Da Mare’s Private Road to McCormick Place

A $43 million busway built to whisk conventioneers between downtown hotels and McCormick Place has turned into “the mayor’s road” and should be opened to taxicabs in exchange for a surcharge, Ald. Robert Fioretti, 2nd said Monday.

Fioretti suggested turning the 2.5-mile busway into a money-maker after Chicago Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg lifted the veil on a shortcut politicians and contractors enjoy, but everyday Chicagoans know little or nothing about.  …

“I was told by some of the people in Planning that it was a good idea. But then, they came back and said, `No. It’s the mayor’s road.’ That’s what I was hit with,” [Fioretti] said without identifying the city planners by name.

Fioretti said when he argued that Chicago could not afford to maintain a “clout road” for VIP politicians, he was told there were “security reasons” for keeping the road closed to other vehicles. But he was never told precisely what those “security reasons” were.

In Monday’s column, [Chicago Sun-Times columists] Steinberg talked about his ride with County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on the road Mayor Rahm Emanuel calls the “Bat Cave” and Preckwinkle calls the “Magic Road.”

It is accessed only by those fortunate enough to be issued a plastic card that opens a steel gate to the busway that runs along Illinois Central right of way parallel to Michigan Avenue.

Built in 2002 by the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, the 2.5-mile roadway was billed as a speedy shortcut for conventioneers staying in downtown hotels and attending McCormick Place conventions.

As Steinberg noted, a trip that takes 25 minutes in traffic up Lake Shore Drive can be completed in just eight minutes.

via Chicago Sun-Times.

I’ve known about this “road” since forever as I used to walk by the entrance regularly.  There are a few “secret” entrances in the South Loop where the gates are almost always up.  I’m surprised folks on bikes are not on this thing all the time.

Regardless, nice to see the mayor serving no one but himself.

Widespread Violence on the CTA

With almost 20,000 CTA bus trips a day, tempers sometimes flare on a few of them. Regular users of the CTA know what an obstacle course it can be.

On the CTA’s 1,200 rail cars, riders are often met with a variety of frightening encounters- from armed robbers and cell phone thieves to fist fights and shoving.

Sometimes, shots are fired and people end up wounded or dead.

via abc7chicago.com.

Safe to say Chuck Goudie is not going to be invited to Rahm’s next party.

Then again… come-on Chuck, tell us something we don’t already know.

Chicago’s Pension Time-Bomb

While Emanuel can coast for two more years, the city in 2015 is required by law to set aside an additional $700 million a year for two of its four pension funds, all of which are woefully underfunded: That year’s budget will include a total of $1.2 billion for the retirement accounts of teachers, police, fire and municipal workers. Such a steep ramp-up threatens to gobble city resources for everything from parks to schools to transportation.

via Chicago Tribune.

The total budget for this year is $8.35 billion.  In two years the city has to find nearly another 10% more money… out of thin air.

This is naturally in addition to the $86 billion (laughable that anyone still believes this number; it’s easily twice that) hole is the state pension funds.

Get ready… something’s going to go BOOM pretty soon.

Aldermen Briefed on Pension Time-Bomb

[Chicago’s] Chief Financial Officer Lois Scott reminded council members that absent significant changes to pension plans, the city will be forced to drastically cut services, raise taxes or do both to close a funding gap that could reach $700 million in just a few years, aldermen said.  …

…  Lawmakers are looking to fix the state’s woefully underfunded pension system, but the city also needs changes from Springfield to repair its retirement funds.

… Absent a city pension overhaul, the fund for retired city firefighters would become insolvent in nine years, according to a city report issued two years ago.  The police pension would go broke four years later.  Funds for city laborers and municipal workers would be broke by 2030via Chicago Tribune.

These numbers are all wrong.  These pension claim they’re going to earn 8% on their money year after year.  That simply has not happened in a decade and they are tens-of-millions of dollars behind where they claimed they would be be even two years ago.

Kudos to my friend Anthony Curran who suggested we start a Pension Death Watch.  I think it’s a great idea.

More Bad News on the Pension Crisis

If I was Rahm I would so totally throw Daley under the bus on this issue.

The debt from 10 Chicago-area pension plans swelled more than 600 percent to $27.4 billion between 2001 and 2010, according to a study released Monday by the nonpartisan Civic Federation. That’s $8,993 for each man, woman and child in Chicago, according to the report.

The shortfall comes on top of more than $83 billion in unfunded pension liabilities at the state level, driving the cost up to nearly $15,000 per Chicagoan, the report shows.

via chicagotribune.com.

Shear insanity.


Robber Armed with 2-by-4 on West Side (Rahm demands lumber registry)

A police alert warns Lawndale residents about a robber who threatens and beats his victims with a 2-by-4.  …

The robber was described as a black man with a dark complexion, between 5-foot-9 and 5-foot-11, weighing 150 to 160 pounds. He was last seen wearing a dark-colored baseball hat and a dark top, police said.via chicagotribune.com.

Rahm immediately called for a lumber registry.  “What we need are common sense lumber laws to make sure these sorts of crimes don’t happen again.” the Mayor said at an unrelated press conference.  He followed-up saying, “No one is trying to ban lumber. That’s extremist language by the extremist National Lumber Association.”

McCarthy (Rahm) Shakes-up Police Brass (Not Really)

This past week Rahm launched an ambitious plan to revitalize the city.  However in order to make that work, he must first prevent Chicago from becoming Gotham.  The post below talks about how the lack of enough police officers is causing a false reduction in the number of crimes being reported.  I personally think that Rahm and McCarthy know this. But while money’s so tight, they just have to make due until sunnier days come along.

Nevertheless, they have to maintain the appearance of doing something to stay on top of criminal element.

So along comes this story about McCarthy moving some top folks around at CPD:

With Chicago suffering a 35 percent spike in murders this year, police Supt. Garry McCarthy announced a reshuffling of his command staff Friday, replacing commanders in five of the city’s 23 districts.

McCarthy also promoted three supervisors to deputy chief positions. He said the changes were made to “strengthen the department’s ongoing efforts to reduce violence” and create a “more efficient departmental structure.”  …

A police spokeswoman said no district commanders were demoted to make way for the changes in those five districts. They replaced commanders who were promoted to other positions or retired, she said.  …

As of Thursday, there have been 114 murders this year in Chicago — up 35 percent compared with the same period last year.But department records also show that, through March 18, overall crime has dropped 10 percent throughout the city compared with the same period in 2011.

via Chicago Sun-Times.

This is not a shake-up.  A shake-up is where people are shown the door for poor performance.  People are held accountable.  …

Rahm and McCarthy know that it’s not really these folks fault.  Everyone knows that the real problem is that there’s not enough officers to go around.  This is just a PR stunt — feeding something, anything to the masses — to create the illusion that Rahm and McCarthy are taking this seriously.

Crime? What Crime?

Crime is out of control.  It’s not reported because in this town No Report = No Crime.  And because we have so few police — who are constantly running from call to call — a LOT of crime is going unreported.  Sometimes you can call 911 and wait 30-40 seconds before someone answers the phone.  But when it takes 40, or 50 minutes for CPD to arrive you get tired and get on with your life.  So many “petty” crimes simply go unreported.  e.g.

A gang member tags your garage and you just want to repaint and don’t report it… No Crime.

You get your wallet stolen on the Crime Red Line need to get to work and don’t report it… No Crime.

Your car has a smashed window and you get it fixed without reporting it… No Crime.

Dude gets stabbed and take himself to the hospital, says he cut himself shaving… No Crime.

Because of the No Report = No Crime policy of CPD, if there were no police officers there would be… No Crime.

But we know that crimes are being committed.  How?  Because we have record call volume at the 911 center.  So much so that it makes the news:

Overtime at Chicago’s 911 emergency center more than doubled during the first two months of this year, thanks to a 13.2 percent increase in call volume and Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s decision to reduce the ranks of police and fire dispatchers, records show.

Police dispatchers wracked up 10,024 hours of overtime in January and February, at a cost of $516,642, compared to 5,247 hours with a $247,662 price tag during the same period a year ago, records show.

via Chicago Sun-Times.

The wheels are falling off the bus.  Hopefully soon someone in the media will wake-up and begin really looking into this.  There’s a massive story here.


Building a New Chicago

I was skeptical of Rahm coming in as mayor.  But as time goes by I’m getting more and more impressed by his ability to take on the unions, manipulate the media, get things done, outmaneuver worthless alderman, and most importantly develop and articulate his vision for the city.  (It appears that) He gets it.   You can say a great number of things about Rahm Emanuel; but you can’t say that he doesn’t think big.

There are several stories out this week about Rahm’s Building a New Chicago plan.

Unveiling a plan for “Building a New Chicago,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Thursday promoted a package of infrastructure initiatives that included very little that was new — except for its $7 billion price tag and its ambitious framing as a mission comparable to the city’s rebuilding after the Great Chicago Fire.

via Chicago Tribune.

The Tribune’s piece quotes local hacks:

“It was a State of the Union speech in Chicago.  I think it was a good blueprint for Chicago’s future.”
— Alderman Richard Mell (33rd Ward)

… and the not so hacky:

“I think this speech was aimed toward Chicagoans in general, and aimed toward business, because actually, these types of pronouncements are out there to encourage businesses to say, ‘I’m thinking of coming to Chicago, I want to open a place in Chicago, I want to do business in or with Chicago.’  These are all speeches geared toward making us an attractive option in a very global economy.”
— Alderman Patrick O’Conner (40th Ward)

This is where the Sun-Times nails it:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Thursday urged major airlines squeezed by skyrocketing fuel prices to come to the table a year early and negotiate a fourth new runway at O’Hare Airport as part of a $7.3 billion plan to rebuild Chicago’s infrastructure and create 30,000 jobs.

via Chicago Sun-Times.


It’s almost as an afterthought it mentions some of the other projects, the story’s nearly last paragraph:

Other projects include: fixing 26 miles of CTA slow zones and renovating, repairing or rebuilding 100 CTA stations over the next ten years; building a new Green Line station at 22nd and Cermak; acquiring 180 acres of park land over five years and building 12 new parks, 20 new playgrounds, and eight artificial turf fields; building a new Malcolm X College and a new classroom building at Olive-Harvey College.

Companies will come to Chicago because of O’Hare.  People will want to live here because of O’Hare.

Rahm’s not wrong to make the comparisons to rebuilding after the Chicago Fire.  The Chicago Fire permitted the city to change the entire layout of the downtown area, build Grant Park, move the stockyards, and become a the Midwest rail transportation center for the country.  St. Louis could have easily bested Chicago due to it’s Mississippi River and centralized rail center location.  It was the Chicago Fire that really permitted Chicago to become what it was… not St. Louis.

Airplanes are today’s rail cars.

Miami International put together an interesting document which ranks airports for 2010:


  • Total Passengers  –  O’Hare  is 2nd
  • International Passengers  –  O’Hare is 5th
  • Total Cargo  –  O’Hare is 5th
  • Total Freight  –  O’Hare is 5th
  • International Freight  –  O’Hare is 4th
  • Total Aircraft Movements  –  O’Hare is 2nd

O’Hare is the lifeline we need to dig out of the hole we’ve (Daley’s) made for ourselves.  It’s right to prepare O’Hare for the next 50 years of service when we’re going to ask more of it.

The plan’s not perfect.  But perfect if the enemy of good.