The week that was in Illinois politics and government (December 10-16).
Chicago and Cook County News
PI reported on the extensive protest at the Chicago Board of Education Wednesday by parents, Occupy Chicago protestors and the Chicago Teachers Union over school closings and turnaround schools. Protestors forced board members to go into a closed session. The protest came after the Chicago Teachers Union held a rally and candlelight vigil Tuesday night, also in response to school closings and turnarounds (the process by which a school stays open but CPS fires all faculty and staff).
We also covered a small but vocal group of Chicago protesters who took to the streets Thursday evening to express outrage over the big bonuses being handed out to corporate executives at the nation’s largest banks.
Between 30 and 40 people sporting colorful handmade signs entered a local branch office of JP Morgan Chase on the corner of Clark and Barry in Lakeview. The group publicly stated their intention to collectively move over $200,000 of their money from Chase and Bank of America into local financial institutions.
ON Wednesday, PI looked at the Academy of Urban Leadership, the private, non-profit Chicago-based contractor central to the experiment with turnarounds. AUSL shares the belief common among education reformers that great individual teachers can transcend the challenges in specific Chicago communities. It’s this perceived insensitivity to individual communities and slight of current teachers that partly animated the protestors at Wednesday’s Board of Ed. meeting.
In other school news, a study commissioned by Chicago’s Alternative School Network detailed the negative economic impact of dropping out of high school. The study released Monday found that, over a lifetime, high school dropouts earn 60 percent less than people who do get a high school diploma.
Also Wednesday, Southside Together Organizing for Power staged a rally outside the final City Council meeting of the year, blasting Rahm Emanuel and the council for signing off on major cuts in the public health budget. Protestors likened Emanuel to the Grinch for shutting down half of the city’s mental health centers in the annual budget – a budget aldermen passed 50-0.
Inside City Council chambers, Rahm Emanuel proposed higher fines and stricter security measures for protestors in advance of May’s G8 and NATO summits.
Not discussed at the City Council meeting was a new remap of the city’s 50 wards. The Chicago Sun-Times reported Thursday that negotiations on the ward remap have broken down, which could lead to an expensive referendum vote in March.
Some 200 Chicagoans returned home after participating in Take Back the Capitol protests in Washington, D.C. The group was part of the Stand Up! Chicago coalition, a group of community organizations and labor unions, along with members of the Occupy Chicago movement. The week consisted of several marches, sit-ins, and rallies – including occupying the offices of 99 members of Congress.
Former Mayor Richard Daley joined the board of directors for Coca-Cola Thursday, which will pay him $175,000. Daley also opened a new advisory firm Tur Partners, LLC, which is focused on sustainable urban development.
The big news out of Springfield this week was that the Illinois General Assembly passed a two-part tax bill for Chicago’s financial exchanges and Sears after the corporations threatened to leave if they were not granted tax breaks. The House passed a bill Monday and the Senate cleared the identical bill Tuesday giving tax breaks to Sears Holding Corp., CME Group, Inc. and the Chicago Board Options Exchange. Both chambers also passed legislation that increases the earned-income tax credit for low-income workers. Gov. Pat Quinn said he would sign both parts of the bill.
The Make Wall Street Pay Illinois coalition saw the tax break bill as a sign of the profound power Illinois-based companies have with the state legislature. The legislature has held not one, but two, extra sessions to get this package through. The coalition also dimly viewed the EITC legislation as, “A saccharine pill inserted into a raw deal of a package for working and poor families.”
Meanwhile, House Republicans proposed a bill that would rollback the corporate income tax hike agreed at the start of 2011. The bill increased the tax from 4.8 percent to 7 percent of earnings; House Republican Leader Tom Cross proposed that the tax be reduced to 6 percent.
But PI reported on a study from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy that many of Illinois’ biggest companies avoid paying state corporate income taxes, enjoying tax deals similar to CME Group and Sears. In fact, two Illinois-based Fortune 500 companies – Baxter International and Integrys Energy Group – paid no state corporate income taxes between 2008 and 2010.
Federal Judge James Zagel agreed to a request from Rod Blagojevich’s lawyers to report to prison March 15, instead of February 16 as was originally ordered. Blagojevich’s lawyers made the request so the former governor would have time to help move his family from their Ravenswood neighborhood home. Zagel sentenced Blagojevich to 14 years in prison.
Illinois’ unemployment rate fell slightly to 10 percent from 10.1 percent, according to new numbers by the Illinois Department of Employment Security.
Democratic candidate for the 8th Congressional district Tammy Duckworth released a video Monday depicting the differences between her and U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh – Walsh announced last week that he was running for re-election in the 8th. The video contrasts Walsh bellowing, “We are at war in this country,” with the fact that Duckworth actually did go to war for her country – losing her legs in Iraq.
The war Walsh talks about is not Iraq or Afghanistan but the figurative battle over less government spending and regulation. If Walsh and Duckworth each get their party’s nomination, it bears watching if Walsh tones down his “We’re at war!” rhetoric out of respect for his opponent.
Democratic 10th Congressional candidate Illya Sheyman held an online town hall meeting Wednesday evening – the former MoveOn organizer is running in a crowded field of Democrats. The nominees will go up against incumbent Republican – and Tea Partier – Robert Dold.
Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, applauded the Obama administration Thursday for its proposed rule to extend minimum wage and overtime benefits to home care workers. “Now, millions of women and men who provide essential care to parents, grandparents and others in need will be more fairly compensated for their critical work,” Ness wrote in an op-ed.
The U.S. Supreme Court decided Monday to take up the case involving a controversial Arizona immigration law, in which police officers check the immigration status of anyone they have in custody. The case will be argued next April and the court should have a ruling by July.
The number of foreclosures that took place in November fell three percent across the nation from October and lender repossessions dropped 17 percent. (The local news was not as good: Cook County foreclosure filings rose 20 percent.)