Chicago: no $ for schools yet we’re ok spending $100mil to pretty up riverwalk. get a clue @ChicagosMayor @RahmEmanuel


Former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s dream of turning a six-block stretch of the downtown Chicago riverfront into an enticing riverwalk that rivals San Antonio’s will finally become a reality, thanks to a $100 million federal loan awarded Thursday.

In one of his final acts as U.S. Transportation secretary, former Illinois congressman Ray LaHood came back home to announce the $100 million loan that Mayor Rahm Emanuel hopes will transform the riverwalk into Chicago’s next great public space that will rival Millennium Park.

LaHood described the project as a “done deal” and said he was absolutely confident in the city’s plan to retire the $100 million loan.

“The financial stability of this project is solid. It’s a matter now of finishing up the paperwork,” LaHood said.

“This riverwalk will become another economic corridor in downtown Chicago for small business.”

Emanuel said it’s time to “re-introduce” Chicagoans to the Chicago River and realize the riverfront’s true potential to become the city’s next recreational frontier.

“It’s no longer just a dream or a drawing on the board. It’s now becoming a reality,” the mayor said.

Emanuel and his Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein were somewhat sketchy on where the revenues will come from to repay a 35-year loan with no payment schedule until construction that is scheduled to start in 2014 is completed two years later.

“A little over 70 percent of the revenues will come from … the existing tour boat fees, which were re-bid last year. Right there, we’ve got the bulk of it covered,” Klein said.

“We’ve got retail leasing. We’ve got various other advertising and sponsorship opportunities, which we’re not even heavily counting on. And we’ve been extremely conservative in our estimates on revenues purposely because we knew we’d have to go through a very rigorous process, which we have, with” the U.S. Transportation Department.”

Asked whether the Chicago River was likely to see a lot more advertising and boat traffic to repay the loan, Klein said, “No. Any additional advertising would be very tasteful and very limited. … [And] right now, it’s just using the existing two [boat] slips.”

Emanuel predicted that 400 people would be put to work building the riverwalk from State Street west to Lake and that 400 permanent jobs would be created to operate the restaurants, bars and entertainment space that will be created.

“Our downtown has changed. It’s the fastest growing commercial-residential area in the country — by a factor of three. Nobody’s even close. And the riverwalk will now create and complement what’s gonna be a 500-apartment building right there on the riverfront. It will change all the [property] values here — both commercial and residential,” the mayor said. “Our city is changing and we need to change with it to accentuate the economic opportunity and potential of the city.”

On display at Thursday’s news conference were “conceptual ideas” and catchy names for each of the six blocks between State and Wells that run along Wacker Drive and the Chicago River.

State to Dearborn would be known as “The Marina,” with restaurants and public seating that allows people to while away their time watching commercial and recreational boat traffic along the river.

Dearborn to Clark would be turned into “The Cove,” featuring kayak rentals and a dock for “human-powered watercraft.” Clark to LaSalle would be turned into a heavily landscaped “River Theater” with a wide staircase to Upper Wacker Drive.

Kids who love to splash around in chlorinated and “zero-depth” public fountains would be able to do just that in the one-block stretch from LaSalle to Wells, to be known as, “The Swimming Hole.”

Wells to Franklin would be turned into “The Jetty,” described as a place to learn about the “ecology of the Chicago River” complete with floating gardens and piers for fishing.

And Franklin to Lake would be known as “The Boardwalk,” described as the site of an “iconic bridge” that would bring people from Upper Wacker down to the riverwalk level while surrounded by “floating gardens and landscaping.”

Daley’s plan to build a San Antonio-style riverwalk initially called for the city to spend up to $50 million in federal funds to build a river-level boardwalk from Michigan to Lake that would have included 35,500 square feet of retail and restaurant space, along with docks for tour boats and water taxis.

When the work was done, the city would have turned the riverwalk over to a private management company.

But when Daley tried to tackle the project in one fell swoop, only one company responded to the request for proposals. City Hall decided to toss out the lone bid and restart the competition in smaller bites.

After filling in the “missing links” in the Wacker Drive riverwalk, the city agreed in 2009 to design the rest — even though Chicago taxpayers still didn’t have the money to build it.

The Daley administration issued a “request for proposals” from firms interested in designing the final phase of the riverwalk — the six-block stretch between State and Lake streets. It was those concepts that the city plans to follow.


Ted Cruz accuses Obama of trying to “take advantage” of Sandy Hook massacre


Teabagger Ted Cruz, first-term Republican senator from Texas, has emerged as one of the most loathsomely extremist members of what is overwhelmingly a loathsomely extremist party. And like any "good" Republican extremist, he’s taking it upon himself to block any and all gun control efforts, and of course to use any and every occasion to attack the president:

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) responded to President Barack Obama’s latest call for action on gun control Thursday, launching criticism at the White House and promising to do everything in his power to stop the administration’s push for stricter legislation.

"It is saddening to see the president today, once again, try to take advantage of this tragic murder to promote an agenda that will do nothing to stop violent crime, but will undermine the constitutional rights of all law-abiding Americans," Cruz said in a statement. "I am committed to working with Sens. Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Marco Rubio, and Jim Inhofe — and I hope many other colleagues — to use any procedural means necessary to protect those fundamental rights."

Cruz also blamed the Obama administration for contributing to the gun violence it is now attempting to address.

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@gop After RNC Calls For Hispanic Outreach, Republican Governor Eliminates Latino Affairs Office


The Republican National Committee devoted much of the attention of its “autopsy” report to improving party outreach to people of color. The report noted it is “imperative that the RNC changes how it engages with Hispanic communities to welcome in new members of our Party.” Yet, if the autopsy report had any effect at all, it appears to be short-lived. Since last week, top Republicans have dodged discussing immigration reform with citizenship, while one congressman used a racial slur to describe Latinos.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory’s (R) contribution to this effort is to unexpectedly close the state’s Latino Affairs office, an office that normally engaged with Latino leaders on policy, offfered bilingual assistance for disaster victims, and collected demographic statistics on the state’s 800,000 Latino residents.

The governor’s office said it will shift some of the office’s duties to a general office for community and constituent affairs. “We are committed to serving the needs of all of North Carolina’s citizens,” McCrory’s chief of staff said. “We don’t segment our constituents by race or cultural background, any more than we separate them by age or gender.”

But Latino advocates criticize the decision. Executive Director of Latin American Coalition in Charlotte Jess George told McClatchy, “The message from Raleigh is that Latinos in North Carolina don’t matter.”

Just before closing the Latino Affairs office, North Carolina pursued a controversial driver’s license design that would distinguish young undocumented immigrants’s licenses by a pink stripe and the words, “NO LAWFUL STATUS” printed across. The state somewhat modified the design when it faced community backlash.

Pat Robertson Claims Homeland Security Is Stocking Ammo To ‘Attack Us”


Pat Robertson, Pope of the Televangelists is joining with the crackpot theories of Alex Jones that warns Americans the feds are out to get us, just like he did during his Clinton ‘black helicopter’ days.

Robertson: Long trains full of armored vehicles, personnel carriers with armor, what are they for, the army going into battle against the enemy? They’re used by Homeland Security against us,”

. “Imagine what Homeland Security is doing is just awful and we’re going to talk about how much ammunition they’re stockpiling: who are they going to shoot, us?

David Edwards:

The same theories have also been picked up in recent weeks by the Fox News Channel and the Fox Business Network.

And on Thursday, Robertson weighed in on the side of the conspiracy theorists, calling it “like something out of science fiction: long trains of full or armored vehicles, personnel carriers with armor.”

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Critics slam Obama for “protecting” Monsanto @barackobama #p2 #tcot


There’s no love lost between Washington and the American public, it seems, five days after Congress for the first time in years managed to handle a budget-related issue without reaching the brink of crisis.

Protesters have descended on Pennsylvania Avenue outside the White House this week, enraged at a potentially health-hazardous provision they allege lawmakers inserted surreptitiously into a continuing resolution (CR) that will fund the government through the remainder of the fiscal year. The bill sailed through the Capitol on Friday; President Obama signed it into law on Tuesday.

Opponents have termed the language in question the "Monsanto Protection Act," a nod to the major agricultural biotech corporation and other like firms geared at producing genetically modified organisms (GMO) and genetically engineered (GE) seeds and crops. The provision protects genetically modified seeds from litigation suits over health risks posed by the crops’ consumption.

Food safety advocacy groups like Food Democracy Now, which collected more than 250,000 signatures on a petition calling for the president to veto the CR, argue not enough studies have been conducted into the possible health risks of GMO and GE seeds. Eliminating judicial power to halt the selling or planting of them essentially cuts off their course to ensuring consumer safety should health risks emerge.

Seeking a "balance" to the newly minted law, Food Democracy Now has shifted its tactics to encouraging supporters to sign and send letters to Mr. Obama, chiding him for signing the legislation despite that refusal to do so would have expired the federal budget and triggered a government-wide shutdown this week.

Part of the template for the letter reads: "In an effort to balance this violation of our basic rights, I am urging you as President to issue an Executive Order to require the mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods, something that you promised farmers while on the campaign trail in 2007. It is urgent that the U.S. government rectify the 20 year old politically engineered loophole and allow for open and transparent labeling of genetically engineered foods," the letter continues, "a basic right that citizens in 62 others countries already enjoy."

Other groups have aimed their ire toward the more worthy target, criticizing Congress for slipping the language into a must-pass bill without review by the Agricultural or Judiciary Committees. The International Business Times reports that the Center for Food Safety is putting in the hot seat Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., chairwoman for the Senate Appropriations Committee, for not giving the amendment a proper hearing. According to Salon, many members of Congress who voted to approve the bill were unaware the language existed.

"In this hidden backroom deal, Sen. Mikulski turned her back on consumer, environmental and farmer protection in favor of corporate welfare for biotech companies such as Monsanto," Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety, said in a statement, according to IBT. "This abuse of power is not the kind of leadership the public has come to expect from Sen. Mikulski or the Democrat Majority in the Senate."

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