WBEZ | Chicago http://www.wbez.org/tags/chicago Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Black firefighter follows in the footsteps of his father http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/black-firefighter-follows-footsteps-his-father-110019 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/140411 StoryCorps DeKalb Wolcotts (1).JPG" alt="" /><p><p><em>Dekalb Walcott III and Dekalb Walcott Jr. (Photo courtesy of StoryCorps)</em></p><p>For more than three decades Dekalb Walcott Jr was one of the few African Americans in the Chicago Fire Department.</p><p>His son, Dekalb Walcott III, always dreamed of following in his footsteps.</p><p>&quot;A lot of young black people didn&rsquo;t really get the pleasure of growing up with a father,&quot; Dekalb Walcott III said. &quot;You know, I&rsquo;m from Chicago where we had the Bulls back in the &rsquo;90s and Michael Jordan was famous.&nbsp;</p><p>&quot;Everybody wanted to be like Mike, but for me, myself, I wanted Dekalb Walcott Jr. &mdash; that was my Michael Jordan.&rdquo;</p><p>To hear more about their family history and the importance of father figures in the black community, click on the audio above.</p><p><em>Meredith Zielke is a WBEZ producer.&nbsp;</em></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Fplaylists%2F6250422" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Mon, 14 Apr 2014 10:27:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/black-firefighter-follows-footsteps-his-father-110019 Protesters want Obama to end mass deportations http://www.wbez.org/news/protesters-want-obama-end-mass-deportations-109982 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/protest1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>More than 200 people, including groups of children, are staging a two-day march drawing attention to mass deportations of undocumented immigrants. The protesters want the Obama administration to end the practice by executive order.</p><p>The march, which began this morning at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in downtown Chicago before heading west. It is an extension of this past weekend&rsquo;s National Day of Action against deportations.</p><p>As of this month, around 2 million undocumented people have been deported since Barack Obama took office, which is approaching the record set by his predecessor, George W. Bush.</p><p>Immigration reform advocates have shifted their focus recently&nbsp; to putting an emphasis on the number of mass deportations. Previously their priority was pushing for immigration reform legislation. An immigration bill passed the U.S. Senate early last year but has stalled in the House since June).</p><p>&ldquo;Two million (is) too many,&rdquo; says Rosi Carrasco, with Organized Communities Against Deportations. &ldquo;It is possible to stop deportations with the organization, determination, and strength of our community. President Obama can use his executive authority to avoid that detention centers continue to profit from human suffering.&rdquo;</p><p>The Chicago-area protests will continue into tomorrow. Lawrence Benito is executive director of the Illinois Commission for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, and he says the focus on mass deportations highlights the continued frustration he has with Obama -- who he said pledged to pursue immigration reform as an agenda item he would tackle during his second term.</p><p>&ldquo;He promised our communities that passing immigration reform would be a priority,&rdquo; says Benito. &ldquo;Instead he has prioritized enforcement. He can remedy the situation while Congress debates immigration reform, through administrative relief.&rdquo;</p><p>Advocates want the president to take the same approach he did in 2012 when he ended the deportation for so-called &ldquo;Dreamers,&rdquo; young people who were brought into the country with undocumented relatives.&nbsp;</p><p>Marchers began their demonstration at ICE shortly after 10 a.m today. Their route wends through the city, including a stop in the heavily Latino South Side community of Pilsen, before decamping tonight in the western suburbs.</p><p>Tuesday&rsquo;s events are scheduled to start at the Broadview Detention Center. That is where more people are scheduled to take part in civil disobedience protests.</p><p><em>Follow WBEZ Host/Producer Yolanda Perdomo on <a href="https://twitter.com/yolandanews">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://plus.google.com/u/0/106564114685277342468/posts/p/pub">Google+</a></em></p></p> Mon, 07 Apr 2014 12:55:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/protesters-want-obama-end-mass-deportations-109982 CTA facing lawsuits over Blue Line crash http://www.wbez.org/news/cta-facing-lawsuits-over-blue-line-crash-109923 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP661422106797(1)_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-4d56c266-0058-d3dc-b02d-129942eb4a5c">Two women who say they were hurt in Monday&rsquo;s O&rsquo;Hare station train crash have filed lawsuits against the Chicago Transit Authority. Attorneys say there are more lawsuits to come.</p><p>The women both work in O&rsquo;Hare International Airport and were passengers on the CTA Blue Line train that jumped the tracks and plowed up an escalator at the airport station. Both claim they suffered debilitating injuries in the accident, which occurred early Monday morning.<br /><br />Both suits were filed in Cook County court and the plaintiffs demand more than $50,000 in damages.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Related:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/leaked-video-appears-show-blue-line-train-derailment-109917">Leaked video appears to show Blue Line train derailment</a></strong></p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">Jerry Latherow, the attorney for plaintiff Niakesha Thomas, said Thomas was on her way to work at Hudson&rsquo;s News Stand in the airport when the train crashed.</p><p>The lawyer said Thomas cannot walk right now because of her injuries.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;She&rsquo;s a sole bread-winner, she has a 1-year-old baby. She is not going to be able to work, we don&rsquo;t know how long it&rsquo;s going to be before she gets back to work. But she needs to do what she can to protect herself and her baby,&rdquo; Latherow said.</p><p>He said Thomas suffered injuries to her hips and back.</p><p dir="ltr">The lawsuit alleges the crash was caused by a combination of operator error and failures by the CTA to maintain the tracks and train equipment.</p><p>Federal officials say the train operator admitted that she &ldquo;dozed off&quot; before the accident.</p><p dir="ltr">National Transportation Safety Board investigator Ted Turpin said the woman had been working as an operator for about two months and acknowledged she had previously fallen asleep on the job in February, when her train partially missed a station.</p><p>&quot;She did admit that she dozed off prior to entering the station,&quot; Turpin said of the operator during a briefing Wednesday. &quot;She did not awake until the train hit.&quot;</p><p dir="ltr">He said the woman, who was cooperating with the investigation, often worked an erratic schedule, filling in for other CTA employees.</p><p>&quot;Her hours would vary every day,&quot; he said.</p><p dir="ltr">Turpin said the NTSB is investigating the woman&#39;s training, scheduling, and disciplinary history.</p><p>Latherow said it is &ldquo;very alarming&rdquo; that the transit agency allowed someone who had fallen asleep at the helm before to operate another train.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;She&rsquo;d only been working as an &hellip; operator for 60 days &hellip; and here she&rsquo;s fallen asleep what comes out to once a month now,&rdquo; Latherow said. &ldquo;And this is very alarming, and you wonder who is calling the shots? Who is letting somebody like this continue to operate a train, which is deadly?&rdquo;</p><p>Latherow said an aim of the suit is to force change at the CTA -- including altering the agency&rsquo;s hiring policies and fixing the train&rsquo;s braking system.</p><p dir="ltr">A CTA spokeswoman said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.</p><p>The second lawsuit was filed by 23-year-old Dalila Jefferson, a security officer who also was on her way to work at the airport.</p><p dir="ltr">Her attorneys said she was preparing to get off the first car of the train when she was &quot;catapulted forward&quot; as the car jumped the track and came to rest partway up an escalator.</p><p>Attorneys said Jefferson broke her foot and suffered neck and back injuries.</p><p dir="ltr">More than 30 people were hurt during the crash, which occurred around 3 a.m. Monday. None of the injuries was life-threatening.</p><p>Nonetheless, Latherow predicts many more lawsuits. He said his firm is already preparing another suit against the CTA, this one brought by a Transportation Security Administration worker who was hurt on her way to work.</p><p dir="ltr">Turpin said the crash caused about $6 million worth of damage.</p><p><em>Patrick Smith is a WBEZ reporter and producer. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/pksmid" target="_blank">@pksmid</a></em></p></p> Wed, 26 Mar 2014 16:42:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/cta-facing-lawsuits-over-blue-line-crash-109923 In tougher market, taxi drivers sue Chicago cab companies http://www.wbez.org/news/tougher-market-taxi-drivers-sue-chicago-cab-companies-109921 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/taxis.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago cab drivers today added to the frenzy of litigation that has recently besieged the for-hire transportation industry, filing a federal lawsuit against the city&rsquo;s four largest cab companies. They&rsquo;ve enlisted the help of a Boston labor attorney who has had success in arguing that taxi drivers are inappropriately classified as &ldquo;independent contractors,&rdquo; rather than &ldquo;employees&rdquo; of cab companies. The Chicago drivers seek class-action status, and significant back pay.</p><p>&ldquo;You know, I had a guy pull a gun on me the other day,&rdquo; recounted Karen Chamberlain, a longtime Chicago taxi driver and a plaintiff in the case, &ldquo;and I looked at him, I&rsquo;m going, &lsquo;you better shoot me, because I&rsquo;m not in the mood.&rsquo; And he got out.&rdquo;</p><p>Chamberlain laughs at the incident now, but says it&rsquo;s harder to find the comic relief these days in a job that&rsquo;s always had its share of ups and downs.</p><p>&ldquo;I used to work 4-5 days a week, 8-10 hours a day. Now, to make the same amount of money &ndash; and I&rsquo;m not even making as much &ndash; I&rsquo;m working 7 days a week,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;I take three days off a year now. And I&rsquo;m not making the same amount of money. And I&rsquo;m working 10-12 hours a day.&rdquo;</p><p>Amid higher gas prices and a lingering recession, Chamberlain says business has been a struggle. Drivers have not seen an increase in taxi meter rates in eight years, and Chicago voters last week rejected a referendum on the primary ballot to raise fares. But Chamberlain says the city did the most harm when it allowed cab companies to raise lease rates on their vehicles two years ago.</p><p>&ldquo;In 2006 I was paying $450 a week for my taxi. Right now I am paying $752 a week for my cab,&rdquo; Chamberlain said. She also blames newly popular&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cab-livery-companies-sue-city-over-rideshare-companies-109655" id="docs-internal-guid-a50f0055-0050-9da4-cf44-75a347e40a83">&ldquo;ride sharing&rdquo; companies</a>, such as uberX, Lyft and Sidecar, for taking business away from taxis. The companies make smartphone apps that help regular people use their cars for hire.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m sitting there waiting for a fare and some guy with a pink mustache drives up and takes a fare,&rdquo; she said, referring to the fuzzy emblem that Lyft drivers mount on the front of their cars.</p><p>&ldquo;You see cab drivers out there,&rdquo; said Shannon Liss-Riordan, the Boston-based attorney who represents Chamberlain and the other plaintiffs in the lawsuit. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re working around the clock, long, long, long hours for very, very, very little pay. And this system of the drivers being classified as independent contractors really contributes (to the problem).&rdquo;</p><p>Liss-Riordan is fighting a similar case on behalf of Boston taxi drivers, and has had some initial success. Last year she got a judge to freeze the assets of Boston&rsquo;s largest taxi fleet owner. The case isn&rsquo;t over yet, but the court said there&rsquo;s a &ldquo;reasonable likelihood&rdquo; that cab drivers were misclassified.</p><p>She says labor laws in Illinois are similar to those in Massachusetts, which is why she believes her plaintiffs here will have a chance. In the Chicago lawsuit, Liss-Riordan expects the question to come down to whether the cab companies can prove that taxi drivers perform their service outside the companies&rsquo; usual place of business.</p><p>&ldquo;The case law in the driving context establishes that the place of business, if you&rsquo;re a driver, is out on the road,&rdquo; said Liss-Riordan. She does not believe that cab companies will be able to prove that cab drivers perform their work anywhere else. The cab companies named in the lawsuit were not prepared to speak with WBEZ on Wednesday.</p><p>The outcome of the lawsuit is likely many years off, but if the drivers prevail, it could have significant repercussions throughout Chicago&rsquo;s taxi industry. For starters, cab companies would be required to pay back wages for thousands of cab drivers, dating back to ten years, if it&rsquo;s found that drivers earned less than the hourly minimum wage.</p><p>&ldquo;Tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake,&rdquo; said attorney James Zouras, who is working with Liss-Riordan to represent the drivers. It would also mean that cab drivers would be entitled to overtime pay, among other benefits. Zouras said if a court rules that cab drivers are &ldquo;employees,&rdquo; it would also allow them to unionize.</p><p>Gregory McGee, another plaintiff in the case, has tried to organize Chicago cab drivers for nearly twelve years, with little success. He said a win in the courts could finally give many the confidence to unite. Still, he said he laments the extent to which conditions in the industry have already deteriorated.</p><p>&ldquo;I am now 54 years old, I have no savings, and I have had no days off for practical purposes,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;As a matter of fact, I probably have no more than 30 full calendar days off, where I did nothing cab-related, in the almost twelve years now.&rdquo;</p><p>The lawsuit now becomes the second in federal court, where Chicago cab drivers assert that they&rsquo;ve been misclassified. The other,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/cabbie%E2%80%99s-lawsuit-against-chicago-moves-forward-104355" id="docs-internal-guid-a50f0055-0050-f8e7-9a90-ac65802c6419">brought by taxi driver Melissa Callahan</a>, seeks to show that cab drivers should properly be classified as employees of the City of Chicago. Liss-Riordan said she is not concerned about having these two suits progressing simultaneously.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s possible for employees to have multiple employers,&rdquo; she said, &ldquo;So they&rsquo;re not mutually exclusive.&rdquo;</p><p>McGee said if anything, the two suits bolster taxi drivers&rsquo; argument that the industry needs to be restructured. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s how serious the situation is here, folks, that we have not just one class action (lawsuit) in the Northern District Federal Court here in the Seventh Circuit,&rdquo; he said, &ldquo;we have two now, as of today.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef" id="docs-internal-guid-a50f0055-0051-42cc-56fa-d64424314b8e">@oyousef</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 26 Mar 2014 16:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/tougher-market-taxi-drivers-sue-chicago-cab-companies-109921 Tio Hardiman considers write-in campaign for Illinois governor http://www.wbez.org/news/tio-hardiman-considers-write-campaign-illinois-governor-109891 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Tio H from campaign.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Updated 2:02 PM 3/20/2014</strong></p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-fce19a07-dc93-a968-c822-beb681c1e481">Anti-violence activist <a href="http://www.hardimanforillinois.com/">Tio Hardiman</a> says he actually feels pretty good about his loss to incumbent Pat Quinn in Hardiman&rsquo;s first try to become the governor of Illinois.</p><p dir="ltr">Quinn was the expected winner in the primary race Tuesday, but Hardiman says he&rsquo;s proud that he was able to pull in more than 28 percent of the vote.</p><p dir="ltr">But that doesn&rsquo;t mean he was comfortable with the results.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Bottom line - the Democratic machine once again has failed the state,&rdquo; Hardiman said, moments after the results rolled in Tuesday night. &ldquo;And the machine continues to go with failed policies under Governor Quinn.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">And that&rsquo;s why Hardiman is going after a write-in campaign.</p><p dir="ltr">Hardiman says venture capitalist Bruce Rauner, the GOP nominee for governor, is not a good choice for the people of Illinois, and Governor Quinn &ldquo;has too many issues.&rdquo;</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr"><strong>Related: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-rauner-set-clash-illinois-governor-race-109885" target="_blank">Quinn, Rauner set to clash in Illinois governor race</a></strong></p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">So that lead me to ask - how does one become a write-in candidate in Illinois?</p><p dir="ltr">According to Jim Allen, a spokesman for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, the laws have evolved to make sure people don&rsquo;t waste their votes on silly candidates.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We don&rsquo;t have to count ballots cast for screwball names or made up candidate names,&rdquo; Allen said. &ldquo;And there has to be a declaration of intent by the write-in candidate filed with each jurisdiction where they want their ballots counted.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">So that means Daffy Duck or Derrick Rose wouldn&rsquo;t be counted, unless of course they filed ahead of time. But for those who really want to be a write-in, say, for the governor&rsquo;s race in Illinois, Allen says potential candidates would have to notify 109 election authorities - or however many that the candidate expects to get write-in votes for.</p><p dir="ltr">Turns out, people are willing to put in the time for the big national or statewide races.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;They never want to start at alderman, or ward committeeman, or school board member in the suburbs,&rdquo; Allen said. &ldquo;They seem to like to file for the higher profile offices.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Election lawyer Richard K. Means says the election laws are also meant to keep the ballot a reasonable length. But he says in a case like Tio Hardiman&rsquo;s, there&rsquo;s another regulation to be wary of: the &ldquo;Sore Loser&rdquo; law.</p><p dir="ltr">According to Means, <a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/fulltext.asp?DocName=001000050K7-43">Section 7-43</a> of the Illinois Election Code basically says you only get one chance to present yourself to the electorate.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;You can&rsquo;t do what people used to do in Illinois before this law was passed, and that&rsquo;s take a second bite of the apple and run as a member of a third party,&rdquo; Means said.</p><p dir="ltr">Means says that section also means you can&rsquo;t run again as a write-in in the general election after you lost in the primary.</p><p dir="ltr">And turns out, there&#39;s an even more specific <a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/fulltext.asp?DocName=001000050K17-16.1">statute</a> that explicitly states write-in candidacy is a no-go for anyone who already ran and lost in a primary. The law states: &quot;A candidate for whom a nomination paper has been filed as a partisan candidate at a primary election, and who is defeated for his or her nomination at the primary election is ineligible to file a declaration of intent to be a write-in candidate for election in that general or consolidated election.&quot;</p><p>When I took this information to Hardiman, he says his people will continue digging into the details. And if a write-in run doesn&rsquo;t work, he says he&rsquo;s got other plans to stay in the game and represent his supporters: Plans like requesting meetings with Rauner and Quinn to talk state policy, and running someone against Rahm Emanuel in the Chicago mayoral election in 2015.</p><p><em>Lauren Chooljian is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her<a href="http://twitter.com/triciabobeda"> </a><a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian">@laurenchooljian</a></em></p></p> Wed, 19 Mar 2014 17:56:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/tio-hardiman-considers-write-campaign-illinois-governor-109891 Are Chicagoans the toughest big city dwellers in the nation? http://www.wbez.org/news/are-chicagoans-toughest-big-city-dwellers-nation-109816 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/EXTREME WEATHER.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>During this season of multiple polar vortices, we Chicagoans have been told more than once to suck it up. My Canadian and Minnesotan colleagues claim this is &ldquo;no big deal&rdquo; where they come from.</p><p>&ldquo;Welcome to my winter,&rdquo; they scoff, pulling on industrial-sized parkas and marching into the snow.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>I silently endured their scoffing while secretly plotting to prove that we native Chicagoans are not weather wimps at all -- but just the opposite. It&#39;s my contention that while we may not embrace the Inuit lifestyles, Chicagoans have to work and live through more weather extremes than probably anybody.</p><p>And we have the potholes to prove it.</p><p>After surviving this wretched winter, for example, we may face summer temps that exceed 100 degrees for days in a row.</p><p>Certainly, we must get the worst of it on both ends, making us the toughest people in the nation. Right? Probably.</p><p>This would require some reporting.</p><p>Barbara Mayes Bousted, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Omaha, Neb., recently created the <a href="https://ams.confex.com/ams/93Annual/webprogram/Paper218513.html" target="_blank">Accumulated Winter Season Severity Index</a>. Using factors such as temperature and precipitation, it basically measures how miserable winter has been for communities across the country this year and beyond.</p><p>Unfortunately, it is not exactly what is needed, because I am looking for misery on both ends of the temperature spectrum.<br /><br />&ldquo;That&rsquo;s an interesting puzzle to piece together, to figure out the range of extremes all the way from the heat to the cold,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;But the index that I&rsquo;m using doesn&rsquo;t account for how far we go to the other end, the warm side.&rdquo;</p><p>She and colleagues pointed to everyone from scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to scholars to WGN meteorologist Tom Skilling. All were super nice, but none could answer this question of overall toughness.&nbsp;</p><p>Just when the search seemed like it hit a dead end, I stumbled on<a href="http://www.city-data.com/top2/toplists2.html"> Citydata.com.</a> It cranks out all sorts of Top 101 city lists by crunching statistics in a variety of categories. These include lowest average temperature, highest average snowfall, coldest winters and -- YES! -- largest annual temperature differences in cities with populations above 50,000.</p><p>Certainly, Chicago would top this this, right?</p><p>Well, not on the face of it.<br /><br />The list led with Grand Forks in North Dakota, followed by a bunch of towns in that state, Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin. Then finally Illinois, whose most extreme weather town (with over 50,000 people) is Rockford (No. 41), followed by Hoffman Estates (No. 43). Chicago didn&rsquo;t show up til No. 66.</p><p>Why is Hoffman Estates, in the northwest suburbs, so much colder than Chicago? That&rsquo;s a story for another day.</p><p>I decided that this list was crowded up with too many small towns. The target was metropolitan cities whose residents have to venture miles to work or school each day -- no matter what cruel joke Mother Nature served up.</p><p>So I narrowed it to cities with more than 250,000 residents. On this list, Chicago soars to sixth place. Only Minneapolis and its twin city St. Paul, Omaha, Milwaukee, and Kansas City beat us in temperature differences in an average year.</p><p>But how much time do these other urbanites really expose themselves to frosty or broiling transit platforms or street corners to get where they need to go each day?</p><p>The data on public transportation usage showed that only pesky Minneapolis bested us here. It seems that 14.4 percent of them take the bus or trolley to work, while we check in at 13 percent.&nbsp;</p><p>But when we added in the share of people who take the subway or elevated train to work each day, Chicago (at 9.7 percent) pulled ahead.</p><p>It is true that Minneapolis doesn&#39;t really have a subway or el system to help them on that list. &nbsp;But I think we win fair and square.</p><p>Still, some folks from the Twin Cities disagree.</p><p>To Lynette Kalsnes, my fellow WBEZ producer, our winters hardly compare to the those of her Twin Cities youth. &ldquo;I laugh at the very idea,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;I&rsquo;ve been in Chicago for 12 or 13 years and this is the first winter that has approximated anything like Minnesota.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>Still, she acknowledges that our summers are&nbsp; pretty brutal, even though folks in Minneapolis also get hit with high temperatures, copious mosquitoes, and humidity.</p><p>But how can they say they&rsquo;re tough when they have those skyways between buildings.</p><p>&ldquo;You&rsquo;re only using that if you work in downtown Minneapolis to get from your job to get your lunch,&rdquo; Kalsnes parried. &ldquo;But you&rsquo;re outside the rest of the time. It&rsquo;s not like the whole state is a pedestrian mall.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>It&rsquo;s clear that these arguments could go on forever. But as one colleague pointed out, it is a little weird that we would engage in a debate over whose city serves up the most misery.</p><p>And yes, you could look at it that way. Or you could say that these debates really reflect how much we must love our cities in order to endure such extremes.</p><p>You could also say that these extremes make us all the more grateful for good weather.&nbsp;</p><p>As Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges said, &ldquo;I think that no one appreciates a perfect, beautiful, summer, spring, fall, or even winter day more than a Minnesotan.&rdquo;</p><p>Well, we could offer a debate on that, but I think we should &nbsp;just call it a draw. That is because, even though Chicagoans are tough, we&rsquo;re also a very generous people.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the&nbsp;</em><em><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/content/chewing-fat-podcast-louisa-chu-and-monica-eng">Chewing the Fat</a></strong></em><em> podcast. Follow her at&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng">@monicaeng</a> or write to her at&nbsp;</em><em><a href="mailto:meng@wbez.org">meng@wbez.org</a></em></p></p> Wed, 05 Mar 2014 16:11:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/are-chicagoans-toughest-big-city-dwellers-nation-109816 Shadowy lobbyists influence rideshare debate http://www.wbez.org/news/shadowy-lobbyists-influence-rideshare-debate-109770 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Rideshare lawsuit_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The fight over the future of ridesharing in Chicago is increasingly being waged through shadowy lobbyists. This has some aldermen concerned about how that could influence the current regulatory debate.</p><p>At a hearing at City Council&rsquo;s Joint Committee on Transportation and Finance on Monday, some noted that the lobbying activity on the issue appeared different from the usual at City Hall. They said they were disturbed by the apparent emergence of advocates for ride-sharing companies like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar, who have not identified their interests upfront.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m concerned with the amount of lobbyists on this that we won&rsquo;t hear from today,&rdquo; said Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd), after noting that he had been handed an unmarked packet of information on his way into the hearing, with no information about its source. &ldquo;I&rsquo;d like to see all the lobbyists come up and forward on who we&rsquo;re dealing with and what&rsquo;s happening in this controversy here.&rdquo;</p><p>Ridesharing services offer smartphone apps to connect people with cars to people who need rides. Drivers do not have public chauffeur licenses, and they use their personal vehicles. Lately, several cities in the country, including Chicago, have been considering whether, and how, to regulate these services to ensure public safety.</p><p>Earlier this month, city officials offered <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/city-moves-regulate-rideshare-companies-109639" target="_blank">competing proposals</a> on rules for ridesharing. Almost immediately, media outlets (including WBEZ) began receiving phone calls and emails about the issue from a public relations firm that did not immediately identify its ties to the ridesharing industry.</p><p>A Chicago-based communications firm called Resolute Consulting has offered to connect reporters with community-based organizations in neighborhoods such as Little Village, Belmont-Cragin and Pilsen, who support ridesharing services. It did not initially disclose that its client is Uber, one of the technology companies behind a ridesharing app.</p><p>The consulting firm similarly publicized a press conference led by Alderman Joe Moreno (1st) just minutes before Monday&rsquo;s committee hearing on ridesharing rules. Moreno was joined by drivers and passengers of ridesharing services to voice support of &ldquo;reasonable regulations&rdquo; for the technologies.</p><p>&ldquo;Today is, I think, the difference between the Flintstones and the Jetsons,&rdquo; said Moreno. &ldquo;And we&rsquo;re here today to support the Jetsons.&rdquo;</p><p>Moreno said regulating ridesharing services under taxi rules, as proposed in a resolution by Aldermen Anthony Beale (9th) and Ed Burke (14th), would stifle innovation in Chicago. Other supporters at the press conference said they feel safe using ridesharing services, and that driving for these services helps them supplement low incomes.</p><p>They denied that a company had lobbied them to be at the press conference, with Moreno adding that riders, drivers and the industry are organizing on their own around the issue. But reporters were handed unlabeled, white folders containing reports about Uber, copies of letters written to the city on behalf of Uber, and other information highlighting troubles within the city&rsquo;s taxi industry. Resolute Consulting&rsquo;s name is nowhere cited in the packet, though a listed contact&rsquo;s name and number are associated with the company.</p><p>Additionally, all the riders and drivers present at the press conference disclosed, upon being asked, that they were only affiliated with Uber, rather than other ridesharing companies. Afterward, a consultant for Resolute told WBEZ that Uber had put out a request to its members to organize on behalf of limiting city regulations. Alderman Moreno admitted that he had met with an Uber lobbyist, whose name, he said, he could not recall. But he maintained that his advocacy on the issue was motivated by concerns he had heard from constituents who use the service.</p><p>&ldquo;There are lobbyists on both sides of this issue,&rdquo; Moreno offered at the committee hearing, in response to Fioretti&rsquo;s suggestion that ridesharing companies have been surreptitious in their lobbying effort. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not just lobbyists that are on the rideshare side,&rdquo; he added, &ldquo;There&rsquo;s lobbyists that we all know that are on the taxi side of this, as well.&rdquo;</p><p>Interests aligned with the taxi industry have also mounted their own public campaign. In recent weeks, public relations firm Edelman has reached out to the media on behalf of client Taxi Magic, which produces an alternative transportation app. Taxi Magic partners with nine metro area cab companies, including Yellow Cab and Checker. Yellow is among several plaintiffs who recently filed a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cab-livery-companies-sue-city-over-rideshare-companies-109655" target="_blank">federal lawsuit</a> against the City of Chicago, demanding that the city regulate ridesharing apps as it does their industry.</p><p>The coalition of companies behind the lawsuit have also hired former Daley administration lawyer, and City Hall insider, Mara Georges to represent their interests to aldermen in this debate. At Monday&rsquo;s committee hearing, Georges started off testimony by offering evidence to bolster Aldermen Burke and Beale&rsquo;s resolution to treat ridesharing companies the same as taxis.</p><p>In 2014, city data show the industry has four registered lobbyists at City Hall. Among ridesharing companies, Uber has three and Lyft has one. A single lobbyist represents taxi drivers&rsquo; interests.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 25 Feb 2014 17:04:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/shadowy-lobbyists-influence-rideshare-debate-109770 Fit for a princess http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/fit-princess-109750 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/140221_Quinces1.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Much like a wedding, it begins with a beautiful dress. At Andrea&rsquo;s Bridal in Little Village, only three bridal gowns are on display. But there are dozens of dresses, in every color and color combination imaginable, for girls awaiting quinceañera parties&mdash;a &ldquo;sweet fifteen&rdquo; celebrated in many Latino cultures.</p><p>The dresses all have the same silhouette: a small bodice on top that sits on a huge, ruffled, layered bottom, supported by a large hoop skirt. Like something you&rsquo;d see in &ldquo;Gone with the Wind.&rdquo;</p><p>Rocio Aguayo is the director of <em>Quinceanera </em>magazine. She&rsquo;s also staging one of two quinceañera expos taking place this weekend in the Chicago suburbs. Her event is in Hickory Hills, expected to draw around 2,500.</p><p>&ldquo;The quinceañera is basically the coming out, presenting of a young girl to society,&rdquo; Aguayo said. &ldquo;The main idea is she&rsquo;s leaving her childhood and she&rsquo;s entering into womanhood.&rdquo;</p><p>Years ago, a ceremony would have included a dress, professional photography and a blessing at a mass. Maybe a small party.</p><p>Today what is spent on a quinces could easily rival a wedding. Aguayo says the average cost of a quinceañera is between $15,000 and $18,000.</p><p>Families will pay for a banquet hall, dinner, a multi-tiered cake, a big dress, photography. And now choreography. Girls have courts, much like bridesmaids and groomsmen. The girls are damas. The guys chambelanes. And they all have to know how to waltz.</p><p>Lily Garcia runs Magic Movements dance company. She provides choreography lessons for a basic waltz. Lily also has backup male dancers, for girls who do not have chambelanes. A basic waltz package starts at $800. The deluxe package featuring dancers is $2,200.</p><p>&ldquo;Sometimes I cry because it&rsquo;s so pretty,&rdquo; Garcia said. &ldquo;I would not like to take that away because they financially can&rsquo;t afford it. So we do our best to accommodate them.&rdquo;</p><p>She may have to accommodate Laura Delgado, who is on a tight budget. Her daughter Joselyn celebrates her quinces in July. Their limit is $5,000, for the whole event.</p><p>&ldquo;You try to tell your children it might be better to open a bank account with that money,&rdquo; Laura said.</p><p>Joselyn disagrees.</p><p>&ldquo;I want the party,&rdquo; she said with a smile.</p><p>But some believe the giant events overshadow the basics of the tradition, which include a teen receiving a special blessing at a mass. Father Patrick Casey is one of those people. He performs quinceañera masses, but wonders why he bothers.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve had masses where the kids have been very very intense and participating.&nbsp; And then other kids that are absolutely bored,&rdquo; Casey said. &ldquo;Frankly, I would get rid of the quinceañera. But I don&rsquo;t think we can do that because the cultural element of the people.&rdquo;</p><p>While a party may exclude religious components, for Latino families a quinceañera is about passing on a festive tradition. They share the cost with so-called &ldquo;sponsors,&rdquo; a grandmother or an aunt who will pay for a dress, invitations, a cake or other items.</p><p>The night before Kassandra Santamaria&rsquo;s quinces, she and her mother Ingrid thumbed through a photo album of Ingrid&rsquo;s quinceañera. In the kitchen area of their spacious Bolingbrook home, they tear up anticipating the next day&rsquo;s event. It is a party will cost them at least $16,000.</p><p>&ldquo;I just feel so happy. I just thank my mom. I can be so mean sometimes. And I regret it. But I tell her everyday I love her,&rdquo; Kassandra said while crying. Ingrid put her arm around her daughter and assured her.</p><p>&ldquo;This day is going to be really, really special,&quot; Ingrid said. &quot;And I&rsquo;m pretty sure we&rsquo;re all going to have fun.&rdquo;</p><p>The night of the quinceañera was, in a word, peachy. At a Chicago banquet hall, peach-colored ribbons are tied around chairs. Peach napkins are on tables, peach roses sit on a seven-tiered cake. The damas have peach dresses, all to match Kassandra&rsquo;s fluffy peach gown. While waiting for the party to start, guests get their pictures taken on a red carpet.</p><p>Arnold Correa is the night&rsquo;s DJ. He says at least 50 percent of his quinceañera customers pay an extra $375 for the red carpet experience. For the works -- music, lighting, red carpet photography, and emcee services -- Kassandra&rsquo;s parents will pay a little more than $1,300, the wintertime discount.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Everyone wants to make their quinceañera more extravagant. Which is a good thing. For me and the other vendors,&rdquo; Correa said. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s so much revenue coming out of this: boutique shops, cakes, choreographers, DJs.&rdquo;</p><p>That is money, millions of dollars, recirculated within Latino communities throughout the United States. Because most quinces vendors are fellow Latinos.</p><p>But none of that matters to 15-year-old Kassanda. For her, the evening is nothing less than priceless.</p><p><em>Follow WBEZ Host/Producer Yolanda Perdomo on Twitter&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/MikePuenteNews">@yolandanews</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="https://plus.google.com/u/0/106564114685277342468/posts/p/pub" target="_blank">Google+</a></em></p></p> Fri, 21 Feb 2014 11:55:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/fit-princess-109750 How often are cabs pulled over? And what for? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/how-often-are-cabs-pulled-over-and-what-109734 <p><p><a name="video"></a><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="349" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/0zK8vTcqQck?rel=0" width="620"></iframe><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/135672786&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em>Listen to this story on the Curious City podcast, including a debrief with question-asker Dan Monaghan and WBEZ reporter Odette Yousef, at minute 5:53 in the audio above.&nbsp;</em></p><p>Dan Monaghan bikes and drives and walks a lot in Chicago. He sees a lot on the road that irritates him, especially from cab drivers. But he doesn&rsquo;t see them getting pulled over all that often. So he wrote in to Curious City with a pretty simple question:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>How often are taxis pulled over and what is the most often issued offense they receive?</em></p><p>Or at least it seemed simple when we took it on back in August. We figured a simple data request to the right city department would yield a clear-cut conclusion. But nearly a dozen Freedom of Information requests and six months later, here&rsquo;s the answer.</p><p>We don&rsquo;t know.</p><p>(<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Re72di5phM0">cue the crickets</a>)</p><p>But not all is lost. Because what we did learn on this long, strange trip is interesting in its own right. Our investigation afforded us a rare look inside the world of Chicago taxi drivers, and underlines what could be a tough road ahead &ndash; one increasingly <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cabbies-threaten-abandon-uber-over-changes-109625" target="_blank">riddled</a> with <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cab-livery-companies-sue-city-over-rideshare-companies-109655">potholes</a>, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cabbies-threaten-abandon-uber-over-changes-109625" target="_blank">speed</a> <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/silence-medallion-auction-puzzles-some-109546">bumps</a> and yes, the occasional ticket from law enforcement.</p><p>Fasten your seatbelts, and I&#39;ll try to explain.</p><p><strong>The data trail</strong></p><p>The first surprising thing we learned in tackling this question is that there&rsquo;s not one department that contains all the data. The city&rsquo;s Department of Finance has some, the city&rsquo;s Department of Administrative Hearings has some, the city&rsquo;s department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection has some, and the Circuit Court of Cook County has some too. Each of these required separate (and sometimes multiple) data requests.</p><p>In addition, the legal codes that underly the citations don&rsquo;t match up across departments. For example, there is an offense under the <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/bacp/rulesandregs/publicchauffeursrulesregs20121203.pdf">city&rsquo;s rules for taxi drivers</a> called &ldquo;reckless driving&rdquo; (see Rule CH5.08). There&rsquo;s also a part of the state&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs4.asp?DocName=062500050HCh.+11&amp;ActID=1815&amp;ChapterID=49&amp;SeqStart=102800000&amp;SeqEnd=125900000">vehicle code</a> about &ldquo;reckless driving&rdquo; (Sec. 11-503). But these two things aren&rsquo;t necessarily identical &ndash; and they may not match up with what you, or I, might call &ldquo;reckless driving,&rdquo; were we to witness something on the street.</p><p>To put a finer point on it, the data we got back from the Circuit Court showed only ten citations written in 2012 to cab&nbsp;<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/dan and odette.PNG" style="height: 222px; width: 370px; float: right;" title="Dan Monaghan, right, asked Curious City about the most common citations given to cab drivers. WBEZ's Odette Yousef, left, helped answer his question. (WBEZ/Logan Jaffe)" />drivers for &ldquo;reckless driving.&rdquo; But the same data shows 1,433 citations that year for speeding. Some might consider speeding to be reckless driving, but tickets may be written under different parts of the code. Separately, that year the&nbsp;Department of Administrative Hearings shows 996 citations for &ldquo;unsafe driving&rdquo; (which, we&rsquo;ll explain a bit later, may be a vastly underreported figure). But &ldquo;unsafe driving&rdquo; under the city code is quite broad. It may include offenses that, under the state rules, would be filed under &ldquo;reckless driving&rdquo; and speeding.</p><p>This is all to say that even when we do get data, we can&rsquo;t just pool it all together for analysis. The same offenses may be defined differently, depending on whether you&rsquo;re looking at city code or state laws, and even those might not match up with what we, in our own minds, may consider to be dangerous conduct!</p><p><strong>The known knowns</strong></p><p>Most of the violations that taxi drivers get slapped with end up with the City of Chicago, and not with the Circuit Court of Cook County. But let&rsquo;s dwell on the latter violations for a bit, because the vast majority of them are for moving violations. This is likely what Dan was thinking about when he wondered how often taxis are pulled over: how often do police intervene when they see a taxi doing something wrong?</p><p><script id="infogram_0_adjudication-of-taxi-citations-2012" src="//e.infogr.am/js/embed.js" type="text/javascript"></script></p><p>There were more than 7,300 tickets written to taxis that were adjudicated by the Cook County Circuit Court in 2012. They were written out to about 4,300 different vehicles, but when you dig into it, each of those vehicles might have been used by several different drivers over the course of the year. For example, taxi plate 21188TX racked up the highest number of tickets for moving violations adjudicated by the Cook County Circuit Court in 2012 -- thirteen tickets in all. But those tickets were earned by three different people who drove that car.</p><p>Sorting by name doesn&rsquo;t really help either. According to this data, Mohammed Khan received a ton more tickets than anyone else in this data set &ndash; a whopping 27 in one year &ndash; but heavens knows how many Mohammed Khans are driving cabs in Chicago. It&rsquo;s not an uncommon name.</p><p>This makes it difficult for us even to give a range of numbers for taxi drivers who saw tickets. But the City of Chicago has about 7,000 cabs, so the number of times cabs would have been written tickets that headed to the Circuit Court would average out at about once per cab in 2012.</p><p>Here&rsquo;s the thing: not all tickets head to the Circuit Court of Cook County. Police may instead cite a violation of the city code instead, which means the ticket would end up going to the Department of Administrative Hearings. In 2012, that department recorded 996 cases of &ldquo;unsafe driving&rdquo; for taxis. But this does not necessarily mean they all resulted from a police pulling the vehicle over. Some may have. But many may have resulted instead from a 311 call.</p><p>Now, even though Dan asked about how often cabs are &ldquo;pulled over,&rdquo; we took a bit of creative license with his inquiry to find out more broadly what the most common tickets and citation were for cabbies. That is to say, not just tickets that resulted from a cop pulling a cab over, but also ones that may have been issued for parking violations, for example.</p><p><strong>These are things we know that we know</strong></p><p>Parking tickets and red light camera tickets are a big headache for cab drivers in Chicago. The city&rsquo;s Department of Finance tracks this information and provided us with humongous spreadsheets of all those tickets that were written in 2012. Turns out that year, more than 28,000 tickets were written to cab drivers for parking-related violations. This meshed pretty well with what cabbies told us, and helped us unearth a phenomenon we hadn&rsquo;t known of: the so-called &ldquo;fly tickets.&rdquo;</p><p>One driver who explained it to us was Al Smith, who had to file for bankruptcy because of $5,000 in overdue parking tickets alone. Smith noted that over the years, the city has gotten rid of many of its cab stands, eliminating sanctioned places for cabbies to pull into to pick up and drop off passengers. At the same time, Smith contended that the city has become more aggressive in ticketing drivers who pull over in tow zones or other restricted spaces for even brief moments to offload or pick up.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/04.jpg" style="float: left; height: 210px; width: 373px;" title="Cab driver Al Smith, right, filed for bankruptcy because of $5,000 in overdue parking tickets alone. Dan Monaghan, left, started this investigation into cab citations with his question for Curious City. (WBEZ/Logan Jaffe)" />&ldquo;See this corner we just passed here at Union Station?&rdquo; he pointed out, &ldquo;The last space of that cab line is designated a tow zone. But they use it like a weapon.&rdquo; Smith explained that the city assigned a traffic enforcement agent specifically at that space to catch cab drivers who pull into that spot. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re not parked there. We&rsquo;re just processing there,&rdquo; he explained. &ldquo;But if they catch you in that space, they will write you a ticket.&rdquo;</p><p>Many cab drivers complained of similar enforcement, noting that city rules allow cab drivers to pull over in restricted spaces for a few minutes to allow passengers on or off. But often the enforcement officers who write up the tickets do not hand them, in-person, to the drivers. Instead, they are posted in the mail, arriving in drivers&rsquo; mailboxes weeks after the offense allegedly occurred. A driver may have picked up and dropped off hundreds of people in the intervening time, and often cannot even recollect where she or he was at the time of the purported offense.</p><p>Red light camera tickets accounted for nearly 9,000 tickets to taxi drivers in 2012. That generated at least $843,000 dollars for the city (cha-ching!). Interestingly, there were a couple of taxis that were each issued 14 red light camera tickets that year alone. Does that count as reckless driving? Maybe. But with the automated ticketing system, the city no longer relies on police to pull them over.</p><p><script id="infogram_0_top-citations-issues-to-taxi-drivers-2012" src="//e.infogr.am/js/embed.js" type="text/javascript"></script></p><p><strong>There are known unknowns</strong></p><p>Aside from the data held by the Circuit Court of Cook County (mostly moving violations) and the Department of Finance (mostly parking and red light cameras), there is also untold amounts of data at the City of Chicago&rsquo;s Department of Administrative Hearings. This department keeps track of all citations issued under the city&rsquo;s Rules and Regulations for <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/bacp/rulesandregs/publicchauffeursrulesregs20121203.pdf">public chauffeurs</a> and for <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/bacp/publicvehicleinfo/medallionowners/medallionlicenseholderrulesregsf20120626.pdf">medallion owners</a>.</p><p>This is where we ran into problems. Despite having data on citations that were issued under those parts of the city code in 2012, the department is incapable of searching their database in useful ways. We submitted multiple requests for data of the top ten violations for taxi drivers in that year. But the department was unable to do this search, and asked us to specify which violations we wanted to know about. Obviously, this is not very helpful.</p><p>However, somewhat inexplicably, the department was able to tell us that the top two violations were for &ldquo;unsafe driving&rdquo; and &ldquo;discourteous conduct.&rdquo; As mentioned earlier, this department adjudicated fewer than 1000 citations for unsafe driving. However, it handled more than 4,000 citations for discourteous conduct.</p><p>But let&rsquo;s complicate this even more. James Mueller once worked for the city, and helped write many of the rules that still govern Chicago&rsquo;s taxi industry today. After he retired, he briefly used his lawyering skills to help cab drivers fight citations in the city&rsquo;s Administrative Hearings Court. He told us that this experience was revelatory, because often decisions &ndash; on both sides &ndash; were not reached according to what made the roads safer, but for what was more expeditious.</p><p>Mueller specifically saw this happen with cab drivers who came into the court after being cited for reckless driving. &ldquo;And the city will tell them on a reckless driving [charge], I would say probably 9 times out of 10, unless the person has a &nbsp;bad record, &lsquo;if you plead guilty I&rsquo;ll amend the charge from reckless driving to general simple discourteous conduct and offer a relatively low fine,&rsquo;&rdquo; Mueller said.</p><p>Often, the cab driver would take the deal, said Mueller, because the penalty for discourteous conduct is a relatively minor fine. On the other hand, if the driver were to be found guilty of reckless driving, he or she would have to go back to public chauffeur training school, undergo a physical exam and get a drug test. At the worst, this risks his or her license, and at best, results in a loss of income for several weeks while they try to get reinstated.</p><p>&ldquo;So a lot of those reckless driving charges, whether they happened or not, get shifted to general discourtesy,&rdquo; said Mueller. &ldquo;And that way it&rsquo;s more efficient for the city to handle all of those cases, you get all these guilty pleas, you get all of this money coming in, and that&rsquo;s the way it works.&rdquo;</p><p><script id="infogram_0_taxi-complaints-from-311-calls-2012" src="//e.infogr.am/js/embed.js" type="text/javascript"></script></p><p>We asked the city&rsquo;s Department of Administrative Hearings if they could share data on what the original charges, and what the amended charges were for each of the citations in 2012. It could not provide us with that data. So in the end, the information we received about discourteous conduct and unsafe driving from this source may be completely unreliable.</p><p>One thing this could explain, however, is the enormous mismatch between cab complaints called in via 311, and the violations that the city adjudicates. In 2012, the city took about 14,000 calls about taxis. Half of those were to report reckless driving. Fewer than 1,200 were to report a &ldquo;rude&rdquo; cab driver. Less than 5 percent of those 311 calls ended up with a case being filed with the city&rsquo;s Department of Administrative Hearings. It turns out, the vast majority of 311 callers either don&rsquo;t take note of essential details about the cab that irked them (such as its cab number), or they don&rsquo;t follow through with filling out an affidavit of the complaint.</p><p><strong>Finally, there are also unknown unknowns</strong></p><p>On top of the data we requested (and mostly didn&rsquo;t receive) from the Department of Administrative Hearings, there is a whole spectrum of other violations that a cab driver might receive. Typically, these would be for non-moving violations &ndash; things relating to the condition of his or her vehicle, like whether a tail light is out, or whether there are scratches on the vehicle.</p><p>This may not be what Dan was originally getting at in his question, but it became apparent in talking to people that these kinds of infractions can add up to significant cost and inconvenience for both drivers and cab owners. On the flip side of that coin, they also can add up to hefty revenue for the city. Unfortunately, the Department of Administrative Hearings was unable to provide us with any data falling under this section of the municipal code.</p><p><strong>In sum&hellip;</strong></p><p>In sum, it sounds like taxi drivers are hit with tickets more than other drivers are &ndash; whether they be pulled over by a cop, caught by a red light camera, or later receive a &ldquo;fly ticket&rdquo; in the mail. And it&rsquo;s not just city agents that are keeping an eye on them. They&rsquo;re subject to scrutiny by other drivers, bikers, and pedestrians who call 311 and can report violations.</p><p>The industry, too, has some interest in keeping the worst drivers off the road. Responsible taxi affiliation companies keep track of how safe drivers are, because they don&rsquo;t want to foot higher insurance premiums for the unsafe ones.</p><p>&ldquo;We have to be at an ultimate &ndash; or a heightened &ndash; level of awareness a lot of times,&rdquo; said Smith, the cab driver, &ldquo;which is stressful.&rdquo;</p><p>But Dan&rsquo;s question asked for a number &ndash; how many times cabs are pulled over. And unfortunately we couldn&rsquo;t get that for him. Still, we hope this helps lift the veil a bit on the complicated world of taxi rules and code enforcement.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; line-height: inherit; vertical-align: baseline; text-decoration: none; color: rgb(0, 104, 150); outline: 0px;">@oyousef</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; line-height: inherit; vertical-align: baseline; text-decoration: none; color: rgb(0, 104, 150); outline: 0px;">@WBEZoutloud</a></em></p></p> Wed, 19 Feb 2014 11:58:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/how-often-are-cabs-pulled-over-and-what-109734 Can you hear us now? No? Well, here's why http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/can-you-hear-us-now-no-well-heres-why-109727 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/135672786&amp;color=00aabb&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></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/Doug1.JPG" style="height: 300px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="Doug Schenkelberg: Astute radio listener (Courtesy of Schenkelberg)" />Doug Schenkelberg listens to radio all the time, but he recently noticed that he gets static at a particular intersection in downtown Chicago. This prompted him to ask Curious City:</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><em style="text-align: center;">&ldquo;Why does radio reception always go bad at the intersection of Canal and Van Buren Street?&rdquo;</em></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Embarrassingly, the signal Doug has been having trouble with at that corner is none other than WBEZ&rsquo;s and, it turns out, he&rsquo;s not the only <a href="http://curiouscity.wbez.org/questions/1641">listener experiencing trouble near that area</a>. &nbsp;</div><p>For the record, we didn&rsquo;t know the signal in question was ours until we started finding an answer for Doug, but it turns out that the physics that keep FM radio humming &mdash; and create problems &mdash; are shared by public, commercial, and educational broadcasters alike. And, the exercise of tracking down a cause is a reminder that the technology we care about is not always associated with the Internet.</p><p><strong>Some likely suspects</strong></p><p>WBEZ engineer Peter Femal points out that if radio broadcasting technology never existed today and people heard it was possible to &ldquo;build a signal that covers millions of people 50 to 100 miles from one single point,&rdquo; the response would likely be exuberant.</p><p>But maybe radio&rsquo;s overall reliability is partly responsible for its mystery. To straighten things out for Doug, we spoke with broadcast engineers about the obstacles radio signals encounter in cities. Here, we showcase a few common culprits.</p><p><strong>Distance</strong></p><p>Because radio is usually so reliable, the causes of bad reception can seem mysterious. The only exception, maybe, is distance, which is the most common cause.</p><p>Unlike the Internet, which is connected world-wide, radio broadcasts are limited to the signal coverage of their local transmitters and antennas. You probably know this from road trips, which add miles between your car&rsquo;s receiver and your favorite hometown radio station; the farther you travel, the weaker the signal gets and the more static you hear<a name="distance"></a>.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" height="383" scrolling="no" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/radio/distanceSmall/index.html" width="600"></iframe></p><p><em>Turn up your volume and drag in the graphic above (or <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/radio/distance/index.html" target="_blank">open a full-size window</a>) to experience the effect of distance on radio reception. As you get further from a station&rsquo;s broadcast location, the signal will weaken, and you will hear static. If another station is broadcasting on the same frequency in another city, you might begin to pick up their signal as you get close to that city. Note: Interactive graphic works best with <a href="http://https://www.google.com/intl/en/chrome/browser/" target="_blank">Google Chrome</a> or <a href="http://http://www.apple.com/safari/">Safari</a>.</em></p><p>However Doug&rsquo;s problem area at Van Buren and Canal Street is less than two miles away from WBEZ&rsquo;s broadcast tower at the John Hancock Center. In Doug&rsquo;s case, there are more complex issues than distance at work.</p><p><strong>Shadowing</strong></p><p>The simplest, city-based radio problem is called shadowing, which is basically a fancy term for a big building getting in the way.</p><p>&ldquo;If you&rsquo;re in the right shadow of a certain building, our signal might have a hard time coming down into that valley,&rdquo; WBEZ engineer Peter Femal says.</p><p>In Doug&rsquo;s case, there&rsquo;s a mass of skyscrapers between his particular downtown corner and the transmitter at the John Hancock Center. With so many buildings between the Hancock Center and Van Buren &amp; Canal, the shadowing phenomenon means that WBEZ&rsquo;s signal is off to a rough start, and that&rsquo;s before we factor in multipath interference.</p><p><strong>Multipath</strong></p><p>Multipath interference is a bizarre phenomenon, in that it occurs when a radio signal interferes with itself. When a radio station broadcasts a signal, that signal propagates throughout the city, reflecting off of many of the buildings. Even if a signal has a direct path from your radio to the broadcast tower, that signal is also bouncing off the buildings around you. Sometimes a bounced signal and the direct signal hit your antenna together, but the reflected signal travels farther and is a bit delayed.</p><p>John Boehm, a broadcast engineer for Clear Channel, says that sometimes, the delayed signal will be stronger than the direct one. The delay between signal paths results in interference.</p><p>Doug&rsquo;s trouble spot lies in what you might consider an urban canyon; the corner&rsquo;s next to the Chicago River, which is lined with skyscrapers on either side. Radio signals can bounce back and forth from building to building in this canyon, creating prime conditions for multipath interference.<a name="multipath"></a></p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" height="383" scrolling="no" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/radio/shadowSmall/index.html" width="600"></iframe></p><p><em>Turn up your volume and d</em><em>rag around the graphic above (or <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/radio/shadow/index.html" target="_blank">open a full-size window</a>) to experience the effect of shadowing and multipath on radio reception. Shadowing occurs when a building or other obstruction gets between your radio and the signal source. Multipath results when signals reflected off of buildings interfere with the direct signal. Note: Interactive graphic works best with <a href="https://www.google.com/intl/en/chrome/browser/" target="_blank">Google Chrome</a> or <a href="http://www.apple.com/safari/" target="_blank">Safari</a>.</em></p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/WBEZCuriousCityRadio-14.jpg" style="height: 200px; width: 300px; float: left;" title="We listen carefully at the problematic corner. (WBEZ/Shawn Allee)" /><strong>Other radio stations</strong></div><p>The last radio problem that&rsquo;s relevant for Doug and other urban radio fans</p><p>comes from all the other high-powered radio stations in the city. Peter Femal says that radio stations on other frequencies can make things difficult for listeners if &ldquo;they&rsquo;re near another very high power RF [radio frequency] installation. &hellip; Swamping their radio full of other stuff.&rdquo;</p><p>Under these circumstances, Femal says, car radios can get confused. If the radio station that you&rsquo;re trying to listen to has weak reception, some radios will look for the next most powerful signal, even if it is from a completely different radio station on another frequency. The resulting effect can sound like the ghost of another radio station haunting the one you are tuned to.</p><p>Many high-powered radio stations broadcast from the Willis Tower&rsquo;s antennas, which is right next to Doug&rsquo;s corner. The tower&rsquo;s radio signals give a confused car radio lots of other options. During a test conducted in a car parked at Doug&rsquo;s corner, a WBEZ engineer and I could hear Queen&rsquo;s &ldquo;Crazy Little Thing Called Love&rdquo; coming in from a music station &mdash; even when the radio was clearly tuned for WBEZ&rsquo;s signal.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/path%20alternate%20%281%29.jpg" title="The WBEZ signal travels a treacherous path to get to Doug’s corner. Shadowing from downtown’s skyscrapers, multipath from the Chicago river, and other radio stations from the Willis tower, all contribute to bad reception at Van Buren &amp; Canal. (Google Earth)" /></div></div><p>So unfortunately, at the corner of Van Buren and Canal street, it seems like static is coming from all of the above: shadowing from downtown skyscrapers, multipath interference occurring within an urban canyon along the Chicago River, and other radio stations from the Willis Tower&rsquo;s broadcast antennas. With all those issues, unfortunately, there&rsquo;s not much that can be done to improve reception at that corner.&nbsp;</p><p>But, in this day and age, many of us have the option of enjoying our favorite radio programs delivered static free, via podcast. Curious City, ahem, is just one of many available in <a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/curious-city/id568409161" target="_blank">iTunes </a>and <a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/CuriousCityPodcast">Feedburner</a>. &nbsp;</p><p><em>Mickey Capper is a Curious City Intern. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/fmcapper">@fmcapper</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 18 Feb 2014 12:17:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/can-you-hear-us-now-no-well-heres-why-109727