On Tuesday night, a huge vacant warehouse on Chicago’s South Side went up in flames. Fire department officials said it was the biggest blaze the department has had to battle in years and one-third of all Chicago firefighters were on the scene at one point or another trying to put out the flames. Complicating the scene was the weather — temperatures were well below freezing and the spray from the fire hoses encased everything below in ice, including buildings, vehicles, and some firefighting gear. The warehouse was gutted, but the fire was contained. Fire crews remain on the scene as some smaller flare-ups continue to need attention.
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Chick-fil-A’s sandwiches are no longer homophoburgers or free-speech-you-can-eat or whatever the fast food meant during this summer’s culture wars. Fried chicken just went back to being delicious as the chain promised to stop “supporting organizations with political agendas,” which includes anti-gay groups—a move that’s gotten them back into a Chicago’s good graces. We learned the news by way of Chicago’s The Civil Right Agenda (TCRA) an LGBT-rights advocacy group, who report that Chick-fil-A has penned a letter saying, “The WinShape Foundations is now taking a much closer look at the organizations it considers helping, and in that process will remain true to its stated philosophy of not supporting organizations with political agendas.” That letter was addressed to Chicago Alderman Joe Moreno, who along with Boston mayor Thomas Menino, said they would block the chain for its anti-gay views. WinShape is the chain’s not-for-profit charitable arm that had previously donated to groups opposing gay marriage. TCRA adds, “In meetings the company executives clarified that they will no longer give to anti-gay organizations, such as Focus on the Family and the National Organization for Marriage.”
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It will also be interesting to see if the Chicago strike is an anomaly, or if it has opened a door to more aggressive contract negotiations in other large urban school districts. To be sure, Chicago teachers aren’t the only ones frustrated by the many new demands being placed on educators to boost student achievement. The strike might also end up being a warning to policymakers that there is, indeed, a limit to how hard reform can be pushed - and how fast.
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You’d think that folks who love both red meat and Sarah Palin would rally behind a sculpture devoted to both. But for some reason, the Tea Party is not happy with this BBQ smoker in the shape of the conservative firebrand’s freedom-filled noggin.
News organizations have been rooting and snuffling around the immense Palin head, titled “We’re Having a Tea Parody” (not “Pear-ody,” as reported elsewhere), ever since mixed-media artist J. Taylor Wallace debuted it in 2011 at a Memphis public-art show. The anthropomorphic cooker hit the news again last week, when Wallace fashioned a meal with it to celebrate the opening of a new sculpture garden in Chicago.
Read more at The Atlantic Wire. [Image: J. Taylor Wallace]
In the April issue of The Atlantic, Jonathan Alter writes about Rahm Emanuel’s efforts to clean up Chicago’s political system. Alter will be online to discuss the article today at 3:30 p.m.
An excerpt from Alter’s story:
I was walking around my sister’s Near North neighborhood in Chicago recently and came upon a small patch of green called Bauler Park. Paddy Bauler was the rollicking tavern owner and 43rd Ward alderman who in 1955 famously shouted, upon hearing of the election of Richard J. Daley as mayor: “Chicago ain’t ready for reform!”
More than half a century later, the man who not long ago represented Bauler’s neighborhood in Congress insists that Chicago is finally ready. Rahm Emanuel, who succeeded old man Daley’s son Rich as mayor last May, has to be careful not to repudiate the Daleys, who helped nurture his rise. And “The Missile,” as the Chicago journalist James Warren dubbed him, is hardly a good-government “goo goo.” “Taking the politics out of politics is like taking the money out of capitalism,” Emanuel told me during his mayoral campaign. But in locking on to his three high-value targets—the city’s tattered finances, a murder rate twice that of New York, and schools that aren’t preparing Chicago’s future workforce—Rahm (as he’s known everywhere) is bent on wholesale reform of “the Chicago Way.”
Ever since the film The Untouchables popularized the term, there’s been some misunderstanding about what the Chicago Way means. In the movie, Sean Connery’s Irish cop describes to Kevin Costner’s Eliot Ness how to get Al Capone: “He pulls a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue! That’s the Chicago Way!” And that will be Rahm’s way, at least some of the time. But in practice, this vague urban modus operandi is less about vengeance than venality—payoffs, kickbacks, and ghost-hiring, not to mention the destructive if perfectly legal tradition of cozy union contracts and the newer “pinstripe patronage” of sketchy bond deals and privatized city functions. […]
Rahm quotes an iconic Chicago line to make his point on reform: “We don’t want nobody nobody sent.” His aim, he says, is to build a Chicago where everybody is a somebody, even if nobody sent ’em. The mayor’s office says that it has recorded more than 6.4 million total visits to the city’s new Web site, which, among other new transparency measures, posts all government salaries. During the debate over last year’s budget, more than 40,000 Chicagoans commented online about where to make cuts. Paddy Bauler is cursing Twitter from the grave.
“We are known as ‘the city that works,’” Rahm says. “You gotta make sure it works for everybody and not just a few.” He insists that the deeply entrenched system is already beginning to change: “One mother having difficulty with CPS [Chicago Public Schools] posts something on Facebook about schools. She got called that day by CPS. When the fuck did that ever happen around here? Another person tweeted about a pothole on her street and the Chicago Department of Transportation was at the pothole the next day, filling it!”
Sitting in his cavernous office on the fifth floor of City Hall, Rahm lowers his outstretched, empty palms, then raises them above his waist. “If you have your hands above the table, you can’t deal from the bottom of the deck,” he says.
Obit of the Day: Man of Many Murals
When William Walker organized the painting of The Wall of Respect in 1967, he had not planned to begin a national movement of public art. The mural, painted by dozens of Chicago artists, featured prominent African American politicians, scientists, musicians and artists. It is recognized as the first public mural, a style that now dots urban landscapes. (These murals differ from other murals, such as those painted in post offices under the auspices of the WPA in the 1930s, because they are often sponsored by individual neighborhoods or businesses. The murals are also located on an exterior wall making them available for all passersby to see.)
Walker would, by himself and in partnership with others, paint seventeen murals between 1967 and 1988. The murals were never simply attempts to beautify a building or neighborhood but were social and political statements. Two early Walker murals are in Detroit including the Harriet Tubman Memorial Wall, but the rest of his works were painted on the south side of Chicago.
Since many of Walker’s murals are painted on privately owned buildings, they were often neglected or destroyed over time. There was a concerted effort to preserve several Walker murals for the last decade and a half, including History of the Packing House Worker (1975, restored in 1998), Childhood Is Without Prejudice (1977, restored in 1993 and 2009), and Wall of Dreaming and Man’s Inhumanity to Man (1973, restored in 2003).
Walker was named “City Brightener” by the city of Chicago in 1986 and is a member of the Illinois Labor Society’s Hall of Honor.
He died at the age of 84.
Images courtesy of:
Top left - Blackqueen: press (Childhood Is Without Prejudice)
Top right - Sherrinemae’s photostream on Flickr (Wall of Daydreaming and Man’s Inhumanity to Man)
Bottom left - Mad About the Mural (All of Mankind, 1971-1973)
Bottom right - http://ms-f10-bsykes.blogspot.com (Childhood Is Without Prejudice)