Archive for October, 2015
President Barack Obama’s Statement on Passing of Budget:
I applaud the Democrats and Republicans who came together this morning to pass a responsible, long-term budget agreement that reflects our values, grows our economy and creates jobs.
This agreement will strengthen the middle class by investing in education, job training, and basic research. It will keep us safe by investing in our national security. It protects our seniors by avoiding harmful cuts to Medicare and Social Security. It is paid for in a responsible, balanced way – in part with a measure to ensure that partnerships like hedge funds pay what they owe in taxes just like everybody else. It locks in two years of funding and should help break the cycle of shutdowns and manufactured crises that have harmed our economy.
This agreement is a reminder that Washington can still choose to help, rather than hinder, America’s progress, and I look forward to signing it into law as soon as it reaches my desk. After that, Congress should build on this by getting to work on spending bills that invest in America’s priorities without getting sidetracked by ideological provisions that have no place in America’s budget process. If we can do that, we’ll help our workers and businesses keep growing the economy and building an America full of opportunity for all.
Juvenile Justice Initiative and ACLU Officials to Speak Following “Direct from Death Row” Performance
Post-show discussion will follow the 7:30 PM performance
CHICAGO, IL – Raven Theatre will welcome Elizabeth Clarke, founder and President of the Juvenile Justice Initiative and one of its board members, Khadine Bennett, staff attorney and Legislative Counsel with the ACLU of Illinois, when they visit the theater to lead a discussion of its critically acclaimed Direct from Death Row The Scottsboro Boys following the November 7th performance of the play. The two will join cast members and director Michael Menendian in a talk about the legal cases depicted in Mark Stein’s historical play and those cases’ significance to the continuing struggle for racial justice and reform of our country’s juvenile justice system.
The Juvenile Justice Initiative, based in Evanston, is a statewide non-profit advocacy organization with a mission to transform the juvenile justice system by reducing reliance on confinement, enhancing fairness for all youth, and developing a comprehensive continuum of community-based resources throughout the state. The American Civil Liberties Union is a nonpartisan, non-profit organization whose stated mission is “to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country .
Playwright Mark Stein’s play with music and dance, a satirical retelling of the true story of nine African-American teenagers falsely convicted in 1931 of raping two white women on a train in Alabama, will be performed by an all-African-American cast of nine actors. It is directed by Raven Theatre Company co-founder and co-Artistic Director Michael Menendian, with Frederick Harris providing musical direction for the score by Harley White Jr. Kathleen Dennis is choreographer. The production began performances Wednesday, September 16 and November 14, 2015. Tickets are on sale now at www.raventheatre.com or by calling 773-338-2177.
Following its official opening on September 22, 2015, Direct from Death Row The Scottsboro Boys received rave reviews from Chicago’s critical community. The Chicago Tribune, awarding the play four stars, lauded the production’s “supremely gifted and compelling young ensemble.” Writing for the Chicago Sun-Times, Hedy Weiss said “It’s a stunner.” Eight other outlets rated the show “Highly Recommended” as well.
The cast of six men and three women boasts extensive credits from companies throughout the Chicago theatre community and all but one of the performers play multiple roles. Kevin Patterson plays Haywood Patterson and Andrew Malone plays the defendant Charlie Weems as well as the attorney Sam Liebowitz. Breon Arzell, who was in The Hypocrites’ All Our Tragic this summer, plays the accused Willie Roberson and also attorney Joe Brodsky. Semaj Miller, producing director of Dream Fierce Productions, is both the “Scottsboro Boy” Olen Montgomery and General Knight. Brandon Greenhouse, an actor with credits at American Players Theatre who also appeared in Eclipse Theatre Company’s Intimate Apparel, is Andy Wright and NAACP leader Walter White. Tamarus Harvell, who performed in 2014’s The Trials of Moses Fleetwod Walker at Black Ensemble Theatre and was also seen in Raven’s A Soldier’s Play, plays the accused Clarence Norris as well as Judge Horton and the Prosecutor.
The women in the cast play the youngest three “boys,” the women they were accused of attacking and some of the boys’ mothers. They include Katrina D. Richard, who appeared in Black Ensemble Theater’s Chicago’s Golden Soul who plays Eugene Williams, Victoria, Old Victoria and a mother. Charli Williams, whose Chicago stage credits include El Stories and whose film credits include Grindhouse and Stop-Loss is Leroy Wright and a mother. Anna Dauzvardis, a 2014 graduate of Loyola University’s theatre program, is Ozie Powell, Ruby Bates and a mother.
Longtime Raven designer Ray Toler, who on June 8th won a Jeff Award for his scenic design of Raven’s Vieux Carré, has designed the set for Direct from Death Row The Scottsboro Boys, with properties design and set dressing by Mary O’Dowd. Sarah Jo White created the costumes and masks have been designed by David Knezz. Diane D. Fairchild is Lighting Designer and Joe Court is Sound Designer.
Not to be confused with the musical The Scottsboro Boys, which ran on Broadway in late 2010, Direct from Death Row The Scottsboro Boys is a play by Mark Stein with songs by Harley White Jr. that premiered at River Stage in Sacramento, California and enjoyed a subsequent production at the Fountain Theatre in Los Angeles in fall of 2002.
Raven Theatre is located at 6157 N. Clark St., Chicago. There are a limited number of free parking spaces available in the parking lot adjacent to the theatre, and free on-street parking is available nearby.
Direct from Death Row The Scottsboro Boys
(An Evening of Vaudeville and Sorrow)
By Mark Stein, Music and Lyrics by Harley White Jr.
Directed by Michael Menendian
Music Direction by Frederick Harris, Choreography by Kathleen Dennis
All performances on Raven’s East Stage
6157 N. Clark St. (at Granville), Chicago
Nearest El station Granville Red Line, Buses: #21 (Clark), #36 (Broadway), #151 (Sheridan), #155 (Devon), #64 (Peterson).
Opening Night Tuesday, September 22, 2015 at 7:30 pm
Runs September 25 – November 14, 2015
Thursdays – Saturdays at 7:30 pm. Sundays at 3 pm.
General admission $42.00, seniors $37.00 ($3.00 discount if ordered online in advance), students, teachers and military $18.00 ($1.00 discount if ordered online in advance)
Groups of 10 or more are $21.00 for Thursday and Friday performances and $25.00 for Saturday and Sunday performances. Call 773-338-2177 to inquire about groups. Daytime performances for school groups are available on request.
Changes underway to report the first Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) scores
SPRINGFIELD, IL — The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) continues to enhance its Report Card with new metrics and features available this year that show a more complete picture of school climate and students’ progress toward college and career readiness.
“Illinois’ award-winning Report Card is a model for other states to provide in-depth, meaningful data about school learning environments in an easily accessible format,” said State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith, Ph.D. “It’s a valuable tool that helps parents and community members understand and evaluate a school’s landscape, climate, academic performance, strengths, and opportunities.”
The 2015 Report Card at www.illinoisreportcard.com currently includes information about postsecondary enrollment, freshmen on track, principal turnover, teacher retention, the Illinois 5Essentials Survey, and district-level financial information.
Report Card data involving student academic growth and achievement on the state assessment is not yet available as Illinois awaits district-, school-, and student-level results for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test. The Report Card will be updated with district- and school-level data later this school year.
The 2015 Report Card is also available to the media at ftp://ftp.isbe.net/schoolreportcard.
In addition to enhanced returning features, this year’s Report Card includes the following new metrics and features:
- Percentage of Eighth Graders Passing Algebra I: This metric reports the percentage of students who have passed Algebra I by eighth grade. Courses taken during any summer session are NOT included in this calculation. A student enrolled at any Illinois public school on or before Sept. 30, 2014, and on or after May 1, 2015, is assigned to the last district enrolled for the school year. This metric, as required by Public Act 097-0671, provides a more detailed look at students’ math comprehension before they enter high school.
- Enhanced Educator Data: This feature reflects data gathered from ISBE’s Employment Information System (EIS). Several educator characteristics are now viewable on the Report Card in new displays, including teacher demographics, teacher retention, pupil-teacher ratio, teacher education, teacher salary, principal turnover, pupil-administrator ratio, administrator salary, and pupil-certified staff ratio. This is the first year the Report Card will offer completed educator data from the 2013 and 2014 school years. This metric was implemented in response to Section 10-17 a (2) (E) of the School Code (105 ILCS 5/10-17a).
- Health and Wellness Metric (Coming Soon): This metric, which will be updated on the Report Card site later this year, will report the average number of days that each student attends physical education class per week. The metric is in response to the Enhance Physical Education Task Force, which recommends enhancing physical education to increase student wellness, and Section 10-17a (2) (B) of the School Code (105 ILCS 5/10-17a).
ISBE staff is also modifying how the Report Card will display results from the first administration of the new PARCC test. Students in grades 3-8 and some high school students took the PARCC test beginning in March 2015. In September, the state released preliminary statewide results for the PARCC test. Once the district- and school-level results are available, parents and community members will be able to see how many students performed at each of the five performance levels in English language arts and math by grade level in elementary school and by course level in high school.
The 2015 PARCC scores are taking additional time to produce as Illinois educators and their colleagues review students’ work to determine the performance level threshold scores. The new PARCC test replaced the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) and the Prairie State Achievement Exam (PSAE). As such, the PARCC results will be represented on the Report Card separately from the previous ISAT and PSAE data. The 2015 PARCC scores provide a new baseline for measuring student progress moving forward. Therefore, the PARCC test results cannot be compared to ISAT and PSAE scores.
Additional information about how to access and interpret PARCC scores on the Report Card will be released later this year. More details about what to expect from the PARCC results are available on ISBE’s new PARCC Place website and posted on the Hot Topics page at www.isbe.net/hot-topics.htm?col2=open#CollapsiblePanel2.
ISBE has produced the School Report Card since 1986 for every public school and district in Illinois. In October 2013, ISBE unveiled a new, redesigned Report Card that provides a more complete picture of student learning and school climate in a user-friendly format. In 2014, the Education Commission of the States (ECS) identified Illinois as having the best report card out of all 50 states and the District of Columbia for its accessible accountability reports.
Thirty-six taxing districts across Cook County have so far submitted requests to Cook County’s No Cash Bid Program for the 2015 program year. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced today that taxing districts participating in Round 1 & Round 2 will be collecting their Certificates of Purchase during the upcoming week.
The No Cash Bid (NCB) program is one of the county’s economic development tools designed to help municipalities and other taxing bodies acquire tax delinquent property for reuse as private development and for tax exempt municipal use. By assisting the municipalities in the process of acquiring certificates of purchase, Cook County government is able to help revive areas with new housing and business ventures. These projects potentially generate new property and sales tax from parcels that were once drains on municipal resources.
The 2015 Program year is on track to surpass 2013 program year in participation levels of both the number of property index numbers (PINs) approved and possibly the number of taxing bodies participating. To date for 2015 program, six municipalities and one new park district have submitted No Cash Bid request packages for the first time and 709 PINs have been requested. Each request package includes an intended use for each PIN.
For the 2015 program year, the commercial redevelopment intended use category accounts for 49 percent of the PINs requested; followed by industrial/commercial redevelopment at 19 percent, and residential at 1 percent of the overall requests. The remaining 20 percent of the No Cash Bid requests are for combined uses and exempt/municipal projects such as water retention/flood control, parking/right-of-way and community space.
The 2015 NCB program has already had two PINs redeemed for roughly $25,000, which is collected and then redistributed to the local taxing districts. The NCB program is currently finalizing the third round of requests this fall in preparation for the 2015 Scavenger Sale.
“Working with local units of government on economic development initiatives is a key function of Cook County government and I am pleased to see such a dramatic increase in the number of agencies taking advantage of the No Cash Bid program,” Preckwinkle said. “These redevelopment projects provide value to their communities while also returning property to the tax rolls.”
“The No Cash Bid program is one of the best tools that Cook County has to partner with local municipalities to encourage economic development and address foreclosures in our communities,” said Cook County Commissioner Deborah Sims, 5th District. “We’ve worked hard over the past several years to make participating in the program even easier and I’m grateful to see that our efforts are paying off.”
Highlights from a few new participants in the 2015 No Cash Bid program include:
• Village of Chicago Ridge – One PIN for residential redevelopment.
• Village of Flossmoor – Located within a Tax Increment Financing District (TIF) in the southwest area of the Village, four PINs, along with other vacant land parcels recently acquired, will be used to promote the overall commercial redevelopment of more than 80 acres. Currently, Meijer is constructing one of its superstores, which includes a gas station and convenience store, and will work with the Village to fill the four to five outlots with restaurants. The requested PINs are intended for compatible commercial/retail businesses.
• Village of Wheeling – In order to assist in the commercial and residential development of nearby parcels, the Village requests overgrown vacant land parcels which contain a creek in need of maintenance – an area for which local police receive many complaints. Portions of the five PINs would be used for storm water management along with possibly serving as an entryway park with benches and other amenities which would create usable open space and a connection to the local park.
Additional parking may also be put in place on the requested parcels in order to increase the viability of the commercial and residential redevelopment of the adjacent lots.
About the Cook County No Cash Bid program
• The Cook County No Cash Bid program is an economic development tool designed to assist municipalities and other taxing districts in acquiring tax delinquent property to reuse for private development and tax reactivation or for tax-exempt municipal use.
• By assisting the governments in acquiring Certificates of Purchase, Cook County government is able to help revive areas with new housing and business ventures.
• No Cash Bid projects generate new property tax and sales tax from projects that once had been a drain on municipal resources. Requests to secure land for tax-exempt projects can also provide greatly needed infrastructure for storm-water management, traffic and right-of-way management.
• Many of the County’s current Neighborhood Stabilization Program homes were built on land acquired through this program. More than half of the 135 municipalities in Cook County have participated in this process.
Attorney General Madigan Reminds Families to Check Sex Offender Registry to Plan Safe Trick-Or-Treat Routes
CHICAGO, IL— As Halloween approaches, Attorney General Lisa Madigan reminded parents to check the state’s sex offender registry and with their local law enforcement agency before determining trick-or-treat routes for their children.
“I encourage families to check the registry before they head out on Halloween to help them plan safe trick-or-treating routes for their children,” Madigan said.
Madigan noted that Illinois law prohibits all child sex offenders from distributing candy or others items to children on Halloween. Sex offenders on parole, mandatory supervised release and probation may have other conditions imposed upon them to protect the public. They may be prohibited from having their porch lights on and from leaving their homes, except for verified work purposes.
In advance of Halloween, Madigan’s office conducted compliance checks on sexually violent persons as part of her Illinois Sex Offender Registry Team (I-SORT). The compliance checks verify that offenders actually live where they claim to so that the sex offender registry continues to serve as a useful tool for parents. As of October 2015, there were more than 28,500 registered sex offenders in Illinois.
Madigan created the Illinois Sex Offender Registry Team (I-SORT) in 2003 and launched a statewide public awareness campaign to educate Illinoisans about the registry and the information available on the site. Madigan’s office also established a toll-free hotline – 1-888-41-ISORT – which the public and law enforcement can call with questions and with tips about non-compliant sex offenders.
Chicago Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression Responds to Op-Ed: FBI Attacks on Black Lives Matter
James Comey, Director of the FBI has gone on record against the Black Lives Matter movement and all mass protest against police crimes.
In a New York Times editorial (Oct. 27, 2015) it is stated: “In a speech at the University of Chicago Law School on Friday, Mr. Comey said that heightened scrutiny of police behavior – and fear of appearing in ‘viral videos’ – was leading officers to avoid confrontations with suspects. This, he said, may have contributed to an increase in crime.” In other words reporting police crimes inhibits police performance, increases crime and therefore undermines public safety. Or to be more blunt this is a thinly disguised policy statement that implies that police brutalizing and murdering Black people is a necessary component of law enforcement.
We appreciate this ruthless formulation coming honestly from the Director of the FBI, and from an agency of government that has historically spearheaded racist and political repression in these United States of North America, ever since it was founded by J.Edgar Hoover.
The New York Times (Oct. 28, 2015) has also released a lengthy investigative report showing, after reviewing several thousand traffic stops and years of arrests data, that the police pulled over Black people at a rate far out of proportion to their share of the local population. Add to this the almost daily rate of a Black persons being killed by the police and we see clearly that Black people are targeted. We have no doubt that Comey also sees this. The problem is he thinks that is what the police should be doing, constitutional and human rights not withstanding.
When President Obama, Comey’s political boss, spoke to the International Association of Chiefs of Police Conference (IACP) in Chicago on Tuesday did he address this issue? No. What he said is too often police are “scapegoated” for broader failures of society and the criminal justice system, with many in law enforcement feeling under siege and not given the benefit of the doubt by the Black Lives Matter movement. President Obama was equivocal at best, he did not say to the IACP that Black Lives Matter and this is precisely the group he should of said this to.
Frank Chapman 312-513-3795 email: firstname.lastname@example.org or
Ted Pearson 312-927-2689 email: email@example.com
Don’t let the night get scary – keep the party off the road
CHICAGO, IL – The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and the Illinois State Police (ISP) issued this simple message to Halloween revelers this weekend: Keep the party off the road. Even the best disguise won’t make you invisible to law enforcement cracking down on drunk drivers and seat belt law violators throughout the weekend.
Joining ISP will be local law enforcement throughout Illinois to pull over and arrest impaired drivers as part of the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign. Police will have zero tolerance for impaired drivers.
“The scariest part of Halloween is not the spooky costumes and scary pranks, it’s the alcohol- and drug-impaired drivers,” said IDOT Director of Traffic Safety Jared Thornley. “All too often, partygoers don’t plan ahead and choose to drive impaired, but a costume can’t disguise drunk driving. Planning for a safe ride home should be part of everyone’s party preparations.”
Between 2010 and 2014 in Illinois, 16 people lost their lives and 1,474 were injured in motor vehicle crashes on Halloween. Five of those fatalities were a result of crashes that involved alcohol.
“The ISP would like for everyone to have a safe and enjoyable Halloween weekend,” said ISP Colonel Tad Williams. “If your Halloween celebration includes alcohol, remember to celebrate responsibly and designate a driver. Motorists are also reminded to watch their speed, limit distractions, and buckle up on their way to and from the celebration.”
Illinois Motor Vehicle Fatalities with Alcohol Involvement
Occurring on Halloween*
Percent Involving Alcohol
*October 31, midnight -11:59 p.m.
**Crashes involving at least one driver with a blood alcohol content of 0.01 or greater.
Drivers who fail to plan ahead before drinking can turn the roads into a real-life horror show. Here are a few simple tips to avoid an impaired driving nightmare:
- Plan a safe way home before the festivities begin.
Designate a sober driver.
- Save the number to the local taxi company in your phone.
Take public transportation.
Use your community’s Sober Rides program, where available.
If you see a drunk driver on the road, contact police as soon as it is safe to do so.
The Halloween crackdown is part of the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over and Click It or Ticket programs funded with federal traffic safety dollars, administered by the Illinois Department of Transportation. Visit our website or follow us on social media for more information on IDOT’s traffic safety efforts.
Letters to Editors
CHICAGO, IL – The Chicago City Council passed Mayor Emanuel’s 2016 budget by a vote of 36-14. The 2016 budget contains regressive revenue solutions such as a garbage collection fee, privatization, and an unequitable property tax increase instead of the much needed structural reforms that force Wall Street and LaSalle Street to pay their fair share.
The budget passed today does not incorporate the feedback of residents who spoke during the public budget hearings. Mayor Emanuel also chose not to listen to numerous Aldermen. On Monday, with only one exception, each of the budget amendments put forward by the Chicago Progressive Caucus were tabled. The Progressive Caucus amendments would have generated millions in revenue through TIF reforms and forcing the wealthy to pay their fair share instead of squeezing neighborhood residents.
Following the budget vote, Amisha Patel, Executive Director of Grassroots Collaborative, stated, “Rahm Emanuel chose to push a massive property tax increase onto Chicago working families instead of pursuing a myriad of solutions that would have shifted the greatest burden to those most able to pay. Chicago should recover hundreds of millions of dollars that we have handed over to Wall Street banks as cities like Houston have done. The City could have insourced pension fund management and other financial services instead of privatizing more clinics in Black and Brown neighborhoods. It’s time for the Mayor to choose working families, not Wall Street.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Kirk Again Asks Attorney General Lynch to Investigate Web Site Advertising Sex
WASHINGTON, IL – After a Streamwood, Ill., man was arrested for using Backpage.com to engage in the sex-trafficking of a 15-year-old girl, Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) sent a letter sent to Attorney General Loretta Lynch reiterating his call for the Department of Justice to pursue Backpage.com. A story from today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch is below.
by Chuck Raasch
Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk is again asking the Justice Department to investigate the Internet site, Backpage.com, days after Chicago police arrested a 41-year-old man for involuntary sexual servitude after allegedly offering sex with a 15-year-old girl in advertising on the site.
“The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) can no longer ignore the role Backpage plays in facilitating child prostitution,” Kirk said in a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
It is the second time in two months that Kirk, R-Ill., has asked the Justice Department to investigate. In August, he, Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin, and other members of Congress wrote to Attorney General Loretta Lynch asking for an investigation of the site. That letter pointed out that Justice had successfully prosecuted another Internet site for advertising sex with minors.
The Justice Department last month acknowledged receiving the earlier letter but did not indicate it was looking into Backpage.
“The Department shares your grave concern about the use of websites to facilitate the prostitution of children, and is committed to using all available tools to bring to justice those who further the sexual exploitation of children,” Assistant Attorney General Peter Kadzik wrote then.
But Kadzik said each prosecution must be investigated separately, and he gave no indication that Justice was doing that with Backpage.
Justice Department officials did not immediately respond to the new letter sent Tuesday by Kirk.
The Illinois senator argued in the new letter to Lynch that the news of the arrest over the weekend meant that “the time has come for your DOJ to take action against Backpage and take seriously President Obama’s statements that sex trafficking is the modern equivalent of slavery.”
Attempts to reach a lawyer for Backpage were unsuccessful Tuesday afternoon.
Backpage lawyer Liz McDougall has previously told the Post-Dispatch that sex trafficking is “Internet wide” and “not restricted to or caused by Backpage.”
In 2012, in a guest editorial in the Seattle Times, McDougall wrote that “to stop human trafficking online, you have to fight it online. To fight it online, you have to be online. And you need allies online.”
Wagner and Kirk earlier this year sponsored legislation signed into law that protects victims of sex trafficking and bans advertising of sex with minors. The two had also earlier written former Attorney General Eric Holder asking him to investigate.