Another Round of Kabuki Theatre

Background Reading


Renovation work at the South Shore Cultural Center is among the projects put on hold after Gov. Bruce Rauner froze $28 million in state funding for 27 Chicago parks projects. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has asked the governor to unfreeze those funds. | File Photo

Renovation work at the South Shore Cultural Center is among the projects put on hold after Gov. Bruce Rauner froze $28 million in state funding for 27 Chicago parks projects. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has asked the governor to unfreeze those funds. | File Photo

The public rift between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his pal, Gov. Bruce Rauner, got wider Thursday, thanks to Rauner’s decision to “immediately freeze” $28 million in state grants for 27 park improvement projects in Chicago.

Already on record as condemning Rauner’s doomsday budget, Emanuel demanded that the rookie governor “immediately reverse” the order conveyed by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to the Chicago Park District.

Park projects placed in jeopardy by the governor’s order include renovations to the artificial turf fields and facilities at Columbus Park; facility renovations at Archer, Dvorak, Garfield, Hamilton, Douglas, Eckhart, Robichaux, Holstein and Harris Parks and the Lincoln Cultural Center; an expansion at Walsh Park and construction of an indoor track and field facility at Gately Park.

Also hanging in the balance is the so-called “Magid Glove” acquisition needed to complete the Bloomingdale Trail, also known as the “606.”

“It effects 27 different–not only parks, but 27 different neighborhoods that families depend on,” the mayor said after joining former Chicago Public Schools CEO-turned U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan at Ariel Community Academy. 1119 E. 46th Street, to discuss student financial literacy.

“We’re in the second year of making sure that we rebuild all the playgrounds in Chicago. It’s not just a playground or a park, although it is that. This is where the fabric of a community and neighborhood come together. This is why, from Day One, I opposed his budget and I opposed the idea of cuts in public transportation.”

Emanuel is campaigning for re-election—and fighting for his political life in the April 7 runoff against Jesus “Chuy” Garcia—on a promise to make certain that every child in Chicago lives within a ten-minute walk of a park.

Over the last four years, Emanuel claims that his scorecard includes 750 additional acres of new park land, 27 new turf fields, 17 new parks and 11 new community facilities. He also claims to have refurbished 150 playgrounds.

All of that progress is now in jeopardy as a result of Rauner’s freeze, the mayor contends.

“This is how you build a strong city, strong state. The fact is, parks and playgrounds are where our communities come together and where they’re strengthened. This is wrong-headed policy–another way of cutting and under-cutting our neighborhoods that are the backbone of Chicago,” the mayor said.

Emanuel and Rauner are longtime friends, education reform allies and former business associates who made millions together. Their families have vacationed together.

That’s why Garcia has questioned the sincerity of Emanuel’s opposition to Rauner’s doomsday budget by noting that Emanuel and Rauner are “good friends” who talk regularly and share “expensive wines together.”

Last week, Emanuel set out to prove that he is, indeed, fighting for everyday Chicagoans and does not deserve the “Mayor 1 percent” label that his challenger has used to define him.

The mayor stood in front of a fire truck at a University Village firehouse used to film the show, “Chicago Fire,” and condemned a Rauner budget that would devastate social services and force the 1,000 police layoffs.

“I philosophically, fundamentally disagree with indiscriminate cuts across the board without regard to impact,” the mayor said on that day.

Do I look like a silent person? I’ve been very clear to all the leaders as well as to the governor that this budget will not stand. It’s wrong for Chicago. … This budget walks away from that future by not investing in our families and our children.

Emanuel said then there are “certain people at least in the Rauner home who believe in early childhood education.”

The mayor was referring to the governor’s wife, Diana, who serves as president of the Ounce of Prevention Fund, which advocates for early childhood education programs that narrow the achievement gap for at-risk kids.

Instead of wielding the budget ax in a way that would deprive Chicago of “hundreds of millions of dollars,” Emanuel said Rauner should home in on “corporate loopholes” like he did.  Implied, but not stated, was the mayor’s claim that he had the guts to take on the corporate donors who filled his campaign fund with $15 million.

Garcia said last week he wasn’t fooled by the mayor’s argument that he’s really, truly fighting hard against the his pal’s budget.

“The mayor should go to Springfield and sit with Rauner. Maybe open up one of those expensive bottles [of wine] and figure out how he’s going to really fight for the people of Chicago when his buddy is the person who’s bringing on the bad news that will spare no one in the city of Chicago, especially the most vulnerable people,” Garcia said.

“I’m not blaming him. I’m saying he needs to fight for the city of Chicago and it happens to be that his friend is the proponent of the Draconian budget cuts that will devastate Chicago.”


The article above is an excellent example of having your lapdogs at the local newspaper write a piece for you that makes it seem as if you are in a ‘doomsday struggle‘ with your political opponent. On one level this sort of thing is dishonest. On the other it is a garden variety tactic.

Think of it this way. A very wealthy couple is getting a divorce. He has found a ‘soul mate‘ half his age and she is ‘entertaining her physical trainer‘ on a regular basis. There is a prenuptial that neither wants to be guilty of breaking but each is.

So they hire two very successful law teams and pay through the nose to have their spouse framed as a really nasty person who is selfish and wants nothing more than to gain custody of the children and be off to Aruba with their vile romantic interest.

And of course every person who secretly loves this sort of salacious gossip is glued to their SmartPhone and lapping up each juice tidbit. The guys are hunting on Google for photos of her lover and the gals are weighing in on the looks of his hottie.

This my friends is what political bargaining looks like via news outlets.

Here Are The Facts

Money is tight. The mayor (and his predecessor) has tried every trick in the book. They took a cool billion to allow someone else to manage the on-street parking for Chicago. It turns out this was a ‘bad deal‘.

Along comes the technology wonks who have devised was to loosen up cash from the citizenry without appearing to raise taxes. They call these neat things red light and speed cameras. They actually work! They free up police from having to sit around getting fat and eating donuts and coffee to stay awake before pulling you over for minor infractions, instead of stopping gang-bangers from shooting each other to death and because of their lack of weapons skills killing innocent bystanders. But that ain’t working either.

To insure however that the city gets a steady cash stream the count-down timers on the street lights have been dialed down to ‘trip up‘ the young turks driving their cafe racers with a hot babe in the passenger seat who are desperately trying to prove to their lady just how ‘fly‘ they are. But instead of reducing the number of t-bone crashes (the supposed justification for the red light cameras in the first instance) all that anyone has managed to do in increase the cases of rear ending by these knuckleheads who are watching her legs rather than the car stopped at the light in front of them. Wham!

Now if that young lady is not the one they are married to, things get a bit iffy. When that ticket arrives in the mail and ‘momma‘ see it she wants to know who the ho’ is picture beside you. And lord knows you have some ‘explaining‘ to do. So your nascent political skills kick into overdrive and you start ranting about ‘niggers‘ being subjected to unfair practices and stuff like that. And she looks at your face and wants to believe you and forgets about that long-legged beauty sitting next to you and how you were just driving her home because her mother is gravely ill and her car was in the shop and blah, blah, blah.

And both you as mayor and the governor know ‘from the jump‘ ain’t nobody gonna have to take this lying down, so you start a verbal distraction which seems to be working.

Now the reality is both the governor and mayor are hoping that by putting the hot potato in the lap of the judiciary they both can then point at them for having broken faith with all the pensioners and they both can get back to having their buddies getting sweetheart deals under the table and you and I are played for suckers.

Both of them know that the future of the economy is so lousy that banks are paying such low interest for savings accounts that it almost amounts to nothing. They also are both counting on being able to dole out a bit here and there to bicyclists and motorcyclists in anticipation of the next round of funding cuts at which time another scapegoat (other than the judiciary) will have to be found.

These guys are counting on our personal greed. Rahm knows that cyclists would sell their mother for a mess of pottage if it means they get to attend yet another photo-op and talk smack about motorists. Meanwhile both Rahm and Rauner are gearing up for the real tug-of-war which is the fight for the hearts and minds of motorists.

Like it or not only the ‘fringe‘ folks bother to ride everywhere on a bicycle. Most Americans are like they were during the tennis craze here in America. Everybody had on a tennis suit. If you are too young to remember those days, then let me apprise of the fact that Principal Sue Sylvester of the television show Glee is wearing one, all the time.

And today everyone who is ‘cool‘ has bought a cruiser or is looking for one and manages to show up at family picnics in summer weather by bicycle. The first snow flakes or cool breezes that come into play in late fall mean that they are back in the family Lexus sedan and if they are wealthy enough probably using their Mercedes 4-Matic instead.

Please do not get it into your heads that because you are seeing more bicycles in the corners of your television screen when you are watching your favorite shows that bicycles are really ‘getting big‘. All you have to do is think back to the last time you saw anyone playing tennis or even shopping for groceries in a tennis outfit to understand just how fast we Americans will drop a trendy thing to move on to something else.

Here Is A Real Life Example

A friend told me the day that Scott Walker was approached after his election as governor of Wisconsin that he was thrilled at the fact that the use of the Hoan Bridge (as part of the United Peforming Arts Fund charity bicycle ride route) was given the go-ahead by the Gov. Walker. Then the turmoil in Madison over unions came about and suddenly the luster had worn off the halo for the very man the state had elected.

It was not a surprise that he had been aiming to create an environment in which there was far less dependence on the largesse of unions in keeping budgets small. And so he went for the jugular and won. And the son of that friend just wrote the following:

Make sure you attend one of the 4 budget hearing committee meetings to make your voice for cycling heard! – If Walkers budget gets approved, say goodbye to adding more bike lanes, and pedestrian friendly street remodels.…/03/10/budget-hearings-schedu…/

My first question is why are you warning us just now. Everyone knew this was going to happen, why the ‘chicken little approach‘ to the falling skies? Did everyone suddenly realize that a Conservative governor was not going to tackle what he considers ‘waste, fraud and abuse‘? And of course by definition that means anything having to do with unions but especially governmental union entities.

So we will have to watch how things play out in Wisconsin to get some idea of what is in store for us here in Illinois.

Some Suggestions

As usual I would council what I know the ‘hardliners‘ in the Urban Cycling Movement this is anathema, compromise. After all you have no cards to play when it comes to the budget. Nobody not even the guys at Grist truly believes that the group which represents less than one percent of the transportation landscape has much real clout. And clout here is spelled m-o-n-e-y.

Cyclists in urban areas are younger than their gas guzzling counterparts in the suburbs. They are still single in many cases and thus favor life in urban areas. But once they find a mate it is clear that they prefer the suburbs:

So unless you can find a way to explain how having the bulk of your political backing coming from folks whose idea of a great night is drinking craft beers, then you are going to have to admit that aside from breweries few other businesses are thriving in hipster areas.

And if you are not seeing hipster billionaires sprouting up all around you are likely to come to realize that the bike movement is basically going to live or die on the strength of the tax income that can be scrounge from the citizenry.

So, yes. You need to stop being ‘assholes‘ (my first naughty word in this particular blog) and come to realize that you are not the center of the universe and neither are your dreams of bikes lanes ‘up the ting-yang‘. My guess is that the crowning and lasting bicycle infrastructure achievement of the Emanuel Administration will be the Bloomingdale Trail. A close second will be the flyover near Navy Pier.

Nobody will look at Dearborn Street and see this as a ‘breakthrough achievement‘. And as for the Berteau Greenway, I would guess that fewer than a 100 people who ride bikes even know where it is situated, let alone have a positive opinion of it.

Think about it. Nobody who drives a car thinks that the Lake Shore Drive is cool enough to make a special visit to see, except tourists. Now the truly smart ones probably have sussed out the location of Museum Campus and have grabbed a Divvy bike and tootled over to the Chicago Lakefront Trail. And in the process they have managed to discover the Lake Shore Drive as well.

But our roadways are seldom the subject of visits for their own sake. Now a bike lane like the one in Indianapolis is quite different. That would classify as a tourist attraction.

Chicago would have (in my opinion) done far better to build those sorts of sightseeing trails. It would be far cooler to have a trail that took you through the historic areas of Bronzeville or the Pullman Corridor than to merely have a collection of bike lanes that are poorly maintained (if at all).

These people would understand bring in tourist dollars. In fact they would be places that natives of the area could take out-of-town guests. But instead we have focused on mundane bike lanes that do nowhere in particular and are often worse than no lanes at all.

So went next round of budget cutting comes (and it will) be sure to keep in mind what it is that is important. You need to frame the request for bicycle infrastructure in terms that shout ‘Rahm and Bruce’s Pedal Way To Historical Legacies‘.

You need to be reframing the request for sustainable infrastructure as something that anybody in the city would care to see built.