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The Mechanics

Justice Wed Nov 19 2014

National Week of Action to Free Ramsea Odeh Holds Protest at Federal Plaza

#FreeRasmeaNow Protestors Gather at Federal Plaza on Wednesday Photo credit: Shirien Damra

Rasmea Yousef Odeh, 67, was convicted last Monday of immigration fraud by a jury in federal court in Detroit. Odeh, a resident of Evergreen Park and the Associate Director at the Arab American Action Network in Chicago was previously convicted of involvement in fatal terrorist bombings and sentenced to life in prison in Israel in 1970. Reports later surfaced that her confession was forced after torture by the Israeli military while Odeh was in captivity.

Odeh spent 10 years in prison before being released with 78 others in prisoner exchange with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. In 1995, Odeh came to the US through Jordan in 1995, where she (according to her later federal indictment) denied that she had ever been convicted of a crime.

The results of Odeh's trial (an arrest in which she'll be detained until her sentencing, facing up to ten years in prison, deportation, and loss of her U.S. citizenship on March 15, 2015) sparked nationwide support in a number of ways, including the National Week of Action to #FreeRasmeaNow.

The Committee is taking action by writing letters to the judge and planning protests--one of which included chaining themselves to the U.S. Federal Court building in Oakland. Last Wednesday in Chicago, hundreds of supporters rallied at the Federal Plaza for the first protest in Odeh's home city since her arrest.

Hatem Abudayyeh, spokesperson for the National Rasmea Defense Committee, which includes over 50 organizations across the U.S., said, "The government's case, an immigration charge, is nothing but a pretext."

"Rasmea's story is the story of millions of Palestinians, and of millions of freedom-loving defenders of justice everywhere," Abudayyeh continued, "Her eventual victory will be a victory for Palestine and for all the people's movements across the world."

Becky Schultz / Comments (0)

Civics Tue Nov 18 2014

Cities Need a New Old Philosophy: Justice

Civics by Ramsin CanonThe entrepreneurial government, once a promising and slick vehicle for change, has lost that new governance philosophy-smell. What was once seen as nimble has become ossified. America's cities are facing the problems of a new millennium as new generations come of age, facing new challenges. Since at least the early 1990s, big city governments have reoriented to a philosophy of governance rooted in free-market and entrepreneurial principles. In the early 1990s, this orientation for urban administration was described as "the New Public Management" by academics like Peter Aucoin. This entrepreneurial government philosophy was meant to replace the egalitarian and "rules-oriented" aspirations of reformers beginning in the 1970s. Recently, the word "neoliberal" has been thrown around, often imprecisely, to describe this ideology. But that word isn't quite accurate.

The type of government we've had in Chicago, and cities following Chicago's lead, is something very specific: giving individual leaders and small groups of leaders in cities broad discretion to set policy, akin to the managerial powers of corporate executives, as a means to achieve efficiency--efficiency in competition for capital investment and efficiency in provisioning services to the public. Its features have been well studied and explicated [PDF]: budget cuts, "accountability," privatization, consumer models, labor flexibility, and a hostility to politics vis a vis management (i.e., technocracy).

In a world opened up by the easier movement of capital across borders, elite city leadership figured they had to be lean to compete. This then-new philosophy saw self-management by professionals (like teachers and health care workers), rule-bound agencies, and egalitarian aspirations as inefficient, because by their nature, these processes are slow. It couldn't move at the pace of business at a time business was striking for better deals, or fleeing altogether. To keep and lure capital and talent, decision-makers couldn't be bound by exacting rules--whether those were workplace rules in the form of collective bargaining agreements, "due process" rules, or procedural safeguards meant to guarantee inclusion of underrepresented and underserved people.

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

News Mon Nov 17 2014

Jane Byrne, the Bold Mayor

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Jane Byrne in the 1985 Gay and Lesbian Pride Parade. Photo by Alan Light.

Jane Byrne was a fighter.

She was sacked by Mayor Michael Bilandic from her position as the commissioner of consumer sales, weights and measures and then ran against him and went on to defeat The Machine and become Chicago's first and only female mayor.

After she was defeated in the mayoral primary in 1983 she ran for mayor two more times, losing the primaries both times.

Byrne, who died on Friday morning at the age of 81, was a woman who loved her city and strove to improve it.

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Monica Reida / Comments (0)

Chicago Public Schools Wed Nov 12 2014

Cuts to Social Safety Net, School Resources Leave CPS Bleeding Students

cps_oldlogo.jpgChicago Public School enrollment dropped by around 3,000 this year, contributing to a total loss of 6,000 students in the district since 2012. For the first time since 1970, CPS enrollment has fallen below 400,000.

This loss of students stems from failures by the Emanuel and Daley administrations that go beyond education policy alone. Both our current and previous mayors have focused resources downtown and in wealthy business districts. This has come at the direct expense of low-income families living in neighborhoods City Hall consistently neglects. As housing costs have soared, the social safety net shriveled, and neighborhood schools have been closed or consistently cut back, many low-income families have chosen to move out of the city.

"I knew my daughter couldn't get the quality education that she deserved in our neighborhood schools," explained Zerlina Smith, a single mother living in the West Side community of Austin. When it came time to send her daughter Cherish to pre-K, Smith was alarmed at the lack of resources at her neighborhood public school, Oscar DePriest, which at the time was on the list of schools set to be shuttered by the Emanuel administration. But Smith was not ready to give up on CPS completely. "I chose to send her 16 miles away from our home to Maria Saucedo, which is a scholastic academy and a level one school with an abundance of resources."

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Rachel Anspach / Comments (0)

Economic Development Fri Oct 31 2014

How an Overlooked Rauner Job Creation Plan Caused Problems Across America

Plenty of words (and dollars) have been spilled over Bruce Rauner's Illinois gubernatorial campaign.

But for all the attack ads and in-depth exposés, one significant Rauner policy proposal has managed to evade scrutiny, even though it would forever change the state's relationship to the private sector.

Buried in the billionaire candidate's now-infamous endorsement in the Sun-Times is the following:

In addition to modernizing the tax code, Rauner would turn the state's primary economic development agency, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, into a creative public-private partnership.

Tax code policy, sure. But turning which agency into what?

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Jason Prechtel / Comments (2)

Election 2015 Tue Oct 28 2014

Chuy Garcia Jumps In, Realignment Begins

With the entry of Jesus "Chuy" Garcia into the mayoral race, the calculus has changed again. Garcia, a sitting Cook County commissioner, former alderman, and former state senator, is seasoned and well-connected. Those connections date back as far as Harold Washington, who was mayor when Garcia was elected to the City Council.

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Phil Huckelberry / Comments (0)

Election 2014 Mon Oct 27 2014

Bruce Rauner and the Illusion of Reform

Bruce Rauner has been running on a promise of shaking up Springfield, which is not shocking from any political candidate. Candidates often run on the promise of making progress or taking back the seat they are running for.

Rauner seems to be using particularly strong rhetoric about how he will change Illinois. His slogan is "Shake up Springfield. Bring back Illinois." He once put together a campaign ad where he picks up a sledgehammer after picking up a tiny hammer, which feels more like performance art than a serious campaign ad from someone who wants to be the next Governor of Illinois.

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Monica Reida / Comments (0)

Chicago Public Schools Fri Oct 24 2014

Chicago Organizers Protest Lead-Contaminated Schools

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Demonstrators protest lead-contaminated schools outside CPS' Loop headquarters. Photo by Kelly Hayes


Organizers with Chicago Light Brigade (CLB) demonstrated outside a board of education meeting Wednesday morning to call for immediate action on lead-based paint contamination in school buildings -- a hazard they suspect is widespread in Chicago.

Protesters claimed Chicago Public Schools officials knowingly ignored reports of hazardous lead contamination at Gale Elementary Community Academy in Rogers Park for at least five years before they began removing the lead-contaminated paint earlier this year.

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Emily Brosious / Comments (0)

Chicago Public Schools Wed Oct 22 2014

Openlands Builds Green Space for Chicago Public Schools


Ribbon Cutting Ceremony at McPherson Elementary School. Photo courtesy of Openlands

Openlands, one of the oldest metropolitan conservation organizations in the nation, celebrated its continued effort to green Chicago Public Schools with the opening of its latest school garden in Ravenswood on Friday.

A dedication ceremony at McPherson Elementary School, 4728 N. Wolcott Avenue, brought together students and teachers, as well as local school and government officials together to celebrate the garden's installation. Speakers included Alderman Ameya Pawar (47th), Bill Clarkin of BMO Harris Bank (lead sponsor), Jerry Adelmann of Openlands, Senator Heather Steans, Principal Carmen Mendoza and Bob Farster of the Local School Council.

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Becky Schultz / Comments (0)

Election 2015 Thu Oct 16 2014

How Aldermanic Candidates Might Adjust With Karen Lewis Out of the Mayoral Race

As widely reported, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis will not be running for mayor. Previously, I wrote about how a Karen Lewis run for mayor could also have a major impact on several aldermanic races. Now that she's not running, it is worth reconsidering how the aldermanic races might be impacted.

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Phil Huckelberry / Comments (0)

Op-Ed Wed Oct 15 2014

What a Karen Lewis Campaign for Mayor Meant to Chicago

By Tim Meegan

For the past several months, Chicago has been electrified by the prospect of a clash between two of the strongest personalities in city politics: the brash, business-first mayor Rahm Emanuel, and the outspoken, social justice-oriented union president Karen Lewis. For spectators in the media, and in the city's neighborhoods, the clash between these two contenders, both bold in presentation and opposing in ideology, promised to be the electoral matchup of a generation.

But Monday's announcement by Lewis's team showed that this contest is not to be. Lewis, who has flirted with a formal announcement and has been recently beset by serious health concerns, declared what many of late had feared: that the fiery labor leader won't be throwing her red CTU cap into the race.

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Mechanics / Comments (2)

Event Mon Oct 13 2014

Chicago Community Trust Releases On The Table Report

The Chicago Community Trust organized numerous dialogues, occurring in every neighborhood of Chicago, on May 12, called On the Table. The dialogues centered on "how to collaboratively build and maintain strong, safe and dynamic communities." A report was released last Tuesday highlighting the results of the dialogues.

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Monica Reida / Comments (0)

Election 2014 Thu Oct 02 2014

Rauner Firm Selected Randy Michaels to Lead Media Company

GTCR, the private equity firm started in part by Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner, brought on disgraced former Tribune Company executive Randy Michaels in 2011 to run Merlin Media.

At the time Emmis Communications sold a controlling interest in Merlin Media and transferred ownership of three radio stations, two of which were in Chicago, to GTCR.

Michaels was an executive at the Tribune Company from 2007 until 2010. The New York Times published an article in October 2010 detailing the behavior of Michaels while he was at the Tribune, which included sexual harassment of female employees.

Michaels resigned from his job later that month.

Merlin Media created an FM news station on 101.1, replacing the alternative rock station Q101 at that same frequency. The station failed and has subsequently been replaced by another alternative rock station at that frequency.

Rauner retired from the firm at the end of 2012. His campaign did not return requests for a comment.

Monica Reida / Comments (0)

Environment/Sustainability Tue Sep 30 2014

Uptown Welcomes $600,000 Solar Panel Project


Solar Panels on top of ICA GreenRise Building
Photo credit: Seva Gandhi

The Institute of Cultural Affairs' GreenRise building in Uptown made headlines last year when it was given landmark status by the City of Chicago. Now it's drawn the city's attention again, this time by installing 500 solar panels on its roof. ICA GreenRise is the first non-profit and the only building outside of the Loop to participate in this initiative, joining the Shedd Aquarium as the two largest solar panel installations on commercial buildings in Chicago.

The 166,000-square-foot building was originally a four-story structure built for the Mutual Insurance Company by Fugard & Knapp in 1921, is now the largest nonprofit service center in the Midwest. The ICA's green initiative started in August 2012, when they accepted an invitation from Mayor Emanuel to join 47 others in the Retrofit Chicago Commercial Buildings Initiative, committing to cut energy use by at least 20 percent.

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Becky Schultz / Comments (0)

Chicago Public Schools Tue Sep 30 2014

Lessons Learned in Englewood: 8 Years of Reflections from a CPS Teacher

By Dave Stieber

A little over eight years ago, when I took my first job in CPS at a high school in Englewood, people of all races would look at me like I was crazy when I told them where I would be working. During my time teaching in Englewood I had people make assumptions about me, such as that I must not be a very good teacher if I teach in Englewood, because surely, if I were a good teacher I would be working somewhere else.

Obviously if people were making assumptions about me working in Englewood, they were also making assumptions about my students who lived in the community. I have written previously about when a random stranger on the bus called my kids animals and how I responded.

Through all of assumptions and stereotypes, I realized that the students I taught were all that mattered. But I also very recently came to a point in my professional career that I needed a change of schools. I am still a CPS public high school teacher on the South Side, just at a different school now. Leaving the students was and is still hard. I didn't officially make the decision until August so I told my students through email and text messages. That was the hardest thing by far about leaving. But the beauty of the students was they wanted me to be happy. Yes, they were upset and hurt, but every single student (I even messaged kids who graduated awhile ago to let them know) really just wanted me to be happy. So I write this dedicated to every single student I taught in Englewood, which is close to a thousand students.

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Mechanics / Comments (0)

Feature

Cuts to Social Safety Net, School Resources Leave CPS Bleeding Students

By Rachel Anspach / 0 Comments

For the first time since 1970, CPS enrollment has fallen below 400,000. This loss of students stems from failures by the Emanuel and Daley administrations that go beyond education policy alone. More...

Civics

Cities Need a New Old Philosophy: Justice

By Ramsin Canon / 1 Comments

The entrepreneurial government, once a promising and slick vehicle for change, has lost that new governance philosophy-smell. What was once seen as nimble has become ossified.  More...

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About Mechanics

Mechanics is the politics section of Gapers Block, reflecting the diversity of viewpoints and beliefs of Chicagoans and Illinoisans. More...
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Editor: Monica Reida, mr@gapersblock.com
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