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Friday, September 11, 2015

Why a City Income Tax is NOT a Good Idea

Why a City Income Tax is NOT a Good Idea

One of the best Alderman in the City of Chicago (Alderman John Arena) has suggested that the city should institute a 1/2% city income tax (which he noted should bring in about 190 million dollars during a WBEZ radio broadcast I agree with what John wants to do about 85% of the time and even when I disagree with him, he always has a fairly good reason for doing whatever he suggests. Any time you agree with a politician at the 85% level you should probably support him in most of what he would like to do.

This time, however,  I disagree with him. Any new tax upon the already overburdened City of Chicago citizen is just not acceptable. Here’s why….

A Chicago Tribune story Chicago Tribune [09-06-2015:] from Sunday September 6th notes the following compared to 2011:

      Vehicle sticker fees have gone up 12%
       Parking taxes have gone up 39%
      Hotel taxes have gone up 78%
     Water/Sewer fees have gone up 73%
      Fines, penalties, etc (includes red light/speeding cameras income) have gone up 28%
      Amusement taxes have gone up 46%  (They are now taxing Netflix and other internet entertainment service providers)
      911 tax has gone up 20%   
 Cigarette taxes have gone up 18%
       Lease tax has gone up 30%

City revenue is up 28% to 1.75 BILLION dollars!

Compared to other cities, the tax burden of a hypothetical Chicago family that makes $75,000/year is 10.4%. This is more than 88 of the other largest cities in each of the states! (

There are almost 30 city taxes that can be applied to Chicago’s citizens (  ).

Chicago also has the second highest taxes on the meals (10.75%) you consume with your family and friends when you go out to a restaurant (

In 2011 Chicago was ranked 5th in having the highest tax burden in the US (

Chicago has the highest sales tax rate in the US (  .

It was noted in 2014 that Illinois already had the 2nd highest property taxes in the US ( ).

Then there are all those Fees the city collects from businesses and citizens ( .

Now remember, on top of all these city taxes you now have Cook County taxes/fees as well. When you compare property taxes among the most populated counties in the US, Cook County is the most expensive!  (  

Another disturbing factor is the cost of fraud and corruption. “Millions of taxpayer dollars are paid out on contracts and other government benefits steered by public officials to insiders who, in turn, shower financial benefits on those public officials and their associates. Recently, Chicago taxpayers saw hundreds of thousands of city dollars funneled to sham minority-owned trucking companies under a program that served to enrich city workers with kickbacks.” (

We do not have an income problem. 

We have an out go problem.

(Actually we have both, but few seem to be paying attention to the out go side of the equation)

You should notice a disturbing trend here. If there is an existing tax or fee, it always goes UP and never goes DOWN! Once the city institutes a Chicago income tax, it will very quickly go from ½% to 1% and higher! Giving our leadership more of our tax money is like pouring gasoline on a wildfire! You will never put out the fire.

There are at least two aspects to a budget. These include revenue and spending. So far we’ve heard a great deal about the revenue side and very little about the spending side. You must attack our fiscal woes from both sides. Until this is done, no City of Chicago income tax should be discussed. Until the city and the unions can reach a meaningful “fix” of the pension problem, no City of Chicago income tax should be discussed. Stop the games. Fix the fiscal abyss that currently has Chicago within its grasp. Do it. Do it now.

OTOH maybe Chicago is not broke?

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Illinois Town Hall Meeting

Town Hall Meeting

Mr. Will Guzzardi
Mr. Guzzardi welcoming all
My State Rep. Will Guzzrdi called for a town hall meeting at St. Bartholomew Church (my parish) in Chicago. About 50 or so folks from all over the 45th Ward and beyond were in attendance (even one person from Grayslake!).

The meeting was promoted in such a way that I had high hopes for a rational discussion about Illinois’s fiscal abyss and how we would solve problems that have been building for decades. The promotional material on Mr.Guzzardi’s Facebook page noted:

“Confused, scared, or angry about the budget mess in Springfield? Or a little bit of all three, like I am? Well, come to our Budget Town Hall tomorrow. We'll give you the inside scoop on what's happening in Springfield, how we got here, and what we can do as a community to fight for a better way forward.

I have to agree that most of us are at least a bit “frightened” about the mess our politicians have managed to create. Unfortunately at this meeting we did not receive any “inside scoops”. We did not hear about “how we got there” (how we got into this financial mess). And only one basic solution (raise revenue) was offered.

The meeting started at noon. We were greeted by a very friendly, very tall Will (who was on crutches) and his staff and volunteers who signed us in and offered sweets, fruits and drinks. The meeting actually started about 12:30PM. Mr Guzzardi was the first to speak, welcoming all. He spoke a bit about what cuts in funding would do to various services many of us depend upon and tended to blame Rauner for everything. He did acknowledge that the Democrats had a chance to fix the revenue problem before Rauner came into to office, but failed to do so (they voted not to make the temporary income tax increase permanent).

Mr Michael Collins
Will then introduced Michael Collins, who was supposed to tell us why we were in this crisis in the first place. Michael is a part of a Chicago non-profit organization (The People’s Lobby) and has worked not only with Will Guzzardi but also with Reclaim Chicago.

Michael was a great speaker. If this was a political rally, I would have appreciated what he said and how he said it. Unfortunately, he failed in his assigned mission miserably. He used fear as a rhetorical tool to sway his audience towards his political agenda [Did you know people died and were going to die because of these budget cuts (which have not been instituted just yet)!!!]. He blamed Governor Rauner (who did not create this crisis) and called for increased revenue (taxes).

After the speech, we broke up into smaller groups to discuss a number of areas. These areas included:

11.)   How will cuts and divestment affect us?
22.)    What is our vision for our community?
33.)    Raising progressive revenue
44.)    Our story
55.)    How will we tell our story?

The moderator of our group lamented that he had thousands of dollars of debt due to college costs, could not find employment within his field of study and could not obtain a loan to buy a condo from a bank. (He was a very nice, well-spoken gentleman with a PhD in theology. I was thinking at the time that he must have known that the job market for a theologian in the Chicago area was probably quite limited, but did not say anything.)

The Questions
So what was the group’s responses to the questions?

How will cuts and divestment affect us? Any cuts would have a detrimental affect health care, education, student loans, disability support and the arts

What is our vision for our community? We want to see improved education, better schools, and support for small businesses, as well as, better jobs, universal single payer health care, improved public transportation and prison reform.

[How can we go about]  Raising progressive revenue? (Not sure why they call this “progressive revenue”?)  Have a “LaSalle Street Tax (1% on all transactions), Corporations need to pay their fair sure, institute a progressive income tax.

At this point I noted that all the budgets I have seen had both income/revenue as well as expenses listed. When I asked when we were going to talk about expenses, our moderator said “at the next meeting”! Really? Why blow me off like that? Didn’t he take me seriously? Or was the question just inconvenient because it did not fit his agenda?

Our story: How have cuts hurt our community? As far as I know, no cuts have been institute in the next budget because THERE IS NO BUDGET! Of course if there are cuts education, health care, etc would all be detrimentally impacted.

….and finally…

How will we tell our story? It was suggested that we use social media, direct involvement, canvassing, protesting, etc. I suggested we tell our story honestly and by using facts! (The facts part was left off the poster paper)

At this point, Guzzardi's intern, a student from the University of Chicago, did a nice job reviewing all the input….in an uncritical manner (she was part of the team of course).

At the very end, Will Guzzardi did a brief wrap up, thanked us for our participation and handed out “Town Hall” evaluation forms and asked how we would like to become more involved. (One of the options was to participate in a leadership course….so I said I would like to be considered for that program!)

Evaluation of the Town Hall Meeting

The first thought that comes to mind is “disappointing”. I was hoping for appropriate back ground information concerning our current fiscal state. We did not get this. I was hoping for a discussion on ways we can solve these problems considering all the options. We did not get this.  I wanted minimal political agenda. Nope, not even close...we got plenty of politics. I wanted statements of fact and we got emotionally charged rhetoric.

You really cannot blame Rauner for our fiscal state, because it has been decades in the making. The Democrats had an opportunity to “fix this” before Rauner came into office and they failed miserably.

It is past the time for a fact based discussion of the problems and for all possible solutions to be discussed. This meeting did not do this.

Mr. Guzzardi, it is time to have a real Town Hall meeting. With real facts for the discussion of real solutions. If you plan to do this in the future, please do not hesitate to call upon me to help! 

Monday, June 15, 2015

A Midsummer Night's Dream by the Two Pence Theatre Company: A Review

A Midsummer Night's Dream by the Two Pence Theatre Company: A Review

Today's opening performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream by the Two Pence Theatre Companyat the Filament Theatre was even BETTER than the preview (I went to both performances).

The weather was awful and the Blackhawks were in the playoffs...perhaps winning the Stanley Cup this very evening (as you know by now they won!!! Go Hawks!). So I thought the audience would be small...I was so wrong! An almost full house...braving the weather and ... abandoning the Hawks (for at least 1 hr and 45 mins)...was rewarded with an incredible performance.

Filament Theatre
This play takes place in Athens....and there could be no greater Mediterranean beauty than Helena. Helena was played by Lucy Carapetyan (she also played several other parts) but as a Greek Beauty she excelled. Her physical attributes embodied the Greek ideal. She has a long slender neck, short, somewhat ruffled brownish-redish hair and an aristocratic manner that lent to the authenticity of her performance. She was whimsical and serious. She was hellfire when she believed herself to be a victim of a cruel joke, but also an aggressive women in love after her man. She was vulnerable, brave, delicate but determined. Lucy was Helena.

Theseus/Oberon/Nick Bottom were all played by Tom Wells. Tom’s actor voice has a wide range. But his face, his demeanor, his posture…even more than the words he speaks tells the story. Tom is so versatile that he made you believe he was a Fairy King, a ruler of a kingdom and a somewhat bumbling jackass!

Alexis Randolph was Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons who was betrothed to Theseus. She also played the Fairy Queen and Moonshine. She went from regal to reluctant Moon light seamlessly.

Mary Tilden played Hermia and other roles including Tom Snout aka The Wall. Although she excelled as “The Wall”, she was outstanding as the determined Hermia. Mary, as Hermia, when she thought she was betrayed, had anger that no man nor woman, could face. Her eyes, lips, voice, manner…broadcast the heat of this anger…and as a member of the audience…I felt it necessary to move a bit back lest I be singed!

Judy Lea Steele often stole the show. She was Puc. She was the embodiment of all things mischievous. She moved with deliberate abandonment. Her voice was melodious and at times, threatening. She was respectful and disrespectful. She followed orders….up to a point.

Josh Mattingly (Lysander) and Martel Manning (Demetrius) displayed their love and devotion and sometimes confusion splendidly.  Josh as Thisbe the lovely blond maid and Martel as the reluctant, almost but not really scary Lion made you laugh…and laugh…and…yeah, laugh. As Lysander and Demetrius you could feel the battle of testosterone building as each sought the love of Hermia. Finally, of course, the love Lysander had for Hermia and the love which was imposed upon Demetrius by the Fairy King for Helena…won the day. All was well. Love had won. Humor was served. Puc was, well, Puc.

"If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber'd here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
if you pardon, we will mend:
And, as I am an honest Puck,
…So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends..."
And the audience applauded. Loudly.

See this play. Bring the Two Pence Theatre Company into your hearts and minds.

A word about the venue. The Filament Theatre is an incredible venue. It is versatile, adaptable and intimate. This is a theater that was meant for those of us who want to be up close. We want to see the face of the actor. We want to see the passion…the sweat…the pain….the love….. We want this precious experience. The Filament Theatre does not disappoint.


In the interest of full disclosure you should know that I serve on the Board of Directors of the Filament Theater, I love Shakespeare and I believe that Six Corners in Portage Park will soon become Chicago’s Mecca for culture in all its forms (performance arts, visual arts and culinary arts). This review may be just a bit biased! Go to the Filament Theatre and see the Two Pence Theatre Company perform Midsummer Night’s Dream and decide for yourself. It’s the only way to determine the veracity of my review. DM

"...All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages...."

William Shakespeare

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Whiskey Advocate Buying Guide

Many of you know of my fondness for single malts....but actually I find most whiskies quite intriguing. I am always amazed how grain, water and wood can result in a wide range of aromas, flavors and surprises of the palette! If you are like me, you will like Whisky Advocate's Buying Guide. Plenty of many little time! DM

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Apollo Chorus Choral Classics Concert: Britten's Simple Symphony, Lauridsen's Lux Aeterna, and Schubert's Mass in A-flat

Be there! This Saturday at Rockefeller Chapel University of Chicago, The Apollo Chorus has a great program. Come at 6:45PM to hear           Dr. Stephen Alltop​ tell us all about the music and the composers with his incredible wit, charm and informative manner.

Teachers get in for free! (Bring your ID for admission)

Choral Classics Concert: Britten's Simple Symphony, Lauridsen's Lux Aeterna, and Schubert's Mass in A-flat

In collaboration with the Renovo String Orchestra.

The Apollo Chorus is known for its diverse repertoire of classic choral works. Each year we strive to expand the classical experience of our audiences and this year is no exception. Our Choral Classics concert will take you from 19th century Vienna with Schubert’s dynamic Mass in A-flat, one of his most profound compositions, to 20th century England and America with Britten’s Simple Symphony and Lauridsen’s soaring Lux Aeterna. To hear Lauridsen's sublime "O nata lux" movement and Schubert's most powerful mass setting in the majestic space of Rockefeller Chapel is an experience you will never forget.

Saturday, March 7, at 7:30 pm
University of Chicago - Rockefeller Chapel
5850 S. Woodlawn Avenue, Chicago (Hyde Park)
Free pre-concert talk (20-30 minutes) by Music Director Stephen Alltop at 6:45 pm

Approximate duration of concert: 1 hour and 50 minutes, including brief intermission

Tickets can be purchased here.

Friday, February 13, 2015

This is my last day in Maui. I am sitting in the outdoor restaurant which is on the beach watching whales swim and breach. The weather is perfect with a nice cool breeze. There are many Families in the restaurant having fun. Joseph and his new family and his old family have pretty much departed for the east.