By Brian Hieggelke
American politics is broken. By just about any measure, we are collectively disenchanted with both the system as it exists, and the people we elect through that system to carry on its business. Particularly disheartening, money has become the defining force in shaping our political character. In Illinois, we’ll be holding a primary on Tuesday, March 18, wherein the highest-profile election will be the race for the Republican nomination for governor. The putative front-runner in that campaign is billionaire Bruce Rauner who, not coincidentally, is one of the richest men in America.
A few weeks ago, I met E. Glen Weyl at a cocktail party and heard about his quadratic voting idea for the first time. A simple idea on the surface—allow the buying of votes, but with the provision that the cost of each vote is squared as you increase in number, with all the proceeds redistributed equally to all voters—it also seems simply absurd at first. After all, money in politics is the problem, not the solution, right? But as he explained its implications—the reductive influence of wealth given the power of exponential pricing, the positive implications for the “tyranny of the majority” and so forth—I became intrigued. Why are we so blindly attached to a way of conducting democracy that was conjured up hundreds of years ago, in a time far removed from most of today’s concerns and technological capabilities? If the system is broke, why aren’t we trying to fix it? That’s what our Founding Fathers would have done.
Weyl is a rising young star in the University of Chicago economics department. Just twenty-eight years old, he achieved his first notoriety for finishing Princeton as the valedictorian of his undergraduate class while simultaneously finishing all the coursework for his PhD, which was awarded a year later. His partner in this idea is Eric Posner, a professor in the University of Chicago Law School who, among other things, is a regular contributor to Slate magazine. And yes, Posner’s father is Judge Richard Posner, the celebrated jurist and scholar. Read the rest of this entry »
Connecting the dots is what an academic does. On September 10, Richard Neer, a University of Chicago professor of art history with a sideline in cinema, sent out an email with the subject line “Chemical Weapons Research at Chicago.”
The recipients of the email belonged to a listserv connected to the Committee for Open Research on Economy & Society (CORES). Founded by U of C faculty in 2008 to challenge plans for a Milton Friedman Institute, CORES was concerned with the “symbolic endorsement” by their employer given to the late economist’s politics. Neer signed a petition in opposition to the Institute, which blended with the Becker Center on Chicago Price Theory in 2011 to become the Becker Friedman Institute for Research in Economics.
A similar alarm was sounded in 1979 when the university bestowed the Albert Pick Jr. Award for Outstanding Contributions to International Understanding to Robert Strange McNamara, then president of the World Bank. Campus protests prompted university president Hannah Gray to write her guest the day after the black-tie gala: “I hope you will accept my apologies, offered both personally and on behalf of the University, for any discourtesies or awkwardness to which you may have been subjected.” Read the rest of this entry »
Bob Fioretti by the Dearborn protected bike lanes./Photo: John Greenfield
By John Greenfield
Second Ward Alderman Robert “Bob” Fioretti got a raw deal in last year’s ward remap. His district currently includes portions of several neighborhoods on the Near South and Near West sides, but in 2015 his territory will flip to the Near North Side, which means he has to win over a whole new set of voters in the next election.
Perhaps because he has an uphill reelection battle anyway, lately he’s had no qualms about going against the mayor’s wishes on issues ranging from charter schools to the renegotiation of the city’s reviled parking-meter contract. As part of a series of interviews with aldermen about their view on transportation issues, I recently had coffee with Fioretti downstairs from his law firm, a stone’s throw from the Dearborn protected bike lanes. Read the rest of this entry »
The McGroarty-Torres family
By Lisa Applegate
When she stood behind the podium and began reading from her one-page speech, Kathy McGroarty-Torres felt more than just her usual jitters about speaking in public. The paper she held quivered in her hands. Her voice choked and she blinked away tears. She had written this speech late the previous night in her hotel room, anxious to include the most compelling details of her family’s struggle with a largely unknown immigration law. It was a story she had yearned to tell for a decade, ever since she and Ines Torres were newlyweds and learned of the law while waiting at the border in Ciudad Juarez. Now here she was, standing before a television camera and several reporters in a U. S. Congress meeting room.
“We have lived everyday with the fear that our lives could be destroyed by a deportation order. We have two boys, Esteban and Diego, who have no idea that their father’s immigration status could ultimately bring unbelievable heartache to our home.” As Kathy spoke her boys’ names, a thought flashed in her mind: “Oh, there it is. We’re all out now.” She had been encouraged to use their names, to add a human dimension to the law passed by Congress seventeen years ago in an attempt to deter undocumented immigrants. Now she wondered, could this be dangerous for us? Read the rest of this entry »
Margaret Laurino with her constituent Bob Kastigar/ Photo courtesy of the 39th Ward
By John Greenfield
As “mini mayors,” Chicago aldermen have a huge influence on the kinds of projects that are built in their districts. For example, a handful of aldermen have opted to use “menu money” discretionary funds to stripe additional bicycle lanes in their wards or bankroll innovative transportation projects, like the Albany Home Zone traffic-calmed block in Logan Square. On the other hand, they can stand in the way of progress, as when former 50th Ward Alderman Berny Stone put the kibosh on a bike bridge over the North Shore Channel in West Rogers Park.
39th Ward Alderman Margaret Laurino’s Far Northwest Side district includes parts of the Albany Park, North Park, Sauganash, Mayfair, Independence Park and Old Irving Park neighborhoods. The chairman of the City Council’s Pedestrian and Traffic Safety Committee, she’s probably best known to cyclists as the sponsor of a new ordinance that bans texting and cell-phone use while cycling. But she’s actually one of City Hall’s outspoken advocates for sustainable transportation. I recently caught up with Laurino at her ward service office, 4404 West Lawrence, to get her views on walking, biking and transit issues in her ward and citywide. Read the rest of this entry »
By Tony Fitzpatrick
With the election ever nearing, operatives and politicians are beating Ohio like a rented mule. From river to city there are dipshits with clipboards talking a smooth line of sophistry from both parties.This is the low-tide of democracy, down where the kernels get small, dark and greasy—the margins—where elections are won and lost.
Sadly, that IS the history of this unique slice of ruptured geography.
Ohio remains, as the writer Charlie Finch noted, the state nobody really knows—it has given us our worst presidents—Hayes, Garfield, McKinley, Harding—to name a few. It has also given us some of our finest writers: James Wright and Sherwood Anderson included. Yet every four years this fascinating place becomes the bête noire of American electoral politics and the faith of its citizens ever more jerked around by the process that emboldens its worst elements. And still, we don’t really know a damn thing about the place. Read the rest of this entry »
Proposed BRT configuration/Image courtesy of CTA
By John Greenfield
“It comes down to: how do Chicagoans want their streets?” said Chris Ziemann, the city’s bus-rapid-transit project manager, as we drank coffee downstairs from the Chicago Department of Transportation’s (CDOT) downtown headquarters last week. “Do they want them to be congested every day at rush hour with gridlocked vehicles? Or do they want fast, reliable bus service and nice, comfortable conditions for walking?”
As car-dominated transportation systems become increasingly dysfunctional, more U.S. cities are looking to bus rapid transit (BRT) as a solution. BRT delivers subway-like speed and efficiency at relatively low costs through upgrades to existing streets rather than new rail lines. These improvements can include dedicated bus lanes, pre-paid boarding at stations in the road median, bus-priority stoplights and more. BRT is already common in Latin America, Europe and Asia, and it’s currently being piloted in dozens of American cities. Read the rest of this entry »
By Eric Lutz
The front line in the war for the American dream, it turns out, is here, at Fox Run Golf Links in Elk Grove Village. Go figure. Joe Walsh, the freshman congressman from Illinois’ eighth district, a Tea Party Republican who rode a wave of anti-incumbent fury to the United States House of Representatives in 2010, is leading the charge for one side. He’s trim, handsome, charismatic and, to the seventy or so people in attendance at tonight’s town hall, the only thing standing between them and Obamacare and anti-business Democrats and job-stealing illegal immigrants and radical Muslims and political correctness and an assortment of other evils aided and abetted by the political left.
“This country is literally going through a revolution… a down-on-our-knees, hand-to-hand fight over the soul of America,” Walsh tells his supporters, who nod their heads in concern. Read the rest of this entry »
By Tony Fitzpatrick
There is a horror implicit in the stick-figure, “Man with a Gun,” from the hobo alphabet. Its triangle with outstretched arms hints at a fleeing figure and encourages the viewer to do the same. Hobos were shot at, shot in earnest, and had a very real and rational fear of firearms. More than one of them admitted it kept them from committing serious crimes.
One-hundred-and-fifty years ago we were the most well-armed country on the planet. We still are. Firearms were part of our contract with the idea of freedom and sadly, they still are. If one defies the government in any meaningful way, eventually they send men with guns. Read the rest of this entry »
By Tony Fitzpatrick
On May 16th, 2011, Rahm Emanuel became the fifty-fifth mayor of the city of Chicago. It was a laugher. He ran against a field of mostly nobodies, and wound up trouncing career Democrat and City Clerk Miguel del Valle in the primary. The Republicans mattered not a fuck because this is Chicago and we don’t elect Republicans. We would vote for the dead before pulling the pachyderm lever.
I can’t decide whether it’s the best or worst decision Chicago’s ever made.
It was the perfect lifeboat for Emanuel. Nobody liked him or wanted to deal with him in Washington, not even his own guys. Once King Richard II decided not to run again, after the 2016 Olympics wet-dream shit the bed and there would be no crowning glory or fifth star for the city’s flag, Daley wanted out. That his wife was so desperately ill had to weigh heavily into his decision as well.
The Olympics thing had to be a pisser. Only Chicago politics has a BIGGER gang of scumbags than the Olympic Committee itself had. It had to be like a roomful of pickpockets where nobody brought a wallet. Imagine that summit and how much silverware got stolen at a gathering for that grimy gaggle of assholes. Read the rest of this entry »