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The Chicago way

Thursday, Aug 8, 2013

* When people complain how difficult it is to start a business in Chicago without the right political grease, this is what they mean. A proposed $57 million, 102,000-square-foot Ford dealership has been held up for months because of one Chicago alderman

City Council Zoning Committee Chairman Danny Solis, 25th, has twice held up a vote on a needed rezoning, requesting that Dearborn, Mich.-based Ford Motor Co. provide another dealership opportunity for a Latino — a specific Latino, who just happens to be a large campaign contributor to Mr. Solis’ ward organization. But Ford says it isn’t awarding new dealerships to anyone, and Fox, a division of Grand Rapids, Mich.-based FMG Holdings LLC, is a relatively small firm busy on the proposed 32nd Ward project.

* But the dealership company has had enough of the games and has set a deadline, according to Greg Hinz

“Oct. 1 is the final deadline,” Monica Sekulich, senior vice president and general counsel at Fox Motors, told me in a phone conversation. “This entire situation has been quite surprising to us.”

Yeah, surprising. To an outsider, these stupid games are stupefying. Chicagoans have learned to live with it, but that’s ridiculous.

Mayor Emanuel has finally stepped in and is pushing for approval, so this project should be a “go.” But why would it need the big dog’s intervention in the first place? How many other job-creating Chicago projects are being held up for political reasons that fly below MRE’s radar? I’m betting lots.

…Adding… Via a commenter, an example of how the Chicago way is not always confined only to Chicago

An effort by Gail Simpson to keep another business from selling alcohol in Ward 2 was defeated by her fellow aldermen Wednesday night.

By a 7-1 vote, the Springfield City Council approved a liquor license for Scandals at its new location at 1031 S. 11th St. in the old Touch of Class Sports Bar and Grill location. The bar/restaurant has been open only for food service for weeks.

Scandals used to be downtown.

Last week, Simpson put the brakes on the liquor license by chiding the other council members for thinking they knew better than her what’s best for her ward. […]

Brenda Protz, who identified herself as a friend of the owners, told the council she was concerned the anti-license effort was based on discrimination.

Protz pointed out that both owners of Scandals are gay.

Simpson, who is black, rejected that contention, saying her opposition had nothing to do with the business catering to gay people and was strictly about alcohol.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


39 Comments
  1. - wordslinger - Thursday, Aug 8, 13 @ 10:07 am:

    How is this not extortion?

    The alderman-as-baron practice is medieval.


  2. - RonOglesby - Thursday, Aug 8, 13 @ 10:09 am:

    unreal, but very normal… here at least.


  3. - Skeeter - Thursday, Aug 8, 13 @ 10:09 am:

    It goes well beyond that though.

    A lot of construction companies are so fed up with Chicago they will not do business here.

    Permits and licensing are a massive problem. Where else do you need to hire an “expediter” to get a permit?

    Projects get roughed in and then they sit waiting for an inspector to come out.

    For a lot of companies, it is just not worth the money.

    Corruption relative to zoning? That literally is not the biggest problem facing contractors. When “you need to reward the Alderman’s buddy just to get zoning approval” is not your biggest problem, the system is beyond screwed up.


  4. - Small Town Liberal - Thursday, Aug 8, 13 @ 10:13 am:

    You ought to try to get some simple construction permits in the city sometime, you’d think you were building a nuclear reactor. Eliminating this type of red tape is an easy, non-partisan way to stimulate investment, total no-brainer.


  5. - JoeInPeoria - Thursday, Aug 8, 13 @ 10:14 am:

    And Chicagoans wonder why the rest of Illinois distrusts/strongly dislike/hate them!


  6. - Quid-Pro-Quixote - Thursday, Aug 8, 13 @ 10:14 am:

    If true, it’s a crime. Withholding official action in exchange for a personal benefit or personal benefit of another (see U.S. v. Blago).


  7. - John Bambenek - Thursday, Aug 8, 13 @ 10:16 am:

    MRE, at least in military parlance, means Meal Ready to Eat. Essentially a field ration.

    I found it ironical that it was used as the acronym from Rahm.

    That is all.


  8. - wordslinger - Thursday, Aug 8, 13 @ 10:17 am:

    –And Chicagoans wonder why the rest of Illinois distrusts/strongly dislike/hate them!–

    You hate Chicagoans because of an alderman’s abuse of zoning regulations?


  9. - Leatherneck - Thursday, Aug 8, 13 @ 10:18 am:

    I’m not sure if this falls along the same lines but when I first read this post I immediately thought about last night’s Springfield City Council meeting where a new liquor license for a proposed east-side bar and grill was approved–after the alderwoman (Gail Simpson) representing the ward where the establishment is to be located tried to completely put the brakes on the business by chiding other City Council members:

    http://www.sj-r.com/top-stories/x369945862/Scandals-gets-liquor-license-Simpson-only-vote-no


  10. - John Bambenek - Thursday, Aug 8, 13 @ 10:18 am:

    Because no one outside the 312 has ever abused zoning regulations. That would be unconceivable.


  11. - Lobo Y Olla - Thursday, Aug 8, 13 @ 10:22 am:

    This happens all the time. Want to open a bar? This Liquor license lawyer, this here waste management company, oh, and this here handful of tickets to next week’s fundraiser. It’s a wide open secret.


  12. - Knome Sane - Thursday, Aug 8, 13 @ 10:24 am:

    =And Chicagoans wonder why the rest of Illinois distrusts/strongly dislike/hate them!=

    Joe, I am a Chicagoan and I have never personally held up one single thing that a downstater wanted.


  13. - Anonymous - Thursday, Aug 8, 13 @ 10:32 am:

    I’m not a fan of Ald. Gail Simpson, but to be fair to her there is a whole lot more going on with the Scandals license controversy.

    Allegedly, the owners have left a trail of unpaid rent and bills in at least 5 locations around the city. Alleged tax problems. A simple Google search on the two owners certainly is eye-opening.

    Ald. Simpson seems to think there are too many liquor licenses in her ward. (The fact that she can be a bit of a diva doesn’t help, however.)

    The allegations of discrimination may well be a smoke-screen in this particular case.


  14. - Conservative Republican - Thursday, Aug 8, 13 @ 10:34 am:

    Yes, Springfield and Chicago are two different environments, but the villians in both instances, Solis and Simpson, are both Democrats — that is the important common thread.

    And I doubt its a situation of “learned to live with” vis a vis the oppressed citizenry, but rather “have to live with it”.


  15. - Cincinnatus - Thursday, Aug 8, 13 @ 10:37 am:

    Rich said,

    “But why would it need the big dog’s intervention in the first place?”

    Best question we’ll see here today? Clout, corruption, ineptitude, arrogance, race. You pick…


  16. - Just Observing - Thursday, Aug 8, 13 @ 10:38 am:

    === Allegedly, the owners have left a trail of unpaid rent and bills in at least 5 locations around the city. Alleged tax problems. A simple Google search on the two owners certainly is eye-opening. ===

    Even if that is the case, it is not the role of an elected official (or municipal staffer) to prevent a business from opening because of alleged unpaid bills or tax problems. There are other avenues for those issues to be addressed.


  17. - SillyNonsense - Thursday, Aug 8, 13 @ 10:40 am:

    Wordslinger -

    No, the rest of the state doesn’t believe what Joe in Peoria says.


  18. - Just Observing - Thursday, Aug 8, 13 @ 10:41 am:

    This type of stuff, albeit usually not for money, goes on all over the state by local governments. Elected officials don’t like that business or this business, they think there are too many of a particular type of business in their community, the want to protect existing businesses from competition, etc. Elected official think they can control the market. It is abusive and destructive. But they all fly under the radar.


  19. - Fan of the Game - Thursday, Aug 8, 13 @ 10:43 am:

    When people talk about Illinois having an anti-business climate, this kind of obstructionism is part of their complaint. Chicago is the City of Big Shoulders but it is also the City of the Greased Palm.


  20. - Anonymous - Thursday, Aug 8, 13 @ 10:45 am:

    It goes well beyond zoning. Many businesses won’t bid on contracts for the City of Chicago or Cook County out of fear that it’s all “wired” and/or that all of their politically driven rules — living wages, non-involvement with this or that foreign government, MBE/WBE (with “certain” vendors”, etc. — make it too much of a headache. As a result, fewer bidders means higher prices paid for everything.


  21. - Downstate Illinois - Thursday, Aug 8, 13 @ 10:49 am:

    Actually JoeinPeoria is correct. What Chicagoan consider normal business wouldn’t be put up with for five minutes in most places downstate.

    One of Chicago’s major problems is its form of government. Too many alderman think they are barons.


  22. - Cut it in half - Thursday, Aug 8, 13 @ 11:09 am:

    Prime example of why the council should be cut to half its current size. It’ll be easier to keep an eye on them. It is extortion, and its in the DNA of this entire state. Get to work Mr. Fardon.


  23. - walkinfool - Thursday, Aug 8, 13 @ 11:16 am:

    It’s disgusting on its face.

    Joe, ConservativeR, Downstate: This kind of thing occurs across the suburbs as well, and probably downstate. It’s shocking how many friends, relatives, and campaign contributors, make money helped by local office holders.

    Check your own communities to see who’s and “insider” in business, development and real estate, and are also politically “connected”.

    It depends neither on party nor location.


  24. - Leave a Light on George - Thursday, Aug 8, 13 @ 11:19 am:

    “Prime example of why the council should be cut to half its current size”

    We already did that with the State Legislature - led by Gov. P Q I might add. Didn’t work out too good did it. Gave rise to the all powerful MJM.


  25. - votecounter - Thursday, Aug 8, 13 @ 11:19 am:

    The system of government of Committeeman, Ward/Township, was put in place in 1910 for just that reason. It put the levers of government(Zoning,licensing,permits,Garbage cans, etc..) in the hands of the committeeman to help build the machine. It was the organizational framework that became the Kelly Nash Machine (1933-1947) and Da Mayor Daley machine (55-76) It was used to eliminate the Republican party from Cook by making 80 different “Kingdoms” Remember when Chick-fil-a was going to build a restaurant The Alderman/Committeeman actually said “MY” businesses and Rahm said Speaking for all businesses in Chicago “Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values”,
    If the Democrat rulers act like that for a businesses politics imagine what would happen if a store owner were to put up a sign for the Aldermans/ CommitteeMan’s opponent? Or maybe vote in the Republican primary? Do you people know that if you vote in the Democrat primary you can’t be appointed to an open Republican slot for election? And people wonder why Madigan/ Democrat party has over 50 unopposed seats in the General Assembly or why there is no minority outreach from the GOP? If you owned a store would you ask for a Republican ballot in a primary? It’s because the GOP in Cook is run by the Democrats! And all because of the ward/township committeeman practice.


  26. - Skeeter - Thursday, Aug 8, 13 @ 11:22 am:

    Votecounter,

    Instead of referring to “Democrat primary” and “Democrat party” just type: “I’m blindly partisan. Please ignore my comments.”

    Both have the same impact.


  27. - phocion - Thursday, Aug 8, 13 @ 11:23 am:

    (720 ILCS 5/33‑3)(from Ch. 38, par. 33‑3)
    Sec. 33‑3. Official Misconduct.) A public officer or employee or special government agent commits misconduct when, in his official capacity or capacity as a special government agent, he commits any of the following acts:
    (a) Intentionally or recklessly fails to perform any mandatory duty as required by law; or
    (b) Knowingly performs an act which he knows he is forbidden by law to perform; or
    (c) With intent to obtain a personal advantage for himself or another, he performs an act in excess of his lawful authority; or
    (d) Solicits or knowingly accepts for the performance of any act a fee or reward which he knows is not authorized by law.


  28. - Judgment Day - Thursday, Aug 8, 13 @ 11:32 am:

    “You ought to try to get some simple construction permits in the city sometime, you’d think you were building a nuclear reactor. Eliminating this type of red tape is an easy, non-partisan way to stimulate investment, total no-brainer.”

    You ought to see how building permits are handled through the system. The original permitting system was all mainframe based, and a number of years ago Chicago went out and got a serious megabucks state-of-the-art client server based system with every whistle and bell they could think of.

    And then they tried to get the new system to interface with the old system, so that way, data conversion issues were minimized. Yeah, that went well - NOT! Then I kind of lost touch with the ongoing cluster - thankfully. Wouldn’t be at all surprised if they are still using both systems.

    I’m amazed that any building permits ever get issued within the City of Chicago.


  29. - Fed up - Thursday, Aug 8, 13 @ 11:34 am:

    Those commenting on construction permits are absolutely correct. A simple addition to my home had its budget blown and timeline extended by multiple permitting issues. Even better the city plumbing inspector failed to show at 3 different inspection appointments (when he picked date and time). I’m sure a donation to the alderman would of helped.


  30. - Original Rambler - Thursday, Aug 8, 13 @ 12:04 pm:

    This is very timely for me. I just had a suburban contractor decline to give me an estimate for a small addition due to Chicago permitting process. He just doesn’t want to have to deal with it.


  31. - Mokenavince - Thursday, Aug 8, 13 @ 12:05 pm:

    For Solis just another day of where’s mine. Forget the jobs it will produce , me and my donor come first. Chicago politics 101.


  32. - Downstate - Thursday, Aug 8, 13 @ 12:11 pm:

    My good friend was expanding her business in Chicago and had a contract to purchase a building. Cash deal.
    The realtor called her and said the real estate purchase was off - even though both parties were ready to close - because the local alderman had a friend that wanted the building. And, the realtor said, “you don’t want to own a building that the Alderman doesn’t want you in.”

    Purchase was cancelled. Friend ended up buying a building out-of-the area. Grew the company to over 100 employees. Just sold the firm, but not before the family moved three generations to Florida.

    They are starting two new companies in Florida. Teenage granddaughters have no intention of returning or investing in Illinois.

    Great work by the Alderman.


  33. - votecounter - Thursday, Aug 8, 13 @ 12:51 pm:

    @phocion
    The Judge you will appear before was put there by Ed Burke and the Cook co Democrat party. How do you think you will do? The states Attorney is a member of and was slated by the Cook co Democrat party.


  34. - Skeeter - Thursday, Aug 8, 13 @ 12:53 pm:

    VC, do Ed Burke and the Cook co Democrat party work together? Is the “Cook co Democrat party” some splinter group?


  35. - RNUG - Thursday, Aug 8, 13 @ 1:13 pm:

    Sadly, nothing new in Chicago.

    When I was employed by the State and had any constuction work in Chicago, we knew to hire firm ‘X’ and pay them a 10% + cost ‘management fee’ to oversee the project. As long as we did that, there were zero problems with permits, inspectors, unions, etc. and the project would always end up done on time and under the budget. Try to go it alone and it was a total mess.

    The story Rich ran is just business as usual …

    Re the Springfield story, according to today’s issue of IT, out of the 10 wards, 6 wards had more liquor licenses than the ward Simpson represents … and when a reporter corrected Simpson on it, she reportedly refused to believe it.

    http://www.illinoistimes.com/Springfield/article-12709-because-i-said-so_.html


  36. - Bemused - Thursday, Aug 8, 13 @ 3:03 pm:

    I’m Sorry it is now back.


  37. - Cincinnatus - Thursday, Aug 8, 13 @ 3:39 pm:

    Notwithstanding the merits of what this thread is about, people everywhere (admit it) have an awful perception of what Wordslinger always reminds us is really a State with great potential.

    We have a lot of problems in this State, and perception is high among them. We have an enormous amount of assets to build on. May God have mercy on us all.


  38. - 1776 - Thursday, Aug 8, 13 @ 5:41 pm:

    I’d have more respect for Alderman Simpson if she hadn’t sponsored and voted for a resolution giving a 3 am liquor license to a bar in the SAME building. This group of owners wants a lesser license that only allows them to stay open until 1 am and they must sell 50 percent food.

    Danny Solis is close to line, if not over. Publicly delaying a vote unless they give a deal to a friend should be reviewed by the feds. It eerily reminiscent of Jesse Jackson’s ways.


  39. - Bemused - Thursday, Aug 8, 13 @ 10:42 pm:

    Or maybe Not?


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