My irregular musings on city life, politics, baseball, roller derby, and whatever happens to be getting my goat today.

Friday, April 29, 2005

The Strange Case of Marisol Luna

A few months back, before steroids in baseball and Terry Schiavo and the death of the Pope, the big story around here was Marisol Luna. Which was strange, because Marisol Luna is not a real person. She's a doll.

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American Girl, as some of you know, is some kind of cult in which girls dress like their dolls and take them out to eat at a special restaurant/doll store on the Magnificient Mile. That's kinda weird, but that's not the controversial part. The controversy is that each doll comes with a story about where she came from , where she lived, etc. The stories can be set in any period of history, but some of them are modern day. The newest doll is Marisol Luna. The story that comes with the doll states that she's from the Pilsen neighborhood on the near southwest side of Chicago, but recently moved with her family to Des Plaines, a suburb close to O'Hare airport.
The old neighborhood "was no place for me to grow up," the doll's story says.
"It was dangerous, and there was no place for me to play."

The good people of Pilsen were pissed off.
"It's very offensive and it's really a slap in the face to the hardworking people of the Pilsen community," said Alvaro R. Obregon, who lives near where the doll, Marisol, supposedly lived before setting out for suburban Des Plaines.

The resulting firestorm is the biggest ruckus raised over a toy since they recalled the Battlestar Galactica fighter planes back when I was 7 years old after some idiot kid choked to death on the little plastic "laser bolt," and reveals a lot about what's really going on in America.

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Pilsen is actually a wonderful place. Every time I go there for work I'm thrilled to be there. Originally build by Bohemian immigrants and named for the Czech city of Pilzn, the neighborhood is just south and west of Chicago's Loop, sandwiched between Chinatown and the University of Illinois - Chicago. For at least the past half century it's been the first stop for Mexican immigrants arriving in the Chicago area. Typically it's been a transitory sort of place - once established, immigrants have tended to move southwest along the canal, settling in Little Village and, in recent years, the old Mafia suburb of Cicero and beyond. There's a thriving arts community at the neighborhood's eastern edge, not to mention the Mexican American Fine Arts Center Museum, but it's mostly known for the colorful murals which are nearly ubiquitous. Cafe Jumping Bean is in Pilsen, as is the classy Nuevo Leon. And there's an awesome diner at 18th and Damen that gives you free soup with your lunch, no small thing in a Chicago winter.

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Mostly the neighborhood is a working class, family type place with lots of kids and churches. Professionally I know a lot of good people there, working to make the neighborhood a better place to live and grow up in.

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But also, indisputably, it's gangland. I'd love to be able to write a post and say the media has given a perfectly good neighborhood a bad rap and scared away people and investment, etc, with outlandish distorted stories about crime, and I could. But that would only be half of the truth. Like most of Chicago, things are much better than they were in the bad old days, but that's not really saying all that much. While urban minority neighborhoods have never been the cesspools of vice, anarchy and violence that terrified suburbanites imagine them to be, the reality can still be pretty depressing. Many of the neighborhoods young people join gangs, and some of them don't make it to adulthood as a result. While these fatalities may be down to a handful a year in the neighborhood, it's still the kind of risk parents don't want to expose their children to. So why would neighborhood people be so angry about the story of a family moving out to the suburbs?

"Pilsen is more than just a place on the map, or a typical Latin community that has drive-bys and is unsafe and dangerous," Alejandra Ibanez, executive director of the Pilsen Alliance, told Chicago Public Radio. "That's just a typical outside view of Latino neighborhoods. Pilsen is a neighborhood. Families live here. They raise children here. Raise grandchildren here. They've made it into the vibrant community it is, with a grand history and amazing cultural institutions. So it's offensive to us who live here and have made our lives here."

There's more to it than that. Many people blame the flight of the aspiring middle class from neighborhoods like Pilsen for the hard conditions that exist there. By withdrawing resources that could make the neighborhood better, they create a cycle of decline and disinvestment that turn once thriving neighborhoods into hollowed-out ghettoes. Instead, these resources are invested in the bland, lifeless planned communites of American Sprawl, the mallified opposites of the words "vibrant," "cultural," and often "community" as well. Instead of running from these problems, families could stay and work to fix them. So Pilsen residents are thrilled when lifelong community members attempt to stay in the neighborhood and build decent housing for themselves, right?


Hispanic condo buyers seen as Pilsen threat
Plan for pricier lofts has neighbors wary
By Oscar AvilaTribune staff reporter
Published April 22, 2005

J. Ignacio Gonzalez thinks he can give Pilsen a boost by buying a two-bedroom loft in a condo project planned for an abandoned warehouse. One of his potential new neighbors disagrees and accused the 29-year-old police officer of kicking out his "own people."

"I'm not trying to kick anyone out," said Gonzalez, the son of Mexican immigrants, still fuming about the exchange. "I'm trying to attain part of that American dream, which is to own a piece of property."

The clash over Chantico Lofts echoes many others around the city: Pilsen residents fear the project will displace working-class Mexicans by raising property values, which result in higher property taxes and, ultimately, higher rents.But this battle isn't about outsiders moving in and threatening an immigrant neighborhood's ethnic character. Nearly all those who, like Gonzalez, have put down $1,000 deposits to reserve a loft are Mexican themselves. Many grew up in Pilsen.

Opponents have made Chantico Lofts a rallying point because they fear that the project, believed to be Pilsen's largest condo proposal, will open the floodgates to more high-priced housing.The Chantico Lofts project has become the main target of a campaign called "Pilsen is not for sale." Opponents have scheduled their first major rally against the project next week.

Even attempts by the developer to embrace the neighborhood's Mexican character--the project's namesake is the Aztec goddess of the home, and a plaza will incorporate an existing mural of the Virgin of Guadalupe--have been derided by some as exploiting Mexican imagery for profit.

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Huh? So residents don't want people to move out, but they don't want them to move in, either. A majority of Americans view their home as an investment, and want that value to grow. But in rental neighborhoods like Pilsen (and Bucktown), rising property values are a Bad Thing. As assessments grow, taxes increase, and are passed on to residents in the form of higher rents and less maintenance. In addition, Pilsen residents have seen their former neighbors north of the viaduct in the old Maxwell Street Market area evicted en masse as the entire neighborhood was razed to make room for kitchy new condos and student housing. They fear they will be next. Will they?

Quite possibly. The real ticking time bomb for the neighborhood is its degenerating stock of late nineteenth century wood frame houses. These buildings, may thrown up in the aftermath of the Great Fire before building code changes banned wood construction in much of central Chicago, have never met code and our now nearing the end of their useful life. Many of these are scarcely habitable and desperately need to be replaced, but under current economic policies it's impossible to build affordable housing without government subsidy. Construction simply costs too much for houses to be sold for less than $100,000 even downstate, let alone right down the street from Chicago's central business district.

The Chantico Lofts project has caused a split among advocates of affordable housing. Some say Pilsen residents should fight developers tooth-and-nail while others want to become partners to create mixed-income projects. Chantico's units will range from $150,000 to $375,000, dirt cheap for new construction in Chicago. As part of a compromise, the developer has pledged to set aside 21 percent of the units for residents making below the city's median income. That's about as good as it gets under current conditions.

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If places like Pilsen are to survive, there needs to be a coherent government policy on creating affordable housing - tax credits, inclusive zoning, etc. But even that may not be enough. To halt the destruction of neighborhoods, local and state governments need to raise money from income taxes, not property taxes. Income taxes take money from people based on their ability to pay, not on what someone might offer for their house were it for sale.

Such a change will probably come too late for Pilsen residents. Their neighborhood is a little too cool, a little too accessible, a little too close to the Loop. Ironically, gang violence may be the only thing that has kept the neighborhood cheap enough for residents to afford to stay there. As the murder rate falls and schools improve, rising rents and new developments become inevitable.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The Naked Emperor

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This morning I meandered over to see the Monoxide Madonna for myself. I'm not a believer in such things, but I was curious. Anyway, I had no way to get to the gym this morning because I left my car down at Huron and Wood last night and took the El to the Loop for a fundraising event. So I took a walk and checked out the commotion. Over the past couple of days pilgrims have been bringing votive candles, cards, photos of the Pope (John Paul, not the new guy who used to be in the Hitler Youth and later the Wehrmacht*). There's a shiny red balloon with "I Love You" written on it. It's touching. The growing shrine is cordoned off by police barricades and a couple very bemused cops. At 6:30 in the morning there were only a handfull of pilgrims, perhaps a dozen including myself.

And there's no Mary. Amazing though it may seem, the picure above actually makes it look more like Mary than it does in person - to me, it looked like a yellow water stain on a cement wall. Others are saying their faith enables them to see her. But we can convince ourselves of a lot of things that aren't true, if we want to believe enough. It gives people comfort and peace to believe that they're being visited and watched over by a personal, spiritual power.

It seems to me people use these beliefs to help them feel a sense of importance and meaning in their lives. And new experiences and miracles could be a positive development - If people are assured that God is present in their everyday lives, it may be easier for them to develop new ways of relating to the divine which are appropriate for modern life, as opposed to the hidebound idealization of past ways of living. Maybe the rest of us would find religion more relevant if it found our daily lives more relevant.

Then again, maybe not. This sort of thinking have led to the "contemporary" feel of new evangelical megachurches, which seem to embrace every aspect of modern American life except for its sexuality as a godly way of life. My beef with religion has always had more to do with what it accepts than with what it condemns - for the most part, churches have seemed content to stand shoulder to shoulder with the oppressor against the oppressed.

So I'm of two minds about this. I'm amazed by the mystical faith our neighbors have brought up with them from Mexico in a Holy Mother who appears among her flock from time to time to guide them. But I wish she did more to call them to arms against injustice, rather than offering mere comfort. And I still don't see a thing under the Kennedy. To be an unbeliever in America is to see that the Emperor has no clothes, but to know you are unable to convince the crowd of his nakedness.

*I don't mean to imply that Benedict is a Nazi, he's clearly not. However his wartime behavior doesn't reflect someone willing to challenge authority at the risk of his skin. Indeed, he attacks relativism and modernity without seeming to understand why kids these days are questioning authority, revealed truth and inherited ritual and tradition. The horrors of Nazism were one cause of modern scepticism. The priest child abuse scandal is another. Historically, Ratzinger's response to these horrors has been a retreat to tradition and dogma. Nothing suggests to me that the man is prepared to deal with the very real challenges facing his flock. An uncharitable observer might add that the rigid, enforced conformism of his youth has had a permanent impact on his relationship with reality. . .

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Our Lady of the Fullerton Avenue Underpass

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Holy Mary of the Kennedy Expressway, Mother of Road Rage, Our Lady of Perpetual Slow Motion, Guardian Protector of Crotch Rocket Sport Cycles Who Weave Through Traffic, Blessed Virgin of the Underpass, Holy Mother of Carbon Monoxide, Our Lady of Shouted Cell Phone Arguments, Morning Star of the Rush Hour Pile-Up, Mediatrix of News Helicopters, Advocate for the Shopping Cart Refugees Who Seek Shelter from the Rain, Comforter of the Carpooling, Divine Intercessor of Interstate Trucking, Our Lady of Lane Changes, Blessed Virgin of Morning Talk Radio, Ever-Virgin of the Orange Barrels, Sacred Mother of the Delayed, Angel of the Annoyed, Binder of the Wounds of the Late for Work, Hear our Prayer.

The people of Bucktown and Logan Square humbly thank you for the gift of Your grace and Your presence at our humble underpass.

We ask your blessing upon this season, and plead with you to keep us safe and free of road construction.

We beseech you intervene on our behalf with those who would use our little neighborhood as a shortcut to avoid the stoplight at Fullerton on their way to the expressway, and liberate us from the pestilence of their honking, speeding SUVs in the early morning hours.

We implore you to bring enlightenment and understanding upon the people of the land, to bring commuters into the light so that they the way to the train station, and to awaken the hearts of the bicycle cultists to the knowledge that stop signs and one-way streets apply to everyone and not just cars.

We ask you to move the hearts of truck drivers and inspire them to read the height restrictions on the overpass before they try to drive beneath it.

Most of all, Blessed One, we beg, grovel and beseech you to appear at Springfield and intercede for us with the Illinois State Legislature to look upon us with forgiveness and grace and to bestow upon the Chicago Transit Authority the $50 million it needs to continue to provide us with public transit so we don’t actually have to use the infernal freeway which You have graced with Your presence just to get to the Loop.

We ask these things in the name of the Mayor, the Aldermen, and St. John of the Bootleggers from whom the Expressway takes its name.


Our Lady of the Underpass?

Tribune staff report
Published April 18, 2005, 1:35 PM CDT

Curiosity seekers joined the faithful today to view what some said was an image of the Virgin Mary at an underpass of the Kennedy Expressway on Chicago's Northwest Side, CLTV reported.

About 20 people were among the first to perceive the image shortly before midnight on a concrete wall of the Fullerton Avenue viaduct in the city's Bucktown neighborhood, officials said.

By this morning, television news crews were on the scene and media reports were spreading the word of the alleged apparition.

People milled about, taking photos and shooting video of what some were calling "Our Lady of
the Underpass," WGN-Ch. 9 reported. Some prayed and set lighted candles and flowers at the base of the image.

Officers of the Chicago Police Department and troopers of the Illinois State Police were nearby in case they were needed to direct traffic.

"It's a miracle. It's an image. You can't describe it. It's the first time I've seen something like this," said one witness, Jose Recinos.

Another passerby, Snezana Dilorazo, said she and her family noticed something on the viaduct wall and stopped for a closer look.

"We were driving the car, and we stopped by because we've seen the reflection," she said. "We thought maybe it was Jesus Christ," but on closer inspection, the family decided, "it's the Holy Mother," Dilorazo said.

Some witnesses told WGN the image was more visible on camera or when there was less light. Officials, though, said the pattern on the wall simply might be a stain caused by road salt dripping from the expressway.

Tribune staff reporter Tom Rybarczyk and Tribune wires contributed
to this story.

I blaspheme because I care.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

The End of City Life?

A few things in the paper recently have me thinking, again, about the desperate situation facing the American city. And the story is pretty grim right now. It's not a question of the insufficient economic growth or lack of jobs which has plunged our cities into near permanent fiscal crisis. Instead, it's just a reflection of the city's place in the contemporary American political economy.

First of all, we learned this week that the Chicago Transit Authority is planning to enforce drastic cuts unless the state government agrees to bail the agency out.

CTA in for bumpy ride
54 bus lines to be cut, fares to rise without state money

By Jon Hilkevitch and Virginia Groark
Tribune staff reporters
Published April 14, 2005

Forced to choose among five painful packages of service cuts and fare hikes, the Chicago Transit Authority board opted Wednesday for a surprise sixth plan that is certain to put the crunch on rush-hour commuters: a modified Sunday transit schedule that operates seven days a week.

Most CTA express bus routes and the Purple Line Evanston Express "L" trains would be scuttled, and some fares would rise to $2.

Fifty-four bus routes that don't run on Sundays would be eliminated from weekday service, resulting in severe overcrowding and up to hourlong waits for buses. Another 35 bus routes would be cut on Saturdays.

Officials said the plan, which also includes laying off about 2,000 CTA employees, will take effect July 17 unless state lawmakers boost transit funding to close a $55 million deficit in the agency's more than $1 billion 2005 budget.

This is, of course, the result of us greedy city folks living beyond our means and demanding that hardworking suburbanites pay our way, right?

Wrong. The culprit is in this case is something most people regard as a good thing: the Americans with Disabilities Act. Buried deep in the article is this gem, on the planned fare increases:
Cash-paying bus and train riders --who make up about 27 percent of CTA customers--would fork over $2 per ride, a 25-cent increase, and they would no longer be able to buy transfers. The fare would remain $1.75 for bus riders who use the regular magnetic-strip transit cards.

But rail customers who use the cards would pay $2--a move designed to encourage more riders to buy Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus "smart cards," weekly passes or 30-day passes.

The fare increases would not affect CTA customers who use passes or the smart cards. But a minimum of $20 would need to be added to a Chicago Card or a Chicago Card Plus, instead of $10 currently, to receive a 10 percent bonus.

Reduced fares paid in cash by senior citizens, students and people with disabilities would increase to $1 from 85 cents, and transfers would be unavailable to these customers.

The fare for paratransit services, which costs the CTA $26 per ride, would double to $3.50 per ride. A 30-day paratransit pass would increase from $75 to $150.

The way the funding system is set up, half the cost of a CTA ride (about $3.50) is supposed to be covered by the rider, and half by the state. But the cost of paratransit - the ubiquitous white vans that carry disabled and frail elderly people, including some who I work with, wherever they need to go - is $26, the same price everyone else pays. The result - an extra cost of $50 million dollars, roughly the same size as the CTA's budget shortfall.

Now I have nothing aganist disabled people or the ADA in general, but this is a fine example of an unfuned mandate on local government. If the Federal government wants to require urban public transit systems to provide paratransit services, it should pony up the money. It's unfair to make public transit riders pay a disproportionate share of the cost for this service, especially when the system barely has the funds to operate bare-bones service now. Unfortunately, in the third decade of the New Federalism, municipal and county governments are expected to fund all services themselves. Responsibility for raising funds is pushed down to the lowest level possible.

This leads to a situation in which the majority of middle-class and wealthy citizens are able to avoid paying for services used by the working class and poor citizens, simply by living in a different taxing area from them. By using zoning to minimize the number of poor people within their limits, while maximizing the number of tax generators like corporate headquarters and Wal Marts, many suburbs are able to minimize the tax burden on their well-heeled residents by preventing any money from being redistributed to other communities. The result is low-tax communities which, by providing few services, can attract more buisinesses and residents to continue to grow the tax base and shrink the tax obligations of each individual. Meanwhile, communities with poor residents, including most central cities, must keep increasing taxes to provide services, causing more businesses to flee to the tax havens nearby.

The CTA situation will get fixed if the Governor ever gets off his ass and does something about it. But there are other issues as well, with the same root cause.

Chicago schools brace for cuts
800 teaching jobs, programs targeted

By Tracy Dell'Angela, Tribune staff reporter. Tribune staff reporter Christi Parsons contributed to this report
Published April 12, 2005

Facing a $175 million deficit next year, Chicago schools expect to slash an estimated 800 teaching jobs, cuts that could save the district about $50 million but force most of the system's schools to raise class size and trim programs.

. . .

The job cuts represent 3 percent of the district's teaching staff of 26,000. But school advocates argue that Chicago's 600 schools already suffer from stripped-down academic programs and crowded classrooms.

. . .

Elementary schools face staff cuts because their enrollment is expected to drop by 4,000 pupils citywide, although this doesn't include the nearly 2,000 children expected to flow into city schools from the 17 Chicago Catholic schools slated to close next year, budget director Pedro Martinez said.

"They say it's about enrollment. But what they are doing is balancing the budget on the backs of children," said Ted Dallas, vice president of the Chicago Teachers Union. "It's scary, and I believe it will get worse. They have a lot of extra programs, and if the extras are cut, you're going to hurt the kids."

Schools are the best example of what I'm talking about. By funding schools mostly through local property taxes, rich people can achieve low taxes and excellent schools in their own little suburbs, and free themselves for having to pay for the education of poor children a few miles away, but in a different district.

For decades now, economic elites have fled the central cities for these tax haven communities. Whatever you may have heard about "gentrification," the fact is that this process of segregating the poor in bankrupt, decaying central cities continues throughout most of the country. Where will this all lead?


By Tim Jones
Tribune national correspondent
Published April 11, 2005

DETROIT -- This is a city that always seems to have a hand-and-glove relationship with trouble, and right now the fit is exceptionally snug.

Deficits, service cutbacks, scandals, petty politics, people heading for the exits by the thousands. General Motors Corp., headquartered in the gleaming riverfront silos known as the Renaissance Center, has slashed profit forecasts and is taking the cleaver to its workforce. Sound familiar?

But today when people talk about how to fix this former industrial giant, the talk goes way beyond the garden-variety solutions of taxes and bailouts and restructuring and economic development. Now they include receivership--the severe step of the state taking over this sprawling city, unprecedented for a municipality this size--and a stunningly novel proposal: plowing under large, desolate sections of Detroit and farming them.

Cities across the nation, including Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Cleveland, dabble in farming, with small plots used primarily for education and community-building purposes. About 30 acres in Detroit currently are farmed.

Going back to the earth in a big way, though, is groundbreaking.

. . .

[T]he public acknowledgment to at least discuss a proposal by urban designers at the University of Michigan is a measure of Detroit's trouble and the frustration people feel when they weigh the less-than-appealing or wholly unrealistic options before them.

Nolan Finley, the editorial page editor of The Detroit News, wrote recently, "We may reach a point where struggling against the inevitable is pointless. Then, the challenge will be putting all that empty land to use."

Cities lose people, often by the hundreds of thousands. But they don't physically shrink, which in Detroit has left vast stretches of land pockmarked with dilapidated, vacant houses that prove to be havens of crime.

"People are leaving and nobody's coming back," said Rick Samyn, a Capuchin brother who runs an East Side food kitchen and farms about 1 acre on a former lumber company site, bounded by a monastery and mostly battered houses. This is an odd place to see a red tractor and two greenhouses, let alone a large lot being prepared for lettuce, onions, peppers and other vegetables. From one greenhouse, Samyn watches young men with cell phones deal in drugs a block-and-a-half away, near the abandoned aluminum smelter.

"You're not going to fill this city up again," he said.

. . .

With 139 square miles of land--about 60 percent the size of Chicago but with less than a third of Chicago's population--Detroit is a city of weed-choked, rubble-strewn, wide open spaces. About 12,000 homes are abandoned, waiting to be demolished.

. . .

Detroit, which now has around 900,000 people, has lost more than half of its population in the past 50 years, and people still are leaving. Ninety-thousand people moved out of Detroit between 1995 and 2000, and 10,000-to-15,000 people have left annually since then, said Kurt Metzger, research director of Wayne State University's Center for Urban Studies.

"Detroit used to be explained as just white flight. Now it's African-Americans--middle-class and upper-middle-class people with kids--leaving," Metzger said. "If you're the mayor of Detroit, where the hell do you turn?"

The exodus is taking a big toll. Dozens of schools--public and private--are to be closed. City pension and health-care costs are soaring. Water pipes are crumbling. Services are slated to be cut in Kilpatrick's upcoming budget.

The solution, in other words, would be to completely abandon Detroit's neighborhoods and plow them back under the earth. Sound farfetched? Some people out there are laughing right now and saying that getting rid of D-town might be a good idea. But anywhere you move all those poor people to is just going to end up as another big ghetto. The fact is, the situation American cities find themselves in today is completely unworkable.

Until a few months ago, it seemed Chicago had found ways to pull itself out of the spiral - now it's clear we will need outside help from Springfield or Washington to avoid becoming Detroit.

And why should anyone help us? asks my straw man. Well, there are important reasons America should continue to have major cities and not plow them into farmland.

Cities are dense. Density provokes innovation and exposes people to new ideas. Density supports small business development - in less dense areas, a business often must rely on getting the patronage of a large proportion of the population, while density allows for the development of niche markets with a large enough customer base to survive. (Think about sushi, massage, or hair places specializing in dredlocks). Large populations in large areas make institutions such as research hospitals a practical possibility.

Density is inherently green - I know it doesn't look that way, but city life is better for the environment than is suburbia. City dwellers live close together and don't drive as much or as far. We tend to live closer to work. We are more likely to run errands on foot, by bicycle, or using mass transit.

If I keep ranting this thing will never get posted. But you get the idea.

Friday, April 08, 2005

A Break from Big Pimpin'

Windy City Blues is sort of on hiatus for a few weeks, because I am very tied up with things at work, which I can't write about. They are actually interesting things, filled with irony, drama, dark government plots and the works. They would be fun to write about, but I couldn't risk posting anything here that might risk harming the department, the social service agencies it works with, or the clients they serve. So I'll be taking a break for most of April, unless I'm really burning to write something not work-related.

However, I would like to take a moment and say something about how much I've appreciated living in Illinois the last few years, politically speaking. While nationally the conservative movement runs amok, here in the Land of Lincoln his party has been pretty well whipped. Sure, the Senate campaign with its 14 candidates and surprise special guest star felt like reality television, but it did succeed in crowning the new American Idol. Our state government has populist instings without a clear program, is given to grandstanding and often does things just to piss people off. In other words, they represent me pretty well.

Here's a wonderful example, brought to you by WQAD in Moline:
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. Prostitutes would be able to sue pimps who exploited them in the sex trade under a bill the Illinois House approved today.

The 110-to-zero vote sends the measure to the Senate.

The bill is sponsored by Democratic Representative Constance Howard of Chicago. It allows people up to ten years to file lawsuits against anyone who profited from their prostitution. Damages could be paid for physical or mental abuse.

Representative Patricia Bailey says the proposal is unnecessary. The Chicago Democrat says prostitutes can call police if they run into trouble.

Advocates say it's unlikely current prostitutes would sue. But those who have stopped and are trying to rebuild their lives might.

(The bill is SB1299. On the Net:
Rock. On. Now if they could only make it easier for them to join a union. Hey, if people say they want an end to prostitution, they should let them join AFSCME. Trust me, they'll never work again.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Demolition of the Week: Chez Ted

While everyone remains a bit stunned that the Illini lost the big game, there's no keeping spirits down on a day like this. It's in the seventies and sunny with a light breeze coming off Lake Michigan, daylight savings time is here, the spring bulbs are coming up, the Bulls somehow have home field advantage for the playoffs, and the Cubs won their first game of the season, something like 16-6. Who needs Sammy when you have Carlos Lee?

Even the death of the Pope hasn't put a damper on things. St. Hedwig's may be draped in black, but in the fenced-in parking lot next door, a balding but exhuberant dad teaches a bemused first grader how to swing an aluminum bat.

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St Hedwig's tries in vain to spread gloom

Everybody and her dog is out walking in the warm spring air. There's nothing like a long, miserable winter to teach you the value of a nice day, fresh air and baseball season.

Unfortunately, the nice weather brings out the wrecking crews as well. The first victim of the season is one of my favorites, a neighborhood landmark I never would have dreamed anyone would destroy. It used to be the public service office of 32nd Ward Alderman Ted Matlack, before he abandoned us for an office in Lincoln Park. I think these pictures pretty much speak for themselves, I don't have much to add about why this old gem, the tower which marked the neighborhood's edge for generations, should have been preserved.

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The former ward office, with its distinctive Victorian tower, marked the border where Bucktown meets the Kennedy Expressway, which separates the neighborhood from the Elston Avenue industrial district bordering the window. Industry is actually disappearing from the area, a new Kohl's is opening a block away on a former factory site.

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This kind of commercial-residential mix was a great design, and very attractive.

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New condo buildings replicate the storefront-apartment mix of the old buildings, without the old-world charm. Still, they're better than most of what's being built today. And there's a new coffee shop on the way back from the gym. The old building would also have been a great location for a new coffee shop, and actually had more retail space. I'm guessing someone wants to build another tall condo building to maximize profit from the land. Located right by a highway onramp, condos here could bring a hefty price from Loop workers wanting a short commute.

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Some of the more delicate details have already been ripped off, but you can tell what it was like when it was nice. You know, like last week.