The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

The <i>other</i> CTA funding shortfall

Today's Chicago Tribune explains that while the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) has serious problems funding its daily operations, it has an even bigger problem finding the $6 billion required to make capital improvements:

The CTA says it is more than $6 billion short of adequately modernizing its rail and bus lines, a staggering number lost in the debate as the agency lurches from one "doomsday" to another searching for the tens of millions of dollars it needs to keep operating.

The result is that more than 500 CTA buses, one-fourth of its fleet, have been on the road for 16 years, logging an average 580,000 miles apiece.

...

The cost of repairing and maintaining the old buses is soaring. The CTA said it spends $16 million a year to keep the old buses in running order, more than five-fold the $3 million cost for upkeep on newer models.

Reporter Jon Hilkevich does examine some of the reasons for the funding shortfall:

Increasing amounts of the CTA's capital budget -- more than a combined $150 million since 2003 -- have been diverted to operations to help balance annual budgets and reduce the threatened service cuts and fare increases under the CTA's doomsday plans.

At the same time, capital funding to the CTA has fallen by almost $200 million a year since the Illinois FIRST infrastructure program expired almost five years ago.

Without the state launching a successor to Illinois FIRST, non-federal capital funding to the CTA during the next five years is projected at one-tenth the level in 2002, according to CTA budget documents.

Not imagining it: Fall foliage was late

I've been walking around the last few days noticing the fall colors in Chicago and thinking, "how odd, it's November, the trees should be bare." Turns out I was right:

Intense heat in late summer and early fall delayed the changing of the leaves in the area, with peak colors not arriving until last week, about two weeks later than normal.

Supreme Court denies Ryan's freedom bid

The former Illinois governor goes to jail tomorrow:

U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens today rejected former Gov. George Ryan's final, long-shot bid to remain free on bail while he fights to overturn his corruption conviction before the nation's highest court.

The ruling means Ryan must report to a federal prison camp in Oxford, Wis., by 5 p.m. Wednesday to begin serving his 6½-year sentence.

A federal jury convicted Ryan in April 2006 on charges that, as secretary of state and governor, he doled out sweetheart deals to co-defendant Lawrence Warner and other friends, and used state resources and employees for political gain.

Chicago in the New York Times

Via my dad, the New York Times Frugal Traveler visited Chicago recently:

What was this city, then, if such as myself, on a low budget, could essentially see, do and eat whatever I wanted without straining my wallet? Were the skyscrapers merely a prairie mirage, a veil for the cheap, accessible delights hidden at their feet? If I asked John, he'd surely cite Descartes's deceiving demon, while Tiffany would, I bet, simply shrug the question away.

Warmer than usual October

I can't remember the last time Chicago got all the way through October without a freezing day. This year, even by November 2nd, we still haven't officially had a freeze.

Also, tomorrow has Chicago's latest sunrise: 7:25 am. For those 33 years old and under, it's the latest sunrise ever. (During the 1973 energy crisis, Chicago didn't return to Standard Time in the fall.)

Delayed edit, 11:05pm: Moments after posting this, O'Hare recorded its first freezing temperature since April 16th.

Recall? Bad call

The Chicago Tribune ran an editorial Sunday calling for a recall amendment to the Illinois constitution. My response:

Regardless of what you think of Blagojevich's performance, Illinois needs a recall amendment like a fish needs a bicycle.

Illinois has two perfectly adequate constitutional mechanisms for removing a governor: election and impeachment. If the governor is really all that bad, let the legislature impeach him. If not, we'll have a referendum on his performance soon enough—and his critics can moot someone else to run against him then. Either way, the legislature and courts are more than sufficiently powerful to prevent him doing severe harm to the state, as they have prevented other governors in the past. (They've even prevented other governors from doing good things for the state. Forestalling damage should be easy by comparison.)

Our government is designed to be responsive to the will of the people but resistent to the whims of the mob. Removing an executive from office by popular recall may seem like the epitome of democracy, but as the founders of the U.S. knew well, and as many millions of others have learned around the world, it's actually fundamentally undemocratic.

The recall of Gray Davis was essentially a legally-sanctioned coup d'état by a well-financed but very small minority. Had he served out his term, the publication of Enron's malfeasance in manipulating California's energy supply would have vindicated him in time to let him stand a fair election against his critics. He may not have been re-elected; but we'll never know, because he didn't have a fair fight.

If you think the governor should be removed from office, tell your state representative and state senator, who have to stand for re-election before he does. If there's sufficient outcry, the House will act; if not, or if the House fails to act despite the will of the people, we have the opportunity to replace the lot of them next year. Meantime, we shouldn't sacrifice democracy for mob rule.

Marathon cut short because it's the middle of Octogust here

With record temperatures in Chicago today (now at 29°C), organizers have halted the LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon:

Reports of inadequate supplies of water were frequent along the route, and many of the 36,000 runners competing stopped early.

The men's race appeared more like a track finish than the usually tactical marathon finish, with Kenyan Patrick Ivuti winning the closest race in the 30 years of the Chicago Marathon. In a photo-finish, Ivuti edged out Moroccan Jaouad Gharib by 5/100th of a second.

Both were clocked at 2 hours 11 minutes 11 seconds and appeared to break the tape at the same time. Ivuti is the fifth consecutive Kenyan to win the Chicago Marathon.

Ethiopian Berhane Adere recorded one of the greatest race comebacks, repeating as champion in 2:33:49. Adere fell behind by about 25 seconds late in the race, but managed to sprint to the finish and overtake unsuspecting Romanian Adriana Pirtea.

The Cubs, meanwhile, spent the day cooling their heels.