WBEZ | City of Chicago http://www.wbez.org/tags/city-chicago Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Chicago hosts first film and media summit http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2013-10/chicago-hosts-first-film-and-media-summit-108853 <p><p>OK, so they didn&rsquo;t set off the &ldquo;<a href="http://www.nbcchicago.com/entertainment/the-scene/Giant-Transformers-Explosion-Fizzles-Out-226204481.html">mother of all bombs</a>.&rdquo;</p><p>But the Transformers: Age of Extinction film shoot confirms what many have already noted: Chicago is <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/tv-and-movie-crews-spending-more-time-filming-chicago-106462">exploding as a destination for film and television production.</a></p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s local film scene is also heating up. Kartemquin <a href="http://kartemquin.com/news/the-interrupters-wins-an-emmy">just won an Emmy</a> for its already wildly acclaimed documentary The Interrupters. Newcity <a href="http://newcityfilm.com/2013/10/03/film-50-chicagos-screen-gems-2013/">has released a list</a> of 50 Chicago film and media movers and shakers. <a href="https://goodpitch.org/events/gpchi2013">Good Pitch</a> is coming to Chicago for the first time, with its &ldquo;speed dating&rdquo; approach to matching documentary filmmakers with potential funders. And now the<a href="http://newcityfilm.com/2013/10/03/film-50-chicagos-screen-gems-2013/#more-18891"> city of Chicago</a> is hosting its first ever <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dca/supp_info/filmmediasummit.html">film and media summit.</a></p><p>The one-day event on Oct. 20 follows close on the heels and format of Chicago&rsquo;s first &nbsp;music summit. There&rsquo;ll be panels on expected topics: casting, funding distribution and new media platforms. Some screenings are planned.</p><p>The most interesting (and potentially most raucous) event is likely to &nbsp;involve local filmmaker John McNaughton (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Wild Things). He and others will conduct a &ldquo;case study&rdquo; of what it took to make his latest film The Harvest, which stars Michael Shannon and will debut at the Chicago International Film Festival Oct. 19, the night before the summit.</p><p>Rich Moskal directs the Chicago Film Office and organized the one-day summit.</p><blockquote><strong>Like what you&rsquo;re reading? <a href="http://www.wbez.org/donate" target="_blank">Help support WBEZ by making a donation today.</a></strong></blockquote><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s true that Chicago is getting a lot of talk these days as a destination for Hollywood,&rdquo; said Moskal. &ldquo;But this summit is about the local community, and how Chicago is the center of creativity for independent features, webisodes ... film and media created by Chicagoans.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/4208413591_667b803ea6_z.jpg" style="height: 234px; width: 350px; float: right;" title="A crew filming in Chicago. (Flickr/FaceMePLS)" />The summit itself is a creation of Chicagoans. Moskal enlisted lots of local film organizations (<a href="http://cimmfest.org/">CIMMfest</a>, <a href="http://www.ifpchicago.org/">IFP Chicago</a>, <a href="http://www.chicagofilmfestival.com/">Chicago International Film Festival</a>) to program and help produce the event.</p><p>Still, there will be some Hollywood talent on hand. In addition to McNaughton and Shannon, attendees include producers George Tillman Jr. and Bob Teitel of <a href="http://www.statestreetpictures.com/home.html">State Street Films</a> (Soul Food, the Barbershop movies).</p><p>In an interview from his Los Angeles office, Teitel raved about Chicago&rsquo;s assets, from the great actors and <a href="http://www.chicagofilmstudios.com/">local facilities</a>&nbsp;to the attitude of crews.</p><p>&ldquo;&rdquo;When you shoot in California it seems like everybody thinks they should be a director, or that&rsquo;s always my experience!&rdquo; said Teitel with a laugh. &ldquo;In Chicago everybody always acts as a unit and a team. It&rsquo;s incredible.&rdquo;</p><p>Moskal agrees, but thinks the local scene could use a bit more attention in and beyond Chicago. He hopes the event is an opportunity for locals to network, cross paths or launch collaborations. And he thinks a summit could be a magnet to draw filmmakers, funders and distributors to the city.</p><p>&ldquo;I think there&rsquo;s something about people recognizing Chicago as a place that&rsquo;s not only known for its culinary scene and not only known for its theater but also known for its film and media,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>But after organizing back-to-back summits, some think Moskal&rsquo;s long-term goal is to create a Chicago version of Austin&rsquo;s <a href="http://sxsw.com/">South by Southwest (SXSW)</a>. When I asked, Moskal didn&rsquo;t say yes. But he didn&rsquo;t say no either.</p><p>&ldquo;Ultimately it&rsquo;s about promoting the local community to Chicago and beyond,&rdquo; said Moskal. &ldquo;If South by Southwest is a good model for that, absolutely.&rdquo;</p><p>The Chicago Film Summit is Oct. 20 at the Chicago Cultural Center.</p><p><em><a href=" http://www.wbez.org/users/acuddy-0" rel="author"> Alison Cuddy </a> is the Arts and Culture reporter at WBEZ. You can follow her on <a href=" https://twitter.com/wbezacuddy"> Twitter </a>, <a href=" https://www.facebook.com/cuddyalison"> Facebook </a> and <a href=" http://instagram.com/cuddyreport"> Instagram </a></em></p></p> Fri, 04 Oct 2013 10:16:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2013-10/chicago-hosts-first-film-and-media-summit-108853 Chicago’s energy deal: An ‘F’ for fracking? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago%E2%80%99s-energy-deal-%E2%80%98f%E2%80%99-fracking-107932 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/fracking%20topper%202.jpg" title="Fracking operation near Shreveport, Louisiana. (Flickr/danielfoster437)" /></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F99525534&amp;color=00bdff&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em>Editor&#39;s note: Chris Bentley answered Janice Thomson&#39;s question about a week before Chicago&#39;s City Hall announced new developments regarding the municipal aggregation deal mentioned here. In an <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago-electricity-and-fracking-update-108130">update</a>, we take another look at the question posed here, given that there&#39;s new information on the role of wind power and natural gas in the city&#39;s municipal aggregation contract.</em><em>&nbsp;But Janice&#39;s question also prompted us to wonder if other people are considering choosing alternative electricity providers. We&#39;ve been hearing from many people about why or why not. You can <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/power-struggle-who%E2%80%99s-your-energy-provider-108077">have your say</a> right now as well.&nbsp;</em></p><p>Curious Citizen Janice Thomson does not consider herself an environmentalist.</p><p>&ldquo;Environmentalist has this different kind of connotation,&rdquo; said the northsider. &ldquo;I think of environmentalists as people who go hiking. And I don&rsquo;t. But I&rsquo;m obviously concerned about impacts on our earth, our air, our ability to grow food.&rdquo;</p><p>After five years living in Brussels, Belgium she got used to regular media coverage of climate change and renewable energy. Back in the U.S., even a<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/20/science/earth/arctic-sea-ice-stops-melting-but-new-record-low-is-set.html"> record low in arctic sea ice</a> failed to elicit any mention of the issue during the 2012 presidential debates &mdash; <a href="http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/23/the-issue-that-dare-not-speak-its-name/?_r=0">the first time that has happened since 1988</a>.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/janice thomson.jpg" style="height: 175px; width: 275px; float: right;" title="Curious citizen Janice Thomson says she felt duped by the definition of clean energy Chicago used in electricity aggregation language." /></p><p>&ldquo;When I came back to Chicago [in 2011] I was looking for a renewable supplier for my energy,&rdquo; Thomson said. Along with about 56 percent of Chicago voters, she voted yes on the<a href="http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=210191"> 2012 referendum</a> for<a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/progs/Electricity%20Aggregation/GeneralAggregationPresentation.pdf"> municipal electricity aggregation</a>, hoping it would expand the market for wind and solar power.</p><p>Then she got a letter from Integrys Energy Services, the city&rsquo;s new electricity supplier, touting the city&rsquo;s &ldquo;cleaner&rdquo; energy supply.</p><p>Chicago struck a two-year contract with Integrys, replacing Exelon subsidiary Commonwealth Edison and reportedly saving households $150 on average per year by 2015.<a href="http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20130104/NEWS11/130109930/city-reveals-integrys-winning-energy-bid"> <em>Crain&#39;s Chicago Business</em></a> reported Integrys won the deal with a fee of about $8.8 million, about two thirds the price of runner-up Exelon. Energy prices change daily, and low prices are not guaranteed forever, but the contract gives the city an option to switch after May 2014.</p><p>The deal didn&rsquo;t deal just with energy, costs, though; it also eliminated coal, which used to provide roughly 40 percent of Chicago&rsquo;s power, from the city&rsquo;s fuel mix. So our Curious Citizen wanted to know:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>Now that Chicago has a new electricity supplier, how much of the city&rsquo;s energy would ultimately come from natural gas via fracking?</em></p><p>Jennifer Block, a spokeswoman for Integrys, said the new fuel mix would be &ldquo;primarily&rdquo; natural gas. Integrys buys electricity wholesale from many power plants and passes it along to distributors like ComEd. The company won&rsquo;t divulge which power plants it buys from, which can and do vary constantly based on the price of those power plants&rsquo; electricity. Integrys can&rsquo;t track individual electrons as they make their way through the grid, so Chicago&rsquo;s no-coal requirement just means Integrys will need to verify that at any given time they have enough non-coal power in their possession to satisfy all of the city&rsquo;s demand. Because it is currently inexpensive, natural gas-fired electricity will satisfy the brunt of that demand.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/crawford%20coal%20chris%20betley.jpg" style="height: 185px; width: 315px; float: left;" title="The Crawford coal-fired electricity generating facility, one of two southwest side coal plants closed in 2012, sits along the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. (Flickr/Chris Bentley)" /></p><p>But for Thomson and self-identifying environmentalists alike, trading one fossil fuel for another might be considered a <a href="http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pyrrhic%20victory">Pyrrhic victory</a> at best. &ldquo;I didn&rsquo;t know that clean energy wasn&rsquo;t the same as renewable energy,&rdquo; Thomson said.</p><p>The city&rsquo;s requirement that its new energy supplier drop coal was the first of its kind, and the<a href="http://cleanpowerchicago.org/"> Chicago Clean Power Coalition</a> endorsed aggregation as a means to promote renewable energy in the future. Currently the city&rsquo;s deal only requires Integrys to meet <a href="http://www.dsireusa.org/incentives/incentive.cfm?Incentive_Code=IL04R">the state Renewable Portfolio Standard</a> (RPS), which rose this year to 7 percent. The RPS ramps up gradually in pursuit of the state&rsquo;s 25 percent by 2025 goal. Solar, wind, biomass, hydroelectric, anaerobic digestion, biodiesel and landfill gas &mdash; methane, essentially natural gas, recovered from landfills &mdash; count towards the state&rsquo;s RPS, but natural gas mined from the earth through fracking or other methods does not.</p><p><a href="http://www.epa.gov/cleanenergy/energy-and-you/affect/natural-gas.html">According to the Environmental Protection Agency</a>, natural gas-fired power plants emit about half as much carbon dioxide, less than a third as much nitrogen oxides, and one percent as much sulfur oxides as coal plants. That&rsquo;s the main basis for calling natural gas a &ldquo;clean&rdquo; fuel &mdash; it&rsquo;s clean compared to coal.</p><p>&ldquo;Clean sounds nice,&rdquo; Thomson said, &ldquo;but it doesn&rsquo;t mean what you think it does. I felt duped.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>The &lsquo;F&rsquo; Word</strong></p><p>Thomson shares many environmentalists negative opinion of the controversial drilling process of high-volume hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking. Joining the religious environmental consortium<a href="http://faithinplace.org/"> Faith in Place</a> on a lobbying trip to Springfield, Janice helped call<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-03/madigan-mell-push-two-year-ban-fracking-106109"> for a moratorium on fracking</a>, and then later, when an outright ban seemed unlikely, for strong regulations on the practice. Governor Pat Quinn<a href="http://soundcloud.com/afternoonshiftwbez/frack"> signed the regulatory bill into law</a> on June 17.</p><p>While emissions from natural gas power plants are substantially lower than those from coal plants, the process of extracting and transporting the resource is fraught with technical challenges.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/silverfuture%20stop%20illinois%20fracking.jpg" style="height: 225px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="A protest against fracking in Illinois from July 2012. (Flickr/silverfuture)" /></p><p>&ldquo;Unconventional&rdquo; oil and gas resources are so-named because they have previously been impossible to dig up economically. But innovations in drilling technology have brought together fracking, in which drillers blast water, fine sand and chemicals to break up porous rock containing fossil fuels, and horizontal drilling, which allows a single rig to explore long, flat sedimentary rock formations thousands of feet underground without drilling straight down from the surface many times. The resulting practice has opened up massive stores of previously out-of-reach oil and gas.</p><p>It has also sparked environmental concerns. When well casings fail, for example, fracking fluid &nbsp;and other material<a href="http://phys.org/news/2013-05-fracking-ground.html"> can contaminate groundwater</a>. Drillers recover much of the fluid used in fracking, but some is left deep underground. And in areas stricken by drought,<a href="http://www.reporternews.com/news/2013/jun/16/texas-illinois-fracking-fuels-water-fights-nations/"> the water-intensive process has sparked fights</a> over water use.</p><p>Then there&rsquo;s global warming. Methane, the primary component of natural gas,<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-05/more-methane-epa-reexamines-potency-greenhouse-gas-107148"> is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide</a>, and how much of it leaks into the atmosphere as a result of fracking<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/epa-rolls-back-methane-emissions-natural-gas-106891"> is a topic of heated debate</a>. Many environmentalists argue even if methane leakage is low, the math says<a href="http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/global-warmings-terrifying-new-math-20120719"> we have to start leaving fossil fuels in the ground to avoid catastrophic climate change</a>.</p><p>The drilling industry calls Illinois&rsquo; regulations the toughest in the nation, noting provisions for water quality monitoring and oversight from state environmental agencies. In 2010 Congress ordered the EPA to investigate whether fracking posed risks to drinking water, with results expected in 2014.<a href="http://grist.org/news/epa-delays-fracking-safety-study-until-2016/"> The results of that study were recently delayed until 2016</a>.</p><p><strong>Curious kilowatts</strong></p><p>Drillers<a href="http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/news/us/southern-illinois-counties-seeing-fracking-rush-682303/"> have already leased land in 17 Illinois counties</a> and, according to <a href="http://www.pantagraph.com/news/state-and-regional/illinois/high-volume-fracking-already-underway-in-ill/article_48600bc8-c87c-11e2-9335-001a4bcf887a.html">an Associated Press investigation</a> of state records, at least one company has already attempted high-volume fracking in the state. But the Illinois Oil and Gas Association&rsquo;s Brad Richards said it will likely be at least six months before the first permit is issued.</p><p>&ldquo;Realistically this thing&rsquo;s a year or more out before we see any significant production going to market,&rdquo; Richards said, noting that test wells first need to verify how much oil and gas is actually in Illinois&rsquo; New Albany Shale play. Drilling itself takes time, and pipeline infrastructure would have to be built to transport large quantities of gas.</p><p>Even when they do hit the market, Illinois&rsquo; resources are heavily weighted towards oil, not gas. Gas is very cheap at the moment, Richards said, &ldquo;And these companies wouldn&rsquo;t be here leasing if they believed it were a dry gas play.&rdquo;</p><p>Conventional production in Illinois is almost entirely oil, with very little gas. So especially in the near term, Chicago&rsquo;s natural gas-fired electricity almost certainly isn&rsquo;t coming from downstate.</p><p>Nationally about 40 percent of U.S. natural gas production was from shale formations in 2012, according to Jonathan Cogan of the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That share is growing, so it&rsquo;s likely that at least some of the electricity Integrys buys from natural gas power plants comes ultimately from fracking.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/U.S.%20Energy%20Information%20Administration.png" style="height: 213px; width: 320px; float: left;" title="The natural gas supply, according to U.S. EIA's Annual Energy Outlook 2012, in trillions of cubic feet per year, projected to 2035. Unconventional gas plays a significant and growing role. (U.S. Energy Information Administration)" /></p><p>It&rsquo;s impossible to tell exactly how much fracked natural gas ends up as electricity in Chicago, Integrys&rsquo; Jennifer Block said. The same problem afflicts opponents of particular types of oil.</p><p>&ldquo;People sometimes want to boycott products made from Canadian Oil, for example,&rdquo; said the Illinois Oil and Gas Association&rsquo;s Brad Richards, &ldquo;but once it hits the refinery, oil is oil, baby. The golf balls, the plastic bags, the gas in your tank &mdash; who knows where what came from.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Other options? </strong></p><p>Someone like our Curious Citizen who wants to avoid any connection with fracking could opt-out of the Integrys program altogether without a cancellation fee. Many suppliers offer customers &ldquo;100 percent green&rdquo; options, which generally rely on Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs).</p><p>Essentially renewable energy derivatives, RECs accumulate at any renewable energy power plant that generates electricity. A wind farm in Iowa, for example, could sell its RECs to a city in Illinois looking to offset pollution from a predominantly fossil fuel-fired electricity supplier.</p><p>Consider Evanston. The north suburb&rsquo;s own electricity aggregation deal calls for an audit of the electricity supplier &mdash; at first Constellation, now Verde Energy &mdash; to make sure they are purchasing enough RECs to offset 100 percent of the city&rsquo;s electricity use. According to<a href="https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.icc.illinois.gov%2Fdownloads%2Fpublic%2FIL%20Disclosure%20Label%20June%202013.pdf"> their most recent environmental disclosure statement</a>, Verde&rsquo;s actual electricity still comes mostly from fossil fuels. But Evanston&rsquo;s sustainability coordinator, Catherine Hurley, said RECs move the market nonetheless.</p><p>&ldquo;Wind energy assets run at a very small margin, so the additional revenue stream that RECs offer really does help make the case for developing renewable energy,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;Currently it&rsquo;s the best, easiest and cheapest option for us to take the next step forward.&rdquo;<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ice%20bear%20chris%20bentley.jpg" style="height: 199px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="Outside Evanston's Chandler-Newberger Community Center, the city's newly installed Ice Bear whirs on a hot summer day. The system makes ice to store energy at night, when electricity generation is less expensive, and releases it as the ice melts during the day to cool the building. A pilot project, the Ice Bear is part of Evanston's electricity aggregation deal with energy supplier Verde. (Flickr/Chris Bentley)" /></p><p>Verde&rsquo;s contract with Evanston offsets 100 percent of the city&rsquo;s energy with RECs at a rate lower than competitors.</p><p>&ldquo;The reason to do it is two-fold,&rdquo; said Evanston&rsquo;s mayor, Elizabeth Tisdahl. &ldquo;It saves money and it reduces your carbon footprint. What could be better?&rdquo;</p><p>And no matter what supplier a consumer chooses, there is one universal option to lessen demand for nonrenewable resources.</p><p>&ldquo;One thing consumers can do is use less,&rdquo; said Tom Wolf, of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce. &ldquo;Every kilowatt you don&rsquo;t use is one that doesn&rsquo;t have to be produced.&rdquo;</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/does-electricity-aggregation-do-enough-renewable-energy-106760">RECs may not be the ideal means of encouraging renewable energy deployment</a>, but they are a useful tool for communities like Evanston that aren&rsquo;t near many utility-scale renewable energy power plants. Likewise municipal aggregation itself could give a voice to citizens who want more control over their power supply.</p><p>&ldquo;In 2012 Chicago asked the question of which suppliers can give us coal free electricity,&rdquo; said The Sierra Club&rsquo;s Illinois Chapter Director Jack Darin. &ldquo;In the future Chicago or other cities are free to ask, &lsquo;Who can give us gas-fired power that didn&rsquo;t come from fracking?&rsquo; We&rsquo;re just really at the tip of the iceberg in innovation here &hellip; at the end of the day the demand for all energy starts with us.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Chris Bentley writes about the environment for WBEZ. Follow him</em><a href="http://twitter.com/cementley"><em> @cementley</em></a></p></p> Tue, 02 Jul 2013 16:19:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago%E2%80%99s-energy-deal-%E2%80%98f%E2%80%99-fracking-107932 Jumping jacks high on city budget agenda http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2012-10/jumping-jacks-high-city-budget-agenda-103321 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center; "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" longdesc="" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/2450943054_ef209cde21_z_0.jpg" style="width: 620px; height: 465px; " title="Jumping Jacks prove controversial at city budget hearings(flickr/jaarons)" /></div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image ">The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) has had a busy year. Under the leadership of Commissioner Michelle Boone, the department&#39;s been reorganized, put out the city&rsquo;s first cultural plan in 25 years, and overhauled long-standing festivals like the Taste of Chicago and Gospel Fest.</div><div class="image-insert-image "><br />But when Boone and some members of her Cultural Affairs team made their presentation at Monday&#39;s city budget hearings, many aldermen had something else on their mind: Jumping jacks.<br /><br />Jumping jacks go by many names, including bouncy houses, moon walks or moon bounces. They&#39;re those inflatable houses that kids, well, jump around in at most block and many back yard parties.&nbsp;Last year the Department handed the program off to a private contractor. That has some aldermen, like the 31st ward&#39;s Ray Suarez, concerned.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Suarez asked a series of questions about the new program, including how many jumping jacks the City still owns (75 according to DCASE Chief of Staff David McDermott). At times his&nbsp;tone got a bit testy. McDermott claimed outsourcing had saved the department money, saying the city had spent about $250 per hour running the program while private contractors were managing it for around $70 per hour.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Suarez replied: &quot;The private sector is out to make money. That&#39;s not our mission. Our mission is to provide some service and some enjoyment to the children.&quot;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Commissioner Boone underlined that the new service wasn&#39;t just cheaper but better: &quot;Block parties were only able to have access to the jack for one hour. With the new system, the jack is now on site for four hours.&quot;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Alderman Walter Burnett of the 27th ward thanked Boone for &quot;saving the program,&quot; but also noted there were still some &quot;kinks to be worked out.&quot; And while&nbsp;committee chair Carrie Austin of the 34th ward commended Boone for &quot;doing an outstanding job&quot; she closed the meeting by reiterating that she wanted to know more about the new jumping jacks program, including &quot;the numbers of savings as well as the costs in-house, so that we can transmit that to our constituency.&quot;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">All told, the discussion of jumping jacks took up about a quarter of the entire hour-long presentation. And though a block party amusement may seem like a trivial, side-bar matter, in the larger context the focus on them isn&#39;t surprising. During&nbsp;this round of the hearings, aldermen asked cost-benefit type questions about any number of programs DCASE is running, from the newly re-vamped Taste of Chicago to the neighborhood festivals.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">As with any other city department, as costs for services have gone up, they&#39;re being passed on to residents, whether in the form of new ticketed seating and reserved events within the &quot;free admission&quot; Taste, or new fees for festival organizers (which until last November were waived). 43rd Ward Alderman Michelle Smith welcomed a possible &quot;neighborhood festival association&quot; (one of the initiatives in the new cultural plan) as a tool for keeping the number of festivals to a sustainable level. And outside council chambers, Alderman John Arena of the 45th ward said when it comes to festival fees, he wanted to be sure the money wouldn&#39;t go into the general fund but back into cultural programming.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">But according to an email from DCASE spokesperson Mary May, &quot;DCASE does not collect the revenues generated&quot; from neighborhood festivals. Instead they are &quot;collected and deposited into the city departments permitting the events, such as the Department of Business Affairs, CDOT (Chicago Department of Transportation) or Department of Buildings.&quot;&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">As for the cultural plan itself, after the meeting Commissioner Boone said the next step in the plan was another plan, for implementation. She estimated that should be made public within 100 days.</div></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 22 Oct 2012 15:24:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2012-10/jumping-jacks-high-city-budget-agenda-103321 Weekender passes YOU the torch - Chicago culture! http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2012-07/weekender-passes-you-torch-chicago-culture-101203 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS6072_3973963389_04942e5fcd_z.jpg" style="height: 480px; width: 640px; border-width: 1px; border-style: solid; margin: 10px; " title="2016 Olympics bid announcement, Daley Plaza (flickr/I Bird 2)" />This week and next, Chicagoans get another chance to help plan the city&rsquo;s cultural future. After<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2012-07/chicago-drafts-new-cultural-plan-100914"> recently releasing a draft version of Chicago&rsquo;s first cultural plan since 1986</a>, the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) kicked off four town halls at locations around the city.<br /><br />The plan&rsquo;s gotten some criticism, mainly that it&rsquo;s more laundry list than a tangible set of priorities, with concrete timelines and budgets. But it&rsquo;s also been praised, including by National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Rocco Landesman. On a recent trip to Chicago, he called the plan &ldquo;visionary,&rdquo; saying it should be brought to &ldquo;a hundred different cities in America.&rdquo; Landesman also cited another way in which Chicago&rsquo;s a model. Referencing the plan&rsquo;s proposals to find funds for culture through public-private partnerships and from other government departments, Landesman made it clear that&rsquo;s also the task before the NEA.<br /><br />Some of that inter-governmental cooperation is already playing out locally. At the event with Chairman Landesman, DCASE presented its cultural plan. Then staff from the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), and the Mayor&rsquo;s deputy chief of staff for education talked about ways they could take a piece of various proposals in the plan, through either ongoing or new initiatives in their departments.<br /><br />The message seemed clear - culture is on the agenda of many departments and DCASE is no longer sitting alone in the corner by itself, as was the case at the last city budget hearings, when only a small number of alderman bothered to sit through the DCASE presentation. It also seems significant that the CTA is now hiring art curators, including Elizabeth Kelley who, until recently, was in charge of exhibits and public art at the city.<br /><br />But the message wasn&rsquo;t so much about the power of culture as the power of departmental bottom lines. Gabe Klein talked about CDOT&rsquo;s much bigger budget ($600-800 million compared to DCASE&rsquo;s $30 million), money which could fund cultural programming, whether restoring Chicago&rsquo;s small neighborhood plazas, or in the case of the CTA, incorporating mural projects into CTA station upgrades.<br /><br />Of course intergovernmental largesse means art must be of service, by beautifying the city&rsquo;s streets, or ramping up hotel occupancy rates and tourism levels. And what&rsquo;s wrong with that? Think of the Works Progress Administration, which wove artistic expression into major infrastructure projects. Plus, if you disperse artistic production across departments, maybe you make the arts a bit more impervious to political threats, like the so-called &ldquo;Culture Wars&rdquo; that, among other things, led to the slashing of the NEA&rsquo;s funding in 1996. Or more recently and closer to home, the &ldquo;Cultural Affairs&rdquo; war, when then-Mayor Daley essentially gutted the department that was supposedly a hallmark of his administration&rsquo;s commitment to culture.<br /><br />The NEA&rsquo;s current appropriation is much closer to its high water mark in 1992, and DCASE shows some signs of rebuilding. But our civic commitment to direct, public funding of arts and culture has been deeply diminished. Art now has to work hard for its money. Perhaps we&rsquo;ve always argued that a good play can help reduce violence, but it feels now more than ever that the show only goes on if that case is both bought and sold.<br /><br />If you want to make the case for the value of art and art alone, be sure to attend the next cultural town halls &ndash; there&rsquo;s one Saturday morning on the North Side, at the former Essenay Studios. And the final meeting is Tuesday night, at the Cultural Center. The meeting I attended this past Tuesday at Malcolm X College made it clear there is lots of passion &ndash; and confusion &ndash; around the laundry list of initiatives, on the part of both organizers and participants. Tell the powers that be what you want &ndash; but also make them commit to a coherent plan for culture.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/schaumburg-boomers-logo1.jpg" style="height: 185px; width: 239px; border-width: 1px; border-style: solid; margin: 10px; float: left;" title="" /></div><p><a href="http://www.boomersbaseball.com/"><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>1. Schaumburg Boomers</strong></span></a></p><p>Friday 6:30 p.m.</p><p>You really can be center field at a Frontier League game.</p><p><a href="http://www.boomersbaseball.com/stadium/default/">Boomers Stadium</a></p><p>1999 Springinsguth Road</p><p>Schaumburg, IL</p><p>&nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/baseball_12_landing.jpg" style="height: 167px; width: 240px; border-width: 1px; border-style: solid; margin: 10px; float: left;" title="" /><a href="http://www.blockmuseum.northwestern.edu/view/cinema/rare-baseball-films-the-newsreels.html"><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>2. Rare Baseball Films: The Newsreels</strong></span></a></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Friday 7:30 p.m.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">From Stan Musial&#39;s 3000th to Jackie Robinson at home, some of the people and moments from classic baseball.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://www.blockmuseum.northwestern.edu/view/cinema/index.html">Block Cinema</a></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">40 Arts Circle Drive&nbsp;&nbsp; Evanston, IL</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/triple%20crown.jpg" style="width: 240px; height: 180px; border-width: 1px; border-style: solid; margin: 10px; float: left;" title="" /></div></div><p><a href="http://triplecrownyoyo.com/2012/"><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>3. Triple Crown of YoYo</strong></span></a></p><p>Saturday 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.</p><p>Slingers with strings - watch out! &nbsp;They&#39;ll compete in single, double, and aerial yo yo divisions.</p><p><a href="http://explorechicago.org/city/en/millennium.html">Millennium Park</a></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/2012_2_17_cultural_plan-thumb-640xauto-694744.png" style="width: 240px; height: 180px; border-width: 1px; border-style: solid; margin: 10px; float: left;" title="" /><a href="http://www.chicagoculturalplan2012.com/#587/custom_plain"><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>4. Chicago Cultural Plan Town Hall</strong></span></a></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Saturday 10 a.m. - Noon</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">What&#39;s a weekend without a little civic engagement?</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://www.staugustine.edu/">St. Augustine College</a> - <a href="http://www.staugustine.edu/index.php?src=gendocs&amp;ref=ESSANAY_Studios">Essanay Studios</a></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">1345 W. Argyle Street</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/the-budos-band-photo.jpg" style="height: 152px; width: 240px; border-width: 1px; border-style: solid; margin: 10px; float: left;" title="" /></div></div><p><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong><a href="http://www.thebudos.com/">5. The Budos Band</a></strong></span></p><p>Saturday 10:30 p.m. at <a href="http://subt.net/concerts/5580/0728-the-budos-band/">Subterranean</a></p><p>The gang from Staten Island adds a little Black Sabbath to the mix!</p><p>2011 W. North Avenue</p><p>Sunday 8:30 p.m. at <a href="http://wickerparkfest.com/">Wicker Park Fest</a></p><p>&nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Click&nbsp;<a href="http://itunes.apple.com/podcast/weekender/id469524810" target="_blank">here</a>&nbsp;to subscribe to the&nbsp;<em>Weekender</em>&nbsp;podcast.</p><div>Got any hot weekend tips? Let us know below or email weekender@wbez.org</div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 27 Jul 2012 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2012-07/weekender-passes-you-torch-chicago-culture-101203 Make no small cultural plans http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-02-24/make-no-small-cultural-plans-96704 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-February/2012-02-24/2408912567_e2494c835b.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-24/2408912567_e2494c835b.jpg" style="margin-right: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: left; width: 300px; height: 303px;" title="The downtown Chicago Public Library, home to many special collections. (Flickr/Shawn Econo)">The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) has begun to fulfill Rahm Emmanuel’s campaign promise to draft a comprehensive cultural plan for the City of Chicago. We haven’t had a new one since 1986 when Mayor Harold Washington first established the Dept. of Cultural Affairs and ordered a cultural assessment.</p><p>The public is invited to participate in preparation of the plan—due to be published in the fall—through public forums and <a href="http://www.chicagoculturalplan2012.com">an interactive website</a>.</p><p>OK, so what should a cultural scheme for Chicago include?</p><p>On the one hand, it should obey the dictum attributed to Daniel Burnham to “make no small plans.” Let’s think big. As Danny Thomas used to say (and he knew whereof he spoke), “If you’re gonna’ have a nose, have a NOSE!” Let’s dream, let’s imagine. Let’s propose new cultural entities and facilities, just as long as we have programs first to fill buildings and not empty buildings waiting for programs to utilize them.</p><p>On the other hand, there’s economic reality. Despite the proven importance of arts and culture as a dynamic economic engine for the city (and state), one would be loco to think Chicago will substantially increase the dollars it puts into culture. The city will do everything it can . . . as long as “everything” costs little or nothing or generates revenue.</p><p>Where does that leave a cultural master plan? What should it include? What <em>can</em> it include? My thoughts are no more definitive than anyone else’s, but may be somewhat more informed or enlightened by virtue of my reporting on arts and culture for so many years. What I propose may seem vague, but for starters the City of Chicago Cultural Plan needs to address patrimony, places and partnerships.</p><p>By patrimony—as the United Nations uses the term—I mean the buildings, archives and collections that form the cultural heritage of Chicago. The plan needs to identify these things and catalog them. Some are obvious, such as our architectural heritage, with regard to which the City has a smudged and spotty record, best summed up by saying our aldermen never met a developer they didn’t like. Also obviously, we have significant public and private art collections which should be identified, in part so we can do what we can to keep them in Chicago.</p><div class="inset"><div class="insetContent"><p><span style="font-size:10px;">Listen to the Dueling Critics debate Porchlight's <em>A Catered Affair </em>on <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em></span></p><p><span class="filefield_audio_insert_player" href="/sites/default/files/120224 Onstage Backstage.mp3" id="filefield_audio_insert_player-126376" player="null">120224 Onstage Backstage.mp3</span></p></div></div><p>But some of our patrimony is less obvious. Our cultural archives and records, for example, are haphazard and scattered, with some papers, photos and clippings at the Newberry Library, some at the Chicago Public Library Special Collections, others at the Chicago History Museum or various universities, etc. A cultural plan might make an effort to cross catalog holdings and to establish a central archive for things not yet collected, such as theater reviews and articles that chronicle the rise of Chicago Off-Loop Theater over the last 45-50 years. DCASE and a cultural plan could be the catalysts for inter-agency and inter-institution cooperation.&nbsp;</p><p>By places, I mean the physical facilities at which cultural events can occur. Again, many of these are obvious and already in use but not all of them. For example, several Chicago Park District field houses are utilized for theater, dance and musical performances, but not all the field houses that might be suitable. The cultural plan could engage the Park District in identifying additional locations and, perhaps, finding ways to finance small capital improvements to make more spaces available.</p><p>On another front, several aldermen have assisted performing arts organizations in locating suitable spaces to serve as permanent homes (the most recent example being James Cappleman’s assist in relocating the National Pastime Theater to the Preston Bradley Center), and DCASE itself has brokered such deals. But there isn’t a consistent program or policy to do this sort of thing. Here is another opportunity for DCASE and a cultural plan to serve as catalyst and facilitator at little or no cost.</p><p>Finally, the master cultural document needs to address partnerships, meaning public-private partnerships and naming rights. In the current economic climate, such partnerships are among the few ways that arts and culture might generate an infusion of new dollars. The City and the Park District already have created such partnerships in the development of Millennium Park and in corporate support for the Grant Park Music Festival among other examples. I’ve already used this blog space to promote (twice) the idea that DCASE’s CityArts (sic) Grants program should be underwritten by a corporate sponsor with dollars coming 50-50 from the City and the sponsor.</p><p>There are, of course, numerous other funding possibilities, the most obvious of which are the huge aldermanic slush fund boondoggles known as TIF Districts, which directly siphon off property tax money that <em>should</em> be going to education, the parks and so on. Our City Council never will give up TIFs voluntarily, but they just might mandate that a certain percentage of each TIF be earmarked for arts and culture in support of specifics in the cultural plan or, better yet, in support of arts in education which has all but disappeared from our public schools (which also must be addressed by the cultural plan).</p><p>So there are my ideas for the City of Chicago Cultural Plan. Meanwhile, I have copies of long-deceased magazines and newspapers for which I wrote over the years, and I have my collection of Off-Loop Theater t-shirts and coffee cups all waiting for an appropriate home. Clearly, the Plan’s first recommendation should be a call for the Jonathan Abarbanel Theater Archive, to which my bones can be added not-too-many years from now.&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 24 Feb 2012 16:20:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-02-24/make-no-small-cultural-plans-96704 "Community conversations" to impact City cultural plan http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-11-23/community-conversations-impact-city-cultural-plan-94329 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-November/2011-11-23/Pritzker Pavillion at Night_Flickr_Eric Morner.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-23/Pritzker Pavillion at Night_Flickr_Eric Morner.jpg" style="width: 500px; height: 372px;" title=""></p><p>The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) will conduct “many community conversations” in early 2012 as the department begins the process of crafting a long-term, comprehensive cultural plan for the City of Chicago.</p><p>So writes DCASE Commissioner Michelle T. Boone in a personal reply to my blog post last week about the Department’s CityArts (sic) program. She points out that CityArts itself is a continuing legacy of the first (and only, so far) cultural plan drafted by the City back when Cultural Affairs was a brand-new department under Mayor Harold Washington. The new cultural plan, which DCASE expects to unveil by May, fulfills a campaign pledge of arts-savvy Mayor Rahm Emanuel.</p><p>Commissioner Boone goes on to say that when she accepted her DCASE appointment, CityArts “was one of the programs that most excited me,” calling it a program of “vital importance to the arts and culture community in Chicago.”</p><p>Ms. Boone speaks directly to my suggestion that CityArts might be funded through a public/private partnership which could increase the dollars allotted to it. “It is a program we can grow and you’re right to consider leveraging the City’s current investment,” she writes me. “We need to make the biggest impact we can with the dollars we have available and we plan to research ways to expand the funding pool as widely as possible.”</p><p>She continues, “So, is a public-private partnership the most appropriate vehicle for leveraging the CityArts program? At this point, I don’t know the answer to that question. We’re trying to find a balance between the many fiscal benefits of partnerships, which you outlined in your (blog), and the benefits afforded to an entirely independent City program, some of which have helped CityArts become the truly unique and amazing program it is today.”</p><p>She concludes. “I anticipate that additional ideas for the grants program will emerge from the many community conversations we plan to hold” and that “there is a bright future ahead for the department’s granting efforts and for our overall support of arts and culture in Chicago.”</p><p>Naturally, you can count on Onstage/Backstage to post information on the upcoming community conversations as the schedule becomes available, and to continue tracking the activities and progress of what appears to be a reinvigorated DCASE under Commissioner Boone.</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 23 Nov 2011 17:46:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-11-23/community-conversations-impact-city-cultural-plan-94329 DCASE do-over, part II http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-11-08/dcase-do-over-part-ii-93799 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-November/2011-11-08/5374308504_fe2d28423a.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A spokesperson for the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) contacted me after I wrote <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-11-03/dcase-does-do-over-93712">last week’s blog post</a> to provide some additional information and to correct some inaccuracies.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-08/5374308504_fe2d28423a.jpg" style="margin-left: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: right; width: 300px; height: 400px;" title="The Chicago Cultural Center (Flickr/Marit &amp; Toomas Hinnosaar)">The chief inaccuracy—one which I’ve been guilty of perpetuating—is the notion that the former Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) and the Mayor’s Office of Special Events were merged last autumn in order to protect the jobs of the Special Events staff, which I (and other writers) characterized as political hires. The spokesperson—who commented off-the-record—said that only six of the jobs at Special Events were political hires and the rest—approximately two dozen—were protected positions. As is typical in such situations, the political appointees were in top-ranking positions.</p><p>The DCASE representative also insisted that the decision to merge DCA and Special Events was separate from the decision to outsource day-to-day cultural programming to the Office of Tourism. Indeed, that move was made as a result of a third action in which the Office of Tourism separated from the DCA, of which it was a part, to become an independent and separately-funded entity. This led to the loss of nearly 30 DCA jobs, some being Tourism staffers who kept their jobs but under a different set of books, and others being the DCA’s cultural programmers who were let go.</p><p>The DCASE rep acknowledged that the timing of these moves meant that one action compounded the other, giving the appearance that Special Events staff was displacing DCA staff. The rep also noted that changes were long-contemplated although never publicly discussed (then again, the City rarely offers public discussion about administrative restructuring), and acknowledged that the full ramifications of these actions was not understood, especially the decision to outsource cultural programming to the Office of Tourism. On the other hand, former DCA Commissioner Lois Weisberg made public statements in which she said she had not been consulted about the changes.</p><p>In a minor correction, DCASE last year had only 73 full-time employees vs. the 79 I reported in my column. I got my number from the published City of Chicago budget, but the DCASE spokesperson observed that there had been some staff consolidations after the 2011 budget was published. However, the Department WILL have 79 full-time employees in 2012, thereby adding six jobs even though the DCASE 2012 budget is down 9.5%. Of course, by not renewing its contract with the Office of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, DCASE will be able to finance the new jobs with change left over. Additionally, as I wrote last week, DCASE is consolidating the separate bureaus of Special Events and Cultural Affairs, which will free up an additional 11 positions.</p><p>So, that’s 17 new or reconceived jobs at DCASE and 14 of them will be in a new cultural programming division, or perhaps a reconstituted cultural programming division would be a better way to describe it.</p><p>The shifts may be tough on some of the old DCA employees who were bounced out of jobs a year ago, and then were hired to do essentially the same work at the Office of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, and now will find themselves once again bounced out of their jobs. Of course, they can re-apply to DCASE, which is mounting an open application process to fill the positions, and which hopes to have everyone hired during the first quarter of 2012.</p><p>The contract between DCASE and Tourism was only for one year. To state what may be obvious, it will be better for the Department’s cultural programming, and for Chicago’s arts community, to have planning and execution handled by individuals with long-term job prospects, rather than those dependent on renewal of an annual contract.</p></p> Tue, 08 Nov 2011 16:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-11-08/dcase-do-over-part-ii-93799 DCASE does a do-over http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-11-03/dcase-does-do-over-93712 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-November/2011-11-03/3242438084_4ee4275e63.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Just a year after former Mayor Daley did a gut job on the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) over the strenuous objections of long-time Cultural Commish Lois Weisberg, the new mayor and his new Commish, Michelle T. Boone, are reversing those actions as much as they can.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-03/3242438084_4ee4275e63.jpg" style="margin-right: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: left; width: 356px; height: 475px; " title="Preston Bradley Hall at the Chicago Cultural Center">As first <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/gospel-fest-return-and-move-south-side-93552">reported last week by WBEZ's Lynette Kalsnes</a>, Commissioner Boone revealed in budget hearings that the 2012 plan for her department calls for taking back responsibilities for planning and day-to-day execution of cultural programs, which had been contracted out to the Chicago Office of Tourism (renamed the Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture in recognition of its expanded responsibilities).</p><p>What Boone and Mayor Rahm Emmanuel can’t do, or won’t do, is detach the Special Events function from the department, which has been called the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) since last January in recognition of the forced merger of DCA with the Mayor’s Office of Special Events. It was that merger, dictated by Mayor Daley and rubber-stamped by the City Council without hearings or public scrutiny, which led to the dismissal of 30 DCA employees including the DCA’s program directors for theater, music and visual arts. They were replaced by the Special Events employees, all of whom were political hires reporting to the mayor. Safely ensconced within DCASE, their jobs are protected from political firings.</p><p>The work done by the dismissed DCA staff was taken up by the expanded Office of Tourism and Culture (OTC), which hired several of the dismissed DCA folks, their salaries covered by a service contract between, you guessed it, OTC and DCASE. In robbing Peter to pay Paul, Mayor Daley could claim he was saving money by reducing staff and merging agencies, but it all was smoke and mirrors.</p><p>In any case, the 2012 City of Chicago budget document notes that DCASE “plans to restructure its agreement with the Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture, returning critical functions to City management, including the cultural grants program, cultural performing arts programming in Millennium Park, the Chicago Cultural Center, and visual arts programs.”</p><p>DCASE will have $29.2 million to do it, down not quite 10% from $32.3 million in Fiscal 2011. That amount includes funding for six new positions, according to DCASE spokesperson Karen Vaughan. Even with six new hires, the total DCASE roster of full-time employees will be the same as last year, 79, which means there will be internal consolidation. Indeed, that’s the plan. We’re not sure how it will work, given their different agendas, but moving into 2012 the Department no longer will be split between a Bureau of Special Events and a Bureau of Cultural Affairs. Somehow, Commish Boone is gonna’ make a single entity out of the two bureaus, thereby freeing-up an additional 11 positions for new people with different job descriptions. Of the total of 17 new people, 14 will be in a new arts programming division, reports Vaughan.</p><p>Last year, the lion’s share of DCASE’s budget went to Special Events ($22.5 million) vs. Cultural Affairs ($12.3 million). [Yes, I know that’s more than the $32.3 million reported above for Fiscal 2011, but DCASE received $2.5 in grants in addition to its City appropriation.] Now, with only a single money pot, perhaps DCASE will find clever ways to blur distinctions between Special Events and Cultural Affairs, perhaps to the advantage of the latter.</p><p>According to Vaughan, the changes should be in place by January 1, or very shortly thereafter. The contract between DCASE and OTC was for 12 months.</p><p>The other major item of news coming out of the budget documents is the announcement that DCASE will “start the process of developing a new Cultural Plan for the City” which will “chart a roadmap for Chicago’s cultural and economic growth” in order to enhance “Chicago’s reputation as a destination for creativity, innovation, and the arts.” This fulfills a campaign pledge made by candidate Emmanuel and repeated by him as Mayor-Elect. Chicago’s last cultural plan was drawn up in 1985 under Mayor Harold Washington.</p></p> Thu, 03 Nov 2011 15:06:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-11-03/dcase-does-do-over-93712 Fewer job cuts announced in Illinois http://www.wbez.org/story/fewer-job-cuts-announced-illinois-93695 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-November/2011-11-02/5997470855_2cd4fcc90b.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Companies and government agencies announced a lot fewer job cuts in Illinois last month compared with September. The latest job cuts data come from Challenger, Gray and Christmas, a Chicago company that helps employers manage the process of laying off workers.<br> <br> In October, Challenger, Gray says, about 2,300 job cuts were announced in Illinois, down by more than a third from September. Nationally the number dropped even more – by almost two-thirds - as government agencies and financial companies announced many fewer layoffs.<br> &nbsp;<br> But CEO John Challenger says nationally, as a special congressional committee works to reduce the deficit, more job cuts are likely.<br> <br> "For example, the post office has been talking about a job cut that may be one of the biggest of all time – numbers like 200,000 have been mentioned," Challenger said.<br> <br> In Illinois, the biggest announced job cuts in October came from the cell phone company Motorola Mobility, the city of Chicago, the Jewel supermarket chain and the Chicago Transit Authority, according to Challenger, Gray.</p></p> Wed, 02 Nov 2011 16:56:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/fewer-job-cuts-announced-illinois-93695 Chicago wants Indiana's Cline Avenue Bridge rebuilt http://www.wbez.org/content/chicago-wants-indianas-cline-avenue-bridge-rebuilt <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-October/2011-10-14/RS4407_cline avenue entrance (3)-scr.JPG" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/story/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-14/RS4403_cline%20avenue%20entrance%20%286%29-scr.JPG" style="margin: 10px; float: left; width: 275px; height: 207px;" title="The entrance to the Cline Avenue bridge, closed off in 2009. (Shawn Allee)">Two years ago the state of Indiana closed the Cline Avenue Bridge that runs through northern Lake County.</p><p>It served as a convenient by-pass off the Indiana Toll Road through Hammond and East Chicago, moving traffic quickly to casinos and points south.&nbsp;But structural problems long dogged the bridge and in 2009 the Indiana Department of Transportation abruptly closed it. Crews could start demolition work later this fall.</p><p>Drivers and nearby cities have complained about the bridge's demise because alternate routes clogged commercial and neighborhood streets.</p><p>Turns out, the city of Chicago hasn't liked the Cline closure, either.</p><p>Chicago has a stake in the success of the Gary/Chicago International Airport in Gary. Each year Chicago contributes a few million dollars to support the airport through a compact between the two entities. Gary airport is currently undergoing a $160 million project that involves extending the primary runway.</p><p>"The Chicago Department of Aviation supports the expansion of the Gary-Chicago airport and so it certainly would support the rebuilding of the Cline Avenue Bridge," Karen Pride, spokeswoman for the Department of Aviation for the City of Chicago, told WBEZ on Friday. "Rebuilding the bridge will ensure quick, direct access to the Gary Chicago airport and better access to the airport is critical for its success toward connecting travelers and airlines,"</p><p>The Indiana Department of Transportation is now floating the idea of rebuilding the Cline Avenue bridge as a toll road.</p><p>The toll idea is getting mixed reviews by business owners and residents of Lake County who would likely pay to use a rebuilt bridge.&nbsp;</p><p>Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels has said two companies have expressed interest in rebuilding the bridge, but only as a toll road. He says, minus private investment, the state's price tag to rebuild the bridge may be too steep.</p></p> Sat, 15 Oct 2011 10:50:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/content/chicago-wants-indianas-cline-avenue-bridge-rebuilt