Downtown Chicago

Taxing Time For Chicagoans

The elections are over. So it’s time for “higher/new fees, fines, and taxes,” as I routinely point out in Survival And Prosperity.

Chicagoans found out yesterday what kind of impact City Hall’s latest “revenue enhancements” will have on their personal finances. Julian Crews, Dan Ponce, and Dana Rebik reported on the WGN-TV Chicago website Wednesday:

The Chicago City Council voted unanimously to pass Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s $8.2 billion 2017 budget Wednesday…

For taxpayers, the hardest pill to swallow in the budget may be a nearly 30 percent increase on water and sewer bills. The hike will be phased in over four years, and is expected to raise nearly $240 million to help shore up the municipal workers pension fund.

But the big impact to taxpayers will come in the form of a tiered increase in property taxes to fund police and fire pensions approved by the Council last year.

Other new fees include:

7-cent fee for all plastic AND paper bags to encourage people to bring reusable bags to the grocery store.
3.5 percent amusement tax for tickets to concerts, sporting events and musicals…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Crews, Ponce, and Rebik also pointed out coming higher fees with parking rates downtown, around Wrigleyville, and at both Midway and O’Hare airports. More parking meters will be popping up in the Loop and in city neighborhoods as well.

Anyone who’s been paying attention might have observed a disturbing trend lately with Chicago’s fees/fines/hikes. John Byrne and Hal Dardick reported on the Chicago Tribune website this morning:

The average family will pay nearly $1,700 more a year to the city and Chicago Public Schools than they did before the mayor took office in 2011 once all of Emanuel’s tax and fee increases take full effect. There’s been a series of property tax hikes. There was a water and sewer rate increase, plus a new tax on top of that. Not to mention a new garbage hauling fee, 911 phone tax hike, vehicle sticker fee increase and a tax on cable television…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

“$1,700 more a year… than they did before the mayor office in 2011”

Ouch. Byrne and Dardick added:

Even with all of that, taxpayers may be asked for more money in the coming years. Emanuel’s plans for shoring up long-neglected city worker pension funds will require the city to come up with hundreds of millions of dollars more by the early to mid-2020s

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

In the meantime, the reporters calculated the “typical” Chicago homeowner ($250,000 residence) can expect to see their tax bill rise another $400 in 2017.

As a former resident of Chicago, I can understand why people would want to live there. That being said, Chicagoans have been required to “pay to play.” And that trend might not be their friend if that Tribune analysis plays out.

For those choosing to remain in the “City By The Lake,” it might be wise for these individuals to take a good, hard look at their finances to figure out if they can keep residing there should the cost of living continue its upwards trajectory.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Crews, Julian, Ponce, Dan, and Rebik, Dana. “City Council unanimously passes $8.2 billion budget, including new taxes and fees.” WGN-TV Chicago. 16 Nov. 2016. (http://wgntv.com/2016/11/16/chicago-city-council-expected-to-pass-mayors-2017-budget-today/). 17 Nov. 2016.

Byrne, John and Dardick, Hal. “The tab on Emanuel’s series of tax hikes: $1,700 a year for the average family.” Chicago Tribune. 17 Nov. 2016. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-rahm-emanuel-chicago-city-council-budget-vote-met-1117-20161116-story.html). 17 Nov. 2016.

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Chicago Targeted Friday By Anonymous ‘Day Of Rage’ Protest?

Earlier this week I read Internet chatter about the “hacktivist” group Anonymous coordinating national “Day of Rage” protests for Friday, July 15, in response to recent police-involved shootings.

Suspecting there would probably be some event planned for Chicago if this was “legit,” I did some digging and observed that protesters are supposedly to meet at the Richard J. Daley Center (50 W. Washington St.) in the Loop at 6 PM tomorrow to kick off their “festivities.”

The thing is, these “Day of Rage” protests might not even be real.

Jason Howerton reported over on TheBlaze.com earlier today:

Rumors that Anonymous, the infamous so-called “hacktivist” group, is planning a national “Day of Rage” on Friday to protest recent police-involved shootings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota are nearly identical to a false rumor that circulated in 2014

Snopes reported the “Day of Rage” rumor is “virtually identical to one that was circulated two years earlier after the shooting of teenager Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.”

In 2014, one of the group’s affiliated accounts denied the “Day of Rage” plans…

On Wednesday, a different Anonymous account dismissed the rumor once again

Further, the same list of supposed times and locations for so-called protests in 2016 was also released in 2014…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

All of this is starting to sound like one gigantic hoax. But should enough aspiring “Ragers” gather at one/a number of sites, who knows what might transpire in the “Windy City” and other cities Friday.

Head on over to TheBlaze.com here for additional information.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Thursday, July 14th, 2016 Civil Strife, Government, Public Safety No Comments

SP Intel Report- December 1, 2015

I hope Survival And Prosperity readers had a nice Thanksgiving holiday. I’m going to keep the SP Intel Report short and local tonight as I get back into the swing of things.

Chicagoland

Chicago Thanksgiving Holiday Shootings Leave 8 Dead, At Least 20 Others Wounded

The long holiday weekend was a bloody one for Chicago. It was reported on the Fox 32 (Chicago) website Monday morning that 8 people were killed and at least 20 others wounded in shootings across the city. According to the HeyJackass! website this afternoon, the “Windy City” has tallied 2,750 shootings and 464 homicides year-to-date. Yikes.

‘Magnificent Mile’ Retailers Say Protest On Black Friday Resulted In Sales ‘25 Percent To 50 Percent Below Projections’

Kim Janssen reported on the Chicago Tribune website Monday afternoon:

Activists who blocked the entrances to stores on North Michigan Avenue on Black Friday to protest the fatal shooting of a black teenager by a white Chicago cop may have split opinions with their tactics.

But their goal of forcing retailers to suffer economic pain on what’s historically the busiest shopping day of the year was a success, according to unhappy store staff and managers who said Monday that Black Friday sales on the Magnificent Mile were 25 percent to 50 percent below projections

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

As if the city of Chicago needed more financial misery heaped on it these days.

Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy Fired

“I’ve never quit on anything in my life. I’m 56 years old. Don’t expect that to change… The mayor has made it very clear that he has my back…”

-Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy on November 27, 2015, in response to calls for his resignation post-Laquan McDonald shooting video release


“FNN: Garry McCarthy out as Chicago Police Superintendent”
YouTube Video

“The mayor has made it very clear that he has my back”

Famous last words .

While I wasn’t a fan of Superintendent McCarthy, I do thank him for his several years of public service on behalf of the residents of Chicago.

Illinois

Illinois State Rifle Association Issues ‘Urgent Alert’ On Prepping For Terrorism

While I haven’t been following the activities of the Illinois State Rifle Association for long, I don’t think I’ve ever seen them this worked up about such an issue. From a November 14 Facebook post:

URGENT ALERT –
DO NOT PUT YOUR FAMILY SECURITY ON THE BACK BURNER
EVENTS IN PARIS ARE JUST A WARM UP EXERCISE
YOU MUST ARM AND TRAIN YOUR FAMILY TO ENSURE SURVIVAL

People around the world were treated today to a brutal spectacle having its roots in political naivety, ignorance of history, and wholly misguided immigration policy. Does that sound familiar? It should, because it aptly describes not only to the French government, but the sitting U.S. administration as well.

If you are of the mind of, “…it can’t happen here” then you are sorely deluded. The apparatus to launch a Paris-style bloodbath is already in place here in the United States. All these determined terrorists are waiting for is the go-head from their higher headquarters.

We may be only hours or even moments away from the news that dozens if not hundreds of Americans – just like you and your family – are laying dead or dying in a heap on the floor of some sporting, shopping or entertainment venue. We may be only hours or even moments away from hearing about how the police are looking for “…a few extremists” responsible from the carnage.

It’s not a question as to whether this is going to happen here, because it will. The real question is whether you are prepared to stand and protect what is yours. Are you prepared and able to defend yourself and your family? When the inevitable moment of truth arrives, are you willing to stand and fight or will you be content to play dead – hoping desperately that it is not your day to die?

The survival of you and your family is not mere fodder for some analysis of the war on terror – it’s a cultural imperative. As an American, you are very fortunate that you have a formula for survival and it’s called the Second Amendment. However, the power of any right is directly proportional to how vigorously it is exercised. Left unattended, the rights you enjoy under our Second Amendment will wither away.

To better the chances of survival for you and your family, the Illinois State Rifle Association urges you to do the following:

1. Make sure every person in your family holds a FOID card and that all eligible family members hold Illinois concealed carry permits.
2. Assemble a family defense arsenal consisting of one or more semiautomatic rifles such as the AR-15; one or more 12-gauge pump action shotguns, and one or more semiautomatic handguns. If you do not have a family defense arsenal, this is a good weekend to begin putting it together.
3. Be sure that you and every member of your family have had sufficient training in the use and field servicing of the weapons in your family defense arsenal.
4. Be sure that you have sufficient quantities of the proper ammunition on hand to defend your family.
5. Resolve this weekend to get yourself and your family into a physical training regimen. Your physical conditioning may be the difference between life and death during a Paris-style attack.
6. Encourage your extended family and friends to develop plans for protecting self and family from the threat of terror our government takes so lightly.

You have to understand that this is not a battle you can hire someone else to fight for you. When the time comes, you may very well find yourself standing nose to nose with a guy intent upon obliterating you, your culture, and everything you hold sacred.

Are you prepared?

Disturbing. Yet nothing to scoff at, as I too believe it’s only a matter of time before a major terror attack is launched by jihadists against the U.S.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

“8 killed, 20 wounded in Thanksgiving weekend shootings across Chicago.” Sun-Times Media Wire. 30 Nov. 2015. (http://www.fox32chicago.com/news/crime/54615863-story). 1 Dec. 2015.

Janssen, Kim. “Michigan Avenue Black Friday protests cost stores 25-50 percent of sales.” Chicago Tribune. 30 Nov. 2015. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-black-friday-mag-mile-fallout-1201-biz-20151130-story.html). 1 Dec. 2015.

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SP Intel Report- October 26, 2015

Welcome to the inaugural post of the “SP Intel Report.” On October 15 I blogged big changes were coming to Survival And Prosperity starting October 19. I wrote:

Each day will begin with an “SP Intel Report” (if it’s warranted), where I’ll be focusing on current events locally (Chicagoland area), nationwide, and overseas which I think readers should be aware of…

As luck would have it, my computer crashed October 19, delaying the implementation of these changes.

One week later, I’ve managed to repair my laptop, and I’m back in the saddle again.

So off we go then…

Chicago

“If City Hall ‘loses’ downtown to the bad guys… you lose the tourists, their money, revenue… you get the point.”

Survival And Prosperity, May 4, 2011

The Chicago news media is reporting that two tourists from Minneapolis were robbed at knifepoint by three men near Oak Street Beach late Saturday evening. The male victim was stabbed during the holdup while trying to protect his girlfriend. Two of Chicago’s more upstanding residents have been charged with the crime (police are still looking for a third individual).

The last time I blogged about a tourist getting knifed downtown was back during the 2012 holiday season. Even though it’s been a while, I fear we’ll be hearing of similar incidents with increased regularity as the city’s financial health deteriorates and the Chicago Police Department keeps receiving lip service but not bodies (meaning manpower).

There will probably be plenty of the other based on recent trends.

Note to self. Study up on defense against knives.

Illinois

Speaking of deteriorating financial health, the State of Illinois was hammered by two of the major credit rating agencies in the past week. On October 19, Fitch Ratings announced in a press release:

Fitch Ratings has downgraded the rating on $26.8 billion in outstanding Illinois general obligation (GO) bonds to ‘BBB+’ from ‘A-‘.

In addition, the ratings on bonds related to the state based on its appropriation have been downgraded to ‘BBB’ from ‘BBB+’…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Three days later, Moody’s Investors Service stated in a release:

Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded the State of Illinois’ $26.8 billion of general obligation bonds to Baa1 from A3, while also lowering ratings on the state’s sales-tax (Build Illinois) bonds to Baa1 from A3, and on the state’s subject to appropriation bonds (issued by the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority and for the state’s Civic Center program) to Baa2 from Baa1. The outlook for all of these obligations remains negative…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Keep in mind the following observations by Karen Pierog over on the Reuters website on October 22:

Both general obligation bond ratings are now just three steps above the “junk” level… The downgrade by Moody’s marked the 17th by major credit rating agencies for Illinois since 2003… Even before this week’s downgrades, Illinois had the lowest credit ratings among the 50 U.S. states. Ratings histories from the three major credit rating agencies indicate few states have ever had their GO ratings fall below the A level…

Faced with a $105 billion unfunded public pension liability and a bill backlog of around $7 billion, I suspect Illinoisans will be on the hook for some sort of tax hike(s) in the near future.

International

Any Survival And Prosperity readers skeptical about the future existence of the Internet? Personally, I won’t be surprised if it goes kaput one day. Don’t get me wrong, I’m somewhat of a techie (driven by needs, not wants) and love the Internet. But I’m not sold on its staying power due to frailties with its infrastructure. A couple of years ago I remember reading about an elderly Georgian woman accidently cutting off neighboring Armenia’s access to the World Wide Web for up to five hours- using only a spade. And now there’s this from The New York Times website this past Sunday. David E. Sanger and Eric Schmitt reported:

Russian submarines and spy ships are aggressively operating near the vital undersea cables that carry almost all global Internet communications, raising concerns among some American military and intelligence officials that the Russians might be planning to attack those lines in times of tension or conflict.

The issue goes beyond old worries during the Cold War that the Russians would tap into the cables — a task American intelligence agencies also mastered decades ago. The alarm today is deeper: The ultimate Russian hack on the United States could involve severing the fiber-optic cables at some of their hardest-to-access locations to halt the instant communications on which the West’s governments, economies and citizens have grown dependent

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

So the Russians could switch off the Internet. Or a rogue Uncle Sam could do it and blame the Russkies.

I told my girlfriend her brilliant nephew should get into the BBS game. Wave of the future?


“Apple II on a BBS in 2014!”
YouTube Video

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Sobol, Rosemary Regina. “$500K, $950K bails set for 2 accused of robbery, stabbing near Oak Street Beach.” Chicago Tribune. 26 Oct. 2015. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-police-2-held-following-armed-robbery-stabbing-near-oak-street-beach-20151026-story.html). 26 Oct. 2015.

Pierog, Karen. “UPDATE 2-Illinois bond rating cut again over budget impasse.” Reuters. 22 Oct. 2015. (http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/10/22/illinois-downgrade-moodys-idUSL1N12M2L120151022). 26 Oct. 2015.

Sanger, David E. and Schmitt, Eric. “Russian Ships Near Data Cables Are Too Close for U.S. Comfort.” The New York Times. 25 Oct. 2015. (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/26/world/europe/russian-presence-near-undersea-cables-concerns-us.html?_r=1). 26 Oct. 2015.

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Project Prepper, Part 37: Getting Back Into Shape

As I approach another birthday, I smile when I think back to the early nineties when a friend and I would head down to Chicago’s lakefront and regularly jog a good portion of the 18.5-mile Chicago Lakefront Trail for exercise. I was in my late teens at the time, and in the best shape of my life.

Day Off Jogging Lakefront Car Show (Summer 1991)

Day Off Jogging
Lakefront Car Show (Summer 1991)

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Fast forward to today. I’m nowhere near the same kind of shape I was almost a quarter of a century ago. Not countering the effects from years of living a sedentary lifestyle and working in front of computer screens for hours on end has taken a toll on my physical fitness.

That being said, I decided some time ago that as part of the “Project Prepper” series of posts, I’d work hard at getting back into shape. From the beginning of my ongoing education about prepping, I realized not being “fit” could be a serious hindrance to what one’s trying to achieve by prepping. For example, let’s say I’m employed in an office building in a major U.S. city, and I’m prepping for a significant emergency/disaster that could happen while I’m at work. If the event occurs, there’s a good chance I may end up needing to hoof it out of that location (possibly within a certain amount of time) in order to reach safety. If I’m not up to the task physically, I could be in real trouble.


“911 WTC people in chaos taking shelter – with sound part1 – archival stock footage”
YouTube Video

So I’m going to get back in shape. I’ll be putting together the regimen of exercises in the coming days. As for the standards I’m shooting for, I’m leaning towards those embraced by Blackwater, Inc. Founder and former CEO Erik Prince talked about them in his recently published book entitled Civilian Warriors: The Inside Story of Blackwater and the Unsung Heroes of the War on Terror:

Our employees may have been retired from the military, but Blackwater didn’t hire your typical “retiree.” After the eight-week Moyock training programs that turned those veterans into diplomatic security professionals, our final physical fitness test standards required men to run one and a half miles in less than ten minutes, forty-five seconds; execute twelve pull-ups in a row, seventy-five push-ups done in two one-minute sets, and seventy-five sit-ups in two one-minute sets; and drag a 175-pound dummy eighty feet in under one minute

(Editor: Bold added for emphasis)

Now if I could just find a 175-pound dummy…

Anyway, that’s what I’m thinking right now. I am certain about one thing though. It’s imperative I get back into shape pronto, not only because doing so allows me to explore prepping more fully as part of these posts, but also because I’m at that age (40-something) where looking after my health needs to be more of a priority than it has been in the past.

Until next time…

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Downtown Chicago Diners Could See 11.25 Percent Sales Tax In 2016

Back on July 16, I noted the total sales tax rate in Chicago and the rest of Cook County looks to rise to 10.25 percent again in the coming year, making it one of the highest rates in the nation.

But diners of certain downtown Chicago eateries could be hit by an even higher sales tax rate. Pointing out an additional sales tax (“McPier tax”) downtown that tacks on an additional 1 percent to food/beverage bills, Lauren Choolijian reported on the WBEZ 91.5 website yesterday:

For restaurant patrons that dine south of Diversey Parkway, north of the Stevenson Expressway, east of Ashland Avenue and west of Lake Michigan, the Cook County proposal means an 11.25 percent sales tax will be added to their tab in 2016. The McPier tax affects all food and beverage purchases prepared for “immediate consumption,” and that includes soft drinks and alcoholic beverages…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Actual and proposed fee, fine, and tax increases are making the headlines quite often these days in the Chicago area. If my suspicions prove correct (these hikes are just the first of many due to steadily eroding financial conditions), Chicagoland residents, workers, and prospective visitors will increasingly seek alternatives (for example, dining out closer to home as it concerns the above), local government revenue collection will plummet, and public services will continue to be scaled back.

Anyway, check out Choolijian’s piece on the WBEZ site here for the full details of the 11.25 percent sales tax hit.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015 Fiscal Policy, Government, Taxes, Tourism No Comments

Wilding At Chicago’s Navy Pier Winter WonderFest?

Regarding Friday night’s brawls at Chicago’s Navy Pier Winter WonderfestI wondered if wilding wasn’t also going on in the area. After all, news cameras showed throngs of youths festering outside the venue after the event was shut down. I got a better idea of what took place at the popular tourist destination while reading my Sunday paper at breakfast. Tucked away on page 12 of the Chicago Tribune, Rosemary Regina Sobol wrote:

Two teenage brothers, ages 13 and 16, are recovering at home Saturday after being beaten and robbed during one of several Friday night disturbances related to Navy Pier’s Winter WonderFest…

The brothers were walking to Navy Pier when they were confronted by 10 to 15 males, according to a police report. The offenders began beating the victims about the head and body, according to the report, fleeing with an iPhone from the 16-year-old and $30 from the 13-year-old…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

The folks over at Second City Cop added yesterday:

A number of strong arm robberies reported during the melee.

Lots of teens creating chaos. Reports of robberies. Multiple attackers. Apple picking. Could very well be wilding that went down in and around Navy Pier the other night.

Something tells me this type of criminal activity isn’t going away anytime soon in the “Windy City.” And it looks like it could happen at any time of the year now. So use your head before going downtown. Before it’s impaled with a chair leg…


Alleged Video Of Rock N’ Roll McDonalds After Navy Pier Closed
YouTube Video

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Sobol, Rosemary Regina. “2 boys recovering after robbery near Navy Pier.” Chicago Tribune. 28 Dec. 2014.

SCC. “December Wilding (Update).” Second City Cop. 27 Dec. 2014. (http://secondcitycop.blogspot.com/2014/12/december-wilding.html). 28 Dec. 2014.

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Sunday, December 28th, 2014 Crime, Public Safety, Self-Defense No Comments
Survival And Prosperity
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Christopher E. Hill, Editor

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