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Human services in the Age of Austerity

Clients and welfare workers from the state’s human services system will discuss attacks on public services coming under the guise of austerity — including a privatization contract that an artbitrator recently ordered shut down — at a public meeting Monday.

The Alliance for Community Services is sponsoring the meeting on health care and human services at 6:30 p.m, Monday, July 8, at Teamster City, 300 S. Ashland.

Ralph Martire of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability will discuss the state’s fiscal crisis.

“The reality is, we’re not broke,” said Fran Tobin of Northside Action For Justice, one of the initiators of the alliance.  “There’s lots of wealth in the state, but our regressive revenue system is failing to tap into it.”

Human service clients and welfare workers will tell stories of difficulties caused by a chronically understaffed system, said Steve Edwards, a retired union activist.

One source of problems is a new DHS pilot program — poised for expansion — that shifts from case-based to task-based organization of office work.  Under the program, caseworkers have been shifted to “teams” devoted to specific tasks.

“You have former caseworkers — who have college degrees in specific fields and a year of additional training — spending all day opening mail,” he said.  Everyone’s work goes into a single pile, with no one responsible for the ultimate disposition of particular cases.  It means clients no longer have a caseworker who they can call to address problems.

“They’ve blown up accountability,” Edwards said.  “It looks to me like sabotage.”

“Under the rhetoric of increasing efficiency, they’re clearly making things worse,” Tobin said.  “It’s insane.”

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North Side voters back financial tax

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.



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