Thursday, July 17, 2014

So Bruce Has A Plan...

Not the best plan, but not a bad plan. It contains details and all the sort of things people have been asking for.  The question is can he sell it?

CapFax had this comment from Quinn's spokesperson...

“I won’t institute any new, unfair taxes on everyday services that working people rely on. It hurts working families the most to tax basic services like going to the Laundromat…like taking your child to daycare…like visiting the barber shop…or taking your dog to the vet.
We should not create a new and unfair tax burden on everyday families and the small businesses that serve them.”
As Rich points out, none of that stuff is in Rauner's plan. Also at one time Quinn proposed new taxes on services. So I guess he was for it before he was against it.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

The Problem About Complaining About Pay To Play...

Is you have to complain about about the players and the payers....

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Mad Props To Metra....

It takes a bold level of irony, like epic levels of irony to use your logo on the bottom of e-mail notifications about train delays....

The way to really fly my rear end.

I don't think I have had 10 days straight of  round trips without at least one delay.

Let Go Your Hate...


We get it, you don't like Rauner but comparing a stupid campaign stunt to Westboro Baptist is more than a bit over the top.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Some Budget Options... Logical Gaming Expansion...

Well the Illinois Gaming Board would likely never go for it, but I have some thoughts about how some logical gaming changes could improve the state's and Chicago's revenue situations.

Chicago Casino,
Well it should happen, but there need to be some conditions and some ground rules.

  • The City of Chicago would have to allow Video gaming within the city, it can exclude downtown besides the Metra stations, but anyplace else in the city that is wet, has to be able to have them.
  • The City of Chicago could own the machines on city property (such as the airports)
  • Metra can operate up to 20 machines at each terminal station in Chicago as long as they are owned by Metra and operated within taverns at the stations.
  • A casino should be focused as best it can on the convention business. (Hard to enforce)
South Suburban Casino 
We need to stop having gaming dollars leave the state to go to Indiana (a much bigger pie than what goes up north to Wisconsin)
  • The 'municipal share' would be split between suburbs in the Southern and Eastern half of Cook County that have at least X% of it's residents living below the poverty line (sorry Homewood) on a per-capita basis. The city hosting the casino gets an extra slice for providing services, but at best a break even extra slice.
  • Ownership to be determined, might be the suburbs jointly, might just be a 'normal' owner.
  • Gaming tax revenues can not be used for general fund activities, only for capital projects.
Danville Casino
Add a casino down there.

Existing Casinos
They are going to be hurt by expansion (hell Video Gaming isn't doing them any favors) and in general they employ more folks in direct gaming, so lets give them some new revenue opportunities as well.
  • Lifting of several of their current marketing restrictions (like how all of their promotions need to be approved by the gaming board), allow some standard stuff by providing standard or pre-approval.
  • Allow modifications to the number of gaming positions to occur easier, also to allow some positions to count 'less' than others, for example table game positions count as 1/2 or 1/3 of a gaming position.
  • Ask them what they want/need to compete in this new world.
Also the state should look at becoming the gaming machine supplier/owner on a go forward basis at some point, the odds of this happening are slim, but it is worth looking at.  Existing machines/locations would be grandfathered in. I know this is likely the longest shot on my list, but there it is...

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Political Lessons Of Tony Gwynn...

As I have been reading more and more about Tony Gwynn the last couple of days (I would recommend this one to start) there is a real political lesson for candidates to learn from him and it can be summed up in a single sentence.

Don't be a dick.

It sounds trivial, but ask any local political person, who walks their precinct , who watches a poll, who puts up yard signs about what they are looking for in a candidate.  I will tell you it comes down to who seems the most interested in you...

There is a local state senator, who now holds another office who is great at asking about the kids and seeming really interested in your answers. I disagree with him on stuff, even worked for someone who was running against him for a different office and got yelled at by him a few times during that time.  But you know what, he still asks about the kids, I suspect he thinks he can't trust me as far as he could toss me, but he is now and in some ways still nice to me.

There are two elected officials from a different party whose districts I used to be in (one of them I still am) and I remember being down in Springfield for a thing with a bunch of kids from the local district.  One of them was more than happy to talk to the group for a bit (even though she had just come out of Madigan's office) and when we were having some issue with the district gave me (the vice-chair of the other party) a e-mail address that I could reach her with more quickly in order to help.   Once she even said something really nice about my daughter, one of those things I recall years later...

The state senator could have cared less.  Couldn't be bothered to look up from her Blackberry when our group (from a SD in her district) was introduced by the same state senator who I worked against and didn't have the SD in his district.. Didn't have time to meet with us...

I will let you guess which one I would work harder to defeat (actually couldn't bring myself to even put up a sign for the Republican running against the state rep).

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Something You May Not Be Able To Solve...

Someone I know asked about guns "What do you think the solutions might be"...

Well, depending on how you define the 'problem' I am not sure there is a solution..

In order to try and even have a conversation (the exchange of ideas, viewpoints and suggestions arriving at a compromise vs just pontificating) that results in limits to gun ownership something would need to happen that to be blunt I don't think can happen...

The people who would never own a gun and would never have a desire to own a gun need to convince those who own guns that they fundamentally have no desire to take their guns away.  Without that there is not going to be any sort of true conversation. Because lots of gun owners feel that the end state folks want is for them not to have guns.

According to Pew about 37% of Americans say they or someone in their household owns a gun.

But wait, that's less than 50% so the folks who don't have a gun in the house are the majority so they should be able to influence the  political process no matter what the 37% wants.. Well the reality is that you don't need a majority in order to defend or even promote a position if you are well organized, the defenders of a right, law or program used by a large number of people are almost always more successful in keeping that right, law or program than those seeking to change it (without court intervention).  This isn't unique to guns by any stretch.

But when it is considered by most who utilize it as a right, then it becomes that much harder to change. If you consider it a right or a wrong interpretation of the 2nd amendment is irrelevant. Because people feel it is a right, the courts have generally said it is a right and the courts have generally looked askance at all sorts of restrictions for quite some time.  Once someone is basically told something is a right and is convinced it is a right it is that much harder to modify later.

Also gun ownership tends to be regional, there are about 4.9 million people in Indiana over the age of 18, over 1.4 million of those folks have a handgun license. Restricting anything that almost 30% of voters in any unit of government are willing to go to the trouble of getting a license to do is a challenge pure and simple.

Convincing any group that limits on all of them (even if those limits would never apply to them personally) to protect people from a statistically very small number of that group is a challenge. You figure that out, there are all sorts of  'problems' you can fix.

The thing is however, I am not sure that is possible.

That all being said, better mental health options, treatment and insurance can only be a net positive on a whole host of issues in our society...

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The E-Mail I Sent To Metra Last Week. -- Updated


I realize this likely will not get beyond the intern or the person that is forced to check the e-mail box but I really have to ask as a general operation...

Are you even trying anymore?

As a long time BNSF commuter (I first started riding over 20 years ago), it seems that the number of delays and problems has grown significantly over the last couple of years culminating this year with I would have to say having less than 3 weeks where there hasn't been at least one day a week with some sort of delay or issue.

Yeah, I get it, it was a cold winter and I am willing to cut you some slack for that, but it isn't cold anymore and still there are issues. 

For example last night as me and several hundred of my fellow riders awaited our 5:22 to Naperville/Route 59 departure, straining to listen to the announcements over the sounds of idling and moving trains and enjoying the unique air quality that is the south end of track 2 wondering where our train was.

I will give credit where credit is due, as I could see the train headed down the track there was an announcement that is was coming, so there is that.

I also understand that delay was due to an Amtrak dispatch issue (Metra is always quick to offer specifics when the delay is Amtrak's fault, otherwise it is a vague switch/signal/freight interference issue and sometimes more than one of those).

Which leads me to my next question.  It seems that switches and signals fail all the time on the BNSF (yes, I know they operate the line, not you).  But it seems there are no consequences for the BNSF nor Metra for these failures, when things are going as bad as they seem to be now..   It just strikes me as inconceivable that after 100+ years of railroading, switches and signals seem to fail as often as they seem to do in 2014 on the BNSF.

Again, I suspect this will not get beyond the first person who reads it and even in it's present less than ideal state the train is still better than driving so you have that going for you...

But as a commuter I don't think it is too much to ask that someone figure out why there are so many signal/switch failures and there are some consequences for recent performance issues.



I will  let you know if I get a response.


I took a re-send but I did get one... Here it is.  One comment, since I ride the BNSF for the most part I am not riding on Metra trackage as it were...

Please accept our apologies for the delays you have experienced over the past several weeks.

While several factors have contributed to the decline in the level of on-time performance that our customers expect, the primary cause has been a major project to replace 20,000 rail crossties and resurface 17 miles of the center track between Chicago and Hinsdale We wish we could point to one other issue for other delays, but we can't. Some delays have stemmed from track/switch issues, others from mechanical failures, still others from freight interference/breakdowns.  Our capital needs are huge, and they have grown due to the age of our system and years of inadequate capital funding. Because we can't afford to invest enough in our engines, cars and infrastructure, we have a greater risk of mechanical problems and potentially slower service.

The delays the last few days are not associated with track work. We have had mechanical issues with equipment. We've had crossing-device failure, in addition to on-going projects across our territory.

Please accept our pledge to keep working with the BNSF toward eliminating unwarranted delays. We will continue to monitor train operations on a train-by-train basis. Rest assured that we'll take all necessary steps to protect the reliability of our service. We understand the impact of tardy trains on our passengers and we are sincerely sorry when our trains do not operate in a reliable manner.

Thank you for continuing to rely on Metra. We appreciate your understanding, patience and support and confidence in our BNSF service.