Joe Moore – Chicago Newstips by Community Media Workshop Chicago Community Stories Mon, 08 Jan 2018 18:45:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Does Rogers Park need a new charter school? Sun, 05 Aug 2012 21:43:04 +0000 A new charter school in Rogers Park will undermine neighborhood schools in multiple ways, say residents who complain there was “no discussion” about siting the new school.

UNO Charter Schools announced last week it is leasing the building which housed St. Scholastica Academy, 7416 N. Ridge, and will open a K-8 school there.  UNO chief Juan Rangel promised “a very aggressive recruitment campaign,” the Chicago Tribune reported.

UNO’s goal is to recruit 570 students.  Most “will be pulled from the surrounding community,” said Jim Ginderske of Occupy Rogers Park.  The group protested at the announcement of the new school last week.

Rogers Park has six elementary schools, he said.  They have a range of performance levels, but all “have a good mix of students,” dedicated teachers, and parents  who are involved in trying to garner more resources for their schools.  And all are seeing enrollments decline.

Every student recruited by UNO will cost a neighborhood school thousands of dollars in per-pupil state allocations, and by recruiting more motivated students, UNO will undercut local schools’ academic strength, he said.

It’s happened before (and not just here).  At a community hearing in 2009 Kristine Mayle, now CTU’s financial secretary, described the process where she taught, De La Cruz Middle School, which was closed in 2009, the year it won a Spotlight Award from the state board of education.

“We were an award-winning school, and then UNO started pulling kids away from our school and our numbers dropped,” she said, as Substance reported at the time.

(The De la Cruz building was then used to house UNO’s Paz school, its first and lowest-performing campus, while its facility was renovated.)

The big question is whether CPS really needs to open 60 new charter schools, as planned, when it has hundreds of underfunded neighborhood schools in buildings it says are underutilized.  Especially when charters  perform no better than neighborhood schools.

Meanwhile, UNO schools in non-CPS buildings get $400 thousand each in annual facilities funding from the school district,  WBEZ reports.

That’s a sharp contrast to neighborhood schools, where CPS funds repairs only “as needed,” with repairs often deferred for years.  Half of CPS schools will get no facilities funding under the proposed budget, BEZ reports.

And the CPS subsidy is on top of $100 million in state funding UNO’s getting for new school construction – from a state that fails to meet its constitutional mandate for fair school funding.

“What’s really happening here is starving neighborhood schools of resources,” Ginderske said.

Charter school proponents used to argue that public schools would improve with competition.  But with this kind of competition – for scarce resources – that’s not how it works.  This is cut-throat competition.

Ginderske criticized Ald. Joe Moore for backing the new school without consulting his constituents.

On top of Moore’s action squelching an advisory referendum on an elected school board, he said, “Many people feel they elected [Moore] as a progressive, and he’s no longer a progressive.”

“You don’t have to agree with the mayor on everything,” he said.

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Charge city ‘dumping’ mental health Tue, 06 Mar 2012 01:49:25 +0000 [UPDATED]  With six mental health clinics set to close next month, activists say the private community clinics that are supposed to take many city patients are already turning them away – one of many signs that the city’s claims of improving services and efficiency are a screen for an agenda of dumping mental health services entirely.

Mental Health Movement activists and workers from city mental health centers and public health clinics slated for closing will protest outside 13 threatened facilities at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 6. They’ll also be marching on three aldermanic offices (see below).

Big crowds are expected at the Northwest Mental Health Center, 2354 N. Milwaukee – one of two centers serving Latino populations, both of which are being shut down – and at the Woodlawn center, 6337 S. Woodlawn, where the Mental Health Movement has a strong base, and where the local alderman has promised to introduce a resolution calling for hearings on the closings.

Press conferences will be held at 5:15 p.m. at three clinics: Northwest (2354 N Milwaukee Ave.), Northtown/Rogers Park (1607 W Howard St.) and Auburn-Gresham (1140 W 79th St.).

“Private providers are turning people away,” said N’Dana Carter, who represents the MHM on a city health department committee overseeing clinic transitions.

She said the sole private community mental health service on the South Side, Community Mental Health Council, was not responding to calls for appointments from people referred by city clinics. She told of one woman who managed to get an appointment but was turned away when she came to the center at the scheduled time.

A staff person at CMHC said the center was accepting Medicaid patients and welcomes patients who’ve been pre-approved for Medicaid by the city.

Carter said that at a recent transition committee meeting, there was no discussion when a city clinic director reported on private providers turning away city clients. (A major topic of discussion at the meetings is who will get the furniture from facilities slated for closure, she said.)

Carter said she later put the issue directly to Deputy Commissioner Tony Beltran, who is overseeing the closings. According to Carter, he told her, “We can’t make the providers take anybody.”

“They talk about consolidation and improving services, but they’re just placating people to justify the fact that they don’t want to provide services any more,” said Darryl Gumm, chair of the Community Mental Health Board, which advises the department under a federal mandate.

“Mental health is something that can be dealt with – treatment works,” he emphasized, stressing its public safety value. “It should be as important as police and fire.”

South Side, Latinos losing services

Four of the six clinics slated for closing are on the South Side in areas designated as having a shortage of mental health services by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, according to a recent report from MHM. These communities need more – not fewer – services, the group says.

Also slated for closing are the two clinics serving predominantly Latino populations, the Northwest and Back of the Yards centers. Those centers serve areas with significant undocumented populations, who are far more likely to be without insurance – the segment the city claims it is focusing its resources on covering.

Most of the department’s Spanish-speaking therapists have been laid off, according to MHM. (All the department’s black male therapists have been laid off, the group says.)

Downward spiral

Other indications that the “consolidation” is less about improving services than shutting them down, according to the MHM:

While this year’s caseload reductions are projected at 20 percent, staff is being cut by 34 percent.

This perpetuates a long downward spiral of cutting staffing and services and then using resulting decreases in patients served to justify further cuts, the group says.

And past experience shows that more patients will fall through the cracks when they’re shifted to new clinics in unfamiliar neighborhoods.

The city is forgoing revenue that supports mental health services by sending Medicaid patients to private providers.

Meanwhile those providers, struggling with Medicaid cuts and late payments from the state, are steadily reducing the number of clients they serve – down nearly 20 percent from 2007 to 2011 statewide.

The city is setting aside $500,000 to fund psychiatric services by private providers at $150 an hour – after claiming for years that it was unable pay more than $80 an hour in order to fill its own psychiatric vacancies.

While the health department saves a net $1.5 million on the clinic closings, it’s increasing spending on three additional deputy commissioners, outside contracts, and advertising and surveys by close to $1.7 million.

Cost savings due to clinic closures are illusory, MHM argues. Taxpayer costs will be shifted to ER visits, hospitalizations, police calls, jails and homeless shelters as clinics are unavailable.

Just 150 additional psychiatric hospitalizations in the next year (with an average cost of $13,000, there were nearly 40,000 such hospitalizations in Chicago in 2010) will eat up all savings from the closings.

The city is focusing on existing patients while studies indicate a large and growing population that isn’t getting treatment, particularly among low-income residents.

Closed door

“What’s remarkable is the extent to which people who are directly affected by this, and who have first-hand experience with these issues, have tried and tried to get the ear of officials who are making decisions about things they don’t know anything about,” said MHM organizer Matt Ginsberg-Jaeckle.

“They’ve consistently shut the door to discussion,” he said. “It’s clear they’re just washing their hands of it.”

Mental health advocates first sought to meet with Mayor Emanuel while he was still a candidate for office, and got no response, Ginsberg-Jaeckle said.

In August, Health Commissioner Bechara Choucair backed out of a mental health town hall meeting hours before it was scheduled to take place.

In October MHM delivered 4,000 letters to Emanuel warning of the risks of closing the clinics and asking for a meeting. Mayoral staff promised to get back to them but never did, Ginsberg-Jaeckle said.

In November, MHM members sat in at Emanuel’s office calling for a meeting, and got no response. In January they crashed Emanuel’s announcement that he was restoring library hours, and he said he’d talk with them, according to Ginsberg-Jaeckle. Nothing came of that, either.

Lights out

In the City Council, health committee chair George Cardenas has promised hearings but backtracked several times, reportedly under pressure from the mayor’s office.

Ald. Willie Cochrane (20th), whose ward includes the Woodawn Mental Health Center, which is scheduled to close, and the Englewood clinic, which will receive patients from Woodlawn and Auburn Gresham, has promised to introduce a resolution calling for hearings on the closings, activists say.

On Tuesday evening, protestors will march on the offices of Ald. Joe Moreno (1st), Latasha Thomas (17th) and Joe Moore (49th), demanding they support the resolution. Thomas was among several aldermen who refused to talk with constituents about the clinics on their ward nights, Carter said. (Cardenas turned out the lights in his office when 28 constituents showed up, she said.)

Meanwhile, planning for the scheduled closings is slipshod and inadequate, Carter said. Therapists who are being reassigned haven’t been told where they’re going, and so their clients don’t know what to do. “People are afraid and confused,” she said.

Closing dates have changed several times since January. “They don’t have a plan, and we’ve put a spotlight on them so they can’t just push it through without a plan,” said Ginsberg-Jaeckle.

Although transportation assistance has been promised, details have changed regularly, Carter said. Now the city is talking about a couple months’ worth of bus passes, she said.

“If people need transportation now, they’re still going to need it in three months,” she said. “They’re just pushing people out of the system.”


UPDATE: MHM ally Southside Together Organizing for Power issued a statement on the cancellation of the G8 summit:

“The cancellation of the G8 summit comes as this city sits at a crossroads. Will we be a global city based on strong neighborhoods, robust public services, human rights and active public participation or a global city based on catering to corporations and hiding the poverty left in their wake?

“A good first step towards choosing the former path and putting people before profit would be to use a chunk of the $60-plus million raised by the city to cover the costs of the G8 summits to stop the closure of the 6 mental health clinics and the privatization of all seven of its neighborhood health centers and use the rest towards creating jobs, saving and improving schools and taking care of the people and communities that make up this city.

“STOP calls on Mayor Emanuel to immediately halt the closure of the mental health clinics and privatization of its neighborhood health centers as a first step in showcasing to the world the Chicago that the people demand and deserve. “

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‘Participatory budgeting’ in the 49th ward Mon, 02 Nov 2009 22:27:36 +0000 In a city where budget opacity is the norm – including a billion-dollar TIF program operated with minimal public disclosure – one ward will be the first locality in the U.S. to undertake the cutting-edge “good governance” practice of participatory budgeting.

At nine neighborhood assemblies starting tomorrow night (Tuesday, November 3, at St. Margaret Mary Church, 7311 N. Claremont), residents of the 49th Ward will elect community representatives to begin the process of allocating infrastructure funds from next year’s $1.4 million aldermanic menu program.

In further neighborhood meetings and workshops over coming months, community representatives will develop proposals for infrastructure projects, and next spring residents will meet in a ward assembly to vote on an infrastructure budget.

The process got started last spring when Ald. Joe Moore called together leaders of 50 community groups, who formed a steering committee to develop the planning process.

“Hopefully this is a start toward a far more transparent process,” said Jamiko Rose, executive director of the Organization of the North East, who chairs the steering committee.

Even among the activists who met last spring, the aldermanic menu program was not well known, she said. “Most people don’t even know this money exists.”

Under the aldermanic menu program, each alderman gets a pot of money to spend on streets, alleys, curbs, and lighting – or on whatever the alderman wants. In a 2004 report on the program, the Neighborhood Capital Budget Group said there was no public disclosure of aldermanic menu spending, little to no public participation in selection of projects, and no evaluation of their impact. The group called for ward-by-ward reporting on aldermanic menu spending along with increased public participation.

With the city’s overall infrastructure spending on neighborhoods decline, the aldermanic menu program accounted for about half of all such spending in neighborhoods from 1996 to 2002, according to NCBG.

First developed in the Brazilian city of Porto Alegro after the Workers Party won elections there, participatory budgeting allows residents to decide how public funds will be allocated. In Porto Alegro, some 50,000 residents participate annually in allocating about a fifth of the city’s budget, according to the Participatory Budgeting Project, which is advising the 49th Ward.

The PB Project provides technical assistance to cities around the world, among an estimated 1,200 that have adopted the technique. Britain is currently incorporating participatory budgeting in all its municipalities, according to the group’s website, and the UN has listed it as a “best practice” in democratic governance.

One of the PB Project founders who is advising the 49th Ward effort, Gianpaolo Baiocchi, is a Brown University professor and author of Militants and Citizens, a book on participatory democracy in Porto Alegro.

“When I first heard of the concept of participatory budgeting, I thought it was a perfect fit for my neighborhood, which is filled with activists and people who are used to being involved in the community process and who believe in democracy,” Moore told the Watson Institute at Brown earlier this year.

“I’m really looking forward to a successful experiment that will show my colleagues on the City Council…that you can trust people to make these decisions,” he said.

Moore’s website already provides some information on infrastructure projects (not including dollar amounts) – though with $100 million in projects over the past four years claimed, the aldermanic menu program is a small portion of spending in the ward. Much of the rest comes from several TIF districts in the ward.

Earlier this year, after the Chicago Park District began charging for parking along the lakefront, Moore used about $80,000 from his aldermanic menu money to subsidize free overnight parking in lakefront lots over the next three years.

A second neighborhood assembly is planned for Wednesday, November 4, at Pottawattomie Park’s fieldhouse, 7340 N. Rogers, with seven more planned in the next month (full schedule).

Gambling on a capital budget Fri, 18 Jan 2008 16:07:47 +0000 When Governor Blagojevich approved a regional sales tax hike to fund mass transit operations, it wasn’t the first campaign pledge he’s reversed recently. Just last month he went back on promises in his 2002 and ’06 campaigns to oppose gambling expansion.

Noting that he has “traditionally opposed” gambling expansion, Blagojevich’s spokesperson said December 17 that “in the spirit of compromise” he was “willing to accept at gaming expansion as a better source of revenue than raising taxes on people.”

But it was another “tradition” — the anti-tax pledge — that fell in this week’s compromise. And with the state’s long-deferred capital budget still unaddressed, the Task Force to Oppose Gambling in Chicago is suggesting it’s time to look at alternatives to gambling again.

A bill for massive gambling expansion, HB 4194 — which would add a land-based casino in Chicago, two riverboard casinos, and slot machines at five racetracks, doubling gambling positions in the state — is still on the table; hearings were held in Springfield earlier this month.

But the proposal faces a raft of political difficulties: casinos don’t like the slot machines at racetracks or the stepped-up regulation contained in the bill; downstate legislators aren’t enthusiastic about awarding a casino license to the scandal-plagued City of Chicago in perpetuity, for a fraction of the $800 million that a private entity would pay. Add to the mix the December indictment of Blagojevich’s top gambling advisor — for gambling-linked fraud.

Now the Task Force is questioning the premise of the Governor’s December compromise — that gambling expansion is “a better source of revenue” than taxes. Spokesperson Doug Dobmeyer notes that the quarter-percent income tax hike that’s been discussed as a source of capital funding would cost the average family $110 a year; he contrasts that with the $120 or so that the average casino patron loses in each visit. (In 2006 total gross receipts amounted to an average $118 loss per visit for 16 million casino patrons; last month it averaged $122 for 1.23 million visitors.)

“The bottom line” is that “a tax increase is cheaper than shelling out money to a casino,” said Dobmeyer, adding that it’s more cost-effective too, since the gambling industry doesn’t take a large cut of the revenue.

It also avoids the wide range of social costs associated with gambling.

Dobmeyer said Ald. Joe Moore is preparing to sponsor a citywide referendum asking voters if they support a land-based casino in Chicago, and the Task Force is also supporting Lt. Gov. Patrick Quinn’s call for a statewide referendum on gambling expansion. Dobmeyer points to a recent Capitol Fax report on a survey showing 77 percent of state residents support a referendum on the issue.

HB 4194 “would make Illinois the second largest place in the country for gambling, after Vegas,” he said. “No one has discussed what that would mean….

“We want a referendum and a lot more discussion.”