The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Quick hits

Two tangentially-related stories this afternoon. First, from HuffPo, President Obama did not sic the FBI on medical-marijuana dispensaries in California; the U.S. attorneys did it on their own:

Obama as a candidate promised to maintain a hands-off approach toward pot clinics that adhered to state law, with Attorney General Eric Holder publicly asserting that federal prosecutors would not initiate enforcement actions against any patients or providers in compliance with state law, deeming it an inefficient use of scarce government resources.

Such language didn't stop federal prosecutors from launching an attack on medical marijuana shop owners earlier this month, vowing to shutter state-licensed marijuana dispensaries regulated by local governments and threatening landlords with property seizures.

Still, why are California's U.S. attorneys doing this? Does Agent Van Aldren work for them?

And next week, the Chicago city council will start looking at an ordinance to decriminalize small amounts of pot:

Under a proposal [25th Ward] Ald. Daniel Solis...will introduce at next week's City Council meeting, people caught in Chicago with 10 grams or less of marijuana would get a $200 ticket, and up to 10 hours of community service.

Police Supt. Garry McCarthy has mentioned the possibility of issuing tickets for marijuana possession as a way to keep his officers on the streets rather than tying them up processing people.

Excellent. Let's have the cops go after actual criminals instead of harmless pot-smokers.

Friedman on Emanuel

New York Times op-ed columnist Tom Friedman interviewed Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel recently:

I find “Rahmbo’s” Chicago agenda intriguing because it’s a microcosm of what the whole country will have to do for the next decade: find smart ways to invest in education and infrastructure to generate growth while cutting overall spending to balance the budget — all at the same time and with limited new taxes. It’s a progressive agenda on a Tea Party allowance.

“I want to be honest about this budget,” the mayor declared. “Almost every one of these ideas has been discussed and debated before. But politics has stood in the way of their adoption. Maybe in the past, we could afford the political path. But we have come to the point where we can’t afford it any longer. The cost of putting political choices ahead of practical solutions has become too expensive. It is destroying Chicago’s finances and threatening the city’s future. In all of these reforms, we will be guided by principle, pragmatism and progress — not politics. What we simply cannot do is to temporize any longer. We can’t kick the can down the road because we’ve run out of road.”

I like our mayor. He's more policy-motivated than his predecessor. I hope he's at least as effective at getting his policies through.

Reducing externalities in Chicago

In a long-overdue move I completely support, Chicago will raise the annual vehicle tax on SUVs and minivans:

[Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel] is pushing in how ... large passenger vehicles are defined. Instead of setting the bar at 4,500 pounds, as it is now, Emanuel wants it set at 4,000 pounds.

Such a change means 184,000 more Chicago vehicles would fall under a pricier sticker class. And their owners would pay $60 more for a sticker.

Minivans like the Dodge Grand Caravan and Honda Odyssey and midsize SUVs like the Honda Pilot and Kia Sorento will join outsize gas guzzlers already subject to the higher sticker fee such as Hummer H1s, the GMC Suburban and Land Rover Discovery. Vehicle weights depend on the year and model.

The mayor explicitly linked the tax increase to the well-known relationship between vehicle weight and road repairs. As a driver of a VW hatchback, and as a responsible city dweller who understands that roads are the modern commons, it has always irked me that people who own SUVs are allowed to drive don't pay their share for parking or road maintenance. I look forward to this tax increase, which I hope will encourage people, however slightly, to buy smaller cars.

Chicago contemplating congestion charge

Good idea:

Drivers parking in public garages and lots in the central business district would pay an extra $2 on weekdays under Emanuel's plan. It would come on top of the current $3 city parking tax that goes into the general fund, officials said.

The money generated by the new tax would be used to rebuild two CTA "L'' stations downtown (the specific stations are still to be determined) and launch a long-planned bus rapid transit system, officials said.

For drivers who complain they already are paying too much, in many cases $30 a day or more to park downtown, the congestion tax is intended to provide strong motivation to switch to buses and trains.

In economic terms, they're aligning incentives. By the way, the congestion isn't on downtown roads so much as on the highways leading into downtown. Driving on the Kennedy or Eisenhower during rush hour is an experienced matched only by driving through the Lincoln Tunnel on days that end in "y."

Great day for a bike ride

I had some time yesterday afternoon, and the weather in Chicago was gorgeous, so I hopped on my bike. But where to go? How about on a route that was largely clear of traffic and had recently been swept clean by the city, like, say, this one. Good choice: I don't think I've ever ridden on cleaner roads in my life.

Only, I left home too early, so near 18th and Ashland I caught up with the street sweepers:

A dozen blocks farther on I had to wind my way through the garbage trucks, and then near 31st St I actually found the last runners on the marathon course. So I said goodbye to the marathon route and hit the lake front path, which, because of the weather, I'm lucky to have survived without hitting anyone.

The marathon route takes runners through parts of the city that people might not otherwise see, like a one-block enclave of leafy town houses on West Jackson between Ashland and Laflin I never knew was there. It's also a good distance for biking, though I did cut off about 5 km.

Photo of the Day

The women's leaders, Ethiopian Ejegayehu Dibaba, 29, and Russian Liliya Shobukhova, 33, run past the 9 km point during today's Chicago Marathon:

7:58 am CDT today, ISO-400, f/5 at 1/400, 55mm, here.

At this writing Shobukhova is in the lead on a 5:17 pace with Dibaba 56 seconds behind her at the 30 km timing pad.

And she has followers:

New record

No, not for the Chicago Marathon, currently underway a city block from me. (Parker and I were cheering the runners on for the past hour.)

Rather, Chicago yesterday set a record for most consecutive days with 100% sunshine since records began in the 1870s:

With 100 percent sunshine today, it marks the 7th straight such day this month - tying the old record set back in October 10-16, 1934. A new October record could be set, if [Sunday], as forecast, turns out to be another day with 100 percent sunshine.

Of course, "Chicago's all-time record for consecutive days with 100 percent sunshine is 10 - set back on July 21-30, 1916," a record we're not likely to break this week as a cold front will hit us Wednesday and return us to autumn.

It doesn't feel like autumn yet, with all that sunshine and a high yesterday of 28°C (and 29°C on Thursday).

That's OK. We'll take it. Parker got two hours of walks yesterday; today he might get three.

In other news, the weather's great

We're having our sixth consecutive day of cloudless skies and warm temperatures. No one's complaining:

Thursday's fifth consecutive 100 percent sunny day was the longest such spell of any here over the past 18 years

There wasn't a cloud in the sky Thursday. It led to Chicago being credited with 100 percent of its possible sunshine for a fifth consecutive day. A check of weather records here reveals it's the first set of five completely sunny days in 18 years.

In an average year, 46 days (13 percent of them) in Chicago record 100 percent of their possible sun. Conversely, 44 days (12 percent) see no sun because of clouds.

The sun and warmth are expected to continue through Wednesday. Why, then, am I sitting inside?

United Continental to receive first 787 early next year

Chicago-based United Continental Airlines followed this week's ANA publicity with a me too:

Jeff Smisek, head of the parent company for United and Continental airlines, on Thursday said he was last told by Boeing that the first of the 50 aircraft ordered by the company will be delivered to have in service in the second half of 2012.

"We ordered that aircraft in December 2004. So I've been a very patient person," said Smisek, the president and CEO of United Continental Holdings Inc.

I'm writing this from the American Airlines terminal at O'Hare, where I am sad to report American has not yet said when they expect to receive their first Dreamliners.

United Continental plans to use its first 787 for nonstop service between Houston-Bush and Auckland, N.Z., a short 11,930 km and 16 hours apart. Of course, that makes the point of flying a 787 on that route obvious: it's a hugely more fuel-efficient airplane, and more comfortable (which isn't really as important as the fuel savings to any airline, of course).