2019年2月12日 星期二

Bridge and budget woes | 'El Chapo' convicted | Election countdown

A quick take on what's happening in local politics, delivered weekday afternoons.

Chicago Tribune

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February 12, 2019


The Spin by Lisa Donovan

Here's a chilling detail culled from the Tribune's coverage of the damaged approach to the Lake Shore Drive bridge that temporarily closed the northbound lanes of the span over the Chicago River. That bridge is one of the most heavily traveled structurally deficient bridges in the state, according to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, a Washington-based trade group that uses Federal Highway Administration figures.

Illinois' "deferred maintenance" infrastructure plan, as a Tribune columnist referred to it a year ago, will catch up to us all sooner or later. It's been a decade since Illinois passed an infrastructure bill that would dedicate new money to fix roads, bridges, tunnels and public transit. The price tag to make the fixes? About $40 billion. On the campaign trail, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said a capital bill is a priority. But the state, already cash-strapped as it deals with millions in pension obligations and unpaid bills, can't just start writing checks. And best not to look to Washington, D.C., for help right now; President Donald Trump's $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan has been, well, parked in neutral.

Meanwhile, Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman was convicted earlier today of running a vast drug smuggling operation, with Chicago as an important hub and plenty of lives, from young drug runners to addicts, left as debris in the road.

And the Chicago election is two weeks away.

Welcome to The Spin.


The Lake Shore Drive bridge, traffic and the mayoral candidates on transportation

Northbound Lake Shore Drive was shuttered Monday and overnight near the Chicago River because of two cracked steel beams that support the roadway.

It reopened Tuesday, in time for the evening commute.

From the Tribune's Mary Wisniewski and Liam Ford: "P.S. Sriraj, director of the urban transportation center at University of Illinois at Chicago, said the incident shows the need to invest in infrastructure in the state and the nation. 'What needs to be taken into account is that Illinois has the third-largest number of bridges, and a significant amount is structurally deficient — 16 percent,' Sriraj said." He pointed out that Illinois has dedicated $2.6 billion to bridge improvement over six years, when the need is $10 billion.

File under 'Mayor Emanuel won't brag about this in a news release': The road closure snarled traffic downtown, but apparently our traffic is epic. A new report places Chicago third in the nation for traffic congestion, with drivers losing 138 hours a year to backups, Tribune transportation writer Wisniewski reports. An economics professor points to a post-recession uptick in travel. Read her story here.

As election looms, candidates for Chicago mayor talk transportation: The city's next leader will have to decide how to expand the CTA, cope with increasing road congestion and tackle issues posed by new technology, such as self-driving cars and electric scooters, Wisniewski reports in yet another story. Suggestions range from lowering CTA fares to dumping red light cameras. Read the full story here.

Along the Dan Ryan, an eye-grabbing CTA terminal reaches beyond the ordinary: Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin weighs in on the Chicago Transit Authority's 95th Street terminal here.


'El Chapo' convicted: Notorious drug lord once deemed Chicago's Public Enemy No. 1

"Mexico's most notorious drug lord, Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman, was convicted Tuesday of running an industrial-scale smuggling operation," The Associated Press reported from New York today.

More from the AP: "While the trial was dominated by Guzman's persona as a near-mythical outlaw who carried a diamond-encrusted handgun and stayed one step ahead of the law, the jury never heard from Guzman himself, except when he told the judge he wouldn't testify. But his singsongy voice filled the courtroom, thanks to recordings of intercepted phone calls. 'Amigo!' he said to a cartel distributor in Chicago. 'Here at your service.'" Read the story here.

Chicago connection: The Tribune's Jeff Coen, who covered a portion of the trial, wrote in December: "The city acted as the American distribution center of the vast network of the Sinaloa cartel, and was run by Chicago twin brothers who had declared allegiance to a person they referred to often simply as "The Man.'" Read his story about the twins — including one who testified against El Chapo — here.



No pressure: The city election is in 2 weeks

We're two weeks away from the Feb. 26 election, when Chicago voters will decide on their next mayor — or more likely, narrow the crowded field to two for an April runoff. With 14 candidates, it's doubtful one emerges with the required 50 percent plus one vote needed to win.

Also on the ballot will be city clerk, city treasurer and aldermanic races. A smattering of wards also have referendums on their ballot, including South Side residents living near the planned Obama Presidential Center who are asked to weigh in on a community benefits agreement. You can eyeball that and other referendums here. Chicago voters can check here to see precisely what's on their ballots via the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.

Mayoral candidates talk about controversial plan to fight opioid crisis: From the Tribune's John Keilman: "Several Chicago mayoral hopefuls say they're open to exploring the idea of 'overdose prevention centers,' where people could consume drugs in the city without fear of arrest or death. Their answers came in a survey on the opioid crisis that a coalition of harm reduction groups sent to the mayoral candidates. Four of the 14 candidates responded: Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle; Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza; state Rep. La Shawn Ford; and businessman Willie Wilson." Read the story here.

Where's the love? WTTW-Ch. 11 is holding the first of three mayoral forums Thursday — Valentine's Day, when plenty of folks are thinking about things other than catching a public television debate — with four candidates who aren't exactly setting the polls on fire: Bob Fioretti, Jeremiah Joyce Jr., John Kozlar and Neal Sales-Griffin. The live forum Thursday, along with the other two, will air at 7 p.m. on the station and stream on wttw.com/news, Facebook and YouTube. On Monday the station will host a forum with Bill Daley, Susana Mendoza, Toni Preckwinkle, Paul Vallas and Willie Wilson. The final group — Gery Chico, Amara Enyia, La Shawn Ford, Lori Lightfoot and Garry McCarthy — will be part of a Tuesday debate.

Sweeping message: Mayoral candidate Paul Vallas, known for lugging a broom to news conferences as a symbol of cleaning up City Hall, is launching a "Broom Challenge." On Tuesday, he announced he'll release a TV ad with that theme. He's also launching a social media "Broom Challenge" – that is, asking "Chicagoans who agree with the effort to sweep away corruption" to post pictures of themselves holding up brooms.


Cubs meet with Islamic relations group after Joe Ricketts' racist emails were revealed

Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts and Julian Green, the team's vice president of communications, met with the Council on American-Islamic Relations on Friday, days after the publication of a series of emails from Joe Ricketts in which the family patriarch shared and endorsed racist jokes and conspiracy theories. In an interview Monday on WSCR-AM 670's "Mully & Haugh Show," Green said: "What we're attempting to do is mend fences and try to take a very sad, hurtful, offensive situation and turn it into something good." Read the Tribune story here.


Chicago alderman, congressman push laws for bird-friendly building designs

"Glass-sheathed modern buildings make for spectacular skylines, but they're also bird killers, especially in Chicago," the Tribune's Blair Kamin writes.

"Legislation introduced by Chicago Ald. Brian Hopkins, 2nd, and reintroduced by U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., seeks to prevent such deaths by encouraging — and, in some cases, mandating — bird-friendly design. Proponents say the measures won't add significantly to construction costs. But the Chicago proposal could face opposition from real estate developers, especially those who rely on glass walls and panoramic views to help sell or rent commercial and residential space." Read his full story here.

Bill Gates says Chicago teenagers taught him a thing or two about processing emotions: "He was at Al Raby High School in the East Garfield Park neighborhood, where he participated in a session in the Becoming a Man program. Launched in Chicago in 2001 by social services organization Youth Guidance, the program helps young men explore their emotions and work on their decision-making skills," the Tribune's Ally Marotti writes. Read her interview with Bill and Melinda Gates, which includes reflections on his 2018 visit to Chicago, here.

It's Lincoln's birthday today, and a JFK exhibit opens at his presidential library this week: The traveling exhibition "American Visionary: John F. Kennedy's Life and Times" opens at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield this week. More details here. A somber reminder — and intersection — of two assassinated U.S. presidents.


Twitter @byldonovan