- Brian Jackson/Sun-Times Media
- Alderman Ameya Pawar should’ve haggled for the #11 bus.
On Monday, 47th Ward alderman Ameya Pawar led 100 or so seniors to a CTA public hearing where they demanded that the agency restore full service to the #11 Lincoln Avenue bus.
A few days later, Crain’s broke the news that the DePaul basketball arena’s already over budget.
And they haven’t even started building the arena yet. Way to go, Mr. Mayor—feel free to mention that in one of your upcoming reelection commercials.
Allow me to connect the dots between these two things . . .
The #11 bus was a perfectly fine service that ran, roughly, from Howard to Sedgwick along Lincoln. Alas, the CTA board—at the urging of president Forrest Claypool, a mayoral appointee—cut the Western-to-Fullerton leg in 2012.
Presumably, the CTA, having conducted a demographic study, concluded that no one lives and/or shops in that three-or-so-mile stretch along Lincoln.
There are two possible explanations as to why the CTA—no doubt with Mayor Rahm’s support—cut the #11.
The first, offered up by the CTA, is that they saved money on a “redundant” service, which they then plowed back into general operations.
Give them credit for claiming this with a straight face.
The second explanation—generally offered by elected officials who are speaking off the record—is that the mayor was looking for a relatively easy north-side target to cut in order to deflect attention from the carnage of his south- and west-side cuts. Buses, schools, and clinics included.
And since, as far as they can tell, the Western-to-Fullerton stretch of the #11 was mainly used by geezers who don’t even have iPhones—well, fuck ’em!
As the mayor might put it.
By contrast, the DePaul arena is part of a project that includes a Marriott hotel and will cost upward of $1 billion in hotel taxes and property taxes.
As part of that deal Mayor Rahm will spend at least $55 million in tax increment financing money to buy the land upon which the hotel and arena will sit—thus making it property-tax exempt.
So we are spending money to lose money. As I will never tire of telling you, Chicago, in the hopes that you will waken from your slumber.
Set side by side the two projects offer a textbook example of misplaced priorities in the age of Mayor Rahm.
In one instance, the mayor’s spending hundreds of millions of dollars on something no one needed, wanted, or asked for.
And in the other, he’s saving peanuts—if anything at all—by cutting a service of value.
Feel free to use that in your campaign commercials as well, Mr. Mayor.
There are really only two reasons why any alderman would vote for the DePaul/Marriott, as most did: either they do whatever the mayor tells them or they essentially swapped their support on DePaul for something else.
Alderman Pawar falls into the latter category.
He basically went along with the DePaul boondoggle ’cause the mayor was spending TIF money on several school projects in his ward, including the expansion of the Coonley school.
As Alderman Pawar’s unofficial advisor—meaning, the guy whose advice he would never take—I hoped he would at least swap his support on the DePaul mess for restoration of the #11 bus.
After all, I’m pretty sure the mayor would have expanded Coonley regardless, as most of its parents are north-siders with iPhones. A demographic the mayor loves almost as much as investment bankers.
But Alderman Pawar says it would not have been appropriate to link one issue to the other cause they’re not directly related.
Well, this isn’t the first time the alderman and I have had to agree to disagree.
However, I do applaud Alderman Pawar for persisting in his effort to restore the #11, which he calls a “lifeline for my community.”
He’s forcing the mayor to make one of those monumental mayoral decisions—where he balances his aversion to admitting he’s wrong against his desire to get reelected. My recommendation is that north-siders join the fun. Should a pollster call, tell ’em you’re voting for anyone but Rahm.
If the mayor sees sagging poll numbers on the north side, he’ll probably start driving the Western-to-Fullerton stretch himself.
Voters, it’s amazing how democracy can work once you get up off your knees.