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Archive for April 23rd, 2015

Chicago Trauma Center Protesters to Camp Outside University of Chicago President’s House Before Obama Library Decision

Posted by Admin On April - 23 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

Before Obama Library decision is finalized – Chicago activists take demand for trauma center to homes of Obama Library Chair Mary Nesbitt and University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer

CHICAGO, IL – On April 23rd, on the eve of the President Obama Library decision, members of the trauma center coalition will hold a press conference and vigil at the homes of Obama Library Chair Marty Nesbitt and University of Chicago President Zimmer, calling for the University of Chicago Hospital to open a trauma center. The press conference at Marty Nesbitt’s home 4820 S. Woodlawn, will start at 4:30pm. The Vigil will start at 6:30pm, at the home of  UofC Pres. Zimmer located at 59th St and University Ave. The Vigil will then continue all night, in front of home President Zimmer until 8:00am the next morning.

The all-night vigil will feature the lighting of 1712 candles, one for each day since the start of the campaign for a south side trauma center, which began in August 2010 after south side youth organizer Damian Turner was shot and died on route to the nearest trauma center which was over 10 miles away.

“We’re taking the message directly to Marty Nesbitt and President Zimmer’s doorsteps because they have the power to make a level one trauma center a priority for the UofC,” explained youth leader Veronica Morris-Moore. “Marty Nesbitt and President Zimmer have the power to save Black lives on the South Side, but choose not to make it a priority.”

The vigil will begin with an interfaith prayer followed by the lighting of the 1712 candles arranged to spell a message to the UofC administration. The next morning (Friday April 24), those who spent the night, along with supporters, will walk across the UofC campus from President Zimmer’s residence to the main administration building to deliver their message as the University opens its doors for the day.

The vigil will come as the Obama Library Foundation prepares to announce its decision on the site of President Obama’s presidential library. Activists say that even if the UofC is designated as the host institution, community concerns about lack of access to trauma care must not be ignored.

“The UofC’s neglect of the lives of Black and brown people on the South Side goes back a lot further than their campaign for the Obama Library and it’s not going to end until they finally open a trauma center,” explained Victoria Crider, who graduated from high school last year just blocks from the Obamas’ Kenwood home.

In addition to the University’s bid for the presidential library, organizers also point out that the University is in the midst of a $4.5-billion capital campaign and is constructing a new $150-million dormitory.

“It’s a little hard to take seriously when they say opening a trauma center is too complicated or expensive when they’re not only trying to host a presidential library, but they’re raising almost 5 billion dollars and spending almost $200 million on dorms,” said UofC student and trauma center activist Emilio Comay del Junco.

Activists are optimistic that the attention they are bringing to the lack of trauma care is bringing results. In December, the University of Chicago agreed to raise the age limit of its pediatric trauma center by two years, a move organizers had long demanded as a stop-gap measure. That decision coincided with increased public attention in the run-up to the deadline for proposals to host the Obama Library.

The community’s demand for trauma care was sparked by the death of Woodlawn youth leader Damian Turner, and is led by the Woodlawn-based Fearless Leading by the Youth, along with the Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization, Students for Health Equity at the UofC, National Nurses United and many faith groups including the United Church of Christ.

The South Side is currently a trauma desert for adults, meaning that victims of shootings and other serious injuries must be taken over ten miles away, to the Near North Side or south west suburbs. The call for trauma care is also supported by a new study by the Illinois Department of Public Health which states that longer travel times to a trauma center increases the likelihood of dying, the study also states that the U of C is best positioned to expand access to trauma care, and that the U of C could further raise the age limit of their pediatric trauma center.

Who: Trauma Care Coalition (youth, mothers, doctors, students, nurses, faith leaders)

What: Press Conference and Vigil

Date: Thursday, April 23


Press Conf – 4:30pm, 4820 S. Woodlawn, home of Marty Nesbitt

Vigil- 6:30pm, 59th St and University Ave, home of UofC Pres. Zimmer

Vigil continues – all night, in front of home President Zimmer until 7:30am

Visual: Thousands of candles spelling out “Trauma Center Now;” protesters sleeping on lawn of official residence; banners reading “Yes you CAN open a #Trauma Center Now”

Recent stories on the trauma center campaign:

“Here’s What U of C Should Do for the City” Crain’s Chicago Business

“Protestors link Obama library with #BlackLivesMatter,” Bloomberg

“UofC Wants to Raise Age Limit at Pediatric Trauma Center,” The Chicago Sun-Times

“UofC Aims to Expand Treatment at Children’s Trauma Center,” The Chicago Tribune

“Trauma center protesters target U. of C. capital campaign,” The Chicago Maroon

“Chicago Faith Leaders Sing, Pray For A South Side Trauma Center ,” Progress Illinois

“Religious leaders march for South Side trauma center,” Hyde Park Herald

“South Side Hospital Patients Caught in Trauma Deserts,” (Feature Story), Chicago Tribune

“University of Chicago Alumni: No Donations Until Trauma Center Opened,” Progress Illinois

“Chicago needs help, not Obama Library,” LZ Granderson, CNN.com

“Activists protest university’s bid for Obama Library,” USA Today

State Rep. Ford Passes Bipartisan Measure to Reform Cook County Bail System

Posted by Admin On April - 23 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

SPRINGFIELD, IL – To reduce the negative impact of the criminal justice system in Cook County on low income individuals and minorities cleared of criminal charges, Illinois State Rep. La Shawn K. Ford, D-Chicago, recently passed legislation unanimously that would limit the amount of money the county clerk can retain as a bond processing fee.

“As the Chairman of the House Restorative Justice Committee, we have a mission to help reform the criminal justice system and ensure that everyone, regardless of their race or socio-economic status, is treated fairly,” Ford said. “This measure is a step in that direction and should reduce the population in Cook County Jail, which will in turn reduce the burden on taxpayers.”

Under current law, after a defendant is cleared of a crime or charges are dropped, a county clerk must return 90 percent of the amount that the individual deposited to make bail and keeps 10 percent as a bail bond cost. For example, if bail is set at $20,000, the defendant must pay a bond of $2,000 to the clerk. Following dismissal or acquittal, the clerk returns $1,800 to the defendant and keeps $200 as a bail bond cost. House Bill 1119 limits to $100 the amount which the Cook County Clerk can retain as a bond processing fee.

“This is a commonsense, bipartisan bill that reforms the bail system in Cook County, which disproportionally hurts low-income people,” Rep. Ron Sandack, R–Downers Grove, said. “I look forward to finding common ground with Rep. Ford and the entire General Assembly as we continue to tackle the challenges our state faces.”

“I am pleased that the Illinois House unanimously passed our initiative to eliminate excessive charges for bail bond processing fees in Cook County, an issue that is unjust and disproportionately impacts low-income people and minorities,” Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey, D-12th, a long-time criminal justice reform advocate who has worked closely with Representative Ford on this issue, said. “I am grateful to Representatives Ford and Sandack for their bi-partisan leadership on this issue and I am cautiously optimistic that the Senate will also pass this overdue reform. While much more work remains to be done in the criminal justice reform arena, this is a great step in that direction.”

House Bill 1119 passed the House unanimously and now awaits consideration before the Senate.

New Roseland Community Hospital CEO Speaks at Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust Summit in Washington, D.C.

Posted by Admin On April - 23 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

WASHINGTON, D.C. - New Roseland Community Hospital President and CEO Tim Egan spoke Tuesday at the 12th Annual Leadership Summit on Health Disparities & Congressional Black Caucus Spring Health Braintrust in Washington, D.C. Egan presented to the Braintrust at U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly’s (D-2nd District) invitation.

“It is a great honor to represent the patients, the community, physicians, employees and all stakeholders of the New Roseland Hospital,” Egan said. “Representative Kelly and the CBC have put healthcare disparities in the spotlight for the 114th Congress.”

As the CBC chairperson, Kelly helmed the summit, which was titled “The March Toward Health Equity.”  The National Minority Quality Forum partially sponsored the event.

“I was happy Tim could join me to talk about the vital role of safety-net hospitals,” Kelly said. “Safety net hospitals are on the front line of care in vulnerable communities so it is critical that we understand the unique challenges they face so we can develop solutions and support to better help them serve these communities.”

Egan spoke as part of a panel that addressed “The State of Safety Net Hospitals” on Tuesday, April 21st.

An attendee asked if each state was using all leverage available to support Safety-Net Hospitals.

“Not in Illinois,” Egan answered. “We must maximize federal funding. Right now, we are playing on an unleveled pitch – an old rugby term for an uneven field.”

Egan noted statistics recently published by the Illinois Hospital Association that showed Illinois currently receives a 50.75% match of federal Medicaid funding, while surrounding states collect a much higher match; Kentucky receives 69.34%, Indiana gets 66.52%, Tennessee gets 64.99%, Missouri receives 63.45% and Wisconsin gets 58.37%.

“I recently testified in front of the Illinois House Human Services Committee,” Egan said. “I said I wasn’t there to beg for ‘No Cuts.’ The proposed cuts in Illinois are devastating. I asked for Illinois to invest in the New Roseland. The best way to do that is raise our Medicaid federal match. I know, together, we can make that happen.”

The New Roseland Community Hospital is the community’s integrated and coordinated healthcare choice, where professional caregivers provide guidance on the path to recovery and overall wellness.

Photo Caption: Roseland Community Hospital  CEO Tim Egan with U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly

State’s Attorney Alvarez Recognizes Crime Victims

Posted by Admin On April - 23 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

award victims

In honor of National Crime Victims Rights Week, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez hosted a ceremony recognizing four surviving victims of violent crime who have shown tremendous resiliency and commitment to helping others.

Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez (second from left) with the recipients of the State’s Attorney’s 2015 Victim Service Awards: (from left) Stacy Jurich (Courage Award), Kevin Doyle (Service Award) and Emily Carrell (Advocacy Award).

State’s Attorney Alvarez presented Victim Service Awards to:

  • Stacy Jurich and Natasha McShane (Courage Award).  Stacy and Natasha were viciously attacked in 2010 during a robbery after being struck repeatedly with a baseball bat and suffering life-altering injuries.  Stacy bravely testified during the criminal trial of the defendant charged with the attack, serving as a voice for her friend Natasha as well.  Both young women continue to demonstrate unparalleled strength and courage as they continue to rebuild their lives.
  • Kevin Doyle, President of the Sheilah A. Doyle Foundation (Service Award). Kevin’s mother Sheilah, who worked as a nurse, was brutally murdered during a robbery in 1983 after she left work and returned to her home in the southwest suburbs.  Kevin and his family created the foundation to provide programs and events for families who have experienced the devastating loss of a loved one through violence.
  • Emily Carrell, Schaumburg Police Officer (Advocacy Award).  Emily, who was the victim of a sexual assault in 2008, has worked tirelessly with prosecutors to ensure that important protections are provided to crime victims.  After the assault, Emily became a Schaumburg Police Officer, continuing her commitment to public service and advocacy in the community.

“This year’s honorees are a group of amazing people,” said Alvarez.  “Their brave stories of overcoming personal tragedy with humility, strength and determination are truly inspiring.”

The Victim Service Awards Ceremony was held Tuesday, April 14th at the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge in Chicago.

NAACP Strongly Support the Decision of the U.S. Department of Justice to Investigate the Incidents That Led to the Death of Freddie Gray

Posted by Admin On April - 23 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

NAACP Statement on DOJ’s Decision to Investigate Death of Freddie Gray

BALTIMORE, MD – The U.S. Department of Justice has opened an investigation into the death of a Freddie Gray, a black man who died of spinal injuries he suffered while being transported in a police van.

From Cornell William Brooks, NAACP President & CEO:

“We at the NAACP strongly support the decision of the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the incidents that led to the death of Freddie Gray. A comprehensive review into what caused the severe spinal injuries Mr. Gray suffered during the course of his arrest and subsequent transport in a police van is urgently needed. Our thoughts and prayers are with the friends and family of Mr. Gray as both local and federal law enforcement complete their investigations. Mr. Gray’s death represents another example in a series of tragedies of black lives being lost at the hands of someone in blue uniform.  His death and the others demand that we bring about systemic reform of policing in this country including the passage of the End Racial Profiling Act, the use of body cameras, the deployment of independent investigation bodies and the use of civilian review boards. The people of Baltimore deserve answers, and the NAACP will not rest until justice is served for Mr. Gray and his family.”

Kirk-Feinstein Amendment to Stop Online Advertisers like Backpage.com Passes Senate

Posted by Admin On April - 23 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

Bipartisan SAVE Act Passed 97-2 and Would Make it Unlawful to Knowingly Advertise Sex with a Minor

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) passed their amendment #273, the Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation (SAVE) Act, which aggressively combats Internet sex trafficking and the selling of children under the age of 18 for sex. It is being included in the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (JVTA), S. 178.

The SAVE Act makes it it a crime for a person, such as the owner of a website, to knowingly advertise a commercial sex act with a minor. Websites like Backpage.com provide a platform for this type of sex trafficking advertising, earning more than $30 million a year from their illicit ads, and ultimately contribute to the selling and exploitation of minors.

“Freedom on the Internet does not apply to criminals who enslave and sell young girls for sex,” Senator Kirk said. “Those who knowingly advertise minors for sex deserve to be behind bars – not free to continue to profit from the sale of our children. This commonsense legislation protects the most vulnerable members of our society.”

“Three out of four underage sex trafficking victims are sold over the Internet. We can’t stop the exploitation of these young victims, many as young as 12, 13 and 14 years old, without stopping the Internet purveyors,” said Senator Feinstein. “Owners of websites like Backpage.com are profiting off the sexual exploitation of children, plain and simple. They would be less likely to turn a blind eye to these insidious ads if they could be prosecuted for them.”

“Today, the U.S. Senate passed the SAVE Act, which I authored, and which passed the House unanimously in January. For too long, the federal government hasn’t led in the effort to combat the spread of sex trafficking, but today, we change the status quo. I commend my friends Sen. Kirk and Sen. Feinstein for sponsoring this critical piece of bipartisan legislation and I look forward to final passage of this bill,” said Representative Ann Wagner (R-Mo.-02), sponsor of the companion House legislation which passed the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this year.

State Rep. Ken Dunkin Assigned to Budget Oversight Panel

Posted by Admin On April - 23 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

Dunkin to Review Rauner’s Cuts as Member of House Budget Oversight Panel

SPRINGFIELD, IL – Illinois State Rep. Ken Dunkin, D-Chicago, will closely examine the justification for budget cuts and the impact of service reductions recently enacted by Gov. Bruce Rauner as a member of a new budgetary oversight panel. Dunkin and fellow members of the bipartisan panel are tasked with reviewing budget lines recently deemed by the governor to be non-essential spending and assessing their impact on middle-class families.

“The governor’s recent budget cuts have resulted in the termination of essential state services that provide for vulnerable individuals and working families alike,” Dunkin said. “I have consistently stated my belief that we need a more balanced approach that cuts truly wasteful spending while creating new sources of revenue to protect the services that families in our communities depend on, and I plan to use my seat on this committee to ensure the governor is accountable to the people he serves.”

Dunkin, who chairs the House Appropriations-Higher Education Committee, will serve as a member of the newly created House Budget Oversight Panel. The panel will closely examine budget cuts ordered by the governor, including the suspension of $26 million for autism programs, early after-school teen mentoring and other services for low-income and at-risk communities ordered over the Easter weekend. Dunkin will call on fellow legislators to review not only the financial impact of these cuts, but the human impact of eliminating important services.

“The General Assembly recently gave the governor sweeping powers to deal with Illinois’ budget challenges,” Dunkin said. “While we didn’t all agree on the decision to grant these powers, we can all appreciate the need to closely monitor his actions and making sure he is doing what’s in the best interest of all Illinoisans.”

State Senator Collins Co-Sponsors Measure to Restore Critical Social Services

Posted by Admin On April - 23 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

Senate approves legislation reinstating Rauner’s “Good Friday” cuts

SPRINGFIELD, IL – Illinois State Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-Chicago 16th) is proud to cosponsor legislation that would restore funding for essential social services, including help for families living with autism and payment for burying those whose loved ones cannot afford the expense. Yesterday, the Senate approved the legislation, which was drafted in response to the Rauner administration’s claim that a previous budget agreement fell $26 million short.

“This is the right way to negotiate a budget and ensure vulnerable individuals and their families continue to receive the assistance they need,” Collins said. “Cancelling grants with no notice and no transition plan was the wrong way, and I’m pleased that we are one step closer to reinstating this critical funding and taking a responsible approach to the budget.”

In late March, the General Assembly passed a compromise plan to revive vital programs and services, such as child care assistance, that had run out of money. The legislation relied on reallocating excess money from special-purpose state funds, plus a 2.25 percent across-the-board cut to most types of state spending. Collins and many of her colleagues understood this measure to be a comprehensive solution to the immediate shortfall, yet one week later, the governor’s office abruptly announced the suspension of an additional $26 million in funding for autism services, HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention, epilepsy treatment, programming for at-risk teens and burial expenses for the poor, among other areas.

“I will continue to advocate for solutions such as closing corporate tax loopholes and strengthening our tax base by investing in programs that break the cycle of poverty, and I will oppose cuts that reconcile the numbers on a short-term balance sheet but do long-term, irreparable damage to communities,” Collins said. “The legislation I co-sponsored will provide needed services and peace-of-mind for many residents, and I hope it also sends a signal that we will negotiate in good faith but will not accept a budget balanced on the backs of the disadvantaged.”

Senate Bill 274 now goes to the House for its consideration.

State’s Attorney Alvarez Announces Sweeping Reforms to Cook County Drug Policies

Posted by Admin On April - 23 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

New Initiative Designed to Address Drug Epidemic as a Public Health Issue

Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez  announced the implementation of a first-of-its-kind drug policy in Cook County that will seek to keep nonviolent low level repeat drug offenders out of the criminal justice system and steer more individuals to treatment rather than traditional prosecution at the front end of the system.

Under the new policy, the State’s Attorney’s Office will no longer prosecute most cases of misdemeanor cannabis possession and will divert Class 4 felony cannabis possession and other Class 4 controlled substance offenders to alternative programs, including a newly created drug deferred prosecution program.  In addition, the State’s Attorney’s Office will lead the creation of a street-level diversion program for juveniles that will refer low-level juvenile drug offenders to community-based organizations for drug education and mentorship.

The groundbreaking policy changes are the result of an in-depth analysis conducted by the State’s Attorney’s Office over the last year that examined and evaluated the screening and prosecution of drug cases as well as cost effectiveness and system outcomes.  The review also included evaluation of the drug policies of other major prosecutors’ offices around the country.

“The methods in which we are handling low level drug cases here in Cook County are simply not working.  Under our current policies and practices, we continue to see the same individuals revolving in and out of our criminal justice system with no meaningful impact or outcome and at a significant cost to taxpayers,” Alvarez said.

“While our financial resources are shrinking in Cook County, violent crime is not.  These policy changes will enable us to reallocate our resources away from offenders who are non-violent and have a drug addiction toward fighting violent crime such as drug trafficking, illegal guns and gangs.”

In 2014, Class 4 felony drug possession cases accounted for close to 25 percent or 10,000 of the nearly 40,000 felony cases that were handled by the State’s Attorney’s Office.  In addition to that number, there were more than 15,000 misdemeanor possession of cannabis cases that came into the system last year.

Under the first component of the new policy, the State’s Attorney’s Office will no longer proceed with misdemeanor charges for possession of under 30 grams of cannabis for individuals who have less than three arrests or municipal citations for similar charges.

Individuals with three or more arrests or citations for these charges will be referred to the State’s Attorney’s existing Drug School Program and will have their case dismissed once the requirements of that program are met.

Under the second element of the policy, all offenders charged with Class 4 felony charges of Possession of a Controlled Substance or Possession of Cannabis, except for those with significant violence in their criminal backgrounds, will be routed to an alternative prosecution program including the newly created Drug Deferred Prosecution Program (DDPP).

The DDPP Program is specifically designed for low-level repeat drug offenders that fall within the Class 4 felony drug possession range and will link these offenders with treatment and other social services.  Charges eligible for this program will not only include cannabis possession, but also Class 4 felony possession of other recreational drugs such as heroin and cocaine.  And in an effort to target offenders just entering the criminal justice system, defendants will be identified for the program at bond court, which is the earliest stage that the State’s Attorney’s Office comes into contact with these cases.

As part of the policy initiative, State’s Attorney Alvarez also announced that her office will formalize what has been an ongoing policy of not proceeding with charges against juvenile offenders for the possession of under 30 grams of cannabis and those who have fewer than three arrests or police contacts for similar charges.  Instead, the State’s Attorney’s Office will work closely with the Chicago Police Department and community-based organizations to create and implement a juvenile-specific version of Seattle’s successful Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, or LEAD, program.

This street-level diversion program will seek to refer juvenile low-level drug offenders to a community-based organization for drug education and mentorship.  Instead of exposing the offender to the juvenile court system, the program will provide them with a source of support and counseling within their own communities.

“I believe that these policy changes will be crucial in addressing the drug epidemic here in Cook County as a public health issue by ensuring that low-level drug offenders will be kept out of the system and provided with linkage to necessary treatment and services,” Alvarez said.

“With the implementation of this new policy, I firmly believe that we are in the position to create a sea change in Cook County’s approach to dealing with low level drug crimes and non-violent repeat drug offenders.”

Draft Biden 2016 To Attend South Carolina Democratic Convention

Posted by Admin On April - 23 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

Organization efforts moving forward in South Carolina

Draft Biden 2016’s executive director, Will Pierce, will be attending the South Carolina Democratic Convention this upcoming Saturday, April 25, as well as the Jefferson-Jackson dinner the night before. Draft Biden 2016 is organized to draft the Vice President into the 2016 Presidential race.

“I’m thrilled to attend and to meet some of our South Carolina supporters in person,” Pierce said. “The groundswell of support we’re seeing for the Vice President is beyond encouraging.”

South Carolina is one of the three key states Draft Biden 2016 is concentrating efforts on. They plan to open field offices in each state and place a team on the ground to organize volunteer mobilization and voter outreach.

“We’ve hit the ground running building up support in these key states and now it’s just a matter of plugging in the various pieces,” Pierce continued. “It’s hard to overestimate how important South Carolina is to our efforts. We really want to build a great structure for the Vice President there.”

The South Carolina Democratic Convention will be held at the Columbia Metropolitan Center in Columbia on April 25. The Jefferson-Jackson dinner is also at the Columbia Metropolitan Center on April 24. The South Carolina primary for the 2016 Democratic nomination is tentatively scheduled for February 13, 2016.

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