The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Remember those parking meters?

In 2008, Chicago gave up its parking meter revenue for 75 years in exchange for $1.16 billion, which made no sense at the time and got widely criticized by everyone who knows what "Net Present Value" means.

Guess what? The deal still sucks:

In their failed attempt to block Bally’s $1.7 billion River West casino, downtown City Council members warned the deal was being rushed — just like the one that privatized Chicago parking meters — and that it would end up being “even worse” for taxpayers.

That dire prediction is difficult to imagine, considering results of the latest parking meter audit by accounting giant KPMG.

It shows Chicago parking meter revenues nearly back to pre-pandemic levels. After dipping to $91.6 million in 2020, they climbed to $136.2 million last year.

Not a penny of those revenues went to ease the burden on Chicago taxpayers, who had to absorb a $76.5 million increase in the city’s property tax levy after a $94 million hike in real estate taxes the year before.

Factoring in the newly reported figure for 2021, private investors have already extracted $2.1 billion from the deal, in part by refinancing three times. The latest refinancing for $1.2 billion was completed in 2019.

Well, it turns out, if they got $900 million in revenue off a $1.2 billion investment over 14 years, that's an annualized ROI of just 4.1%. It's just that the ROI in the past year was well over 11%, so that 4% number is depressed by the deal's startup costs.

We'll have to see whether they continue making that kind of revenue. But the deal still sucks. We could have upgraded the technology and controlled our own parking destiny for a lot less money, and we'd have all that income now. I mean, if the Council didn't squander it. Ah, ha ha, ha.

Chicago's great sports teams

Chicago's two baseball teams gave up a combined 36 runs yesterday, with the Cubs losing to the Reds 20-5 and the Sox losing to the Red Sox 16-7. Perhaps the bullpens could use a little work, hmm?

In other news:

Finally, astronomers have produced a photo of the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy, and were surprised to see it looks nothing like Ted Cruz's head.

American exceptionalism in the worst way

Three reactions to this week's school shooting, the 27th of the year (despite this being only week 22 on the calendar). First, from Josh Marshall:

The “good guy with a gun” theory was always absurd. These events make that all the more clear. But this is a bit more than that. In both these incidents armed police officers or security guards exchanged gunfire with the perpetrator. But they were outgunned. The assailants had more powerful weapons and they had body armor that allowed them to absorb gun shots and return fire. These aren’t cases with a mythical armed good samaritan. The cops are there, armed and on the scene, and they’re losing in fire fights with the assailants.

When you combine high powered rifles and body armor, these guys are close to unstoppable, at least at first. That’s not their only advantage. These shooters have all accepted that they’re likely going to die within minutes. They also, by definition, have the element of surprise. Unless police have a decisive advantage in firepower and defensive equipment, the shooter is always going to have a big advantage in those engagements.

Second, from James Fallows:

The “originalist” conceit that Americans’ birthright is to be armed with AR-15s is lethal bullshit. You don’t have to have been around at the time of the Founders to know that. You only need to have been a working reporter, or sentient human being, as recently as the 1980s, when I happened to have done a hugely long Atlantic article on how the AR-15 was designed.

You can read the article here. Its central argument is that the AR-15 is an even more effective weapon-of-death than the U.S. military’s M-16, which was derived from the AR-15 and first put to serious use in Vietnam. Don’t believe it? Read the article, and the Congressional hearings it cites. Or check the footnotes in this recent post.

Gun control hasn’t ‘failed.’ Specific people have blocked it.

Many people have played their part. But none has mattered more than Mitch McConnell. I made the case in detail here, after the Parkland gun massacre.

The children and teachers of Uvalde are the latest who deserve a vote. As do the families of Buffalo, and of hundreds of other places.

Will they get it? Mitch McConnell is still there, with 50 members of his bloc, to say No.

“When in God’s name?” Joe Biden asked this evening. When in God’s name.

Third, from the governors of Texas and Illinois, when the former tried to smear my city to deflect blame from his own party's actions:

Taking the stage at a press conference today flanked by U.S. senators, law enforcement and other officials, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was asked about gun laws in other states. “I hate to say it,” Abbott said, “but there are more people who are shot every weekend in Chicago than there are in schools in Texas.”

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, was quick to respond to Abbott’s remarks with an extended Twitter thread.

So we'll get "thoughts and prayers" from the Republican Party, then the National Rifle Association will go dark for a couple of days, then nothing will change. Because a large minority of people in this country fantasize about armed conflict and don't want the deaths of a thousand children to keep them from their guns.

Apollo After Hours

Tonight our chorus has its (sold out!) fundraiser. This will be the first year since I joined the chorus that I won't be performing, and the second where I'm not running the event. I finally get to just enjoy the night.

Except one of the co-chairs has Covid. And the reason I'm not performing is that one of the ensemble I put together also has Covid, and another got called up for his Army Reserve weekend unexpectedly.

But, hey, it's going to be fun...and did I mention we sold out? We did find a couple last-minute tickets, though, so if you're in town, come on down.

Monty and Rose live on

The endangered piping plovers who nested at Montrose Beach the last three years have gone. Monty died suddenly last week, and Rose has not returned to Chicago. (Maybe Monty died of a broken heart?)

But a report from Duluth, Minn., has cheered the Chicago birding community:

A week after one of Chicago’s two beloved Great Lakes piping plovers died suddenly at Montrose Beach comes a bright spot: One of their chicks is alive and well and hanging out in Minnesota.

Imani, a chick born to Monty and Rose last year, was spotted this week in Duluth, Minn. The (most likely) male appears to be making it his summer nesting home after wintering in the South.

Imani was one of two chicks born last year to Monty and Rose, the piping plovers who captured Chicago’s heart after choosing Montrose Beach as their summer nesting grounds in 2019. It was the first time the rare species of piping plover nested in Chicago in five decades.

We haven't come close to preventing the extinction of this subspecies of piping plover, but at least the efforts of volunteers and birdwatchers in Chicago has given them one more generation.

Waiting for the cold front

It's mid-July today, at least until around 8pm, when late April should return. The Tribune reported this morning that our spring has had nearly three times the rain as last spring, but actually hasn't gotten much wetter than normal.

Meanwhile:

Finally, via The Onion, Google Maps now shows you shortcuts through people's houses when they're not home.

Spring, Summer, Spring, Summer, who knows

This week's temperatures tell a story of incoherence and frustration: Monday, 26°C; Tuesday, 16°C; yesterday, 14°C; today (so far), 27°C. And this is after a record high of 33°C just a week ago—and a low just above 10°C Tuesday morning.

So while I'm wearing out the tracks on my window sashes, I'll have these items to read while my house either cools down or warms up:

And finally, Ian Bogost feels elated that cryptocurrencies have crashed, particularly because he doesn't own any.

Stuff I didn't have time to read today

I had to put out a new version of the Inner Drive Azure tools for my day job today, and I had more meetings than I wanted (i.e., a non-zero number), so these kind of piled up:

There were other things I'll read later, but it's past 6pm and someone is staring at me because she needs a walk.

Monty the piping plover dies suddenly

The male of the Montrose Beach endangered piping plover couple, who has spent the last three weeks waiting for his true love to return, died yesterday:

“It is with great sadness that we confirm the passing of Monty, one of the Montrose Beach piping plovers,” said Irene Tostado, of the Chicago Park District.

Tamima Itani, of the Chicago Piping Plovers group, shared more details, saying Monty died Friday afternoon.

“He was observed gasping for air before dropping and passing away,” said Itani.

Great Lakes piping plovers numbered only 26 known individuals as recently as 1990, but conservation—like the protection given Monty and Rose since they arrived in Chicago three years ago—has brought the number up to about 140.

Sad news indeed.