In These Times – Chicago Newstips by Community Media Workshop http://www.newstips.org Chicago Community Stories Mon, 08 Jan 2018 18:45:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.13 Corporate lobbying group draws fire http://www.newstips.org/2013/08/corporate-lobbying-group-draws-fire/ Thu, 08 Aug 2013 00:17:36 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=7589 A broad coalition of labor, community, environmental and faith groups will protest the 40th anniversary annual meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council, better known as ALEC.

The meeting takes place August 7 to 9 at the Palmer House, 17 E. Monroe; the rally takes place there on Thursday, August 8 at 12 noon.

Long a major but shadowy behind-the-scenes player, ALEC came to prominence in the aftermath of Trayvon Martin’s killing, when the group’s role working with the NRA to promote Stand Your Ground legislation became known.

With funding by major corporations and membership by one-third of the nation’s state legislators, ALEC provides model legislation in a wide array of areas.

The group joins corporate America’s economic agenda with a right -wing social agenda, according to In These Times editor Joel Bleifuss.  He joined Rey Lopez-Calderon of Common Cause and Brian Echols of Concerned Black Men on a recent episode of Chicago Newsroom to discuss ALEC.  (Watch it here.)

“They’re a great example of the power of Corporate America in American politics,” Bleifuss says.

In 2011 In These Times first exposed ALEC’s use of model bills — despite its tax exempt status which prohibits legislative activity — to undermine public employee unions and privatize government.

Charge tax fraud

“We think it’s tax fraud,” Lopez-Calderon says.  Common Cause and the Center for Media and Democracy recently filed a complaint with the IRS charging ALEC with filing fraudulent tax returns.

ALEC has gone after collective bargaining rights, clean energy legislation, and campaign finance reform, Newsroom panelists relate.  The group is behind a series of restrictive voter ID laws as well as SB 1070, Arizona’s controversial “Show Your Papers” law.

Echols notes that, on behalf of private prison corporations, ALEC has pushed the War on Drugs’ harsh sentencing laws, targetting African Americans and vastly increasing the nation’s prison population.  Now they’re pushing laws that will increase the detention of immigrants on behalf of the same corporations, Lopez-Calderon notes.

“They’ve viewed this as a long-term way for corporations to make money,” he says, adding that ALEC helped create the Corrections Corporation of America.

Schools and prisons

ALEC is also behind efforts to push charter schools and the privatization of public education.  In Illinois the group’s model bill created the Illinois Charter School Commission, which has the power to approve charter applications that have been turned down by local school districts.

One major beneficiary is K12, a nationwide purveyor of virtual charter schools now moving into Illinois, Echols notes.

“My view is they’ve got them coming and going,” he says — making money providing inferior education on the front end, then making money from incarcerating young people who can’t find gainful employment and are forced into the street economy.

According to Lopez-Calderon, ALEC’s guiding light is Margaret Thatcher, who pioneered the idea of finding ways for corporations to profit by taking over public sector functions.  (He adds that “in terms of Thatcherism,” Mayor Emanuel “is lockstep with this agenda.”)

Recently ITT reported on ALEC’s promotion of scores of  laws to erode wage and labor standards by undermining minimum wage, prevailing wage, and paid sick leave protections.

Senator Dick Durbin has announced he’ll hold hearings this fall on the role of ALEC and the NRA in spreading Stand Your Ground laws.

For extensive background, see the Center for Media and Democracy’s website, ALEC Exposed.

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Local reporting http://www.newstips.org/2011/12/local-reporting/ Thu, 22 Dec 2011 21:28:25 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=5027 New reports from the Local Reporting Initiative of the Chicago Community Trust are up at the Community News Project blog:

Highlighting the settlement Tuesday of a lawsuit requiring the state to help nursing home residents move into their own homes (see above), the Neighborhood Writing Alliance tells the story of one man who recently made the transition, with help from Access Living.

NWA also interviews the director of the only domestic violence program for people with disabilities in the Chicago area.

In These Times reports on “The Poverty of School Reform” and the disconnect between top-down reform models favored by corporate and political leaders and the realities of life in low-income communities.

Illinois Health Matters finds a “gaping chasm” between policymakers implementing health reform and South and West Side residents with serious health issues.

Photojournalist Bill Healy seeks out stories of the residents of Auburn Gresham.

Entre Nostoros, a multimedia blog by Radio Arte, covers Latina youth artists, activists and issues.

The Grassroots Collaborative looks at TIF spending in Chicago and finds that “a program meant to address blight in fact reinforces it” – while it also increases income inequality.

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Chicago In These Times http://www.newstips.org/2011/06/chicago-in-these-times/ Wed, 22 Jun 2011 20:38:10 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=4039 As a national publication based in Chicago, In These Times often provides better coverage of the local scene than its rivals – but this week’s issue seems particularly noteworthy on that account.

There’s an interview with Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative Nonviolence on why she’s joining the flotilla challenging the Israeli blockade of Gaza later this month; she also shares her views on Libya, Afghanistan, and the proliferation of drone technology.

There’s Kari Lydersen’s article (not yet online) on the growing relationship between steelworkers here and in Mexico, boosted by connections between the century-old Mexican community around Chicago mills and workers in Mexico. Blanca Morales came here from Monterrey when she was five and ended up working at Inland Steel for 25 years; now she’s part of Women of Steel, providing support for Mexican strikers who face brutal retaliation.

Steelworkers here point out that supporting steelworkers in Mexico – where the average manufacturing wage is under $4 an hour – will help “level the playing field” and reduce pressure on wages and working conditions here.

Yana Kunichoff reports on the Unemployed Action Center organized by Chicago Jobs With Justice, which is planning a partnership with the Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign to fight foreclosures and evictions.

Theo Anderson highlights the work of Protestants for the Common Good, lobbying for legislation to help ex-offenders, and Interfaith Workers Justice, fighting wage theft, as examples of “the re-emergence of the religious left as a powerful political force.”

Stephanie Shonekan of Columbia College shares her reflections on living in Naperville: “We found great neighbors and formed lifelong friendships with people whom I would never have known in my other walks of life.  And the greatest lesson learned has come from the reflections on race inspired by the very acute experience of being a black person in a privileged white neighborhood.”

There are offerings from two of Chicago’s journalistic greats: David Moberg with another go at how unions can save America, and Salim Muwakkil on the controversy over Manning Marable’s new biography of Malcolm X.

Finally there’s Chris Lehmann writing about the depature of Oprah Winfrey from daytime television, and why “the grinding spectacle of Oprah’s farewell felt much more like an infomercial for feeling something, anything, rather than an actual outpouring of human emotion.”

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