Street Smart Chicago

Heartland Love Story: This Is What Your Government Would Tear Asunder

Politics No Comments »
The McGroarty-Torres family

The McGroarty-Torres family

By Lisa Applegate

When she stood behind the podium and began reading from her one-page speech, Kathy McGroarty-Torres felt more than just her usual jitters about speaking in public. The paper she held quivered in her hands. Her voice choked and she blinked away tears. She had written this speech late the previous night in her hotel room, anxious to include the most compelling details of her family’s struggle with a largely unknown immigration law. It was a story she had yearned to tell for a decade, ever since she and Ines Torres were newlyweds and learned of the law while waiting at the border in Ciudad Juarez. Now here she was, standing before a television camera and several reporters in a U. S. Congress meeting room.

“We have lived everyday with the fear that our lives could be destroyed by a deportation order. We have two boys, Esteban and Diego, who have no idea that their father’s immigration status could ultimately bring unbelievable heartache to our home.” As Kathy spoke her boys’ names, a thought flashed in her mind: “Oh, there it is. We’re all out now.” She had been encouraged to use their names, to add a human dimension to the law passed by Congress seventeen years ago in an attempt to deter undocumented immigrants. Now she wondered, could this be dangerous for us? Read the rest of this entry »

Checkerboard City: Putting the “X” in “Text”

Bicycling, Checkerboard City, Green, Northwest Side, Politics, Transit No Comments »
Margaret Laurino with her constituent Bob Kastigar / Photo courtesy of the 39th Ward

Margaret Laurino with her constituent Bob Kastigar/ Photo courtesy of the 39th Ward

By John Greenfield

As “mini mayors, ” Chicago aldermen have a huge influence on the kinds of projects that are built in their districts. For example, a handful of aldermen have opted to use “menu money” discretionary funds to stripe additional bicycle lanes in their wards or bankroll innovative transportation projects, like the Albany Home Zone traffic-calmed block in Logan Square. On the other hand, they can stand in the way of progress, as when former 50th Ward Alderman Berny Stone put the kibosh on a bike bridge over the North Shore Channel in West Rogers Park.

39th Ward Alderman Margaret Laurino’s Far Northwest Side district includes parts of the Albany Park, North Park, Sauganash, Mayfair, Independence Park and Old Irving Park neighborhoods. The chairman of the City Council’s Pedestrian and Traffic Safety Committee, she’s probably best known to cyclists as the sponsor of a new ordinance that bans texting and cell-phone use while cycling. But she’s actually one of City Hall’s outspoken advocates for sustainable transportation. I recently caught up with Laurino at her ward service office, 4404 West Lawrence, to get her views on walking, biking and transit issues in her ward and citywide. Read the rest of this entry »

Dime Stories: Ohio—Further Mysteries of a Battleground State

Dime Stories, Politics No Comments »

Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

With the election ever nearing, operatives and politicians are beating Ohio like a rented mule. From river to city there are dipshits with clipboards talking a smooth line of  sophistry from both parties.This is the low-tide of democracy, down where the kernels get small, dark and greasy—the margins—where elections are won and lost.

Sadly, that IS the history of this unique slice of ruptured geography.

Ohio remains, as the writer Charlie Finch noted, the state nobody really knows—it has given us our worst presidents—Hayes, Garfield, McKinley, Harding—to name a few. It has also given us some of our finest writers: James Wright  and Sherwood Anderson  included. Yet every  four years  this  fascinating place becomes the  bête noire  of American electoral politics and the faith of its citizens  ever more jerked around by the  process that emboldens its worst elements. And still, we don’t really know a damn thing about the place. Read the rest of this entry »

Checkerboard City: Life in the Bus Lane

Checkerboard City, City Life, Green, Humboldt Park, Loop, News etc., Politics, Transit 3 Comments »

Proposed BRT configuration/Image courtesy of CTA

By John Greenfield

“It comes down to: how do Chicagoans want their streets?” said Chris Ziemann, the city’s bus-rapid-transit project manager, as we drank coffee downstairs from the Chicago Department of Transportation’s (CDOT) downtown headquarters last week. “Do they want them to be congested every day at rush hour with gridlocked vehicles? Or do they want fast, reliable bus service and nice, comfortable conditions for walking?”

As car-dominated transportation systems become increasingly dysfunctional, more U.S. cities are looking to bus rapid transit (BRT) as a solution. BRT delivers subway-like speed and efficiency at relatively low costs through upgrades to existing streets rather than new rail lines. These improvements can include dedicated bus lanes, pre-paid boarding at stations in the road median, bus-priority stoplights and more. BRT is already common in Latin America, Europe and Asia, and it’s currently being piloted in dozens of American cities. Read the rest of this entry »

Mr. Tea: Congressman Joe Walsh Pities the Fools Who Doubt his Populist Anger

Politics No Comments »

By Eric Lutz

The front line in the war for the American dream, it turns out, is here, at Fox Run Golf Links in Elk Grove Village. Go figure. Joe Walsh, the freshman congressman from Illinois’ eighth district, a Tea Party Republican who rode a wave of anti-incumbent fury to the United States House of Representatives in 2010, is leading the charge for one side. He’s trim, handsome, charismatic and, to the seventy or so people in attendance at tonight’s town hall, the only thing standing between them and Obamacare and anti-business Democrats and job-stealing illegal immigrants and radical Muslims and political correctness and an assortment of other evils aided and abetted by the political left.

“This country is literally going through a revolution… a down-on-our-knees, hand-to-hand fight over the soul of America,” Walsh tells his supporters, who nod their heads in concern. Read the rest of this entry »

Dime Stories: Man With a Gun

Dime Stories, Politics 1 Comment »

Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

There is a horror implicit in the stick-figure, “Man with a Gun,” from the hobo alphabet. Its triangle with outstretched arms hints at a fleeing figure and encourages the viewer to do the same. Hobos were shot at, shot in earnest, and had a very real and rational fear of firearms.  More than one of them admitted it kept them from committing serious crimes.

One-hundred-and-fifty years ago we were the most well-armed country on the planet. We still are. Firearms were part of our contract with the idea of freedom and sadly, they still are. If one defies the government in any meaningful way, eventually they send men with guns. Read the rest of this entry »

Dime Stories: Democracy in Chicago

Dime Stories, Politics No Comments »

Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

On May 16th, 2011, Rahm Emanuel became the fifty-fifth mayor of the city of Chicago. It was a laugher. He ran against a field of mostly nobodies, and wound up trouncing career Democrat and City Clerk Miguel del Valle in the primary. The Republicans mattered not a fuck because this is Chicago and we don’t elect Republicans. We would vote for the dead before pulling the pachyderm lever.

I can’t decide whether it’s the best or worst decision Chicago’s ever made.

It was the perfect lifeboat for Emanuel. Nobody liked him or wanted to deal with him in Washington, not even his own guys. Once King Richard II decided not to run again, after the 2016 Olympics wet-dream shit the bed and there would be no crowning glory or fifth star for the city’s flag, Daley wanted out. That his wife was so desperately ill had to weigh heavily into his decision as well.

The Olympics thing had to be a pisser. Only Chicago politics has a BIGGER gang of scumbags than the Olympic Committee itself had. It had to be like a roomful of pickpockets where nobody brought a wallet. Imagine that summit and how much silverware got stolen at a gathering for that grimy gaggle of assholes. Read the rest of this entry »

NATO Takes Chicago, Chicago Takes NATO

Events, Politics No Comments »

This weekend’s NATO summit is inspiring a mix of welcoming promotions, confrontational protests and regular Chicagoans heading out of town. Here’s a selective listing of events, protests and promotions inspired by the gathering.

Already Happening

Chicago’s Culinary Crossroads Over two hundred restaurant locations will present tasting menus, featured items, desserts, wine selections and cocktails inspired by the NATO nations. For more information visit Through May 25.

NATO Cupcakes Magnolia Bakery, 108 North State. $3. Through May 25.

 May 17

Occupy Chicago’s Day of Environment: Planet over War! Bring your bike and rally against the environmentally destructive agendas of NATO and the G8. Rally outside of the Canadian Consulate, meet at the corner of Jackson and LaSalle. 2-11pm. Free. For more information visit Read the rest of this entry »

Hope Dies Last: The Lasting Scars of Difficult Times

Essays & Commentary, Politics 1 Comment »

Illustration: Zeke Danielson

By Michael Workman

In America, there is no more terrifying a ghoul than the threat of sustained, cripplingly high unemployment. We hear about it all the time. Have maybe even decided just to tune it out or maybe the ubiquity of the bloodless discussion of it has just inured us to the subject. It’s just numbers, right? It’ll get better eventually. Figure it out. After all, it’s hard to get a sense of what’s happening from those chatterboxes in the news, those talking heads feeding us an endless tickertape of statistics, empty percentages; high here, low there. We treat it like the weather. Numbers. Never any stories. Why does it always have to be numbers? Maybe it’s too much, what’s happening. Too garish, what’s happening to them, how the poor behave. How low.

Ask yourself. What actually are the effects on a family slipping below the poverty line, of losing their home in a foreclosure, of a family unable to afford gas, utility bills, clothes? Its effects aren’t just felt for a month or two, or something you get past in a year. There’s a price. And it’s one paid almost entirely by the less fortunate. And that’s what defines our society: how we treat our less fortunate and what price they pay for other’s prosperity. And if we’re a privileged society, maybe all that means is that the privileged get to ignore the silent anguish of the poor. But the cost of it doesn’t go away, ever. It stays with us as a people, changes and defines us psychologically and emotionally, and sometimes we lose one. But surviving it doesn’t fucking make you stronger, it scars and mutilates. Read the rest of this entry »

13 Ways of Looking at Occupy Chicago: The Aesthetics of the Movement

City Life, Essays & Commentary, Loop, Media, Politics 3 Comments »

Photo: Erica Weitzel

By Monica Westin

1. “Grant Park: three years later” was the initial vision for this article—a snapshot of the stark difference in Chicago’s political and emotional temperature between the downtown celebration of Barack Obama’s election night in 2008 and the Grant Park arrests in mid-October of this year. But this comparison doesn’t begin to get at what’s interesting about Occupy. Because of what I will call its “aesthetics” as well as its size (at last count, more than seventy American cities have an Occupy protest, not counting the strength and scope of related protests abroad), the protest, or movement, depending on how you look at it, is very much that—an amorphous, sprawling political form that looks different from every angle and every subject position, like Wallace Stevens’ blackbird. That American mainstream media is unable to cover Occupy in any kind of coherent, proficient way is well-documented, but even as a single observer it was nearly impossible for me to take any kind of clearly articulated position about Occupy Chicago without immediately realizing I could make a strong case for an opposite view of the phenomenon (and usually I had heard someone do so in an interview). Read the rest of this entry »