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Archive for February 23rd, 2012

Governor Pat Quinn releases Fiscal Year 2013 Budget: "This budget contains truths that may not be what you want to hear"

Posted by Admin On February - 23 - 2012 8 COMMENTS

Remarks as Prepared 

 

SPRINGFIELD, IL – President Cullerton, Speaker Madigan, Leaders Radogno and Cross, Lieutenant Governor Simon, Attorney General Madigan, Secretary White, Comptroller Topinka, Treasurer Rutherford, Members of the General Assembly, distinguished guests and fellow citizens of Illinois,I’m here today to submit to you our budget for fiscal year 2013.

I’m here today to tell you the truth.

This budget contains truths that may not be what you want to hear.

But these are truths that you do need to know.

And I believe you can handle the truth.

On November 2, 2010, the people of Illinois elected me to be honest and straight with them – and with you.

The truth is that over the past 35 years, too many governors and members of the General Assembly have clung to budget fantasies rather than confronting hard realities, especially with respect to pension and Medicaid investments.

Today, our rendezvous with reality has arrived.

We must navigate our budget out of past decades of poor fiscal management, deferring bills to the future and empty promises.

We must achieve fundamental and lasting budget reform.

And we must do it now.

In this budget, I am proposing serious spending reductions and efficiencies across state agencies and constitutional offices.

But for these reductions to work, we must also stabilize and strengthen our public pension systems once and for all.

We must fundamentally restructure our Medicaid program.

And we must rebalance and move our most vulnerable citizens from institutions to community care.

But cuts and reforms are not enough.

We must also grow and build our economy.

My paramount priority at all times is economic growth and jobs for the people of Illinois.

That’s why this budget invests more in education from birth to university.

Jobs follow brainpower.That’s also why this budget emphasizes our commitment to public works. Jobs follow solid infrastructure.

I want to thank the members of our new Budgeting for Results commission, comprised of my budget officers, legislators and volunteer citizens.

The Budgeting for Results process focused on our core priorities, and increased openness in the budget process.

Sen. Dan Kotowski is chairman of the commission and worked closely with Sen. Pam Althoff, Rep. Will Davis, Rep.Kent Gaffney, former budget director Steve Schorf, and many more including Roger Myerson, a recipient of the Nobel Prize for economics.

Like these commission members, I believe in a timeless American truth, there is no problem we cannot solve if we put our hearts and minds to it.

Since I’ve been Governor, we have already defied the doubters, by working together to enact landmark reforms.

Like no-nonsense ethics standards;

Like reforming the workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance systems;

Like cutting red tape for employers who need environmental permits;

Like overhauling workplace rules at McCormick Place and like our new education reform law that is a model for the nation.

Each of these historic reforms demonstrated the power of bringing everyone to the table to repair broken systems.

Now we must apply this same collaborative approach to strengthening and stabilizing our public pension systems.

We took the first step in 2010 when we overhauled pension rules for new employees.

These changes will save taxpayers billions of dollars over the next generation.

But we have a lot more work to do.

Since I’ve been Governor, these last three years, we have paid exactly what the law required us to pay into the pension system.

But for decades—paying what’s necessary for a stable pension system did not happen in Illinois.

Previous members of the General Assembly and previous governors did not invest the proper amount into the pension system.

Indeed, in the past, the General Assembly even increased retiree benefits without sufficient revenue to pay for these benefit increases.

Previous legislators and previous governors even awarded taxpayer funded health insurance benefits to themselves and 82,000 retirees, where 90 percent of them pay nothing on their insurance premiums.

This lack of fiscal accountability has cost us dearly today.

This year’s general revenue fund payment for public pensions is $5.2 billion; triple what it cost in Fiscal Year 2008.

Today, pension payments take up 15 percent of our entire general revenue fund, compared to 6 percent a few years ago.

We must stabilize and strengthen our pension systems to prevent them from swallowing up our core programs in education, health care, and public safety and to ensure that we can pay all our bills.

We need to do pension reform in a way that’s meaningful, constitutional and fair to the employees who have faithfully contributed to the system.

We can do this in a way that does pass constitutional muster.

But everything has to be on the table.

Together, we’ve assembled a pension working group including Sen. Mike Noland, Sen. Bill Brady, Rep. Elaine Nekritz and Rep. Darlene Senger to work with our office to address the fiscal issues affecting our three major public pension systems.

At my direction, this group is working with all interested stakeholders to solidify a framework for solving our pension challenges.

I have set Tuesday, April 17 as the deadline for submitting their blueprint.

I want to repeat: Everything is on the table for our pension working group.

Historical funding practices, employer contributions, employee contributions, the retirement age, and the cost of living adjustment.

When it comes to solving our pension challenges, everybody must be in and nobody left out.

It should be noted that only 22 percent of the $5.2 billion pension cost this year is actually for the retirement costs of state employees.

More than three quarters of this pension cost is for non-state employees—from suburban and downstate teachers, to our university and community college employees.

Every unit of government has a stake in this mission.

We must repair this broken system.

And we must do it now.

It is imperative to get the job done this year for our state to move forward.

We also need to move forward to fundamentally restructure our Medicaid program, which is on the brink of collapse.

Medicaid provides healthcare to 2.7 million people in Illinois.

Seniors, people with disabilities, young children and newborns are part of Medicaid.

More than half of Illinois babies born today are covered by Medicaid.

It is vitally important that we restructure Medicaid, so that it’s always there for our neighbors who need it.

Unfortunately, at the end of the current fiscal year, Illinois will have $1.9 billion in unpaid Medicaid bills.

Let’s be clear.

Last year’s appropriation by the General Assembly for Medicaid fell $1.9 billion short of what Medicaid actually cost.

Illinois is the only state that intentionally kicks its current Medicaid bills into future fiscal years.

We cannot allow this to continue.

Look at the recent report of the Civic Federation. They reach the same conclusion. The Civic Federation projects $21 billion in unpaid Medicaid bills by 2017 if fundamental restructuring is not implemented immediately.

To rescue Illinois’ Medicaid program, we must reduce expenditures in the program by $2.7 billion in the coming year.

In order to reduce cost pressures, we need to reconsider the groups who are eligible for Medicaid, the services we cover under the program, the utilization of these services and the way and amount we pay for them.

Let me repeat, we must address eligibility, services, utilization and payments to bring spending in line with appropriations.

AND we must protect against fraud and abuse in the Medicaid system.

I have the utmost respect for the doctors, clinics, hospitals, nursing homes, and pharmacists who provide care under the Illinois Medicaid program, often under very challenging circumstances.

But it is respect for these providers that motivates me to act to save the entire program from collapse.

We must ensure there will still be a Medicaid program in Illinois.

We have a Medicaid working group, consisting of Sen. Heather Steans, Sen. Dale Righter, Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, and Rep. Patti Bellock, along with Healthcare and Family Services Director Julie Hamos.

Together, we must follow our roadmap for Medicaid restructuring to find the right combination of liability reductions, modernized eligibility standards, utilization controls, rate reduction, acceleration of integrated managed care, and coordination of long-term programs in order to properly manage our Medicaid spending.

We will engage you every day until we create an affordable and high quality Medicaid program that’s sustainable for this year and years to come.

Medicaid spending must be restructured to keep the system alive and well.

This is not something you can blithely delay for another year.

I believe in a decent quality of life for everyone in Illinois.

That’s why we must fix our Medicaid system.

That’s also why I’m committed to improving the quality of life for people with developmental disabilities and mental health challenges.

Our budget includes funding to ensure smooth transitions and coordinated care as individuals go from costly institutions to supportive community settings.

Illinois lags behind the rest of the nation in the utilization of person-centered, community-based care which has been demonstrated to allow people with developmental disabilities to lead more active and independent lives.

Over the next fiscal year, we will close two developmental disability centers: Jacksonville, as well as the Murray Developmental Center in Centralia.

We will close two mental health hospitals: Tinley Park, as well as Singer in Rockford.

The approach we are taking to rebalance our system will allow for the safe and smart transition to community care settings for some of our most vulnerable citizens.

We will comply with all court consent decrees.

We will provide individualized care.

And we will achieve savings for the people of Illinois.

In addition to providing more access to community care with these closures, our budget acknowledges fiscal reality by closing or consolidating 59 other state facilities.

In Juvenile Justice, Joliet and Murphysboro youth centers will be closed.

In the Department of Human Services, 24 local offices across the state will be consolidated.

In Agriculture, the department’s Centralia lab will be consolidated with the lab in Galesburg.

The State Police forensic lab in Carbondale will be consolidated with the new forensic lab in Belleville, as soon as it is completed.

And the 20 State Police telecommunications centers will be consolidated to four centers in Chicago, Springfield, Sterling, and Du Quoin.

This will allow us to train 2 new State Police cadet classes in the coming fiscal year.

We will consolidate 4 state garages in Central Management Services and 3 offices in the Department of Children and Family Services.

The Department of Corrections will close 6 adult transition centers—Crossroads Chicago, West Side Chicago, Decatur, Aurora, Peoria, and Carbondale.

Finally, the Corrections Department will close 2 prisons—Tamms and Dwight.

These 59 closures and consolidations are hard but necessary.

They impact every region in our state, but the need for lower spending in our budget gives us no choice.

In times like these, we must be accountable and responsible.

Since taking office, I have reduced discretionary spending more than any Governor in recent memory.

The Civic Federation has pointed out that our general funds operating budget today is less than in Fiscal Year 2008.

This is the key area in the budget where the Governor has the most ability to cut spending.

We have already achieved close to $200 million in annual savings by reducing the number of state employees.

There are 2,200 fewer state employees now than when I took office in January 2009.

And this year, we’ll reduce the number of state employees even further.

In addition, we’ve consolidated and eliminated lease space, especially in the Chicago area, saving more than $43 million a year and reducing leased space by nearly 2 million square feet.

More than 20 percent of state government’s leased space has been totally eliminated since I took office.

When we talk about reductions, it is important to lead by example.

This year, I’m cutting the Governor’s office budget by 9 percent.

And I’ve called on other constitutional officers to do the same.

Overall, our general revenue budget in the coming year calls for $425 million less in agency spending than last year’s budget.

But one area where we are not cutting is our budget for Veterans.

We are increasing direct care staff at our 4 veterans’ homes at Manteno, LaSalle, Quincy and Anna.

And we’re doing more to address post-traumatic stress disorder.

Illinois servicemembers and veterans are our heroes and the pride of our nation.

We have a duty on the home front to take good care of those who have borne the battle.

That is why I urge you to promptly pass the Hiring Veterans Tax Credit.

This tax credit will create jobs for our young Illinois veterans who have served our state and our country with exemplary honor.

It’s our turn to serve them with a good job and decent health care.

Another area we are not cutting is education.

I believe in the power of education to create opportunity for everyone in our society.

This is why I have maintained our basic investment in education, despite extremely hard times.

No state is going to out-educate Illinois.

I believe in early childhood education, special education, bilingual education, kindergarten to 12th grade education, community college education, and university education.

This year’s budget calls for close to $9 billion in education spending with priorities on early childhood education and scholarships for qualified students who have been admitted to college, but have financial need.

At a time when student loan debt is more than credit card debt, too many deserving Illinois students are denied access to higher education because they cannot afford it.

That’s why this budget allows for $50 million in additional investment in our Monetary Assistance Program, to help our bright young students attend college.

While nearly 150,000 Illinois students received state MAP scholarships last year to attend college, just as many qualified applicants were denied because of lack of funding.

We must invest in their brainpower.

By the same token, we cannot overlook the importance of early childhood education.

Learning begins at birth, and those first years of a child’s life are the most important.

Research has shown that without an early learning foundation, children fall behind in school.

Illinois, we can’t leave our youngest behind.

You only get one chance to be 4 years old.

That’s why my budget includes an additional $20 million investment in early childhood education this year.

And to ensure that all students are receiving a quality education, we need to make sure they have quality schools.

Last Thursday, I announced our school construction and repair initiative for 2012.

As part of our Illinois Jobs Now! program, we are investing $623 million in school districts across Illinois to update their facilities and make critical repairs.

Our school initiative will create 4,000 construction jobs and help students and teachers in: St. Charles, Wheaton, Harvard, Peoria, Huntley, Orland Park, Brookfield, LaGrange Park, Crete, Monee, Millstadt, Knoxville, Wilmington, Berwyn, Trenton, Stark County, Virginia, Skokie, Burbank, Union County, Manhattan, Paris, Homer Glen, GurneeRaymond, Spring Valley, Rochelle, Ramsey, Mt. Vernon, Hazel Crest, Markham, Calumet Park, Marion and Chicago.

I urge you to authorize the rest of our Illinois Jobs Now! Capital Program so we can continue to build and repair our schools, our highways, and our bridges.

I look forward to working with you to find proper funding to meet our ongoing capital needs.

I also look forward to working with you to find revenue to pay our bills and provide targeted tax relief.

Let us begin with a thorough search for loopholes in the Illinois Revenue Code.

For too long, we’ve had a revenue code that looks like Swiss cheese, with plenty of loopholes for the powerful.

Many of these loopholes are based on politics, not economics.

Many are outdated and ineffective for job creation.

For example, why does Illinois give big oil companies the privilege of declaring their oil derricks in the Gulf of Mexico to be foreign countries?

They are not paying their fair share of Illinois corporate income tax.

This corporate tax loophole doesn’t create any Illinois jobs but it does cost our state treasury $75 million a year.

We want a tax code that fosters economic growth and fairness, not just windfalls for big oil companies.

That’s why I have instructed my Revenue Director, Brian Hamer, to meet with legislative leaders of both houses and both parties to identify and close unnecessary loopholes.

Part of the loophole revenue can be used to provide targeted tax relief for hard-working families and businesses across Illinois.

By taking on the loophole lobby, we can find the revenue to permanently abolish the natural gas utility tax.

This tax relief helps both employers and consumers.

Who needs targeted tax relief more?

The loophole lobby?

Or the 1.4 million families in Illinois who will benefit from our proposed Child Tax Credit?

It’s time to apply the same scrutiny to loopholes in the revenue code as we do for expenditures in the operating budget.

We all know that Illinois needs to pay down the backlog of bills that has accumulated over decades.

Why not a moratorium on unfair loopholes in the tax code as an important way to pay the bills faster?

We have major budget issues to squarely address in the coming weeks—pension stabilization, Medicaid restructuring, and fundamental tax reform.

The people of Illinois are counting on us to meet these challenges head-on and to get the job done.

Confronting hard truths is what public service is all about.

During World War II, my father served in the United States Navy for 3 years, 1 month, and 15 days.

The sailors had a motto: “We Stick—We Win!”

Americans know when we stick together and work for the common good, we all come out ahead. We all win.

Loyalty to the common good is far more important in Illinois today than loyalty to your caucus or loyalty to your lobbyist.

It’s time to put progress ahead of politics in Illinois. And together we will make the will of the people the law of the land!

Thank you.

Republicans speak out on Gov. Quinn’s FY 2013 Budget Address

Posted by Admin On February - 23 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

Illinois Republican Chairman says Quinn’s “matinee performance” is like re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titantic

Illinois Comptroller Judy Barr Topinka says “Budget numbers don’t add up; address lacks roadmap for Medicaid, pension reforms 

 

CHICAGO, IL – Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady said that Governor Pat Quinn’s proposed budget that he just presented to the General Assembly does not contain the financial reforms needed to turn the state’s economy around. 

“Governor Quinn’s matinee performance today was just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic,” said Brady. “Instead of reforming state spending and lowering taxes to gain more jobs, Governor Quinn’s budget continues to increase spending and has no strategic plan for bringing businesses and jobs back to Illinois that have been lost since he and his Democratic friends raised taxes 67%.”

Topinka: Budget numbers don’t add up; Address lacks roadmap for Medicaid, pension reforms

Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka on Wednesday released the following statement in response to Gov. Pat Quinn’s Budget address:

“I applaud Governor Quinn for offering specific cuts to the state budget. We all know there are no easy answers, and I appreciate him detailing some of the options for digging our state out of this mess.

“But taken in totality, today’s budget proposal amounts to a hodgepodge of ideas that are not thought through, and that will do little to address the state’s mountain of unpaid bills. In fact, while the Governor proposes saving money by closing prisons and other state facilities, he increases spending on existing programs. He calls for closing tax loopholes even as he offers new tax breaks for certain segments of the population. And while he highlights 9 percent cuts for state offices, he simultaneously increases the budgets of other agencies. Sadly, the numbers don’t add up – and in truth, appropriations from the General Funds are up more than $500 million over the current budget.

“Perhaps most importantly, the Governor failed to provide any specifics for dealing with the state’s biggest budget ‘eaters’: Medicaid and pensions. I appreciate his stated intention of working with the General Assembly to find solutions, but hoped that he would share more of his vision in this budget proposal. At the end of the day, nothing else matters until Illinois deals with those costs.

“Governor Quinn has provided a starting point for discussion. I look forward to working with him and the General Assembly to move us forward, and get Illinois back on track to fiscal stability.”

Democrats weigh-in on Quinn’s FY 2013 Budget Address

Posted by Admin On February - 23 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

Lt. Governor Simon’s FY13 Budget Statement

 

SPRINGFIELD, IL – Following the Governor’s budget address, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon recognized state agencies that voluntarily made cuts to help balance the fiscal year 2013 budget and encouraged state residents to participate in public hearings that will be held on proposed facility closures.

“A responsible budget must be based on real revenue. With pension and Medicaid costs eating up more of our tax dollars, we must reduce spending. As Lt. Governor, I worked hard to cut 9 percent of our budget, and applaud the other agencies who scoured their operations to do the same. As a Southern Illinois resident, I am disappointed that the state is proposing facility closures in areas that already suffer from high unemployment. I encourage the people whose livelihoods will be affected to join me in the budget process and speak up as we review the economic impact of such closures.”

Simon’s fiscal year 2013 appropriation request is more than 9 percent lower than her budget request from fiscal year 2012 and includes a reduction in full-time staff, from 24 to 21 members. The appropriation request is the lowest in at least 16 years and will net taxpayers a savings of nearly $200,000. In FY12, Simon is the only constitutional officer to return the equivalent of 12 days pay to the General Revenue Fund. Her senior staff voluntarily is taking four unpaid furlough days in FY12, as well.            

As the Governor’s point person on education reform and a member of the Budgeting for Results Commission, Simon recently announced a community college reform package that will use existing state resources to increase college completion rates. As chair of the Classrooms First Commission, Simon is developing recommendations that will make elementary and high school districts more efficient.

Senate President Cullerton responds to Quinn’s Budget Address

 “It’s clear that the Governor will begin to address the pressures created by Medicaid and pensions costs through bipartisan working groups that can propose solutions. I look forward to working with the Governor to address these issues this session. I hope all members of the General Assembly will consider the true cost of inaction in these two areas. 

Our increasing Medicaid liability clearly illustrates the need for action. If we do nothing this session, next year’s budget will need to accommodate an additional $2.7 billion over last year. We simply can’t afford that burden.  I’m confident that we will identify additional cost-cutting solutions while protecting the most vulnerable recipients.

The Governor’s proposal to make the estimated $5 billion pension payment demonstrates his commitment to meet our obligations.  But we can’t afford to ignore the fact that this growing obligation is pressuring other necessary programs and services.  It’s time to take the next leap forward in comprehensive pension reforms that control costs while preserving the constitutional rights of current employees and retirees. Unlike Indiana and Wisconsin, we intend to work with unions to accomplish this goal.

I’m pleased that the Governor’s plan appears to be balanced and realistic. Today he struck the appropriate tone needed to identify our challenges and outline some of the tough choices that will be made this year.”

State Senator Mattie Hunter (Chicago):

“While this budget proposal does not meet the priorities of my district, I am looking forward to negotiating with my colleagues on passing a responsible, balanced budget this year.  We need to focus on our Medicaid payment shortfall and protecting safety net programs.”

State Senator Kwame Raoul (Chicago)

“This budget makes some tough decisions, but the thing to remember is that it’s just a proposal. The General Assembly needs to evaluate the governor’s plan, prioritize, and make sure that in this time of needed shared sacrifice, an undue burden is not put on the most vulnerable citizens of our state. ”

State Senator Jaqueline Collins (Chicago)

“My budget priorities center around promoting efficiency in government without unraveling the safety net for society’s most vulnerable populations. When we give large tax breaks to corporations, there are negative repercussions for our revenue stream. Sacrifice must be shared, not disproportionately assigned to those who can least afford to shoulder it.”

State Senator Donne Trotter (Chicago)

“I think the governor’s budget proposal is going to bring our state back to the status it should be in.  In summary I think he wants to bring the state to a healthy place.  What I would like to see or what hasn’t been addressed is money put toward job training and vocational training for people who are out of work, I think that is very important for our citizens who are in that situation.”

State Senator James Meeks (Chicago)

“The budget numbers that the governor gave us are not the same that the Senate has or the House has… For all the years I’ve been here, those numbers are never the same. The Governor doesn’t have the authority or power to enact anything that he said; that power rests in with the legislators. Now it’s up to whether or not the General Assembly is going to agree with anything the governor has said. All of these facilities that the governor wants to close are in legislators’ districts.  You better believe that those people are going to fight like the Dickens to not allow their facilities to be closed.”

His Truth is Marching on: African-American Farmers and the Pigford II Settlement

Posted by Admin On February - 23 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

 

By Joe Leonard, Jr., PhD, U. S. Department of Agriculture

 

 

Following the march from Selma to Montgomery, America was changed forever. To claim that it would be welcomed or rapid would be to miss the relevance of the situation that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and others accomplished on those long and winding, southern roads. These roads were fatal for some of the participants and dangerous for nearly all of those who followed Dr. King in those fateful days in March of 1965. But history teaches us that the relevance of a movement is not gauged by the moment, but by its long term results. When asked by some in the media and by his own staff how long it would be before African-Americans would receive voting rights, Dr. King responded by saying, “How long? Not long, because the arm of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice…”

 

I believe that Dr. King knew in 1965 that the struggle for justice was just beginning, and that it would ultimately stretch from fair housing to equal opportunity in education, employment, and accommodations. In the struggle for justice, the road winds and turns in many directions, and the longer justice is denied the more complicated and the longer it will take to straighten its arm back to its moral universe.

 

As a student of history and a person of moral conscience, I understand the teaching of

Dr. King and the lessons of Selma as it factors into the settlement of the Pigford class action lawsuit. We see the moral compass of justice turning and it moved these African- American farmers from a state of frustration to that of satisfaction.

 

In 1997, a group of African-American farmers filed a class-action lawsuit, Pigford I, against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in federal district court, alleging discrimination regarding participation in some USDA farm programs. The case was settled in 1999, with a Consent Decree, through which individual claims would be assessed and adjudicated in a court-approved claims process. There were concerns with the Pigford I Consent Decree when more than 63,000 potentially eligible African-American farmers who filed late claims were denied participation in the claims process. In response, Congress passed language in the2008 Farm Bill, which allowed these African-American farmers to file lawsuits against USDAand, appropriated $100 million for monetary relief. These cases have now been consolidated into a new lawsuit. Pigford II.

 

The Obama administration and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack vigorously pursued the settlement of this case bringing closure to this longstanding and well documented case of discrimination, and subsequently Pigford II was settled in February 2010. The settlement contains a non-judicial, non adversarial claims process for awarding a total of up to $1.25 billion – which includes the original $100 million provided by the 2008 Farm Bill – to African-American farmers who meet specific eligibility requirements. To be eligible, farmers had to also have previously submitted a request to file a late claim in the 1999 Pigford I Consent Decree.

 

Closure of Tamms Supermax supported by broad regional coalition

Posted by Admin On February - 23 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

 

Chicago and Minneapolis – The Midwest Coalition for Human Rights, a network of 56 organizations, service providers, and university centers, heralds Illinois Governor Pat Quinn’s proposal to close Tamms Correctional Center in Southern Illinois. Tamms is a supermaximum security facility where over 200 inmates languish in prolonged isolation, a practice condemned by human rights authorities and advocates across the globe.   

 

The Midwest Coalition sees the decision to close Tamms as official recognition of the morally and legally problematic nature of prolonged isolation. “Long-term isolation is like slow motion torture,” said Barbara Frey, convener of the Midwest Coalition. “Depriving persons of human contact produces crushing loneliness, exacerbates mental illness and leaves us no safer for its use.”

 

Inmates in Tamms are held in complete solitude in stark 7×12 foot cells for 23 hours per day with virtually no human interaction and a callous lack of environmental stimulation. They are only allowed to leave the confines of their small cells for showers, short periods of recreation in a metal or concrete cage, and occasional visits during which they are chained to a concrete stool and separated from their visitors by a thick glass wall. Individuals who were sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for offenses that occurred when they were just teenagers and those with preexisting mental illness are among the more vulnerable subjected to these conditions.

 

The level of sensory deprivation employed by Tamms and other supermax facilities can cause severe physiological and psychological damage including appetite and sleep disturbances, anxiety, panic, rage, loss of control, paranoia, hallucinations, and self-mutilations. A number of men in Tamms have reported experiencing these symptoms as a result of the extreme nature of their confinement. One Tamms inmate has reportedly engaged in self-mutilation hundreds of times since first entering the facility seven years ago, frequently requiring hospitalization.

 

International human rights bodies and experts affirm that prolonged isolation is a human rights violation. In a presentation to the U.N. General Assembly in New York in October, 2011, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Méndez, announced that the practice can amount to torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, which is prohibited by the United Nations Convention against Torture.   

 

“Segregation, isolation, separation, cellular, lockdown, Supermax, the hole, Secure Housing Unit (SHU)… whatever the name, solitary confinement should be banned by States as a punishment or extortion technique,” he said. Mr. Méndez called for the absolute prohibition of indefinite and prolonged solitary confinement in excess of fifteen days, an end to the practice of solitary confinement in pre-trial detention, and a ban on its use for juveniles and persons with mental disabilities.   

 

The Midwest Coalition for Human Rights is committed to ending the use of prolonged isolation in all U.S. jails and prisons, and sees the closure of Tamms as a meaningful positive step towards that goal. We thank Governor Quinn for his initiative in this regard and urge the Illinois legislature to support his decision.

 

The Midwest Coalition for Human Rights is a network of 56 organizations, service providers, and university centers, that work together to promote and protect human rights in our Midwest region. Through collaboration in the Heartland, we advocate, educate and take action with a strong regional voice on national and international human rights issues. 

18th Annual Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards to be held Feb. 28

Posted by Admin On February - 23 - 2012 3 COMMENTS

CHICAGO, IL – As Chicago grows in stature on the national and international stage, it is challenged to build a new kind of future that expands opportunity and maximizes the impact of investments in technology, architecture, art, education and community. To celebrate the innovators and the doers that are taking Chicago forward, Local Initiatives Support Corporation Chicago (LISC Chicago) will recognize the best community development projects at the 18th annual Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards (CNDA) on February 28.

The event will be held Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012 at Chicago Hilton & Towers, 720 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago. The agenda is as follows:

3:00 p.m. – Forum: “Five Big Ideas for the 21st Century City.” Presenters will showcase their five best ideas for taking Chicago into the next century

4:30 – Awards Ceremony

6:00 – Reception

Special guests are Mayor Rahm Emanuel (invited); event chair Wim Elfrink, Cisco Systems; Richard H. Driehaus; 1,400 community development leaders and elected officials.

Wim Elfrink, executive vice president and chief globalization officer of Cisco Systems, will chair the event, which honors both organizations and individuals for their contributions to community development and architecture in Chicago. The theme of this year’s event—“Building the 21st Century City”— underscores the necessity of investing in Chicago’s future to make it a globally competitive and culturally vibrant city.  

Managed by LISC Chicago, CNDA is Chicago’s oldest and largest community development awards ceremony. The event will also feature the presentation of the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Awards for Architectural Excellence in Community Design— marking the 15th year of the awards. More than 1,500 community development leaders and elected officials are expected to attend the ceremony, held at Chicago Hilton & Towers. 

The day’s events will begin with a forum in which four of Chicago’s “thought leaders” will present their ideas for making Chicago a truly 21st century city. Using a fast-paced and innovative presentation style, four of Chicago’s thought leaders will rapidly present their own big ideas for the 21st century city, displaying 15 images for 15 seconds each. The forum, moderated by David Doig of Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives, will feature presentations from Theaster Gates, University of Chicago; Alicia Gonzalez, Chicago Run; Melissa Harris, Chicago Tribune; and Daniel O’Neil, Smart Chicago Collaborative. Using an exciting presentation format, the forum will also call on audience members to offer their own big ideas.

At the ceremony, ten awards will be presented to the local architects, community leaders and developers behind some of Chicago’s most innovative facilities and programs. Award categories include: outstanding community strategy; outstanding non-profit and for profit real estate projects; outstanding affordable rental housing preservation; special recognition; architectural excellence in community design; and the friend of the neighborhoods award.

The Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards were established in 1995 to bring visibility and focus to community-based development in Chicago. Through the awards, CNDA’s sponsors hope to increase the interaction and cooperation among the business, government, real estate, non-profit and philanthropic leaders who are engaged in making the city’s neighborhoods better and stronger.

This year’s awards are generously underwritten by: 

Allstate; Bank of America; BMO Harris Bank; Charter One; Chase; The Chicago Community Trust; CISCO; Citi; LISC/Chicago; Northern Trust; PNC; Polk Bros. Foundation; The Private Bank; The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation; StateFarm; US Bank; Applegate & Thorne-Thomsen, PC; Brinshore Development; Camiros, Ltd.; Chicago Bears; Chicago Community Loan Fund; Cole Taylor Bank; Community Reinvestment Fund; Enterprise Community Investment, Inc.; Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago; Fifth Third Bank ; FirstMerit Bank; The Habitat Company; Holsten Real Estate Development; Illinois Housing Development Authority; Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP; MB Financial Bank; Matanky Realty; Miner, Barnhill & Galland, P.C.; National Equity Fund; Reznick Group; Teska Associates, Inc.; Urban Development Fund, LLC; Urban Partnership Bank; and The Walsh Group.

For more information, visit www.lisc-cnda.org or email cnda@lisc.org.

Lt. Gov. Simon: Abolish political scholarships

Posted by Admin On February - 23 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

SPRINGFIELD, IL – Lt. Governor Sheila Simon put her support behind a House bill that would abolish a legislative scholarship program that more than half of the state’s legislators are voluntarily abstaining from this year.

Simon backed House Bill 3810, sponsored by Rep. Fred Crespo, which passed out of the state government administrative committee 14-3 today. Earlier this month, the Better Government Association delivered an online petition with more than 600 signatures in support of the program’s abolishment to the Lt. Governor and state leaders.

Simon said: “While legislative scholarships help a small number of students, the program’s abuse comes at an incredibly high cost in terms of trust in government and absorbed tuition at colleges and universities. We would do better by our schools and students if we strengthened the need-based Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants that help thousands of Illinois students across the state fulfill their dreams of higher education. By eliminating the legislative scholarship program, Illinois can take a meaningful step toward improving our ethical standards, while focusing our efforts on making college more affordable for all students.”

Nearly 100 of the 177 members of the General Assembly have now opted out of giving legislative scholarships this year. HB3810 would end the political scholarship program June 1, 2012.

Illinois State Board approves NCLB waiver application

Posted by Admin On February - 23 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

Illinois proposes comprehensive accountability system
that uses multiple measures and moves forward
with college and career ready standards
 

 

SPRINGFIELD, IL —The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) approved a comprehensive waiver application to the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) that proposes using multiple measures to evaluate the nearly 4,000 public schools in Illinois. The overarching goal of the waiver is to cut in half achievement gaps and the percent of students not making progress by 2018. The Board’s plan, due to the U.S. Department of Education Feb. 28, replaces the outdated one-size-fits-all approach of NCLB with a new system that stresses high expectations of students and schools, as well as statewide support, innovation and flexibility to reach benchmarks.

“Under this waiver, Illinois will move forward with a comprehensive accountability system that uses multiple measures of gauging student performance to ensure college and career readiness,” said State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch. “This new system will emphasize student progress over time to better drive instruction and track educational effectiveness.”

The plan calls for the use of a Multiple Measures Index based on four broad categories;

1) Outcomes, including graduation rates;

2) Achievement in math, reading and science;

3) Student progress, including growth and English Language proficiency and;

4) Educational context, such as school climate and course offerings, will be used as a bonus category.

Upon calculation of the Multiple Measures Index, schools and districts will be categorized into a five-star rating system that will align with various rewards, supports and interventions.

“This marks a watershed change in education,” said State Board of Education Chairman Gery J. Chico. “This is a much more common sense approach to setting high expectations, measuring student progress and holding schools accountable for the performance of their students. We believe this change is a better way to inspire student achievement for our more than 2 million public school students and better prepare them to compete with their peers across the globe.”

Some proposed changes to the federal accountability system include:

 

  • All eighth- and ninth-graders in public schools will be required for the first time ever to take the ACT-aligned exam “EXPLORE” and 10th-graders will take the corresponding exam “PLAN” as part of a testing system that includes the ACT, already part of the Illinois Prairie State Achievement Exam (PSAE) in the 11th grade. EXPLORE and PLAN, produced by ACT, tests students on English, Math, Reading and Science and are now administered by some districts on a voluntary basis to provide more complete information about college and career readiness.

 

  • Beginning in 2013, grade 11 students will take a third Workkeys assessment that can help students earn a Career Readiness Certificate confirming employability skills.

 

  • Illinois will raise cut scores for the 2013 administration of the ISAT to better gauge college and career-readiness and be better aligned to the college and career ready standards of the PSAE.

 

  • Value Table Growth Models will be used in 2013 to calculate student growth in grades 3 through 11, based on two years of performance, and award value points that are used to develop a school’s average growth.

 

  • Science scores on the ISAT in 4th and 7th grade and the PSAE in 11th grade will be used for school and district accountability.

 

  • Individual targets will be set for each school, district and ESEA subgroup with the goal of reducing in half achievement gaps and the percentage of students not making progress within six years.
  • Subgroups will be reduced from the current size of 45 to 30 to ensure better tracking of student progress and achievement.

To increase the agency’s capacity to meet the needs of all schools and districts in need of improvement, Illinois’ plan calls for establishing the Center for School Improvement to provide coordination and coherence to school improvement services. Districts and schools will undergo a comprehensive audit to identify areas for improvement and develop a strong intervention plan. Identified interventions will be based on the specific needs identified, rather than a one-size-fit-all mandated intervention.

Illinois’ application also describes on-going reforms to raise educational rigor for students and educators, including the state’s 2010 adoption of new, more rigorous K-12 Common Core Learning standards in math and English Language Arts. Those college and career-ready standards are being implemented across the state and will be aligned to a new assessment in 2014-15.

Additionally, Illinois passed landmark principal and teacher evaluation legislation that calls for more thorough evaluations that for the first time will tie student growth to teachers and principals beginning next year and gradually spreading to all districts by 2016. At the same time, the state has dramatically overhauled policies regarding teacher and principal preparation programs to emphasize clearer and higher standards.

Since last fall when the U.S. Department of Education invited states to seek waivers to portions of NCLB, the ISBE conducted a survey and convened 27 meetings across the state to solicit ideas and feedback on the state’s waiver proposal. Through these efforts, more than 1,500 individuals and multiple education and civil rights groups have provided input and support for the application.

Nationally, 10 states have received NCLB waivers to date from the U.S. Department of Education. Illinois expects to receive notification in spring 2012.

American Ballet Theatre to teach "Ballet Basics" at American Girl Place

Posted by Admin On February - 23 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

American Ballet Theatre Certified Teaching Artist Anna Spelman Teaches Young Girls Movement Inspired by ABT’s Upcoming Performances of “Giselle” at The Auditorium Theatre

 

CHICAGO, IL – The Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University (ATRU) and American Ballet Theatre (ABT) will host a special dance class for girls ages 8 and older at American Girl Place (835 N. Michigan Ave) Saturday, March 10, 11 a.m. – 1p.m. Visiting ABT teaching artist and former ABT dancer Anna Spelman will lead four 20-minute sessions featuring an introduction to the basics of ballet and movement from ABT’s upcoming performance of “Giselle” at ATRU (March 22 – 25). This event is free and open to the public but space is limited. Spots are available on a first come first served basis. No dance experience necessary. 

About American Ballet Theatre’s “Giselle”

 “Giselle” is one of the most popular continuously performed ballets, having had its world premiere on June 28, 1841 at the Theatre de l’Academie Royale de Musique in Paris, with choreography by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, danced by Carlotta Grisi as Giselle and Lucien Petipa as Albrecht.  Since then, the ballet, beloved for its magical story and bravura dancing, has entered the repertoire of almost all of the major ballet companies in the world.

“Giselle” was first presented by American Ballet Theatre (then Ballet Theatre) during the company’s inaugural season at the Center Theatre in New York City on January 12, 1940.  American Ballet Theatre’s current production was created for the film “Dancers,” produced in 1987 by Cannon Films. This production’s first public performance was given on March 20, 1987 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California, with Marianna Tcherkassky as Giselle and Kevin McKenzie as Albrecht.  It was staged by Mikhail Baryshnikov after Jean Coralli, Jules Perrot and Marius Petipa, with additional staging by John Taras and Elena Tchernichova.  This production is staged by Kevin McKenzie and features scenery by Gianni Quaranta, costumes by Anna Anni and lighting by Jennifer Tipton.

About ABT Teaching Artist Anna Spelman

Visiting Teaching Artist Anna Spelman began training in ballet at the age of nine at the San Diego Ballet School.  There, and later at the Alabama School of Fine Arts in Birmingham, Anna trained with Thor Sutowski and Dame Sonia Arova.  Anna received scholarships to the School of American Ballet in New York where she started studying as early as age eleven under George Balanchine. She attended Centre Dance International at age twelve under Rosella Hightower in Cannes, France and entered the Eighth International Ballet Competition at Varna, Bulgaria, as a junior contender.  She began her performing career at the age of nine with the San Diego Ballet Company. At the Alabama School of Fine Arts in Birmingham, Anna performed in August Bournonville’s “The Flower Festival in Genzano” pas de deux and a leading role in Michel Fokine’s “Les Sylphides” which prompted her to win an obelisk award for best female dancer.  Later, while on scholarship at American Ballet Theatre School, Anna had the opportunity to perform Richard England’s “Vivaldi” pas de deux behind another couple on the Metropolitan Opera House stage and was asked to join American Ballet Theatre to perform as a snowflake in the “The Nutcracker,” which marked the beginning of her career with ABT. During her nine-year professional career with ABT, Anna toured the major cities of France, Italy, Japan, and Israel.  Anna danced and acted in the films “Hair”, directed by Milos Forman and choreographed by Twyla Tharp, and “Dancers”, directed by Herbert Ross and filmed in Livorno, Italy. Her television credits include “Live from Lincoln Center”, PBS special “Twyla Tharp with ABT”, and “American Ballet Theatre in San Francisco” and the David Gordon television special “Dance in America”. She has worked closely with choreographers in both ballet and modern dance including George Balanchine, Kenneth MacMillan, Jerome Robbins, Antony Tudor, Frederick Ashton, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Merce Cunningham, David Gordon, Paul Taylor, and Twyla Tharp. Anna continues to fuel her passion for dance by teaching her craft. She resides in Naperville with her husband and their four children.

About American Ballet Theatre

American Ballet Theatre is recognized as one of the great dance companies in the world. Few ballet companies equal ABT for its combination of size, scope and outreach. Recognized as a living national treasure since its founding in 1940, ABT annually tours the United States, performing for more than 600,000 people, and is the only major cultural institution to do so. It has also made more than 15 international tours to 42 countries as perhaps the most representative American ballet company, and has been sponsored by the State Department of the United States on many of these engagements. 
 
When ABT was launched in 1939, the aim was to develop a repertoire of the best ballets from the past and to encourage the creation of new works by gifted young choreographers, wherever they might be found. Under the direction of Lucia Chase and Oliver Smith from 1940 to 1980, the Company more than fulfilled that aim. The repertoire, perhaps unmatched in the history of ballet, includes all of the great full-length ballets of the nineteenth century, such as “Swan Lake,” “The Sleeping Beauty” and “Giselle,” the finest works from the early part of this century, such as “Apollo,” “Les Sylphides,” “Jardin aux Lilas” and “Rodeo,” and acclaimed contemporary masterpieces such as “Airs,” “Push Comes to Shove” and “Duets”. In acquiring such an extraordinary repertoire, ABT has commissioned works by all of the great choreographic geniuses of the 20th century: George Balanchine, Antony Tudor, Jerome Robbins, Agnes de Mille and Twyla Tharp, among others. 
 
In 1980, Mikhail Baryshnikov became Artistic Director of American Ballet Theatre, succeeding Lucia Chase and Oliver Smith. Under his leadership, numerous classical ballets were staged, restaged and refurbished, and the Company experienced a strengthening and refining of the classical tradition. In 1990, Jane Hermann and Oliver Smith succeeded Mr. Baryshnikov and immediately established an agenda that was dedicated to maintaining the great traditions of the past while aggressively pursuing a vital and innovative future. 
 
 In October 1992, former American Ballet Theatre Principal Dancer Kevin McKenzie was appointed Artistic Director. Mr. McKenzie, steadfast in his vision of ABT as “American,” is committed to maintaining the company’s vast repertoire, and to bringing the art of dance theater to the great stages of the world. 

American Ballet Theatre has appeared in a total of 132 cities in 42 countries, as well as in all fifty states of the United States. ABT has recently enjoyed triumphant successes with engagements in Tokyo, London, Moscow, Beijing and Seoul.  In November 2010, American Ballet Theatre appeared at the Havana International Festival celebrating Alicia Alonso’s 90th birthday. This was the Company’s first visit to Cuba since 1965.

On April 27, 2006, by an act of Congress, American Ballet Theatre became America’s National Ballet Company®.

About American Girl

American Girl Brands, LLC, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Mattel, Inc. (NASDAQ:MAT, www.mattel.com), the world’s leading toy company. Since American Girl’s inception in 1986, the company has devoted its entire business to celebrating the potential of girls ages 3 to 12. American Girl encourages girls to dream, to grow, to aspire, to create, and to imagine through a wide range of engaging and insightful books, age-appropriate and educational products, and unforgettable experiences. In meeting its mission with a vigilant eye toward quality and service, American Girl has earned the loyal following of millions of girls and the praise and trust of parents and educators. To learn more about American Girl or to request a free catalogue, call 1-800-845-0005 or visit www.americangirl.com.

About the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University

The Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, located at 50 E. Congress Parkway, is an independent, not-for-profit organization committed to presenting the finest in international, cultural and community programming to Chicago, and to the continued restoration and preservation of the National Historic Landmark Auditorium Theatre. The Auditorium Theatre is generously supported by the Illinois Arts Council, CityArts, American Airlines and the Palmer House Hilton.  For more information about programming, volunteer and donor opportunities or theater tours, call (312) 922-2110 or visit auditoriumtheatre.org.

“Giselle” Schedule and Ticket Information at ATRU

The performance schedule for American Ballet Theatre in “Giselle” is as follows:

Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 7:30 p.m.

Friday, March 23 at 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, March 24 at 2 and 8 p.m.

Sunday, March 25 at 2 p.m.

Tickets, which range in price from $32 to $127, are currently on sale and can be purchased online at ticketmaster.com/auditorium, by calling (800) 982-2787 or in-person at ATRU’s box office.

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Welcome to CopyLine Magazine! The first issue of CopyLine Magazine was published in November, 1990, by Editor & Publisher Juanita Bratcher. CopyLine’s main focus is on the political arena – to inform our readers and analyze many of the pressing issues of the day - controversial or otherwise. Our objectives are clear – to keep you abreast of political happenings and maneuvering in the political arena, by reporting and providing provocative commentaries on various issues. For more about CopyLine Magazine, CopyLine Blog, and CopyLine Television/Video, please visit juanitabratcher.com, copylinemagazine.com, and oneononetelevision.com. Bratcher has been a News/Reporter, Author, Publisher, and Journalist for 33 years. She is the author of six books, including “Harold: The Making of a Big City Mayor” (Harold Washington), Chicago’s first African-American mayor; and “Beyond the Boardroom: Empowering a New Generation of Leaders,” about John Herman Stroger, Jr., the first African-American elected President of the Cook County Board. Bratcher is also a Poet/Songwriter, with 17 records – produced by HillTop Records of Hollywood, California. Juanita Bratcher Publisher

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