The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

More stuff to read

I know, two days in a row I can't be arsed to write a real blog post. Sometimes I have actual work to do, y'know?

Finally, as I've gone through my CD collection in the order I bought them, I occasionally encounter something that has not aged well. Today I came across Julie Brown's "The Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun," which...just, no. Not in this century.

Know-Nothings come to Niles Public Library

The Niles, Ill., public library topped lists around the world for its best-in-class offerings. As part of the North Suburban Library System, it shares resources with other world-class public libraries, including the one I grew up in. But following the Library Board elections this past April, the Niles Public Library has become noteworthy for something completely different:

Over the course of the next few months and the installation of a new Board of Directors, the library’s funding has been deeply slashed, hours reduced to below-state-standard levels, the library director quit, and essential services to the community shuttered.

Three new Board members — Joe Makula, Susan Schoenfeldt, and Olivia Hanusiak — were elected, allowing for a return to a conservative, tax-conscious voting block. All three were candidates [Board member Carolyn] Drblik sought, and now she had enough support to be elected Board president. It’s rumored they spent up to $15,000 on this small local election. Makula himself is a Trump donor, and the group, Dove Lempke believes, is working to install themselves on taxing bodies across the state and country in order to gut public institutions from the inside.

Immediately upon the board being installed, they hired a technology consultant to investigate the library’s processes and procedures. This consultant, a wedding videographer with no auditing credentials, is simply a friend of Drblik and the rest of her new Board block and campaigned for their election.

He was hired at $100 an hour with no experience and no cap.

Consequence? The Niles Public Library is on its way to not being a world-class library. And in an odd turn of events, the entire library staff joined AFSCME Local 31 in June.

The moral of the story: vote, people! Especially in local elections.

The preservationist leanings of Scooby-Doo

CityLab's Feargus O'Sullivan riffs on an Instagram account that celebrates Scooby-Doo's Victorian backdrops:

It should come as no surprise that creaking mansard roofs, vaulted dungeons and abandoned one-horse towns occur so often as settings. Americans have been identifying the Victorian with the macabre for more than 100 years. It still seems not completely coincidental that these particular backdrops were so often used for a show in its heyday in the late 1960s and the 1970s.

This, after all, is a period when America’s Victorian architecture lay on a major fault line. Long decaying as wealthier residents moved to the suburbs, America’s many Victorian neighborhoods fell prey to demolition during this period as urban renewal projects smashed through buildings that were often seen as musty, decrepit hangovers from a poorer, miserably car-less past.

San Francisco’s Fillmore District, for example, was substantially redeveloped, scattering its mainly African American residents to the East Bay, while the now celebrated Victorian district of Old Louisville saw over 600 buildings demolished between 1965 and 1971 alone.

Indeed, the show sometimes tackles these issues directly. The classic Scooby-Doo villain is a developer or greedy landowner, scaring people away from their property by dressing as a ghost or monster, only to be unmasked and confess everything to the band of “pesky kids” just before each episode’s final curtain. Occasionally, even urban renewal itself crops up. In one episode a developer constructing new buildings in Seattle is also secretly plundering treasures from the subterranean street network built in the aftermath of the Great Fire of 1889.

Down the street from me, a 6-bedroom house built in 1897 just sold for $412,500—less than half its estimated value, and probably closer to a third of what it might fetch once its restoration finishes next year. It went for $28,500 in 1979, which works out to about $110,000 today, during the worst period of urban decay in Uptown. Other gorgeous houses and apartments from the 1890s through 1920s in Chicago barely survived the 1970s, sometimes only because no one wanted to invest in the neighborhoods.

I've written about this phenomenon before, of course.

Even Chicago will have climate-related troubles

Dan Egan, author of The Death and Life of the Great Lakes (which I read last November while staring out at one of them), explains in yesterday's New York Times how climate change will cause problems here in Chicago:

[T]he same waters that gave life to the city threaten it today, because Chicago is built on a shaky prospect — the idea that the swamp that was drained will stay tamed and that Lake Michigan’s shoreline will remain in essentially the same place it’s been for the past 300 years.

Lake Michigan’s water level has historically risen or fallen by just a matter of inches over the course of a year, swelling in summer following the spring snowmelt and falling off in winter. Bigger oscillations, a few feet up or down from the average, also took place in slow, almost rhythmic cycles unfolding over the course of decades.

No more.

In 2013, Lake Michigan plunged to a low not seen since record-keeping began in the mid-1800s, wreaking havoc across the Midwest. Marina docks became useless catwalks. Freighter captains couldn’t fully load their ships. And fears grew that the lake would drop so low it would no longer be able to feed the Chicago River, the defining waterway that snakes through the heart of the city.

That fear was short-lived. Just a year later, in 2014, the lake started climbing at a stunning rate, ultimately setting a record summertime high in 2020 before drought took hold and water levels started plunging again.

Egan explains in detail what that means for us, culminating in the harrowing near-disaster of 17 May 2020, when record rains combined with a record-high lake to make draining downtown Chicago almost impossible.

I should note that, after falling for 11 consecutive months, the lake has started to rise again (blue line), and we haven't even gotten down to our long-term average (green line):

I've said for decades that Chicago will fare better than most places, but that doesn't mean we'll have it easy. Nowhere will.

More Covid-19 business casualties

Southport Lanes, the 99-year-old bar and bowling alley in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood, has closed permanently:

The bar, restaurant and bowling alley at 3325 N. Southport Ave. is permanently closed after efforts to revive the business were unsuccessful, said Lacey Irby, a spokeswoman for the group that owns the building at Southport and Henderson Street.

The business had reopened in mid-July after coronavirus restrictions lifted before closing again in the fall, and has not reopened since.

“After giving it a lot of thought, building ownership decided to go the route of auctioning off the assets for the business formerly known as Southport Lanes,” Irby said. “Ownership, unfortunately, does not see the business recovering any time soon, so the business is now permanently closed.”

Items for sale include the venue’s famous sign, bowling lanes and equipment, and pool tables and equipment, according to the Winternitz website.

Other items available in the auction include kitchen equipment, televisions, furniture and two large murals.

Also, The Daily Parker exchanged emails yesterday with Begyle Brewery's front-of-house manager Brett Knickerbocker, who informed us that—no! wait! They're not closing! Read the whole thing!they have to stop letting dogs in the taproom because they lost the larger upstairs area during the pandemic.

UIC's Dis/Placements project maps Uptown

Via Bloomberg CityLab and Block Club Chicago, the University of Illinois at Chicago started a project in 2017 to chart the "displacements of people and struggles over land, housing, and community in the city of Chicago:"

The issue of displacement and the efforts to stop it, in fact, has been present in Uptown for nearly 200 years. That history — in the words of the people who were displaced — is now being recounted through a new University of Illinois Chicago research project.

“In general, it’s poor communities and communities of color that have faced the brunt of the efforts to develop neighborhoods,” said UIC Professor Gayatri Reddy. “Uptown captures some of these remaining issues.”

The project also recounts the efforts to stop displacement and points to how modern activist movements have picked up the mantle from previous generations in the still very-much-alive fight in Uptown, the professors said.

Displacement and development that adversely impact the poor and communities of color have been happening in Uptown, and America, since its founding. But at least in Uptown, the scale of displacement has accelerated in modern times, Reddy said.

“It seems to us that there has been a steady rise in the breadth and scale of such efforts in the last 20 [plus] years,” she said. “With gentrification and other displacement mechanisms impacting an even wider swath of the population.”

The project site has interactive and VR visualizations of Uptown's history, with scads of GIS data and spotlights on specific instances of uncomfortable history.

Busy 4th

Cassie and I had a long day yesterday, which included several rides in the car and lots of play time. It also involved tons of fireworks. And a raw, marrow-filled bison bone:

Adding more data to the "failed hunting dog" hypothesis of Cassie's origin, we walked through a neighborhood southwest of the city with fireworks exploding left and right, and Cassie didn't care. We did normal leash work, in fact, because the fireworks didn't even distract her. Happy dog:

Flapjack Brewery, Berwyn

Welcome to stop #46 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Flapjack Brewery., 6833 Stanley Ave., Berwyn
Train line: BNSF, Berwyn
Time from Chicago: 15 minutes (Zone B)
Distance from station: 100 m

Some parts of the Chicago area deal with heavy infrastructure differently than other parts. Take the North Shore: the heavy-rail commuter line serving Clybourn Junction on up to Kenosha blends into the area elevated on a tree-covered embankment on up to Wilmette, then at or below grade level surrounded by more trees and flanked by a 50-kilometer bike trail. The former Chicago & North Western line, now the Union Pacific North, even features beautiful 1890s-era station houses that other lines have shamelessly copied.

Not so the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe. From Union Station through Naperville, the triple-track main line handles so much freight and passenger traffic that the towns and villages along the way haven't done much to shield themselves from it. (In the city, the BNSF runs through so many classification yards that no one lives near it anyway.) In Berwyn they don't even pretend to try.

Also, while the UP-N has a couple of stations a quick walk from each other (the three in Evanston, for example), the BNSF line's station placements baffle me. Harlem and Berwyn are so close their parking lots run together. And the 2-kilometer stretch between La Grange Road and Brookfield has three stations, again with unclear boundaries between parking lots and some head-scratching moments onboard trains that get up to a brisk walking speed before stopping again.

And yet, with Flapjack, this line has a delightful little brewery mere meters from the Berwyn station. So close, in fact, that the discerning railfan can get a continuous show with dinner:

In the 90 minutes I sat there, I watched 10 trains go by (6 commuters, 3 freight, and the Amtrak heading to St Louis). I also drank some beer and ate three quarters of an epic pizza. The beer, their Four Years Too Long double-dry-hopped IPA (5.25%), brewed especially for their fourth anniversary, had blazing Centennial hops on the nose with delightful Citra on the finish, and a fresh, clean balance that I enjoyed so much I had a second one.

But just look at this pizza:

So good. Just so good. And the remaining quarter reheated nicely the next day.

Beer garden? Sidewalk
Dogs OK? Outside only
Televisions? Three at the bar, avoidable
Serves food? Full menu
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

Milk Money Brewing, La Grange

Welcome to stop #45 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Milk Money Brewing., 75 S. La Grange Rd., La Grange
Train line: BNSF, La Grange Rd
Time from Chicago: 26 minutes (Zone C)
Distance from station: 500 m

La Grange Road has a lot of competition, being essentially the restaurant district of La Grange. So for a suburban brewery, Milk Money does a good job. I stopped by on the Friday before July 4th, when the weather felt more like September and the vibe felt more like 2019.

They don't do flights per se, but they do have 5-ounce pours. I had five:

I started with the Queen Takes Pawn English-style ale (4.9%), which tasted like a solid real ale from the old country, albeit too cold to complete the illusion. It had a good bitter/malt balance and a sharp finish. The Pause Button APA (5.2%) had a bit more malt than I expected, but a good balance overall. The Vibrant hazy IPA (6.5%) had a citrus nose, a citrus-grapefruit flavor, and a lower-alcohol feel than the first two. The Milk Money milk stout (7.2%) started with a lovely nose and opened up into a smooth chocolate and caramel combination with a long finish. Finally, the Colorful Noise West Coast IPA (7%) had Citra on the nose and Cascade in the back. All five were solid representations of the styles.

And on the walk from the Metra station, I discovered that La Grange has gone to the dogs:

Beer garden? Sidewalk
Dogs OK? No
Televisions? Two, avoidable
Serves food? Full menu
Would hang out with a book? Maybe
Would hang out with friends? Maybe
Would go back? Maybe

How much Bruce Rauner cost Illinois

In another implicit rebuke to the lump of clay that occupied the Governor's Mansion for four years, Illinois finally got a bump in its credit rating after Governor Pritzker started paying our bills again:

In upgrading Illinois’ credit by one step — to two notches above junk bond status instead of one — Wall Street ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service noted that the $42 billion spending plan for the year starting July 1 “increases pension contributions, repays emergency Federal Reserve borrowings and keeps a backlog of bills in check with only constrained use of federal aid” from President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief plan.

Even after the upgrade, Illinois remains the lowest-rated state on Moody’s scale, two notches below the next-lowest: New Jersey. Generally, states with higher credit ratings are able to borrow money at lower interest rates, ultimately saving taxpayers money.

While the upgrade from Moody’s is welcome news, it only returns the state’s rating to where it was before the last of three downgrades during the tumultuous tenure of Pritzker’s predecessor, former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

It still baffles me why Rauner screwed Illinois so hard and without lube. He may have qualified as a "moderate" Republican by today's standards, but he still moved to kill unions, kill the state budget, and kill working people in Illinois.

Rauner now lives in exile in—where else?—Florida.