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Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
5:43pm
Wed Jan 28

Study: Top 1 Percent Of Earners In Illinois Captured 97% Of Post-Recession Income Gains

The top 1 percent in Illinois took home nearly all of the state's income gains in the first few years of the U.S. economy's recovery from the Great Recession.

That's one of the findings of a new study on income inequality published by the Economic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank based in Washington, D.C. The report was co-authored by Estelle Sommeiller, a socioeconomist at the Institute for Research in Economic and Social Sciences in France, and Mark Price, an economist at the Keystone Research Center in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Overall, the study showed that the wealthiest 1 percent of taxpayers in 39 states, including Illinois, captured at least half of all the post-recession income gains in their respective states between 2009 to 2012. Over this time period, 17 states saw their top 1 percent of earners gain 100 percent of the income growth, according to the researchers, who examined state-level tax data from the Internal Revenue Service.

Average incomes grew faster from 2009 to 2012 for those in the top 1 percent than the bottom 99 percent in every state but West Virginia, the report reads. And in 2012, the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans earned almost 30 times the income of those in the bottom 99 percent.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
3:42pm
Wed Jan 28

Activists Bring Fight To Save A Rogers Park 'Community House' To Citibank (VIDEO)

About 30 Chicago housing activists picketed outside a Citibank branch Wednesday morning as part of their ongoing fight to save a Rogers Park "community house."

Organizers toted signs reading, "I support the house on Ridge" and "Housing is a human right," while tenants of the home, located at 7245 N. Ridge Ave., were inside the branch attempting to meet with a Citibank mortgage representative to discuss their offer to purchase the foreclosed property.

Jorge Ortiz, an organizer with Communities United Against Foreclosure and Eviction, lives in the home with his family, including his mother and uncle. Ortiz and his family moved into the Rogers Park home in 2012 after the previous property owner, who was facing foreclosure, abandoned it. Organizers said Citibank later purchased the home at a foreclosure auction.

The current tenants of the bank-owned home, with the help of Communities United Against Foreclosure and Eviction, turned the property into a "community house" that hosts clothing drives, movie screenings, health fairs and other neighborhood events. People who have had difficulties finding affordable housing also stay there, organizers said. The tenants at the property are currently facing eviction.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
3:24pm
Wed Jan 28

Deb Mell Takes Heat For Family Ties At 33rd Ward Candidate Forum

Aldermanic candidates running in Chicago's 33rd Ward sounded off on issues ranging from the minimum wage and charter schools to "political dynasties" and "machine politics" at a Tuesday evening forum sponsored by several Northwest Side neighborhood groups.

In Chicago's 33rd Ward, incumbent Ald. Deb Mell is being challenged by Tim Meegan, a public school teacher at Roosevelt High School, and Annisa Wanat, a non-profit consultant and former Peace Corps volunteer. Mell, the daughter of former Ald. Dick Mell (33rd), was appointed by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to fill her father's council seat after he retired in July 2013.

At the packed candidate forum held at Newton Bateman Elementary School, Mell touted a number of accomplishments in her 18 months as alderman, including efforts around affordable housing, cracking down on "absentee" landlords, making the ward office more accessible and voting to raise the minimum wage to $13 by 2019.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
1:07pm
Tue Jan 27

CTU, Allied Groups Call For Quazzo's Resignation From Chicago Education Board (VIDEO)

Members of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and other allied organizations increased their calls on Tuesday morning for an elected school board and the resignation of Chicago Board of Education member Deborah Quazzo, who has come under scrutiny over her business interests following a recent Chicago Sun-Times investigation.

Chanting, "Quit, Quazzo. Quit," about 30 CTU members, parents and organizers with Action Now, the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, More than a Score and other groups picketed outside the offices of GSV Advisors, an investment firm of which Quazzo is the founder and managing partner. The company's offices are located in the John Hancock Center, 875 N. Michigan Ave.

According to an investigative report published late last month by the Chicago Sun-Times, five educational tech companies in which Quazzo has invested have allegedly tripled their business with the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) since Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed her to the board in June of 2013. The firms have reportedly been paid nearly $3 million by CPS since Quazzo's board appointment. The CPS inspector general launched a probe into the matter in light of the newspaper's findings.

The CTU maintains that "Quazzo's seat on the board represents an unethical conflict of interest" and demonstrates the need for an elected, representative school board.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
7:10pm
Mon Jan 26

Study: Low-Income Illinoisans Hit Hard Under State's Tax System

Low-income Illinoisans have the third-highest state and local tax burden in the nation, according to a new study by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) and the Fiscal Policy Center at Voices for Illinois Children.

The study, which examined the distribution of all major state and local taxes by income group in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, showed that the poorest Illinois residents currently pay almost three times more in taxes as a percent of their income compared to the richest Illinoisans.

Illinois' effective tax rates by income group are 13.2 percent for those in the bottom 20 percent of the income scale, 10.8 percent for the middle 20 percent and 4.6 percent for the top 1 percent, according to the study.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
11:20am
Thu Jan 22

Advocates Urge Rauner, Illinois Legislature To Prioritize Mental Health Funding

As the Democrat-controlled Illinois legislature and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner gear up to tackle the state's fiscal problems, including a multi-billion budget deficit, mental health advocates are warning against further cuts to community-based services.

"Community mental health services have been cut to the core, and we're seeing a lot of the fallout," said Heather O'Donnell, vice president of public policy and advocacy for Chicago-based Thresholds, a recovery service provider for people with mental illness in Illinois.

Among other issues, O'Donnell noted that the Cook County Jail has about 2,000 inmates with some form of mental illness. And 22,000 people with mental illness in the state are living in nursing homes even though they "don't need that level of care." These people, she explained, would likely be homeless if they were not living in such facilities due to the lack of housing and other supports for them to live independently.

"We just need to make sure that we preserve every dollar, because we don't have anything else in the community mental health system that we can cut without costing the state far more than the cuts," O'Donnell stressed.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
6:58pm
Tue Jan 20

Environmental Concerns Swirl Around Mission Hills Development Plan, Opponents Urge Cook Co. Board To Delay Vote (UPDATED)

Residents of Mission Hills Country Club Village in unincorporated Northbrook want Cook County commissioners to delay a vote on a new housing development proposed for their community.

Northbrook-based Red Seal Development wants to build a 137-unit housing development that includes town homes, duplexes and single-family homes on about 44 acres of land at Mission Hills, a complex that currently features 781 condominiums and town homes as well as a separately-owned, 18-hole golf course.

Red Seal is seeking approval from the Cook County Board for zoning changes that would pave the way for the project, which would involve building on half of the existing golf course.

The Cook County Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) voted unanimously to advance Red Seal's proposal back in December. As a result, the Cook County Board's Zoning and Building Committee is slated to consider the project at its meeting on Wednesday morning. If the committee approves the project, it could go before the full Cook County Board for consideration later in the day.

Mission Hills Openlands, a group of residents leading the effort against the proposed development, claims the project would threaten the environment and property values in the community and lead to more flooding problems, among other concerns.

"What they're doing is an environmental travesty," stressed Mission Hills Openlands founder Karen Jump. "They would be clear cutting about 500 trees and taking 44 acres of open lands and putting it under asphalt and concrete. And we're in a very short distance to the Des Plaines River, and there's flooding all around us."

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
2:38pm
Fri Jan 16

Durbin, Gutierrez Slam 'Hateful' Republican Legislation To Rollback Immigration Programs (VIDEO)

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL,4) decried legislation passed in the GOP-led House this week that would block President Barack Obama's recent executive actions on immigration and end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Speaking at a Friday morning press conference in Chicago, the two lawmakers also shamed Republicans for "instilling fear" in people who are getting ready to apply for administrative relief under the president's immigration orders signed in November.

On Wednesday, the Republican-controlled House approved a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding bill including amendments that would reverse Obama's immigration plan and defund the DACA program, which grants a two-year protection against deportation for immigrants who came to the United States as young children.

"On the floor of the United States House of Representatives, they passed what I would consider to be one of the most hateful measures in modern congressional history," Durbin said at Erie Neighborhood House, 1347 W. Erie St. "What they said was this: If you are a person who benefits from DACA ... you will not be able to renew your DACA status. Nor if you didn't apply in the past can you file for the first time for DACA. Well how many people will be affected by that Republican amendment? We estimate 2 million young people in America eligible to sign up for DACA. Six-hundred thousand have already signed up for DACA, 30,000 in the state of Illinois."

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
4:47pm
Thu Jan 15

SEIU Local 1 Launches Janitorial Contract Campaign On MLK's Birthday (VIDEO)

Chicago janitors represented by SEIU* Local 1 took to the streets Thursday morning as they began gearing up for pending contract negotiations.

SEIU Local 1 leaders and dozens of Chicago custodians from institutional and commercial services kicked off their 2015 janitorial contract campaign on the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. Their contracts are set to expire in April.

The unionized janitors, including many who clean Chicago Public Schools (CPS) buildings, rolled out their campaign calling for better wages and benefits outside of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. College Preparatory High School, 4445 S. Drexel Boulevard.

"Of course, Martin Luther King, he stood for many things, but people fail to realize he died supporting the sanitation strike in Memphis, supporting sanitation workers who were being treated unfair," said Lonnell Saffold, director of institutional services for SEIU Local 1. "We believe that it's only right we be here to commemorate him and realize that his struggle is not going to die."

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