Wednesday, June 4, 2008

How to Sue the City

Participate in Local Government - Sue your Home Town!

Mayor Won't Listen? Alderman Won't Listen? Tell it to a Judge!

Supposedly our elected representatives in City Hall, our aldermen are more like mere pimples on Daley's ass. As the Mayor ratchets up his naturally autocratic tendencies to grossly megalomaniac proportions in an overblown pageant of raw power for the benefit of the International Olympic Committee, our already pathetic public processes are completely pre-empted, and Chicago's citizens are forced more and more to deal with the government of their home town in the courts. Our Mayor and Aldermen trample process and say to their citizens, "This is how it's going to be. If you don't like it, sue us," and, increasingly, citizens are taking them up on it.

The "Save Lincoln Parks" folks recently scored a major victory for community voice when the City and Park District caved, settling out of court. How did they do it?

The City is EXTREMELY adverse to going to a discovery phase. Our home town's decision-making processes do not bear up well under close scrutiny. The City does NOT want citizen's lawyers crawling over City departments, City Council committees, and the Plan Commission armed with subpoena power; forget FOIA, we're talking the power to compel testimony under oath from City officials.

So the secret to suing the City of Chicago is relatively simple:


Focus like a laser beam on getting to discovery. Specifically, the "Save Lincoln Park" folks hired crack attorneys, Thomas J. Ramsdell and Reuben L. Hedlund, a former Chairman of the Plan Commission. Their filing was EXTREMELY careful with establishing "standing," that is, they were careful to find folks willing to go on record who were directly harmed by the City's plan. They lined up:
  • a mom with an 8-year-old who participated in a flag football club that met on the formerly green space occupied by Latin School;
  • a condo owner in the building closest to the site; and
  • a mom with a minority 11-year-old who lives in a neighborhood that was "denied adequate and improved local park facilities comparable to those being developed for the Latin School"
To their great credit, the "Save Lincoln Park" folks posted the complaint they paid for, for all to read, a priceless gift:

Protect Our Parks vs. Latin School, Park District, and Plan Commission

Ben Joravsky of the Reader calls their complaint "a model for how to sue the City." It's highly recommended reading for anyone interested in community activism in Chicago.

We find ourselves at a very sad place in terms of community voice in Chicago. Citizens should not be routinely in court at a table opposite their own home town. We each of us have a $104,101.00/year advocate in City Hall, we shouldn't have to hire lawyers. Just thank god there are three branches of government in Chicago, because one man controls two of them. Looking back, when fans rose up to protest the wanton midnight destruction of Meigs Field, we should have all been thinking "there but for the grace of God." If our City Council and Plan Commission did their jobs, maybe we wouldn't be here. But here we are.


Suzanne said...

Governance by adjudication: It’s not just a city thing. Springfield makes Daley look like a piker.

I'm afraid the courts may be the only place left (and perhaps not for long) where regular people can be heard in the dysfunctional of-the-money, by-the-money, for-the-money government that is now Illinois.

been there said...

personally, i am dying to have the olympics here. i wholeheartedly support the olympic ideals. i will be thrilled to welcome all these people to the city that i am so proud of. we will reap the benefits for the tourism sector for generations.
i am also harshly opposed to nimbys, and people who enjoy and support the olympics should be happy to have them here, and patient with the small bit of chaos that they will bring.

and re meigs field, i say- everyone wants our democratic leaders to show some gonads. then when they do, everybody freaks out. i understand what he did. whatever value there was in having meigs field, you can only shove people around so much. i was happy to see a democrat draw the damn line.

Hugh said...

even dictators have their constituency

Peter Zelchenko said...

Thanks, Hugh. I have to say that we were indeed afraid of the judicial side of this, because the mayor has a lot of friends there as well who are afraid to buck the status quo. We were lucky enough to get a Circuit Court judge who at least cut the baby in half and gave us enough to go to appeal on.

The other point to make is that we haven't actually won: Latin School has lost, but the city really has won, because it is likely to get the soccer field anyway, in the worst possible place. The only thing they haven't got is the $2 million from Latin School.

been there said...

of please, hugh. dictator?
really, that is a slap in the face of the 70% of voters who re-elected him, again. a certain amount of respect for the will of the people is necessary for a democracy to function. you want to keep whining over a close on, that is one thing. but to label someone a dictator that has been re-elected so many times, but such large margins. really.
i guess that i am a little cranky today about the whole sore loser thing. it really is a pox.

Dr O said...

Been IS a dictatorship when there is only the appearance of democracy. Much like the national process occuring now. Who is the Green Party candidate for president? Or the socialist? How about the libertarian? Can't name them? That's because the two parties in power have set up the game so only THEY can be seen enmasse (like on national debates). Also, years ago, there was an agreement between the Dems and Reps to basically keep to the same party line. Therefore, you "vote" every four years for president, but you are voting for one rich, well-connected, corporatly owned individual, or the other.
Here in Chicago those in power have a system set up to stifle opposition fairly well. Daley ensures that his name is kept in th elimelight as much as possible, he keeps a plausibly deniable distance from corruption and many tricks are played to keep the opposition low, or non-existent.
This is a dictatorship. Heck, I lived in Ukraine for a while. When they were part of the Soviet system THEY had elections also. Was THAT a democracy?

Big Daddy said...

Are you actually saying that you are proud of the way the mayor removed Meigs Field or am I mis-understanding you? daley did that like he does most other things-like a thief in the middle of the night. Maybe you are new here and don't understand how things work under this and other tyrants. There are two classes of people here and it has nothing to do with race, gender or soci-economic standing. Those two classes are those that are connected and those that are not. If your connected, life is good. If not, so sorry. So if we do get the Olympics here, the only people that will benefit wil be the...........,you guessed it. The connected.

Coleen said...

The attorney for the plaintiffs was Thomas J. Ramsdell, not Reuben Hedlund.

Tom Tresser said...

Thanks for letting your readers know about the efforts of Protect Our Parks (the legal name for the Committee to Keep Lincoln Park Public). We're online at This has been, for sure, an uphill battle. No law firm would touch this on a pro bono basis and our committee members dug into their own pockets to start the legal fund and then we were able to raise funds to hire the law firm of Thomas Ramsdell. All seasoned city watchers thought were nuts and gave us very little chance of stopping the Latin School Lincoln Park land grab. The courts agreed with us and stopped the illegal construction and voided the sweetheart deal. But the Park District then voted to CONTINUE to build the facility that was only put there to benefit ONE USER - the Latin School. When the community had a chance to speak BEFORE construction in 2002 when a similar project was proposed - it loudly said "NO THANKS! KEEP THE SITE A MEADOW, THANK YOU VERY MUCH." If you want the North Meadow to be returned to a grass meadow that will be accessed by the widest number of users for the most uses - then call your alderman. Sign our online petition and send us a donation to keep our fight alive.

By the way, to the Olympic boosters out there - the games loose money for host cities who habitually understate the costs of the games. London's games are already 200% over budget - going from the estimated $3.4 billion pounds to $9.3 billion. Check out the web site If Chicago gets the bid you'll see massive destruction of our parks and the handing over of public land to private developers. Who in Chicago can afford a ticket to an Olympic event? Unless you own a hotel or a restaurant, you won't make any money. The rest of us will be paying the bills for years to come. Meanwhile, our CTA, libraries, schools and parks go wanting.


been there said...

well, i have been here since shortly after harold washington was elected, and lived the rest of my life just outside the city, so, no i am not new here.
so, i know for a fact that your little conspiracy theory is not factual. harold washington not only rose on the shoulders of we the people, he governed from there.
it is a sad thing when a primary fight is seen as some sort of divine retribution. but there is nothing special about chicago in that. i am happy to see my party surviving and thriving through such a long and hard fought contest.

as far as meigs, yes, i am proud of him for doing that. one republican governor and then another made promises about returning it to parkland, then welshed. i take him at his word that, in the wake of 9-11 he feared for our security here. i would have rather that he did not give in to that fear, not going into that all, just taking him at his word. so, i think he had good reasons, and i applaud his showing some gonads.
he is not perfect. but he is the best mayor i have seen in my lifetime. ymmv.

and without resorting to the google, the green party candidates are/were ralph nader and cynthia mc kinney, don't remember the socialist, and the libertarian is bob barr. i, however, am a democrat, and i am one that is actively supporting the reform of my party.
you may have heard about a skinny guy with a funny name that was not supposed to go anywhere. it is his party now, and along with chairman dean, they are turning the party back over to the people. today they announced that the dnc will no longer take money from lobbyists.
if you think that the big fat cats run everything, maybe you can explain about how howard dean got where he is, and why both he and barack obama raised record amounts of money in chunks smaller than $100.
the rich and the powerful take over when apathy overtakes the masses. nature abhors a vacuum. but they are getting sucked out into outer space. we the people are fighting back.
am i connected? i am no more connected to tptb than i am to any of my other neighbors and friends that are my community. it's called working together. community. it's more than being a keyboard commando. but you do need some social skills for it. get out more.

Save Street End Beaches said...

Take Daley at his word? That's laughable. He has no respect for the rule of law and surrounds himself with corruption.

been there, you are very naive when it comes to Chicago politics. They are not true 'democrats'. I just hope Obama has the guts to stand up to the mayor and the corruption in Illinois.

Herb said...

Hey, the trial attorney to credit is Tom Ramsdell. not Reuben Hedlund (whom we couldn't afford). Although we won the relief we were seeking, stopping construction of the Latin soccer field for the second time in six years, the Park District is like a zombie that won't stay dead and has threatened to start it all over again once the required Plan commission hearing has been completed. So is continuing to need contributions to the legal fund and is already working on how to finally drive a fatal stake into the conniving heart of the Latin School soccer field land grab.

jg said...

Get it right: Reuben Hedlund had NOTHING to do with this case. He probably wishes he did, but that's just not the case. You need to correct the error in your post. Thomas J. Ramsdell and the attorneys of his firm are the ones who took Latin to school, along with pro bono help from attorneys with the plaintiff Protect Our Parks. You are doing the right thing by giving credit to the group who showed "how to sue the city," and you started to correct the problem you created by adding Mr. Ramsdell's name. Now delete the Hedlund reference and you'll be on track.

been there said...

stseb- i am not naive. i am just not cynical, either. i don't judge anybody by the worst thing they ever did, or by the largest of their flaws. as old man daley once advised, i ask- what trees have you planted?
i know full well that daley has a habit of, let us say, generously, cutting through the red tape. i wish it wasn't like that. but then again, if i had the likes of bernie stone judging my plans, i would do what i could find another channel.
i love the things that daley has done to give this city a front yard that is second to none. when i walk around millennium park, i frankly do not care how much it cost, or how it got done.
he can come up here and do the same to the parks and beaches as far as i am concerned. i am very eager for a bike path extension. i liked the plan that was so stupidly maligned but the army of nay sayers.
there will always be a contingent that is against anything that you try to do. but no is not a plan. no does not get things done. no does not prepare you for the future. the pissed off are the price of leadership.
a leader needs to be able to understand where those noes are coming from, soothe them if possible, but plant the trees anyway.

Isaac Marshall said...

been there:

you are a pathetic daley shill!

daley was worried about security when he tore apart meigs field? that was a lie. you must lack critical thinking skills to believe take him at his word on that account.

you like the parks and the beaches, but here comes hypocrite daley approving the childrens musem in the middle of grant park. let the little children go to an underground museum. why the flip flop on that issue by da mayor? because those at the helm of the childrens museum are CONNECTED!

It isn't always a conspiracy, but you have to be able to see chicago politics when it stares you in the face!

been there said...

boy, isaac. and people accuse me of tinfoil-hattery. the man won with 70% of the vote.=>many people support what he has done.
it's called democracy. you don't have to like it. you have the right to say whatever you want about the man. or me, for that matter. but don't be surprised to find out that not everybody thinks like you.

Isaac Marshall said...

70 percent because he has no decent challenger. 70 percent because the churches tell their parishoners to vote for him, and like good little sheep they follow.

despite scandal after scandal in this city, he still gets 70%, and you don't even blink an eye. taxes continue to go up and he is still mr popular! keep pointing to his winning margin as an excuse for him to continue his corrupt reign.

absolute stupidity, by you and the other 70 percent.

Big Daddy said...

I have a dream. In that dream, four of the most corrupt politicians ever known to man are dragged out of their offices in handcuffs and taken to prison for the crimes they commited against their constituents and their corruption. They have already taken one of them. Now, if they can only get the other three, daley,stroger and blagoyovich, I will once again be a happy camper and ryan will have a few cell mates.
PS. If your a resident of RP, feel free to add joe moore to the list.

been there said...

either you lead a very sheltered life, or you cannot see much past the end of your nose if your list does not even contains george bush and dick cheney.
just amazing.

Big Daddy said...

Ahh, deflection and personal attacks. So typical. When one can't argue the facts, try to deflect the topic to another person or direction or make a personal attack. We are talking about local,not national political figures. Please stay on topic.

For the record, I did not nor do I lead a sheltered life. I've lived in this city my entire life. I've seen the corruption in this city that is allowed to exist and commited by the very same people that you seem to hold in high esteem. You talk about Meigs Field. You benefitted from the destruction of Meigs Field? You tell me. The people? How? Because they can now watch a concert on the lakefront? You talk about a park downtown. While I will admit that it's a beautiful park, at what cost? Are we to ignore the millions of tax dollars that are wasted because of corruption? Did you ever ask yourself how different things could be if corruption in this city was eliminated. One need look no further than RP to confirm the devastating effect corruption has had or can have on a city. All committed by the same people you seem to idolize. They are thieves that belong in jail.

been there said...

i don't idolize daley. i stated that clearly. i do not share your cynical opinion of him, tho.
i am aware that, like ever human leader since the beginning of time, he is surrounded by people drawn to power. this is a good thing. to rule is difficult job, and no one can do it alone. some get things for that, like the peanut concession at the airport. if they manage them well, and don't gouge too much, they will make money. (some do not get shit, except the opportunity to do something for their city or their friend, for nothing.) do i care about that? if i had a magic wand, i would make it more fair. does it keep me up and night? hardly.

is there corruption in chicago? is the sky up? is there corruption everywhere? it is human nature. neither richard daley, nor you, nor me, nor sigmund freud, nor the amazing randi are going to make a dent in that. so, i am not gonna sit here and rip a politician for not repealing the laws of human nature. nor do i hold him accountable for the crimes of ever thug in the city.

do i wish my taxes were lower? sure. but like the prices of anything else, if what i get is valuable, and i can afford the price, i am a satisfied customer. i love my city. i wouldn't live anywhere else.

if that sound to you like idolizing, read it again. but i will say this much for the man- if you think, for one minute, that ritchie daley does not love this city, and did not, after 9/11, fear for his city, and his people, did not worry about a plane flying into the sears tower, i will not bother to post to you in the future. you are clearly missing either logic, or humanity.

Big Daddy said...

Dismissing the corruption that is deep rooted in this administration simply because it occurs elswhere is one of the most absurd concepts I've ever heard of. If the mayor appoints someone to a cabinet post and that person turns out to be a thief or worse, is the mayor not to be held accountable for that appointment? Are any of these politicians accountable for anything in your grandiose vision of the ways things are? Is it too much to ask that I, as a taxpayer, get the most I possibly can for the tax dollars that I contribute instead of accepting the premise that" as long as they don't gouge too much"? Why can I not expect the most qualified person to get the job instead of the guy that has a political connection? How many members of the mayors most inner sanctum have to be convicted and sent to prison before you admit that perhaps the problem is the man at the top?

Does Richie Daley love this city? I don't know. I do believe that his being the mayor has more to do with his belief that it's a birth right more than any love for the city. You ask about his fear for the city after 9-11. If that's true, then tell me what plans exist in the event of another 9-11. Tell me, please, about what his Police Officers instructions are, what his firemen are supposed to do. Please. Tell me anything that you have first hand knowlege of. Tell me what role the 9-11 center will be and how efficent they are. Have you heard anything? I haven't and I am in a position that absolutely requires that information. I didn't think so. But when you do, get back to me.

Having lived my entire life in this city I think it would be a fair statement that I love it to. I had intended to retire here and enjoy the many benefits of living here. But I ABSOLUTELY UNEQUIVOCALLY cannot stand the corruption that exists in the city, county and state anymore. We are the laughing stock of the nation,no make that the world, as a city where the dead vote, where elections are bought and paid for, where it's not what you know but who you know, the list goes on and on. And that's all because of people like Richard Daley, Todd Stroger and Rod Blagoyovich. And the people that blindly re-elect these misfits year after year after year. Because that's likely to continue, I have to move. It's me that has to go. The cure leaves while the cancer stays and gets bigger and bigger with time.

Please don't lecture me about my logic or humanity. I've got more humanity in my little finger than most people do in their entire body. I've even got stab wounds and bullet holes to prove it. All for the citizens of this great city. And if I'm ever unfortunate enough to receive anymore, I pray to God that these hucksters don't show up at my hospital bed this time like they tried to do in the past. I'm older now and I hope a little wiser. And not afraid to throw pond scum out of my hospital room when they showup for a photo op.

Isaac Marshall said...

i agree there is corruption almost everywhere. my point is how much we have and how it hurts everyone, not just the few. there is way too much corruption at every corner of this city, and in his 25 years he has done nothing to stop it.

as for meigs field, you can stop posting.....because he wanted meigs field gone before 9/11, and used it as an excuse. it is disgusting that he uses a true national disaster to support his own personal plans. he never worried about meigs being used as a launching point before 9/11, and all of sudden these small jets are going to be filled with explosives and crash into every skyscraper downtown. please stop!!!

bluSCALE4 said...


I was wondering if I could reprint this in pdf form on the ramsdell-law website. Thanks.

Craig Gernhardt said...

You may. Thanks for asking.

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