elections – Chicago Newstips by Community Media Workshop http://www.newstips.org Chicago Community Stories Mon, 14 Jul 2014 17:31:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.11 Fancy footwork on job numbers http://www.newstips.org/2012/12/rahm-job-creator-for-presiden/ Mon, 03 Dec 2012 01:21:24 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6796 Mayor Emanuel’s op-ed in last Sunday’s Washington Post, framed as advice to the Democratic Party, may or may not be an attempt to get out in front of the 2016 presidential field.

Emanuel touts his infrastructure trust, introduction of competition for early education dollars, longer school day, and reorganization of City Colleges as the model for a national program.

As proof of the wisdom of his policies,  he cites Chicago’s latest employment figures, with 42,500 more people employed this October over October 2011 – stronger growth than any other city, he proclaims.  It’s a neat statistic, though it’s also an example of Emanuel’s proclivity for announcing results before initiatives have even been implemented.

Employment numbers vary from month to month – over the last year, monthly numbers for Chicago have ranged from a gain of 17,537 (in August) to a loss of 9,744 (in July) — so picking your data point can make a big difference in bragging rights.  But it does seem that for a few months at least, job growth has been stronger in Chicago than elsewhere, though it’s not due to anything Emanuel has done.

One statistic doesn’t tell the whole story, of course. It also turns out that while employment increased from September to October, unemployment also increased, rising a half point to reach 10 percent, according to World Business Chicago. But hey, that’s progress: it’s down 0.3 percent from two years ago.

Maybe it’s a good sign that more people are looking for work.  But unfortunately, too many are not finding it.

And in Emanuel’s Chicago, they’re far more likely to be out of work if they’re African American.  As the health department’s new database on socioeconomic indicators reveals, the distribution of unemployment is wildly uneven in Chicago.

Five community areas including the Loop, Lakeview, and Lincoln Park had unemployment rates below 5 percent.  In nine community areas, all on the South and West Side, unemployment was over 20 percent.  In West Englewood, it was over 34 percent.

Those statistics are from 2006 to 2010, but there’s nothing to indicate the disparties have decreased — and as we’ll see, Emanuel’s policies have almost certainly intensified the effect.

Black Chicago left behind

Last year Megan Cottrell reported that African Americans in Chicago had the highest unemployment rate of any big-city racial or ethnic group in the nation.  And looking at workforce participation, she determined that fully one half of African-American males in Chicago are not working.

In fact, a new study shows that while African-American unemployment rates have fallen in most cities, they’ve continued to rise in Chicago. Chicago is also near the top in the gap between employment rates for blacks and whites.

As we’ve noted, St. Louis, Atlanta, Memphis, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth, Washington and Richmond had black unemployment rates that were below the national average. Chicago’s is 6 points higher.

Emanuel is doing nothing to address this; indeed, his policies are making things worse.

He’s cutting middle-class city jobs by the hundreds, outsourcing city services to low-wage, no-benefit private providers and turning city contracts over to low-wage, nonunion contractors.   And the jobs he’s cutting belong overwhelming to people of color, particularly African Americans.

In the past year Emanuel has cut nearly 1,200 middle-class city jobs, according to Mick Dumke.  Setting aside the 400 positions eliminated in the police department, roughly half fell on majority-black areas of the South Side, with the rest mainly distributed among black and Hispanic areas of the West and Southwest Sides.

City services like homeless emergency transportation — and now the water department’s call center — are being outsourced to low-wage employers.  Recycling and public health services are also being outsourced.

Low-wage Chicago

More recently the city has been awarding contracts for janitorial services at O’Hare and city buildings to low-wage employers, including one contractor with a history of labor board violations.  At O’Hare, a contractor who paid $15.45 an hour and provided health and retirement benefits under a union contract is being replaced by a contractor offering $11.90 an hour, likely without benefits.

That doesn’t even save the city money, since the contracts are covered by airport fees paid by airlines.  It seems to purely reflect a preference for low-wage employers.

Meanwhile a majority of aldermen are supporting two measures, the Responsible Bidders Ordinance, which would protect workers when the city changes contractors, and the Stable Jobs, Stable Airports Ordinance, which would extend the city’s living wage requirement to airport contracts.

These would boost the city’s economy – and create jobs — by giving consumers more money to spend. They’d raise incomes for Chicago’s families, where nearly one in three children – and more than one in two black children – live in poverty, as Steve Bogira notes.

The mayor’s council allies have so far blocked consideration of either ordinance.

This takes place during a recovery where, as the Tribune has detailed, better-paying jobs are being replaced by low-wage jobs. Today one third of Chicago workers have low-wage jobs, not paid enough to cover basic necessities.  That’s up from 24 percent ten years ago.

The 42,500 jobs for which Emanuel falsely claims credit include a large number of retail and restaurant jobs; those are big sectors in Chicago, and they’re leading job growth nationally.  Those jobs generally pay little more than the minimum wage.

And where Emanuel has a chance to make a difference, he seems to opt for cutting workers’ wages every time.  The thrust of his approach is to turn Chicago from a union town to low-wage town.  Even his determination to replace neighborhood schools with charters has the effect of lowering living standards for teachers.

His economic development policy consists largely of press conferences where CEOs announce job shifts and praise the mayor – though as the Tribune has shown, about a fourth of the 20,000 jobs he claims to have shephered here are based on very uncertain projections, and of the rest, about half were transfers, not new openings for Chicagoans.

“The new jobs the mayor brags about are not being filled by people who live in the communities that need them most,” writes Ben Joravksy.  “Meanwhile, the mayor replaces union jobs that bring much-needed money to hard-hit communities with low-wage, part-tiime ones.”

Race to the bottom

“Emanuel does not seem to understand that one cannot achieve economic development by further immiserating working people and their communities, and by privatizing and cutting public services that working people depend on,” according to the Chicago Political Economy Group.

According to CPEG, Emanuel’s policies are basically the Republican “trickle down” approach.  “This has been the source of much of our current economic malaise.”

“A bottom-up, Harold Washington-type local economic development strategy would not lead to increasing African-American unemployment” – which they note is “much higher than New York’s and trending in the wrong direction over the last year” – and would be the best way to “achieve broad-based and sustainable prosperity.”

In his Washington Post piece, Emanuel proposes taking his austerity-and-privatization program national.  He repeats a common falacy of Clinton-era Rubinites, who think balancing the federal budget “lay the groundwork for a decade of prosperity,” as he puts it.  In fact, a boom fed by technology and stock bubbles was what brought the deficit down.  They’ve got it backwards.  Drawing the wrong lesson, they want to cut spending now – an approach mainstream economists recognize as a recipe for stagnation.

We need to restore progressive taxation, get the financial sector under control, and ramp up public-sector investments.  We need fair trade policies, not the NAFTA-style race-to-the-bottom deals Emanuel has pushed.  The mayor’s national program is a prescription for a “lost decade.”

Back home, with entrenched unemployment along with with a steady wave of low-wage jobs encouraged by city policies, and with job cuts targeting the areas that need jobs most desperately, that’s precisely what Emanuel seems determined to give Chicago.


A previous version of this post was revised, with a new headline.

The Chicago debate http://www.newstips.org/2012/10/the-chicago-debate/ http://www.newstips.org/2012/10/the-chicago-debate/#comments Wed, 24 Oct 2012 20:42:21 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6716 The Tribune has a very curious piece on Tuesday night’s debate between four third-party presidential candidates at the Chicago Hilton. It talks about all kinds of things – except what the candidates actually said at the debate.  There’s one direct quote: Libertarian Gary Johnson‘s characterization of the two parties as tweedledee and tweedledum  — hardly an earth-shattering revelation — and the only other information about candidates’ positions comes in thumbnail characterizations cribbed from their websites.

That’s too bad, because in many ways it was a far more interesting debate than those we’ve seen between the two major candidates.

Particularly at the town hall debate between Obama and Romney last week, I was struck by how consistently the two candidates succeeded in not answering the questions that were put to them.  On a larger level, there were major issues where all we got were two versions of the establishment consensus – more coal and oil drilling, more free trade pacts, lower corporate tax rates (with loopholes closed, of course – though if you think those loopholes will stay closed, you don’t know Congress).

Wednesday’s candidates were clear and direct.  All four were very sharp on the abyssmal civil liberties record of the Obama administration and on the need to end interventionist military policies.  The administration’s escalation of drone warfare was roundly condemned. Along with Johnson, the Green Party’s Jill Stein and former Salt Lake City mayor Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party were quite forthright about decriminalizing marijuana.  (Former congressman Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party demurred on that one.)

What emerged was that there are areas where the left and right – which in significant areas, let’s face it, probably reflect the real thinking of Americans more than the corporate programs of the two major parties – converge.

They diverged on the question of funding for higher education, with Stein and Anderson arguing for free higher education – Stein perhaps making the best case for it, pointing out that other advanced economies provide it and that we have too; and that the GI Bill paid for itself with higher productivity – and Johnson and Goode opposing it based on their concerns about deficit spending.  Similarly, the two progressives backed public financing of elections, while Johnson called for full transparency and Goode proposed eliminating PACs.

One great question was what constitutional amendment the candidates would like to pass: Johnson and Goode backed term limits, Anderson proposed an updated Equal Rights Amendment also covering sexual orientation, and Stein called for repealing the Citizens United decision and abolishing corporate personhood.

The war on drugs, out-of-control military spending, civil liberties, the corruption of our political process – these are issues of central to concern to many Americans, and they’re not being addressed by the two major candidates.

And as  Slate points out, the Chicago debate was the only time climate change has come up in any of this year’s presidential debates. [Also missing: any discussion of federal education policies emphasizing standardized testing and privatization; and as Dean Baker points out, any discussion of Social Security — particularly unfortunate, as it could be a major element in a large-scale budget deal after the election.]

The Tribune actually defends the Commission on Presidential Debates for excluding third party candidates in order to keep debates “on track and substantive.”  It might be worth noting that the CPD was established by the Democratic and Republican parties – with financial backing from the same corporations that finance the major campaigns — to replace the League of Women Voter’s sponsorship after candidates like John Anderson and Ross Perot were allowed to participate.

The result has been a further constriction of our political discourse.

I saw a debate by Canadian candidates for prime minister a few years ago, with four candidates – conservative, liberal, social democrat, green – sitting around a table and getting a good bit more than two-minute sound bites. The candidates weren’t interest in posturing as likeable or getting in “zingers.” It was lots more substantive – and lots less evasive — than what we’re offered here.

Also worth noting is the corruption of media coverage of the elections, particularly TV broadcasters including the Tribune Company, which profit immensely from political campaigns – and coincidentally or not, don’t cover candidates who don’t buy ads from them.

And the broadcast industry has lobbied hard against any laws limiting political contributions or even requiring disclosure of donors.  (See Super PACs: Bad for democracy, good for TV stations.)

I’d also note that with Illinois solidly in the Obama column, voters might feel less constrained in their choices.

You can watch the debate on C-SPAN.

(Thanks to Chicago Platypus for providing a last-minute ticket.)

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On the ballot: elected school board http://www.newstips.org/2012/10/on-the-ballot-elected-school-board/ http://www.newstips.org/2012/10/on-the-ballot-elected-school-board/#comments Mon, 22 Oct 2012 22:39:31 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6709 In the wake of a dramatic school strike — and just prior to the anticipated announcement of scores of school closings — residents of 327 precincts in 35 wards will vote next month on an advisory referendum calling for an elected school board.

With 77 percent of Chicagoans backing an elected school board according to a Chicago Tribune poll, the challenge facing Communities Organized for Democracy in Education, the coalition of groups backing the referendum, is making sure voters know about the referendum and go to the end of the ballot to vote on it, said Austin schools activist Dwayne Truss.

On the West Side, State Representative La Shawn Ford has sponsored two forums on the referendum, with a third scheduled for Monday, October 29 at 6 p.m. at Carey AME Church, 1448 S. Homan.

Ford, who’s sponsoring legislation establishing a legislative task force to study the issue, has invited supporters of the referendum as well as CPS and Democrats for Education Reform, the group that paid for Mayor Emanuel’s post-strike TV ad blitz.  CPS and DFER have declined to participate, Truss said.

Tuesday forum features Karen Lewis

On Tuesday night, CODE is holding a forum on the referendum at the Logan Square Auditorium,  2539 N. Kedzie (7 p.m., October 23), featuring Karen Lewis, Ben Joravsky, and Pauline Lipman of UIC and Teachers for Social Justice.

Tuesday’s forum will be broadcast live on CAN-TV 27.

At Ford’s October 8 forum, Lipman reviewed findings from her 2011 study of elected and appointed boards.  Chicago’s school board is the only appointed board in the state and a rarity in the nation, where 96 percent of school boards are elected, she said.

Elected boards “tend to look more like the people who elect them,” Lipman said.  “They have parents and teachers and community organizers and education experts.”  Chicago’s board “has corporate CEOs and bankers and real estate developers,” she said.

[In Catalyst, Lawndale organizer Valerie Leonard points outthat while her neighborhood has been targeted for school closings and turnarounds, not one person on the school board is from the West Side.]

Elected boards “have structures and processes in place to involve the public,” Lipman said.  “They meet in the evening, when more people can attend, they meet in communities, they have community task forces to study issues, they debate and vote in public.”

That’s a contrast to Chicago’s board, she said.

“If you’ve ever been to a board of education meeting here, you know you have to get up at 4 a.m. and get on line by 6 a.m. for the chance to speak for two minutes to a board of education that is paying no attention to you – half of them are sitting there texting” during the public comment period.

Behind closed doors

After public comments Chicago’s board “goes into executive session and at the end of the day – for those of us who stick around – they come out and tell us what they’ve decided.”

She said arguments that appointed boards are more effective don’t hold water.  Under mayoral control since 1995, Chicago’s board “has failed our children,” she said, with the racial achievement gap growing and the number of schools on probation doubling.

Under the appointed board, CPS is moving toward “a two-tiered education system with a small number of selective-enrollment schools” with a rich curriculum, while “disinvesting from and destabilizing neighborhood schools” in black and Latino communities, where preparation for standardized tests.is emphasized.

Over 100 schools have been closed, mainly in black and Latino communities, with “disastrous” results, she said.  “Children have died,” she said, referring to violence that’s resulted.  “Children have dropped out because they’re afraid to go to the school they’ve been transferred to.”  And low-income communities of color, already hit hard by unemployment and foreclosures, have lost “anchor institutions.”

And against the argument that elections would “politicize” the board, Lipman asked, “What could be more political than a board that’s only accountable to the mayor’s political agenda?”

Lipman took issue with Ford’s proposal for a study commission.  “This discussion has been going on for a long time,” she said. “The damage has been done.  We don’t need a study commission.  We need an elected school board.”

Ford responded: “I’m going to be carrying legislation, whether for a task force or for an elected school board.  Whatever the community wants and is willing to fight for, that’s what I’ll fight for.”

He said that under its current governance, CPS has failed black students.


A previous version misspelled Pauline Lipman’s name. 

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Subliminal message: Rahm lost http://www.newstips.org/2012/09/subliminal-message-rahm-lost/ http://www.newstips.org/2012/09/subliminal-message-rahm-lost/#comments Tue, 25 Sep 2012 23:49:48 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6668 Mayor Emanuel “knows he lost” in the recent showdown with the teachers union “and finds it necessary to rehabilitate himself,” political analyst Don Rose told Newstips last week.

That’s his take on the TV ad blitz by an arm of Democrats for Education Reform – which has cost “an astronomical amount of money,” according to a campaign finance analyst.

With only 19 percent thinking he handled the situation well – “the first time the mayor has been upside down in any polling” – Emanuel “believes he needs damage control,” Rose writes in a letter to the Sun-Times on Tuesday.

“What is most distressing,” Rose writes, is that Emanuel accepts financing “from anti-union advocacy groups whose acknowledged goal is the destruction of teachers unions and the eventual breakup of public education itself.”

Rose, who advised the firefighters union around the time of their 1980 strike against Mayor Jane Byrne, concludes: “We have not seen the end of union-busting tactics emanating from the fifth floor of City Hall.”

As noted here last week, DFER was founded by billionaire hedge-fund traders who like charter schools and hate teachers unions.  “National donors” funded the group’s recent expansion into Illinois, according to Catalyst; funding is now said to be a combination of local and national money, though DFER wouldn’t discuss who its donors are.

Previously the group ran radio ads criticizing the union’s decision to hold a strike vote, then calling on CTU to “get back to the table” – while negotiations were underway continuously.  “If you listened to a DFER radio ad, you would have thought CTU pulled out of negotiations,” Raise Your Hand points out.  The group ran TV ads throughout the strike.


Featuring Emanuel himself, the newest ad campaign works less to boost the corporate school reform agenda than to buff the mayor’s tarnished image.

It’s a symptom of the post-Citizens United political landscape and of the vastly expensive “24/7, 365-day campaign cycle” that’s resulted, said David Morrison of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.

The reported $1 million price tag is “an astronomical amount,” he said, dwarfing any other campaign media spending at the moment – and especially remarkable on behalf of a politicians who’s not currently running for office.

And because it was spent by a 501 (C) 4 nonprofit — Education Reform Now Advocates, the educational arm of the DFER (which itself is a political action committee) — we have no way of knowing where the money came from, he said.

The purpose of disclosure is to help citizens evaluate the messages that interest groups pay for.  It would be welcome in this case, Morrison suggests. “They could choose to disclose voluntarily,” he said.

And the activities of Education Reform Now Advocates “may be covered by lobbyist requirements,” he said.  As of June, no one from DFER or ERNA had registered with the city as a lobbyist.

Along with the huge infusions of outside cash from unknown sources, the perpetual campaigning is a matter of serious concern. Morrison points out that “part of the reason we have relatively long, four-year terms” for mayor is “so there’s a substantial period when you focus on what’s best for your constituents, not what’s best for your reelection.”

“There comes a time when you have to stop campaigning and start governing,” he said.  “It can be difficult to bring people together and pass legislation when you’re always sticking your finger in someone’s eye.”


Raise Your Hand Coalition lists more questions about DFER in a new blog post.  Not just “why a group of hedge-fund managers from New York is trying to run public policy in Chicago.”  But also, how did DFER get its hand on the cell phone numbers of CPS parents?  Many parents have been asking, RYH reports.

And another thing – what if those millions of dollars spent on TV ads and robocalls had been spent on schools instead?

Raise Your Hand was neutral during the strike, though it has worked with teachers on issues like increased funding for schools and a well-rounded curriculum with less testing.

But they’re distressed to see mayoral confidante Bruce Rauner (who Rose calls “a real right-winger”) declaring on Chicago Tonight, “This is war.”

“Most parents don’t want a war. They want a district that’s looking out for all children, that is capable of collaboration.”  Their concerns: “having a voice in educational policy and putting resources in the classroom.”

RYH promises to keep its focus on reforming state funding for schools.  And when that push comes, it will be interesting to see if the hedge-fund guys lend a hand.

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Big money in Wisconsin, Chicago http://www.newstips.org/2012/06/big-money-in-wisconsin-chicago/ http://www.newstips.org/2012/06/big-money-in-wisconsin-chicago/#comments Thu, 07 Jun 2012 22:28:20 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6343 The day after huge infusions of political money helped save Governor Scott Walker from recall in Wisconsin, big-money interests were buying media to influence public perceptions of the Chicago Teachers Union’s strike authorization vote.

(Ken Davis points this out at the top of this week’s Chicago Newsroom on CAN-TV, where I was a guest with Lorraine Forte of Catalyst Chicago.  You can watch it here.)

In either case, of course, the goal is to shape the narrative.

It worked in Wisconsin, where a governor who’s fallen far short on his promises of economic revival – Wisconsin is at the back of the pack in terms of job creation over the past year – was recast as a tough, courageous leader turning the state around.

The real story in Wisconsin is that union busting and cutting public spending has failed to get the economy going.  It’s really a case study of how austerity doesn’t work.  Now it’s also a case study on how to sell austerity, even when it’s not working.

In Chicago the goal is to take a situation where teachers are under attack and fighting back and paint it as one where they are being reckless and irresponsible.

As Lorraine Forte points out, it was allies of the group that’s running the anti-teacher ads that pushed through SB7 last year, raising the bar on a strike authorization vote to great heights, and more or less forcing the union to take its vote now.

To turn around and criticize the union for taking its best shot under heavily-constrained circumstances is disingenuous at best.

The anti-CTU ads are the product of Democrats For Education Reform, a New York-based group funded by billionaire hedge fund traders. It was a West Coast-based group, Stand For Children – also funded by a small number of wealthy financial industry people — that pushed through SB7, after making huge donations in key legislative races.

Public support for teachers

Their goal with the ads is to undercut strong public support for CTU.  The Trib’s recent poll showed 92 percent of CPS parents think teachers should be compensated for a longer school day.  It showed Chicagoans by 2-to-1 back the CTU plan for the longer day over Mayor Emanuel’s, which may be unfair, since it’s not clear he’s yet bothered to translate his campaign slogan into a real plan.

Meanwhile, CPS has offered a single 2 percent raise for two years, for a much longer day, followed by a merit pay system to be figured out later.

In negotiations CPS doesn’t want to talk about adding languages, art, music, and physical education to round out the day (which would require teachers) and wants to jettison contract language on class size.  This has just deepened some parents’ fears that the longer day will be just more “drill and kill,” and will be paid for with larger class sizes.

Of course the backdrop of all this is the failure of Emanuel’s approach to the longer school day.

A ‘win-lose’ proposition

He set it up as a “win-lose” proposition, where he and “the children” would win and the teachers would lose. It would be imposed on teachers, and it would prove to the world what a tough guy he was, at least when it comes to unions. (Yes, like Scott Walker.)

He first rolled out a longer-day proposal last year with a 2 percent pay hike offer, immediately after negotiations had failed over CPS’s claim that it couldn’t afford a scheduled raise.  That was clearly bad faith.

Then he tried to implement the longer day in individual schools, in violation of the teachers’ contract, as the state education labor board found.  That was beyond bad faith; it was illegal.

He stonewalled parents who wanted details.  “I cannot wait for a high-class debate,” he said, when people asked what the longer day would consist of and how it would be paid for.  Those are things that parents care about – and they’re not things they’re likely to trust CPS to take care of — and Emanuel misjudged that entirely.  Parents have been left with many unanswered questions and growing frustration.  (More here.)

Now it’s crunch time, and the mayor’s not in a very good position.  He’s hoping a little media money from his rich friends will distract people — with an old familiar formula: blame teachers.


Wisconsin is a taste of what Super PACs can accomplish in the post-Citizens United landscape.  The Illinois General Assembly is worried too – they just passed a bill lifting limits on campaign donations in races where Super PACs spend over a certain amount.

The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform is calling on Governor Quinn to veto the bill.  Other states have found better ways of reining in Super PACs, says Brian Gladstein of ICPR.   Illinois only passed contribution limits in 2009, after Rod Blagojevich was arrested, and the new legislation would be a big step backward, he said.

The new Illinois Campaign Finance Reform Task Force just began meeting late last year, and that body should be given time to study responses by other states and recommend next steps for Illinois before lifting limits and “opening the door to more corruption,” Gladstein said.

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North Side voters back financial tax http://www.newstips.org/2012/03/north-side-voters-back-financial-tax/ Wed, 21 Mar 2012 22:04:43 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6024 By a wide margin, North Side residents backed a referendum calling for a sales tax on financial transactions Tuesday.

Voters in 17 precincts in the 46th Ward voted 3-to-1 in favor of “policies to tax speculative financial transactions including, but not limited to, derivatives and futures contracts.”

A one dollar per contract sales tax on trades on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, which have an average value of $230,000, could generate $6 billion dollars a year for the state or city, according to Northside Action for Justice, which backed the referendum.

The group sponsored the referendum because “politicians have not been taking this seriously,” said Kelate Gaim of Northside Action in a release.

“Why do I pay more sales tax when I buy a pair of shoes than these traders do placing speculative bets?” asked Francis Tobin, the group’s chair. The financial transaction tax would be borne by individual traders, not by exchanges.

By a similar margin, voters in those precincts also backed a TIF reform proposal calling for returning surpluses to schools and other taxing bodies, and restricting future TIF spending to affordable housing, living wage jobs and businesses, and youth and senior services.

Super PACs: Bad for democracy, good for TV stations http://www.newstips.org/2012/02/super-pacs-bad-for-democracy-good-for-tv-stations/ http://www.newstips.org/2012/02/super-pacs-bad-for-democracy-good-for-tv-stations/#comments Wed, 08 Feb 2012 22:38:59 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=5639 Super PACS “represent much of what is wrong with American democracy rolled neatly into one package,” said Marites Velasquez of Illinois PIRG, announcing a new report showing that fundraising monsters suddenly dominating our elections are funded by a very small number of very rich people.

Of itemized contributions by individuals to Super PACs in 2010 and 2011, 93 percent came from 726 individuals giving $10,000 or more, and more than half came from just 37 people who gave over a half-million dollars each, according to a new report from Illinois PIRG Education Fund and Demos.

Super PACs are “tools for powerful special interests” that work by “drowning out the voices of ordinary Americans in a sea of sometimes-secret cash,” Velasquez said.

“They undermine core principles of political equality in favor of a bully-based system where the strength of a citizen’s voice depends upon the size of her wallet,” said Adam Lioz of Demos.

Noting that 17 percent of Super PAC money came from businesses, the groups recommend the Illinois General Assembly pass legislation requiring shareholder approval for corporate political spending, among other reforms.

A bonanza for broadcasters

At the Nation, John Nichols and Robert McChesney (co-founders of the media reform group Free Press) detail the cost to democracy — and the bonanza for TV stations.

TV stations will take in up to $5 billion from political advertising this year – nearly twice the $2.8 billion they got four years ago.  The amount being spent on TV ads for House races is up 54 percent since 2008; for Senate races it’s up 75 percent.

Political ads accounted for 1.2 percent of total ad revenue in 1996; this year it’s likely to be 20 percent, and more in key states.

Super PACs specialize in scorched-earth, no-holds-barred negative advertising which actually aims at depressing turnout, and succeeds: research shows “the main consequence of negative ads is that they demobilize citizens and turn them away from electoral politics.”

And, of course, the prospects of a candidacy that doesn’t represent the interests of big-money donors becomes increasingly remote.

Meanwhile, with news staffs cut and much less time devoted to political coverage, TV news increasingly focuses on horse-race and cat-fight aspects.  “Such coverage is cheap and easy to do, and lends itself to gossip and endless chatter, even as it sometimes provides the illusion that serious affairs of state are under scrutiny,” write Nichols and McChesney.  But it is “as nutrition-free as a fast-food hamburger.”

Naturally, the National Association of Broadcasters fights any campaign finance reform that would cut into station revenues, most recently opposing legislation requiring Super PACs to fully disclose their donors.

NAB has also opposed what might be the simplest reform: requiring TV stations to provide free airtime to candidates as a public-service requirement.

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Back of the Yards wants one ward http://www.newstips.org/2011/11/back-of-the-yards-wants-one-ward/ Fri, 11 Nov 2011 22:12:34 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=4932 While Latino aldermen are calling for more Latino wards, residents of one of Chicago largest Latino communities have a more particular concern – they want a single alderman.

Back of the Yards is now divided into pieces included in five wards, and the Committee for a Unified Back of the Yards says that has complicated communications and hindered progress for the community.

The group will hold a press conference Saturday morning (November 12, 10 a.m.) at 45th and Paulina, in the heart of the community – a corner where the boundaries of three wards intersect.

The neighborhood is seeing increased community improvement efforts – Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council recently launched a new Great Neighborhoods community planning initiative with LISC Chicago –but  lack of a single alderman makes it hard to address questions like the recent closing of the Back of the Yards branch library at 47th and Damen, said Cindy Agustin of CUBY.

“It’s been closed since September,” she said.  “The sign on the door says it’s closed due to flooding,” but it’s been difficult to get any attention to the problem.

The branch library serves students in five elementary schools, Agustin said.

While a survey by Latinos Organized for Justice and the Illinois Hunger Coalition recently found that over half of Back of the Yards families report they “sometimes, rarely, or never” have enough money to feed their families, the state recently closed a human services office that offered food assistance and other help.

Mayor Emanuel’s proposed budget would also close Back of the Yards’ mental health clinic.

Groups participating Saturday include BYNC, The Resurrection Project, United Southwest Chamber of Commerce, U.N.I.O.N. Impact Center, and several parishes and schools.