Who’s Powerful In Chicago? One Mayor, Two Sports Figures, And Lots of Others

Who really runs Chicago? According to Chicago Magazine, it is a collection of leaders in politics, business, sports and food.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel

Earlier this month, the magazine came out with its list of the city’s 100 most powerful people. It’s a surprisingly diverse list, with some very familiar and not so familiar faces. (Oprah, whose Chicago-based show ended last year, is no longer on it.)

Steve Edwards at our partner station WBEZ recently talked about the list with Chicago Magazine editors David Bernstein and Marcia Froelke Coburn.

We broke down the Top 10 into four categories.

Politics: In a city where politics is in everyone’s DNA, it’s no surprise that Mayor Rahm Emanuel is the most powerful person in Chicago. He’s joined in the top 10 by three other politicians: U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, and President Obama’s campaign strategist, David Axelrod. Continue reading “Who’s Powerful In Chicago? One Mayor, Two Sports Figures, And Lots of Others”

Midwest Memo: Environmental And Business Interests Clash In Ohio And Wisconsin, Sara Lee Returns To Chicago

Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Ohio officials scrutinize fracking finding. Ohio officials are closely watching the fallout from an Environmental Protection Agency finding that hydrofracking might have caused groundwater pollution in Wyoming. The finding, announced Thursday, could have significant ramifications in Ohio, where leaders have haggled over how to regulate the burgeoning industry. The industry has contended that fracking is safe, but the EPA detected hydrocarbons likely associated with fracking chemicals in the groundwater of a Wyoming town where residents say their well water reeks of chemicals. “All of the rhetoric from the industry has been there’s no way that this can happen,” Trent Doughtery, a lawyer for the Ohio Environmental Council, tells The Columbus Dispatch. “This shows that it has happened, and we need to protect the people in Ohio.”

2. Wisconsin Republicans envision mining boom. Wisconsin Republicans proposed legislation Thursday that would encourage construction of iron ore mines and reduce environmental restrictions. Sponsors of the bill tell the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel its passage could create thousands of jobs. The newspaper reports the bill would scale back water protections and waste rock disposal, as well as mandate that the Department of Natural Resources accelerate its review process. Mining emerged as a significant state issue this year when Gogebic Taconite announced it would construct a new mine that would employ 700 workers. Advocates decried the sweeping rollbacks of environmental protections. The bill will gets its first hearing Wednesday, according to the newspaper, and could be voted upon in January.

3. Sara Lee headquarters back in Chicago. Six years after leaving, Sara Lee is returning part of its corporate headquarters to Chicago. The food and beverage company was headquartered in the city for more than 60 years before a 2005 consolidation brought it to suburban Downers Grove. Next year, the company will split into two publicly traded companies, and one will occupy a building on South Jefferson that will be renovated at a cost of $60 million, according to our partner station WBEZ. A $6.5 million subsidy, a first under Mayor Rahm Emanuel, helped bring the deal to fruition.

Midwest Memo: Chicago Mayor Unveils Microlending Plan, Auto Dealerships Renovate, Indiana Finds Extra $320 Million

Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Chicago unveils microlending program. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel unveiled a plan Tuesday to create a new organization that helps the city’s small businesses. The Chicago Microlending Institute would train potential lenders on advising and giving loans to people starting small businesses, and would be funded by a $1 million loan pool funded by the city. Our partner station WBEZ says the proposed institute would be run by ACCION Chicago, an area small business lender. Emanuel said small businesses sometimes struggle to get loans from traditional institutions. “That’s the hardest first step,” Emanuel tells WBEZ. “That’s the hardest loan. You don’t have a proven model. You don’t have a proven record.”

2. Auto dealerships undergo facelifts. Three auto dealerships in the Milwaukee area are joining a growing national trend of expanding or renovating their facilities. Jim Tolkan, president of the Automobile Dealers Association of Mega Milwaukee, tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that auto manufacturers are requiring dealerships to remodel in order to meet “a look that is easily recognizable regardless of where you are in the country.” Others are unconvinced that dealers will recoup expensive outlays. “That is the unknown question,” Tolkan tells the newspaper. The National Automobile Dealers Association is expected to issue a report on the subject later this year.

3. Whoops! Indiana finds leftover $320 million. Indiana officials discovered Tuesday the state had $320 million more than anticipated in its main account. Gov. Mitch Daniels said the windfall came as a result of a multi-year programming error that was only recently caught by a stunned employee. Democrats aren’t necessarily buying the explanation after watching Republicans cut public education funding by $300 million at the end of 2009, according to the Indianapolis Star. “This wasn’t just an accounting error,” Senate Minority Leader Vi Simpson told the newspaper. “Children got hurt by this, families have suffered.”

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel Scores A Big Political Victory

Rahm Emanuel has only been in office since May, but today he scored his first major political victory. Chicago’s city council voted 50-0 in favor of a budget plan that calls for fee increases, layoffs and major changes in the way the city does business.

That isn’t to say all the aldermen liked it. During two hours of debate, there were complaints about aspects of the plan that will close libraries and close six mental health clinics.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel

But there also was praise for Emanuel for working closely with city council members on his proposal to address a $635 million deficit. Ed Burke, considered the city’s most powerful alderman, said the budget process was the most cooperative he had seen in 42 years.

While he was working on the plan, Emanuel, the former White House chief of staff, said he was no longer going to “kick the can down the road” on the city’s problems  — a veiled reference to his predecessor, and political mentor, Richard M. Daley. (I looked at Emanuel and Daley in this story for Atlantic Cities last month.)

In Wednesday’s debate, Alderman Richard Mell told the mayor, “It’s obvious that when you we’re a kid, you never learned the game of kick the can. Everybody felt the pain. The only way you are going to make the gain is to feel the pain.”

Continue reading “Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel Scores A Big Political Victory”

Midwest Memo: Chicago Budget Should Easily Pass, Toledo Gains 1,100 Jobs, Cleveland Eyes China Medical Markets

Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Chicago budget vote tonight. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s first city budget will be voted upon by the city council tonight. It is expected to be easily approved. The budget addresses a $635 million deficit through a series of layoffs, library and mental-health clinic cuts and fee increases. Our partner station WBEZ says the only question now is how the city’s 50 aldermen will vote, citing minimal opposition. “It could be six or it could be a unanimous vote,” Ald. Bob Fioretti tells the station. He said he worried Emanuel’s plan to nearly double fees for water and sewer service over four years will hasten an exodus of residents. But, “My yes or no vote isn’t going to mean anything,” he said. “I believe it’s already decided.”

2. Chrysler brings 1,100 jobs to Toledo. Chrysler announced today that it would invest $500 million at a Toledo assembly plant to build its next-generation Jeep SUV. The investment is expected to create more than 1,100 new jobs by 2013, according to the Detroit Free Press. The Toledo North plant will add a second shift. The plant, which opened in 1997, was the only Chrysler plant in North America operating only one shift, according to the newspaper.The investment comes as part of a $1.7 billion move centered around the Jeep SUV. Remaining funds will be invested at other Chrysler plants.

3. Cleveland biomedical companies eye China markets. There’s growing opportunity for Cleveland-area biomedical companies to meet China’s growing demand for advanced health care. The Chinese government has pledged $100 billion to upgrade its healthcare infrastructure, and “it would be insane not to take advantage of that immense growth,” Eddie Zai, founder of the Cleveland International Group, a business investment consulting firm, tells our partner station Ideastream. Zai’s new venture, the Cleveland Bio-Fund, is partnering with Newsummit Pharmaceuticals in Shanghai, to bring $100 million to U.S. medical device companies. The Plain Dealer endorses the developments, calling it, “an example of the kind of commerce that is the path to jobs and wealth.”

Chicago’s Head Tax Will Soon Be History

Last month, we told you about Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposal to eliminate the city’s “head tax” on businesses with 50 or more people. Now, city council has made it official.

Aldermen voted today to cut the tax in half by next July, and eliminate it by mid-2014, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The city charges a tax of $4 per person per month at companies that fall under the definition. The tax generates about $23 million a year in revenue.

Emanuel’s budget plan calls for a number of ways to make up the shortfall, including raising taxes at downtown parking garages and hotels.

“The head tax is a job killer,” Emanuel said in a statement after the vote. He had vowed to win a repeal of the tax during his campaign for mayor earlier this year. Said the mayor: “Eliminating the head tax is the right thing to do for businesses big and small, and it’s the right thing to do to secure Chicago’s future.”

Midwest Memo: Budget Cuts Concern Chicago Aldermen, Japanese Currency Adjustment Angers Michigan Contingent

Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Chicago aldermen send Emanuel letter. Saying proposed Chicago budget cuts would hurt public safety and quality of life, a majority of the city’s 50 aldermen have called for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to alter his 2012 city budget. Our partner station WBEZ reports that 28 aldermen signed a letter that said the cuts would cause too many layoffs at city libraries, close too many mental health clinics and endanger public safety. Also, the letter stated they have “reservations” about the doubling of fees for city parking stickers for SUVs.

2. Projected layoffs drop across U.S. After planned layoffs across the U.S. hit a 28-month high in September, they dropped 63 percent to 42,759 in October, according to a new report. Government and financial sectors keyed the rebound, said outplacement consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. But “the two sectors are not out of the woods, by any means,” John Challenger, CEO, tells the Chicago Tribune. Employers have announced a total of 521,823 planned layoffs so far this year, a jump of 16 percent from 2010. The report comes in advance of Friday’s October jobs report from the federal government.

3. Michigan Senator Slams Currency Adjustment. U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and a trade group that represents Detroit automakers criticized a decision by the Japanese government to lower the value of the yen. “Currency manipulation gives other countries an anti-competitive advantage and directly translates to lost American jobs, especially in Michigan,” Stabenow told the Detroit News. The automotive trade group that the move, the third this year, essentially subsidizes Japanese exports to the United States while weakening U.S. exports to Japan.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel: The Opposite Of His Predecessor And Mentor, Richard M. Daley

Rahm Emanuel earned his political breakthrough while working as the chief fundraiser for Chicago’s Richard M. Daley during his first mayoral campaign in 1989. When Emanuel moved on to positions in the White House and a Congressional job, Daley often functioned as a mentor.

Yet in his first five months in the office formerly occupied by Daley, Emanuel has laid the foundation to dismantle many of the core tenets of Daley’s long tenure as mayor. Changing Gears senior editor Micki Maynard, writing in The Atlantic, examines the changes outlined by Emanuel.

In part, they’re driven by finances. In facing an unprecedented $637 million budget deficit, Emanuel has proposed police and fire department cuts – two sacred budget lines in the Daley era – among a laundry list of other proposed reductions.

On Friday, Emanuel’s proposed $10 million cut to the city’s library budget, one that would cost the city 284 jobs, drew a frosty reception from some city aldermen, according to our partner station WBEZ.

After a dozen years of deficits, Emanuel has no choice. “The highest priority is to get the city’s fiscal house in order,” Joe Moore, an alderman from the city’s north side, tells Maynard.

Continue reading “Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel: The Opposite Of His Predecessor And Mentor, Richard M. Daley”

Three Big-City Mayors Discuss Issues Facing Local Governments to Kick off Chicago Ideas Week

A few years ago, crime topped the concerns of residents in Atlanta, Chicago and New York. These days, residents expect low crime.

The mayors of those three cities spoke Monday, all agreeing those concerns have shifted. Anecdotally, they say that, these days, citizens ask them most about concerned with housing costs and their jobs.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel/Micki Maynard

“And if they have kids, school,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York said, while speaking Monday, October 10, during a panel discussion that kicked off Chicago Ideas Week. “They don’t care about what’s at a national level or state level. If they haven’t lost a house or job, they’re worried about it. It is very local.”

Bloomberg was joined by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed on the panel about issues facing local governments, which was moderated by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman and sponsored in part by Changing Gears and our partner station WBEZ.

Emanuel said that laying the foundation for economic growth and job creation has been the central focus of his first five months in office. He said Chicago’s central U.S. location has given the city a geographic advantage in maintaining – and hopefully expanding – its infrastructure.

“We’re the only airport system with two major carries, and a quarter to a third of the nation’s rail freight comes through Chicago,” he said. “Rails, roads and runways. We invest in those, Chicago will continue to recruit companies and expand.”

Here’s a look back at their discussion:

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Midwest Memo: Biden Touts Jobs Bill in Michigan, Rahm Emanuel Promises to Face Chicago’s ‘Sacred Cows’

Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Biden champions jobs bill. Vice President Joe Biden made two stops in Michigan on Wednesday, touting President Obama’s $447 billion jobs bill. In a visit to Flint, Biden noted the city’s rise in murders, rapes and fires that occurred as police and fire staffing levels dropped. “That is a witch’s brew,” Biden tells Businessweek. “That is a mixture for a cancer in the city.” Later, during a stop in Grand Rapids, the vice president said economists believe the American Jobs Act would create 2 million jobs next year. Flint Mayor Dayne Walling said federal funding recently helped the city hire six police officers, but more are needed.

2. Chicago budget proposal chops services. On Wednesday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel unveiled a budget that called for taxes on tourists and suburbanites, close three police stations, streamline garbage collection, cut library hours and double water bills for the average household by 2015, according to the Chicago Tribune. “I’ve taken on a tremendous amount of political sacred cows,” Emanuel said  during a presentation to the City Council. “Not once, not twice, not three times, not four times, but multiple times across the budget.”

3. Hydrofracking permits soar in Ohio. The pace of permits being issued for hydrofracking in Ohio has quickened. The Columbus Dispatch reports today that 27 permits were issued for drilling in the Utica Shale formation underneath Ohio from July to September – more than half the total number issued since 2009. Meanwhile, Democrats in the state House said yesterday they would seek a moratorium on hydrofracking in the state until the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency completes a study on the controversial drilling’s effects on air and water.