As we broke in Merge, the Wittier Field House was demolished Saturday morning. The field house, which came to be known as "La Casita," developed into a vibrant community center after a parents from the community and nearby school demanded it be turned into a library and gathering place rather than demolished in 2010. The parents are now demanding a new field house.
A few photographs from the demolition follow. More information will be added as the situation evolves.
The First Lady of the United States is returning home to focus on the issue of escalating violence. Michelle Obama is addressing community leaders at a luncheon April 10, titled, "Working Together to Address Youth Violence in Chicago," hosted by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Everyone loves it when first lady comes to town; it reminds us that we can produce greatness in the midst of raging chaos.
Her speech is bound to be encouraging but will civic organizations and business participation help alleviate the socioeconomic factors in street violence? It's no longer about sunny appearances, glitzy fundraisers and networking opportunities but initiatives and changes that will transform even the most broken.
Located on the 400 block of W. Chicago Ave, the farm, which has been operational for about three years, provides job training, youth employment and volunteer opportunities to residents in Cabrini-Green.
In a statement sent to the congregation on Jan. 26, Calum MacLeod, executive associate pastor at the church, said that the agreement will include a two-year leaseback option at "no leasing cost" to the Fourth. This would allow Chicago Lights -- the church's charitable arm -- to continue operations at the farm during that period, "while alternate sites and opportunities are pursued for the mission outreach currently taking place there," the pastor said. The contract also includes a potential two-year extension.
MacLoed's letter marked the first time that the Fourth has identified terms or a potential buyer for the farm, even after CHA voted to buy the farm's two parcels in November.
The Fourth has stated that it intends to use the farm sale proceeds to help pay for its recently completed Gratz Center, a $42 million addition to its Gold Coast headquarters. The church had hoped to fund the projection by selling the "air rights" above the 142-year-old cathedral to a neighboring developer, but that deal fell through due to resident opposition. The church has been in talks with CHA since 2011, according to the Fourth's website.
The Chicago Lights farm, which originally opened in 2003 as a community garden, sits on a block that was once lined with public housing; today, only a stretch of rowhouses -- mostly condemned, with a few rehabbed -- remain north of the site. Work on the new Jesse White Community Center, planned for the parcel east of the farm, began last summer.
The sale will "be brought to the congregation" at the Fourth's annual meeting on Feb. 10, said MacLeod. A final vote will then by carried by the presbytery.
The crux of the Karolina Obrycka's case against the City of Chicago and Anthony Abbate, Jr. revolves around the "code of silence" that allegedly permeates the Chicago Police Department.
Sounds like the stuff great fictional crime novels are made of, right?
According to experts, this code does exist — but it is not unique to law enforcement. It's common in all professions, says Dennis Waller, a police practices consultant and expert witness from Brookfield, WI.
"There is academic research that supports this contention as well as judicial research. There is a tendency within professions to take care of your own," Waller says. Waller, a former police officer, has been a consultant since 1988.
Anthony Abbate Jr. said he felt threatened by Karolina Obrycka when he pummeled and threw her around Jesse's Shortstop Inn in Chicago on February 19, 2007. But, as City attorney Matthew Hurd explained at the beginning of Abbate's civil trial today, he doesn't remember because he was drunk.
But, on the same night roughly around the time Obrycka was about to get her beat-down, Abbate does remember moving a barstool from one side of the bar to the other because it was more comfortable than the stools on that side of the bar. But he doesn't remember punching his friend three times, according to Abbate's testimony today.
If you had an extra $1 million that had to be used to improve your neighborhood, what would you do with the money?
A group of about 30 residents of Chicago's 49th Ward got to answer that very question Monday evening. The group packed into a room in the fieldhouse at Loyola Park for the first of seven "neighborhood assemblies" to discuss the first step of the 2012-2013 participatory budgeting process.
Participatory budgeting, said 49th Ward Ald. Joe Moore, is a process by which residents decide how he should spend $1 million in discretionary funds awarded to each alderman (known as "menu money") for infrastructure improvements in their ward. The 49th Ward, Moore said, was the first place in the United States to implement such a process when it started in 2009.
"The 49th Ward has been on the cutting edge," Moore told the crowd. "Every person has an equal voice. It's not just me making the decisions about how that money's spent."
Two weeks ago, I explained how Vice Media produced a documentary about violence prevention group CeaseFire (now Cure Violence) and used it to help sell Dishonored, a video game with the tagline, "Revenge Solves Everything." The hotly -anticipated game allows the player to control an assassin with magical powers in a 19th-century England-inspired fantasy setting, and will come out on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 next Tuesday, Oct. 9. Vice had partnered with the game's publisher, Bethesda Softworks, to create an online multimedia Dishonored promotion called Eye For An Eye, a website dedicated to the "world's best revenge stories." Apparently, the story of an organization trying to prevent murders caused by personal vendettas fit this bill.
As of last Wednesday, the two-part Cure Violence documentary, Chicago Interrupted, has been removed from Eye For An Eye. After several inquiries, I eventually got a Vice Media representative to officially comment on the removal. Ironically, Vice refused to answer numerous questions I asked about the documentary's production and their general editorial standards...just as they've begun a campaign to brand themselves as the future of news media.
Shelly Friede, a single mother of three, looked a high-ranking member of the conservative Vice Lords street gang in the eye and asked a question.
"Are you trying to shoot my children?"
That was seven years ago, when Friede first moved into subsidized housing in the 4400 block of North Magnolia in Uptown. Her 24-unit courtyard building stood in Black P Stone Ranger territory and had been riddled with bullets from a drive-by shooting by the rival Vice Lords.
Two years later, Friede was pregnant with her youngest child, Sebastian, when her family came under fire again. This time, it was an internal dispute among the P Stones as "they shot down the gangway, then shot over my head," she recalled.
The physical landscape of Uptown has changed a great deal since Friede's first run-in with violence there. Wilson Yard, a former CTA rail storage and maintenance facility destroyed by fire in 1996, has been redeveloped to include residential apartments, a Target and an Aldi supermarket. Nearby, a mid-rise residential condominium sits on the former site of the 46th Ward office in the 1000 block of West Montrose Avenue.
At 7p.m. tonight, Occupy Chicago will hold its first overnight occupation on the South Side following a general assembly on property owned by New Beginnings Church. The church is hosting the event in conjunction with its own occupation of the derelict Super Motel at 6625 S. Martin Luther King Blvd, which is across the street from its main sanctuary. Its pastor, Corey B. Brooks, has been camping on the roof of the motel for a dozen days and fasting on water alone. He plans on camping on the site until the church raises $450,000 to raze the former motel and build a community center with mixed-use, mixed-income development on site.
Pastor Brooks said that he was "excited" when contacted by Occupy Chicago. "I think that anybody who -- especially when they're not from this area -- wants to come lend support, we've got to be open to that." Ultimately, the pastor hopes that he can play a role mediating between the group and Mayor Emanuel. "I want to have good relations with everybody. We are the church. We're not supposed to be at war with anybody ... We bring about peace."
This morning, the Illinois Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) released the first nation-wide study on the risks associated with outsourcing automated traffic law enforcement to private, for-profit companies. While the report offers the most details on cities in California, Texas and Florida, it serves as a cautionary tale for Illinois law-makers. Illinois ranks third, only behind Florida and California, for having the greatest number of jurisdictions with such contracts. More to the point, the city of Chicago is the single largest contract-holder in the country with Redflex Traffic Systems, one of the two largest operators of automated traffic monitoring — rare is the Chicagoan who hasn't seen one of the 380 red-light cameras in the city.
Celeste Meiffren, Field Director with IL-PIRG, emphasizes that the study is intended to underscore the pitfalls many other cities have fallen into when drafting their contracts, leading to the prioritization of revenue over public safety. The report details the most glaring conflicts of interest, such as contracts that link payment to Redflex (or its competitor, American Traffic Solutions) with the number of tickets given — the more effective in ticketing motorists, the more money the company earns. This has resulted in the companies lobbying to kill measures that would increase the duration of yellow lights at intersections, which would decrease both the chance of accidents as well as potential tickets.
Meiffren explained that the deals Chicago has struck are, by and large, a "model" for how other cities should have done it. Chicago purchased the camera systems from Redflex, and the Chicago Department of Transportation operates and maintains them, without involving Redflex in the citation process. Although the city has been smart in the arrangements it has made to date, the study remains important in keeping the eyes of watchdog groups on the situation.
Current developments make this especially pertinent. Springfield lawmakers have been considering a bill that would expand privatized law enforcement in Chicago dramatically, by adding a roster of speed cameras to its already impressive holdings of red-light cameras. According to an article in the Tribune, the two versions of the bill, sponsored by Senate President John Cullerton and House Speaker Michael Madigan, would "render about 47 percent of the city eligible for speed camera surveillance." Although the language put forward by the lawmakers and Mayor Emanuel is that the new cameras are intended to "protect children" in "safety zones" near parks and schools, because of Chicago's abundance of such areas, very little of the city would be speed-camera free.
That Chicago earned $58 million from red-light camera fines in 2009 alone — "a rare bright spot in a generally bleak fiscal picture for the city" — is not to go unnoticed, and is certainly a motive for acquiring speed cameras.
Gapers Block politics editor Ramsin Canon appeared on WBEZ's "Eight Forty-Eight" on Tuesday to talk about the Cook County commissioners who refuse to take a furlough day, aldermanic travel and other current political news. If you missed it, you can listen to the segment online
The Sun-Timesreported on Thursday that the price of apartment rents is increasing and market studies show that rents will likely rise over the next couple of years. The article also says that the demand for rental units has increased due to the economic downturn and uncertainty about the housing market. The article says that the only neighborhood where a large number of new apartments are being built is in the downtown area.
Peter Strazzabosco, spokesman for Chicago's Department of Housing and Economic Development (HED), said that the department does monitor the market prices for apartments. That data is used to help determine the rental rates for the affordable housing HED helps create and maintain.
"When we establish our affordable housing guidelines we have to know what the median retail rates are," Strazzabosco said.
Rates for affordable housing is no more than 80% of the area median retail rates, although the number might be lower than 80% for some units depending on where the funding is coming from.
The City has spent about $2 billion on the creation and maintenance of affordable housing units, which includes properties that are for sale. Strazzabosco said that this year HED is aiming to spend $355 million this year on the creation and preservation of 5,600 rental units.
The Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) released their report Bus Rapid Transit: Chicago's New Route to Opportunity publicly at an event held yesterday at the Union League Club. For some background on the report, see here.
The speakers at the event included former mayor of Bogotá Enrique Peñalosa, United States Bus Rapid Transit Program Director for the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), Annie Weinstock, MPC Project Manager Josh Ellis and Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) Commissioner Gabe Klein. The event focused on how BRT's implementation in Chicago could work and cited examples from other cities using BRT, primarily Bogotá.
As mayor, Peñalosa oversaw the development of Bogotá's BRT system. TransMilenio, as it was called is now viewed as being the world standard in BRT. There are 84 kilometers (52.2 miles) of road used in the TransMilenio route and it serves more than 1 million riders daily. (Note: TransMilenio links are in Spanish but can be viewed in English by clicking on "Idioma.")
"Buses operating as BRT are wonderful," Peñalosa said during his presentation.
The Metropolitan Planning Council released a report, "Bus Rapid Transit: Chicago's New Route to Opportunity," [PDF] evaluating the potential for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in Chicago. As part of the study, the proposed BRT lines would connect with Metra and CTA L stops, as well as help serve communities by improving livability. A BRT system was mentioned in both Mayor Rahm Emanuel's Transition Plan and the Chicago Climate Action Plan.
While BRT uses buses, it is meant to emulate a rail system in some ways. Standard BRT systems require riders to pay at stations before boarding, which allows for faster boarding at stops. BRT stations also usually have a level platform and buses tend to have multiple doors for boarding and exiting. Most systems have a dedicated lane for buses as well as signal prioritized intersections, which allow for buses to move without stopping and to ensure the safety of buses. According to the study, BRT costs about $13.32 million per mile to construct while light rail costs about $35 million per mile and heavy rail tends to cost more than $96.25 million. BRT is already used in Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Eugene, Oregon. In Los Angeles, the Metro Liner system originally included the Orange Line, which is highlighted in the report, but another route--the Silver Line--was added in 2009 to connect the city of El Monte with downtown Los Angeles and the city of Gardena. Currently, officials in Los Angeles are extending the Orange Line, which had 22,817 average weekday boardings last month and a total of 591,179 boardings. The extension is expected to be completed in the summer of 2012.
Yesterday, Rahm Emanuel announced a plan to improve the Chicago Public School system, and it doesn't involve challenging students more.
But it does involve more of something: merit pay for principals.
The bonus money, which is estimated to run between $5,000-10,000 per principal, will be awarded depending on the principal's achievement of certain standards, such as student test scores.
It's unclear why Emanuel is proposing to implement a plan that, according to the above-linked Chicago News Cooperative article, has not only failed to produce noticeable improvements in New York, but also right here in Chicago.
Tensions escalated on the education front this week when the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) filed a lawsuit against the Chicago Board of Education. United with other community groups, such as Designs for Change and Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE), as well as nine individual Local School Council (LSC) members, the union alleges that the Board held illegal elections to fill new, non-teacher seats on the LSCs.
"The Board came swooping in and held these unlawful elections in all of the schools," said one of the CTU attorneys, Elaine Siegel. To her, the Board seemed to think, "'Let's go in there...and have [the elections] before the opposition can galvanize.'"
The opposition she spoke of is the "Local" side in this battle for control: who is really in charge? Individual schools, or the centralized Board?
For a few moments Vice President Joe Biden turned a Navy Pier Ballroom into an intimate setting telling the feeling of loss and of hope for better tomorrow.
Nearly 40 years ago Biden lost his wife and one year old daughter in a tragic automobile accident. He recounted a few of the details of the phone call and visit to the hospital in the aftermath. The story served as a bridge towards empathy and the inability to be in control of the safety and well-being of one's own child. Much like having a child with epilepsy.
Susan and David Axelrod's CURE, Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy, organization annual fundraiser brought in roughly $800,000. The bipartisan affair, Senator Mark Kirk and former Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias were spotted trading greetings, seated nearly 900 people. They heard testimony of the day-to-day struggle of family members and those afflicted by epilepsy.
The organization utilizes 92% of the money raised as grants to fund research for a cure, according to CEO Carmita Vaughn. Her own mother suffered from epilepsy and died at the age of 52 after consecutive seizures.
"We all have something to live for. We have a reason for being," said Biden. Axelrod, his wife and a group of dedicated people have reason as well.
David Axelrod, who introduced the vice president, talked about the devastating effect epilepsy has had on his family.
"Each one of us holds out some hope that we can make a breakthrough," Axelrod said before the dinner. "What our goal has been is to seed the kind of research that the government won't yet seed because it's not fully proven."
The Axelrods' eldest daughter Lauren began having seizures at seven months of age.
"We have lived with the illusion that we can reserve capital punishment for the so-called worst of the worst -- the most heinous, brutal or repetitive murders. What we have failed to realize is that those very crimes stir our deepest anxieties and outrage, and thus are hardest to deal with in the kind of rational, highly deliberative way that taking a life should require." -Chicago attorney and author Scott Turrow, writing in The Chicago Tribune
"One new interesting wrinkle in this eternal debate over crime and punishment is, not surprisingly, a financial one. Strapped for cash and budget room, more and more state lawmakers around the country, and even victims rights groups, are understanding more clearly just how expensive capital punishment is relative to its deterrent value." -Andrew Cohen, writing in The Atlantic
"Moving from moratorium to abolition allows resources to be redirected toward proven crime prevention measures - and holds Illinois up as a beacon for human rights." - Debra Erenberg, Midwest regional director for Amnesty International USA, according to a press statement
This article was submitted by Michael Volpe. For his piece on a deadly South Side blaze, see here.
When protests turned into riots in Greece in response to necessary austerity measures many commentators in the USA said chaos wouldn't happen here when our own budgets would inevitably cut. Yet, passions have been enflamed in all corners to prospective budget cuts. Friday, the scene was at the Daley Plaza as organizers lead by the anti eviction campaign protested proposed cuts by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Saturday, the scene moved to the John Thompson Center where Chicago played host to one of dozens of union lead protests all protesting the plan of newly elected Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker to cut most public employees benefits and limit their future collective bargaining rights. Despite constant snow and twenty degree weather, the crowd of nearly one thousand overflowed the square.
The signs were varied though singular in theme: solidarity, social justice, and anti Scott Walker and Republican party.
This article was written by freelance journalist Samantha Winslow.
Juan Calderon sips coffee at Café Colao on Division Street in the historic center for the Chicago's Puerto Rican community. This part of Humboldt Park is marked by red and blue metal banners on each end in the shape of the Puerto Rican flag. The café, known for Puerto Rican style coffee and pastries, is a block from where he works at the Vida/SIDA center inside the Puerto Rican Cultural Center.
Calderon begins to talk about why he and fellow Humboldt Park activist Roberto Sanabria published a letter in the Windy City Times, a Chicago publication for the gay and lesbian community, voicing their concern and anger over Equality Illinois firing Rick Garcia, the political director and co-founder of the state's largest advocacy organization for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality.
"Firing Rick Garcia was a slap in the face to the Latino community," Calderon says.
The Better Government Association recently made some significant changes to its board of directors -- and its overall governance structure -- in an effort to broaden and strengthen its connection to Chicago's minority communities and to expand its reach in Illinois beyond the collar counties.
"We passed a package pertaining to the roles of board members, and added job descriptions for board members and for officers, and the board voted to elect new officers for the beginning of 2011," said Andy Shaw, president and CEO of the BGA. "We spent the fall coming up with a new list of board officers, new committee chairmen and a new list of board prospects that we could recruit and ask to join us, and several weeks ago we approved seven new board members, the most so far. We can add five to 10 more, I believe. The seven we approved are very formidable, it's a very impressive group."
At its last meeting, the BGA board of directors voted to add seven new board members, including David Hoffman, former Chicago inspector general and senate candidate; Graham C. Grady, partner at the law firm of Bell, Boyd & Lloyd; Robin Steans, executive director of Advance Illinois; Tamara Edmonds Askew, director of the American Bar Association's Section on State and Local Government; M. Hill Hammock, former chief administrative officer of Chicago Public Schools and former vice chairman and COO of LaSalle Bank; Mary Lee Leahy, influential Springfield attorney; and Jack Modzelewski, president of client relations at Fleishman-Hillard. An eighth new member, DePaul University general counsel Jose Padilla, is expected to be confirmed at the next board meeting January 21, when the others will be seated for the first time.
Additionally, Rod Heard, partner at law firm Barnes & Thornburg, was named chairman of the board, Phil Clement, global chief marketing and communications officer of Aon, was named vice chair. And Shaw's title was changed from executive director to president and CEO.
The BGA also created a new tier to its oversight structure: "life trustees," which is made up of former board members who have each served for several decades. Moving these senior board members to the life trustee board made room for new blood, Shaw said, "people who understand government, are committed to improving it, and have the contacts and resources to carry on our mission."
The following photographs are by Waleeta Canon, a Chicagoan who traveled to Washington, D.C. for the Rally To Restore Sanity And/Or Fear on Saturday. Some are already suggesting that the event could be remembered as one of the most important events in modern political history. Regardless of its ultimate consequence, crowd estimates put the turnout at over 200,000, or two and a half times the number of people who turned out for Glenn Beck's D.C. rally.
The following photographs document scenes from the crowd while paying special attention to participants' signs.
Parents of students at the Whittier Dual Language School opened a new library in the occupied Whittier Field House on Thursday, September 30, with the help of the Chicago Underground Library and donations from as far away as Florida. The following photographs are from the ribbon cutting ceremony that officially opened the library at 5pm with speeches, song, prayer and -- of course -- some reading.
Chicagoist's political guru Kevin Robinson reports on rumored aldermanic retirements before the upcoming February 2011 municipal elections, indicating that we may end up seeing as many as nine or 10 new faces in the City Council by next year, to add to the half dozen or so freshmen who came in in 2007. If this scenario plays out, seasoned mayoral allies could be replaced by neophytes, always an unwelcome change for a long-time incumbent executive.
If the Mayor runs again (and I don't see how he can't), he'll almost certainly win, though with a significantly smaller margin, even if he only gets token resistance from a dimly suicidal opponent. That potential challenge will certainly not be what dissuades him; in fact, a challenger emerging will probably whet his appetite and prove he's still got the muscle -- and perhaps more importantly to his psyche, the popular support -- to crush all comers.
Op-Ed Contributed by GB Contributing Writer Bob Quellos
Last week, the Chicago City Council approved a $96 million TIF for the South Works development site, the largest ever given to a private developer in the City of Chicago. The plan for South Works calls for the eventual building of over 17,000 dwelling units on the 500-acre site at the location of the former U.S. Steel South Works, near 79th Street and east of U.S. 41. The project is to be run by a development group that includes the Chicago-based McCaffery Interests. The first phase of construction is scheduled for groundbreaking in 2012; located on a 77 acre portion of the site, it will compromise an astounding million square feet of retail space alongside residential dwellings. Decades from now if the project eventually is completed, it will create an entirely new neighborhood along Lake Michigan on Chicago's South Side.
But if you had $96 million dollars to invest in the City of Chicago what would you do with it? Would you build the infrastructure for a new neighborhood, or perhaps take a shot at filling the ongoing budget hole that is wrecking havoc on the Chicago Public School system. Perhaps you would find a way to put the over 1,100 employees at the CTA who were recently laid off back to work and restore transit services that were axed. Or maybe (hold on to your seat, this is a crazy one), reeling with disgust from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico you decide to make a ground breaking attempt to move Chicago away from a dependance on non-renewable resources and invest the $96 million dollars in wind power that would provide free and clean energy to some of Chicago's poorest neighborhoods.
A slate for union leadership run by the Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE) has defeated the incumbent United Progressive Caucus (UPC) leadership in a run-off election, and decisively. Approximately 60% of the teachers voting in the run-off (of a total of about 20,000 votes) chose CORE over the incumbents. CORE also swept all of the "functional Vice President" positions with the exception of one, the VP for "PSRPs", the clerical and support staff in the schools. The mandate for change is clear.
CORE began only two years ago as a caucus of teachers determined to push the union to take a more aggressive and adversarial posture on the issues of privatization, school closures, and to push the union to work more closely with community and parents organizations as a way to protect and improve public schools. CORE's leadership has been especially critical of Ron Huberman and Mayor Daley, indicating that the go-along, get-along posture of the CTU over the last decade will be coming to an end.
CORE forced a run-off after nearly out-polling the UPC in the first round of voting two weeks ago. Despite a contentious election, the other slates--the ProActive Chicago Teachers and the Coalition for a Strong, Democratic Union--quickly endorsed CORE and campaigned among their supporters to ensure an insurgent victory in the run-off. President-Elect Karen Lewis addressed the media this morning at King High School in Bronzeville. The leadership slate is rounded out by Jesse Sharkey (Vice President), Michael Brunson (Recording Secretary) and Kristine Mayle (financial secretary). More video to come.
(Crain's) -- Hundreds of workers at the Hyatt Regency Chicago walked off the job Wednesday morning as union officials charged that hotel management has refused to change work rules governing housekeepers.
"Housekeepers are just fed up," said Annemarie Strassel, a spokeswoman for Unite Here Local 1, which represents 700 workers at the hotel at 111 E. Wacker Drive.
Downtown hotel workers have been working without a labor contract for nearly 10 months, but the work stoppage Wednesday was triggered by issues specific to the 2,019-room Hyatt, the city's largest hotel, Ms. Strassel says. Negotiators for Local 1 and Chicago-based Hyatt Hotels Corp. sat down at the bargaining table a couple of weeks ago after a several-month hiatus.
The primary gripe at the Hyatt Regency is that hotel management has installed heavier beds in the hotel's west tower and won't change work rules to lighten the load, says Tiffany Pullum, a housekeeper who has worked there about six years.
Hyatt is owned by the politically-connected Pritzker family. Penny Pritzker was President Obama's finance chair. A quick look at the Pritzkers' recent political giving after the fold.
The Northwest Herald has reported that troubled Metra chief Phil Pagano killed himself this morning -- by walking in front of a Metra train. The apparent suicide follows a number of actions taken by the commuter rail transit agency against its director, who made more than a quarter-million dollars salary, following reports that he padded that amount without authorization, and the launch of a criminal investigation by the Cook County State's Attorney.
Immigrants Rights Activists Picket outside Wrigley Field.
Chicago is finally getting some spring weather. In Wrigleyville, thousands of fans are enjoying the weather and catching a baseball game. Jeering the other team has a long history in sports, but today over 200 supporters of immigrants rights picketed outside Wrigley Field to protest against the Arizona Diamondbacks and Arizona's anti-immigrant SB1070 law.
The law forces law enforcement in Arizona to stop "suspected illegal immigrants" and make them prove their citizenship in order to avoid arrest. Leone Jose Bicchieri, the executive director of the Chicago Workers Collaborative explained that the law would "only increase racial profiling in Arizona." Describing what the law tells police to do, "You better go out today and you better stop suspected undocumented immigrants. When you say, 'Well what does that mean?' They say 'well you know, suspected undocumentented immigrants.' That means dark people."
Immigrants and civil rights groups across the country have begun a nationwide boycott against the state of Arizona in order to pressure the state to rescind the law and to prevent other state from passing similar laws.
A group of 24 Chicago religious and community leaders were arrested as they blocked a bus carrying immigrants on their way to deportation from a detention center in Broadview this morning.
A crowd of about 150 held a vigil near the center's entrance that began last night. Labor, community, and religious groups repeatedly denounced the deportations carried out behind them, Arizona's tough new immigration bill SB 1070, and what they described as President Obama's inaction on immigration reform.
Workers at Pete's Fresh Market claim their employer continues to harass workers involved in a union organizing drive, accusing management of spying on organizers and students at a meeting at UIC last week.
Last month, GB covered the fight between Pete's owners and pro-union workers in which former and current employees are alleging unfair labor practices, sexual harassment, and national origin discrimination, claiming multiple employees have been fired for trying to organize a union with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 881. Pete's denies all the claims.
Representatives from the union and and supportive community organizations gathered in front of the Southwest Side Pete's at 43rd and Pulaski today and alleged that Pete's management spied on a meeting of the Mexican Students de Aztlan (MESA) at UIC with union organizers, videotaping their meeting without their consent in order to know what the union was up to.
The residents of Chicago's 49th ward will vote on Saturday to determine what to use $3.1 million of city money on. The far north side ward was covered with fliers urging residents to vote in what is the first attempt in Chicago to use a democratic process for determining how to use infrastructure funds.
Each ward is given a budget to use for infrastructure, and the money is usually spent by the Alderman's office on permanent items such as street lights and pavement repairs. However Alderman Joe Moore in the far north side ward decided to open the process to the community and to let residents vote on proposals created in open committees.
The Mess Hall, an artist space with anarchist tendencies has a display that highlights the various proposals on the ballot. The space has had extended hours and has been packed with residents hoping to find out about the proposals.
Some of the proposals include: street lights, repaved streets, police surveillance cameras, bike lanes, historical markers, dog parks, decorative and educational bike racks and free wi-fi.
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?"
Rally attendee's hold signs to signify the number of people who die in Illinois everyday that health care reform is not passed.
The evening before President Obama's Health Care summit, over 300 Chicago activists rallied in the Chicago Temple to demand passage of a health care bill that would extend coverage and hold health insurance companies accountable. The rally was organized by Health Care for America Now! and was one of several rallies across the country.
The crowd at the rally challenged a representative from Senator Dick Durbin's office. Durbin has not yet signed a letter in support of the public option that is being passed around the Senate. The crowd began to shout, "Sign the letter! Sign the Letter!"
Andy Kurz, the former CFO for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Wisconsin, told rally attendees that, "I'm not here tonight to convince you the bill is good, far from it. I am here to say that this bill is necessary." Kurz explained that while much was compromised in the bill, that abolishing prior conditions, extending dependent coverage and other reforms will reduce the cost of medical care and make it important to pass the imperfect bills in Congress.
To be entirely honest I do believe I should at least have a gun at home for my own self-defense. Thankfully I've never had the occasion to really need one. I'm elated to see that most of the Republican candidates for governor (sans Jim Ryan) believes that there should be concealed carry in this state. With reasonable restrictions I support that do because there are some people in the streets who would do harm to people.
Either way I'm going to have to hand it to this elderly gentleman who is fighting for his right to have a gun for his protection!
Chicago's Inspector General Joe Ferguson--appointed to replace Senate candidate David Hoffman--has recommended the termination of a high ranking Water Department official for using public resources to fix a private problem.
Talley also dispatched city water department crews to work at private sites -- including Nativity of Our Lord Roman Catholic Church, the mayor's ancestral parish in Bridgeport, Chicago's inspector general found, according to city government sources.
Talley, a veteran city worker allied with the Daley family's 11th Ward Regular Democratic Organization, couldn't be reached, and a city spokesman had no immediate comment.
At the Sorich trial several years ago, Talley was mentioned on the stand by Hired Truck czar-turned-government witness Donald Tomczak as one of the city officials who helped facilitate the city's rigged hiring process.
Sorich, who oversaw Mayor Daley's patronage activities, was convicted in the case and sent to prison. Talley was not charged, and kept his city job.
I wrote previously on this blog about the state of media in Chicago, specifically that branch of journalism that goes by so many names which I shall call public accountability journalism (see last section). With traditional media in the state of disrepair it finds itself, the civic-minded are in a fit over what will become of their beloved citizen watchdog.
My previous comments pointed the way to some excitingnewventures trying to fill that void in Chicago, a motley group of start-ups with interesting but uncertain business models. But there is another sublimity to the forsaken print newspaper that has to a debatable degree been lost in the bifurcated world of online media and it's seeming preference for niche publication. This idea, which is far from new or my own, I'll call the General Reader Principle.
Woke up on the couch I call bed the other day, rolled over and popped open my Mac. Email; check. Facebook; check. Grab some coffee, head back to couch. Twitter feed; new updates from @ChicagoCurrent, @WBEZ, @chicagonewscoop, not to mention the dinosaurs.
Checking my twitter feed in the morning is sliding comfortably into that sacred place once occupied by pouring over the broadsheets, grey paper no longer splayed out across the table, coffee in hand, trying awkwardly to fold the page back upon itself.
Earlier this month Congressman Luis Gutierrez introduced a comprehensive reform bill (with the too-cute-by-half acronym CIR ASAP, Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America's Security and Prosperity Act) that would provide a meaningful path to legality and citizenship for millions of families working in the shadows of the economy.
The immigration issue is often shuffled into the "social issues" rubric of American politics, but it is essentially an economic issue. Enforcing a legal regime that keeps a huge number of people participating in the lower rungs of the economy outside of labor law protections has a profound ripple effect. It weakens the bargaining ability of other workers and on a basic level denies some pretty elemental human rights to a lot of people. Mass deportations is neither feasible nor moral; and big business would despair at any move like that, given how much so many industries (particularly light manufacturing, agriculture, and construction) rely on cheap immigrant labor.
What is clear is that the current system is wholly unsustainable. Horror stories of immigrant (and some citizen) treatment by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have bubbled to the surface over the last year; potentially illegal coordination between local governments and ICE have caused friction between law enforcement and immigrant communities. Last fiscal year, ICE gained the dubious distinction of becoming the largest detention system in the United States:
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was submitted by journalist Christopher Gray.
The roof leaks and large, brown circles mar the ceiling where the panels aren't missing entirely. People for Community Recovery is used to shabby quarters in the Altgeld Gardens housing project at the southern end of Chicago.
The environmental justice group's small office is crammed with desks and cluttered with papers. People for Community Recovery shares a mostly vacant commercial strip with a liquor store and a fried chicken outlet, set in the middle of a labyrinth of the identical barracks-style row houses of the Chicago Housing Authority project.
But lately, the office has a new feature: electric space heaters — after People's Gas turned off the organization's heat for non-payment.
People for Community Recovery, along with other South Side non-profit organizations, is fighting for its survival as the recession continues to bear down.
Anthony McKinney has spent 31 years in prison for the 1978 shooting and death of a Harvey security officer. He was 18 at the time of the crime. But after more than three years of investigations, students at Northwestern University say they found new evidence that proves his innocence, including a videotaped interview with a key witness recanting the story he told police.
The case was brought to the Center on Wrongful Convictions at the Northwestern Law School's Bluhm Legal Clinic in 2006. And, according to the Trib article, one year ago, the clinic filed a petition on McKinney's behalf so he could receive a new hearing in the Circuit Court of Cook County. The state's attorney agreed that a hearing should be held though no date has been set. But here's the catch--it's one year later, and what is the state's attorney focusing on? Students' grades.
The increasingly desperate straits of Chicago's news outlets is already having an impact on what - and how much - news gets covered. More cuts are coming. In the next year we should expect a significant decrease in community and political news coverage in the Chicago area. Small start-up are trying to fill the gaps, but they lack resources and readership to make up the difference.
Last week I reviewed the financial states of Creative Loafing, Inc. and the Sun Times Media Group. Although CLI is suffering, friends from the Chicago Reader assure me their paper remains profitable - despite CLI's debt. But STMG regulatory and bankruptcy filings seem to show that the Chicago Sun Times is the major money loser among STMG properties. It seems possible - even likely - that the Sun Times may not exist in 2010.
Earlier this year the Chicago Tribune's parent company, the Tribune Company, went into bankruptcy, burdened by $12 billion in debt created by Sam Zell's leveraged buyout of the company. Although recent news suggests Zell will be muscled out and the company will become the property of creditors - especially Deutche Bank - it seems likely that the new owners will be looking for ways to increase cash, reduce expenses, prepare the company for sale, or dismember it into parts for individual sales.
The Trib has continued it somewhat breathless coverage of legislative clout and admissions to U of I and at this point I kind of have to ask, where is the story here.
Basically as I understand it, legislators would ask about the status of this candidate or that candidate to the folks U or I had down in Springfield and those folks would follow up with the university. Some students who were asked about would get in, despite not having the credentials of other candidates who were rejected.
I haven't seen anything that said "You know State Senator XYZ said that if Timmy doesn't get into the dental program he was going to push to get our funding cut"...
When people have an issue or concern with an entity of government, who do they often call. Their elected representative, if you are trying to get Grandpa his medals from his military service do you call the VA or do you call your congressman?
Same thing with the state, if you need or are looking for something from the state you are just as likely to try and contact your state rep or state senator as the individual department (if you can figure out what department to contact).
Your elected official will want to help you out because if they can it fundamentally helps them out as well. You are more likely to speak positively of a state rep if they have done something to help you and in turn this will likely help the state rep get re-elected.
Good constituent service can go a long way toward re-election. Poor constituent service is something that gets around very quickly.
So looking at the why a state rep might call and ask about the status of an applicant at the U or I and maybe asking if something could be done. I have a simple question for the Trib.
Have any of your folks ever called U of I asking about the status of a candidate or tried using the clout of the states biggest paper to try to get something to happen?
I love democracy, don't you? I've been following the Iranian election pitting (primarily) Ahmadinejad (Bush) versus Mousavi (Anybody But Ahmadinejad) pretty closely. It's funny--the conservative Iranian elements are saying similar things to what the most conservative American elements were saying in 2004--the enemy wants the challenger to win because it'll make us weaker and more rife for takeover. A vote for Mousavi (Kerry) is a vote for the Americans (terrorists)! (Please don't construe that as a defense of John Kerry's shitty campaign).
I hope Iranians don't fall prey to fear mongering.
President Obama said that his government was "excited" about the debate surrounding the elections, Reuters report. "Whoever ends up winning, the fact there has been a robust debate hopefully will advance our ability to engage them in new ways," he said.
Update: Voting has been extended for a third time, Reuters reporters. Polls will now close at 9pm (5.30pmBST).
Polling time has been extended until 8pm (4.30pmBST) AP confirmed, in another sign of the huge turnout.
The Ahmadinejad camp claims their man is winning.
"Based on the evaluation of Ahmadinejad's position he is ahead ... with 60% of the votes and we are certain that the election will end in the first round in his favour," Ali Asghar Zarei told Mehr News Agency, according to Reuters.
This is a short entry. The arguments about privatization, such as the Parking Meter Fail, often focus on the crumminess of a certain deal's price structure, as if it were some aberration from a basically sound concept.
Over at the IVI-IPO's website, Aviva Patt has posted, in the June 2009 newsletter (click this link to download a PDF; article is at p. 6), a more meta-argument, that privatization not making sense is the rule, not the exception. Patt argues,
Whatever amount of money a private company can earn by operating an airport, toll way, garage or parking meter concession, the government could earn as well. There is no magic creation of additional revenue through privatization.
Patt also suggests why such deals are made if they don't make economic sense for government and raise rates for citizens, saying, "Privatization is not being proposed to cut operational costs of service delivery, but to provide political cover for raising rates, which the Mayor and City Council don't have the courage and honesty to do on their own."
As the revenue crises governments face create more pressure for quick fixes, it's important to discuss the big-picture issues about privatization. As a general rule, I think public services should remain under public control, and that the community is the best guardian of the commons.
It's nice to see the newsletter online, although it would be better if it was in HTML format, and allowed comments. Still, after apparently a three-year gap, IVI-IPO under the chairmanship of Bob Bartell, and with some re-invigoration of boards and committees, continues to make strides toward rebounding as an important civic voice for reform.
Disclosure: I am a former board member and longtime/sometime member of the organization.
What kind of Fitzmas present will Fitzgerald be delivering to the public, brilliantly wrapped in indictment paper? We'll find out if it's something we wanted, or just another boring old sweater.
UPDATE: Wrong federal building. Oops. And as I'm sure you've heard by now, it is West Side political boss Ike Carothers (29th-Austin) who was indicted today by the feds, for allegedly accepting cash for a zoning change. Nice, old school Chicago corruption. Here's the indictment. I'll work on pulling out the juicy bits for ya.
UPDATE 2: I'm not an attorney, so I'll stick to the facts; these are the violations cited as the grounds for the indictment: (i) "theft or bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds"; (ii) perpetrating a "fraud or swindle" using an interstate mail service; (iii) perpetrating a "fraud or swindle" using the phone; (v) obstruction of justice by "Influencing or injuring officer or juror generally"; (vi) entering a fraudulent or false statement to the IRS; (vii) and violating congressional campaign contributions in three different ways (including entering a contribution under a different name). These are the things that made the case federal, but the indictment lists a number of state and local laws that were violated, too. The "fraud or swindle" was literally of the citizens of the city; under Section 1346 of the US Code, this definition is provided: "For the purposes of this chapter, the term 'scheme or artifice to defraud' includes a scheme or artifice to deprive another of the intangible right of honest services." This was used in the Blagojevich indictment as well. The argument is that we were defrauded of our intangible right of honest service by this scheming. At least that's my understanding of it. Lawyers?
It's worth asking why riders need to switch to Ventra to begin with. Halfway across the country, D.C.-area transit riders will soon get a Ventra-style open fare payment system...but will still be using a card based on a version of the Chicago Card technology. More...