Monday, January 30, 2012

Some things to remember as fire, police, and teachers re-negotiate their contracts

I was debating if I should post this today, but on my way home from work, I heard Rahm Emanuel on the news stating what bad economic shape the state of Illinois is in.  He said that the state is projected to be so many billions of dollars in debt in a couple of years that he's fighting for pension reform now so as not to have our property tax doubled in a couple of years.  After hearing that, I thought there were two pieces of information I'd like to share. 

Not only is the state broke- but we've heard since last summer CPS is broke too and cannot afford to pay teachers their 4% raise...blah, blah, blah, and the list goes on.  Get a load of this real estate deal they made on the city's south side.  The Board of Ed bought a dump of a property "as is" for a mere 1.2 million dollars and now they have to pay for the clean up before a school could be built there. I high-lighted some of the most interesting details...

(To check out some interesting aldermen facts, make sure you scroll to the bottom.)

January 29, 2012
Chicago Public Schools' plan to build an elementary school on polluted property in the shadow of the Chicago Skyway and an expiring coal-fired power plant near the Indiana border is raising the ire of parents in the working-class East Side neighborhood.

CPS already has paid more than $3 million for about 2 acres near 104th Street and South Indianapolis Avenue, a triangular parcel near a heavily congested traffic corridor, train tracks and towering industrial plants.

Preliminary testing at the site, which had been home to a gas station and more recently a carwash, uncovered eight underground gasoline storage tanks, one known to be leaking, and unsafe levels of the chemical benzene in the soil. But an official with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency cautioned that the true extent of the contamination won't be known until more testing is completed.

No matter the level of pollution, records show CPS bought the property "as is", which means the district will cover all the cleanup costs before it breaks ground on school construction.

"It's a horrible site, and it would be terrible for students," said Jose Garza, chairman of the local school council at nearby Gallistel Elementary Language Academy.

Neighborhood residents have for years complained to CPS about overcrowding in their schools, particularly Gallistel, where 1,400 students — almost double the capacity — are spread among three campuses and an army of portable trailers.

But Garza and others are angry over the CPS plan for crowding relief and suspicious of the deals made to make it happen.

CPS bought an acre from a relative of Ed Vrdolyak, aka "Fast Eddie," the former Southeast Side political heavyweight and longtime alderman who had a reputation for wheeling and dealing. Vrdolyak was released from prison in November after serving 10 months for his role in a $1.5 million Gold Coast real estate scheme.

Though Vrdolyak's political career ended two decades ago, his name still resonates on the East Side, where longtime residents are quick to share stories about the former power broker and foil to former Mayor Harold Washington. So when they learned it was Vrdolyak's niece, Barbara Vrdolyak, and her husband, Gary Dorigan, a former CPS school engineer, who sold the land to CPS, they had questions.

The couple, who could not be reached for comment, bought the property in 1998 for $125,000, according to Cook County records, and built a successful carwash there. Despite the contamination, the school district paid $1.1 million for the property.

"Nothing gets done here accidentally in this ward," said Richard Martinez, a lifelong 10th Ward resident who lost a bid for alderman last year. "And nothing gets done without Ed Vrdolyak knowing about it."

Garza put it another way: "Why would anyone spend so much money to buy in an undesirable area if they didn't have to?"

However the deal was arranged, it's the children who lose out, said Patty Fisher, another longtime resident and member of Gallistel's community advisory group.

"This plan isn't good for anybody," Fisher said.

The neighborhood, like others in the region, is still recovering from the collapse of the steel industry three decades ago. Yet for all the vacant land and shuttered buildings, finding space for an elementary school is no easy task, said the ward's current alderman, John Pope.

Pope said he helped CPS choose the property and thinks it's a fine place for a school. He called the connection to the former ward boss a "nonissue."

"There's a desperate need for a new elementary school in this community," Pope said. "Are there potentially better sites in terms of a wish list? Sure. But they just aren't available there."

The deal to acquire the property was struck almost three years ago under the previous CPS Board of Education and former Mayor Richard Daley. Three independent appraisals of the site in 2009 valued the land and the carwash at $1.4 million to $1.9 million.

CPS negotiated a lower price, and ultimately condemned the property, because of the contamination and because the cleanup responsibility would fall on the district. The sale was approved by the current board in August.

Soil concerns aside, the neighborhood suffers from some of the poorest air quality in the state, thanks to a coal-fired power plant in nearby Hammond that is slated to close this year and thousands of trucks, cars and freight trains that roll through the area each day.

The new school would sit about a mile northeast of George Washington High School. In 2010, an air monitor atop that school recorded the state's highest levels of toxic chromium and sulfates, pollution that can trigger asthma attacks and heart problems. The BP Whiting refinery and the ArcelorMittal steel mill, two of the region's biggest sources of air pollution, are a couple of miles away.

In California, concerns over air quality prompted lawmakers in 2003 to prohibit districts from building schools within 500 feet of a freeway. Studies indicated the ultrafine particles kicked up by vehicles and noxious fumes were harmful to children's lungs and increased the risk of asthma and bronchitis. There is no such law in Illinois.

Erin Lavin Cabonargi, executive director of Chicago's Public Building Commission, which builds schools for CPS, called the environmental risks at the Vrdolyak property "nominal" and said the site was chosen after a careful review of the options. She said CPS was limited to searching within the attendance boundaries of Gallistel and nearby Addams Elementary, which is also over capacity.

Some residents say CPS overlooked the simplest, and perhaps, cheapest option: buying up available land next to both schools and expanding them.

"You're talking about putting children in a toxic environment or investing in the schools that are there now," said Garza, who has three children at Gallistel.

Pope said that scenario would have been more expensive and delayed development.

"Parents have the right to object and make their concerns heard, but we looked high and low for a location to make that school work," Pope said.

Original Article:,0,2321241.story

And to further show the hypocrisy of our politicians and those "in charge" check out the salaries of the aldermen.  Don't you wish you had a part-time job that paid this kind of money?

Chicago aldermanic salaries, 2008-2012
Go to the related story »
The salaries of Chicago’s aldermen rise — or even fall — with the city’s cost of living under a 2006 ordinance. But City Council members can forgo the raises and opt out of the cuts in any given year. As a result of those individual choices, aldermanic salaries now vary by as much as $11,000.
How this played out: 19 aldermen who took all the increases on the table and also decided against taking a pay cut in 2010 are being paid $114,913 this year. The three aldermen who declined all the raises have a salary of $104,101. The rest fall somewhere between.

Also of note: from 2009 to 2011, most aldermen took 40 unpaid days in solidarity with city workers forced to take unpaid days off work. The unpaid days practice has ended for aldermen and city workers alike, except for freshman 47th Ward Ald. Ameya Pawar. He continues to take less pay to keep a campaign promise.

Besides their city salary, some aldermen have other sources of income, which they disclose in annual financial interest statements. Financial interest statements for 2008-2010 may be downloaded from the City Clerk's web site.
Source: City of Chicago
WardAlderman2008 salary2009 salary2010 salary2011 salary2012 salary2009 unpaid days2010 unpaid days2011 unpaid days
Base salary*$104,101$110,556$106,644$108,086$112,345
1Proco "Joe" Morenon/an/a$106,644$106,644$110,847n/a170
2Bob Fioretti$104,101$104,101$104,101$104,101$108,2039240
3Pat Dowell$104,101$110,556$110,556$110,556$114,91372413
4William D. "Will" Burnsn/an/an/a$108,086$108,086n/an/a3
5Leslie A. Hairston$104,101$110,556$110,556$110,556$114,91372412
6Roderick T. Sawyern/an/an/a$108,086$112,345n/an/a0
7Sandi Jackson$104,101$110,556$110,556$110,556$114,91315240
8Michelle A. Harris$104,101$110,556$110,556$110,556$114,913142410
9Anthony A. Beale$104,101$110,556$110,556$110,556$114,91315240
10John A. Pope$104,101$104,101$106,644$106,644$110,847152513
11James A. Balcer$104,101$104,101$104,101$104,101$108,203162511
12George Cardenas$104,101$110,556$110,556$110,556$114,91318120
13Marty Quinnn/an/an/a$108,086$108,086n/an/a11
14Edward M. Burke$104,101$110,556$106,644$108,086$108,086152514
15Toni L. Foulkes$104,101$110,556$110,556$110,556$110,55614137
16JoAnn Thompson$104,101$110,556$110,556$110,556$114,9130220
17Latasha Thomas$104,101$110,556$110,556$110,556$110,55616243
18Lona Lane$104,101$110,556$110,556$110,556$114,91315140
19Matthew J. O'Shean/an/an/a$108,086$108,086n/an/a2
20Willie B. Cochran$104,101$110,556$110,556$110,556$114,91313106
21Howard B. Brookins Jr.$104,101$110,556$110,556$110,556$114,9131030
22Ricardo Muñoz$104,101$110,556$106,644$108,086$112,345700
23Michael R. Zalewski$104,101$110,556$110,556$110,556$114,91315230
24Michael D. Chandlern/an/an/a$108,086$112,345n/an/a0
25Daniel "Danny" Solis$104,101$110,556$110,556$108,086$112,34517150
26Robert Maldonadon/a$110,556$110,556$110,556$114,9136190
27Walter Burnett Jr.$104,101$110,556$106,644$108,086$112,345152513
28Jason C. Ervinn/an/an/a$108,086$112,345n/an/a0
29Deborah L. Grahamn/an/a$106,644$108,086$112,345n/a10
30Ariel E. Reboyras$104,101$110,556$110,556$110,556$114,9137186
31Regner "Ray" Suarez$104,101$110,556$110,556$110,556$114,913152419
32Scott Waguespack$104,101$104,101$104,101$104,101$104,101152413
33Richard F. Mell$104,101$110,556$110,556$110,556$110,55621240
34Carrie M. Austin$104,101$110,556$110,556$110,556$114,91313813
35Rey Colón$104,101$110,556$110,556$110,556$110,55615160
36Nicholas Sposaton/an/an/a$108,086$108,086n/an/a3
37Emma M. Mitts$104,101$110,556$110,556$110,556$114,91311244
38Timothy M. Cullertonn/an/an/a$108,086$108,086n/an/a24
39Margaret Laurino$104,101$110,556$110,556$110,556$114,913152513
40Patrick J. O'Connor$104,101$110,556$110,556$110,556$114,91312414
41Mary O'Connorn/an/an/a$108,086$108,086n/an/a3
42Brendan Reilly$104,101$104,101$104,101$104,101$104,1010240
43Michele Smithn/an/an/a$108,086$108,086n/an/a3
44Thomas M. Tunney$104,101$104,101$104,101$104,101$104,10192313
45John Arenan/an/an/a$108,086$108,086n/an/a2
46James Capplemann/an/an/a$108,086$112,345n/an/a0
47Ameya Pawarn/an/an/a$108,086$108,086n/an/a55
48Harry Ostermann/an/an/a$108,086$108,086n/an/a8
49Joe Moore$104,101$110,556$110,556$110,556$114,913152512
50Debra L. Silversteinn/an/an/a$108,086$112,345n/an/a3

Original Source:

We need to all remember this as the city cries poor-mouth during contract talks and continues to spew how it's the fault of all the unions for running this city into the ground!

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