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Quick Hit
by Aaron Cynic
4:00pm
Tue Sep 30

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.” Read more »

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
1:59pm
Tue Sep 30

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which would connect I-55 in Illinois to I-65 in Indiana, as an example of "wasteful highway spending based on its outdated assumptions of ever-increasing driving."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." Read more »

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
6:34pm
Mon Sep 29

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." Read more »

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
2:44pm
Fri Sep 26

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." Read more »

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
4:37pm
Thu Sep 25

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." Read more »

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
12:03pm
Wed Sep 24

Chicago Coalition To Revitalize Dyett High School Stages Sit-In At Mayor's Office (VIDEO) (UPDATED)

More than 50 Chicago education activists escalated their fight late Tuesday afternoon to save Bronzeville's Walter H. Dyett High School from closing at the end of this academic year.

Protesters chained themselves together and staged a sit-in outside of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office on the fifth floor of City Hall to demand equity for the 13 remaining seniors at Dyett.

The Chicago Board of Education voted to phase out Dyett in 2012 due to poor academic performance, and the school is slated to close completely in 2015 after its last senior class graduates.

The activists with the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School, a group spearheaded by the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO), also urged the Emanuel administration to endorse their community-driven blueprint to keep Dyett open beyond 2015 and offer global leadership and green technology classes at the school, along with other programs involving agricultural sciences and cultural awareness. Community members have been developing the education plan for several years and formally presented it to the school district at the Chicago Board of Education's monthly meeting in April. Read more »

Quick Hit
by Ashlee Rezin
10:54am
Tue Sep 23

Karen Lewis Meets With Voters: ‘I’m Qualified To Be Mayor’ (VIDEO)

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis met with residents of the McKinley Park neighborhood on the Southwest Side Monday night and discussed how she would run City Hall if she were elected to be Chicago’s next mayor.

Lewis touched on a myriad of subjects ranging from budgeting, tax increment financing (TIF) and housing to confronting violence in Chicago at the Monday night forum, held at the New Era Windows Cooperative, 2600 W. 35th St., as part of the ongoing “Conversations with Karen” series.

“What qualifies me to be the mayor, is that I care deeply about this city and I care deeply about the entirety of the city,” she said. Read more »

Quick Hit
by Ashlee Rezin
7:28pm
Thu Sep 18

Chicago Activists Press Alds. Cappleman, O'Connor To Support $15 Minimum Wage (VIDEO)

While working roughly 60 hours a week at two jobs, Ovadhwah McGee says he lives paycheck to paycheck and struggles to pay his bills each month.

McGee, a single father living in the South Side Woodlawn neighborhood with his 13-year-old son, said he works as an in-home care worker and a certified nursing assistant, making an hourly wage of $12.35 and $13.50, respectively.

“I need to be able to put food on my table without having to go to food pantries. I need to be able to work one job so I can actually spend time with my son,” he said, adding that he can’t afford to get his car fixed and thus spends two hours on public transit every day to get to and from work.

“I’m here fighting for a $15 minimum wage in the city of Chicago because I need it, because my son needs it and because working families across the city need it,” McGee said.

McGee and roughly two-dozen protesters, members of the Raise Chicago coalition, rallied to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 per hour Thursday morning. The ralliers called on two Chicago aldermen — Alds. Patrick O’Connor (40th) and James Cappleman (46th) — to support their cause by protesting outside of their offices. The activists also demonstrated outside of a North Side McDonald’s restaurant. Read more »

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
2:40pm
Thu Sep 18

Chicago Housing Activists Fight To Save A Rogers Park 'Community House' (VIDEO)

Chicago housing activists are fighting to halt the eviction of tenants living in a Rogers Park home who have turned the property into a community center.

The tenants of the home, located at 7245 N. Ridge Ave., had their first eviction court date Thursday morning at the Richard J. Daley Center, and about a dozen community members came out to support them.

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 two years ago after the previous property owner, who was facing foreclosure, abandoned it. The current tenants, with the help of Communities United Against Foreclosure and Eviction, turned the property into a "community house," which has a neighborhood garden and hosts clothing drives, movie screenings and health fairs, activists said.

The tenants and their supporters want CitiMortgage, which the organizers say currently owns the home after purchasing it at a foreclosure auction, to negotiate with them and consider donating the property or selling it at a low cost to a Chicago-based community land trust. Read more »