Saturday, August 22, 2009

Of Sin Eaters and Parking Meters


In which mayoral finger-puppet Bernie Stone gives the game away.

Not that it matters.

From the Parking Ticket Geek:

Parking Meter Lawsuit Throwdown On Chicago Tonight


In one corner, Clint "La Ley" Krislov, who is the lease attorney on the lawsuit.

In the second corner, Chicago Reader political reporter, Mick "The Bruiser" Dumke.

In the third corner, 50th Ward Alderman Berny "The Grump" Stone.

It was Krislov who came out swinging early in the segment, with Stone, who backs the parking meter lease deal, getting some defensive jabs in. Finally, Dumke jumped into the fray, going toe to toe with Stone, driving "The Grump" into a defensive tailspin

It didn't seem that Stone was taking very kindly to the ass whuppin' Dumke was giving him on the facts of the deal. Often, as it is in politics, the old guard doesn't like to get schooled by young bucks like Dumke.

The problem for Stone was, outside of the people who originally wrote the several pounds of lease deal, know one knows the details of this deal better than Dumke.

You see, unlike most of the City Council, he actually read the deal.

Once upon a time, Da Mare of the third largest city in the American Empire had a problem: He was broke. Not really-really, of course; really-really, Da Mare of the third largest city in the American Empire was sitting on a pile of dough a mile high, but Da Mare of the third largest city in the American Empire had decided that that dough was gonna pay for the last and grandest of Hizzoner's vanity projects.

So Da Mare of the third largest city in the American Empire drew his Cape of Many Tantrums over the mile high pile of dough and, whammo!, it was...gone!

Not gone-gone, of course; merely obscured in plain sight by a potent, pop-skull brew of mayoral will, a complacence citizenry and a mostly pigeonhearted press.

So not broke, but "broke", and being "broke", Da Mare of the third largest city in the American Empire had to raise "revenue" and/or cut costs.

The cost cuts are relatively straightforward; lay off a bunch of people and put the rest on "You're lucky to even have a job" half-rations.

Raising revenues is harder, because, however much lipstick you slather on that even-toed ungulate, it requires dinging the public with a new fee or fine or tax or surcharge. And that, in turn, requires aldermen do the one thing that horrifies most of them above all else: to stop pandering and preening and tub thumping and behave like responsible public servants.

It requires them to lead, in a system that has been meticulously designed and cleverly upgraded -- decade after decade -- to be Da Mare's personal political puppy-mill: a machine for producing litter after litter of loud, colorful, neutered buffoons and weeding out anyone with any trace of leadership ability, lest such a person one day grow up to pose even the faintest threat to the Daley Autocracy.

So, for example, one modification which would save the city tens of millions of dollars almost overnight would be cutting back on the number of aldermen.

Consider that the City of Los Angeles somehow gets by with one city counsilor for every 166,000 citizens (3.8 million residents/15 city councilors), while New York City has one city counsilor fur every 253,000 of its inhabitants (8.3 million resident/50 city council members ).

Chicago, on the other hand, pays a small fortune to maintain a one alderman (and his or her retinue) for every 50,000 Chicagoan in what it , on paper, was supposed to be a part-time job.

From the Columbia Chronicle:

Chicago City Council: highest paid overall
Salaries and number of aldermen among highest in nation

The Chicago City Council spends more on its own salaries than most other cities, according to an analysis of salary figures.

This year Chicago will spend nearly $5 million of taxpayers? money paying 48 of its 50 aldermen $98,125 a year (two others receive $85,000), according to the 2006 city budget. Aldermen?s jobs include everything from arranging for garbage pickup to voting on citywide legislation.

Chicago?s 50 aldermanic wards rank second only to New York?s 51, even though New York has slightly more than 5 million more people.

The expensive salaries have caused some in Chicago think condensing the number of wards would combat government overspending.

"Seeing as we are always in some sort of budget crisis, maybe the city should think about possibly reducing how many aldermen we are paying," said Jay Stewart, executive director of the Better Government Association, a Chicago-based group that investigates and researches government waste and inefficiency. "It would be a major change, but I think it would be something that would benefit more than just our pockets."

And which will never happen for two, interdependent reasons:
  1. Aldermanic clout and privilege are dug into the system like ticks, and the council will never permit their sweet, recession-proof/budget-crisis-immune 100K/year part-time jobs to be put at risk, and,

  2. Reducing the number of aldermen by, say, half would effectively double the power and influence of the survivors...making each one of them that much more potentially dangerous to Da Mare's political interests.
And nothing whatsoever is permitted to endanger Da Mare's interests.

So when it came time to do something like raising the parking rates -- which is what this was always all about -- Chicago's over-paid political invertebrates outsourced the icky, unpopular, grownup job of actually taking responsibility for their decision.

Traded away a valuable public asset to a team of pinstriped Sin Eaters (from Wikipedia)


The term sin-eater refers to a person who, through ritual means, would take on by means of food and drink the sins of a deceased person, thus absolving his or her soul and allowing that person to rest in peace. In the study of folklore sin-eating is considered a form of religious magic.

This ritual is said to have been practiced in parts of England and Scotland, and allegedly survived until modern times in Wales. Traditionally, it is performed by a beggar and certain villages maintained their own sin-eaters. They would be brought to the dying person's bedside, where a relative would place a crust of bread on the breast of the dying and pass a bowl of ale to him over the corpse. After praying or reciting the ritual, he would then drink and remove the bread from the breast and eat it, the act of which would remove the sin from the dying person and take it into himself.

to buy the right to go on Chicago Tonight

and wheeze angrily that it wasn't their fault that the public was getting screwed.

Proud member of The Windy Citizen

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