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Monday, December 22

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The Mechanics

Election 2015 Mon Dec 22 2014

Fioretti Talks TIF Reform

Ald. Bob Fioretti of the Second Ward has the platform of "True TIF Reform" for his mayoral campaign. I spoke with him over the phone on Friday to discuss TIFs and how to reform them.

One of your platforms is "True TIF Reform." What projects under Mayor Emanuel have led to you developing this platform?

A meeting -- I think it was the Finance Committee meeting, I do not serve on the Finance Committee -- and I watched what happened with a TIF on the Far West Side where the aldermen had not done anything to improve the infrastructure. And many African-American aldermen complained about the lack of use in terms of the infrastructure and at that point I had come to the realization as I watched what happened our TIF program is broken. I mean, it's there to help blighted areas and instead we see most of the money being directed to the South Loop, West Loop, Downtown area. And, accordingly, short-changing our neighborhoods like Pullman, Riverdale, Roseland, West Pullman, South Side communities where blight is, as I said before, prevalent and economic development is scarce.

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Monica Reida / Comments (1)

Stump Connolly Fri Dec 19 2014

Stump Connolly Reporting: Rahm's Virtual Reality Rally

Rahm Emanuel opens his re-election campaign with a rally at the Cinespace Studios in Lawndale Dec. 6, 2014. The event is not on the mayor's public schedule, admission is by ticket only, and lines from every speakers are posted on Twitter moments after they are spoken.

Stump Connolly, chief political correspondent of The Week Behind, will be covering the Chicago mayoral race with his new pocketcam and offering periodic video reports exclusively on Gapers Block as the campaign unfolds.

Stump Connolly / Comments (1)

Springfield Thu Dec 18 2014

On Elected School Boards and Horseshoes

I have figured out how Chicago can get an Elected School Board, how the election laws can stop being endlessly rigged, how actual campaign finance reform can become a possibility, how incessant Pay to Play scams can largely be shut down, and how maybe some smidgen of democracy can visit the good people of Illinois.

And get this: all it will take is for just 12 State Representatives to have some guts and stand up for their constituents!

[At this time there will be a short pause to allow the readers to regain their composure.]

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Phil Huckelberry / Comments (0)

Election 2015 Fri Dec 12 2014

Amara Enyia's Withdrawal Reflects the Ongoing Reality of Chicago Politics

amara for mayorAmara Enyia was the first candidate to declare for the mayoral race. By declaring so early -- in February -- she picked up a lot of press that she might not have otherwise received, from heavy hitters like Kari Lydersen and Ben Joravsky. Her bio is Obamaesque, but to hardcore progressives, her platform is even better.

Alas, on Tuesday, Enyia officially withdrew from the race. Her paperwork was challenged, and reading between the lines of her withdrawal statement, it seems unlikely that she would have survived the challenge with sufficient signatures.

The demise of her campaign reflects a sad reality in Chicago. The economic conditions on the South and West Sides, combined with a hostile electoral landscape, continue to stunt efforts to improve the city. But in Enyia's failure to get on the ballot, there may also be indications of how people who are fed up need to evolve their tactics to bring change to the city.

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Phil Huckelberry / Comments (4)

Event Wed Dec 10 2014

Illinois Humanities Council Teams Up with Community Media Workshop to Ignite Dialogue on Gun Violence

The Illinois Humanities Council and Community Media Workshop will hold a screening today of MSNBC's "Ricochet: Life in a City Under Siege From Guns."

This event kicks off a three-month-long reporting project, "Reporting Back," which partners journalists with community residents to create multimedia stories on key community issues in Chicago.

The screening will be followed by a conversation about media coverage of Chicago communities affected by gun violence led by local figures including Jim Kirk, Editor-in-Chief of the Chicago Sun-Times; Alison Scholly, COO of Chicago Public Media; Janey Rountree, Deputy Chief of Staff for Mayor Rahm Emanuel; Juliana Stratton, Cook County Justice for Children; and Susy Schultz, President and Executive Director of Community Media Workshop.

"This is an unprecedented opportunity to hear from top media decision makers and civic leaders about the coverage of violence in Chicago communities and to engage in meaningful discussion," said Michele Welsdon, Director of Programs at Illinois Humanities Council. "Instead of rhetoric around the issue, we will have a deep conversation about why and how this coverage portrays gun violence."

The screening will be held at 6pm on Wednesday, Dec. 10 at the Film Row Cinema at Columbia College Chicago, 1104 S. Wabash Ave., and is free to the public, though a reservation is recommended. To RSVP, visit the Illinois Humanities Council's website.

Becky Schultz / Comments (0)

Op-Ed Fri Dec 05 2014

White America's Silence Enables Black Deaths

By Dave Stieber

Let's be honest, the word white often makes white people uncomfortable. Many of us who are white, when asked to describe ourselves, do not include our race in our personal descriptions. A typical white person's description of their self will likely include their gender, their ethnicity, and their looks. For example, my description would sound something like this, "I am male, of Italian and German descent, 5' 8" and bald." Notice how race is not mentioned.

The reason many white people don't often think in terms of our own race is privilege. It is privilege that makes it so we don't have to think about our race every single minute of every single day.

In 1989 a professor named Peggy McIntosh wrote a paper titled White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. [PDF] In this document she lists many privileges that white people have been taught to ignore and just accept as normal without even thinking twice about them.

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Mechanics / Comments (2)

State Politics Wed Dec 03 2014

Madigan Moves to Eliminate Slating, Burn Republicans

In an unexpected, under-the-radar move, Speaker of the House Michael Madigan has taken action to eliminate the long-standing practice of slating in Illinois.

The word "slating" has a lot of meanings in Illinois politics, but the practice described here is the one whereby an established political party can fill a vacancy in nomination after a primary election for which no candidate filed.

This appears to be the latest in a long series of moves over time to help ensure that incumbents -- especially incumbent state legislators -- need not face any opposition on the general election ballot.

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Phil Huckelberry / Comments (3)

Election 2015 Mon Dec 01 2014

That Magical Time of Year in Chicago: It's Challenge Season

Petitions for municipal office were due at 5pm on Monday, Nov. 24. Aldermanic candidates had to submit 473 valid signatures.

But... if someone filed a petition with just a single signature -- their own -- they might officially be on the ballot anyway.

And someone else, who might have filed 10 times the number of valid signatures, might get challenged, and it might be weeks before they can officially be on the ballot -- or they might get thrown off altogether.

Welcome to Chicago!

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Phil Huckelberry / Comments (6)

Police Wed Nov 26 2014

Chicago to Ferguson: City Hall Sit-in Turns to Evening March Through the Loop


Chay, an organizer with BYP 100 Chicago, speaks out against police militarization and brutality at a Tuesday evening rally in downtown Chicago. Photo by Emily Brosious.

Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets in downtown Chicago Tuesday evening to protest a Missouri grand jury's decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for killing unarmed teenager Michael Brown.

The march began around 6:30 p.m., after police ordered protesters off City Hall's fifth-floor, where they had been staging a planned 28-hour sit-in outside Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office.

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Emily Brosious / Comments (0)

Civics Tue Nov 25 2014

The Impossible Case of the Courts and Police Reform

Civics by Ramsin CanonA vulnerable population and common violations of Constitutional rights. It is precisely the type of scenario where courts should be able to intervene to stop abuses. Yet because of legislative inaction and Supreme Court case law, courts are paradoxically unable to play a part in stemming ongoing injustice.

When can a police officer use deadly force to prevent a person from fleeing -- or to "seize" them, under the meaning of the Fourth Amendment? In Chicago, there are three levels of rules that determine this: first at the highest level, there are the Supreme Court decisions in Garner v. Tennessee and Graham v. Connor. These decisions together create the constitutional limit on the use of deadly force. Basically, they hold that for an officer to use deadly force but not to violate the Fourth Amendment's protection of individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures, they must have an objectively reasonable belief that they or the public are in imminent danger of bodily harm, or have probable cause to believe that the person committed a serious, violent felony (burglary would be insufficient) and they are fleeing. The effect of these decisions was that in most states, laws that defined a justifiable homicide committed by a police officer were unconstitutional to the degree that they permitted any use of force in excess of the constitutional limit.

In Illinois, at the second level of rule-making, this rule for deadly force is codified at 720 ILCS 5/7-5, in the criminal code. It states that a police officer is justified in using force likely to cause death or great bodily harm only when he reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or another person, or when he reasonably believes both that,

(1) Such force is necessary to prevent the arrest from being defeated by resistance or escape; and
(2) The person to be arrested has committed or attempted a forcible felony which involves the infliction or threatened infliction of great bodily harm or is attempting to escape by use of a deadly weapon, or otherwise indicates that he will endanger human life or inflict great bodily harm unless arrested without delay....

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Chicago Public Schools Mon Nov 24 2014

I Would Be so Thankful If Only Chicago Had an Elected School Board

By Dave Stieber

While we all prepare to give thanks for family, friends, and loved ones, I want to pause and give thanks to the people in this city who are relentlessly trying to give us all the opportunity to have an elected school board.

Because Mayor Rahm Emanuel keeps Chicago the only school district in the entire state of Illinois that does not have an elected school board.

We have a school board that is handpicked by the mayor and therefor does whatever the mayor tells them to do, because if they go against him then guess what? They are no longer on the school board.

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Mechanics / Comments (3)

Justice Wed Nov 19 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Becky Schultz / Comments (0)

Civics Tue Nov 18 2014

Cities Need a New Old Philosophy: Justice

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

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

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

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (2)

News Mon Nov 17 2014

Jane Byrne, the Bold Mayor

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

Jane Byrne was a fighter.

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

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

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

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Monica Reida / Comments (0)

Chicago Public Schools Wed Nov 12 2014

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

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

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

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

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Rachel Anspach / Comments (0)


Fioretti Talks TIF Reform

By Monica Reida / 1 Comments

Alderman and mayoral candidate Bob Fioretti discusses his plan for "true TIF reform." More...


The Impossible Case of the Courts and Police Reform

By Ramsin Canon / 1 Comments

A vulnerable population and common violations of Constitutional rights. It is precisely the type of scenario where courts should be able to intervene to stop abuses. Yet because of legislative inaction and Supreme Court case law, courts are paradoxically unable... More...

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