Nuns On The Bus Rally With Quinn To Promote Voter Participation

A group of traveling Catholic nuns passed through Chicago's Union Park in West Town last week to pass along a key message — get out and vote.

Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, a national Catholic social justice lobby, led the the “We the People, We the Voters” tour, which is traveling to 36 cities as part of its voter registration effort. The nuns, who have done similar bus tours in 2012 and 2013, say voting is the best way Americans can create social change and counter big money in politics.

“The way we make our voice heard, the way we make sure good policy for the 100 percent (is) made is by voting,” Campbell said. “We the people need to stand up, vote and be engaged.”

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Public Interest Group Urges Against 'Wasteful Spending' On Illiana Expressway

An Illinois public interest organization is raising concerns about the proposed Illiana Expressway, saying the privatized toll road that would serve mainly as a trucking corridor "may charge tolls too high to attract trucks, and will likely require hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies."

The Illiana Expressway, a public-private partnership endeavor, is cited as one of 11 highway "boondoggles" across the country in a new report by the Illinois PIRG Education Fund, which is calling on "decision makers to reprioritize scarce transportation dollars to other projects."

The report highlights the proposed 47-mile Illiana tollway, which would connect I-55 in Illinois to I-65 in Indiana, as an example of "wasteful highway spending based on its outdated assumptions of ever-increasing driving."

"The Illiana Expressway is based on the presumption that traffic in the 18 county region affected by the road will increase by .92 percent annually between 2010 and 2040, as measured in total vehicle miles traveled (VMT)," the Illinois PIRG Education Fund noted. "However, that is more than double the annual rate of increase from 2001 and 2010 (.42 percent). And, since 2010, VMT in the region has been down .49 percent annually."

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New Report Calls Attention To Educational Barriers Impacting African-American Girls

A new national report is sounding the alarm on school-achievement obstacles that harm African-American girls.

Young African-American females are "faring worse than the national average for girls on almost every measure of academic achievement" due to "pervasive, systemic barriers in education rooted in racial and gender bias and stereotypes," according to the report by the National Women's Law Center (NWLC) and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.

"The futures of African-American girls are on the line," stressed NWLC's Co-President Marcia Greenberger. "It’s shameful that too many girls are falling between the cracks of an educational system that ignores their real needs. A strong education is essential for people in our country to compete in our economy and earn wages that can support themselves and their families. It's critical to turn this crisis around and put these girls on a path to success."

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South Siders Question TIF Use In Chicago's 21st Ward

South Side residents were shocked to learn at a Thursday night community meeting that the six active tax increment financing (TIF) districts in Chicago's 21st Ward had more than $1.6 million sitting in their collective bank accounts at the end of 2013.

The Chicago-based CivicLab revealed that TIF finding and relevant information at a meeting held at the Carter G. Woodson Regional Library in Roseland.

The $1.6 million in unspent funds would have otherwise been dispersed among the local units of government that rely on property tax revenue, including the school and park districts, were it not for the city’s controversial TIF program, which is intended to spur economic development in “blighted” areas.

The non-profit CivicLab launched its TIF Illumination Project, which highlights how the city's TIF program works at the ward level, back in February 2013. The group has held 30 community TIF meetings thus far

Many South Siders at the meeting said they were unaware of the private projects that got TIF money in the 21st Ward, including a Home Depot and the Chatham Market shopping center that received a $32 million TIF subsidy. 

"I think a lot of people have been getting a raw deal," Leatha Patton, a 21st Ward resident of more than 42 years, told Progress Illinois after the event. "These are things that the alderman should make you aware of. We should know how it works, and who gets what."

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Chicagoans Urge Emanuel To Support Corporate Tax Transparency Ordinance (VIDEO)

Chicagoans protested at Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office Thursday morning for corporate tax transparency.

At City Hall, activists with the regional community advocacy group IIRON urged Emanuel to support a long-pending ordinance that would require all publicly-traded corporations seeking subsidies or contracts from the city to publicly disclose the amount they pay in Illinois income taxes and any tax breaks they receive.

Big corporations asking for city actions, subsidies and contracts would also have to report net and taxable income under the proposed Chicago Corporate Responsibility and Tax Disclosure Act, which Ald. Will Burns (4th) introduced last November. Since then, the proposed ordinance, which has 12 co-sponsors, has been stuck in the Finance Committee, chaired by powerful Ald. Ed Burke (14th).

"Resources have been cut, and cut again, as we are told that we are in a 'budget crisis,'" said IIRON member Maria Alicia Ibarra of Bridgeport's First Lutheran Church of the Trinity. "At the same time, it is not clear (whether) corporations making record profits are paying their fair share to the common good ... Show us the money. Give us transparency."

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