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Ray LaHood: Peoria transit needs help!

As Transportation Secretary-designate Ray LaHood prepares for his confirmation hearing tomorrow, Illinois PIRG is highlighting the budget crisis at the Greater Peoria Mass Transit District in LaHood’s home town — and the failure of the proposed economic stimulus bill to include direct assistance for local transit authorities.

Nationally, many local transit authorities are facing severe budgetary problems.  In Peoria, a $3 million shortfall could force the firing of over a third of the transit district’s workforce.  But in an economic recovery proposal released by the House Appropriations Committee last week, a proposal from the House Transportation Committee to provide $2 billion to local transit authorities to prevent layoffs and fare hikes was eliminated.

“There’s not a dime in the estimated $825 billion package to help local transit authorities avoid severe cutbacks at a time when ridership is at an all-time high,” said Brian Imus of Illinois PIRG.  “And the proposal fails to ensure that any of the $30 billion proposed for highways would create jobs that fix our crumbling bridges and highways. As it stands, every cent of the $30 billion could be spent on building new, unnecessary highways that will only increase our dependence on foreign oil.”

He urged senators to press the matter at the hearing.

Immigrants celebrate change

One day after President Obama’s inauguration, immigrants are stepping right up to ensure that their issues get attention from the new administration, holding actions in Washington D.C., Chicago, and elsewhere.

On January 21 in Washington, the Fair Immigration Reform Movement and groups from across the country, including members of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, will march to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office.

There 200 religious leaders will perform traditional cleaning ceremonies from various faiths, intended “to mark the end of enforcement-only immigration policies and celebrate the new momentum for just and humane immigration reform and worker justice,” according to a statement. A rally at Westminster Presbyterian Church follows.

“We want to transform our society so that workers don’t have to fear raids, families stay together, and no one lives in the shadows,” according to the FIRM statement. “We want workers to have the freedom to organize and demand fundamental change. Everyone in this country must be entitled to dignity and due process. Our country must welcome the contributions and cultures of immigrants from all over the world, and celebrate the vitality they bring to our country.”

In Chicago, local members of the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities will hold a press conference at 10 a.m. at Casa Michoacan, 1638 S. Blue Island, to urge the new president to “launch a long-overdue transformation of the nation’s immigration policies,” said Claudia Lucero of Durango Unido, a Mexican-American hometown association.

They’ll call on the administration to stop workplace raids which leave “a lot of families…scared to go to work” and “worried when they drop their kids at school whether they can pick them up,” Lucero said. They’ll call for action on a backlog of many years for applications for residency and citizenship which puts immigrants in jeapordy. And they’ll call for a “just and humane immigration reform that leads to legalization for families working and paying taxes in the United States,” she said.

Lucero said NALACC members have already joined other groups in meeting with the immigration committee of the presidential transition team, and were told “immigration issues are still a priority for Mr. Obama,” Lucero said.

At noon on the 21st, ICIRR and the Ya Basta Coalition will rally at the local office of ICE, 55 E. Monroe, to demand a moratorium on raids and deportations. Then they’ll march to the Federal Plaza and hold an interfaith service at Chicago Temple, 77 W. Washington.

Arne Duncan, militarist?

Andy Kroll highlights the militarization and privatization of Chicago public schools in a critical view of Arne Duncan’s record at Tomdispatch.

The Challenge of Change

Normon Solomon cites (former) Chicago activist Carl Davidson in arguing that the Obama administration presents opportunities and challenges for progressives, but this is not the time to rest on any laurels — or to blame the new president if he doesn’t meet every expectation.

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Chicago Rocks for Barack

Chicago celebrates — and discusses, debates, writes poetry and composes music — as our favorite son enters the White House. Check back for updates.

January 18, 19, 20

DuSable Museum presents the Road to the White House film series on Sunday, June 18, at 12:30 p.m. (free); a Martinmas celebration with performances, education, service projects and fun, Monday, January 19, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. ($8/$5 children); all-day Inauguration Day program including inaugural luncheon and viewing of ceremony, Tuesday, January 20 (admission charges vary). 773-947-0600 x 236

Sunday, January 18

All-Chicago Inaugural Ball, with all-ages afternoon cultural program, 4-7 p.m. ($5) and dance party with Ghanatta and DJ Warp at 7 p.m. ($15), sponsored by Partisan Arts International at Martyrs, 3855 N. Lincoln

Monday, January 19

Korean Americans answer the Inauguration Committee’s call for community organizations to hold activities for a national day of service on King Day. The Korean American Resource and Cultural Center, Korean American Women In Need, and Korean American Community Services invite you to join their children’s drumming circle, enjoy a Korean lunch, and view films on the civil rights movement, 12 noon to 3 p.m. at 2434 Dempster in DesPlaines. 773-588-9158

A People’s Inauguration culminates the Camp Hope vigil with a King Day rally to “reclaim our democracy” in Federal Plaza at 4 p.m. Also at Federal Plaza, at 1 p.m., women and children will hold a silent vigil for peace and justice in Palestine. (Camp Hope’s Kathy Kelly recently reported from her peace witness on the Gaza border.)

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Transportation stimulus cuts rail, transit

House Democrats unveiled an $825 billion stimulus plan Thursday, and environmental and transporation advocates weren’t happy with the transportation portion, which cut funding for rail and transit from the House Transportation Committee’s proposal.  And as TPM reports, committee members are angry too.  

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More on Geithner

Last week we noted questions about Treasury Secretary-designate Timothy Geithner’s record on economic policy.  Propublica has more on his role as regulator in the Citigroup debacle.  As head of the New York Fed, Geithner lifted a ban on major acquisitions and reduced oversight and capital requirements as Citi aggressively expanded subprime mortgage business.   Now the firm is in crisis, and we’re paying for it.

‘This skinny guy’

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal visits Chicago’s Roseland community, where Barack Obama worked as an organizer 20 years ago.

“‘I woke up and felt better the day after he was elected, said Crystal Bell, 20, who carefully wraps a blanket around 1-year-old daughter Chiyah. ‘We made history. It felt like a new world.’

“But the old world remains. Bell said she works two part-time jobs, running a cash register at a Wendy’s and doing home child care. She struggles financially.

“Bell said her neighborhood is plagued with violence. In the last year, she said, two of her friends were shot and killed.

“‘He (Obama) can’t stop someone from shooting,’ she said. ‘But he can help make it better with gun laws. I hope he helps this unemployment, too, keeps his word.’…

“In Altgelt Gardens, longtime resident Dorian Gray smiles at the memory of Obama.

“‘He was this skinny guy, talked too much,’ he said.

“Now the ‘skinny guy’ is headed to the White House.

“‘What it changes is the way these younger black men look at things now,’ Gray said. ‘People 20 to 30 years old believed this would happen. I never thought in my lifetime that a black man would become president.'”

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        By Stephen Franklin Community Media Workshop   A 3-year-old child died on a plane from Chicago to Poland. This, Magdalena Pantelis instantly knew, was a story her readers would care about. But she needed more detail to write about it for the Polish Daily News, the nation’s oldest daily newspaper in Polish, founded Jan. […]




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