Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Chicago Alderman's Fish Farm Fantasy

Shillers future fresh fish factory?
Can the 46th Ward of Chicago produce enough food locally that it would be able to feed itself? No, of course not, but harsh reality hasn't dampened the fuzzy utopian dreams of Alderman Helen Shiller.

She wants her 46th Ward to be self-sustaining when it comes to food production, and she wants to start with an indoor fish farm. Paid for, of course, with your tax dollars.

Shiller would fund the aquaponic farm with funds from her proposed TIF increase, and she is using her usual fly-under-the-radar methods in the hope of sneaking through an amendment to the current Wilson Yard TIF with a minimum of public scrutiny.

The myriad of problems with Shiller's bizarre communist fantasy includes the fact that it simply cannot work. According to a report at Lake Effect News (July 22, 2009), the proposed project the National Fisheries Institute says that Americans each consume an average of 16.5 pounds of fish in a year. 16.5 pounds of any food, by itself, is not enough to live on. It's the equivalent of 66 McDonald's Quarter Pounders. So much for Shiller's dream of a self-sufficient 46th Ward.

For an indoor fish farm to be viable and make money, Burdette says a minimum of 10,000 to 12,000 square feet is needed to accomodate at least 40 tanks, allowing production of 200,000 pounds of fish per year.

Lake Effect News (LEN) interviewed aquaponics expert Doug Burdette, a man with 40 years of experience in this field. He told LEN that and indoor fish farm would require at least 10,000 to 12,000 square feet of space with 40 tanks to be able to produce 200,000 pounds of fish per year.

With approximately 74,000 residents in the 46th Ward, that would break down to approximately 2.70 pounds of fish per person, far less than the national per capita consumption. Self-sustaining? Not hardly.

There are more problems, of course. The building that Shiller wants to use is the former site of a Salvation Army facility at W. Sunnyside and N. Broadway in Uptown, still vacant and boarded up. Seen on the left side of the photo here, the building is directly across the street from the controversial Wilson Yard TIF project, still under construction.

Helen Shiller's future fishing hole.
Shiller wants her fish farm to be in the basement of that building, but as expert Doug Burdette told LEN, such an operation would need at least 10,000 to 12,000 square feet of space.

The basement in Shiller's target location has a mere 9,700 square feet. The nearly triangular shape of the building (and its basement) presents another obstacle for the placement of at least 40 corrugated steel tanks.

In addition, Shiller wants a green house in the empty, narrow space next to the building. That's insane too, for any greenhouse there would be in deep shade for most of the day, wedged tightly between two buildings.

The physical problems with the building and its insufficient space should be enough to kill this proposal. The massive price tag, in a time when the City of Chicago is laying off hundreds because of spending sins in the past, should also be enough to kill it.

We encourage anybody who is able to attend Shiller's meeting at 8:00 A.M. on Thursday, July 23 at Truman College. You'll be looking for the Wilson Yard Task Force meeting there. Truman College is located at 1145 W Wilson Avenue, just west of N. Broadway and next to the Wilson CTA Red Line station.

If you attend that meeting, ask Shiller where she intends to put TIF-funded factories for the manufacture all the durable goods that her ward needs, and where the TIF-funded farms to produce the rest of the foods needed for a balanced diet will be. Ask Shiller what her schedule is for the 46th Ward to secede from Chicago and from the United States, and when she plans to rename her new nation "The Peoples Democratic Republic of Uptown." Will the United Nations recognize the PDRU?

FOLLOWUP: Ald. Shiller Booed at Wilson Yard Task Force Meeting" - July 23, 2009