A Naked Capitalism Win: No More Poop in the Loop

This is an odd sort of success, but the reader who asked us to post on this disgrace to Chicago credits NC exposing it to the city cleaning it up….and who should know better than a local? From a January 2017 post:

Yves here. While this is a reader pet peeve, horse dumps are a bona fide issue in American cities. And aside from the aesthetic and potential health cost of horse dumps, it’s also a potential resource being squandered. The soil in Birmingham, Alabama isn’t all that hot; it’s red from iron deposits. Every year, my father would collect a load of “zoo doo” from the Birmingham Zoo to use in his vegetable garden.

By Stephen T. Ziliak, Professor of Economics at Roosevelt University and lead author of the critically acclaimed book, The Cult of Statistical Significance. His popular essay on “Haiku Economics” was featured in Who Reads Poetry: 50 Views from Poetry Magazine (University of Chicago Press, 2017; eds. Fred Sasaki and Don Share)

Bus stop near Michigan Ave and Congress
We’ve heard a lot about Goop in the Loop—Gwyneth Paltrow’s controversial “lifestyle” pop up here in Chicago. But is anyone curious about those big piles of “poop” in the Loop? Poop in Chicago, period, it’s popping up everywhere.

I’ve gathered some samples in an ethnographic vein. For the past few weeks, during afternoon walks, I’ve employed my (ahem) iPhone 5 to photograph the fresh and ancient piles. (I couldn’t help it: no joke, the shit is everywhere.) The photos included here are a representative selection from over a hundred I’ve taken in the South Loop and Grant Park area.

So far as one can surmise, most of the piles have not been squeezed out by runaway horses or John Wayne’s men. The Dave Matthews Band is, this time, seemingly innocent. No, this poop comes primarily from Chicago’s police horses – sitting, rotting, infecting and spreading for up to weeks at a time. Even Rahm Emmanuel – the city’s mayor – and Chief of Police Eddie Johnson will have to admit: that’s real horseshit.

Spirit Garden, Michigan Avenue
Regardless, why is there so much poop on the sidewalks of Chicago? Or New York, or San Francisco, or other big city?

An economist would say that since there is no price assigned to horse poop it (the economic “bad”) is oversupplied. People (police, in this case) behave as if there is zero price – zero cost – to their action. Thus the traffic jam which occurs when drivers gooseneck. (You really should stop.) Thus “Bubbly creek” in the Chicago River (ditto). Thus racism and sexism in the workplace (ditto). Thus texting while driving (ditto). Thus poop in the Loop, a tragedy of the commons. In common vernacular, it’s called “dumping” and “running”.

Still life with fast food bag on a Chicago Bears game day

View of pedestrian bridge near Michigan Avenue and Balbo
Our city is now a canvas, the aesthetic surface, of dump and run. Some areas, such as the sidewalks around Michigan Avenue and Balbo, are literally painted with poop.

Congress Parkway pedestrian bridge, near Michigan Avenue

Same vintage, all spread out, one week later

There was even more, both examples and a description of health hazards, but you get the idea.

We got this message from Steve Ziliak today:

Dear Yves,

I thought you’d enjoy hearing that there is no more poop in the Loop!

Seriously. Ever since you ran the piece (no pun intended!) in Naked Capitalism, there is nary a rabbit pellet to be seen, and – again – no horse poop!

I walked and cycled and waited for it to come during summer: Lollapalooza, Blues Fest, Taste of Chicago etc. Still, no poop.

We can say this much: for 10 months in a row, we win!

Congrats to us and many thanks.

p.s. Chicago PD increased in force in Grant Park, the Loop, the Lake — but they are on bicycles instead of


Win, win.

So Chicago readers should thank Steve for being a good citizen, documenting the problem, and sending us a writeup that made it easy for us to publicize it.

Too bad that having its poop put on display does not seem to motivate CalPERS to clean up…

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    1. John Wright

      I remember a few of the beginnings of this enterprise.

      The tribe was no longer a tribe and Greg Sarris asked Barbara Boxer to have it federally recognized.

      Initially, Sen. Boxer’s recognition legislation would prohibit the newly recognized tribe from EVER opening a gambling (AKA gaming) casino.

      But, as I remember, some in Congress decided that was unfair and the tribe was reconstituted/recognized WITH gambling casino options,

      After Barbara Boxer’s legislation passed, her son, Doug, kicked into gear as a lobbyist to get the casino through the State authorities.

      The Casino began taking form adjacent to Highway 101, which is a much better spot than highway 37 from a traffic flow standpoint..

      I drive past the massive casino every workday.

      I’m still waiting for a modern day version of tribal warfare to break out, because this new casino immediately dropped the revenue of a casino further north by about 50%.

      The author if this piece, Peter Byrne, is unafraid to take on powerful political forces as he has written pieces on Dianne Feinstein as well.

      Maybe that is why he is featured in the local alternative free paper, The Bohemian, and not in major media.

    2. David in Santa Cruz

      I think that you must have intended this comment to be under CalPERS topics, as while he was bilking the Graton Rancheria, Boxer’s partner was skimming similar rents from CalPERS, CalSTRS, and the New York State Common Retirement Fund as a “Placement Agent.” In 2010 then-NY Attorney General Andrew Cuomo threatened criminal prosecution and forced an Assurance of Discontinuance on Platinum which included foregoing further fees and paying the State of New York half a million dollars.


      Then-California AG Jerry Brown appears to have taken no such action in regard to CalPERS and CalSTRS (the Legislature eventually severely limited the “Placement Agent” scam), and the miscreants continue to collect rents to this very day on behalf of clients such as those paragons of corporate virtue, PG&E.

  1. lightly49

    Good news for sure. Meanwhile, what happened to the horses? Please tell me they went to good homes.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I doubt the Police Force gave up its horses. They are very effective in crowd control. For instance, in the anti-Iraq demonstrations in NYC, which were apparently way bigger than reported in the press, participants reported that NYPD set up barriers at Second Avenue to prevent people who came on subway or to Grand Central on Metro North or to Port Authority to get to the planned protest staging ground at the UN Plaza. The horses were used to herd the crowd way uptown into Harlem.

  2. Darius

    People who matter, like Rahm Emanuel, never have to walk on the sidewalk. They think poop on the sidewalk is a poor people’s problem, so it doesn’t exist. So count this as a win. Points on the board, as Rahm would say.

    1. rd

      Rahm worked in the Clinton White House. BS and HS everywhere is just normal. So he probably wouldn’t notice even if he stepped in it.

  3. Stephen Ziliak

    For purposes of routine patrol, it seems, the horses were swapped out for bicycles. Even during the thick of the summer (no pun intended) – from Blues Fest to Lollapalooza – no horses, no Poop in the Loop! In fact, Chicago PD increased their presence in the parks and on the lakefront, and still. This is a victory for sure!

  4. Stephen Ziliak

    Thank YOU, Yves! It wouldn’t have happened without you and nakedcapitalism.com. Cheers, Steve

  5. Jean

    Oh for some decent horse manure. Here in San Francisco we have piles of human feces on sidewalks downtown. Nobody is going to collect and compost that.
    There are even apps that report where it is, millions are spent to clean it up with full time staff and the problem keeps growing and will grow with a brand new tax on local large corporations to provide even more homeless services that will then attract even more to the city. Same enablers reelected at the local level again.

  6. Trent

    A win is a win. Now I look forward to the day when we are celebrating corrupt CEOs and government officials going to jail due to NC

  7. KFritz

    “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.” And sometimes it echoes. Google, “horse manure early 20th century,” and you’ll find that it was a huge problem.

  8. Steve Ziliak

    Yes, KFritz, you’re right! Not many people know that Nobel Laureate Jane Addams, suffragette, human rights activist, author, and co-founder of Hull House, was early in her career elected Sanitation Commission (1895) of the poop-infested 19th Ward of Chicago. Her first order of business? — clean up the horse manure, and fine or otherwise punish violators. What goes around comes around.

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      it is my favorite manure for the garden.
      out here, few people stable their horses…and those who do have their stables as inaccessible as possible for some reason…so it’s difficult to get the horse manure out and into a trailer without a gang of high school football players and much sweat and pain.

      from around 1850 to the turn of the century Parisian farmers made good use of the abundant horse manure…the resulting “French Intensive” is what I’m working towards here, so lack of decent manure is a big deal for me.
      (which has an extended quote by Kropotkin on the matter) and one of my heroes, Eliot Coleman :https://www.chelseagreen.com/2012/history-of-winter-gardening-the-17th-century-french-garden-system/)

      I see things like this, and think, what a waste.

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