Critical Mass takes a stand against Mayor Rahm's school closings | Bleader

Critical Mass takes a stand against Mayor Rahm's school closings


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Mayor Rahm and fellow politicians watch bikers ride by.
  • Richard A. Chapman/Sun-Times
  • Mayor Rahm and fellow politicians watch bikers ride by.
With all due respect to my many bike-riding friends in Chicago, I've long believed that many of the leaders of the organized cycling community around here have been a little too wimpy over the last few years.

Especially during Mayor Daley's era.

As we all know, Mayor Daley himself was a biking enthusiast who endorsed the overall biking cause.

He added bike lanes and bike racks and sponsored bike-to-work ceremonies at which many biking enthusiasts genuflected to him as though he were the Sun King.

As a result, I created the following truism about bicyclers and politics in Chicago. Here goes . . .

Give a biking enthusiast a bike path, and he's your vote in the next election. Give him a bike path and a bike rack and he's your vote for life!

I have had so many arguments with bike riders through the years who have told me that they're voting for the man. That's why I'm happy to report that the monthly bike gathering Critical Mass will be taking a strong stand today against Mayor Emanuel's proposed school closings!

As usual, the Critical Mass riders will start to gather at Daley Plaza at 5:30 PM. At about 7 or so, they'll head south on a route that will take them past several schools the mayor's proposing to close.

Appropriately, the ride will go by the University of Chicago's TIF-funded Harper Court project at 53rd Street. In that deal, Mayor Emanuel's giving the U. of C. about $20 million in TIF dollars that would be far better served supporting our public schools.

Like the ones the mayor's eager to close.

There's one potential problem . . .

Critical Mass is a democratically run operation, meaning its routes are selected by the riders who show up at Daley Plaza, and everyone's eligible to vote.

I've never been to a Critical Mass ride. So I've turned to my friend and colleague David Glowacz for guidance.

When he's not talking to me about politics, Glowacz runs a website called Mr. Bike, and he probably knows more about bike riding in Chicago than anyone alive.

According to Mr. Bike, here's how the Critical Mass ride works . . .

"If you, Ben, have a map of a proposed route, you present it to the group, which votes on it," Glowacz explains.

"Is it a hand vote?" I ask.

"No, it's a voice vote of affirmation."

"So whichever map gets the loudest affirmation is the route we ride?"


There lies the flaw, people.

It's possible that Mayor Emanuel himself will show up to the Daley Plaza on Friday in spandex to present an alternative route. Though now that I think about it, this is probably a duty he'd delegate to a subordinate—like, oh, 1st Ward alderman Proco "Joe" Moreno.

If the mayor brings in enough CPS vendors, board members, consultants, and charter school enthusiasts, he could probably drown out the proschool forces in the voice vote.

In which case, they'd follow a path that takes them . . .

Actually, I'm not sure what path Mayor Emanuel could follow to show people all the good things he's doing for Chicago.

He could go by River Point—the upscale River North skyscraper he's giving $29.5 million in TIF funds to develop. And then on to Wilmette, his hometown.

I'm sure Wilmette continues to flourish today as it did in Mayor Daley's day.

Anyway, I urge everyone to show up for the Critical Mass ride. Just in case you're needed to out-shout the mayor's flunkies.

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