Monday, April 30, 2007

Rezko's trail

My hat is off to Toni Preckwinkle. Since I saw her speak at a CTA public hearing a few years ago, I've been impressed with much of what she's said. Carol Marin had a good article in yesterday's Chicago Sun-Times about another good action on Preckwinkle's part.

Preckwinkle speaks, others hide

April 29, 2007

It's time to create a special award for public officials who do the right thing. We can call it the "Accountability 101 Award." Let's give the first one to 4th Ward Ald. Toni Preckwinkle.

Last week Preckwinkle was the only official -- elected or appointed -- willing to publicly talk about Antoin "Tony" Rezko. It's not that she enjoyed it. She didn't. But unlike senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama, Mayor Daley or city Housing Commissioner Jack Markowski, Preckwinkle demonstrated that now-quaint virtue of public accountability. And did so in full public view.

In case you missed it, a recap:

Last week, Sun-Times reporter Tim Novak filled eight pages of this newspaper with an investigation of political powerbroker Rezko.

We already knew that Rezko was a major campaign donor to a host of politicians, including Obama and Daley. And we already knew that Rezko was under federal investigation in 2005 when he assisted Obama in acquiring a bigger yard for his South Side mansion. And we knew that last October, Rezko was federally indicted in an alleged state pension kickback scheme.

What we didn't know was that Rezko had for years been one of the city's biggest slumlords. That within days of Mayor Daley's first election in 1989, this Park District hot dog vendor who had no construction experience would begin getting $100 million in city, state and federal tax dollars and bank loans to provide affordable housing for Chicago's needy citizens.

While some residents of Rezko's buildings were shivering without heat because he wasn't paying the utility bills, Rezko still managed somehow to write checks to politicians.

Did I mention that Rezko's company made $7 million on those housing deals? Or that all 30 of his buildings were troubled, a number went into foreclosure or otherwise crumbled into vacant, boarded-up drug dens and eyesores? Or that we taxpayers are now stuck with the tab?

So it was only logical to go to public officials and ask how in the world this could have happened.

Daley, after all, is this city's boss of bosses. Obama had 11 of Rezko's buildings in his then-state Senate district. Markowski had been in the Housing Department for years overseeing Rezko's deals. And Preckwinkle had six of Rezko's buildings in her ward.

In behalf of the Sun-Times and NBC5 News, Novak and I requested interviews with all four of them.

To say we were shut down is an understatement.

The mayor's press secretary, Jacquelyn Heard, in a voice mail, dismissed our request out of hand, saying, ''What is the city's dealing with Tony Rezko? The answer is simple. None. During the time he did work with us . . . there was nothing to indicate a problem. . . . That's my answer . . . that's my response.''

Strike One.

Meanwhile, Markowski's press secretary Molly Sullivan gave us such a runaround, my head is still spinning. Finally, in an e-mail, she declared: ''Jack is not available to do this . . . '' In other words, no interview in person, on camera, never, ever. Markowski remains in hiding.

Strike Two.

And then there was Obama.

For five weeks, we tried and tried to get the Obama campaign to tell us anything, anything at all, about what the senator might know about Rezko's dilapidated, defaulted projects. No response for five weeks. Finally, at the 11th hour, some written answers arrived saying the senator was unaware of any Rezko problems even though Obama was a legal associate of the law firm that did a number of Rezko's deals.

But an interview? Not until after we physically chased after Obama last Monday.

Strike Three.

But, thanks to Preckwinkle, we weren't completely out.

Preckwinkle, like Daley and Obama, got tens of thousands of dollars in campaign donations from Rezko. He was a supporter and friend, though not anymore.

Preckwinkle said she began to learn of problems with Rezko's buildings a few years ago from police who reported gang activity there. By that time, however, Rezko had already taken the money and run.

"I think, from a city perspective," said the alderman, "this is your worst nightmare."

Made worse, I would argue, by any public official who doesn't think he should be required to answer questions about it.


related articles
a recent blog posting
Sun-Times article 1 - Obama and Rezko
Sun-Times article 2 - Rezko questions
Sun-Times article 3 - Rezko's city deals
Sun-Times article 4 - Obama and Rezko

Friday, April 27, 2007

bicycle resources

Here's a bit more info to go with my earlier post on "Broken Heart."

Chicagoland Bicycle Federation (CBF) is one of our local bike advocacy organizations. They work with local municipalities to develop bicycle routes and programs, work for better bike laws, offer educational programs, run some cool events (such as Bike the Drive), work for better bike laws, helped to get Pace, CTA and Metra to allow bikes on trains and buses, etc. Their site offers many links with information on all aspects of bicycling in and around Chicago. They also produce a good Chicago metro area bike map, indicating suitability of streets for cycling.

The City of Chicago bike map page gives an online bike map of the city. Here's the Rogers Park portion of that map. The bike map page also has many links, including info on safe cycling, bike theft prevention, and how to request a city bike rack.

The League of Illinois Bicyclists (LIB) is our statewide bicycle advocacy organization. They work throughout the state of Illinois for better bike laws and safer roads for cycling. Their site is a good place to check out what bike-related legislation is pending. There are a few important bills under consideration right now.

Local bike clubs can be a cool way to learn your way around the city and suburbs, meet fun people, and cool places to eat. Chicago Cycling Club and Evanston Bike Club each have a wide variety of rides. For bigger, "anything goes" rides, check out Chicago Critical Mass and Evanston Critical Mass. Cycling Sisters offers rides and events aimed at women. This is only a small selection of the organizations and events available in the Chicago area.

If you think cycling is too dangerous, you may want to read this resource page, which debunks some myths and gives some good facts. One old custom that is not safe for cyclists (especially in city traffic) is riding the wrong way against traffic. I see it all too often, especially on Clark and other major streets. Drivers are not expecting traffic coming at them in their lane. Other cyclists are not expecting it, especially in bike lanes that are specifically marked as one way. If you are going head-on towards approaching traffic in your lane, any impact is more likely to be fatal because the impact force of two vehicles colliding head-on is greater compared to one vehicle striking another from behind (basic physics). Drivers pulling out of parking spaces are much less likely to see you. Turning drivers coming from cross streets or parking lots are less likely to see you. Please ride in the direction of traffic and make the street safer for you and for other cyclists.

If you make yourself visible (lights and reflectors), use a side mirror to monitor traffic approaching from the rear, stop at red lights, stop (or yield) at stop signs, and avoid riding erratically, you can enjoy many accident-free miles in the city. I've ridden over 10,000 miles in the city since I moved back here in 1997 and have had only a few significant accidents. Many friends have similar experiences. Bicycles are a great way to shop, go to parties, commute, get exercise, enjoy the scenery, go out to dinner, and do many other things. And it's not just for summer anymore.

What? You say you don't have a bike, or yours just got stolen? Here's a local bike shop directory. Buy a good lock and register your bike with the Chicago Police Dept. A helmet is a good investment to protect your head. Get out and ride!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


Hey, what can I say? Been in the mood for a bit of Huey Lewis lately.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

America's bloggiest neighborhodds

Thanks to Hugh for this item. I noticed that two 'hoods on the list were in NYC (Harlem and Brooklyn) and two were Boston 'burbs (Newton and Watertown).

America's Top 10 Bloggiest Neighborhoods
From Outside.In

Since we've been tracking local bloggers in over 3,000 US neighborhoods for the past six months now, we thought it would be fun to run the numbers and finally answer the question that's been on everyone's mind: what exactly are America's bloggiest neighborhoods? The results below are based on a number of variables: total number of posts, total number of local bloggers, number of comments and Technorati ranking for the bloggers.

#5: Rogers Park/North Howard Chicago

Located in one of the last remaining pockets of poverty in Chicago's North Side, it's home to a culturally diverse group of residents that have very mixed feelings about the rapid gentrification.

Local Blogger: 24/7 North of Howard Watchers

Local Obsessions: Don Gordon and Joe Moore's heated race for Alderman of the 49th Ward.

new cars can be hazardous to your health

Jim Mateja writes in today's Chicago Tribune about the toxic chemicals that create "new car smell" and some of the harmful effects they can have on your health.

green choices - recycling

Seattle has set an ambitious new goal for municipal recycling: 72% of all waste. 44% of Seattle's waste is currently recycled, which is a lot more than most municipalities. Part of the plan is to ban or tax some plastic products, such as styrofoam food containers and plastic bags, to create an incentive for the use of alternative products that are more envirronmentally friendly.

I'd like to see Chicago take more steps in this direction. Expanding curbside recycling to the entire city would be a good start. With all the construction happening, it would be good to see incentives for recycling of construction and demolition waste. We're making some progress. Let's keep it going!

bringing jobs back home

The Boston Globe recently ran an op-ed piece about U.S. companies that are bringing home jobs that had previously been outsourced to other countries. Some are referring to the trend as "backsourcing." I hope that it is a trend, and that we'll be hearing about many more companies doing the same in the coming months.

Monday, April 23, 2007

and now for something completely different....

Monty Python's Bicycle Repairman sketch

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Earth Day - Green Festival

There's a Green Festival at McCormick Place today and tomorrow. Not a terribly green location, but the fact that they're having it is a good start.

Friday, April 20, 2007


A musical thought for the week.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Ensuring fair and clean election results

The Chicago Board of Elections reports that 7,791 ballots were cast in the 49th Ward Aldermanic Runoff Election on Tuesday, April 17. The preliminary results show that only 247 votes determined the outcome of the election. A large number of allegations of voting irregularities have been raised which challenge the integrity of our election process. During the next few days we will be documenting these, but first allow me to clear the air of confusion that has been swirling about since the election.

We are considering mounting a challenge to contest the results of the runoff election. However, we need more data in order to determine whether this should be done. We have issued a Freedom of Information Act request to the Chicago Board of Elections to obtain the list of nearly 8,000 voters who came out to vote. Once we have that data we will be able to compare this to our list of nearly 2,000 potentially invalid voters, which were gleaned from the total of over 20,000 registered voters in the 49th ward. This will tell us how many voters went to the polls and cast an invalid vote.

Now, you might ask, why are we doing this after the election rather than on Election Day. Unfortunately, the poll judges were denying most of the poll-watchers’ requests on Election Day to have suspect votes made provisional. This widespread denial raises concerns that a statistically significant number of votes cast yesterday may be invalid. If they are, then the final results are inaccurate and as voters we will have been denied a fair and honest election. We will update you as soon as we have more information.

Many of you have called, emailed, and walked into our campaign office today to wish me well and express your desire that we move forward with this challenge. Please understand that we do not want to frivolously contest an election, so we want to be absolutely certain that we have all the facts before we proceed. I also want all of you to know that I appreciate the support you have given to me over the past year and regardless of the final outcome, I know we have won a victory for integrity and honesty.


Don Gordon
Democratic Candidate for 49th Ward Alderman

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

post-election musical thought

Now more than ever, it's time to .....

What's up with the missing precinct? With one precinct uncounted, is a margin of 138 votes insurmountable?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Vote today!

Get out and vote! Here's the list of polling places.

If you have any questions, here's contact info for the Chicago Board of Elections:

General Information 312-269-7900
Judges Department 312-269-7984
Community Service 312-269-7851
Registration Verification 312-269-7936
TTY (for Hearing Impaired Only) 312-269-0027

If you see a candidate working the crowd INSIDE a polling place, make a complaint, starting with the election judges there. If they aren't helpful, please call the Board of Elections and notify them at 312-269-7870; or hearing impaired 312-269-0027.

If you still aren't getting help and need to take it further:

State Board of Elections (Chicago and suburbs)312-814-6440 or
     hearing impaired 312-814-6431
Cook County state's attorney 312-603-7960
U.S. attorney 312-469-6157

Go Don!!!!

Friday, April 13, 2007

new eats in Rogers Park

I haven't been in to check it up yet, but Amphora (a revised version of Gateway Bar & Grill) sounds like a fine choice for dinner. A friend says it's very vegetarian friendly, with generous appetizers, huge Greek salads, and green beans done right (not mushy). Decent wine list, too. I plan to go soon. More info below.


Amphora Restaurant is now open for dinner (5pm to 2 am every day except Sunday, when they close at midnight) at 7547 N. Clark Street (formerly the Gateway Bar & Grill)in the north part of the building. They offer Mediterrean flavors of Spain, Greece, Portugal and Italy, highlighting seafood dishes. After 10:30 pm, a light menu is available. For more info, call 773.262.5767.

This summer The African Harambee Restaurant, an African restaurant featuring unique dishes from Mozambique, Angola and the continent of Africa, will open in the other section. One of the co-owners of The African Harambee is the founder of Ethiopian Diamond in Edgewater.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

transcript of last night's Chicago Tonight debate

Thanks to Craig for posting a transcription of last night's debate between Don Gordon and Joe Moore on Chicago Tonight.

The comments are getting increasingly heated as election day nears. Less than one week, folks, and every vote counts.

a new group

Thanks to Kheris for this positive info. Happy to pass it along.

The first meeting of the Rogers Park Garden Group will be a presentation on organic garden preparation by John Eskandari (of Gethsemane Gardens and Northwestern) at 7 p.m. on 4/24 at Charmers Cafe.

The group will also announce its first community gardening project: putting new plants in the big planters at the end of Morse (south side) at Loyola Park. The planters have been neglected for years. It's a good place to start. One of the condo buildings on that block got a small grant from Friends of the Park.

There will be a formal presentation on the community garden project at their 2nd meeting on 5/29, when Christy Webber will talk about container gardening.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

an observation

A friend on Jarvis writes:

"I can't say that I've seen any obvious prostitutes on my block which doesn't mean they're not working the neighborhood. Joe Moore has been encouraging it. He just gave one a position on his zoning committee."

campaign limbo – how low can JoMo go?

I’ve seen the particular JoMo treekiller that sudokuist refers to in a comment on "Broken Heart." Joe is really on a roll.

In the course of a week, he steals images from Don Gordon’s web site to put in his latest tree killer (not likely that he got a release from Don), runs a sleazy campaign ad on multiple TV stations (how many community improvements could be made for the $100K+ that JoMo has spent on ads?), tries to barge into a condo building courtyard (multiple times), tries to barge into David Herro’s office without an appointment, then demands a press conference.

Anyone got any more stories to share?

as seen at Howard station

...Jim Ginderske handing out Jo Mo campaign literature in the a.m....or trying to. No takers.

vote early until 4/12

Tomorrow (Wednesday) is the last day for early voting.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

revisiting another issue

Thanks to Rogers Park Bench for the reminder about this relevant video thought.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

something to share

Toni shared this with me, so I thought I'd pass it along. In her words: "An old friend from my advertising days created this for our salvation from the darkness of evil. Enjoy!"

Feel free to print it and put on your car, bicycle, front gate, windows, etc.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Sharing a dream

Today's Sun-Times has a nice article about co-op housing in Chicago. It includes a mention of the Hub Co-op in Little Village, which is bicycle oriented. I know of at least two co-ops in Rogers Park, but I'm guessing there are a few more. Any idea how many exist in the neighborhood?

idealistic moment

The idealist in me would like to see a bit more of this after the election is over.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

hidden Picasso

Here's a bit of cool news from San Francisco. When an early Picasso painting (ca. 1900) arrived at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, x-ray analysis revealed a complete painting hidden underneath the surface painting. Click here to read more.

for a good laugh

click here. Read the comments, too.

* note: I don't necessarily agree with SCC's viewpoints on everything. It's an amusing post, and the blog can be an interesting source of information.

2 weeks to election day

A few reasons to vote for Don Gordon on 4/17