WBEZ | Economy http://www.wbez.org/news/economy Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Chicago campaign finance tracker http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-campaign-finance-tracker-111618 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/money_flickr_401k 2012.PNG" alt="" /><p><p><a href="http://wbez.org/campaigncash">Explore the cash spent on Chicago&#39;s municipal campaigns.</a></p></p> Tue, 24 Feb 2015 18:03:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-campaign-finance-tracker-111618 Obama visits Chicago to designate Pullman monument, boost mayor http://www.wbez.org/news/obama-visits-chicago-designate-pullman-monument-boost-mayor-111589 <p><div class="sc-type-small"><div><p><strong>▲ LISTEN </strong><em>Chicago cultural historian Tim Samuelson joined WBEZ&#39;s </em>Morning Edition<em> anchor Lisa Labuz to talk about Pullman&#39;s history and what Obama designating it a national monument means.</em></p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/pull%20ap%20file.PNG" style="height: 228px; width: 620px;" title="The Pullman Works administration building along with its 12-story clock tower, at left, is highlighted at sunset in Chicago. (AP/File)" /></div></div></div><p>WASHINGTON &mdash; President Barack Obama is turning a historic South Side neighborhood in Chicago into a national monument Thursday, in a visit that also could provide a political lift to the city&#39;s mayor.</p><p>Obama will formally designate the neighborhood where African-American railroad workers won a significant labor agreement in the 1930s as the Pullman National Monument. In the process, the president&#39;s trip to his hometown could help boost turnout for his former chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, who is up for re-election on Tuesday.</p><p>A <em>Chicago Tribune </em>columnist called the president&#39;s announcement &mdash; commemorating African-Americans who served as porters, waiters and maids on the iconic Pullman sleeper cars &mdash; &quot;a big fat presidential bro-hug&quot; to Emanuel, the president&#39;s &quot;little buddy.&quot;</p><p>The White House says Obama is focused on the historical designation, which honors the neighborhood built by industrialist George Pullman in the 19th century for workers to manufacture luxurious railroad sleeping cars.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Curious City: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/will-pullman-ever-be-revitalized-107758">What would it take to revitalize Pullman?</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>The 203-acre Pullman site includes factories and buildings associated with the Pullman Palace Car Company, which was founded in 1867 and employed thousands of workers to construct and provide service on railroad cars. While the company employed a mostly white workforce to manufacture railroad passenger cars, it also hired former slaves to serve as porters, waiters and maids on its iconic sleeping cars.</p><p>The railroad industry &mdash; Pullman in particular &mdash; was one of the largest employers of African-Americans in the United States by the early 1900s. Pullman workers played a major role in the rise of the black middle class and, through a labor agreement won by the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, they helped launch the civil rights movement of the 20th century, the White House said.</p><p>Emanuel doesn&#39;t have big-name challengers in his push for a second term, but he faces the possibility of a runoff election if he doesn&#39;t get more than 50 percent of the vote Tuesday. A Tribune poll found he&#39;s close to achieving that mark.</p><p>Before leaving Washington, Obama signed a proclamation in the Oval Office designating the Browns Canyon National Monument in Colorado, a 21,000-acre site along the Arkansas River popular for whitewater rafting. In Chicago, he was also expected to announce designation of the Honouliuli National Monument in Hawaii, the site of an internment camp where Japanese-American citizens and prisoners of war were held during World War II.</p><p>In his appearance before students at a South Side magnet school, Obama also will launch the &quot;Every Kid in a Park&quot; initiative to provide all fourth-grade students across the country and their families with free admission to national parks and other federal lands and waters for a year, the White House said. The program begins with the 2015-2016 school year, marking the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service next year.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP469626824839.jpg" style="height: 424px; width: 620px;" title="Federal troops escort a train through jeering, fist-shaking workmen on August 20, 1958 in Chicago in this drawing of an incident during the Pullman strike of 1894. (AP/File)" /></div><p>The White House said the three new monuments &quot;help tell the story of significant events in American history and protect unique natural resources for the benefit of all Americans.&quot;</p><p>The new monuments will bring to 16 the number of national monuments Obama has created under the 1906 Antiquities Act, which grants presidents broad authority to protect historic or ecologically significant sites without congressional approval.</p><p>Some Republicans have complained that Obama has abused his authority, and they renewed their complaints over the new designations, especially the Colorado site, the largest in size by far among the three new monuments.</p><p>Obama should &quot;cut it out,&quot; said Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo. &quot;He is not king. No more acting like King Barack.&quot;</p><p>Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., said he was outraged by what he called &quot;a top-down, big-government land grab by the president that disenfranchises the concerned citizens in the Browns Canyon region&quot; in central Colorado, about 140 miles southwest of Denver.</p><p>Illinois&#39; two senators, Democrat Richard Durbin and Republican Mark Kirk, hailed the Pullman designation.</p><p>&quot;As Chicago&#39;s first national park, Pullman&#39;s 135 years of civil rights and industrial history will be protected and enjoyed for generations to come,&quot; Kirk said in a statement. &quot;This new national park will breathe new economic life into this community, bringing up to 30,000 visitors and more than $40 million each year.&quot;</p><p>Outdoors and wildlife groups hailed the Browns Canyon designation, which they said would allow future generations to enjoy its spectacular landscapes, world-class whitewater rafting, hunting and fishing.</p><p><em>&mdash; Matthew Daly of The Associated Press contributed to this report.</em></p></p> Thu, 19 Feb 2015 13:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/obama-visits-chicago-designate-pullman-monument-boost-mayor-111589 Expedia buying Chicago-based Orbitz for about $1.33 billion http://www.wbez.org/news/expedia-buying-chicago-based-orbitz-about-133-billion-111545 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP203572548074.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>BELLEVUE, Wash. &mdash; Expedia is buying Chicago-based rival online travel siteonline travel rival&nbsp;Orbitz for approximately $1.33 billion to extend its reach in the travel-booking industry.</p><p>It&#39;s Expedia&#39;s second major deal in the past month as the industry consolidates. Expedia announced the $280 million acquisition of another rival, Travelocity, in late January.</p><p>Orbitz based in Chicago, owns CheapTickets, HotelClub. Expedia owns Hotels.com and Hotwire.</p><p>Expedia, based in Bellevue, Washington, will pay $12 per share, a 25 percent premium to the Orbitz&#39; closing price of $9.62 Wednesday.</p><p>The boards of both companies have approved the deal, but it still requires a nod from Orbitz shareholders.</p><p>Orbitz had said in January that it was considering selling itself.</p><p>Shares of Orbitz Worldwide Inc. are up more than 23 percent in premarket trading and Expedia is up 5 percent.</p><p>The other big travel booking company is the Priceline Group, which owns sites like Priceline, Booking.com, Kayak and OpenTable. Priceline&#39;s stock rose 1.8 percent to $1,078.89 in premarket trading.</p><p>While those companies dominate the travel market &mdash; and are taking advantage of quickly-growing markets in developing countries &mdash; they are facing new pressures at home from more-innovative sites like airfare search Hipmunk and last-minute deal site HotelTonight.</p></p> Thu, 12 Feb 2015 08:54:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/expedia-buying-chicago-based-orbitz-about-133-billion-111545 Fallout over College of DuPage spending could hurt students http://www.wbez.org/news/fallout-over-college-dupage-spending-could-hurt-students-111514 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Open%20mic%201%20CROP.jpg" style="height: 194px; width: 620px;" title="Between classes at the school’s Glen Ellyn campus this week, students enjoy an open-mic session. The college’s 28,000 enrollees, mostly working-class, could be hurt beyond the price of a controversial $760,000 severance package. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)" /></div><p>The other day in a College of DuPage cafeteria, student Rachel Fatigato told me she is not getting help from her parents to pay her tuition.<br /><br />&ldquo;They can&rsquo;t afford it,&rdquo; said Fatigato, 20, who grew up a few miles north of the Glen Ellyn campus. &ldquo;I pay for school myself so I don&rsquo;t currently have any money and I&rsquo;m running low on funds for school.&rdquo;<br /><br />Fatigato, a television production major, is struggling to become the first member of her family to earn a college degree. So it bothers her, she said, to see how the college is spending its money.</p><p>&ldquo;The PE building and the MAC building are very nice,&rdquo; she said, referring to renovations of the college&rsquo;s Physical Education Center and McAninch Arts Center. &ldquo;But I feel like they overdid it in a lot of ways. Some of the statues, we don&rsquo;t need. And the fountain &mdash; it&rsquo;s got a giant glass mural-type thing.&rdquo;</p><p>Then Fatigato told me about a fear she shares with many students. It&rsquo;s a fear that is getting drowned out by a public furor over a $760,000 severance package for the school&rsquo;s president.</p><p>&ldquo;They&rsquo;re going to raise tuition and then people like me who pay for school by myself will not be able to afford it,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Big tuition hikes may seem far-fetched for a community college that brags about operating reserves exceeding $177 million last year. But the backlash against the College of DuPage&rsquo;s spending habits is very real. The critics once consisted mostly of faculty union leaders and local Tea Party activists. Now their ranks have spread to business leaders, newspaper editorial boards and west-suburban state lawmakers from both parties.</p><p>They&rsquo;re upset about the severance package, which will send off President Robert Breuder three years before his contract would have been up. They&rsquo;re mad about his satellite phones and booze tab. They wonder whether he built the college&rsquo;s French restaurant and boutique hotel to provide perks to administrators instead of training opportunities for culinary and hospitality students.<br /><br />To find out how the uproar could affect the school&rsquo;s future, I asked to speak with Breuder, his spokesman and the chairwoman of the board of trustees. They all declined. At a board meeting last week, another trustee insisted that the severance package was the best deal the school could get.</p><p>When the dust settles &mdash; when those administrators and trustees are gone &mdash; there could still be a steep price for today&rsquo;s turmoil. It&rsquo;s a price that would be paid largely by the college&rsquo;s 28,000 students and by working-class families, such as Fatigato&rsquo;s, who are counting on the College of DuPage for a leg up.<br /><br />That&rsquo;s if the public kept the impression that their taxes bankroll golden parachutes and lavish amenities instead of instructional programs. See, it&rsquo;s the public that is paying most College of DuPage expenses. Aside from tuition and student fees ($66 million in fiscal 2014), the largest sources of operating revenue are real-estate taxes ($108 million) and state appropriations ($55 million). Both of those spigots can open and close in response to political pressures, including taxpayer revolts like the one brewing in DuPage County.<br /><br />Then there are the bond sales that finance the college&rsquo;s major construction projects. The authority for those sales requires approval from local voters &mdash; mainly the same taxpayers. The most recent College of DuPage bond referendum, a 2010 measure, passed by a slim margin.<br /><br />&ldquo;The next time that the college needs to go out and ask for money for something legitimate, [voters] will remember the expensive French restaurant,&rdquo; warned David Goldberg, a political science professor at the college. &ldquo;They will remember the three-quarters-of-a-million-dollar payout that the president has received. And they will rightfully be concerned about where their tax dollars are going to go.&rdquo;<br /><br />And if they decide to put fewer of those dollars into the College of DuPage, Goldberg said, it could eventually lead to program cuts and tuition hikes. The primary victims, in other words, will be students.</p><p><em>To hear an extended version of this story, including more voices, click on the audio player above.&nbsp;</em><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/cmitchell-0">Chip Mitchell</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s West Side bureau reporter. Follow him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/ChipMitchell1">@ChipMitchell1</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>, and connect with him through <a href="https://www.facebook.com/chipmitchell1">Facebook</a>, <a href="https://plus.google.com/111079509307132701769" rel="me">Google+</a> and <a href="http://www.linkedin.com/in/ChipMitchell1">LinkedIn</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 06 Feb 2015 14:14:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/fallout-over-college-dupage-spending-could-hurt-students-111514 When will Chicago get its next supertall skyscraper? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/when-will-chicago-get-its-next-supertall-skyscraper-108531 <p><div><p>In 2013 Curious City took on a high-minded question from Minneapolis resident Andrew Wambach.</p><p>Wambach, now 30, had just moved to Minnesota and already missed the Chicago skyline. He wanted to know:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>When will Chicago get its next supertall skyscraper?</em></p><p>The last supertall skyscraper in Chicago was the Trump Tower, built in 2009. Before that the city hadn&rsquo;t reached such heights since 1990&rsquo;s Two Prudential Plaza, 16 years after the Willis (Sears) Tower became the world&rsquo;s tallest building. While the U.S. may be the birthplace of the form, for a while skyscraper construction had slowed at home &mdash; and soared abroad.</p><p>But that may be changing. In December 2014 Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel touted plans for a new tower in the Lakeshore East neighborhood that &mdash; if all goes according to plan &mdash; could reach 1,150 feet into the air by 2018. In 2013, New York City&rsquo;s One World Trade Center became the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, at 1,776 feet. Even Wambach&rsquo;s Minneapolis had been considering a proposal to construct an 80-story skyscraper. That project, <a href="http://www.startribune.com/local/minneapolis/289597641.html#" target="_blank">rejected by the city</a>, would have been the state&#39;s tallest building, but would have been just shy of meeting supertall status.</p><p>Wherever they are, massive developments are difficult to design and build. But when they do happen, it&rsquo;s generally because two important factors came together to make building up pay off: egos and economics.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">But first, just how tall is that?</span></p><p>Andrew didn&rsquo;t know this when he asked the question, but &ldquo;supertall&rdquo; is an objective term. Chicago&rsquo;s own Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat is the authority on such matters. They deem any building over 300 meters, or 984 feet, &ldquo;supertall.&rdquo; (<a href="http://www.ctbuh.org/HighRiseInfo/TallestDatabase/Criteria/HeightCalculator/tabid/1007/language/en-GB/Default.aspx" target="_blank">For a rough measurement</a>, that&rsquo;s about 75 stories.) Six buildings in Chicago qualify: The Trump Tower, Willis Tower, Aon Center, John Hancock Center, AT&amp;T Corporate Center, and Two Prudential Plaza.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/CTBUH_Tallest20in2020_Poster.jpg" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/FutureTallest20-2.jpg" style="height: 417px; width: 620px;" title="For context, here's a diagram of the predicted world's 20 tallest buildings in the year 2014. Click to enlarge. (Courtesy of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat)" /></a></div><p>Walk into any major architectural office and you&rsquo;ll see plenty of renderings pinned to the wall, showing buildings reaching great heights. It&rsquo;s just that they&rsquo;re in Jeddah, Seoul, Abu Dhabi, Beijing &mdash; not Chicago.</p><p>In 2011 CTBUH even had to add a new category of tall building to reflect the explosive growth of tall buildings in recent years; so-called &ldquo;megatall&rdquo; buildings stand at least 600 meters (1,968 feet) tall. There are only two complete megatall buildings: the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, and the Royal Hotel Clock Tower in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. When the Shanghai Tower opens in April of 2015, it will be the third, at 632 meters (2,074 feet) tall.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Chicago&rsquo;s latest contender</span></p><p>&ldquo;If there was a great location, a great site, a developer that really had the willpower to pull something off, it certainly could happen,&rdquo; said Rafael Carreira, a principal with <a href="http://tjbc.com/" target="_blank">The John Buck Company</a>. &ldquo;But the larger a project gets, the harder it is to finance, the harder it is to pre-sell or premarket ... and those are factors that make these supertalls hard to do.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/wanda%20courtesy%20city%20of%20chicago.jpg" style="float: right;" title="A rendering of the proposed Wanda Vista development. (Courtesy City of Chicago)" />Supertalls can be risky investments. (<a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/skyscrapers-that-predicted-financial-crises-2014-4#!GoEAm" target="_blank">Some economists even think bombastic skyscraper booms are an omen of economic collapse</a>.) But as one developer put it, the profession attracts risk-takers.</p><p>&ldquo;Where a normal person might be apprehensive,&rdquo; said Sean Linnane, &nbsp;a senior vice president for Magellan Development Group, &ldquo;developers are excited.&rdquo;</p><p>At the moment the most likely candidate for Chicago&rsquo;s next supertall is an 88-story, $900 million development proposed for<a href="https://www.google.com/maps/place/375+E+Upper+Wacker+Dr,+Chicago,+IL+60601/@41.8878616,-87.6209235,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x880e2ca900a2e77d:0x32e4f52fba2475d3" target="_blank"> 375 E. Wacker Dr., in the city&rsquo;s Lakeshore East neighborhood</a>. It would be 1,150 feet (350 meters) tall, and its developers &mdash; Beijing-based Dalian Wanda Group and local firm Magellan &mdash; hope to have it open in 2018. They&rsquo;ve hired two local design firms to sculpt the structure, which would become the city&rsquo;s third tallest building: Studio Gang Architects and bKL Architecture.</p><p>Lead designer Jeanne Gang&rsquo;s other <a href="http://www.studiogang.net/work/2004/aqua-tower" target="_blank">notable projects include the Aqua Tower</a> &mdash; a high-rise with undulating balconies that mimic wave patterns when viewed from an angle &mdash; and the lyrical WMS Boathouses at Clark Park. bKL designed the first tower in the Wolf Point development and a 45-story tower at 200 N. Michigan Ave., both of which are currently under construction.</p><p>Their preliminary designs for what&rsquo;s being called Wanda Vista show a cluster of three towers stepping down in height as they go east, each terminating in a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/green-roofs-check-101677">green roof</a>. The glassy high-rises, which are expected to house a five-star hotel, for-sale residential units and retail space, look like stacks of frustums, or cut-off pyramid shapes. The middle tower would meet the ground with a soaring glass atrium looking north over the Chicago River, while the structure itself would straddle North Field Boulevard running to the south.</p><p>So what are its prospect? Although Mayor Rahm Emanuel says there won&rsquo;t be any public funding involved, the project still needs city approval because its proposed height would exceed the maximum allowed in in the area&rsquo;s master plan.</p><p>Arguably more important is the economic challenge. Downtown Chicago is in the middle of a residential and hotel boom that signals high demand, but could mean the market is nearing saturation. Still, Sean Linnane of Magellan Development Group is confident they&rsquo;ll deliver on this supertall order.</p><p>&ldquo;The timing is right for this project. We&rsquo;re coming out of the doldrums we&#39;ve been in since arguably 2007,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It&#39;s not like our Chinese partners said, &lsquo;Let&#39;s come to the U.S. and do a supertall.&rsquo; They were just trying to find a great investment opportunity to make their splash in the United States. And it&#39;s a credit to Chicago that they chose our development.&rdquo;</p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s market is warming up, but China&rsquo;s is burning across its borders. Wanda is owned by Wang Jianlin, the richest man in mainland China. Like many Chinese developers, he&rsquo;s looking for new markets overseas.</p><p>&ldquo;It&#39;s crazy what&#39;s going on in China right now. There&#39;s just been explosive growth,&rdquo; Linnane says. &ldquo;They&#39;re looking all over the place, not just the U.S. It&#39;s a way to sustain their growth. They look at the U.S. as a very mature market.&rdquo;</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="377" mozallowfullscreen="true" src="https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1zOBXrWDC28PlZhqn_-F8bid5QLCQrKVDN2cKc47P9lw/embed?start=false&amp;loop=false&amp;delayms=3000" webkitallowfullscreen="true" width="620"></iframe></p><p><em><span style="font-size:10px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">Above: Renderings of the proposed Wanda Vista development. (Courtesy City of Chicago)</span></span></em></p><p>That explosive growth has gone on for a long time, but lately <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/10/24/china-property-prices-idUSL3N0SJ1DE20141024" target="_blank">Chinese home prices have slipped</a>. Tom Kerwin, principal of bKL Architecture, says the U.S. real estate market is a relatively stable place for global developers to invest.</p><p>&ldquo;I think there&#39;s a shift because, for one, the Chinese property market is down significantly. So these companies that develop as their core business are looking for other places to export their expertise in addition to their capital. You&#39;re seeing many Chinese developers coming to the U.S., and the biggest of the biggest are coming,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Not just Wanda.&rdquo;</p><p>Other major Chinese developers such as Greenland Group and ECADI have made their first U.S. moves in New York City and Los Angeles, but Wanda&rsquo;s debut is in Chicago. That&rsquo;s a vote of confidence in the city&rsquo;s real estate market, and it mirrors a larger trend: <a href="http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/January-2015/The-New-China-Pipeline/" target="_blank">Between March 2013 and March 2014, the Chinese purchased $22 billion of U.S. residential property &mdash; the highest volume for any non-domestic group</a>.</p><p>Wanda&rsquo;s not the only Chinese developer interested in Chicago. In 2014 Beijing&rsquo;s Cinda International Holdings Limited <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelcole/2014/03/16/chinese-investors-discover-chicago-real-estate/" target="_blank">teamed up with Chicago-based Zeller Realty Group to buy the 65-story tower at 311 S. Wacker Dr. for $304 million</a>. That&rsquo;s the seventh tallest building in Chicago to date, a mere seven meters (23 feet) short of supertall status.</p><p>If it comes to fruition, the Wanda project could signal a new era of tall building investment in Chicago, says CTBUH Executive Director Antony Wood.</p><p>&ldquo;Whilst New York is awash with foreign investment, especially from China, this is one of the first major skyscraper investments from overseas we have seen in Chicago during the current wave, which is sweeping the world,&rdquo; Wood said. &ldquo;Chicago will likely never accommodate the World&rsquo;s tallest building again, but it is a proud skyscraper city, as well as a major economic hub, and it is likely that we will see other supertall buildings proposed and built in the coming years &ndash; especially residential supertalls.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">What about other recent contenders to be Chicago&rsquo;s next supertall?</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/old%20post%20office%20wikimedia%20commons%20brianbobcat.jpg" title="The Old Main Post Office in downtown Chicago has been in redevelopment limbo since it closed in 1996. Previous plans included the construction of a 120-story building in its place. (Wikimedia Commons/Brianbobcat)" /></p><p>In 2013 Chicago City Council approved the first part of an audacious redevelopment plan for the massive Old Main Post Office downtown, which has loomed vacant over the Eisenhower Expressway since 1996. The plans came from British developer Bill Davies&rsquo; International Property Developers and local architects Antunovich Associates. They called first for a rehab of the existing 2.7 million square foot post office and the construction of a 1,000-foot tower, to be followed in a later phase by a 2,000-foot tower that would be the tallest in the Western Hemisphere.</p><p>The first phase would take eight to 10 years, Joe Antunovich said, while the rest might take 20 years. But first they need to secure financing. The entire project could cost $3.5 billion. It would be an impressive feat, to be sure. But in that amount of time, Shanghai&rsquo;s Pudong district<a href="http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6600367" target="_blank"> went from mainly farmland to a part of a metropolis with more skyscrapers than New York City</a>.</p><p>In 2014, however, the project&rsquo;s developers <a href="http://www.chicagobusiness.com/realestate/20141008/CRED03/141009835/old-post-office-owner-plots-next-move-after-breakup-with-sterling-bay" target="_blank">announced they were exploring alternative plans for the property</a>, possibly nixing the 120-story tower.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/spire%20hole%20flickr%20Marcin%20Wichary.jpg" style="height: 414px; width: 620px;" title="The ill-fated Chicago Spire was supposed to be the tallest building in the western hemisphere. (Flickr/Marcin Wichary)" /></div><p>If you want to see evidence of the recession&rsquo;s impact on skyscraper construction, you don&rsquo;t need to pore over spreadsheets or the architectural billings index: You just need to go to 400 N. Lake Shore Dr., where you&rsquo;ll find a pit about 100 ft. wide and 80 ft. deep. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/lee-bey/2012-08/what-might-have-been-ill-fated-chicago-spire-101922" target="_blank">The ill-fated Chicago Spire</a> was supposed to be the tallest building in the western hemisphere. But the twisting 2,000-foot tower failed to attract enough financing and was hit with foreclosure lawsuits. Now it&rsquo;s the most-watched hole in the ground in Chicago real estate.</p><p>In 2013 real estate developer<a href="http://blogs.wsj.com/moneybeat/2013/06/24/related-in-deal-to-buy-distressed-debt-on-stalled-chicago-spire-project/" target="_blank"> Related Cos. of New York reportedly entered talks to buy the Spire&#39;s discounted debt</a>, but in November 2014 a U.S. Bankruptcy Court forced the project&rsquo;s original developer, Garrett Kelleher, to hand the 2.2-acre site over. Related <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-spire-1105-biz-20141104-story.html">now controls the real estate</a> and has not yet announced plans for development.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Why the action has been outside Chicago</span></p><p>There are a few factors behind Asia&rsquo;s building boom that don&rsquo;t quite apply to Chicago. For one thing, said Wood, Chicago just doesn&rsquo;t need to make a statement with its skyline like Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia did when its Petronas Towers unseated Willis Tower as the world&rsquo;s tallest in 1998.</p><p>&ldquo;What&rsquo;s driving these tall buildings around the world is attention in a global market and population growth,&rdquo; Wood said. &ldquo;And, on the face of it, we&rsquo;re not seeing any of that in Chicago.&rdquo;</p><p><a href="http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/EXTABOUTUS/0,,contentMDK:23272497~pagePK:51123644~piPK:329829~theSitePK:29708,00.html?argument=value" target="_blank">The world gains more than 5 million city dwellers every month</a>, and the U.S. accounts for very little of that urbanization. It&rsquo;s happening in places like China, where<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/16/world/asia/chinas-great-uprooting-moving-250-million-into-cities.html?pagewanted=all&amp;_r=0" target="_blank"> a government plan to move 250 million people into cities by 2025</a> helps generate huge demand for high-density, supertall buildings.</p><p>But even if Chicago isn&rsquo;t home to many new supertalls, it&rsquo;s still a nerve center of sorts for tall building architecture and engineering.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s not many really significant tall buildings that are not happening with some Chicago expertise anywhere in the world &mdash; architectural, engineering, geotechnical, façade &mdash; but some Chicago input,&rdquo; Wood said. &ldquo;However it is fair to say that there has been a major shift in almost all aspects of tall buildings.&rdquo;</p><p>If they pull it off, the Wanda Tower will change the Chicago skyline. But in China huge developments happen all the time. One of the tower&rsquo;s architects, bKL Principal Tom Kerwin, says China&rsquo;s economic and demographic booms have made massive projects part of the new urban culture.</p><p>&ldquo;Supertall buildings or large mixed-use complexes are kind of the norm in China,&rdquo; said Kerwin, who has worked on dozens of projects in the U.S. and Asia. &ldquo;The Chinese are very accustomed to these large-scale, multi-use buildings. So for them, it sounds kind of silly to say, but it&#39;s almost commonplace.&rdquo;</p><p>In addition to moving to Asia, supertall towers have changed since Chicago&rsquo;s skyline rose decades ago. Tall towers today tend to have more retail and residential space than their counterparts from previous generations. They are often mixed-use &mdash; combining hotel, retail, office and/or residential space in one building &mdash; and use different structural systems, like concrete-steel composites as opposed to just steel. And rather than bearing corporate names such as Chrysler, Sears and Petronas, they&rsquo;re increasingly named to inspire civic pride: say, the Russia Tower or Chicago Spire. Burj Khalifa was originally called Burj Dubai.</p><p>Brian Lee, a design partner at Skidmore, Owings &amp; Merrill &mdash; the architectural offices behind thousands of skyscrapers around the world, including four of Chicago&rsquo;s six supertalls &mdash; has seen the effect of these projects first-hand.</p><p>&ldquo;We think that the tall building is not the only kind of building type that should be built, obviously. It has limitations,&rdquo; Lee said, &ldquo;but there&rsquo;s something exhilarating about a tall structure that makes a mark for a city and a region.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">A supertall with a Chicago character?</span></p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/riverpoint-courtesy-hines-and-pickard-chilton.jpg" style="height: 470px; width: 620px;" title="A park plan for the base of the River Point building, connects the property to the Chicago Riverwalk. (Courtesy of Hines and Pickard Chilton)" /></div><p>Our Curious Citizen, Andrew Wambach, raised another interesting question: If skyscrapers are a statement of their city&rsquo;s character, what should influence the design of Chicago&rsquo;s next supertall if it actually comes to be?</p><p>New skyscrapers at Wolf Point, River Point and 150 N. Riverside &mdash; three sites abutting the Chicago River at its confluence downtown &mdash; feature riverwalk connections and landscaped parks at their bases. Two of them actually have broader shoulders, as it were, than footprints. Landscape architect Ted Wolff said the Wolf Point project was the first where he&rsquo;d actually heard an architect tell him to expand his landscaping so far it would hem in the lobby.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/andrew wambach photo.jpeg" style="float: right; height: 303px; width: 200px;" title="Our question-asker, Andrew Wambach, is from Minneapolis but moved to Chicago for work between 2011-2013." />They may not be supertalls by the Council on Tall Buildings&rsquo; definition, but projects like these suggest Chicago&rsquo;s architectural legacy may be as much about Millennium Park as it is about Willis Tower.</p><p>Wanda&rsquo;s plans for a new supertall in Chicago are still preliminary, but its designers and developers have hinted at connections to neighborhood parks and the Chicago Riverwalk.</p><p>&ldquo;It&#39;s no secret that the project site is on an important axis for connectivity to the river, the lake, the Lakeshore East park and other internal features of our development,&rdquo; said Magellan&rsquo;s Sean Linnane. &ldquo;Because of its location, by its nature it will have to address those.&rdquo;</p><p>After all, says architect Tom Kerwin, that&rsquo;s the critical challenge a design team faces with any new project &mdash; no matter its size or location.</p><p>&ldquo;In cities around the world, how do you create a prototype where something&#39;s so technically driven and make it of its place, make it part of the city where you&#39;re building it?&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It definitely is a challenge. You want buildings to respond to their context, not just in a functional way but in an inspirational or an aesthetic way.&rdquo;</p><p>In other words, to bring the skyscraper down to earth.</p><p><em>Chris Bentley is a writer with WBEZ and Midwest Editor for <a href="http://archpaper.com/" target="_blank">The Architect&rsquo;s Newspaper</a>. Follow him on Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/Cementley" target="_blank">@cementley</a>.</em></p></div><p><em>Correction: This story misstated the reporting year used for the&nbsp;CTBUH graphic that compares supertalls. The graphic represents data gathered up to November 2014.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 18:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/when-will-chicago-get-its-next-supertall-skyscraper-108531 Obama administration won't seek to end 529 college tax break http://www.wbez.org/news/obama-administration-wont-seek-end-529-college-tax-break-111466 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/flickr bradley gorden backpacks.PNG" alt="" /><p><div class="storytext storylocation linkLocation" id="storytext"><p>Reversing what had been an unpopular approach, the White House says it is dropping the idea of ending a tax break for 529 college savings plans. Critics had called the proposal a tax hike. All 50 states and the District of Columbia sponsor 529 plans.</p><p>Money in 529 accounts is meant to grow along with future college students, and then be distributed to pay for education expenses without being taxed.</p><p>As <a href="http://www.npr.org/2015/01/27/381783199/obama-takes-heat-for-proposing-to-end-college-savings-break">NPR&#39;s Tamara Keith reported</a> this morning, &quot;It&#39;s a pretty good deal, and one that&#39;s been around since 2001. But the White House says fewer than 3 percent of families use these accounts &mdash; and 70 percent of the money in them comes from families earning more than $200,000 a year.&quot;</p><p>Obama&#39;s plan had been to end the tax benefit for future contributions, replacing it with other education and tax proposals. But the idea drew bipartisan criticism, and the White House said today that it will now ask Congress to focus on &quot;a larger package of education tax relief that has bipartisan support,&quot; along with proposals the president mentioned in his State of the Union speech.</p><p>NPR&#39;s Keith confirmed the reversal Tuesday. <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/28/us/politics/obama-will-drop-proposal-to-end-529-college-savings-plans.html">The New York Times</a> reported the news today, saying that the president was &quot;facing angry reprisals from parents and from lawmakers of both parties.&quot;</p><p>The move comes a day after Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kan., <a href="http://lynnjenkins.house.gov/press-releases/reps-jenkins-kind-introduce-legislation-to-expand-strengthen-529-college-savings-plans1/">introduced a bill</a> that would expand college savings plans instead of limiting them.</p><p>Today, Jenkins said her bill would &quot;further promote college access and eliminate barriers for middle class families to save and plan ahead. It would also modernize the program by allowing students to purchase a computer using their 529 funds.&quot;</p><p>House Speaker John Boehner, who had urged Obama to keep the 529 plans intact, says he&#39;s glad the president &quot;listened to the American people and withdrew his proposed tax hike on college savings.&quot; He added, &quot;This tax would have hurt middle-class families already struggling to get ahead.&quot;</p><p>Aides familiar with the conversations tell NPR&#39;s Keith that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi urged preserving the 529 provisions today, as she traveled with the president on Air Force One from India to Saudi Arabia.</p><p>You can read about 529 plans at the <a href="http://www.sec.gov/investor/pubs/intro529.htm">SEC website</a>, as well as at the <a href="http://www.irs.gov/uac/529-Plans:-Questions-and-Answers">IRS site</a>.</p><p>&mdash; <em><a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2015/01/27/381967958/obama-administration-won-t-seek-to-end-529-college-tax-break" target="_blank">via NPR</a></em></p></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 27 Jan 2015 18:40:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/obama-administration-wont-seek-end-529-college-tax-break-111466 Cheap gas and innovation bring optimism to Detroit Auto Show http://www.wbez.org/news/cheap-gas-and-innovation-bring-optimism-detroit-auto-show-111415 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/0116_autoshow-624x415.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Saturday marks the public opening of the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan.</p><p>Following a particularly good year for automakers and the continued drop in gas prices, the mood is optimistic for automakers like Ford, GM, Chrysler and foreign brands across the board. Innovation, both on fuel economy and in tech are also making a splash.</p><p><em>Here &amp; Now</em>&rsquo;s Jeremy Hobson spoke with NPR business reporter, <a href="http://www.npr.org/people/130330851/sonari-glinton" target="_blank">Sonari Glinton</a>, and the director of automotive relations at AutoTrader Group, <a href="http://press.autotrader.com/2014-05-27-Industry-Veteran-Analyst-Michelle-Krebs-joins-AutoTrader-com" target="_blank">Michelle Krebs</a>, about the new innovations on display at the Detroit Auto Show.</p></p> Fri, 16 Jan 2015 13:18:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/cheap-gas-and-innovation-bring-optimism-detroit-auto-show-111415 Rauner puts Illiana Expressway on hold http://www.wbez.org/news/rauner-puts-illiana-expressway-hold-111394 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Illiana 3 (2).JPG" alt="" /><p><p>SPRINGFIELD, Ill. &mdash; A planned 47-mile expressway between Illinois and Indiana is on hold after new Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner issued an executive order aimed at addressing the state&#39;s deep budget problems.</p><p>In his first act after taking office Monday, the Republican suspended planning and development of any major interstate construction projects pending a &quot;careful review&quot; of costs and benefits. Rauner spokesman Lance Trover said Tuesday the planned Illiana Expressway is among the projects that fall under the executive order, adding that it&#39;s part of &quot;a broader review to maximize taxpayer investment in infrastructure.&quot;</p><p>It was unclear Tuesday how long that review may take.</p><p>The $1.5 billion project would provide an east-west link between Interstate 65 in Indiana and Interstate 55 in Illinois.</p><p>Supporters, including Republican Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, say the expressway would relieve traffic congestion on Interstate 80 south of Chicago and create much-needed jobs.</p><p>&quot;We&#39;re ready to build the Illiana whenever Illinois is,&quot; Christy Denault, communications director for Pence, said Tuesday.</p><p>Opponents have called the project unnecessary and say it could become a boondoggle, leaving taxpayers on the hook if toll revenue falls short. Among those who have been critical is Randy Blankenhorn, Rauner&#39;s pick to lead the Illinois Department of Transportation.</p><p>Blankenhorn, who currently leads the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, couldn&#39;t be reached for comment Tuesday. But he&#39;s said publicly he wasn&#39;t sure Illiana was a good deal for Illinois and could expose taxpayers to undue risk.</p><p>Environmentalists also oppose the project, saying it will spoil rural areas in Illinois&#39; Will County.</p><p>Former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, supported the expressway. Last month, the Federal Highway Administration approved plans for the project, giving officials the green light to begin looking for public-private partnerships to construct, maintain and operate it.</p><p>Opponents have vowed to continue a fight against it, and a lawsuit is pending.</p></p> Tue, 13 Jan 2015 18:02:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/rauner-puts-illiana-expressway-hold-111394 How a too-strong dollar might lead to a too-weak world http://www.wbez.org/news/how-too-strong-dollar-might-lead-too-weak-world-111346 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/ap851119269057_wide-c3b91a4ad0260c6a4fdac02dae45ec8b89c83482-s600-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>It&#39;s flattering to be King of the Hill.</p><p>And these days, the U.S. dollar is wearing the crown. It has climbed to its highest point in 11 years, with global investors pushing it ahead of the euro and other major currencies.</p><p>But while it&#39;s a compliment to have a strong dollar, the honor is not without its downsides. When the dollar rises against other currencies, it increases risks to U.S. manufacturers.</p><p>So economists are looking for signs that a good thing may be starting to go too far. These questions and answers may help explain what&#39;s happening.</p><p><strong>First, has the dollar really moved that much?</strong></p><p>Yes, the WSJ Dollar Index, which tracks the dollar&#39;s performance against 16 other currencies, had a 12 percent rally in 2014. In these early days of the new year, the dollar has been continuing to rise.</p><p><strong>Why is this happening?</strong></p><p>Currency traders are betting the U.S. economy will be growing so quickly in 2015 that the Federal Reserve will nudge up interest rates from recent historic lows.</p><p>The opposite is likely to happen in Europe. There, growth is weak and Greece&#39;s political troubles are creating uncertainties.</p><p>So if you were a saver, where would you put your money &mdash; in a strong, stable country offering rising interest payouts, or in a region with a shaky economic outlook and falling interest rates? Common sense says more people will turn to the United States as a safe haven.</p><p>&quot;As dollar assets become more attractive, more money comes into the U.S., pushing up the value of the dollar,&quot; said Nariman Behravesh, chief economist for IHS Global Insight. &quot;And as more money leaves Europe, it pushes down the value of the euro.&quot;</p><p><strong>So what&#39;s wrong with having people love the United States?</strong></p><p>It is good to have everyone wanting to stash their savings in the United States. But investors&#39; embrace of the dollar can start to feel like a death grip if it goes too far. Here&#39;s why:</p><p>U.S. companies that make goods and equipment want to compete on a global stage. If the dollar gets too expensive, U.S. exports can get priced out of the market. For example, if a customer in Brazil wants to purchase an earth mover, it could buy one from Caterpillar, or it could turn to companies in Germany or Japan.</p><p>If the dollar&#39;s value is very high, then it could tip the Brazilian&#39;s decision in favor of the Germans or Japanese.</p><p>It&#39;s not just U.S. manufacturers who worry about the rising dollar. The U.S. tourist industry also could take a hit if Germans, Brits and others can no longer afford to visit Florida this winter.</p><p>&quot;A strong dollar is a double-edged sword that could hurt a lot of U.S. companies,&quot; said Lindsey Piegza, chief economist for Sterne Agee.</p><p><strong>How is this likely to play out over time?</strong></p><p>It could turn out just fine over the next year or two. In this good scenario, the European Central Bank would lower interest rates just enough to encourage European companies to borrow money and expand. With energy being so cheap now, this could indeed be the perfect time to take a chance on expanding a plant.</p><p>That would lead to more hiring, which would help consumer spending in Europe. Once growth picked up, the euro&#39;s value would rise. In the end, the United States would have a healthy trading partner again and a more reasonably priced currency, allowing for fair global competition.</p><p>But there could be a bad scenario: Europe&#39;s economy could keep shrinking, with the euro becoming unstable and the dollar getting way overpriced. The bottom line would be less business for U.S. manufacturing and tourism, and the U.S. economy would start to sink too.</p><p><em>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/2015/01/06/375201124/how-a-too-strong-dollar-might-lead-to-a-too-weak-world" target="_blank">via NPR</a></em></p></p> Tue, 06 Jan 2015 15:08:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/how-too-strong-dollar-might-lead-too-weak-world-111346 How driver's license suspensions unfairly target the poor http://www.wbez.org/news/how-drivers-license-suspensions-unfairly-target-poor-111332 <p><p><em>This is the second of two stories. Read the first story,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cant-pay-your-fines-your-license-could-be-taken-111309">here</a>.</em></p><p>If you get caught drinking and driving in Wisconsin, and it&#39;s your first offense, you lose your license for nine months. For a hit and run, the punishment is suspension for one year.</p><p>But if you don&#39;t pay a ticket for a minor driving offense, such as driving with a broken tail light, you can lose your license for two years.</p><p>&quot;It&#39;s an incredible policy,&quot; says John Pawasarat of the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. It&#39;s &quot;a policy of punishing people who can&#39;t pay their fines.&quot;</p><p>The practice &ndash; repeated in states across the country &ndash; is mostly impacting the poor and creating a spiral of bad consequences.</p><p>NPR&#39;s recent&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/series/313986316/guilty-and-charged">&quot;Guilty and Charged&quot; investigation</a>&nbsp;found that rising court fines and fees &mdash; reaching hundreds or even thousands of dollars per person &mdash; often hurt poor people the most.</p><p>Pawasarat, who runs the university&#39;s Employment and Training Institute and studies Milwaukee&#39;s poor neighborhoods, says one of the biggest barriers to getting a job is not having a driver&#39;s license.</p><p>&quot;Two out of three African-American men in this neighborhood, of working age, don&#39;t have a driver&#39;s license,&quot; he says while walking down Martin Luther King Avenue in Milwaukee. &quot;And are consequently unable to access the jobs that are beyond the bus lines.&quot;</p><p>But among the typical barriers to employment &mdash; such as having a prison record, or a poor education &mdash; a suspended license is the easiest to solve, says Pawasarat.</p><p>McArthur Edwards, who lives nearby, knows from personal experience.</p><p>&quot;It hinders you because most jobs are not in the inner city nowadays. And they get pushed far back. And the buses don&#39;t go out there. So the inner-city jobs that we have are not able to provide for our families that we have and to provide for ourselves,&quot; he says.</p><p>In 2013, Edwards was stopped by police and ticketed for driving with a broken light over his back license plate. State department of transportation records show that when he didn&#39;t pay the $64 fine, his driver&#39;s license was suspended for two years.</p><p>He kept driving and got more tickets. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, at least 75 percent of Americans who get their licenses suspended, continue driving.</p><p>Edwards, who&#39;s 29, has come to the Center for Driver&#39;s License Recovery and Employability, where lawyers and case workers help people with low income get suspensions lifted.</p><p>His reason for wanting his license is simple: He wants a better job.</p><p>From time to time, Edwards is hired to work in warehouses around the city. But those are temporary jobs, often at around minimum wage.</p><p>That makes it difficult for him to pay both the landlord and the electric bill.</p><p>Edwards, who lived in foster care or state homes from the time he was 2, wants to be a good father to his four children, who are 4- to 11-years old.</p><p>&quot;I want my kids to look up to me. I want my kids to be like, &#39;Me and my father did that,&#39; or, &#39;I need these,&#39; or &#39;I want these,&#39; or &#39;the school said I needed this,&#39;&quot; he says. &quot;And I can&#39;t afford to buy it. Or I can&#39;t provide for my children. I don&#39;t want that to be that way.&quot;</p><p>Recently, Edwards responded to ads for long-distance truck drivers. Two companies promised to train him, but not until he has a valid driver&#39;s license.</p><p>It&#39;s a potential job that he speaks of wistfully. &quot;I like traveling. And trucking is a good way to travel. Just see the sights of America, man. It&#39;s a beautiful country,&quot; he says. &quot;I just want to see everything. I love the road.&quot;</p><p>To lift his suspension, staff at the center helped Edwards reset the original unpaid ticket.</p><p>For six other tickets &mdash; most of them for driving while suspended &mdash; he paid $600 on the $1,800 he owed. He then cleared the rest by doing community service.</p><p>The most common way that people lose their driver&#39;s license in Wisconsin is not for drunk driving or other unsafe driving. It&#39;s for failure to pay the fine on a ticket for a non-moving traffic offense. Those make up 56 percent of all license suspensions in the state, according to statistics from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.</p><p>Nationwide, the numbers are similar: about 40 percent of suspensions are for unpaid traffic tickets, and for things like not paying child support, or getting caught with drugs &mdash; things that have nothing to do with unsafe driving, according to the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators.</p><p>People with money pay off their tickets and are done with the courts. When people don&#39;t pay, a minor ticket can set off a chain of problems.</p><p>Like for Angel Hinton, who also came to the center for help.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/hinton-img_0480-edit_custom-245e81c52238a85d88a7ad54b3619443cde2b637-s400-c85.jpg" style="float: left; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px;" title="Angel Hinton with her daughter, Cameisha, 8. Hinton's business suffered after her license was suspended. (Joseph Shapiro/NPR)" />Hinton had a small janitorial business, but money was tight. So she challenged a parking ticket she received outside of the suburban office building she cleaned on Sunday mornings.</p><p>But the unpaid ticket meant she couldn&#39;t renew her car registration. She then got more tickets for expired tags. She missed a court date. She says she wasn&#39;t notified. That triggered an arrest warrant. And one day, she was stopped by police, pulled out of her car and handcuffed in front of her young daughter.</p><p>Without a license, she could no longer drive to the places she cleaned.</p><p>&quot;This basically ruined my life,&quot; she says. &quot;I mean, I was to the point that I&#39;m building my business. I&#39;m growing. And now I&#39;m back to depending on public assistance.&quot;</p><p>When Jim Gramling was a judge on Milwaukee&#39;s Municipal Court, he saw the problems that license suspensions created for poor people. He worked with lawyers, court officials and community activists to help start the Center for Driver&#39;s License Recovery and Employability, a public-private partnership between Wisconsin Community Services, a non-profit community agency; Legal Action of Wisconsin, which provides legal services to the poor; Milwaukee Area Technical College and the city&#39;s Municipal Court.</p><p>After retiring from the bench, Gramling immediately started working at the center as a volunteer lawyer.</p><p>&quot;What we see constantly here at the center are drivers who have accumulated a series of tickets that are directly related to their lack of income,&quot; he says.</p><p>Since the program started in 2007, it has worked with about 10,000 clients, helping nearly 3,000 get their license.</p><p>&quot;People should pay their tickets. No doubt about it,&quot; says Gramling. &quot;They should be held accountable for what they&#39;ve done that violated the traffic laws. But at some point, a balance has to be introduced into this. And the balance is, if people don&#39;t pay because they&#39;re low income and can&#39;t budget that expense, what&#39;s an appropriate penalty?&quot;</p><p>Gramling says most judges never ask people if they have the money to pay traffic tickets. So he argues for alternative penalties. For example, to let people pay in small monthly amounts, or arrange for community service instead.</p><p>The retired judge is also lobbying state lawmakers to end the two-year suspension on failure to pay a ticket.</p><p>Municipal Court officials declined to speak about the policy of giving two-year suspensions, but the threat of losing a license does push people who can pay, to pay. Then there&#39;s the issue of fairness: If there&#39;s no punishment for people who can afford to pay, but don&#39;t.</p><p>Still, a new analysis of city records by the non-profit Justice Initiatives Institute, says there&#39;s no evidence that the long suspensions stop people from driving and getting more tickets. Sometimes, people then get arrested and put in jail &mdash; which is expensive for the city. Mostly, the report says, the two-year suspensions just put poor people more in debt.</p></p> Mon, 05 Jan 2015 08:54:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/how-drivers-license-suspensions-unfairly-target-poor-111332