Aldermen Push For What?

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.


No Tax Refund if You Owe Parking Tickets


Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday referred to people and businesses with unpaid city debts as “the deadbeats and the delinquents” after winning City Council approval to intercept their state income tax refunds to collect millions of dollars.  …

At every level we have protected the taxpayers of the city of Chicago by not raising property taxes, not raising or creating an income tax, not raising a sales taxes, not raising a gas tax,” Emanuel said. …

Under the diversion measure approved Wednesday, Illinois income tax refunds of those who owe will be redirected to the city, possibly as soon as this spring. …

The citys measure, made possible by a state law that took effect in December, will affect individuals and businesses that received final notices for debt owed on parking tickets, red-light citations and administrative hearing judgments.  More than 100,000 people and businesses owe the city about $80 million, but refunds wont cover all of that, officials said.  About 51 percent of the debt can be traced to addresses outside the city, the administration said.

Ald. Robert Fioretti, 2nd, one of the aldermen to vote against, described the citys administrative hearing system as “a kangaroo court” that needs to be fixed before income tax refunds are diverted to the city.

via Chicago Tribune.

As someone who does a little bit of legal practice over at 400 E. Superior I can attest to what a kangaroo court it is.  The process dealing with building violations is so bad that I truly believe they simply make it up as they go along.  It’s not quite as bad with parking tickets but it’s still a case of any given Sunday as to whether the judge will follow the law or not.

New Ward Map Confusing? Try Getting a Garbage Can

Excellent points raised by Greg Hinz over at Crain’s.

Ask folks at City Hall whether new or old wards apply for purposes of voting, zoning and distribution of services and the like and, after a couple of shrugs, you’ll get a multipart answer fit for an SAT test.  …

“We’re dealing with the old aldermen,” another official says.  But, just to be safe, the city also is consulting with the new aldermen, too, in the many cases in which blocks or whole neighborhoods are being moved around.  Suffice it to say “there’s at least two aldermen involved in every issue,” that source adds.  “It’s a fairly complicated issue.”  …
Officially, the new map goes into effect upon publication and approval of the official Journal of City Council proceedings….  But the lines on the new map are so contorted to protect incumbents and racial and ethnic minorities that doing so immediately is all but impossible.  For instance, the council majority and Mayor Rahm Emanuel pretty much hate Ald. Bob Fioretti, 2nd, a rabble-rousing independent sort with a bit of hot dog in him.  So they carved up and parceled out his current ward on the Near South and Near West sides and created a brand-new ward two miles north—not a square inch of which is in Mr. Fioretti’s current ward.  As a result, a 3½-mile stretch of Roosevelt Road that’s now pretty much within the old 2nd Ward has been divided among the new 3rd, 4th, 11th, 25th, 27th and 28th wards.  Man, I’m glad I’m not the executive director of the Roosevelt Road Improvement Association.

via Crain’s Chicago Business.

I have no idea how this can be permitted to stand.

Ward Remap: Round Two

Alderman Bob Fioretti 2nd Ward, one of eight alderman to vote no on the map, stated in his email newsletter on Thursday that he has no intentions of dropping the issue.

“I believe that new map breaks up communities of interest and includes deviations in population from ward to ward, which may subject it to future legal challenge. Therefore, it remains to be seen whether it will ever go into effect.”

via Gapers Block Mechanics.

I wonder if he needs any legal help with that?

Position on TIFs

Well it took some doing, but I have completed my policy on TIFs.

This is critically important to the sustainability of the city moving forward.  We cannot survive continuing to go further and further into debt year after year while our schools are failing and the TIF funds are growing bigger and bigger.  We need to assess what it would take to shut-down the TIFs, eliminate all of the overhead, take what is needed for debt service, and give the rest of the money back to the operations and schools budgets where it belongs.

It’s worth pointing out that currently no one else running for alderman in the Second Ward is advancing such a position.  Alderman Fioretti and all the other candidates are taking the position that TIFs are necessary for development, which I so easily prove false.

I’m waiting for the media to wake-up to this issue and begin asking the tough questions.  Hopefully someone will start soon… before it’s too late.

Parking Meter Analysis

So Monday is the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board review for the Second Ward candidates and as I was having breakfast this morning I got to thinking.  How bad really was the parking meter deal?  So I started poking around to find out.

Ten minutes later I was shocked!!

Based on this story here I estimated that initial annual revenue from the parking meters was $19.5 million.  Then, on this page here I figured that long term municipal bonds were around 5%.  Then I built a quick spreadsheet using OpenOffice’s Calc (I’m a big fan of open source software.)  But I had to stop because I needed one more piece of information; so I found this story here about rate increases.  A few clicks later I was reaching for the Advil.

If one assumes a 7.5% annual increase in rates (2011 was around 20%) and a fixed 5% interest rate, then the present value of the parking meter revenues is:


That’s right, $3.775 BILLION dollars.  How much did we get?


That’s right, the Mayor and the City Counsel left potentially over $2 Billion on the table.

What’s amazing is that this took me 10 minutes.  Why didn’t anyone in the City Counsel or the Mayor’s office — or the media for that matter — do this very simple analysis?  My guess is that they didn’t even think about it.  Politicians do NOT even understand the concept of time value of money.

Just doubly insane that Bob Fioretti voted for this abomination.

If you want to see my spreadsheet you can find it here.

Parking Meter Rates Going Up

The rates will soon go up for people parking in the city.  Electric pay boxes will begin charging $5 an hour in the downtown area, up from $4.25.And it will cost $3 an hour to park on streets outside the downtown area.  The rate increase will go into effect Jan. 1.  As part of the controversial deal to lease the parking meters, LAZ Parking were given permission to increase rates every year for the first five years of the arrangement.


This is a nice New Year’s reminder that everyone who voted for this is an incompetent buffoon.

The more the rates go up — the worse this deal is for the city.

It’s just that simple.  Not one person did the math on this.  My belief is that not one — not a single alderman — understands the concept of time value of money.

Fioretti Anti-Building Protection

Powered by a solar-powered device akin to a car battery, the fences send 7,000 volt jolts every 1.3 seconds into the hands of people who touch the fences, which have never proved fatal in the states and cities that allow them….

The systems are allowed in California, other major cities and Illinois suburbs including Bolingbrook, Elmhurst, Rockford and Schaumburg, city officials said. They also are allowed under state law at railroad facilities in Chicago, Burke said.

Ald. Robert Fioretti, 2nd Ward, opposed the measure.

“I’m not convinced this is even useful in the city of Chicago,” he said. “I don’t think this is good for us.”

(Full story here.)

What I trimmed from the article said that these fences would NOT be allowed on the public way.  So it would be impossible to get zapped unless you were already someplace you didn’t belong.

It’s time for everyone, including Alderman Fioretti to realize the theft is a huge expenses to businesses.  Criminals try to steal anything and everything.  And if you cannot secure your property then you will move — outside the city — to someplace where you can.

Further, with the police department 2,500 officers short it takes even longer to respond to calls.  So it’s not like alarms (which are over regulated themselves) are the answer.  The alarm can sound, but when seconds count the police are just minutes away.

Post Objection Blogging

I’m back!!

Had a little hiatus from posting there.  Turns out that Alderman Fioretti’s guy objected to my petitions so I had to get some legal work done in order to stay on the ballot.  But I think I have all that behind me now; we should be rolling full steam ahead.

Also, just as an aside, I will get the objection posted up on the website in a few days.  Followers have the right to know what’s happening.

June 11, 2008

Alderman Fioretti send two very dangerous messages with one vote:

  1. campaign and other donations to the city get results for the donors, and
  2. what the citizens want doesn’t matter, the city should always get its way.

Bob Fioretti believes that if your names sounds like Crown or Pritzker and you donate lots of money to the city (a la Millennium Park) the you should be able to take some of the most valuable land in the city (Grant Park) and turn it into a commercial enterprise against the wishes of the people who live closest.

Wrong.  It is just plain wrong.

Additional stories here, and here, and here, and here.

P.S.  The lawsuit to block this action is moving forward.  But the Mayor really wanted to make sure the city’s position was overseen by someone with the skin in the game so he appointed Mr. Pritzker to the Chicago Park District Board.