Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013: Year in review

Looking back at the year that was and looking forward to the year that will be.

2013 started off with a special election for Jesse Jackson's old congressional seat. He had resigned after his re-election in 2012 as a result of a federal investigation into his campaign finances. Jackson later pled guilty and sentenced to 30 months in prison and is currently serving his sentence.

BTW, his wife  former 7th Ward Alderman Sandi Jackson also plead guilty to federal charges involving her husband's campaign finances and is expected to serve her sentence of one year after Jesse Jr. completes his sentence. She also had resigned from her Chicago City Council seat.

In connection with that, State Senator Donne Trotter was one of the early aspirants to succeed Jesse Jr. in the 2013 special election until he had been charged with having a gun at O'Hare. One of our more popular postings of the year showed that he took a plea deal in connection with this incident. Before the plea deal he was forced to drop out of the 2nd Congressional district race that was ultimately won by Robin Kelly.

There were some other changes to the political scene on this part of town. Jesse Jr. and his wife Sandi weren't the only ones to go down thanks to federal charges. Former Alderman and Cook County Commissioner Bill Beavers vacated his office as a result of a guilty verdict for tax evasion in federal court. He was ultimately replaced by current Commissioner Stanley Moore.

If you read Worlee's post over at Concerned Citizen's of Chatham we see that there were some success stories in Chatham in 2013. New businesses opened such as Louis Groceries & Fleck's Coffee and also a new garden at 82nd & King Drive as well as Ruggles School being taken off probation. However there were still some negatives such as some new businesses not surviving and continuing conflict among the community organizations.

Also the Red Line underwent not only a reconstruction but a makeover as well. Many stations along the Dan Ryan branch of the Red Line got new elevators for the handicapped. It was closed between May and October of 2013 with promises of faster and more reliable service. During those five months affected Red Line passengers took advantage of free shuttle buses to trains at Garfield on the CTA Green Line. That in addition to a .50 cent fare discount for bus rides south of 63rd Street. In addition to the closure and reopening of the CTA Red Line we're looking forward to 2014 is the start of the reconstruction of the 95th Street terminal which will remain open for its duration!

Also with 2012 ending at the Chatham 14 with the original owners ICE Theaters being unceremoniously evicted. 2013 started with our neighborhood movie house under new ownership and management. Many of the people who worked there and many in our communities are familiar with remain employed there. Over the holiday season they played host to a coat drive and a food/toy drive. Also any movie played there are now viewed in digital projection.

Over in Englewood, we've heard about Kusanya Cafe over the years and it's finally open for business. Also Whole Foods Market is expected to open in 2016 at the corner of 63rd & Halsted. The public opinion is basically anywhere from concern over the "dreaded G word" or how this could be a positive especially a new place to shop or more jobs. Still there were certainly concerns over whether or not Englewood residents can afford to shop there although the current plans are to sell items that are affordable at that location.

Also let's not forget the fight over a railyard expansion in Englewood. Many were active in fighting Norfolk Southern Railroad's attempt to buy off the many property owners in the area they sought to expand their railyard. Ultimately after some apparent concessions, the project was approved by the Chicago Plan Commission.

Speaking of retail, there's a new Walmart Supercenter in Chicago. It opened in the Pullman neighborhood in September. At the last minute direct bus service was implemented into the shopping center where the Walmart resides.

In any event, what shall we look forward to as we enter into the year 2014 here on the south side of Chicago. Also any stories you think we should add to the stories of the year 2013?

Monday, December 30, 2013

OPINION: We need answers to Rush questions

This editorial was published in the Sun-Times. A pair of articles were posted here on this blog written by the BGA that discussed some missing money and other expenditures by Congressman Rush. And now the Sun-Times responds with this.
U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush has served in Congress for 20 years, fighting for his South Side constituents and against injustice wherever he sees it.

And for that, Rush deserves our gratitude.

But no one — particularly a public servant accused of using campaign funds to subsidize his church, of squandering grant dollars and of being too cosy with companies that rely on his support in Congress — is above reproach.

A serious and somber accounting of Rush’s alleged misdeeds is in order.

The Chicago Sun-Times this month published a Better Government Association investigation of Rush, covering his campaign spending, his personal finances and the failure of a nonprofit that Rush founded.

The investigation by Chuck Neubauer and Sandy Bergo included several damning revelations. Topping the list was news that a $1 million grant by SBC in 2000 — now called AT&T — to a nonprofit founded by Rush toward the creation of a “technology center” in Englewood amounted to very little. Rush is unable or unwilling to show where most of that money ended up.

Since 2001, the BGA found, charities affiliated with Rush were given more than $1.7 million by telecommunication and utility companies seeking his support in Congress.

The investigation also revealed that Rush’s campaign committee subsidized the South Side church founded by Rush, the congregation’s pastor. Beloved Community Christian Church received more than $196,000 since June 2004.
I would encourage you to read the whole thing.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

WBEZ: Will Chicago scale back its bus rapid transit plan?

Concept of the Ashland BRT
I'm posting this article here because the bus rapid transit being planned along Ashland Avenue will eventually terminate at 95th street on the south side. It will run through West Englewood and intersect the Green Line at the Ashland stop:
The city can stick to its plans and push for federal funds to build what would be the nation’s most advanced “bus rapid transit” line. The project would transform Ashland Avenue, beginning with a 5.4-mile leg that would connect several passenger rail lines before they reach the Loop and, planners say, spur economic development that benefits the entire Chicago region.

But there could be significant collateral damage, especially to the trucking operations of companies in an historic industrial corridor along the route.

The Chicago Transit Authority says the BRT line, which could eventually lengthen to 16 miles, would cut the average Ashland bus ride time roughly in half. But some companies in the Kinzie Industrial Corridor and a few large retailers nearby say they would struggle too much to make and receive deliveries and keep customers flowing in. The companies are pushing hard for the Emanuel administration to eliminate some of the project’s key features for speeding up bus service.

Along the route’s initial leg, which would stretch from Cortland Avenue to 31st Street, the competing interests are obvious.

Just outside Rush University Medical Center, one of four major hospitals in the Illinois Medical District, a half-dozen patients and staffers huddled in the cold one evening this week at a bus stop. They included Larry Coldiron, a Rush computer consultant who lives near Midway International Airport and gets to ride the CTA’s Orange Line train for most of his commute. But his trip home starts with the Number 9 bus down Ashland — the city’s most heavily used bus route. He said the 2.5-mile journey between the hospital and train usually takes 45 minutes.

“I’ve been doing this for 16 and a half years and it just keeps getting worse,” Coldiron said.

The BRT project would bring big changes. The buses would have a lane to themselves on both sides of a landscaped median. To keep the buses moving through intersections, most opportunities to turn left from Ashland would be eliminated and many traffic signals would favor the buses. Passengers would board from platforms averaging a half mile apart. The CTA is also aiming for pre-paid boarding to eliminate lines in bus doorways. The project’s environmental assessment says the BRT buses would move up to 83 percent faster than today’s buses.

“I’d like to see it,” Coldiron said. Service that fast could attract some of his coworkers who now drive and pay for parking around the hospital, he said.
I can only wonder what the benefits would be when the CTA finally builds the full 16 mile BRT route? Would there be any benefits on the South Side especially through Englewood and further south than that?

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Sun-Times: Ald. Beale countersues ex-principal over sex-harassment claims

All I can say to this is wow! This case almost seems very personal.
South Side Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) filed a lawsuit Thursday against a former Chicago Public Schools principal who he claims tried to extort $1 million from him after falsely accusing him of sexual harassment.

Beale began receiving letters this year from the attorney for Dushon Brown, the former principal of Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep, accusing him of repeated unwanted sexual advances toward Brown; forcing her to perform oral sex; labeling her as promiscuous, and threatening to have her fired from her job at CPS.

The sexual misconduct is alleged to have taken place five years ago, according to Beale’s lawsuit.

Brown was principal at Brooks College Prep for six years, ending in 2012, according to CPS spokesman Joel Hood, who could provide no additional information about Brown’s employment history. Brooks is in Beale’s ward.

In one letter dated Dec. 15, which is included as evidence in Beale’s lawsuit, Dushon’s attorney asks for $1 million in damages.

“When I would not meet their demands to pay her $1 million, they decided to file a civil lawsuit against me to destroy my reputation, hurt my family and ruin my standing as an elected official,” Beale said in a statement.

Monday, December 23, 2013

ABC 7: Community group calls for term limit referendum

On this blog from time to time you have heard about Syron Smith. He is known for the National Block Club University and his runs for state representative & alderman of the 15th ward. Now he's found another cause:
A community group is calling for a referendum on term limits for all Chicago aldermen and for the mayor.

The group is called Blocks of Good Government.

Its members say they will create what they call report cards for the 19 African American aldermen, grading them on the job they're doing.

They say they're limiting it to African American aldermen because their wards have the biggest problems.
"We're going to ask the people to sign a non-binding referendum for term limits so no alderman or the mayor can serve more than two consecutive terms in office," said Syron Smith, Block of Good Government. 
To be honest, my position on term limits is bascially open minded but not sure if it's the solution. At the same time, how many of you would consider voting for this? I may not agree with it, but certainly term limits is worth a referendum.

If you're on the red line you might have run into some people who are handing out petitions regarding term limits. Although I'm not clear as to whom this initiative is directed at. That is are we targeting our elected officials on the state level or could this be directed toward elected officials on the local level (city or county)?

Sunday, December 22, 2013

VIDEO: Al Sharpton townhall erupts into anti-Chicago Machine revolt

[VIDEO] To be honest, I'm not entirely certain I wanted to post this here. This video was posted online by Rebel Pundit who often provides stories to Breitbart.com which is a right-wing news and commentary website. The only reason I share this video here is because it was seen on the Culture of Black Chicago FB page and it's embedded below.

Now, there are a number of questions to ask about the video. First, is this truly about the machine or is it about Mayor Rahm Emanuel? Second we never saw Al Sharpton in this video, but is this attempt at a town hall truly an attempt to cherry pick the issues of gun violence in Chicago.

It's been a while since we heard anything resembling "Occupy Chicago", perhaps what we saw in this almost 6 min video above is the start of "Tea Party Chicago".

Also, I need to see how much coverage this event had before a citizen journalist such as Rebel Pundit put this story out there.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Chicago Patterns: A coffee house for Englewood

Photo @ Kusanya from Chicago Patterns
This article starts with the Kusanya Café which opened for business last month in Englewood located at 825 W. 69th St. It showed what it took to get that establishment up and running after four years. Then the rest of the article talks about the history and hopefully the future of that often beleaguered neighborhood. So basically, the people of Englewood and the founders of Kusanya have a long road ahead in revitalizing Englewood  from within considering the scarcity of financial resoures. I would encourage you all to read the whole thing.

Friday, December 20, 2013

So EveryBlock is coming back?

EveryBlock.com coming back?
EveryBlock was shutdown back in February of this year by NBC News for whom they were a subsidiary. Now, NBC News' parent company Comcast is considering bringing it back and Chicago Grid even had the opportunity to see a non-public version of the site. It appears the site might be revived in Chicago first and then ulitmately expanded to other cities around the nation.

In light of it's abrupt closure earlier this year, there have been a number of sites who sought to fill the void EveryBlock left. Many have chosen this site, Nextdoor which is a lot more hyperlocal than EveryBlock was thanks to this idea of wanting more information out of the user when they join the site.

Well when EveryBlock returns I look forward to bring back the old Sixth Ward Blotter even if in the future it might need some tweaks for more coverage areas.

Find them on social media and let them know you're glad they're coming back in the near future.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

WTTW: CTA's Ex-Offenders Program Ending

[VIDEO] WTTW did a story about the ex-offenders apprentice program that the CTA plans to close at the end of theyear. We've written about this a number of times during the course of this month. According to this story we also learned that there is a similar program for CTA buses that will remain in effect at least through 2015.


Don't Let Thieves Ruin Your Holidays

As we come closer to Christmas day, many are out shopping in stores or online and are purchasing large gifts such as appliances, gaming systems, televisions, etc. While you are bringing these items in your home, those with bad intentions are shopping by perusing the alleys looking at the trash you put out. A few tips that you can use to ensure that you have a happy and safe holiday

  • Invest in a utility knife from Home Depot or Lowes ($1-$2) and a permanent marker from Staples ($1-$2).
  • Remove all identifying labels from boxes or mark out information with marker.
  • Untape all boxes and break down so they can fit in recycling can. For larger boxes cut boxes up so they can fit in recycling can
  • Consider taking heavier cardboard boxes to City of Chicago recycling centers or place out the night before recycling pickup.
For those who have gently used items that you are going to replace items, consider donating those items to some local non profits and if you do no know of any, organizations such as Zealous Good can find organizations that can use those items.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Englewood vs. Pullman

The Pullman Walmart in September
I've actually sat on this post since September. There was a point to it but wasn't entirely sure where to take it. Basically the purpose has been to point out the differences between Englewood & Pullman.

One of the big stories of the year concerning the south side of Chicago was Englewood getting a Whole Foods Market at 63rd/Halsted expected by 2016. There were a number of concerns from the "dreaded G word" and then affordability for nearby residents. Besides, the term "Whole Paycheck" isn't created from nothing.

Of course that same month as the Whole Foods announcement in Sepetmber, a Walmart supercenter opened in the Pullman neighborhood near the Bishop Ford (Calumet) Expressway just off of 111th Street. And it was a subject of the recent "Tipping Point in Chicago" special that aired on FOX Chicago recently.

So if all goes to plan Englewood will have a development coming in about three years and of course Pullman has their big development with more to come as there is a shopping center built around Walmart. I wonder if we could compare these two communities which is what I would've liked to have down.

It would be easy to ask what's the difference between Pullman and Englewood. Not entirely sure that's fair as perhaps Pullman is a different neighborhood than Englewood. Unless of course you want to consider the greater Roseland neighborhood nearby.

Would this now open Walmart in Pullman be considered a tipping point as the expected Whole Foods Market could be in Englewood?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

BGA has questions on rent and spending on Bobby Rush's campaign

Wow. Once they find one thing then they find something else. Another report published in the Sun-Times by the Better Gov't Association:
Through his spokeswoman Debra Johnson, Rush answered a few questions about the campaign office in the Lake Meadows strip mall at 3361 S. Martin Luther King Drive by email. Asked about not having reported paying rent — currently pegged by his landlord at $20,958 a year — he suggested there’s a loophole in the law that allows him to use the storefront for free or at a discounted rent — though he did not say whether he gets the office rent-free or at a discount.

He also said he doesn’t think he needs to include the campaign office — which he has used since he was 2nd Ward alderman and which has his name on the glass and his campaign posters from the 2012 election in the windows — in his campaign-finance reports because he uses it largely for storage.

“The office currently functions as a storage space for a number of Congressman Rush’s [City] Council and party leader documents and materials,” Rush wrote. “While Rush campaign-related meetings have taken place on isolated occasions . . . Congressman Rush has not used this location as an ongoing campaign office. Therefore, Congressman Rush has never concluded it to be necessary to list this location as a campaign office or to disclose any rents or utility payments for the location in his federal election campaign-finance reports and disclosures.”

Experts on campaign finance, though, say Rush is required by law to report his use of the campaign office — either by reporting to the Federal Election Commission how much he pays in rent or, if he’s getting the space for free or at a discount, to report the value of that to the FEC as an “in-kind” campaign contribution.

In either case, “It has to be reported,” said Paul Ryan of the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center in Washington, D.C.

Even if Rush’s campaign committee doesn’t pay a dime in rent, the 1,506-square-foot space still “has a value to the landlord,” and that has to be reported, said Robert Walker, a former chief counsel and staff director for the House and Senate ethics committees.
House Ethics Committee rules — which limit the use of campaign funds to “bona fide campaign purposes” — could be an issue in Rush’s payments from his campaign fund to his church. The $196,419 he gave to Beloved Community Christian Church since 2004 — paid out in 29 donations — amounted to more than 8 percent of the $2.3 million his campaign raised in that time, according to FEC records.

Larger donations were made around the time Rush’s nondenominational Christian congregation bought an 80-year-old English Gothic-style church building at 6430 S. Harvard, including $25,000 on Jan. 14, 2005, the day Beloved closed on the $800,000 deal and had to make a $200,000 down payment.

In 2012, the church settled a lawsuit filed by Hollub Heating Inc. over $3,285 in unpaid bills for furnace work done in 2009 and 2010, paying off the debt. Around the same time, the Rush campaign fund gave the church a similar amount of money.

The $404,000 that Rush has paid his wife as a consultant falls under the portion of federal election law that allows elected officials to pay family members a “fair-market” rate to work on their campaigns, though it doesn’t say how that’s to be determined.

It’s unclear what role Carolyn Rush plays. The congressman’s office has said she has been experiencing unspecified “acute” medical problems in recent months.

The payments to the congressman’s wife came to $83,049 last year and $39,000 for the first nine months of this year and included a $7,549.12 bonus paid ahead of the March 20, 2012, primary, which Rush won in a landslide, with 83 percent of the vote against five other candidates. In January 2012, Carolyn Rush accompanied her husband on a trip to Liberia and Ghana sponsored by and largely paid for by CARE, the world relief organization, records show. 
Mary Mitchell wrote a column mainly talking about the tech center that Rush was able to get money through his now defunct development corporation. I think what she said on that issue could apply to this as well:
I doubt that Rush had ill intentions when he came up with the idea of building a tech center in Englewood. But it is arrogant to think that one person can serve as a congressman, a pastor and as the head of a community organization without something going awry.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Crain's: Why Urban Partnership Bank is downscaling

Photo by reallyboring/flickr
Speaking of South Shore, I've already heard about Urban Partnership Bank putting their HQ on 71st/Jeffrey on sale within the last two years or so. It appears they're even more serious about it.
In a jarring and starkly symbolic move, UPB is selling the old converted movie theater in Chicago's South Shore neighborhood that served for decades as home to South Shore Bank, later renamed ShoreBank. Beginning March 22, UPB won't have a physical presence in South Shore, where ShoreBank co-founders Ronald Grzywinski and Mary Houghton won renown as the only bankers willing to lend to housing rehabbers during the era of white flight that decimated once-thriving South Shore.

“Buildings have useful lives,” UPB CEO William Farrow says. “We determined that building is past its useful life.”

Mr. Farrow says he hopes to re-establish a retail presence in South Shore as part of the redevelopment of UPB-owned lots on 71st Street. That project will be led by Chicago-based Monroe Investment Partners, which is buying the former theater and two other sites. Monroe was responsible for the development that brought Wal-Mart to the Chatham neighborhood on the South Side.

But Mr. Farrow acknowledges that UPB may not have a location in South Shore—where retail development has suffered as unemployment and crime have increased—for some time. In the meantime, customers of the South Shore branch will be offered tutorials on using UPB's new mobile banking app.

There are risks tied to planning a retail redevelopment in such a hard-hit area, but retaining UPB's nearly empty office building wasn't going to help South Shore recover, Mr. Farrow argues.

“Either you are going to take some shots and try to build those communities (like South Shore), or they're going to die,” he says.
Urban Partnership bought the assets of the old Shore Bank that failed in 2010. The new bank is still suffering for some of the old banks losses:
Despite the positive signs, managing ShoreBank's legacy of bad loans surprisingly is growing more expensive with the passage of time. The net ShoreBank-related cost to UPB was at least $12.5 million through Sept. 30, compared with about $12 million in the same period the year before, the bank says. UPB posted an overall loss of $11 million in the first three quarters of 2013. A year ago, Mr. Farrow had hoped to become profitable by the fourth quarter of 2013. Now he won't promise UPB will be back in the black in 2014.
Speaking of Walmart, if you paid a visit to the new Walmart in Pullman you might see a bank branch in there:
UPB also will offer a check cashing service to noncustomers that will undercut the prices typically charged by currency exchanges—a potentially significant initiative that could give the many South Siders without a bank a reasonably priced alternative. That will be rolled out first in UPB's branch within the new Wal-Mart superstore in the Pullman neighborhood on the far South Side. That branch, open just two months, already has attracted more than 200 deposit customers who weren't using a bank before.
The article is certainly making a case that Urban Partnership is seeking to truly differentiate itself from the old Shore Bank.

DNA Info: Future Of South Shore Dominick's Site Remains Unclear

71st/Jeffrey Dominick's by DNA Info's Quinn Ford
Since October we've known that Dominick's parent company Safeway will be exiting the Chicago market by the end of the year. Many of those soon to be former Dominick's site throughout the area have been purchase d by Jewel, Mariano's, and even Whole Foods Market. This was the subject of a meeting that took place at the South Shore high school this past Saturday.

The subject is the Dominick's store at 71st/Jeffrey that is expected to close Decemeber 28, 2013. No word so far on the future of this location, however, there is a story on it over at DNA Info:
The South Shore Planning Coalition held a meeting Saturday to discuss ideas for the space that could be passed on to city lawmakers.

Most neighborhood residents said they wanted the location to remain a grocery store and suggested everything from Whole Foods to Trader Joe's to a neighborhood co-op. Others wanted to know what progress has been made towards filling the space.

Ibrahim Okoe, a representative from Ald. Leslie Hairston's office, said any deal is still a long way off.

Hairston, whose 5th Ward contains the Dominick's, learned of the closing through media reports. Hairston has formed a "task force" with Ald. Natashia Homes (7th) and Ald. Michelle Harris (8th) to work on getting the space filled, Okoe said.

Hairston has also contacted a number of wholesale food suppliers — like Mariano's, Food 4 Less, Trader Joe's and Ultra Foods — to see if any were interested in the location but nothing concrete has come yet from those calls.

With the Dominick's store set to close its doors on December 28, it appears that the location will be empty for some period of time.
Well there is already a Jewel over at 75th/Stony Island. Whole Foods Market has already started working on their future location at 1521 E. Hyde Park Blvd. expected to open in 2015. Who knows if Whole Foods would even consider coming further south than 63rd Street since by 2016 there will be a store in Englewood.

It's interesting to continue the discussion that Worlee started a few years ago, even if this is a different discussion. He was talking about utilizing land that could be earning some tax revenue at least with some retail options. Now we're talking about what to do with a store that's soon to be shuttered with no timetable as to when another retailer will move in.

Judging by this photo seen on the FB event page from the meeting on Saturday there's enough people who live or shop at the store who are concerned.

Photo from FB

Sunday, December 15, 2013

VIDEO: Chicago at the tipping point in Pullman

[VIDEO] Sometime last month our local FOX affiliated aired a special entitled "Chicago at the Tipping Point". The special was anchored by Robin Robinson and Mike Flannery and explored the economy not only in the city but also in Illinois. Here's a description:
The Chicago economy is a huge economy with 9.5 million people, a workforce of 4 million, and an economic output of $500 billion a year. In fact, if Chicago and the suburbs were a country, we'd have one of the 25 largest economies in the world.

But the world is changing, our economic landscape is shifting and the jobs that mean so much to us are in transition. That's benefited some people and left others struggling to keep up.

FOX 32 News explores the current and past state of the economy in Chicago and Illinois, along with the national and global impact, in a Special Report on the Economy: Chicago at the Tipping Point.
That description page has the video for the whole special which you can visit at this link. The program itself has a duration of about 33 minutes.

What you see above is the segment (with a 5 minute duration) about the Walmart that opened during the month of September in Pullman. We see comments from 9th Ward Alderman Anthony Beale. For example:
Miles away, in the Far South Side Roseland neighborhood, Alderman Anthony Beale still has a commercial strip - but it's been a challenge.

"The real money is leaving the community," says Beale. "It's going outside the community, it's going to the suburbs, because you know we didn't have the stores that were conducive to the working class people going to shop." 

Beale says the stores needed competition and better options for his residents. They got both in a big box.

Walmart isn't the only thing going on in Pullman. A company called Method is building a distribution center in Pullman with a promise of 120 jobs starting at $65K according to this report. And it seems potential for more growth in jobs is coming to the Pullman/Roseland areas.
"I made a plea to my colleagues in the City Council," [Beale] says. "Some of my colleagues have four and five grocery stores in their area. I didn't have any. So how are you gonna tell me that my community has the highest crime rate, we have the highest cancer rate, the highest diabetes rate, the highest unemployment rate, the highest foreclosure rate, but we're not entitled to a good paying job and good produce and things like that in my community?"

As far as Chicago goes there are a lot of issues, but here's something to consider with this report:
Jobs: Metro Chicago's dismal 9.5% unemployment rate ranks 315th in the US, just barely ahead of #327 metro Detroit. Factory jobs that remain are increasingly automated and intellect-intensive. Ford Motor Co's South Side Assembly plant at 126th & Torrence prefers to hire workers with at least two years of college. High school dropouts can't even find work in a factory any more. It is Chicago's shame that so few in these dying neighborhoods have sufficient skills to enable them to move Downtown.
There are other bullet points such as education. As far as jobs go education is a key. Unfortunately we also have to consider money, it takes money to ensure that our young people can get the education that well help them get employed. It also takes money to adequately deal with crime in the form of more police. So is Chicago truly at the tipping point?

Friday, December 13, 2013

Sun-Times: Rep. Bobby Rush’s Englewood tech center dream dead, where did $1 million go?

Tech. center not to be @ 6821 S. Halsted St/Patrick Rehkamp~BGA

I write this post noting that this article from the Sun-Times was written by freelance reports from the Better Government Association (BGA). With that notice I've always wondered whatever happened to the Rebirth of Englewood Community Development Corp.

I remember going to a meeting, the meetings from former Ald. Freddrenna Lyle that she would hold monthly and a representative from this organization had a presentation. One of the things this organization was supposed to have done was build new houses in Englewood and residents would get dibs on them. There were supposed to even be classes on maintaining these new houses and financing. Renderings of the new housing was also available.

Now with all the new activism that occurs in Englewood these days not a peep until it was noted in the aforementions article that Rebirth of Englewood ceased to exist in 2010. Another issues which is why this organizations is in the news recently is the money this organization was to have recieved to create a technology center in the neighborhood. Now no one seems to know where the grants have gone.

Well let's be clear a $1 Million grant from telecommunications company SBC (now part of AT&T) and then a grant from the US Congress for $175,000. Bobby Rush who currently serves as a Congressman was part of the organization and I'm sure many questions were addressed to him by the writers of this article and at the time by the US Congress. However, it seemed to have passed the smell test back then.

The building the organization had bought proved to be a very expensive proposition. With the plans that were laid by an architect there wasn't enough money provided that could turn that building into a "Taj Mahal".

Anyway, I would suggest you read more about this development.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Sun-Times: Aldermen create independent budget office

I'm sure it's not necessarily on the radar for many of us, however, we are concerned about the financial picture of this city. Mayor Rahm Emanuel weather you agree or disagree with many of his decisions as da Mayor is certainly on the right track when he started talking about the financial picture at the beginning of his term. Still is it a great step to have such an office created by an ordinance of the Chicago City Council:
The City Council won’t have to take Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s word for it the next time the mayor tries to privatize a city asset, raise taxes, renegotiate the parking meter lease or expand the scope of ticket-spewing surveillance cameras.

Aldermen will have their own $485,000-a-year Office of Financial Analysis to research and assess mayoral initiatives and budgets with six full-time employees.

With Emanuel’s blessing, the City Council voted Wednesday to take what Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) has called “one of the biggest reforms ever” for a City Council that legendary Ald. Paddy Bauler famously said “ain’t ready for reform.”

That may turn out to be an exaggeration — just as many of Emanuel’s bold savings claims turn out to be.

But it’s a big change for a City Council vilified for its lightning-fast approval of former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s lopsided 75-year, $1.15 billion parking meter deal without an independent analysis to determine whether Chicago taxpayers were getting the shaft.

To help bankroll the new office and its six full-time staffers, Emanuel is reducing — from $26,000-a-year to $23,000 — the amount of money allotted to each of the 50 aldermen for hourly or contractual employees.

The $23,000 will be added to the $73,280-a-year aldermanic expense allowance to get around Shakman complaints about contractual employees. But aldermen will have $3,000 a year less overall to spend.

That didn’t sit well with many aldermen, who are often forced to dip into their own pockets or political funds to cover excess expenses.
Another plan was introduced to the city council at the recent session on Wednesday via the Tribune:
And the maneuvering continues. A coalition of mainly African-American and Hispanic aldermen introduced their own plan Wednesday to create a City Council office to keep track of how well city contractors comply with standards for giving work to women- and minority-owned businesses.

Ald. Howard Brookins Jr., 21st, chairman of the black caucus, said the group would be open to having the new position included within the council financial analysis office "as long as there is a separate executive director in that office who's keeping track of the issues with women and minority businesses."
Does anyone think such an office is a good idea?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Chatham 14: Holiday party with free movies

JP Paulus noted this on the FB page with the image below. Dec. 14th is our respective birthdays and the Chatham 14 theaters is hosting what's described as a holiday party. You can either get a free large popcorn or free admissions with a donation of either a toy or an nonperishable item. Of course, you can still bring in a coat for a free large popcorn as well through December 20th as noted on this blog earlier. As always it's great to see a neighborhood business who seeks to engage in charitable activities such as this to the community it serves. Refer to flyer below for more information.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

DNAinfo: Terminate Chatham Taxing District With $550K in Unspent Funds, Mayor Says

Photo by Wendell Hutson
I suppose this is news we can use. That is news about the TIFs that exist on this side of town:
If Mayor Rahm Emanuel has his way, the 89th state Tax Increment Financing district would become the eighth TIF to be terminated during his tenure.

The Chatham TIF has $550,000 remaining in its pot and is set to expire in 2021.

But at a November City Council meeting, the mayor said he supported a proposal to terminate the TIF, one of 154 in the city, because it had achieved its goal of providing funding for public infrastructure in the area, and there are no pending projects that need TIF assistance.

“If a TIF district succeeds in meeting its objectives before it's set to expire, it should be terminated,” Emanuel said in a news release.

He added that the TIF was created in 1998 to jumpstart the redevelopment of a 38-acre industrial site in the South Side community.

The 143-home Chatham Club residential development at 90th Street and Indiana Avenue was among the projects that benefited from the TIF.
When this TIF is abolished, we have an idea of how much money goes where. TIFs are designed to use property taxes to redevelop blighted areas:
Peter Strazzabosco, deputy commissioner for the city's Department of Housing and Economic Development, said if the Council votes in favor of the proposal, $109,000 would go back to the city, while Chicago Public Schools would get $293,000. The Cook County Forest Preserve, Water Reclamation District, City Colleges of Chicago and other governmental bodies would also get money, but Strazzabosco did not have specific figures.

Tribune: CTA train-cleaning schedule will be dialed back

Photo by artistmac/flickr
The Tribune's John Hilkevitch writes about one side effect of shutting down the ex-offender program as was announced recently:
The quick spot-cleaning that CTA rail cars receive when trains pull into terminals in the mornings and afternoons will be eliminated at the end of the year, the transit agency and its rail workers union said Monday.

The CTA has not budgeted for new positions to replace ex-offenders whom the CTA has employed as part-time apprentices since 2007 to clean rail cars and buses, said Robert Kelly, president of Local 308 of the Amalgamated Transit Union. The ex-offenders program will end Dec. 31, the CTA and the union said last week.

The union said trains will be cleaned only on the midnight shifts starting at the first of the year, because the CTA said it is eliminating all morning and midafternoon jobs for car-servicer positions.

“This could become a serious health matter for the public,’’ Kelly said.

CTA spokesman Brian Steele confirmed that effective Jan. 1, all current daytime crews will instead be assigned to work overnight hours to replace the apprentices, who work exclusively at night.
Well what this means is we won't see spot-cleaning in the mornings and afternoons that we would see if we were waiting for a train from 95th Street for example.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Community Alert: Postal Employee Robbed

Yesterday, the United States Postal Service(USPS) delivered the following flyer
Please be alert throughout this holiday season. Also, here are tips they were previously posted.

As we come closer to the actually holidays, the season has officially begun. While the season puts most of us in a good mood, it also makes some of us careless and brings out those who do not have good intentions.

Here are a few tips to help you enjoy the holiday season

  1. Use a Tracking Service for Expected Packages
The holiday season is the the busiest season for package delivery and its a pain when you miss your delivery and disheartening if someone steals your package from your property. Now that UPS has closed the Avalon Park station, you have to either go to the South Holland or Roosevelt Street station. You can avoid this frustration by signing up for  UPS My Choice.
 The service is FREE and alerts you by either phone,text or email when your package is close to delivery. You choose the method and when a package is enroute, you will get a delivery date and an expected delivery window. Won't be home? Have them reschedule the delivery or hold at the station. FEDEX offers Delivery Manager that you can accomplish the same thing There are other options but they come at a cost. US Postal Service has a similar service Have your shipper give you the tracking number and you can track them on your own.

  2.  Creating a Routine

 It’s long been known that burglars scoping out a neighborhood will look for victims who tend to not pay attention to things. In other words, they are looking for carelessness. Signs of a careless homeowner include an unkempt lawn, overgrown bushes and children’s toys scattered around the yard.
When a burglar spots a house possibly inhabited by a careless homeowner he will watch that house to see what the typical daily behavior is. If he’s really good he may observe a homeowner rushing out the door without setting alarm system. In such a case that home is just as vulnerable as one with no security system installed.
In most cases setting a routine is not good from a security standpoint. But in terms of remembering to set your alarm system before you leave your home, a routine is a good thing. Creating a routine you can follow every day will make it less likely you’ll forget to set your alarm.
Consider gathering your things for work the last part of your morning routine. Hang a hook for your keys right next to your control center, forcing yourself to see it them as you head out the door. It acts as a constant reminder to arm your system on your way out.

3.     Don’t Advertise Holiday Plans 
Homeowners and businesses should never advertise holiday plans using social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Today’s criminals are very media savvy and have taken to trolling such sites to find out when properties will be unoccupied. Keep your plans to yourself. 
4.    Ask Someone to Watch Your Home
Ask someone to watch your home while you’re away. If you can find a friend or family member willing to actually occupy your house in your absence, that’s the best option. If not, at least find someone willing to get your mail and newspaper, open and close your draperies and take out your garbage. This makes it harder for burglars to decide whether or not you’re away.
5.   Carbon Monoxide is Something Not To Be Played With
Carbon monoxide is a naturally occurring gas that is both manufactured and utilized by the human body. For this reason, many people don’t understand how dangerous it can be in excessive amounts. Trust us when we say it can be deadly.
As a tasteless and odorless gas, carbon monoxide could be present in your home without anyone knowing. It is also lighter than air so it tends to move to the lowest places of a home, including the ground floor or the basement. If carbon monoxide makes it to the upper floors it’s already at high enough levels to be fatal.
When humans inhale carbon monoxide it binds with hemoglobin, thus interfering with how well the hemoglobin functions. One of the main tasks of hemoglobin is to carry oxygen cells to various parts of the body. When it’s bound with carbon monoxide it can no longer perform that function. In essence, excessive levels of carbon monoxide in the blood can literally suffocate a person from the inside out.
Carbon monoxide is not something that should be taken lightly. If your home is equipped with a gas or oil furnace, a gas or oil-fired water heater, or gas appliances in the kitchen, the potential exists for carbon monoxide poisoning. It’s imperative you have your appliances carbon monoxide detector and heating/water systems checked on a regular basis to make sure they are function properly.
These tips along with your normal safety regiment should ensure a safe and happy holiday season.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Chicagoist: Tribune Looks At The Mismanagement That Led To CPS' Historic School Closures

[VIDEO] Recently we got wind of this Tribune story via the Chicagoist blog. The point it to look at the financial mismanagement of the Chicago Public Schools. A lot of people are still upset about the school closings that took place this past summer, however, one of the justifications for the closings were that the schools were underutilized.

Chuck Sudo at Chicagoist further opines: "If you want to know why Johnny can't read, it's because CPS officials don't know how to maintain a sensible budget."

The video above shows what the city is spending money on. It started with the old CPS HQ on Pershing Road. If I recall correctly they bought this complex from army for $1 and now their HQ is in downtown. It appears the city still owns this complex and now there isn't a plan for its utilization. Apparently the city is still spending money on it.

What do you make of this?

Friday, December 6, 2013

Todd Stroger didn't file for county board seat

I shared this article on the FB page recently with this comment: "My goodness Mr. Stroger you make noises but fail to pull the trigger. What's going on man? Do you want back in the game or not?"

You want to know why?
He said he was intending to run for William Beavers' 4th District seat. That seat is currently being held by Stanley Moore. The deadline to file petitions for office was Monday at 5 p.m. and Stroger did not file
Todd Stroger was of course the former County Board President who was succeeded by Toni Preckwinkle after his primary defeat in 2010. He also had made noises about running for Jesse Jackson Jr.'s old 2nd Congressional District but did file for that office.

It just makes you wonder, why make noise if you're not serious in the first place.

PREVIOUS POST: Sun-Times: Todd Stroger running for County Board seat 

BTW, pic in the upper left hand corner is from Todd Stroger's blog and he didn't seem to write on it much during his one term as county board president. For those who remembered it, who knows if he actually wrote on the blog or it was odd satire.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Get a free popcorn, for donating a coat at Chatham 14 Theaters

Photo Credit: DNAinfo/Wendell Hutson
Until December 20, 2013 if you donate a coat that's either new/clean but gently used please drop it off in the Chatham 14 lobby. The cineplex is located at 210 W. 87th Street and not only are they accepting coats they want toy donations as well. According to this article from DNA Info:
For every new or "gently"' used coat donated during the theater's first annual winter coat drive, the theater will give away a voucher good for a large popcorn.

Venisha White-Johnson, director of operations for the Chatham 14 Theaters, said while the theater has done food drives in the past, the coat drive started after she saw so many kids coming to the movies in shoddy jackets.

"I see kids coming to the theater with coats too small, worn out and in some cases not suitable for cold weather," she said. "Times are hard for everyone, especially single mothers, so having a coat drive seemed more appropriate."

The donations are being accepted daily 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. through Dec. 20 at the theater at 210 W. 87th St. A voucher that can be redeemed anytime is given for every coat donated, and there is no limit to how many coats a person can donate.
Well we call for donations to food pantries this year, and now donations for winter coats. More than one way to provide a blessing for someone this holiday season!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Tribune: Northwestern to start program for CPS students

Visit the NU website
In pondering this program, I'm looking at you Harlan Community Academy High School!
Five years ago, Northwestern University's freshman class included just 28 graduates from Chicago Public Schools.

This fall, 75 of the 2,000 freshmen came from the city's high schools, but Northwestern President Morton Schapiro says that's not enough. He hopes a new program to be announced Tuesday will pave the way for more CPS graduates to enroll each year — particularly those from neighborhood high schools.

The Northwestern Academy will target up to 200 CPS freshmen from low-income households who don't attend one of the city's selective enrollment high schools. The goal is to better prepare them for Northwestern or another top college or university by providing year-round tutoring, college counseling, test preparation, family workshops and other services during high school.

The vast majority of the Northwestern students from CPS graduated from one of the city's selective schools, university officials said.

"The feeling was that we hadn't primed the pump (at the other high schools)," Schapiro said. "We are giving them an opportunity. Northwestern will step up and partner with CPS and provide the kind of education they would have gotten if they had gone to Northside (College Prep)," a selective CPS high school.

The Northwestern Academy, in partnership with the city of Chicago, is the latest program designed to encourage qualified Chicago high school graduates to attend selective colleges and universities, particularly students who may not realize they have the academic qualifications for a top school. The University of Chicago, in Hyde Park, also has increased its CPS-specific programs in recent years.

"This is another opportunity for a university to really step up and help us get Chicago Public Schools' students further," said Beth Swanson, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's deputy chief of staff for education.

Kotkin: The revolt against urban gentry

I'm sure this sentiment exists in this city although it seems this article from Joel Kotkin at New Geography talks about New York City. To be sure look no further than this video to see if this sentiment exists in the city. Now let's talk about solutions and this paragraph spoke:
Equally important, cities need to shift away from the gentry urbanist fixation on the dense urban core and focus on more diverse neighborhoods. As more workers labor from home, and make their locational decisions based on factors like flexible hours and time with family, cities need to stop viewing neighborhoods as bedrooms for downtown, and begin to envision them as their own generators of wealth and value. The era of the office building has already peaked, and increasingly employment, even in cities, will become dispersed away from the cores.
I was walking downtown with a friend who was a bit upset that along the "Magnificent Mile" you see multiple police officers on every block. It makes sense to protect downtown as it's the main tourist attraction of our city. But my friend's point was that they have all these officers downtown, but they don't want to have the same dedication in the neighborhoods.

The last paragraph suggests that somehow the neighborhoods have to become tan ecomonic engine in their own right almost equal to downtown Chicago. You should read the whole article.

Hat-tip Instapundit!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Tribune: CTA hiring program for ex-offenders to end

You might have seen this on the Concerned Citizens of Chatham FB page recently, this program is expected to go away at the end of the year:
A program that helps ex-offenders gain work experience cleaning rail cars and buses for the Chicago Transit Authority will end Dec. 31, according to the Amalgamated Transit Union and the CTA.

The program that began in November 2007 has been in peril for several years. In 2011, it almost wasn't extended and became a bargaining chip between the union and the transit authority. And by December 2012, when the 2013 contract was finalized, no additional extension had been agreed to, dooming the program after this year.

The 65 current participants will not be allowed to finish their nine-month apprenticeships, according to CTA spokesman Steve Mayberry. He said the 65 positions are in addition to the necessary number of service workers, costing the CTA $2.9 million annually. As part of the 2011 agreement to extend the program through 2013, the CTA hired back 24 rail service workers who had been laid off during the Great Recession.

Mayberry said that while the CTA has supported the program, union Local 308 president Robert Kelly has pushed to end it. The CTA pays ex-offenders $9.50 an hour for the car and bus servicer jobs, while union workers are paid between about $13 and $30 to do the same thing.

Kelly said he had "big problems" with the program — but he also said the CTA didn't ask for an extension to it in 2012.

"The CTA had every opportunity in contract talks last year to bring it up," Kelly said. "If this program saves the CTA money, is it my job to walk in and say (can I) save you ... more?" Kelly said. "If they would have brought it up, we would have dealt with it at the time."