The Collected Works of Dominic Gwinn

Reaching for Support

Posted in Podcast, Politics, Uncategorized by Dominic Gwinn on March 28, 2016

Chicago Protests Mayor, Police Violence

Posted in Chicago, Politics, Uncategorized by Dominic Gwinn on December 11, 2015

The following video was for Roosevelt University, and originally appeared in December, 2015

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.

Chicago Mayor Pushes for More Tech Education

Posted in Chicago, Podcast by Dominic Gwinn on November 16, 2015

Council progressives hold budget meetings to address city problems

Posted in Chicago, Politics by Dominic Gwinn on October 8, 2015

The following story originally appeared in EXTRA News, a bi-lingual community newspaper in Chicago, IL, on Oct 8, 2015.

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Chicago Aldermen Arena, Spostato, Wagueskpack.
Photo by Dominic Gwinn

Over 60 people gathered at the Copernicus Center last week in Jefferson Park to discuss a number of controversial city finance issues.“We are friends; we are not foes here,” stated 38th Ward Ald. Nicholas Sposato to a packed crowd at the first of two budget meetings held by the Progressive Reform Caucus this past Thursday.

“What we’re doing is saying this can’t be a budget cycle where we just look at this year,” said 45th Ward Ald. John Arena. “We have to start looking at a five-year plan for our funding, our city, and not do this as a constant crisis where we have to figure out what we need to cut, or what we need to tax just to get through that one year.”

The caucus presented a number of reforms that challenge Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposed budget that would see an increase in taxes on businesses and residents throughout the city in an attempt to pay off mounting debts to pensions and creditors. In March, the city’s bad bookkeeping caused downgrade in its credit rating by Moody’s Investor Service to Baa1, commonly known as “junk” status.

A large part of the caucus’s plan seeks to increase taxes on the most wealthy residents and large corporations. Proposals such as an alternative minimum tax on the central business district downtown, a “bad business fee” tax that would levy fines for businesses that pay less than a living wage, increased taxes on luxury goods such as furs and jewelry, as well as amnesty for penalties stemming from outstanding parking tickets, in an attempt to recover lost revenue, were met with applause.

Despite the warm reception for the proposals, some residents stressed even more stringent measures, such as Chicago resident Lisa Stringer, who called for a wage freeze on all city employees.

“I’m not saying to take pay cuts, but let’s freeze everybody’s pay right now until we get this figured out,” stressed Stringer. “I think there has to be some understanding that everybody has to have some skin in the game.”

Other residents urged aldermen that the mayor’s recent proposal to privatize 311 services was a bad idea, and that criticism against 311 operators had been misplaced.

“We as call takers know how to do our job, we just don’t have enough operators,” pleaded 311 operator Aline Coopwood. “We’re down to about 58 operators. I’ve worked two months straight without days off just to help out coworkers.”

“When you’re calling Chicago, you want to speak with someone that knows Chicago, that knows what’s going on, and can help you out with what’s going on,” Coopwood insisted. “If someone is in Japan or in California, how are they going to tell you what’s going on here?”

“It’s time for us to really get serious about looking for other ways to raise revenue. We need to fix our pension problems and make sure that our city budgets are smaller,” said 32nd Ward Ald. Scott Waguespack. “We’re also looking to reduce spending in ways that don’t hurt basic services and make sure that we have staff available to get the job done.”

Illinois is currently operating without a budget due to gridlock in Springfield, funding only the most critical programs, like Medicaid and schools, by a court order. As a result, many social welfare programs that would typically see support from the state, like childcare and assistance for undocumented immigrants, have been suspended until state legislators can reach a spending agreement.

“These are critical meetings,” Arena said. ”This is a big burden that we’re trying to resolve here. It’s all come to a head; we have to deal with this problem…We’re trying to find ways to alleviate the burden on the middle class and low-income families.”

This post is also available in: Spanish

Residents Displeased with Mayor’s Proposed 2016 Budget

Posted in Chicago, Politics by Dominic Gwinn on September 10, 2015

The following story originally appeared in EXTRA News, a bi-lingual community newspaper in Chicago, IL, on Sept 10, 2015.

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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.

This post is also available in: Spanish

 

Logan Square residents divided over Ald. Moreno’s approach to affordable housing

Posted in Chicago, Politics by Dominic Gwinn on August 6, 2015

The following story originally appeared in EXTRA News, a bi-lingual community newspaper in Chicago, IL, on Aug 6, 2015.

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Protesters argue in front of Ald. Moreno’s office.
Photo by Dominic Gwinn

Dozens of protesters clashed in Logan Square this week while calling for 1st Ward Ald. Joe Moreno to pursue more aggressive affordable housing options in the neighborhood.Moreno has supported big development projects like the “Twin Towers,” a multi-building apartment complex across the from the California Blue Line station, which some residents say will lead to mass displacement of longtime residents. Because of this, organizers from Somos/We Are Logan Square, a community group of residents concerned about the increase of large-scale development in Logan Square, organized a rally against Ald. Moreno on Tuesday evening in front of the alderman’s neighborhood office.

However that group was soon joined by Moreno supporters, though smaller in number, who marched ahead of Somos/We Are Logan Square shouting slogans like, “Moreno amigo, el pueblo esta contigo,” (“Moreno, my friend, this town is with you”), while holding signs up in support of transit oriented development projects, or T.O.D.’s, like the “Twin Towers” project.

While both Moreno’s supporters and the Somos/We Are Logan group had the same message of increasing the supply of affordable housing, their differences collided in front of the alderman’s office where heated shouts and shoving drew the attention of onlookers and police.

“My street used to be populated with families,” commented Logan Square resident and Somos/We Are Logan supporter Justine Bayod Espoz. “I used to know all the little kids on our block, you’d see kids playing outside all the time. If you come to my block now on a Sunday afternoon you won’t see anyone on the street. The rents have increased exponentially in this neighborhood…We have two or three developers sending us letters a week asking us if we want to sell our property.”

Kyle Smith was on the street watching the two groups march in front of the alderman’s office on Tuesday. He’s with the Center for Neighborhood Technology, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization that studies urban economies and environments, and said one thing he’s seen across the city, including in neighborhoods like Logan Square, is the loss of housing units.

“There’s been a movement away from rental towards ownership, and buildings have been torn down, converted. Two flats converted into single family homes, balloon frame homes being torn down and replaced with fewer units on sight,” said Smith. “I think that everyone agrees that gentrification is a major issue, and I think the real way to address it is, one, to add more units to the housing supply through something like T.O.D., and also focus on preservation activities on the side streets.”

Meanwhile Noah Muskowitz, an organizer with Somos/We Are Logan Square, reminisced about the daughter of a tenant he recently worked with in an attempt to avoid their eviction.

“During the course of the eviction, when she was afraid she was going to have to go to a different neighborhood, her grades dropped to a C,” said Muskowitz. “That’s a huge emotional impact for a child. It’s not just, ‘Oh, you have to move’, it’s the displacement of communities that they’ve spent their entire lives supporting. Their access to child care, their access to resources, and when you displace that it completely ruins someone’s life.”

Muskowitz added that he thought it’s incredibly disingenuous for Moreno to act like he’s fighting for neighborhood residents facing displacement when he’s part of the problem.

In response to the protests, Moreno’s office released a statement Wednesday morning saying that the alderman was, “gratified to learn that a group of 1st Ward residents saw fit to express their support for his proactive and substantial efforts to provide more affordable housing opportunities in the 1st Ward.”
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This post is also available in: Spanish

Chicago teachers rally to protect schools from deep cuts

Posted in Chicago, Politics by Dominic Gwinn on July 30, 2015

The following story originally appeared in EXTRA News, a bi-lingual community newspaper in Chicago, IL, on Jul 30, 2015.

Logan Teachers Protest

Chicago teachers are holding their breath once again as the cuts to the education budget begin to trickle out of City Hall, leaving many educators struggling to adjust before the new school year.

The rally came on the same morning as Fitch Ratings, a credit-rating agency, lowered Chicago Board of Education’s rating to BBB, more commonly referred to as “junk” status.

“These cuts are unjust; our children have paid enough,” stated 35th Ward Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa at the rally. “We’ve gone through 50 school closures,. We’ve seen thousands of teachers laid off. We’ve seen cuts to sports and after-school activities; we’ve seen cuts to music and the arts, and now we’re being told that our children and their families are going to have to suffer through more cuts.”

Hector Gonzalez, a bilingual teacher at Kelvyn Park High School, has been teaching at the school for 10 years, but now he’s worried about what could happen next. “We used to look forward to a raise, and now we don’t even have that. Now, who knows if some of us will even have our jobs? I used to say every year, right before my students would leave at the end of the year, ‘I’ll see you next year.’ I honestly was afraid to say that this year because I’m afraid I might not be there.”

Amongst the shake-ups that are causing the ire of many teachers and parents are cuts to handicap student programs, the shifting of school start times and the closing of bus stops for selective student programs. Schools have also been forced to cancel after-school activities, as well as reconsider supplies while enrollments continue to decline in public schools throughout the city.

“We’re going to have to tell kids, ‘I’m sorry; I know you want to stick around and do all these extra things, but we just don’t have them this year,’” commented Gonzalez when asked about after-school programs. “We just can’t afford to pay people for coming into our building to help our kids.”

“We always make it work, somehow,” remarked Jackie Charles, a fourth grade teacher at Darwin Elementary. “I would rather spend my own money on my students than have them not have what we need at the time, and I think that’s how most teachers operate. Schools get by year after year, and we do the best that we can, but I think people are starting to say the best that we can is not good enough.”

This post is also available in: Spanish

Roosevelt’s History of Veteran Service Alive, and in Good Hands

Posted in Chicago by Dominic Gwinn on October 1, 2014

The following article originally appeared in The Torch, the student newspaper of Roosevelt University, in Fall 2014. 

Roosevelt University’s long history of service to military veterans can be traced back to before its founding in 1944 when President Franklin Dealno Roosevelt signed the Servicemen’s Readjustment Bill,  commonly known as the “G.I. Bill”, which granted unprecedented social welfare programs to every man and woman who served the nation in times of peace or war. Hailed as major economic driver after World War 2, the G.I. Bill has allowed millions of veterans and their dependants access a higher education that they may have otherwise never been able to obtain.

 

Today, as thousands of veterans return home to the families they left behind, many are faced with limitless prospects thanks in part to the same legislation put in place generations ago. At Roosevelt, Peter La Haire is tasked with helping these new veterans take the next step in their already incredible lives. As Roosevelt’s lone Veteran Services Coordinator, Peter tirelessly dedicates himself to all the students who enter his office, be they veterans, their spouses or dependents.

 

“We have 87 veterans that go to school here, along with 30 dependents. My job is to work with them from the time they express interest in the institution.” says La Haire from his modest corner office on the third floor of the Wabash building.  “I work with them through the enrollment process, admissions, financial aid; I coordinate all of the information exchange with the US Department of Veterans Affairs and make sure that all their tuition is being paid appropriately (and that tends to be priority number one). I want to make sure that they do not have to focus on their money, and that they can concentrate on their academic outcome.”

 

La Haire provides these students in need with with more than just advice to student services such as visiting the Academic Success Center, counseling services, or methods of tuition assistance, he reminds them that they are not alone.

 

“You’re coming from an environment where you’re being told what to do, how to do it, or what to do when your done,” La Haire advises, “you come out of the service and you’re told you can do anything that you want and that’s just really overwhelming…First year students coming in have it hard enough after high-school, but when you come out of a military setting in to a higher education setting you get kind of a one-two punch. They’re very very different.”

 

Paul Loebe, a Marine Reservist, current Roosevelt student, and aide in the Veterans Services Office served on active duty for 8 years. “I was stationed in Hawaii and Camp Pendleton, California,” Loebe proudly states. “I served two tours to Iraq, one tour to Afghanistan, and one Expeditionary deployment to the middle east…I think only one of my classes knows, and they only really know because of my backpack. I try not to make a big deal about it.”

 

Loebe, dressed casually smart in a burgundy button–up shirt that is tucked neatly in his khaki slacks, wants to spread Roosevelt’s message of social justice as he laterally transitions from current Mastery of Service (or M.O.S.) in Artillery, to 3D Civil Affairs where he hopes to make  and, “effective and lasting impact.”

 

“Probably what attracts me the most [to Roosevelt] is the mission statement,” Loebe continues with warm smile. “I love what Pete’s done with putting this together. I’m actually trying to see if we can get a veterans [group] started here. One of the things I know I had when I started here is the brotherhood, but suddenly, it’s gone.”

 

La Haire explains that a lot people that veterans struggle with the transition from servicemen to student, and that poor experiences in school or their their military career can derail that transition . “A lot of that comes not necessarily from what happened that was bad about their time in the service, but it’s that they miss the good stuff. They miss the camaraderie.”

 

Mike Vivirito, a senior and Journalism major concurs with feeling of isolation when he recounted his experiences. “I served in Iraq under the 101st Airborne until September of 2006. I drove 220,000 miles from Kuwait, throughout Iraq and into many parts of Syria, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia…You remember in the Army; every morning you got up and did what the other 20 guys around you did? Well in school, you are on your own. You need to take all the organization, dedication, motivation and discipline you learned and apply it to being a great student,” says Vivirito.

 

“Roosevelt has done a very good job with its veterans.”, Vivirito continues,”Peter LaHaie, especially, has been an irreplaceable guide through the G.I. Bill and Veteran Program at R.U. His dedication and follow through have been an unequal tool in my success at R.U. thus far.”

 

As a former Roosevelt student and veteran, La Haire knows first hand the needs for Roosevelt’s service members and reminds students that they are not alone in their new avenues towards success.

 

“I got my Bachelors in 2012, started in 2010,” recalls La Haire with a raised brow and jovial grin. “…When I decided I was going to go to college at 35, I went to school full-time, and I worked full-time…I came, I took the tour, and at the time the best view was out of the library because [the Wabash] building wasn’t here. As soon as the doors opened, that was it! Hook, line and sinker…When I came off active duty, and took off the uniform, I went from having what we consider the, “Ultimate Purpose”: defending this great nation, and we [veterans] can have this sort of identity crisis in that you can wonder, “What’s it all about now?” You’re coming from an environment where you’re being told what to do, how to do it, or what to do when your done, and then you come out of the service and you’re told you can do anything that you want and that’s just really overwhelming…First year students coming in have it hard enough after high-school, but when you come out of a military setting in to a higher education setting you get kind of a one-two punch. They’re very very different.”

 

As an institution that was initially comprised of numerous servicemen and women, Roosevelts current veterans help to add to its nationally revered status as one of the most diverse colleges. While their current numbers may not be as vast as they initially were, it is important to remember that, as times changes, one must honor not just the past veterans, but the sacrifices of the present veterans, be they large or small.

 

“I’m trying my best to make this the Go-To institution for veterans looking to start and complete their higher education, “La Haire stresses, wrinkle in his brow and a fist clenched in honesty. “I want them to know that when they come here they will be well taken care of, that they will be fed, that their needs will be met…When people ask me what I do, I primarily work with [the veteran] population, but the first three words out of my mouth are, “I graduate students”. That’s what gets me out of bed in the morning. It’s not just enrolling them, it’s serving them and making sure that they walk across that stage! That what’s brings me to work as a Roosevelt administrator, I’ll do it for any student I come in contact with, but that’s what I do.”

Prelude to the Inauguration

Posted in Politics, Uncategorized, Washington D.C. by Dominic Gwinn on January 15, 2009

On Tuesday, Barrack Obama will be elected as the 44th President of the United States and I plan on braving the frigid D.C. cold, 4 million tourists, and an unprecedented display of security and media professionals. Anyone who’s lived in D.C. long enough is used to these things, but I’ve never experienced them all at the same time. Obama is seen as a quasi-political messiah, he’s already got worthless coins endorsed by Montel Williams and cheap plates made by under-privileged Chinese children to prove his messianic authenticity. This coming Tuesday forgot change my address.

Sure, I donated $20 to Obama in February because I liked the calm and collected black guy that had the tenacity to begin running for president a full year before the party primaries had even begun. I’d never donated to a political campaign before; I’ll probably never do it again because I honestly despise getting physical mail, and these pan-handling bastards have more Spam than Hawaii on Christmas. Why the hell do they feel the need to harass me for Dollar after Dollar when the plethora of hand painted, uncirculated Obama coins are actually worth more on E-Bay? Couldn’t I just get a couple of those gold Washington/Obama/Double-Eagle’s and “donate them” to the Democratic Caucus, thereby calling the whole debt “square”? My television tells me that they’re family heirlooms, so that must make them more valuable than the Dollar now, right?

I’ve planned out a fantastic adventure. A trip that will take me in to the heart of the city for a bevy of interviews, videos, write-ups and live-blogs, except I’m not technically invited to anything. How typical. Sure I’m an American, I was born in this country and I even voted for the guy, but just like everything in America (and especially in D.C.) unless you have some serious cash to spend, you can’t really get anywhere.

I don’t mean to crash “the party”, I mean to get my story. I’m sure that somewhere, within the ludicrous number of people stupid enough to come to Washington D.C. in January, the media circus that’s undoubtedly going to antagonize anything with the faintest pulse, and the powerful presence of Police designated to intimidate, that I’ll find something moving enough to bang out about seven-hundred words of eternally useless, literary dribble. I’ll be the really estranged guy, over-caffinated, walking around in tattered leather jacket from a second-rate department store, chain smoking cigarettes without a sunny disposition or press-pass, but still calling himself a journalist, holding a pen and paper instead of video-camera.

Put This In Your Pipe & Smoke It

Posted in Advice, Politics by Dominic Gwinn on December 10, 2008

Barack Obama is the President of the United States and whether or not he plans to quit smoking is not our business. If you spend more than half a second caring about the Presidents smoking habit, or lack thereof, you should be hauled off into a darkened dungeon and shot for attempting to create an Idiocracy (read: High Treason). The consistent reports of people feeling that he needs to set such a healthy example for children is absolutely absurd.

It doesn’t matter if the President smokes a cigarette. If Obama can create peace in the Middle East, I’ll be the first person offering him a smoke and a light. This man is the President, and if he wants to smoke a cigarette because Congress has been dragging it’s fat, lethargic ass on some issue of national importance, you should turn a blind eye. He’s not a child, he’s not your boyfriend, he’s the President and you should excuse him as he’s been busy saving our overly critical asses from psychotic religious fundamentalists who want nothing more than to curb-stomp the civil liberties and personal freedoms you’re taking for granted.

There’s more than 200 years of tradition behind Presidents smoking in the White House. Maddison, Grant, FDR, and JFK were avid smokers. Hell, Grant smoked so much that people actually mailed him cigars when they heard that he was smoking a cigar during the Battle of Fort Donelson. In fact, Grant’s smoking habit was so prominent that it was used as a campaign theme. Due to FDR’s triskaidekaphobia, or fear of the number 13, he believed it to be bad luck to light 3 cigarettes with one match and even chastised a man in Hyde Park for doing so. On the eve of the Cuban embargo, Kenndy had an aide purchase nearly 1,200 H. Upmann Petit Coronas. Even Nixon, who wasn’t a regular smoker, would ritualisticly smoke a cigar with other forgien leaders in a gesture of respect.

Smoking used to be as American as apple pie. It was customary to offer guests a cigarette after a meal, and American Presidents were no different. The Eisenhower’s, in continuing a tradition started by Elanor Roosevelt, would offer coffee and cigarettes to their guests after meals. There were ashtrays, cigarettes and matchbooks embossed with the Presidential Seal, thanks to the Kennedy’s. They were complimentary for guests of the White House, Air Force One, Marine One, with each pack having a location specific engraving. It wasn’t until 1988 that Presidential Cigarettes were discontinued, and later prohibited in the White House by First Lady Hillary Clinton, “because of the atmosphere…and the age of the house, [and] the furnishings.” (a)

While I would certainly love to fault the extreme irony in relation to the Clinton’s and their use of tobacco in the White House, I have to reluctantly admit, that in keeping with the preservation of historical artifacts, we should continue to enforce the indoor smoking ban in the White House. Despite this, however, whether or not the President smokes really isn’t any of the public’s business. The transparency of government shouldn’t necessarily go so far as to tell the President how he is allowed to literally live his personal life. I don’t care what kind of cigarettes Obama smokes, whether or not he uses condoms, or if he prefers apples to oranges, and neither should you because it doesn’t really matter. If the man wants to smoke a cigarette once in awhile, that’s fine because there are far more important things to obsess over than the message he is sending to children when he smokes. If your kid sees the President smoking, tell them the truth: “The President just saved the damn world, but that still doesn’t make it O.K. for you kids to smoke.”

(a) BURROS, MARIAN , Hillary Clinton’s New Home: Broccoli’s In, Smoking’s Out, The New York Times, February 2, 1993
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F0CE7D6143DF931A35751C0A965958260
[12/10/08]
(b) Anthony, Carl Sferrzza, Our Presidents and Cigars: A White House Tradition is in Danger of Disappearing,Cigar Aficionado, Autumn 1993,
http://www.cigaraficionado.com/Cigar/CA_Archives/CA_Show_Article/0,2322,817,00.html
[12/10/08]
(c) “Alex”, Presidential Superstitions, Neatorama, March 10, 2008,
http://www.neatorama.com/2008/03/10/presidential-superstitions/
[12/10/08]

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