Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Stone Betrays Business, Again

In an earlier post, I wrote about Ald. Stone's corrupt practice of delaying the opening of a proposed business while the businessman paid rent on the property so that campaign signs for the alderman could be displayed during the election. The rational for this seemed to be because Stone didn't want to push through an unnecessary, but controversial, zoning change at the height of the campaign.

Now we get word that Stone will oppose the zoning change and will recommend that the businessman withdraw the zoning request. Five months after the businessman "cut a deal" with the alderman. Five months of rent paid for empty space.

We sometimes wonder why the 50th Ward gets passed over by new businesses like grocery stores, retail chains, coffee shops and small boutiques. But Stone's using of a small businessman this way, misleading him, enducing a "favor" from him, taking control of his property, and then abandoning him after Stone no longer needs him, can only contribute to this. It surely can't help.

You can't trust Stone. Period.

Not only does Stone have a history of misleading people, such as his recommendation that the business required a zoning change in the first place, but he has a history of not keeping his promises.

Another businessman has now learned this lesson about our alderman. And he is poorer for it.

Granted, the alderman could still decide to grant a special exemption that will allow the proposed Tattoo Parlor to open. You just never know. Because you can't trust Berny Stone. You just can't.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Real Power in Chicago

Mayor Richard Daley has gathered enough power to the Fifth Floor that he talks about "one stop" shopping for business and interest groups who want to do something in Chicago. This is a bit of a misnomer. Daley is clearly the major power center in Chicago, but he's not the only one.

There are other "power centers" in city hall, people who have power and influence independent of Daley. They don't include Ald. Stone.

Berny Stone is the Mayor's poodle. Stone owes everything to da Mayor.

Stone has made much of being the "Vice Mayor," an honorific that has gone to aldermen in their second terms, not (usually) their eighth. This position is usually a stepping stone to something much more powerful, not a final destination. The Vice Mayor's position has no power, no influence on the direction of the city (even if the Mayor died in office). But it fits Stone's inflated sense of himself and someone has to fill the position anyway.

Then there are the powers of the Chicago City Council. Stone is one of 19 committee chairman, but he's not one of the powerful committee chairs. Those go to people who really count in the council chambers.

Only one, Ed Burke, was elected before Stone. Another, Ike Carothers, is only in his third term as alderman. If Stone has age on all of them, these people are considered to be the wise in the council.

Ed Burke (first elected 1969) chairs the Finance Committee. The Finance Committee is widely acknowledged as the most powerful committee in the City Council. Stone sits on this committee.

Carrie Austin (1994) was just elevated to chair the Budget Committee. As the linked story indicates, the Budget Committee is considered the second most powerful committee in the city council. Stone also sits on this committee. No one thought he was in line to assume its powerful chairmanship.

Ike Carothers (1999) is the chair of the Police and Fire Committee. It only took Carothers two years to be elevated to it's chairman, appointed by Daley in 2001. Now that's clout.

William Banks (1983) is the chair of the Zoning Committee. Stone also sits on this committee.

Finally, Richard Mell (1975) chairs the Committee on Committees, Rules and Ethics. Stone also sits on this committee.

These are the powerhouses in the Chicago City Council, the people who have gained power and stature by knowing the rules and procedures (independent off their staffs) and using them effectively to get what they want. These are the people before whom city workers tremble if they get called unexpectedly. (City workers outside the 50th Ward just "laugh it off" if Berny Stone says something cross to them.)

Stone may be the oldest member of the Chicago City Council. But he's hardly gathered power or influence in his years, as its second longest-serving member.

But at least he's the Mayor's poodle. That's something.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

A New Beginning for Chicago

Yesterday, I got a call from an excited friend. Did you know that there's a Starbucks at the corner of Western and Howard, she asked. It's not in the 50th Ward, but still, she said.

It's a metaphor. There's a significant contrast between an alderman who's aggressive about bringing in new business to his ward and one who makes prospective new businessmen wait four months before he allows them to go forward with the necessary paperwork. For those who go apoplectic at the thought of Joe Moore or the 49th Ward, this contrast holds with the wards to the south and west of us, as well.

Today marks the beginning of the new Chicago City Council. Instead of fresh leadership, someone who has the energy and vision to bring in, say a Starbucks or something, to the 50th, we have what the Capital Fax calls a "broken down warhorse."

Let's call him the Mayor's poodle.

Berny Stone is very well trained.

But what is exciting today is not the swearing in of nine new members to the city council. It needed some fresh blood. We got a big infusion. What is exciting is that there is now a support system in the city council for political independence. Those who have opposed the machine, or allied themselves with outside forces (like Congressman Jesse Jackson), now have reinforcements. A lot of them. While those won't necessarily bring their machinations out into the public, it promises to make city governance more interesting.

The political dinosaurs, like Ald. Stone, will try to paint the newbies as deeply indebted to the Unions. But it's more complicated than that. Sandi Jackson (7th Ward), likely to emerge as the voice of the class of 2007, is bright and energetic, and comes with her own power center and an agenda on ethics reform. Who could be against that? It will be interesting to see who contests William Beavers for Democratic committeeman in February. The Beavers and the Stones have a lot in common.

Brendan Reilly, who replaced Berny's mentor in the 42nd, comes with an equally powerful resume. CFL President Dennis Gannon takes credit for muscling out a third opponent (much like SEIU tried to do with Naisy Dolar). But with ties to Michael Madigan, he will balance a lot of demands. Reilly is certainly one to watch, because he will be a force in the city council, and maybe even the city, in the future.

Bob Fioretti (2nd Ward) also had Union backing, but he brought in his own money made as a personal injury attorney. Like Jackson, he can be expected to carry the Union's water, when he wants to. Still, Fioretti's thought to have quite the ego, so he might not take too well to being considered a Union puppet. Representing a historically black ward might bring it's own tensions.

Then there's Scott Waguespack (32nd Ward). SEIU jumped on this unexpected bandwagon, in his run-off against a CFL-backed incumbent. Waguespack could easily be considered the wild card in the new city council. His issues are familiar: he ran as a reformer with a promise for community-based zoning and better constituent services.

Retired CPD sargent Willie Cochran rode the wave of voter dissatisfaction with a scandal-plagued incumbent (Arenda Troutman) in the 20th Ward. He'll bring his own perspective to the council, but it's unlikely he'll do the Union's bidding against his own better judgment.

Sharon Denise Dixon seems to owe more to Congressman Jesse Jackson than the Unions. Like Waguespack, both Dixon and the incumbent won Union backing in this 24th Ward race. This race seemed to be below the radar, but Jackson's organization took a keen interest in this westside ward. Dixon will be supportive of the Union agenda, but she's no poodle!

The Union Ladies, Pat Dowell in the 3rd, Toni Folkes in the 15th, and Joann Thompson in the 16th, were all well-financed and -staffed by Union supporters. They can be counted on to bring worker's issues to the council and defend the Union Label. But they represent only a third of the fresh faces being installed today.

What does this mean? I've looked around, and there doesn't seem to be much speculation about this. Berny Stone, per usual, has embarrassed us all advising them to "keep your mouth shut and your ears open." We don't know how the Mayor will react to this first real challenge. Does this end the myth of "one-stop shopping," which the Mayor liked to convey? Is nine (or ten or so) independent voices enough to bring real independence to the city council? I doubt it. We won't see a re-occurrence of "Council Wars," but I suspect that the city council will be more lively, despite Stone's rude advice. I also expect Mayor Daley to try to seduce many of these new members. He's done it before.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

A Youthful Winston Towers?

One commenter writes: "winston towers is a lot younger than you think." I made a call to test that contention.

What I got in response to my inquiry was a breakdown, not by age (which is what I asked for) but by Decades, and the percentages of voters from Winston Towers who were born in those decades. This table gives the results:

Decade   Percentage
1980s     3.54
1970s     7.19
1960s     4.79
1950s     9.01
1940s     13.32
1930s     17.16
1920s     26.36
1910s     17.64
1900s     0.96

Fully 75% of the voters in Winston Towers are senior citizens (more if you use the AARP definition). But 45% of the voters there (including the alderman) are what is sometimes called the "old old." This does not necessarily mean that they will leave the ward before the next election, but I don't think you can really say, Winston Towers is a lot younger than you think. The voters there are in advanced age, which is a good reason why Stone does well there. Across the ward, voters over 65 tended to support Stone strongly.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Stone's Corrupt Practices Continue

I remember during the course of the campaign, I saw a video clip somewhere, where Ald. Stone described his pattern of corruption along the lines of, "I do something for them, and they do something for me. What's the matter with that?" I'm paraphrasing here from memory.

One of the problems (aside from the outright corruption involved) is that this isn't what Stone practices.

Perhaps my definition of corruption and is a little different than Stone's. Stone seems to think that he has to be caught (by the Feds) with money in his freezer to be called corrupt. I disagree.

But we have a perfect example of why I think Stone is corrupt right now. A prospective new business owner took possession of 6969 Western Ave in January. According to him, he cleaned out the building, which he believed he had to do before he could apply for the necessary permits. When I talked to him about this, he didn't seem to think that he needed a zoning change when he moved in. He suggested that he had talked to the city about all the costs that were involved before he took possession.

It appears that he talked to the wrong person.

Because now he has applied for a zoning change that he isn't required to have. In Chicago, this has notoriously meant that some kind of money changes hands, whether directly or to the alderman's campaign committee. But what interests me about this example is how it is different from the alderman's own words. Unlike the alderman's simplistic description of his corruption above, the alderman expected something upfront, before he'd do anything for the person asking for help. What Stone expected first, before he'd even help this prospective business owner, was control over his window space.

You see, when this person started renting this space on Western Ave, he had no idea he was renting next to (actually, near) Stone's main opponent. And Stone's campaign wanted to use that empty storefront to send a signal to his opponents and the voters in the ward. So instead of helping this gentleman, walking him through the permit process, it was suggested that it would be wiser to wait until the election was over. "Don't want to stir up trouble."

Instead of opening up his business, the alderman interfered and took control of this property. He required something first, before he'd use his office to help start a new business in the ward. This is, to my way of thinking, corrupt. We already pay the alderman almost $100,000 (for part time work) to help the people who live and work in the 50th Ward. They shouldn't be required to bribe or do favors for the alderman to get him to do his job. If Stone needs to be bribed, then he shouldn't be drawing a salary from the city at all.

Outside of Chicago, bribery is most rampant in places where people do not make an adequate living, and they use their office or power for personal gain. No one can argue that Stone is underpaid, that he can't live quite comfortably off of $100,000 a year.

But Stone argues this is how Chicago works. I'd suggest that it is evidence of how Chicago doesn't work. These kind of impediments to starting a business or improving a home (or whole neighborhood) hurt the ward and hurt the whole city. They don't help it. When you walk or drive around the ward and wonder why there is so little business activity here, you will understand. Stone won't help new businesses move into the ward without a little something, something first. So why should they want to move in here? There's lots of better business environments very close to the 50th, without all the political obstacles.

It seems to me that only in Berny Stone's mind can Stone not be considered corrupt. I've tried to convince people to take these kinds of things to Patrick Fitzgerald (after all, the alderman has dared us to do so!). There's more to this story, but I wanted to focus on one aspect: evidence of Stone's unethical behavior and his resistance to change and growth in the neighborhood (that doesn't directly benefit him). Ald. Stone is corrupt, no question about it.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Ald. Stone wears a woman's hat

I'll just leave you with that thought.

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Friday, May 04, 2007

Welcome Capitol Fax Readers

A warm welcome to those referred here by the Capitol Fax Blog, one of my favorite blogs.


Thursday, May 03, 2007

Online CAPS Survey

Dear CAPS Participant,

We are asking for your assistance in evaluating crime problems and police services in your neighborhood. If you are 18 years of age or older and live in Chicago, please complete this online survey developed by the University of Illinois at Chicago (see link below), so that we can learn more about residents' views in each police beat and be responsive to your concerns.

Your responses are strictly confidential and cannot be identified with you. No one at the Chicago Police Department will see your answers. Individual responses will be combined into one group by University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) researchers before they are made available to the Chicago Police Department or the public.

Thank you in advance for your participation. Sharing your opinions is an important public service to your neighborhood and to Chicago as a whole. Persons registered with the Chicago Police Department's e-mail notification system (chicagopolice.org) will receive a summary of the results when the project is complete.

To participate, please go to the web address below:


Type the above address into your browser navigation window. [Or click on the above address to proceed to the online survey.]

The Chicago Police Department

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Voter Registration Effort Favored Stone

When I first learned that the 50th Ward had 578 new voters on the rolls for the April run-off election, I thought that this would benefit Naisy Dolar. Dolar had been involved in efforts to register new voters for ICIRR in the past few years. This had been an early emphasis of her campaign. But precinct by precinct totals suggest that efforts by Jewish groups and Ald. Stone's precinct captains were more successful than anything Dolar's campaign might have attempted.

2007 saw Jewish groups begin to refocus on voter registration. Young people who recently turned of age and new residents were sought out and registered. People were reminded of the importance of voting. Voter history was used to remind infrequent voters that there was an upcoming election, and that their vote was important. These efforts clearly paid off.

But voter registration was not confined to the Jewish areas. Precinct 13, which has a highly transient population, was the biggest contributor to the increase in voters, and gave Stone a bigger net increase over February results compared to Dolar/Brewer's vote. This seems to be the pattern throughout the ward. In the seven Red precincts, each of which saw more than 20 new voters registered between February and April, only one (Pr 22) saw Stone with a smaller increase than the February Dolar/Brewer vote. In these precincts, there were 192 new voters register, 242 more voters turned out, 272 more for Stone and only 99 additional voters over the Dolar/Brewer total.

21+ New Voters (Red): 13, 25, 22, 40, 18, 11, 2
16-20 New Voters (Dk Green): 5, 19, 44, 34, 1, 26, 10, 41, 28, 24
11-15 New Voters (Light Green): 33, 17, 23, 43, 32, 37, 45, 8
6-10 New Voters (Light Blue): 42, 16, 30, 6, 31, 36, 29, 35
0-5 New Voters (Yellow): 39, 15, 27, 9, 12, 4, 21, 3, 20, 14, 7, 38

Ten precincts, represented by the Dark Green, saw voter registration numbers increase by 16-20 new voters. These precincts saw an increase of 177 new voters, with 197 more voters than February, of which 216 more votes went to Stone and 131 more went to Dolar (above the Dolar/Brewer February number). Out of the Red and Dark Green areas, Dolar only won two precincts (13 and 22).

It is also interesting to observe that it appears that everyone who could be registered in Winston Towers is registered.

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