Father Pfleger to Rauner: ‘Stop Raping the Poor and Our Youth to Balance Your Budget’

‘Honor the contract, restore the money’

By Chinta Strausberg

Saying Gov. Bruce Rauner doesn’t care about youth and the poor, Father Michael L. Pfleger and Henry English, CEO/COO/President of the Black United Fund of Illinois, Inc., Tuesday held a protest outside of the James R. Thompson Center demanding that Gov. Rauner restore the cuts and to cease “raping the poor and our youth programs” just to balance his budget.

Two busloads left Saint Sabina Church Tuesday morning headed for the Thompson Center carrying signs that said, “Governor, Don’t Balance Budget on Backs of the Poor,” and “Rauner, Don’t Raise Unemployment.”

Some attendees  were the victims of Rauner’s budget wielding knife even though the legislators had approved their contracts, funds had been allocated, contracts signed by January 1, 2015 and verified by the state comptroller “as obligated funds to be paid out.”

On the eve of the governor’s “State of the State” address, Pfleger said since Rauner was sworn into office he has given nothing to the poor and the youth. In fact, he said Rauner has taken away what was legally given them.

Referring to Rauner’s cutting the budgets for youth employment by $4.5 million, $3.5 million in   afterschool care and day care programs, Pfleger said, “last Thursday the Governor without warning without conversation all programs were ended effectively immediately. Nobody was spoken to. Nobody was talked to. The programs week just ended” including day care programs he said were not refunded as of January 31, 2015.

Pfleger said while this is going on, African American youth unemployment is at an “all time high and while the governor is cutting programs for young people… He is giving his deputy governor a 24 percent increase in salary. He’s giving his chief of staff a 38 percent increase in salary and he’s giving his general counsel a 53 percent increase. He is giving his budget director a 20 percent increase in salary, and he’s giving his executive assistant a 94 percent increase in salary, and he’s hiring a chief of staff for his wife. How you hire a chief of staff when you have no staff”?

“So you can increase in your group around you and cut off programs in the African American and Latino communities…. Gov. Rauner, we’re here to tell you…you may have a lot of money and you may be a venture capitalist. You may be a business man, but we are not accepting this kind of business in the state of Illinois,” Pfleger said as the crowd screamed in support. “Do not balance your budget on the backs of poor people and Gov. Rauner don’t turn your back on our youth…. Restore the money now.”

More than 250 people joined Pfleger and English protested the budget cuts chanting, ‘What do we want? Jobs. When do we want them? Now.” “Restore the Jobs.”

Mr. English said, “We’re going to fight for justice…and for jobs…. We are not going to stand down. If you’re standing up, it’s hard for someone to stand on your back.” He called on legislators to “stand up” for their community. “We will fight for jobs and justice….

“You can’t just come in and disrespect us by sending us an e-mail” that ended their programs. “That is totally disrespect…. I’m calling on our community to stand up. We may have a long fight….we will circle, fight, do what ever is necessary to get justice for our community” said English. Pfleger chanted, “honor the contract.”

“Gov. Rauner, you call yourself a businessman. This business will not be accepted. You said in your inaugural you’re compassionate. Well show some damn compassion…,” said Pfleger chanting “honor the contract,” “employ our youth, save our jobs,” “give back the money.”

Pfleger, who has had the largest youth employment agency in the Midwest, wasn’t the only one receiving an e-mail from the state ending social and economic programs. Lynette Santiago, executive director of the Fellowship Connection in Humboldt Park was another budgetary victim.

She hired 350 youth and said they depend on the funding to go to school and social workers “who have taken a vow of poverty” to help the youth. “How can we work together…don’t just cut us out.

“Our families need this and we need you to speak to us.” Santiago said her organization subsidizes 28 agencies and churches to hire youth. Rauner canceled her $923,000 grant. The funding came from the Department of Labor and managed by the Department of Human Services. “We put so much money into this and we have no guarantee we’ll get it back.”

Community activist David Whittaker, CEO, Chicago Area Project, said, “There is a moral imperative that we look out for our young people” he said are hurting and dying every day. “This program is one that works because it gives our young people hope…. We’re talking about the lives and welfare of these young folk.”

One of those who received an e-mail from the state canceling their funds was Oscar Rivera, Jr., who heads the Bikes N’ Roses under Communities United in Albany Park. He teaches youth about bicycle mechanics and job readiness training. He received a grant from the Illinois Department of Human Services.

When Rauner canceled the contract, Rivera was forced to fire more than 50 people he says are “traumatized.” “There were a lot of tears on the day,” Rivera said explaining he received the e-mail last Thursday. He said the youth “are confused. They’ve been shot down….”

Diane Liamas, a volunteer with Community United, said, “A lot of the youth we hired quit their jobs because they thought there was a contract and they thought this job was set in stone until the contract ran out. They quit their former job and now they don’t have a job at all.”

She also leased a space for the youth to work and doesn’t know if her organization can break that lease. “This is very hard on our young people.”

Rosita Chatonda is the coordinating director for the Black Fund’s Teach for South Shore program and heads the Chicago Alliance of Urban School Educators where she advocates for more than 10,000 African American teachers who had been terminated due to school closings. She had 28 retired teachers and she was going to hire 40 parents. “It’s a wonderful program. ….”

Pfleger said when Gov. Rauner was running; he said he was going to cutting the income tax…he did. We were presuming he had a plan and maybe the plan is what we’re seeing now.” “He ran for governor because he said he had a plan. Where’s the plan”? Pfleger asked why didn’t Rauner say this when he was running for governor?

Pfleger said the governor cut between $8 and $9 million and that he had 50 interns to show up for work yesterday. “We had to turn them away,” he told reporters.

“Tomorrow the governor is giving the “State of the State. We’re here today to say the state in in trouble” especially giving the last two-weeks with Rauner cutting these program.

Asked by this reporter if he may sue, Pfleger said the funds were already allocated and that state lawmakers are meeting to discuss the legality of what Rauner has done. “All our young people here want is a job. You cut all of these programs, get ready for the spring,” Pfleger said.

English said 91 percent of the youth are unemployed with 58 percent being black men. “Those are staggering immoral figures and we have to figure out how to deal with that.” He hopes Rauner would take the moral road on resolving this situation.

The protesters passed out flyers saying, “Stop the cuts! Governor Bruce Rauner.  Under the state’s subtractions, it listed: youth employment programs, after school programs and day care programs. Under additions to state government, the flyer listed: Paying top staff members significantly more than his predecessor and hiring a chief of staff for his wife.

“The math is clear,” the flyer stated. “The youth and the poor do not seem to be a priority in Governor Rauner’s budget.” Earlier, Pfleger was a guest on the Windy City Live show where he was asked what did he want the governor to do. “In his speech, he said he wanted a compassionate state. Well, show me the compassion with action, not words….”

The governor issued a statement saying: “Unfortunately, Gov. Quinn signed a budget that was unbalanced by $1.5 billion. The administration is taking action to manage the inherited budget hole and is working with the legislature to find responsible solutions.”

Father  Pfleger continues to ask his supporters to call Gov. Rauner at 312.814.2121 and/or his Springfield office at 217.782.0244 and tell him to “honor and restore the contracts.”

Chinta Strausberg is a Journalist of more than 33-years, a former political reporter and a current PCC Network talk show host. You can e-mail Strausberg at: Chintabernie@aol.com.