Michelle Fennessy, Viaduct Activist, Sullivan Supporter Honored
The UIC Flames basketball game today will take time out to recognize the work of Michelle Fennesy, the University Village community organizer, Ph.D. and registered nurse who has been at the forefront of addressing the public health problem of filthy viaducts on Halsted St.
If there’s one thing that characterizes an activist who’s a Maureen Sullivan supporter, it’s that they don’t wait around for someone else to do a good thing in the neighborhood. Instead, they get on the case — and they get WOW-level results for their neighbors.
Take the problem of filthy and dangerous viaducts in our community. Community activist, PhD. and registered nurse Dr. Michelle Fennessy of University Village lives near the unhealthy eyesore where Halsted St. passes under railroad tracks owned by the BNSF Railway.
She pushed and pushed Alderman Balcer for a fix and got nowhere.
Other suggestions came along the lines of getting an unrelated corporation to fund the viaduct. Patrick Daley Thompson suggested that Google be contacted to sponsor the property and its cleanup.
“What about the tax money I already paid for this purpose?” thought Michelle (and everybody else who hears these kinds of classic answers that push privatization.)
And she took to Twitter. You can follow her here.
You won’t believe the results she got.
TRAIN EXECUTIVE GETS ON A PLANE
A major problem with viaducts is the fact that the city and the railroads that run over them both believe the other is responsible for the upkeep of the walkway and throughway. Michelle had seen this finger pointing between the city and the BNSF Railroad for a long time.
So she did some research. And she found out that BNSF railroad is owned by none other than billionaire investor Warren Buffett.
So she tweeted him. And he responded, sending BNSF’s Director of Public Affairs from his office in Texas to fly to Chicago to inspect the viaduct along with the company’s Supervisor of Chicago structures.
The viaduct cleanup is underway now. Results!
FENNESSY, A SULLIVAN SUPPORTER, TALKS INTERVENTION
Why does an effective activist like Michelle Fennesy support Maureen Sullivan for 11th Ward Alderman? “Maureen is going to be action-oriented, she has a history of it and I see her as someone who is not afraid to challenge the status quo. We need more of that! In the words of Elvis [Preseley], ‘too much conversation and not enough action.'”, Fennesy said.
“Now I realize Elvis meant other things, but I see it in nursing terms as “intervening” to make something happen. Maureen = intervention and the 11th ward needs a real advocate for our community,” she added.
We couldn’t agree more.
[Photo Credit: DNAInfoChicago]
Yesterday’s forum at Trinity Church resurfaced the community’s concerns about the CHE Heliport being built at 2420 S. Halsted.
My opponents had a lot to say. But they’re a day late and a dollar short on this.
John Kozlar seemed to say he was against the heliport. In fact, John Kozlar seems to say a lot of things, often loudly.
But the record says something more loudly: when his website went up on September 10, the words “heliport” and “noise” were completely missing.
Patrick Daley Thompson said at the forum that he was “against” the heliport. But the very next thing he said was to describe the “covenant” that the 11th Ward office at 37th street had arranged with the helicopter company.
In other words, he was “against” it, but not “against” it enough to stop it.
He cut a deal instead.
With “against” like that, who needs “for”?
And what is in this covenant deal? Who knows? Apparently that’s not our concern — we only live here! We’re not to be told by the grand and mighty machine in its infinite wisdom.
The fact is, when it mattered, Patrick Daley Thompson was nowhere to be found on the heliport. He attended no meetings I saw, and I was at most.
Patrick Daley Thompson’s office is a shared office on 37th St. with Alderman Jim Balcer. To imagine that that Balcer’s support of the heliport was different than what Thompson wanted is to totally misunderstand what the machine is, and how the machine works.
The ordinary people in the 11th Ward understand the machine very well. And they also understand this fact:
There is only one candidate in this race who was always against the CHE heliport.
It’s me. It’s in my record.
You can read what I wrote about it on September 16th right here:
I Never, Ever Supported The CHE Heliport
Remember, I’m not anti-business. I’m anti-B.S.
Thanks for paying attention. Somebody has to.
Sullivan, Candidates Address Bridgeport Village Homeowners Association
Last night at Polo Cafe, during the first event of the campaign season attended by all three candidates for 11th Ward Alderman, the questions flowed like beer from Polo’s cash bar.
Addressing a gathering of the Bridgeport Village Homeowners Association was Maureen Sullivan and her election opponents John Kozlar and Patrick Daley Thompson. The event planned 20 minutes for each candidate to deliver remarks followed by questions from association members.
After drawing straws, Maureen led off, letting the homeowners know why she’s running for office:
“There are many reasons why I’m running for Alderman, but the number one reason I’m running is because my neighbors demanded it. For the past ten years, I’ve been a highly visible community volunteer stepping up to improve our neighborhoods by providing leadership, creativity, experience and successful community organizing. Time and time again over that ten years, I have been asked ‘why don’t you run for Alderman? We need you. You already do what the Alderman is supposed to do.’ This year was the year I finally gave in and stepped forward.”
Questions for Maureen included how she would shape the business development in the neighborhood. “At Archer and Halsted,” she said, “there should be commuter-related businesses such as a day care, and we should consider a drive-through coffee place. I envision Halsted Street and Archer Avenue as walkable small business districts, that look inviting.”
After remarks by Kozlar including a round of applause for his work with the Canaryville Little League, Patrick Daley Thompson took the stage to present a very different vision for Halsted’s business district and its shuttered storefronts. He said retail wasn’t the right focus.
“You don’t need as much retail on Halsted. You shop on the internet now,” said Thompson.
On Alleys And Designation
The Q&A for Daley Thompson got a little fractious. Feeling neglected by Jim Balcer, current Alderman, Daley machine appointee and office-mate of Thompson’s, association members pressed Thompson on issues including the arrangements in the development for garbage pickup. One homeowner said he had been asking the Alderman for eight years to have city garbage pickup arranged in Bridgeport Village’s alleys.
“That’s easy to do,” said Daley Thompson. “We have to create a designation for the alleys.”
The crowd, familiar with the process but having gotten no response on it for years from Alderman Balcer, did not like that answer.
“If it’s so easy to do, why hasn’t it been done?” shot back another homeowner.
“You’d have to talk to Jim Balcer,” responded Daley Thompson.
(Above: The office on 37th St. where Patrick Daley Thompson and Alderman Jim Balcer have desks.)
(Photo credits: Planet99.com, HGJones.org)
How I Helped Fight The Coal Plants — And Helped Us Win
Like a lot of people in Bridgeport and Pilsen, my family has struggled with respiratory problems tied to the nearby Crawford coal plant. In 2010 I read a report detailing the plant’s terrible health costs to residents, including premature deaths, asthma episodes and heart attacks every year. Beyond that, I learned the dollar costs were more than $120 million to the people in the community.
I knew this situation was wrong. I decided to get involved to change it.
That was the year I and a core group of community leaders co-founded a group called the Bridgeport Alliance and steered it to join the city-wide and Pilsen-centered efforts to end the coal plants’ costs to the community.
I had first gotten involved in the specific coal plant issue after attending Green party community meetings where I learned that Pilsen-based PERRO had been working on closing the plants for years. We first made contacts with Dorian Breuer from PERRO and then later Christine Nannicielli and her staff at Sierra Club in 2011.
I own a business, so I’m always mindful of what works for commerce. But I learned these plants were open for one reason: to sell power outside of Illinois and to contribute to an Enron-style national market for electricity. We know how Enron ended up. There was no way it was right to pay for that kind of business with the health and lives of our people.
That year, I became part of a big effort. My allies and I worked on volunteer organization, educating residents, raising awareness, collecting signatures on South Halsted, collecting photo petitions and enlisting the support of 11th Ward businesses. We were on the streets, engaging our neighbors. Our work, organized and presented as the Clean Power Coalition, culminated in a City Hall action Dec 2, 2011.
Along with the Coalition’s city-wide pressure, which included the Bridgeport Alliance, I personally asked 11th Ward Alderman Jim Balcer to sign on as a co-sponsor of the City Council Clean Power Ordinance, which was introduced in April 2010.
The Old-Boy Leadership: No-Go and No-Show
Alderman Balcer never signed on, and in fact sold out the people of the 11th Ward by delaying the vote on the Council floor twice, putting it off until after the end of the Daley administration.
Also, my election opponent Patrick Daley Thompson, at that time an executive of the South Loop Chamber of Commerce, was a no-show on the coal plants. Patrick made no appearance nor statement about the health hazards faced by the people of the 11th Ward during the entire fight. If he’s ever said anything about people in our community dropping dead thanks to coal plant pollution, I’ve never heard it.
No thanks to Thompson’s absence or Balcer’s interference, it was ultimately the threat of the City Council vote — that threat created by community pressure city-wide through our Clean Power Coalition — that eventually ended the pollution in 2012 and improved the air quality in our community tooday.
Today, as President of the Palmisano Park Advisory Council, it’s one of my greatest joys to climb the hill and look north to the now-smokeless smokestacks, take a deep breath, and remember what can happen when people get together to stop footing the bill for an operation that doesn’t even serve them.
What can happen?
We can win.
(Photo credit: ELPC.org)
Sullivan: I Never, Ever Supported The CHE Heliport
At no time did I support the Chicago Helicopter Express heliport project.
How could I?
When the company arrived, it treated us all like simpletons. And their champion, Alderman Jim Balcer, who had long before caused me to decide to run against him exactly because of his many bad decisions, was making another mistake here. He was unduly impressed by the company’s vague promises of economic benefit and was entirely willing to sell out the neighborhood and get nothing in writing for it.
In February of this year, 11th Ward voters and I were surprised to learn that a suburban company called Chicago Helicopter Express (CHE) had purchased land on the Chicago River at Halsted with the intent to open a heliport. I learned, at that time CHE was in an accelerated zoning approval process, aided by Alderman Balcer and the politically connected downtown law firm they had retained.
The company’s CEO Trevor Heffernan’s outreach to our community was a failure from the start. He attended a meeting of the Bridgeport Alliance but left before his turn to speak, appearing surprised that the group’s own agenda needed to be addressed before his own.
Later, on March 3, Heffernan, along with the company COO Tom Carto, attended a meeting of the Palmisano Park Advisory Council, where I serve as President after my most recent election to the post. This time, Trevor waited for the park business to complete before presenting promises about CHE’s business plan.
At the end of a short presentation, the CHE team asked our council members to sign pre-printed letters of support for their business plan.
Suspicious, I politely declined to sign, citing a lack of information. None of the elected officers of the Palmisano Park PAC signed letters of support.
I recall discussing with the Palmisano council after the meeting the presumptuousness of CHE. Here was a company facing a zoning vote in the City Council for a special and high-impact use of 11th Ward land near our park, and they believed they would obtain support from us minutes after making vague promises about noise (it wouldn’t be bad, they said) and jobs (there would be at least 50 jobs, they said).
I felt like I was being hustled.
At later community meetings I and my Park Council Vice President attended and spoke at, including meetings at St. Barbara’s and Trinity Lutheran, I saw Heffernan and his cast of consultants and his lawyer continuing to get off on the wrong foot with the community. They repeatedly assured the community of the great benefit and low noise of their project.
The problem was, their story kept changing. Fifty jobs became 35. Their business plan, presented early on as being mainly tourist flights, changed several times during these presentations to include a great number of charter flights.
Promises to bring tourists to South Halsted were never accompanied with anything resembling a plan.
Also unattractive was the fact that Heffernan’s and Balcer’s tempers were cut to the quick several times. Obviously disgusted at having to go hat in hand to ordinary people, and unused to having their ideas challenged, both Heffernan and Balcer took to chiding the residents. Heffernan at one point during the Trinity meeting showed his true colors and snarled at a citizen opposing his company’s plan: “I don’t have to be here.”
On March 20th, along with Palmisano Park Council Vice President Rob Warmowski, I attended the first City Council voting session on the CHE project. At my direction, Rob spoke against the vote on the heliport. We called for the vote to be delayed, we called the company’s approach insufficient, and we characterized the entire process as giving the 11th Ward “the bum’s rush”. Rob also appeared on TV saying the same thing.
Statements that criticized the CHE project and the City Council approval of same were published at my direction and approval here and here earlier this year. Our statement on the floor of the City Council criticizing the CHE project and asking to put off the vote is entered into the City Council record.
While my opponent Patrick Daley Thompson was, as usual, nowhere to be found at any of the important community meetings on this heliport, everybody who attended the meetings I or Rob spoke at should know my position, because it is crystal clear:
I never, ever supported the CHE heliport project.
(Photo: Google Streetview)
Maureen Sullivan: Progressive Activist Poised To Beat The Daley Machine
Curtis Black‘s profile piece published today in the Chicago Reporter says it all: Maureen Sullivan is the popular progressive activist poised to beat the downtown Daley machine on its own turf.
In the first major piece on her Aldermanic race, Sullivan’s clear alternative to the 11th Ward leadership and its tendency to do nothing but claim credit is illustrated by Black:
“Bridgeport native Maureen Sullivan, who has founded civic, business and park groups, and organized against school closings in Bridgeport, describes a local political elite that has become too comfortable with the status quo and neglected the neighborhood.
Sullivan may represent an approach we’ll see from more aldermanic candidates this year: emphasizing the local impact of citywide policy issues like education and TIFs along with ward service concerns — and tapping into the growing sentiment against Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s policies.
She calls the mayor “a Wall Street banker from Wilmette who wants to help his friends become even wealthier at our expense” and attacks the “rubber stamp City Council” including retiring Ald. James Balcer, who’s backed Emanuel in 100 percent of contested council votes.”
“Balcer announced his retirement shortly after Sullivan entered the race, throwing his support to Patrick Daley Thompson, grandson of the original Mayor Daley and a commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District since 2012. Thompson’s name is featured prominently, along with Balcer’s and that of his uncle’s, ward committeeman John Daley, in the windows of the 11th Ward Democratic Party building at 36th and Halsted.
A downtown corporate attorney who handles property tax appeals and represents developers seeking TIF money, Thompson said his real estate and development experience would be an asset to the ward. But it didn’t seem to help a few years ago, when the Better Government Association identified Thompson as one of several politically-connected individuals who’d been granted homeowner exemptions for investment properties. Thompson pled ignorance and paid the back taxes.”
Alderman Balcer Steps Aside
Jay Levine at CBS2Chicago.com reports that 11th Ward Alderman Jim Balcer will not run for re-election, owing to health issues stemming from his service in Vietnam.
Balcer tells CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine that he’s stepping down to pursue treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder stemming from his military service in Vietnam.
Balcer, a former Marine, was awarded a Bronze Star for heroic acts during combat.
Upon hearing the news, Maureen Sullivan, candidate for 11th Ward Alderman, issued a statement:
“Along with so many in our Ward, I salute Jim Balcer for his distinguished service to our country and for his sacrifice of his health. I am saddened that he faces this personal challenge today and it is my sincere hope that he recovers as soon as possible. Get well, Jim.”
Above: In happier times: Maureen Sullivan and Alderman Jim Balcer share a copy of Maureen’s new book at a 2012 CTA Board meeting. Both addressed the board that day on the topic of the 31st St. bus.
Photo: Josip Trutin