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The Mechanics

Environment/Sustainability Tue Sep 30 2014

Uptown Welcomes $600,000 Solar Panel Project


Solar Panels on top of ICA GreenRise Building
Photo credit: Seva Gandhi

The Institute of Cultural Affairs' GreenRise building in Uptown made headlines last year when it was given landmark status by the City of Chicago. Now it's drawn the city's attention again, this time by installing 500 solar panels on its roof. ICA GreenRise is the first non-profit and the only building outside of the Loop to participate in this initiative, joining the Shedd Aquarium as the two largest solar panel installations on commercial buildings in Chicago.

The 166,000-square-foot building was originally a four-story structure built for the Mutual Insurance Company by Fugard & Knapp in 1921, is now the largest nonprofit service center in the Midwest. The ICA's green initiative started in August 2012, when they accepted an invitation from Mayor Emanuel to join 47 others in the Retrofit Chicago Commercial Buildings Initiative, committing to cut energy use by at least 20 percent.

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Becky Schultz / Comments (0)

Chicago Public Schools Tue Sep 30 2014

Lessons Learned in Englewood: 8 Years of Reflections from a CPS Teacher

By Dave Stieber

A little over eight years ago, when I took my first job in CPS at a high school in Englewood, people of all races would look at me like I was crazy when I told them where I would be working. During my time teaching in Englewood I had people make assumptions about me, such as that I must not be a very good teacher if I teach in Englewood, because surely, if I was a good teacher I would be working somewhere else.

Obviously if people were making assumptions about me working in Englewood, they were also making assumptions about my students who lived in the community. I have written previously about when a random stranger on the bus called my kids animals and how I responded.

Through all of assumptions and stereotypes, I realized that the students I taught were all that mattered. But I also very recently came to a point in my professional career that I needed a change of schools. I am still a CPS public high school teacher on the South Side, just at a different school now. Leaving the students was and is still hard. I didn't officially make the decision until August so I told my students through email and text messages. That was the hardest thing by far about leaving. But the beauty of the students was they wanted me to be happy. Yes, they were upset and hurt, but every single student (I even messaged kids who graduated awhile ago to let them know) really just wanted me to be happy. So I write this dedicated to every single student I taught in Englewood, which is close to a thousand students.

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Mechanics / Comments (0)

Economics Thu Sep 25 2014

10 Recent Takes on Chicago's Economy

From fur trading to tech startups, this city's history has always been linked to its economic output and job opportunities.

So how are those looking today? Depends on what you look at.

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Jason Prechtel / Comments (0)

Op-Ed Fri Sep 19 2014

Fight for $15 Continues American Legacy of Social Movements

Thumbnail image for BwsUlbAIYAAu4QC.jpg
Photo by Brian Jackson / Sun-Times

Earlier this month, fast food workers in the Fight for $15 walked off their jobs in 150 cities throughout the country. Here in Chicago, workers at McDonald's, Taco Bell and more left work and engaged in civil disobedience in front of the McDonald's at 87th and State Street. Nineteen protestors were arrested, and they were joined by figures such as State Representative Luis Gutierrez and U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky.

Fight for $15 is a national movement of workers in the service sector, mostly in the fast food industry. Their main demands are a $15 minimum wage and the right to form a union.

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Rachel Anspach / Comments (0)

Housing Thu Sep 11 2014

Proposed SRO Ordinance to Offer Incentives and Assistance to Building Owners, Preserve 700 Units by 2018


Press conference to announce The Single-Room Occupancy and Residential Hotel Preservation Ordinance
Photo credit: Becky Schultz

"I know that we like to fight. But there are sometimes where we have to sit down and get something done...and we got something big done in the city of Chicago," Ald. Walter Burnett said as he stood in front of dozens of community activists this morning and praised Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office and the work of the Chicago for All Coalition at press conference introducing The Single-Room Occupancy and Residential Hotel Preservation Ordinance.

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Becky Schultz / Comments (0)

Health Care Wed Sep 10 2014

The Fight for a Trauma Center on the South Side

Activists sat outside of a construction site on University of Chicago's campus on May 19 to protest the continued calls for Chicago to get the presidential library for Barack Obama when the South Side was lacking something that seemed very essential: a trauma center.

Trauma centers are specially designed areas of hospitals to treat patients who need treatment for trauma, which includes gunshot and stabbing wounds and car accidents. University of Chicago has a pediatric trauma center at Comer Children's Hospital as well as a burn unit, but there is no adult trauma center on the South Side.

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Monica Reida / Comments (0)

Op-Ed Tue Sep 02 2014

Us People, Them People: Howard Street and the $15 Sandwich

By Sarah Adams

"It's just such a relief that people of quality are coming to the neighborhood," a woman sighed to me at my coffee shop. "I never thought I'd see a BMW parking on Howard. My property value must be going up!"

This woman, who I will call Kim, is a neighbor of mine. One of the few actual property owners in my neighborhood, Rogers Park/South Evanston, she owns a condo on the lake at Juneway Terrace, a posh residential development on a block that used to be sneeringly referred to as "The Jungle" by people farther up the North Shore. She is speaking, of course, about two new restaurants on the Evanston side of Howard, Ward 8 and Peckish Pig. Both of these restaurants are a couple blocks from my house. They both advertise "New American" menus with farm-to-table ingredients, cocktails that are barely 6 oz, craft beers, etc. Since they have opened, many people immediately ask me what I think about these restaurants and "how nice it is to finally have some place to go around there." Many of the comments people make about Howard street these days sound a lot like Kim's; it's hard to put a finger on why it makes your stomach wrench. Is it offensive? Kinda racist? Classist? Am I supposed to be agreeing that this is a good thing? Should I print t-shirts that say Saving Howard, One $18 Cheese Plate at a Time?

Initially I didn't know how to respond to her comment. My face flushed and I pressed my lips together and all I could think to say was, "Well, I live around here. And I grew up here, so..."

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Mechanics / Comments (7)

Urban Planning Thu Aug 28 2014

State Street Resurfacing to Be Completed in Time for the Marathon


Looking North on State Street from Randolph. Photo credit: Becky Schultz

On Wednesday morning, the Chicago Loop Alliance and the Office of 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly held a community meeting to provide Loop stakeholders, business owners, and residents with logistics for the Chicago Department of Transportation's (CDOT) resurfacing of State Street -- the first since the mall removal and renovation in 1997.

With a goal completion date of Oct. 10 (just in time for the Chicago Marathon), overnight grinding could begin as soon as Sept. 8 with re-paving to begin on Sept. 22. The resurfacing (grinding, paving and re-striping) will stretch from Wacker to Van Buren.

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Becky Schultz / Comments (0)

Chicago Public Schools Tue Aug 26 2014

Chicago Students Want a Democratic School System

In 1995, Richard M. Daley convinced the Illinois General Assembly to do away with elected school councils and place Chicago Public Schools directly under the mayor's control.

Since then, CPS has operated under a model whereby the mayor directly appoints school board members and district CEOs -- currently Barbara Byrd-Bennett.

Chicago Students Union (CSU), a student-run organization formed in 2013 in response to CPS school closures, is pushing to end that system of mayoral-control.

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Emily Brosious / Comments (0)

Education Tue Aug 19 2014

Board of Education President to Benefit from Proposed South Side Charter School

David Vitale
Chicago Board of Education President David Vitale. Photo Credit: Chandler West, Sun-Times

Last week, news broke that David Vitale, the president of the Chicago Board of Education, could profit pending the Board's approval of a new South Side charter school. Vitale is chairman of Urban Partnership Bank, which has filed suit to foreclose the same building in which the proposed school, Horizon Science Academy-Clay Evans, plans to open this fall. HSA-Clay Evans was proposed by Concept Schools, a charter school management company whose Des Plaines offices, as well as a number of their schools, were recently subject to an FBI raid.

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Becky Schultz / Comments (0)

Election 2015 Mon Aug 18 2014

Six Months in Chicago


Image via NBC5-WMAQ

For six months in Chicago, there may be a rare, once-a-decade opportunity to get some answers. If that sentence seems magniloquent, that's because I had to start big since the subsequent sentence is, "That opportunity is the 2015 Chicago municipal elections."

That opportunity is the 2015 Chicago municipal elections. Chicago is defined by confluence; in the first instance, literally, as sitting at the confluence of Lake Michigan, the Chicago River, and the Chicago Portage, the connection between the Great Lakes and Mississippi watersheds. Soon after, the nation's railroad flowed together there; now, it's the confluence of the nation's air travel and trucking. Today, it is also a confluence of some of the country's biggest challenges.

Income inequality, gentrification, rising housing costs, under-resourced schools and creeping privatization, under-served mental health services, police brutality, street crime, segregation, environmental justice, exploitation of undocumented workers, police militarization, un- and under-compensated care work, wage theft, unemployment, over-crowded jails, hyper-criminalization, lack of government transparency, and crumbling infrastructure. These issues intersect on the orange-lit streets of the Great American City. Chicago is a beautiful city and livable city. It is also suffering.

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (0)

Op-Ed Fri Aug 15 2014

Confessions of a Feminist Asshole

By Michael Fornello

I hadn't given my philosophy towards women much thought recently; my immediate aim was to finish my graduate classes, grab my Master's, and find a job. My wife and I were also busy filling out reams of paperwork in the hopes that we may be able to adopt a baby soon. We're buried in questions about both: should we stay in the city, or move to the suburbs? When I get a job, should we buy a car? What about good day care on the North Side? Under these circumstances, I hadn't given my feminist beliefs much thought.

Then came the terrible shooting in California and the response of the #YesAllWomen hashtag. My wife, frustrated with the male side of humanity like so many other women, posted her own tweets, and we discussed them. She expressed her fears, her frustrations, and who need, like so many other women, for men to simply shut up and listen. I did so, I read other tweets, and in the process I mentally traced my own feminist beliefs. What I ended up with were some unpleasant realizations about myself, particularly about my undergraduate years two decades ago. Yes, I was a feminist then, but I was also an incredible asshole, and my attitudes towards women were just as corrosive as my more misogynistic peers.

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Mechanics / Comments (2)

Op-Ed Thu Aug 14 2014

Ferguson Saw Rioting; When Will Chicago?


Scott Olson/Getty Images

In Chicago, we have not seen riots since the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968. During those riots, one event -- Dr. King's death -- sent black Chicagoans over the edge. Yet it was not this tragedy in isolation that caused black Chicagoans to take to the streets and commit violent and destructive acts. Rather, it was the history and continued reality of violence and oppression they had faced here ever since the first black Americans began to move en masse to Chicago during the Great Migration.

On Sunday night Ferguson, Missouri (a St. Louis suburb) saw riots and looting. Like the MLK riots in Chicago, the rioting was set into motion by another devastating death -- the police killing of Michael Brown just days before he was supposed to begin college. And just like in Chicago, it was not this one event alone that caused the protests. Rather Brown's death was a tipping point. It was too much for people who have been systematically oppressed and dehumanized to take sitting down.

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Rachel Anspach / Comments (11)

Event Tue Aug 12 2014

18 Groups to Participate in Placemaking Challenge

The Metropolitan Planning Council will hold its annual Placemaking Challenge this weekend, Aug. 15-17. The event, entitled "Old Place, New Tricks," will be held in neighborhoods throughout the city as well as the city of Blue Island.

Last year's MPC Placemaking Challenge resulted in Union Station having a picnic area as well as other amenities.

There will be 18 groups participating in the Placemaking Challenge, including Austin Coming Together, I Grow Chicago, Rebuild Foundation and Groupon. The events will occur in a variety of neighborhoods including Ravenswood, Austin, Bronzeville and Pilsen.

According to MPC's website for the event, they "believe people have the power to transform their neighborhoods, one space at a time."

Among the project is Austin Coming Together transforming an area in the 600 block of North Lorel Avenue into a "Peace Lot," which will provide a space for residents to organize and address issues affecting the area.

For more information on the event, visit the website for the Placemaking Challenge.

Monica Reida / Comments (0)

Housing Thu Aug 07 2014

What's Next for Chicago's Remaining SROs?

IMG_7739.JPG
The Aragon Arms Hotel at 4917 Kenmore in Uptown. Eligible tenants must prove an $800/month minimum income. Photo credit: Becky Schultz

At the peak of urbanization in 1915, new migrants to Chicago weren't renting apartments or buying houses. Instead, many made a home in one of the city's 3,700 operating single-room and residential hotels (SROs). In the decades since the Gilded Age, the number of SROs has dwindled to 73 licensed residencies. And in the past three years, 2,200 rooms have been lost to a number of private developers buying and converting these properties into market-rate (if not high-end) apartments. Almost 600 residents were displaced without viable housing alternatives.

Last week, the a City Council approved a moratorium (47-0) backed by Mayor Emanuel and a number of aldermen to halt the redevelopment of SROs for six months or until permanent legislation on the issue passes. That leaves 6,000 remaining SRO units--and hundreds of residents--in a state of limbo.

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Becky Schultz / Comments (4)

Feature

How Lawsuits, Lobbyists and Parking Meter Deals Led to Ventra

By Jason Prechtel / 2 Comments

Cubic learned early on that if you don't win a contract through bidding, there are other ways to prevail. More...

Special Series

Classroom Mechanics Oral History Project



About Mechanics

Mechanics is the politics section of Gapers Block, reflecting the diversity of viewpoints and beliefs of Chicagoans and Illinoisans. More...
Please see our submission guidelines.

Editor: Monica Reida, mr@gapersblock.com
Mechanics staff inbox: mechanics@gapersblock.com

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