Chicago residents took to the streets in protest of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Police Department just hours after the Mayor addressed alderman in a special session in City Hall where he called for wide-ranging institutional reforms across Chicago.
The following story originally appeared in EXTRA News, a bi-lingual community newspaper in Chicago, IL, on Sept 10, 2015.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel at the town hall meeting at Wilbur Wright College on Sept. 3rd.
Photo by Dominic Gwinn
Residents, activists and teachers shouted and booed as Mayor Rahm Emanuel held his final of three budget meetings this past Thursday, Sept. 3, at Wright College on the Northwest Side under heavy security.
“We’re outraged; we feel robbed. We feel left out,” commented Rousemary Vega, a Humboldt Park resident and CPS parent who angrily chastised the mayor earlier in the evening. “The mayor’s saying ‘tough decisions,’ and the tough decisions are just him saying he can’t cut from [his] people, the North siders; so [he] takes from the areas that are already suffering from violence and poverty.”
The mayor’s proposed budget would see homes valued at $250,000 pay an extra $500 per year, as well as $7.17 tax on smokeless tobacco products, and $1 tax on popular ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft.
Currently, the city of Chicago is facing a $500-million budget gap, leaving many weary that the city may not be able to pay its bills or pension obligations to police, fire and rescue workers. The city’s financial woes are only growing as Chicago Public School is to balance its own separate $6.4-billion budget.
“This will be, obviously, difficult. And I don’t underestimate the difficulty. That’s why it’s going to be done in the most fair and progressive manner,” said Emanuel.
While only a few speakers spoke of Dyett High School protesters, which dominated the first two meetings, special education teacher Sarah Chambers shot back at the mayor after it was earlier announced that Dyett would reopen as an art school. “What that tells me is that the black students of Chicago can shuck and jive for the city of Chicago, but they can’t create green technology innovation.”
“Usually the mayor does not listen, so I think we need to keep going at him and pressuring him. He especially doesn’t listen to people who are at schools on the South and West sides. We’re in an all Latino school. Basically, they ignore us,” said Chambers, who talked to EXTRA after making her public comments. However, during the interview, members of the Chicago Police Department asked her to stop speaking. “We cannot hurt our schools, and our students with disabilities. We have special education for a reason and we need to fund it.”
“He wants to put on this show for the city,” said Vega, “but I just believe that this was another fake. Rahm doing a ballet [dance] around his responsibilities…The one thing I wish people would take away is that we need to stick together. We are the city of big shoulders, and I need them to understand Rahm’s shoulders are not big enough for the job.”
The mayor’s final budget is expected to be made public Sept. 22.
Alderman Carlos Rosa announced the establishment of an Immigration Policy Working Group which seeks to analyze and reform Chicago’s policy towards illegal residents.
Photo by Dominic Gwinn
In an effort to create a more immigrant friendly city, Chicago Aldermen Carlos Rosa, Susan Sadlowski Garza and Ricardo Munoz announced Tuesday that they have begun working on a comprehensive immigration plan for some of Chicago’s most disenfranchised residents.
The Immigration Policy Working Group, composed of 14 different non-governmental and community organizations, will be working with the aldermen, as well as Mayor Emmanuel, to craft legislation around a six-point plan that will increase support for pro bono legal representation in Chicago’s immigration courts and to amend the city’s “Welcoming City” Ordinance so it applies to all residents.
The Chicago City Council approved the “Welcoming City” ordinance in 2012, which was designed to protect undocumented immigrants from being unfairly detained or deported and protects undocumented immigrants from being held for immigration authorities, unless they have been convicted of a serious crime or are being sought on a criminal warrant.
Rogers Park Ald. Joe Moore sponsored the original “Welcoming City” ordinance and said it was designed so immigrants will not be afraid of deportation when they report crimes to police.
The proposed amendments to the ordinance would ensure consistency between municipal and county policy, create more access to multi-lingual emergency services, establish a municipal ID for all Chicagoans, make deferred action relief programs more accessible and affordable to communities, and improve access to city services for immigrant victims of crimes and rights violations.
“Two years ago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel stated that he is committed to making Chicago the most immigration friendly city in the United States,” stated 35th Ward Ald. Carlos Rosa. As the Chicago Immigration Working Group, we share that commitment, and we’re excited to work alongside the mayor to fulfill that goal.”
Many aspects of the new plan, according to Fred Tsao of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, are modeled after similar efforts recently enacted in New York, such as a city ID that identifies individuals without necessarily requiring a fixed address. This can result in increased wages, and helping undocumented residents along the path to naturalization or simply purchasing medication.
“Chicago is a place that’s always understood itself to be a city of immigrants,” said Ana Guajardo, executive director of the south-side based Immigrant Worker’s Project / Centro de Trabajadores Unidos. “With a mayoral promise to make Chicago the most welcoming, a city council dedicated to equal treatment for all of our residents, and leadership from the community itself, we are ready to not just follow the examples of New York City and other places but to be a leader in best practices for immigrant integration at the local level.”
Chicago is currently designated as a sanctuary city, and does not allow local law enforcement or municipal authorities to ask about a resident’s current legal status. Sanctuary city policies have recently come under scrutiny from federal officials due to President Barack Obama Administration’s mandate that immigration authorities should not pursue non-violent undocumented immigrants.
The following story originally appeared in EXTRA News, a bi-lingual community newspaper in Chicago, IL, on July 2, 2015.
A packed house greeted this year’s contestants at the kickoff for the second annual Icebox Derby, an engineering and academic competition geared towards generating interest for young girls in science, technology and mathematics careers.In partnership with Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago, Girls for Science, Operation PUSH and the Chicago Urban League, 30 girls ages 13 to 19 from across Chicagoland will be assigned to six teams, and compete for a number of prizes such as scholarships, and a grand prize trip to National Flight School in Pensacola, Fla. Each team of five girls will be assigned female mentors from COMED currently working in STEM careers, as well local university students currently majoring in STEM fields.
“I think it’s important for the girls to learn that STEM is for everyone,” commented Haley Widel, a UIC student majoring in bioengineering, and mentor for the Spark Catchers. “There aren’t enough women who are in the STEM fields in general, and I think it’s important for them to be comfortable with it because it’s an intimidating field.”
The race will be held on Aug. 15 at the Field Museum of Natural History. Each team will complete five laps, pausing between each lap to solve a “STEM Stop” challenge question and switch drivers before finishing. Teams will be given bonuses for increased interest through social media sharing via the hashtag, #IceboxDerby.
“Building a regular soapbox derby car is already a challenge, but you give these girls power tools, like a Sawzall and ‘fridge, and it’s a whole other picture. I’m really proud of them!” beamed Jeremy Fountain, father of Samantha Fountain, a member of last year’s winning team, “Sonic Doom.”
A number of improvements over the previous years’ cars have been implemented, according to COMED Engineer Sam Torina. A longer, wider and more uniform chassis has been introduced, as well as hydraulic braking systems and roll cages for increased safety. MP3 players, lights, power indicators and a 1000w battery will also have to be installed before race day.
“We’ve expanded their challenges, so that as they build this year, they’ll also be faced with technical questions, STEM technical questions to earn points,” said Torina. “So, it’s not just the race, it’s what they’re going to learn as they’re building it.”
“I would say take it all in because this is a once in a lifetime experience,” Samantha Fountain, member of last year’s winning team, Sonic Boom, advised. “You really want to slow down. It feels like a long time even though it’s only a few hours, so it goes by real quick and then you’re done with it. I wish I could do it all over again. There’s no other time you can make a racing car out of a refrigerator.”
“Women represent about 24 percent of the STEM jobs, so we’d like to see more women in the area,” stated COMED President and CEO Anne Pramaggiore. “It’s a great area; there are a lot of great jobs, and we look at this as our workforce of the future. We’re really reaching out to these girls to get them engaged, to excite them about these technical careers to start to develop our workforce of the future early.
Your apathy will be the downfall of our entire society. Thanks to your ignorance on current events, our elected officials are allowed to run amok, doing as they please, with little repercussion. Were it not for the media which you regularly criticize, you wouldn’t even know what the officials you forgot to elect were doing with the money that you gave them for taxes.
I challenge any one with any grievance towards the political system, large or small, to write your representatives. Not an email, not a note, but an old fashioned, well thought out and properly edited letter.
Spend the thirty-seven cents it costs to buy a stamp, slap it on an envelope and mail it to their office’s, which, by the way, are all easily accessible on the Internet. It might sound archaic, but this is the best way to tell ‘the man’ what you really think about the country, state or county that you live in.
Think about it, your friends usually don’t know when you have a personal problem unless you open your mouth and say something, so how are your representatives supposed to know that the roads in your neighborhood never got plowed when it snowed?
Words have no faces or pictures. The only thing the written word has is the power to make you think. Based on your writing, someone can tell how passionate you are about something. If it’s something you feel that strongly about, why are you writing about it in a blog or complaining to your friends over diner? They might care enough to listen, but they probably don’t sit on any seat of power capable of doing anything about it.
There’s a fairly thought provoking focus on the Student Senate this issue and you’d do yourself a disservice not to read it. Keep in mind, however, that it’s up to you as the reader to draw your own conclusions. We’re a newspaper, we report the facts, you’re the reader, you’re supposed to react as a result of what what we’re reporting to you.
Your level of involvement in government will only take you as far as you let it. If you’re just upset that your neighbors have a rusting car parts in the middle of the yard, tell your neighborhood association if you have one; if you don’t, start a petition to create one.
If you think that the U.S. should get out of Iraq, write Congress and/or the Senate, don’t just go to the protest and pick up a button. If you think that you can do a better job than whomever is in office now, what’s stopping you from you from running for office? If you’ve got some type of idea on how to better run the government, speak up already!
This world thrives on rebellion and change. The Earth as we know it today was formed through a series of changes over time, and the most notable changes in society stem from one persons problems with society’s direction. Racism was defeated because enough people spoke out, women and minorities were granted suffrage through bitter protest. Nothing ever stays the same for long because change is inevitable, but sometimes, change needs a catalyst.
This article appears in the seventh (7th) issue of the Montgomery Advocate, the student newspaper of Montgomery College in Rockville, Maryland Wednesday, December 8th, 2005. It is an excerpt from my biweekly editorial and was posted with my permission.
The following article originally appears in Volume 9, Issue 3, of the Montgomery Advocate , the student newspaper of Montgomery College in Rockville, Maryland, Tuesday, October 4th, 2005.
On Saturday, September 24 hundreds of thousands of protesters descended upon Washington D.C. for the United for Peace and Justice Mobilization and the Operation Ceasefire concert, the largest anti-war protest since the start of U.S. Occupation in Iraq. The protest drew a number of powerful and influential figures including Rep. Maxine Waters (D) of California, former Presidential candidate Ralph Nader, Rev. Jessie Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton and Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq and leader of the Bring Them Home Now Tour, a traveling protest aimed at bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq, which coordinated it’s conclusion to fall on the same weekend.
“All of us have a central responsibility in America,” shouted an excited Nader to sea of thousands, “[George W. Bush] has neglected his responsibility…You are the opposition… It’s time to take that opposition [and] with laser precision, tell [your representatives] how you feel about the war. This is the first war opposed by a majority of the people…Here is a president who plunged our nation into the greatest quagmire in American history. George W. Bush must be held accountable [and impeached] for his crimes under Article 2 – Section 4 of the United States Constitution.”
“I am sick and tired of George W. Bush,” cried California Congresswoman Maxine Waters. “We are tired of being lied to,” she continued with a fist raised high in the air, “The U.S. doesn’t deserve a president who left poor people, black people, and white people stranded in New Orleans [to die].”
“Today is a call to action… he has lied over and over again,” Waters went on, “[He] lied when he said he would hold corporate C.E.O’s responsible,” referring to the Enron and Tyco scandals. “On 9/11 he tricked us into believing Saddam Hussein was responsible…I ask you, where are the weapons Mr. President? Then [he] lied again when he said we would be there for 6 months, we want truth Mr. President,” concluded Waters to a roar of applause, whistles and cheers from protesters.
The Rev. Al Sharpton spoke briefly and with a proud assurance, “There’s something wrong with our country when we send folks to help in places that don’t need [help]. We have problems that need [solving] at home…The question isn’t why should we walk out of [the] war, the question is why did we walk in to the war in the first place?”
Operation Ceasefire, a free concert that was held at the Ellipse on the same day sponsored by United for Peace and Justice and Act Now to Stop War & End Racism (A.N.S.W.E.R.), featured such bands as Thievery Corporation, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, Le Tigre, and Bouncing Souls.
“I think the fact that they had a concert drew more people out,” said Sarah Owens, President of MC-R’s Philosophy Club, “[but] a lot of people may’ve just come for the concert. When asked if the concert helped the cause, Owens replied, “I think it was good in the sense that it helped people to see the message that a lot of the protesters had, I just think some people didn’t take it seriously.”
D.C. Police quoted the actual number of protesters as upwards of 150,000 people, but protest organizers claimed over 300,000. Some still think that screams and signs of protesters just weren’t loud enough. “I didn’t like the [lack of major media] coverage, Owens says,“With Katrina fresh on peoples minds, they used [hurricane] Rita to overshadow what was going on. There we other protests in other cities all over the world [that day], and [the major news media] kind of just said, ‘Oh, yeah, this happened today too.’ I just think it should’ve been a bigger deal.”
Despite the lack of coverage, many feel that overall goal was accomplished. When asked her opinion about the future of the war Owens replied, I’m really optimistic…I would hope it gets bigger, [but] it seems like people might get pissed off for a little while and then forget about it.”