Reflections: election 2008

reiss001-01No, not the Cubs in the World Series, though that is an auspicious occasion. This month marks the end of a long, hard fought U.S. presidential campaign.

Soon, Lakeshore East residents will be queueing up at local polling stations to cast their votes. Or perhaps, like me, you have already participated in early voting. Both of the current major party candidates have strong ties to our city, but one election earlier this century will always be linked with Chicago.

On November 4, 2008, Lakeshore East was a stone’s throw away from one of the most memorable moments in U.S. presidential history – Barack Obama’s victory speech. I was lucky enough to hear it live.

Senator Obama officially became President-elect Obama while I was on the Brown Line returning to the Loop. I could tell it happened because a group of students glued to their cell phones suddenly screamed in unison and joyously hugged each other. As I exited the train, I checked my voice mail. I had a message from my mother in Georgia. She was worried about the giant crowd expected in Grant Park and wanted me to get home safely.

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Election Day 2008, Grant Park. (Patton)

I dodged a few passersby and reached Lakeshore East Park before I realized that I was about to go home to watch on television the first ever African American president deliver a once-in-a-lifetime speech a mile away. I couldn’t let this moment pass me by, so I turned around and headed south. My goal was to get as close to the action as possible.

Giant speakers were set up around the area blaring John McCain’s concession speech. There were a few hundred thousand people streaming into the park, all in a festive mood. The streets were effectively sidewalks. By the time McCain finished his speech, I was up against a barrier, a hundred yards or so from the future president.

As President Obama began his speech, I was immediately awestruck. His words echoed through the canyon of lit skyscrapers lining the park, and it felt as though the city itself was speaking to the crowd. All around me, strangers were laughing together, crying together, young and old alike. I was moved. When it was over, I walked back to the Shoreham in a daze, unsure that what I had just witnessed was real. It’s a moment I will always treasure, and I have Lakeshore East to thank for putting me in such close proximity to history.

November 8th promises a new set of memories and history to record. Two years of preparations have all lead up to this one moment. Where will you be when the next chapter of our nation is written?

Poll: choose your own President

If you could select anyone to be the next President, who would you choose?

Since the nominees of the 2016 Presidential election are generating the lowest favorability ratings in history, we asked a number of New Eastside residents and professionals to tell us who they would really like to see move into the White House this November. Although we indicated that both Senator Clinton and Mr. Trump were acceptable answers, neither was named.

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Senator Elizabeth Warren

A political event featuring Massachusetts Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren convinced Rogers Park native Max DeFrancesco that the former law professor who was born and raised in Oklahoma would make a great Commander in Chief.

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Max DeFrancesco

“She speaks eloquently and powerfully about issues that are facing the nation,” he says. “I think I’d trust her very much to take a good progressive role. She still finds a moderate cross between both parties and I admire that a lot.”

Mr. DeFrancesco works as a retail salesperson at Nordstrom. We caught up with him at Lake Shore East Park, where he was enjoying a gelato from Cafe Rom with his mother, Susie, who works for a nearby architectural firm.

“Hillary’s been scrutinized a lot more because she’s been on the national stage for a longer time,” he adds. “But as far as I understand, (Senator Warren) hasn’t been complicated as much.”

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Congressman Paul Ryan

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Nadia Sadeghi

Nadia Sadeghi, a Chicagoan by way of Persia and Arizona, is a podiatrist who lives in the Loop. She was taking advantage of Lake Shore East Park’s shady benches with a friend when we spoke to her.

After some initial hesitation, she names the GOP Congressman from Wisconsin (and current Speaker of the House) as the best person for the job.

“I’m a really big fan of Paul Ryan,” she says. “I think his economics plan has been great. I think he’s been doing a great job at the House.”SPACER03-01President Barack Obama

After residing in the Windy City for a decade, marketing professional Amber Nikkels goes against the deep red tendencies of her native Oklahoma to declare that she would invite the 44th President to serve a third term if it were up to her.

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Amber Nikkels

“Contrary to what everybody else on social media seems to think, he did a fantastic job,” she explains. “I feel like he’s done more for our country than any of the last two presidents.”

Mrs. Nikkels was at Cyrano’s on the River Walk with her parents and her husband, Chris, an architect who works in the New Eastsie, when she agreed to participate in our survey.

“As much as I want to support Hillary and I will support Hillary because of the alternative,” she adds, “if my choice was Obama I would choose Obama again because he’s done great things.”

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Entertainer Jon Stewart

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Audrey Witte and Adam Laughlin

Audrey Witte and Adam Laughlin think that entertainer Jon Stewart can provide a virtue that is sorely lacking among the nation’s current Presidential contenders: honesty.

“It’s like a reality show,” says Audrey. “I think they’re all liars, but he’s trustworthy.”

The couple, who recently moved to the New Eastside from central Illinois, took a break from a selfie-session in Lake Shore East Park to respond.

“He seems like a smart guy,” adds Adam. “Well-spoken, unlike everybody else.”

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Myself

According to native Chicagoan Tony Robinson, there is no question about it: he would make a great President.

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Tony Robinson

“The person I would name to be President would be me,” he says. “I could do things differently just because I care about people.”

Mr. Robinson is a bricklayer by trade but, he explains, “right now, I’m doing whatever work I can get my hands on” to get by. He was reading a book in the shade of the Chicago River bank when we popped the question.

“The Presidency, you know, it’s basic demagoguery,” he continues. “From antebellum days until our modern day, people keep trying the same thing expecting different results. That’s insanity. It’s to get you to go along with some system that you’re really not going to agree with.”

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Ryan Johnson

President Ronald Reagan

New Eastside resident Ryan Johnson would bring the 40th President back to the future if it were up to him.

“I would probably go with Reagan,” he says. “Everything he did for the economy at the time was groundbreaking.”

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Story and photos by Daniel Patton, Staff Writer

Alderman on pensions and property tax

42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly began a well-attended May 4 Town Hall meeting in the Sullivan Ballroom of the Loews Hotel by addressing several resident concerns that were delivered to him prior to the event.

Clutching a huge stack of pre-submitted questionnaires, he remarked that, “some of these questions are loaded questions and we could probably spend the entire evening answering just one of them.”

Then he proceeded to respond to the most common topics with frank, informative, and frequently nonpartisan positions on issues that continue to make headlines far outside of Chicago.

In regard to the city’s knack for funding pensions with property taxes, he echoed an opinion shared by many frustrated homeowners.

“How are we managing our pension liabilities and the contracts that were negotiated over the last forty years?” he asked. “I would argue not very well.”

IMG_8630webHe blamed much of the fiscal predicament on a budgetary bait and switch that was engineered by “politicians long before me.”

“Rather than award cost of living increases on a regular basis or step-up pay increases,” he explained, “they decided to kick the can down the road and promised all sorts of sweet pension deals that taxpayers today can’t afford.”

Although a reform based on “shared sacrifice” was proposed by the city and a majority of its labor partners in 2014, he said, a handful of labor partners rejected the compromise and ultimately killed the deal after challenging it in the Illinois Supreme Court.

“The court made it very clear,” he continued. “These are contracts.”

The latest effort to help solve the problem came by way of a record-breaking $600 million property tax increase that the city council approved last fall. Alderman Reilly as well as Alderman Brian Hopkins, whose 2nd Ward includes portions of Streeterville and the Gold Coast, voted against it.

The city is currently investigating ways to provide some form of relief to homeowners, but the Alderman predicted that none of them are likely to apply to “any of us downtown.”

“I’m not sure that it will even pass the state legislature,” he added.

“Springfield hasn’t passed a state budget in two years and I’m not sure there’s a great prospect of that happening this spring despite everything you’re reading in the newspapers.”

Besides potentially short-changing Chicago homeowners, the state’s procrastination also impacts how social services are paid, if at all.

“Unfortunately,” continued the Alderman, “we have a Governor who has decided to put a social agenda ahead of balancing our budget.”

Concluding the topic, he advised, “the bad news is that, no matter what, the solution is going to involve more revenue from us.”

The remainder of the Alderman’s remarks included his opposition to the city’s well-intended but poorly executed ordinance requiring new residential properties to be built with affordable housing units, the need for more police officers, and his refusal to rezone areas within the 42nd Ward “by willy-nilly picking winners and losers.”

The meeting continued with a panel discussion featuring representatives from the Chicago Police Department, Navy Pier, and others. It was inorganized by the Streeterville Organization of Active Residents (SOAR).

— Daniel Patton, Staff Writer

Alderman wants to dial down Chicago’s public performers

The April meeting of the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) at 130 N. Garland Ct. included a lengthy discussion between residents, police officers and a representative of Alderman Brendan Reilly’s office about the volume of street performers near Michigan Ave. and Lake St.

A local resident explained that music played outdoors sounds like noise to people indoors. Others implied that at least one of the performers is unable to play more than two songs.

An officer present stated that he had responded to several complaints in the past. He informed the group that most of the alleged sonic violators were licensed to perform by the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE). In such cases, he continued, the CPD can ask musicians to move to another location, but not order them to stop playing.

Although some acknowledged that passersby and tourists seem to enjoy street musicians, they felt that restrictions on licenses, volume, locations and/or hours are necessary to reduce the aural strain on the local residency.      

A representative from the Alderman’s office remarked that “Alderman Reilly in a million years would never issue these permits.” She encouraged residents to join Alderman Reilly in a letter writing campaign directed towards Michelle T. Boone, Commissioner of DCASE, as a “pre-cursor to an ordinance campaign.”

“At the end of the day,” she explained, “we want the person who issues these permits to understand how the performers effect the quality of your life.”

The Commissioner’s office responded to a request for comment by noting via email that it had “not heard about” the Alderman’s intentions but looks forward to seeing his proposal and is “always happy to hear from the public.”

Alderman Reilly’s office did not respond to a request for additional information.

(Photo: Larry Bluesman on the Jackson Red Line platform in Chicago, by Daniel Patton)

— Daniel Patton, Staff Writer

Residential presidential poll

An informal presidential poll conducted by New Eastside News in the Village Market Lakeshore East on a recent Saturday afternoon concluded that Senator Clinton will win the Democratic nomination and Senator Rubio or Donald Trump (if the party still claims him) will win the Republican nomination.

The thoughts behind the predictions are as dynamic as the race itself. Here are responses from some of the residents surveyed:

IMG_2640bNew Eastside resident Luke Chandra, a high school student at the Latin School of Chicago, will vote in his first presidential election this year. Chandra describes himself as a Republican.

But, he adds, “I say that with a chip on my shoulder.”

“I support Marco Rubio, but I don’t think he’ll win the primary,” he explains.

“I believe that Trump will win the primary, but I’m not a Trump supporter. I believe he’s too risky of a candidate, unlike Hillary.”

Chandra believes that the White House will welcome its second President Clinton in November.

“She has the most experience of any candidate and being a woman doesn’t hurt her chances at all,” he says. “I think a lot of voters believe that she’s a very reasonable and safe candidate, so it’s a safe vote to vote for Hillary.”

IMG_2647bAnother resident, Daniel Spiess, PhD, Assistant Director of Postdoctoral Affairs at the University of Chicago, has “no idea who’s going to win,” but believes that it will, “probably be a Democrat.”

“Everything is so extreme on the Republican side that I think it’s just turning a lot of people off,” he says. “It makes for great theater, but I don’t think it makes for good leadership.”

Among the things turning off voters, he says, are the candidates’ hawkish tendencies. For example, a recent New York Times article accused Senator Rubio of “stepping away” from his immigration reform bill, and a suspicion that Donald Trump — “as fun as he is” — is “just posturing.”

“I don’t even know if he really wants to be president,” Spiess muses.

As a former New Yorker, he voted for and lived through the leadership of Senator Clinton. He describes her performance as “totally fine” and says that, “people liked her.”

Maryam, an emergency room nurse from Naperville, who declined to provide her last name, predicts that Donald Trump will win the presidency.

“The sad truth is that America is completely ignorant and that’s exactly who they want to run their country.”

Mr. Trump’s negative portrayal of immigrants, a particularly sensitive topic for the first-generation American, fuels the ignorance she refers to. “My family is from Iran,” she says. “We are Muslim.”

If she “had to” cast a vote right now, Maryam, whose boyfriend lives in Lakeshore East, would support Senator Bernie Sanders because he addresses the “basic humanitarian” issues that are important to her.

A President Sanders, she says, “would help save us a little bit from this mess we’re in.”

— Daniel Patton, Staff Writer

How the city helps keep pedestrians safe

By Daniel Patton | Managing Editor

Concern over potential collisions between automobiles and pedestrians at certain neighborhood traffic lights, crosswalks and intersections dominated the comments of attendees at a recent CAPS meeting in the 42nd Ward.

A New Eastside resident described the insufficient lighting, inferior design and impending sense of disaster on Columbus Avenue between the Fairmont Hotel and CVS, just north of the location where two streets emerge from the lower infrastructure. Another mentioned gouges in the sidewalk at Columbus and Randolph. A third expressed gratitude that a crack in the walkway of the Columbus Drive Bridge had been repaired.

A Chicago Police officer at the meeting indicated that she had made and submitted reports of some of the residents’ concerns to the Chicago Department of Transportation — which bears responsibility for inspecting, analyzing and, ideally, fixing the flaws. She also also said that she would forward reports about any additional concerns to CDOT.

As a result, she continued, CDOT has and will launch traffic studies into a couple of the locations.

CDOT traffic studies generally take six to nine months to complete, the officer explained. The best way for a resident to initiate a study is by contacting CDOT directly and providing the exact location and, if possible, photographs of the area of concern.

CPD officers offered their help to residents who wished to initiate reports of additional pedestrian and traffic safety issues to CDOT.

When reached for comment, a spokesperson for Alderman Reilly’s office offered similar assistance.

The Chicago Department of Transportation can be reached at (312) 744-3600 or cityofchicago.org/transportation.