Chicago Tribune transport columnist John Hilkevich is shocked—shocked!—this morning to find that Chicago parking tickets are up 26% this year:
The stepped-up enforcement contributed to a $7 million year-over-year increase in parking ticket revenue, which totaled $119.2 million from January through August, the Chicago Department of Revenue reported.
Fines assessed from tickets go to the city's nearly depleted general fund. Revenue collected from a four-fold increase in parking rates this year is kept by Chicago Parking Meters LLC, which paid the city $1.15 billion as part of a 75-year lease to manage on-street parking.
The extra emphasis on enforcement may be contributing to an abundance of parking spaces in many parts of the city where finding street parking was previously luck of the draw.
The clampdown also is discouraging some suburbanites and others to limit their trips to the city.
Discouraging? No kidding. I'm in North Carolina this weekend, where I took advantage of a clothing sale I could have gone to at the same store in Chicago, because even N.C.'s 7.5% sales tax is better than downtown Chicago's 10.5%. (Maine was just too far to go for one suit.)
Mayor Daley fils has done some great things for Chicago, but the biggest things—privitization of public assets, unbelievable taxation, etc.—threaten his legacy. Perhaps now that we don't have the distraction of the 2016 Olympics anymore, he'll turn his energies toward making the city more financially livable again.
The state of Illinois mysteriously doubled its funding request for upgrading the Chicago-St. Louis rail corridor to handle moderately-high-speed trains. First, of the $4.5 bn now requested, only $1.2 bn will go to the actual track upgrades; the state now wants additional funds to build a second track along the route. Second, the upgrades will increase the route's top speed from 126 km/h to only 176 km/h, not exactly a serious rival for other HSR projects worldwide (like, for example, Shanghai's MagLev, which has hit 501 km/h, or France's TGV which routinely travels at 320 km/h.)
"The state's plan is not high-speed rail," says Richard Harnish, executive director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Assn., which advocates a new, 350 km/h Chicago-St. Louis route. "Four hours doesn't change a lot. It's not transformative. What is transformative is two hours."
That would cost $12 billion to $13 billion, he estimates, in line with a detailed, 256-page proposal for a complete Midwest high-speed rail system centered on Chicago that French National Railways, known by its French acronym, SNCF, filed recently with the Federal Railroad Administration.
... With Chicago's status as the nation's rail hub, the state's longtime subsidization of passenger rail and its unprecedented clout with the Obama administration, Illinois is considered likely to get a big chunk of the $8 billion in federal stimulus funds for high-speed rail to be disbursed soon, plus billions more expected in future years as Congress embraces one of the president's top priorities
Is it worth billions to improve rail traffic between Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Louis, and Detroit? I don't think there's an objectively correct answer, but I vote yes. The European experience of moving more people more cheaply (and more quickly) by rail than by air, with significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions, shows that HSR can make a huge difference in a region. But Europe makes different choices than the U.S., and in a democracy it's permissible for one population to decide that its quality of life has a higher price than for another.
Still, two hours to St. Louis? Thirty minutes to Milwaukee? That would be cool.
Mayor Daley found another $500m hole in the city's budget this year, so he's proposing...nothing new:
Mayor Richard Daley unveils his new budget this morning, and he's going to call for spending more money from the controversial parking meter lease, slashing the tourism promotion budget and ending Chicago's longest-running public party, Venetian Night.
A key labor union that bankrolled challengers to Daley's council allies in the last election praised the mayor's decision to raid reserves from the $1.15 billion parking meter deal. The 75-year lease, which aldermen quickly approved last year, ushered in sharp rate increases at more than 36,000 public parking spots.
More than $400 million was used to balance this year's budget, records show. And the city already has announced plans to spend at least $146.3 million in privatization proceeds next year.
Remember that, even at a conservative discount rate, the $1.15bn parking meter deal was about $3bn too cheap. So we've given up 75 years of parking meter revenues worth $3bn in exchange for, what, about 6 years of partial operating revenue?
We also got some bad news from recent arrival Boeing, which lost $1.6bn last quarter:
Boeing, the world's second-largest commercial plane maker after Europe's Airbus, has struggled with a series of setbacks: Production problems have delayed its eagerly awaited 787 passenger aircraft and a bigger version of its 747 jumbo jet, resulting in charges from write-downs and penalties.
Those charges, which were expected, led the company to cut its 2009 profit forecast to $1.35 to $1.55 per share, down from $4.70 to $5 per share. Analysts had predicted $1.53.
On the other hand, today is probably the warmest day we've had in a month, and probably the warmest we'll have until next spring. So Parker and I will now go for a long walk.
A Wicker Park chicken-wing stand annoyed hundreds of potential customers recently by sticking fake parking ticket advertisements in their windshields:
Wing Stop's "parking tickets" are menus that look strikingly similar to Chicago's more menacing version, both in design and color scheme. But instead of expensive violations for expired meters and double parking, the restaurant's version has citations listing the restaurant's signature hot wings, sides, drinks and even offers a free order of fries with your ticket.
Representatives of Malcolm X College and William H. Brown elementary school, along with a host of upset recipients of Wing Stop's ticket menu called to voice their displeasure according to Barjas and Pirozzoli. The Chicago Police Department called the other day to ask the restaurant to stop passing out the fliers as multiple complaints had come into the 14th District headquarters. And the City of Chicago called to discourage the promotion as well.
"Advertising taking the form of parking tickets can be confusing to motorists," explains Chicago Department of Revenue spokesperson Ed Walsh. "Sometimes it generates complaints. As such, we ask businesses to refrain."
Personally, I won't patronize any seller who sticks anything on my windshield...but in this case, I might have called the health department on them, just out of orneryness.
So what news story should I focus on today? The Cubs using the bankruptcy code to speed up their sale to the Ricketts family? General Motors ramping up production by 45% to see if we'll bail them out a second time? Former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling's appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court?
No, I want to point people toward the Night of the Stripping Dead event at the Admiral Theater tomorrow night:
Exotic dancers and zombies, the two grand pillars of American subculture, have finally joined forces -- thus proving our nation's obsession with the walking dead has irrevocably crossed the line of mainstream consciousness, where now strippers are parodying a trend.
Wednesday night, club organizers are throwing an event...where professional makeup artists will transform otherwise pious dancers into undead dancers.
For completeness, the Admiral Theater is on Lawrence just east of Pulaski.
- After 8.3 hours of work, I finished my accounting final. I've no idea how well I did, but I'm already planning to ask the professor for a meeting when I'm next in Durham.
- We had our first freeze today, about three weeks earlier than usual. We missed the record low (-3°C, set in 1996), but after two weeks of below-normal temperatures, it was a fitting reminder of this year's El Niño.
- We also had the Chicago Marathon today, with a start temperature of 1°C. The cold start helped; Sammy Wanjiru (below, third from left) set a new course record of 2:05:40. As someone who can't run that fast over 100 meters, to do it over 42 km is amazing.
- Wanjiru wasn't the fastest participant, however. The Chicago Marathon starts with the wheelchair race. Kurt Fearnley (below) won his third-straight Chicago title in 1:29:09, averaging 28.3 km/h—about as fast as a decent biker.
I'm still not done with the first term—we have two more assignments, plus an exam the day we start in Dubai—but I think for the remainder of today, I'm going to goof off.
The Twins hadn't even polished off the Tigers yesterday before Major League Baseball unanimously approved Tribune's sale of the Cubs to the Ricketts:
The vote was made during a conference call. Tom Ricketts, who has headed the sale for his family, could take day-to-day control of the Cubs by the end of the month.
Commissioner Bud Selig says the Ricketts family will be "great owners and custodians" of the storied franchise perhaps best known for a World Series championship drought that now stands at 101 years.
... The $845 million deal also includes Tribune's approximately 25 percent share of regional cable TV network Comcast SportsNet Chicago.
Oddly, this item was the top story on Crain's Chicago Business this morning but totally buried on the Chicago Tribune's own site.
Oh, for a two-hour link from Raleigh to Washington, or a three-hour train from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Not soon, unfortunately. But maybe...Baton Rouge to New Orleans? No, not that either:
Bobby Jindal, Louisiana's Republican governor, made headlines on Saturday for rejecting $300m in stimulus money intended to jump-start high-speed rail in the Bayou State. Mr Jindal missed the deadline—midnight Friday—to apply for the funds. The governor said he worried about the future maintenance costs of the proposed high-speed rail line between New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
OK, so not that, either. How about just a 15-minute trip from the Loop to O'Hare? Now that we have all that money we're not spending on the Olympics?
Baseball season ends today for Chicago, making it 101 years since the Cubs last won the World Series. Last year they had to add another digit to the sign on Waveland Street. This year, they only have to increment the numbers: AC 01 64 101. ("AC" means "Anno Catuli" or "Year of the Cub;" the numbers refer to the years since they last won the division, the Pennant, and the World Series, respectively.)
Here's the sign at the beginning of this season for comparison:
The one encouraging thing from this year's regular season standings is that no one lost 100 games. Baltimore won yesterday's game against Toronto and Pittsburgh won Friday's game, limiting their possible losses to 99 pending the outcomes of today's games.
So, even though the Cubs have one more game today, I've already switched to my Red Sox hat. Playoffs start Wednesday.
The International Olympic Committee has eliminated Chicago from consideration for the 2016 games.
The defeat marked the first time since 1980 that the U.S. has failed in consecutive bid attempts. Los Angeles lost to Montreal in 1976 and Moscow in 1980, but then was awarded the 1984 Games when it was the only viable candidate bidding.
There was a stunned reaction in Chicago to the decision.
Yes, the people gathered in Daley Center Plaza, including the Mayor, would be disappointed. I confess to being about 5% disappointed and 95% relieved; the Olympics would have been hugely costly for Chicago, and we need all our money right now to buy back the parking meters.