Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Chicago Tribune exposes Berny Stone for acting on behalf of campaign donors

Who calls the shots in your back yard? Not you.

Tribune investigation: In a system city officials call a national model, aldermen collect campaign donations from developers. Developers benefit from looser building rules approved by aldermen. And residents?

By Dan Mihalopoulos and Robert Becker | Chicago Tribune reporters
August 20, 2008

City politicians call Chicago a national model for how to involve the public in real estate development debates. But the view from the streets of the city's neighborhoods is markedly different.

When a longtime homeowner tried to speak up at the only City Council hearing on a project in his Far North Side neighborhood, aldermen threatened to toss him from the room for trying to ask questions.

"I'm feeling like chopped liver," Hugh Devlin, who lives in the 50th Ward, said after the council rubber-stamped his alderman's approval of a proposed seven-story, 90-unit building that he and many other neighbors oppose.

In the ongoing "Neighborhoods for Sale" series, the Tribune has documented an insiders' game in which aldermen rake in millions of dollars in campaign cash from developers, zoning lawyers and architects while often overriding the concerns of homeowners and city planners. Out-of-scale buildings leave existing homes in their shadows, the result of nearly 6,000 council-approved zoning changes in the last 10 years that have transformed neighborhoods.

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