Saturday, October 6, 2012

Smart Grid Plan Stalls in Chicago

A dispute over a utility company’s payment terms is stalling a $2.6 billion smart grid plan in Chicago. ComEd – the utility company – has planned to upgrade its aging infrastructure by installing 4 million smart meters and other high-tech equipment.

The company said the impact of the issues under contention could cost the utility nearly $100 million per year starting in 2014 and would delay the installation of more smart meters until 2015.”  The critics argue, however, that ComEd is trying to turn the debate into one about jobs when it is really about profits.

Reference: Wernau, Julie, Smart grid in limbo: ComEd threatens to pull plug as ICC balks, Chicago Tribune, October 3, 2012

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Packaging Cultural Heritage for Global Consumption

Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events has undertaken an ambitious project to rewrite the city’s Cultural Plan. The original plan was written in 1986, under Mayor Harold Washington, and subsequently it was updated in 1995 to focus more on international programs.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has asked the city agency to revise the plan to promote arts and cultural establishments in the city. A global city of today must recognize its cultural heritage, embrace it, support it and market it to the outsiders. It must also find ways to affirm the diversity and inclusiveness of its population.

Reference: Chicago Cultural Plan 2012
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Friday, July 20, 2012

Fundraising Through Advertisements on City Assets

Chicago is planning to raise $25 million by selling advertisements on city assets. It has hired an ad agency to act as a consultant to support this marketing initiative. Chicago has tried this approach before with mixed results. For example, Pfizer was allowed to paste its ads on a pickup truck last year. The city hopes to sign similar deals with other corporate sponsors.

But past municipal advertising endeavors in Chicago have failed to meet expectations. Mayor Richard Daley's 2010 push to raise millions by allowing businesses to slap their names on holiday decorations on the city's most prominent bridge houses fell flat.”

Here is a video clip about a similar debate in Florida:

Reference: Byrne, John, City Hires Advertising Consultant, Chicago Tribune, July 15, 2012
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Can Architects Design for the 99 %?

Architects often work for the elite, who can afford their services. The ninths annual Reinvention Symposium to be held in Chicago in October, hopes to broaden the architect’s reach by finding ways to improve the built environment for every income bracket. They will “examine a wide range of housing types, styles, and price points, to parse how each may answer the current and future needs of the individual and the community.”

More information can be found by clicking here:

Reference: Reinvention: Designing for the Future,
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Sharing Power with Citizens Through Participatory Budgeting

In 2009, Chicago became the first US city to try participatory budgeting (PB). The idea started with Porto Alegre, Brazil in 1989 and has spread to over 3,000 cities globally. It encourages citizens to create ideas on how a portion of tax payer money should be spent.

PB is a multistage process that begins with gathering ideas from citizens. Those ideas range from improving transportation, parks, schools and public safety to cleaning up the environment. Next, a group of delegates is selected to winnow down the ideas into a few projects that have a reasonable chance of being implemented. Finally, the best plans are placed on a ballot and citizens vote for their favorites.”

Reference: Newcombe, Tod, Chicago Brings Participatory Budgeting to the U.S., Governing, July 2012
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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Free Summer Fun in Downtown Chicago

Lincoln Park Zoo is completely free to get in. If you arrive early in the day, you may also be able to find a free parking spot. That is quite a bargain in a high priced downtown area.

The second free location is the North Avenue Beach, just across the pedestrian bridge over Lake Shore Drive. “With the downtown buildings towering over, the beautiful sand at your feet, the huge crowds of people, and the action of the Chicago Sport and Social Club, North Avenue beach is one of the places to be during the summer.”

Reference: Free Fun in the Chicago Sun,
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Saturday, June 2, 2012

A Double Dip in the Housing Market

The S&P/Case-Shiller’s index made fresh index lows in March for five cities which include Chicago and New York. It appears that the housing market is hitting a double dip. However, some of the worst hit cities during the housing market downturn have begun to recover.

According to David Blitzer of Case-Shiller indexes, “this is what we need for a sustained recovery; monthly increases coupled with improving annual rates of change. Once we see this on a broader level we will be able to say the market has turned around.”

Reference: Fontevecchia, Agustino, Housing Double-Dip Worsens As Prices Fall To New Lows; Recovery Nears, Forbes, May 29, 2012
Photo Credit:  House under construction under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

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