The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Evanston approves tower

Last night the Evanston city council approved what will be the tallest building in Illinois outside Chicago:

The Evanston Plan Commission tonight voted 4-3 to recommend approval of the proposed 49-story tower at 708 Church St. to the City Council.

The commissioners were sharply divided on whether development downtown over the last several decades has made the Fountain Square block an appropriate site for high-rise development.

Commissioners who looked to the east and west saw Sherman Plaza, the Chase Bank tower and other high rise developments and said yes.

Weather-induced laziness or common sense?

At the moment, a stiff wind is blowing snow straight down Chicago Avenue. It's -2°C. Overnight 13 cm of snow covered the ground, and people are just now shoveling it off the sidewalks. Here's the forecast:

Temperature rising to near -1°C by noon, then falling to around -4°C during the remainder of the day. Blustery, with a north northeast wind between 32 and 40 km/h. Chance of precipitation is 90%. Total daytime snow accumulation of 5 to 10 cm possible.

Tonight: Mostly clear, with a low around -9°C. Northwest wind between 16 and 14 km/h.

The weather actually made the front page of the Chicago Tribune:

"It's still coming down—all the way to Ottawa," said National Weather Service meteorologist Bill Wilson.

It will also stay around for a while. Temperatures won't reach significantly above freezing before Saturday, he said.

The Illinois Department of Transportation warned motorists to take it easy—and if at all possible to take trains to work this morning.

So instead of my usual walk-Parker-to-daycare-bus-to-the-office routine, I drove. I think this was reasonable, even given the ten minutes it took to dig my car out this morning.

I feel guilty about it, but I'll get over it.

The <i>other</i> CTA funding shortfall

Today's Chicago Tribune explains that while the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) has serious problems funding its daily operations, it has an even bigger problem finding the $6 billion required to make capital improvements:

The CTA says it is more than $6 billion short of adequately modernizing its rail and bus lines, a staggering number lost in the debate as the agency lurches from one "doomsday" to another searching for the tens of millions of dollars it needs to keep operating.

The result is that more than 500 CTA buses, one-fourth of its fleet, have been on the road for 16 years, logging an average 580,000 miles apiece.

...

The cost of repairing and maintaining the old buses is soaring. The CTA said it spends $16 million a year to keep the old buses in running order, more than five-fold the $3 million cost for upkeep on newer models.

Reporter Jon Hilkevich does examine some of the reasons for the funding shortfall:

Increasing amounts of the CTA's capital budget -- more than a combined $150 million since 2003 -- have been diverted to operations to help balance annual budgets and reduce the threatened service cuts and fare increases under the CTA's doomsday plans.

At the same time, capital funding to the CTA has fallen by almost $200 million a year since the Illinois FIRST infrastructure program expired almost five years ago.

Without the state launching a successor to Illinois FIRST, non-federal capital funding to the CTA during the next five years is projected at one-tenth the level in 2002, according to CTA budget documents.

Not imagining it: Fall foliage was late

I've been walking around the last few days noticing the fall colors in Chicago and thinking, "how odd, it's November, the trees should be bare." Turns out I was right:

Intense heat in late summer and early fall delayed the changing of the leaves in the area, with peak colors not arriving until last week, about two weeks later than normal.

Supreme Court denies Ryan's freedom bid

The former Illinois governor goes to jail tomorrow:

U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens today rejected former Gov. George Ryan's final, long-shot bid to remain free on bail while he fights to overturn his corruption conviction before the nation's highest court.

The ruling means Ryan must report to a federal prison camp in Oxford, Wis., by 5 p.m. Wednesday to begin serving his 6½-year sentence.

A federal jury convicted Ryan in April 2006 on charges that, as secretary of state and governor, he doled out sweetheart deals to co-defendant Lawrence Warner and other friends, and used state resources and employees for political gain.