Mayor Emanuel – Chicago Newstips by Community Media Workshop http://www.newstips.org Chicago Community Stories Mon, 14 Jul 2014 17:31:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.11 In Millennium Reserve, a firing range? http://www.newstips.org/2012/01/in-millennium-reserve-a-firing-range/ http://www.newstips.org/2012/01/in-millennium-reserve-a-firing-range/#comments Wed, 04 Jan 2012 00:03:49 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=5041 Conservationists say they were “blindsided” when Mayor Emanuel resurrected a proposal to build a police firing range on the Southeast Side, just days after he joined in announcing the area would be part of a massive Millennium Reserve open space project.

The 33-acre firing range site is in “the heart” of what’s being called the Calumet Core, slated for the first phase of environmental renovation and trail-building under the Millennium Reserve, said Carolyn Marsh of the Chicago Audubon Society.

“It’s sad that our politicians, and particularly our new mayor, seem to be hypocritical on this issue,” Marsh said.

Days after the December 9 Millennium Reserve announcement, Emanuel requested the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District to take up a dormant proposal to lease the site to the city.

At the district’s December 15 meeting, Commissioner Debra Shore moved to defer the motion for a month.  The MWRD board is scheduled to consider the proposal at its meeting Thursday, January 5.

Environmental groups are calling on the MWRD commissioners to vote down the proposal.

Endangered species

In April, the MWRD board requested a wildlife survey of the site by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and a survey in May identified six Black Crowned Night Herons, an endangered species in Illinois, among dozens of species of birds.  But since no nests were found, IDNR registered no objections to the project.

The survey notes that measuring the impact of noise on wildlife at the site would require a long-term, specialized study.

In its annual Christmas bird count, Chicago Audubon noted two Bald Eagles not far from the proposed firing range site, Marsh said.

“Chicago Audubon has been fighting for 30 years for this area to be a mecca of connecting wetlands for wildlife, and instead we keep threatening their habitats,” she said.

The firing range site is in a 140-acre section owned by MWRD, along the Calumet River and South of 134th Street.  It’s adjacent to the O’Brien Lock Marsh and Whitford Pond and close by Hegewisch Marsh.

Once a wetland known as Dutchman’s Slough, it was dug up during the Deep Tunnel project and filled in with limestone, but MWRD was expected to restore the wetland, said Tom Shepherd of the Southeast Environmental Task Force.

Local residents will be “reminding the MWRD commissioners of their obligation to restore this parcel to its original condition,” he said.

The area should be restored with native wetlands plants so it will function as a filter for contaminated runoff from surrounding landfills which could reach the Calumet River and Lake Michigan, said Judith Lihota of the Calmuet Ecological Park Association.

And firing assault weapons on a constant basis will surely drive off wildlife, robbing them of scarce habitat and undermining the purpose of the trails being built under the Millennium Reserve project, she said.

Widely expanded training functions at the site do not seem to be out of the question, Shepherd said.  He said city officials have been vague when  residents sought to pin them down on this.

In Altgeld Gardens to the west of the site, Cheryl Johnson of People for Community Recovery shares other residents’ environmental concerns, but she also has safety concerns.

“No one came to us to let us know that they would be building this type of facility in our area without any public comment,” she said.  “It’s just disrespecting us as residents of the city.”

“I’d like to ask the mayor, would you want something like that in your neighborhood?” she said.

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Piccolo supporters say CPS is blocking a real school turnaround http://www.newstips.org/2011/12/piccolo-supporters-say-cps-is-blocking-a-real-school-turnaround/ Fri, 09 Dec 2011 03:27:02 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=5006 Parents and community supporters are asking why CPS has chosen Piccolo Elementary for a “turnaround” by the Academy of Urban School Leadership next year, when a brand-new principal – herself a veteran of an AUSL school — has just begun an overhaul that has won widespread support and is already getting results.

Piccolo parents, teachers, and students will hold a press conference and rally at the school (1040 N. Keeler) on Friday, December 9 at 3 p.m.  to highlight the school’s strategic plan and oppose CPS’s proposal.

Dr. Allison Brunson was named principal in July, after teaching at AUSL’s Dodge Academy in East Garfield Park.  Before this year, CPS policy prohibited school actions where principals had been in place less than two years.

Brunson has developed a strategic plan for the school and implemented a new disciplinary policy, a professional development program, and a new reading curriculum, including a two-hour reading period each morning, said Cecile Carroll of Blocks Together, which partners with the school on parent engagement.

“She told the LSC she thinks we can bring scores up by 10 points,” and with the new curriculum and emphasis on reading, “I’m pretty sure we’re going to see results on test scores this year,” Carroll said.

Much of the new approach is similar to AUSL’s, Carroll said.  It’s “very data-driven,” with constant evaluation of students’ grasp of concepts informing individual coaching by teachers, she said.

With the new conduct policy– which aims at reducing suspensions and increasing parent involvement with behavioral issues — “decorum in the school has improved a lot,” said one school staff member.  “It’s quieter.  There are not as many disrupting incidents.”

The new principal is “always in the classrooms, always talking to children, talking to parents,” she said.  “The teachers are working harder – I’m working harder.”

As part of the strategic plan, community partnerships have been expanded, Carroll said. Youth Guidance and Childserv now provide supportive services, and Chicago Commons has a youth service center in the building.

Blocks Together has worked with parents to develop a wish-list — and the school has been acting on items, decorating the parent room to make it more inviting, and requesting security cameras from CPS (CPS has yet to respond), Carroll said.

There are already significant indications of improvement, she said.  Attendance is up to 95 percent, and 85 percent of parents came to school for report card pickup day – after teachers were told to call each parent twice, and students were asked to write a letter home explaining why it was important for parents to come to school.

“It’s really not in the best interest of the students to have another disruption in the school,” Carroll said.  And it doesn’t make sense: it’s based on the performance of the school’s previous administration, and “what AUSL says they’ll do is exactly what’s already happening here.”

But because AUSL has done so poorly with its turnaround of Orr High School, she said, the management company now apparently thinks the solution is to take over Orr’s feeder schools – including both Piccolo and Casals, where 61 percent of students are meeting standards.

ACT scores at Orr have not improved since the AUSL turnaround – despite the fact that enrollment there has also dropped quite dramatically, from 1500 to 823, as students with challenges were counseled out, Carroll said.

AUSL has extensive ties to Mayor Emanuel’s campaign and administration, and his decision to give them more contracts has raised charges of the appearance of conflict of interest from CTU.  “Emanuel’s choice [of AUSL] to spearhead the school turnaround effort brought the word ‘cronyism’ into coverage of his administration,” Gapers Block commented.

Carroll says no one in the school was informed of the impending turnaround until the day the press was told.  The West Humboldt Park Community Advisory Council established by CPS, on which Carroll serves, met with CPS officials the previous week and was told nothing, she said.

CPS chief Jean-Claud Brizard recently told Catalyst that the district “went beyond” requirements of the new state school facilities law and “did much more” than required.

But that law requires that “decisions that impact school facilities should include the input of the school community to the greatest extent possible.”

That clearly hasn’t happened here.

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Mental health cuts called callous, dangerous http://www.newstips.org/2011/11/mental-health-cuts-called-callous-dangerous/ Mon, 14 Nov 2011 00:09:12 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=4945 For N’Dana Carter, the proposal to transfer patients from the city’s Beverly-Morgan Park Mental Health Center to the center in Roseland is emblematic of the “callousness” of the cutbacks in Mayor Emanuel’s proposed budget.

The Beverly Area Planning Agency and other community groups will rally against the closing of the center on Monday, November 14 from 3 to 6 pm. at 111th and Longwood.

“There’s nowhere else in our community to receive public mental health services,” said Matt Walsh, executive director of BAPA.  Closing the center “would be devastating to the most vulnerable members of our community.”

He adds: “This is people’s lives we’re dealing with here.”

“These are mainly white, mainly middle-aged ladies” going to the clinic, said Carter, an activist (who is African American) with the Mental Health Movement organized by Southside Together Organizing for Power.  They will stand out sharply in the black community of Roseland, on the opposite end of the city’s Far South Side, she said.

“Roseland is very dangerous.  It’s a war zone.  They are putting people in harm’s way.  It’s like putting a sign on their back saying ‘hurt me’.”

‘Too dangerous’

“It’s too dangerous; I would be risking my life to go there,” one Beverly resident and center client told the Beverly Review.

“We’re victims of violence fairly often,” said Fred Friedman, a mental health advocate with Next Steps.  Transferring Beverly patients to Roseland “is a very stupid thing,” he said.

It typifies the lack of concern for patients’ welfare – and for a wide range of costs –involved in closing six of the city’s twelve mental health clinics, advocates say.  The city says the closings will save $3.3 million out of the city’s $6 billion budget.

Along with safety, accessibility is not a minor matter.  When the Northtown Rogers Park clinic temporarily closed for repairs earlier this year, patients were directed fo the North River clinic, far to the west.  Most never made it, a staffer told Chicago Muckrakers.  That’s the same trip Rogers Park clients will now have to make if they want services – permanently.

The staffer predicts that “the vast majority” of Rogers Park clients will not make the transition.

There’s also the issue of breaking the crucial patient-therapist relationship, as staffers are laid off and shuffled around.  That’s a big hurdle for any mental health patient, for whom trust is a major issue and much emotional energy is invested in building a relationship.

Tragic consequences

Sometimes it can have tragic consequences.  Dr. Wiley Rogers, a long-time city therapist and supervisor who now teaches at Olive-Harvey, recalls a client who was obsessive and paranoid.  “He was a big strong fellow, and he scared everybody.  His family was scared of him.

“He thought his medications were part of the plot against him, but because he knew me and trusted me, and because I knew him and knew what buttons to push, I could get him to take his pills.”  Then the relationship was interrupted; the man ended up barricading himself in his room with a gun, police were called, and they shot and killed him.

“You can multiply that incident by a thousand,” Rogers said.

With restricted access to mental health services, more people will end up in hospitals or in jail, with a much lower quality of life – and far greater costs to taxpayers.  Advocates predict higher rates of homelessness and suicide.

“You’ll have more people living under bridges, and more people dying under bridges,” said Rogers.

“I think it’s unfortunate that the city is cutting services, and I think it’s going to end up costing us money,” said Mark Heyerman, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School who chairs the Mental Health Summit.

He points to high rates of mental illness among returning prisoners. “They’re coming back to the city untreated, and we are helping only a tiny portion of them,” he said. To illustrate the range of impacts, Carter points out that many clinic patients are parents of CPS children, and they are far better able to suport their children’s academic efforts when they have access to services.

Private agencies cutting back

Patients covered by Medicaid are being referred to private agencies, but because state payments are delayed, “every agency is cutting services and laying off people,” and “waiting times to get services have gone up,” said Heyerman.

The city’s largest private agency has repeatedly been forced to “make heartbreaking decisions” to cut services, said Freidman, who serves on the board of directors of Thresholds.

And while there’s a fairly healthy network of nonprofit providers on the North Side, there are far fewer on the South Side, said Badonna Reingold, who serves on the advisory council of the city’s Woodlawn Mental Health Center.  Four of the six clinics slated for closing are on the South Side.

As far uninsured patients, the city is committing to serve the 3,000 people currently in the system.  “What happens if your are number 3,000-and-1?” asks Friedman.

Demand expected to rise

With the bad economy continuing, the city needs to prepare for more people who need help, Rogers said.

“Most people go to work, come home, pay their bills – the world works for them,” he said.  “You don’t prepare for when it doesn’t work, you can’t take care of yourself, the identity you’ve constructed starts to erode.”

Constant worry can turn into depression, he said.  “You can’t see any future, it feels like the world is at an end.

“If you have a mental health center, where we can give you a 30-minute session, reassure you, encourage you to keep going, tell you life is the experience of success and failure, it’s not all black and white, it’s a process and it goes forward” – and that can save people.

“And that can only be done by a publicly-funded entity, within the context of a society that is committed to taking care of its people,” he said.

Of the proposed clinic closings he says, “The heartlessness of it is amazing.”

Negligible savings

Especially since the savings are negligible.  The $3.3 million is less than half the TIF subsidy Emanuel recently gave to suburban developers to build an upscale grocery across the street from a Dominics in the West Loop.  It’s a portion of the $15 million TIF subsidy that CME has not yet decided whether or not to claim.

It’s a portion of the $20 million head tax the City Council recently voted to phase out – a tax which, at $4 a month, adds about a half-cent an hour to the wage of workers in big companies, and thus is highly unlikely to affect actual hiring decisions.

“These TIF funds should go to schools and clinics and other services we need,” said Gail Davis, a Beverly-Morgan Park client and Mental Health Movement activist.  “Community mental health centers help keep our communities safe.”

The cuts are wildly disproportionate too:  while Emanuel’s budget projects spending reductions of somewhat less than 10 percent, community services are being cut 17.7 percent – including the layoff of 200 employees working on senior services, head start, domestic violence, homeless and workforce development programs.  The public health department is being cut a whopping 34 percent.

The impact of the closings on the Latino community will be highlighted at a press conference at the Northwest Clinic, 2354 N. Milwaukee, Tuesday, November 15 a 10:30 a.m. The Mental Health Movement will hold a People’s Budget Assembly at noon on Tuesday at the Chicago Temple, 77 W. Washington.  The City Council is slated to vote on the budget Wednesday.

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What to do with CME’s TIF? http://www.newstips.org/2011/11/what-to-do-with-cmes-tif/ Fri, 11 Nov 2011 22:21:57 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=4936 Chicago Mercantile Exchange CEO Terrence Duffy told the Tribune he hasn’t “accepted” or “approved” the TIF subsidy passed by the city in 2009 – and the Grassroots Collaborative has called on Mayor Emanuel to declare it to be surplus and return the money to the schools, libraries and clinics that he’s proposed cutting back and closing.

As Ben Joravsky has reported, then-Mayor Daley took it upon himself to offer the subsidy 2007 when CME was bidding on the Chicago Board of Trade, though the corporation never asked for it.  While the city approved the deal in 2009, apparently CME never did.

So the money is still sitting in the reserves of the LaSalle Central TIF, which as of last year had collected $76 million, taking in $24 million a year.  The Grassroots Collaborative has called for winding down the LaSalle TIF and returning funds to schools and city services.

But here, suddenly, is a huge pot of money that we’ve been told is committed, when it isn’t, really.

“We are thrilled that CEO Duffy agrees with the community that CME does not need this money,” said Amisha Patel, executive director of the Collaborative.  “The hard-working taxpayers of Chicago would be glad to put this money to immediate use.”

The money could go to plug $3 million in cuts for mental health clinics and $7 million in cuts to libraries in the 2012 city budget now under consideration, as well as heavy cuts to schools in the latest CPS budget, she said.

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Library cuts called ‘devastating’ — and confusing http://www.newstips.org/2011/10/library-cuts-called-devastating-and-confusing/ http://www.newstips.org/2011/10/library-cuts-called-devastating-and-confusing/#comments Sun, 30 Oct 2011 20:10:08 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=4879 Librarians and library supporters are planning to stage the popular “story time” program at City Hall on Monday morning to protest budget cuts.

But they’re scratching their heads over a budget proposal that cuts hours and staff to reduce the library budget by $10 million, while increasing the budget for capital improvements at libraries by $11 million.

Librarians will read to children, and librarians and library supporters will talk about why they love their libraries at Story Time at City Hall outside the Mayor’s office at 10:45 a.m. on Monday, October 31.  They’ll also deliver petitions with thousands of signatures opposing the proposed cuts.

Mayor Emanuel has proposed laying off about a third of the library system’s staff, which supporters say is already strained since staff reductions in 2009.

According to AFSCME Council 31, which represents library staff, the cuts would lay off at least 24 librarians, 112 library clerks, and all 146 pages from 78 branch libraries.

It could mean the loss of all children’s programming, including early childhood literacy programs, supporters say.

Library supporters around the city are mobilizing to contact aldermen oppose the cuts.

This is  not just a minor reduction of hours, said Kang Chiu of Friends of Rogers Park Library in an e-mail to supporters: “It will gut our city’s major learning resource.”

Elimination of clerks and pages “would be devastating” for the library’s hold system, which makes all of CPL’s 5.7 million books and its entire DVD holdings available at any branch, said Brenda Sawyer of Friends of Blackstone Library.

The system, which moves 750,000 items between branches each month, is “a little gem of a tool,” Sawyer said, but huge backlogs developed when pages were laid off in 2009, forcing a reduction of hours the next year.  Without pages, “it won’t work,” Sawyer said.

She adds that when hours were reduced last year, they were staggered so that if one branch was closed, a nearby one was open.  It was “a maze” but at least “it gave you an option.”  Now all branches will be closed on Monday and Friday mornings.

Monday mornings are particularly busy at the Near North Branch Library, said Gail Shiner, who’s active with the Friends group there.

“It’s a safe haven for people who don’t have a place to be,” Shiner said.  “I feel for the homeless people who come to the library, and for the seniors.  There are people who come from shelters and want to know about computers.”

“Many of our people don’t have computers,” she said, pointing out that many jobs can only be applied for online.  “A lot of children don’t’ have a computer in their home.  And now the schools send everything out by computer.  If you’re a parent and you don’t have a computer, you’ve got to go to the library.”

Parents United for Responsible Education points out that one in four CPS elementary schools and 51 high schools have no school libraries, and branch libraries are the only source of computer access —  and actual books – for students in many communities.

So far inexplicable is a new $11 million appropriation in the proposed corporate budget “to improve library services by renovating and constructing libraries.”  Union researchers can’t figure it out, and library officials were reportedly unable to account for it in a City Council budget committee hearing.

Aside from the corporate budget, the proposed capital budget lists three library projects:  a new branch library in Edgewater, an addition for the Humboldt Park branch, and renovations at the Albany Park branch.  These total $8.5 million, but most of that is covered by TIF funds.  “It’s extremely confusing,” said one budget analyst.

Does it mean the city is prioritizing jobs for contractors (who may or may not live in the city) over solid jobs for city workers?

Or could it be an example of what Emanuel said in NYT columnist Thomas Friedman’s paean to the mayor’s “progressive agenda on a Tea Party allowance?” The Times’s quirky prophet of globalization wrote: “Emanuel simply calls his philosophy ‘cut and invest.'”

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Alternatives to cuts http://www.newstips.org/2011/10/alternatives-to-cuts/ http://www.newstips.org/2011/10/alternatives-to-cuts/#comments Tue, 11 Oct 2011 21:49:57 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=4806 With Mayor Emanuel’s budget proposal expected to emphasize austerity with heavy cuts to city services, proposals to bolster revenues — and ensure that sacrifice is truly shared — are gaining traction.

“We’re afraid [the budget] is going to be heavy, heavy, heavy on cuts” including public safety and other city services, with the main impact “on working families and public sector workers,” said Amisha Patel of the Grassroots Collaborative, which is holding a “corporate welfare tour” Wednesday morning (see below).

The group’s initiative to return hundreds of millions of TIF funds to the city and other taxing bodies has the most momentum right now.  Seventeen aldermen cosponsored the Responsible Budget Ordinance – which would return 50 percent of surplus TIF dollars from all TIFs with balances over $5 million – and more have signed on since it was introduced last week.

Though the city hasn’t provided current figures, the measure could provide as much as $500 million to the city, schools, and other agencies, Patel said.  The bulk of the surplus is in 16 downtown TIFs, where subsidies have gone to highly profitable corporations, she said.

‘High-rent’ areas

Those are the “high-rent” areas where Emanuel said TIFs are inappropriate during his campaign.  His TIF reform panel, however, recommended criteria that would allow them to remain in place.  (It also recommended reviewing TIFs with the option of declaring a surplus.)

Emanuel has opposed using TIF surpluses, but he may be “coming around,” the Sun Times notes in an editorial backing the measure.

He should.  The reason he’s given – he’s against “one-time budget fixes” – doesn’t really apply.

It resonated with voters who’ve seen parking meter and Skyway privatization funds squandered.  But TIF accumulations are a different animal – taxpayer money sitting unused in a mayoral slush fund, to be handed out to politically favored developers and corporations.

Declaring a surplus would be sweeping the slate clean, a first step toward reform – and the TIFs will go on to accumulate new funds, taking in $500 million every year.

It’s a smart response to the recession, which is a big reason city revenues are down.  Freeing up the funds would also act as a stimulus to the city’s economy; heavy job cuts will add to the downward spiral of unemployment, foreclosures, disinvestment and destabilization.

Grassroots Collaborative will hold a press conference with supporters of the Responsible Budget Ordinance at City Hall on Wednesday morning (October 12, 9 a.m.) followed by a trolley tour of downtown corporations that have gotten TIF subsidies, including the Chicago Board of Trade, Miller Coors, the Willis Tower, and United Airlines.

Taxing traders

The campaign for a financial transaction tax got renewed impetus last week with a specific proposal from Stand Up Chicago and the Chicago Political Economy Group spelling out just how it would work here.

It would cover contracts sold on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Chicago Options Exchange, though the exchanges wouldn’t pay the fee.  Buyers and sellers would pay 25 cents per contract – a trivial amount on an average contract of $233,000, but with 12 million contracts a day, it would add up to $1.4 billion a year.

As we noted Friday, Bill Gates and, at one point, President Obama are among many prominent supporters of the concept; the New York Times just urged consideration of a national transaction fee.  In Chicago, 25 aldermen backed a related proposal last year.

Since Emanuel is a former CME board member, this could be his “Nixon goes to China” moment.  If not, it’s likely that support for the measure will grow, as discontent over corporate profiteering rises.

Commuters

Meanwhile there’s another huge pot of money that goes untouched.  As Inspector General Joe Ferguson noted in his report on budget options, there are 620,000 commuters earning a living in Chicago but paying their taxes elsewhere.  He estimates their earnings at $30 billion a year, based on the area median, but it’s likely much more, since they include many of the highest earners, economists say.

In a study done years ago, UIC economist Joseph Persky says he found that more than half of all earnings in the city went to suburban residents.  “I don’t see any reason that would have changed,” he said.

Indeed, the imbalance could well have increased – particularly because downtown development spurred by TIF seems to have benefited suburbanites far more than city residents, as the Chicago Reporter revealed earlier this year.

According to data supplied by the Reporter (thanks to Angela Caputo), residents of the collar counties held 23,824 more Loop jobs in 2008 than in 2002, while Chicago residents lost 21,057 Loop jobs in the same period.  (Suburban Cook residents lost about 1,900 Loop jobs.)

Nonresidents making a living in Chicago take advantage of all the city’s services and infrastructure; they just don’t pay for it.

One possibility for capturing a portion of that wealth is a commuter tax – an income tax on nonresidents working in the city.  Philadelphia and other cities have one, and New York City had one for two decades, before the state legislature abolished it in a bid for suburban votes.  (Mayor Michael Bloomburg has been pressing for its reinstatement.)

Ferguson estimates a 1 percent tax would generate at least $300 million; it could well be much more.  Several City Council members have spoken favorably of the idea, but politically it’s a tough climb, requiring approval from the state legislature.

Congestion pricing – a charge on vehicles entering the central district during business hours — would capture some of the revenue now being lost from out-of-towners, suggests Ron Baiman of CPEG.  The City Council could enact it.

The Center for Neighborhood Technology supports such a charge, said Maria Choca-Urban, the group’s director for transportation.   It would reduce congestion and auto emissions, she said – but revenue should be used to improve public transportation.  “If you’re going to put in place a deterrent to driving, you have to improve the alternatives,” she said.

With the CTA facing billions in unmet capital needs – and major portions of the city (notably the Far South Side) still unserved by rapid transit – there’s plenty of room for improvement, and those investments would mean badly-needed jobs.

[The Active Transportation Alliance points out that CTA service cuts and fare increases are expected in the forthcoming budget.  “Unfortunately, the threat of fare increases and service cuts have become an annual tradition in our region because our elected leaders have failed to adequately fund transit,” the group comments. “The consequences of service cuts and fare increases would be far-reaching, impacting our mobility, our economy, our quality of life, our environment and the congestion on our streets.”]

Ferguson envisions a complex collection system requiring electronic tolling sensors on every street leading downtown and transponders in every car.

London has a somewhat simpler system; commuters buy permits at shops, and a system of cameras identifies vehicles entering without paying.  Buses, cabs, and delivery vehicles are exempted, and residents of the central area can get a 90 percent discount on the charge.  In 2006, London’s congestion charge brought in nearly $400 million.

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Lathrop residents pray for preservation http://www.newstips.org/2011/10/lathrop-residents-pray-for-preservation/ Thu, 06 Oct 2011 20:14:31 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=4782 Residents of Lathrop Homes, joined by religious leaders, are planning to march through the threatened CHA development Thursday night, stopping to pray for the preservation of their historic neighborhood.

They’re concerned that as CHA seals off sections of the development, buildings will deteriorate.  They’re calling on CHA to maintain the condition of vacant units.

CHA recently signed a $1.1 million loan agreement with a development team selected last year over the objections of Lathrop resident leadership.  The contract has not yet been made public, said John McDermott of Logan Square Neighborhood Association, which is working with residents in the Lathrop Leadership Team.

CHA was recently challenged for its high rate of vacant units, at a time when its Plan For Transformation is stalled.  The agency responded that “off-line” units are not to be counted as vacant, though some have been off-line for years, in some cases following rehab.

Insistence on including market-rate housing in Lathrop’s redevelopment would hold up work for years in the current climate, McDermott said.  And it would be “missing the forest for the trees,” he said.

In its approach to developing mixed-income housing, CHA focuses “on a micro scale within their developments” but misses “the real historical barriers to breaking down poverty tied to Chicago’s history of racial segregation,” he said.

“Are we really breaking up concentrations of poverty if we insist on sharply limiting the number of low- and moderate-income families that can access jobs, schools, and shopping in an economically thriving North Side community?” he asked.  “Or are we really reinforcing larger patterns of segregation and patterns of gentrification and displacement?”

He points out that Lathrop is located “in a part of the city that has seen tremendous displacement of African American and Latino families and a dramatic loss of affordable housing.”

In his first press conference last month, new CHA chieef Charles Woodyard said that “given the bare reality of this real estate market” CHA would have to “be outside-the-box thinkers” to turn “our current assets…into real housing opportunities.”

He was asked what “outside the box” meant, but Mayor Emanuel stepped to the microphone in front of him before he could answer, the Sun Times reported.

But the CHA’s biggest “box” – particularly given a housing market that shows no signs of recovery – is the agency’s strict insistence on a formula of one-third market, one-third affordable, and one-third public housing in redevelopments.

Lathrop residents say it isn’t appropriate there.  Their prayers will be heard – but will their plan ever be considered?

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Questions on recycling and privatization http://www.newstips.org/2011/10/questions-on-recycling-and-privatization/ Sun, 02 Oct 2011 18:57:02 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=4777 With a pilot privatized recycling program set to launch Monday, the Chicago Recycling Coalition is concerned that residents haven’t been fully informed about changes in the program – and that “managed competition” with city workers will be fair and transparent.

“The first weeks could be a little bumpy,” said Mike Nowak of CRC.  Residents could be confused by possible schedule changes and may not understand if their recyclables are rejected due to contamination under a contract provision with private haulers, he said.

“The key to making this work is education,” he said.  “You can’t just surprise people with this.”

He said the city is sending informational mailings to residents, but he wishes that had been done earlier.

The notification postcards (posted on CRC’s site) give only general schedules and no information on rejection of contaminated loads.

“The key to success is whether people actually participate,” said Nowak. “Many residents grew very cynical” about the city’s recycling effort under the initial blue bag program, he said.

One of the private haulers recently awarded a contract by the city is Waste Management, the company that helped design the blue bag program, which never managed to recycle even 10 percent of the materials collected, Nowak said.  “Those are the people who ran the blue bag program into the ground,” he said.

Now private haulers will be able to reject recycling loads as contaminated simply by slapping stickers on blue carts.  The city will be required to pick up the loads.

“There’s always a concern about what is getting recycled and what isn’t,” said Nowak.  “There needs to be transparency and accountability,” he said, noting that residents with complaints will be directed to call 311.  “We’ll see how that works,” he said.

Yet to be addressed are shortfalls in recycling at larger residential buildings.

CRC is also concerned about “managed competition” between city workers and private haulers.  “We hope it will be a fair competition” and that city workers aren’t at a disadvantaged because they’re better paid, Nowak said.

“We don’t want to have recycling pickup at the cost of decent wages for people,” he said.  “We don’t want it done on the backs of workers.”

The city currently provides blue cart recycling pickup to about a third of the city’s households outside of larger buildings.  Starting Monday those areas will be divided into zones served by Waste Management, Metal Management Midwest, and city workers.

After six months the performance of the competing groups will be evaluated prior to recycling pickup being rolled out to the entire city.

One union representing city workers is optimistic that it will come out ahead.  “We think we’re going to be very competitive,” said Lou Phillips of Laborers Local 1001.  (Other labor leaders told the Tribune they beleve the Emanuel administration is already committed to privatization.)

Phillips points out that in areas served by city workers, the city will get revenues from the sale of recyclables, which he said the city recently estimated at $3.5 million a year citywide.  In areas served by private haulers, the companies will get that revenue.

In that sense, contracting out recycling resembles the controversial 2008 parking meter deal by privatizing a revenue stream.

Mayor Emanuel is said to be privately opposing an ordinance that would require public hearings and an independent evaluation of such deals.

 

An earlier version misquoted Mike Nowak regarding Waste Management’s record in the blue bag program.  We regret the error and apologize to Mr. Nowak.

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