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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Thursday, July 18

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The Mechanics

Op-Ed Wed Jul 15 2015

Financial Transaction Tax Could Save the State -- and Clean Up the Exchanges

trading screenBy Curtis Black

A lot of taxes are being proposed — sales taxes, property taxes, income taxes — as the state's budget stalemate grinds on and the city's financial crisis metastasizes.

But the powers that be have taken one tax off the table, and it's one that would target the very wealthy — the only ones benefiting from economic growth in recent decades: a financial transaction tax.

A small tax on trades on Chicago's futures exchanges [PDF] could raise billions of dollars, and traditional traders wouldn't even notice it, proponents say in a new report.

Continue reading this entry »


Event Thu Mar 26 2015

Your Kids Are in a Crisis: Robert Putnam's American Dream

"Everybody who went to college raise your hand," said Dr. Robert Putnam from the stage of Cindy Pritzker Auditorium. Without exception, every hand of the 400, white, middle-aged professionals in attendance went up. "You're who I'm talking about when I say 'rich kids,'" Putnam jested. The audience laughed at the recognition that, yes, they were all members of a privileged social strata. Putnam nodded and turned toward the PowerPoint behind him, "Today, I'm going to be talking about inequality."

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Sam Rappaport

Economics Thu Sep 25 2014

10 Recent Takes on Chicago's Economy

From fur trading to tech startups, this city's history has always been linked to its economic output and job opportunities.

So how are those looking today? Depends on what you look at.

Continue reading this entry »

Jason Prechtel

Poverty Mon Nov 25 2013

Food, Bombs and Poverty Policy


Food Not Bombs grocery distribution and mural at United Church of Rogers Park (Photo/Emily Brosious)

As millions of low-income Americans face reduced federal food assistance this winter, the necessary role of grassroots groups working to stem the tide of hunger in Chicago is clearer than ever.

One such organization providing food to Chicagoans-in-need is Food Not Bombs. The group started in Boston in 1980 and has since spread to hundreds of cities across the world. Food Not Bombs has three Chicago-area chapters in Pilsen, Humboldt Park and Rogers Park.

Community activists come together each week with their respective chapters to prepare and serve free meals in public spaces while promoting a platform of non-violent resistance to war and militarism, Dante, an organizer with Pilsen Food Not Bombs, explained in an interview.

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Emily Brosious / Comments (2)

Urban Planning Fri Jul 26 2013

Detroit's Not Dead. It's Not Even Detroit.

detroit 2.jpgDetroit Skyline. Photo by nic_r

It's been a busy week for Detroit. As the city itself continues to chug along, all Dan Gilbert-gilded glory or 58 minutes-plus of waiting time for the cops to come, the world's been chiming in on what went so utterly wrong up in Motown.

Detroit, once powerhouse of industrial might and paradigm of American ideals and grandeur, has finally fallen from grace: a victim of poor governance, racism, lack of economic diversification, empty pension coffers, and sprawl. And America, beware. While amplified in Detroit, the same underlying dynamics that so rotted the Motor City are coming to a city near you.

This is to read the obituaries.

And yet, things are getting better all the time in Detroit. Declare bankruptcy one day and announce some green shoots in the economy the next. A $60 million mixed-use development is in the works. There's a placemaking renaissance afoot turning traffic islands into temporary beaches and creating last change. Here come the Red Wings. Let's not forget, Whole Foods just opened up in downtown Detroit.

This is to read the news.

To paraphrase a song from one of the city's most successful rappers, will the real Detroit please stand up?

Continue reading this entry »

Ben Schulman

Economics Mon Jul 09 2012

The Chicago Firm That Sued Big Banks Over Rigging LIBOR

When news broke last week that Barclays Bank had conspired to manipulate the London InterBank Offered Rate (LIBOR), and that more banks were under investigation for similar behavior, several outlets lamented that what was a huge scandal in Europe barely registered in the U.S. media.

One might wonder where those same European media outlets were last year, when Bloomberg reported that Chicago trading firm ElDorado launched a lawsuit against several U.S. banks for the same reason.

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Jason Prechtel

Elections Fri Jun 08 2012

The Error of an Era: The End of Elections

The failure of Tom Barrett to beat Scott Walker in Tuesday's recall election was probably about a lot of things. For social historians of this era, though, it will be this: a miscalculation of epic proportions, an error that defines the post-Citizens United era.

The public rage after Governor Walker instituted his de facto recission of public workers' collective bargaining rights was palpable and widespread. It was by no means universal, but it brought together lots of people who felt targeted, misled, and who saw the legislation as an existential threat to their economic security and well-being. Wisconsin's public sector after all is storied--Wisconsin passed the country's first public worker collective bargaining law--and public sector workers in that state came from all partisan stripes and economic classes.

The direct action that resulted, occupation of the capitol building, was a reasonable response. The decision to turn all of that activist energy into an election campaign was fatally misguided.

I argued, on the heels of the Citizens United decision, that the left could finally admit that elections are not a feasible method of obtaining particularly economic goals, and that it should begin exploring alternative, direct action methods; particularly, occupations, work stoppages, and boycotts:

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (2)

National Politics Tue Apr 24 2012

Chicago Activist to Protest GE in Detroit

Chicago activists will depart the city tonight on their way to General Electric's annual shareholders meeting in Detroit. They will join thousands of other protesters from cities around the country in an attempt to question the company's terrible track record of an American corporation.

More than 150 Chicagoans will attend the protests as GE's tax dodging has cost the State of Illinois $200 million in revenue in 2010 alone, according the Stand Up! Chicago.

The organization also contends the money could be used to create nearly 4,000 jobs or help the state's budget crisis.

"While I've been struggling to find full employment, take care of my son and save my home from foreclosure, there's this multi-billion-dollar corporation that's actually paying less in taxes than I am," said Shani Smith in a news release. "That's why I'm getting on a bus late Tuesday. It's time GE got the message that enough is enough."

GE might be swarmed by nearly 3,000 protesters and a couple hundred proxy shareholders tomorrow. Activists want the company to pay its taxes, invest in American jobs, and stop its part in the ownership of our democracy by the global one percent.

Multiple actions are taking place in Detroit. For more coverage you can follow me on Twitter and read more at my site, The Political is Personal.

Aaron Krager

Chicago Wed Apr 04 2012

Tax Enforcers Crash CME Emeritus Event with Tax Bill

The "99% Citizen Tax Enforcers" visited Evanston yesterday afternoon to present Chicago Mercantile Exchange Chairman Emeritus Leo Melamed with a tax bill and message. The group hoped Melamed would take it to the current chair, Terrence Duffy.

Melamed was a featured speaker on the Northwestern campus and invited to the ribbon-cutting ceremony of a new "trading room" in the Business Institutions Program. The enforcers did not have the opportunity to see Melamed but the bill did successfully enter the building as someone inside grabbed it in order to close the door.

The exchange became the group's second target this week and the first local company. CME and Duffy came under fire after posting $2 billion in profits the prior year yet asking for tax breaks from the state. Actually, it was not really an ask but more so an extortion as Duffy said he would move the company to Indiana if the Illinois legislature did not pass the tax breaks totally about $1 billion over the next decade.

The enforcers once again wore their black suits and carried briefcases while an 8-foot tall puppet of Terrence Duffy followed behind.

Continue reading this entry »

Aaron Krager

Economics Mon Apr 02 2012

Bright Ideas Delivered to GE Board Member

Activists from Stand Up! Chicago delivered a light bulb piñata and some suggested "bright ideas" to the residence of General Electric board member Robert Lane on Thursday afternoon.

Mr. Lane is one of sixteen board members for the massive conglomerate that touts themselves as an admired and American company. Meanwhile over the last decade GE paid an average of just 2.3 percent in taxes on $81.2 billion in profits. The marginal tax rate on corporations sits at 35 percent. GE spent more than $84 million in lobbying expenses while garnering tax rebates totaling $4.7 billion over the last three years.

"I am not going to discuss what you are calling about," said Lane in reference to the suggestions. When asked about receiving the package he gave a positive acknowledgement of an "uh huh."

The group planned the delivery in order to appeal to the independence Lane has on the board. A few of the "bright ideas" included asking for the $3.2 billion tax return GE received in 2010 be repaid to the taxpayers and begin paying their fair share in the coming years. They want GE to create jobs here in the United States. The company cut their workforce down to 133,000 in 2010, the most recent statistics available on their site, from 165,000 in 2004.

In an even bolder demand, Stand Up! wants Lane to join them in trying to end the income gap between General Electric executives and the lowest paid employees. Jeff Immelt, CEO of GE, received $11.4 million in compensation last year that included a $4 million bonus, $3.6 million in stock awards, and nearly a half million in perks.

A full-time minimum wage employee would earn $14,500 in 50 weeks under the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour.

Lane worked as CEO of Deere & Company until 2009 but currently serves as director of Verizon Communications Inc. and Northern Trust Corporation, and a member of the board of trustees of the University of Chicago.

As an independent director of GE's board he has been paid more than a million dollars in compensation from 2005-2008.

Watch the delivery take place:

Originally posted on The Political is Personal.

Aaron Krager / Comments (2)

Chicago Thu Mar 29 2012

Chicago Exchange CEO Mic Checked

Stand Up! Chicago's constant targeting of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange has been a thorn in the company's side. The organization joined Occupy Chicago and other organizations in the past months protesting outside of the exchange. Craig Donohue, CEO of CME, went to an energy trading industry conference in Houston last Friday where local activists stood in for Stand Up! Chicago.

Protesters greeted him outside of Melcher Hall on the University of Houston campus. Donohue was there to deliver a presentation but before he could really start his speech, protesters interrupted him with a mic check.

"Mr. Donohue, as you stand here today, preparing to give the 1% tips on how to get even richer, you are 1,000 miles away from the struggling families of Chicago and Illinois and they are further from your thoughts, even though CME will line its pockets with over 1 billion of their tax dollars over the next ten years." "You were only able to get that money by making empty threats to relocate. The 99% of Chicago and Illinois can't afford to travel here so we are here to ask you a question on their behalf and on behalf of all 99% families everywhere.

"What will working families get for their billion dollar investment?"

Security escorted the four protesters out of the room before they could finish but the message was clear. Every day people are not happy with the tactics of the rich and powerful.

Just last year, Donohue and CME Chair Terrence Duffy threatened to leave Chicago over their tax rate. The incredibly profitable company, two billion in 2011, demanded tax breaks that will total more than a billion dollars over the next decade. The Illinios state legislature obliged.

Activism such as this will continue over the coming months. Whether it will have a positive impact on the 99 percent is not yet known. It does create a discussion on this issue and frames it in a manner that benefits working class Americans.

Originally posted to The Political is Personal

Aaron Krager

Illinois Thu Sep 15 2011

Bet Your Bottom Dollar

The state has released its annual report on "gaming" (gambling) in Illinois, and there are some surprising statistics in there. The most shocking to me is that Chicagoland is the third largest gambling market in the country, behind Las Vegas and Atlantic City, and really not all that far behind Atlantic City, considering it is the (filthy) East Coast Vegas between Philly and New York.

Most troubling to me personally is the lottery. Granted at least the cash all goes into education (supposedly) but it is still troubling to me that the state will generate $1.2bn just on the instant lottery games.

Check out the full report for more.

Wagering in Il

Ramsin Canon

Op-Ed Wed Jul 13 2011

Risky Strategy: Why Chicago Needs the CME & CBOE

By Peter Huff

When the CME announced that the exchange was considering leaving Chicago because of the recently imposed Illinois tax increase, it was disappointing to hear the tepid response of Chicagoans. Sure, you had knee-jerk reactionaries claiming that the CME wasn't paying its "fair share" (sadly, coming from the educators of our children), even though the exchange pays one of the highest, if not the highest, effective tax rates of all IL corporations. But moreover, the news was met with indifference — just another corporation looking for a handout from the government.

We tend to underestimate the economic engine that the exchange and investment community provide, and assume the static view — it was here before me, and it will remain so. When something is so woven into the fabric of a culture, it is hard to recognize and envision the magnitude of its absence. It is this way with Chicago and the exchanges. Nothing is ever static, and a brief look into our history provides an interesting perspective.

cme chicago mercantile exchange
Chicago Mercantile Exchange

Continue reading this entry »

Mechanics / Comments (3)

Ward Politics Fri Jan 21 2011

25th Ward Race is City on Display

The 25th Ward is a horseshoe-shaped district on the Near West Side of the city. Its hodge-podge of varied ethnic and commercial centers are representative of Chicago at large. From its southeastern edge in Chinatown to gentrified University Village, pockets of Little Italy and Tri-Taylor, and nearly all of the heavily Hispanic Pilsen neighborhood, the ward encompasses an assorted mix of communities with distinct needs that serve as indicators of similar issues facing the entire city. The three main candidates for the aldermanic post -- current Ald. Danny Solis, CDOT employee Ambrosio "Ambi" Medrano Jr., and community organizer Cuahutémoc Morfín -- showcase various pieces of the the city's political puzzle, and perhaps, a movement towards ending the old standards of Chicago realpolitik.

Since 1996, the 25th Ward has been represented by Danny Solis, the current Chairman of the Committee on Zoning, and Mayor Daley's former President Pro Tempore on the City Council Floor. Solis, a Tri-Taylor resident, comes from heavy political stock. His sister, Patti Solis Doyle, is a long-time political operative who once served as Hillary Clinton's campaign manager and later, as a senior aide to Barack Obama's 2008 campaign. Ald. Solis has been a consistent supporter of Mayor Daley throughout his tenure, and was heavily involved in the now defunct, criminal-ridden Hispanic Democratic Organization.

With Daley's pending departure, and as one of his closer aldermanic allies, Solis finds himself running without the same degree of institutional backing in this year's race. Solis is hoping that his longevity, name recognition, and accomplishments over the past fourteen years make voters pay credence at the ballot box on February 22nd. His two opponents, Ambrosio "Ambi" Medrano Jr., the son of former 25th Ward Alderman and convicted felon Ambrosio Medrano Sr., and last election's loser, the progressive minded Cuahutemoc Morfin, hope otherwise.

Continue reading this entry »

Ben Schulman / Comments (15)

Economics Tue Dec 07 2010

One Hot Dollar in Your Chinese Pocket

The continuing clamor over the Federal Reserve's second round of quantitative easing seems poised to be elevated after last week's disappointing employment numbers were revealed. Fed Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is most likely getting as comfortable as one can get in the political cross hairs, as seemingly no matter what direction he moves in regards to monetary policy causes an uproar of contention. While the tenor of the anger may remain the same no matter what steps Bernanke takes, the frustrating sluggishness of the U.S. economy, the pervasiveness of the Great Recession's unemployment, and the dwindling bag of fiscal tricks that are left -- essentially, the catalyst for QE2 -- are indeed cause for serious concern.

On one hand, with the deteriorating situation all across Europe, the dollar and treasuries seem as if they are still relatively safe places for investment. But if the worldwide slump has taught the globe anything, it's that economic conditions on a global stage emerge from the handling of domestic situations, and in the U.S., the fiscal maneuvers to keep the financial ship steady are disappearing. The additional $600 billion purchase of bonds by the Fed may be a necessary step to further stabilize the market and try and get some true solid footing under the recovery, but it also hits off-center of the continuing problem (housing), and sends mixed messages about the value of U.S. currency. Such confusion can only embolden, and alienate, our trading partners.

Economic philosopher Georges Bataille stated in his book The Accursed Share that "It is not necessity but its contrary, "luxury," that presents living matter and mankind with their fundamental problems." It seems as if this dictum has come back to haunt America. Fatigued from a false sense of luxury fed by a glut of cheap credit, consumers aren't responding to any amount of propped-up liquidity to encourage them to spendthrift their ways towards economic salvation. It's not even that they're not responding necessarily, it's that the opportunity to spend isn't even out there, with increasingly marginalized credit lines and the continuing downward spiral of housing prices.

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Ben Schulman / Comments (3)

Budget Sat Dec 04 2010

Kirk Votes Against Middle-Class Tax Relief

Staying true to his pre-election stance, Mark Kirk this morning, in practically his first official act as Illinois Senator, joined a solid bloc of Republicans and a handful of primarily blue-dog Democrats in voting against cloture of debate on a Senate bill to extend tax cuts to American families making less than $250,000 a year. Kirk then also voted against a softened version which would have extended cuts to those making $1 million or less a year. Both votes garnered 53-vote majorities, but under the "faux filibuster" rules of the Senate, a majority vote was insufficient to move the measures forward.

It's important, as Illinoisans and Americans look at these votes, to understand the background and context. Republicans are attempting to frame the Democratic move as a "tax increase" but that is -- how to say? -- well, I'll call it a lie. In order to understand that, let's review how we got here.

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Jeff Smith / Comments (4)

TIFs Wed May 12 2010

Midwest TIF Gets a $32 Million Raise

This Op-Ed was contributed by Valerie F. Leonard, a community development consultant on the city's West Side.

The City Council approved an ordinance on April 14, 2010 to increase the redevelopment budget for the Midwest TIF district from $100,500,000 to $132,865,000. This represents a 32% increase from the district's original budget. The City of Chicago's Projected TIF Balances Report 2009-2011 indicates that the Midwest TIF is projected to have a cash deficit of -$6,842,003 at the end of 2010 if every project on the schedule is implememented, and projected 2010 incremental tax revenues of $13,000,000 materialize. The projected deficit is expected to grow to -$7,213,492 by the end of 2011.

Midwest TIF Graphic-Redevelopment Budget.jpg

Midwest TIF Boundaries.jpg

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Housing Mon May 03 2010

When Black Homeowners Fought Back

Editor's note: This is part two of a two-part series on housing by Keeanga-Yamahatta Taylor. Read part one.

In the spring of 1968, in Presentation Church on the West Side of Chicago, a Black woman named Ruth Wells became known as the "Rosa Parks of Lawndale."

In a hastily organized meeting by Jesuit seminarians, Wells stood up and told of how she and her husband were being financially crushed under the burden of trying to keep up with monthly contract payments to pay off their house.

In Chicago, as a result of racism and redlining, it was virtually impossible for African Americans to get a standard mortgage with affordable interest rates. Instead, Blacks were often forced to purchase their homes "on contract" -- the way one would buy a refrigerator or television. Unlike mortgage holders, who build equity in their homes, contract buyers were considered tenants. If they missed a payment, they could be evicted.

Continue reading this entry »


Wage Theft Thu Apr 08 2010

More Than $7 Million Stolen From Locals Every Week

A group of researchers released a report [PDF] this week finding that local low-wage workers are the victims of wage theft to the tune of more than $350 million a year, or $7 million a week. The researchers, primarily from the Center of Urban Economic Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago, surveyed over a thousand workers from low wage industries, including those paid "under the table," undocumented workers, and those considered "independent contractors". This shocking finding is just the most appalling; the study is rife with data demonstrating widespread criminal exploitation of employees throughout the Chicagoland area. A shocking number of workers are criminally denied vested rights in the workplace, including denial of overtime and breaks, a lack of accounting of wages owed and paid, and sleight-of-hand to avoid providing legally required vacation or paid time off. This failure to enforce these laws and protect these people is grievous, but not surprising: it is part of a pattern of coddling employers.

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (2)

Labor & Worker Rights Mon Mar 22 2010

Pete's Market and Workers Rights

When Raul Real decided he and his co-workers needed a union, he knew his bosses wouldn't be happy. He didn't realize, however, that his organizing would eventually cost him his job and lead to his arrest at his former place of employment.

Real is one of a number of former workers at the Chicagloand grocer Pete's Fresh Market who are levying charges against the company including firings for union activity, threats based on immigration status, and gender and pregnancy discrimination. Company officials say they have engaged in no wrongdoing, and that the majority of workers have no desire to be represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 881.

But workers who claim the company abused them have begun to speak out, pressuring the company to recognize the union. Real claims his organizing first led to his firing, and that his participation in a recent protest at a southwest side Pete's resulted in his arrest.


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Micah Uetricht / Comments (13)

Labor & Worker Rights Thu Mar 18 2010

Warehouse Workers Demand Justice


Warehouse Workers for Justice Rally Outside the Housewares Show at McCormick Place.

On Sunday, March 14, Warehouse Workers for Justice rallied outside the McCormick Convention Center, which was hosting the International Home & Housewares Show, to demand justice from Bissell, a vacuum manufacturer. Clergy, warehouse workers and community members rallied to call attention to Bissell's role in the firing of workers who were trying to organize a union.

Warehouse Workers for Justice was founded by the United Electrical Workers union and helps warehouse workers organize and fight for their rights. The group has had substantial support from churches in the Joliet area; Baptist, Pentecostal, Catholic and Unitarian Universalist have all provided support for the Warehouse Workers for Justice.

According to United Electrical workers organizer Mark Meinster, Bissell is one of hundreds of manufacturers that store their goods in the Centerpoint Intermodal Center in Elwood, Illinois. Since Chicago is the only place on the continent where all of the major rail lines meet, corporate America has made Chicago the third largest storage warehouse hub in the world, after Singapore and Hong Kong. The Centerpoint Intermodal Center is actually a designated foreign trade zone, so corporations like Wal-mart and Bissell do not have to pay duties on the products shipped through the center until they are shipped out of the center and toward retail outlets.

The companies that store their goods in the warehouses use a system of contractors and sub-contractors to employee temporary employees instead of full time employees. According to Meinster, "It's very easy for these employers to hide behind other companies in terms of liabilities for labor law violations. And that's what Bissell is trying to do here." Warehouse Workers for Justice have filed several complaints with the Department of Labor, and their attempts to meet with Bissell have been blown off. Which is why they felt it was important to take their message to the public, Meinster says. They want to "make sure those retailers [at the convention center] know that they are selling a sweatshop product."

Continue reading this entry »

Matt Muchowski

Education Thu Mar 11 2010

UIC Graduate Employees Prepare for Mediation


GEO President Charles Moss delivers petitions to UIC Chancellor's office.

The Graduate Employees Organization of the University of Illinois at Chicago is a union for graduate student employees. GEO members have been working this school year without a contract and are facing a heated battle with UIC's administration.

GEO has been attempting to negotiate a contract with the administration, but has reached a stalemate over a number of issues including guaranteed assistantships. They began mediation with the university and a neutral mediator last week.

On March 10, the day before they began mediation, members of the Graduate Employee Organization of the University of Illinois at Chicago delivered petitions signed by UIC community members urging the university to bargain in good faith and to take the mediation process as serious as GEO does. The petition urged the chancellor to direct the universities bargaining team to negotiate fairly.

Charles Moss, the president of GEO said that GEO, "takes the mediation process seriously. We would rather settle the contract through mediation than go on strike." Moss added that GEO organizers have been putting in a lot of work to obtain a fair contract.

A group of GEO members went to the 28th floor of the University building hoping to give the petitions to Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares. Allen-Meares was at a trustees meeting and the GEO members gave the petition to Assistant Monica Rausa Williams.

Matt Muchowski

Economics Wed Mar 03 2010

Northwestern University Community Fights for a Living Wage

The Rally

On Wednesday February 24, despite a chilly 27 degree day, over 400 Northwestern University students rallied outside a meeting of the university's board of trustees to demand a living wage for cafeteria workers at the school. It was a high point in the student anti-sweatshop movement at Northwestern.

Tom Breitsprecher, a lead cook who has worked at the Northwestern University cafeteria for 31 years, said that this was the largest demonstration he has seen on campus since an anti-war rally in the early 1980's.

According to Northwestern University activist Matthew Fischler, the average cafeteria worker at Northwestern makes a measly eight to nine dollars an hour. This poverty is compounded with the fact that the health insurance offered by Sodexho still includes expensive co-pays and premiums that many employees can not afford. It becomes especially difficult for many workers who lose their health benefits when their hours are cut during winter, spring and summer breaks.

According to Breitsprecher, "Many workers on campus live in government subsidized housing. Even if they are offered a discounted health insurance plan, many can't afford the premiums. Many qualify for food stamps for their families... if the government subsidizes workers, aren't they really subsidizing a company that pays such low wages?"

Continue reading this entry »

Matt Muchowski

Privatization Wed Feb 17 2010

Labor & Capital: Privatize Midway Airport

Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce CEO Jerry Roper teamed up with outgoing Chicago Federation of Labor President Dennis Gannon in penning an editorial to encourage Mayor Daley to pursue the privatization of Midway Airport. One thing I agree with: years ago, Midway was a ghost town. The expansion of Midway is definitely one of the feathers in the Mayor's cap.

Or, at least, in his weird fedora/stetson thing. Photo via the Sun-Times.

The City Council authorized the partnership deal in the fall of 2008. However, due to the global credit crisis, the winning bidder could not arrange financing.

Today, conditions are significantly better, evidenced recently by two successful airport transactions in England: the long-term lease of London Gatwick Airport and the sale of a one-third interest in Bristol Airport.

Midway's lease value is bolstered by the fact that passenger traffic has rebounded and interest rates have plummeted. If borrowing costs rise in the future, as many predict, the value of the Midway lease could be negatively impacted.

We applaud Mayor Daley for working with business and labor on these partnerships. The parking meter initiative has been a great success for Chicago's businesses and the public and other cities are looking to replicate that success.

We hope the mayor relaunches the long-term lease of Midway soon.

Ramsin Canon

Illinois Mon Jan 18 2010

Illinois enters a state of insolvency

Illinois-tax-receipts-2010.jpgIn the current gubernatorial campaign you may hear a lot of talk about the fiscal issues facing Illinois. You can read about some of these issues in Crain's:

While it appears unlikely or even impossible for a state to hide out from creditors in Bankruptcy Court, Illinois appears to meet classic definitions of insolvency: Its liabilities far exceed its assets, and it's not generating enough cash to pay its bills. Private companies in similar circumstances often shut down or file for bankruptcy protection.

"I would describe bankruptcy as the inability to pay one's bills," says Jim Nowlan, senior fellow at the University of Illinois' Institute of Government and Public Affairs. "We're close to de facto bankruptcy, if not de jure bankruptcy."

Legal experts say the protections of the federal bankruptcy code are available to cities and counties but not states.

While Illinois doesn't have the option of shutting its doors or shedding debts in a bankruptcy reorganization, it seems powerless to avert the practical equivalent. Despite a budget shortfall estimated to be as high as $5.7 billion, state officials haven't shown the political will to either raise taxes or cut spending sufficiently to close the gap.

As a result, fiscal paralysis is spreading through state government. Unpaid bills to suppliers are piling up. State employees, even legislators, are forced to pay their medical bills upfront because some doctors are tired of waiting to be paid by the state. The University of Illinois, owed $400 million, recently instituted furloughs, and there are fears it may not make payroll in March if the shortfall continues.

Without quick corrective action or a sharp economic upturn, Illinois is headed toward a governmental collapse. At some point, unpaid vendors will stop bidding on state contracts, investors will refuse to buy Illinois bonds and state employees will get paid in scrip, as California did last year.

Via Newsalert!


Chicago Mon Jan 18 2010

Where's the Neighborhood Stabilization Money?

An ad hoc group of community activists and community groups have come together to ask the city to hold a public hearing on the use and disbursement of federal Neighborhood Stabilization funds:

About a year ago, the City of Chicago received $55 million in HUD Neighborhood Stabilization funds with the expectation of leveraging an additional $58 million in private financing. The proceeds were to be used to purchase 425 abandoned foreclosed properties for rental and for sale housing in 25 neighborhoods most heavily impacted by the mortgage foreclosure crisis. An additional 100 dilapidated properties were to be purchased for demolition with the resulting vacant lots to be land banked and sold to developers and not for profit developers to build new homes. While HUD guidelines provide that essentially all NSP funds be committed within 18 months, public records indicate that 12 properties have been acquired to date. HUD announced on January 14, 2010 that Chicago will get an additional $98 million in Recovery funding to continue the program in the upcoming year.


The group, Chicago Citizens for Neighborhood Stabilization, has penned a letter to City Council Committee on Housing and Real Estate chairman Alderman Ray Suarez (31st) asking him to help initiate a public hearing on the NSP funds:

Letter to Alderman Suarez

Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Chicagoland Thu Jan 14 2010

Chicago Education in Danger of Being Parking Metered

"They never thought of the children first," Lillie Gonzalez exclaimed to several hundred people's applause at Malcolm X college. The small, but feisty, Latino community activist was speaking at the Democratic Alternatives to Renaissance 2010 conference organized by the Grassroots Education Movement (GEM) and the Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE) on January 9, 2010. Gonzalez was "one of the lucky ones," who was able to stop the closure of Peabody Elementary School in 2009 in Chicago's Near West Side. The planned closure of the more than a century old school was a part of Renaissance 2010, Chicago's program to privatize its public schools.

"Renaissance 2010 and 15 years of mayoral control are 15 years of failure." Explained Kenwood Community Organization organizer Jitu Brown. Describing the conference, Brown stated, "we want to begin to project what we think should happen in our schools... Our vision, not a corporate vision."

President Obama's appointment of Arnie Duncan to the Secretary of Education made the conference particularly important. "The first thing that Arnie Duncan did as US Secretary of Education is fly to Detroit and promise Detroit Public Schools major federal funds if they were to adopt the Chicago model," Pauline Lipman, a professor at the University of Illinois Chicago, explained.


Lipman pointed out that, "Renaissance 2010 is a partnership between Mayor Daley and the most powerful financial and corporate leaders in the city. What is their goal?" she asked before answering "to train a low wage workforce and to support real estate development. That's their education agenda. Their strategy is to hand public school to private operators, undermine the teachers union, phase out local school councils, the only democratic community voice we have, and replace neighborhood schools with selective enrollment schools and gentrifying neighborhoods."

"They have a long term plan. If they don't kick you off this year, they will pick you off next year." Lipman explained.

Continue reading this entry »

Matt Muchowski / Comments (1)

Economics Fri Oct 23 2009 Predicts Capitalism's Demise

On Tuesday, Paul B. Farrell of Market, a site for investors and businessmen, posted an article on Tuesday that had an eerily similar ring to things you'd read on Socialist Detailed is the inevitable collapse of the U.S. capitalist system--which we've heard a lot about in recent times. The interesting spin on this story is the source.

Timothy Morin

Chicagoland Thu Oct 08 2009

Chicago Metro 2020 Briefing Calls for Big Picture Answers

I had the pleasure yesterday, in between e-mail and a client meeting, to take in the 7th Annual lunchtime media briefing by Chicago Metropolis 2020. CM2020 is a non-profit organization originally established by the Commercial Club of Chicago "to promote long-term planning, better regional cooperation, and smart investments in the Chicago region and its people." The briefing, attended by a number of notables on the Chicago journalism scene, promised presentations on criminal justice reform; campaign finance limits; housing policy, early childhood education, and the Burnham Plan Centennial.

Adele Simmons, VP of the Burnham Plan Centennial, combined a general welcome with an overview of the mission of the Centennial, which is to carry on the legacy of legendary planner Daniel Burnham by focusing on innovative regional solutions for the Chicago metro area, saying, "The choices we make today will shape the future." While that statement might seem tautological at first, the emphasis was on bringing to the forefront of our decisionmaking the long-range, rather than short-term drivers.

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Jeff Smith

Economics Thu Jul 23 2009

The Chicago Boys Go To Washington

2008: President Obama grandly alludes to a new day in America by using allegory and eloquence in speeches to excite the electorate. 2009: Congressional Democrats can barely shut down another pointless spending spree on the military by Republicans while other Democrats seek to enact laws that would allow for permit-holders to carry concealed weapons across state lines into states that do not currently allow them. The economy hasn't recovered as expected, universal health care still sounds like a pipe dream, and Wall Street's profits and bonuses are coming roaring back. What gives?

To be certain, Barack Obama brought a sense of optimism to this country with his groundbreaking 2008 election. The trouble is, the massive problems in America, caused by 30+ years of neoliberal and neoconservative policy, aren't scared of Obama's words - as eloquent and well-chosen as they may be. It's going to take a nice, hard fight on the part of working people to keep our politicians on the straight-and-narrow and fighting for our interests.

Politico reported recently that at a worst-case scenario, the tax-paying populace could be on the hook for over $23 trillion dollars as a result of the bailouts. As they point out, that's more than all of the wars that we've ever fought, combined. And this being America, that's a lot of money spent on wars.

What does this have to do with Chicago? As Chicago citizens, we need to be mindful that problems here and problems nationally are interconnected, especially when some of the same players are involved. There are many parallels between the way that Barack Obama has chosen to run our country and the way that Chicago does its political business. Sure, Obama has not visibly engaged in the kind of crony capitalism that ol' W and our man Daley are so fond of. But the public's concern about a lack of transparency and broken election promises are starting to sound like an echo chamber of Chicago's own political dissenters. Furthermore, the massive budgets that Obama inherited are being stretched even further with all of the industry bailouts and haphazardly-planned stimulus packages that Obama's team has come up with, without evidence of a real recovery.

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Timothy Morin / Comments (1)

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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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