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September 2011 Archives

Is Chicago's global push stalling?

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One of the things that his publisher says Keith Koeneman will write about in his upcoming biography of Mayor Richard M. Daley is how Daley helped transform Chicago into a sophisticated global city.

But Daley's successor Rahm Emanuel hasn't been building on that momentum, at least not yet, one diplomat says.

Acknowledging that Emanuel has been in office just a few months and understandably has other priorities, Fatih Yildiz, Turkey's consul general based in Chicago, pointed out that Rahm left globalization off the benchmarks he wants to meet in his first year.

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Fatih Yildiz

"When I bring people from Turkey to make them more aware of what Chicago stands for, they are going back with more than they expected," Yildiz said Wednesday in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Time editorial board. " ... It should be the city's task to reach out as well."

City not cracking down on empty buildings, activists say

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When the Chicago City Council debated a Vacant Building Ordinance, critics worried it could face a constitutional challenge or drive lenders out of troubled areas.

But activists say the real problem is that nothing is being done about abandoned buildings. Action Now members and Humboldt Park residents have scheduled a rally for 6 p.m. today to draw attention to two vacant, unsecured buildings that they say are dangerous for children walking to school.

"it's an example of what is going on in the city," said Aileen Kelleher of Action Now, which has been holding similar rallies throughout the city. Another is scheduled for Thursday in Englewood.

Cook County offices look like long shot for GOP in 2012

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As the Cook County Republicans meet Wednesday in Chicago, they'll be casting about for a strategy to shake the Democrats' grip on county offices.

Last week, the Republicans elected Sig Vaznelis, the Lemont Township Republican committeeman, as their new chairman. (He replaces Lee Roupas, who took a job as a DuPage County assistant state's attorney.) On Monday, Vaznelis announced his deputy will be Aaron Del Mar, Palatine Township committeeman, who dropped out of the race for chairman and endorsed Vaznelis.

Vaznelis, an engineer by trade, says he'll approach county politics in an engineering fashion: "By profession, we are problem-solvers and builders."

New MWRD candidate running; board chief might not

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As insiders speculated that Metropolitan Water Reclamation District President Terrence J. O'Brien won't run again, Barbara Moore, wife of 49th Ward Ald. Joe Moore, was out in the rain Sunday drumming up support for her candidacy for the water board. She's officially announcing her candidacy at 6:30 p.m. today at Chicago's Heartland Cafe.

The terms of three members of the nine-person board are up. Incumbents Debra Shore and Patricia Horton, both first elected to the board in 2006, are running again.


Terrence J. O'Brien (John H. White~Sun-Times)

But O'Brien, first elected in 1988, hasn't said he's running, and he is said to have missed the deadline for asking for the county Democratic endorsement, though whether there is wiggle room in that deadline remains a question.

If O'Brien doesn't run, that could open up a position on the Democratic slate for Moore.

Alliance pursues more bike paths and transit dollars

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From the organization that likes all forms of transit except the single-occupant automobile comes this news:

More protected bike lanes like the half-mile stretch on Kinzie in the North Loop are on the way.

According to the Active Transportation Alliance, work will begin on a protected bike lane - a lane that uses physical barriers or buffers between bicyclists and motorists - on Jackson between Damen and Halsted within a few days. Another four and a half miles should be completed around the city in the next four months, and a total of 20 miles should be ready by spring, the alliance says. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has said he wants a total of 100 miles over four years.

The Kinzie bike lane hasn't been popular with all motorists. "That street is dead to us now," one says. But the alliance says all that extra congestion on Kinzie is mostly due to cars detouring around the Wacker Drive reconstruction. And as for complaints that the bike lanes pose a new hazard, the alliance says they actually improve safety.

Ron Burke

"We know that when you install these on urban streets it makes the roadways safer for everyone," says Ron Burke, executive director of the 26-year-old, 7,000-member alliance.

Another reason to reform eyewitness testimony

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The push for reform of eyewitness testimony got another exhibit entered into evidence Tuesday when Cook County Circuit Court Judge Neera Walsh ordered a new trial for Jacques Rivera. Rivera's murder conviction 21 years ago rested solely on the testimony of a then-12-year-old eyewitness who recently recanted.

Jacques Rivera

Eyewitness misidentification is the single greatest cause of wrongful convictions nationwide, according to the Innocence Project. Of 273 convictions that have been overturned because DNA showed authorities had the wrong person, eyewitnesses had pointed to the wrong person 75 percent of the time, the Innocence Project says.The percentage of wrong identifications is even higher for cases of sexual assault, according to the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University's School of Law, which is representing Rivera, 46.

Your electric rates aren't going up - yet.

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Gov. Quinn today vetoed a bill (Senate Bill 1652) that would have given Illinois' utility companies automatic rate hikes every year for the next decade.

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Pat Quinn (David Banks~AP)

Critics didn't like the guaranteed profit rate for ComEd and the revised regulatory structure the bill would have created.

Back in May, ICC Chairman Doug Scott wrote: "This bill makes the ratepayers bear the burden; not just residential customers, but businesses as well, which may affect their own decisions."

At a news conference today with Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Quinn called the legislation a "nightmare" for consumers.

Old dispute: What's Chicago's oldest building?

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The Clarke House, built in 1836 and nearing its 175th anniversary, often is referred to as the oldest surviving building in the city. But don't tell that to the Norwood Park Historical Society.

As recounted in the 2009 book Chicago: Yesterday & Today by Rich Lindberg and Carol Jean Carlson, some researchers believe the Noble-Seymour-Crippen House at 5622-24 N. Newark Avenue in Norwood Park is older by as much as three years.

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The Noble-Seymour-Crippen House

The house, listed on National Register of Historic Places, is now a multipurpose community center that contains a museum on Far Northwest Side history.

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Mark Kirk: Favor India, cut aid to Pakistan

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Mark Kirk, Illinois' Republican junior senator, thinks it's time for the United States to tilt toward India and re-think its $4.5 billion-a-year aid to Pakistan.

The way things are going, Kirk doesn't see a happy ending to the Afghanistan war. On a recent two-week tour of duty, he said, he saw "tremendous change" in Afghanistan since he was last there in 2008 because "the Obama surge has worked." But the problem he sees is that when NATO leaves and the United States withdraws its 100,000 troops, the Afghan government could collapse and the jihadists could take over.

The answer, as he sees it? India, a growing power that could use a friendly government in Kabul, should inherit America's military role.

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U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) uses a map Tuesday to discuss the U.S. military's position in Afghanistan. (Rich Hein~Sun-Times)

That won't make Pakistan happy, but Americans need to realize that Islamabad is a major supporter of the Haqqani network, a terror group that has become a dangerous foe of U.S. troops while having its bases in Pakistan protected by that nation's premier intelligence agency. While al-Qaida has been reduced to "a shadow" and the Taliban is weakened, "I did not realize how powerful the Haqqani had become," Kirk told the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board Tuesday.

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