Saturday, May 22, 2010

Chicago's Shadow Governments

Most of us are hardly aware of our local Chamber of Commerce or Community Council, or any of the other business development and community advocacy organizations, and when they do intrude on our awareness, we wonder just what do they do, exactly, to justify a business allocating a few hundred scarce dollars to membership dues,and valuable time to attending meetings and events.

Well, for starters, they take taxpayer's money in order to lobby for more taxpayers' money to fund massive projects that may or may not be advantageous for their communities and are often opposed by the bulk of the citizens. These organizations are considered "delegate" organizations by the City of Chicago, and are eligible for funding by the City, as are other non-profit organizations that exist for "community" purposes. At this time, there are well over 100 such organizations, and many neighborhoods have two or three, for oftentimes, another organization will be founded by those opposing the plans and policies of the original group, and they exert an unseemly degree of control over local affairs, including major public works and community developments. Rogers Park's infamous DevCorp North, now known as the Rogers Park Business Alliance, is notorious for its involvement in and partial ownership of the disastrous Gateway Mall, which was funded by the Howard/Pauline TIF, and the Edgewater Intelligencer has detailed the role of the Edgewater Community Council in advocating for the outer drive extension and landfill, in spite of overwhelming and vehement opposition to this project by the bulk of Edgewater, Rogers Park, and Evanston voters. Additionally, the organization is promoting the construction of a large wind farm at Edgewater Beach, a massively expensive and unsightly "greenwash" boondoggle to be financed by the taxpayers, as part of their Edgewater Environmental Sustainability Plan.

They also possess power over member and non-member businesses and development alike in their respective communities, and often do not hesitate to exert themselves to obstruct and harass businesses whose owners are not in their club, and have a tendency to reserve control of their organizations to a handful of powerful members.

Worse, these organizations have a voice in decisions affecting the entire city, such as the Outer Drive extension and park landfill, that was not granted them by the citizens of this city, and is often inimical to their interests and bank accounts. I don't remember electing any of the members of the ECC nor did I deputize them to speak for me on the matter of the Outer Drive extension.I did not vote to support them and other community organizations with my taxes, nor did I vote to support their positions on other issues, such as labor laws, zoning, the proper business mix for an area, and who shall be allowed to do business in the area and who should not.

Yet the City of Chicago has granted these organizations not only a significant chunk of our tax revenues when these groups are considered together, but a considerable degree of power over their respective communities, and a significant voice in major local affairs. It is not encouraging that the U.S. Supreme Court has voted to accord corporations the status of  "person", thus granting corporate organizations additional power without the accountability of a live, human person.

Should a 503(c)(3) tax-exempt non-profit organization be permitted to lobby for legislation favorable to their members, or for anything at all? Should an organization with defined, limited membership, existing for the benefit of that membership, be permitted to rule the entire community and foist unwanted public works projects on it, and decide which businesses will live or die? 

This is not meant to disparage the many fine community organizations and Chambers of Commerce that play a major role in improving their communities and building solid, desirable businesses in them. These organizations are often very beneficial.They often beautify the community by voluntary efforts, with plantings, banners, and other small enhancements, and they often are of real assistance to businesses starting up in their area. Some even provide valuable assistance to individual members in the form of business and legal advice, and access to financing. However, no matter how positive a role in the community a particular organization may play, it exists to serve its own members or a small constituency, and it should be supported strictly by voluntary contributions.

Most of all, these organizations should not be able to wield power not granted them by the citizenry, nor claim to represent us in matters that affect the entire community. They should not be permitted to hound a harmless little business out of existence, and they should not be able to use taxpayers' funds to lobby for legislation and projects that involve the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues and the disruption of tens of thousands of lives. The members of the ECC and other community organizations are surely entitled to their personal views and are entitled to voice them, but not with our money, nor should they be given authority in these matters not granted them by the voters.


consultant said...


I haven't read all the links but this is in my area of expertise.

A lot of these organizations you point out are what I call fake nonprofits. I would imagine that more than a few of them have indirect corporate ties.

Over the last 30 years we've seen a tremendous growth in fake nonprofits. Corporations saw they could create nonprofits with innocent sounding names and use these organizations to spread propaganda about their industry.

I agree with everything you wrote. In fact, it's worst than what you wrote. I say this because over this same period, most of the traditional nonprofit sector became "corporatized". Leaders of nonprofits are no longer Executive Directors, they are now CEOs, COOs, Presidents or some combination of that group. All services must now pay for themselves. Nonprofit leaders expect to be compensated according to "industry" wide standards. Once taboo, many large nonprofits now pay their board members.

The nonprofit sector is now inundated with escapees from the crumbling for profit sector, people with fake degrees and no experience, and people who have little interest in working on resolving the tough problems the organizations were established to address.

Much like our banking self inflicted gun shot to the head, the nonprofit community, in search of "funding", eagerly sought out any and all corporate advice to the point it copied almost every corporate management fad of the moment. After 30 years of chasing the corporate holy grail, most of our nonprofits are sad shells. Like much of the rest of America, they're just faking it. In regard to the organizations you describe, the fakery only pertains to the notion that they are acting in the public's interest and with the public's support.

consultant said...

That last point should read, "..they are acting in the public's interest and with the public's endorsement."

GG said...

I generally think libertarian viewpoints fail to adequately address real-world problems, so I'm probably not your target audience. That said, I appreciate the fact that you're smart and engaged in local politics. As you mention, most people don't pay attention, and all hell breaks loose.

DorothyParker007 said...

Any blogger who does not give their name and hides is of no use to anyone, Edgewater Intelligencer are 2 angry men who live in a highrise and rarely have their facts straight, they can't even spell names correctly. I say stop ranting and do volunteer work in the community. the Intelligencer can not take opinions that are not supportive they become explosive and white republicans teabaggers have the same M.O. There is not going to be any expansion of the lake front,, stop with the stupid battle over nothing, we're getting shot at on the streets and the entitled get to whine about an organization that is harmless and a project that will never happen.

The North Coast said...

There are many legitimate reasons for a blogger to remain anonymous, and I respect them. I might live to regret making my name public on mine, and my mother suggested to me that my site just might not enhance my employment opportunities. Other folks are forbidden by employers to blog on certain subjects, and many others have lost jobs because of things they've written on their blogs.

The sad fact is that many bloggers have suffered harassment and aggressive action against them by local politicians because of the content of their blogs. I know of one who has, and she is NOT the person behind the Intelligencer.

I also slightly know one of the authors of the Edgewater Intelligencer and have talked to him a couple of times, though not the other person.

DorothyParker007 said...

if you can not stand behind your words then you can not. the Intelligencier is a male. I know him and he has been vicious over nothing of improtance. As for ECC why not get upset with the Alderman's office, ECC is a struggling non profit who does not have much power or direction right now. Although I don't know if they have a function anymore, the people who volunteer there are honest and hard working volunteers without any personal agenda. As opposed to the intelligencier who is laden with anger, only one opinion and does not contribute to any organization in the neighborhood.

DorothyParker007 said...

And one other point. There was not an overwhelming support to their referendum for stopping the landfill, the non existing future project. It was around 5,000 - 6,000 votes in all the 48 wards and it was a very low turn out, so one wards had 10 votes. The referendum was poorly written, who would vote on a concept without an actual plan in progress? EI complains how ECC exaggerates their information, well EI does also. If you write on their site, they attack and rant there is no intelligent conversation as with you North Shore. New rule if someone only gets pissy if you disagree back away slowly it means its a personal agenda and they have no room for open dialog.

The North Coast said...

And just WHO is "DorothyParker007".

I do not get "pissy" when someone disagrees with me, 007. YOU get downright malicious when someone differs with you, though, from the tone of your nasty comment.

By the way, I am North Coast, not North Shore. Learn how to read the title of this blog already.

88% of the vote against the landfill is pretty overwhelming. The people who didn't vote don't count, in my opinion. People who will not be bothered to turn out to vote, won't even participate at this minimal level, aren't real citizens and truly do not count.

I approve of many of the things the ECC does. I like the Artists in Motion program, I like some of the other things they promote. However, neither they nor any other community organization should receive tax funds, especially if they engage in lobbying.

Truth Squad said...

The apologists like DorthyParker have absolutely no problem lying to prove their point. The truth does not enter their thinking in their zealous pursuit of the status quo. They attempt to pervert the discussion and influence their fellow non-thinkers with lie, lie, lie. Case in point: Landfill Expansion. In point of FACT, a simple visit to the Chicago Board of Elections website will show EXACTLY what the voting results were for the referendum on this issue: 18262 votes cast: 10,965 votes AGAINST LANDFILL EXPANSION, OR OVER 60%! Hey Dorothy Parker, don't let the FACTS bite you on the way out. You LIE when you say only 5000-6000 votes were cast in total. Can't you face reality? Can't you face the fact that ECC who continues to promote the project in the face of this overwhelming rejection (53 out of the ward 54 precincts voted against landfill expansion) shows clearly that ECC is an ultra special interest organization whose membership and leaders have interests directly in opposition to the residents of the community. You are simply an apologist, and a dishonest one at that. The fact that the Edgewater Intelligencer clearly and factually exposed the doings of ECC and others leads you to resort to ad hominem attacks: the last refuge of the person who can't make a clear, convincing and compelling argument in support of their position.