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Sunday, November 29

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The Mechanics

Chicago Tue Nov 24 2015

Alvarez Needs to Go, and She's Not Alone

Laquan McDonald was shot and killed on Oct. 20, 2014 by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke. Exactly 400 days later, Van Dyke was formally charged with murder in McDonald's death. The charges were filed one day before the court-ordered public release of the dashcam footage showing the killing.

If the footage was so blatant that no less than Rahm Emanuel called it "hideous" (albeit without actually seeing it), then how on earth did it take 400 days for charges to be filed?

I asked that question online. Within an hour, I saw three other variations on that question asked by other people.

Unbelievably, Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez gave the answer that she "moved up" filing the charges, saying her original intention was to wait until the concurrent federal investigation had concluded. You can read that article for more of Alvarez's explanation. I'm not going to rehash it here, because there are limits to how much bullshit I can quote.

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Phil Huckelberry / Comments (4)

Election 2016 Wed Nov 18 2015

Republicans in Disarray, but Democrats in Despair

GOP dissarayNate Silver is one of America's sharpest political analysts, so when he writes a piece like "Maybe Republicans Really Are In Disarray", it should raise some eyebrows. Silver doesn't come to a definite conclusion, but he does lay out a logical explanation of why "disarray" might be the right term to describe the current standing of the Republicans nationally. I would add that it could easily be extended to the situation in Illinois, where Governor Bruce Rauner seems to be alienating his own party, and where at a glance it would seem increasingly likely that Senator Mark Kirk will lose next November.

Silver, though, also argues against the disarray argument, by making a fairly simple point: excluding the presidency, Republicans are winning a lot more than they're losing. Even here in Illinois, with Democratic supermajorities in both houses of the General Assembly, the reality is that the Republicans hold the governorship, one U.S. Senate seat, and eight of 18 U.S. House seats. The voting profile of the state would suggest that the Republicans should be doing far worse here.

So are the Republicans in disarray? I think the answer has to be yes. But does it matter very much? Maybe not. As bad as things may seem for the Republicans, they're nevertheless the majority party in the country, based on control of both houses of Congress, a large majority of governorships, and most state legislatures.

The party with the worst problems right now is the Democratic Party, and we can even see this playing out in Illinois.

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Phil Huckelberry / Comments (0)

Chicago Public Schools Tue Nov 10 2015

Parents Still Steaming, but About More Than Just Boilers

It's now been 11 days since the carbon monoxide leak which sent over 80 Prussing Elementary School students and staff to the hospital. While officials from Chicago Public Schools have partially answered some questions, and CPS CEO Forrest Claypool has informed that he will be visiting the school to field more questions on Nov. 16, many parents remain irate at the CPS response to date. The main point of contention remains the fate of the school boiler system, but it is far from the only issue at hand.

Last week, I focused on the inadequacy of safety protocols for incidents like this. That theme was picked up on by the Reader's Ben Joravsky, who still can't get over how the main school building had no detectors. Had there just been one properly functioning detector, installed in a manner such that it would have alerted school administrators, the worst of the incident never would have occurred.

With that said, the leak did occur. It is critical that all parents citywide should focus on safety protocols at their own schools, but some of the questions about what happened at Prussing, and what is happening in the aftermath, still need to be answered. Not only does the incident itself need to better understood, but so too does the waffling CPS response, and how parents are responding to what they're seeing.

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Phil Huckelberry / Comments (2)

Chicago Public Schools Tue Nov 03 2015

Chicago & CPS Carbon Monoxide Protocols are Inadequate

carbon monoxide warningThe story made national news: over 80 students and staff from Prussing Elementary School on the Northwest Side went to hospitals on October 30 because of carbon monoxide exposure. The official word is that the school boiler was the culprit, specifically a faulty gas regulator.

There are a lot of questions which still need to be answered about the boiler. For two and a half years, administrators at Prussing have reported problems with the boiler. While none of those issues suggested the potential for a carbon monoxide leak, the trail of complaints is lengthy, and Chicago Public Schools officials have been put on notice that the school community expects a decision to come down this week that the boiler will not be "fixed" yet again, but outright replaced, and soon.

The other immediate issue raised regards the school carbon monoxide detectors, or the lack thereof. How did CO levels get so high without any alarm going off? The boiler room at Prussing was equipped with a detector. At this time, it is not clear why it did not go off. But the situation begs the question of why a school with 700 children had only one detector in the first place.

As it turns out, there are some answers to be found in state law and Chicago building code, and they're not that great. For a city which prides itself on the most stringent fire codes in the country, the city code regarding carbon monoxide detectors is inadequate, and it is clear that CPS protocols regarding detectors don't even yet exist.

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Phil Huckelberry / Comments (0)

Chicago Public Schools Mon Oct 26 2015

Give Me a Mirror: Why Students Need to Connect to their Teachers

Chicago Public School students enjoying lunchBy Mayra Almaraz-De Santiago

When I was 6 years old, I believed you could not be Mexican and American. In my world, they did not go together. It was like wearing polka dots and plaid: each was interesting on their own, but they could never be together. To me, there was a time to a time to be Mexican and a time to be American. Being Mexican was a private affair, reserved for people who did not need an explanation for my differences.

I grew up on the Northwest Side of Chicago in a mostly Polish, Irish, and Italian neighborhood. I clearly recall being in kindergarten and telling my teacher that I was the youngest of 10 siblings. Shocked, my teacher asked me to tell her the names of my siblings. Afterwards, she walked me over to one of her colleague's classrooms and asked me to recite the names for her. What followed was thunderous laughter. Then I was escorted off to a new classroom to recite my siblings' names again. To this day, I'm not sure why the teachers were so amused. Was it my siblings' names? Was it that I had 10 siblings? All I know is that I was being singled out for being different. In later years, whenever my teachers asked for the number of siblings in my family, I told them I had two sisters and one brother. Every time I told that lie, I felt my heart sink. I hated knowing that I had allowed others to make me reject a part of me.

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Mechanics / Comments (0)

Crime Thu Oct 22 2015

Three Female Public Officials Going Down the Corruption Escalator

Three women public officials in Chicago in the past 10 days took rides on the corruption escalator. It's a "down" escalator, from scandal headlines, to indictment, to conviction, to prison, and then emerging at the bottom with a ruined careers and reputations in tatters.

It's a familiar ride taken by many Chicago elected and appointed officials. But this week, the headliners were all women.

Former Alderman Sandi Jackson, Chicago Public School CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett and Dorothy Brown, Cook County Circuit Court Clerk are all on different stages of the corruption ride, but they are all headed in the same direction.

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Thomas J. Gradel / Comments (1)

Chicago Public Schools Fri Oct 02 2015

Keys to a Classroom

Kelvyn Park High SchoolBy Manny Ramos

On the morning of May 8, 2015, Jerry Skinner was teaching his English class to his 11th graders when he noticed a group of students wandering the hallways outside of his classroom. This is a common problem at Kelvyn Park High School, but it is not for the reason you might think. These students weren't lost, they weren't skipping class, and they weren't looking for trouble.

Sadly, it's quite the opposite. The students simply were missing two of the most essential things to any educational process.

A classroom.

More importantly, a teacher.

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Mechanics / Comments (0)

LGBT Wed Sep 30 2015

Why LGBT Teens are Identifying Earlier

themash.comBy Cameron Beach and Thomas Atseff

"No union is more profound than marriage."

These words from Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, which legalized gay marriage June 26, have become a rallying cry in the LGBT community. With the momentous victory came a spike in gay pride, along with a surge of societal LGBT acceptance. Minds are changing nationwide, and as more Americans become comfortable with homosexuality, more individuals have felt safe and even empowered to come out as gay.

But does this same trend extend to teens? The Huffington Post reported that a Pew Research Study revealed the average age of LGB coming out has dropped drastically--from 21 in the 1980s to 16 today. Newfound support from the entire nation, as well as from individual schools and family members, may be at the heart of the trend.

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Mechanics / Comments (0)

Election 2016 Tue Sep 22 2015

Wrigley Dodges a Walker


One thing that was avoided by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker dropping out of the presidential race: a private event at Wrigley Field for donation bundlers, hosted by members of the Ricketts family. Reports Politico:

Walker's biggest political patrons, the Ricketts family, which has contributed $5 million to his super PAC, felt similarly blindsided, according to an adviser to the Walker campaign. Todd Ricketts, who has been among Walker's most aggressive fundraisers, did not get a call until later Monday afternoon.

Ricketts, whose family owns the Chicago Cubs, was set to host a Manhattan fundraiser later this week and had been busily organizing a never-before-reported event for Walker bundlers at Wrigley Field on Oct. 2. Even amid sinking poll numbers, turnout was expected to be high. The Wrigley Field thing was going to be awesome," said the adviser. "This guy busted his ass for Scott Walker."

Andrew Huff / Comments (0)

National Politics Wed Sep 16 2015

Don't Bother, They're Here

Illustration by DonkeyHotey.

It's unclear at what point the clown car metaphor became too undersized, and a clown stretch minivan, with attached elephant trailer, more apt for the traveling circus that has become the Republican presidential nomination contest. What's clearer is that there are more GOP candidates than living Americans who can name them all.

The paper today said that someone named Gilmore, or Fillmore, or Milhous, was not invited to any of tonight's debates. Looking up from my coffee, I announced this with all the seriousness and sorrow I could muster. My wife, looking as if I had asked her to name the last three finance ministers of Kyrgyzstan, said "Who?!"

"Exactly," I replied.

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Jeff Smith / Comments (0)

Neighborhoods Thu Sep 03 2015

How One Program is Bridging Chicago's Neighborhood Divides

Photo by Dreamone Visualz.

North Siders often get flak for not visiting other parts of the city. But the disconnect goes both ways, says Jahmal Cole. He's waiting to cross a busy intersection in Wicker Park, a gaggle of selfie-snapping teens in matching t-shirts behind him.

"People don't feel a part of Chicago, they feel isolated to their community in Lincoln Park or the Loop, or they feel like part of an under-resourced community," Cole said. "When people hear about things happening in another community it might as well be in another country."

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Mike Ewing / Comments (0)

Chicago Public Schools Tue Aug 25 2015

Explaining a Hunger Strike to My 3-Year-Old

By Dave Stieber

A few days ago my son and I took juice to the 12 parents and community members who are performing a hunger strike. They are protesting Chicago Public Schools' decision to close one of the last public schools in their neighborhood. Frustrations are intense towards CPS, who has not been listening to their proposal to open a new public school, which they created with real community input.

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Mechanics / Comments (0)

Op-Ed Fri Aug 14 2015

Why Wishing for a Hurricane Katrina in Chicago is Racist

By Dave Stieber

Last night I read an article in the Chicago Tribune in which the columnist and editorial board member Kirsten McQueary "metaphorically" wished a Hurricane Katrina would wipe out Chicago. I wish I were making this up, please read this piece. Even while I and many others were tweeting her about how offensive her column is, she sent out the following tweet:


What Hurricane Katrina did was kill nearly 2,000 people and displace and relocate 1 million people throughout the Gulf Coast. In New Orleans the population of the city fell by half due to loss of homes and displacement. Fifty percent of the city's residents' homes were uninhabitable or lost, and multiple generations of New Orleanians were forced to move. Historical and proudly black communities were wiped out.

Now some people like McQueary will likely say, but New Orleans is back! Who is New Orleans back for? For people who look like me (i.e. white people). Not the people who lived in those predominantly black precincts.

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Mechanics / Comments (6)

Op-Ed Wed Aug 12 2015

I am a Dictator: A Chicago Public Schools Teacher Responds to Rauner & Claypool

By Dave Stieber

Recently Governor Rauner said, "...the Chicago Teachers Union shouldn't have dictatorial powers, in effect and causing the financial duress that Chicago Public Schools are facing right now."

This statement from Rauner comes just a few days after Forrest Claypool, our newest CEO, said that teachers need to have "shared sacrifice" by taking a 7 percent pay cut.

The shared sacrifice Claypool speaks of means that my wife (also a CPS teacher) and I would lose about $11,000 in combined income for this year alone.

I could go on and on about how Claypool is just another puppet of Rahm, in a long line of puppets appointed by the mayor, or how Chicagoans demand an elected school board (remember Chicago is the only district in the entire state without an elected school board). But since Rauner thinks a union run by 40,000 teachers is a dictatorship and Claypool says teachers need to sacrifice, I will share my stories, so that maybe, just maybe, they both (along with Rahm) will realize what it means to really sacrifice.

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Mechanics / Comments (4)

Chicago Public Schools Wed Aug 05 2015

Intrinsic Withdraws Proposal For Third Charter School

Intrinsic Schools has sent a letter to the North Side Neighborhood Advisory Council (NAC) informing that they are withdrawing their proposal for their third charter high school in Chicago.

The letter was addressed from Intrinsic CEO Melissa Zaikos and came one night before a scheduled "Capacity Interview," which would have essentially been an interview of the charter operator by the NAC.

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Phil Huckelberry / Comments (0)


Parents Still Steaming, but About More Than Just Boilers

By Phil Huckelberry / 2 Comments

It's now been 11 days since the carbon monoxide leak which sent over 80 Prussing Elementary School students and staff to the hospital. While officials from Chicago Public Schools have partially answered some questions, and CPS CEO Forrest Claypool has informed that he will be visiting the school to field more questions on Nov. 16, many parents remain irate at the CPS response to date. More...


Substance, Not Style, the Source of Rahm's Woes

By Ramsin Canon / 2 Comments

It's not surprising that some of Mayor Emanuel's sympathizers and supporters are confusing people's substantive disputes with the mayor as the effect of poor marketing on his part. It's exactly this insular worldview that has gotten the mayor in hot... More...

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