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The Mechanics

Education Tue Aug 19 2014

Board of Education President to Benefit from Proposed South Side Charter School

David Vitale
Chicago Board of Education President David Vitale. Photo Credit: Chandler West, Sun-Times

Last week, news broke that David Vitale, the president of the Chicago Board of Education, could profit pending the Board's approval of a new South Side charter school. Vitale is chairman of Urban Partnership Bank, which has filed suit to foreclose the same building in which the proposed school, Horizon Science Academy-Clay Evans, plans to open this fall. HSA-Clay Evans was proposed by Concept Schools, a charter school management company whose Des Plaines offices, as well as a number of their schools, were recently subject to an FBI raid.

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Becky Schultz / Comments (0)

Election 2015 Mon Aug 18 2014

Six Months in Chicago


Image via NBC5-WMAQ

For six months in Chicago, there may be a rare, once-a-decade opportunity to get some answers. If that sentence seems magniloquent, that's because I had to start big since the subsequent sentence is, "That opportunity is the 2015 Chicago municipal elections."

That opportunity is the 2015 Chicago municipal elections. Chicago is defined by confluence; in the first instance, literally, as sitting at the confluence of Lake Michigan, the Chicago River, and the Chicago Portage, the connection between the Great Lakes and Mississippi watersheds. Soon after, the nation's railroad flowed together there; now, it's the confluence of the nation's air travel and trucking. Today, it is also a confluence of some of the country's biggest challenges.

Income inequality, gentrification, rising housing costs, under-resourced schools and creeping privatization, under-served mental health services, police brutality, street crime, segregation, environmental justice, exploitation of undocumented workers, police militarization, un- and under-compensated care work, wage theft, unemployment, over-crowded jails, hyper-criminalization, lack of government transparency, and crumbling infrastructure. These issues intersect on the orange-lit streets of the Great American City. Chicago is a beautiful city and livable city. It is also suffering.

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (0)

Op-Ed Fri Aug 15 2014

Confessions of a Feminist Asshole

By Michael Fornello

I hadn't given my philosophy towards women much thought recently; my immediate aim was to finish my graduate classes, grab my Master's, and find a job. My wife and I were also busy filling out reams of paperwork in the hopes that we may be able to adopt a baby soon. We're buried in questions about both: should we stay in the city, or move to the suburbs? When I get a job, should we buy a car? What about good day care on the North Side? Under these circumstances, I hadn't given my feminist beliefs much thought.

Then came the terrible shooting in California and the response of the #YesAllWomen hashtag. My wife, frustrated with the male side of humanity like so many other women, posted her own tweets, and we discussed them. She expressed her fears, her frustrations, and who need, like so many other women, for men to simply shut up and listen. I did so, I read other tweets, and in the process I mentally traced my own feminist beliefs. What I ended up with were some unpleasant realizations about myself, particularly about my undergraduate years two decades ago. Yes, I was a feminist then, but I was also an incredible asshole, and my attitudes towards women were just as corrosive as my more misogynistic peers.

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Mechanics / Comments (1)

Op-Ed Thu Aug 14 2014

Ferguson Saw Rioting; When Will Chicago?


Scott Olson/Getty Images

In Chicago, we have not seen riots since the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968. During those riots, one event -- Dr. King's death -- sent black Chicagoans over the edge. Yet it was not this tragedy in isolation that caused black Chicagoans to take to the streets and commit violent and destructive acts. Rather, it was the history and continued reality of violence and oppression they had faced here ever since the first black Americans began to move en masse to Chicago during the Great Migration.

On Sunday night Ferguson, Missouri (a St. Louis suburb) saw riots and looting. Like the MLK riots in Chicago, the rioting was set into motion by another devastating death -- the police killing of Michael Brown just days before he was supposed to begin college. And just like in Chicago, it was not this one event alone that caused the protests. Rather Brown's death was a tipping point. It was too much for people who have been systematically oppressed and dehumanized to take sitting down.

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Rachel Anspach / Comments (13)

Event Tue Aug 12 2014

18 Groups to Participate in Placemaking Challenge

The Metropolitan Planning Council will hold its annual Placemaking Challenge this weekend, Aug. 15-17. The event, entitled "Old Place, New Tricks," will be held in neighborhoods throughout the city as well as the city of Blue Island.

Last year's MPC Placemaking Challenge resulted in Union Station having a picnic area as well as other amenities.

There will be 18 groups participating in the Placemaking Challenge, including Austin Coming Together, I Grow Chicago, Rebuild Foundation and Groupon. The events will occur in a variety of neighborhoods including Ravenswood, Austin, Bronzeville and Pilsen.

According to MPC's website for the event, they "believe people have the power to transform their neighborhoods, one space at a time."

Among the project is Austin Coming Together transforming an area in the 600 block of North Lorel Avenue into a "Peace Lot," which will provide a space for residents to organize and address issues affecting the area.

For more information on the event, visit the website for the Placemaking Challenge.

Monica Reida / Comments (0)

Housing Thu Aug 07 2014

What's Next for Chicago's Remaining SROs?

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The Aragon Arms Hotel at 4917 Kenmore in Uptown. Eligible tenants must prove an $800/month minimum income. Photo credit: Becky Schultz

At the peak of urbanization in 1915, new migrants to Chicago weren't renting apartments or buying houses. Instead, many made a home in one of the city's 3,700 operating single-room and residential hotels (SROs). In the decades since the Gilded Age, the number of SROs has dwindled to 73 licensed residencies. And in the past three years, 2,200 rooms have been lost to a number of private developers buying and converting these properties into market-rate (if not high-end) apartments. Almost 600 residents were displaced without viable housing alternatives.

Last week, the a City Council approved a moratorium (47-0) backed by Mayor Emanuel and a number of aldermen to halt the redevelopment of SROs for six months or until permanent legislation on the issue passes. That leaves 6,000 remaining SRO units--and hundreds of residents--in a state of limbo.

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Becky Schultz / Comments (4)

Election 2015 Thu Jul 31 2014

How Karen Lewis Might Also Help Change Chicago City Council

Karen LewisFirst, the news you already know: Karen Lewis is likely running for mayor. Toni Preckwinkle isn't.

Since the news broke on July 15 that Preckwinkle is out of the race, some dominant themes seem to have emerged. The first, probably best epitomized in Ben Joravsky's "five stages of grief" article, has been lament over the person who was seen as most capable of beating Rahm Emanuel stepping out of the race.

Following closely behind is a reassessment of Lewis. It was easier to imagine what a theoretical Preckwinkle campaign might look like. It's harder to imagine that with Lewis. Preckwinkle was a multi-term alderman and is now Cook County Board President, who has expressed many views on many issues over time. Lewis, as President of the Chicago Teachers Union and having never held public office, has had little occasion to talk about things like potholes, tourism, and appropriate police deployment. There's also the question over what form Lewis's campaign might take, given that it would likely take form outside of existing entrenched political structures.

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Phil Huckelberry / Comments (0)

Law Mon Jul 28 2014

Chicago's Attempts at Fighting Graffiti

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Photo by Duncan C./Flickr

Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduced a bill in city council on Wednesday that would double the fines for those who graffiti in the city, going from $500 to $1000. This is a measure intended to fight graffiti in the city, but it wouldn't be the first effort Chicago has made.

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Monica Reida / Comments (1)

Op-Ed Wed Jul 16 2014

Racial Inequality is the Root of Violent Crime in Chicago

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Christian Science Monitor/Paul Beaty

Over this Fourth of July weekend in Chicago, 84 people were shot and 16 killed. Over 1,000 people have been shot in the city since the beginning of the year, and almost all of them were black and Latino men under the age of 35. Shedding light on these numbers is important, but numbers on their own are not enough. A shallow focus on statistics and short-term solutions consistently dominates media coverage of violence in Chicago. This insubstantial, fleeting reportage ignores the deeper societal inequalities that continue to spur violence in the city's most marginalized black neighborhoods.

The Chicago neighborhoods that have the highest violent crime rates are the same that have the greatest concentrations of poverty, incarceration, unemployment and failing schools. And while violent crime has fallen in Chicago (as in all major American cities) since the 1990s, Harvard sociologist Robert Sampson found that the same neighborhoods have remained the most violent.

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Rachel Anspach / Comments (5)

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)

Election 2015 Wed Jun 25 2014

Community Organizer Amara Enyia is Taking on Rahm Emanuel to Make a Point

Board_photo.jpg

I took the Green Line out to Garfield Park to meet Amara Enyia at one of her favorite spots, Inspiration Kitchens. The restaurant, located right by the Garfield Park Conservatory, provides jobs and training to homeless individuals. Enyia explained to me that the menu (which looked delicious) is kept affordable so that residents of the neighborhood can actually afford to eat there. As we chatted in this sunny space over lemonade and iced tea, Enyia explained her vision for the city to me.

Enyia is sick of status quo in Chicago politics -- in which resources are focused on the wealthy and many communities are left in poverty--and she has decided to do something about it. Earlier this month, she held a rally to launch her candidacy as a progressive alternative to Chicago's current mayor, Rahm Emanuel.

The business model for Inspiration Kitchens is right in line with Enyia's view of how the city should function -- a local business that lifts up community members, uses local and sustainable ingredients, and provides a positive space for the neighborhood.

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Rachel Anspach / Comments (3)

Election 2014 Tue Jun 24 2014

Rauner Donor's Hedge Fund Group Received $200 Million in Bailout Funds

The Sun-Times reported on Friday that Citadel, a hedge fund founded by Kenneth Griffin, received $200 million in bailout funds in 2009 from AIG.

Griffin recently gave Bruce Rauner's gubernatorial campaign $2.5 million in campaign contributions. Griffin has also given more than $1 million previously to Rauner's campaign as well as allowing Rauner to use Griffin's private jet for campaigning in Illinois.

Griffin was able to give $2.5 million to Rauner's campaign due to a loophole in campaign finance laws, according to Ben Joravsky and Mick Dumke of the Chicago Reader.

Chicagoist explained in 2009 that Citadel received the bailout funds from AIG due to investments made, including those such as bonds, securities and mortgage-backed securities. As a result of the investments made by Citadel, AIG owed the hedge fund money.

Rauner notably described himself as being part of the ".01 percent." He has given $6.5 million to his own campaign according to the Reader.

Monica Reida / Comments (0)

Housing Tue Jun 17 2014

New Report Looks at Affordable Housing and Neighborhood Market Conditions

IHS.png
(Map / Institute for Housing Studies at DePaul University)

Cook County's housing market has been making a slow comeback in recent years. Still, it's been a fairly uneven recovery. Some neighborhood housing markets have stabilized. Others, not so much.

A new report and interactive map from The Institute for Housing Studies (IHS) at DePaul University looks at current housing market trends and conditions in Chicago and suburban Cook County and shows how the region's diverse housing stock impacts housing recovery across different neighborhoods.

IHS says understanding neighborhood housing stock is critical for effective policy development.

According to the report, "In the City of Chicago and broader suburban Cook County, knowledge of a neighborhood's housing stock takes on particular significance because of the diversity of housing types found in the area and the geographic concentrations of particular types of housing in different communities."

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Emily Brosious / Comments (0)

Elections Wed Jun 11 2014

Bernie Sanders: 2016's Most Interesting Man

Bernie Sanders is a busy man these days. He's currently chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, which has been in the news a lot more than usual. He's also preparing to introduce a constitutional amendment before the Senate which would essentially overturn the infamous Citizens United ruling. And maybe -- just maybe -- he's about to run for president.

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Phil Huckelberry / Comments (4)

Illinois Wed Jun 04 2014

Fixing Illinois Offers Few Feasible Immediate Solutions

fixingillinois.jpgTo say Illinois is in a broken state and needs fixing is to state the obvious. The state has a $47.2 billion debt and is often the butt of jokes when it comes to corruption. In James D. Nowlan and J. Thomas Johnson's new book Fixing Illinois: Politics and Policy in the Prairie State, there are 98 suggestions given as to how to solve and lessen the problems in Illinois, but many of them don't feel feasible in the current political climate for the state.

The book covers a variety of topics in Illinois policy including education, budgeting, economic development, transportation, health care and human services. Outside of the section on transportation, many of these ideas ring as absurd for implementation in Illinois. Some of these may be more feasible in states other than Illinois, but could never work in this particular state.

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Monica Reida / 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



About Mechanics

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

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