Yes, there’s the usual litany of things to complain about in Chicago, but on this, our annual Thanksgiving show, we invited Lee Bey and Andrew Patner to talk about the things they’re thankful for.
For Andrew, WFMT and Sun-Times arts critic, yesterday’s passage of marriage equality was on his list. “I’ve had a very happy 24-year unmarried relationship,” he says, ” but the serious part is…had this happened 25 years ago, I would have had a family now. And that was the only thing that disturbed my parents, when I came out to them was – but you would be such a great dad.”
We offered the proposition that, aside from the Ventra fiasco, CTA has had a pretty good year. The Red Line project came in on time and has worked well. The 95th Street Red Line terminal is about to get rebuilt. The CTA is in the process of buying thousands of new el cars. And just yesterday, the feds began the process of funding the reconstruction of the north end of the Red Line and the Purple Line beyond it.
“The business community is saying to Rahm, we need these things to work,” urban planning expert and journalist Lee Bey asserts. “We need to get downtown. The population of a small city comes downtown to work and leaves at night. And it’s gotta work.” And, both guests agree, Mayor Emanuel has for years been a CTA user, so he has a solid understanding of how important the system is.
And as for Ventra: Both our guests say it’s fairly analogous to the health-care web-site rollout, in that it will eventually be fixed.
“This isn’t like the parking meter deal, which was an outright scam,” says Bey. “This is something that, if it does work, is a potentially good thing for the city. We complain about it, but the thing is, this comes out of laws the state legislature passed that demands a one-fare system for the region, which is a good thing. So this is a way to fix that.”
If you’ve been around Chicago a while, you may remember the creation of the RTA 40 years ago. Integrating the fares for City and suburban transit was supposed to be a high priority.
“Yea. I was seven then, and now I’m looking for my AARP card, and it still hasn’t happened yet,” claims Bey. “And the Mayor, and Forrest Claypool and CTA President Terry Peterson have said Cubic (the vendor) isn’t gonna get a dime until this thing gets fixed, which puts the onus on them to get it fixed.”
We talked architectural preservation, and the currently-occurring demolition of the Prentice Women’s Hospital building on the Northwetern medical campus downtown. “Y’know, It’s always been a funny thing, that, of Bertrand Goldberg’s buildings, this one was not my favorite,” says Bey. “But it’s tough to see it come down.”
In the past week, Northwestern has released renderings of the building it intends to construct on the Prentice site. It’s a sprawling building that essentially attaches to the existing research building at every floor. The University says it needs that feature to facilitate research and collaboration between the academics. That’s why they had to tear down the smaller, oddly-shaped Prentice. “I’m sorry,” Patner interjects. “I think that’s nonsense from beginning to end. Northwestern doesn’t care where the building is. They want to control the entire area. And while the Prentice battle was going on, they tore down three more blocks of buildings.”
Research today is conducted globally and simultaneously with the Internet and video links. And, he says, there’s no real reason why these buildings needed a physical connection. “When you hear an organization say we’ve looked at everything, and there is no alternative, that means there are so many alternatives, this is what we want.”
Happy Thanksgiving. One thought given the history of this holiday. The USA would never have won its important and necessary wars (my list is relatively short, but the two big ones were the Civil War and World War II) had the creepy “Atlas Shrugged” version of social darwinism prevalent today been in charge in 1960 or 1941. The idea that privatization could do all the jobs was absurd in the contexts, and as it was the plunders of the private sector in both wars had to be carefully regulated.
How does that relate to the subject of the CTA? Half the CTA story is the equipment and stuff like Ventra. The other piece is the necessity to have low fares so that people can afford to utilize the “service.” Until the “business leaders” who want to move that “city” in and out of Chicago every day via “public transportation” are also willing to pay a fairer share for public services, things will always be underfunded and overpriced. Some activities have to be public service, and those for whom the USA has provided the most should pay a fairer share in taxes to support those services.
We came out of World War II with one of the most fair federal tax structures in the world because there had grown a consensus about this — Republican and Democrats alike. But once the assault on public services (and public servants) began in the 1970s, things took a dive that’s been deeper ever since.
So, remembering how we got the “Thanksgiving” holiday (and in recognition of that recent holiday — Armistice Day) we also need to remind ourselves that it’s time, once again, to right things. The CTA is just one example of public services that have to be paid for by ALL the public even if not all of us use the buses and trains.