Wednesday, July 1, 2009

So Many Things are Wrong About this . . . .

I'm not sure where to start. David Codrea would say "Forget it, Jake, it's Chi-town," but I can't let it go. So let's start with the "Hired Truck Scandal." The link goes to Wikipedia's excellent summary, but the short-short version is that Chicago was supposed to be leasing privately-owned trucks for city jobs, thus saving all the expense of buying and maintaining their own fleet. What they did instead was to give huge amounts of money to trucking companies owned by the mafia and by friends and family of the Daleys (but I repeat myself.) They rented trucks by the hour which sat motionless for days on end. They also allowed the drivers of these trucks to drive off with huge amounts of the city's asphalt, which was then used in private projects. Your basic Chicago money-saving reform, in other words.

OK, that's the start. Then we have another scandal, in which Mayor Daley's nephew (Robert Vanecko) was for some reason given the job of investing $68 million in funds from the police, fire, and municipal pension funds. He poured the money down all manner of ratholes, making himself and his friends very rich in the process. Daley was shocked. Shocked, I say. Again, your basic day in Chicago, nothing to get too worked up about, I guess. Then Vanecko and his partners bought a 90% interest in a warehouse on Pulaski. The warehouse was near one of the city's asphalt suppliers, and since the city was now leasing a bunch of trucks long-term (remember, hiring the trucks by the hour for jobs didn't work out so well) they wanted to use the warehouse as a storage facility for their trucks. The city and Vanecko both say that he wasn't really involved in any negotiations, and the city says they moved in before Vanecko took ownership of the building.
They said it, I believe it, good enough for me.

That brings us to this week's story in the Chicago Sun-Times. Now we meet Candy Basselen, the owner of Springfield Supply, a steel fabrication shop operating, coincidentally enough, in that same warehouse on Pulaski. Well, it used to operate. Basselen says the city put her out of business by refusing to let her renew her business license last September when she moved into the warehouse. Their excuse? The warehouse (the one she doesn't own, remember?) doesn't meet city code. Maybe, like Basselen, you're thinking that sounds like a problem for an owner, not a tenant, but that wouldn't be The Chicago Way. In Chicago, the way it works is, somebody had a problem with Basselen in that warehouse, so Basselen had to have a problem, too, and somebody kept looking until they found a good problem for her to have. So she was completely out of business from September of last year to April of this year, when the city finally relented--after it was too late for her to stay in business because she had brought in zero dollars for eight months. I can't wait to find out what the real reason for all this was. My guess is that Basselen's business was in the way of a deal that was going to make Vanecko or another crony very rich.

Oh, and what were the city code violations for which the tenant of the warehouse on Pulaski was denied a business license, while the city used the same facility? The property didn't have enough trees and shrubs, and it didn't have a wrought-iron fence. One owner of the property says the required changes are "less than $75,000 of work." And apparently everyone involved is dead serious and saying all this with a straight face.

Chicago business licensing; because employing people sucks, and Chicago hates you for it.


Rev. Paul said...

Having grown up in the vicinity of St. Louis, I've heard such stories all my life. But it still provokes a "wow." Just wow.

Unknown said...

Dang...reading crap like that can turn you into a one-percenter.