Street Smart Chicago

Checkerboard City: Life in the Bus Lane

Checkerboard City, City Life, Green, Humboldt Park, Loop, News etc., Politics, Transit 1 Comment »

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 »

Mr. Tea: Congressman Joe Walsh Pities the Fools Who Doubt his Populist Anger

Politics No Comments »

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 »

Dime Stories: Man With a Gun

Dime Stories, Politics 1 Comment »

Tony Fitzpatrick

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 »

Dime Stories: Democracy in Chicago

Dime Stories, Politics No Comments »

Tony Fitzpatrick

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 »

NATO Takes Chicago, Chicago Takes NATO

Events, Politics No Comments »

This weekend’s NATO summit is inspiring a mix of welcoming promotions, confrontational protests and regular Chicagoans heading out of town. Here’s a selective listing of events, protests and promotions inspired by the gathering.

Already Happening

Chicago’s Culinary Crossroads Over two hundred restaurant locations will present tasting menus, featured items, desserts, wine selections and cocktails inspired by the NATO nations. For more information visit chicagosculinarycrossroads.org. Through May 25.

NATO Cupcakes Magnolia Bakery, 108 North State. $3. Through May 25.

 May 17

Occupy Chicago’s Day of Environment: Planet over War! Bring your bike and rally against the environmentally destructive agendas of NATO and the G8. Rally outside of the Canadian Consulate, meet at the corner of Jackson and LaSalle. 2-11pm. Free. For more information visit natoprotest.org/events. Read the rest of this entry »

Hope Dies Last: The Lasting Scars of Difficult Times

Essays & Commentary, Politics 1 Comment »

Illustration: Zeke Danielson

By Michael Workman

In America, there is no more terrifying a ghoul than the threat of sustained, cripplingly high unemployment. We hear about it all the time. Have maybe even decided just to tune it out or maybe the ubiquity of the bloodless discussion of it has just inured us to the subject. It’s just numbers, right? It’ll get better eventually. Figure it out. After all, it’s hard to get a sense of what’s happening from those chatterboxes in the news, those talking heads feeding us an endless tickertape of statistics, empty percentages; high here, low there. We treat it like the weather. Numbers. Never any stories. Why does it always have to be numbers? Maybe it’s too much, what’s happening. Too garish, what’s happening to them, how the poor behave. How low.

Ask yourself. What actually are the effects on a family slipping below the poverty line, of losing their home in a foreclosure, of a family unable to afford gas, utility bills, clothes? Its effects aren’t just felt for a month or two, or something you get past in a year. There’s a price. And it’s one paid almost entirely by the less fortunate. And that’s what defines our society: how we treat our less fortunate and what price they pay for other’s prosperity. And if we’re a privileged society, maybe all that means is that the privileged get to ignore the silent anguish of the poor. But the cost of it doesn’t go away, ever. It stays with us as a people, changes and defines us psychologically and emotionally, and sometimes we lose one. But surviving it doesn’t fucking make you stronger, it scars and mutilates. Read the rest of this entry »

13 Ways of Looking at Occupy Chicago: The Aesthetics of the Movement

City Life, Essays & Commentary, Loop, Media, Politics 3 Comments »

Photo: Erica Weitzel

By Monica Westin

1. “Grant Park: three years later” was the initial vision for this article—a snapshot of the stark difference in Chicago’s political and emotional temperature between the downtown celebration of Barack Obama’s election night in 2008 and the Grant Park arrests in mid-October of this year. But this comparison doesn’t begin to get at what’s interesting about Occupy. Because of what I will call its “aesthetics” as well as its size (at last count, more than seventy American cities have an Occupy protest, not counting the strength and scope of related protests abroad), the protest, or movement, depending on how you look at it, is very much that—an amorphous, sprawling political form that looks different from every angle and every subject position, like Wallace Stevens’ blackbird. That American mainstream media is unable to cover Occupy in any kind of coherent, proficient way is well-documented, but even as a single observer it was nearly impossible for me to take any kind of clearly articulated position about Occupy Chicago without immediately realizing I could make a strong case for an opposite view of the phenomenon (and usually I had heard someone do so in an interview). Read the rest of this entry »

Government 2.0: How Mayor Emanuel is Using Social Media to Engage Chicagoans

City Life, Media, Politics, Technology No Comments »

Kevin Hauswirth/Photo: Brooke Collins

By Ella Christoph

Even before he took office, Mayor Rahm Emanuel knew he wanted a social media director—a position Richard M. Daley did not have. Appointed on Emanuel’s inaugural day, Kevin Hauswirth was not hired to earn votes for Emanuel during the election. Hauswirth, formerly an instructor of communications and advertising director for Roosevelt University, was tasked with the job of supplying Emanuel with a constant digital pulse—a live feed, so to speak—on the city. Rather than just tweet updates and YouTube press conferences, Emanuel wanted to hear what voters had to say over the Internet as well.  Read the rest of this entry »

State of Freedom: Can Open Streets downtown sell City Hall on future ciclovias?

Bicycling, Events, Green, Loop, Politics No Comments »

Photo: Brett Mohr

By John Greenfield

“On State Street, that great street, I just want to say
They do things they don’t do on Broadway”
—“Chicago (That Toddlin’ Town)” by Fred Fisher

The question is, can Chicago do on State Street what New York City already does successfully, not on Broadway but on Park Avenue; what San Francisco does on Grant Avenue; and what Bogotá, Colombia, does on Calle 11?

After two previous attempts, the Active Transportation Alliance hopes Saturday’s car-free event on State Street will finally convince City Hall to embrace the ciclovia concept.

Born in Bogotá, the “ciclovia” (Spanish for “bike path”) concept closes streets to motorized traffic, creating safe spaces for citizens to bicycle, jog, stroll, play and mingle, encouraging healthy recreation and social interaction. Ciclovias are now popular around the world, and most of America’s bike-friendly major cities are holding successful events, but the model still hasn’t gained a foothold in Chicago. Read the rest of this entry »

Mind the Gap: Will West Rogers Park’s new alderman finally build a controversial bicycle bridge?

Bicycling, Politics, Rogers Park No Comments »

Photo: John Greenfield

The other day I was pedaling with friends under azure skies to Evanston’s Blind Faith Cafe when I was reminded of an old political fight. We were riding on the North Shore Channel Trail, a scenic, nearly car-free route from Albany Park to Evanston, when we came to the notorious gap in the path just north of Peterson. The trail ended abruptly, so we spun north on Kedzie a few blocks, turned west and rode on hectic Devon Street across the channel, then turned north to continue on the bike path into Lincolnwood.

If it weren’t for opposition from former 50th Ward Alderman Berny Stone, we would have been able to instead make a car-free transition to the section of the trail west of the channel via a bike-pedestrian bridge. Read the rest of this entry »