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The Mechanics

Local Government Mon Jul 07 2014

Illinois AG Takes Aim at ComEd Rate-Hike Request

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Photo by Arvell Dorsey Jr. via Flickr

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan wants to block part of Commonwealth Edison's latest rate-hike request, saying it violates state law.

Madigan accused ComEd of asking customers to pay for $87.9 million in employee bonuses -- an illegal practice in Illinois, she said.

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Emily Brosious / Comments (0)

Health Care Wed Jun 05 2013

Roseland Hospital Saved... Temporarily

Roseland Community Hospital announced today it will keep it doors open with $350,000 in state emergency assistance until a more sustainable solution is reached. These actions come two weeks after 100 staff members were laid off due to a $600,000 shortfall to pay employees. Administrators and aid experts will review a financial plan to salvage the medical center.

This week it was revealed that the state owes Roseland Community Hospital $6 million for its children's behavioral health unit. Hospital administrators have reduced the deficit from $9 million to $5 million. Governor Quinn claims the hospital board has a history of monetary mismanagement which has led them to the current situation. President and CEO Dian Powell who resigned this morning disregarded financial irresponsibility led to the mess and said, "They owe us money." Powell's resignation comes after allegations of unfairly blaming missing payments from the state as a critical factor in the hospital's fiscal demise.

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Sydney Corryn / Comments (0)

Veterans Fri Feb 01 2013

Sad, Sobering Statistics on Veteran Suicide

This is some news that ought to be bigger. It is sad and it is sobering. It also gives insight into how national stories are created or ignored, and popular opinion manipulated.

A new Veterans Administration study estimates that 22 veterans are committing suicide each day. This represents an increase from previous study, when the VA was estimating 18 suicides per day among the vet population they serve.

What this also means is that, this month, the number of veterans who take their own lives will eclipse all the homicides in Chicago in an entire year. What this means is that the number of veterans who take their own lives will be larger than the number of men and women killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past entire decade of war. And that, during the next decade, America will lose more lives to veteran suicide than US forces lost in the Vietnam War.

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Jeff Smith / Comments (1)

Budget Wed Nov 09 2011

Budget, Layoff Protests Planned at City Hall Today

Today two protests will occur at City Hall protesting the proposed layoffs and closures in the 2012 budget, specifically highlighting the cuts to health services.

The first protest will occur at 9:30am with a press conference outside of City Hall by the LaSalle Street entrance. The protest, organized by Grassroots Collaborative, Stand Up! Chicago and Southside Together Organizing for Power (STOP), will address the proposed closure of mental health clinics and police stations as well as the planned library hour cuts and layoffs while money from Tax Increment Financing (TIF) is not being considered to close the city's budget gap, according to the press release. The protesters will then march in solidarity with Occupy Chicago at 10am.

The second protest will occur at 6pm and will address the proposed privatization of primary care clinics run by the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH), closure of mental health clinics in the city and proposed layoffs from the Department of Family and Support Services, according to a press release from AFSCME. The protest will be a candlelight vigil, and participants will speak-out against the planned cuts and closures. AFSCME Council 31, STOP, Mental Health Movement, City employees affected by the cuts and advocates will be participating.

Monica Reida / Comments (0)

Social Services Wed Oct 19 2011

The Challenge of Catholic Charities, Foster Care, and LGBT Equal Rights

Illinois' foster care system is responsible for approximately 15,000 children. The Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) contracts with agencies to provide case workers for the children and find, process, and work with willing foster families to place children under their care. It is one of the most humane and important functions of the state, protecting children and finding homes for those in the unimaginably painful condition of being without a loving family. It is an awesome responsibility for any organization to assume, and the public is rightfully grateful for it.

This summer, the state of Illinois informed one of its oldest partners in the foster care program, Catholic Charities, that it was going to terminate its decades-old contract with them. The Catholic Charities' strictures against placing children with homosexual couples conflicted with the civil unions bill, 750 ILCS 75, passed earlier in the year. The statute provides in pertinent part,

Sec. 20. Protections, obligations, and responsibilities. A party to a civil union is entitled to the same legal obligations, responsibilities, protections, and benefits as are afforded or recognized by the law of Illinois to spouses, whether they derive from statute, administrative rule, policy, common law, or any other source of civil or criminal law.

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Social Services Mon Oct 17 2011

A North Side Beacon: Shari Fenton's Asian Youth Services

by Alan Lake

Safe havens for children living in gang and drug infested neighborhoods are few and far between, but for over 20 years the Asian Youth Services (AYS) after school program has filled the role. Besides tutoring math, science, history and reading, AYS aims to create a healthy atmosphere for any child who walks through the door, whether the student is the child of Cambodian refugees or recent Latin American immigrants.

Many of the children's families were victims of the Southeast Asian killing fields, so quite a few of their parents or grandparents are without formal education. Most are on public aid and rely on AYS for assistance for extra-academic aid, including for legal, health and housing problems.

As refugees, they can use all the help they can get.

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Mechanics / Comments (4)

Health Care Thu Apr 14 2011

Nurses See Extra Burden in South Side Emergency Rooms

This article was submitted by freelance journalist Samantha Winslow.

nurserally1[1].JPGReasheal Lehmann joined the line of people on East 59th Street in front of the University of Chicago Medical Center. An emergency room nurse at the hospital, Lehmann wore bright red scrubs emblazoned with her union's logo, National Nurses United; others wore raincoats and parkas, trying to stay warm on an unusually cold March evening. As the sun went down, the University buildings glowed with yellow light like a cathedral. More nurses ended their shifts and they also came outside.

Staff nurses at the medical center, which is affiliated with one of the nation's most prestigious universities, are in union negotiations with the hospital and one of their key issues is staffing levels. The candlelight vigil was intended to bring public attention to what they say is a crisis in emergency room care on the city's South Side.

"It's already a tough situation to begin with," Lehmann says, "We are seeing not only a bigger volume of patients but a higher acuity of patients." She says patients are coming in often with multiple illnesses, and a higher severity of illness. The risks of overcrowded emergency rooms are not having enough nurses and staff to assess and treat patients in a timely manner.

Their concern is if there aren't enough nurses in an emergency room to handle a high volume of very sick patients, people could slip through the cracks. Last year, UCMC paid a $50,000 fine after a 78-year-old died after waiting 4 hours in the emergency room.

Many people say the status of South Side emergency departments has been grim for a long time, with seven area hospitals closing in the past 25 years. But for Lehmann, the situation in the emergency room is more critical now than ever. Provident, a county-run hospital less than two miles away, has downsized over the years and in February, closed its doors to admissions by ambulance.

"Since Provident closed, the situation has been exacerbated," Lehmann says.

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Mechanics / Comments (4)

Column Thu Jan 13 2011

Children, Too: Chicago HOPES Making a Difference for Homeless Children

By Katherine Tellez, Julie Sammarco and Mollie Zubek

NOTE: Children's names have been changed to protect their identities.

Kindergartner Nina Phillips uses the whiteboard to do her work. Adam Conway says HOPES tries to provide as many learning materials as they can, though says, it's not the ideal situation. Photo by Julie Sammarco

On a typical weekday, Chicagoans will pass dozens of children with their backpacks heading to school.

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Mechanics / Comments (6)

Housing Tue Dec 21 2010

The Story Behind One Cabrini-Green Eviction

This article was written by Rory Fanning.

Stepping out of the elevator onto the 14th floor of the Richard J. Daley Center, Sheriee Woodland was greeted by a world-famous panorama of high-rise architecture.

The Chicago Temple Building, Holabird & Root's 23 story, neo-Gothic masterpiece; Kohn Pederson Fox's "Birthday Cake Building" at 311 S. Wacker; and The Legacy, Solomon Cordwell and Buenz's 72-story condominium tower of ocean-blue glass, were a few of the many well-maintained buildings that looked back through the floor-to-ceiling windows.

But Woodland was at the Daley Center because of a different high-rise. She was on her way to eviction court.

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Mechanics / Comments (2)

Housing Wed Dec 01 2010

The End of High-rise Housing in Cabrini-Green

Moving Trucks at 1230 N. Burling

The Chicago Housing Authority recently surprised residents of the last Cabrini-Green high-rise by moving their eviction forward by several weeks. The new date? Tuesday.

While some residents indicated they would resist leaving 1230 N. Burling, moving trucks slowly filled and drove to new residences. By evening only a couple of families remained -- and it was unclear if they would stay the night.

See Mary Schmich's recent piece at the Trib for more information about Tuesday's evictions.

A few photographs from the scene are below.

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David Schalliol / Comments (0)

Housing Mon Oct 25 2010

Not One More Eviction

This article was submitted by Keeanga-Yamahatta Taylor

ON OCTOBER 14, members of the Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign (CAEC), in an act of protest and street theater, presented Cook County Sheriff and mayoral candidate Tom Dart, with a six-foot-tall "five-day notice."

A five-day notice is a court order given to tenants that declares they have five days to pay their rent or risk being taken to eviction court. The CAEC's five-day notice gave Dart five days to "halt...the dozens of evictions processed by his office each day."

Approximately 100 evictions are carried out in Cook County each day. Moreover, there has been an almost 70 percent increase in the number of foreclosure filings in the county. Thirty percent of all foreclosures are on non-owner occupied property--meaning they are rental property. In fact, the impact of foreclosures on tenants prompted Dart to levy a moratorium on evictions for two weeks in 2008.

News stories uncovered how landlords who were in foreclosure and on the brink of losing their property neglected to tell their tenants while they were still collecting rent. Renters were coming home to find their belongings piled on the sidewalk, having no idea that their landlords had been using them like ATM machines.

Dart said then:

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Mechanics / Comments (1)

Chicago Mon Aug 02 2010

Not Your Typical Summer Read: Klinenberg's Heat Wave

Every summer, as the thermometer pushes 90 and the humidity makes a walk around the block sure to drench you in sweat, I have friends and family who complain about the heat. Usually I tell them two things: first, quit whining--you'll be trudging through sub-zero windchill in, like, two months, and longing for these days. Second, have you ever read that book about the Chicago heat wave that killed over 700 people?

Maybe I should recognize that people shooting the breeze about the weather don't want to get into a conversation about a massive natural and human-made disaster and the governance model that helped spawn it. But Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago is a damn good book--GB's own Book Club read it on the disaster's tenth anniversary--and I think people who want to understand how this city operates should read it.

On July 14, 1995, Chicago saw the beginning of a record-breaking heat wave where temperatures reached well above 100 degrees. The heat was brutal, and at the spell's end, over 700 Chicagoans lay dead. But Eric Klinenberg, a former Northwestern professor of sociology, writes in Heat Wave that "[t]he weather...accounts for only part of the human devastation that arose." The extreme temperatures laid bare the effects of the city's notoriously segregated populace, he argues, as well as a governing model that led to a city unprepared for the heat's devastation--unwilling or unable even to follow their own emergency plan.

Klinenberg is a good social scientist, of course, and states from the outset that his intention is not to place blame on any one public figure or institution for the devastation wrought by the extreme weather. But the "market model" Mayor Daley has pushed for city services such as water and parking does not come out of the book looking too desirable. Klinenberg also has an entire chapter, entitled "Governing By Public Relations," devoted to the mayor's office's astute defense of their handling of the crisis. The author writes, "While the city neglected to follow its own guidelines for coordinating an emergency public health reaction to the dangerous heat, the administration accomplished a tetbook public relations campaign to deny the severity fo the crisis, deflect responsibility for the public health breakdown, and defend the city's response to the disaster."

The book is full of rich analysis, from a comparison of the heat wave's effects in North Lawndale versus Little Village and the racial and gender dynamics of social isolation, to social service provision that "reflects a systemic prioritization of cost containment over life preservation"--there's even a table of denial (p. 181) that goes through all the different variations utilized by city officials to deny responsibility for the crisis. As you bake in the still-somewhat-sweltering sun this summer, consider picking up Heat Wave. It's not exactly the perfect beach read, but your comprehension of the state of the city in the second Daley era is guaranteed to improve.

Micah Uetricht / Comments (0)

Social Services Mon Jul 26 2010

Screwed Over: My Unemployment Experience

I'm going to relate a story to you for the sole reason of awareness. I know I'm not the only person that this sort of thing has happened to, but I happen to have access to an outlet through which my story can be heard by a larger audience than most.

I was laid off from my job in February of this year. The money had run out, they told me, and in a month they'd have more contracts and I'd be able to come back to work. So I laid low, kept the spending down, and waited until the furlough was over. I returned to work promptly in March, happy to be back. It wasn't always the most enjoyable job, but having been laid off a year before from another job, I was well aware that to have is better than to have not.

At the end of the week the business manager pulled me aside. Bad news. The contracts they had anticipated fell through. It had nothing to do with me or my performance, he said. It was just a lack of money. They were going to have to lay me off indefinitely.

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Conor McCarthy / Comments (25)

Budget Thu Jun 17 2010

Time for Chicagoland Residents to Take Control of the Country's Fiscal Future

An Op-Ed Submitted by Rev. Dr. Clare Butterfield and Herman Brewer

Some experts and policymakers believe our country could do more to prevent problems before they occur. In particular, instead of postponing our response to the nation's budget problems, we should use our resources today to prevent them from becoming worse. New reports show that current patterns in U.S. spending and revenue can't be continued in the long run. Decisions must be made about the goals we want our country to meet and how we raise the money to meet them; there are steps we can take today to prevent fiscal problems from becoming bigger and more costly to fix. The solutions we come up with will be important to all Americans.

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Mechanics / Comments (2)

Housing Fri May 07 2010

Family of Six Faces Eviction in Rogers Park

Update: The Vialdores family had their day in court--and won.

Carol Vialdores and her children have lived in Rogers Park for 16 years. Currently residing near the Chicago-Evanston border off of Howard Street, the family has never lived anywhere besides the Far North Side.

"The kids have never changed schools," she says. "It's where they've spent their whole lives."


Vialdores and three of her children. Photo by Megan Cottrell.

Vialdores, 41, and her five children, ages five to 19, live at the Northpoint Apartments. For now. The Vialdores family is facing an eviction. Northpoint management claim Vialdores violated several aspects of her lease, including threatening a manager, and are attempting to remove her and her children from their home. She and the Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign (CAEC) say her eviction is a response to her active role in organizing with a tenants union at Northpoint for better living conditions, and are mobilizing with community members and other tenants to demand the family be left in their home.

Vialdores and Northpoint began their trial this week. The verdict will determine whether or not the family will get to keep a roof over their heads.

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Micah Uetricht / Comments (5)

Chicago Sun Apr 25 2010

Lawmakers Want National Guard to Handle Gun Violence in City

In the past week the 6th Ward has been rocked with violence. Especially painful was the death of a 20-month-old baby who was shot only because the shooter was actually targeting the baby's father!

Today state Representatives LaShawn Ford, John Fritchey released statements calling for Gov. Quinn and Mayor Daley to mobilize the state National Guard to supplement our undermanned police.

State lawmakers are calling on Gov. Pat Quinn and Mayor Daley to deploy the Illinois National Guard in Chicago to deal with continuing gun violence and fatalities here.

The action, in coordination with Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis, should be taken as soon as possible to help get guns and criminals off the street, Rep. John Fritchey and Rep. LaShawn Ford, said in released statements today.

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Levois / Comments (2)

Social Issues Mon Apr 05 2010

Sex Trafficking In Chicago: "Victimless" Crimes & Their Victims

Maria is lying on the bed. She's been trying to get up, lifting her head, maybe rolling over onto an elbow, but she's gotten nowhere. Another half attempt to sit upright. She reaches in her pocket and fumbles with a cell phone. She wants to call her best friend Tammy, but her fingers forget where they're going and never make it past the US Cellular logo above the keypad. "Tammy, you wouldn't believe what I'm about to do," she'd tell her. But she can't get as far as calling her.

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Danny Fenster / Comments (7)

Social Services Mon Jan 25 2010

Poverty Rates Spiking in Chicago Suburbs

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U.S. poverty is on the rise in a somewhat unlikely place -- the suburbs, areas people stereotypically associate with backyards, white-picket fences and the American Dream, according to a report recently released by the Brookings Institution.

According to the report, from 2000 to 2008, the number of poor increased by 25 percent in the suburbs, almost five times more than poverty rates in cities. As a result, there are now 1.5 million more poor people living in the suburbs than in "primary" cities. Read the full report -- "The Suburbanization of Poverty: Trends in Metropolitan America, 2000 to 2008" -- here (pdf).

Elizabeth Kneebone, a Brookings senior research analyst and co-author of the report, had this to say in a statement:

Since the start of this decade, two economic downturns have translated into significant increases in poverty across the country, but not all communities have borne the brunt of these increases equally. Suburbs have seen the greatest growth by far in the number of poor residents, and this trend toward the 'suburbanization' of poverty is only likely to continue in the wake of the most recent recession....Though urban and rural poverty remain an ongoing challenge, policymakers, service providers, and other stakeholders must adapt their strategies to address the needs of a poor population that is increasingly suburban. The shifting geography of American poverty underscores the need for policies that foster balanced growth across metropolitan regions and labor markets, and that link up affordable housing, transit, workforce, and economic development strategies to help connect low-income residents to job opportunities.

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Sheila Burt / Comments (0)

Social Services Mon Dec 14 2009

Communities in a Strange Land: Immigrant Social Services in the Recession

[Editor's Note: This article was submitted by Caleb Melby]

One war, four wounds, 13 years in a Communist prison. These were the numbers that defined Francis Khuc's life before he immigrated to the United States in the 1990s. Now, the spry 60-year-old is a proud American with service awards that hang above his desk at The Vietnamese Association of Illinois on N. Broadway in Edgewater.

Khuc's transition to an American way of life was difficult. He faced challenges common to the immigrant experience - culture shock, a new language and the absence of a typical Vietnamese family support structure. The shift is an especially difficult one for the elderly, says Khuc, who now helps Vietnamese seniors prepare for citizenship tests.

"Some seniors, they told me I am blind when I come to America, I am crippled when I come to America, I am deaf when I come to America. I say why? I am a mute because I do not speak English. I am a deaf because I cannot hear someone speak English. I am a crippled because I cannot drive," Khuc says.

It was in the face of stories like these that The Vietnamese Association of Illinois and other organizations like Chinese Mutual Aid, Asian Human Services and The Filipino American Council of Greater Chicago were founded.

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (0)

Feature

How Lawsuits, Lobbyists and Parking Meter Deals Led to Ventra

By Jason Prechtel / 2 Comments

Cubic learned early on that if you don't win a contract through bidding, there are other ways to prevail. More...

Special Series

Classroom Mechanics Oral History Project



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