WBEZ | Curious City http://www.wbez.org/tags/curious-city Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Sister cities: Chicago's international family http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/sister-cities-chicagos-international-family-110498 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/158996525&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>We use the word &ldquo;sister&rdquo; when we talk about our siblings or sometimes our best friends, people who are so close they might as well be family. But what does it mean to call a <em>city</em> a sister?</p><p>Maybe you&#39;ve seen a TV news bite announce reps from a sister city are in Chicago to drum up business or support a new cultural venture. Or, maybe someone tipped you off that the showy row of flags at O&#39;Hare International Airport hail from Chicago&#39;s sister cities.</p><p>Chicagoan Kelly Pedersen has been wondering what this phenomenon&rsquo;s all about, so he converted his long-standing curiosity into this question:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>Chicago currently has 28 &quot;sister cities&quot; around the globe. What is the process of determining a &quot;sister city&quot;, and what are the benefits?</em></p><p>We looked into the nearly 60-year history of citizen diplomacy with Chicago&rsquo;s sister cities. It turns out Chicago has the most active sister city program in the country, and it receives at least one request every week from someone hoping to join its global family.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">How did the program start?</span></p><p>President Dwight D. Eisenhower kicked things off in 1956, when he developed a White House conference on citizen diplomacy. The idea was to help mend relationships among former combatants in WWII and the Korean War by creating people-to-people exchanges, says Leroy Allala, executive director of <a href="http://chicagosistercities.com/" target="_blank">Chicago Sister Cities International</a>. The non-profit organization manages the sister city program for Chicago.</p><p>The city signed its first agreement with Warsaw, Poland, in 1960. Allala says it made sense &ldquo;that most of our early sister city partnerships were with cities in places like Europe and Japan, countries that had been impacted by World War II.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>With 28 agreements in hand, Chicago has the largest sister city program in the United States, Allala says. The city&rsquo;s network spans the globe from Accra, Ghana, to Milan, Italy. Los Angeles has 25 sister cities, but it doesn&rsquo;t run as many programs or exchanges as Chicago, Allala says. He adds that Laredo, Texas, has also challenged Chicago on its claim but that&rsquo;s because &ldquo;they are on the border with Mexico. Every time they send an ambulance to a border town, they sign a sister city agreement. That&rsquo;s not really what sister cities is about.&rdquo;</p><p>Mayors Richard J. Daley, Jane Byrne and Harold Washington all signed sister city agreements while they were in office, but the program really took off under Mayor Richard M. Daley, who signed 21 of Chicago&rsquo;s 28 sister city agreements.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/germany%20for%20WEB.jpg" title="Mayor Richard M. Daley and Hamburg, Germany Mayor Dr. Henning Voscherau sign a sister cities partnership in 1994. (Photo courtesy Chicago Sister Cities International)" /></p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Expanding Chicago&rsquo;s family: Who makes the cut?</span></p><p>Eileen Hubbell was the director of protocol and director of international relations under Mayor Richard M. Daley. As she recalls it, the organic process &ldquo;is really often compared &nbsp;to a marriage and every agreement has its own love story, if you will. And there are a number of factors that come into play. There have been times over the years when Chicago was pursued and other times when we were doing the pursuing.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>When Daley came into office there were seven sister cities and by the time he left office, there were 28. He also signed an executive order in 1990 to create a volunteer board of directors for Chicago Sister Cities International that would focus on expanding sister city relationships. Hubble says Daley felt strongly that the relationships should mean something, and he believed that &ldquo;you just don&rsquo;t sign a piece of paper and forget about it.&rdquo;</p><p>Hubble says Mayor Daley worked with the city&rsquo;s ethnic communities, business leaders and civic institutions to identify potential cities. &ldquo;He really made it known that Chicago was a global city, that we needed to build on that, and that everyone was welcome at the table to build on that initiative,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>Cindy Mitchell was the first chair of the committee involved with Casablanca, Morocco. She agrees that Mayor Daley was eager to promote Chicago overseas and went after many potential sister cities. &ldquo;There were some turn-downs but not too many,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;I truly believe &mdash; and I may be very naive &mdash; that it was not political, that he genuinely enjoyed these kind of relationships. I think he enjoyed visiting these countries and getting to know their mayors.&rdquo;</p><p>So at times Chicago approached a potential sister, but in some cases they approached Chicago. An example of the latter would be when the mayor of Hamburg, Germany, proposed a sister city agreement. His cause gained support from Alderman Gene Schulter, who was of German heritage. Chicago signed that partnership in 1994.</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em><span style="font-size:18px;">Map: Chicago&#39;s sister cities, 2014</span></em></p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="no" height="300" scrolling="no" src="https://www.google.com/fusiontables/embedviz?q=select+col2+from+19fE5LVOtn4N6CJvdv5FbFyplcy2f2vxPinw4Hvsi&amp;viz=MAP&amp;h=false&amp;lat=32.83198545051575&amp;lng=51.75944563631526&amp;t=1&amp;z=2&amp;l=col2&amp;y=2&amp;tmplt=2&amp;hml=KML" width="620"></iframe><iframe frameborder="no" height="250" scrolling="yes" src="https://www.google.com/fusiontables/embedviz?viz=CARD&amp;q=select+*+from+19fE5LVOtn4N6CJvdv5FbFyplcy2f2vxPinw4Hvsi&amp;tmplt=3&amp;cpr=3" width="620"></iframe></p><p style="text-align: center;"><em style="font-size: 9px;">Source: <a href="http://chicagosistercities.com/sister-cities/" target="_blank">Chicago Sister Cities International</a></em></p><p>In other instances, Chicago&rsquo;s ethnic communities took the initiative. In 1991 a group of leaders from Chicago&rsquo;s Ukrainian community wanted to demonstrate support for Ukraine, which had just gained independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union.</p><p>Under the Iron Curtain, Ukrainians hadn&rsquo;t really been allowed to travel, but in the early &lsquo;90s they began visiting Chicago. At the same time, many Chicago-based companies were exploring investment in Ukraine, says Marta Farion. She was part of the group of Ukrainian Americans who felt the best way to support a newly-independent Ukraine would be through a sister city agreement.</p><p>&ldquo;We thought, &lsquo;Wouldn&rsquo;t it be wonderful to help give people some hope by making Kiev a sister city and open up a door for person-to-person exchange,&rsquo;&rdquo; says Farion.</p><p>The group presented the idea to Mayor Daley, who agreed. Farion&rsquo;s husband, Ihor, then hand-carried a letter to the mayor of Kiev asking to partner with Chicago. Kiev agreed later that year.</p><p>Chicago uses a loose set of criteria to determine whether a city would be a good fit as a sister city. Among them is the potential partner&rsquo;s size; Chicago, Allala says, would never partner with a small village of just 1,000 people, for example.</p><p>Another criterion: whether Chicago and the potential partner already have strong cultural connections. This came to play in the selection of Warsaw in 1960, says Allala. &ldquo;Chicago is known to have the largest Polish population outside of Warsaw,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;So we consider ourselves very much a Polish city and I&rsquo;m sure at that time considered Chicago and Warsaw to be a natural fit.&rdquo;</p><p>Through the years, Chicago has also considered cities that reside near a body of water or that are also viewed as &lsquo;second cities&rsquo; in their home country, Allala says.</p><p>Another factor taken into account is whether Chicago has a local community that will take ownership of the relationship and ensure that it won&rsquo;t just lay dormant. According to Sam Scott, the Board Chairman of Chicago Sister Cities International, &ldquo;It&rsquo;s very important that we have representation from a city or a country here.&rdquo;</p><p>The ultimate decision on whether to establish an agreement, however, rests with the mayors of both cities. When they agree, they sign a formal document and hold a special signing ceremony to mark the occasion.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/SISTER cities flags for web dan xoneil.jpg" title="Flags representing Chicago's sister cities on display at Daley Plaza in 2013. (Flickr/Daniel X. O'Neil)" /></div><p><span style="font-size:22px;"><a name="termination"></a>Can a sister city agreement be terminated?</span></p><p>Chicago has never terminated a sister city agreement, but that&rsquo;s not to say things have always been tension-free. Farion says when the Chinese government massacred pro-democracy protesters in Beijing at Tiananmen Square in 1989, the Sister Cities&rsquo; board considered ending Chicago&rsquo;s agreements with Shenyang and Shanghai as a sign of protest.</p><p>But ultimately, Farion says, the board decided to pull back because &ldquo;the whole role of the sister city program is to improve relations between people. It is not a government-to-government relationship; it is a people-to-people relationship.&rdquo;</p><p>Earlier this year, a City Council committee passed a resolution asking Chicago&rsquo;s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events to suspend the sister city agreement with Moscow. Mayor Rahm Emanuel opposed that resolution, and aldermen approved a substitute resolution declaring the city&rsquo;s &ldquo;solidarity with the Ukrainian community.&rdquo;</p><p>Sam Scott testified before the city council supporting the continuation of the relationship with Moscow.</p><p>As Allala puts it: &ldquo;Signing a sister city agreement is like a marriage, but we don&rsquo;t have divorce in our world.&rdquo;</p><p>Other U.S. cities have terminated agreements, however. According to Megha Swamy, a public relations specialist for Sister Cities International, this doesn&#39;t happen very often. The group doesn&#39;t have official numbers, but it&#39;s aware of this happening at least once in the past five years. In 2013, the city council in Lansing, Michigan, voted 7-0 to adopt a resolution calling for an end to its sister city ties with St. Petersburg, Russia, because of legislation passed there which banning expressions of &ldquo;homosexual propaganda.&rdquo; The law criminalizes &ldquo;public action aimed at propagandising sodomy, lesbianism, bisexualism, and transgenderism among minors.&rdquo;</p><p>Sister Cities International says the organization <a href="http://www.sister-cities.org/sites/default/files/SCI%20Policy_Political%20Disputes.pdf">does not encourage termination </a>of agreements.</p><p><span style="font-size: 22px;">What are the benefits?</span></p><p>Among the benefits of the Sister Cities program, according to Scott, is &ldquo;a pride in ownership of various immigrant communities in the city.&rdquo; He adds, &ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s very good for people to be able to stand up and say: I am whatever I happen to be, proud of it, and Sister Cities helps to promote that.&rdquo;</p><p>Sister cities committees organize numerous activities, including student exchange programs. Sullivan High School in the Rogers Park neighborhood has an ongoing &ldquo;sister school&rdquo; relationship with&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gymaltona.de" target="_blank">Gymnasium Altona</a>, a high school in Hamburg, Germany. Sullivan Principal Chad Adams says that he wants to see the students&rsquo; worlds expand, and that travel benefits students. The school values this exchange program, Adams says, because of the long-term effect &ldquo;that kids&rsquo; minds are more global, and they&rsquo;re more thoughtful about humanity.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/WEB Justine Ogbevire at Sullivan - possible gang graffitti on piano.jpg" title="Justine Ogbevire recently visited Hamburg, Germany as part of the sister cities program. (Photo by Katie Klocksin) " /></p><p><span style="text-align: center;">Justine Ogbevire, a Sullivan student, was part of a student trip to Hamburg this May. &ldquo;I feel like it was a huge breather. ... &nbsp;I feel like my mind is open,&rdquo; she says. The overseas flight was her first time traveling on an airplane. She was nervous during takeoff but ultimately concluded &ldquo;airplanes are not that scary.&rdquo;</span></p><p>According to Sam Scott, a sister city relationship can also have economic benefits. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s amazing how well culture and education tie together with business,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;You facilitate the dialogue around the business opportunity over some of the other issues.&rdquo;</p><p>Leroy Allala says partnerships have expanded economic development within Chicago&rsquo;s Sister Cities network, and have also promoted Chicago as a place to do business: &ldquo;In addition to the great culture, education, arts, and tourism, business is also happening. So that&rsquo;s another benefit of the program.&rdquo;</p><p>Sometimes the agreements have literally altered how the city looks. Case in point: the window sills of the Chicago Cultural Center. Mayor Daley got the idea for them after a visit to Hamburg. That German city&#39;s bridges are lined with flower boxes, says Rolf Achilles, a member of the Hamburg committee for Chicago Sister Cities International. He was on the trip with Daley when he got the idea to do something similar in Chicago. Achilles says a group of engineers worked for more than a year in Chicago, trying to find a way to put the flower boxes on Chicago&rsquo;s movable bridges. But, he says, they couldn&rsquo;t find a way to make them work when the bridges would be raised, so Daley settled on the windows of the city&rsquo;s buildings instead.</p><p>Eileen Hubbell says the reason Chinese is taught in some Chicago public schools is also because of our sister cities program. She says when Mayor Daley made a trip to visit Shenyang and Shanghai, where he saw Chinese kids studying English. She says Daley came to the conclusion that he didn&rsquo;t want &ldquo;our kids here to be left behind.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">What&rsquo;s next?</span></p><p>No sister city agreement has been signed since Mayor Rahm Emanuel entered office in 2011. Chicago Sister Cities International is currently evaluating its selection process.</p><p>The program was recently moved out of the Department of Cultural Affairs and placed under the direction of World Business Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;World Business Chicago is very much business oriented. Sister Cities is more culturally and educationally oriented. The two work very very well together,&rdquo; says Scott. &ldquo;So we&rsquo;ve been working on a strategic plan. ... And we&rsquo;ll start looking at how we grow the Sister Cities program going forward to benefit both the cultural and educational piece as well as immigration and tourism for sister cities, tie that together with the growth of business opportunity.&rdquo;</p><p>If you&rsquo;re wondering which city is most likely to be Chicago&#39;s next partner, we couldn&rsquo;t get anyone to provide a specific name. However, Sam Scott says they are looking to grow in South America. Rumor has it that Sao Paolo, Brazil, has been hoping to become part of the Chicago family. We&rsquo;ll just have to wait and see. &nbsp;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Pederson%205%20for%20WEB.jpg" style="height: 214px; width: 170px; float: left;" title="Kelly Pedersen, who asked Curious City about Chicago's sister cities. " /><span style="font-size:22px;">Our question comes from: Kelly Pedersen</span></p><p>Kelly Pedersen of Chicago&rsquo;s Albany Park neighborhood has a long-standing interest in international relations. Although there&rsquo;s a lot of negative news in the international arena, Kelly says &ldquo;my interests lie in looking &nbsp;for instances where an outcome is positive, or some ground is gained toward cultural, or economic, or diplomatic resolutions.&rdquo; Naturally, the Sister Cities program caught Kelly&rsquo;s attention. He wondered, for example, how our sister cities are chosen. Kelly noticed that some of our Sister Cities were in countries with large immigrant populations in Chicago such as Warsaw, Poland; Galway, Ireland; and Milan, Italy.</p><p>Eventually, Kelly decided &ldquo;there has to be more to the process than just having a sizable cultural representation: I wonder what else is involved?&rdquo; So, he teamed up with Curious City to find some answers.</p><p><em>Corrections: An early draft of this story misspelled a source&#39;s name. The correct spelling is Eileen Hubbell. An early draft of this story suggested a major event would occur later this summer. The next major sister cities event, the Consular Ball, is set for December of this year.&nbsp;</em></p><p><em>Alexandra Salomon is a producer for Worldview, WBEZ&rsquo;s daily global affairs program. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/AlexandraSalomo" target="_blank">@AlexandraSalomo</a>.</em></p><p><em>Katie Klocksin is a freelance radio producer. Follow her: <a href="https://twitter.com/KatieKlocksin" target="_blank">@KatieKlocksin</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 15 Jul 2014 14:31:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/sister-cities-chicagos-international-family-110498 Meet the CTA's super-friendly conductor http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/meet-ctas-super-friendly-conductor-110466 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/157991456&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false; show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em>Editor&rsquo;s note: The podcast episode available above includes two stories. The first looks at why Chicago is a transit hub for the Amish. The profile of CTA conductor Michael Powell begins at 7 minutes, 36 seconds.</em></p><p>The idea for Caroline Eichler&rsquo;s Curious City question first came to her in 2011, shortly after she had finished college and first arrived in Chicago. She didn&rsquo;t know anyone except her roommates and co-workers. &ldquo;And this is the first city I&rsquo;ve ever lived in, too,&rdquo; she says. It&rsquo;s little wonder that she felt &mdash; by her own admission &mdash; &ldquo;pretty terrified and overwhelmed.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>One of the first people Caroline came to recognize in the city was the voice of a certain chatty train conductor during her commute on the CTA&rsquo;s Red Line from Rogers Park to the Jackson stop downtown. She remembers the conductor reminding passengers to grab their umbrellas if it was raining, or he&rsquo;d jokingly advise passengers to take their children with them when they left the train. &ldquo;One time he said &lsquo;May the force be with you.&rsquo; That really cracked me up,&rdquo; she says. Since Caroline only knew a handful of people in the city, even the more reserved announcements such as &ldquo;I hope you&rsquo;re having a great day!&rdquo; were really nice, she says.</p><p>All of this interest in a comforting voice led Caroline to send us this question:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>Who is the super-friendly train conductor on the Red Line?</em></p><p>While tracking down an answer, we learned that the man behind the kind words used the daily commute to comfort himself, too.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">&lsquo;I just started talking&rsquo;</span></p><p>The conductor is Michael Powell, who began working for the CTA in 1978. Getting a job with the CTA was &ldquo;like a dream come true,&rdquo; Powell says. He&rsquo;s always loved trains, and he even had toy trains when he was growing up.</p><p>Talking over the train&rsquo;s PA system came naturally to Powell. &ldquo;I just started talking,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s spur of the moment, I really don&rsquo;t rehearse them. If it feels like I can say something silly or something half-serious, I&rsquo;ll say it.&rdquo;</p><p>Powell is not shy about sharing difficulties he had early in life. The oldest of four children, Powell says his mother &ldquo;had a rough time raising four children, not having a college degree or any education formally.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I could never make her happy,&rdquo; Powell remembers. &ldquo;I didn&rsquo;t like myself because I didn&rsquo;t get any compliments.&rdquo; Eventually Powell went to counseling. &ldquo;I just had to get over my fear or rejection, I think that&rsquo;s everybody&rsquo;s problem,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;When I started getting attention from the train it was like: Hey, I&rsquo;m getting the love or the attention that I didn&rsquo;t have growing up.&rdquo;</p><p>Powell&rsquo;s philosophy about relating to the passengers is straightforward. &ldquo;I just try to make everybody feel good,&rdquo; he says. Knowing people aren&rsquo;t always happy to be on their way to work, he would sometimes give a morning pep talk. &ldquo;Some people feel like they&rsquo;re down in the dumps. They&rsquo;re like &lsquo;Wow-wee, I had to come to work today.&rsquo; And I sometimes say, Yeah, you know, it would be nice to stay home today, but we have to work. What&rsquo;s for dinner tonight? Make sure you have everything with you! Just, you know, look on the bright side of life,&rdquo; he says.</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/MichaelPowell%20for%20WEB.jpg" title="Michael Powell, a CTA conductor for 36 years, was known by commuters for his cheerful quips. (Photo courtesy Katie Klocksin)" /></p><p>Over the years Powell has made an impact on his passengers, and he&rsquo;s been written about many times. When I first introduce him to Caroline, he presents a large binder full of his press clippings, print-outs of mostly-positive comment threads on articles featuring him, cards passengers had sent him, and comments people sent to the CTA. Caroline says she&rsquo;s impressed with how much Michael&rsquo;s comments resonated with people &mdash; enough that many people actually wrote to the CTA with positive feedback.</p><p>&ldquo;He brings out a good side of Chicago,&rdquo; she says.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">End of an era</span></p><p>Fans of Powell and his conversational style as a train conductor may be disappointed to learn that he retired at the end of 2013. He still spends time with a group of friends he calls &ldquo;train club.&rdquo; They get together once a week for breakfast, and they also run model trains and watch train movies together. Michael also became a grandfather this May. He misses seeing his passengers every day, &ldquo;yet it&rsquo;s nice to be a grandfather. It&rsquo;s nice to spend more time at home,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>Caroline asked Powell if he had a fantasy train he&rsquo;d like to drive. &nbsp;&ldquo;Not really,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;I feel like I&rsquo;ve done enough driving in my life. Let someone else do the driving.&rdquo;</p><p>As their time together ends, Caroline tells him: &ldquo;The Red Line community of train riders will miss you.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ll miss them too,&rdquo; he replies. &ldquo;I had fun.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Caroline%20Re-Touch%20for%20WEB.jpg" style="float: left; height: 242px; width: 200px;" title="Caroline Eichler, who asked about the super-friendly Red Line conductor. (Photo courtesy Caroline Eichler)" /><span style="font-size:22px;">Our question comes from: Caroline Eichler</span></p><p>Caroline Eichler moved to Chicago in 2011, after graduating from Kenyon College. She quickly noticed Michael Powell&rsquo;s distinctive style on the Red Line&rsquo;s train announcements.</p><p>&ldquo;He was one of the first people in city I&rsquo;d recognize,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;I didn&rsquo;t even see him, I would just would know he was there from his voice.&rdquo;</p><p>Powell was a topic of conversation among her roommates as well. They would text each other when they caught Powell&rsquo;s train on their morning or evening commutes. &ldquo;I think I&rsquo;m the most excited about it, but we&rsquo;re all in on it together,&rdquo; Caroline says.</p><p>After three years, Caroline is more settled in the city; she&rsquo;s involved in several musical endeavors, including working as the Music Librarian for the <a href="http://cso.org/Institute/CivicOrchestra/Default.aspx" target="_blank">Civic Orchestra of Chicago</a>. She&rsquo;s also a violinist, and she sings with the vocal ensemble <a href="http://www.lacaccina.com/" target="_blank">La Caccina</a>.</p><p><em>A <a href="http://chirpradio.org/podcasts/person-of-interest-michael-powell" target="_blank">version of this story </a>originally aired on ChirpRadio.org. Katie Klocksin is a freelance radio producer. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/KatieKlocksin" target="_blank">@KatieKlocksin</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 09 Jul 2014 12:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/meet-ctas-super-friendly-conductor-110466 Passing through: Chicago's Union Station as Amish transit hub http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/passing-through-chicagos-union-station-amish-transit-hub-110453 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/157991456&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em>Editor&#39;s note: In producing this story, producer Katie Klocksin quotes several people of Amish background. In a deviation from most journalistic practice, Klocksin and editor Shawn Allee chose not to publish the sources&rsquo; names out of respect for the Amish culture&#39;s longstanding premium on humility, as well as possible social consequences for participants. The decision was made in consideration of comments on the issue made by Dr. Steven Nolt, Professor of History at Goshen College and author of numerous books on the Amish.</em></p><p>Paul Vaccarello of LaGrange, Illinois, sees Amish people when he passes through downtown Chicago&rsquo;s Union Station &mdash; the nexus of several Amtrak and Metra commuter rail lines.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve just always been curious about where they&rsquo;re going, why they&rsquo;re here, if they&rsquo;re actually coming to Chicago or if this is a stop on their way to somewhere else,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>This led him to ask Curious City:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>Is Chicago a large transportation hub for Amish travelers?</em></p><p>Reporting an answer provided Paul an opportunity to hear from people that Chicagoans and suburbanites don&rsquo;t ordinarily cross paths with. Members of the religious group seek to maintain a close-knit rural lifestyle and, though there are Amish settlements sprinkled throughout the Midwest, the nearest one lies 90 miles from downtown Chicago. As we approached an answer &mdash; by checking in with experts and Amish travelers themselves &mdash; we couldn&rsquo;t help but feel we were meeting our regional neighbors for the first time.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">A separate pattern of life</span></p><p>Dr. Steven Nolt, Professor of History at Goshen College and author of numerous books on the Amish, reminded us that adherents belong to a Protestant religious community that is &ldquo;sometimes referred to as &lsquo;the old order Amish,&rsquo; which means they have tried to maintain what they consider the old patterns of life.&rdquo; Typically, they limit their use of modern technology and their communities tend to be in rural areas. These &ldquo;old patterns of life,&rdquo; Nolt said, &ldquo;would be things that encourage community and cooperation and collaboration.&rdquo;</p><p>Nolt noted, though, that there are few technologies that the Amish consider wholly bad. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s their attempt to try to control technology or engage technology on their own terms,&rdquo; he said. &nbsp;</p><p>Relevant to Paul&rsquo;s question, Amish people generally don&rsquo;t own or drive cars, although some will hire a vehicle and driver for transportation. It&rsquo;s common for the Amish to travel on trains or buses. &ldquo;The problem isn&rsquo;t the <em>thing</em>,&rdquo; Nolt said. &ldquo;The problem is when we own and control something, then, that heightens our sense of individual autonomy.&rdquo;</p><p>Nolt described an aspect of Amish life that posed a problem for reporting this story: &ldquo;Amish people, when speaking to members of the media, almost always decline to be identified by name or photographed in ways that would highlight them as an individual. Their concern there is one of humility, of not appearing to present oneself as a spokesperson for the whole group, not wanting to call attention to themselves.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Traveling by train<a name="map"></a></span></p><p>Paul and I made several trips to Union Station and found Amish people each time. Most were happy to talk with us, provided my large microphone was turned off. Most people, as predicted, declined to give their names. Everyone we talked to confirmed our theory: Chicago <em>is</em> a hub for transportation among the Amish. The people we interviewed at Union Station were all waiting to switch trains. One woman put it succinctly: &ldquo;A lot of Amish travel from one state to the other on Amtrak. &hellip;Every train comes into Chicago and leaves Chicago.&rdquo;</p><p>Our map can clarify this: There, you can see how Amtrak lines cross near or through midwestern Amish communities. Nolt added, too, that more than 60 percent of the Amish live in Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania: states with Amtrak lines. So Paul was onto something: Amish people, by avoiding cars, travel by train throughout the Midwest and the country. Many Amtrak trains converge in Chicago, thus Amish regularly wait for trains and transfers at Union Station.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe align="middle" frameborder="0" height="400" scrolling="no" src="http://interactive.wbez.org/curiouscity/amish/index.html" width="620"></iframe></p><p><span style="font-size:11px;"><em><strong>Map: U.S. counties with extant Amish settlements as of 2010, overlaid with unofficial map of Amtrak rail system lines.</strong> Amish population data: <a href="http://www.rcms2010.org/index.php" target="_blank">Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies</a>.&nbsp;Rough Amtrak line map: <a href="https://www.blogger.com/profile/17241478144408980328" target="_blank">Rakshith Krishnappa</a>.</em></span></p><p>Nolt points out that Amish people aren&rsquo;t likely to use the word &ldquo;vacation.&rdquo; Instead, he says, they talk about trips. &ldquo;I think on one level it&rsquo;s because &lsquo;vacation&rsquo; suggests leisure type activity that doesn&rsquo;t fit with their rural way of life,&rdquo; he said, adding, &ldquo;Their worlds are not as neatly divided as many of the rest of ours are between work and leisure, home and work. There&rsquo;s much more fluidity and overlap between the domains of their life.&rdquo;</p><p>Nolt says it is common for a long-distance trip to be centered around business travel. There are all-Amish trade shows, for example, which are similar to standard trade shows except they are hosted by a local community and attendees stay with local families. &quot;Most people bring their whole family and it kind of turns into a reunion of visiting,&quot; he said.</p><p>For the most part, though, Paul and I met people traveling to visit family members in other states. We met a large family returning home to Kansas from a wedding in Indiana. An Amish woman from Ohio was traveling with several of her grandchildren to visit her cousin and see the Grand Canyon.</p><p>A few Amish people we met were seeking medical care, including a man from Kentucky. &ldquo;We were in Mexico for medical purposes,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t like to see it, but medical expenses in the States anymore are so phenomenal that an ordinary person cannot afford it.&rdquo; He was returning from Tijuana after a successful operation.</p><p>Another medical traveler, an Amish man with a salt-and-pepper beard and a constant grin, cracked jokes with us for a while. After we parted ways with him, though, we ran into him throughout our stay at Union Station. It&rsquo;s not an exaggeration to say he seemed to know every Amish person there that day, which perhaps reveals a benefit of Union Station&rsquo;s being a hub: For the Amish, it provides a space to serendipitously meet far-flung neighbors.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Paul%20Vaccarello%20-%20courtesy%20of%20Paul%20FOR%20WEB.jpg" style="float: left; height: 254px; width: 190px;" title="Paul Vaccarello asked Curious City about the Amish at Union Station. (Photo courtesy Paul Vaccarello)" /><span style="font-size:24px;">Our question comes from: Paul Vaccarello</span></p><p>Paul Vaccarello told Curious City he visits Union Station about twice a month, adding that &ldquo;pretty much every time, I see groups of Amish people.&rdquo; While he was curious about whether the Amish travel by train, he also wondered if Chicago was ever the destination for Amish people on the road. &ldquo;It was interesting to hear they sometimes stop in Chicago to sightsee, go to the Sears Tower and John Hancock building,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Paul said he&rsquo;s not someone who would normally talk to strangers in the train station, and striking up a conversation with someone from a clearly different background can feel like crossing a barrier.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s cool to see they&rsquo;re so willing to talk, and that they don&rsquo;t even really see the barrier,&rdquo; he said.</p><p><em>Katie Klocksin is a freelance radio producer. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/KatieKlocksin" target="_blank">@KatieKlocksin</a>.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 07 Jul 2014 15:51:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/passing-through-chicagos-union-station-amish-transit-hub-110453 Chicago's red "X": Meaning, myths and limitations http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicagos-red-x-meaning-myths-and-limitations-110315 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/153918243&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>While walking around her Logan Square neighborhood Chicagoan Poppy Coleman noticed something peculiar about two rundown buildings: They bore metal signs emblazoned with a large red &quot;X.&quot;</p><p>Poppy says she wanted to know more, including: &ldquo;Who they were for, maybe what department put them up, and if it was something that I should know about.&rdquo; So, she sent Curious City this question:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>What do those red &quot;X&quot; signs mean on buildings?</em></p><p>She&rsquo;s not the only one who&rsquo;s confused. Since 2012, red &quot;X&quot; signs have popped up on nearly 2,000 properties around Chicago. It&rsquo;s not hard to find <a href="http://www.trulia.com/voices/Home_Buying/Are_the_red_X_buildings_for_sale_-613697" target="_blank">people posting in online forums</a>, wondering aloud whether the red &quot;X&quot; means a building&rsquo;s condemned, vacant or for sale.</p><p>But in the course of reporting an answer for Poppy, we encountered hard questions about the program that supports red &ldquo;X&rdquo; signage, including whether the city&rsquo;s doing enough to communicate its intentions. We also turned up some surprising news: This program, meant to save the lives of first responders and others, has <a href="#money">run out of money</a>.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The sign&rsquo;s origins: A mayday call</span></p><p>On Dec. 22, 2010, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CCPw1aiQDO8" target="_blank">firefighters were searching for squatters inside a burning, long-vacant laundromat </a>on the 1700 block of East 75th Street, in Chicago&rsquo;s South Shore neighborhood. As firefighters continued their sweep of the building, a wall fell and then the roof collapsed, killing firefighters Edward Stringer and Corey Ankum. Nineteen others were injured.</p><p>&ldquo;When I first became alderman, one of the first visits that I paid was to Fire Chief Mark Neilsen,&rdquo; said 50th Ward Ald. Debra Silverstein, who sponsored two city ordinances in response. The first ordinance, passed in 2011, required the department to catalogue buildings with bowstring truss construction, a <a href="http://www.firefighternation.com/article/firefighter-safety/bowstring-truss-roof-construction-hazards" target="_blank">variety that&rsquo;s prone to collapse during fires</a>.</p><p>Silverstein&rsquo;s second ordinance sought to find and mark all of Chicago&rsquo;s dangerous buildings. For that program they decided on rectangular metal signs displaying a big red &quot;X&quot;, a symbol used by fire departments in New York City and other some other cities. <a href="http://dart.arc.nasa.gov/Recon/BUILDI~1Rev1.pdf" target="_blank">That iconography comes from a federal program for marking vacant structures</a>.</p><p>Chicago doesn&rsquo;t assign red &quot;X&quot; signs to just any vacant or abandoned building; a sign is a visual cue that a structure is structurally unsound and that firefighters and other first responders should take precautions when responding to emergencies there. It&rsquo;s also an extra reminder for anyone who might wander into a vacant building &mdash; which is illegal already &mdash; that they should stay out.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size: 22px;">Making a list</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Trip.jpg" style="width: 350px; float: right; height: 700px;" title="All three vacant buildings are marked with the red X, but display varying levels of disrepair. No signage indicates dangerous, structural disrepair. (WBEZ/Shawn Allee - Kathy Chaney)" /></p><p>Since Silverstein&rsquo;s <a href="http://chicagocouncilmatic.org/legislation/1135934" target="_blank">ordinance</a> passed in June 2012, the Chicago Fire Department has placed red &quot;X&quot; signs on 1,804 buildings. That&rsquo;s less than half of the more than 5,000 vacant properties registered in the city &mdash; itself a fraction of the estimated total of <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/bldgs/dataset/vacant_and_abandonedbuildingsservicerequests.html" target="_blank">vacant and abandoned buildings in Chicago</a> &mdash; but CFD Spokesman Larry Langford says it&rsquo;s a start.</p><p>&ldquo;We picked 1,800 that we wanted to get marked right away,&rdquo; he says. When the program started, Chicago&rsquo;s Department of Buildings sent over a list of structurally unsound properties for CFD to add to as they saw fit. The list from the Department of Buildings included a few hundred properties deemed more than 35 percent deteriorated.</p><p>Langford says &ldquo;It&rsquo;s based on structural damage rotting in some cases, vandalism, previous fire, the overall integrity of the building, what&rsquo;s missing from the building, if there are holes in the floor, porch in bad condition, roof about to go &mdash; things that might make it difficult for a fireman to work the fire, or for the building to come down quickly during a fire.&rdquo;</p><p>That list quickly grew to 1,800. Firemen took note of vacant buildings as they did their rounds, checking out potentially unsafe structures and adding to the initial list of red &quot;X&quot; candidates.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">&lsquo;They&rsquo;re everywhere&rsquo;</span></p><p>Records obtained by WBEZ show the city often put up dozens of signs at a time in parts of the city with a lot of vacant and structurally unsound buildings.</p><p>Poppy Coleman joined Curious City Editor Shawn Allee and reporter Chris Bentley for a short canvas of the South Side&rsquo;s Englewood neighborhood, which has hundreds of buildings sporting the signs.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe align="middle" frameborder="0" height="620" scrolling="no" src="http://interactive.wbez.org/curiouscity/redx/embed.html#/?address=7000%20S%20Normal%20Ave%2C%20Chicago%2C%20IL%2C%20United%20States&amp;radius=805interactive.wbez.org/curiouscity/redx/embed.html" width="620"></iframe></p><blockquote><p><em>(Curious City canvassed portions of the Englewood neighborhood near the intersection of 70th and Normal. There are 55 red &quot;X&quot; signs posted within a half-mile of the intersection. Map: <a href="http://wbez.is/1hMvplH" target="_blank">See the signs across the city and search by address</a>)</em></p></blockquote><p>Most of the residents we talked to around the intersection of 70th and South Normal Avenue described waking up to find several houses on their block marked with red &quot;X&quot; signs. The signs never go unnoticed, but neighbors are often confused about what they mean.</p><p>&ldquo;For some reason the red &lsquo;X&rsquo; became something totally different than what we intended it to be,&rdquo; said Langford. &rdquo;I thought they were kidding me when they said it, but some people thought that those were the buildings that were being targeted by the drones when the next war started, and that the red &lsquo;X&rsquo; is a drone target.&rdquo;</p><p>The department has largely left it up to aldermen and their offices to publicize the signs&rsquo; purpose. Langford says people have called to ask the fire department if red &ldquo;X&rdquo; buildings are part of a program by the city to sell distressed property at a discount, or to pillory property owners whose taxes are in arrears.</p><p>&ldquo;It has nothing to do with ownership, it&rsquo;s not a part of any kind of program to do anything with the buildings. For the most part they&rsquo;re privately owned,&rdquo; Langford says. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s just a marking for danger. It&rsquo;s really just that simple.&rdquo;</p><p>Simple, perhaps, but there&rsquo;s a lot of confusion in areas where red &quot;X&quot;s are common. If these signs are here to save lives &mdash; both those of firefighters and anyone who might think of trespassing on potentially dangerous abandoned properties &mdash; is everyone on the same page?</p><p>There are several red &quot;X&quot; buildings on the 6900 block of S. Normal, where Maria Johnson lives. But her next door neighbor is an abandoned building that doesn&rsquo;t have a red &quot;X&quot;. She says just because a building&rsquo;s deemed vacant doesn&rsquo;t mean it&rsquo;s unoccupied.</p><p>&ldquo;Homeless people, people with nowhere to stay,&rdquo; said Johnson, who has lived on this block for three years. &ldquo;I know they went into the &nbsp;building next to me and someone set it on fire, it caught onto my crib. So I don&rsquo;t know if they were living in there, or getting high, or whatever, but I know there were some homeless people going through the back door.&rdquo;</p><p>There&rsquo;s so signage explaining the red &quot;X&quot; &mdash; just the &ldquo;X&rdquo; itself &mdash; so if you want answers, you have to find them yourself. Most of the people we asked in Englewood thought the red &ldquo;X&rdquo; marked buildings for demolition. Earl Liggins was one of the few people who knew what the signs&rsquo; real meaning, but that&rsquo;s only because he took matters into his own hands.</p><p>&ldquo;I called the alderman&rsquo;s office and I heard it from the alderman people themselves,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;I was just concerned because there are so many of them. I was just wondering what does it mean, are they going to tear this many buildings down? I just wanted to know straight from them, what the situation was.&rdquo;</p><p>Liggins lives in a formerly vacant building on the 7000 block of S. Normal that he fixed up a few years ago. But he says whether they have a red &quot;X&quot; or not, most vacant buildings in his neighborhood stay that way.</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/untitled-3.jpg" style="height: 414px; width: 620px;" title="Earl Liggins, right, lives in a formerly vacant building on the 7000 block of S. Normal. Fifty-five red ‘X’ buildings lie within half a mile. (WBEZ/Shawn Allee) " /></p><p>&ldquo;For the most part they stay vacant forever,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;The condition of the building gets worse and worse. That building across the street &mdash; I&rsquo;ve been here 10 years and that building has been vacant for about ten years.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Removing the red &lsquo;X&rsquo;</span></p><p>There is a process to rehabilitate vacant and abandoned properties, but the city requires owners to obtain special permission before performing work on red x structures. Two years after the program began, however, <a href="https://www.chicagoreporter.com/reclaiming-avenue" target="_blank">only one building has successfully been repaired and had its red &quot;X&quot; legally removed</a>.</p><p>The next red &quot;X&quot; property to move off the list might be one of the buildings that originally sparked question asker Poppy Coleman&rsquo;s curiosity: 2800 W. Logan Blvd. A fire ravaged the three-story building last summer, but owner Darko Tesanovic <a href="http://webapps.cityofchicago.org/buildingpermit/search/extendedapplicationstatus.htm?permitNumber=100480840" target="_blank">got a city permit</a> earlier this year to repair the damages and turn a ground-floor dwelling unit into retail space. If he finishes the repairs, Tesanovic could be only the second landlord in Chicago to legally remove a red &quot;X&quot; from his building. In the meantime he says the X isn&rsquo;t impeding his redevelopment efforts, but it might be adding to neighborhood anxieties about the vacant property.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m not bothered by it,&rdquo; Tesanovic says. &ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s creating more confusion for the neighborhood than myself, because people in the neighborhood don&rsquo;t know what it means.&rdquo;</p><p>Our question asker was glad to learn what the red &quot;X&quot; means, but she still wonders about its impact. Many of the <a href="http://wbez.is/1hMvplH" target="_blank">neighborhoods with high concentrations of red &quot;X&quot; signs</a> are already reeling from a downward spiral of disinvestment, blight and declining property values. She&rsquo;s worried red &quot;X&quot;s are like scarlet letters &mdash; just another obstacle in a rough neighborhood&rsquo;s struggle to improve its station.</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/untitled-4.jpg" style="height: 414px; width: 620px;" title="Chicagoan Poppy Coleman, left, asked Curious City about the meaning behind more than 1,800 red ‘X’ signs posted on buildings across Chicago. (WBEZ/Curious City) " /></p><p>&ldquo;My disappointment is that once the &lsquo;X&rsquo; is up, it doesn&rsquo;t sound like there&rsquo;s any support to help move that building to a next phase, either to get it sold, get it taken care of, get it torn down,&rdquo; Coleman says in the shade beside a boarded-up red &quot;X&quot; building on the 7000 block of South Eggleston Avenue. &ldquo;Putting the &lsquo;X&rsquo; on it seems to be where the program stops.&rdquo;</p><p>Ald. Debra Silverstein, who sponsored the original red &quot;X&quot; ordinance, says she&rsquo;d be open to the city forming a task force charged with helping city agencies work together to resuscitate ailing properties after the fire department marks them.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m not aware of any talk about the different departments working together specifically on the red &quot;X&quot;, but I highly encourage that,&rdquo; Silverstein says. &ldquo;I think we&rsquo;re all better off if all the different departments work together and form a task force to solve some of these issues. That&rsquo;s really important to get things taken care of.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;"><a name="money"></a>Out of money</span></p><p>While in Englewood, we ask the CFD&#39;s Larry Langford whether it makes sense to let the public know more about the meaning behind the &quot;X&quot; &mdash;maybe by putting up a smaller, less permanent sign explaining it&#39;s dangerous to enter such buildings.</p><p>&ldquo;If we expand the program, that&rsquo;s a suggestion that will be made,&quot; he says. &quot;It might cut some of the confusion down. Put a permanent sign up, put an adhesive sign up &mdash; could be.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>Whether they&rsquo;ll get a chance to do that is an open question, because this program that was meant to save lives has run out of money. The city received $675,000 from <a href="http://www.fema.gov/welcome-assistance-firefighters-grant-program" target="_blank">the Federal Emergency Management Agency&rsquo;s Assistance to Firefighters grant program</a> to fund the red &quot;X&quot; program. Most of that federal grant money went to two local contractors: AGAE Contractors and M-K Signs.</p><p>Data obtained by WBEZ show the city spent all of that money over thirteen months starting in June of 2012, and <a href="http://wbez.is/1uNLXMp" target="_blank">hasn&rsquo;t put up any new red &quot;X&quot; signs since July 2013</a>.</p><p>Ald. Debra Silverstein, who sponsored the original red &ldquo;X&rdquo; ordinance, says she&rsquo;s eager to find more money for the program. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s office did not return requests for comment. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;We wish it would be funded for a longer period of time, but yes we think it was a success,&rdquo; says the CFD&rsquo;s Larry Langford. &ldquo;Are there more than 1,800 that could be marked? Absolutely. But we&rsquo;re not doing anything until we get more funding.&rdquo;</p><p><em><a href="http://cabentley.com/" target="_blank">Chris Bentley</a> is a reporter for Curious City and a freelance journalist. Follow him on Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/Cementley" target="_blank">@Cementley</a>. <a href="https://twitter.com/shawnallee" target="_blank">Shawn Allee</a> is Curious City&#39;s editor. <a href="https://twitter.com/chrishagan" target="_blank">Chris Hagan</a> is a WBEZ web producer and data expert, and&nbsp;</em><em><a href="https://twitter.com/kathychaney" target="_blank">Kathy Chaney</a>&nbsp;is a WBEZ producer.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 10 Jun 2014 16:33:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicagos-red-x-meaning-myths-and-limitations-110315 What the heck happened to Chicago's truancy officers? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-heck-happened-chicagos-truancy-officers-110282 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/truancy thumb.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/152861576&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Over the past few years, Curious City has answered many questions about Chicago streets: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/street-sweeping-essential-service-or-revenue-scam-109221">why they get cleaned</a>, why <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/why-some-chicago-streets-got-numbers-others-were-stuck-names-102380">some get names but others receive numbers</a>, and why portions of the Kennedy Expressway <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/how-do-reversible-lanes-kennedy-expressway-work-101384">sometimes switch directions</a>.</p><p>But what caught Saundra Oglesby&rsquo;s attention is what&rsquo;s <em>missing</em> from city streets, or rather <em>who</em> has been missing. We met Saundra just once, but her question needs little clarification:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>Why aren&#39;t truancy officers riding around like they used to?</em></p><p>Saundra &mdash; a resident of Chicago&rsquo;s Lawndale neighborhood &mdash; is referring to the men and women once employed by Chicago Public Schools to track down students who did not turn up for class.</p><p>&ldquo;When we was growing up, they would pick us up, take us to the school, call our parents and say, &lsquo;Hey, this kid is not in school, why aren&rsquo;t you in school?&rsquo;&rdquo; Oglesby recalled.</p><p>Hers is a fair question and, we learned, a timely one.</p><p>The city&rsquo;s truancy officers were cut decades ago, but the problem they were tasked with solving &mdash; chronic, unexcused absence from school &mdash; persists and it&rsquo;s hurt kids, communities and the school district itself.</p><p>In May of this year, <em><a href="http://www.catalyst-chicago.org/sites/catalyst-chicago.org/files/blog-assets/files/cps_verified_chronic_truancy_and_absenteeism_data.pdf">Catalyst Chicago </a></em>magazine revealed that a little more than one quarter of CPS students were <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-heck-happened-all-cps-truant-officers-110282#def"><em>chronically truant</em> </a>last year. The district verified that report. (At CPS, a student qualifies as chronically truant if she misses 5 percent of the school year &mdash; or about nine days &mdash; without an accepted excuse. Prior to the 2011-2012 school year, the threshold was 18 missed days, or 10 percent of the school year.)</p><p>The truancy situation&rsquo;s considered bad enough that Illinois lawmakers want recommendations of how to get more Chicago kids to show up at school.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Truancy officers don&rsquo;t make the cut</span></p><p>For nearly fifty years truancy officers in Chicago knocked on doors, called students&rsquo; friends and relatives, and stalked neighborhood haunts to find wayward kids. They would also figure out what was happening in children&rsquo;s lives &mdash; at home, in the streets or at school &mdash; that would keep them from class.</p><p>But the job title &mdash; at least at the district level &mdash; disappeared after 1992.</p><p>Aarti Dhupelia, CPS&rsquo; Chief Officer for College and Career Success, says at that time CPS faced a <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1991-04-30/news/9102080222_1_school-year-ted-kimbrough-schools-supt">$315 million</a> shortfall, and the administration at the time <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1992-10-01/news/9203290322_1_truant-officers-bargain-in-good-faith-union-officials">zeroed in on truancy officers</a>. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;We actually had as many as 150 truancy officers district wide,&rdquo; Dhupelia explained. &ldquo;Due to unclear evidence of their effectiveness as well as budget constraints, those positions were eliminated.&rdquo;</p><p>The district estimated a savings of about $15 million that year, and that it wouldn&rsquo;t miss the truancy officers. Dhupelia says officers could find kids and bring them to school &ldquo;but they could not answer the larger question of why did children leave school in the first place.&rdquo;</p><p>In fact, even with truancy officers in place in the early 1990s, Chicago had the highest high school <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1992-09-24/news/9203270085_1_chicago-schools-local-school-councils-test-scores">dropout rate</a> in the country. In the years after the officers were cut, the district&rsquo;s dropout rate improved, but the district&rsquo;s truancy rates remained <a href="http://illinoisreportcard.com/District.aspx?source=StudentCharacteristics&amp;source2=ChronicTruants&amp;Districtid=15016299025">above the state average</a>.</p><p>That&rsquo;s despite various efforts over the years, including dedicated truancy outreach and re-engagement centers.</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-heck-happened-all-cps-truant-officers-110282#addlinfo"><em style="font-size: 16px; text-align: center;">(More on CPS&rsquo; anti-truancy efforts)</em></a></p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Truancy and fallout</span></p><p>The consequences of missed days of school add up, a realization all too familiar to <em>Chicago Tribune</em> reporter <a href="http://bio.tribune.com/davidjackson">David Jackson</a>.</p><p>In 2012 Jackson was tipped off to what appeared to be a growing attendance problem. A juvenile court judge told him she was shocked by the number of young kids who were out of school and in her courtroom.</p><p>&ldquo;She noted that those were the kids obviously involved in delinquency and crimes on the streets,&rdquo; Jackson remembered. &ldquo;What they were doing when they weren&rsquo;t in school was either not safe for them or for the community.&rdquo;</p><p>So Jackson and reporter Gary Marx asked for access to a highly-protected CPS attendance database, which tracks &mdash; kid-by-kid &mdash; how often a student misses class. The newspaper team fought a losing legal battle over access to the data. (Jackson said the information is not made public for several good reasons, including privacy.)</p><blockquote><p><span style="font-size:18px;">Truant: A student who is absent for no valid cause. Valid excuses include illness, death in the family, family emergency, special religious holiday and case-by-case special circumstances.</span></p><p><span style="font-size:18px;">Truancy: Being absent without cause for one or more days</span></p><div><p><span style="font-size:18px;">Chronic truancy: Being absent, without an excuse, for five percent of the previous 180 school days (a full school year) &mdash; or, about nine days for CPS students.</span></p></div></blockquote><p>Jackson decided to go at it again in 2012 when CPS was embroiled in several of the biggest stories in Chicago (and the nation): at one time the district faced a punishing teacher&rsquo;s strike, school closings and consolidations and escalating violence. After the Tribune team stripped down the original requests, they received the numbers from the 2010-2011 school year. Jackson concluded that the district was facing a <a href="http://media.apps.chicagotribune.com/truancy/index.html">truancy crisis</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;We found in the database &mdash; and this is an extremely conservative number &mdash; that at least one in eight elementary students in Chicago missed four weeks of school [during the year we studied],&rdquo; Jackson recounted.</p><p>Translation: If students retain that pattern of missing school between kindergarten and eighth grade, they could miss a year of school before they begin high school.</p><p>And, as Yale University criminologist <a href="http://www.law.yale.edu/faculty/TMeares.htm">Tracey Meares</a> explained, education is vital to survival. Meares has spent time studying networks of gun violence in the city of Chicago. She believes the most effective way to save lives &mdash; and prevent a young person from falling prey to gang and gun violence &mdash; is to teach them to read.</p><p>&ldquo;Making sure that children can read by 3rd grade is probably one of the most important things that any city can do with respect to violent crime in the long term,&rdquo; Meares said. &ldquo;Our research shows that people, young men, who drop out from high school, are much more likely to be gang-involved than those who are not.&rdquo;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="442" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="http://cf.datawrapper.de/iR3Sz/4/" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="600"></iframe></p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">They&rsquo;re going to learn from someone</span></p><p>John Paul Jones, the president of <a href="http://www.sustainableenglewood.org/">Sustainable Englewood Initiatives</a>, said the truancy issue has left the South Side neighborhood with a lot of children learning from others on the street.</p><p>&ldquo;The ex-offenders, the alcoholics, other persons who are just not productive in the community life and those are the ones they&rsquo;re around. And so, it puts them in the way of violence,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It puts them in the way of doing things that puts them and the community at risk.&rdquo;</p><p>One long-term effect of chronic truancy, Jones explained, is that young people in the community aren&rsquo;t rewarded for getting ahead in school.</p><p>&ldquo;Those who do wrong get celebrated when they come back from prison. They come back, there&rsquo;s a cluster of guys who welcome them back,&rdquo; said Jones. But he feels that kind of welcome&rsquo;s not extended to returning college students.</p><p>&ldquo;You come back and you may have somebody who not as thrilled about you coming back,&rdquo; he said.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Another victim: CPS</span></p><p>So kids are directly hurt by chronic truancy and, according to Jones, a whole community can be, too. But as we dug into this question about the absence of truancy officers in Chicago, we found that there&rsquo;s likely another victim: CPS.</p><p>Public school districts are reimbursed by the state and federal governments based on how many kids show up. This complicated formula can be likened to a mortgage calculator.</p><p>A 2010 internal CPS report, <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-12-24/news/ct-met-truancy-report-20121224_1_anti-truancy-plan-truancy-and-absenteeism-attendance-data">obtained by the Tribune</a>, suggested CPS could have garnered an additional $11.5 million in state funds if district attendance that year had been just 1 percent higher. Or, in numbers more people can digest, CPS estimated it lost $111 each time a student missed a day.</p><p>Jackson and his reporting team found that more often than not, truancy officers practically paid for themselves.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Will Chicago ever welcome back truancy officers?</span></p><p>Jackson and his Tribune colleagues looked at how other school districts around the state and country tackle truancy. Jackson said in many districts, dedicated truancy officers could handle a key function of finding who was missing on any given day of school, and then prioritizing which ones to reach out to. The kids, Jackson, said, were often findable.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not that they disappear into a Bermuda Triangle,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>But do observations like this an argument make an argument in favor of truancy officers?</p><p>CPS doesn&rsquo;t take it that way.</p><p>&ldquo;I think that tackling attendance truancy and attendance is really an &lsquo;it takes a village&rsquo; issue,&rdquo; said CPS&rsquo; Dhupelia. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not something that the district can tackle alone. It&rsquo;s something that families need to tackle, that the district needs to tackle, it&rsquo;s something that community partners, elected officials need to help tackle.&rdquo;</p><p>It so happens Chicago&rsquo;s truancy problems are being tackled by elected officials and other stakeholders. The legislature created a <a href="http://www.isbe.state.il.us/TCPSTF/default.htm">Chicago Public Schools Truancy Task Force</a> to recommend how to improve CPS&rsquo; attendance record.</p><p>To find out what the task force thinks of truancy officers, Curious City, spoke to one of its members: Jeffrey Aranowski, who&rsquo;s with the Illinois State Board of Education.</p><p>&ldquo;If you look across the state, most all counties have truant officers employed either by districts or regional offices of education, they&rsquo;re very active. CPS seems to be a little bit of an outlier there,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;But again, whether or not that&rsquo;s something that&rsquo;s appropriate or even will be recommended by the task force is yet to be seen.&rdquo;</p><p>The task force&rsquo;s homework is due soon; as of this writing, it&rsquo;s set for the end of July. By then state lawmakers hope to have final recommendations on how to address truancy in CPS schools.</p><p>Perhaps by then, Chicago will know whether the state would like to see truancy officers return to its streets.<a name="addlinfo"></a></p><p><em>Special thanks to David Jackson of the </em>Chicago Tribune<em> and Melissa Sanchez of </em>Catalyst Chicago<em> magazine.</em></p><p><em>Katie O&rsquo;Brien is a WBEZ producer and reporter. Foll<a href="https://twitter.com/katieobez">ow her @katieobez</a>.</em></p><hr /><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Additional information: CPS&#39; current anti-truancy efforts</span></p><p>Chicago Public Schools is currently expanding what it calls SOAR (Student Outreach and Re-engagement) centers. There are currently centers in three city neighborhoods: Roseland, Little Village and Garfield Park. The centers are to support all students who have dropped out or are at risk of dropping out. Across the engagement centers are 15 re-engagement specialists who focus on recruiting and guiding students back into school. CPS says that since the February 2013 launch, SOAR Centers have served 1,615 students.</p><p>CPS&rsquo; Aarti Dhupelia says that over the past several months, CPS has developed a comprehensive attendance and truancy strategy that focuses on the root causes of truancy. That strategy, she says, is two-fold.<a name="def"></a></p><ul><li><strong>Building universal systems in schools that prevent absenteeism: </strong>Coach schools on how to build a positive culture around attendance and helping them monitor attendance regularly. Dhupelia says the district is building data tools to enable documentation and tracking.</li><li><strong>Targeted interventions:</strong> Identifying the root cause of a student&rsquo;s absence and connecting them to resources to address it so that the child can return to a school environment.</li></ul><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Additional information: Definitions</span></p><p>Attendance rate = percentage of days present out of total days enrolled</p><p>Absence rate = percentage of days absent out of total days enrolled; includes excuses, unexcused and suspensions</p><p>Truant: A student who is absent for no valid cause. Valid excuses include illness, death in the family, family emergency, special religious holiday and case-by-case special circumstances.</p><p>Truancy: Being absent without cause for one or more days</p><p>Chronic truancy: Being absent, without an excuse, for five percent of the previous 180 school days (a full school year) &mdash; or, about nine days for CPS students.</p><p>Chronically absent: Missing at least 18 school days, whether excused or unexcused.</p></p> Wed, 04 Jun 2014 17:10:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-heck-happened-chicagos-truancy-officers-110282 What Makes Beverly Unique? http://www.wbez.org/blogs/beyond-mic/2014-05/what-makes-beverly-unique-110246 <p><p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.15;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-2464694e-43ae-49d0-cad4-a7feb651cb3c"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(51, 51, 51); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">The neighborhood is home to arguably the</span><a href="http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/top-notch-beefburgers/Location?oid=1024342" style="text-decoration:none;"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(0, 104, 150); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"> best cheap burger</span></a><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(51, 51, 51); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"> and fries in the city. Beverly&rsquo;s beauty is visible in its hilly streets and oversized lots, with homes designed by this </span><a href="http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM73DF_Raymond_W_Evans_Residence_Chicago_IL" style="text-decoration:none;"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(0, 104, 150); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">legendary architect</span></a><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(51, 51, 51); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"> among others. Mansions snake along Longwood Drive and the neighborhood&rsquo;s interior boasts an array of architectural styles, from Tudor to Italianate to Queen Anne to Spanish Colonial. Buoyed by its commitment to supporting local businesses, there&rsquo;s </span><a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2009-01-09/classified/chi-beverly-profile_chomes_0109jan09_1_houses-landmark-districts-neighborhoods" style="text-decoration:none;"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(0, 104, 150); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">a quaintness</span></a><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(51, 51, 51); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"> to Beverly.</span></span></p><p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.15;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(51, 51, 51); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Join WBEZ Southside Bureau Reporter <strong>Natalie Y. Moore</strong> for an in-person discussion of <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicagos-beverly-neighborhood-integration-no-accident-109922" target="_blank">her recent piece for <strong>Curious City</strong></a> on the unique neighborhood of Beverly. &nbsp;Following a pre-reception at the <strong>Beverly Art Center</strong> (</span><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(34, 34, 34); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);">2407 W 111th St), Moore will host a panel that includes <strong>Heather Robinson</strong>; <strong>Neil Byers</strong>, owner of Horse Thief Hallow; <strong>Patrick Stanton</strong>, longtime resident, architect of Beverly Now; and <strong>Joyce Bristow</strong>, among wave of first black families.</span></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><span style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: Arial; font-size: 15px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1.15; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);">Tuesday, June 17</span><br /><span style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: Arial; font-size: 15px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1.15; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);">Pre-reception at 5:30 p.m.</span><br /><span style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: Arial; font-size: 15px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1.15; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);">Panel discussion begins at 6:30 p.m.</span></p><p><span id="docs-internal-guid-2464694e-43ae-49d0-cad4-a7feb651cb3c"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(34, 34, 34); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);">FREE to the PUBLIC</span></span></p></p> Wed, 28 May 2014 11:32:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/beyond-mic/2014-05/what-makes-beverly-unique-110246 Alder-MAN-ia: Why Chicago hasn't dumped a gender-exclusive term http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/alder-man-ia-why-chicago-hasnt-dumped-gender-exclusive-term-110215 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/150633976&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>In 1987 <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/alder-man-ia-why-chicago-hasn%E2%80%99t-dumped-gender-exclusive-term-110215#toddmelby">Todd Melby</a> was a student at Northwestern University&rsquo;s Medill School of Journalism, and as part of regular class assignments he&rsquo;d cover Chicago&rsquo;s City Hall. The experience stuck with him for decades. Even from his present-day home of Minneapolis, he was motivated to send along this question concerning the most fundamental term used in City Council:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>Why hasn&#39;t Chicago dumped the guy-centric &quot;alderman&quot; title yet?</em></p><p>Maybe Todd&#39;s onto something. Cities across the country have been moving away from official use of the term, as language has become more gender-inclusive over time. That&rsquo;s especially true in cases where political and service titles can be regulated by local and state government. Firemen have officially become firefighters, for example. Ditto when it comes to police officers. As to why the term &quot;alderman&quot; in Chicago (as well as other Illinois cities with the aldermanic form of government) is a holdout, we found it has to do with law, for sure, but political inertia has played a part, too.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Women as Chicago aldermen</span></p><p>To back up a bit, the origin of the word alderman is inherently based on a single gender. The &quot;alder&quot; part comes from the Old English &quot;aldor&quot; meaning chief or patriarch, and the &quot;man&quot; part comes from the Old English ancestor of the same word.</p><p>&quot;Our language in government still reflects a bygone era when most elected officials were white males,&quot; said Gerald Gabris, a municipal government expert based at Northern Illinois University.</p><p>The earliest mention we found of a possible Chicago &ldquo;alderwoman&rdquo; candidate came in an 1902 in a <em>Chicago Daily Tribune</em> article.</p><p>&quot;&#39;The Alderwoman&#39;&quot; would be welcomed as a refining influence in the City Council &mdash; if she could get in,&quot; the article begins. But aldermen and city department heads quoted in the article voiced concern about whether women would want the job, or how they would act in it. &quot;Imagine a woman thinking that she had to answer to her constituents for those streets,&quot; the head of the city&#39;s Street department is quoted as saying. &quot;The whole office force would have to get out with whisk brooms and clean up for her.&rdquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Chicago didn&rsquo;t have women on the council &mdash; regardless of what they were called &mdash; until 1971, when Marilou Hedlund and Anna Langford were elected.</p><p>Fast forward to 2014, when women hold fewer than one out of every three seats in City Council &mdash; a fact that some female aldermen say is a bigger issue than their gendered title. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I think focusing on the word is less important than the fact that there are only 16 women in city council,&rdquo; said Ald. Michele Smith (43rd).</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/cowlishaw-yourhighness.png" title="An excerpt from a 1993 transcript from an IL House of Representatives debate on whether to change the term ‘alderman’ to ‘alderperson’. Rep. Clem Balanoff-D introduced the bill. Rep. Mary Lou Cowlishaw-R supported it." /></p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">An official title and some pushback</span></p><p>According to the <a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs4.asp?DocName=&amp;ActID=802&amp;ChapterID=14&amp;SeqStart=35300000&amp;SeqEnd=36200000&amp;Print=True">Illinois Municipal Code</a>: &quot;In all cities incorporated under this Code there shall be elected a mayor, aldermen, a city clerk, and a city treasurer.&rdquo; Another state statute, <a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=79&amp;ChapterID=2">which governs state statutes</a>, says: &quot;Words importing the masculine gender may be applied to females.&quot; Based on those two lines, <em>alderman</em> is the only legislative municipal title, and that&rsquo;s the case for all Illinois cities, not only Chicago.</p><p>And, the <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/ethics/general/Ordinances/GEO-DEC2011.pdf">city&rsquo;s own language </a>on the matter, tautological as it may be, mirrors that of the state: &ldquo;&lsquo;Alderman&rsquo; means any person holding the elected office of alderman of the city council.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/carrie austin crop.png" style="float: left;" title="Ald. Carrie Austin, who's advocated to use the term alderwoman. (Source: cityofchicago.org)" />That&rsquo;s not to say there hasn&rsquo;t been some pushback against the term. Some aldermen, like Bob Fioretti, say they&rsquo;ll use the terminology informally.</p><p>&ldquo;Well, I refer to them as alderwomen or aldermen,&rdquo; Fioretti said.</p><p>Still, the fact the official language is exclusionary bothers Alderwoman Carrie Austin of the far South Side.</p><p>&ldquo;I want all of the women that are part of the city council to sign onto legislation such as that. To change our name, our legal title as alderwoman. So that we can circulate in that manner as well,&rdquo; Austin said.</p><p>That&rsquo;s what Austin would like to see, but even she hasn&rsquo;t kick-started a legislative campaign. And doing so could be complicated, considering past attempts to get a gender neutral term on the Illinois books were fraught with trouble.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Harold Washington nominates an alderwoman</span></p><p>There were two fights waged to put &ldquo;alderwoman&rdquo; or &ldquo;alderperson&rdquo; into official use. (There&rsquo;s no spoiler alert warranted here: You already know both failed!)</p><p>In <a href="http://docs.chicityclerk.com/journal/1983/121683optimize.pdf">December 1983</a>, then Chicago Mayor Harold Washington nominated Dorothy Tillman to represent the 3rd Ward located on the South Side. At the time, the City Council was in the midst of the infamous &ldquo;<a href="http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/342.html">Council Wars</a>,&rdquo; in which dozens of aldermen vehemently opposed nearly everything Washington wanted to do.</p><p>Washington&rsquo;s opponents in the council blocked Tillman&rsquo;s nomination based on a single mistake in the appointment papers.</p><p>&ldquo;Harold Washington appointed me &lsquo;alderwoman&rsquo; of the 3rd Ward,&rdquo; Tillman said.</p><p>But the committee that considered nominations wouldn&rsquo;t have it, with the officially stated objection being that the use of the term &ldquo;alderwoman.&rdquo;</p><p>So on <a href="http://docs.chicityclerk.com/journal/1984/021584optimize.pdf">Feb. 15, 1984</a>, the mayor resubmitted the nomination, changing the word &quot;Alderwoman&quot; to &quot;Alderman.&quot; He noted that he was doing so in &quot;an effort to meet objections expressed by the chairman of that committee,&quot; referring to Rules Committee Chairman Frank Stemberk.</p><p>&ldquo;He [Washington] &nbsp;had to reappoint me as the alderman of the 3rd Ward,&rdquo; said Tillman, who took the seat the seat the following year and served until 2007. &ldquo;I wore the title of alderman proudly.&rdquo;</p><p>It&rsquo;s unclear whether this battle over Tillman&rsquo;s nomination rested on gender politics, or whether it was just collateral damage from the ongoing council wars, in which the friction often came down to race. Harold Washington was the city&rsquo;s first African-American mayor. Dorothy Tillman is African-American.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/balanoff%20png.png" title="An excerpt from a 1993 transcript from an IL House of Representatives debate on whether to change the term ‘alderman’ to ‘alderperson’. Rep. Clem Balanoff-D introduced the bill. " /></p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The second coming &hellip; and losing</span></p><p>In 1984 the term &ldquo;alderwoman&rdquo; became political fodder, but later there was a direct challenge to the gender-specific title of alderman.</p><p>In 1993, then-state Rep. Clem Balanoff (D) introduced a bill that &quot;does nothing more than change the term &#39;alderman&#39; to &#39;alderperson&#39;, in making the term gender neutral,&quot; according to a <a href="http://www.ilga.gov/house/transcripts/htrans88/HT031093.pdf">transcript of the floor debate.</a></p><p>Balanoff recently explained that he introduced the bill because a female Chicago alderman had relayed how annoyed she was at the state law.</p><blockquote><p><a name="debate"></a>(Here&#39;s the full floor debate, re-enacted by WBEZ staffers. Clem Balanoff stars as himself!)</p></blockquote><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/150599511&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Balanoff imagined the title change would be a slam dunk, as it had already passed in committee.</p><p>&ldquo;It just seems like something that makes so much sense,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It doesn&rsquo;t bother anybody. It&rsquo;s not going to change state statute so big, it doesn&rsquo;t cost any money.&rdquo;</p><p>But the bill never made it out of the Illinois House; Republican leader Bill Black successfully argued against it during the floor debate.</p><p>&ldquo;Let&rsquo;s, for once in a rare moon, use a little common sense,&rdquo; Black told his fellow representatives. &ldquo;Let those people be referred to or called by whatever they want, by whatever body they represent. I implore you not to clutter the state&rsquo;s statutes. I urge a &lsquo;no&rsquo; vote.&rdquo;</p><p>Balanoff said after Republican Bill Black spoke, most of the GOP followed suit.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t want to say they follow lockstep, but it&rsquo;s pretty close,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Balanoff added that, after the no vote of 1993, he imagined he&rsquo;d bring the issue up again down the line. He never did.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CoggsHead.jpg" style="float: right;" title="Ald. Milele Coggs, the only woman serving on Milwaukee's 15-member council. (Source: city.milwaukee.gov) " /><span style="font-size:22px;">Support for the word &ldquo;alderwoman&rdquo;?</span></p><p>While alderpersons or alderwomen aren&rsquo;t official terms in Illinois, they do exist in Wisconsin. In 1993, their state statutes were amended to refer to &ldquo;<a href="http://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/statutes/statutes/62.pdf">alderpersons</a>.&rdquo; Just a few years before (1988), a rewrite of the <a href="http://city.milwaukee.gov/ImageLibrary/Groups/ccClerk/Ordinances/CH1.pdf">Milwaukee&rsquo;s city charter</a> officially recognized female council members as &ldquo;alderwomen.&rdquo;</p><p>That word has special significance to Milwaukee Alderwoman Milele Coggs, the only woman currently serving on the city&rsquo;s 15-member council.</p><p>&ldquo;For me to be called alderman, is to not give recognition to who or what I am, and although my gender is only part of what I am, it is part of me,&rdquo; Coggs said. &ldquo;Just like men who happen to serve as council members prefer to be called aldermen, I just prefer to be called alderwoman. It&#39;s recognition.&rdquo;</p><p>A handful of Chicago&#39;s suburbs use the term &quot;council member&quot; instead of alderman. Joliet, Wheaton and Naperville are among the suburbs that go as far as referring to members as &quot;councilman&quot; and &quot;councilwoman.&quot; No suburb with aldermen refer to female council members &quot;alderwomen.&quot;</p><p>But such a measure isn&rsquo;t likely to gather momentum anytime soon in Chicago. Few of the other aldermen interviewed for this piece suggested changing the word.<a name="toddmelby"></a></p><p>&quot;It personally doesn&#39;t make a difference to me how I&#39;m referred to,&quot; said Ald. Mary O&#39;Connor (41st). &quot;I worked really hard to become the alderman of the 41st Ward and I truly believe that there are more important issues for me to be advocating for than to change a title, so I&#39;m comfortable with being called alderman.&quot;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Todd%20Melby%20photo%20by%20Ben%20Garvin%20%28CREDIT%29.JPG" style="width: 270px; float: left; height: 194px;" title="Todd Melby, who asked us this question. (Photo by Ben Garvin)" /><span style="font-size:22px;">Our question comes from: Todd Melby</span></p><p>Todd Melby is an independent media producer based out of Minneapolis, a place where people on the City Council used to be addressed as &ldquo;alderman,&rdquo; but are now referred to as council members.</p><p>Melby said, &ldquo;As I guy, I usually don&rsquo;t encounter this gender-specific stuff. However, as a father, people often use the term &ldquo;mothering&rdquo; when I would parent my children, 20-25 years ago. When they were young there were lots of ads that talked about &lsquo;mothering&rsquo; as a synonym for parenting. So I guess I was kind of sensitive to that as a father who was a very involved parent.&rdquo;</p><p>(Editor&rsquo;s note: Todd Melby also heads up <a href="http://blackgoldboom.com/">Black Gold Boom</a>, a project which &mdash; like Curious City &mdash; was initiated by <a href="http://localore.net/">Localore </a>from the <a href="http://www.airmedia.org/">Association of Independents in Radio</a>.)</p><p><em>Tanveer Ali is a Chicago-based freelance journalist. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/tanveerali">@tanveerali</a>. Jennifer Brandel is Founder and Senior Producer of WBEZ&rsquo;s Curious City. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/JnnBrndl">@jnnbrndl</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 21 May 2014 12:38:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/alder-man-ia-why-chicago-hasnt-dumped-gender-exclusive-term-110215 The tale of Chicago's tattoo holdout http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/tale-chicagos-tattoo-holdout-110185 <p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/dAa8i2XoKQc" width="560"></iframe></p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/149565713&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em>Editor&rsquo;s note: The podcast episode available above includes two stories. The first story explains <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/jackpot-chicagos-hold-pinball-industry-and-artistry-110175">Chicago&rsquo;s fascinating role in pinball industry and imagery.</a> The story about Chicago&rsquo;s history of tattooing begins at 8 minutes, 45 seconds. Enjoy!</em></p><p>It&rsquo;s hard to avoid Chicago&rsquo;s tattoo culture. Getting ink &mdash; from simple line-drawings to Asian dragons &mdash; has practically become a rite of passage, and tattoo parlors have become staples of the area&rsquo;s street corners, not unlike barber shops and nail salons.</p><p>Which is why it&rsquo;s so hard to believe that for a single, nearly ten-year stretch, there was only one legal tattoo shop in Chicago. That&rsquo;s right. Just <em>one</em>.</p><p>Dan Zajac, from Highland, Ind., couldn&rsquo;t believe it either, and he asked to hear more about the lone shop that had stood its ground:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>Strange as this may now seem, from the mid-1960&#39;s through the early 1970&#39;s Chicago had one &mdash; just one &mdash; legal tattoo parlor. How did this happen to be the case?</em></p><p>To get answers we tracked down people intimately familiar with Chicago&rsquo;s tattoo history. From them, we learned how a lone tattoo shop withstood age-restriction laws, angry sailors, and a mass exodus of tattoo talent ... only to emerge as a single (albeit important) shop in a large field of competitors.</p><p><span style="font-size: 22px;">Our sources</span></p><p>Our principal sources &mdash; Chicago-based tattoo artists Dale Grande and Nick Colella &mdash; are familiar with the operation alluded to in Dan Zajac&rsquo;s question: <a href="http://chicagotattoo.com/home.html" target="_blank">Chicago Tattoo and Piercing Co.</a>, which these days is located at 1017 W. Belmont Ave. Its former status as the only game in town is broadcast loudly and clearly by neon signs out front.</p><p>Dale Grande lived the history involved in our question, as he&rsquo;s owned or co-owned Chicago Tattoo since 1973.</p><p>Nick Colella worked at Grande&rsquo;s shop for about 20 years before opening his own, <a href="http://greatlakestattoo.com/" target="_blank">Great Lakes Tattoo</a>, in 2013. The walls at Colella&rsquo;s shop are festooned with Chicago tattoo memorabilia in hall-of-fame fashion, arranged in glass cases like vintage shrines. It&rsquo;s safe to say he&rsquo;s Chicago&rsquo;s unofficial tattoo historian, and much of it involves Chicago Tattoo.</p><p>Both Grande and Colella helped with <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dAa8i2XoKQc" target="_blank">our video</a>, but the interview segments below provide even more insight.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Tats and two histories</span></p><blockquote><p><strong>Nick Colella:</strong> There are two histories to Chicago tattooing. The first part is from the late 1800s until tattooing went underground in Chicago in the 1950s and 60s.</p></blockquote><p><strong>How the Chicago tattoo scene looked in the 1930s.</strong></p><blockquote><p><strong>Nick Colella:</strong> South State Street had been this honky tonk area. It was all burlesque strip joints and diners and arcades. And in the arcades were the tattoo shops.</p><p>All this was supposedly run by the mob, so every square inch was used for stuff. &nbsp;If there was a hallway underneath the stairwell, you could put a tattooer there.</p></blockquote><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Tats%20shop%20in%20Chicago%20%28R.%20Johnastone%29.jpg" title="State Street's tattoo shops mainly catered to sailors in the Great Lakes area. (Archival photo courtesy Nick Colella). " /></div><p><strong>The <a href="http://www.cnic.navy.mil/regions/cnrmw/installations/ns_great_lakes.html">Naval Station Great Lakes</a> lies 40 miles north of Chicago. Young sailors would make their way downtown.</strong></p><blockquote><p><strong>Dale Grande:</strong> &nbsp;So, they would come to the city to party, get tattooed and go back to the base. And they are all 18 to 20-something years old. And it was a sailor&rsquo;s tradition to get tattooed.</p><p><strong>Nick Colella:</strong> The sailors would get tattooed on their arms. On State Street you&#39;d actually pick [a tattoo] off the wall then go tell the arcade manager what you wanted to pay for it &mdash; a couple bucks &mdash; then get a ticket and get [your tattoo] done. There were so many sailors and people down there, so there were hundreds of tattooers in and out over the years.</p></blockquote><p><strong>In 1963 the state of Illinois raised the legal age to get a tattoo from 18 to 21.</strong></p><blockquote><p><strong>Dale Grande:</strong>&nbsp;New York City had a spout of hepatitis that they claim came from some tattoo shops. Chicago [sic] saw this and decided to raise the legal age law [to get a tattoo] from 18 years old to 21 years old.</p><strong>Nick Colella:&nbsp;</strong>I always heard it was about cleaning up State Street. The state realized, you know, this is downtown. There&rsquo;s money here to be made in real estate. They didn&rsquo;t want strip clubs or tattoo shops there.</blockquote><p><strong>The legal changes forced customers to seek tattoos elsewhere.</strong></p><blockquote><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CLIFF SHOP FOR WEB 2.jpg" style="float: right;" title="Cliff Raven's tattoo shop before it incorporated in 1973. It was the only shop in Chicago. (Archival photo courtesy Nick Colella)" /><strong>Nick Colella:&nbsp;</strong>That 18 to 21 change didn&#39;t allow those tattooers to tattoo any sailors anymore, so that business was gone. They all left Chicago and went west, east or south. Chicago became a ghost town for tattooing because you couldn&#39;t make any money off these sailors anymore.</blockquote><blockquote><strong>Dale Grande:&nbsp;</strong>Eventually, Cliff &mdash; Cliff Raven &mdash; who had Cliff Raven Studio, was the only one in the city.</blockquote><blockquote><strong>Nick Colella:&nbsp;</strong>Cliff Raven was a guy who got into tattooing in the late 50s and early 60s by a guy named Phil Sparrow, who had a major standalone shop on State Street. When tattooing went underground in Chicago, Phil briefly had a shop on Larrabee Street then went to Milwaukee [Wisconsin].</blockquote><blockquote><strong>Dale Grande:&nbsp;</strong>When everybody left, Cliff stayed because he was a Chicago man. He was a great person, talked to everyone, knew a little bit about everything. He had a B.A. from Indiana University. He was one of the great artists &mdash; I mean real artists &mdash; who got into the art of tattooing at that time.</blockquote><blockquote><strong>Nick Colella:&nbsp;</strong>I think Cliff stayed because he learned here and knew people involved in not just the tattoo scene. He was involved in leather and stuff. It was his home and he knew what he wanted.</blockquote><blockquote><strong>Dale Grande:&nbsp;</strong>He was the first openly gay tattooer, too. He was pretty big in the gay community at that time. He was part owner for a couple of bath houses &hellip;</blockquote><blockquote><strong>Nick Colella:&nbsp;</strong>That&rsquo;s why he set up shop where he did [W. Belmont Ave]. Boystown, you know?</blockquote><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CLIFF WEB.jpg" style="height: 357px; width: 350px;" title="(Archival photo courtesy Nick Colella)" /></div><p><strong>Cliff Raven&rsquo;s art changed Dale Grande&rsquo;s life.</strong></p><blockquote><strong>Dale Grande:&nbsp;</strong>The first time you stepped into the shop you could see the art on the walls was so much better [than other tattoo art at the time]. I think I was about 20 years old at the time and I said, &ldquo;I gotta get a tattoo here.&rdquo; So I did.<p>While I was getting the two pieces from Cliff I asked him: &ldquo;How do you get into this business? Mind if I hang around &hellip; be a gopher or something?&rdquo;</p><p>He goes, &ldquo;Sure, why not.&rdquo; I don&rsquo;t think he thought I was serious, but I started coming in after work nearly every day.</p></blockquote><p><strong>That was Spring of 1973. By fall of the same year, Cliff and his business partner at the time, Buddy McFall, had offered Dale Grande partial ownership. The shop&rsquo;s name changed from Cliff Raven Studio to Chicago Tattoo Co., Inc.</strong></p><blockquote><p><strong>Dale Grande:</strong>&nbsp;I vividly remember the day were talking about it. I said, &ldquo;What about Chicago Tattoo? That says it all.&rdquo; And that&rsquo;s the name.</p><p>At that time the tattoo industry was very closed-mouth, but we would come to work and there&rsquo;d be a line already waiting for us to open the door. Something you&rsquo;d expect being the only shop in the city. &nbsp;</p><p>It was crazy. We&rsquo;d get all these artists stopping in from all over the country just to see Cliff and talk to him. I would just sit there in awe and watch and listen and meet all these artists. It was really uncanny. It was great.</p></blockquote><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP790331060.jpg" style="width: 325px; height: 350px;" title="Dale Grande, left, working at Chicago Tattoo. (Archival photo courtesy Nick Colella)" /></p><p><strong>By the late 1970s, Chicago Tattoo had attracted many new artists. Some opened their own tattoo shops in Chicago.</strong></p><blockquote><p><strong>Dale Grande:</strong>&nbsp;When these shops started opening, first thing I would do was hop in the car and drive down there to see what was going on. And hopefully I didn&rsquo;t see anything; it was just a rumor. It was always a bad feeling when someone opened up then.</p><p>There was lots of good, stiff competition. You just gotta stay better. And we did; we stayed better &hellip; I wish those days were back again because now you&rsquo;ve got something like 200 shops in and around the city.</p></blockquote><p><strong>Cliff Raven, who operated during the industry&rsquo;s lowpoint in Chicago, left an indelible mark on the local industry.</strong></p><blockquote><p><strong>Nick Colella:</strong>&nbsp;The tattooing landscape would not be anything without Cliff and Dale and Chicago Tattoo. People who are tattooing now don&rsquo;t know where it all started from. They don&rsquo;t know that there was a core group of people who are monumental in this city&rsquo;s tattooing history.</p><p>A lot of tattooers now take it for granted that these guys were the only tattooers in town. They think &ldquo;Oh! They got all the business, that&rsquo;s great!&rdquo; &hellip; but they also got all the flak in town; all the b.s. They were those few guys going to work every day tattooing when it wasn&rsquo;t cool, when it wasn&rsquo;t on TV. They just did it because they had a drive to tattoo.</p><p>And that&rsquo;s why I keep this history alive - because no one else does. You go to Chicago History Museum and look up early photos of State Street and they only have three images, but I have the originals of them.</p><p>Chicago wants to put that area of history under the rug so bad. The city&rsquo;s always changing, but you have this history here that&rsquo;s important &hellip; to some people.</p></blockquote><p><strong>Cliff Raven left Chicago to open a new tattoo shop in California in 1977. Raven invited Dale Grande to join him.</strong></p><blockquote><p><strong>Dale Grande:&nbsp;</strong>It didn&#39;t feel right. I&rsquo;ve been here for all of my adult life. And I&rsquo;m still here. And we&rsquo;re still operating. We&rsquo;re still Chicago Tattoo. I just try to let others know that we&rsquo;re still around.</p></blockquote><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Capture.JPG" style="height: 285px; width: 500px;" title="Chicago Tattoo and Piercing Co. is located at 1017 W. Belmont Ave. (Logan Jaffe/WBEZ)" /></p><p><span style="font-size: 22px;">Our question comes from: Dan Zajac</span></p><p>Dan Zajac is a lawyer who lives in Highland, Ind. He had known about Cliff Raven and Chicago Tattoo for a while, he says, but couldn&rsquo;t put his finger on why the shop was ever the only one in Chicago. He had even done his own research on the topic.</p><p>&ldquo;At least half the books in any public library on the subject of tattoos have Cliff Raven in the index,&rdquo; Dan wrote in an email. &ldquo;Many of the tattoo artists in various parts of the country (except the younger ones) seem to claim that they had studied under Cliff.&rdquo;</p><p>While we invited Dan to come along with us to investigate his question, he was only reachable by email. But he did let us know there&rsquo;s a reason why he&rsquo;s on the hunt for answers. A personal reason: Chicago&rsquo;s legendary tattoo artist was his uncle, Cliff Raven.</p><p><em>Logan Jaffe is Curious City&rsquo;s multimedia producer. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/loganjaffe" target="_blank">@loganjaffe</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 14 May 2014 19:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/tale-chicagos-tattoo-holdout-110185 Jackpot! Chicago's hold on pinball industry and artistry http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/jackpot-chicagos-hold-pinball-industry-and-artistry-110175 <p><p>Ever since Kevin Schramer started playing pinball in the 1970&#39;s, he noticed that many machines listed their manufacturing addresses in the Chicago region. The addresses have kept him wondering for decades, so when he learned about Curious City, he just had to ask:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>Why was the Chicago area home to all the major pinball manufacturers during the heyday of pinball?</em></p><p>After digging into relevant history books, interviewing industry experts, and emptying plenty of change into the area&rsquo;s <a href="#map">remaining pinball machines</a>, we can firmly say that Kevin&rsquo;s on to something: From the modern pinball industry&rsquo;s Depression-era beginnings, to its modest market presence today, Chicago has been pinball&rsquo;s center of gravity. (The <a href="http://www.ipdb.org/search.pl">Internet Pinball Database</a> lists 554 top-rated pinball machines and at least 98 percent of them were made in the region.) But the answer as to <em>why </em>involves an interplay of history, geography and art.</p><p><strong>Insert coin: Gottlieb and Williams</strong></p><p>To say Chicago was the hub of the pinball industry isn&rsquo;t to say that the game was invented in the Windy City. Historians trace early pinball machines to a centuries-old French billiard game called <em>bagatelle</em>, while the modern coin-operated pinball industry got its start in the early 1930s. During the Great Depression, many people were &ldquo;out of work, looking for inexpensive entertainment for a penny,&rdquo; explains pinball historian Roger Sharpe. Enterprising tinkerers and businessmen began to fill that need with simple countertop games.</p><p>In these early days, many of the industry&rsquo;s key players were travelling businessmen such as David Gottlieb, whose machine <em>Baffle Ball</em> was one of pinball&rsquo;s first big hits. <em>Baffle Ball</em> was a simple game. There were no flippers, lights, or bells; you just pulled the plunger back and hoped that the ball bounced into the right hole. Gottlieb moved throughout the Midwest to sell his machines, but his operation was based in Chicago.</p><p>Many of pinball&#39;s now-familiar qualities, such as replays and tilt mechanisms, were considered whiz-bang when they were first developed by engineer Harry Williams in the 1930&rsquo;s. Williams got his start in California, pranking his business partners by adding electricity to his machines and connecting the games to telephones; in some cases, the right shot would make the phone ring. Once the ringing machines proved to draw more money than their silent counterparts, machines with sound-making elements became the norm. While Williams tried working from California for a while, he eventually decided that he would need Chicago&#39;s competitive edge if he wanted to make a name for himself in the pinball industry.</p><p>&quot;It took too long for his games to get to the East Coast and by the time it got to the East Coast other people had already knocked it off,&quot; says Sharpe.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/baffle ball resized and tweaked.jpeg" style="height: 225px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="Baffle Ball and Ballywho were two of pinball’s earliest successes. The machines were flipper-less, but brought in a stream of pennies anyway. (Flickr/Rob Dicaterino)" />Chicago had a lot to offer the budding industry. Raw materials were widely available, including lumber and wiring, as well as steel from nearby Gary, Ind. The city&#39;s large immigrant population became the basis of the factories&#39; work force. Once the machines were finished, the city&#39;s railroads made them easy to distribute across the country, and Lake Michigan&#39;s ports allowed the machines to be sent around the world as pinball found a market overseas. David Gottlieb and Harry Williams founded some of the industry&rsquo;s most successful companies in Chicago, and named the firms after themselves.</p><p><strong>Multiball! Artistry in the industry&rsquo;s heyday</strong></p><p>Through the decades, the pinball industry had its highs and lows. From the 1940s through most of the 1970s pinball was officially banned as illegal gambling in many of the nation&rsquo;s big cities, including New York City and Chicago. (Roger Sharpe, our historical guide, played <a href="http://gizmodo.com/how-one-perfect-shot-saved-pinball-from-being-illegal-1154267979">an instrumental role in overturning the bans</a> with a skill shot that became the stuff of pinball legend.) Although the bans were lightly enforced, they kept the industry from achieving its full potential. Then, in the mid-1970s, the bans were lifted, and The Who&rsquo;s pinball rock opera <em>Tommy </em>was made into a major motion picture. At this point, pinball found a place in the mainstream culture, and the industry entered into a full-blown heyday.</p><p>As the industry thrived, the graphic artists who designed the backglasses and the playfields developed a detail-rich pinball aesthetic. While Chicago has many important cultural contributions, it has a unique monopoly on pinball art. The art blended the bawdy imagery of <em>Playboy </em>magazine (based in Chicago at the time) with the garish colors of <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/laugh-your-troubles-away-105619">Riverview amusement park</a>; before it was closed in 1967, Riverview had shared the same neighborhood as many pinball manufacturers.</p><p>Even Chicago&rsquo;s weather made it on to some machines. Greg Freres, celebrated pinball artist, worked on the <em>Harlem Globetrotters</em> machine during the notorious winter of 1979 &mdash; <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/just-how-bad-chicago-winter-109637#misery">one of the city&rsquo;s worst</a>. Freres included a splotch of white paint next to Lake Michigan in honor of Chicago&rsquo;s snow on the Globetrotters&rsquo; globe.<a name="presentation"></a></p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="367" mozallowfullscreen="true" scrolling="no" src="https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/15JGIGwSQW2F_J4759VDr3g6QyXrNWBNbVrTyoW21rxI/embed?start=false&amp;loop=false&amp;delayms=3000" webkitallowfullscreen="true" width="620"></iframe></p><p>While the industry lost some ground to video game machines through the 80s, it continued to be successful. The most popular pinball machine of all time, for example, was <em>The Addam&rsquo;s Family</em>; it wasn&rsquo;t released until 1992.</p><p>By the close of the decade, however, pinball was in a verifiable slump. WMS, the corporate successor to the company founded by desinger Harry Williams, lost $4 million on its pinball division in 1998 alone. The company gave its pinball team one last shot to reinvigorate pinball. The team developed <em>Pinball 2000</em>, a hybrid of video games and pinball featuring holographic aliens. Despite the machine&rsquo;s relative success and a promo video complete with kooky narration from Chicago radio legend Ken Nordine, the corporate bosses at WMS shut down their pinball division to focus on growing profits in the slot machine industry. By the dawn of the 21st century, only one manufacturer of pinball machines remained in Chicago, and the world.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/UUSzSHNEv2g?rel=0" width="480"></iframe></p><p><strong>Extra game? Pinball Perseveres</strong></p><p>But pinball didn&rsquo;t end there. That last company, Stern Pinball, continues to develop and manufacture pinball machines in west suburban Melrose Park. (A New Jersey-based company just released a <em>Wizard of Oz</em> pinball machine, but Stern is the only company that regularly releases new machines and distributes them widely.) Company CEO Gary Stern has been in the pinball industry since he was a small child accompanying his father, a business partner of Harry Williams, on factory visits. While the access to materials, labor, and distribution that made Chicago an ideal location for pinball&rsquo;s beginnings remain, Stern says another element is keeping the surviving industry here.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re here, because we&rsquo;re here,&rdquo; Stern puts it plainly. That is, a community of pinball designers, engineers, and specialists live in the Chicago area, and many of them remain dedicated to the pinball craft.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Gary Stern resized.jpeg" style="height: 188px; width: 250px; float: left;" title="Stern Pinball CEO Gary Stern poses with question-asker Kevin Schramer and some of his company’s machines. Stern has worked in the pinball industry for more than 50 years. (WBEZ/Mickey Capper)" />Jim Shird is one of those specialists working at Stern. He has designed the wiring in pinball machines since the 1990s and has been playing pinball since he was a kid, when he would win free pizzas every week from a local pizza place&rsquo;s pinball competition.</p><p>Pinball&rsquo;s popularity has diminished to the point where it&rsquo;s most visible in the shadowy corners of dive bars. But still, Shird remains optimistic. These days, when he finishes work at Stern, he heads straight to <a href="https://www.google.com/maps/place/Logan+Hardware+Arcade+Bar/@41.92504,-87.688184,17z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x0:0x70e42de27f7ec47f">Logan Arcade</a>, one of Chicago&rsquo;s many new arcade bars, to maintain (and play) the bar&rsquo;s pinball collection.</p><p>He is, after all, a pinball person and he gets to spend his life with pinball machines.</p><p>&ldquo;Everyday is different, everyday is interesting, everyday is an adventure, and everyday is fun,&rdquo; Shird says with a smile. &ldquo;I get to play pinball everyday.&rdquo;<a name="map"></a></p><p><iframe height="480" src="https://mapsengine.google.com/map/u/1/embed?mid=zo79HXq-4bn0.kCzXX8JiSVjA" width="640"></iframe></p><p><em>(Want to play pinball? This map includes all Chicago area venues with 3 or more pinball machines. More information is available at <a href="http://pinballmap.com/chicago">PinballMap.com</a>.)</em></p><p><strong>Our question comes from: Kevin Schramer</strong><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Kevin resize.jpeg" style="width: 225px; height: 300px; float: right;" title="Kevin Schramer plays his pinball machines with his family. Kevin’s question began this investigation. (WBEZ/Mickey Capper)" /></p><p>This story about Chicago pinball begins with our &ldquo;Player 1,&rdquo; Kevin Schramer. Kevin says he&rsquo;s loved the colors and sounds of pinball since he was a kid in the 1970s. He first saw pinball at Funway, a family entertainment center &nbsp;in west suburban Batavia.</p><p>&ldquo;If you had a pocket full of quarters you were all set,&rdquo; Kevin remembers.</p><p>Today, Kevin no longer needs quarters; he has a row of four vintage pinball machines in the dining room of his home in Winfield, Ill. His family plays the machines too, and he is currently in the midst of an extended battle with his sons over his machines&#39; high scores.</p><p><em>Mickey Capper is a freelance audio producer. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/FMcapper">@FMcapper</a></em></p></p> Tue, 13 May 2014 16:53:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/jackpot-chicagos-hold-pinball-industry-and-artistry-110175 Illinois' red light on Sunday car sales http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/illinois-red-light-sunday-car-sales-110136 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/148403096&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Judging by how many transportation-related <a href="http://curiouscity.wbez.org/questions/archive" target="_blank">questions Curious City receives</a>, we denizens of the Chicago region are obsessed with getting around and will ask about any <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/question-answered-why-ban-pickups-lake-shore-drive-where-can-they-park-104631" target="_blank">stumbling blocks</a> &mdash; legal or otherwise &mdash; that threaten to get in our way.</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/illinois-red-light-sunday-car-sales-110136#julischatz">Juli Schatz</a> of South Elgin is just one fan who&rsquo;s stepped forward with a puzzler related to mobility. Here&rsquo;s the gist of what she wants to know: &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>When did the state of Illinois begin its ban on Sunday car sales, and why?</em></p><p>The short answer? Turns out, auto dealers in Illinois have kept their doors closed on Sundays for more than three decades &mdash; from a law passed in 1982, to be specific. The state legislature sided with a group of dealers who argued that having a mandatory day off allowed employees to be with their families and practice their faith, without worrying that their competitors were open and could steal a sale.</p><p>Here&rsquo;s an excerpt of the <a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/fulltext.asp?DocName=062500050K5-106" target="_blank">law </a>Illinois still follows today:</p><blockquote><p><em><span style="font-size:12px;">(625 ILCS 5/5-106) (from Ch. 95 1/2, par. 5-106)</span></em></p><p><em><span style="font-size:12px;">Sec. 5-106. No person may keep open, operate, or assist in keeping open or operating any established or additional place of business for the purpose of buying, selling, bartering, exchanging, or leasing for a period of 1 year or more, or offering for sale, barter, exchange, or lease for a period of 1 year or more, any motor vehicle, whether new or used, on the first day of the week, commonly called Sunday; ...</span></em></p></blockquote><p>But this story about Sunday car sales goes back even further than the 1980s; Illinois has had this debate since the 1950s, with similar arguments for and against being deployed each time &mdash; including the issue&rsquo;s resurrection today.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Chapter 1: Prairie State car law, in the shade of blue</span></p><p>The state&rsquo;s Sunday auto sales ban is one of many state-level blue laws, which &mdash; as a category &mdash; prohibit certain secular activities on Sundays. It&#39;s a bent the Prairie State apparently shares with several neighbors: Iowa, Indiana, and Missouri also prohibit selling motor vehicles on Sundays. Wisconsin prohibits a dealer from selling on Sundays, unless the operator holds that the Sabbath occurs between sunset Friday and sunset Saturday.</p><p>Illinois&#39; own ban first made its way through the legislature in 1951. Dealers wanted to allow a day off, but any single dealership couldn&rsquo;t close its doors while competitors stayed open. Legislators agreed to a mandatory day off and passed a bill to make it happen, but the story got complicated as soon as the bill hit Governor Adlai Stevenson&rsquo;s desk.</p><p>Stevenson&rsquo;s Attorney General, Ivan A. Elliott, encouraged the governor to veto the bill, saying it likely violated the Illinois Constitution &ldquo;as an interference with the right of an individual to pursue any trade or occupation which is not injurious to the public or a menace to the safety or welfare of society.&rdquo;</p><p>Stevenson heeded the AG&rsquo;s word, and vetoed Senate Bill 504.</p><p>&ldquo;If such a restriction on Sunday trade is sound for automobiles, why should it not be extended to newspapers, groceries, ice cream cones and other harmless commercial transactions?&rdquo; Stevenson wrote in a veto message. &ldquo;Carried to its logical extreme, any business group with sufficient influence in the legislature can dictate the hours of business of its competitors. And if hours, why not prices?&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">A short Chapter 2, and complicated Chapter 3</span></p><p>A nearly identical bill followed a similar path in 1957. House Bill 946 survived both houses, only to be defeated at the hand of Governor William Stratton days after passage.</p><p>The legislature made another attempt in 1961, only this time Governor Otto Kerner signed Senate Bill 597, making it a crime for any person to sell, barter or exchange any new or used motor vehicle on the day &ldquo;commonly called Sunday.&rdquo;</p><p>But some car dealers weren&rsquo;t jazzed about their new schedules. Employees at Courtesy Motor Sales in Chicago had been able to choose any day of the week they wished for their day off, but many of them chose to work on Sundays because they made almost twice as much as they did any other day of the week. Twenty percent of Courtesy&rsquo;s annual sales in 1960 were made on Sundays.</p><p>So Courtesy employees filed an injunction in Cook County Circuit Court that ended up before the Illinois Supreme Court. The salesmen and their lawyers argued the law was unconstitutional, as it singled out one specific group of sellers.</p><p>Attorney Joe Roddy was a senior in law school at the time, working as a law clerk for the State&rsquo;s Attorney&rsquo;s office. As the State&rsquo;s Attorney was responsible for defending the statute, Roddy helped write the briefs. He also penned an article for the Chicago-Kent Law review about the case.</p><p>&ldquo;It was a huge deal,&rdquo; Roddy recalls. &ldquo;I remember a lot of publicity. Because you know, car dealerships, everybody buys a car &mdash; even in the 60s &mdash; and the car dealers wanted to be open on Sundays. So it attracted a lot of publicity because they didn&rsquo;t single out any other industry at that time.&rdquo;<a name="lawshistory"></a></p><p>The Illinois Supreme Court ruled in 1962 that the law was unconstitutional, and the debate died down for a bit.<a name="timeline"></a></p><p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><strong><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">TIMELINE: The law&#39;s history</span></strong></span></p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="650" src="http://cdn.knightlab.com/libs/timeline/latest/embed/index.html?source=0Ai7E2pZ6aCZtdFd5Wllad2gzaWZpQnlGTGwxQzZNY0E&amp;font=Bevan-PotanoSans&amp;maptype=toner&amp;lang=en&amp;height=650" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Blue (law) since 1982</span></p><p>In the 1980s, car dealers across the state wrote state lawmakers, arguing that a mandatory day off would protect the livelihood of sellers and would provide needed time for family or faith. A new bill banning sales on Sundays made its way through the legislature, with major support coming from trade organizations that represent car dealerships.</p><p>But the measure also had opponents.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it comes with some amazement that a bill like this would come before us. We have heard time and time again from the business community that they would like less regulation by the state, and less mandates,&rdquo; Senator Don Totten argued on the Senate floor at the time. &ldquo;I think this runs contrary to our system of free enterprise.&rdquo;</p><p>The bill ended up making it way through both houses, leaving Governor Jim Thompson with a tough decision.</p><p>&ldquo;Look, I&rsquo;m not a big fan of blue laws,&rdquo; Thompson now says. &ldquo;I think commerce should be open and free.&rdquo;</p><p>And because of that, Thompson says, he did go back and forth on this one.</p><p>&ldquo;It was not a simple decision,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;It was more a complex decision, but I guess what impressed me was the unanimity of the opinion [of] the dealer and the employee group. And the notion that if people &mdash; in order to protect their livelihood &mdash; had to work 7 days a week, that was a pretty tough proposition, especially people with families.&rdquo;</p><p>Thompson ended up signing the bill on July 13, 1982, but the law wasn&rsquo;t implemented until April 1984, when the state&rsquo;s Supreme Court ruled the ban was constitutional. The state has enforced a six-day sales week for dealers around Illinois ever since.</p><p><span style="font-size: 22px;">Ice cream cones and planned purchases</span></p><p>Fast forward to early 2014. It turns out that our question from Juli Schatz question is timely. Much to the dismay of many Illinois car dealers, Republican State Senator Jim Oberweis introduced a bill at the end of 2013 that would allow all dealers to open their doors on Sundays, should they want to.</p><p>Oberweis made the argument that his plan wouldn&rsquo;t <em>force</em> dealerships to do anything. Having government decide when businesses can and can&rsquo;t be open, he says, amounts to too much regulation.</p><p>&ldquo;I believe it is wrong for government to tell a business when they can be open and when they cannot be open. That&rsquo;s what they do in Russia, not in the United States,&rdquo; Oberweis says. &ldquo;And it becomes even worse when we learn that this is an industry supported effort. They decided they don&rsquo;t want to be open themselves, and then they attempt to use government to prohibit competition on those days. That is just fundamentally wrong in my opinion.&rdquo;</p><p>Oberweis says the bill likely won&rsquo;t go anywhere in 2014, as too few Senate Democrats are on board with repealing the ban.</p><p>Dave Sloan, President of the Chicago Automobile Trade Association, says the bill&rsquo;s also likely to fail because both consumers and dealers are happy with the current law. The CATA has been a long-time supporter of the Sunday closing law, and Sloan says he was surprised to see Oberweis&rsquo; bill come up in the first place. In his 20 years at the CATA, including their work running the Chicago Auto Show, he says he&rsquo;s never heard a single complaint from a consumer over not being able to shop on Sundays.</p><p>&ldquo;If the purchase of a car was an impulse buy, like if you were buying an ice cream cone from one of Mr. Oberweis&rsquo; ice cream stores, that might make a difference. But it&rsquo;s a planned purchase,&rdquo; Sloan says. &ldquo;So if you have the opportunity to keep costs lower, and the consumer isn&rsquo;t inconvenienced by that, well, then everyone wins.&rdquo;</p><p>Sloan says a six-day work week helps dealers attract high-caliber employees; he argues it&rsquo;s hard to find full-time salesmen who will commit to working on commission when the dealership is open seven days a week.</p><p>As time goes on, and technology advances, so too do auto sales, according to Pete Sander, president of the Illinois Automobile Dealers Association. He says compared to decades past, many more vehicles are financed during the purchase process. Since banks aren&rsquo;t open on Sundays either, he says, closing a sale becomes difficult, if not impossible. &nbsp;</p><p>And Sander says now that both dealers and manufacturers have websites available 24/7, the average customer only visits a dealership lot an average of one and a half times before purchasing a vehicle. Five years ago, the average customer would visit a sales lot five times.</p><p>&ldquo;By the time they get to the dealer on Saturday, they pretty much know what they want, and whether the dealer has what they want. It&rsquo;s just a matter of negotiating the price of the trade-in, and negotiating the price of the car,&rdquo; Sander says. &ldquo;So it&rsquo;s not like the old going from dealer to dealer to find the right car in the color and model you want, and kicking the tires as we used to do in the old days.<a name="julischatz"></a></p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a much different commercial transaction now.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Our question comes from: Juli Schatz</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/JuliBW.jpg" style="float: left; height: 205px; width: 150px;" title="Juli Schatz, who asked why Illinois banned Sunday car sales. (Photo courtesy Juli Schatz)" />Our look at Illinois&rsquo; ban on Sunday car sales comes courtesy of South Elgin resident Juli Schatz, who says she can&rsquo;t quite put her finger on when, exactly, this seed of curiosity about Illinois&rsquo; ban on Sunday cars was first planted.</p><p>It likely happened, she says, decades ago when her dad helped her shop for a car. Schatz&rsquo;s dad worked five days a week, so he was only free to kick tires or test-drive on weekends. She thought it was strange that Sunday sales were off the table.</p><p>&ldquo;I asked [my dad] and he had no idea why, and that was long before the Internet or anything,&rdquo; Schatz recalled. &ldquo;We actually asked a couple of car dealers while we were shopping for my new used car, and they had no idea.&rdquo;</p><p>Schatz says she&rsquo;s been curious about it ever since. Years later, she worked in ad sales for several newspapers, including the <em>Naperville Sun</em>, and she had car dealerships as some of her customers.</p><p>&ldquo;Same thing,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;Nobody really knew. And some of these dealers had been in business for quite a while and they said, &lsquo;You know, it&rsquo;s just always been that way.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p><em>Lauren Chooljian is a WBEZ Reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian">@laurenchooljian</a>.</em></p><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Mon, 05 May 2014 17:05:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/illinois-red-light-sunday-car-sales-110136