Street Smart Chicago

Dime Stories: High Hopes and Faint Praise

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Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

There is actually a lot to like about “Chicagoland,” the eight-part consideration of this city airing on CNN this spring starting March 6. Namely it gives us a look at the lives of people like Fenger High School principal Elizabeth Dozier and police commander Leo Schmitz. These are Chicagoans with very difficult jobs who perform them bravely and make life-and-death decisions every day. Dozier particularly earns our admiration with  the compassion with which she dotes on “her kids”—the student body of Fenger—often following them on foot to navigate the gang-infested mean streets around her high school. At one point, the heel of her shoe breaks off and she continues—barefoot.

Commander Schmitz maintains an optimism and a sense of goodwill though he presides over a district in which far more young people are in gangs rather than college, on the turf that has earned the ugly moniker of “Chiraq.” Commander Schmitz  isn’t jaded  and is the very face of hope for the good people of his district.

These are people who make me proud to be a Chicagoan. Read the rest of this entry »

Checkerboard City: Ice Ice Divvy

Bicycling, Checkerboard City, Green, News etc. No Comments »
Divvy rider in the Dearborn protected lanes. Photo: John Greenfield

Divvy rider in the Dearborn protected lanes. Photo: John Greenfield

By John Greenfield

From its June 28 launch to New Year’s Eve, Chicago’s Divvy bike-share system racked up an impressive 759,788 rides. But the acid test for the new system has been the remainder of this kidney stone of a winter, Chicago’s fifth snowiest on record, featuring more than twenty days with subzero lows. I checked in with general manager Elliot Greenberger to see how Divvy has been faring during the Chiberia deep-freeze. “Weather has been a challenge this winter, not only for us but for all kinds of transportation systems that have been around for decades,” he says.

The biggest difficulty of keeping Divvy running has been making sure the docking stations are clear of snow when people return their bikes, which has been tricky since we’ve had so many days of precipitation followed by frigid temperatures. Crew members have been using shovels, ice picks and road salt to keep the docks clear.

However, maintaining the bikes themselves hasn’t been a big problem during the cold season. “There have been no major issues with mechanical problems or tires losing their pressure faster,” Greenberger says. “But with all the dirty snow, keeping the bikes clean is a challenge. They don’t look great, but it’s nothing we can’t solve with a rag and some cleaner.” Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology

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By  Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): Are you between jobs? Between romantic partners? Between secure foundations and clear mandates and reasons to get up each morning? Probably at least one of the above. Foggy whirlwinds may be your intimate companions. Being up-in-the-air could be your customary vantage point. During your stay in this weird vacationland, please abstain from making conclusions about its implications for your value as a human being. Remember these words from author Terry Braverman: “It is important to detach our sense of self-worth from transitional circumstances, and maintain perspective on who we are by enhancing our sense of ‘self-mirth.’” Whimsy and levity can be your salvation, Aries. “Lucky flux” should be your mantra. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology

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By  Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): The battles you’ve been waging these last ten months have been worthy of you. They’ve tested your mettle and grown your courage. But I suspect that your relationship with these battles is due for a shift. In the future they may not serve you as well as they have up until now. At the very least, you will need to alter your strategy and tactics. It’s also possible that now is the time to leave them behind entirely—to graduate from them and search for a new cause that will activate the next phase of your evolution as an enlightened warrior. What do you think? Read the rest of this entry »

Linework: Weather Trance

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

weathertrance_WEB

Crossing Lines: What’s Wrong with the Wrongful Conviction Movement

News etc., Washington Park 7 Comments »

022014By Martin Preib

Wrongful conviction settlements are big business, but they are not always sensible. Chicago settles millions of dollars in cases where convicted offenders claim they were wrongfully convicted.

For a number of law firms, suing the city over wrongful convictions has become a kind of cottage industry. Inmates claim they were tortured and coerced into confessing. The offenders are freed from prison. Attorneys quickly initiate civil lawsuits against the city. Many people assume that a settlement signifies the police were culpable and had something to hide.

But this is not the truth in several key wrongful conviction cases, none more so than the Anthony Porter case, a double murder in 1982 in Washington Park on the South Side.

“I got accused of certain things I didn’t do,” says Charles Salvatore, a lead detective in the Porter case. “I got accused of being this ringleader in a great conspiracy to frame Anthony Porter. I got accused of not having probable cause. I got accused of intimidating witnesses and I got accused of physical abuse, and I didn’t do any of this.”

In this case and many others, cops long for the opportunity to explain their investigation in civil court, even if accused of torture and coercion. Detectives want to retain their good name, and prevent the city from paying millions to murderers. The decision to settle, though, is out of the detectives’ hands.

When, in 1999, former Governor George Ryan watched news coverage of Anthony Porter’s alleged wrongful conviction by a Northwestern University investigation, it compelled him to place a moratorium on the death penalty (which stayed until Governor Quinn later abolished the death penalty). The Porter case continues to set the precedent for wrongful conviction cases in Illinois.

As a police officer currently employed by the City of Chicago, I have a unique perspective on wrongful conviction cases. Although I had no involvement with the Anthony Porter case, learning about its three-decade history has made me question the assumptions about wrongful convictions.  Read the rest of this entry »

Dime Stories: “Walk on the Wild Side” Changed Everything

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Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

There is a very expensive steakhouse in Brooklyn called Peter Luger’s that, for more than a hundred years, has served what’s thought to be the best steak in New York, or the country for that matter. And when you eat their beef, it is hard to argue with this appraisal. It melts in your mouth. It is perfectly seasoned and cooked at a very high temperature in butter. The Luger’s steak is delicious. No argument. The service leaves a lot to be desired, though: snotty old Kraut waiters, a long wait even when you have a reservation, and the light so bright, you’d think you were in an operating room.

For many of the years that I knew Lou Reed, this was his favorite steak and we ate a lot of it. We’d often go with a big group, five or six people at least. Luger’s was less likely to fuck you around if it was a big table. Over the years, Lou brought Salman Rushdie, Hal Willner, the musical genius, Laurie Anderson and a host of dudes from his tai-chi classes, including the instructor. Read the rest of this entry »

Checkerboard City: Don’t Knock Woodard

Avondale, Checkerboard City, Green No Comments »
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Woodard Plaza, under construction/Photo: John Greenfield

By John Greenfield

Surrounded by chainlink fence and blanketed with snow, a new plaza under construction at the northwest corner of Milwaukee/Diversey/Kimball in Avondale, an intersection that appears several times in the movie “Wayne’s World,” currently looks pretty bleak. However, once it opens to the public later this year, the triangular slab of land is likely to become one of Chicago’s most vibrant public spaces.

Formerly a drab concrete traffic island occupied by a couple of trees, a bus shelter and a shabby newsstand, the wedge is being transformed into Woodard Plaza, named after the roadway that previously formed its northern boundary. The Chicago Department of Transportation has closed a short stretch of Woodard to connect the island to the mainland, creating a larger space that will house a small amphitheater, a raised performance space with power outlets, and a plethora of new greenery. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology

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By  Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): A woman from New Mexico wrote to tell me that after reading my horoscopes for three years in the Santa Fe Reporter, she had decided to stop. “I changed my beliefs,” she said. “I no longer resonate with your philosophy.” On the one hand, I was sad that I had lost a reader. On the other hand, I admired her for being able to transform her beliefs, and also for taking practical action to enforce her shift in perspective. That’s the kind of purposeful metamorphosis I recommend for you, Aries. What ideas are you ready to shed? What theories no longer explain the nature of life to your satisfaction? Be ruthless in cutting away the thoughts that no longer work for you. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology

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By  Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): In her TED talk, science writer Mary Roach made it clear that human beings don’t need genital stimulation to experience orgasms. She spoke of a woman who routinely reaches ecstatic climax by having her eyebrows caressed, and another woman who reaches the big O simply by brushing her teeth. Then there’s the woman who can simply think herself into coming, no physical touch necessary. I can’t guarantee that a similar aptitude will suddenly turn on in you, Aries, but the coming days could bring you as close as you have ever been. Right now you’re a connoisseur of deep pleasure—a blessed bliss master. Read the rest of this entry »