Chicago rats, dry ice is coming for you

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is turning to a rock-and-roll stage prop in his Sisyphean fight against Chicago rats, kicking off a limited-trial program to see how well dry ice kills the beasts.
With the mayor looking on in a Near North park Tuesday afternoon, a Streets and Sanitation crew jammed the ice into a few rat holes and covered them up. The torturous idea: As the ice melts, it turns into carbon dioxide — suffocating any animals inside.
The White Stripes’ “I Think I Smell a Rat” became something of a theme song in parts of Chicago even before Emanuel added the rock club mood setter to his anti-rodent arsenal. Residents in tonier parts of the city are up in arms as construction projects send rats scurrying onto the streets from their subterranean homes, and milder winters allow larger numbers of them to survive from one spring to the next.
Sensitive to the fact that his property tax hikes to pay for pensions are hitting homeowners particularly hard in these expensive lakefront neighborhoods without increasing the city budget for nuts-and-bolts services, the mayor has tried to show he’s listening to the calls for more rodent baiting, even if the issue isn’t as serious as the problems with street violence and school budget shortfalls.
City Hall says it has added rodent abatement crews, and the mayor joined 2nd Ward Ald. Brian Hopkins at Tuesday’s dry ice photo opportunity.
“(We’re) being open to different ideas, different approaches to dealing with a neighborhood problem that our residents continually call about,” Emanuel said. “I want to compliment Streets and Sanitation for doing more with fewer dollars in a more effective way.”
The city expects to spend about $250 per week to buy 500 pounds of dry ice this fall and again in the spring while evaluating how effective the stuff is at killing rodents. The dry ice attacks will take place downtown in parks and street planters where rats tend to set up house, with existing Streets and Sanitation crews doing the work.
Dry ice has been used on the vermin in Boston and New York, where the East Coast sense of superiority leads one to assume the rats are much bigger and smarter and more relevant.