Final show of the season for Midnight Circus

The Midnight Circus will be closing out its shows with visits to two neighborhood parks. This is a wonderful event of big-tent excitement in the great blue of the park. And, the proceeds from the event is used to benefit the parks. It is a win-win.

  • Midnight Circus/ Circus in the Parks
  • Chase Park; 4701 N Ashland
  • Sat. Oct. 22; 2P & 5P
  • Sun. Oct. 23; 1P & 4P

Hoops removed from Bronco Billy

Ald. James Cappleman noted that the basketball hoops have been removed from Bronco Billy Park, 4437 N Magnolia, in the Uptown neighborhood.

“On advice from the police, in agreement with the Parks Department, the basketball hoops at the Bronco Billy Park have been removed,” Cappleman announced in his weekly letter to constituents today.

“The police recommended this change to help alleviate accelerated gang activity in the area,” Cappleman said. Cappleman said he was working to move the hoops activities to a program at a number of parks including Chase Park in Ravenswood.

Bronco Billy Park is a playlot park located just west of the Truman College campus.

From Schulter to Pawar; a story of us

The Bulldog’s second story, March 15, 2010, was about an upstart grad student who planned to challenge Eugene Schulter. Nearly 1,100 posts later, and The Bulldog can report that the upstart is your new alderman. Was it as much of an upset as other media outlets say? Ameya Pawar himself reports that he was surprised by the outcome. Was it a surprise? Today, in celebration of Pawar’s win and his elevation to alderman on Monday The Bulldog looks back to consider the campaign.

The early campaign: Late February 2010 to September 7, 2010

Ald. Eugene Schulter

Ald. Eugene Schulter Credit: Jane Rickard

Early in the campaign Schulter looked like a shoo-in for another term. He was blessed with a ward organization that was large, organized and if not always effective, well financed. In addition Schulter had mastered the art of bringing home the pork. In meetings around the ward Schulter promised and delivered on millions of dollars of public projects. The largest, the $200 million bridge project for the Union Pacific, would tap into Federal stimulus money to create a new Ravenswood Station. The project would take years to complete and would require a specialized work force. However there were other projects too.

Looking back Schulter was playing old-time politics.

  • In late March 2010, Schulter cut short a vacation to oppose a plan to cutback on street sweepers. But the street sweeper plan, forecast to save the city millions of dollars, refused to die despite its withdrawal by Mayor Richard Daley.
  • In late July Schulter appeared with Ill. Gov. Pat Quinn when Quinn used a Ravenswood home as the backdrop to sign into law a seven percent property tax cap. At the signing Quinn noted Schulter’s work on behalf of property tax reform.

Aside from the new station for commuters, the bridge work would not provide significant benefits for a Ravenswood workforce not generally engaged in the specialized construction of the railroad bridges. However there were clear benefits for families with the new playgrounds and to businesses benefiting from the landscaping. Yet the financial crisis was creating questions about the administration of the TIF districts used to pay for much of the local projects while nationally the Tea Party and the Republican Party were addressing the proper role of government.
The strengths that Daley, Quinn and Schulter relied on for political support, identifying tax dollar projects, were eroding under financial and political pressure. It is still not clear how big a liability big spending will be both for the government and for some politicians. However what is clear is that the issue, at this point, mid-way through 2011, still has legs.

The middle campaign: September 7 to November 2

Ameya Pawar. Credit: Jane Rickard

The world turned upside down on September 7 with the unexpected withdrawal of Daley from the contest for mayor. Schulter accompanied Daley that evening to a German-American function at the Cultural Center. While Daley’s attitude was one at peace with his decision, Schulter’s face betrayed concern. The Bulldog talked to Pawar that day. He forecast that Daley’s decision wouldn’t change things in the 47th Ward. But in fact, the mayor’s decision had changed everything. Within days Schulter’s name was being listed as a possible contender as mayor. Schulter’s main asset was his large campaign fund. But this was a stronger asset than many candidates possessed. Schulter indicated soon enough that he was not interested in the post.

Schulter held an aldermanic campaign fundraiser shortly after he removed his name from consideration. Campaign financing reports indicate his aldermanic campaign raised a multiple of what Pawar had raised in the months previous. In fact, few voters were thinking of the municipal elections coming in February. The 2010 general election was still on the horizon. In the streets of Ravenswood The Bulldog would run into Pawar, walking a block in his quest. At this point it must have seemed a lonely and forgotten effort. Pawar, in an interview with The Bulldog last week said these days formed a foundation that served him well later in the campaign. People, he said, remembered him knocking on their door or knew he had met with neighbors. They were withholding their opinion, but watching developments. Two further developments may have been considered. The first, the city budget came up for consideration by the City Council prior to the General Election.

  • In October Schulter announced he would oppose plans to cut budgets to chambers of commerce. In Chicago chambers of commerce receive support from the city. Direct support may vary from a few thousand dollars annually to tens of thousands. In addition, the chambers administer Special Service Areas, each providing municipal type services valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars. As demonstrated by issues associated with the Logan Square farmers market recently, a local alderman can use the city support to reward or to punish chambers. Despite calls to cut the chambers, which would allow them to function as independent political entities, Schulter and the chambers rallied to oppose the cuts. Schulter went so far as to say he would not support any budget that cut chamber support.
  • The City Inspector General issued a report detailing $243 million in estimated savings on Oct. 25.
  • Fitch, a bond rating service, downgraded the city’s rating on Oct. 28.
  • The Civic Federation released a criticism of the budget. That was followed by a delay in an $800 million city bond sale.
  • Standard & Poor’s followed the lead of Fitch, also downgrading the city’s bonds. The downgrades have added to the cost of city borrowing and made borrowing more challenging.
  • In early November Schulter voted for a budget that borrowed heavily from ‘rainy day’ funds created by the sale of the parking meter system. The budget was widely criticized for failing to address the structural deficit of the city. The $1.5 billion parking meter fund was spent to avoid addressing the structural issues. Critics described the situation as kicking the can down the road for the next mayor.
  • Schulter would not comment to The Bulldog about the budget, but it appeared that he wouldn’t offer solutions to the fiscal crisis, and would defend his current aldermanic prerogatives against cost cutting.

The November General Election saw Illinois move against a Republican swing elsewhere. Here Democrats, with the exception of a US Senate candidate, generally won. The election left the Illinois Democratic Party in control of both chambers of the Statehouse and the governor’s office. In Cook County there was a push to elect independent Forrest Claypool, a Ravenswood resident, to the office of the Cook County Assessor. Schulter had thrown his hat in with Claypool, opposing the county party. Other Democratic Party organizations, notably Evanston, had also supported Claypool over Cook County Democratic boss Joe Berrios. Berrios’ victory was despite these objections and strong opposition by both the local daily newspapers.

November 3 through January 17

Matt Reichel. Credit: Steve Stearns

Schulter demonstrated the strength of the 47th Ward regular organization by filing 5,641 signatures. Even discounting the thousands of signatures collected by circulators living outside the Ward boundaries, Schulter gathered more signatures than collected by all other candidates running in the ward combined. Outside the ward however, it was clear there would be a change on City Council. Dissatisfaction with politics as usual and the promise of a new mayor combined to attract a large number of aldermanic candidates in many wards. Tom Jacks and Matt Reichel joined the hunt for the 47th Ward seat. On the final day of filing there was also a surprise filing: Tom O’Donnell. O’Donnell had been a circulator for Schulter. They were considered close. Schulter had supported O’Donnell to replace Larry McKeon. O’Donnell ran the Ravenswood Community Council for Schulter. In on-line discussions there were dark rumblings from persons claiming to be in the 47th Ward Democratic Party that ‘mean Gene’ would be receiving payback for slighting Berrios and Ed Kelly. The role of O’Donnell was a mystery. O’Donnell added to the mystery by turning aside all attempts to contact him. In late December it became clear that Schulter was seeking a position on the Cook County Board of Review. The position had come open when Berrios had taken the position of assessor. O’Donnell was covering the aldermanic opening if Schulter succeeded.

January 18 to the Coonley debate

Tom Jacks. Credit: Steve Stearns

Schulter’s announcement that he would withdraw from the aldermanic race was a move designed to convince Head Judge Tim Evans of how serious Schulter’s interest in the position was. O’Donnell’s administration of the RCC, the near financial collapse of the RCC, the fact that O’Donnell had only attended a single meeting of the SSA 31 in a two year period all came to the attention of the community January 25 when The Bulldog ran an article that examined O’Donnell’s community leadership claim. The Bulldog noted that O’Donnell lacked a door-to-door effort, lacked a phone, lacked a web site. “The heir apparent to Schulter is relying on the strength of the 47th Ward Democratic organization to get him elected,” we wrote. On January 26 the candidates appeared at Coonley School in a forum. It was the only forum or debate that featured all four candidates.

The Coonley debate

Tom O'Donnell. Credit: Jane Rickard

The Coonley debate is generally held to be the turning point in the campaign. Prior to the debate O’Donnell was raising money outside the ward. His supporters were confident of victory.

After the debate the momentum shifted to Pawar. The small gymnasium at Coonley was packed to standing room only. With each question, Jacks, Pawar and Reichel would ad-lib an answer. O’Donnell would leaf through a pad, placing it in front of his face and read the statement off the pad. In one case, regarding the Western Avenue South TIF it wasn’t clear O’Donnell understood the way TIFs work or what they could do. The ‘experienced community activist’ was turning out to be a dud who couldn’t explain what he’d do different after all his years of activism.

In many cases O’Donnell defended Schulter, despite the fact Schulter’s role wasn’t being questioned. Jacks answered one question, firing at O’Donnell about his qualifications. Jacks, without ever saying O’Donnell’s name, questioned the Chicago practice of political nepotism. On stage O’Donnell’s face grew red. Reichel tried to describe his plan to tax motorists, a toll based on congestion pricing. A similar system is used in Central London. Although he spoke eloquently, he described policies to address institutional racism and taxing upper class citizens to relieve the burden on poorer citizens. His largely white and upper middle class audience wasn’t interested.

Jacks thought’s about government were better received but still did not appear to have meat to them. It is fine to criticize political nepotism, but what policy does that point to at the Ward level? News likes conflict. Listen to the discussion of Donald Trump and you’ll understand that the colorful and quick quote provided on deadline is meat to the news media. In the months that The Bulldog had been writing about Pawar we’d learned that Pawar wasn’t a good quote. What we mean by that is Pawar is thoughtful. He listens to questions, considers them carefully and answers with care. At one point in the Coonley debate the candidates were asked about the Sweet Home Chicago ordinance. That proposal would use TIF funds for affordable housing. O’Donnell, Jacks and Reichel all supported the proposal. Pawar said he would study it. It could, he noted, create political support for TIFs and he felt the need for TIF reform was great. Other means could be found to fund affordable housing, he said.

It was a thoughtful answer to a complicated question. It may be at this point that our photographer took the picture which accompanies this post. It seems to capture a moment in time when the possibility of winning seemed real to Pawar.

The Coonley debate. Credit: Jane Rickard

The end of the campaign: January 27 to election day

Pawar notes that after the Coonley debate he saw a dramatic uptick in campaign financing. Three days after the debate The Bulldog laid out questions about O’Donnell’s bio. A day later The Bulldog laid out the case against the Ravenswood Community Council. And, like any historic Chicago election, this one had a blizzard. At The Bulldog, the efforts of the RCC to clear the sidewalks were chronicled. The snow removal in the Ravenswood Industrial Corridor were compared to similar areas on Rockwell and in the Addison Street Industrial Corridor. [The RCC, which O'Donnell led, was responsible for snow removal on sidewalks. The city, led by Schulter, was responsible for snow removal on ward streets.]

On-line there were complaints of streets that needed to be cleared and alleys piled high with snow. Pawar says that this was a period of intense social media communication. Stories from The Bulldog, but also from other media, were being exchanged by neighbors. And neighbors were meeting on the streets of Ravenswood, clearing our streets and freeing our cars and talking politics. Neighbors expressed anger that Schulter had selected O’Donnell without allowing neighbors input. More than once I heard “who does he think he is with this guy?” Well, Schulter thought he was the alderman.

On January 31 a small event seemed to sum up the hopelessness of the O’Donnell cause. That was the day Pete Leki endorsed Pawar. Leki is an environmental activist who maintains the Waters School Garden. A small community group is closely associated with Leki’s work, the Riverbank Neighbors. In addition Leki is close to another activist community, the Beyond Today Co-op. In the years I have known Leki he generally worked with Schulter. The Leki endorsement was considered key at The Bulldog. It showed a genuine interest in Pawar among Beyond Today, probably at Riverbank Neighbors and also among the education community. Undoubtedly, there was an element of the artistic community that closely followed-up on Leki’s endorsement too. And the endorsement broke with Leki’s tradition of working with Schulter. It was an endorsement that was a multiplier. It may have appeared small, but was in fact a much bigger event.

O’Donnell now made a new enemy. The Center Square Journal, a blog that also features events in the Ravenswood neighborhood announced O’Donnell was pulling out of its candidate forum. O’Donnell skipped a third forum at Lake View High School later that same week. On the last weekend of the campaign The Bulldog launched the last of its investigative posts on O’Donnell, noting he was under investigation for using Sheriffs department equipment for political purposes.

Election Day

Ald. Ameya Pawar. Credit: Jane Rickard

On the morning of the election Pawar asked me what I thought his chances were. I had told him that I believed there was a 40 percent chance he would win outright, but that there was a only a small chance of O’Donnell winning outright. The day proved to be a lesson in getting out the vote. Winning in politics is often dependent on the basic things. GOTV, raising money and getting ballot access separate the professionals from the amateurs.

The 47th Ward Regular Democratic Party had proven itself by superior fundraising and an excellent ballot drive. Election day saw the regular organization with a superior GOTV effort. At many polling places there appeared to be no sign of Pawar, Jacks and Reichel. Despite that Pawar won. The election of this thoughtful man was an affirmation of neighbors using new and old social media. Neighbors talking while clearing a street of snow, trading e-mails and the decision of a neighborhood activist all added up to a win, with Pawar receiving as many votes as that enjoyed by Schulter in previous contests.

Old-time politics, and in particular a strong Get Out the Vote effort, were unable to overcome frustration at politics as usual. The ward organization once again showed that it is unable to deliver votes for anyone but Schulter. Would the result have been different if Schulter had run? Yes. Schulter, for all his weaknesses, wasn’t O’Donnell.

Schulter exits; His legacy remains Part 2

Ald. Eugene Schulter

Ald. Eugene Schulter Credit: Jane Rickard

This weekend marks the end of an era, not just for Chicago, but for Ravenswood. Today, for the first time since 1975, the 47th Ward will not be represented by Eugene Schulter.

Schulter’s impact on the Ward will last well into the future, even as the laminated signs disappear from our alleys and his name from projects completed.

Schulter joined the council at the age of 26 in 1975. At the time he was the youngest alderman to ever serve. Schulter will be remembered in the Ward for his leadership in the movement of the Old Town School of Folk Music main campus to Lincoln Square, the establishment of the Sulzer Regional Library and the economic revitalization of Lincoln Square.

In part two, we look at some of the civic projects and legacy of his time in office.

Sulzer Library

Among the big projects that will last generations is the creation of the Conrad Sulzer Regional Library. Was it Schulter’s creation of that of Ed Kelly, his political mentor? Both politicians take credit for the library.

The library was opened in the fall of 1985 at a cost of $5.5 million to replace the Hild Regional Library. Although the design created “one of the city’s brightest and airiest” libraries, the 65,000 quare foot building “lopped about 30,000 square feet” from the original design according to Ben Joravsky of the Chicago Reader.

It also suffered from a design flaw that allowed water to leak into the structure as late as 2001.

By 2001 the library is reported to have had the second largest circulation in the Chicago Library System according to the report by Joravsky. A report in Inside Publications in 2001 says the branch had a circulation of 72 percent that of the Washington main branch.

In August 2001, according to press reports in the Reader and other local newspapers, the Sulzer branch collection was hit with a purge of the collection. Activists estimate the library lost ten percent of the total collection, up to 35,000 books.

Schulter joined Sulzer’s Friends of the Library and local media in a confrontation with central office staff as news spread of the purge. In a basement confrontation at the library Schulter got into a shouting match with “one of (Library Commissioner Mary) Dempsey’s staffers,” according to the Reader’s interview with Ron Roenigk, a member of the Sulzer Friends of the Library.

Schulter, the Friends of Sulzer and others met with Dempsey later that week. Their agreement to create an advisory council does not appear to have been followed-up as there is no such council presently active at Sulzer.

Old Town School of Folk Music

According to the Chicago Tribune, “most people credit (the arrival of the Old Town School of Folk Music) with kick-starting the neighborhood’s transformation. The opening in 1998 transformed the former Hild Library building into a neighborhood cultural center with regular music performances. The first location for the school was in the Old Town Triangle on North Ave. In 1968 the school moved to a 13,000 square foot location it still owns on Armitage.

Schulter says he approached the OTS to move into the Hild Library building, vacant after the construction of the Sulzer Library. In 1994 the OTS was chosen as the preferred recipient of the former Hild building. This assessment of Schulter’s role was shared by Bau Graves of the OTS as well as Schulter.

The new 43,000 square foot $10 million site opened in 1998. It had a 400 seat venue for concerts and allowed the school to expand enrollment to 6,400 students per week according to a report in the Chicago Tribune. In 2010, the school laid the ground for an $18 million 27,100 square foot expansion across Lincoln Ave. from the Hild location.

An economic engine, the school employs 300 teachers and staff and expects to add 250 when the expansion is complete.

Although the school plans to add up to 4,800 students a week after the completion of the addition, plans for handling the parking crunch have not yet been explained.

The school also holds an annual Folk and Roots Festival in Welles Park each summer.

The school has also acted as a magnet. The strip of Lincoln near the school does not appear to have as many issues with storefront vacancies and the school is credited with attracting the Chicago Printmakers Collaborative.

Lincoln Square Pedestrian Mall success and failure

It may not appear like it today, but at one time the small boutique stores of the Lincoln Square Mall struggled against larger retail areas, particularly a Lake View big store strip centered on Belmont, Ashland and Lincoln.

An entry in The Encyclopedia of Chicago by Amanda Seligman notes the situation:

The intersection at Lincoln, Lawrence, and Western Avenues had never been as popular as other regional shopping districts, and the growing number of empty storefronts after World War II made some merchants worry about their ability to attract customers. In 1956, they erected a statue of the late president Abraham Lincoln, for whom the area and its major street were called. In 1978 they developed the Lincoln Square mall, a pedestrian plaza that required a controversial rerouting of local traffic. The chamber tried to evoke an Old World flavor with European-style shops and a lantern imported from Hamburg, Germany.

Although he was just in his 20′s and two years in office at the time, Schulter claims credit for the redevelopment of the mall. “One of his first initiatives as Alderman was to change the traffic flow on the 4800 block of N. Lincoln Avenue to create the pedestrian mall in the Lincoln Square,” his web site says.

The pedestrian mall began filling the storefronts south of Lawrence Avenue. However, the area north of Lawrence continued to languish behind the mall.

In March 2006 a Chicago Tribune story noted a city plan to purchase 11 parcels in the “4800 block of North Lincoln” and the “4900 block of North Western.”

“Of those buildings, maybe three are occupied” by commercial tenants Schulter told the Tribune.

In September 2007 the city Community Development Commission approved acquiring 16 parcels saying the businesses “do not represent the highest and best use of the land.”

However, the owner of Chicago Soccer, Imre Hidvegi, and the owner of Decorium Furniture, Tim Le, organized against the eminent domain.

They pointed to their successful businesses and their investments. On December 5, 2007, as Schulter guided eminent domain legislation towards a vote, a group called Save Lincoln Square met at Chicago Soccer to organize against the City Council vote. When the crowd asked why Schulter wasn’t there to meet with them someone announced that he had open ward night at his office and wasn’t available.

Someone else announced they were residents and stood up saying something to the effect of ‘I’m going to go down there.’

According to Tom Mannis of the Chicago News Bench 200-300 people marched down Lincoln Ave to Schulter’s office. A report in the ChiTownDailyNews said the number was closer to 100.

“Alderman Eugene Schulter yelled at his constituents and threatened to have the police haul them away,” Mannis reports. Mannis’ version was confirmed to The Bulldog by other witnesses that night.   The video below, from the Chicago News Bench shows the protest.  

The Sun-Times Mark Konkol noted Schulter’s capitulation:

Bowing to pressure following a community protest and the Sun-Times coverage of his redevelopment plans for the Lincoln Square business district, Alderman Gene Schulter (47th Ward) pulled an ordinance that would have allowed the city to use its eminent domain powers to gobble up the 4800 block of Western.

(In a statement Schulter said) I would like to also take this opportunity to thank the many residents of the 47th Ward who have called, written, and emailed their thoughts and views on this issue to my office expressing both support and concerns.

Other achievements

Talking to Schulter during an informal meeting last spring, prior to being cut-off from further contact, Schulter told The Bulldog he had a hand in the development of most of the business in the Ward.

It was a fantastic claim from a person who had never started a small business.

Here are a few of the major claims on the Schulter’s bio on the city web site:

  • Developed Levy Senior Center
  • Established Western and Belmont police and court facilities
  • Created fire station at Damen and Grace
  • Created new field house at Chase Park
  • Advocated for substantial improvements at Welles Park and Paul Revere Park
  • Created new jobs and retained jobs in the Ravenswood Industrial Corridor
  • Created Greening of Ravenswood
  • Sponsored capital and operational improvements at schools in ward, new additions at McPherson and Chappell
  • Fought negligent and delinquent landlords in ward
  • Established Lake View High School Campus. (“city’s first school campus.” I guess the campus at Lane Tech came later?)

The Western Avenue North TIF, which is unmentioned above, reports it funded one project. It also hung out several million dollars for small business development. Millions move from this TIF to other TIFs in the city.

The Western Avenue South TIF helped the Martha Washington Hospital campus transform into a senior campus and can be considered a TIF success.

It too ships millions of dollars out of the community to help the city’s general revenue fund.

Greening of Ravenswood doesn’t seem to have been active for several years. Its website is for sale.

The Ravenswood Community Council, itself a creature of Schulter, is trying to reinvent itself after years of failure.

The Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce has collapsed. The industrial corridor is reinventing itself as an artist district.

The neighborhood schools are adequate. As noted in previous Bulldog reports, sadly, they are not excellent. Responsibility for their problems are denied by our elected officials, though the shiny new additions are credited to politicians who have supported fiscal policies that have robbed the schools of potential resources.

In the 15 months The Bulldog has existed  Schulter famously returned from vacation to vote against a recommendation that would cut his control of street sweepers and trash collection. Later Schulter told the Lincoln Square Chamber of Commerce he would fight cuts to their funding.

(What happens when the Chamber crosses the alderman? Read about it here.)

Later, Schulter did not appear at a special meeting of the City Council called to put a referendum on the ballot regarding increasing police presence and to reconsider the parking meter lease.

For the final word on Schulter’s legacy we refer you to a report carried by WBEZ: “We really felt like we had no word,” Tim Le of Decorium told the radio station about Schulter’s eminent domain plans.

Read Part 1 of the Schulter legacy.

*** Update 110515 5.03P Bau Graves name had an extra ‘e’ (Beau). ***

 

201 Miles to Springfield: August 29, 2010

Former IL Gov Rod Blagojevich (D-Ravenswood Manor) isn’t getting the easy treatment on his media tour. Starting Sunday with Fox News Chris Wallace, Blago seemed to squirm as a 26 minute interview, with no commercial interruptions, grilled Blagojevich on his assertions of innocence.

The Fox interview brought reaction from state lawmakers, including AG Lisa Madigan who told the media Blago never discussed offering the US Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama to her. “Gov Blagojevich is a liar,” Madigan told the press.

Read Blago’s response to Madigan.

Monday Blago hit Comedy Central’s Daily Show. In his previous appearance there host Jon Stewart had famously asked if he could touch Blago’s hair and was criticized for fawning. Not this time.

Meanwhile, in Illinois, lawmakers attacked Blago’s plans to make a comeback. Blago told Wallace “If you’re asking me, do I believe that there’s a potential political comeback in the future, when I’m vindicated in this case, absolutely I do.”

IL Senate Pres John Cullerton’s (D-Ravenswood Manor) office told the Pantagraph “Blagojevich is disqualified from seeking any office created by state law.”

Minority IL Senate Leader Christine Radogno’s (R-Lemont) office chirped in “The prohibition on holding public office is not contingent upon the results of any criminal proceeding against Rod Blagojevich.”

Despite the IL Senate removal from office Blagojevich can run for federal offices, such as US Congressman and US Senate.

With the lone holdout juror struggling to explain her vote and a downstate paper chirping “Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich  — out of work and out on bond — compared himself to comic book super heroes fighting the forces of evil, or something like that” AND people wondering about how long Blago can remain a B list celebrity, he did get less than William Shatner and Mickey Dolenz for each signature after all, what odds would you give the former governor to successfully run, let’s say in the 33nd Ward, for public office again?

<>

The nominating period for running for alderman or mayor of Chicago started Tuesday morning. Scott Waguespack (D-32 Ward) is collecting signatures for the city council despite criticizing Mayor Richard Daley and being on the short list of mayoral challengers.

Daley’s troubles don’t end with a surging interest among contenders for his job either.

Last Sunday IL Rep John Fritchey (D-DePaul West) held a news conference to announce a proposal that would return excess TIF to the taxing bodies. Supporting him were members of the teachers union and the parents coalition Raise Your Hands Coalition.

Without going into greater detail about TIFs, there is an estimated $1.1 billion in TIF funds available to be released back to public bodies under the Fritchey proposal. Some of the surplus funds would be released back to schools, about $400 million going back to the Chicago Public Schools according to some estimates.

That’s enough to fill next year’s CPS budget gap.

Police, fire, Cook County and other government entities that rely on property tax revenue would also see some relief. It is possible the state, which assists some local entities, would be able to apply its revenues to other areas of the state in even greater need than the TIF districts, meaning a lower overall tax increase once the legislature returns to work.

The city itself would receive enough funds to fill a sizable portion of its budget hole too. That sounds good, right?

Not so fast, Daley has said. Well, no, actually what he said is:

“everybody wants to raid something,” Daley said. “I’m not going to listen to state government for financial advice. I’ll tell you one thing: The city of Chicago should not listen to the federal or state government for financial advice. We would be bankrupt today. We [should] not listen to them, your state senators or representatives. No way. Look what they’ve done with the state budget and now they’re telling us what to do with the city budget. No way.”

That extended quote, courtesy of the Chicago News Cooperative, was made in conjunction with the ribbon cutting at our own Chase Park. The Chase used $300K in TIF funds, but much of the funding was from local sources and neighborhood efforts. Under Daley’s Chicago you are supposed to believe these tax revenues will be seized by the State of Illinois and not used for local projects.

Daley’s words were aimed at Fritchey’s proposal.

It’s hard to know if Daley was speaking tongue in cheek. After all, the city is in the hole for nearly $650 million, has used much of the hated parking meter lease proceeds for tax relief and is facing the perception of an out-of-control gang problem fed by too few police on the street.

As Waguespack noted, Daley can hardly point at his stellar financial management of the city.

The list of candidates wanting Daley’s job, which just a few months ago seemed limited to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, keeps growing.

Fritchey, in making his proposal, asked the media to hold office holders who dismissed his idea accountable. How do they plan to fill the budget hole in the city, schools and county?

Of the three wards covered by The Bulldog, it appears only 47th Ward Ald Eugene Schulter (D-North Center) faces opposition. Challenger Ameya Pawar (D-North Center) noted the Fritchey proposal calling for comprehensive TIF reform.

<>

The UP North Line reconstruction got off to a rough start Monday, leading to more unwanted press for the project. According to the Chicago Tribune, trains got off to a late start, small trains proceeded larger trains, leading the smaller trains to fill and leaving the larger trains relatively empty.

Plus, now the Center for Neighborhood Technology has entered the fray over the $185 million bridge reconstruction project, charging that UP is raising the height of bridges as a benefit to truck traffic.

The CNT is also questioning the abandonment of a third set of rails on the line, according to the Tribune. Metra replied that it retains the capacity to recover the third set of rails, but would need to reconstruct retaining walls to do so. That would cost $80 million it told the Trib.

<>

The Bulldog may be the only publication asking about the $1.4 million community garden planned for a vacant lot located near Lawrence and Western Ave, but at least Ameya Pawar is listening.

In his blog he notes $1.4 million is a lot to spend on a community garden, what are the long-range plans here?

To put this in perspective, if each ward in the city was losing the tax base for a similar piece of land and spending this much, the budget hole would be about $70 million smaller. That’s a lot of cops on the street, or firemen protecting our homes that we don’t have because we are funding a garden project.

To put it another way, it’s about ten percent of the $655 million city budget hole. Provided the TIF monies used could be released back into the general budget that is (Yes, most would actually go to the schools. Spank us for generalizing. You get the drift.)

<>

Real estate: it always seems as if realtors and real estate agents are pushing people to buy or sell NOW! Recent reports indicate more new home starts, falling sales figures, rising rates of mortgage delinquency and according to Eric Rojas, who specializes in the Chicago North Side, a 77 percent increase in multi-unit sales year to year. That of course leads to good value for buyers, according to Rojas.

We often refer to Rojas, but this is making a silk purse of a sow’s ear.

Yep, if you can find a mortgage there are values. But if you have the cash there may be even better places to invest than real estate.

<>

The state budget townhall, hosted by IL Sen Heather Steans and IL Rep Greg Harris was “sobering” according to a well written report in Gay Chicago written by Gary Barlow. Barlow reviewed the presentation and interviewed a number of observers outside the meeting to present a detailed view of why the state seems unable to resolve its budget issues year after year, convicted governor after convicted governor.

<>

What sort of Bears fan is IL Sen President John Cullerton? Well, he is considering helping the St. Louis Rams move to an Illinois facility according to KMOX. Suburban Journals gives the historical insight into the long failed history of locating St. Louis teams to Illinois sports facilities.

<>

Rick Garcia, a gay activist, claims there are enough votes to pass a marriage equality bill when the legislature returns to work. However the leader of the marriage equality effort in the Statehouse, IL Rep Greg Harris (D-Uptown) is urging caution. “I would like to do this as soon as possible,” said Rep. Greg Harris. “But every member of the General Assembly has two priorities on their mind right now: jobs and the economy, and the terrible state the budget is in,” according to a press release from Statehouse News.

<>

Should the Lane Tech Indians be renamed the Gators? For the second time in about a month a small alligator has been pulled from the Chicago River in the area of the school. The Chicago Tribune talks about what it is about stories like that about the Chicago River gator makes interesting. Meanwhile, WGN captured the alligator capture on video.

<>

Chase Park women’s hoops finish

The Chase Park Cubs won the spring womens basketball league with a 9-1 record.

The Chase Park Cubs won the spring womens basketball league with a 9-1 record. Pictured from left to right: (back row) Sean Ortiz, Shannon Clerkin, Nora McDonagh (front row) Tiffany Delahanty, Sherri Voyles, Kristen Fink and Kina Brown. Credit: George Howe

The Chase Park Women’s Spring Basketball League wrapped up the season with the Cubs winning in an impressive 49-37 victory over the Spin.

The Cubs finished the regular season with a 9-1 record.

“This is very good competition and sportsmanship among the ladies,” Chase Park Instructor Sean Ortiz said. “Thanks to all for a good season.”