WBEZ | Better Government Association http://www.wbez.org/tags/better-government-association Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Morning Shift: Car-free and gravity-free http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-09-23/morning-shift-car-free-and-gravity-free-108739 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Spacewalker Flickr by Luke Bryant.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Andy and Alden from the Better Government Association give us the nitty gritty on lawsuits and the city. We also hear from a man who&#39;s walked in space-a lot! Retired astronaut Jerry Ross.</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-130923/embed?header=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-130923.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-130923" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: Car-free and gravity-free" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Mon, 23 Sep 2013 08:36:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-09-23/morning-shift-car-free-and-gravity-free-108739 'Afternoon Shift' #190: Sweet shadow http://www.wbez.org/programs/afternoon-shift/2012-11-15/afternoon-shift-190-sweet-shadow-103865 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Walter Payton flickr.jpg" alt="" /><p><script src="http://storify.com/WBEZ/afternoon-shift-190-sweet-shadow.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="http://storify.com/WBEZ/afternoon-shift-190-sweet-shadow" target="_blank">View the story "'Afternoon Shift' #190: Sweet shadow " on Storify</a>]<h1>'Afternoon Shift' #190: Sweet shadow </h1><h2>The Better Government Association boys return to field questions and concerns about local government. 'Curious City' goes all graphic novel on this week's question about neighborhood formation. And Walter Payton's older brother, Eddie, talks about life in Sweetness's shadow.</h2><p>Storified by &middot; Thu, Nov 15 2012 11:12:13</p><div>#Sweetness#WalterPayton#Best#RunningBack#Chicago#Legend#Carlos_Lopez</div><div>Remembering crime reporter Jim Agnew by WBEZRick Kogan remembers &quot;one of the literary scene's unseen and unsung masters.&quot;</div><div>AndyShaw and Alden Loury of the <a href="http://www.bettergov.org/" class="">Better Government Association</a> return to give tipsto, and answer questions from, listeners trying to deal with the complexitiesand oddities of our local governmental bodies.Call 312-923-9239 or join the discussion on Twitter #AfternoonShift<br></div><div>The Better Government Association answers your calls about local government by WBEZAndy Shaw and Alden Loury of the Better Government Association return to give tips to, and answer questions from, listeners trying to dea...</div><div>House Speaker Dennis Hastert used little-known gov't office to conduct private business, costing taxpayers $1.8M. http://www.bettergov.org/blogs/morning_watch/morning_watch_-_november_14/Andy Shaw</div><div>Derrick Smith trial date tentatively set for Oct. 21, 2013Tony Arnold</div><div>Today's 3@3 panel consists of Angela Caputo of The Chicago Reporter and WXRT's Mary Dixon. They talk about an embezzlement case in Mary Dixon's home town...Dixon, IL and the latest round of Michelin ratings. <br></div><div>Our 3@3 panel talks embezzlement and foodies by WBEZToday's 3@3 panel consists of Angela Caputo of The Chicago Reporter and WXRT's Mary Dixon. They talk about an embezzlement case in Mary D...</div><div>U.S. Attorney: Ex-Dixon comptroller to plead guilty todayFormer Dixon Comptroller Rita Crundwell plans to plead guilty Wednesday to a federal fraud charge that alleges she siphoned more than $53...</div><div>Chicago chefs boast Michelin ratingsThe official annoucement won&amp;#39;t come until Wednesday. But Tuesday afternoon, Chicago chefs took to Twitter to brag about their new Mic...</div><div>Chicago is known as a city of neighborhoods. Well one curious citizen wanted to know how, when and why that happened. So the <a href="http://curiouscity.wbez.org" class="">Curious City</a> gang came to the rescue! And this week, they included some comic relief in their sleuthing. <br></div><div>Curious City: What's in a (neighborhood) name? by WBEZChicago is known as a city of neighborhoods. Well one curious citizen wanted to know how, when and why that happened. So the Curious City...</div><div>WBEZ : Curious City : Kathy Has A QuestionFor the best experience please use the latest Chrome, Safari or Firefox browser.</div><div>@WBEZCuriousCity @KatieKlocksin So what’s up with Chicago being the “City of Neighborhoods”? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/question-answered-how-are-chicago-neighborhoods-formed-103831Scott Klocksin</div><div>Man, I love @wbezCuriousCity. Check out this non-fiction comic about #chicago neighborhooods: http://tmblr.co/ZeKaPyXGgsapTricia Bobeda</div><div><p>Walter Payton is arguably themost celebrated and beloved athlete in Chicago sports history. Sweetness’sgreatness was much bigger than his small frame--so too was the shadow he cast.Walter’s older brother, Eddie, shares his own candid account of the life andlegacy of #34 in his new book, <b><i>Walter &amp; Me: Standing in the Shadow ofSweetness</i>.</b></p></div><div>Eddie Payton, Walter's brother, shares story of life in new book by WBEZWalter Payton is arguably the most celebrated and beloved athlete in Chicago sports history. Sweetness's greatness was much bigger than h...</div><div>Eddie Payton's eulogy of his brother, Walter Paytonsweetnessbook</div></noscript></p> Wed, 14 Nov 2012 13:07:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/afternoon-shift/2012-11-15/afternoon-shift-190-sweet-shadow-103865 Cayne Collier: Does Arne Duncan need a parent teacher conference? http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-02-15/cayne-collier-does-arne-duncan-need-parent-teacher-conference-96396 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-February/2012-02-14/3548577209_bc59df9ef0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-14/3548577209_bc59df9ef0.jpg" style="margin-right: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: left; width: 300px; height: 200px; " title="Arne Duncan at a hearing in 2009. (Flickr/House Committee on Education)">Comedian Cayne Collier takes a look at a new investigation by the Better Government Association that reveals that the city is losing money handing out back vacation pay to employees. But according to Collier, these payouts might have a silver lining we're not looking at. Read an excerpt or listen below:</p><p><em>Halfway through the school year, Chicago Public Schools has already made headlines: by announcing a $700 million deficit, by rescinding - in light of the deficit - an expected four percent pay raise to teachers this year, [by engaging in a] drawn out public battle with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who seems like he'd give half a finger from his other hand to make the school days longer.</em></p><p><em>Well now comes this: Late last week, the first report by the Better Government Association's <a href="http://www.bettergov.org/ill-gotten_gains_at_cps_unused_sick_days_pay_off/">Education Watch Series</a>, revealed that since 2006, CPS paid out $265 million for unused sick and vacation days, with the largest chunk, $227 million, going to longtime employees for days accrued over two to three decades. That's a lot of time.</em></p><p><em>The story made national headlines when the report showed that U.S. Secretary of Education and former CEO of Chicago Public Schools Arne Duncan, when leaving for the White House in 2009 after seven years in that position, took with him $50,297 in unused vacation pay by benefit of this policy.</em></p><p><em>Somebody needs a parent teacher conference.</em></p><p><span class="filefield_audio_insert_player" href="/sites/default/files/cayne collier.mp3" id="filefield_audio_insert_player-125739" player="null">cayne collier.mp3</span></p><p><a href="http://thepapermacheteshow.com/" target="_blank">The Paper Machete</a><em>&nbsp;is a weekly live magazine at the Horseshoe in North Center. It's always at 3 p.m., it's always on Saturday, and it's always free. Get all your</em>&nbsp;The Paper Machete Radio Magazine&nbsp;<em>needs filled&nbsp;<a href="http://wbez.org/thepapermachete" target="_blank">here</a>, or download the podcast from iTunes&nbsp;<a href="http://itunes.apple.com/podcast/the-paper-machete-radio-magazine/id450280345" target="_blank">here</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 15 Feb 2012 14:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-02-15/cayne-collier-does-arne-duncan-need-parent-teacher-conference-96396 Should teachers be allowed to bank on unused sick days and vacation time? http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-02-07/should-teachers-be-allowed-bank-unused-sick-days-and-vacation-time-96172 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2012-February/2012-02-07/5335000050_84389ea162.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A new <a href="http://www.bettergov.org/ill-gotten_gains_at_cps_unused_sick_days_pay_off/?categoryid=1">report</a> out from the Better Government Association finds that Chicago Public Schools employees have collected $265 million for unused sick and vacation days since 2006. Bob Reed, Director of Programming and Investigations at the Better Government Association, joined Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey to discuss the findings.</p><p>Then, Northwestern University Law School's <a href="http://www.law.northwestern.edu/faculty/profiles/ZevEigen/" target="_blank">Zev Eigen</a> talked with <em>Eight Forty-Eight </em>about the philosophy behind different sick day policies and took calls from listeners.&nbsp; Eigen specializes in labor and employment issues; he also teaches management and strategy at the Kellogg School of Management.</p></p> Tue, 07 Feb 2012 16:02:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-02-07/should-teachers-be-allowed-bank-unused-sick-days-and-vacation-time-96172 The Mirage: A fake tavern that exposed real corruption, ten bucks at a time http://www.wbez.org/story/mirage-fake-tavern-exposed-real-corruption-ten-bucks-time-95567 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2012-January/2012-01-16/Fire Inspector Payoff.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>As a young reporter at the <em>Chicago Tribune</em> in the early 1970s, Pam Zekman had repeatedly asked her editors to buy her a tavern.&nbsp; Then she went across the street to the <em>Sun-Times</em>, and she found an editor ready to say yes.&nbsp;</p><p>To be clear, Zekman’s desire to open a bar was strictly journalistic.&nbsp; Like lots of other reporters, she got calls all the time from small-business owners who complained about being shaken down for bribes by city inspectors-- day after day after friggin’ day.&nbsp;</p><p>“They were fed up,” she recalls. “They didn’t want to pay these bribes anymore.” Somebody, they said, ought to write a story.</p><p>But she could never, ever get anyone to go on the record. They were all afraid that the city would find a way to get back at them and destroy their business.</p><p>Which, she had to admit, was an understandable fear.&nbsp;</p><p>“We thought about it, and we decided that the only way we could document this was to become the victims.”</p><p>Zekman had a ready partner in the Better Government Association, or BGA, a non-profit that worked with investigative reporters, where Mindy Trossman was a young investigator. &nbsp;</p><p>“And as far as what kind of establishment,” Trossman recalls, “we couldn’t do a dry cleaner. After all, what did we know?&nbsp; We knew how to drink. And make a hot dog.”</p><p>Plus, a bar offered special reporting opportunities because so many inspectors had jurisdiction: health inspectors, liquor inspectors, building inspectors—from both city and state agencies. “And that’s just what we wanted,” Zekman says. “We wanted to test out how widespread this was—not just one agency.”</p><p>Thirty-five years ago, at the very end of 1976, Zekman’s boss found the money to fund the project, and sent her off to shop for a seedy tavern.</p><p>It took months. As Zekman notes, there were a lot of factors: “Is the location good? Where could we hide a photographer? Could we afford them? And were there obvious violations?”</p><p>The place they found, on the corner of Superior and Wells, had plenty of those. Frayed wires dangled everywhere, the bathroom’s plumbing was a bad joke, and both rats and roaches had thriving colonies.&nbsp; The basement’s floor oozed raw sewage—and was crawling with maggots.&nbsp;</p><p>It was perfect. They named it The Mirage and started getting ready to open.</p><p>They had some strict ground rules. Most important, says Zekman, was that they couldn’t actually offer anybody a bribe. “We couldn’t say, how much would it cost me to ignore this?”</p><p>And the inspectors were too savvy to just come out and ask for money. “They’d say things like, I’d like to work with you.”&nbsp;</p><p>Luckily, Zeckman and crew had a guy.</p><p>“Our job became much easier when we hooked up with Mr. Fixit, Phil Barasch,” she recalls. “He was straight from Central Casting.”</p><p>Zekman and the BGA’s director of investigations, Bill Recktenwald, were shopping for saloons—posing as a married couple—when they met Barasch, who represented some bar owners who were looking to sell.</p><p>He let them know, at that first meeting, that they’d want him as their accountant. He offered to help them cheat on their taxes, and to make sure inspectors didn't bother them.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>“We weren’t there for more than a few minutes when he just openly told us that he would tell us how to take care of the inspectors,” Zekman recalls. “And in fact he ended up doing just that, telling us to put ten, twenty, whatever—in cash, in an envelope, and tell them Phil Barasch told me to give this to you.”</p><p>And now it turned out, it wasn’t so hard to work with the inspectors after all. Bill Recktenwald sounds like he kind of enjoyed it.</p><p>“We just acted dumb!” he says. &nbsp;“And the dumber we acted, the more people wanted to tell us how things really operated. A number of them asked us, ‘Are you from Chicago? &nbsp;Don't you understand how things work?’”</p><p>And the inspectors came surprisingly cheap. When an inspector came to visit, whoever was handling the guy “would leave an envelope on the bar--which had a whopping ten dollars in it,” says Jim Frost, a <em>Sun-Times</em> photographer who worked on the story.&nbsp;</p><p>Perched in a loft above the bathroom, shooting through a hole in the wall, Frost got photos of the fire inspector who took his ten bucks without even looking at the exposed electrical wiring.</p><p>The building inspector did look around, took note of a couple of serious issues—then scooped up his fifteen bucks and left without writing up a thing.&nbsp;</p><p>“It was an amazing part to everybody that they would sell out so cheap,” says Frost. “The public safety for ten dollars.”&nbsp;</p><p>Actually, the state liquor inspector held out for fifty bucks. &nbsp;</p><p>And not everybody was on the take.&nbsp; The health inspector gave the Mirage a thumbs-up without going near the funky bathrooms or the filthy basement—but he didn’t take a dime.</p><p>“So, he was incompetent,” says Zekman, “But he didn’t take money.”</p><p>And the story went beyond inspectors: Accountants became a big part of it.&nbsp;</p><p>After all, Mr. Fixit had promised to help them keep a set of phony books for tax purposes, so Zekman and Recktenwald wondered if other accountants would offer the same service.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Boy, did they.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>“Over and over and over again,” says Zekman, “they would say, ‘I can show you how to skim 20 percent, I can show you how to skim 30 percent, 40.’”&nbsp;</p><p>The Mirage hired them all, and ended up keeping several sets of books: One honest set, which they submitted at tax time, and another for each of their crooked accountants.</p><p>Then, after just two months of operations, the Mirage closed—on Halloween.&nbsp;</p><p>“We could not stay in business longer,” says Zekman. “There was concern that people already were getting an idea that we were there."</p><p>Especially because the Mirage staff weren’t the only journalists trying to keep a low profile around the joint. Mike Wallace and a crew from <em>60 Minutes</em> had been visiting the bar on and off even before it opened.&nbsp;</p><p>In fact, had they stayed open much longer, they might well have gotten caught—by the competition.&nbsp;</p><p>Zay Smith, the <em>Sun-Times</em> reporter who wrote up the Mirage saga, says that shortly after the bar closed, the <em>Chicago Tribune</em> assigned a reporter to check out rumors about Zekman’s project.&nbsp; “The assignment was to pub crawl,” he says, “and look for a short redhead behind the bar.”</p><p>After the Mirage closed, the staff didn’t exactly mind going back to their day jobs.</p><p>“There is no glamour in being a day-to-day barmaid,” says Trossman, who didn’t find the hot-dog-making side such a thrill either.&nbsp; “It’s like, ‘I have a masters degree, and, yes, you want what? What do you want on that?'"</p><p>The <em>Sun-Times</em> published the first installment of its Mirage Tavern series on Sunday, January 8, 1978. That evening, after the Super Bowl, the <em>60 Minutes</em> segment aired, including a stunning Mike Wallace interview with Mr. Fixit.</p><p>After Barasch acknowledged that widespread tax fraud in cash businesses was “common knowledge,” Wallace went in for the kill, with a purr:&nbsp; “Look, between you and me,” Wallace said to the accountant, cameras rolling, “you do it.&nbsp; Everybody does it.” Barasch didn’t deny it a bit.&nbsp; (Decades later, Wallace titled his memoir <em>Between You and Me</em> in Mr. Fixit’s honor.)</p><p>The world sat up and noticed.</p><p>“I remember sitting in the BGA office one day,” says Trossman, “and getting a call from London: ‘Hullo, I’d like to talk to you about your pub.’”</p><p>Chicago noticed too. Inspectors were suspended, fired, and chastised. The state department of revenue set up a special bureau to investigate cash businesses—and called it the Mirage Audit Unit.&nbsp;</p><p>Readers responded too—by coming forward with their own stories. “After the story ran, we had to set up a phone bank in the city room,” says <em>Sun-Times</em> photographer Jim Frost. The complaints about shakedowns were the same as ever, he says, “but now people would actually talk.”</p><p>The <em>Sun-Times</em> ran stories from the Mirage investigation for almost a month solid. The paper named names of inspectors and accountants, of contractors who passed along bribes, of a gun-runner who did some business in the bar, and of the people who ran the brothel down the street.&nbsp;</p><p>None of them denied that the stories about them were accurate. (The manager of the brothel did complain, says Zay Smith, that the stories about his business were “too accurate—apparently he thought it was in bad taste.”&nbsp; That is, he didn’t think a family newspaper should print that kind of thing.)</p><p>And none of them—not even Phil Barasch, who had admitted on national TV to committing tax fraud—went to jail.</p><p>But federal investigators did then step on the gas in an ongoing sting operation of their own. A few months after the Mirage stories came out, federal prosecutors indicted a third of the city’s electrical inspectors.&nbsp; Zekman thinks the federal case—and all the federal corruption prosecutions that have followed in its wake—did contribute to a real change in the last few decades.</p><p>“All the public corruption indictments have had an effect,” she says. “Maybe not on governors yet. But I do think that-- not just with low-level inspectors but their supervisors, and their supervisors' supervisors-- that has had an effect.”</p><p>Government by shakedown isn’t over-- just ask William Cellini-- but the ante has gotten considerably higher. (Just ask Tom Rosenberg.)</p><p>A lot of the little fish have been scared away.&nbsp;</p><p>“Does it still go on?” says Zekman. “Yes. Is it as wide-open as it was? I don't think so.”</p><p>[<em>Correction: The original version of this story-- and the audio version still posted here-- placed the Mirage at Superior and Clark instead of Superior and Wells.</em>]</p></p> Mon, 16 Jan 2012 06:26:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/mirage-fake-tavern-exposed-real-corruption-ten-bucks-time-95567 Investigation zeros in on Illinois' community college pension system http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-08/investigation-zeros-illinois-community-college-pension-system-91660 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-September/2011-09-08/Andy_Shaw_BGA.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Another issue hung over the state's head is its pensions; more money was promised than available to distribute. But, a new investigation from the <a href="http://www.bettergov.org/" target="_blank">Better Government Association</a> took a closer look at one group that continued to make out nicely upon retirement. The BGA’s president and CEO<a href="http://www.bettergov.org/about/staff.aspx" target="_blank"> Andy Shaw</a> told <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em> more about the investigation.</p><p><em>Music Button: Ocote Soul Sounds, "Pirata", from the CD Taurus, (ESL)</em></p></p> Thu, 08 Sep 2011 14:02:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-08/investigation-zeros-illinois-community-college-pension-system-91660 How transparent is Emanuel's city hall? http://www.wbez.org/story/how-transparent-emanuels-city-hall-90772 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-August/2011-08-22/RS235_Rham.looking_getty.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>This week, Rahm Emanuel marks his 100th day as Chicago's mayor. This is an artificial milestone - we know - but one Emanuel himself set before taking office, when he laid out some early goals.</p><p>Among the promises: making city hall more transparent than in the past. And there have been changes, but they haven't all been as dramatic as advertised.</p><p><strong>An agenda with a touch of hyperbole</strong></p><p>Emanuel made the promise during the campaign, in December, when he unveiled what he called his "ethics and good government agenda."</p><p>It aimed, Emanuel said, to "bring a level of transparency and accountability to the city government, reestablishing what I think is very important for the public, i.e. the taxpayers, with city government and those who serve in city government, a level of confidence in the way decisions are being made."</p><p>Emanuel was not the only candidate with a transparency agenda. You don't go far in politics by telling voters to "pay no attention" to what's going on behind "the curtain."</p><p>But he reinforced the open government agenda after he was elected, when he released his <a href="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/Chicago%202011%20Transition%20Plan.pdf">transition report</a>, a first-term to-do list. The document said "transparency" seven times, and "transparent" eight times.</p><p>A whole lot of Emanuel's promises relate to making information available online. Information like, as of last week, the city had 3,337 rodent control requests not yet taken care of, or that - on average - residents are waiting 26 days to get new garbage cans.</p><p>These numbers are available on a <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/progs/transparency.html">transparency web page</a> and a "<a href="http://data.cityofchicago.org/">data portal</a>" that Emanuel's been touting, like in this statement, last week:</p><p>"For the first time, we made everybody's salary public. Today we're going to put online everybody's financial disclosure," Emanuel said.</p><p>A bold announcement, to be sure, but not as bold as you might think.</p><p>Salaries - while now on the city's website for the first time - have not been made "public" for the first time. In the past, they could be requested through the Freedom of Information Act. And financial disclosure forms for city employees were already available online; Mayor Daley did that last year.</p><p>Emanuel made his less-than-accurate pronouncement during a discussion hosted by the <a href="http://www.bettergov.org/newsblogsvideo/bga_live.aspx">Better Government Association</a>. It's one of several internet forums he's taken part in. Earlier this summer he participated in a <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxSWhtiQzKU">Facebook town hall</a>, which his administration said allowed him to "engage directly with people across Chicago."</p><p><strong>An at-times tense media relationship</strong></p><p>At least at this point, these new media events don't appear to be replacing the traditional press conferences mayors before him have held. In July, according to his public schedules, Emanuel took questions from reporters at more than a dozen events. And that doesn't include one-on-one interviews he did - though not all went well.</p><p>Emanuel - as I'm sure you know - does not shy from confrontation. Sometimes his responses to reporters’ questions carry more than a hint of condescension, and he will let reporters know when he feels they've crossed the line.</p><p>Last month, Mary Ann Ahern from NBC-5 Chicago pressed Emanuel about where he would send his children to school. With the camera off, <a href="http://www.nbcchicago.com/blogs/ward-room/When-Rahms-Temper-Made-a-Comeback-125919838.html">things got tense</a>, Ahern recalled on WBEZ's <a href="http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-07-25/where-political-and-personal-spheres-public-figures-overlap-89582"><em>Eight Forty-Eight</em></a>.</p><p>"The mayor stood up and I stood up, and he stood about a half an inch from my face, and began pointing at me and yelling at me, and telling me to leave his children alone and how dare I," Ahern said.</p><p>Coincidence or not, a reporter from a rival TV station later that day reported a scoop: that Emanuel's kids would be attending the University of Chicago Lab School.</p><p>Emanuel's press operation is savvy, and at times, a bit too Washington, D.C. for Chicago reporters. Both his communications director and press secretary came from jobs in the Obama Administration.</p><p>Earlier this summer, the Emanuel team planned a "background" briefing - something common in Washington, but not so at City Hall - about last winter's blizzard response, in which no officials could be quoted directly. Reporters complained, and ended up getting their questions answered at an on-the-record press conference immediately following the briefing.</p><p><strong>Aldermanic expectations</strong></p><p>Transparency issues do not only arise from the media. Aldermen during the Daley Administration often complained they weren't getting their questions answered on big issues.&nbsp;</p><p>So when Emanuel provided them information about why he picked a certain company to get a concessions contract at O'Hare, "a lot of aldermen had never seen so many documents before that were dumped out there," Ald. Scott Waguespack said on <a href="http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-08-04/first-100-searching-transparency-city-hall-90112"><em>Eight Forty-Eight</em></a>.</p><p>Waguespack said the Emanuel Administration has, in general, been more open than the Daley one.</p><p>"I think a lot of aldermen kind of looked at that, and said, 'Well, they've spoken to us, they've given us a lot of documents we've never seen before, more transparency than the last 20 years,'" Waguespack said. "But if you're missing the one page that you need, that's not transparency."</p><p>Waguespack claimed he didn't get all the answers he wanted about the O'Hare deal from that pile of documents, so he voted against it. Most of Waguespack's colleagues didn't agree with him. He was one of just three "no" votes.</p><p><strong>A 'junk drawer' of information</strong></p><p>Piles of government documents cover nearly every inch of Tim Novak's office. An investigative reporter for the <em>Chicago Sun-Times</em>, Novak broke open the Hired Truck scandal in 2004 that led to the convictions of nearly 30 city employees.</p><p>This past year, he's <a href="http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/koschman/index.html">written about</a> how the police investigated a fight - involving a nephew of former Mayor Daley - that led to a death. Novak said that after a while, the Daley administration stopped answering his calls and his emails.</p><p>"The only thing they would respond to were [Freedom of Information Act requests]," Novak said.</p><p>He has had better luck with the Emanuel administration. Novak said he's been able to get interviews with police officials he never would've gotten when Daley was in charge.</p><p>"That being said, the police department seems to only respond to us when the mayor's office tells them to," Novak said.</p><p>Novak relies heavily on public documents for his investigations. So I asked him about all the data the Emanuel administration has put in its online "data portal" - lists of city contracts, lobbyist and budget details.</p><p>Novak said he does find the employee information helpful. But, as a whole, he equated the "portal" with "the junk drawer everyone has in their kitchen, where you can open that drawer and Lord knows what you might find in it, but it's not organized in any particular fashion."</p><p>That is not a universal opinion. The Emanuel administration describes the portal as "easy to use." And it is constantly being updated.</p><p>But Novak is a reporter not easily impressed. And here's the underlying issue: Transparency, he said, is a buzz word these days.</p><p>"And governments don't really want to be transparent, in my opinion," Novak said. "If they were transparent, they would put glass on the back room door, so you could see into the back room. They don't really want you to do that."</p><p>And that's one transparency promise Emanuel has not made.</p></p> Mon, 22 Aug 2011 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/how-transparent-emanuels-city-hall-90772 New report looks at the financial implications of wrongful convictions in the state http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-06-20/new-report-looks-financial-implications-wrongful-convictions-state-88052 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-June/2011-06-20/Detective Getty File.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A wrongful conviction is a horrible cost to the person who goes to prison for a crime they did not commit. But they're also a huge burden for taxpayers. That’s according to a new report out from the <a href="http://www.bettergov.org/" target="_blank">Better Government Association</a> and the <a href="http://www.law.northwestern.edu/cwc/" target="_blank">Center on Wrongful Convictions</a>.<br> <br> According to the report <a href="http://www.bettergov.org/investigations/wrongful_convictions_1.aspx" target="_blank">"The High Costs of Wrongful Convictions</a>", at least 85 people in Illinois have been wrongfully convicted of a violent crime over the past two decades. That’s cost taxpayers over $200 million. Meanwhile, the BGA says the people who actually committed these crimes continues their unlawful ways, committing at least 14 murders, 11 sexual assaults and 10 kidnappings.<br> <br> John Conroy is a senior investigator with the Better Government Association, and he joined <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em> to explain more about the findings in the report.<br> <br> <br> <strong>More on wrongful convictions:</strong><br> When Professor Alec Klein took over as director of the Medill Innocence Project, his instincts as a former <em>Washington Post </em>reporter kicked into gear. The Northwestern University professor teamed up with six undergraduate students and a private investigator to examine the case of convicted murderer Donald Watkins. His first-degree murder conviction never sat well with a veteran court reporter from the criminal courthouse at 26<sup>th</sup> and California. Based largely on her expressed concern, Klein and his team poured over public and medical records; they interviewed Watkins, experts, family members and witnesses. After a 10-week investigation, they uncovered information that raises questions about the conviction.<br> <br> <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em> continued its conversation with the Medill Innocence Project, talking with students from the program. Klein was joined by seniors Jared Hoffman, Lara Takenaga, Taylor Soppe and Alex Campbell. Their classmates, seniors Caitlin Kearney and Monica Kim, were unable to participate in the discussion.</p><p><audio class="mejs mediaelement-formatter-identified-1332483524-1" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/sites/default/files/Innocence Web Extra FINAL.mp3">&nbsp;</audio></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 20 Jun 2011 13:45:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-06-20/new-report-looks-financial-implications-wrongful-convictions-state-88052 Does Chicago really need 50 aldermen? http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/does-chicago-really-need-50-aldermen <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/preckwinkle at board_2.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Currently, there are 50 aldermen on city council&mdash;one for each ward. But according to one of &quot;Eight Forty-Eight's&quot; guests Monday, it could be smaller. Emily Miller is a policy and government affairs coordinator with watchdog organization the <a target="_blank" href="http://www.bettergov.org/">Better Government Association</a>. A <a target="_blank" href="http://bgathinktank.wordpress.com/2010/12/10/cutting-size-of-chicago-city-council-bga-analysis-does-the-math/">new analysis</a> from the BGA says downsizing Chicago&rsquo;s city council and consolidating wards could streamline city government and save taxpayers millions. Not so fast, says former alderman <a target="_blank" href="http://www.uic.edu/depts/pols/faculty/dicksimpson.html">Dick Simpson</a>, who currently heads up the University of Illinois at Chicago&rsquo;s department of political science.</p></p> Mon, 24 Jan 2011 14:52:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/does-chicago-really-need-50-aldermen Mayoral candidates grade CPS http://www.wbez.org/story/mayoral-candidates-grade-cps <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/forum.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The handful of mayoral candidates who attended a mayoral forum at Walter Payton College Prep Wednesday night just barely gave public schools a passing grade.</p><p>Former School Board President Gery Chico, City Clerk Miguel Del Valle, former Senator Carol Moseley Braun and State Senator James Meeks agreed schools are not working well.<br /><br />Moderator Andy Shaw of the Better Government Association asked the candidates to grade the Chicago Public Schools. Moseley Braun gave them a D; Chico, a C-minus.<br /><br />Still, said Meeks, public schools have potential: &quot;Everybody up here, we went to Chicago Public Schools, so that means that there was a day that Chicago Public Schools used to work.&quot;</p><p>The candidates agreed that with strong leadership, the schools can again be successful.<br />&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 16 Dec 2010 05:40:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/mayoral-candidates-grade-cps