Let's take a family cruise (with doggy) on the taxpayer's dime.

city car 1.jpg One of the greatest problems in government is perception. People sometimes expect too much from our elected officials. Many governmental administrations are full of friends and family of elected officials that abuse privileges and give the perception of corruption, waste, and mismanagement. Yesterday, I noticed a Municipal Plate on a black crown Victoria. When I pulled up, I noticed a man with his son and a dog jumping around the back seat. This occurred June 11, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. The car was heading east bound on Peterson Avenue; they passed Lincoln and California Avenue. I hope taxpayers are aware this happy family did not need to pay for gas, insurance, and maintenance. I am sure the taxpayers would be on the hook if this family was in an accident. Folks, no one should be in a city vehicle expect a city worker on city business. This is theft and misconduct. Please have the person driving a black Crown Victoria with municipal plate number M 145496 contact us at Chicago Clout for some nice family pictures. Let’s watch what the Chicago Inspector General does with this dude. I would expect Daley to abuse this privilege, not anyone else. Photo by Patrick McDonough

5 Replies to “Let's take a family cruise (with doggy) on the taxpayer's dime.”

  1. Mayor Daley runs up big debts building his global city; what about the rest of Chicago?
    By: Greg Hinz and Steven R. Strahler June 14, 2010
    To see how Chicago has changed under Mayor Richard M. Daley, walk through the Near South Side.

    What two decades ago was an urban desert, best known for its Skid Row, now is a place of glittering condo towers, bustling stores and restaurants. The population — including Rich and Maggie Daley — has tripled since 1990 while income has more than quadrupled.

    Just four miles south, in Washington Park, where Mr. Daley hoped to host the 2016 Olympics, population is down, jobs and stores are scarce, and incomes are a tiny fraction of those in the South Loop.

    In 1989, the year Mr. Daley was first elected mayor, Chicago was widely considered the buckle on the Rust Belt. Getty Images photoAs Mr. Daley, 68, prepares a presumed run for an unprecedented seventh term, economic data examined by Crain’s show his success over the past 21 years in remaking Chicago’s business center and nearby neighborhoods into a “global city,” where incomes and education levels are high and amenities are world-class.
    But big parts of Chicago have been left behind. And the city is stuck with the debts Mr. Daley has piled up on infrastructure-rebuilding and gentrification, including the cost of projects such as the Olympics bid, Millennium Park, theater districts, median planters — not to mention underfinanced city pensions and the tax-increment financing subsidies doled out to downtown developers.

    “If this was a business, I’d frankly question how long you can keep doing this before the (bond) markets freeze you out,” says former Cook County CFO Woods Bowman, now at DePaul University.

    Bonded debt and long-term leases have risen much faster than the city’s property-tax base under Mr. Daley and now amount to about $5,600 for each Chicagoan. Then there’s billions in unfunded pension liabilities — another $5,000 per Chicagoan — and one of the deepest municipal budget holes in the country.

    That budget gap, called “unsustainable” by Chicago’s Civic Federation, will hamstring Mr. Daley if he wins another term. The question is whether he is the right person to lead the city out of a fiscal morass created in large part by his drive to make Chicago a mecca for wealthy professionals and international corporations.

    The mayor clearly succeeded in making Chicago attractive and safe for the upper middle-class — and for corporate America, which was leaving town until a newly vibrant downtown lured such names as Boeing Co., UAL Corp. and MillerCoors. A Crain’s survey finds local business people hold Mr. Daley and his policies in high regard. (See sidebar, below.)

    Overall, Chicago is wealthier than it was — especially compared to its own suburbs — with social indicators like violent crime and infant mortality headed down.

    But as the city’s financial woes deepen, Mr. Daley will be hard-pressed to finance the policies that business likes, much less boost the fortunes of neighborhoods beyond downtown.

    Despite his attention to the schools and public housing, much of Chicago is mired in the past, with incomes stagnant, public schools little-improved and the total number of jobs still dropping.

    Worse, Chicago appears to be in the midst of an African-American middle-class flight in some ways similar to the devastating white exodus of the ’60s and ’70s.

    Governing amid such disparity — per capita income growth in eight downtown neighborhoods in the past 20 years exceeds total per capita income in most of the rest of the city — will be a major challenge.

    Today’s Chicago is Richard M. Daley’s town. It is time to measure what he’s built.

    Mr. Daley declined to be interviewed for this story.

    Click categories above to view maps and graphics in separate pop-up windows
    FISCAL

    Finances long have been considered Mr. Daley’s strength, and for good reason.

    Inflation-adjusted spending in the city’s corporate, or operating, fund rose just 18.8% between 1989 and 2008, well under the 58.3% U.S. city average over that period, according to the National League of Cities. Watchdogs such as the Civic Federation cheered as Mr. Daley shifted from relying on property taxes to user fees and fines.

    Even frequent Daley critic Dick Simpson, a former alderman now teaching political science at the University of Illinois at Chicago, terms the mayor “a pretty good fiscal manager — until now.”

    The worst recession of the Daley era battered Chicago’s operating budget. The deficit as a percentage of spending is now 16.3%, higher than Los Angeles’ 11.2% and New York’s 8.2%, according to a recent study by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

    Even if the economic recovery improves those numbers, the bigger problem is what Chicago has spent on things other than day-to-day operations and what it hasn’t set aside to pay worker pensions.

    Capital investment in items like streets, libraries, sidewalks and schools has been Mr. Daley’s hallmark. “He’s been much more creative on that than many other cities,” viewing public works spending as an investment, says MarySue Barrett, a former aide who heads the Metropolitan Planning Council.

    Mr. Daley borrowed an enormous portion of the money for those projects. Combined with other borrowing for Chicago Public Schools, the Chicago Park District and other agencies that Mr. Daley controls, total bonded debt and long-term capital leases for city government have surged 263% on an inflation-adjusted basis. The city’s property-tax base has increased, too, but not as much, at 151%.

    What hasn’t been borrowed for such projects comes from TIF districts, which now claim $500 million a year in property tax dollars. If that half-billion per year were considered part of the city’s regular property-tax levy, an almost-flat city levy over the past 20 years would become an 18.6% increase, adjusted for inflation.

    At the same time, the city faces $14.8 billion in unfunded pension liabilities, according to the Civic Federation. Chicago has just 42.7% of the assets on hand it will need for future pensions — the second-lowest of 11 big cities recently studied by Pew. While pension benefits are set by the Illinois General Assembly, not City Hall, it’s still a real obligation for city taxpayers.

    Mayor Richard M. Daley has tackled many of the issues — chronically underperforming schools and CHA housing among them — that his father, Richard J. Daley, mayor from 1955 to 1976, never dared confront.
    Getty Images photo

    Mr. Daley’s response has been to raise cash via long-term leases of city assets, with mixed results. Some financial experts, such as former city budget director Donald Haider, now at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, say the deals helped pull Chicago out its post-industrial funk. Pre-Daley, “there was some betting going on as to whether Chicago would survive as a working city,” he says.

    But even Mr. Haider worries about the pension liabilities. “It’s like a Pac-man. It will eat you alive,” he says.

    Civic Federation President Laurence Msall, while nodding at what the spending bought, warns the city “has developed a long-term structural deficit . . . hundreds of millions of dollars annually.”

    INCOME AND DEMOGRAPHICS

    For a town once dubbed the buckle on the Rust Belt, Chicago — part of it, anyhow — has made strong, even stunning progress in repositioning itself for the 21st century.

    One particularly impressive finding: While the share of adult Chicagoans who hold college degrees trailed the national rate 20 years ago, data derived from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2008 American Community Survey indicate that 30.2% hold at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to 27.4% nationally.

    That rise also was documented by the Brookings Institution, which found that from 2000 to 2008, Chicago moved to 29th from 41st among the 100 largest U.S. cities in percentage of college graduates — ahead of even New York.

    Those are the lawyers, consultants, traders, media mavens and the like who work downtown, providing the brainpower needed by big companies that could locate just about anywhere in the world.

    Another finding: The share of high-income households in Chicago proper has drawn even with its suburbs. In 1990, according to census data compiled by the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, a Chicago watchdog, the city proportionately had about half as many households as the suburbs with incomes of at least $100,000 a year. By 2008 the two were virtually even, with 19.4% of Chicago households at that level, compared to 20.9% in the metropolitan area.

    That helps explain why the nominal value of the city’s property-tax base since 1989 has risen faster than that in suburban Cook County, up 336% vs. the suburbs’ 270%, according to County Assessor Jim Houlihan’s office.

    Pre-Daley, ‘there was some betting going on as to whether Chicago would survive as a working city.’

    — Donald Haider, former city
    of Chicago budget directorHowever, the bulk of that new wealth ended up in just a few central neighborhoods, an arc swinging from the Near South Side west to about the United Center, then north and east up the lakefront about as far as Uptown. That swath is attractive both to young adults and empty-nesters in search of opportunity and an urban lifestyle.
    According to data compiled for Crain’s by California-based Environmental Systems Research Institute Inc., per capita income in most Chicago community areas, or neighborhoods, grew faster than inflation between 1990 and 2010. The major exceptions were on the city’s northwest and southwest edges, which underwent significant ethnic change during the period. On paper (See map, Page 9) the gains look particularly impressive on the heavily African-American South and West sides.

    But the bulk of the latter gains were in the booming ’90s, and the starting income was so low in those areas that the actual gains in dollars are fairly small.

    The gains are much more significant in eight downtown and near-downtown neighborhoods — the Near South Side, Near West Side, Loop, Near North Side, West Town, Lincoln Park, Lake View and North Center — that collectively are home to one in six Chicagoans, or about 465,000 people. In each of those eight areas, per capita income during the Daley era rose by at least $20,000 — more than total 2010 per capita income in 38 of the city’s remaining 73 community areas.

    How much credit does Mr. Daley get for that?

    Columbia University sociologist Saskia Sassen, whose research on urban economics is followed worldwide, calls that data “quite amazing” — and quite consistent with her theory that a “global city” develops almost as a city within a city, one that serves not nearby neighborhoods or suburbs but a network of international markets in need of specialized services.

    For local business leaders, it’s Daley by a landslide
    Mayor Richard M. Daley won overwhelming support as a business-friendly mayor in an exclusive Crain’s poll of executives at 300 Chicago companies with 50 or more employees. The city itself, as a place to do business, got an even bigger landslide.

    Just less than half of those polled said the Daley administration had done an “excellent” or “good” job of creating a beneficial business climate — five times the 9% who said it had done a “poor” or “below average” job. Those indicating that the city’s business climate had improved during Mr. Daley’s 21-year tenure were three times as numerous as those who said it had declined.

    When asked what impact a Chicago location had on their companies, 81% of executives responding said it was of “good” or “great” benefit, while just 2% said it had hurt their businesses — a 40-to-1 ratio. Only 5% said they planned to shrink, close or move out of the city.

    View the survey results in a pop-up window

    “What really surprised me was how good the city’s numbers are,” says Michael McKeon of Joliet-based McKeon & Associates, which conducted the poll in early May. “Basically, the businesses here feel the marketplace is going to determine whether they sink or swim, not the government.”

    Executives find a kindred spirit in Mr. Daley, a virtually unfettered ruler of City Hall who can make and keep commitments. They don’t like the city’s mounting fiscal problems or its persistent corruption, and they still recoil at the memory of the mayor’s abrupt sabotage of Meigs Field in 2003. But, seeing no heir apparent, they remain enthusiastic Daley supporters.

    “There’s a deference to the mayor of Chicago that you don’t find in other cities,” says former Indianapolis Mayor William Hudnut, who as president of the Civic Federation in the mid-1990s was “startled” by Mr. Daley’s ability to summon groups of CEOs on short notice. “They know he means business.”

    Says Douglas Whitley, president and CEO of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce: “They feel a greater kinship with the mayor because he comes across like a peer. He acts like a CEO. He emotes passion and confidence he’s in charge, and people feel that.”

    Barry Cohodes, 60, chief financial officer of Logan Square Aluminum Supply Inc., says the city works, though not always smoothly. He condemns the city’s permitting process, its “head” and “use” taxes, and what he terms a lack of progress at Chicago Public Schools. The city’s bureaucracy also is little improved, he argues. He’ll get a regulatory notice to call City Hall and get no response when he does, he says.

    But Mr. Cohodes applauds transportation improvements under Mr. Daley that have helped his Northwest Side company, which supplies building materials and vinyl replacement windows and operates kitchen and design showrooms: “They’ve brought Midway back from the dead,” he says, adding, “Give him a round of applause for snow removal. He seems to have figured that out.”

    Mr. Cohodes also cheers Mr. Daley’s effectiveness in promoting a greener city: “He put his money where his mouth is.”

    Another poll respondent, the owner of a mid-sized food distributor who asked not to be identified, said the firm was frustrated by city actions and inaction when she attempted to build a warehouse in the Back of the Yards neighborhood in the late 1990s; instead, she put the facility in a south suburb.

    Warhorses like former Illinois Tool Works Inc. CEO James Farrell, at 68 a Daley contemporary, see the mayor as a reliable and sometimes persuadable partner on business priorities such as O’Hare International Airport expansion.

    “For whatever reason — I still don’t know what it is — he jumped on the bandwagon and got it done,” says Mr. Farrell, who chairs a state finance task force for the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago.

    “He’s a guy — at least my experience with him — I know where he stands, and he knows where I stand. I know what he’s going to do; he knows what I’m going to do, generally. I talk to people in Springfield and the governor’s office and I have no clue.”

    Steven R. StrahlerThe implication is that this sort of wealth might have developed on its own here, but that’s too simple, according to Ms. Sassen. The residents of such neighborhoods demand not just nice homes but “luxury consumption space, cultural amenities . . . (top) architecture, design, art, trees, flowers, everything well-kept.” And all within walking distance, “a world unto its own.”
    Schaumburg-based housing consultant Tracy Cross makes the same point.

    Asked how much credit Mr. Daley deserves for the fact that Chicago in recent years has issued nearly half of all permits for new housing units in the metropolitan area, most of them downtown, he says the answer is not so much what Mr. Daley did as what he didn’t do. “It’s really the market that dictated,” he says. But Mr. Daley “allowed” certain zoning, even in former factory areas, and was free with TIF subsidies. “He’s been flexible.”

    THE OTHER CHICAGO

    That, however, creates its own set of problems.

    Mr. Daley deserves credit for what’s happened downtown and for launching the modernization of O’Hare International Airport, says state Sen. James Meeks, a South Side minister whose church is one of the largest in the state. But it’s not enough, he says. “He’s the mayor of the city of Chicago, not (just) the Loop or the Near West Side.”

    Indeed, for the whole of Chicago — particularly the 2.5 million who don’t live in the downtown global city — the numbers are more sobering, even though one of Mr. Daley’s biggest accomplishments has been to quell the racial politics of the ’70s and ’80s.

    The city’s infant mortality rate is half what it used to be, but still well above national rates. Similarly, violent crime is dropping faster here than in the U.S. as a whole, but Chicago’s murder rate remains as far above the nation’s as it was. The total number of jobs in the city, while fluctuating with the national economy, has continued on a downward trend, dropping from 1.334 million in 1989 to 1.235 million in 2008 and 1.175 million in 2009, according to the Illinois Department of Employment Security, though the number of employers has risen.

    Mr. Daley dared to take on problems his father ducked: demolishing many of the Chicago Housing Authority’s high-rises in favor of new, mixed-income developments and taking almost personal control of Chicago Public Schools.

    Results at the latter have been mixed. The high-school graduation rate rose to 56% from 46% between 1992 and 2006, mostly in the early portion of that period, according to the University of Chicago’s Consortium on School Research.

    For some, that’s good enough. “Not everything he’s attempted has worked. But he’s certainly tried, and it’s paid off to the extent that there is a critical mass of schools that people want to attend,” says Chicago lawyer Bill Singer, a former alderman who ran against Mayor Richard J. Daley in 1975 on a platform of fixing the schools.

    With Barack Obama, a South Sider, in the White House, Mr. Daley’s clout has grown. Newscom photo

    For others, it’s not even close. “We still have very troublesome dropout rates,” says Sylvia Puente, executive director of the Latino Policy Forum. “We still fail to see significant Latino leadership in schools helping to make a difference. We can’t make a difference if we’re not there.”

    Chicago’s African-American population is falling fast, off perhaps 100,000, or 10%, in the past decade, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Brookings Institute and others.

    Some of those who left may be ex-CHA residents displaced when their buildings came down. But former Chicago Urban League chief Cheryle Jackson says two other factors likely are more important.

    In the ’90s, African-American departure was prompted mostly by gentrification that priced some working-class families out of town, Urban League research found, she says. Now, more upscale folks are leading the parade, many of them college educated.

    “They’re going to Atlanta. They’re going to other places” where job prospects are brighter, she says.

    Housing watcher Mr. Cross sees the same trends. African-Americans are dispersing, he says, both to the suburbs and to “markets that are more favorable in regard to employment.”

    What now?

    The jobs question is central to the debate Chicago may have if Mr. Daley runs for a new term in February: Along with how to end the still embarrassingly frequent instances of City Hall corruption, the issue is whether a new mayor could do better than Mr. Daley in stemming job losses and spreading the wealth without breaking the bank.

    With Mr. Daley’s preferred methods of stimulating growth all but tapped out, he’ll need new ideas. That requires new talent in the administration — the kind of creative thinkers Mr. Daley surrounded himself with early in his tenure but now mostly lacks. His recent move to shake up City Colleges of Chicago shows promise in moving poor kids to the next level. But is it enough?

    “The place just needs a freshened attitude,” says Paul O’Connor, who headed World Business Chicago, the city’s corporate recruitment arm, until 2008. “I’m not sure how much is him. But it’s become him. The city is moi.”

    Mr. O’Connor faults the city for not taking advantage of its huge tracts of industrial property located next to prime highway and rail connections. “Downtown has the best digital infrastructure on the planet. Period. But when you go a mile-and-a-half away, it’s not there. . . . So we get the headquarters of the windmill company, and Indiana gets the jobs building the windmills. Why?”

    A related question: With the Olympics dream dead, can Mr. Daley develop big new employment ideas? It’s worth noting that arguably the biggest economic initiatives of his tenure — remaking O’Hare and McCormick Place — came about only because outside forces (ex-Gov. George Ryan and convention industry leaders, respectively) got him fully engaged.

    ‘ I think we’re coming to a (financial) reckoning.’

    — Tom Murphy,
    senior resident fellow,
    Urban Land InstituteEx-Urban League chief Ms. Jackson says Mr. Daley hasn’t done enough with city contracts to build emerging black-owned businesses. “Education is important. But you first have to have economic stability so that parents can concentrate on education,” she says.
    Jerry Roper, president and CEO of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, says the city’s entire ruling class, not just the mayor, needs to expand its focus. “One of Chicago’s biggest failings is that we have not figured out enough ways to attract enough companies to those other (non-Loop, non-global) communities.”

    Chicago-based Aaron Renn, whose Urbanophile blog is widely followed by city experts nationwide, raised the same question last year in a lengthy piece.

    Chicago needs to be “not just yet another generic world city” but to create a unique market niche in areas like high tech if it is to convert recent progress into long-term gains, he wrote. Mr. Renn was sketchy on exactly what other role Chicago might fill and how political leaders might get it there.

    Mr. Cross says no other path is apparent because Mr. Daley has oriented the city’s economic policies along the only path that made sense. “Are you going to compete on both globalization and manufacturing? You’re not,” he says. “Are you going to compete with right-to-work states? No. The market dictated what he did.”

    If anyone else with a real chance to win is planning to run for mayor next February, they’re keeping it pretty quiet. “There is no apparent leadership cadre that can come forward,” says lawyer Richard Friedman, who lost to Richard J. Daley in 1971.

    If Mr. Daley still cows potential opponents, converting that political power into economic benefits for Chicago becomes harder as its financial condition deteriorates.

    “He’s had the political base that most of us would love to have. He’s used it for the long term. Very few public officials have that luxury,” says former Pittsburgh mayor Tom Murphy, now senior resident fellow at the Urban Land Institute, a Washington, D.C., think tank. “Yet . . . I think we’re coming to a reckoning” on city finances.

  2. I am just being me, it is wrong for someone to use that vehicle at tax payers expense, but how do you know it is a city of Chicago official?? other cities and towns have those plates assigned to their cars even counties and state vehicles have M class plates, get a facial pic next time Pat and post it then that driver will be identified

  3. What about Joe Gill formally with Streets & San Bureau of electricity who received only a 30 day suspension for being involved in at least 2 unreported accidents ( one with injuries) with a city car.

    No he is with General Services and sits in a chair a North & Throop.

    Gill who lives on North west side and close to North Park village drives his vehicle there in morning and proceeds to drive a city vehicle to his work location at North & Throop

    He probably swipes in out there also

    Oh Did I mention that his brother in law is Pat Harny , Chief of staff for Mayor ( Ex- CTA and aviation (DUI)

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