Saturday, July 21, 2018

Look to Sheffield: this is how state and corporate power subverts democracy | George Monbiot | Opinion | The Guardian

Look to Sheffield: this is how state and corporate power subverts democracy | George Monbiot | Opinion | The Guardian

See below--this is George Monbiot's take on what is going on in Sheffield, UK, where a privatization deal is leading to the destruction of thousands of street trees.
Here's a statement from STAG, a group that is trying to save the trees. The privatization deal is a PFI, or "private financing initiative," with Amey, a private infrastructure company that is a subsidiary of Ferrovial, a huge Spanish company that does the same sorts of things.

For the chop: the battle to save Sheffield’s trees | UK news | The Guardian

For the chop: the battle to save Sheffield’s trees | UK news | The Guardian

I was in Sheffield the week before last, and I heard this story about privatization gone bad (or so people say) from friends there. The city contracted with a private company called Amey to maintain streets, and the company is chopping down thousands of street trees. There are theories as to why this is going on, some of which are quite troubling. I will be saying more about this as I learn more and develop a better understanding of what is going on.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Donnie Rudd guilty of killing wife in ’73, making it look like car crash: 'It's been a 45-year nightmare' - Chicago Tribune

Donnie Rudd guilty of killing wife in ’73, making it look like car crash: 'It's been a 45-year nightmare' - Chicago Tribune:



This article doesn't mention it, but Donnie Rudd was the principal author of much of the Illinois Condominium Property Act. The act was originally adopted in 1963.   The legislature did a major set of amendments in 1983, and Rudd co-authored the amendments. At that time he had huge HOA and condo practice. Eventually he got in trouble for allegedly cheating his clients and was disbarred. There was suspicion that he was involved in the murder of one of his clients who was going to complain about him, but he was never charged. Then there was the wife of 28 days who, he claimed, died of injuries from a car crash. But now he has been convicted of bludgeoning her to death for the insurance money. Here's a timeline of the Rudd legal saga.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Big rehab on tap for Kennelly Square in Lincoln Park after Strategic Properties closes deal - News - Crain's Chicago Business

Big rehab on tap for Kennelly Square in Lincoln Park after Strategic Properties closes deal - News - Crain's Chicago Business: "After paying $78 million for a Lincoln Park condominium tower, a New Jersey real estate developer plans to spend another $10 million fixing it up.

Strategic Properties of North America completed its buyout May 31 of all the condos in Kennelly Square, a 268-unit high-rise at 1749 N. Wells St. At $78 million, it is the biggest in a wave of condo "deconversions" rolling through Chicago, propelled by the strong apartment market.

Strategic Properties and other developers have been buying up entire condo buildings and turning them back into apartments, believing they'll be worth more as rental properties, which have been en vogue with investors the past several years.

But the deals are especially complicated because a developer often must persuade dozens, if not hundreds, of condo owners to agree to a sale. Under state law, a sale of an entire condo building can go forward only if owners of at least 75 percent of the units vote to approve the deal. Strategic Properties barely crossed that threshold at Kennelly Square, with a 75.5 percent approval rate, said Michael Delrahim, a lawyer for the building's condo board."

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This is going on in many condos here in Chicago. According to what I have been told, investors are able to turn a profit doing this because the market for apartments is actually better than the market for relatively inexpensive condo units. They buy 75% of the units, offering above-market price to the unit owners, and then sell the whole thing, which becomes an apartment building. There is nothing wrong with increasing the supply of rental housing in Chicago, but it raises the issue of how people are going to enter the housing market if the supply of inexpensive condo units gets depleted by deconversions. We are seeing a strange cycle play itself out. During the housing boom from 1995 through 2006, they couldn't convert apartments into condos fast enough. But now there seems to be more money to be made in deconversions. And another factor with low-end condos is inadequate reserves and deferred maintenance that leads to special assessments. When owners are facing massive special assessments, they are more likely to look favorably on an offer to sell the unit. As the story says, "Strategic Properties also plans to fix problems with the building's exterior that motivated many condo owners to sell. The building leaks when it rains, and its condo board had floated a multi-million-dollar special assessment to fix the problem. Faced with paying the special assessment or selling out, many owners chose the latter...The deconversion trend is accelerating in Chicago, in part because many condo buildings find themselves, like Kennelly Square, facing big special assessments to cover major repairs, said Delrahim, the attorney. "There are still a large number of buildings that were built in the '70s and '80s that have deferred maintenance, and unit owners don't want to write the check," said Delrahim, managing partner at Chicago-based Brown Udell Pomerantz & Delrahim.."

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The world's largest retirement community is testing self-driving taxis — Quartz

The world's largest retirement community is testing self-driving taxis — Quartz: "The Villages retirement community in Florida has a name that belies its proportions. The 40-square-mile area features 750 miles of road, three separate downtowns, and a population of 125,000 senior citizens—nearly double the population of Palo Alto, California. In 2013 and ’14, the US Census ranked it the fastest-growing American city.

It is within this gated city that US car startup Voyage has aptly chosen to pilot its door-to-door self-driving taxi service, the company announced last Wednesday. The residents will be able to summon cars with the touch of an app, and the cars will operate at Level 4 autonomy—or full autonomy for all safety-critical driving functions—but still include a safety driver in case of emergency."

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Thursday, March 5, 2015

How Chicago's grassroots coalition forced Mayor Rahm Emanuel into a runoff

This article tells the story. The answer is, a whole lot of grassroots organizing involving many organizations that managed to join forces behind challenger Jesus "Chuy" Garcia to unseat the mayor. The runoff between Chuy and Rahm is April 7, so stay tuned. It will be exciting, and based on my own analysis of the numbers, it is possible for Chuy to win this.

http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/17712/chicago_grassroots_movements


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Amid drought, a turf war between residents and homeowners associations - LA Times

Amid drought, a turf war between residents and homeowners associations - LA Times

People in Southern California are dealing with drought conditions by not watering their lawns.  That seems sensible enough, except that many HOAs continue enforcing their absurd requirements for green lawns.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Young voters, political participation, and the 2016 election


This is a work in progress, and I am posting it in the hope that people will read it and react to it. Tell me where I’m right, and tell me where I’m wrong or missing something.
I teach Political Science at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and in years past I taught at a liberal arts college in Pennsylvania and a large state university in California. Among other courses, I teach big introductory classes in American Government that are full of first and second year students, so I have been talking with a lot of young people about politics for 25 years. As a political scientist, I have also been reading what little is available in our literature about their attitudes toward politics and their political participation.  Add to that the fact that I have three children between the ages of 17 and 23, all of whom are interested in politics, and I’d say I have a solid base to offer some opinions on young people and political participation.
 Here is what I know about how the 18-29 demographic views political participation. I think it means that Hillary Clinton and the Democrats are in trouble in 2016 unless they make some changes in their approach to young people. I am intentionally oversimplifying here and overstating the differences between young and older people in order to sharpen the contrast.  If I seem to be saying “all,” please understand that I mean a disproportionate amount. But as a practical matter these differences are determinative of election outcomes, and these are reasons why young people must be appealed to differently or they will not vote.
How are young voters different than older voters?