Street Smart Chicago

Dime Stories: The Long Cruel Line

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Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

The Union Stock Yards have been closed since 1971. The century of suffering, human and animal, still bears much  historical currency. We are still thought of in literature as “Hog Butcher for the World.”

Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” brought great change in the meatpacking industry—until this great novel, nobody inspected the meat we ate. Six months after “The Jungle” was published, the U.S.D.A. started inspecting the slaughterhouses and the meat being issued by them. It was a grimy, filthy business; the Armours and Swifts built threadbare shanty-towns for their workers, mostly Czechs, Poles and Ukrainians. The conditions were so unsanitary that workers often brought home blood-borne diseases on their clothing and skin—there were no wash stations or showers. At one point the infant-mortality rate was so high that one out of three children did not live until their first birthday.

It was a cruel life imposed upon generations of immigrants, all the while building great fortunes for the Armours and Swifts. I write this because I realize this has always been a city of great cruelty—to people, to animals—and somebody always profited from this suffering. It’s a little late in the game to be surprised by this yet, still, I am. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology: Week of April 2, 2015

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By  Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): “Choconiverous” is an English slang word that’s defined as having the tendency, when eating a chocolate Easter Bunny, to bite the head off first. I recommend that you adopt this direct approach in everything you do in the coming weeks. Don’t get bogged down with preliminaries. Don’t get sidetracked by minor details, trivial distractions, or peripheral concerns. It’s your duty to swoop straight into the center of the action. Be clear about what you want and unapologetic about getting it. Read the rest of this entry »

Checkerboard City: Transit Platforms

Bicycling, Checkerboard City, City Life, Dime Stories, Green, News etc., Politics, Transit No Comments »
Rahm Emanuel and Chuy García. Photos: John Greenfield

Rahm Emanuel and Chuy García/Photos: John Greenfield

By John Greenfield

As I’ve discussed with noted Rahm-hater Tony Fitzpatrick, the talented artist and storyteller whose column occupies the other side of this page, there are many issues to consider when deciding who to support in Chicago’s April 7 runoff election. These include jobs, education, crime, privatization, transparency and ethics, to name a few.

However, we shouldn’t overlook the importance of transportation when choosing whether to reelect Mayor Emanuel, or anoint his challenger, Cook County Commissioner Jesús “Chuy” García. The need for a safe, efficient transportation system is a huge factor in quality of life for all Chicagoans.

With that in mind, here’s a comparison of how the candidates differ on key traffic safety, walking, transit and biking issues. Note that this article does not represent an endorsement of either candidate.

Read the rest of this entry »

Checkerboard City: School of Bike

Bicycling, Checkerboard City, Green No Comments »
Stan Treger bikes to class on the DePaul campus. Photo: John Greenfield

Stan Treger bikes to class on the DePaul campus/Photo: John Greenfield

By John Greenfield

I kind of hate the phrase “bike season.” Thousands of Chicagoans get around on two wheels all year ‘round. Even in January, there’s still something of a bike rush hour on the Lakefront Trail and Milwaukee Avenue. And all you really need to keep cycling through the Chicago winter is a bike with fenders and lights, and more-or-less the same clothing you’d wear to stay warm while waiting for the bus.

That said, it’s been fun to observe how, following another cold, gray, snowy winter, this month’s sunshine and relatively balmy temperatures have inspired countless people to drag their dusty steeds out of basements. Like rivers swelling from the vernal thaw, the city’s bike lanes are starting to fill up with riders once again.

As part of this spring awakening, a dozen different higher learning institutions will be challenging their students, faculty, and staff to try bicycling to school. The second annual Bike2Campus Week takes place from April 20-24, highlighting cycling as a green, cheap, healthy and fun way to get around. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology: Week of March 26, 2015

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By Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): The term “jumped the shark” often refers to a TV show that was once great but gradually grew stale, and then resorted to implausible plot twists in a desperate attempt to revive its creative verve. I’m a little worried that you may do the equivalent of jumping the shark in your own sphere. APRIL FOOL! I lied. I’m not at all worried that you’ll jump the shark. It’s true that you did go through a stagnant, meandering phase there for a short time. But you responded by getting fierce and fertile rather than stuck and contrived. Am I right? And now you’re on the verge of breaking out in a surge of just-the-right-kind-of-craziness. Read the rest of this entry »

Linework: Untitled

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By Keller Roberts. Edited by Ivan Brunetti and Aaron Renier. (Click on image to enlarge.)

newcity2015_KeilerRobertsWEB

Dime Stories: Invasion of the Rahmbies

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Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

Since coming out for Chuy a couple of weeks ago, I’ve encountered no small amount of hostility from the Rahm supporters—the “Rahmbies” as I like to think of them. They can rationalize any inequities brought forth in the last four years because the shuttered schools, the ubiquitous gunfire, potholes and unplowed streets—these things don’t directly affect them. That’s where we live now: Rahm, in four short years, has made this an Us and Them city. A city of wealthy one-percent types, and then there is the rest of us. We’re useful because we can fix their cars, bus their tables and deliver their groceries.

The poor? I think he and his pal Rauner just hope they go away. Emanuel took a page from what then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg did to New York, and now Manhattan is an island of the wealthy and the people who do their dishes. The poor and the creative class were scattered to Brooklyn, Queens and Jersey. Emanuel, Bloomberg, Rauner and their ilk are succeeding in building a culture glaringly divided by economic class, and it is more pernicious than the machine politics we’re used to. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology: Week of March 19, 2015

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By Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): You’re entering a time and space known as the Adlib Zone. In this territory, fertile chaos and inspirational uncertainty are freely available. Improvised formulas will generate stronger mojo than timeworn maxims. Creativity is de rigueur, and street smarts count for more than book-learning. May I offer some mottoes to live by when “common sense” is inadequate? 1. Don’t be a slave to necessity. 2. Be as slippery as you can be and still maintain your integrity. 3. Don’t just question authority; be thrilled about every chance you get to also question habit, tradition, fashion, trendiness, apathy and dogma. Read the rest of this entry »

What Would Jesús Ride? A Conversation With Mayoral Challenger Jesús “Chuy” García About Chicago’s Transportation Challenges

Bicycling, Green, Politics, Transit 1 Comment »
Jesús “Chuy” García at a Woodlawn bus shelter. Photo: John Greenfield

Jesús “Chuy” García at a Woodlawn bus shelter/Photo: John Greenfield

By John Greenfield

For most of the campaign, mayoral hopeful Jesús “Chuy” García has been relatively quiet about transportation issues, except for his vocal opposition to Chicago’s automated traffic enforcement program. Most recently, following the revelation that a former top aide to Mayor Rahm Emanuel lobbied for awarding the latest red light contract to Xerox, García announced that he would shut down all of the city’s traffic cameras on his first day as mayor.

The Emanuel campaign has noted that, before the Cook County commissioner joined other candidates in criticizing automated enforcement, he supported it. On March 11, 2014, García was part of a narrow majority of commissioners who approved an intergovernmental agreement that allowed Safespeed, LLC to install a red light camera on County property in suburban Forest Park.

Campaign finance records show that Citizens for Jesús García received a $1,500 contribution from Safespeed one day before the vote. When I asked about this issue, a García spokeswoman stated that the donation was from Safespeed president and CEO Nikki Zollar, a “thirty-year-old friend” of the commissioner, and it did not influence his decision.

Shortly before the February 24 municipal election, García, who has a master’s degree in urban planning from UIC, broke his relative silence on other transportation topics by releasing a transportation platform (TinyURL.com/GarciaTranspoPlatform). The document suggests that he is well informed about transit funding and transit-oriented development, although there’s little mention of pedestrian and bike issues. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology: Week of March 12, 2015

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By  Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): In the old Superman comics, Mister Mxyztplk was a fiendish imp whose home was in the fifth dimension. He sometimes sneaked over into our world to bedevil the Man of Steel with pranks. There was one sure way he could be instantly banished back to his own realm for a long time: If Superman fooled him into saying his own name backwards. You might think it would be hard to trick a magic rascal into saying “Klptzyxm” when he knew very well what the consequences would be, but Superman usually succeeded. I’d like to suggest that you have a similar power to get rid of a bugaboo that has been bothering you, Aries. Don’t underestimate your ability to outsmart the pest. Read the rest of this entry »