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Quick Hit
by La Risa Lynch
4:53pm
Fri Dec 12

Chicago Treasurer Proposes Investing City Pension Funds In Black Neighborhoods

A day after taking office, Chicago Treasurer Kurt Summers hit the ground running launching a 77 communities in 77 days listening tour throughout the city.

That tour brought Summers to the Bronzeville neighborhood last week, where he met with residents and business owners to discuss black communities getting a slice of the $50 billion fiscal pie the city has to invest each year. Summers spoke to a group of 50 at the Bronzeville Visitor Information Center, located at 3501 S. King Dr.

Summers told the crowd that his office manages a combined $50 billion in investments as well as employee pension funds and retirement plans. He said he would like to see some of that money invested in neighborhoods like Bronzeville.

"I don't view a neighborhood investment strategy as a risky strategy," said Summers, a product of Bronzeville. "I don't view that as any more risky than investing in Korea's debt, which we do, or investing in a cement company in Mexico. I don't believe investing in Bronzeville is any riskier than that."

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
5:08pm
Thu Dec 11

Strides Being Made In Improving CPS Arts Education, But Challenges Still Remain

The "state of the arts" in the Chicago Public Schools district has improved over the past two academic years, but there remains much work ahead to ensure all students have access to quality arts instruction, according to a recent report by Ingenuity Inc., a Chicago-based arts education advocacy organization.

For the report issued last week, Ingenuity examined the progress that's been made towards the goals and recommendations in the city's three-year CPS Arts Education Plan, which was approved by the Chicago Board of Education in November of 2012 and made arts a core subject.

Over the first two academic years under the plan, "growth was seen in almost all categories of arts instruction, including minutes of weekly instruction, staffing, arts integration and professional development, and number of arts partnerships," the report reads.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
4:04pm
Mon Dec 8

Report: 'Ambitious' Growth In U.S. Wind Energy Needed To Address Climate Change

If 30 percent of the nation's electricity came from wind energy by 2030, the country would sharply cut global warming pollution and meet carbon-reduction targets in the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed Clean Power Plan.

That's according to a recent report by the Environment Illinois Research and Education Center, which analyzed the potential benefits of a scenario in which wind power supplied 30 percent of U.S. electricity needs by 2030. Wind power currently generates 4 percent of the country's electricity.

Achieving 30 percent wind energy by 2030 would reduce U.S. power-plant carbon pollution to 40 percent below 2005 levels, according to the report. And those projected carbon reductions would be more than enough to comply with the EPA's proposed Clean Power Plan regulations, which look to slash CO2 emissions from existing U.S. power plants to 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

"That much wind power would help states meet and exceed the carbon dioxide emission reductions called for by the Environmental Protection Agency's draft Clean Power Plan, and help the nation meet its commitment to cut U.S. carbon pollution by 26 to 28 percent by 2025" as part of a climate change agreement with China announced by President Barack Obama in November, the report reads.

Quick Hit
by Ashlee Rezin
4:28pm
Fri Dec 5

Housekeepers Protest Green Program At Chicago Hotels (VIDEO)

Hotel workers and their supporters protested outside downtown Chicago hotels Friday afternoon, alleging the "Make A Green Choice" program leads to fewer hours and intensified workloads for housekeepers.

"Many of my coworkers have gotten hurt... It's more work because we don't clean the room for three days," said Faviola Rivera, 31, a housekeeper at the Westin Chicago River North for more than eight years and mother of four children between the ages of 6 and 15.

Rivera was one of more than 100 people to protest Friday afternoon outside the Westin, Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers, and W Chicago City Center, all of which are owned and operated by Starwood Hotels and Resorts. The protesters delivered letters to hotel management, calling for an end to Starwood Hotels' "Make a Green Choice" program.

The program, which was introduced in 2009, rewards hotel guests with $5 dining or bar vouchers or reward points in exchange for opting out of housekeeping. In doing so, the company claims the hotels use less water, energy and resources.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
4:18pm
Fri Dec 5

Aldermanic Candidate Questions TIF Use In Chicago's 11th Ward, Calls For Better Use Of Funds

Tax increment financing (TIF) districts located solely in Chicago's 11th Ward on the South Side had $69.5 million in unspent property tax revenue sitting in their collective bank accounts at the start of this year. 

That money 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 Chicago-based CivicLab revealed that TIF finding and relevant information at a Thursday night meeting held at the First Lutheran Church of the Trinity, 643 W. 31st St., in Bridgeport.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
5:34pm
Wed Dec 3

Report: Illinois State Revenue Drop Could Harm Homeless Prevention Efforts

An expected drop in next year's state revenue could spell trouble for an important Illinois homeless prevention program and other crucial supports if Springfield lawmakers fail to take action, advocates are warning.

The state's 2011 temporary income tax increase is slated to sunset starting in January, resulting in a more than a $2 billion revenue decline in the current fiscal year, according to a new analysis by the Fiscal Policy Center at Voices for Illinois Children. In the next fiscal year, state revenue could fall by about $5.4 billion if the tax hike isn't renewed, according to the group.

If the income tax hike expires as planned, legislators might be forced to cut funding for anti-homelessness and other non-mandated programs by an average of 25 percent in order to balance the budget for fiscal year 2016, which begins in July, the center's analysis shows. Average cuts could reach 33 percent if the Illinois Supreme Court strikes down the state's 2013 pension reform overhaul, which is expected to save $1 billion next fiscal year.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
4:48pm
Wed Dec 3

Immigrant Advocacy Groups Prep Community For Executive Actions, Warn About Scammers

Now that President Barack Obama has signed executive orders on immigration reform, advocates are working to educate those in the immigrant community about the options available to them and potential immigration scams.

"We're really trying to inform the community that nothing can be filed right now, and they shouldn't listen to any unscrupulous individuals that are saying that they can file applications for them at this point," said Rocio Alcantar, supervising attorney with the Heartland Alliance's Chicago-based National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC).

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
4:11pm
Mon Dec 1

Business, Evangelical Groups Join Forces To Support EPA Clean Power Plan

Groups representing businesses and evangelicals teamed up Monday to announce their strong support for the Environmental Protection Agency's proposal to curb carbon pollution from existing U.S. power plants.

Public comments on the EPA's Clean Power Plan, which was proposed in June and looks to slash carbon emissions to 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, are due Monday.

Environmental Entrepreneurs, or E2, a national, nonpartisan business group advocating for "sound environmental policies that grow the economy," and the Evangelical Environmental Network, which describes itself on its website as a "ministry dedicated to the care of God's creation," each delivered comments to the EPA on Monday in favor of the Clean Power Plan.

"Our two groups represent very different sectors of America," E2's Executive Director Bob Keefe said on a conference call with reporters. "It shows, I think, the really broad support for the Clean Power Plan."

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
11:10am
Wed Nov 26

Survey: Many Illinois LGBT Youth Face Combative School Environments

Many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) middle and high school students in Illinois face hostile school environments and lack access to important educational resources, according to state-level data from the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network's (GLSEN) "2013 National School Climate Survey."

The survey, taken in 2013 and released this October, included 7,989 LGBT students, including 279 from Illinois.

The 2013 snapshot for Illinois shows most LGBT students surveyed in the state have faced some form of victimization at school, with 7 in 10 students saying they have been verbally harassed based on their sexual orientation in the past year. Another 56 percent of Illinois respondents said they have faced verbal harassment at school due to their gender expression. 

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