CN March 7 2019


Willie Wilson and Ja’Mal Green dropped by today for two separate interviews about  the Mayor’s race, a bunch of Aldermanic races, Bernie Sanders and the role each of them is playing in  this important period – after they didn’t make it to the Final 2. Both are planning to endorse either Preckwinkle or Lightfoot. Wilson’s making his official announcement tomorrow, Friday.

You can watch the show, with both interviews, by tapping the image above.

You can listen to the show here.

You can read a full transcript of the interviews here: CN transcript Mar 7 2019

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CN February 28 2019

Here’s our election wrap-up with talk host and political analyst Bruce DuMont and political activist Jacky Grimshaw, who was an advisor to Mayor Harold Washington. The journalists on our panel are two of Chicago’s most respected reporters – The Daily Line’s AD Quig and the Tribune’s Bill Ruthhart.

Tap the image above to watch this show.

You can listen to the audio of this show here.

We’ll be updating this post on Friday with quotes from our panelists.

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CN Feb 21 2019

The “March to Inevitability” edition

Two of Chicago’s most knowledgeable political reporters join us this week for a head-spinning discussion about the crazy municipal election we’re all enduring.

WGN-TV’s Tahman Bradley and the Daily Line’s Heather Cherone say there’s never been an election like this in Chicago – literally. That’s because this is only the second runoff-style election we’ve ever had, and the other one was headlined by incumbent Rahm Emanuel. He led decisively enough that there was never doubt that he and challenger Chuy Garcia would be the two runoff contestants. But this time, with fourteen candidates, the percentages are being sliced so thinly that the final outcomes may be determined by mail-in ballots, and those won’t be counted until perhaps a week after the election. Add to this the fact that at least ten of the aldermanic races are highly contested, and several well-entrenched aldermen could find themselves losing to upstarts.

We talk about how a much younger and more inexperienced Council, possibly in conjunction with a less-experienced mayor – will face the responsibility of redistricting the Council immediately after the 2020 census, and that the widely reported vast reduction in the population of black Chicago could mean the loss of two African-American-majority wards this time.

There’s also an interesting discussion about whether the new Council could become more progressive in its politics as newer, younger aldermen come into their own. But that’s something that very much has to play out over the next two years or so.

Cherone tells us that as she and her colleagues at the Daily Line have interviewed the Mayoral candidates, all have changed the subject or swerved deliberately away from any discussion about specific measures to deal with the looming billion dollar obligation that the next Mayor will have to settle during this next term. And since the solution will require significant tax increases and/or important reductions in benefits, there’s no up-side in discussing the situation in detail at this point (althoughPaul Vallas is given credit for offering some detailed plans.)

Bradley, when discussing the steady, well-funded rise of Bill Daley, utters the phrase that we’ve honored as the title of this edition. Daley’s “March to Inevitability.”

And Cherone, in her own explanation for Daley’s apparent rise to the top, says we all have an innate sense that Chicago is not governable, and that it takes a strong-man figure to hold things together. And that, she says, has a lot of people thinking – hey, maybe we need another Daley.

At the end of the program we ask producer David Resnick to come to the table to explain in detail why there’s so much concern that this election’s results might not be apparent until days after the polls close. We can’t explain it all in this written document, but it’s well worth your time to hear Dave lay it out piece by piece. His appearance begins  at about the :40 minute mark in the program.

You can watch the show by tapping the image above.

You can listen to the audio of the show here:

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CN Feb 14 2019


In a searing suite of articles and digital posts over recent months, ProPublica Illinois’ Melissa Sanchez and WBEZ’s Elliott Ramos have laid out for us the particulars of the City’s program to punish “scofflaws” who fail to pay city sticker fines or tickets for red light cams and license plate stickers.

“The city sticker costs between like $90 and $130-something, depending on the size of your car,” Sanchez explains, “but the ticket for not having a city sticker is $200. You don’t pay it on time … it doubles to $400, and then after some time they tack on one more fee so it’s $488 and we found thousands of cases of people getting hit with two, three, four of these in a single day. So you can see how that can quickly add up if you can’t afford to pay it right away.”

“So we focused on those because it’s easier for you to wrap your head around,” she explains. “It’s not like you got a ticket for driving badly or for parking like a jerk. It’s because you did not or could not afford to pay the fee to register your vehicle in the city.”

Ramos explains that every day after the boot is attached to your car the fines escalate. “So you have the tow fee which is $150. Then you have on that same day you get a $20 a day storage fee. On day #5 it goes up to $35 a day, at which point it’s almost a sure that the person is going to lose the car. There’s very few people that are caught up in that cycle that actually get their car out and they just lose it. And when I say lose it it’s held in the impound for about 21 to 30 days and then they sell it to a private contractor.”

And the costs don’t stop even after you permanently lose your car. “On top of everything else that we talked about,” Sanchez continues, “You have to pay the crushing fee even if the city sold the car to the towing company and the towing company could have sold it at auction and made a profit. That doesn’t matter.” The crushing fee is $100.

So at this point, you’ve lost your car, you owe more than you can pay and your credit rating is in jeopardy. Ironically, though, the City may have collected some fines, but it hasn’t really benefitted much either. The real winner, in so many cases, is the private contractor. Again, Elliott Ramos:

“And so the way that the city wrote this contract, which is really really funny because there’s no safeguards built into this, no oversight built into this, is that they just transfer wholesale the assets of these cars as if they are all junkers,” he explains. “I went into the towing data and got the VINs all decoded that says what the make, year, and model of it and some of these were from 2015, 2013, 2012. Any used car dealer will tell you that most of these cars are worth thousands of dollars. Now because of the way that they are transferred the city doesn’t actually retitle them, they get a salvage title on them and then a rebuilt title which the city is like well then it means it’s not worth that much. And like you’re still driving a BMW, like it’s still a newer car.”

Sanchez laments that, as debt and bankruptcy began to soar, the City’s response was to try to insure itself against loss of revenue from citizens who’d declared bankruptcy.

“The debt just exploded after 2011 and what that’s meant is thousands of people are going into bankruptcy each year because that’s one mechanism they have to deal with this,” she tells us.  “It helps them get their licenses back and in the Law Department they hired a guy to deal with this. And what do I mean by deal with it? They hired a guy to figure out some way to keep people from filing for bankruptcy so the city could get money… somebody knows that this is a problem but their response hasn’t been how do we adjust our policies so people aren’t going into debt over parking tickets? Instead their solution is how do we figure out some new legal tactic to keep people from stiffing us? This is kind of how they see it.”

And there’s yet another aspect to City-related tows. We’ve already seen from these reports that 50,000 cars have been booted, towed and sold for scrap by the city since 2011 – just during the Emanuel administration – but Ramos says that’s just a small portion of the total.

“That was just the scofflaws,” he explains. “It’s probably, so I’m literally going to City Hall after this to pick up more records, but the number is probably closer to 150,000 when you include the crime-related tows.”

And this issue of City-induced bankruptcy goes deeper than sticker fees. Ramos tells us that the team is starting to look into a number of unrelated fee escalators, and how they may play some role in Chicago’s declining  population. The City, he says, raised a lot of different fees.

“My colleague today published a story on water shut-offs and it’s the same neighborhoods we’re seeing that were affected like Englewood, Lawndale. We’re seeing the same stuff but also the same neighborhoods that are losing their population. At some point or another someone is going to start connecting the dots that the city may have had a role in creating abject poverty.”

One final note: As a direct result of this series of reports, all fourteen mayoral candidates have said they will work to modify the system of escalating fees, fines and impoundments that have been sending thousands of Chicagoans into bankruptcy.

WBEZ’s story on how quickly a Chicagoan can descend into City-induced bankruptcies is HERE.

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CN February 7 2019

Our guest this week is Mayoral contender Bob Fioretti, the former alderman of the second Ward.

Here are some highlights from our conversation:

On the role Danny Solis played in carving up the second Ward, moving Fioretti’s Ward away from where he lived – and why the mayor and the re-mapping aldermen did it:

But you see what happened in the 2ndWard in the areas that we’re in now that went to, and the North when they moved me all the way up North my ward, the historic black ward was chopped up for about five or six different wards, and a large portion of that went to Danny Solis and a large portion went to Walter Burnett, people who will never challenge a developer. I think the whole aim was to make sure that development went the way the developers wanted and the campaign contributions went to the aldermen. I think you may know that I made a pledge when I first ran not to accept developer money. I turned back $100,000 in my first year, but some of these things that we see that Danny Solis was ruling on down here it was all campaign contributions.

On how he’d raise enough money to fund municipal pensions without raising property taxes further:

First of all six years ago I proposed a commuter tax, 1% of a commuter tax on people that live in Indiana, Wisconsin and the suburbs. They come into this city to work and they can write it off on their federal income taxes. It would generate $300-million. All that would have to go to the pension fund. That’s a measure of equality, a justice and they come into this city they want safe streets, good streets, ambulance services, fire, the whole bit. You know and where do they spend their money? They go back to wherever their homes are and they pay property taxes in those suburbs, those counties, those different states. They don’t spend it here, the vast majority. I am not in favor of raising any more taxes on anybody in the City of Chicago and we have to look at ways to close this gap…Video poker would probably bring in about $75-million at this point.

On why he doesn’t think Lincoln Yards is a good idea at all.

I haven’t looked at the wind studies, shadow studies or traffic studies because I don’t think any have really been done in this area. I think the people that live here and near that area understand how congested it will be at this point. There’s really no transportation options in that area. There really is no schools so what are we building? A city without a structure really and it’s our taxpayer money that’s going to help this developer. They can fend for themselves. It’s another scheme and it’s another payoff scheme as the mayor is leaving office to help his friends and that’s all this is.

The surprising revelation that Bob Fioretti seems to be endorsing the construction of the Peotone airport, and that he believes Governor Pritzker might get it built.

Uh, you know the state owns a lot of land. They better figure out what they’re going to do, and who knows under this governor because he’s going to be listening to the mayor and maybe the speaker as to whether or not they will acquire the final 10%.

Ken:             So would Mayor Fioretti be in favor of a Peotone airport?

Bob F:          You know I’m going to have to sit down on all the airports because I think we need a better way to utilize from Rockford to Gary and the airports in between for cargo reasons, for other reasons. You know it’s one thing to say oh yeah, we finished all this off. You know maybe we should be using Rockford for cargo or even we can’t find a user at Gary International. We’re spending $5-million a year over there, our taxpayer money for that compact that was signed in the 1990s, so what are we doing?

You can watch the entire show by tapping the image above.

You can listen to the conversation on SoundCloud.

You can read a transcript of the conversation here:CN transcript Feb 7 2019

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CN January 24, 2019


LaShawn Ford isn’t an alderman. But his Illinois State Representative district covers parts of three west side wards, and he sees first hand the ravages of disinvestment, poverty and violence. He feels so strongly about the need for radical change in the way that Chicago treats its less-powerful citizens that he decided he could do a better job than the current mayor.

“I don’t think that Rahm has the will and the desire to represent all communities because his focus has always been his relationships with corporate America,” he begins. “You know Rahm is focused on making sure that he has great relationships with Google. That he has great relationships with Boeing. That he has great relationships with all of the billion dollar industries. So for that I thank him for bringing some of those industries here so that now we can tap those industries to help deal with some of the problems in the inner city like the South and West Sides of Chicago.”

Ford’s unusually diverse district includes both affluent suburban communities and urban pockets of deep poverty. It gives him a unique perspective and a real sense of outrage over the inequality.

“I mean the ignoring of the South and West Sides of Chicago, ignoring the parts of the West Side that were hit in the 1968 riots you know? We should have had TIF dollars come into those areas to develop those areas to eliminate the blight. And because of that we continue to see crime in those areas on the West Side like Austin. We continue to see trauma festering in peoples’ lives because there seems to be hopelessness in families because of the stress of their neighborhoods.”

We talk at some length about the need for durable, inexpensive housing in communities where incomes are low and services are often lacking. We ask him why  developers can’t seem to build affordable housing in Chicago on a smaller, human scale.

“What you have is a city that is not friendly to small developers,” he claims. “It’s so very difficult to get permits in the City of Chicago. It is corrupted in the Permits Department and the Zoning Department and we have to make sure that we eliminate that corruption….So you have people that struggle as developers that want to help develop these blighted communities but because they don’t want to pay to play they run away from development.”

LaShawn Ford’s personal story is inspiring. He’s a successful politician today, but his origins might not have predicted that.

“I was born in Cabrini and my mother was 15 when she had me. I never met my father. I still don’t know who he is today. My grandmother adopted me at birth so I had the honor of being raised by my grandmother and I still have a great relationship with my mother that is struggling with a substance abuse disorder, a heroin addiction.

“You see more people in need of mental and behavioral health treatment,” he continues. “We see more people using substance, having a substance abuse disorder. That’s a sign of a city that needs healing. We have people that are sleeping on the streets of Chicago. That’s because we have a problem with affordable housing but we also have a strong mental health problem in this city. We have people that’ve been arrested because they are mentally ill, and we have our police department that is not equipped with helping people with behavioral health problems.”

“But the neighborhood, your zip code dictates whether or not you are going to get out of poverty,” he asserts. “If you’re black, if you’re born into poverty the chances are you are going to remain in poverty until you die because the system is set up that way. And it’s not every day people, white people that we could hold accountable, it’s the rich and powerful people that hold all of us down. So somehow we have to figure out how we are going to come together as a group.”

Our new mayor will face a daunting array of problems, but the Police Department’s relationship with African-American Chicago will be at or near the top.

“The question is are they seeing a black man in the same lens as a white man?” he asks. “And the answer is no, and so we have to call that out…Then you have a white cop that intentionally killed Laquan McDonald because he shot him 16 times and then you had a whole police department that covered up. The value of black people’s lives have to be equivalent to their counterparts, their brothers and sisters of the races. And until we can have the conversation and make people comfortable with it we are going to continue to have these type of unfair rulings, unfair sentencing, and we are going to continue to have white officers shooting black men in the back. And so we have to have a mayor that is going to say, “That’s not our city. Our city will not stand for that. We want to have a police department, a justice system and laws on the books that protects the dignity and the humanity of our society.”

You can watch the show by tapping the image above.

You can listen to the show on SoundCloud here.

You can read a full transcript here: cn transcript jan 24 2019


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CN January 17 2019


Ben Joravsky’s not on the radio any more. He lost his popular radio show on WCPT in, let’s just say, an abrupt fashion.

“About eight days before I was fired this fellow Pinsky called me in for a delicious breakfast, I might add, at Ellie’s on Milwaukee Avenue with pancakes and the omelette,” he explains.

So it looked as thought things were going well.

“So he called me in. He evaluated me. I didn’t even know I had an annual review. I didn’t have one the year before and he told me what a wonderful job I was doing, the revenue is up and they are really pleased.

“Then I went back to the studio and eight days later that same Pinsky called me into the office and said, “You’re hired to be fired, beat it.” Wow. To this day I think it was a set-up move. You’ve almost got to give him credit. You know what I mean? I was caught off guard. Yeah, it hurt really bad that first few days out of the box. Man did that hurt.”

“I mean there’s no way to escape the notion that this was a political hit job,” I suggest. “I mean you were fired because of what you were saying and here this is supposed to be the progressive radio station and all that.”

“Beware of progressives,” he responds. “They smile in your face, as the song says.”

But you have to be the right kind of progressive, right? I ask him.

“So it’s okay to be on progressive radio and bash Donald Trump,” he explains. “Everybody – Arne Duncan is bashing Donald Trump. You know what I’m saying? Rahm bashes Donald Trump. Get in the box and bash Rahm or bash a TIF deal or make fun of Toni Preckwinkle or J. B. Pritzker you know, we made fun of all these people. We had a lot of fun with it. Uh-uh – got to go. I learned my lesson.”

For Joravsky’s fans, it’s especially galling that he was fired just as the mayoral and aldermanic races were getting rolling.

“Could you imagine the field day I would have had with Toni Preckwinkle and Ed Burke and all that?” he muses.

Ben Joravsky still writes his weekly column in the Reader, and he tells us hat there are  some very promising efforts under way to get his voice back  in his listeners’ ears, hopefully before the election’s over.

We spend there rest of our time talking about the mayoral candidates. A few highlights:

Bill Daley: I do not believe he will try to implement any of these ideas that he is throwing out there. I think this is his way of trying to distance himself from that last name of his which is like an anchor dragging him down, the Daley name. Once in office it will be pretty much a continuation of Rahm and Richie in terms of how they divvy up the pie, how they finance downtown developments and developments around the area and just continue this overall planning policy.

Amara Enyia: I’m impressed with Amara as well. She’s a great guest on the radio and she’s got great ideas. Last night I saw her at a mayoral forum. It was a grassroots collaborative and she was I think probably the most popular person there. She’s so impressive and she got up and started speaking in Spanish. The place went…you know, the Spanish-speaking part of the audience went up for grabs.

Ken:             She speaks like six languages.

Ben J:  Yeah, six languages. So yeah, if it’s just being impressive she would probably make the runoff if it’s just based on being impressive. But you know Chicago politics is a little tougher than that.

Bob Fioretti: I liked him when he was the alderman. Bob Fioretti was alderman of the old second ward then they redistricted him out of existence to punish him for…

Ken:             Part of the reason that the second ward looks like it does today is because he was the second ward alderman.

Ben J:           For two reasons, one they wanted to punish him and two, follow me on this folks, they wanted to put all properties around the Chicago River into one ward where they could have one alderman that they could depend on to approve these huge humongous… Am I cynical?

We ask, are you talking about Lincoln Yards? Didn’t the Alderman there just stand up to the mayor and insist that the soccer stadium and big entertainment venues had to go?

Ben J:          Young Kenneth you’ve been around town long enough to know the game that is played. What you do is a developer comes in with everything. Follow me on this people. A developer puts absolutely everything on the table.

Ken:             We’re going to put 200-story buildings in our…

Ben J:           Listens to what people are clamoring against and says, “All right I will remove that.” And everybody goes, “Oh my God! Democracy works in the City of Chicago.” And meanwhile nobody is paying attention the fact that he’s just up from 800-million to 900-million. Nobody is talking about that. The TIF handout that they are going to get…

LaShawn Ford:  I like LaShawn. I don’t see his path to victory just from a horseracing analysis but I like him. He’s got some interesting ideas down through the years. He was one of the, he and John Kass were talking about bringing the National Guard to Chicago a few years back. He’s a gentleman and I like Lashawn Ford, but he’s a state rep from the west side, I don’t believe he’s going to make the runoff.

Lori Lightfoot:  I’m impressed with her too…she has that sort of a reassuring quality to the conservative cautious part of Chicago particularly on the lake front who are looking for a professional, somebody that is like them. She’s a well-regarded lawyer, went to the finest of law schools, worked for the feds.

Garry McCarthy:  If you are a Chicago Teachers Union member, and this is going to sound weird but he’s great on – he just came out with a re-endorsement of the Chicago Teachers Union…he had this press release, he said, “I know you’re not going to support me but I support you.” There’s a lot of teachers in the southwest and northwest sides who are either married to police officers or come from the same family as police officers. They want to know that whoever the next mayor is will look out for teachers. I too thought he would be a formidable foe in the pre-Rahm. When Rahm was still in the race.

Paul Vallas:  Paul Vallas for the younger people out there was tagged with Gery Chico back in the day. They were like, I don’t want to say Abbott and Costello type of thing, a pairing team, but Chico was the president of the board and Paul Vallas was the CEO of the public school system and when Mayor Daley took complete control that was the duo that Daley brought in to run the schools and they got magnificent reviews from the Tribune and the Sun Times, of everybody but me. And it was typical me. I was very critical of the way they ran the schools. I thought they were very autocratic, so Vallas and I didn’t get along back in those days and he didn’t have much tolerance for me back in those days. But you know 20 years later he came on my radio show and we dueled, so I enjoyed having him as a guest on the show. He’s very knowledgeable. He’s fun to talk to and it’s great he’s out there. I actually value the role he has played in the election, just putting out ideas.

Willie Wilson:   Well he’s a lot of fun to talk to because I like to give him a hard time about his supporting Rauner and Trump. I appreciate the fact that he would come on even though I was giving him a hard time about supporting Rauner and Trump. I will never understand why he did. I immediately pointed out to him that, I go, “Willy, Rauner threw you under the bus. You supported him and then as soon as you became unpopular with the giving away of money Rauner was like, ‘Oh I’m outraged by this.’”

Suzana Mendoza:   Susana’s roots are different than my roots politically speaking. She comes out the southwest side, Democratic organization. She was an ally, I never understand her love for Ed Burke. What’s with Ed Burke? I don’t get it, and also Michael Madigan. She’s an ally of Michael Madigan…I like the role that Susana Mendoza played in the last year or two of Rauner’s reign as state comptroller. And I do believe, how about this what I’m about to say, that people can actually evolve…So you know, it’s possible that people grow and change.

Toni Preckwinkle:  Now Toni Preckwinkle seems to be going in the opposite direction. She started off, her roots are similar to mine, liberal, reform, progressive, whatever the word was. Independent is what we called them in the old days, politics in Hyde Park.

And then she made her alliances with the machine.

I’ve been saying if I were putting money in Vegas I would bet on Toni Preckwinkle being the next mayor of the City of Chicago…and the conventional was the runoff between Toni Preckwinkle and Susana Mendoza. That’s the conventional wisdom.

Man, I’m looking forward to that. I hope to be back on the airwaves for what one, man.

And Ben’s guess who who will ultimately get his old radio job?

Rahm Emanuel.

You can watch this show by tapping the image above.

You can listen to the audio here.

You can really a full transcript of this show here: cn transcript jan 17 2019


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CN January 10 2019


Our guest this week is mayoral candidate Bill Daley.

Below are some highlights from our wide-ranging conversation about his vision for the future of Chicago. (a Chicago of which, of course, he’s the Mayor.)

On his proposal to eliminate the almost 500 Local School Councils and replace them with 50 “Neighborhood School Councils”

What I proposed today was instead of having each school have a local council we have a neighborhood council that would represent somewhere between 8 to 12 at most schools and probably  have 50 to 60 neighborhood councils, so that the council would have the same power as they have now about budget and picking a principal and being intimately involved…. Kids could still go where they want to go. But I think if the neighborhood council and the people who are active in that neighborhood think of themselves more than just their individual school, that community will be better served. We’ve got to get communities with more than one, even some communities don’t have that, the tier level 1 schools.

On the creation of a hybrid school board

what I proposed is somewhat of a hybrid and that would be that the mayor would have four appointments, that the local school council process or the neighborhood school council if we go to that from the bottom up would select three people that would be delivered to the mayor to be put on the board. Not to decide which one. Those three would be put on the board and you would have seven members. Four mayoral, three…but you would have to have five votes in order to pass the major things like a budget so that there would have to be some compromise. And a couple of the reasons why I think that process works, one as I mentioned there’s no real evidence that the elected versus appointed makes a difference in the actual outcomes for the kids and that’s what this is all about.

On why Daley doesn’t favor direct election to the school board

So then on the one side you’ve got the Union and then you’ve got the charter people or whoever and lots of money being thrown in and more politicians running around I don’t think that’s healthy for the kids. And the last reason to my concern is non-citizens of which there are a lot of kids in the school system whose parents are non-citizens could not participate in that election process, and I think we have to be sensitive to them. They can participate in the local school council process and I think that’s a fairness issue for those kids and their parents who are active in the school system. They want to have a voice in something about the direction of the school system. So those are the reasons why I’ve come up with appointed members and a bottoms up sort of process that would put three board members on the committee that the mayor didn’t find and put on.

On merging CPS and the City Colleges:  a “14-year” approach to education

What we have right now is, and we celebrate the fact that more kids, graduates of CPS are going to college and that’s great, but only 18% of the kids who graduated from CPS finish a four-year college within six years. So many of them fall off at some period with enormous debt from trying to do that. And they are not ready for a job. They are not ready for life in many ways but it really is stepping back and not looking at our obligation to educate and train kids from K to 8 and then 9 to 12, but look at it as a 14-year period when at the end of that 14 years that kid may go on to finish two more years of a four-year program, that’s great, or he or she and they go on to graduate school or law school or be a brain surgeon and that’s great. But the vast majority of them will be ready for those jobs many of which all you need is that associate degree at that point.

On the need to drastically reduce the size of the City Council

Most industries, most companies if they are what they primarily were 90 years ago they are not in existence. The world has changed – technology, the way people do whatever. And government generally is small change and slow. Business and other entities today if you are not big and fast you don’t survive. So I think it’s time we take a look, we have a system of 50 aldermen that was basically created at the beginning of the 20thCentury when the alderman was the mini mayor of that ward. All services basically went through the alderman. That was the system and it worked I guess at that time. The world has changed. What people expect of their government and their engagement with the government as their engagement with other parts of life, is very different than it was in the last century.

On the need to end so-called “aldermanic prerogative” with a 15-person council

I think you take that ability of the alderman to just unilaterally say thumbs up or thumbs down on a project off the table. Again, does it mean that he or she is cut out? If I was mayor and I had a council of 15 and an alderman represented that ward and he or she strongly felt on an issue on something I’m going to listen to that alderman. I’m not going to say I’m going to agree with everything and it isn’t going to be some bureaucrat sitting in the Planning Department that is going to roll over that alderman and his or her community who are strongly standing behind it, it may mean that the alderman has to build also a consensus in his ward on an issue one way or the other and really show that it reflects the community when he stands up for this project or against this project. And he or she is going to have to build the support in that community for his position more than he has to now maybe where he could just thumbs up or thumbs down.

On the need for a property tax freeze

I have stated I am not going to raise the property taxes and if I have to after my first year I would have a dollar of cut for every dollar of property taxes. We cannot keep putting this on the backs of the homeowners in this city…Right now in the city your entire property tax bill, your city’s portion goes to pensions and debt. The rest of the city is funded by everything else.

On the need to revise the pension clause in the Illinois Constitution

I’m probably the only mayoral candidate who is saying we have to open up this constitution and make a change so that we can honestly sit down and negotiate some of these things…We have in the city right now there’s 50,000 retirees and there’s 50,000 existing employees, about 100,000 people total give and take a few. That’s less than 5% of the population in the city. That amounts to a $28-billion anchor around the neck of everybody else. So we’ve got to address this thing, okay. We have got to find a way and the only way, and I said this to the Federation of Labor, the only way out of this box to do honest negotiations to affect both sides of this equation in my opinion is to change the constitution so we can sit down.

On the compounded 3 % annual “cost living” pension increases

Okay, you can retire as a police officer at 50, live to 90, get a 3% compounded for 40 years. Now if somebody came to you and said, “Give me whatever amount you’ve got, I’ll guarantee you 3% compounded a year for 40 years,” I think you would take it.

But I’m not saying take that 3% to zero. We’ve got to be able to negotiate somewhere in the middle. That ends up bending that curve this way that we’re on right now which is this. But right now a labor leader couldn’t do that because his members would say, “Well wait a minute, we’re protected by the Constitution, so just hang on because all I care about is myself.”

On the public perception that he’d be “just another Daley.”

But I’m not saying take that 3% to zero. We’ve got to be able to negotiate somewhere in the middle. That ends up bending that curve this way that we’re on right now which is this. But right now a labor leader couldn’t do that because his members would say, “Well wait a minute, we’re protected by the Constitution, so just hang on because all I care about is myself.”

On the need for additional police officers

I don’t think it’s about more police. We have about the same per capita as New York so it’s not that…No, I don’t think we have to hire 5,000 more police officers. I think we can use technologies. I think we’ve got to do smarter policing, which the police department is doing a better job of…Training is the most important thing and I committed to move the consent decree that has proposed 40 hours I think after three or four years of training. I’m saying we have to front-end load that. We have to give the men and women of the police department more support on training and make them better police officers so they can do a better job for us. Every other profession out there trains their people in a way through their entire career that is much better than the Chicago Police Department does and other police agencies do around the country. And that’s to help the policemen. That’s not to stymie them or make their job more difficult.

On whether it would be possible to reopen the parking-meter deal

No, I don’t think so. Would I have done it the same way? No. Do I understand why it was done? That there was an enormous need for money during the biggest economic crisis that the city has ever had with more foreclosures, and the city was faced with one or two options. Enormous property tax or 5,000 people including police laid off. I get the urgency to avoid those two things at the time. I think it was mishandled in many ways the way it was obviously rolled out, but I get the pressure to do that. And that gets back to, to be honest with you that’s why we have to begin to solve or at least begin to solve some of these enormous long-term financial problems of the city. Without that everyone is running around with a Band-Aid.

You can watch the show by tapping the image above.

You can listen to the audio of this show here.

You can read full transcript of the hoo here: transcript jan 10 2019

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CN December 20 2018


Mayoral candidate Amara Enyia will not be returning any money she received from Ed Burke, as Toni Preckwinkle and Suzanna Mendoza have announced they will.

“Not at all,” she proclaims with a hearty laugh. “Apparently other people (got Burke money) but not us. Just that whole situation is emblematic of sort of what we are moving away from which is the politics of the past and the individuals who have really benefited from systems that have hurt taxpayers and hurt residents. We are very clear about what we represent and so donations or funding from someone like Ed Burke just was never on our radar anyway.”

We had two full pages of questions and issues to cover. Early on in the conversation, though, we seemed to be wandering off-topic a lot.

It turned out to be a broad discussion about Mayoral power, the ability of a city to rebuild itself, and the real meaning of community involvement – with plenty of Mayoral politics thrown in, of course.

For example, Enyia explains why housing, public health, violence and the environment are all, from a public policy perspective, the same.

“You cannot have a conversation about the economy without talking about housing,” she explains. “You can’t have a conversation about violence in my view without talking about public health and exposure to public health hazards that actually create impulsive behavior in children, so that would be exposure to lead or exposure to manganese in the soil, which is a reality for many families in different parts of the city. And so we would believe that violence is this intractable thing when really it is simply the manifestation of our public policy failings in all of these different systems. So the way that you address violence is by addressing all of those public policy failings. You have to address public health hazard exposure. You have to address an economy where people can actually plug-in, which might mean expanding trades and vocation in schools.”

We talk about the couple of years she spent in Mayor Daley’s policy office, and the lessons she learned.

“There is a disconnect, she declares. “There was, that’s what I saw. There was a clear disconnect between those who make policy and those who are affected by policy. And if you are not connected to people on the ground, not just those who have access to clout or access to money, but real people living in their neighborhoods you cannot make good public policy. And so as we see what’s happened over the last several years with the exacerbated displacement of individuals and families from their neighborhoods, we’ve seen what’s happened with the disruption and dysfunction in our public school system. We have seen the lack of affordability to be able to stay here. It has only increased over the last several years and that is a direct result of a top down policy-making paradigm that has favored one part of the city at the expense of the neighborhood.”

You may be interested to know that Amara Enyia has no intention of finding a way to cut existing pensions.

“Absolutely not,” she asserts. “Pensions are guaranteed. The individuals who are collecting on their pensions have already done the work. Those of us who do know why the pensions are not sustainable it was not because these individuals didn’t do the work that was requested or asked of them.

Ken:             Or put their payments in.

Amara E:      Exactly. They did what they were supposed to do. However, government elected officials made conscious decisions to not pay into those pensions, to take those pension holidays. They did not fulfill their end of the end so to me it seems very unfair and quite frankly insidious to now attempt a constitutional amendment to cover for the mismanagement of government and now doing so in a way that would hurt individuals who are collecting their pensions, many of whom are on fixed incomes and who are already dealing with affordability issues as it stands. So it actually erodes trust in the public sector when you put forth those sorts of proposals.”

Does everyone need a four-year university degree?  No, says Enyia, and its time to acknowledge that fact.

“I worked in the advanced manufacturing sector and I know the jobs, in many instances six-figure jobs that were vacant they did not require a four-year degree, they just required a certification. And those jobs are there but we have moved away from that because we shifted to this 100% college-bound philosophy which is not even in alignment with the global economy. That means expanding access to vocational trades, expanding access to – I worked with an organization that trains young people through adults in information technology, coding, cyber security, the jobs of the future. We’ve got to actually start preparing for that when they are in elementary school. That’s what the city can do. If we invest in people and invest quite frankly in neighborhoods violence becomes less of an issue. It does not become an issue, and we have to do it now because it is now becoming generational where you have one generation that has not had parents who have been able to work, right. So our willingness to address these issues at the root as opposed to the easy thing which is to say oh we will just put 1,000 more police on the street…”

Amara Enyia is the daughter of Nigerian immigrants, who were on the losing side of the Biafran war for independence from Nigeria. Enyia, who speaks Igbo, the language of many of the Biafrans (and also four other languages) learned a lot of political lessons from her parents. “I remember when I was maybe 13 or 14 my father was writing a book about the war. It was called The Blueprint for Nigeria’s Democracy, and I had to type that book,” she tells us. 

You can watch the program by tapping the image above.

You can listen to the show here.

Read the full transcript of this show here: CN transcript Dec 20 2018

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CN December 13 2018

They didn’t really succeed at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. But a few years after they dropped out, two old friends re-connected. Both had ben successful in business and both still had a burning attraction to the arts. It’s the mid-1920’s and the area around North and Wells is teeming with boarding-houses and low-income tenements. But there are also some fine old buildings in the mix – grand victorians and solid apartment blocks, mostly run-down and sub-divided into tiny apartments.

They bought the building at 155 Carl Street (Now Burton).

Over the next few years they transformed the building into a artist lofts and started attracting young bohemians looking for a different, creative kind of life. Before long, they’d transformed many buildings in the area.

What they didn’t know is that they were igniting a movement. In his new book The Battle of Lincoln Park, author Daniel Kay Hertz calls them the Rehabbers.

Nobody was concerned that the tenants already living in their building were displaced. It probably only affected a few people and there were lots of other places for them to go.   But a decade later as more and more buildings were being bought up and rehabbed, displacement was becoming a serious issue. Gentrification had arrived in Chicago.

Hertz tells in great detail how the Rehabbers, convinced they were saving the inner city as their peers ran off to the suburbs, formed community associations to fight for their goals. But, increasingly, they were finding themselves in conflict with their non-Rehabber neighbors.

“One of the things that that leads to,” Hertz explains, “is that they lobby to bring in an urban renewal program, and they end up tearing down about one out of three buildings in the sort of initial renewal area which is right around the Old Town Triangle. It’s…a level of physical destruction that the neighborhood hadn’t seen since the great fire.”

What they ended up creating was something Hertz calls “their own little green zone.” And the tensions with their neighbors began to rise.

“They were aware that low income people and housing that provided affordable housing for low-income people, and later on people from Appalachia or from Puerto Rico threatened that, and threatened their property values,” he asserts. “That becomes, I think, into the ‘50s and ‘60s, that becomes the central tension of their program.”

“So they successfully get certified as a federal urban renewal area in 1956,” he continues. “They start actually certifying the plans and stuff in the early 1960s, and there’s three big things that they do. So the first one is they create what they call a modified super highway on North Avenue which at that time was a two-lane street with dense storefronts and then a couple of stories of apartments above it. And they clear that out. They demolish the entire north side of that and expand it effectively creating a sort of barrier between the triangle north of North Avenue and the much lower income in the much blacker area south of North Avenue. The second thing they do is they do something similar on Larrabee Street which is sort on the western edge of the triangle, and they don’t widen it but they do essentially tear down every building from North Avenue to Webster, so for three-quarters of a mile virtually every building was torn down and replaced with modern townhomes. And they also create Oz Park, which is a couple of blocks right at the top of that section of Larrabee that was full of six flats and colleges and a couple of hundred people who were just sort of thrown out for what’s now Oz Park. And that also kind of creates a barrier between the triangle on the east and the lower income and especially more Puerto Rican areas to the west and to the north.

And then the last thing they do is Ogden. Which interesting. Ogden had been itself a kind of early urban renewal project. It was one of the few diagonal boulevards from the Burnham Plan that actually got built, so it sort of got punched through up to the lake. But by the early 1960s the argument from the rehabbers was it’s this big ugly street that the traffic is…it’s not being used as much as it could be. You know you would also notice if you looked at a map that Ogden ran right from the triangle directly to Cabrini-Green. And by closing Ogden they closed off a major sort of arterial connection to Cabrini-Green into Lincoln Park.”

This was all happening, it should be noted, shortly after the Cabrini-Green towers were beginning to rise. And Hertz tells us that his research showed him something about he neighborhood the he hadn’t fully realized.

“The history of that neighborhood, the former Cabrini-Green, had been a very low-income deeply stigmatized neighborhood far back well into the 1800s, first as Irish and then Sicilian and then increasingly black in the early 20thCentury. And there’s an editorial from the Tribune from I believe the 1920s saying basically look we’ve created, in the words of the time,  a “black belt” on the south side right through Bronzeville. They could already tell, okay, there’s a little bit of a black belt forming on the west side. Is this area that became Cabrini-Green, is this going to form a black belt on the north side? We have to stop it.”

At about the same time, Arthur Rubloff proposes to the City that they tear down multiple blocks along Clark Street, or “La Clark” as its mostly Mexican and Puerto-Rican residents call it. He builds a wall of luxury high rises, calling it Sandburg Village. It serves, among other things, as a buffer between the tony Magnificent Mile and the poor enclaves to the immediate west. But many of the displaced people move into north Lincoln Park, which further upsets the Lincoln Park Rehabbers

Radical opposition to the gentrifiers and urban renewal begins to rise to the north. A faction of the Young Lords assembles in a church at Armitage just west of Halsted and the tensions grow so rapidly that the pastor and his wife are murdered.

But through it all, gentrification – and  urban renewal – continued. And the impact over a few decades was staggering. Between 1950 and 1970, the population of Lincoln Park dropped from 102,000 to 68,000 just as a result of de-conversions of buildings. Urban Renewal programs, in which entire square miles were simply bulldozed with federal “slum-clearance” funding, removed thousands more people from the area.

“One of the things I wanted to do with the book was say, Look, we have these conversations about gentrification, that at least in my experience go back – okay maybe we talk about Wicker Park in the ‘90s or maybe the ‘80s, but you can trace those back to the ‘40s or the ‘30s or the ‘20s even. It’s the same thing”

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