A Private Proposal To Solve Chicago’s Freight Rail Bottleneck

[Originally published by Forbes]

 

As the Midwest’s most important economic hub, Chicago is naturally the focal point for much rail traffic. Both Amtrak and Metra, a regional rail transit authority, run through the city, as do six of the nation’s seven largest freight railroads. These trains carry goods between America’s East and West coasts, and between Canada and the U.S. South, with Chicago handling roughly 25% of nationwide rail traffic. This has created massive bottlenecks, with trains sometimes taking days to get through the city. Every level of government—federal, state, regional and local—has tried addressing the problem.… Read more

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Amid Fiscal Collapse, Chicago Teachers Union Demands Pay Raises

[Originally published by Forbes]

 

The Chicago Public School system is in shambles, worsened by a combination of recent events. First is that CPS has received several credit downgrades, attaining that all-too-familiar Chicago characteristic: ‘junk bond’ status. Second is that CPS is dealing with a $480 million budget shortfall that it wants the also-broke Illinois state government to cover. Third is that Chicago’s school system, already facing academic failure, may cut staff and close facilities. And compounding all this is that CPS must deal with a Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) who, oblivious to reality, keeps demanding more for itself…[read the rest at Forbes]… Read more

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Mayor Rahm’s Next Move: A $543 Million Property Tax Hike

[Originally published by Forbes]

 

By year’s end, the city of Chicago must produce $550 million to pay into its police and fire pension funds. Given the inability to reform these retirement systems, Mayor Rahm Emanuel must raise about this much through taxes, fees and fines to avoid another downgrade. This morning, he told city council how he planned to do it–through the city’s largest-ever property tax increase…[read the rest at Forbes]… Read more

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Mayor Rahm Might Impose $1 Surcharge On Chicago Uber Rides

[Originally published by Forbes]

 

Faced with colossal public pension debt, mayor Rahm Emanuel is overturning every rock in Chicago to find more revenue. If the mayor listens to a powerful alderman, this could include a $1 surcharge on every trip via Uber and other rideshare companies, possibly disturbing an industry that has gained traction in the Second City…[read the rest at Forbes]… Read more

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America Needs More Boozy Taco Bells

[Originally published by Forbes]

 

Young weekend partiers in the U.S. usually follow a precise formula. First comes the drinking, then the dancing, then the debauchery, and then a bit more drinking for good measure. And then—to borrow a phrase from a certain corporation—comes the “fourth meal.” This is when partiers exit the bars and satiate their post-midnight buzz with cheap, greasy fast food. Taco Bell has long been a popular destination for this, and now plans to capitalize on it by serving alcohol. This idea could satisfy a genuine consumer need, and be imitated by similar chains.  … Read more

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Chicago Pension Reform–What Is Plan B?

[Originally published by Forbes]

 

The financial situations for the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois are by now exceedingly clear: both are swimming in debt. The state’s figures stand at $164 billion, and the city’s combined debts are $87 billion, with most of this attributable to unfunded public employee retirement systems. Cutting these liabilities is essential for either, but as both the city and state learned recently, it won’t likely happen through the courts, suggesting that they better find a new plan.  [read the rest at Forbes]… Read more

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Chicago’s Bonds Turn To Junk–As Could Be Expected

[Originally published by Market Urbanism]

 

1. The article I wrote this week for Forbes makes the connection between post-WWII urban renewal, and today’s tax increment financing. I realize that the two redevelopment policies aren’t identical, most notably not in scale. Urban renewal was a nationwide policy during an era of extreme central planning; TIF is funded at local and state level to bring redevelopment to targeted sites. But during its four-decade rise, TIF has reflected urban renewal’s flaws, perpetuating waste, cronyism, and property confiscation.

2. Another article I liked was by City Journal contributing editor Aaron Renn, called “Libertarians of Convenience.” It is about how urban progressives resist government regulations for their preferred activities, while calling for more regulations overall.… Read more

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Tax Increment Financing Is The New Urban Renewal

[Originally published by Forbes]

 

Walk today through the parts of my hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia, that underwent “urban renewal,” and you start to grasp the policy’s failures nationwide. The southern city that’s home to Thomas Jefferson and UVA is defined by charming historic neighborhoods. But several downtown areas disrupt this fabric with an oddly suburban aesthetic of parking lots and insular apartment complexes. Without foreknowledge, one might guess that these resulted from a free market that plopped down modern development without regard for context. But the opposite is true.  … Read more

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Neither Rahm Nor Anti-Rahm Is A Good Choice For Chicago

[Originally published by Forbes]

 

It’s hard to blame Chicagoans for wanting a different mayor than Rahm Emanuel. In term one, the former White House Chief of Staff perpetuated the city’s cronyist political tradition, leading one reporter to call him “Richard Daley with a circumcision.” As a result, an unlikely candidate—Cook County commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia—garnered 34% of the vote in the February election, forcing an April 7 runoff. But Garcia’s recent comments—or lack thereof—show that he is not ready to fill the leadership void.  [read the rest at Forbes]Read more

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