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In Millennium Reserve, a firing range?

Conservationists say they were “blindsided” when Mayor Emanuel resurrected a proposal to build a police firing range on the Southeast Side, just days after he joined in announcing the area would be part of a massive Millennium Reserve open space project.

The 33-acre firing range site is in “the heart” of what’s being called the Calumet Core, slated for the first phase of environmental renovation and trail-building under the Millennium Reserve, said Carolyn Marsh of the Chicago Audubon Society.

“It’s sad that our politicians, and particularly our new mayor, seem to be hypocritical on this issue,” Marsh said.

Days after the December 9 Millennium Reserve announcement, Emanuel requested the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District to take up a dormant proposal to lease the site to the city.

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Piccolo supporters say CPS is blocking a real school turnaround

Parents and community supporters are asking why CPS has chosen Piccolo Elementary for a “turnaround” by the Academy of Urban School Leadership next year, when a brand-new principal – herself a veteran of an AUSL school — has just begun an overhaul that has won widespread support and is already getting results.

Piccolo parents, teachers, and students will hold a press conference and rally at the school (1040 N. Keeler) on Friday, December 9 at 3 p.m.  to highlight the school’s strategic plan and oppose CPS’s proposal.

Dr. Allison Brunson was named principal in July, after teaching at AUSL’s Dodge Academy in East Garfield Park.  Before this year, CPS policy prohibited school actions where principals had been in place less than two years.

Brunson has developed a strategic plan for the school and implemented a new disciplinary policy, a professional development program, and a new reading curriculum, including a two-hour reading period each morning, said Cecile Carroll of Blocks Together, which partners with the school on parent engagement.

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Mental health cuts called callous, dangerous

For N’Dana Carter, the proposal to transfer patients from the city’s Beverly-Morgan Park Mental Health Center to the center in Roseland is emblematic of the “callousness” of the cutbacks in Mayor Emanuel’s proposed budget.

The Beverly Area Planning Agency and other community groups will rally against the closing of the center on Monday, November 14 from 3 to 6 pm. at 111th and Longwood.

“There’s nowhere else in our community to receive public mental health services,” said Matt Walsh, executive director of BAPA.  Closing the center “would be devastating to the most vulnerable members of our community.”

He adds: “This is people’s lives we’re dealing with here.”

“These are mainly white, mainly middle-aged ladies” going to the clinic, said Carter, an activist (who is African American) with the Mental Health Movement organized by Southside Together Organizing for Power.  They will stand out sharply in the black community of Roseland, on the opposite end of the city’s Far South Side, she said.

“Roseland is very dangerous.  It’s a war zone.  They are putting people in harm’s way.  It’s like putting a sign on their back saying ‘hurt me’.”

‘Too dangerous’

“It’s too dangerous; I would be risking my life to go there,” one Beverly resident and center client told the Beverly Review.

“We’re victims of violence fairly often,” said Fred Friedman, a mental health advocate with Next Steps.  Transferring Beverly patients to Roseland “is a very stupid thing,” he said.

It typifies the lack of concern for patients’ welfare – and for a wide range of costs –involved in closing six of the city’s twelve mental health clinics, advocates say.  The city says the closings will save $3.3 million out of the city’s $6 billion budget.

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What to do with CME’s TIF?

Chicago Mercantile Exchange CEO Terrence Duffy told the Tribune he hasn’t “accepted” or “approved” the TIF subsidy passed by the city in 2009 – and the Grassroots Collaborative has called on Mayor Emanuel to declare it to be surplus and return the money to the schools, libraries and clinics that he’s proposed cutting back and closing.

As Ben Joravsky has reported, then-Mayor Daley took it upon himself to offer the subsidy 2007 when CME was bidding on the Chicago Board of Trade, though the corporation never asked for it.  While the city approved the deal in 2009, apparently CME never did.

So the money is still sitting in the reserves of the LaSalle Central TIF, which as of last year had collected $76 million, taking in $24 million a year.  The Grassroots Collaborative has called for winding down the LaSalle TIF and returning funds to schools and city services.

But here, suddenly, is a huge pot of money that we’ve been told is committed, when it isn’t, really.

“We are thrilled that CEO Duffy agrees with the community that CME does not need this money,” said Amisha Patel, executive director of the Collaborative.  “The hard-working taxpayers of Chicago would be glad to put this money to immediate use.”

The money could go to plug $3 million in cuts for mental health clinics and $7 million in cuts to libraries in the 2012 city budget now under consideration, as well as heavy cuts to schools in the latest CPS budget, she said.

Library cuts called ‘devastating’ — and confusing

Librarians and library supporters are planning to stage the popular “story time” program at City Hall on Monday morning to protest budget cuts.

But they’re scratching their heads over a budget proposal that cuts hours and staff to reduce the library budget by $10 million, while increasing the budget for capital improvements at libraries by $11 million.

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Alternatives to cuts

With Mayor Emanuel’s budget proposal expected to emphasize austerity with heavy cuts to city services, proposals to bolster revenues — and ensure that sacrifice is truly shared — are gaining traction.

“We’re afraid [the budget] is going to be heavy, heavy, heavy on cuts” including public safety and other city services, with the main impact “on working families and public sector workers,” said Amisha Patel of the Grassroots Collaborative, which is holding a “corporate welfare tour” Wednesday morning (see below).

The group’s initiative to return hundreds of millions of TIF funds to the city and other taxing bodies has the most momentum right now.  Seventeen aldermen cosponsored the Responsible Budget Ordinance – which would return 50 percent of surplus TIF dollars from all TIFs with balances over $5 million – and more have signed on since it was introduced last week.

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Lathrop residents pray for preservation

Residents of Lathrop Homes, joined by religious leaders, are planning to march through the threatened CHA development Thursday night, stopping to pray for the preservation of their historic neighborhood.

They’re concerned that as CHA seals off sections of the development, buildings will deteriorate.  They’re calling on CHA to maintain the condition of vacant units.

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Questions on recycling and privatization

With a pilot privatized recycling program set to launch Monday, the Chicago Recycling Coalition is concerned that residents haven’t been fully informed about changes in the program – and that “managed competition” with city workers will be fair and transparent.

“The first weeks could be a little bumpy,” said Mike Nowak of CRC.  Residents could be confused by possible schedule changes and may not understand if their recyclables are rejected due to contamination under a contract provision with private haulers, he said.

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  • Telling people’s stories, an ethnic media success September 2, 2015
        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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