The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Draining the river, 25 years ago today

On 13 April 1992, a hole opened under the Kinzie Street Bridge and drowned Chicago's Loop:

During the Great Chicago Flood of 1992, 250,000 gallons of water had the city drowning by the hour.

The leak that sprung in the old freight tunnels under the city quickly turned into a major flood often referred to as the "unseen catastrophe.”

It was a calamity that filled the basements of buildings on State Street, LaSalle Street and even the Merchandise Mart. Water rose to 7 feet, then 10 feet and up. It cut power and evacuated trading floors at the Board of Trade and the Mercantile Exchange. It closed major retails stores like Marshall Fields and even left the Merchandise Mart wet and flooded.

Water poured in from the bottom up. But where was it coming from?

Back in September of 1991, wood pilings were driven into the Chicago River to act as bumpers for the Kinzie bridge house so passing boats wouldn't knock it over. Story has it, the contractor hired to install the pilings hit an  underground freight tunnel in the process creating a slow leak that got bigger and bigger with time until the tunnel gave way seven months later: April 13th, 1992.

Historian J.R. Schmidt has more:

It was an odd disaster.  At street level, everything looked as it always had.  Officials assured the public that the situation was under control. Governor Jim Edgar met with Mayor Richard M. Daley at City Hall. Afterward the governor told reporters there was no need to call out the National Guard.

About 11 a.m. the river locks were opened. That let the Chicago River resume its natural course into Lake Michigan. The water in the tunnels continued to rise, but more slowly.

By evening the water level had finally stabilized. Now the cleaning up and pumping out began. It would take weeks.  A private contractor finally had to be brought in to seal the original leak at Kinzie Street.

The water emergency was expensive. Some estimates place the price tag for damaged goods, repair costs, and lost business at over $100,000,000. For insurance reasons, the event is officially classified as a “leak.” But no matter what name is used, those who experienced it firsthand often echo the reaction of their mayor—“What a day!”

Public transit services shined that day, evacuating about a million people from downtown in only a few hours with no injuries or crime.

 

Historic parking lot to be redevloped

The Archdiocese of Chicago is in negotiations to sell a parking lot at the southwest corner of Chicago and State to a real-estate developer:

A venture led by Jim Letchinger, president of JDL Development, has emerged as the winning bidder for the property at the southwest corner of State Street and Chicago Avenue, currently a parking lot for Holy Name Cathedral, according to people familiar with the property. He's agreed to pay more than $110 million for the property but is still negotiating a purchase contract with the Archdiocese.

But the parking lot has an interesting history. Ninety years ago, there was a flower shop there owned by Dean O'Banion, the gangster who controlled Chicago's north side. And on 10 November 1924, he was gunned down by the Jenna mob on orders from Al Capone's boss, Johnny Torrio, right on that spot.

It's unclear when the shops were torn down.

Gobbling up your free time

I mean, come on Google. No fair:

Starting now until April 4, you can chomp fruit, avoid ghosts, and collect PAC-Dots along city streets in Google Maps worldwide—all as Ms. PAC-Maps. Just tap on the Ms. PAC-Maps icon on iOS and Android, or click the Ms. PAC-Maps button at the bottom left on desktop, to enter the maze and start chompin’. Sign in to save your top score on the leaderboard and share with friends.

Here's Downtown Chicago:

That's the Civic Opera Building on the upper left and LaSalle and Jackson on the lower right.

Or try this possibly-recognizable board:

Any guesses where that is?

Sears Death Watch

Sears Holdings Corp. now admits its totally foreseeable and totally preventable death may happen soon:

Sears Holdings Corp. acknowledged "substantial doubt" about its ability to keep operating, raising fresh concerns about a company that has lost more than $10 billion in recent years.

The retailer added so-called going-concern language to its latest annual report filing, suggesting that weak earnings have cast a pall on its future as a business.

How did this happen? Eddie Lampert killed it, possibly for sport.

Evidence of things unseen

Some stories from today:

And, hey! It's Friday afternoon already.

Dump Trump rump

Three stories today:

Share and enjoy.

Take a walk

Yesterday, Major League Baseball agreed with its players union to ditch the four-pitch intentional walk:

Major League Baseball and its Players Association agreed to replace it with an automatic walk triggered by a signal from the dugout. The curious part was its cause of death: It was sacrificed in the name of shorter games.

That is curious, to say the least, because the intentional walk had neither the frequency of use nor the potential time-savings to make it an obvious target of league officials, led by Commissioner Rob Manfred, who want to speed up the pace of play. Last year, intentional walks occurred at a rate of one every 2.6 games. Their elimination would save perhaps a minute with each instance — a statistically insignificant improvement for a sport that averaged a record-high 3 hours 6 minutes per game in 2016.

Even something as seemingly innocuous and frivolous as the intentional walk has a long history, full of occasional mishaps (pitchers lobbing the ball to the backstop), sneaky swings (as when a batter reaches across the plate and pokes a wide pitch into the outfield for a hit) and even the famous fake intentional walk in the 1972 World Series, when Oakland A's reliever Rollie Fingers struck out Cincinnati's Johnny Bench with a pitch over the plate after the A's feigned walking him intentionally.

In many of those instances, the intentional walk was the most exciting and memorable thing that happened in that particular game. Sure, those zany plays were infrequent, and in the vast majority of instances, the intentional walk was simply a banal, goofy and sometimes counterintuitive exercise in run-prevention.

But will the no-pitch walk still be scored IBB?

Open tabs at lunchtime

Sigh:

I hope to read these articles sometime this year.

 

American authoritarianism

I grew up in Chicago, so I have some recollection of how things were before Harold Washington's mayoral administration. Particularly under the first Mayor Daley, large sections of the city lived under authoritarian rule. It wasn't pretty.

New Republic's Graham Vyse explains what this might look like nationally. It won't be The Hunger Games—and that's part of the problem:

Tom Pepinsky, a government professor at Cornell University, recently argued that Americans conceive of authoritarianism in a “fantastical and cartoonish” way, and that popular media—especially film—is to blame.

“This vision of authoritarian rule,” he wrote, “has jackbooted thugs, all-powerful elites acting with impunity, poverty and desperate hardship for everyone else, strict controls on political expression and mobilization, and a dictator who spends his time ordering the murder or disappearance of his opponents using an effective and wholly compliant security apparatus.”

“If you think of authoritarianism as only being The Hunger Games and Star Wars, you’re likely to focus on the wrong types of threats to democracy,” he said in an interview. “You’re out there looking for something unlikely to happen and you’re missing the things much more likely to happen.” Such as legal gerrymandering, he said. “One way to not lose elections that’s very common and essential to Malaysia is the construction of so many safe legislative seats that the party doesn’t need to get most of the voters to get most of the seats.”

In other words, it's already happening in places where Republican governments rule with minority popular votes, such as in North Carolina and (starting Friday) at the Federal level.

Meanwhile, Josh Marshall lays out pretty clearly how Trump and Putin are trying to destroy the EU and NATO, which average Americans might not care about until they're gone.

The next few years are going to suck.

Mandate? What mandate?

Since records began with Eisenhower's inauguration in 1953, no incoming president has had an approval rating below 50% at the start of his administration. Reagan and George HW Bush came in at 51%, and both managed to improve (to 68% and 56%, respectively) in the first 100 days. Even George W Bush, despite the taint surrounding his election, came in at 57% and inched up to 62% by April 2001.

And along comes Trump. A Quinnipac poll released today has him at 37%, and falling. As Josh Marshall puts it, "Trump, his agenda and his party are deeply unpopular. Indeed, Trump's gotten steadily more unpopular over the last four weeks. All of this tells us that political gravity still exists. Indeed, it is already shaping events on Capitol Hill."

For comparison, shortly before he left office under a pall of sex scandals and rampant corruption, Italy's Silvio Berlusconi polled between 33-35%. And immediately before the watershed UK election in 2010, the Labour Party under Gordon Brown polled around 30%. And in 2015, just before losing to Justin Trudeau, Canada's Stephen Harper polled around 33%.

In other words, Trump is coming into office approximately as popular as discredited and failing leaders of other modern democracies right before their defenestrations.

It'll be interesting to see if he notices.