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The [Friday] Papers

I'm going to delay the new Homan Square column I had prepared for a less taxing look at a WBEZ report from Wednesday that I don't recall getting much attention. It should. Here goes:

Critics of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel contend he focuses too much on what is good for downtown and not enough on neighborhoods.

In campaign speeches the mayor vigorously rebuts that. One of his regular sounding points is the $4 billion spent on seven neighborhoods through a program called Neighborhoods Now.

Well that certainly sounds like a lot of money to spend on seven neighborhoods. Let's keep reading.

Some of the projects are exactly what one would expect from neighborhood development: a grocery store in Englewood, train line updates in Rogers Park, and a wellness center in Little Village.

But some of the projects WBEZ found in the full list might not be what an average Chicagoan expects when you hear Emanuel describe a program guided by the belief that Chicago's success is measured by "whether our families can raise their children in our neighborhoods."

For example, the full Neighborhoods Now list counts the $44 million in private money SOHO House brought to the West Loop. Soho House is a hip membership club. It requires a headshot, application, and approval from a board to join.

Rahm Emanuel: Tough Choices.

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To be fair, there is a Cowshed Spa.

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Plus, the West Loop isn't exactly needy. Certainly not one of the seven neediest neighborhoods in the city. More like one of the seven least needy neighborhoods in the city.

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Back to WBEZ:

Not all the projects on Emanuel's Neighborhoods Now list are privately financed like the Soho house. Nearly a half-billion dollars, ($457,815,397 to be exact) came from the city budget.

Almost one quarter of those dollars went to an area right around the McCormick Place convention center in the South Loop. It includes two hotels and a new green line L stop. There is also a big stadium where DePaul athletes can play basketball games.

Just to be clear, then: Rahm Emanuel's idea of urgent neighborhood development is a private club in the West Loop and a subsidized basketball arena in the South Loop.

Oh, but it gets worse.

The McCormick Place projects?

Listed as investment in Bronzeville.

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"Pat Dowell is the alderman there for the 3rd Ward. Her office said it expects the hotels to bring more people into the the Bronzeville neighborhood."

Rrrrrrrriiight.

Those convention guests are going north for their site-seeing, not south. Sorry.

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"Harold Lucas with the Black Metropolis Convention & Tourism Council . . . said real neighborhood development would have brought bigger investments in community-owned businesses and projects committed to preserving Bronzeville's rich African-American history."

In other words, real investment in neighborhoods includes investing in neighborhoods. It is the epitome of Rahm's economic development strategy - even more so than Richard M. Daley's - that a program he touts as Neighborhoods Now is actually pouring money into downtown with a vague and even mystical notion that somehow there will be a trickle-out effect to nearby neighborhoods (and not even "now," but someday).

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"Emanuel has said if he is re-elected he would double Neighborhoods Now."

River North, you're next!

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"Cook County Commissioner Jesus 'Chuy' Garcia's office didn't respond to repeated requests to describe his specific plans for neighborhoods."

That's because he doesn't have any.

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Nonetheless, if the Garcia campaign was more nimble, it would have a response.

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From the comments:

"Those looking to join Soho House, drop me a line at myakrasia at gmail dot com."

Is there a neighborhood discount?

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Cash On Delivery
"College of DuPage Trustee Kathy Hamilton is blasting the school for using a Chicago-based public relations firm to help it address a growing number of questions concerning oversight at the Glen Ellyn campus," the Daily Herald reports.

"In a memo dated Wednesday, COD board Chairman Erin Birt said the board's legal counsel, Franczek Radelet, has retained Res Publica Group to 'assist us in our communication efforts to ensure the public and media have the facts and to prevent the spread of misinformation.'"

Well that sounds helpful. Nobody likes misinformation.

Among Res Publica's clients: the CTA, the RTA, Metra . . .

So, not very good at their job.

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"Hamilton, a vocal critic of COD President Robert Breuder and Birt, said in a written statement that the board didn't give its lawyers authority to hire a communications firm."

Uh-oh.

"Hamilton said she is demanding to see 'every piece of paper, such as the contract and all emails that led to the P.R. firm's hiring. Further, I want to know exactly what the firm is tasked to do, and when, and how much it is costing taxpayers.'"

Wow. She might have a future as a reporter.

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On Res Publica's team: former Channel 2 anchor Mary Ann Childers.

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Programming Note
Weekend podcasts, Beachwood Photo Booth and This Week In Chicago Rock are all in production. So is that new Homan column.

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BeachBook
* Springfield, Illinois Just Gave The Key To The City To Cobra Commander.

* Chicago's Famed Annoyance Theater Opens In Brooklyn.

* Adler Planetarium Cuts 15 Jobs, Including Astronomers.

COMMENT: From a faithful reader:

If the big shots took a 10% - 15% pay cut from their exorbitant salaries, the cuts could have been averted . . .

adler.png(ENLARGE)

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TweetWood

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Makes for an excellent garnish.



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Posted on March 13, 2015


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