other things at play such as age. The younger you are the more likely you vote for Obama. The older you are, the more likely you might vote for Hillary. This can get interesting really.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Transit deal leaves capital construction plan waiting again

This article gives you probably another reason why transit bailout legislation was almost at a crawl until this month when a bill was finally passed and then amended by the governor and then approved again...
Money for new roads, bridges and schools throughout Illinois might have disappeared in the tussle between lawmakers and the governor over funding for Chicago-area train and bus systems, dampening hopes for the first capital construction bill in years.

A coalition of Republicans and downstate Democrats had attempted to use support for mass-transit funding as leverage for a $13 billion statewide construction plan that would be funded by a major expansion in casino gambling.

And for a time, it appeared it would work.

But the coalition - and its leverage - crumbled last week when some of those Democrats voted for a tax increase to help fund mass transit systems in the Chicago area and head off a “doomsday” scenario of service cuts, fare increases and thousands of layoffs.

“We let this opportunity slip through our fingers,” said Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon. “I'm hopeful there will be a capital plan but not very optimistic on that.”

The capital plan's rapid fall wasn't a surprise given its rocky history.

Lawmakers haven't approved a new construction plan since former Republican Gov. George Ryan was in office. Disagreements over how to pay off the billions of dollars that would have been borrowed for new and improved buildings and roads have repeatedly blocked any progress during Gov. Rod Blagojevich's two terms.

But supporters thought this time was different.

If downstaters from both parties could withhold their votes on a transit deal, they figured, leaders finally would have to agree on a capital plan or face a major backlash when the Chicago area was hit by major transit cutbacks and fare increases.

Ultimately, however, several downstate Democrats decided to break rank, saying there wasn't consensus among the leaders for a capital plan, so it didn't make sense to punish Chicago transit riders.

What's more, the deal included millions of dollars for downstate transit systems - money that would come from higher taxes paid only by Chicago-area residents and visitors. And, they said, it was impossible to concentrate on a capital deal as long as transit woes dominated legislators' attention.

Street damaged by water main break

This is all the way on the north side but this is something. I almost wonder what is it like to have a street collapse right in front of you and you see a virtual lake or river in front of your home or business. Story from the Tribune and the picture posted here is also from the Tribune...
It will take about two weeks to repair the street that collapsed because of Tuesday morning's water main break that created a small lake on the North Side, city officials said.

Montrose Avenue will be closed between Wolcott Avenue and Honore Street, said John Spatz, commissioner for the city's Water Management Department.

A 36-inch, 100-year-old water main burst overnight, leaving a 15-foot-deep hole in Montrose that measures about 80 feet in diameter, Spatz said. The resulting flood partially submerged parked cars and rerouted CTA service. Officials said they are looking for the cause.

The area bounded by Ravenswood Avenue on the east, Lincoln Avenue on the west, Berteau Avenue on the south and Sunnyside Avenue will be closed through at least Tuesday for the immediate cleanup. Cars now in the area will be allowed to leave.

The cast-iron main burst about 1:30 a.m. near Montrose Avenue and Wolcott Street, forcing police to close an area of several square blocks. The CTA briefly shut its Brown Line Montrose station and rerouted two buses.

"It was a dramatic scene; that's a lot of water to come out of the pipe all at once," said Tom LaPorte, a spokesman for the city's Department of Water Management. "The deepest was about 4 feet of water."

The water was shut off about 7 a.m., and city crews began what promised to be a long clean-up operation.

At a late-morning news conference, Richard Rodriguez, commissioner for the city's Buildings Department, pointed to a one-story structure at 1825 W. Montrose whose basement walls and floor are starting to collapse.

"The foundation and footing have basically come apart," he said.

Will Goodwin, manager of Beans and Bagels near the Montrose station, received a call at 6:30 a.m. that his coffee shop's basement contained 4 feet of water.

"Everything was floating—boxes of cups, records and boxes of receipts," said Goodwin, 33. "The entire basement is pretty much destroyed." By late morning, city officials had pumped out much of the water.

A short distance away, Jill Vandehei, 30, a Chicago Public Schools teacher, used a coffee cup to slowly bail out her four-door Mazda sedan, which refused to start. The mud line on the outside reached to the top of her tires; the one inside covered the bottom of her seats.

"I think I just ended up at a bad spot," she said, somewhat unnecessarily, of her parking spot at Montrose and Wolcott.

The water undermined the foundation of Montrose Avenue, opening a rupture with an 80-foot diameter and 15-foot depth. Several parking meters and a light pole were ripped from the sidewalk.

Why the main ruptured wasn't immediately known.

"It wouldn't be surprising to see that that the weather played a role," LaPorte said. "It went from very cold over the weekend to warmer temperatures that can cause weakness in the pipe."

Monday, January 21, 2008

Chicago-area rents much lower than house payments

From Crain's today.

Apartment rents are surging in the Chicago area, but that check to the landlord is still a lot smaller than a monthly mortgage payment.

Rent in the Chicago area represented just 60.0% of the after-tax monthly mortgage payment for the median home in the third quarter, according to a recent report by Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. That is up from 59.6% in the second quarter and a low of 58.2% in second-quarter 2006.

With the for-sale housing market in a deep slump, homes in many parts of the country are becoming more affordable at the same time the strong apartment market is fueling solid rent increases. The rent/buy relationship has taken on greater significance recently as analysts try to determine how much home prices — or interest rates — need to fall before the residential market returns to equilibrium.

In Chicago, “the gap has got to narrow,” says Deutsche Bank analyst Louis Taylor. “Chicago is going to have an adjustment, and an adjustment that I don’t think is going to be particularly painful.”

That could come in the form of falling home prices, falling interest rates or a continued rise in rents — most likely a combination of all three. Deutsche Bank estimates that the Chicago-area market will get close to an equilibrium level if the median home price falls 10% from its third-quarter level and if mortgage rates fall a full percentage point. The Chicago-area median home price rose 2.5% in the year ended Sept. 30.

Prosecutor race divides Dems

From today's Sun-Times...
In a sign of how fractured Democratic support has become in the race for Cook County state's attorney, two candidates vying to succeed Dick Devine trumpeted endorsements by high-profile officials Sunday.

At a news conference at the Union League Club, Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn threw his support to Anita Alvarez, a career prosecutor who is the No. 3 official in Devine's office.

"She happens to be a woman. She happens to be Hispanic. And she also happens to be the most qualified person. We have a chance to make history," Quinn said.

Meanwhile, Ald. Howard Brookins (21st) picked up endorsements from West Side Aldermen Isaac Carothers (29th) and Emma Mitts (37th), and from other African-American officials. U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) reiterated his support.

"We're going to be with Howard 100 percent. We're going to have every precinct captain, every volunteer" working for him, Carothers said.

For primary voters who use endorsements for guidance, the state's attorney's race has likely become exasperating.

Six Democrats are seeking their party's nomination. Three are officeholders -- Brookins, Ald. Tom Allen (38th) and Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin (D-Evanston) -- and two, Alvarez and First Assistant State's Attorney Robert Milan, are career prosecutors. Defense lawyer Tommy Brewer is also running.

Since no candidate mustered sufficient support to be slated, the Cook County Democratic Party opted for an open primary. Seasoned observers are calling it a free-for-all.
Things are going to be quite exciting in this Democratic primary won't it?

The reluctant mayor

A Tribune editorial about the late Mayor Eugene Sawyer who died yesterday. Check out this excerpt...
Sawyer, who died late Saturday, got used by many of the people who made him mayor and those who leeched onto him once he was there. He could have said "no," of course. There were signs that he was reluctant as aldermen plotted to put him in the job. But then, what alderman could say "no" to the prospect of running the city?

So Sawyer let the schemers scheme, and he was elected at a wild City Council meeting. He was reviled as a traitor to the black community and a stooge of the white politicians. He was ridiculed for being so soft-spoken that it was often hard to hear what he had to say. It was an ugly time in Chicago.

But Sawyer was warm and unassuming, about as unlikely a person as you'd ever expect to find in the middle of such ugliness.

He was a Democratic organization guy. He ran one of the best ward organizations in the city. He was a very good alderman who was pushed to be mayor and he was not a very good mayor. He ran for election in 1989, but most of the people who had made him, by then, were done with him. He lost, and Richard M. Daley has run a quieter city ever since. Eugene Sawyer was a decent man who could have spared himself a lot of grief if he had just said "no" to others' ambitions.

Celebrating the life of Vernie Joseph French, Sr

One of the last videos of Chatham and other areas of Chicago's 6th Ward from YoChicago. These videos were posted at YouTube last year and in this vid we witness a funeral at a neighorhood chuch St. Clotide.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Former Chicago Mayor Eugene Sawyer dies

He also used to be alderman of the sixth ward before he was elected by the Chicago City Council as Mayor of Chicago back in 1987 after the death of Mayor Harold Washington. His bid for re-election was thwarted by the current Mayor Richard M. Daley in 1989. From the Chicago Tribune today.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Death of John Stroger

The former 8th Ward Committeeman and Cook County Board President died yesterday but I want to show these two vids from Channel 2 about this legacy. People from his 8th Ward talks about him here and Channel 2 looks back at his legacy here.

Still looking for contributors!!!

I still would like to have people who are members of neighborhood organizations or block clubs such as this one report to us regarding what's going on within the general area. What's going on amongst your neighborhood organization or block club? We can even include LSC's. It doesn't matter this blog can't work without those who are working to make our communities better.

We need some of you to be our eyes and ears. Citizen journalists or sorts or even sources though I would think it was tacky to publicly ask for anonymous sources. Leave a comment if your interested. I still want to set up an email address for this blog as well. I'll let you know when that is available.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, January 18, 2008

Interactive post!!!

Consider this an open thread. What kind of stories would you like to see here? That is other than linking to stories of interest. If we were to have some original reporting, what would you like to see?

Over at the Chicago Board of Elections website

You can check out sample ballots for your particular precinct. Here is the form that allows you to be able to see who's on the ballot come February 5th.

Also note that early voting started this past Monday for the February 5th primary election and will continue until Jan. 31st. Here is some more information on that if you want to take advantage.

Also there is a grace period for registration and voting. You have to do both when you come to election board headquarters downtown. More info on that here.

Any other goodies from the election board can be found at thier website,

Chicago's Best Restaurants for Business

I post this survey from Crain's only to ask where those who own a business in the neighborhood or even work downtown or elsewhere go to a restaurant to do business. Perhaps someone might include a restaurant located in the general neighborhood that isn't already listed on the survey.

Has anyone been getting Congressional mailers

From either of the ward's congressmen Bobby Rush and Jesse Jackson Jr. Both men are running for re-election although Jesse Jackson Jr. doesn't have to worry much he doesn't have any opposition. Bobby Rush may not have to worry either because his opponent is Dock Walls and he lost his race for mayor last year.

Anyway let us know if you have had any campaign mailers from either campaign!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Senate joins House in passing transit bill

Now all the governor has to do is approve this bill and sign it into law. Assuming that he likes the language passed from both houses. I hear that a bill that would allow for standards that would allow some seniors to ride transit for free wasn't voted on in the house. From Crain's...

Illinois lawmakers approved Gov. Rod Blagojevich's changes to legislation that will prevent deep service cuts at Chicago-area transit systems, but not before angrily accusing the governor of playing political games.
The measure passed 61-47 Thursday in the House and 32-19 in the Senate. It now becomes law without going back to the governor's desk.

The plan increases sales taxes in the Chicago region to generate transit money. Without the aid, officials were set to slash bus and train routes, raise fares and lay off more than 2,000 employees.

Legislators approved the tax increase last week, but the Democratic governor used his amendatory veto to send the measure back to the General Assembly and demand senior citizens be given free rides on their local mass transit services.

House passes transit bill with guv's changes

From Crain's today, the Capitol Fax recorded this at 2:02 this afternoon....

House members approved Gov. Rod Blagojevich's changes to legislation that will prevent deep service cuts at Chicago-area transit systems, but not before angrily accusing the governor of playing political games.

The measure passed 61-47 Thursday and now goes to the state Senate, where it is expected to pass.

The plan would increase sales taxes in the Chicago region to generate transit money. Without the aid, officials plan to slash bus and train routes, raise fares and lay off more than 2,000 employees.

Legislators approved the tax increase last week, but the Democratic governor used his amendatory veto to send the measure back to the General Assembly and demand that senior citizens be given free rides on their local mass transit services.
Mentioned in this article is the bellyaching over Blagojevich's amendatory veto on this transit bailout. Here's some of that story...

His action unleashed a flood of complaints that Blagojevich was endangering the bailout by making last-minute demands. Those complaints dominated Thursday's debate.

Lawmakers of both parties said the free-ride provision was a clumsy attempt by the governor to divert attention from the fact that he was agreeing to a general tax increase, something he had vowed never to do.

"I did not get one phone call in support of the governor's action," said Rep. Harry Osterman, D-Chicago. "I would assume most of the people in the state saw right through his action."
This should have been seen coming because I commented on this at It's My Mind earlier this week. Rep. John Fritchey is planning for file a constitutional amendment to eliminate the governor's power of the amendatory veto. He was quoted as saying on both the Capitol Fax blog and from this Crain's article that...

"If the governor is unable to play with his toys, we will take his toys away from him," Fritchey said.
As for this amendment, it was mentioned on the Capitol Fax blog that...

Amendments approved by the vote of three-fifths of the members elected to each house shall be submitted to the electors at the general election next occurring at least six months after such legislative approval.
I highly doubt the Senate will go along with this, to say the least.
Well we'll see. This might be better off at a state constitutional convention in another two years. This assuming that voters will approve such a convention in the future.

Still I'm glad they are approving the bill now it's necessary even with the unnecessary tinkering.

There is a trailer bill being debated in the Illinois House. SB1409 which applies the Circuit Breaker program for free transit rides.

Not all seniors may ride free

I suppose this should work if, the proposed transit bailout complete with the Amendatory Veto by the Governor that would provide for free transit rides for seniors passes the General Assembly today. From the Sun-Times...
The House Mass Transit Committee on Wednesday approved Gov. Blagojevich’s last-minute change to the recently-passed transit funding bill, which would allow seniors to ride the CTA, Metra and Pace for free.

That sets the stage for the full House and Senate to vote on the amended measure today.

But members of the House committee also discussed plans to introduce a separate trailer bill today that would only provide free rides to low-income seniors and people with disabilities.

The trailer bill, if it passes, would allow the General Assembly to put caps on the governor’s plan to give seniors free rides without jeopardizing a transit funding bill that would avert Jan. 20 service cuts and fare hikes at the CTA and Pace by raising the sales tax in Cook and the collar counties.

The sales tax bill narrowly passed the House and Senate the first time, and many critics have accused Blagojevich of adding the senior clause to save face after breaking his campaign promise not to raise taxes. Some also question why seniors should be the only exempt group.

Even so, State Rep. Julie Hamos said preventing a transit meltdown should be the General Assembly’s top priority.

“All that matters is that we only have four days left [until “doomsday”],” she said during a packed public hearing Wednesday at the Thompson Center.

Mayor Daley had a similar message for Springfield Wednesday.

“Let’s just get it done. Let’s pass it. They have to pass this legislation . . . with the change. Everybody will accept that. Who cares? Let’s just pass this legislation. That’s how important it is,” Daley said.

While the governor’s amended bill would provide free rides to seniors 65 and up, regardless of income, the trailer bill would use the existing criteria for the state’s Circuit Breaker program to determine who qualifies for free rides.

Circuit Breaker provides property tax relief and discounts on license plates and pharmaceuticals to seniors and people with disabilities who meet certain income requirements. A household of two, for instance, would need to have a combined income of less than $29,480 to qualify for Circuit Breaker.

Roughly 366,000 people statewide would qualify for free rides based on that criteria.

Hamos said that even with the income caps, free rides could still cost the CTA, Metra and Pace $15 million to $30 million “at the low end.”

Letting all seniors ride for free would cost the transit agencies an estimated $30 million a year.
Sadly free rides will still cost something. If not to those senior citizens to everyone else who must pay, that is the taxes if not the fares.

General Assembly considers the AV'd transit bailout

So the Illinois House will consider the transit bailout with the AV-Amendatory Veto by the governor that seniors get free rides on public transportation. Thanks to the Capitol Fax you can listen to the proceedings here if you got the ability to listen to this session online. That means you have to have broadband internet (that is DSL or cable internet, not using the phone lines i.e. dial-up).

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

House committee approves amendment giving free rides to seniors


A key state legislative committee has voted to approve Gov. Rod Blagojevich's proposal to offer free rides on mass transit to senior citizens.

The House Mass Transit Committee voted 16-5 Wednesday in favor of the free ride amendment that the governor added to a mass transit funding bill.

Blagojevich has said he wouldn't sign that bill if legislators don't approve the free ride initiative.

Several committee members said they're angry at the governor for his last-minute addition to the bill. But they said they had no choice but to vote for it or risk forcing so-called "doomsday" service cuts and fare increases this weekend.

The General Assembly is expected to vote on the amended bill Thursday.

Chicago budgets less than some rivals for Olympic sites

More Chicago 2016 Olympic news from Crain's...
Chicago plans to spend less but bring in a lot more compared with its rivals if it hosts the 2016 Summer Olympics. Both are key components in the recipe for an Olympic bid.

“It’s a good plan,” Rob Livingstone, an Olympic historian in Toronto who runs a Web site that tracks bidding for the Olympics, said of Chicago’s bid. “Everything seems to be in place. The venue plan is compact.”

Organizers in five of the seven cities that hope to host the games released their formal Olympic questionnaires Tuesday. It’s a preliminary measure that the International Olympic Committee will use to come up with a list of finalist cities by summer.

The document is the first look at how Chicago, a favorite among many Olympic observers to make the final cut, stacks up against the competition: Tokyo, Doha, Qatar; Rio de Janeiro, Madrid, Bacu, Azerbaijan; and Prague, Czech Republic. Bacu and Prague did not release their questionnaires publicly.

Chicago stacks up well against competitors, observers say, because it’s convenient for the lucrative U.S. media market in a sports-friendly town with excellent transportation. The city also has never hosted the Olympics.

The venues would be in a compact area along the city’s lakefront, giving athletes and spectators a short distance to walk to events and attractions in the city. Disadvantage: It’s not as well known internationally as some other cities.
Here's the chart from Crain's and you can read up the rest of the article there.

Michael Sneed: Tipsville

From the Sun-Times columnist today about the real estate transfer taxes embedded in the transit bailout bill...
Sneed hears Ald. Isaac Carothers and Ald. Ed Burke are preparing an amendment keeping senior citizens exempt from the new real estate transfer tax proposal hidden in the transit bailout package.

• • The buckshot: "It's a burden they shouldn't have to shoulder," said a Sneed source . . . referring to the proposed tax increase on the sale of a home from $7.50 to $10 per $1,000.

How about some neighborhood high school sports?

I found this page about Harlan Community Academy Falcons from the Sun-Times page about high school sports. I suppose this blog has found a new area to cover, sports. Oh yeah someone told us there is another high school in the ward, Paul Robeson High School. They call themselves the Raiders.

Another CTA doomsday article...

From today's Tribune. This is one reason I'm concerned about transit funding and this amendatory veto (allowing seniors to ride for free) that could cast doubt on whether this proposal will become law...
Three CTA bus routes now cross at 103rd and Halsted Streets, making it a busy South Side crossroads. But whether the buses continue to roll through here come Monday remains uncertain.

This Roseland neighborhood intersection could become one of dozens of spots in Chicago and the suburbs that lose bus service if lawmakers fail to resolve the impasse in funding mass transit by this weekend.

The area's grid of criss-crossing bus lines could be cut by more than half, turning some neighborhoods into transit deserts, cutting off businesses, hospitals and schools from the people who need to get to them.

The intersection at 103rd and Halsted is like countless others in Chicago, anchored by a Harold's Chicken Shack, a gas station and a strip mall. Riders passing through the intersection Tuesday said the bus routes that cross here connect people with jobs, schools and shopping.

"What about us working people?" said Angela Banks, 23, who recently started a job as a caregiver at a nearby senior-citizen facility. "I don't have money for cabs."

If the funding impasse isn't resolved this week, scores of students around Chicago, including many who attend Julian High School on 103rd Street, will be forced to find other ways to school, adding significant time to often-long commutes and raising safety concerns as they travel through crime-ridden or gang-infested neighborhoods.

Julian freshman Briana Winters, 15, said if the cuts are implemented, her family is thinking about transferring her to Simeon Career Academy High School, which is closer to their home.

"My grandmother is serious about this," Winters said as she waited for the bus Tuesday on Halsted.

Jaenika Rosario and her cousin Monique Savado, both 14, ride bus routes along Halsted to their aunt's house to hang out until their mothers finish work. The prospect of taking another route worries the girls, both Simeon High School students.

"If you go another way, then we have to go through other neighborhoods and kids get on the bus and want to fight," Rosario said.

Last week, the General Assembly approved a sales-tax increase to fund mass transit, but Gov. Rod Blagojevich altered the legislation by adding free transit rides for senior citizens. The legislature is expected to vote Thursday on the revised bill, which must pass to avoid the drastic service cuts and fare hikes of as much as $1 a ride.

The result of "doomsday" would be unprecedented and staggering, wiping out more than 160 CTA and Pace suburban bus routes combined, transit officials said.

Overnight, the CTA would park 735 of its 2,170 buses until new funding is approved to hire back about 2,400 furloughed employees, said CTA spokeswoman Noelle Gaffney.

The cutbacks could prove devastating for ridership on CTA buses. The 81 bus routes slated for elimination -- out of the current 154 -- provide more than 320,000 rides daily, officials said. Only about 70,000 of those rides are expected to find other bus routes or train lines, they said.

That would mean the CTA could potentially lose a whopping 250,000 bus rides a day, fully one-fourth of its current total.

"CTA riders will be looking for another way to get around each day, and some will not be able to use transit at all because there won't be any nearby service," CTA President Ron Huberman said Tuesday.

Worse, in the ensuing days, the exodus from mass transit could increase as many riders abandon the system in frustration over having to pay higher fares to cram aboard packed buses and trains that plod along on no real schedule.

As part of the cost-cutting measure, the level of service on the 73 remaining CTA bus routes -- waiting times between buses and hours of service -- would not improve.

Meanwhile, officials who manage Chicago-area expressways and toll roads are fearful of what will happen if large numbers of mass-transit commuters switch to driving. Highways and major arterial streets could suffer gridlock far worse than the congestion that rush-hour motorists ordinarily see, they say.

"Already overcrowded buses, trains and roadways will become even more congested," Huberman warned.

The CTA tried to eliminate routes without forcing riders to walk more than a mile to other buses and trains. Another complication was that the cutbacks couldn't be allowed to hinder the CTA's need to meet federal requirements to serve low-income communities.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Another transit website!

To look at in reading up on the transit issue, Moving Beyond Congestion.

Chicago details Olympic costs, hopes for 2016

From Crain's today. Perhaps I can do more Olympic updates in the future here at Sixth Ward...
City Hall Tuesday began to lift some of the financial veil which has shrouded Chicago’s bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Officials described an event that would cost $2 billion to house and provide a place for athletes to compete. At the same time, the games would take in a projected $2.5 billion in domestic sponsorship and ticket sales.

In releasing an inch-thick questionnaire submitted to the International Olympic Committee, local officials said they are confident Chicago’s bid will be both affordable and unique, offering the city a solid chance to prevail over competition from Madrid, Rio di Janeiro, Tokyo and other competitors.

Chicago’s numbers are “responsible and realistic” and its vision for the games “bold” and “born from Chicago’s visionary past,” said Patrick Ryan, chairman and CEO of Chicago 2016, the city’s Olympics planning committee. “We believe we can reignite the passion for Olympic sport here in Chicago and throughout the country.”

Most of the information in the questionnaire had been previously released when Chicago last year won rights to become the American candidate to host the games.

Blagojevich's goes to a senior center today

On the north side where he attempted to garner support for his amendatory veto to allow for free transit ride for seniors. The Capitol Fax has some audio from this town hall meeting today but we'll take some excerpts from Clout Street...
Gov. Rod Blagojevich today offered a message to seniors skeptical of his plan to give them free transit cards: "just hold your nose and take a bus for free."

The governor's suggestion came at a town hall meeting with North Side seniors as he sought to build support for his much-debated, last-minute idea to give seniors free bus and train rides as part of a package to fund the Chicago Transit Authority, Metra and Pace.

Microphone in hand, Blagojevich told them he was simply trying to "sweeten" a bill that includes a sales tax increase that he has long opposed but is now willing to go along with. The tax increase would fund beleaguered mass transit agencies and head off service cuts and fare increases set for Sunday.

While most seniors expressed appreciation for the plan, some questioned the governor on why they should get free rides rather than low-income people.

Public transportation, in a perfect world, should be available to everybody, the governor said.

"I hear you, but it's not so bad," Blagojevich told one senior who persistently asked about why the poor are not getting free rides. "Just hold your nose and take a bus for free."

That comment, which came toward the end of the session, drew laughs from some in the audience.

Blagojevich said he would like to offer reduced or free rides to the poor, but figuring out who qualifies for such a break would be bureaucratically complicated.

The governor said he believed his amendatory veto of the sales tax bill would be upheld when lawmakers convened Thursday in Springfield. But he urged seniors to call their legislators to lobby for his changes to be accepted.

CTA boss: Governor didn't ask me

Hmm running this by the man you were trying to help could have been a good idea so that, you know, he wouldn't be surprised. From The Sun-Times...

Gov. Blagojevich never discussed a plan to offer free rides for senior citizens with the head of the Chicago Transit Authority before making the idea public last week, the agency's chief said Monday.

CTA President Ron Huberman said he was concerned Blagojevich's proposal could scuttle final approval of a mass transit funding bill.

''The governor's office did not ask our opinion relative to the senior rides,'' he said in a telephone interview.

But Huberman stopped short of criticizing the governor and declined to say if the lack of prior knowledge upset him.

''We are very focused on seeing this legislation passed,'' he said.
This in response to the Governor's amendatory veto to transit legislation where the governor proposed giving seniors free rides on public transportation.

Chicago aldermen find bailout tied to property sales tax

From the Tribune...

Chicago aldermen who pushed Springfield for a Chicago Transit Authority rescue plan are close to getting what they wanted. But if the deal receives final approval from the General Assembly this week, they'll also get a political hot potato some had not bargained for: a vote to raise a tax that's triggered whenever a house or other property is sold.

The mass-transit measure increases the sales tax in the six-county region. But under another provision that has escaped widespread attention, Chicago's real estate transfer tax would increase by as much as 40 percent - to $10.50 for every $1,000 of sales price from the current $7.50. And to the surprise of some aldermen, that increase would have to be approved by the City Council.

"I won't vote in favor of it, but I can't vote against it," Ald. Bernard Stone (50th) said Monday. "I'll just walk off the [council] floor."

Another $3 to the real estate transfer tax comes to an additional $900 bite on the sale of a $300,000 house, which Stone declared is "a lot of money."

Chicago's current $7.50 tax is imposed on the property buyer. It would be up to the council and Mayor Richard Daley, who supported the transit bill, to determine who would be on the hook for the additional $3.

Separate from the city's tax, Cook County and the state impose combined transfer taxes of $1.50 per $1,000 on sellers.

Stopgap funding in a "Perils of Pauline" saga in Springfield would stave off CTA fare increases and service cuts scheduled for Sunday. The House and Senate agreed last week to the sales tax and real estate transfer tax legislation that officials said would put the CTA, Metra and Pace, on firmer long-term financial footings.
Well we have a new hot potato. Here's the other one and it sounds good to me...
Gov. Rod Blagojevich insisted a new provision be added to guarantee free bus and train service for senior citizens. Lawmakers need to approve the free rides, and they're not being asked to return to work until Thursday as legislative leaders try to squeeze out enough votes.

House Speaker Michael Madigan said Monday he expects lawmakers to go along with Blagojevich but warned of "weakness" among some who voted for it last week.

"The governor would be well-advised to get to work, stop causing conflict, stop causing confrontation, get on the phone, talk to people who are a little weak on their support for his position," Madigan said on WTTW's "Chicago Tonight."

A House panel will hold a public hearing Wednesday afternoon in Chicago to discuss Blagojevich's senior maneuver.

Meanwhile, transit officials on Monday were grappling with questions about who would be eligible to obtain free rides. The governor's recommendation leaves it up to transit agencies.

Blagojevich spokeswoman Rebecca Rausch said transit leaders will have the discretion to limit free rides to seniors living within their jurisdictions. For example, a senior from Carbondale visiting Chicago probably will not be entitled to a free ride on the CTA, she said.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Chatham neighborhood at takes a look at Chatham. There are five homes listed as on sale in the neighborhood. In another table it appears that between July and September 2007 average sales prices dropped 14.3%.

Chatham neighborhood info from Sussex & Reilly

More info about Chatham with a map and data on demographics.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

American ethnic buying power

This article from Afrique (you may have to scroll down for to THE AMERICAN ETHNIC BUYING POWER) has this to say about the spending power of black-Americans and a little story about how Target came to the neighborhood...

Africans and African Americans are the top minority spenders in year 2006. Their consumer power is more geographically dispersed than that of other ethnicities. It has become a large enough representation of a significant segment in many states. In states such as Georgia, New York, Chicago, Texas, California and Florida, the average spending power of African Descendants were grater than $50 billion dollars.

A quick example is in Chicago, where the Ghanaian population alone (Not counting Nigerians, Kenyans, Ethiopians, Rwandans, Belizeans and other African Descent groups) numbered close to 10,000. 2,000 of them own houses around the Lake Park Area. The Majority of their homes are roughly in the two hundred to mid two hundred ranges.

While the last generation of Ghanaians are small business owners, their children are growing up and starting to become active consumers in society. “There are close to three thousand or four thousand kids from just our Ghanaian community! They buy Play Stations, iPhones, and whatever a normal American kid would want.” Says Reuben Hadzide, the president of the National Ghana council in Chicago. “The families consume just like other Americans, for pharmaceutical goods, they go to Walgreen or CVS, for groceries they go to Jewel, and for clothing, they shop in regular department stores.”

“The stigma from retail stores is that minorities do not have money.” Alderman Freddrenna M. Lyle who directs the sixth ward of Chicago told Afrique of her story of bringing Target into the neighborhood. Target Store is a great addition to any community. However, for years Target has refused Alderman Lyle’s plead to take its business into the neighborhood. One day Alderman Lyle asked Target to check their zip code tracker. “Whenever you purchase something, they ask for your zip code because they want to track and see where their buyers are coming from. I told them to check, and finally they did. It turns out even though Target was not in our neighborhood, these people would drive out to their stores and buy their goods therefore proving that there is demand for them in this ward.” Says Alderman Lyle. In 2002, Target finally came to the ward with their 87th Street location.

Big spender, little spender: An investigation into alderman finances

From the Medill News Services of May 2006. Discusses aldermanic service finances at that point in time. Here's a quote...
Last year, Chicago taxpayers gave the city's 50 aldermen about $1.65 million to run their ward offices. That comes out to slightly more than $33,000 per alderman.

Some, like Hairston, exhaust their funds as they scramble to pay rent and utilities and answer the daily calls of more than 100 constituents. Others squander their tax-funded allowances on Cadillac leases and exorbitant cell phone bills. A third group of aldermen seems to get by without spending much at all.

Two competing proposals under discussion in the City Council would alleviate the strain on ward offices and staff. One would increase the total aldermanic allowances to nearly $2.2 million, or another $10,000 per aldermen. The other would add an additional employee to each alderman's staff but not increase the allowance.

Currently, each alderman can hire three full-time employees, who are paid out of the city's general fund. Every alderman also receives an additional $26,520 of taxpayer money to hire contractual services -- interns, consultants, investigators and other specialists.

"We're not trying to be greedy," said Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), who proposed the allowance increase. "We're just trying to run our offices as they should."

Eighteen years ago, the city changed the spending rules after revelations that aldermen were using tax dollars to buy cars, purchase baseball tickets and pay themselves rent. While those abuses have largely been eliminated, it seems that some aldermen could still use a little financial counseling. A Medill News Service investigation of last year's expense records shows:

* One alderman spent nearly $14,000 of her $33,280 allowance on a car lease.

* Five aldermen paid more than $3,000 each in yearly cell phone bills, including one alderman who paid $6,000 in just nine months.

* Two aldermen bought more than $10,000 a year in office supplies.

* Eleven aldermen exhausted their expense funds before the end of the year, and seven of those exceeded the limit.

* Twenty-one aldermen spent less than their allotment -- and two came in under $15,000.

So why do some aldermen run short while others spend so little? And if aldermen deserve more money, shouldn't they prove they can spend it wisely?
BTW, this article discusses constituent service calls. The Sixth Ward logged 24,443 at the time. I wonder where that number is now!

Chicago Neighborhood Video - Chatham

Found this off of And produced by DreamTown Realty

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Illinois House Speaker Madigan talks about transit funding

For an interview that should air Sunday morning on FOX Chicago Sunday. Before that program airs you can watch this program online now! Here's the first part and the second part of the interview with Michael J. Madigan.

Hat-tip goes to the Capitol Fax blog.

I wish I could take a pic of this

Near 95th and Michigan, there's this pothole. It was last covered up when the streets were repaved back in late 2002. And just about five years later, this pothole has re-emerged. This is an unlucky spot apparently.

We see a little Chicago history in this pothole. Until 1958 streetcars ran in Chicago. They may be referred to as trolleys in other parts of the country. The more modern term for streetcars or trolleys is light rail.

Anyway in this pothole we see an example of how streets were paved in the past not with asphalt but brick. Also what we see here is a rail that was apparently used by the street car whenever it ran on Michigan Avenue back in the day. When the street reaches it's normal wear and tear this piece of archeology returns to view at least until the next time this intersection is due for repaving.

Just so you won't think this is just coming from no where here's a website to view. It's a more comprehensive history of public transportation in Chicago. Check out this page from Bill Vandervoort's Chicago Transit.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Flag at half staff

This was on Friday evening at about 7PM. I drove by Gillespie Elementary School, it's along the expressway near 93rd Street. I see that there is an American flag at half staff there. The pole appears to be unusually high for a flag pole and it's not all the way at the top.

If this isn't normally then I wonder what this represents. What happened at Gillespie that a flag is at half-staff?

Unfortunately I have no pic of this!

Drainage problem

You should have seen how this looked on Saturday. The "lakes" here looked larger than this. This is what happens when the snow melts or when it rains as it had last week.

It's a good thing too because it could have easily been sensationalized like oh wow someone is not working on street drainage letting watter collect near neighborhood curbs. The city isn't doing anything about it!!! I won't do that though, I don't like sensationalizing, seriously.

Anyway I wonder who has to do what when water collects like this. Does the city do anything? I know this is public property, but what about individual property owners. Should they clean the grates if this is a problem or if there are grates?

I recall having done that once or twice after some rainfall. Or at one point when it was a bright sun-shining day when I cut the grass. It seems people like to dump trash on the grates or if trash blows around it collects on these grates.

BTW the pictures were taken on 95th Street near Wabash Avenue across from Abbott Park.

Have you been following the State's Attorney race?

The incumbent Cook County State's Attorny Dick Devine is retiring at the end of his term. There is a wide open race on the Democratic side and there's only one Republican, Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica. You may have heard of some of the competitors.

21st Ward Ald. Howard Brookins
Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin
38th Ward Ald. Tom Allen

Two are actually serving in the State's Attorney office under Devine.

Anita Alvarez
Robert Milan, the first assistant state's attorney

An unknown
Tommy Brewer is the other black in the race he's an Evanston defense attorney.

Read this post from Clout Street about the State's Attorney race. And I would like to recommend that you watch Public Affairs where there are a few programs with State Attorney Democratic Candidates.

Here's the YouTube account and podcast page for Public Affairs.

And here's a list of programs of interest to the State's Attorney race.

Anita Alvarez
Bob Milan
Ald. Howard Brookins
Ald. Tom Allen
Commissioner Larry Suffredin

Governor ups ante in transit game

If you care about this transit issue, know that the governor has thrown a trump card into the mix at the wrong time. There isn't long period between now and the "doomsday" deadline where the CTA will cut services, workers, and raise fares. His trump card is allowing seniors to ride for free. Here's more from the Chicago Tribune...
Gov. Rod Blagojevich raised the stakes in the political battle over funding Chicago-area mass transit, saying he would only endorse a sales-tax increase lawmakers sent him Thursday if they also agree to give senior citizens free rides on local trains and buses.

Cornered by fellow Democrats after nearly a year of maneuvering on both sides, Blagojevich made the brand new demand as he sought to soften the political damage of breaking his long-held vow to veto a sales tax increase.

Transit officials and their supporters reluctantly accepted the governor's challenge but worried that the funding bill—which had barely passed the legislature hours earlier—might not survive a second trip next week.

Service cuts and fare hikes scheduled for Jan. 20 at the CTA and Pace suburban bus service were still in place, pending a final agreement. Metra suburban rail fares are also scheduled to go up Feb. 1.

"We can't say that all's well that ends well, because this is not over yet," said Rep. Julie Hamos (D-Evanston), a chief sponsor of the transit bill.

Blagojevich said he decided to reverse his position on vetoing a sales tax to avert a transit crisis.

"I think it is wrong to raise taxes," Blagojevich said. "I believe people are paying more than their fair share. I believe people should pay less in taxes, not more in taxes."

He said the additional language he proposed for the bill would reduce the impact of the new tax on senior citizens, especially those on fixed incomes.

"I will take what I believe to be a lemon and turn it into lemonade," Blagojevich said, surrounded by lawmakers and transit leaders less than an hour after the bill passed the legislature.

The sales-tax package eventually will be worth $530 million through the increase of a quarter-cent-per-dollar tax hike in Cook County and a half-cent in the five collar counties. Some of the money would come from Chicago raising its real estate transfer tax, a move that Realtors maintained would slap another closing cost surprise on homeowners.

Lawmakers also embraced the legislation because it contains proposed reforms in the CTA's employee pension, health-care and retiree-benefits programs and gives sweeping new powers to the Regional Transportation Authority.

With the exception of the governor's new twist—which he plans to make in an amendatory veto—the legislation is largely the same bill introduced during the 2007 spring session of the legislature. But it quickly became mired in an ongoing, three-way power struggle between Blagojevich and two fellow Chicago Democrats, House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President Emil Jones.

Sen. John Cullerton (D-Chicago) predicted the Senate, which passed the bill Thursday without a single vote to spare, would go along with the changes when the governor makes them.

A Madigan spokesman likewise predicted the House would accept the changes, saying the speaker "wanted to congratulate the governor for breaking his campaign promise not to raise taxes."