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Archive for February 11th, 2016

Justice Department Files Lawsuit to Bring Constitutional Policing to Ferguson, Missouri

Posted by Admin On February - 11 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch announced that the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the city of Ferguson, Missouri, alleging a pattern or practice of law enforcement conduct that violates the First, Fourth and 14th Amendments of the Constitution and federal civil rights laws.

“Today, the Department of Justice is filing a lawsuit against the city of Ferguson, Missouri, alleging a pattern or practice of law enforcement conduct that violates the Constitution and federal civil rights laws,” said Attorney General Lynch.  “The residents of Ferguson have waited nearly a year for their city to adopt an agreement that would protect their rights and keep them safe.  They have waited nearly a year for their police department to accept rules that would ensure their constitutional rights and that thousands of other police departments follow every day.  They have waited nearly a year for their municipal courts to commit to basic, reasonable rules and standards.  But residents of Ferguson have suffered the deprivation of their constitutional rights – the rights guaranteed to all Americans – for decades.  They have waited decades for justice.  They should not be forced to wait any longer.”

“Our investigation found that Ferguson’s policing and municipal court practices violate the Constitution, erode trust and undermine public safety,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.  “As shown by our lawsuit today, the Justice Department will continue to vigorously enforce the law to ensure that Ferguson implements long-overdue reforms necessary to create constitutional, effective and accountable policing.  Ferguson residents and police officers deserve a law enforcement system that productively and fairly serves the entire community.”

The lawsuit, filed pursuant to Section 14141 of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI), alleges that the city of Ferguson, through its police department and municipal court:

  • conducts stops, searches and arrests without legal justification, and uses excessive force, in violation of the Fourth Amendment;
  • interferes with the right to free expression in violation of the First Amendment;
  • prosecutes and resolves municipal charges in a manner that violates due process and equal protection guaranteed by the 14th Amendment; and
  • engages in discriminatory law enforcement conduct against African Americans in violation of the 14th Amendment and federal statutory law.

The lawsuit follows a comprehensive investigation of Ferguson’s police department and municipal court conducted by the Civil Rights Division.  In March 2015, the department detailed its investigative findings in a 104-page report.  The department found that Ferguson’s focus on generating revenue over public safety, together with racial bias, has a profound effect on Ferguson’s police and court practices, resulting in conduct that routinely violates the Constitution and federal civil rights laws.

The complaint alleges that from October 2012 to October 2014, African Americans were more than twice as likely to be searched, to receive a citation or to be arrested, than other stopped individuals.  Of all incidents from 2010 to August 2014, African Americans account for 88 percent of all incidents in which a Ferguson police officer reported using force.  For municipal offenses where Ferguson police officers have a high degree of discretion in charging, African Americans were again disproportionately represented as compared to their relative representation in Ferguson.  While African Americans make up 67 percent of the Ferguson’s population, they make up 95 percent of manner of walking in roadway charges; 94 percent of failure to comply charges; 92 percent of resisting arrest charges; 92 percent of disturbing the peace charges; and 89 percent of failure to obey charges.  The department also found that Ferguson’s law enforcement conduct has created a lack of trust between the police department and the community members it serves, especially African Americans.

On Feb. 9, the Ferguson City Council voted to reject the consent decree that the city’s negotiating team had negotiated.  Unable to reach a mutually agreed upon court-enforceable settlement to remedy the department’s findings, the lawsuit was filed today in order to seek declaratory and injunctive relief to remedy the unlawful conduct identified by the department’s investigation.

This matter was investigated by attorneys from the Civil Rights Division.

 

From Slave Ships to ‘Black Lives Matter’: Nation’s Newest Smithsonian to Tell Story of African Americans

Posted by Admin On February - 11 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS
By Edna Kane-Williams

In 1955, Mamie Till, the grieving mother of Emmett Till, said she wanted the world to see what had been done to her son.

Sixty years later, the glass-topped coffin that displayed the mutilated body of the 14-year-old victim of racial hatred is among thousands of compelling artifacts slated for display in the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington.

Anticipation builds as the museum, opening in September 2016, prepares to receive visitors from around the world. It will tell the story of American history like never before – from an African-American perspective.

When the doors open, the three-floor, 400,000-square-foot facility will not only display ancient artifacts but also showcase more current events and how they fit into the continuum of American history.

“We want to be the place where people come and say, ‘OK, this just happened. What’s the background to this? What preceded this?'” says John Franklin, a museum director. So items from recent occurrences such as the Black Lives Matter campaign and the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March will be included.

The five-acre museum site, located on Constitution Avenue, between the Washington Monument and the National Museum of American History, will be the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African-American life, art, history and culture. Among the exhibits:
* An underground gallery tracing artifacts from a sunken slave ship from the 1500s to the administration of President Barack Obama, America’s first African-American president.
* Slave artifacts, including items that belonged to Harriet Tubman.
* Segregation artifacts, including a railroad car showing Colored-only and White-only quarters.
* Black incarceration, illustrated by a guard tower and a cell from Louisiana’s Angola Prison, formerly a slave facility named for the African country.
* A section called the power of place, illustrating the unique experiences of African Americans in the United States.
* Two performance spaces, including the Oprah Winfrey Theatre, named for the media mogul who gave $21 million to the museum.

 

“Military history, sports history, the history of African-American organizations and institutions – from schools that our ancestors built to colleges and universities that our religious organizations constructed – to the political and social and economic organizations that we’ve created from slavery right up to today” will have their place among the exhibits, Franklin says. “It’s just been very exciting working on this project and seeing a very diverse team come together with all kinds of skills.”

For more than 164 years, people of all ages have traveled to Washington to explore the Smithsonian’s 19 museums, plus the National Zoo. But the new museum will have something for everyone.

In the words of the museum’s founding director Lonnie Bunch, “I want people to realize this is who we are as Americans. I’m not creating an African-American museum just for African Americans.”

Edna Kane-Williams is senior vice president for multicultural leadership at AARP.

Photo Caption:
Among the exhibits in the new National Museum of African American History and Culture is a collection of glass shards and a shotgun shell collected from the gutter outside the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., after the 1963 bombing that killed four young girls.

PHOTO CREDIT: Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

President Obama Addresses the Illinois General Assembly

Posted by Admin On February - 11 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

House Chamber
Illinois State Capitol
Springfield, Illinois

 

President Barack Obama:

 

Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, members of the General Assembly, my fellow Illinoisans:  It’s actually kind of fun to start a speech like that twice in one month.  (Laughter.)

What an incredible privilege it is to address this chamber. And to Governor Rauner, Senator Durbin, members of Congress, Speaker Madigan, Former Governor Pat Quinn, Mayor Langfelder and the people of Springfield — thank you for such a warm welcome as I come back home.  Thank you.  Thank you so much.  Thank you.  It’s good to be home. Thank you, guys. Thank you.  Thank you. It is great to see so many old friends like John Cullerton and Emil Jones.  I miss you guys.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Miss you!  (Laughter.)

PRESIDENT:  It’s great to be in the State Capitol.  Being here today calls to mind the first time I spoke on the Senate floor, almost 20 years ago.  And I was passionate, idealistic, ready to make a difference.  Just to stand in that magnificent chamber was enough to fill me up with a heightened sense of purpose.

And I probably needed a little dose of reality when I first arrived.  So one day, I rose to speak about a bill.  And I thought I’d made some compelling points, with irrefutable logic. And I was about to sit down, feeling pretty good about myself, when Pate Philip sauntered over to my desk.  Now, there are some young people here, so for those of you who don’t remember, Pate Philip was the Senate Majority Leader at the time. He was a Marine, and big shock of white hair, chomped on a cigar; was so politically incorrect that you don’t even know how to describe it. But he always treated me well.  And he came by and he slapped me on the back, he said, “Kid, that was a pretty good speech.  In fact, I think you changed a lot of minds. But you didn’t change any votes.” Then he singled, and they gaveled, and we got blown out.

So that was my first lesson in humility.  The next came when I presented my own first bill.  It was a simple piece of legislation that would make it a lot easier for Illinois manufacturers to hire graduating community college students.  I didn’t know any serious opposition, so I asked for a vote.  And what I got was a good hazing.  I assume that this custom still exists.

So a senior colleague put the vote on hold to ask, “Could you correctly pronounce your name for me?  I’m having a little trouble with it.”  “Obama,” I said.  “Is that Irish?” he asked.  And being in my early 30s at the time, I was a little cocky — I said, “It will be when I run countywide.”

“That was a good joke,” he said, but he wasn’t amused.  “This bill is still going to die.”

And he went on to complain that my predecessor’s name was easier to pronounce than mine, that I didn’t have cookies at my desk like she did, how would I ever expect to get any votes without having cookies on my desk.  “I definitely urge a no vote,” he said, “whatever your name is.”

And for the next several minutes, the Senate debated on whether I should add an apostrophe to my name for the Irish, or whether the fact that “Obama” ends in a vowel meant I actually belonged to the Italians —  and just how many trees had had to die to print this terrible, miserable bill, anyway.

And I was chastened.  And I said, “If I survive this event, I will be eternally grateful and consider this a highlight of my legal and legislative career.”  And I asked for a vote.  And initially the tote board showed that it was going down, but at the last minute it flipped and my bill passed.  But I was duly reminded that I was a freshman in the minority.  And I want to thank all my former colleagues in both chambers for not letting me forget it.

To be a rookie in the minority party, as I was, is not much fun in any legislature.  We were called “mushrooms” — because we were kept in the dark and fed a lot of manure. But one benefit of being in such a position — not being invited into the meetings where the big deals were being made — is that I had a lot of time to get to know my colleagues.  And many of us were away from our families, and so we became friends.

We went to fish fries together.  We’d go to union halls.  We’d play in golf scrambles.  We had a great bipartisan poker game at the Illinois Manufacturer’s Association.  Boro Relijie would host, and folks like Dave Luechtefeld and Terry Link, others would join in.  We’d eat downstairs — and I can’t say I miss the horseshoes.  But away from the glare of TV, or the tweets, or the GIFs of today’s media, what we discovered was that despite our surface differences — Democrats and Republicans, downstate hog farmers, inner-city African Americans, suburban businesspeople, Latinos from Pilsen or Little Village — despite those differences, we actually had a lot in common.  We cared about our communities.  We cared about our families.  We cared about America.

We fought hard for our positions.  I don’t want to be nostalgic here — we voted against each other all the time.  And party lines held most of the time.  But those relationships, that trust we’d built meant that we came at each debate assuming the best in one another and not the worst.

I was reminiscing with Christine Radogno — we came in in the same class.  And we were on opposite sides of most issues, but I always trusted her and believed that she was a good person. And if we had a bill that we might be able to work together on, it was a pleasure to work with her on.  Or Dave Syverson, who — we worked together on the Public Health and Welfare Committee, and we got some important work done that made a difference in people’s lives.

And we didn’t call each other idiots or fascists who were trying to destroy America.  Because then we’d have to explain why we were playing poker or having a drink with an idiot or a fascist who was trying to destroy America.

And that respect gave us room for progress.  And after I’d served here for six years, my party finally gained the majority. Emil Jones became the President of the Senate.  And by then, I had made some friends across the aisle — like Kirk Dillard, who I believe is here today, and we were able to pass the first serious ethics reform in 25 years.  And working closely with law enforcement, who knew by then that we cared about cops and sheriffs and prosecutors.  And working with folks like John Cullerton, we passed Illinois’ first racial profiling law, which was good for police officers and minority communities.

And because someone like my friend, John Bouman, who worked at the Shriver Center on Poverty Law, helped us build coalitions across the state, including with business, and was able to then reach out to Republicans, we were able to increase tax credits for the working poor and expand health insurance to children in need.

And we wouldn’t bend on our most deeply held principles, but we were willing to forge compromises in pursuit of a larger goal. We were practical when we needed to be.  We could fight like heck on one issue and then shake hands on the next.  Somebody like Jesse White was able to travel around the state and people didn’t even know what party he was necessarily from because he brought so much joy with the tumblers and the work that they were doing.

So I want you to know that this is why I’ve always believed so deeply in a better kind of politics, in part because of what I learned here in this legislature.  Because of what I learned traveling across the state, visiting some of your districts, before I was running statewide, before I was a U.S. senator; learning all the corners of this state — this most-representative of states.  A state of small towns and rich farmland, and the world’s greatest city.  A microcosm of America, where Democrats and Republicans and independents, and good people of every ethnicity and every faith shared certain bedrock values.

I just saw a story the other day showing that if you rank all 50 states across categories like education levels and household incomes, and race and religion, the one state that most closely mirrors America as a whole is Illinois, this state.

And I learned by talking to your constituents that if you were willing to listen, it was possible to bridge a lot of differences.  I learned that most Americans aren’t following the ins and outs of the legislature carefully, but they instinctively know that issues are more complicated than rehearsed sound bites; that they play differently in different parts of the state and in the country.  They understand the difference between realism and idealism; the difference between responsibility and recklessness. They had the maturity to know what can and cannot be compromised, and to admit the possibility that the other side just might have a point.

And it convinced me that if we just approached our national politics the same way the American people approach their daily lives –- at the workplace, at the Little League game; at church or the synagogue — with common sense, and a commitment to fair play and basic courtesy, that there is no problem that we couldn’t solve together.

And that was the vision that guided me when I first ran for the United States Senate.  That’s the vision I shared when I said we are more than just a collection of red states and blue states, but we are the United States of America.  And that vision is why, nine years ago today, on the steps of the Old State Capitol just a few blocks from here, I announced my candidacy for President.

Now, over these nine years, I want you to know my faith in the generosity and the fundamental goodness of the American people has been rewarded and affirmed over and over and over again.  I’ve seen it in the determination of autoworkers who had been laid off but were sure that they could once again be part of a great, iconic Americans industry.  I’ve seen it in the single mom who goes back to school even as she’s working and looking after her kids because she wants a better life for that next generation.  I’ve seen it the vision and risk-taking of small businessmen.  I’ve seen it time and time again in the courage of our troops.

But it’s been noted often by pundits that the tone of our politics hasn’t gotten better since I was inaugurated, in fact it’s gotten worse; that there’s still this yawning gap between the magnitude of our challenges and the smallness of our politics.  Which is why, in my final State of the Union address, and in the one before that, I had to acknowledge that one of my few regrets is my inability to reduce the polarization and meanness in our politics.  I was able to be part of that here and yet couldn’t translate it the way I wanted to into our politics in Washington.

And people ask me why I’ve devoted so much time to this topic.  And I tell them it’s not just because I’m President, and the polarization and the gridlock are frustrating to me.  The fact is we’ve gotten a heck of a lot done these past seven years, despite the gridlock.  We saved the economy from a depression.  We brought back an auto industry from the brink of collapse.  We helped our businesses create 14 million new jobs over the past six years.  We cut the unemployment rate from 10 percent to 4.9 percent.  We covered nearly 18 million more Americans with health insurance.  We ignited a clean energy revolution.  We got bin Laden.  We brought the vast majority of our troops home to their families. We got a lot done.  We’re still getting a lot done.

And our political system helped make these things possible, and the list could go on.  There’s no doubt America is better off today than when I took office. I didn’t want this to be a State of Union speech where we have the standing up and the sitting down. Come on, guys, you know better than that.  No, no, no, I’ve got a serious point to make here.  I’ve got a serious point to make here because this is part of the issue, right?  We have an importation of our politics nationally, and on cable and talk radio, and it seeps into everything.

The point I’m trying to make is I care about fixing our politics not only because I’m the President today, or because some of my initiatives have been blocked by Congress — that happens to every President, happens to every governor, happens to everybody who participates — anybody who participates in a democracy.  You’re not going to get 100 percent of what you want all the time.

The reason this is important to me is, next year I’ll still hold the most important title of all, and that’s the title of citizen.  And as an American citizen, I understand that our progress is not inevitable — our progress has never been inevitable.  It must be fought for, and won by all of us, with the kind of patriotism that our fellow Illinoisan, Adlai Stevenson, once described not as a “short, frenzied outburst of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.”  It requires citizenship and a sense that we are one.

And today that kind of citizenship is threatened by a poisonous political climate that pushes people away from participating in our public life.  It turns folks off.  It discourages them, makes them cynical.  And when that happens, more powerful and extreme voices fill the void.  When that happens, progress stalls.  And that’s how we end up with only a handful of lobbyists setting the agenda.  That’s how we end up with policies that are detached from what working families face every day.  That’s how we end up with the well-connected who publicly demand that government stay out of their business but then whisper in its ear for special treatment.

That’s how our political system gets consumed by small things when we are a people that are called to do great things — to give everybody a shot in a changing economy; to keep America safe and strong in an uncertain world; to repair our climate before it threatens everything we leave for our kids.

So that’s what’s on my mind as I come back to Illinois today.  This is what will be a focus of mine over the course of this year and beyond:  What can we do, all of us, together, to try to make our politics better?  And I speak to both sides on this.  As all of you know, it could be better, and all of you would feel prouder of the work you do if it was better.

So, first, let’s put to rest a couple of myths about our politics.  One is the myth that the problems with our politics are new.  They are not.  American politics has never been particularly gentle or high-minded — especially not during times of great change.

As I mentioned when I visited a mosque in Maryland last week, Thomas Jefferson’s opponent tried to stir things up by suggesting he was a Muslim.  So I’m in good company. But that’s nothing compared to the newspaper which warned that if Jefferson were elected, “murder, robbery, rape, adultery, and incest will be openly taught and practiced.” His Vice President, Aaron Burr, literally killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel.  I don’t even want to tell you what Andrew Jackson’s opponents said about his mamma. Lincoln, himself, was routinely called “weak, wishy-washy,” a “yahoo,” “an unshapely man,” “the obscene ape of Illinois,” and, my favorite — a “facetious pettifogger.”  I don’t know what that means  –but it sounds insulting.

So, comparatively speaking, today is not that bad — as long as you’ve got a thick skin.  As Harold Washington once said:  “Politics ain’t beanbag.”  It’s tough.  And that’s okay.

There’s also the notion sometimes that our politics are broken because politicians are significantly more corrupt or beholden to big money than they used to be.  There’s no doubt that lobbyists still have easier access to the halls of power than the average American.  There’s a lot of work that we need to do to make sure that the system works for ordinary people and not just the well-connected.  That’s true at the federal level; that’s true at the state level.  Folks aren’t entirely wrong when they feel as if the system too often is rigged and does not address their interests.

But, relative to the past, listen, I’m confident we’ve got enough rules and checks to prevent anyone in my Cabinet from siphoning whiskey tax revenue into their own pockets like President Grant’s administration did.  Until FDR went after the ward bosses of Tammany Hall, they controlled judges and politicians as they pleased — patronage, bribery, and money laundering.  It’s not as easy as it was to whip up tens of thousands of phantom votes, whether in Chicago or South Texas.

From the Teapot Dome to Watergate, history tells us we should always be vigilant and demand that our public servants follow the highest ethical standards.  But the truth is that the kind of corruption that is blatant, of the sort that we saw in the past, is much less likely in today’s politics.  And the Justice Department and the media work hard to keep it that way.  And that’s a very good thing.  So we don’t want to romanticize the past and think somehow it’s a difference in the people being elected.

And it also isn’t true that today’s issues are inherently more polarizing than the past.  I remember, we endured four years of Civil War that resulted in hundreds of thousands of dead Americans.  This country was divided on a fundamental question.

Before Pearl Harbor, entering into World War II was a highly charged debate.  The fault lines of Vietnam, the culture wars of the ‘60s — they still echo into our politics a half-century later.

We’ve been arguing since our founding over the proper size and role of government; the meaning of individual freedom and equality; over war and peace, and the best way to give all of our citizens opportunity.  And these are important debates that everybody should join, with all the rigor that a free people require.

My point is, the problem is not that politicians are worse, the problem is not that the issues are tougher.  And so it’s important for us to understand that the situation we find ourselves in today is not somehow unique or hopeless.  We’ve always gone through periods when our democracy seems stuck.  And when that happens, we have to find a new way of doing business.

We’re in one of those moments.  We’ve got to build a better politics — one that’s less of a spectacle and more of a battle of ideas; one that’s less of a business and more of a mission; one that understands the success of the American experiment rests on our willingness to engage all our citizens in this work.

And that starts by acknowledging that we do have a problem. And we all know it.  What’s different today is the nature and the extent of the polarization.  How ideologically divided the parties are is brought about by some of the same long-term trends in our politics and our culture.  The parties themselves have become more homogenous than ever.  A great sorting has taken place that drove Southern conservatives out of the Democratic Party, Northern moderates out of the Republican Party, so you don’t have within each party as much diversity of views.

And you’ve got a fractured media.  Some folks watch FOX News; some folks read the Huffington Post.  And very often, what’s profitable is the most sensational conflict and the most incendiary sound bites.  And we can choose our own facts.  We don’t have a common basis for what’s true and what’s not.  I mean, if I listened to some of these conservative pundits, I wouldn’t vote for me either.  I sound like a scary guy.

You’ve got advocacy groups that, frankly, sometimes benefit from keeping their members agitated as much as possible, assured of the righteousness of their cause.  Unlimited dark money — money that nobody knows where it’s coming from, who’s paying — drowns out ordinary voices.  And far too many of us surrender our voices entirely by choosing not to vote.  And this polarization is pervasive and it seeps into our society to the point where surveys even suggest that many Americans wouldn’t want their kids to date someone from another political party.  Now, some of us don’t want our kids dating, period.  But that’s a losing battle.

But this isn’t just an abstract problem for political scientists.  This has real impact on whether or not we can get things done together.  This has a real impact on whether families are able to support themselves, or whether the homeless are getting shelter on a cold day.  It makes a difference as to the quality of the education that kids are getting.  This is not an abstraction.

But so often, these debates, particularly in Washington but increasingly in state legislatures, become abstractions.  It’s as if there are no people involved, it’s just cardboard cutouts and caricatures of positions.  It encourages the kind of ideological fealty that rejects any compromise as a form of weakness.  And in a big, complicated democracy like ours, if we can’t compromise, by definition, we can’t govern ourselves.

Look, I am a progressive Democrat.  I am proud of that.  I make no bones about it.   I’m going to make another point here.  I believe that people should have access to health care.  I believe they should have access to a good public education.  I believe that workers deserve a higher minimum wage. I believe that collective bargaining is critical to the prospects of the middle class, and that pensions are vital to retirement, as long as they’re funded responsibly.

Hold on a second.  Hold on a second. Sit down, Democrats.  Sit down.  Sit down — just for a second.  I appreciate that, but I want to make this larger point.

I believe we’re judged by how we care for the poor and the vulnerable.  I believe that in order to live up to our ideals, we have to continually fight discrimination in all its forms.  I believe in science, and the science behind things like climate change, and that a transition to cleaner sources of energy will help preserve the planet for future generations.

I believe in a tough, smart foreign policy that says America will never hesitate to protect our people and our allies, but that we should use every element of our power and never rush to war.

Those are the things I believe.  But here’s the point I want to make.  I believe that there are a lot of Republicans who share many of these same values, even though they may disagree with me on the means to achieve them.  I think sometimes my Republican colleagues make constructive points about outdated regulations that may need to be changed, or programs that even though well-intended, didn’t always work the way they were supposed to.

And where I’ve got an opportunity to find some common ground, that doesn’t make me a sellout to my own party.  That applied — well, we’ll talk later, Duncan. This is what happens, everybody starts cherry-picking.  One thing I’ve learned is folks don’t change.

So trying to find common ground doesn’t make me less of a Democrat or less of a progressive.  It means I’m trying to get stuff done.

And the same applies to a Republican who, heaven forbid, might agree with me on a particular issue — or if I said America is great, decided to stand during a State of Union.  It’s not a controversial proposition.  You’re not going to get in trouble.

But the fact that that’s hard to do is a testament to how difficult our politics has become.  Because folks are worried, well, I’m going to get yelled at by you, or this blogger is going to write that, or this talk show host is going to talk about me, and suddenly I’ve got to challenger, and calling me a RINO or a not a real progressive.

So when I hear voices in either party boast of their refusal to compromise as an accomplishment in and of itself, I’m not impressed.  All that does is prevent what most Americans would consider actual accomplishments — like fixing roads, educating kids, passing budgets, cleaning our environment, making our streets safe.

It cuts both ways, guys.  See, suddenly everybody is standing.  This is fascinating to watch. The point is, it cuts both ways.

Our Founders trusted us with the keys to this system of self-government.  Our politics is the place where we try to make this incredible machinery work; where we come together to settle our differences and solve big problems, do big things together that we could not possibly do alone.  And our Founders anchored all this in a visionary Constitution that separates power and demands compromise, precisely to prevent one party, or one wing of a party, or one faction, or some powerful interests from getting 100 percent of its way.

So when either side makes blanket promises to their base that it can’t possibly meet — tax cuts without cuts to services — “everything will be fine, but we won’t spend any money” — war without shared sacrifice — “we’re going to be tough, but don’t worry, it will be fine” — union bashing or corporate bashing without acknowledging that both workers and businesses make our economy run — that kind of politics means that the supporters will be perennially disappointed.  It only adds to folks’ sense that the system is rigged.  It’s one of the reasons why we see these big electoral swings every few years.  It’s why people are so cynical.

Now, I don’t pretend to have all the answers to this.  These trends will not change overnight.  If I did, I would have already done them through an executive action. That was just a joke, guys.  Relax.  A sense of humor is also helpful.

But I do want to offer some steps that we can take that I believe would help reform our institutions and move our system in a way that helps reflect our better selves.  And these aren’t particularly original, but I just want to go ahead and mention them.

First is to take, or at least reduce, some of the corrosive influence of money in our politics.

Now, this year, just over 150 families — 150 families — have spent as much on the presidential race as the rest of America combined.  Today, a couple of billionaires in one state can push their agenda, dump dark money into every state — nobody knows where it’s coming from — mostly used on these dark ads, everybody is kind of dark and the worst picture possible. And there’s some ominous voice talking about how they’re destroying the country.

And they spend this money based on some ideological preference that really is disconnected to the realities of how people live.  They’re not that concerned about the particulars of what’s happening in a union hall in Galesburg, and what folks are going through trying to find a job.  They’re not particularly familiar with what’s happening at a VFW post.  (Phone rings.)  Somebody’s phone is on.   In Carbondale.  They haven’t heard personally from farmers outside of the Quads and what they’re going through.  Those are the voices that should be outweighing a handful of folks with a lot of money.  I’m not saying the folks with a lot of money should have no voice; I’m saying they shouldn’t be able to drown out everybody else’s.

And that’s why I disagree with the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.  I don’t believe that money is speech, or that political spending should have no limits, or that it shouldn’t be disclosed.  I still support a constitutional amendment to set reasonable limits on financial influence in America’s elections.

But amending the Constitution is an extremely challenging and time-consuming process — as it should be.  So we’re going to have to come up with more immediate ways to reduce the influence of money in politics.  There are a lot of good proposals out there, and we have to work to find ones that can gain some bipartisan support — because a handful of families and hidden interests shouldn’t be able to bankroll elections in the greatest democracy on Earth.

The second step towards a better politics is rethinking the way that we draw our congressional districts.  Now, let me point this out — I want to point this out, because this is another case of cherry-picking here.  This tends to be popular in states where Democrats have been drawing the lines among Republicans, and less popular among Republicans where they control drawing the lines. So let’s be very clear here — nobody has got clean hands on this thing.  Nobody has got clean hands on this thing.

The fact is, today technology allows parties in power to precision-draw constituencies so that the opposition’s supporters are packed into as few districts as possible.  That’s why our districts are shaped like earmuffs or spaghetti. It’s also how one party can get more seats even when it gets fewer votes.

And while this gerrymandering may insulate some incumbents from a serious challenge from the other party, it also means that the main thing those incumbents are worried about are challengers from the most extreme voices in their own party.  That’s what’s happened in Congress.  You wonder why Congress doesn’t work?  The House of Representatives there, there may be a handful — less than 10 percent — of districts that are even competitive at this point.  So if you’re a Republican, all you’re worried about is what somebody to your right is saying about you, because you know you’re not going to lose a general election.  Same is true for a lot of Democrats.  So our debates move away from the middle, where most Americans are, towards the far ends of the spectrum.  And that polarizes us further.

Now, this is something we have the power to fix.  And once the next census rolls around and we have the most up-to-date picture of America’s population, we should change the way our districts are drawn.  In America, politicians should not pick their voters; voters should pick their politicians. And this needs to be done across the nation, not just in a select few states.  It should be done everywhere.

Now, the more Americans use their voice and participate, the less captive our politics will be to narrow constituencies.  No matter how much undisclosed money is spent, no matter how many negative ads are run, no matter how unrepresentative a district is drawn, if everybody voted, if a far larger number of people voted, that would overcome in many ways some of these other institutional barriers.  It would make our politics better.

And that’s why a third step towards a better politics is making voting easier, not harder; and modernizing it for the way that we live now.

Now, this shouldn’t be controversial, guys.  You liked the redistricting thing, but not letting people vote.  I should get some applause on that, too.

Listen, three years ago, I set up a bipartisan commission to improve the voting experience in America.  It had the election lawyers from my campaign and from Mitt Romney’s campaign.  They got together outside of the context of immediate politics.  And I actually want to thank this assembly for moving to adopt some of its recommendations.  Thanks to the good work of my dear friend, Senator Don Harmon, and many of you, there’s a new law going into effect this year that will allow Illinoisans to register and vote at the polls on Election Day.  It expands early voting — something that makes it a lot easier for working folks and busy parents to go vote.

Think about it.  If you’re a single mom, and you’ve got to take public transportation to punch a clock, work round the clock, get home, cook dinner on a Tuesday in bad weather — that’s tough.  Why would we want to make it so that she couldn’t do it on a Saturday or a Sunday? How is that advancing our democracy?

So this law will make a difference.  I’m proud of my home state for helping to lead the way.

And we know this works.  In 2012 and 2014, the states with the highest voter turnout all had same-day registration.  So today, I ask every state in America to join us — reduce these barriers to voting.  Make it easier for your constituents to get out and vote.

And I’d encourage this assembly to take the next step.  Senator Manar and Representative Gabel have bills that would automatically register every eligible citizen to vote when they apply for a driver’s license.  That will protect the fundamental right of everybody.  Democrats, Republicans, independents, seniors, folks with disabilities, the men and women of our military — it would make sure that it was easier for them to vote and have their vote counted.

And as one of your constituents, I think you should pass that legislation right away.  I think the Governor should sign it without delay.  Let’s make the Land of Lincoln a leader in voter participation.  That’s something we should be proud to do. Let’s set the pace — encourage other states across the country to follow our lead, making automatic voter registration the new norm across America.

Now, just during the course of this talk, it’s been interesting to watch the dynamics, obviously. In part because so much of our politics now is just designed for short-term, tactical gain.  If you think that having more voters will hurt you on Election Day, then suddenly you’re not interested in participation.  And if you think that the gerrymandering is helping you instead of hurting you, then you’re not for those proposals.

We get trapped in these things.  We know better.  If we were setting up a set of rules ahead of time, and you didn’t know where you stood, which party you were going to be in, if you didn’t have all the data and the poll numbers to tell you what’s going to give you an edge or not, you’d set up a system that was fair.  You’d encourage everybody to be part of it.  That’s what we learned in our civics books.  That’s how it should work.

The fact that we can’t do that, that brings me to my last point, which is, even as we change the way system works, we also have a responsibility to change the way that we, as elected officials and as citizens, work together.  Because this democracy only works when we get both right — when the system is fair, but also when we build a culture that is trying to make it work.

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about something a friend of mine, Deval Patrick, once said to his constituents when he was governor of Massachusetts.  He said, “Insist from us and from each other a modicum of civility as the condition for serving you.”  This is what he told voters.  “Insist on us having a modicum of civility.”

I think that’s something that all of us, as Americans, have to insist from each other.  Our children are watching what we do. They don’t just learn it in school, they learn it by watching us — the way we conduct ourselves, the way we treat each other.  If we lie about each other, they learn it’s okay to lie.  If we make up facts and ignore science, then they just think it’s just their opinion that matters.  If they see us insulting each other like school kids, then they think, well, I guess that’s how people are supposed to behave.  The way we respect — or don’t — each other as citizens will determine whether or not the hard, frustrating, but absolutely necessary work of self-government continues.

I’ve got daughters that are getting older now, and one of the most important things about being a parent I think is them just seeing what you do not when you’re out in public, not when you’re dealing with somebody important, but just how do you do — how do you treat people generally.  And it makes me much more mindful.  I want to live up to their expectations.

And in that same way, I want this democracy to live up to the people’s expectations.  We can’t move forward if all we do is tear each other down.  And the political incentives, as they are today, too often rewards that kind of behavior.  That’s what gets attention.  So it will require some courage just to act the way our parents taught us to act.  It shouldn’t, but in this political environment apparently it does.  We’ve got to insist to do better from each other, for each other.

Rather than reward those who’d disenfranchise any segment of America, we’ve got to insist that everybody arm themselves with information, and facts, and that they vote.  If 99 percent of us voted, it wouldn’t matter how much the 1 percent spends on our elections.

Rather than reward the most extreme voices, or the most divisive language, or who is best at launching schoolyard taunts, we should insist on a higher form of discourse in our common life, one based on empathy and respect, — which does not mean you abandon principle.  It doesn’t mean you’re not tough.

Rather than paint those who disagree with us as motivated by malice, to suggest that any of us lack patriotism — we can insist, as Lincoln did, that we are not enemies, but friends; that our fellow Americans are not only entitled to a different point of view, but that they love this country as much as we do.

Rather than reward a 24/7 media that so often thrives on sensationalism and conflict, we have to stand up and insist, no, reason matters, facts matter; issues are complicated.  When folks just make stuff up, they can’t go unchallenged.  And that’s true for Democrats if you hear a Democratic make something up, and that’s true for a Republican if you see a Republican cross that line.

Rather than accept the notion that compromise is a sellout to one side, we’ve got to insist on the opposite — that it can be a genuine victory that means progress for all sides.  And rather than preventing our kids from dating people in other parties — well, I may have issues about dating, generally –(laughter) — but we can trust that we’ve raised our kids to do the right thing, and to look at the qualities of people’s character, not some label attached to them.

And maybe, most of all, whenever someone begins to grow cynical about our politics, or believes that their actions can’t make a difference or it’s not worth participating in, we’ve got to insist, even against all evidence to the contrary, that in fact they can make a difference.  And in this job of being a citizen of the United States of America, that’s a big deal.  It’s something we should revere and take seriously.

Abraham Lincoln wasn’t always the giant that we think of today.  He lacked formal schooling.  His businesses and his law practices often struggled.  After just one term in Congress, his opposition to the Mexican-American War damaged his reputation so badly he did not run for reelection.  He was denounced as a traitor, a demagogue, an enemy sympathizer.  He returned to his law practice and admitted he was losing interest in politics entirely.

And then something happened that shook his conscience.  Congress effectively overturned the Missouri Compromise, that flawed and fragile law that had prohibited slavery in the North and legalized it in the South, but left the question ultimately unsettled.  And stunned by this news, Lincoln said he’d been roused “as he had never been before” over what it meant for America’s future.

And so, here in Springfield, at the state fair, he got back in the game and he delivered the first of his great anti-slavery speeches to a crowd of thousands.  And over the next six years, even as he lost two more political races, his arguments with Douglas and others shaped the national debate.  That’s when he uttered those brilliant words on the steps of the Old State Capitol that “A house divided against itself cannot stand;” that “this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free.”

He became the first Republican President, and I believe our greatest President.  And through his will and his words and, most of all, his character, he held a nation together and he helped free a people.

And those victories did not solve all of our problems.  He would be attacked at times for the compromises he was prepared to make by abolitionists and folks from his own side.  It would be 100 years more until the law guaranteed African Americans the equal rights that they had been promised.  Even 50 years after that, our march is not yet finished.  But because Lincoln made that decision not to give up, and not to let other voices speak for him, and because he held in his mind the strength of principle but the vision, the ability to understand those who disagreed with him, and showed them respect even as he fought them — because of what he set in motion, generations of free men and women of all races and walks of life have had the chance to choose this country’s course.  What a great gift.  What a great legacy he has bestowed up.

And that’s the thing about America.  We are a constant work of progress.  And our success has never been certain, none of our journey has been preordained.  And there’s always been a gap between our highest ideals and the reality that we witness every single day.  But what makes us exceptional — what makes us Americans — is that we have fought wars, and passed laws, and reformed systems, and organized unions, and staged protests, and launched mighty movements to close that gap, and to bring the promise and the practice of America into closer alignment.  We’ve made the effort to form that “more perfect union.”

Nine years to the day that I first announced for this office, I still believe in that politics of hope.  And for all the challenges of a rapidly changing world, and for all the imperfections of our democracy, the capacity to reach across our differences and choose that kind of politics — not a cynical politics, not a politics of fear, but that kind of politics — sustained over the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime, that’s something that remains entirely up to us.

Thank you, Illinois.  God bless you.  God bless America. It’s good to see all you.  I miss you guys.  Thank you.  Thank you.

Transit Workers Rally Against CTA Assault on Democratic Rights at the Workplace

Posted by Admin On February - 11 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

Chicago’s transit workers and Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) members will rally at CTA headquarters downtown against suppression of union activity.

ATU members and elected officers, supporting community and labor leaders will be joined by community supporters and members of other unions to protest against the attack on their union and elected leadership today. They will gather at the CTA headquarters to hold a press conference and attempt to meet with CTA president Carter, ahead of a termination hearing scheduled today to demand that trumped up charges against their elected Executive Board Member be dropped and that CTA management respect transit workers for the hard and important work they do.

The rally will be held today, Thursday, February 11 at 9:30 A.M., at CTA Headquarters, 567 W. Lake St.

On Friday, February 5, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) initiated removal proceedings against a 10 year veteran bus driver and the current elected shop steward and executive board member of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 241, Erek Slater. He is the elected union representative of over 600 working families at the North Park CTA bus garage.

Erek states, “I am being accused of a “behavioral violation” because I responded to a coworker’s request to investigate a possible violation of our Collective Bargaining Agreement. This is only the latest in a continuous string of attacks and intimidation against workers of the CTA and our union. The false allegations are a blatant attempt to remove a union officer and intimidate workers from using our legitimate authority and collective power to defend ourselves, our families, and our communities.”

The workers uniting against CTA ‘s assault against union activity say that these false charges are an escalation in a documented history of attacks on union rights. They assert that because a union steward is being threatened with discharge for attempting to protect the contract and union members, this is an assault against the 10,000 member union and its long history. It is important to note that this attack is occurring after the union contract has expired and during contract negotiations. The ATU workers organizing the rally are claiming that CTA’s unfair and illegal tactics are part of the state-wide and national attack on union and democratic rights.

Maryland Legislature Expands Voting Rights for People with Felony Convictions

Posted by Admin On February - 11 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS
From: The Sentencing Project
Maryland lawmakers expanded voting rights for people with felony convictions with their override of Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of House Bill 980. The action restores voting rights to an estimated 40,000 persons on felony probation or parole. Maryland was one of 35 states that disenfranchised persons on probation or parole, individuals living in the community but unable to vote.
“Maryland lawmakers have taken an important step in expanding the vote to people with felony convictions living in the community,” said Marc Mauer, Executive Director of The Sentencing Project. “Restricting voting rights is deeply problematic for a democratic society and compounds the social isolation of formerly incarcerated persons from their communities.”

Nationally, 5.85 million Americans are prohibited from voting due to laws that disenfranchise citizens convicted of felony offenses. Felony disenfranchisement policies vary by state, and variously disenfranchise people in prison, on probation or parole, or with past convictions. Maryland now joins Connecticut and Rhode Island as states that have expanded the right to vote for individuals on probation or parole in recent years.

Felony disenfranchisement has produced broad racial disparities in its impact as well. Nationwide, one in every 13 black adults cannot vote as the result of a felony conviction, and in two states – Florida and Virginia – more than one in five black adults is disenfranchised.
Civic participation has been to linked with lower recidivism rates. In one study, among individuals who had been previously arrested, 27 percent of nonvoters were rearrested, compared with 12 percent of voters. Although the limitations of the data available preclude proof of direct causation, it is clear that “voting appears to be part of a package of pro-social behavior that is linked to desistance from crime.
Nicole D. Porter, Director of Advocacy of The Sentencing Project, said: “We are encouraged by state officials who are reconsidering unfair disenfranchisement policies; 23 states have enacted reforms since 1997. This reform offers an opportunity to strengthen the democratic process and we hope this will be followed by a commitment to notify impacted persons that their voting rights have been restored.”

Kirk, Manchin, Dold & Vargas Introduce Bill to Stand Against Hateful Targeting of Israel

Posted by Admin On February - 11 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

With Bipartisan Bill, Congress Opposes Economic Warfare Against Our Strongest Middle East Ally

WASHINGTON, IL – U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Representative Robert Dold (R-Ill.-10), Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Representative Juan Vargas (D-Calif.-51) introduced the Combating BDS Act of 2016 (S. 2531, H.R. 4514), a bill to defend against the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement’s economic warfare against Israel.  The new bipartisan legislation would authorize state and local governments to divest from companies engaged in BDS activities targeting Israel.

“The Combating BDS Act of 2016 uses the power of the purse to fight back against anti-Semitism throughout the world,” Senator Kirk said.  “This bipartisan bill would authorize state and local governments in the United States to follow Illinois’s lead and divest from companies engaged in boycotts and other forms of economic warfare against Israel.  With this bill, Congress underscores the critical role that state and local governments and their communities have to play in the ongoing struggle against anti-Semitism worldwide.”

“This is important step forward in reassuring Israel that we are not only protecting their national security interests, but that we are also protecting their economic interests,” Senator Manchin said. “This bipartisan legislation gives state and local governments a legal way to combat the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel, which is shameful. Israel has been our strongest ally in the Middle East and we need to send them a strong signal that we will do everything in our power to fight the BDS movement.”  

“The BDS movement serves as a means to delegitimize Israel’s existence and inflame tensions in communities and on college campuses across the country,” Representative Dold said. “This important legislation empowers community leaders and individuals who seek to counter the hateful targeting of Israel, while sending an unquestionable message about our steadfast opposition to BDS and strong support for those who stand up for Israel.”

“I’m proud to support Rep. Dold’s effort to combat the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement that targets Israel,” Representative Vargas said. “BDS efforts depict Israel in a negative light causing a loss of economic opportunities and penalizing commercial relations.”

Opponents of Israel are increasingly using BDS as a hateful weapon to delegitimize the Jewish State and those who stand with her.  At a time when anti-Israel boycotts are popping up around the country and the globe, the United States, Israel and our allies require new ways to defend against the evolving threat of economic warfare.  Similar to previous state-based efforts to divest from companies doing business with Iran, a movement among state and local governments is growing to enact measures to divest from entities participating in the anti-Israel BDS movement.  Illinois was the first state in the nation to enact a law to divest public pension funds from companies engaging in BDS.

The Combating BDS Act of 2016 strengthens these efforts by affirming, at the federal level, the legal authority of state and local governments to take tangible actions to counter this economic warfare against Israel.  The bill clarifies that state or local governments have the legal authority to identify and divest public funds from entities engaged in BDS when the designations are based on “credible information available to the public.”  By clarifying this authority, this legislation will protect state and local governments from lawsuits alleging they are unreasonably burdening or discriminating against interstate or foreign commerce.  The bill’s nonpreemption safe harbor for asset managers will also give states an offensive capability against entities seeking to economically damage Israel. 

The Combating BDS Act of 2016 is supported by numerous pro-Israel organizations, including the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago (JUF) and the American Jewish Committee (AJC).

“This bipartisan legislation is an important step upholding principles of fair trade and standing by our international allies,” JUF Washington, D.C. Director Lisa Shuger Hublitz said.  “As more states follow Illinois’ lead in passing anti-BDS legislation, this bill removes any lingering doubts whether state and local governments have the legal authority to divest from entities engaged in BDS activity targeting Israel. Moreover, this bill sends a powerful message that the United States Congress forcefully rejects the anti-Israel, anti-peace BDS movement.”

“We commend Senator Kirk, Congressman Dold, Senator Manchin, and Congressman Vargas for their continued leadership in combating the efforts of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement to delegitimize Israel and undermine the Middle East’s only true democracy,” AJC Chicago Regional Director Amy Stoken said. “And we applaud their introduction of bipartisan legislation that will authorize state and local governments to divest from the divestors—and leave the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to direct, diplomatic negotiations between the parties, where it belongs.”

State Board Approves 29 School Districts to Receive Qualified School Construction Bonds

Posted by Admin On February - 11 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

Selected schools can take advantage of low- to no-interest bonds for construction and building needs

 

SPRINGFIELD, IL –Twenty-nine school districts have been authorized to sell their local bonds with a federal interest subsidy for construction projects through the Qualified School Construction Bond program (QSCB).

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) approved the QSCB recipients during its regular business meeting Feb. 10. A total of $495 million-plus in bonding authority from the federal government will be available to these districts.

“This authorization means selected districts can take advantage of low- to zero-interest bonds to pay for building and construction needs rather than diverting limited financial resources away from the classroom” said State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith, Ph.D. “No state dollars are being spent, and local taxpayers will not have to help foot the bill for high interest costs.”

ISBE accepted applications for the QSCB program from Dec. 1 to Jan. 15 and received a total of 193 applications seeking $2.4 billion. ISBE staff reviewed the applications using a priority ranking process approved by the Board and recommended 29 districts for approval. The approved districts are:

County

District Name

QSCB Authorization Requested

QSCB Authorization Recommended

Cook

Chicago Heights SD 170

$45,000,000

$45,000,000

Lake

Waukegan CUSD 60

7,000,000

7,000,000

Cook

Lincoln ESD 156

4,350,000

4,350,000

Cook

Community Consolidated SD 168

9,000,000

9,000,000

Lake

Round Lake Area Schools 116

900,000

900,000

Kane

Aurora East SD 131

50,000,000

50,000,000

Cook

Park Forest SD 163

13,000,000

13,000,000

Cook

Sandridge SD 172

1,300,000

1,300,000

Cook

Burnham SD 154-5

670,000

670,000

Cook

Lansing Elem SD 158

18,000,000

18,000,000

Cook

Cicero SD 99

28,445,000

28,445,000

Cook

Hoover-Schrum Memorial SD 157

3,000,000

3,000,000

Marion

Sandoval CUSD 501

2,000,000

2,000,000

Cook

Posen-Robbins SD 143.5

11,700,000

11,700,000

Winnebago

Rockford PSD 205

29,086,530

29,086,530

Vermilion

Danville CCSD 118

3,365,500

3,365,500

Cook

Country Club Hills ESD 160

6,000,000

6,000,000

Kankakee

Kankakee SD 111

29,820,000

29,820,000

Champaign

Rantoul Twp. HSD 193

1,015,874

1,015,874

Cook

JS Morton HSD 201

50,000,000

50,000,000

Cook

Argo CHSD 217

17,800,000

17,800,000

Cook

Bremen Twp. HSD 228

50,000,000

50,000,000

Cook

W Harvey-Dixmoor PSD 147

10,000,000

10,000,000

DuPage

Marquardt SD 15

26,700,000

26,700,000

Champaign

Rantoul City Schools 137

10,000,000

10,000,000

Cook

Bloom Twp. HSD 206

30,000,000

30,000,000

LaSalle

LaSalle ESD 122

5,478,000

  5,478,000

LaSalle

Streator ESD 44

5,500,000

5,500,000

Kane

Aurora West Unit School District 129

50,000,000

26,471,096

Total

$519,130,904

$495,602,000

The QSCB program was created under Section 1521(a) of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The program is a source of limited financial bonding for school districts to fund the rehabilitation or repair of an existing public school facility, construction of a new public school facility, equipment associated with repair or construction, or for land acquisition related to the construction of a new facility. Bond proceeds can be used for building rehabilitation and repair allowing districts to issue low- to no-interest bonds in lieu of higher interest rate Fire Prevention (health, life, and safety) bonds.

In 2012, ISBE entered an intergovernmental agreement with the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget (GOMB) to grant GOMB the authority to allocate or issue these bonds. Late last year the GOMB notified ISBE that it relinquished its authority back to ISBE.

School districts that applied for the QSCB program were limited to a maximum request of $50 million each. If an authorized district does not issue the bonds within 18 months, the authority will revert back to ISBE. Bond proceeds also must be spent within three years of the issue date.

County Awards Anti-Violence Grants to Seven Organizations

Posted by Admin On February - 11 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS
 

Board backs President Preckwinkle’s policy to provide local services to those at-risk

 

Cook County’s Justice Advisory Council (JAC) received approval from the Board of Commissioners to award $700,000 in grants to seven different local organizations. The grants will fund programs aimed at prevention, intervention and reduction of violence in targeted communities throughout Chicago and the suburbs.

The grants address a key component of County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s public safety agenda. Since President Preckwinkle took office in 2010, she has elevated public safety beyond the County’s traditional role of funding the courts and Department of Corrections, and tasked the JAC to work with communities and local organizations on violence reduction strategies.

Recipients of the grants, each for $100,000, responded to an RFP posted by the County in 2015 and were chosen following a thorough vetting process by a multi-departmental review committee. The County originally received responses from 31 potential vendors.

“These grants will fund meaningful programs that work to prevent or address the impact of violence in our communities,” Preckwinkle said. “I appreciate the hard work that went into selection of these vendors and am encouraged that the programs will result in positive engagement and contribute to a reduction in violence.”

The awardees are:

• The Miracle Center: Serves youth from the Greater Humboldt Park neighborhood in Chicago. It includes an after-school program with academic support and enrichment, and college preparation through navigating the process of selecting, applying to, and enrolling in a college. The unique focus of the program is both on the arts and entrepreneurial skills to build competencies and reduce risk factors.

• UMOJA Student Development Corporation: Serves the Englewood and Rogers Park neighborhoods in Chicago at three High Schools (Hope, Harper and Sullivan). It employs a school-based model with UMOJA, Mikva Challenge and Lurie Children’s Hospital partnering to provide a three-tiered support and intervention model. It includes balanced and restorative justice practices (peace rooms), behavioral health services and student-driven interventions.

• Westside Health Authority: Serves 45 African American males ages 16–24 living in and around Chicago’s Austin community who are either gang affiliated, have a history of two or more arrests, or have been adjudicated in the Cook County courts. The program includes intensive youth mentoring; development and concentrated skills training; GED classes; anger management, mental health, substance abuse and cognitive behavioral therapy, and social change worksite placement.

• Storycatchers Theatre: Serves youth Countywide who are incarcerated and who face the corresponding risk of confronting continued violence. The program will provide youth with a specialized opportunity for personal advancement through artistic and employment training. The program would offer case management, individual and family counseling and substance abuse counseling.

• Union League Boys and Girls Clubs: Serves 60 youth at the Barreto Union League Boys and Girls Club in Humboldt Park. Along with existing Better Boys and Girls Club programs, it will offer Youth for Unity which teaches self-appreciation, diversity training and leadership training, and Know Peace, an end-of-school year activity using art projects, performance arts and neighborhood parades that spread a message of peace and non-violence.

• Metropolitan Family Services: Serves Chicago’s Greater Roseland Community and is headquartered at Harlan High School. Metropolitan Family Services will provide an after-school program including a peace room, service learning, tutoring and other programs. It will serve 75 youth and will offer safe space, trauma-informed counseling and academic support.

• Boys and Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Chicago: Serves at least 60 youth in three south suburban Housing Authority of Cook County facilities in Ford Heights, Robbins, and Chicago Heights. The programs will include gang prevention, conflict resolution and developing resistance and refusal skills.
“It is essential that we offer those who are at-risk supports and services to steer them toward safe and productive lives,” President Preckwinkle said. “High levels of detention and incarceration have not worked and many of our communities continue to face unacceptable levels of violence. I appreciate the support of our County Commissioners in approving these grants.”

Local Spanish Television Personality Sentenced to 61 Years in Child Sexual Assault Cases

Posted by Admin On February - 11 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

A local Spanish language music show producer previously convicted of sexually assaulting three young female music students has been sentenced to 61 years in prison, according to the Office of Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez.

Elpidio “Juan” Contreras, 56, was previously found guilty on charges of Predatory Criminal Sexual Assault, Aggravated Criminal Sexual Assault and Aggravated Criminal Sexual Abuse following a bench trial before Cook County Judge Lawrence Flood. Contreras appeared at a hearing today at the Leighton Criminal Courts building in Chicago where Judge Flood imposed the 61 year prison sentence.

According to prosecutors, at different points in time between 1994 and 2013, the victims attended ongoing sessions to receive voice lessons from Contreras, who was a well-known Spanish language television personality and talent promoter. The victims were all between the ages of nine and 13 years old when they began taking private lessons with Contreras, who would use the opportunity to fondle the victims, both over and under their clothing, commit other acts of sexual penetration and take nude photos of the young girls.

The first victim and her family came forward to report the abuse in 2013 and the State’s Attorney’s Office charged Contreras with the sexual assault of that child, who was 11 years old at the time of the abuse. After media reports were published of Contreras being charged in that case, the other victims came forward to authorities to report similar crimes and Contreras was also charged in those cases.

State’s Attorney Alvarez thanked Assistant State’s Attorney Elizabeth Ciaccia and the Chicago Police Department for their dedicated work on this case.

 

People’s Map Chairman John Hooker’s Statement on Redistricting in Illinois

Posted by Admin On February - 11 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS
John Hooker’s Statement:

I have immense respect for President (Barack) Obama and we’re always excited and honored when he comes back home to Illinois. But the president’s comments about redistricting were very general in nature and were not intended to be an endorsement of the misguided efforts to change redistricting here in Illinois.

The so-called “reforms” proposed in Illinois will devastate the voices of minority communities and minority voters. The NAACP itself has noted that so-called “reform” proposals must be viewed with a skeptical eye, stating that some redistricting reform efforts have suppressed minority voting rights.

As drafted, there is no way to ensure minority representation on the proposed commission and no way to ensure that communities of color would be protected. The minority community would lose the strong voice it currently has to ensure protection in Illinois’ remapping process. That would result in the loss of representation in the General Assembly for minorities, middle class families and struggling families that are the fabric of our neighborhoods and our state.

 

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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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