Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Fleecing Of Uptown?

A reader writes in:
"Thought you might like to take a look at why we are wasting over $50 million in taxpayer money on a parking facility for a school with declining enrollment and limited success as a college.

Look at the number of full time credit (college ) and the number of AA (Degrees ) in 2006 , 191 out of 5,526 . The ABE/GED/ESL numbers are equally disturbing, 225 out of 5526. I think we are getting fleeced by the administrators who claimed last night that Truman was the largest City College in the city and needs more free parking for the students who attend and don't graduate or move on to higher education."
(click image above to view document)


  1. Perhaps they were trying to toss that fiction out for a reason.

    To justify TIF spending one has to find a good reason.
    1. to cure the blight - we know this has no relation to the blight cited in our TIF study
    2. pass a "but for" service need - but for the TIF improvements this city infrastructure improvement would not have been required, thus we need to spend money on it. (The TIF has been so danged suceessful that enrollment is rising thus we can justify spending money on a parking garage to meet this new TIF caused need.)
    3. Illinois has said in certain circumstances TIF money can also be used for education (students learn from parking garages.)

  2. Well there you go.

    In Uptown Up is Down and Down is Up.

  3. I think this is really an unfair post - we should be focusing on legal and beneficial uses of TIF funds instead of picking on the college. Remember, this is a community college where many are there to fulfill requirements and not get a degree (I did this in order to fulfill basic requirements for an elementary teaching certificate), plus many of them work full time and spread out their classes over several years, have to drop for a while because they can't afford it, change their majors, etc. I'm just saying that sometimes the numbers don't tell the whole story.

    Stay focused on the real issue - the use of the TIF funds. Maybe we should lean on Heather Steans to push for TIF reform, like Suzanne had promised to do if she were elected (which was a big reason why I voted for her).

  4. No matter how much we dig up, no matter what good arguments we make, the fact of the matter is that this is a done deal.

    Helen's condescending tone and her refusal to discuss the TIF aspects of this couldn't been clearer to everyone who attended. Every time anyone asked a substantive question, she stonewalled and redirected the discussion back to soft issues.

    If you want red tulips over yellow...fine we can do that. If you want us to put a sign here or there...fine we can do that. What you can't have, dear taxpayers, is any real input. It is a done deal and although these Truman folks are taking this community meeting seriously, it is wasting my time because we don't need to be here discussing this at all. I've got it in the bag, folks, but if it makes you feel better to dutifully go through the process, *sigh* carry on.

    It is time to stop sitting in chairs patiently waiting to be called on. Get up...ACT UP...get organized or just keep suffering in silence.

  5. Oh I don't think it is at all unfair to point out that the City College President and staff lied to a room full of people. Nor do I think that it is unfair to point out that the alderman was telling the same lies.

    When your city college is not the biggest city college in the city and not growing why say so repeatedly as a justification for the need for $10 million dollars public land, zoning changes, and public support?

  6. Truman College seems to be trying to work with the community on this building. Is it a perfect process? No. We live in a neighborhood shrouded with lies, deceit and personal political agendas, so we don't trust a lot of people.

    Truman did listen to the design concerns raised at the first meeting held last summer. The new design incorporated the parking with a 7 story structure closest to the El. It's only four stories by the residential area.

    How could this process have been improved to include the community?
    The lady in red pointed out many of the lies told to residents about how TIF money would be spent to improve the community for the people that actually live there.

    We're sick and tired of all the broken promises and abuse of our tax money. We're sick of an alderman who looks upon intelligent people asking good questions as "bad apples." We're sick of the blight that evelopes Uptown's streets and say,"As our elected officials and city representatives, do a better job, listen to what we want, or get out."

  7. More parking wouldn't be the end of the world, would it?

  8. Nope. Paying for a it out of local TIF funds would.

    Nope. Doubling already existing ground level parking by stacking it seven storied high would.

  9. How many of the parking spaces are designated for Truman college vs. commuter parking? It seems like a lot more parking for the El than for the college. I would support reasonable parking for those who can't get to the college via El, although I think they should pay (like they do at all other colleges I have been involved with). The whole point of putting the college next to the El tracks was to encourage those who couldn't afford to go to college to attend a city college easily. Therefore Truman College shouldn't require much excess student parking.

  10. I think it's a good thing and I think a lot of posters here would complain about anything positive for Uptown. More parking for commuters, for students/faculity and Cubs fans would be awesome. I bet more food/bars open on Wilson and the whole areas cleans up with this new development.

  11. Hey Anon 2:21...does Helen Shiller hide you in her attic with no food or sunlight only to let you out every few months to look at this blog?

    Sorry to be so nasty but do you even live here? What on earth makes you think that a "development" automatically leads to new businesses and bars when a very nice store down the street was prevented from opening up a sidewalk tea garden?

  12. Hey I do live and own in Uptown. Do you?

  13. Of course I live here. Can't you tell from my utter lack of patience with your comment that I live here?

    I have lived here so long that I really can't understand how there can be anyone left here who could actually 1) think that the people who post on this blog "would complain about anything"; 2)would confuse local residents' interests with the interests of commuter students and Cubs fans and 3)think that redevelopment is something that can happen by natural evolution in Uptown.

    You've got a right to your opinion and under normal circumstances I would just let that be and consider it part of public discourse. However, the Uptown School of hard knocks has taught me to look for the hidden agendas, the backstabbing, the lies, and the double-crosses. If you don't you can get burned pretty badly when the alderman is involved.

    Perhaps people with more patience can lay it all out for you. I just don't have the patience for people who are still drinking the coolade.

  14. Since when does a parking structure bring in more development? Are you for real? That only makes Uptown a destination spot - to park your car and leave!

    Cubs fans are going to hang out in Wrigleyville before and after the game and take the El back up here to get their car. The park and ride concept is the most ignorant part of this plan - besides having all the traffic dump onto Wilson instead of Broadway.

  15. Well, before they get in their cars and leave they'll probably take a piss in Uptown. They will be pleasantly surprised by how much we tolerate that around here.

  16. God, I just wish there can be a positive side to all of these different arguments (most I agree with) but can we somehow see some type of light at the end where some good just might come out of this. I think we ALL know this is a done deal and there's not much we really can do about it. I too was skeptic last night & yet really thought some good that can come out of this. Here's to hope that floats.

  17. Positives:
    -Anything is better than the current parking (on tennis courts??)
    -The new structure really doesn't look half bad.
    -New landscaping could make the campus look a whole lot better.

    -$10 million of our tax dollars for this???
    -Parking dumping onto Wilson (2 lane street) instead of the current Broadway (4 lane street)???
    -Park and Ride???
    -Taxpayers of Uptown have to pay to park so we get screwed twice?
    -Did I mention the $10 million of TIF dollars???

    Yeah, nothing is perfect, but as it is stated time and time again, why should we lay down and accept low standards and no accountability in Uptown? I'm not having it.

  18. Yes. The student center will do all of the positive things for the college that it is intended to do. Additional parking will be extremely convenient for busy students and faculty (many of whom are adjuncts and who are only on campus for a few hours.) In the end, Truman will get a much needed capital improvement. I can have good feelings about that. However, the fact remains that the community that surrounds it is being subject to tyrannical rule in order to let this positive outcome for them happen.

    At some point, however, you've got to draw you line in the sand and say, "This is all I'm gonna take" and start fighting back.

  19. I'm still waiting a year later for Truman to respond to that FOIA request for salaries of their workers. Remember Helen's campaign claim that Truman's workers were so poorly paid that they qualified for the low, lower, and very, very low subsidized housing at Wilson Yards (by Illinois Housing Development Authority Definitions)

    Oh, did Shiller twist the facts and forget to mention that these poor city workers are all the adjunct professors who, like our local police commander, get paid for their full time jobs too?

  20. What amazes me is that while every other alderman looks out for their own constituents, she gives our resources away to everyone else in the city and kicks us in the teeth.

    I guess it is because that is who she needs to rely upon to get elected and get money because no one here who really knows her will give her cash. They fund her, drag in their Evanston lawyers to work the homeless voter loopholes, and she just drops the hate and fear mongering literature in the low income highrises to keep herself in power while Marc Kaplan drags the bodies to the polls (during his govt funded low income law clinic work hours.)

  21. Bridget Byron, where are you? It is time for the Cook County Republicans to start organizing in the 46th ward. Crazier things have happened.

  22. The next aldermanic election is 2 years and 11 months away. Not to soon to start organizing.

  23. A Republican Alderman in Uptown may indeed be just what the Dr. ordered.

  24. Educator wrote: "Maybe we should lean on Heather Steans to push for TIF reform, like Suzanne had promised to do if she were elected (which was a big reason why I voted for her)."

    Thanks for your support. I appreciate it.

    Readers may not know this but Heather did come around on the issue of TIF reform late in the campaign. Given the North Lawndale TIF, the Stean Family Foundation's involvement, and the unfavorable press coverage that it is receiving, I imagine she could be quite eager to get to work on this issue now.

    Commissioner Quigley and his staff are expert on this issue and I'm sure they have draft language ready to go. This could be Heather's first substantive bill and she could file as early as next week.

    Contact Senator Steans at:

    Springfield Office
    (back in session next week):
    218 B Capitol Building
    Springfield, IL 62706
    (217) 782-8492

    District Office:
    5533 North Broadway
    Chicago, Illinois, IL 60640
    (773) 769-1717
    (773) 769-6901 FAX

    Email: heather@heathersteans.com

  25. These comments manage to go way off topic.

    It looks like Truman's aggregate enrollment has decreased (32,000 down to 24,000) over the past few years. The data alone is a much stronger argument against this project than anything else.

  26. "It looks like Truman's aggregate enrollment has decreased (32,000 down to 24,000)"

    If Truman is experiencing an actual decline in enrollment, they need to come up with alternative revenue streams. As some have mentioned before, adult ed/"enrichment" programs are very lucrative for local and community colleges. They have the space and they can hire teachers for peanuts. It is an easy area to move into and because Uptown is so economically depressed in terms of yoga studios, financial advisors, ceramics classes, cooking courses, etc. While for-profit options have emerged in storefronts across the Northside, none have opened up in Uptown.

    I wouldn't go so far as to say that they are purposefully hiding that this is a direction they are moving into, anyone who knows anything about higher ed. administration can guess what they are trying to do. As a taxpaying resident of Uptown, I am none-too-happy that TIF money which was intended for economic developmentis not only being diverted to a non-taxable entity but that the end result of these funds might be to set up offerings that will directly compete with precisely the kind of store-front operations that 1) would broaden/increase the business ownership base and 2) be taxable. As I see it, we lose twice.

  27. In answer to Anonymous’ posting about Truman College’s apparent lack of growth and “limited success:”

    Each year, Truman enrolls more than 22,000 students, making it the 8th largest community college in Illinois. But our students don’t always stick around for their degrees. Many of them leave the moment they earn the credits they need to transfer to a four-year college or university. This, of course, makes it hard for us to show that they have, indeed, finished two years of college here. If we had a category titled “Earned Enough Credit and Took Off” it would be huge.

    As to the seemingly paltry number of GED completers, the number of students in the GED program, about 1,300 a year, is a relatively small percentage (about 10%) of the total number of students enrolled in our Adult Education division, so it’s misleading to say that out of 13,000 students only 200 or so completed the GED program. Additionally, only a small percentage of Adult Basic Education (ABE)/GED students test into the highest levels where you’d find students most likely to pass the official GED exam. Of those, more than 50 percent do pass. That sounds less than stellar, but it’s consistent with results at other City Colleges and at other Chicago institutions offering GED preparation. Many ABE/GED students arrive with learning disabilities and language barriers that keep them from reaching the highest GED levels and passing the exam. Even so, they leave with better literacy and math skills and are better prepared for employment and integration into the community. Adult Education’s larger program, English as a Second Language, does an excellent job of helping students improve language abilities and increase employability skills. It also helps significant numbers of students make a successful transition into the college credit program. It goes without saying that the academic and economic progress of our students ultimately translates (among other things) into more tax revenue for our community.

    It is true that overall enrollment at Truman has slipped, but that is due almost entirely to a population shift in Uptown and throughout the city. Immigrants, who make up nearly all of the Adult Education Program and nearly two-thirds of the college as a whole, are simply not settling nearby in the numbers they used to. And while Adult Education numbers may be lower than ten years ago, College Credit, Continuing Education, and Business and Industry Services continue to grow. For years, the college has been suffering from the lack of adequate classroom space, something the new building will help us address. All Truman College programs are designed for members of the community. Continuing Education creates programs based on the needs of those who live nearby. Business and Industry Services provides top-quality, affordable training programs to companies in the neighborhood. We draw most of our students from within a mile or two of the college. This is your college.

    Thank you.

  28. Thanks for being willing to enter into the Uptown ruckus, Clifton.

    The college has acted respectfully and earnestly and people do appreciate it. While you don't have a right to the $10 million dollars, we know that you believe this building is in the best interests of the college. We hope that you have not taken an easy way out and that you fought hard for money from the City and from the State to cover this capital improvement. That is where the money should have come from with maybe a creative financing scheme to loan a certain amount of money from the revenue generated by the parking.

    But, don't worry too much. You will get your money and the timeline can progress unencumbered. Residents' concerns don't have any force around here.

    But, I do ask one thing. Please agree to host an academic conference on TIFs, economic development and public finance. There are many professors in Chicago who could share their research with the community. If you are interested in serving our educational needs, hosting an academic conference on this topic would help us get educated in order to develop better community-driven solutions to move forward.

  29. Thanks. I'll look into the conference.

  30. Perhaps a conference on principles of urban planning that promotes foot traffic, vibrancy, and meets the needs of people from a diversity of incomes. We'd like to know about options for affordable housing using best practice ideas.

    Some of us are concerned about the Wilson Yard housing that per a report filed by Peter Holsten with IHDA, will be 100% rental & 100% low-income. What would housing experts say about this plan? For that matter, what would experts in urban planning say about the Wilson Yard TIF plan? I would especially be curious to hear their thoughts on the new Aldi that just went up.

  31. I hope the college becomes more successful. I've never taken any classes beyond "traffic offender" there, but it does serve a legitimate need for the whole northeast section of Chicago.

    As the neighborhoods around here change the college will have to change with the times to stay relevant.

    I happen to think the parking garage is probably a good thing; however, I don't think using TIF money to fund it was wise.

    The first use of TIF money here should have been renovating or moving the Wilson EL stop and tying it directly into the college and future retail.

    I do think the college does try to be a good neighbor. In the past the college wanted to fence in their "mall" area, but they were blocked by our disorder loving and disordered alderperson.

    In any case as Helen Shiller would say "it's a done deal" so I hope it turns out well.

  32. But when have we EVER seen one of Ald. Shiller's "done deals" come to fruition?

    It's a phrase she uses to try to stifle opposition and discussion, but I've had yet to see a single one of her "done deals" materialize.

  33. TSN,

    dat is an most excllent point. Evn if I can't seem to spel today. Damn alcohol.

  34. Froma zoning perspective this is forming another GREAT WALL OF UPTOWN. We are already boxed in by two cemeteries. Then Shiller blocked us from the lakefront by giving Leland Avenue to Weiss Hospital forming a solid, impenitrable wall of non-public space from Lawrence down to Wilson.

    The TIF study - from the Dept of Planning's own consultant - stated that Sunnyside should be opened up through the former CTA property to stop the CTA Great Divide formed between Broadway and the area west of the tracks. Loyola crime studies have also indicated that all these dead end and one-way street configurations are crime magents for this exact Uptown area.

    So what do Shiller, City Planners, and the College do. Tear down the Wall? Nope, erect a parking garage to make it longer and taller.

    That is just stupid urban planning and a waste of the percentage of our TIF fund that the Dept of Planning takes as its annual fee for managing it.

    (Oh, you didn't think the Dept of Planning was hosing us for free did you? Heavens no! They pay themselves to do it out of our own TIF funds!)

    The worst crime buildings and according to our own TIF study, the worst buffering is behind that school. This only makes it worse from a zoning public nuisance perspective.