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August 27, 2013

Student Achievement Decreases as Teacher Union Strength Increases (@CTULocal1 @ChicagosMayor )

Filed under: Politics — Chris Chaten @ 8:55 AM

A new paper in the Economics of Education Review details the inverse relationship between student performance and teacher union strength.

 “We provide remarkably strong evidence that students in states with strong teachers unions have lower proficiency rates than students in states with weak state-wide teacher unions.”

Source: Economics of Education Review, 2013, vol. 35, issue C, pages 93-103


As I’ve written before, especially in Chicago, the teacher’s union is a body that persists legacy thinking such as tenure based pay and ignoring empirical methods of measuring and incenting performance.  I’m not sure why anyone would expect results to be different than what was found.



August 9, 2013

Crime in Lakeview: 2008 to 2012, Normalized for Geography

Filed under: Politics — Chris Chaten @ 9:32 AM

The CAPS meeting last night uncovered an issue of measurement that leads to unproductive conversation about crime trends. The beats and districts haven’t been consistent over the past few years, so measuring changes based on those categories is tricky. To remedy this, we should use actual geographic locations to normalize the data.

Keeping with full year statistics, I’ve pulled 2008 and 2012 for a section of Lakeview that is perceived by residents to be degrading. I’ve buffered the area a bit for a margin of error, but the preponderance of crimes is in the hot spots highlighted yesterday. Below is the geographic area I’m using as a basis for discussion:1


Lat Max: 41.953582 Lat Min: 41.932774 Long Max: -87.639323 Long Min: -87.659839

Basically, Diversey to Sheridan & Sheridan to Racine.

I’ve broken out crime types into three categories:
1. People Taking Things

2. Harm / Threat of Harm

3. Drugs & Decorum


A few notes:
While the “People Taking Things” index seems flat, the high number of thefts is obscuring the rise in the more serious offenses. Robbery, motor vehicle theft, and burglary are all up. Excluding theft, this index is up 21% from 2008.

The overall “Harm” index is up 22%, with criminal trespass the most notable increase. The “Decorum” index is up 39%, driven largely by the 70% rise in Narcotics reports.

As we see the 2013 numbers come in, our success should not use 2012 as a baseline. We should use 2008 as a benchmark and normalize for geographic area. If we do this, we can begin to have productive conversation about fixing the issue.


People Taking Things Index (ex theft): +21%
Harm Index: +22%
Drugs and Decorum Index: +39%

Continue to follow this story on: Crime in Wrigleyville & Boystown

1 Heat map is 2012, all crime within the lat long boundaries. Source for all data is


August 8, 2013

Crime in Chicago’s 19th District Heat Map (cc @CWBChicago @NBCChicago @AldTomTunney @JamesCappleman)

Filed under: Politics — Chris Chaten @ 12:47 PM

An under-the-radar shift is occuring on Chicago’s North Side.  Parts of the Lakeview neighborhood, most notable to visitors as home to Wrigley Field, have recently transformed from one of the cities safes areas to one of the more dangerous. In the past 90 days, beat 1924, which includes the Wrigley Field area, was#1 in all of Chicago for robbery incidents. Here’s a post from a blog covering the issue in depth.

Below is a chart from the blog, showing the marked increase in crime in 2011, and the persistance of that rate through this year.  This rise largely coincides with decreased officer presence due to a precent merger and civic priorities (shifted focues to South & West Sides and Michigan Avenue).1923,1924,1925 Beat CrimeIn order to provide context, I’ve devel0ped a heat map of the entire 19th Ward. The red and green highlights are not good; blue and grey are fairly begnign areas (relative to the hot spots).

I’ve tried to annotate notable landmarks that have been discussed at local community meetings and forums.

19th District Crime Heat Map

Some folks have asked a bit about change over time.  Let’s examine robberies in 2008 and 2012.  The count in 2008 was 532 compared to 546 in 2012 accross the district.  However, gains in the north merely mask the spike in the south. The robberies in the 1924 beat spiked from 49 in 2008 to 119 in 2012 (2013 is already at 70) .  Take a look:

Chicago 19th District Robberies 2008 - 2012

So while the norther part of the district is being cleaned up, the crime is merely moving south.  The Halsted and Belmont crime area is spreading throughout the neighborhood.

For more information on this issue, attend the CAPS meeting tonight:

Thursday, August 8, 2013, 7PM
Illinois Masonic Medical Center
836 W. Wellington (Front desk will direct you to the room)

Follow the blog Crime in Wrigleyville & Boystown for ongoing updates.


Source: City of Chicago

Edit: “Ward” changed to “District” (no effect on data). Added data source URL.

Edit #2: Added 2008 to 20012 analysis

July 30, 2013

The Chipotle Proxy

Filed under: Business,Economics,Technology & Internet — Chris Chaten @ 3:45 PM

When traveling to a new city and looking to explore, I’ll often fire up Waze or Google Maps and search for Chipotle. This usually isn’t because I’m looking for Chipotle, but I’m confident in Chipotle’s real estate choices.

This is becoming less relevant as the business expands, but I’m almost never directed to someplace I shouldn’t really be.

The lesson here for product manager types is that just because Waze’s customer (me) is asking for something (Chipotle), it doesn’t mean that’s what I want exactly.  If I could ask the map to find a relatively cool but sufficiently gentrified place that’d be better.  Alas, that’s not a current feature.


May 16, 2013

An Out for Chicago’s Parking Meter Trouble (cc @RahmEmanuel @ChicagosMayor @AldReilly)

Filed under: Business,Economics,Politics — Chris Chaten @ 10:57 AM

Naturally, the deal Chicago signed for parking deals is a tricky mess. The hourly rates are now up to $6.50 / hr, more than double the rate of just 5 years ago.  The 2008 contract prevents the city from lowering these rates.  So the city gets no revenue, citizens are screwed, and there’ s not much we can do about it.

However, there’s an angle we haven’t explored. All revenue from parking tickets still goes to the city.  While there are provisions that require compensation from the city if roads are closed, meter rates are lowered, or inventory is reduce, there are no provisions that limit the rate of a parking ticket fine.  So what can the city do?

Chicago should drastically lower the fine for expired meters.

This may seem counterintuitive, as it’s the only residual revenue source. But if we drop the  price from the current $65 to $5 – 10, anyone parking over an hour wouldn’t have much incentive to feed the meter. If they do get ticketed, the city pockets the revenue.

This would greatly increase the volume of tickets, so revenue would likley be hit only marginally.  And it creates a perfect incentive for Chicago Parking Meters, LLC to re-open the contract, as the meter revenue would plunge.