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Dear Beachwood

Readers weigh in on Ald. Tom Tunney's cell phone scandal, the city's beautiful flowers, and the death of affordable Chicago.


1. Dear Beachwood Politics:

Tom Tunney should be ashamed of himself for so many reasons.

First, he violated a law. Period. It doesn't matter what he thinks of that law -- and for the record, he supported it in 2005. Alderman Tunney, an elected official, does not get to violate it.

Nor does he get special dispensation to do an end run around the repercussions, but what Alderman Tunney should really be ashamed of is putting the blame on the police in general and Town Hall District Commander Gary Yamashiroya in particular.

As resident of the neighboring 46th Ward, I can attest first hand to the dedication of Commander Yamashiroya and the differences made in this community since he arrived. He has attended community policing and positive loitering events at particularly troublesome spots in his district, and has even been spotted personally patrolling the parks at night to better enforce curfews.

Tunney says that he phoned the commander after receiving the ticket.

"Although I did not ask him to, following our conversation the commander had my driver's license returned to me at my office," Tunney said. "I must emphasize that at no time did I ask for any special treatment."

Clearly, Commander Yamashiroya's personal touch was ill placed when he had Alderman Tunney's license returned to his office. But shame on Tunney for trying to deflect negative attention by redirecting the spotlight on one of the city's good cops in a time when we're treated to so many gruesome details about the behavior of the bad ones.

And the thing Alderman Tunney should be most embarrassed about; asking the commander why, "in an understaffed police district where we have serious crimes unsolved, officers are assigned to pull people over solely for cell phone violations."

Clearly Alderman Tunney believes the police's time is better spent talking to him on the phone or better yet, writing parking tickets for the poor saps who park at meters in his Ward on Sundays, a task he added to the their duties in 2004.

- Laura Heller


2. Dear Beachwood Politics:

I've about had it with people saying, oh, the city looks beautiful. Every time I hear that, I say, pick a day, we'll go for a ride, and we'll see just how beautiful the city looks. We'd tour Ogden Avenue south of Roosevelt. Places where there are one or two standing buildings on entire blocks. Areas where boardups outnumber buildings in use. Open-air drug markets. You get the idea.

I have yet to have anyone take me up on my city tour. People would rather think the city looks terrific than to find out that, for people who don't count, the city doesn't look so great.

That's really the heart of the situation: Some people matter to this administration, and an awful lot don't. It's easy to see who matters - wealthy people whose business or arts interests keep them sequestered downtown or in a small section of the North Side. It's also easy to see who doesn't matter - people who have to get their kids to school through the drug markets, people who have to be in queue at 5 a.m. to have any hope of getting treated at Stroger Hospital, people who have to spend the day on the bus just to buy groceries.

It's easy to say that if those people voted, we wouldn't have these problems. Yeah, but think about this for a minute: If you have to walk your kids to school, then ride maybe 3 buses (at $2 per bus, no transfers, no opportunity to buy or refill a Chicago Card if you can't get to an L station and don't have a credit card and a computer, so you're spending $12 of your very tight budget just to get to and from the store) to get to the grocery store, then you have to haul everything home the same way, and the way the CTA runs, this can take all day, then you have to get your kids from school, then you have to see to their needs . . . When do you think you'd have the time or the inclination to stay informed on politics?

So . . . Given the various doomsday scenarios for the public agencies, not only do we have people who don't count, we're seeing to it that there's no way they're ever going to count. This is so wrong on so many levels, and it drives me insane that people don't see this. I'm surprised we don't have riots like we did in the '60s.

- Peg Burke


3. Dear Beachwood Politics:

Your writing has really struck me more than usual this week when you comment on the Chicago bills coming due. I moved to Chicago in the mid-1990s, and though the city was enjoying an upswing, I knew the numbers did not add up. I am no fiscal expert, but it was clear that the costs of corruption, infrastructure decay, mismanaged public work forces and short-sighted zoning decisions would soon take their toll. And I knew the county and state were, fundamentally, in bad shape, and that sooner or later, the bill would come due. I figured the day of reckoning would take place around 2002-2003. I guess I was off.

My girlfriend and I make, combined, a low six-figure salary. We are obviously not poor. We love this city and has always thought of making our homes here. Even though Chicago remains segregated, we love the diversity--not only ethnic and cultural, but diversity related the income, the fact that working and lower middle class people still can live here.

As you point out, that is changing. We are anxious, to say the least. We don't know what Chicago is becoming. And with the CTA in the crapper, we can't even be sure we can get to work on time, which is a HUGE issue for us and hundreds of thousands more. It seems Chicago is determined to shoot itself in the foot, and that the old Machine way of governing will never change. It becomes more clear that the supposed rebirth of Chicago over the last 15 years or so will not hold, and that our taxes will increase while services decline.

We hope we can stay here, but like so many of the people we know--transplants and natives alike--we have started to sketch what one might call "exit plans." Already, at least one relatively well-paid couple we know with a new kid moved out, fleeing the high housing prices and uncertainty over schools. Another guy I know, a union electrician who grew up in Chicago and just started his family, wonders what is becoming of his home city, where all the money has gone from the good old days of the '90s, and whether he can afford to raise his children here. As for us, we are childless, so perhaps we will take the plunge and move to NYC- much more expensive, yes, but at least the transit works, and city and state leaders are unlikely to let the MTA just wither away. Or DC - same story there. Boston also is on our radar. Or somewhere smaller such as Portland, Oregon, or Austin, Texas should we decide to buy a car again. Hell, even my old home area around St. Louis is looking better - I mean, if we have to buy a car, why live in Chicago, with all the expenses, declining services and over-eager ticketing force and ingrained corruption?

I didn't mean to ramble, only to tell you that your writing is really hitting a nerve. I doubt our city, county and state leaders realize just how many people are close to simply giving up on Chicago and, by extension, Illinois.

- Thad Rueter


Care to comment? The Beachwood gladly accepts Letters to the Editor. Just use a real name if you wish to be published.


Posted on October 18, 2007

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