December 4, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Kudos to Alderman Bob Fioretti:
A Chicago City Council committee signed off Monday on Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s latest privatization deal—even though, after nearly five hours of testimony, aldermen still didn’t quite know how it added up for taxpayers, what its shortfalls might be, or exactly which companies were included in putting it together.
In more than a few places, they weren’t even sure what the contract said.
“As I tried to go through these documents over the weekend, I have to admit, I don’t really have the expertise to understand them,” said Ed Burke, who’s read a few contracts in more than four decades as an alderman and attorney. …
As they explained, the deal involves renting out public space to a private billboard company in return for some of the proceeds. The firm, Interstate JCDecaux, will pay to put up digital billboards on 34 sites along expressways in Chicago. In return, the city will collect a guaranteed $155 million over the next twenty years, with an option to extend it for nine more.The city will also get a share of the advertising revenues—though there are pages of complex formulas and footnotes that determine the exact amount. For example, taxpayers will essentially pay back some of the millions they’re receiving up front, since over time Interstate JCDecaux will recoup the costs of building and maintaining the billboards before sharing proceeds with the city. …
“Was there any independent financial analysis for this particular proposal?” asked 46th Ward alderman James Cappleman.”Not directly,” said Scott. …
But the guaranteed payouts are far below that—the most per year is $15 million, in 2013.
And this is where the fun starts…
But Alderman Robert Fioretti (2nd) messed everything up by asking for a head count to see if they had a quorum.
This was a shocking development, as committee meetings regularly proceed without anything close to half their members present, which is technically what they’re supposed to have. But under the council rules it doesn’t matter unless a member of the committee raises a stink about it.
Such stink raising is not common.
In fact, Carrie Austin, chair of the budget committee, wasn’t deeply irked that such a disgraceful thing was happening on her watch. She tried to turn Fioretti to stone with an infuriated stare. “I find it awful strange that you would call a quorum now, after you know so many people have left.”
“I think it’s entirely appropriate,” Fioretti replied, plopping down in his seat as if to say, what are they going to do—map me out of my ward?
Austin recessed the committee and, along with mayoral aides, got on the phone to round up some more warm bodies.
A half hour later the roll was called again, and 23 aldermen were counted as present and more-or-less awake—one more than needed for a quorum, and plenty more than needed to sign off on the billboard deal. It passed 20-3, with only Fioretti, Waguespack, and Pawar opposing.
via Chicago Reader.
This is going to be the parking meter deal redux. Just you wait. We’re going to have digital advertising everywhere and the city is going to get a mere $15 million a year. JCDecaux is going to make 4 or 5 times that.
This is a farce. In a few years Rahm is going to ask JCDecaux for a “favor” and they’re going to do it. It’s all connected, and corrupt.
September 27, 2012 § 1 Comment
A couple of new things to report on the situation with Pete’s Fresh Market.
As most readers know, the story has now made the local papers and WGN TV News. Here’s what’s new — and what you won’t read in those papers:
My original story stated that “the ring-leader of the group of thugs who showed up at Pete’s is known acquaintance of Ald. Burnett’s chief of staff.” I’ve now been told that may or may not be correct. There was some confusion as to who exactly it was from Ald. Burnett’s office.
What we now know is that it was Ald. Burnett’s assistant chief of staff who was actually on-site and fully participated in the shakedown. There is a rumor that one of the construction workers actually captured the event on video with his/her cell phone. It is for this reason that Ald. Burnett has had to come out and acknowledge that his staff was there.
Local community organization HOW United has announced that they will be having a community meeting to discuss the situation with Pete’s.
announces a public meeting on
PETE’S FRESH MARKET
October 03, 2012
6:00 PM – 7:00PM
St. Malachy Church
2248 West Washington Boulevard
Chicago, Illinois 60612
Everyone who cares about removing corruption from the system should plan to attend. A packed house will show the rest of the world that at least there are some people who will stand up to corrupt politicians.
September 19, 2012 § 1 Comment
Reliable sources inform me that Pete’s and people from the city are sitting down and trying to work out a deal to restart construction.
Reliable sources also have confirmed the facts of the original post.
If any readers have stories of problems with any politicians please contact me privately with that information. We have been abused by our elected officials for far too long. Criminal elected officials are the reason why the West Side does not have the retail and other amenities of other neighborhoods.
It’s immoral, unethical, and just plain sad that the poor, who needs the most help, are the most abused.
Rumors are swirling that a community meeting may be held one day next week. Please visit again for further information.
UPDATE: This topic updated 09/25/2012 here.
September 16, 2012 § 30 Comments
PR — For Immediate Release
SYNOPSIS: LOCAL THUGS AND A QUESTIONABLE ALDERMAN MAY STOP CONSTRUCTION OF GROCERY STORE IN A FOOD DESERT.
One of Chicago’s food deserts may not be getting a grocery store after all. After years of wrangling, Pete’s Fresh Market broke ground on a site located at Western & Madison on Chicago’s West Side. Neighbors had waged a 5 year battle to bring a grocery store to that location. Alderman Bob Fioretti was on hand for the groundbreaking ceremony. But it all came to a screeching halt last week after the store’s owner was threatened not only by local thugs, but by the city itself.
A week ago the store’s site, exactly three miles west of the center of the city, had a construction trailer and several pieces of heavy equipment. “They worked every day. Even on weekends.” said a local resident who’s townhouse overlooks the site. Sunday, the site was just another barren parcel of land which appear to cover the West Side. The only remnant of construction is a single port-o-let. Rumors swirl about the neighborhood whether or not construction may resume anytime soon. Residents fear that they may have lost the only chance they had at getting a grocery store.
After an arduous process taking years, Pete’s Fresh Market was selected for the site. Several cut-rate or second tier grocers expressed interest however neighborhood residents feared that such a business would send the wrong message. Like many gentrifying neighborhoods it can be hard to find the right balance between long-time residents who wish to remain and keep property values, and property taxes, level and urban pioneers who are looking to see some return on their investment. Pete’s seemed like a natural fit. It’s selection had the support of nearly all in the neighborhood.
After the ground-breaking the neighborhood was excited about seeing their new store take shape. Locals talked while walking their dogs, on porches and patios, and on the phone. Emails were exchanged about everything from the construction fence going up to the equipment arriving on site. Photos were taken and news releases sent. “After being here for nine years I’m really looking forward to being able to walk to the grocery store.” said local resident Jim Bosco.
The situation changed last week when Pete’s got hit with a one-two punch.
First, a group of gentlemen who claim to be from the neighborhood stopped by the site and demanded jobs. They appeared to be organized; not just a few guys walking down the street looking for work. They came to the site, knew who to ask for, and demanded to be given jobs. Pete’s owner happened to be on site and suggested they fill out applications for employment; he even provided them with the forms. The group was told however that unless they were licensed, insured, and bonded that they could not be employed for construction work. That was unacceptable to the group and they began to get loud, pushy, and generally belligerent.
When the group was asked to leave the situation escalated. One of the group’s members brandished a handgun. Another told Pete’s owner that if they weren’t given jobs they would break every store window after it was open. Only after the group was informed that police had been called did they break-up and disappear into the streets and alleys.
Putting the unsettling experience behind them, Pete’s owner and the construction crew got back to work. However a few hours later they would be interrupted again, this time by a city Streets & Sanitation inspector. Pete’s was having a bad day; because the inspector proceeded to write Pete’s for 21 violations.
That was too much for Pete’s owner to bear. Business owners can deal with a few bullies who are looking for a handout. However no business can survive in this city when someone in power deliberately makes life difficult. Given the archaic and byzantine nature of Chicago’s codes any property is subject to numerous code violations at all times. Further, it doesn’t even matter if you’re fully in compliance. If the city writes the violation, you have to stop/ what you’re doing and head to building court. That takes time away from your business and is expensive.
Pete’s decided it was not wi/lling to fight city hall. It pulled the plug on construction, removed the equipment, and now the residents question whether or not they will get their grocery store.
The local residents don’t believe in coincidences.
Thanks to the ward remapping, Pete’s is in the “old” 2nd Ward and the “new” 27th Ward. This means that in addition to Alderman Fioretti, who spearheaded the new store, Alderman Walter Burnett is also well aware of Pete’s construction. It also just so happens that the ring-leader of the group of thugs who showed up at Pete’s is known acquaintance of Ald. Burnett’s ASSISTANT chief of staff. Further, those in the know have heard rumors for years about Ald. Burnett shaking down other business owners for everything from using the right valet service to hiring the right contractors.
Many local residents believe that Ald. Burnett was directly involved in the attempted extortion of Pete’s. They wonder why it is that Burnett is able to keep his job when so many of these stories are floating around openly. If the ward remap stands as it is, Ald. Burnett is going to have some explaining to do to folks who live in this neighborhood as to why he’s perhaps ruined their chances of getting a quality grocery store.
THIS POST IS UPDATED HERE.
THIS POST IS UPDATED 09/25/2012 HERE.
THIS POST UPDATED on 09/27/2012: I learned that Ald. Burnett’s “chief of staff: was incorrect. It was in fact Ald. Burnett’s Assistant Chief of Staff who is not only knows the thugs trying to shakedown Pete’s but WAS ACTUALLY ON SITE WITH THEM. New post here.
September 7, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Alderman Robert Fioretti (2nd Ward) believes Chicago would do fine with just 35 aldermen instead of 50 — especially now that workers are handling garbage pickup and street cleaning on a system of ten “grids” instead of 50 wards. …
Besides a smaller City Council, Fioretti is calling for term limits. “Just look at the 2nd Ward and all we’ve done so far” in fewer than two terms, he said. “If they [aldermen] have got to stick around and wait years to get anything done, they should not be aldermen in the first place.”Fioretti admitted he probably has “made some waves” downtown with such “maverick” views.
via Gazette Chicago.
June 27, 2012 § Leave a Comment
CeaseFire Illinois, a group that works against violence, is being recruited by the city of Chicago as part of a pilot program to help reduce crime in two police districts, one on the West Side and the other on the South Side. …
The city will give the group a one-year grant for $1 million to hire 40 “interrupters” who will mediate conflicts in the Ogden and Grand Crossing districts, where gun violence has spiked. …
This is the first time CeaseFire has received funding from the City of Chicago. Previously, it was largely funded through state and county sources.
via Chicago Tribune.
So says the Tribune. The SunTimes story is similar. Both FAIL to mention what CeaseFire really is… the public relations arm of coordinated Chicago street gangs.
In this city known for rampant corruption and cronyism the politicians know what to do with the money they extort from taxpayers! Whenever possible taxes here are only used to support thieves, thugs and liars. …
Chicago’s politicians have agreed to hand over $1,000,000.00 to a group calling themselves, “Cease Fire”. They were founded simply to take city tax money and pretend they’re working on violence reduction. Of course Cease Fire will be working in “secret negations” to make Chicago safer. I’m sure the time and money will be easy to audit that way.
Cease Fire is a group of, not so retired ghetto gangsters with significant rap sheets that are supposed to convince their pals not to kill each other, or innocent civilians.
This is insanity. The gang bangers are going to completely fabricate the number of “interruptions” in violence. McCarthy will permit it because it creates the appearance that the money was well spent.
Shouldn’t the city counsel have to weigh-in on this sort of spending? Where’s the Alderman (and Aldermen) stand on this?
April 2, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to have five financing giants bankroll $1.7 billion in Chicago infrastructure projects ran into opposition Monday from aldermen concerned about “hidden fees” and long-term leasing of city assets.
During closed-door briefings with aldermen, sources said Chief Financial Officer Lois Scott stuck to the script and talked only about the $225 million in energy retrofits to government buildings expected to generate $20 million in energy savings used to repay investors.
That wasn’t good enough for Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd). He’s demanding to know what other projects Emanuel wants to finance with the Infrastructure Trust, how those projects will be chosen and what, if any, user fees may be imposed to make certain that investors get their money back with interest.
via Chicago Sun-Times.
Two things about this little power play:
- Ald. Fioretti is exactly right. I’ve written in the past about how no one at City Hall can calculate a ROI or time value of money. Sad that not one elected official seems to every taken a single semester of economics or finance.
- Rahm brought this on himself. Ald. Fioretti would have been pretty happy just being alderman of the 2nd Ward for some time. But Rahm wasn’t happy about Bob wanting to run for Mayor and therefore had to be punished. So if you take a look at the new ward maps, Fioretti’s house is placed all by itself in a ward the bulk of which is miles away. It’s a joke.
The Machine is at it again. Trying to grind it’s way into your pocket with back-room deals between the city and undisclosed entities.
We get exactly what we vote for. We voted for this, we deserve it.
March 13, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Ha ha ha ha!
State Rep. Derrick Smith, a Democrat from Chicago, was arrested today for allegedly pocketing a $7,000 cash bribe to write an official letter of support for a day care center he believed was seeking a state grant.
The arrest came after an undercover operation launched by the FBI in December with the help of an undisclosed individual who works on Smith’s political campaigns, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.
The informant told investigators that Smith had talked about needing help with fundraising since he was appointed to the House seat last year. Smith allegedly said he wanted donations in the range of $5,000 to $7,000 and was willing to accommodate reasonable requests from donors, prosecutors said.
via Chicago Tribune.
Oh, this guy is so going down. Read the story; the U.S. attorney has this guy dead-to-rights.
But the real question is who’s going to go down with him. Mr. Smith is (was?) supported by a literal who’s who of the Chicago Democratic Party. Jesse White, the Teachers’ Union, AFL-CIO, Ald. Fioretti, etc.
What’s even more interesting is that Smith’s opponent, Tom Swiss, is a former GOP party official of some sort in Cook County. So now Democrats are forced to decide whether to vote for a guy who takes bribes or a former Republican.
Down right hilarious.
March 5, 2012 § Leave a Comment
The Group of Eight meeting will be moved to Camp David, according to the White House, but the gathering of NATO allies and the International Security Assistance Force will go on in Chicago as planned in mid-May.
Camp David will more closely approximate the remote settings in which the G8 leaders prefer to gather. Summits in large cities typically see clamorous protests, while those in the countryside are calmer and more sedate.
via Chicago Tribune.
Of course this has absolutely nothing to do this this:
The Occupy movement is likely to escalate months before the Sept. 3-6 event. A slew of extremist organizations, some tied to Obama, are preparing protests to coincide with major NATO and G-8 summits slated for Chicago in May.
Foreshadowing possible violent confrontations, some of the same radical trainers behind the infamous 1999 Seattle riots against the World Trade Organization have been mobilizing new protest efforts geared toward world summits. …
One endorsing group, which calls itself the Committee to Stop FBI Repression, is also a main organizer of the protests being scheduled for Chicago’s NATO and G-8 summits in May.
via Klein Online.
And then there’s this:
“To facilitate a free-flowing discussion with our close G-8 partners, the President is inviting his fellow G-8 leaders to Camp David on May 18-19 for the G-8 Summit, which will address a broad range of economic, political and security issues,” the White House announced this afternoon. “The President will then welcome NATO allies and partners to his hometown of Chicago for the NATO Summit on May 20-21.”
Maybe I’m reading English here, but that sounds like the president concluded it would be harder to have a “free-flowing discussion” in Chicago—yet still wanted to throw Rahm Emanuel a bone. NATO summits don’t generally excite people as much as meetings of the most powerful money guys in the world. …
Not even a carefully crafted statement from the City Hall press machine could conceal his disappointment: “We wish President Obama and the other leaders well at the G8 meeting at Camp David and look forward to hosting the NATO Summit in Chicago. Hosting the NATO Summit is a tremendous opportunity to showcase Chicago to the world and the world to Chicago.”
So far, aldermen haven’t been briefed. “Do you think this administration tells us anything?” says Second Ward alderman Robert Fioretti, who for months has been wary of Emanuel’s behind-the-scenes summit planning.
It’s safe to say there is a LOT more to this story than we’re being told. Of course we’ll never find out. But it can be a lot of fun to think about.
And lastly… only time will tell if this move will reduce the protests.
February 15, 2012 § Leave a Comment
This is just insane:
On Sunday, Aldermen Deborah Graham (29th), Robert Fioretti (2nd), and Toni Foulkes (15th) joined members of the Chicago Teachers Union, Action Now, and a group of parents and community safety advocates for a press conference urging Mayor Rahm Emanuel to make the Vacant Property Safe Passages Ordinance a priority.
If approved, the ordinance [...] would require daylight watchmen to guard schoolchildren as they pass by vacant properties near public schools.
“Recently, the mayor said he cares so much about student safety on the way to school that he’s installing speed cameras,” said Aileen Kelleher, Action Now communications director, during a phone interview Tuesday. “We’re saying if you care so much about safety this ordinance should be your number one priority.” …
This most recent push for the Vacant Property Safe Passages Ordinance comes just three months after the city passed a law requiring vacant property owners, whether an individual or a bank, to pay to register and maintain their abandoned buildings. Similarly, last week Gov. Pat Quinn introduced a new program aimed at rehabilitating foreclosed homes in Cook County.
With November’s ordinance in mind, those in support of the Safe Passages law say vacant property owners should also foot the bill for hiring the proposed watchmen.
“We want the guards to be hired from within the communities where the vacant buildings are so that it’s also a job-creation program, because along with the housing crisis there’s also an employment crisis,” said Kelleher.
Additionally, the ordinance would levy fines of up to $500 if the building’s mortgage holder fails to provide a watchman between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.
via Progress Illinois.
This can never pass. Nothing good can come of it.
According to Illinois Statute — namely 225 ILCS 447 the Private Detective, Private Alarm, Private Security, Fingerprint Vendor, and Locksmith Act of 2004 — every one of these “watchmen” would be required to have a PERC. The statute provides that:
”Private security contractor” means a person who engages in the business of providing a private security officer, watchman, patrol, guard dog, canine odor detection, or a similar service by any other title or name on a contractual basis for another person, firm, corporation, or other entity for a fee or other consideration and performing one or more of the following functions: …
See 225 ILCS 447.
This means that anyone who’s going to watch these houses must take and pass a 20-hour course with test. They must also not have been convicted of a felony and submit their fingerprints for a background check. Despite the requirements, it’s not uncommon to see these jobs listed on Craigslist for $10-12/hour.
The proposed ordinance would require watchmen (or watchwomen I would assume) to be present between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. or 8 hours per day. That’s $80 per day in pay for someone to basically sit on their duff and read the paper in front of a vacant building. Of course the real cost (vacation, medical, workemen’s comp, payroll taxes, overhead, training, etc) would mean that the property owner would likely be charged more like $120/day.
Even at $100/day, that’s $3,000/month… just to have someone watch a vacant property. Who can afford to pay that? The property owner will essentially be left with two options: tear the place down or rent it out for someone well below market value.
Given that one can get a building (single family house on a single lot) torn down and hauled away for $10,000-20,000 (depending on the size and condition of the place,) it stands to reason that anyone who expects their place to be vacant for a long time to just may be better off just tearing the place down. The property owner can also now save on taxes (vacant land is hardly taxed) and insurance as well. This will minimize the property expense over the long-haul.
Equally problematic is that the ordinance may force the property owner to place anyone as a tenant in the property regardless of rent. If you’re going to charge me $3,000/mo to keep the place empty and secured then it’s just better for me to find someone, anyone, who’s willing to stay in the place for $10/mo. The question is then who’s renting the place for $10/mo? Maybe someone who shouldn’t be living next to a school in the first place?
And there’s the rub. What makes these people think that a tenant on the property would be better than having the property vacant? Would you rather have your child walk by a vacant property or Jeffery Dahmer’s place?
Of course if the city was at full police strength wouldn’t there be more cops on the street looking over these places? I’m just say’n.
The article states there are 19,000 vacant properties in the city. At $3,000 per month that’s $57,000,000 in new costs that would have to picked-up by property owners each month.
That’s $57,000,000 in monthly transfer payments from “property owners” to ”guards to be hired from within the communities where the vacant buildings” exist. Annually that a $684 million tax on property owners in the city.
It’s a complete joke. Just like paying mommies to walk their children to school when they should be doing it anyway.