Forty-ninth Ward alderman Joe Moore is famous for his crusades against big-box stores and foie gras, but lately he’s been having more success with a new initiative called participatory budgeting. In this process, regular folks recommend projects for public funding and vote on how the cash is spent. First pioneered in Porto Alegre, Brazil, participatory budgeting is gaining popularity as a way to engage citizens and make government spending decisions more democratic.
Moore is the first politician to bring participatory budgeting to the U.S. Each of Chicago’s fifty alderman has an annual budget called “Menu Money” to pay for physical improvements to their wards, like replacing streetlights and fixing streets and sidewalks. Normally, aldermen dictate how the money is spent but Moore, whose ward is comprised mostly of left-leaning Rogers Park, decided to let his constituents have their say.
Instead of just the usual meat-and-potatoes projects last year, when the process started, residents bankrolled a community garden, a dog-friendly park, solar-powered garbage cans, historical marker signs, and murals under CTA and Metra viaducts. Transportation improvements include a pedestrian signal, shelters at El platforms, new bicycle lanes and bike racks that will double as public art. Read the rest of this entry »
Once again, Newcity ends its year with lists that compile the best, mostly, of the year that was, in the arts, the city, pop culture and the slightly offbeat, more than seventy in all. See you in 2011!
The Top 5 of Everything 2010: City Life and Pop Culture
Top 5 People Who Passed Away That You Thought Were Already Dead
Art Linkletter, 97, TV-show host and ad-lib interviewer (“Kids Say the Darndest Things”)
Mitch Miller, 99, recording artist and 1960s TV-show host (“Sing Along with Mitch; follow the bouncing ball”)
Patricia Neal, 84, Oscar-winning actress (“Hud,” “The Day the Earth Stood Still”)
Teddy Pendergrass, 59, R&B soul singer (severely paralyzed in 1982)
Art Clokey, 88, animator (creator of “Gumby”)
—Sarah Louise Klose
Top 5 Sports Moments That Make You Say “Huh?”
Blackhawks nab Stanley Cup, dismantle championship team
Cubs attendance dips in 2010, ticket prices rise in 2011
Wrigley Field hosts Northwestern vs. Illinois football, only one end zone used for both teams
Evan Lysacek wins Olympic gold medal, loses “Dancing with the Stars”
LeBron James teases Cavs, runs with Bulls and takes the Heat
—Sarah Louise Klose
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Fifty to sixty Green Party supporters and a few of the candidates themselves, gathered at Cole’s Bar in Logan Square election night to watch the results come in, and the news was not good. They had gotten trounced in their races for Illinois Comptroller, Cook County Board President and Illinois 4th Congressional District, to say nothing of Senate candidate LeAlan Jones. Their best hope had been Jeremy Karpen, a 29-year-old professional counselor and social activist running against Democratic incumbent Maria Antonia “Toni” Berrios for Illinois State Representative for District 39. He had already run against her in 2008, gaining 21 percent of the vote despite being massively outspent. Endorsed by The Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Teachers Union, he’d been showing strength in the polls—enough so that national blogs like The Huffington Post had taken notice and were commenting on the possibility of an electoral upset. But as Jeremy takes the stage to address his supporters around 9pm, it has become clear that the race has been decided—once again, for the incumbent.
“Obviously this is not the speech I wanted to make,” begins Karpen. “But what we did today is an incredible example of grass-roots democracy. This was about what it means to run a democracy, to build a real political alternative.”
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By Brian Hieggelke
Earlier this summer, a press event held to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the North Loop Theater District turned into something of a love-fest for Mayor Daley, when theater insiders lavishly praised him for having the vision and fortitude to push to make the district a reality. Then the mayor himself spoke passionately about the role of arts in the life of the city, and in education in particular. I left the event stunned, and maybe a little embarrassed. I live in Chicago and edit an arts and culture weekly, but somehow never keyed into the mayor’s deep passion for the arts or his view that they were so central to his dreams for the town he loves. In retrospect the evidence is everywhere.
Why is it that I, a long-term Chicago resident, don’t really know the big picture of our mayor’s priorities in managing this city? What the mayor needed, and the public needs to read, I thought, is a mission statement, an articulation of his vision for the present and future of Chicago. Not long after this event, Richard M. Daley made the surprise announcement that he would not seek another term and I started thinking about the question, If I were mayor of Chicago, what would my vision for the city be? I’m not running, but I sure would like a candidate who thinks like me.
We will elect a new mayor for the first time in decades next February 22. Expect the press coverage of the race to resemble the sports pages. Most will focus on who is favored, who might pull an upset. Politics as sports, politics as cult of personality. Is Rahm really that cranky and foul-mouthed? Can James Meeks be elected with the first name Reverend? Expect, too, much discussion about race. Racial coalitions, and sub-coalitions—African-American, Latino, white—will be bandied about and I suspect there will be little pretense that we, as a city, can transcend race as an issue. The media won’t let us.
But think about it. You might have a take on the personality of Rahm Emanuel, but can you name one thing he would like to do as mayor? Not likely. What we need is a little, no make that a lot, of vision. Here’s a start. Read the rest of this entry »
For only the second time in sixty-five years, Chicago will find itself running Daley-less. Though the city’s 2011 mayoral election has received ample national attention since Mayor Daley announced he will not run for a seventh term, Chicago A.D. (After Daley) hopes to create a local conversation. Founded the day after the mayor’s announcement, Chicago A.D. is an open Facebook forum to share thoughts, ideas and opinions on the candidates.
Chicago A.D. began at a reading by Billy Wimsatt in support of his new book “Please Don’t Bomb the Suburbs,” says Harish Patel, the group’s founding member. About fifty people joined the conversation that night at Quimby’s bookstore and carried it into cyberspace.
“We are very excited about the opportunity to create a new city and want to make sure that various different voices are heard in the creation of a just, peaceful, vibrant, educated and healthy Chicago that works for everyone,” explains Patel. Read the rest of this entry »
Tuesday evening at the Chicago Transit Authority’s headquarters, 567 West Lake, and a few dozen citizens file through the lobby with its life-sized cow sculpture, plastered with photos of CTA stations, then up the stairs and past a 3D neon rendition of an “L” train zooming by skyscrapers. They’re here to offer their two cents on the agency’s proposed $1.337 billion budget for 2011 at one of four public hearings being held across the city.
Last winter, the transit authority tightened its belt by cutting nine express buses, reducing service hours on forty-one bus routes, and providing less-frequent service on 119 buses and seven of the eight rail lines. The goal for 2011 is to hold the line on fare increases and service reductions, despite the bleak economic picture.
This new budget is actually 5.2 percent larger than last year, partly due to pay raises, healthcare and pension costs required by the agency’s contract with its union workers, according to management. “Balancing the budget was very challenging this year,” says CTA president Richard L. Rodriguez in a press release. “Nevertheless, the CTA expects to accomplish a great deal in 2011 and it will do so by being resourceful and innovative.” On the plus side, next year the agency will be adding new, smoother-running rail cars to the system and debuting a “Train Tracker” service. Read the rest of this entry »
Poor Aaron Weaver. He’s only trying to spark some lighthearted local comedy into Grant Park, but he just can’t stand up to the jumbotron.
The Chicago crowd, chock full of avid “The Daily Show” and “Colbert Report” fans, chuckles along with the couple-hundred-thousand people convened on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. After Yusuf Islam (better known as Cat Stevens) twangs the first chorus of his 1971 classic anti-war tune “Peace Train,” the sound snaps off.
Boooooos erupt as Aaron Freeman pops on the mic to present comedian Aaron Weaver.
Chicago’s satellite Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, planned by Angie McMahon of storefront theater company Chemically Imbalanced and supported predominantly by donations, included acts by local musicians, comedians, columnists and politicians.
But seriously, who can compare to powerhouse satirists Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert?
Uh, no one can. Read the rest of this entry »
Nelly’s club anthem bumps along the purple walls and gold-plastered ceilings in Mary’s Attic. “It’s gettin’ hot in herre, so take off all your clothes” seems fitting for a group that calls itself Democracy Burlesque. But while the name fools, the players don’t tease. The audience gets a little skin, but nothing unpalatable and nothing overtly naked (except the politics—that’s their tagline).
Democracy Burlesque is more sketch comedy than dance, more sharp wit than easy laughs. Many of the actors double as writers and directors, and that multifaceted involvement exudes a bud-to-blossom continuity throughout each sketch and the production as a whole, as if the company members all slept with each other and raised their babies at Hamburger Mary’s, divulging in free-range mini-burgers and spouting political quips left and right. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s pouring, but that doesn’t dampen the spirits of a thousand sharply-dressed politicians, urban planners and other civic leaders crammed into a tent on top of Millennium Park’s Harris Theater. They’re here to launch GO TO 2040, a blueprint for making tough development and spending choices in the Chicago area’s 284 communities, for the next few decades and beyond.
The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) will lead the implementation process, and stakes are high. As the region’s population balloons from its current 8.6 million to an estimated 11 million by 2040, the decisions we make now will determine whether the Chicago area becomes more prosperous, green and equitable or devolves into a depressed, grid-locked, smog-choked dystopia.
The plan, developed by CMAP and its partner organizations over three years and drawing on feedback from more than 35,000 residents, includes the four themes of Livable Communities, Human Capital, Efficient Governance and Regional Mobility. It makes detailed recommendations for facing challenges like job creation, preserving the environment, housing and transportation. Read the rest of this entry »
By Ella Christoph
Taxis honk and confused minivans hover midintersection. Bikes slide through the streets dodging doors and inflexible drivers. The crowd at the corner builds as commuters come to a halt—“Don’t Walk”—purses and briefcases still swinging. They are sprinters, waiting for the race to start up yet again, and their toes grip the edge of the curb. Tourists slowly line up behind the professionals, soaking up the pause in momentum by craning their necks so their eyes can finally reach past the skyscrapers and remind them the sky is the same as the one back home. Reverse vertigo. Suddenly it feels like forward movement. The jostlers push from behind, commuters who missed the start, arm-linked teens who keep hips close and one elbow out, a weapon against accidental intruders. Sensory overload, too much touching, harsh car metal and harsh car smell way too close. A throng of trajectories head in different directions and at different velocities, but they brush each other, and for a few feet, we all head in the same direction. Speed travelers and slowpokes alike get a rush, taking pleasure in this offering up by the city, imperfect but commanding.
As Mayor Daley heads out of office, much of the positive press surrounding his long tenure points to his efforts to revitalize the city center—from Millennium Park to the South Loop, it’s hard to deny downtown Chicago’s improvement, much of it initiated by him. Chicago risked becoming a large-scale case study for the downfall of the American city center, and it’s not out of place to attribute its recent success as a tourist destination to the mayor who brought The Bean and Museum Campus. But the street-scape of Chicago has a long way to go before becoming a model for the American city. Even the lakefront and Magnificent Mile, Chicago’s crown jewels, are far from the level of accessibility that makes pedestrians—tourists and residents alike—feel at home. Fifty years after Jane Jacobs wrote her groundbreaking analysis of city planning, “The Death and Life of Great American Cities,” we now know a lot of answers to the previously unasked questions of how to make a city work. And one of those answers is that cars are not the answer. It goes beyond greening the city: in a high-functioning city of any size, fearless and timid explorers alike take pleasure in walks, bikes and public transit rides through their city—not slogging through traffic alone in their cars. Read the rest of this entry »