Sunday, September 29, 2013

What is "Development" anyway?

Early yesterday (Saturday) morning an article was tweeted into my timeline with the description:
Vice lord drug dealer gets a city grant with help from an Alderman for a LIQUOR STORE. Because, Chicago. WTF
— Jeff Johnson (@Jeff_Johnson27)
While everything in this tweet is true, I have to say I came away with a different headline in my head from the article. No one is more cynical than I regarding Chicago Aldermen/women but I didn’t think Ald. Deborah Graham really came off that bad. Yes, she did help get a liquor store in an area that didn’t want it-but did want business-and yes the owner was a current/former gang leader/drug dealer. And yes, you’ll be shocked, shocked, that said current/former gang leader/drug dealer gave her financial contributions. But, in fairness to Graham, Frederick “Juicy” Sims clearly put some effort into hiding his background and worked around the restrictions typically put on felons in a typical way, he had a friend sign key forms.
It’s easy to rip the Graham for this but liquor stores are business-and Sims emphasized the “grocery” aspect of his store, eliminating “food deserts” is an explicit goal of the Mayor, and other as well. Having somebody front for your business is time-honored tradition in Chicago too, it’s common practice in building contracts when preferential treatment is given to minorities/woman to have somebody’s wife suddenly be the owner. As for the vetting process, well let’s remember that the comptroller of the city was hired after a conversation with two lawyers. While he was under federal bribery probe. 
This last point is important, there’s too much media attention paid to relatively small-fish corruption and not enough to the big fish. Big fish would be the tight nexus of corporations that walk in and out of City Hall, securing contracts for millions for stuff most people didn’t even know existed. Why does Lois Scott still have a job? It’s clear that her chief objective is to loot city hall,  she is “a specialist in public-private partnerships”. In other words, she’s an expert in taking public money, our money, and funneling it to private corporations. Which she happens have a stake in. What was the attempt to privatize Midway but a giant hand-out to the preferred corporate friends of the Mayor? Gee, it’s hard to follow why the mayor has millions in his campaign fund, when he doesn’t even have a challenger. 
But to get back to the Austin neighborhood the article did present the current dilemma of “development” for low-income neighborhoods, or any neighborhoods for that matter. As detailed by Richard Florida the so-called “recovery” has been very uneven, with most significant growth occurring in low-wage jobs, in some places, this has been nearly all of the job growth. The fact is, nobody really *knows* how to create economic growth, or the jobs that are the essential element. If it was easy, we’d have done it already.
The article detailed the projects the city tried to kickstart, but didn’t take, probably at least in part because of the poor quality of the applicants. But of course in a neighborhood like Austin I’m sure the attitude is take what you can get. But there are real questions here, how do you decide what to fund, how to fund, and what is the role of the community?
In my mind there are two issues here, one, what are best practices to “develop” areas, especially low-income, and two, what about the TIFs themselves which are the primary method of economic development in Chicago. I got into a bit of a conversation on twitter about this (read the storify version here, there is a great visual by @grantfoss). To sum it up, TIFs or no TIFs development has always concentrated on the downtown/Loop business district, to the general detriment of everybody else. It’s really the same old story, the transfer of money/services from the 99% to the 1%. But the current economic model is so in thrall with the “job creators” that it is taken for granted that corporate handouts are the only way to go, and hope there is enough of a “trickle down” effect to keep everybody else from starving. 
A person in the article states that the city has “no plan for Austin” but to be perfectly fair here, does the city have a “plan” for anywhere? It is truly amazing, to think in a city like Chicago, with some of the finest universities in the world, a vibrant non-profit community, and many active neighborhood associations, what passes for “development” is whatever hare-brained idea a corporate led-board came up with, usually led by the usual suspects. We need to expand the idea of “development”-how can we use the resources we have to create better opportunities for the most people? Is it possible to have true public-private partnerships when it comes to investment or *puts armor on* should the city invest and manage directly in some instances? Yes, that “increases” government but are the endless checks written to “consultants” really better? It’s not an accident these processes are opaque, that in spite of this being the digital age there is little transparency in any aspect of city, county, and state government. That is not by accident, the further you keep key information from the masses the less they will be involved. 
Just because it’s *always been that way* doesn’t mean it always has to be. While silly people are fond of comparing Chicago to Detroit, they are very different places. We have great wealth, both literally and figuratively. The question is how can we harness it to serve the people, the 99%, versus the 1%.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

On Syria and “doing something”

So over a year after the civil conflict in Syria began the Obama administration feels it must “use force” because a “red line has been crossed” and wants to engage in “limited surgical strikes”.

There isn’t any question that Assad is awful, that millions of people are suffering, directly and indirectly. But the situation in Syria is a civil war, and in the history of the world civil wars are ugly, and they ultimately have to be determined by the people themselves, not decided by outside forces who have little knowledge or interest. Even if the Obama administration had a good grasp of the situation, which is questionable, it is quite likely bombing will likely have little effect, except to make things worse. It could actually strengthen the Assad regime-as no middle east country supports it, and may actually make things harder for the opposition forces. And than there are those opposition forces themselves, a mix of Syrian nationalists, Islamic radicals, and at least a few Al Queda people, fueled by money from the Gulf states. There are substantial minority populations, Christians among them, who genuinely fear what may occur if Assad is gone.

As pointed out in this excellent summary the Obama administration does not have any real plans to limit the use of chemical weapons-which of course we have turned a blind eye to before, see the Iran-Iraq war, Fullujah, and doesn't even necessarily want to get rid of Assad. Also on the use of chemical weapons there is evidence that US intelligence knew beforehand the possibility of an attack, and made no attempt to warn the revolutionary forces.  

As people ask, is there anything else we can do beside bomb, there is little coverage to the point-covered in the previously cited post-that US has never taken diplomacy seriously. This is in large part because it refuses to acknowledge Iran. The media has given little, if any, coverage to the idea that in fact diplomacy might have a shot if the Obama administration really got down to it, engaged ALL the regional players (not just the ones they like), and insisted they come up with something. The Obama administration could also commit to increased support for refugees and support to countries such as Turkey and Jordan who are supporting refugees and have suffered affects of the war. For a non-American power centered perspective this interview with Noam Chomsky by a Syrian, on Syria is worth a read. (Note the interview is in June, and may predate the Obama administration's decision to support the rebels). 

Although the language is of "limited strikes" the AUMF as written clearly allows for expansion. While twitter was split yesterday between monarchists who felt it was offensive that the president had to "ask" for the military action, and others who were happy he did so, there was less focus on why the president did so. It would appear the most likely reason the president did was so if and when he calls for bombing Iran, the support is there.  

In short, bombing Syria really has no other purpose than to achieve certain American objectives that will not help the Syrian people, and probably strengthen the worst elements of the opposition. It should not be supported. 
The Green Party Shadow Cabinet has issued a statement against military intervention.
On August 28th a march and rally was held in downtown Chicago, in support of a CPAC-a community
 police accountability board. The crimes of the Chicago Police Department (CPD) are many, and like other politically-supported institutions NO justice has been done for its many victims of torture, forced confessions, and violence. On the same day as the CPAC rally there was a protest in front of the Chicago Board of Education (CBE) in protest the devastating cuts to public schools. Aside from restoring cuts, the central demand by the education protesters is an . . . elected school board to protest the rubber stamp of Mayor polices that is the current school board.

While the country contemplates military involvement in another middle east conflict, regarding other peoples' suffering, and "democracy" let's remember the suffering here, at home, and reflect on the lack of democracy here.

While the focus of the CPAC rally was of course the police it is important to remember that the CPD do not act alone, ultimately all that they do is supported by political officials we elect. This includes, but is not limited to former Mayor Daley and current Cook County state's attorney Anita Alverez. When the time comes to hold all to account, these pubic officials need to held to the exact standard, higher even, than those who committed the heinous acts. Because had these
officials at any time spoke up about the crimes committed, they could have stopped. But they didn't and they don't, so the injustice goes on. There are big elections before '16, including the Mayor's race in 2015, but anybody serious but stopping police crime need to try to un-elect Anita Alverez.
This banner, on it the names of victims of Chicago police torture, stretched about halfway around Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago
Reminder that is about a SYSTEM that is failing many, especially people of color
Many groups out to support CPAC

ALEC comes to town

Protestors in front of the Palmer House, Chicago, IL
ALEC is supported by large corporations to encourage legislatures to pass corporate-friendly legislation
Cutting pensions is prime goal of ALEC and the corporations that support them

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

General Meeting Today Tuesday July 16th, 2013


There will be a general meeting of the Lincoln Square - Northcenter - Lakeview Green Party today at the Lincoln-Belmont Library 1659 W Melrose St, Chicago, IL at 6pm. All are welcome to attend.

WHERE: Lincoln-Belmont Library 1659 W Melrose St, Chicago, IL (side conference room)
WHEN: 6pm
WHO: Anyone interested in progressive politics

Edit: Corrected address of library

Sunday, July 7, 2013

On Capital and the State, Thoughts Post-Socialism 2013

When you go to a conference for all you see and do, typically a few things stand out. One was a woman in a t-shirt that said “Texas Socialist” which coming in the midst of Texas’s attempts to limit women’s choices have made me think more about reproductive issues. But the most important line came in a panel on urban violence and poverty, when the speaker stated:

“Poverty is a part of capitalism, it’s not an exception.”

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Chicago Pride 2013

So much fun to march in the Pride Parade today! It was a beautiful day and with the recent Supreme Court decisions people are more excited than usual. It was great to get cheers and hear a least a few people yell "I love the Green Party!" We love you too-COME JOIN US! Another world is possible, but you have try to make it possible.
As great as the momentum towards equality is, SSM is still not legal in Illinois. Why? Well mainly because Mike Madigan didn't make it a priority, remember we have Democrat majorities in both the House and the Senate. In addition, LBGT populations still face significant discrimination in the workplace, so the fight goes on.