Monday, January 1, 2018

Has it really been six years since I posted anything on this blog?

Yep..my last post here was in 2012, just before my mother's passing, and that of my brother-in-law a year later, and two close male friends of decades. Since that time, I've moved twice, buying two West Ridge condos and selling one in a four-year period, and became immersed in a large writing project... and social media.

Many people are saying that the social media sites replace blogging, but to me, at least, there is a gaping void left where dozens of neighborhood and personal blogs used to be. For one thing, a Facebook post just can't have the depth and detail that a personal article of a few hundred words or more, never mind a 140-character " tweet".. You have to fear for your civilization when major issues are reduced to one line, especially those lines are the principal manner of communication with the public by the leader of the semi-free world.  Additionally, most people tend to be allover the map on their social network pages, posting everything from pics of of family and friends, to political statements, to links to articles. These sites are useful and fun, but really not very satisfying.

So I'm reviving my blogs. I have two- this one, which is dedicated to all things to do with the neighborhoods on the far north lake front of Chicago; and In Search of Civilization, which has been "parked" for nearly a decade, and which is more general, and focuses social and economic issues. With luck, I'll be posting on both at least once a week. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Let's Keep Pushing Back on Proposed E-Cigarette Ban in Chicago

Supporters of the proposed ban on e-cigarettes in Chicago, which would classify them as "tobacco" products and subject them to the same restrictions as burning-leaf tobacco, have not been discouraged by the considerable push back by Chicago aldermen and their constituents. The measure was proposed by Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and is strongly supported by prominent Nanny State Fascist, Alderman Ed Burke, 14th Ward.

So far, there has been a lot of spirited resistance, notably from 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly, who puffed on his e-cigarette in council chambers and stated that the devices were aiding him in ending his smoking habit.

Let's keep pushing back. In spite of exerting itself to the utmost to find a reason to regulate and restrict the use of e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine, the FDA has not been able to establish that the use of e-cigarettes harms the user or persons near him.The user exhales water vapor, not smoke, which is by and large odorless and harmless to persons nearby. Supporters of a ban report that some people are "annoyed" by the use of the devices in public place, while others rail that the products are being marketed to children, because of the prevalence of candy-flavored e-liquids, though all sites and outlets marketing the cigarettes and e-liquids restrict purchases to those age 18 and over.

 Those who support the ban are trying to have the Joint Committee on Health and Environmental Justice & Finance vote on the proposed ordinance tomorrow, January 13, at 11:00 AM.

You can voice your opposition to this unwarranted intrusion into our lives and businesses by writing or calling your alderman. If you don't know who your alderman is, go to City of Chicago and type in your address. You will be provided with a link to your alderman's page with contact information.

Friday, February 10, 2012

CTA Update: Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of Red Line North

The Chicago Transit Authority held two public open house meetings, one in Evanston, and one in Edgewater at the Broadway Armory this past Tuesday evening, to update the public on plans to rehabilitate and reconstruct the north branch of the Red Line and the Purple Line.

There are four alternatives under discussion: Reconstruction and consolidation of some stations; reconstruction without consolidation; minimal rehabilitation; and no rehabilitation, with only minimal repairs.

Reconstruction will involve completely rebuilding the Purple Line except at stations where the roadbed has been replaced already, and the Red Line north of Addison. The plan calls for a new elevated structure with four tracks, the replacement of several stations with new ADA-compliant stations with 24'-wide platforms, elevators, and escalator; rebuilding the Wilson and Loyola stations as transfer points on the Purple Line; and the possible elimination of the Lawrence, Thorndale, and Jarvis stops on the Red Line, and the Foster and South Blvd stations on the Purple. Red Line platforms would be extended to accommodate 10-car trains and Purple Line Stations would be extended to berth 8-car trains.

It's hard to think of a more critical issue for the city than the rehabilitation and expansion of our century-old rapid transit system, which has been allowed to become extremely degraded while ridership has grown rapidly in the past decade. Ridership of CTA trains in the city has boomed, and in 2010, ridership on the Red Line reached the level of 1927, it's previous peak, hauling nearly a quarter-million people per day, for 38.5 million riders in 2010, surpassing that of the previous peak in 1927.This increase has mostly been on the north branch of the line. The three major north side lines- the north branch of the Red, the Brown Line, and the O'Hare branch of the Blue line, together haul 59% of the CTA rail system's passengers.

The boom in ridership is no doubt due to the sharp uptick in fuel prices in the past decade, with the promise of many more increases and possibly shortages to come, as the peaking of liquid fuels gains traction and car ownership becomes an unbearable burden for urban denizens. This development is likely to be permanent, and the next decade will most likely see steeply reduced rates of auto ownership along with swelling demand for public transportation. Cities will need improved public transportation in order to remain competitive. Therefore, it is imperative that any major overhaul and reconstruction of the system be planned to allow for the addition of new lines and greatly increased population density in Chicago as people abandon their car-dependent lifestyles in the auto suburbs of the 20th century and return to cities and towns where they have access to public transportation and can live within walking distance of services and jobs.

The plans made so far do not project increased ridership greatly increased over current levels, and what is being planned at this time is the replacement of the line between Addison and Howard. The rebuild would merely replace the existing decrepit structure with a greatly improved line, and while it will permit longer trains and feature greatly improved comfort and safety by building wider platforms and larger stations with improved egress, it will not permit more trains than can currently be safely run, and most of all it is "closed" in that no provisions are being made for new lines to connect to it, such as a connecting line that runs over Touhy Ave between the Cumberland or Rosemont stations on the Blue Line and the Howard station on the Red;  or- dare we dream- crosstown lines over Belmont and Lawrence to bypass the nightmarish congestion on these narrow, heavily traveled throughways. Another timely addition would be a spur on the Brown Line into West Rogers Park, another high-density neighborhood, to run from the Lincoln/Western station up Western to Howard. This would relieve overcrowding on the Red Line, and it might be that a whole new line is justified here. Yet more rail lines, including a another "loop" track to handle extra lines into the downtown area, should be figured into any plans we make now, even if it is another two decades or more before we actually build them. Failure to allow for upgrades and additional service means greater costs down the road, as we can see from the newly built stations at Belmont and Fullerton- will these stations need further expensive expansions to accommodate 10-car trains, which CTA has never run before? If planners had allowed for greater train lengths when designing these two stations, this rebuild would be a little cheaper.

The reconstruction of the Red Line is a once-in-a-century opportunity to plan for demand that does not exist yet but that could materialize very quickly given the trajectory of energy supplies and prices, which foretell an epic economic shift that will likely reverse the social and economic trends of the past 60 years. This shift will most likely bring more people into the city, for much greater population density than exists at this time. The planning process should allow for more retail/transit/mulitfamily housing hubs, where mixed use retail/commercial/mulitfamily housing could be built around rail stops and adjacent bus plazas.

Whatever we do here, it is imperative to seize the moment to make cohesive plans that will enable Chicago to handle higher population densities and supply housing, transit, and services for many more people than we have at the present.

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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Public Meeting: CTA Update on Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of Red Line

The CTA is conducting two public meetings to discuss the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the Red Line, and possible closure of some stations. There will be a meeting in Evanston on Monday evening, February 6, at the Evanston Public Library on Orrington Ave, and in Edgewater at the Broadway Armory, 5917 N Broadway, on Tuesday evening, February 7th.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Pillars Social Cafe Opens

The eagerly anticipated Pillars Social Cafe has at last opened up in the vast corner commercial space in the 1200 W. Pratt building, at Pratt and Sheridan, and this formerly moribund corner now has two attractive alternatives to the corporate Starbucks down the block. The glossy,stylish cafe has a full compliment of coffee house fare, including hot and cold sandwiches, salads, soups, and pastries. Prices range from $7 to $9 for most menu items, and $2 to $4 for most pastries, with a less expensive children's menu.

I've stopped in a couple of times for pastries and a Pillars Panini, and am pretty well pleased.  The service is very courteous, and the place gleams with cleanliness and is very well-staffed. Opening a large restaurant in the current economic climate takes a lot of courage, but the bet looks like it might work, for every table was occupied when I stopped in this afternoon, and the place has been fairly well filled every time I've passed it on the weekend in the afternoon.

Here is hoping this great place will succeed rapidly and stay in the neighborhood for a long time.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

While I Slept

 Many people have noticed that the Rogers Park blogging scene has grown strangely quiescent lately. This is the first time I've written a post of any length since January, and a couple of other Rogers Park bloggers seemed to have fled the scene completely, notably Craig Gernhart, who has taken his blog private. Others are posting far less often, and most strangely of all, none of us wrote much about the municipal election this February, even though this election was the most noteworthy in twenty years, giving us a new mayor and many new council members. I can't help but sense fatigue and disappointment in our local bloggers, but a few of them remain extremely involved in the community and are fully occupied with projects that will contribute greatly to the betterment of Rogers Park. At some point, people want to do more than just discuss an issue, and get their hands and hearts into actually making a difference, and that is exactly what a few prominent Rogers Park bloggers are doing.

So a number of momentous events went unremarked on by the local punditocracy, but that doesn't mean they weren't noticing, or doing anything.

For some reason, the whole issue filled me with distaste, suddenly, as my favorite candidate for Edgewater's 48th Ward, the talented, outspoken Phil Bernstein, looked to be headed to overwhelming defeat by legacy pol Harry Osterman, and most of all as my own ward, the 49th here in Rogers Park, had to choose between bad and worse. It was really all I could do to motivate myself to even vote, and had there not been a Mayor to select, I might not have. Well, and the 50th elected a promising new alderman, Debra Silverstein, and Rahm Emanuel looks more promising every day, surprising me vastly. Emanuel appears to be very focused on cutting unnecessary expenditures and restoring the city to financial viability, and is intolerant of nonsense, unlike his predecessor.

Meanwhile, life has been happening and not exactly the way I need it to, and many other interests and urgent personal matters came between me and this blog. Getting re-employed at a better job and scaring up more money have become extremely urgent matters, and a personal project, the commercial website I've been putting together, have both been claiming a large part of my time and energy. Focus and energy, or lack thereof, have been problems, but most of all, there has simply been so much to discuss, that I hardly know where to start, really.

Now that I've recovered from my disappointment over the outcome of a couple of aldermanic races, and celebrated a couple of others, such as James Cappleman's well-deserved victory in the 46th and Silverstein's in the 50th, and the election of a mayor who displays real intelligence, I can focus on my usual areas of interest, like the urgent need for preparing Chicago for a different energy regime, developing new sources of energy, and improving the quality of life in our North Coast neighborhoods and making them as attractive and comfortable as possible.