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

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Election Day

Wow, that was more interesting than I thought it would be.

Daley was re-elected with 71% of the vote. Scandals did hurt him – he won with 83% four years ago. He had no real opposition, Dorothy Brown (current Clerk of Courts) was a token opposition stand-in, and “Doc” Walls, former aide to Mayor Harold Washington, is extremely far Left, only gets 9% even here. Hell, even I couldn’t vote for him, if he had his way with affordable housing policy the condo I am buying would be illegal. He wants to ban the conversion of apartment buildings and require the construction of two affordable units for every market rate unit, or something like that. It wouldn’t create more housing, it would make sure that nothing got built at all, ever. The building where we're looking at buying, with smaller units going down into the $160s or so, provides a gateway to homeownership for all kinds of working/lower middle class people who would be priced out of the market otherwise. The solution is more housing, not less. If we want more affordable housing (and we do), the city should subsidize construction of more affordable units.

But downticket, big things were afoot. Here in the 32nd we forced our banally evil alderman into a runoff, anyway, holding him to 47%. Natarus, the downtown alderman since 1971, was defeated by an Irish kid named Brendan O’Reilly or something. Downtown’s population has swelled by about 100,000 people allegedly. Since there are supposed to be 60,000 to a ward, this will now be a huge, bizarre ward until it can be broken up after the next census. So the 42nd (Loop, Near North etc) probably has 90,000 residents or so right now. But only about 12,500 people voted there.

Hell, Daley won with 317,000 in a city of 3 million – so, probably 20% of eligible voters. Chicago, thy name is Apathy. Still, most wards look like they had 9,000-10,000 votes cast, lending support to my theory that too many people live in the 42nd.

2nd ward (South Loop, Near South) also has a heck of a lot of voters, and the incumbent, Haithcock, trails challenger Fioretti 28%-20%. If Fioretti wins the runoff, it will mean that the oldest Black ward in the city has gone yuppie – inevitable, maybe, but still a surprise. This reduces the Black Caucus to 20 or 19, I’m not sure which. After census 2010, which will result in a shift of ward boundaries toward the denser, highrise areas downtown, they may drop to around 18 out of 50 depending on the gerrymandering. Big, big demographic changes are taking place here.

3 aldermen were defeated outright, including obviously the woman caught taking bribes a few weeks back and saying “most politicians are hos” on tape. Sort of wish I'd been blogging at the time - she was just priceless. The incident apparently did not sit well with 68% of her constituents, who voted for other candidates, including the former cop who won the majority. 11 or 12 other aldercreatures will probably face a runoff. Runoffs do not favor incumbents here. Haters will be pumped and show up in droves. Supporters are discouraged this morning, key players like developers will hedge their bets now. Most runoff races had 3 or more candidates on the ballot, now it will be an up or down referendum on the incumbent. Look for 8 of the 12 incumbents to lose, resulting in a turnover of 11 (as opposed to 3 four years ago). Not sure which way I lean in many of the disputed races, but my suspicion here is that generally change is good.

Daley’s budgets will still pass 50-0 or 49-Preckwinkle. But development patterns will be impacted a lot. Look for fewer teardowns and constructions in Bucktown (32nd) while the South Loop etc (2nd) will explode over the next three years, slowly transforming into the Upper East Side, only with crime. It is Chicago, still. Due to the odd timing of Chicago elections, the census data will not be ready for Feb. 2011 and changes won’t take place until 2015 when they are already outdated. But the 42nd and 2nd will probably be broken up into 3-5 wards for that election, when we choose Daley’s successor and a wealthy, dense city core will be assuming a much larger role in city politics.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Parking Circle of Hell

There's nowhere to park legally by the city tow yard on a Tuesday night. Seriously, you just beach your ride somewhere in the general vacinity of the traffic circle and get out saying, "well, at least they won't tow it very far . . . "

The tow yard is like stepping out of the city and into backwoods Arkansas or somewhere like that, only cold. Backwoods Siberia?. It's quiet at night. The lot itself is a fenced off, secure yard with automated gates. In order to get access, you need to go up the rickety wooden stairs to a building that looks like a collection of aluminum trailers welded haphazardly together. It's one of these "temporary" facilities thrown together 50 years ago and then never replaced, or maintainede, or noticed unless your car gets towed. Or stolen and lit on fire, which was the case with Trope's old Civic.

The crowd was interesting. Mostly Latin, including three or four sullen men who looked like they were usually asleep at this hour ahead of early morning shifts at horrible mind destroying jobs, and a gaggle of giggling girls with brightly colored cell phones. Also ahead of us were two young, angry Eastern European cab drivers, an enormous, heavy lidded black man, a couple Pakistanis and a lost, yuppie looking white couple. The line was held up for a while as the cabbies argued with a bored looking Puerto Rican woman barely out of high school about various reasons why he should be allowed to pick up his car without paying for his parking tickets. Eventually they stormed out, stormed back in again, and finally were issued a yellow card to get on the lot.

When it was finally our turn, about 45 minutes on, we told the uninterested young woman why we were there: the Arson Unit had called us to let us know that what was left of our stolen car had been located at the scene of a fire on the West Side, about a week after it vanished from the street in front of our house, and that it was towed here. Trope showed the woman her title and she signed and stamped some papers disinterestedly. Then she told us we couldn't see the car.

Apparently, she said, they didn't really know it was ours because the VIN number on the dash board was no longer readable due to fire. They wouldn't let us near the car until a police officer had been out to read the VIN off the engine block. I didn't understand the issue.

"They know it's our car. They called us," I said. She said no, the car had just been identified by our plates. Apparently there was the possibility that it was someone else's car, with our plates on it. Until they were sure, they couldn't hand the car over to the insurance company so we could get paid.

"Well let us look at it, and we'll tell you if it's our car." But if it wasn't ours, it wouldn't be appropriate for us to be poking around the remains. The only way to tell was to wait for the police to find the VIN.

"But why the hell would somebody put our plates on an identical car and light it on fire?" [Antisocial personality disorder?] Another rhetorical question I would never have imagined I'd have cause to ask for real. Ah, the stimulation of city life.