Posts Tagged: chicago

Crisis at the FAA

Overlooked in the agreement reached by Barack Obama and Congress on the debt ceiling is that an entire federal agency — the Federal Aviation Administration — has shut down with Congress on vacation until September. That means, among other issues,  that the agency has no authorization to keep funding projects like the expansion of O’Hare airport in Chicago or, as Nathan Hurst of the Detroit News reports on today, the reconstruction of a taxi way at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

The agency has shut down because of a dispute over how airline workers can unionize and how much subsidies should be provided to rural airports. These are fairly significant issues — but ones that a Congress that cares in the slightest about a functional aviation agency should have been able to solve.



Conventional labor disputes

Chicago's McCormick Place

Even as both private and public sector unions lose power, labor is a powerful force in Chicago. But Illinois politicians — even Democrats who get union contributions — argue that AFL-CIO unions like the carpenters and the teamsters keep the city from seeing millions, maybe billions, of revenue at the McCormick Place convention center. But, like the dispute between Chicago-based Boeing and the machinist union, federal law has so far sided with labor.

Chicago goes to Washington

Paul Merrion of Crain’s Chicago Business breaks down which Chicago companies did the most lobbying in Washington, D.C. during the second quarter. Defense contracting behemoth Boeing unsurprisingly did the most, spending about $4.4 million on lobbying efforts. The Exelon Corp. energy company was second, with $1.6 million.

What the numbers show is that while major companies have a full staff of lobbyists, lobbying expenditures wax and wane depending on whether the company has specific business in Washington. Boeing, for example, spent a lot more on lobbying while trying to procure a $35 billion tanker deal from the Air Force.


Name that loan modification program: government must do more to market mortgage aid

Four years after the housing bubble burst, all levels of government are getting their bearings in addressing the foreclosure crisis. A mix of programs are either being started or revived that might actually address specific payment problems homeowners face.

Illinois announced on Friday that it will use $100 million in federal money to start a Mortgage Resolution Fund, where a public-private partnership will buy “underwater mortgages” — those where delinquent payments are worth more than the mortgage itself — from homeowners in the Chicago area. (more…)

The Scott Walker of Chicago?

Alex Keefe of WBEZ-Chicago Public Radio reports that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel will lay off 625 city workers, “after labor leaders blew a Friday deadline to come up with a list of cost-saving measures in order to avoid pink slips.” Emanuel is dealing with a major municipal deficit and has a legitimate beef with some city workers, who are not making reasonable concessions that would save the city some money. However, Emanuel is the “Scott Walker of Chicago” in who the mayor said he would lay off: city water department call operators, city custodians, seasonal street sweepers.

Exempt from the list are police and fire fighters, even though these professions take up 2/3 of the city’s payroll costs. Like Walker, Emanuel seems to think that police and fire fighters are a more noble kind of public employee than, say, custodians.

ATF under the gun

The New York Times’ Sheryl Gay Stolberg reports on the uncertain future of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which is charged with the “unusual dual mission” of enforcing gun laws and regulating the gun industry. Prominent Republican members of Congress like Darrell Issa and Charles Grassley want to eliminate ATF, which has not had a Senate-confirmed, permanent head for five years. The ATF’s future has major implications for gun sellers and buyers everywhere, particularly in Chicago, which legalized the sale of handguns last year.

Forced out Chicago police head to stay in Chicago

The Associated Press reports that Jody Weis, the former head of the Chicago Police Department, will take a position as a deputy director with the Chicago Crime Commission, a non-profit dedicated to fighting local crime. Weis is a pretty interesting figure. He presided over a steep crime decline in Chicago even as a budget crunch forced the city to take cops off the street. Yet Weis was pushed out of his position because he clashed with rank-and-file police.

A deputy director of a fairly anonymous non-profit seems to be a backward career move. But maybe Weis will emerge as an influential voice in a city where politicians and media are fixated on violent crime.

How will Boeing’s fight with labor play in Chicago?

The Washington Post’s Michael Fletcher and Jia Lynn Yang have a good piece on the politics of the National Labor Relations Board’s lawsuit against Boeing for moving an assembly plant from Washington state to South Carolina. The suit contends that Boeing moved the plant as to not have to deal with unionized workers — South Carolina is a so-called right to work state.

There’s a Chicago angle here, as Boeing is headquartered in the Windy City and Boeing Chief Executive Jim McNerny is head of President Obama’s Export Council. Chicago, on the other hand, is one of the strongest union cities in the country, so it bears watching how local officials here react as anti-labor accusations against one of the city’s largest companies move forward.

Can anyone on board privatize this airport?

Midway airport

Not if a bill proposed by Democratic Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin becomes law, reports Paul Merrion of Crain’s Chicago Business. The legislation, “would make make privatization of Midway Airport and other major transportation assets such as Amtrak far more difficult, if not impossible, by requiring the federal government to be reimbursed for its investment in that infrastructure before a deal could go through.” The legislation appears to be the nail in the coffin for a plan to privatize Midway. But Durbin’s bill could signal a broader push back against the privatization of what are essentially public utilities. (more…)

Safety and surveillance in Chicago: Lights, camera…action?

Among American cities, only New York City has a more extensive network of surveillance cameras in public spaces than Chicago, and the number of cameras here is poised to increase under new mayor Rahm Emanuel. The Chicago Sun-Times Fran Spielman reports that Emanuel will use a $650,000 grant from the Department of Homeland Security to install surveillance cameras near the Board of Trade, Federal Reserve, and AT&T switching center. The cameras keep getting installed with DHS cash even with mixed evidence about whether they deter terrorism or crime.  Chicago’s more than 10,000 public and private surveillance cameras have alternately been a point of pride and consternation. (more…)