â€˜Honor the contract, restore the moneyâ€™
By Chinta Strausberg
Saying Gov. Bruce Rauner doesnâ€™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 â€œraping the poor and our youth programsâ€ just to balance his budget.
Two busloads left Saint Sabina Church Tuesday morning headed for the Thompson Center carrying signs that said, â€œGovernor, Donâ€™t Balance Budget on Backs of the Poor,â€ and â€œRauner, Donâ€™t Raise Unemployment.â€
Some attendeesÂ were the victims of Raunerâ€™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 â€œas obligated funds to be paid out.â€
On the eve of the governorâ€™s â€œState of the Stateâ€ 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 Raunerâ€™s cutting the budgets for youth employment by $4.5 million, $3.5 million inÂ Â afterschool care and day care programs, Pfleger said, â€œlast 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 endedâ€ 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 â€œall time high and while the governor is cutting programs for young peopleâ€¦ He is giving his deputy governor a 24 percent increase in salary. Heâ€™s giving his chief of staff a 38 percent increase in salary and heâ€™s giving his general counsel a 53 percent increase. He is giving his budget director a 20 percent increase in salary, and heâ€™s giving his executive assistant a 94 percent increase in salary, and heâ€™s hiring a chief of staff for his wife. How you hire a chief of staff when you have no staffâ€?
â€œSo you can increase in your group around you and cut off programs in the African American and Latino communitiesâ€¦. Gov. Rauner, weâ€™re here to tell youâ€¦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,â€ Pfleger said as the crowd screamed in support. â€œDo not balance your budget on the backs of poor people and Gov. Rauner donâ€™t turn your back on our youthâ€¦. Restore the money now.â€
More than 250 people joined Pfleger and English protested the budget cuts chanting, â€˜What do we want? Jobs. When do we want them? Now.â€ â€œRestore the Jobs.â€
Mr. English said, â€œWeâ€™re going to fight for justiceâ€¦and for jobsâ€¦. We are not going to stand down. If youâ€™re standing up, itâ€™s hard for someone to stand on your back.â€ He called on legislators to â€œstand upâ€ for their community. â€œWe will fight for jobs and justiceâ€¦.
â€œYou canâ€™t just come in and disrespect us by sending us an e-mailâ€ that ended their programs. â€œThat is totally disrespectâ€¦. Iâ€™m calling on our community to stand up. We may have a long fightâ€¦.we will circle, fight, do what ever is necessary to get justice for our communityâ€ said English. Pfleger chanted, â€œhonor the contract.â€
â€œGov. Rauner, you call yourself a businessman. This business will not be accepted. You said in your inaugural youâ€™re compassionate. Well show some damn compassionâ€¦,â€ said Pfleger chanting â€œhonor the contract,â€ â€œemploy our youth, save our jobs,â€ â€œgive back the money.â€
Pfleger, who has had the largest youth employment agency in the Midwest, wasnâ€™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 â€œwho have taken a vow of povertyâ€ to help the youth. â€œHow can we work togetherâ€¦donâ€™t just cut us out.
â€œOur families need this and we need you to speak to us.â€ 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. â€œWe put so much money into this and we have no guarantee weâ€™ll get it back.â€
Community activist David Whittaker, CEO, Chicago Area Project, said, â€œThere is a moral imperative that we look out for our young peopleâ€ he said are hurting and dying every day. â€œThis program is one that works because it gives our young people hopeâ€¦. Weâ€™re talking about the lives and welfare of these young folk.â€
One of those who received an e-mail from the state canceling their funds was Oscar Rivera, Jr., who heads the Bikes Nâ€™ 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 â€œtraumatized.â€ â€œThere were a lot of tears on the day,â€ Rivera said explaining he received the e-mail last Thursday. He said the youth â€œare confused. Theyâ€™ve been shot downâ€¦.â€
Diane Liamas, a volunteer with Community United, said, â€œA 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 donâ€™t have a job at all.â€
She also leased a space for the youth to work and doesnâ€™t know if her organization can break that lease. â€œThis is very hard on our young people.â€
Rosita Chatonda is the coordinating director for the Black Fundâ€™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. â€œItâ€™s a wonderful program. â€¦.â€
Pfleger said when Gov. Rauner was running; he said he was going to cutting the income taxâ€¦he did. We were presuming he had a plan and maybe the plan is what weâ€™re seeing now.â€ â€œHe ran for governor because he said he had a plan. Whereâ€™s the planâ€? Pfleger asked why didnâ€™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. â€œWe had to turn them away,â€ he told reporters.
â€œTomorrow the governor is giving the â€œState of the State. Weâ€™re here today to say the state in in troubleâ€ 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. â€œAll our young people here want is a job. You cut all of these programs, get ready for the spring,â€ Pfleger said.
English said 91 percent of the youth are unemployed with 58 percent being black men. â€œThose are staggering immoral figures and we have to figure out how to deal with that.â€ He hopes Rauner would take the moral road on resolving this situation.
The protesters passed out flyers saying, â€œStop the cuts! Governor Bruce Rauner.Â Under the stateâ€™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.
â€œThe math is clear,â€ the flyer stated. â€œThe youth and the poor do not seem to be a priority in Governor Raunerâ€™s budget.â€ Earlier, Pfleger was a guest on the Windy City Live show where he was asked what did he want the governor to do. â€œIn his speech, he said he wanted a compassionate state. Well, show me the compassion with action, not wordsâ€¦.â€
The governor issued a statement saying: â€œUnfortunately, 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.â€
FatherÂ 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 â€œhonor and restore the contracts.â€
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.