Frost hits most areas

A daytime frost has ended the growing season for most area plants, data from WeatherUnderground indicates. Depending on your location, the growing season length in 2011 was between 233 and 235 days. The average growing season in Chicago is expected to be between 170 and 175 days, according to the State Meteorologist.

However, pockets of warmer temperatures, buildings and other shelter could lengthen the growing season still, as not all stations have reported frost.

In the Ravenswood neighborhood, the frost can be measured through five weather stations that post logs of weather.

  • Irving Park Kilchica69 reported the temperatures hit 32° F at 2A and didn’t rise above freezing till 10.54A, with winds below gusting as high as 13 mph, but generally under 5 mph, the frost here was nearly 9 hours long. The thermometer went back down to 32° F at 9.15P, staying cool until 1.32A this morning.
  • Lincoln Square Kilchica105 reports temperatures hit freezing at 2.41A yesterday and remained in the freeze range till 8.32A yesterday. The station did not report a frost last night.
  • North Park Kilchica58 reports temperatures rose above freezing at 12.30A, a three hour frost that started at 9.30P Thursday, after a first frost lasting from 2.30A to 10.30A Thursday.
  • Kirzanadu, located in Lakeview, Kilchica63, reports no frost yet. If you live by the lake, the growing season continues!
  • Just a few blocks away, however, Wrigleyville Kilchica60, reports frost hit at 2.46A Thursday and didn’t lift till 10.46A. Weather is very localized.

With the first frost out of the way (except for Lakeview), we can consider the first measurable snowfall. (Did you notice the freezing rain earlier in the month? It was rated as our first snowfall of the season, according to weather guru Tom Skilling.)

According to the National Weather Service the earliest snowfall in a season hit Chicago on September 25, 1928 with the earliest measurable snowfall happening on October 12, 1909.

When do you think the first measureable snow fall will happen in the hood? Last year it happened on December 1.


Tom Skilling talks about frost.

Tom Skilling on the first snowfall of 2011.

Learn more: Illinois state climatologist Jim Angel, PhD defines a frost.

Learn more: Illinois state climatologist Jim Angel, PhD discusses the growing season.

Learn more: Illinois State Water Survey updated frost dates.

Learn more: Great Chicago Snow storms.

Learn more: Chicago snowfall statistics.

Gainer Proposes Divestment from Iran in County Pension Funds

North Side Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer introduced a resolution at the Cook County Board Meeting yesterday that would divest the Cook County pension fund of any investment with any company that also does business with Iran.

According to the legislation, the resolution states, “The Cook County Board of Commissioners calls upon the Cook County Annuity and Benefit fund to fully divest from the companies within the Fund who have exposure to Iran and block the future purchase of any further shares in the companies that would create exposure to Iran.”

Current United States law already makes investment in Iran very restrictive. According to the web site Payvand, here’s how current law applies, “U.S. sanctions against Iran are very strict and comprehensive.  Most day to day activities are subject to the regulation of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which is tasked with enforcing the Iranian Transactions Regulations (ITR), a body of regulations governing the trade in goods, services, and technology between the United States and Iran.  The ITR is very comprehensive – it addresses commercial, personal, charitable, and other activities.”

Current law doesn’t stop investment from foreign companies, or foreign subsidiaries, that also invest in Iran. Gainer’s resolution follows on the heels of several US Senators including Mark Kirk of Illinois introducing similar legislation on the national level.

This resolution is non binding and couldn’t have effect of law. That’s because the Cook County pension fund has its own separate and independent board. Its broad investment decision are made by that board. According to the resolution, the resolution is also largely symbolic. The Cook County pension fund currently only has  .16% of the entire portfolio in companies that invest in Iran.

The Cook County pension fund has recently come under scrutiny. This summer it was revealed that the fund has $5 billion in unfunded liabilities and current assets only pay for 60% of future liabilities. Another report said the fund would run out of money entirely in 2038. All government pensions in the State of Illinois are under the perview of the State government and legislation continues making its way to reform the pension system in the entire state.

Gainer chairs the Pension Sub Committee on the Cook County Board.

CPS map: errors, errors and more errors UPDATED

An interactive map of Chicago Public Schools touted by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard this morning is full of errors a study by The Bulldog has found.

The map, announced with new school progress measurements parents will receive with report cards by the end of the week, “tell the story of a school’s performance by providing information about academic performance, teachers and staffing, school culture and climate and parent satisfaction,” a news release from the city said this morning.

Yet, as seen in our screen grab image, errors abound on the map, with schools mislabeled, misplaced and difficult to find.

“Through the school progress report cards, we can provide access to data on performance in a clear and understandable way,” Brizzard said in the release. The release goes on to note “the public will have access to all school progress report cards through a comprehensive online map.”

In its study of about 26 North Attendance Area elementary schools and 28 North Attendance Area high schools The Bulldog located 18 errors.

The Bulldog reached out to the Chicago Public Schools and was asked to call back in the morning. The mayor’s office did not reply to a tight deadline call for comment.

*** UPDATED Nov. 15, 2011 @ 12.25P

The Mayor’s Press Office noted that charter schools, which make up some of the issues we noted, are not included in the data base. The office said the map didn’t include charters because the charters “have a different set of standards.”

The office noted that The Bulldog was not at the press conference announcing the map. It said the charter issue was addressed at that time.

The mayor’s spokeswoman said charter information would be added next year.

The office asked The Bulldog to take the story down due to this “error.”

Below, in the list of schools found in our limited survey of the North Attendance Area we added a note if the school is a charter. The Bulldog also refers reader to the press releases from the city where the charter issue is not addressed and Brizzard’s description of the map as being “comprehensive.”

Return to Brizzard’s description of the “comprehensive” map.

Read the Mayor’s press release. 

Read the release from Chicago Public Schools.

Go to The Bulldog’s interactive maps that includes charter schools and information on the schools.


List of locations with errors:

  • Taft AC isn’t noted
  • Chicago Academy isn’t noted (Charter)
  • Aspira-Haugan isn’t noted (Charter)
  • Chicago Math & Science isn’t noted (Charter)
  • Passages isn’t noted (Charter)
  • Trumbull isn’t noted
  • Florence Nightingale is located in Budlong Woods
  • Thomas Kelly High School is located in Irving Park (Horner Park West)
  • William H Seward Communications Arts Academy ES located in Old Ravenswood
  • McPherson isn’t noted
  • Velma F Thomas Early Childhood Center in North Center
  • Evergreen Academy MS in South East Ravenswood
  • Aspira-Ramirez Computer Science isn’t noted (Charter)
  • Noble Street not noted on map (Charter)
  • Noble Pritzker not noted on map (Charter)
  • Noble- Rauner not noted on map (Charter)
  • Noble- Golder not noted on map (Charter)
  • CICS Northtown not noted (Charter)
A study by The Bulldog found 18 errors in the CPS map intended to help parents make education decisions.

A study by The Bulldog found 18 errors in the CPS map intended to help parents make education decisions. Nine are listed on the illustration. Credit: CPS.EDU

Suspect held in Gonzales murder; UPDATE: 2nd suspect released

Andrew Salamon, 25, of the Hanson Park neighborhood, has been charged with first degree murder and armed robbery in the October 9, 2009 murder of North Center businessman Robert Gonzales.

Salamon, a resident of the 2300 block of North Lockwood, was recruited into the murder/ robbery by a second person, according to Andy Conklin, spokesman for the Cook County States Attorney. The burglary followed a fight at O’Lanagan’s on September 11, 2009.

The second person was knocked out in that fight. He was apparently angered that Gonzales was laughing about the ko and wanted compensation from Gonzales.

The second person was not identified by police or the states’ attorney, although he is being held for questioning.

According to the states’ attorney, at 4.47A on October 9 the two surprised owner Gonzales who had left the bar and set the alarm. Conklin said Salamon punched the 69 year old Gonzales and the second person beat him with a metal pipe. According to press reports Gonzales died within 24 hours of the beating. Police spokesman Officer Robert Perez said Gonzales was beaten to death.

The two then entered the bar, using keys taken from Gonzales. That set off the burglar alarm, alerting police and causing the two to flee, according to Conklin.

Conklin said Salamon had made a video statement admitting his role in the murder.

Salamon is being held without bond. The next court date is set for November 30.

*** UPDATED Nov. 15 @ 8.45A

This morning police said they have released a 44 year old questioned in the murder of Robert Gonzales. The man was not charged, according to police spokesmen Officer Robert Perez.

Persons with information that could lead to solving this murder are urged to contact Area Three Detectives at +1.312.744.8261.


No freeze here yet

It may have been kissed by Mr. Frost but not enough for a a freeze. 2400 block of W Cullom 11/11/11 7:30 am Photo credit: Jane Rickard

It was cold Friday morning. Colder than it has been in this area since March.

But it wasn’t a freeze. Not yet.

According to WeatherUnderground, the Irving Park station KILCHICA69 recorded a temperature low of 33.1° F for about 20 minutes starting at 6.30A Friday. The new KILCHICA105 station in Lincoln Square recorded an even lower reading of 32.7° F for five minutes at 6.11A.

While the West Rogers Park station KILCHICA51 hit 32° F for five minutes starting at 6.35A.

That’s on the knife edge and isn’t acceptable to define a frost. The temperature has to be BELOW freezing first. A condition that means our growing season is now at about 228 days with the next chance of a freeze being on Wednesay night.

Enjoy this unusually beautiful weather.


Ravenswood Community Council management under scrutiny— again

Management of the Ravenswood Community Council is under scrutiny again. An award winning series by The Bulldog in January and February noted that the charity, which runs Special Service Area 31, almost failed financially in the period 2005-7.

The series went on to criticize the SSA for failing to provide basic snow clearance following the heavy snow fall. It contrasted the failure in the SSA with successful clearance efforts in other areas that did not have SSA funding available.

SSA stands for Special Service Area. Created by the city, SSAs collect a property tax levy to fund “enhanced” services such as cleaning snow and trash from sidewalks. The RCC manages SSA 31 for the city.

As the manager of the SSA the RCC receives a management fee from the city. In addition it manages the services provided in the area, principally snow removal and street cleaning, but also promotion.

Although the SSA eventually cleared the sidewalks, it was a failure of the city’s Streets and Sanitation Department to clear the streets of snow on Ravenswood, while streets were cleared on industrial streets such as Rockwell and Bradley, that led to issues, according to the story, in ordinary commercial work and the efforts of charities such as the Night Ministry to maintain services.

The series is credited with being a key element in the election loss of Ravenswood Community Council President Tom O’Donnell in the aldermanic election.

A recent spat between a blog and the council has raised the issue again.

CSJ Report has errors

The post, found here at CenterSquareJournal, says the RCC is a tool of Schulter. “Current board members with political ties to Schulter include (Tom) O’Donnell, the former president of the 47th Ward Democratic Party, (Bill) Helm, the current president of the 47th Ward Democratic Party and Marty Casey, who was 47th Ward Streets and Sanitation Superintendent under Schulter.”

The inside scoop

The news that the RCC is a political tool of Schulter is not news. Sadly missing from the list of members with political ties to Eugene Schulter is Rosemary Schulter, listed by the RCC on its website as a director. Rosemary Schulter is married to Eugene Schulter.

The CSJ report goes on to confuse SSA revenue, describing $368,000 received as applied to “administering the Special Service Area #31 contract.”

The inside scoop

As noted by RCC Executive Director Chris Shickles in a reply, “RCC will receive about $50,000 in service provider compensation for managing the SSA which is in line with other similar sized SSAs throughout the city.”

The remainder of the funds are directed to efforts such as signage (the hanging banners you see on light poles), snow clearance, litter removal and landscaping. Much of that work is done by independent contractors.

The post says the RCC experiences high administrative costs.

 The inside scoop

As The Bulldog noted months ago, administrative costs at the RCC have historically ranged up to 143.14 percent of revenue in 2007. The Bulldog also pointed to HRAIL as a program with glaring inefficiency. During a four year period the RCC administered HRAIL program repaired ten homes each year for $241,538, excluding the administrative costs.

    • HRAIL is a program of small home repairs intended to maintain senior citizens in the community.
    • HRAIL has been superceeded by the SARFS program: Small Accessible Repairs for Seniors.

And The Bulldog noted that much of the revenue received was spent on independent contractors and employees, not community efforts.

Despite the financial meltdown the RCC avoided, it continued on with O’Donnell at its head. On the one hand, the RCC headed into a serious financial meltdown under O’Donnell’s leadership. It was also a hands-off leadership, The Bulldog found. O’Donnell was only present at one SSA meeting over a two year period.

Since that initial examination of the SSA minutes, O’Donnell has continued to be absent from each SSA meeting.

The issue is not just that RCC has high administrative costs, but whether the city should even fund these entities. For one thing, RCC is not the only political creature in city that receives money. As Tom Tresser, a former candidate for Cook County Board President, noted if there is a need for these services there is nothing to prevent neighborhood businesses from getting together to provide them.

The services provide a means of cloaking city services. Few property owners and fewer voters understand whether they are covered by an SSA and how to influence them. There must be a more efficient means of administering SSA services than through chambers of commerce.

Plus, the creation of a relationship between the chamber and the city creates a dependency relationship that stifles political dissent.

In essence, the chambers become tools of the city, they lack transparency and accountability to the public.

Finally, the post says there was testimony that the RCC was “politically motivated.” And the post says a hire has “alleged connections to organized crime.”

The inside scoop

The assassination of people based on association is broad. Sheila Pacione, a new employee of RCC, is correctly noted by the blog to be a former staffer of Shulter for example.

Dan Stefanski, another employee, is painted by the blog as a childhood friend of “convicted” former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Stefanski parlayed that childhood friendship into a position in the Blagojevich administration.

And the post says he was fired from the Illinois Department of Transportation for drunk driving. AND Stefanski has a past as a bookie, the report says.

According to a 2005 Chicago Sun-Times article cited online by other web sites but no longer available, an International Brotherhood of Teamsters team of investigators named Stefanski is a friend of reputed mobsters Robert Abbinanti and Nick “The Stick” LoCoco. Stefanski, according to the report, issued a statement offering a $20,000 reward for the address of a mob informant.

Stefanski does not deny keeping company with alleged mobsters, according to the report.

In the spirit of full transparency, The Bulldog itself has ties to RCC. The Bulldog sponsored an event with RCC in September, “The Bells of Ravenswood.”

As noted last month, Michael Fourcher, the publisher of the CenterSquareJournal, is a prolific entrepreneur. According to the CSJ post, Fourcher was a contributor to the post.

Fourcher was associated with the politically connected Haymarket Group, Podesta Associates, former Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson and ran a political consulting firm as recently as last year, overlapping with his creation of the CenterSquareJournal blog. Fourcher’s political interest in ward politics remains unknown.

It is a “politically motivated” piece according to a reply to the article by Democratic ward boss Eugene Schulter.

According to social media, Schulter is running again for the 47th Ward Democratic committeeman position. Schulter has not formally announced his run.

*** UPDATE Nov. 13, 2011 @ 10.30A We added two paragraphs to explain the roll of SSAs and how they receive their funding. Go to the new text ***

*** UPDATE Nov. 13, 2011 @ 11.05A We moved two paragraphs to the end of the post to provide better flow to the story. And we added an explanation of what the HRAIL program is. ***

Rosenfeld Announces Intention to Run for 47th Ward Democratic Committeeman

Photo of Paul Rosenfeld

According to a press release just sent out, Paul Rosenfeld, owner of Government Navigation Group, a small consulting business based in Chicago, IL, has announced his intention to run for 47th Ward Democratic Committeeman.

Rosenfeld has the backing of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. Long time Alderman Gene Schuelter is also running for Committeeman. Following through on his campaign promise, current Alderman Ameya Pawar has decided not to run for Committeeman. Pawar has backed Rosenfeld.

According to the press release, here are Rosenfeld’s priorities, “Rosenfeld’s priorities if elected include: creating an inclusive Democratic organization within the ward; ensuring that decisions affecting the ward and candidate endorsements are made openly and with collaboration.  Rosenfeld emphasizes the need to be fair toall, while paying special attention to the ward’s neediest neighbors, and is committed to working every day to improve the quality of life in the ward for everyone the community”.

The Republicans, like in most of Chicago, are largely disorganized in 47. Paul Bonilla is the most recent 47th Ward Republican Committeeman but he’s not running for reelection. All Committeemen races will be decided when Illinois holds its primaries on March 20, 2012.

Committeemen are largely responsible for getting out the vote in their districts. Powerful committeemen, those that are able to get out many votes, have influence in picking candidates, government jobs, and contracts, while weak committeemen, those that don’t get out votes, are largely ceremonial titles with little influence.

One other Committeeman race to watch will be in 32 where current 32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack will go up against current Cook County Board Commissioner John Fritchey.  Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle will also run for reelection in her ward the 4th District.

Rosenfeld lives in the North Center neighborhood with his wife Ellen and their four children, who attend their neighborhood public school.  Paul graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in Political Science.



North Side Foreclosure Map

Based on data from Cook County, The Bulldog presents three months of foreclosures in North Side Zip Codes. Dataset from Cook County, period three months ended July 15, 2011.

View Foreclosures in 5 Ravenswood area ZIP Codes for 3 months ended July 15, 2011 in a larger map

*** Update on Nov. 8, 2011 @ 11.32A ***
A reader asked if we had this information available in a tabular form. Yep. It is posted it below.

The next question was where did the data come from? The data is for the three months ended July 15, 2011 and is freely available at the Cook County Data Portal:

You’ll notice if you go to that set that we have used Geographic coordinates to create the Google Map. That information is not apparent in the dataset. In other words, if you drill down into our map you can identify the exact address that was foreclosed. That’s generally true of all our data sets unless we alert you that it isn’t true.

That leaves a pretty bare map, without addresses, names and other information. Basically, that’s all that is available in this dataset.

Would it help to post PIN numbers or document numbers? We left those fields out of our data. Call or write and we’ll include them for the next review of this data set.***

Polish Americans Demand Representation in New Map

Members of the Polish American community implored a number of Aldermen to make sure their community is represented in the upcoming redistricting map at a town hall, the first of a series, that gave the public an opportunity to voice their opinion about the nature of the map that will need to be drawn to reflect the most recent census. Chicago is home to one of the biggest Polish American communities in America. About 180,000 households in the Chicagoland area speak Polish primarily in the home.

The town hall was held at North Park Village at 5801 N. Pulaski and is the closest public meeting for Ravenswood residents. Aldermen including Richard Mell, 33, Scott Waguespack, 32, and John Arena, 45, were among those in attendance.

At the meeting, a number of individuals that represent the Polish American community implored the politicians to make sure that their community is represented.

“We want to go to one Aldermanic office to take care of the needs of our community,” said Robert Groszek, an attorney. The Polish American community has its zenith on Belmont between Pulaski and Milwaukee, parts of Jefferson Park, and on Archer in the South Side. Groszek said after that the community on Belmont is covered by three different Wards (31, 35, and 30). Groszek also said he was worried that the 45th Ward might be split and splitting up that Polish American community in the process.

Michael Dubrisky agreed, “The Polish American community deserves to be represented.”

“Keeping the Polish Community is beneficial to Chicago because you can streamline services,” said Agnieszka Sobczyk of the Polish American Association.

A Polish American contractor said that within 100 feet there are three different wards and it makes it difficult to put together the necessary permits because he is always dealing with a different Aldermen.

A number of individuals also complained that the recent census under reported their community. They said that because no question on the census form is asked about which language is spoken at home, communities like the Polish American community aren’t isolated and instead fall into a larger ethnic group.

Alderman Dick Mell spoke after with Welles Park Bulldog and sounded hopeful, “We’re going to try to do the best we can. But the Polish community has moved (over time). Maybe (creating a Polish ward) is a possibility. We’ll try.”

Mell faces a difficult process pleasing all the different groups. He explained earlier that the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund has demanded that at least fourteen wards be predominantly Hispanic. The Black Caucus has also produced its own map.

Mell’s Reform and Ethics Committee will be responsible for drawing a map. Mell said he was also concerned that the final map won’t face a legal challenge. Ward maps must adhere to several nebulous principles, “compact, continuous, and relatively even.”

The next meeting is this evening, North- Grand High School (Auditorium), 4338 West Wabansia, 6:00 – 9:00 p.m.

Patrick Boylan contributed to this report.

Photo of Deviation (change required) for each ward

Photo of Census Results- Majority Minority Populations

Photo of Census Results by Race- % Black

Photo of Census Results by Race- % Asian

Photo of Census Results by Race- % Hispanic

Photo of Census Results by Race- % White




North Attendance Area High Schools report

***Dec. 2, 2011 @ 4.09P An updated map and spread sheet on this subject is available. ***

How would you rank our area public schools?

In the next week parents will be sent a new report by the Chicago Public Schools. According to media reports, the ‘progress reports’ will accompany student report cards starting today.

The reports will emphasize students reaching benchmarks to go to college, according to the Chicago Tribune. Other indicators will include “teacher and staffing information, graduation rates, school climate, leadership and parent satisfaction,” the report says.

All of these measures are available through independent sources gathered here for you by The Bulldog.

Using surveys published within the past 18 months by Newsweek and Chicago Magazine, test scores compiled and analyzed by the Chicago Sun-Times, input from parents, students and community members on GreatSchools and in a University of Chicago survey and finally data provided by the Chicago Public Schools, The Bulldog set out this week to understand our public school system.

It is a difficult system to navigate. In the Ravenswood area there are four area public high schools: Lane Tech, Amundsen, Lake View and DeVry. In addition, a high school student has a wide choice of other schools. And a small part of our coverage has attendance at other schools, Roosevelt and Senn.

Mistakes made by parents and adults are paid for by children.

And we find this very frustrating: virtually no one in politics takes responsibility for the problems. They blame unions, parents, ‘the schools.’ We might look no deeper than the TIF issue to understand how this sorry situation has been twisted to benefit long-time politicians.

The Bulldog chose to start by creating a database that presents in one place a place for you to examine all the information on your school choices. We’ve presented this information to you as a searchable Google map and as a spread sheet that you can use to sort, filter and examine the information.

Today, we move on, providing information gathered about area public high schools.

In addition, we’ve added an outline so that parents who don’t live in Ravenswood or the North Attendance area can follow along and develop their own database. (For questions, see our report on elementary school posted yesterday.)

Did you have a suggestion? Did you see an error? Drop it in the comments and we’ll try to deal with it.


*** Update to table on Nov. 8, 2011 @ 11.24A. ***

A sharp-eyed reader asked about the ACT scores for Amundsen. We checked all the ACT scores and discovered that Amundsen and Lake View were incorrect, based on the site. In addition we added the ACT score for Northside Learning. The table has been corrected and the map should reflect the new results going forward.

We apologize for the error.


Mashup of Public High Schools for Ravenswood students


The Ratings and Rankings


Further Notes on the Schools

The instructions to follow regarding locating your neighborhood high school’s attendance districts are similar to those presented for the elementary schools. However the maps are in a different location. So, for instruction, finding information on schools not in our report follow these links to see a map of high school attendance districts.


West/ Central and South:

Far South: