Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Chicago Tuesdays - Co-op Review, Shadow Budget and Pursed Lips

  • First off, I finally made it to my friendly neighborhood Co-op, the Dill Pickle (blog here). My take: It's a local haven for people who crave a nearby Whole Foods, yet want more community involvement, ownership, and less of the SUV set.

It has many elements that we are currently looking for: It's almost completely organic and/or local (or some variant thereof. To register as 'organic' can be costly and time-consuming. But, say that your cows are grass-fed, free-range, free of antibiotics and steroids, etc, etc. That's the important stuff to me); it's definitely community-based, with community ownership (community members are asked to buy shares into the market) and volunteers staffing the store; they carry products from the weekly farmer's market and from local bakers; and it's got yummies (organic chocolate chips and some sublime apple granola in the big dispensers along with various seeds, grains and trail mix). It also has many of the same products I find when I go to Trader Joes - but at a significantly higher price.

Which brings me to the sad reality: This stuff is expensive. It's already nearly impossible for working class and even lower-middle class cats to eat healthily, especially if they're not
convinced that it amounts to too much just yet. Food, Inc. has made it clear to me that the cost of food is truly hidden, that we are paying in visits to the doctor, in bad health, in sluggishness, and in taxes for this cheap, highly-processed, twice-frozen, corn-fed, diseased, steroid-injected, yadda, yadda, yadda food. So, who gets hurt worse than the poor, who can't afford anything but such food? My hope is that as more people buy organic and pressure the government to subsidize less corn and more small, organic farms (rather than the big businesses that they are. I'm looking at you, Monsanto...), then the prices will drop and healthier options will be available for all.

So, as a result, I think I'm going to lift the budget for food by fifty bucks and buy most of our food as organic, local or at least as fresh produce (which is a spin from nine months ago where I budgeted in 2/5's for same. Now it's more like 5/6's).

Video on the grand opening (including a Pickle Parade. Crazy Hippies) viewable here:

  • If you live in Chicago and have yet to read Ben Jarovsky and Mick Dumke's take on TIF's, please do yourself a favor and read, oh read Shedding Light on the TIF Budget.
This chart, for example, helps to illustrate the point that the areas should receive the most TIF funds - as the original intent of the Tax Increment Funding is to help blighted areas redevelop businesses - receive the least amount.

However, as the article notes, the mayor has too much power to lose if people would understand how this all works out for his - and the Chicago Machine's - benefit.

In the case of the market, the City Council, at Daley's urging, voted in 2006 to spend a total of $12 million in taxpayer money on construction of a new shopping area in the Ogilvie Transportation Center; $8 million of that sum went to the French Market. The project happens to be headed by a well-to-do, politically connected developer who's contributed thousands of dollars to the mayor's campaign coffers. And the city plans to spend another $23 million in the River West TIF district through 2011.

The more TIF districts are created, the more money goes into the TIF accounts and the more powerful the mayor becomes.

Back in the 1980s, in the early days of Chicago's TIF program, Mayor Harold Washington said he would limit TIF districts to paying for specific projects in blighted communities that truly needed them. But the program has expanded over the years, and the administration and City Council have held almost no discussion of its evolving goals; now virtually any project in any community can qualify for subsidies. According to a TIF primer city officials distributed to aldermen this fall, TIF money can be used for program administration costs, property acquisition, rehabs of existing public or private buildings, construction of "public works or improvements," job training, business relocation and financing subsidies, planning studies, marketing, building demolition, and the services of architects, engineers, lawyers, and financial planners...

As we like to say here at LeftCheekopia, and further, etcetera, etal...

  • Another point of interest for me, at least, is the Reader's story on the seemingly secretive CPS press agency. Yeah, if the last eight or so years have taught us anything, being opaque and secretive is the way to destroy your credibility and government.

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