Thursday, April 19, 2012

Who Do You Trust?

In a recent press interview, Chicago's Mayor Rahm Emanuel was quoted as saying "I'm not in the position of analysis. I'm in the position of getting things done." His words were in response to ongoing criticism of the Public-Private Trust that Emanuel hopes to establish in Chicago to pay for upgrades to city infrastructure.

Details remain sketchy on this trust, but its basic premise seems to be that the city would put an infrastructure project out to bid (such as bridge repair) and a private company would then pay for all construction associated with that public asset. After the parking meter debacle under the previous mayor, Emanuel was clear in his assertion that the city would continue to own the infrastructure. Less clear, however, is what the private company will receive to make the project worth their while. It might be as innocuous as naming rights and advertising space or as obnoxious as paying a toll or extra tax to cross a city bridge or use a city water main.

Alderman have asked for more time to consider this deal and Emanuel gave it to them today, another six days to consider his proposal prior to voting. This approach was different (at least in degree) from former Mayor Daley who was known for ramming projects through the city council in a very short period of time. The parking meter deal received less than a day's review. It was not, however, different in kind. Emanuel made it clear today that his deal will get through whether the aldermen like it or not. He stated that "I believe we'll pass it overwhelmingly. I am not going for a unanimous vote. I am going for passage and we will, in a significant way, pass it."

What seems to concern the council most is the non-profit organization, made up primarily of Chicago businessmen, who would run this trust and manage its projects. Their actions, taken on behalf of the city, would be exempt from oversight by the city's Inspector General and would also not be subject to Freedom of Information (FOIA) requests. For all intents and purposes, a shadow agency would be set up to run alongside the city's already existing departments tasked with the building and maintenance of public works. Alderman such as John Arena from the 45th Ward are demanding greater city oversight of the trust.

But Alderman Ricardo Munoz (22nd Ward) remains unconvinced that this trust is necessary. His is one of the few voices in city government to raise the important question of how this system will significantly differ from the traditional approach of raising municipal bonds to pay for these projects, which could still be built by private contractors.

I find myself in agreement with Munoz and would simply add to his comments the observation that what Emanuel is proposing sounds like the municipal version of a payday loan. Were this trust to go through, as it probably will, interest rates to pay the private company back for its services will likely be astronomical. Far higher than the rates of repayment from a traditional bond sale.

It also comes dangerously close to the outright privatization of city assets, which judging from the incomplete details of this Public-Private Trust must surely be the next step in Il Duce's (a.k.a. "the Rahmfather's) plan. Remember after all that Rahm in his role as President Obama's Chief of Staff referred to Liberals as "fucking retards."

Since many of us voted for you Rahm (for the record I voted for Del Valle), perhaps we are, but you need to remember that we can also vote you out. We can't, however, vote out of power a private company charged with managing city assets. Think about that Chicagoans and call your alderman to voice your concern. Now is the time for action before it's too late.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Too Good For The Hall of Fame?

In the news this week is a report that Guns and Roses lead singer Axl Rose will not be attending the induction ceremony for his band this Saturday at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.  He also requested that no one induct him in absentia at the ceremony saying in his letter "no one is authorized nor may anyone be permitted to accept any induction for me or speak on my behalf."

Numerous commentators have already speculated on Axl's motivation for not attending the ceremony.  The most explicable reason for the decision would seem to be his on going feud with his former band mates: Slash, Izzy Stradlin, Duff McKagan, and Steven Adler.  Axl Rose has continued to claim sole ownership of the Guns and Roses name and brand after they split in 1996.  He toured with a completely different group of musicians in 2001 as he began a tour associated with the long-awaited and highly disappointing album Chinese Democracy that debuted in 2008.

Another possibility is that Axl is simply doing this as a publicity stunt.  After all, the only other band to decline Hall of Fame membership were the Punk Rock gods The Sex Pistols.  Oi!  And let's face it, Axl's brand isn't as hot in 2012 as it was in 1994.  A lot of rock fans have been born since the mid-1990s.  Many of them more familiar with Green Day than G'NR.

Of course, we could also take Axl's letter at face value and see this as one more volley in his career-long battle with music producers.  He says at one point "For more than a decade and a half we've endured the double standards, the greed of this industry and the ever present seemingly limitless supply of wannabes and unscrupulous, irresponsible media types. Not to imply anything in this particular circumstance, but from my perspective in regard to both the Hall and a reunion, the ball's never been in our court."

As I listen to the song "Get in the Ring" on a mix tape from the 90's, my money is on all three explanations for Axl's recent emergence into the spotlight.

Oh, Axl.  If only you'd stick to singing, but then you wouldn't be the crazy-brilliant MF'er we've come to know and love.  Of course, in order to be crazy-brilliant you have to deliver the goods and recent concerts and albums suggest that now might be a good time to fade into Rock and Roll history rather than staying in the headlines.