The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Friday, already?

Today I learned about the Zoot Suit Riots that began 79 years ago today in Los Angeles. Wow, humans suck.

In other revelations:

Finally, it's 22°C and sunny outside, which mitigates against me staying in my office much longer...

Remember those parking meters?

In 2008, Chicago gave up its parking meter revenue for 75 years in exchange for $1.16 billion, which made no sense at the time and got widely criticized by everyone who knows what "Net Present Value" means.

Guess what? The deal still sucks:

In their failed attempt to block Bally’s $1.7 billion River West casino, downtown City Council members warned the deal was being rushed — just like the one that privatized Chicago parking meters — and that it would end up being “even worse” for taxpayers.

That dire prediction is difficult to imagine, considering results of the latest parking meter audit by accounting giant KPMG.

It shows Chicago parking meter revenues nearly back to pre-pandemic levels. After dipping to $91.6 million in 2020, they climbed to $136.2 million last year.

Not a penny of those revenues went to ease the burden on Chicago taxpayers, who had to absorb a $76.5 million increase in the city’s property tax levy after a $94 million hike in real estate taxes the year before.

Factoring in the newly reported figure for 2021, private investors have already extracted $2.1 billion from the deal, in part by refinancing three times. The latest refinancing for $1.2 billion was completed in 2019.

Well, it turns out, if they got $900 million in revenue off a $1.2 billion investment over 14 years, that's an annualized ROI of just 4.1%. It's just that the ROI in the past year was well over 11%, so that 4% number is depressed by the deal's startup costs.

We'll have to see whether they continue making that kind of revenue. But the deal still sucks. We could have upgraded the technology and controlled our own parking destiny for a lot less money, and we'd have all that income now. I mean, if the Council didn't squander it. Ah, ha ha, ha.

Just one or two stories today

Sheesh:

And finally, when I left for San Francisco on Saturday morning, it was 10°C and sunny. Here we are about 76 hours later and it's 30°C. We really don't have spring or fall here some years.

Monday morning round-up

According to my Garmin, I got almost 18 hours of sleep the past two nights, but also according to my Garmin (and my groggy head), few of those hours made a difference. I take some of the blame for that, but on the other hand, someday I want to stay in a hotel room where I can control when the air conditioner turns on and off.

Anyway, while I slept fitfully, these stories passed through my inbox:

And finally, good news for the Brews & Choos Project: Lagunitas plans to re-open their taproom later this year.

Head (and kittens) exploding!

Leading off today's afternoon roundup, The Oatmeal (Matthew Inman) announced today that Netflix has a series in production based on his game Exploding Kittens. The premise: God and Satan come to Earth—in the bodies of cats. And freakin' Tom Ellis is one of the voices, because he's already played one of those parts.

Meanwhile, in reality:

  • A consumers group filed suit against Green Thumb Industries and three other Illinois-based cannabis companies under the Clayton Act, alleging collusion that has driven retail pot prices above $8,800 per kilo. For comparison, the group alleges that retail prices in California are just $660 per kilo. (Disclosure: The Daily Parker is a GTI shareholder.)
  • Illinois Governor JB Pritzker (D), one of the indirect defendants in the pot suit, signed a $46 billion budget for the state that includes $1.8 billion in temporary tax relief. Apparently, I'll get a $50 check from the State that I can apply to the $600 increase in property taxes Cook County imposed this year, which is nice, but I think the state could have aimed a bit lower on the income cap for that rebate and given more help to other people.
  • Shortly after US District Court Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle (a 35-year-old who never tried a case and who graduated summa cum mediocrae laude from the legal powerhouse University of Florida just 8 years ago and earned a rare "not qualified" rating from the ABA upon her appointment in 2020 by the STBXPOTUS) ruled against the CDC in a case brought by an anti-masker, the DOT dropped mask mandates for public transport and air travel in the US. In related news, the Judge also said it's OK to piss in other people's swimming pools and up to the other swimmers not to drink the water.
  • While the Chicago Piping Plovers organization waits for Monty and Rose to return to Montrose Beach, another one of the endangered birds has landed at Rainbow Beach on the South Side. He appears more inclined to rent than buy, but local ornithologists report the bird has a new profile on the Plōvr dating site.
  • NBC breaks down the three biggest factors driving inflation right now, and yes, one of them is president of Russia. None, however, is president of the US.
  • Along those lines, (sane) Republican writer Sarah Longwell, who publishes The Bulwark, found that 68% of Republicans believe the Big Lie that the XPOTUS won the 2020 election, but "the belief that the election was stolen is not a fully formed thought. It’s more of an attitude, or a tribal pose." Makes me proud to be an American!

And finally, via Bruce Schneier, two interesting bits. First, a new paper explains how a bad actor can introduce a backdoor into a machine learning training session to force specific outcomes (explained in plain English by Cory Doctorow). Second, an attacker used a "flash loan" to take over the Beanstalk crypto currency voting system and stole $182 million from it. Because Crypto Is The Future™.

It's 5pm somewhere

Actually, it's 5pm here. And I have a few stories queued up:

Finally, author John Scalzi puts Rogue One in third place on his ranked list of Star Wars films, with some good reasons.

Contradictory transit incentives

Two stories this morning seemed oddly juxtaposed. In good news, the City of Chicago announced plans to spend $15 million on 77 km of new bike and pedestrian trails over the next couple of years:

Several of the projects, including plans to convert an old railroad into a trail in Englewood, are still in the planning and design phases. Others, like Sterling Bay’s planned extension of the 606 Bloomingdale Trail into Lincoln Yards, are set to come to fruition through private partnerships. 

The news release lists 12 projects, including several that had been previously announced, that are set to be funded with a $15 million “commitment to jumpstart” the “key projects citywide.” The $15 million comes from a combination of “federal, state and local sources, including general obligation bonds, Tax Increment Financing, and Open Space Impact Fees,” according to a spokesperson for the city’s planning department.

The City also plans to give away 5,000 bicycles to encourage people to get out of their cars. But at the same time, the City announced it would give away 50,000 gas cards to encourage people not to get out of their cars:

The plan, which comes weeks after possible 2023 mayoral candidate Willie Wilson spearheaded several rounds of free gas giveaways, includes gas cards worth $150 each for as many as 50,000 drivers, and transit cards worth $50 each for as many as 100,000 riders. Wilson on Thursday blasted the mayor’s plan and called it a “political stunt.”

Three-quarters of the transit cards would be prioritized for residents in low-income neighborhoods who use the CTA often. The remainder would be distributed throughout the city.

“It will benefit CTA riders across the city, but especially on the South and West sides,” CTA President Dorval Carter said. “Areas that saw the lowest ridership declines during the pandemic, areas where public transit is the best and sometimes the only option.”

Let's pause for just a moment to give political-stunt-incarnate Willie Wilson a golf clap for calling anything a "political stunt."

I get fretting about gasoline prices if you do what you can to save gas and need your car to survive. But on my trip last week, I got passed by idiots in two-ton SUVs who no doubt complain it costs them $100 to fill their tank.

My little Prius got to and from Kentucky on less than $80 of gas, and even with that trip I've still gotten an average of 2.2 liters per 100 km (156 MPG) so far this year. In fact, the second-worst economy I've ever gotten for a tank of gas in this car was on the return trip from Berea, when I got 5.5 L/100 km (43 MPG) over 610 km (400 miles). Of course, since I got back I've averaged 2 L/100 km (140 MPG).

So maybe if people didn't burn as much gasoline, the city wouldn't feel like giving away gasoline was an option? Just a thought.

Busy couple of days

I've had a lot to do at work the last couple of days, leading to an absolute pile-up of unread press:

Finally, on this day in 1940, Woody Guthrie released "This Land is Your Land," a song even more misunderstood than Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA."

Ah, spring

Winter officially has another week and a half to run, but we got a real taste of spring in all its ridiculousness this week:

Yesterday the temperature got up to 13°C at O'Hare, up from the -10°C we had Monday morning. It's heading down to -11°C overnight, then up to 7°C on Sunday. (Just wait until I post the graph for the entire week.)

Welcome to Chicago in spring.

Elsewhere:

  • Republicans in New York and Illinois have a moan about the redistricting processes in those states that will result in heavily-skewed Democratic legislatures and House delegations, even while acknowledging that we've agreed to put down our gun when they put down theirs.
  • The pillowmonger we all know and love, who rails on about unauthorized, disease-carrying immigrants to our country, got all pissy with Canada when they kicked him out for being an unauthorized, disease-carrying immigrant.
  • The pillowmonger's friend the XPOTUS had a no good, very bad, rotten week that he totally deserved.
  • Voters roundly ejected the president and vice president (plus another divisive member) of the San Francisco School Board that the Editor in Chief of Mother Jones says was for incompetence, not politics.
  • Alaska Airlines has a new subscription deal for California that could become more common with other carriers if it takes off.

Finally, if you're in Chicago and want to hear a free Apollo Chorus concert tonight, leave a note in the comments. We perform at Harris Theater at 8pm.

Mid-afternoon roundup

Before heading into three Zoom meetings that will round out my day, I have a minute to flip through these:

  • US Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) made a bold grab for the Dumbest Person in Congress award yesterday when she warned OAN viewers about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's "gazpacho police." Let the memes begin.
  • The Economist has an update to the Democratic Freedoms Map, and things do not look good—unless you live in Norway.
  • Along similar lines, WBEZ reports on the Urban Institute's findings that Cook County, Illinois, which contains Chicago, has some extraordinary wealth gaps.
  • 99% Invisible explains how the "future" office historically looks a lot like the past.
  • Arthur C Brooks advises singles to look for complementary, rather than similar, characteristics in potential mates.
  • The Pullman House Project here in Chicago will soon offer tours of the Thomas Dunbar House in the Pullman National Historic Site.

Finally, Tesla has some impressive software in its cars, but it still has a few (very frightening) bugs.