CN August 23 2018


The Tribune’s Hal Dardick tells us about a routine conference the City holds for investors who buy their debt. There was one of these a couple of weeks ago and it was pretty uneventful. But then, he says, there was a roundtable discussion and one of the participants was Michael Sacks, a senior Rahm Emanuel advisor, and a heavy investor in his campaigns. It’s about 5:00 on a Friday afternoon.

“And Michael Sacks sort of drops a bombshell,” Dardick reports, “because the big concern in the room and the big concern for taxpayers is how do we handle spiking pension debt after the mayor or the next mayor gets elected. So, it’s going to spike by over $900-million between next year and 2023, so everyone is concerned well you’re going to raise taxes. Michael Sacks says, “Well I’ve got an idea. Let’s borrow $10-billion, pay down $10-billion of the $28-billion debt in the pension funds with that money.”

Ralph Martire (Center for Tax and Budget Accountability) interjects. “They are calling it borrowing,” he explains. “You’re not borrowing one nickel of new debt. You are not incurring one nickel of new debt. This is money they already owe. It’s debt they already owe to the pension systems. What they are saying is rather than owe this $10-billion to the pension system we would like to owe it to bond-holders. The reason for that is we should get a lower interest rate which benefits taxpayers.”  Another big bond issuance, he points out, just got an interest rate of 3.6%, so if the city could get its hands on ten billion dollars at that low rate and drop it all into the pension systems, it could make huge dent in the pension deficit.

“It’s like refinancing your home mortgage,” he insists. “You’re not incurring new debt, you’re just taking advantage of a lower interest rate. And that could benefit taxpayers in a couple of ways. Way #1 is it puts $10-billion immediately into the pension systems, which will move their funded ratios up to just north of 50% across the board. They are now in the high 20s. This would be a good thing and not a bad thing. You’re not considered healthy at a pension system until you are at least 80% funded according to the Congressional Budget Office.” In addition, he says, the plan could lower the overall costs over time.

But Dardick argues that these so-called “Pension Obligation Bonds” have been tried in many other places over the past couple of decades, with not-so wonderful results. He says they might work in Chicago, because they can project earnings around 7% most years – as long as the economy is strong, “But if they don’t,” he cautions, “what you are doing is you are paying interest on the debt, the 3½ or whatever it is and then if that loses money, if there is a great recession or something then you’ve got to make up that money plus you’re still paying the interest on the debt. You could come out behind if it doesn’t work out well.”

And it hasn’t worked out well in various parts of California, in Detroit and in Puerto Rico. Martire, though, insists that there are structural safeguards that can be put in place to protect the taxpayers from heavy losses.

That’s where “securitization” come in. Dardick says a recent bond issue ws securitized by linking the payments to tax receipts, so the bind buyers felt confident that they’d get paid. “And whenever you have a dedicated revenue source it always helps you with your bond,” Martiere adds.

But Dardick says that the City of Chicago probably doesn’t generate enough sales tax revenue to make this happen. “They may have to go to the legislature and get further authorization to dedicate some other revenue stream in this case,” he cautions. “But here’s where some people criticize that and that is if you do that you are putting those bondholders first in line. As I understand it Detroit when they defaulted the securitized bondholders got their payment and the others basic general debt from general obligation got shafted.”

And Martre counters that it’s almost irrelevant because pension payments in Illinois are guaranteed by the Constitution. “So the fact that it would not be guaranteed debt payable to bondholders rather than the pension systems doesn’t change the characterization of it. It would be first up.”

We point out (using some stats that Hal Dardick has gathered) that Mayor Emanuel has aggressively raised taxes in his second term. The overall taxes and fees being collected in 2018 by the city and by Chicago public schools are nearly 2.2-billion more than when Rahm Emanuel took office, according to the Tribune. All told the average family will pay $1,813 more this year in taxes and fees than it would have in 2011. So you can’t say he didn’t step up and do what had to be done to try to raise the revenue needed to fund the pensions. But that, of course, that will work against him with many voters.

Dardick credits the Mayor with the institution of many improvements to the budgetary process. “He has stopped using one-time revenues, the infamous sale of the parking meter system to pay operating costs. He has gotten rid of other high risk elements in the city’s debt portfolio, so he has taken a lot of steps,” he tells us.  And that money, he adds, is not only going to the pensions, but “also to upgrade a very out of date water and sewer system in the city.”

Ralph Matiere gets the final word: “One of my least favorite political canards that’s out there from a rhetorical standpoint is the phrase tax and spend liberal. If you tax to spend on police are you liberal? No. Tax and spend is responsible. What you’re saying to taxpayers is these are core services and we need to fund them with current revenue. Borrowing to spend on current services is highly irresponsible, and that’s what the City of Chicago did for generations. It’s what the State of Illinois did for generations, and their lender was a captive lender that lent against its will. It was their pension systems.”

You can watch the entire program by clicking the image above.

You can listen to the audio-only version here.

You can read a full transcript of this show here: CN transcript August 23 2018






Posted in Chicago Newsroom past shows | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CN August 16 2018


Ja’Mal Green is the youngest candidate in the February Mayoral election.  “Because it’s time,” he says, for younger people to lead. “I don’t believe we need another career politician or someone who has been a part of the establishment. We need something new, something refreshing, someone who thinks different, someone who is a decision-maker.”

Green joins us as this week’s guest, as we attempt to have hour-long conversations with all ten of the announced mayoral candidates.

(Here are Paul Vallas, Garry McCarthy and Willie Wilson.)

Green is “From Chicago, born and raised in Englewood as well as in Gresham.” And he’s not unfamiliar with the violence that plagues those neighborhoods. “I saw a lot of things in front of me with people being shot, being scared. I was hiding behind bushes being scared that the gunman was going to shoot me.”

He’s personally witnessed shootings and gunfire. “Definitely, with my own eyes,” he says. “Even times at my house in Englewood and looking outside my window because I hear gunshots and a guy right in front of my house is shooting at a car you know. These are things I saw going on.”

Green says he supports most of the provisions outlined yesterday by the ACLU and Back Lives Matter that would, from their perspective, strengthen the provisions in a draft consent decree for police reform that was unveiled last week. He says that he supports, for example, a proposal that the officers must report every time they unholster their weapon. That’s because “we need to know how trigger happy our cops are. We need to know if there is some gap in training and we have to train officers better… If we find out that we’ve got 1,000 officers on the street a day who unholster their weapon we have to figure out what made you feel like that situation needed to escalate so quickly.”

And he says he’s proposing that police officers be required to carry liability insurance. Officers with few or no complaints will have very low premiums, but the costs escalate with the number of complaints, putting insurance more out of reach.

“And once you’re uninsurable and you are dropped from your policy you are automatically reassigned to desk duties,” he explains. “That would save us billions of dollars in police misconduct settlements as well as the interest that we’re paying on the bonds to take out to pay for these settlements.”

Green does not believe that adding more police officers to an already volatile situation, such as last weekend’s large numbers of shootings and murders, is a solution. And he laments the family and domestic circumstances from which many of the shooters and their victims, come.

“They come out of a broken household then where do they go?” he asks. “They go to school, right? But then they’ve got a school with 40 kids in the classroom, a lack of clinical staff members, no after school programs, lack of resources, and they go in there and act up or display some behavior that’s really from the home that they got from the home then they get put out or expelled, or they just say, “Forget school, I’m dropping out because no one in this school care about me.” Then they go where? They go to the streets. Now you’re in these communities without a mental health facility if they have mental health problems, without a job because of the lack of job opportunities without anyone to grab them and put them back on the right path.

“Nor are they in school. And so what happens to them? They go out and say they commit a crime or they are hanging with their friends, they get arrested and they go down to 26th and California. They get a $10,000 – forget $10,000 – a $5,000 bond that bond is $500, but their family is poor and they don’t have the money to bond out for $500. So what do they do? They take the plea, which overwhelmingly, 98% of cases end in plea deals, so now they’ve got a record now. Back on the streets. They get probation or a few months of jail, now they are back on the streets with a record. Now that really prevents them from getting a job or any opportunity, so this is a never-ending cycle.

“What I’m saying is that we are not only failing them in the home, right, we have a parenting problem in this generation, yes, but then when they come out the home we are failing them in these communities.”

Ja’Mal Green believes that Rahm Emanuel can’t get re-elected. In fact, he believes that if Pat Quinn’s initiative is able to get on the November ballot – the one that asks Chicagoans if they favor a two-term limit on Chicago Mayors – Emanuel won’t survive that vote and will be kicked off the February municipal ballot. “If he gets it on the ballot Rahm is done, yes…hands down,” he asserts.

But Green’s ambivalent about the term-limit measure. He wants to confront Emanuel directly at the ballot box. “I would like to run against him,” he assures us. “I would like to debate him and I want to embarrass him for what he’s done in his two terms. I don’t think we should just let him off the hook.”

Turning to taxes, Green reveals that he’s for taxing the rich. “We need a LaSalle Street tax. We need to tax the rich. They are making trillions of dollars down here and that tax won’t do anything to them…So when you talk about pensions and how we’re going to balance this budget, we’ve got to start talking about new progressive sources of revenue, and that’s not going to happen with borrowing a bunch of money.”

Green favors rent control, says that gentrification’s a bad thing, and he’s willing to confront Barack Obama to assure that hisWhen Presidential Center is more connected to the community. “When it is time for us to take our administration I think our main thing will be making sure that people can stay where they are in those communities and they sign a community benefits agreement.” he tells us.

You can watch this show by tapping the image above.

You can listen to the audio of this show here.

You can read a transcript of the entire show here:CN transcript August 16 2018


Posted in Chicago Newsroom past shows, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CN August 9 2018


It’s a double show this week, as we talk with the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization’s Kim Wasserman about working with the city to re-evaluate the Industrial Corridor in their neighborhood, and with the Tribune’s Chris Jones about the possibility that the Uptown Theater could finally come back to life after being boarded up for thirty-seven years.

Two very different subjects, but there is a thread that runs between them. It’s about how the city uses its enormous power to pick winners and losers in neighborhood development.

“The fact of the matter is many people in Little Village work in the industrial corridor in our own community so we recognize how important those jobs are,” Kim Wasserman begins. “We recognize how important that income is to our families. What we are saying is why can’t we attract and have industry that doesn’t kill us?”

For many years, Wasserman’s LVEJO led the strenuous fight to close two coal-fired generating plants, a battle they ultimately won in 2012. The Crawford plant was in Little Village,  the Fisk plant in nearby Pilsen. The two former power plant sites had the residue of more than a century of burnt coal, and there has been a lot of debate about what should replace them. Recently, the City announced that it had a plan for a huge warehousing and distribution center.

“They want to come in and potentially do a one-million [square foot] warehouse with trucks,” she explains. “This is a huge concern for us. We shut down the coal power plant because of air quality issues and now we are being confronted with a whole nother set of air quality issues. And when we looked at the job potential for warehousing and truck driving it does not look good. Our folks are going to Bolingbrook for warehousing jobs, being massive temp agencies, massive check fraud, I mean just tons of abuses that warehouse workers particularly women are facing. These are not sustainable jobs that our community is looking for.”

What her community does want, Wasserman asserts, is for the City to ask what they need before making a deal and announcing it later.

“So what we’re asking,” she says, “is to say if an industry is coming in how close to a school are you? How close to a park are you? How close to peoples’ homes? What is the impact going to be? Because we can no longer afford to just have industry show up overnight behind our homes…What we say is if you actually plan properly an industrial corridor you could solve part of the violence problem in Chicago. Little Village is one of the youngest neighborhoods in the city.”

So it’s not NIMBYism, she explains. Her community wants jobs. But it wants a say in what kinds of jobs they are.

“There is a direct correlation between the violence in our streets and the economies in our community, she continues. “We can no longer continue to deny that and so when young people in Little Village do not have a job and have nothing else going on then we need to be asking ourselves is the industrial corridor doing its job in training young people, employing young people? And right now we can say no, which is why Little Village has one of the largest violence rates in the city.”

There’s another deep frustration the LVJEO feels, and it’s one that’s often expressed at our table. Job training is worthless if it doesn’t lead to work. Wasserman talks about Washburne Trade School, which was once in her neighborhood, but has been gone for decades. And why is that?

“What we saw at Washburne was a systematic shutdown because there were too many young people of color coming into the Unions,” she claims. “And what we recognize particularly in Environmental Justice communities, you can have all the workforce development, you can have all the training opportunities, internship opportunities and people will go through them. The problem is there is no job at the other end of that. And so one of the things that we have actually done in this past year is get involved in policy at a state level.”

LVJEO and other organizations, Wasserman says, fought for and won provisions that the State solar programs must hire the formerly incarcerated, residents of “Environmental Justice” designated communities, and people coming out of foster care.   It is, she claims, “the  first time ever that environmental policy has made the direct correlation to these communities and it was a huge success. Our first graduating class from Little Village just graduated from the solar program and will be getting employed because these contractors and developers have to – have to  – hire from EJ communities.”

There’s a strong emphasis on youth activity at the LVEJO, due in no small part to the fact that Little Village claims the largest population between 18 and 21 in the City of Chicago.

“It’s so important to ask the question of where is the space for a young person’s narrative in this process,” Wasserman declares. “Putting more police on the street is not going to solve this problem. Putting young people to work is what will help solve it. Giving young people an opportunity outside of just college is what will give our communities a chance and that is what we’re fighting for here.”

(The second segment begins at 27:30)

Our second guest, Chris Jones, said this of the Uptown Theater:

“There was no choice but the restore the Uptown Theatre. It had to be done. To knock it down would have been an act of brutal vandalism. It’s just too beautiful, too special, too much of a tie to the past. It’s the sort of building that a city that cares about its brand, its history and its soul just does not lose. And it can only be a theatre so it’s really just as simple as this being the right thing to do.”

The Tribune writer and critic has written extensively on the latest plan to revive and reopen this massive 4,381-seat theater, which was described at its opening in 1923 as having an “acre of seats.”

“My feeling on this,” he enthuses, “having reported on this story for close to 20 years, my feeling on this is that this will happen. It is inconceivable to me politically that this would not now happen.”

The rehab will cost $75 million, according to the developers and concert promoters who are driving the plan.

“So essentially this theatre is owned by entities,” Jones explains. “Separate entities controlled by Jerry Mickelson, best known as a concert promoter of Jam Productions. My sense of why he first got the Uptown was largely as a defensive move against somebody else getting it. He of course competes with Live Nation and other such massive international concert promoters…They are a huge business in and of themselves in this city but its competitors and venues compete for big acts and that’s where the money lies, so I think he felt that if he didn’t get the Uptown the danger was one of his competitors would. ”

And did Chris Jones mention that the Uptown is a very big theatre?

“They are talking about having a potential on the ground floor to take out the seats for concerts so it could be upwards of 5,000 people. It will be the biggest theatre in the city that’s not a so-called arena. I would point that a lot of acts don’t like playing arenas because they are not great for the audience, so it will have an inherent competitive advantage for a potential sell-out artist because they will be able to sell more seats,” he says.

And of that $75 million they estimate this project will cost, the majority of it will come from – well from you, the taxpayer. About 23 million pledged from the state, 8 million in federal tax credits, and about $13 million in city TIF funding. But is even that enough?

“I’ve been in it a couple of times. It’s not in good condition,” Jones says. “I mean the one element of this that I am a little cynical about is whether they can do it for the amount of money they’ve said.”

Nevertheless, plans are being dawn up, some of the funding is falling into place, and Jones says actual restoration work could begin this fall. And he says the element that’s present this time that wasn’t in the past is that the project’s being driven by experienced people from the private sector, using a mix of their own money and public funds. And it all raises the perennial question: Is the Uptown being restored because the neighborhood is getting so gentrified that it was just time? Or will the new Uptown Theater drive gentrification on its own, ultimately creating a very pleasant, enjoyable venue but also pushing out people as the rents and mortgages rise?

“So the renaissance of the city ,” Jones responds, “And when I say renaissance it’s a renaissance for some. But nonetheless that has made this possible, so the argument that people won’t come to Uptown has dissipated. Now will this gentrify Uptown? I think it will, and I’ve got a lot of messages from people saying what a bad thing that was…and I think that is something to be concerned about. On the other hand will the Uptown provide jobs in Uptown? Will the Uptown Theatre make the streets of Uptown safer? I think it will because there will be more people on the street there and there is a significant crime problem in Uptown and some of those streets don’t have a lot of people walking on them at night. And I think once you add this kind of activity in a neighborhood it will liven those things up. And the Theatre if it’s buzzing, as we hope it will be, it will provide real jobs and it is likely to bring restaurants, bars. It’s going to bring all that with it. The question, of course, is always the question in Chicago – how will that be distributed. Will it be fair? Will Uptown be preserved? Will attention be paid to affordable housing, all of those questions.”

You can watch the show by clicking the photo above.

You can listen to the audio of this show here.

You can read a full transcript of this show here: CN transcript August 9 2018



Posted in Chicago Newsroom past shows | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CN August 2 2018

Chicago was presented with a draft of a consent decree earlier this week that purports to be the foundation for  comprehensive police reform in our city. It was written by the Mayor’s Office, the Police Department and Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office, with input from Black Lives Matter, the ACLU and a number of community organizations and survivors of violent confrontations with police.

Jonah Newman of the Chicago Reporter has been following the story for years. He was on this week’s panel.

“And the back story is long and it is a history of black and brown organizing in Chicago,” he begins. “The more recent legal back story was a lawsuit that was filed in June of last year by a number of organizations, including Black Lives Matter. And  that lawsuit was filed within weeks after it being leaked that the mayor, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, was negotiating an out of court deal with Jeff Sessions.

“And it was the potential of the Chicago Police Department being beholden to an out of court memorandum of agreement with Jeff Sessions that really motivated the black and brown communities that had been working on police accountability for so long to take the fight to court,” he continues. “And so that was the lawsuit that was filed. And [when] that lawsuit was filed the city made it very clear that it was going to fight that lawsuit tooth and nail. And it was only when the attorney general, Lisa Madigan, filed her lawsuit that a consent decree then became a possibility.”

Sheila Bedi is a Clinical Associate Law Professor at the Northwestern Law School and an attorney at the MacArthur Justice Center. She filed litigation that ultimately allowed the community organizations access to the consent decree process. “In other jurisdictions,” she explains, “I think some of the most important provisions have been about diversion. And when I say diversion what I really mean is ensuring the police officers have tools other than arrest to use when they are approaching people. So those can take the forms of citation programs, they can take the forms of pre-arrest diversion programs, community mediation.

“In many of the big consent decrees of the Obama era,” she asserts  “—Ferguson, Baltimore, even New Orleans to some extent—those programs were a touchstone of the decree, and they’re really interwoven with a reduction in the use of force. They’re entirely absent here. And I think that’s a real problem.”

Diversion programs aren’t the only things our panelists lament being missing from the draft document. One of the most significant is gun use reporting.  Activists want police officers to report in writing every time they draw their weapon and point it at a civilian. But  while Attorney General Lisa Madigan wanted it, arguing that the data would help identify officers who are too quick to escalate an encounter, the City rejected the idea.

“That is something that the mayor and the police superintendent are fighting,” reports Newman. “They say it wasn’t a specific issue that was pointed out by the Justice Department in their investigation, although certainly they pointed out incidents where officers had pointed their guns at people, including children, and there’s plenty of lawsuits where that’s part of the facts of the case. So yeah, I mean, I think we’ll see if that becomes part of the consent decree or not.”

“Most of the other consent decrees have had this kind of language,” says Bedi. “It’s a very, very basic component of any kind of functioning accountability system. As well as what’s called an early warning system, where data’s collected on officers who may have a likelihood of engaging in excessive force. So the idea that there’s pushback on this is really, in some ways, incomprehensible. It’s a very, very basic thing.”

Mayor Emanuel is walking a tightrope between the community activists who are demanding more control of policing policy, and the police themselves – particularly the police union, which strenuously rejects it. And Superintendent Eddie Johnson seems to side reliably with the rank-and-file in rejecting calls for changes in operational policy. We ask the panel: is Eddie Johnson providing the kind of leadership that we’re going to need to get us out of this? Does he have the horsepower to help bring about serious reform?

“I mean, how would he? Is the simple answer, in my opinion,” replies Jonathan Projansky, representing Black Lives Matter Chicago. “Number one, when has he really broken rank with rank and file, meaning—I shouldn’t say rank and file as much as the FOP, right, in terms of what he’s called for. And number two, like every other step in the process of police accountability in our city, he’s appointed by the mayor. So it’s not like what he’s saying or what he’s putting out there is not also being in some way, shape or form approved by City Hall as well. So no, why would he? … When he was first presented, right, oh here’s this face that’s relatable, right, here’s a black man who is portraying himself to be everyday people, I’m one of you, I’ve had all this experience in the department … I know best, or we know best what’s best for you.

Meanwhile, the FOP has filed to intervene in the consent decree process. “And that would, at the very least, delay this process quite a bit”, asserts Newman, “and I think potentially derail it altogether.”

“There’s no question that that’s true if the FOP is successful in intervening,” Bedi agrees. “And it’s clear that some of the drafting in the decree was done specifically to ensure that the FOP doesn’t have an argument that its contract rights are being affected, so there is the provision that requires best efforts to renegotiate. 

“There’s also a provision that basically says the decree, to the extent that any of the provisions of the decree bump up against the contract, the contract controls,” she adds.  “And that is a very common provision. It’s in consent decrees all around the country. It creates a huge exception. But it also ensures that the FOP has a very limited argument in terms of being able to intervene.

But that means that many critical issues, such as requiring the swearing of an affidavit before a complaint can be filed against an officer, and the 24-hour waiting period between a shooting incident and when the report must be filed – these issues remain soluble only through collective bargaining. And the Union has shown no interest in changing these practices. So that leaves some critical police reforms outside the scope of the consent decree. Nevertheless, Bedi asserts, the draft as it exists represents progress.

“We don’t know of any other police decree that allows communities to have the kind of power that’s allowed here,” she tells us. “It is enough? No. I mean, there’s no question that it doesn’t go far enough. But it does create an ability for organizations like Black Lives Matter, for mothers whose children have been murdered by the Chicago Police Department to have a platform in federal court. And that’s not nothing. It’s not enough, but it’s not nothing.”

And, she add, there’s a little-noticed provision in the draft. “And just on that point, I’ll say that the fact that the consent decree does not require the construction of a (police training) academy is a win for that campaign and is a win for the organizers who were running that campaign.

“What I hope” Bedi concludes, “is that the city and the state will recognize that this is an opportunity to truly transform the Chicago Police Department, to transform the relationship CPD has with black and brown communities.

And what that will require is to ensure that the decree has complete transparency, that folks most affected by police violence have the ability to access information about the police department, that the rights of people who have survived, for generations, the Chicago Police Department brutalizing their communities, occupying their communities, have the right to support and resources on par with those that are provided to police officers, and that police officers get tools other than arrests to use when they’re going into communities, that they can actually divert people from the formal justice system. That’s my hope, that’s my prediction, that we will get a consent decree that has those provisions when all is said and done.

Jonah Newman sees things a little differently. “I tend to be a little bit more skeptical. I think that when all is said and done, this is still a political process, it’s a political document. It comes at a political time, right? And there’s going to be a lot more politicking around this. It’s going to be…you know, and I do think it’ll be enacted—even once it’s enacted, it’s going to be decades before real progress is made.”

And BLM representative Jonathan Projansky concludes with a note of ambivalence. “I think until everybody in the city of Chicago feels that the police department is there to protect and serve them that we’re going to struggle to have any type of real reform. And I believe this consent decree is an opportunity for, on one hand, the city to actually do what’s right. Do I have confidence in that? Unfortunately, no.

“But on the other hand, (there is) some federal oversight that supersedes, or judicial oversight on a federal level that supersedes whatever opinions people at the city government level have. So it’s a real opportunity in that respect. Whether or not that takes place, we are going to continue pushing forward for what is needed in Chicago, which is true police accountability.”

Watch the program by tapping the image above.

Listen to the audio here on Soundcloud.

Read a full transcript of the show here: CN transcript August 2 2018

Posted in Chicago Newsroom past shows | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CN July 26 2018

John Arena, this week’s guest, is a founder of the City Council’s Progressive Caucus and Alderman of the Northwest Side’s 45th Ward.

As we spoke, there were reports that the City’s consent decree for the reform of the Chicago Police Department could be released at any time. But the agreement, worked out between the Mayor’s Office and Attorney General Lisa Madigan, apparently with the cooperation of the FOP, the union representing Chicago Police, reportedly had become hung up over one issue. The City wants police offices to file a report every time they “point a gun” at anyone, and the union is strenuously resisting the demand.

“I do know that if an officer is pulling his weapon that should be the very last measure that is taken, that he is forced into that position,” Arena insists. “And if they are pulling their weapon and that’s the case, then logging the reasons for that whether he fires or not should be documented, especially at a time when what we see is they are pulling their weapon and they are firing their weapon. So is that a completely unreasonable request in the context of what we’re dealing with right now,? In the context of just a police department that’s engaged and there’s conversation with the community, I would say yes, that’s unreasonable. That’s not where we are as a city right now.”

We pointed out that the likelihood of a new decree seemed sudden, since there hadn’t been much discussion about the document’s progress in recent weeks.  Arena responded that the Mayor had  quietly retreated from his promise of significant, powerful statement on police reform.  “When the mayor came out after the revelation of the Laquan McDonald video and said we are going to reform the police department, we are going to attack the culture of silence, we’re going to go after these things and we are going to get a consent decree, and then he backed off of that, it was Lisa Madigan that pushed him back forward to that table.”

In fact, she sued to get the process started, we pointed out.

“Exactly, sued the city. So these are the signals that why you see marches on the Dan Ryan and proposing marches on Lake Shore Drive is because of those kinds of actions of government. When we say we are going to tackle a problem head-on and then say okay, well now that the camera lights have turned off we’re going to start backing away slowly. This is the kind of thing that undermines confidence that we are taking action to address these critical concerns.”

“We have to talk,” he continued. “This is part of what – when we say the culture of silence and some of the hardened folks on the police side that say let them do their jobs. Well I’m sorry, their job is not to create a body count and I don’t think that’s what they want to do. They want to be safe and go home at the end of the day. We have to reset the gauges and create a structure that there’s accountability. And if we’re not talking about it then we are part of the culture of silence.”

After the shooting last weekend of barber Harith Augustus, the CPD released a few seconds of silent video of the event and claimed credit for transparency. Arena was unconvinced. “I think if we’re going to take a policy that we’re going to release videos then release it all, because context matters, and people on both sides will say that,” he explains. “If somebody says why did you shoot that person, he wasn’t armed, what did you see? Seeing it from different angles, seeing the dialogue that led up to it, what was said, what threats were made or not made, all of that stuff is important. What this video did was take this out of context, so you only see the officers coming up to what I saw was somebody standing there in a dialogue with an officer, and then to manipulate the video, to illuminate – well look there’s a gun there. At the end of the day we have a conceal carry law here. We have a Second Amendment law that is supposed to apply to everybody. What that’s trying to say is a black man with a gun is an imminent threat, and that is not what the Second Amendment illuminates.”

“What’s interesting ,” he continues, “is the fact that they zoomed in on the fact that he had a gun as if that was the only thing that mattered, again projects to me a level of bias saying a black man with a gun is an imminent threat and he was not. What’s interesting, what they zoomed in on, was a gun in a holster, holstered at his belt. It was only illuminated because he was being thrown onto a car and his shirt came up. The only time he made a move towards that weapon was when he was being shot in the back. So I think there’s a lot that’s illuminated there and in a lot of ways we need to see the rest of that (video) so we can say why was that man a threat in that moment?”

The Tribune reported this week that Tax Increment Financing districts in Chicago captured more than $660 million dollars last year. That’s more than a third of all the property taxes paid by Chicagoans in that year. Arena has been a vocal critic of the use of TIF money for large-scale private developments, but says that his ward has benefitted from the two smaller TIFs in his district. “(If) I can build a park or I can put a new roof on Schurz, if I can put a new soccer field on Schurz High School and create a better opportunity and people seeing that school as an opportunity for their kids, that increases home values. So that’s how you can cycle that money and invest here locally and get a benefit at the home that’s across the street.”

The problem, as he sees it, is that the areas where poverty is rampant – the very areas these funds were designed to help – can’t generate their own funds because there’s no increment to tax. The increment is the amount that property values increased over  a period of years. That number is huge along, say LaSalle Street, but it’s pretty much zero along 79th street. “If I have a zero incrementing TIF on the south or west side I can’t put money into my schools.,” he explains. “I can’t build streets, I can’t build roads…And in a neighborhood like mine where I’m gaining businesses and I’m seeing increment increase in property values I don’t need to incentivize a business to come. I will do that by just doing the hard work, picking up the phone, walking them around the neighborhood, talking about what’s great about the neighborhood. That’s a different tool. That’s just the communication tool.” That’ he says, is why he and the Progressive Caucus have called for annual increases in the amount of surplus funds from wealthier TIFs that can be moved to poorer areas for vital infrastructure projects.

We ask about the police training academy, for which he voted “aye” on two separate occasions in the past few months. He says he still favors some kind of new training facility, but perhaps not the one the Mayor has proposed.

“We say we need to train this force, retrain the old force if you will, and train hundreds of recruits that are coming through the system for us to get to the force level we need. That’s a difficult thing to do in the facility we have. Is this exactly the right time and place to be focusing on a building? That’s a difficult conversation. I would be supportive, I’ve offered support for the two votes we’ve had to take that are related to the money… I did vote for the $10-million in TIF to acquire the land and the $20-million for them to do the planning of what the facility would be like. And what I said in my statements on council floor about that is it matters how the building is going to present itself to the community. Is this going to be a fortress where recruits go in and then come marching out and nobody can see through the veil? No. I will vote against that.”

Turning to politics, we ask this political veteran if he thinks that Mayor Emanuel could win re-election outright in February, without having to face a challenger in a runoff. “Yeah, I think that’s a possibility,” he tells us. “The money will drive a lot of the reason why that’s a possibility, and the money that the credible challengers could or could not raise. So yeah, there is a possibility of that. Again, we have a very divided city. Some people are like, well, I don’t like everything about him but he’s the guy we’ve got, and some people are like no way, never.”

John Arena says he’s not going to publicly endorse anyone in the Mayor’s race, and that’s because his concern is the City Council, and he believes that’s time for the Council to claim its proper role as the seat of Chicago’s power. “I truly believe that for the council to play its role well we need to be independent of the mayor, regardless, even if it is a truly progressive mayor that I love. I need to look at what’s put in front of me from whoever is in that office and I need to look at it critically and make sure that it’s doing the best that it can do with taxpayer dollars or achieving the best aims. If we have a city council that is less run by a mayor’s floor leader, I think we should have a council floor leader.”

“I think that’s what (Emanuel) is most afraid of, that that’s the movement that we see. We see a lot of progressive candidates coming forward running across the city, and I think he sees the possibility that with the progressive caucus in the 2015 cycle going from 8 to 11 members, if that trend continues and we get to the high teens getting to 26 votes on progressive legislation is in our sights. We’re doing it now and he’s worried that that’s going to become more and more a commonality in the council.”

Facebook announced a major  expansion of its Chicago offices yesterday, and, of course, we’re all waiting to find out whether Amazon wants to come here. Arena says these developments are positive, but they shouldn’t be the Mayor’s main focus. “When he brings a headquarters in it can’t be just the count of cranes in downtown Chicago. It can’t be just the count of corporate jobs. Those jobs are living in the suburbs. The jobs we need are for black and brown communities that have 40% unemployment. You start creating that opportunity, you start addressing the crimes at issue that we have, the murder rates, the interactions between police, places where people see no hope and feel no hope and feel that nobody is there for them is where you see crime, is where you see desperation. And if we’re not addressing that it’s denying our humanity, that we are not looking at a way where we can help and we’re not helping.”

And Arena talks at some length about the building he has been trying to get built on Northwest Highway in his ward, although he’s been facing vocal community opposition.

“One of the big pieces of this building that doesn’t get talked about is that it’s got a preference for the disabled,” he explains. “Less than 1% of the units in this city of Chicago, think about this, millions of units here – are accessible to the disabled. They also tend to be the lowest income earners because of their disabilities, and we ostracize them to parts of the city where they can’t get around where the sidewalks are broken. Where the rents are where they can afford the sidewalks are broken so they can’t get to transportation. This is literally you would be able to see from this building the most robust transportation center on the northwest side. You can get to any suburb, any part of the city from that via bus, train, or metra. If we say no to that then we’re wrong.”

You can watch this show by tapping the image above.

You can listen to the show on SoundCloud here:


You can read a full transcript of the show here:CN transcript July 26 2018


Posted in Chicago Newsroom past shows | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CN July 19 2018


Mayoral candidate Garry McCarthy is our guest this week. McCarthy says he wants to bring the same “performance-based” management policies he used at the Chicago Police Department to the Office of the Mayor, and that he wants to “stop the politics and let’s start running city government like a business.”

McCarthy was Superintendent from 2011 until Mayor Emanuel asked for his resignation as the LaQuan McDonald situation boiled over in 2015.

“During my tenure not only was crime down 40%, not only did we have back to back years of 50-year lows in the murder rate, but we did it by making less arrests, more gun arrests at the same time, because I am concerned about mass incarceration,” he asserts. “I understand it. I’m one of the few police leaders in the country who will say that our war on drugs has been a spectacular failure. It doesn’t work. As a matter of fact my thinking as to what actually constitutes a crime has changed, okay? I want you to realize that we had a 68% reduction in police-related shootings while I was there.”

“So shootings were down, complaints against officers were down, arrests were down, crime was down,” he claims. “I mean these are metrics that any police leader in the country would want to have. It was well on its way towards reform when the rug got pulled out from underneath us.”

The show was recorded on Tuesday morning. The day before, McCarthy released a statement about the police shooting of barber Harith Augustus, saying: “At first blush, this shooting appears to be justified, based on what we see in that video and I’m pleased with its quick release. We are hoping that a thorough investigation gives us the truth as to what happened.”

When we spoke, I asked about the shooting:
(47:20 on the video)
Ken: So we have this really difficult situation where things just escalate so quickly and we don’t really – ‘we’ the public don’t really know. There’s no evidence that he reached for his gun.
Garry: I’m sorry, but that’s what I saw in that video. He very clearly put his hand on that gun, very clearly from what I saw.
Ken: Okay. Well you’re the professional and I’m not.
Garry: Yeah, but let me –
Ken: To me it looked like he was running away and the gun belt started falling and he tried to grab it.
Garry: Here’s what I want to say about that. If he’s in possession of a legal firearm — comply. Because we’re all in a dangerous situation. Because there’s a lot of guns at stake. I’m a police; well I’m not a police officer.
Garry: I was a police officer for 35 years and any time I got stopped on a vehicle stop or interacted with a police officer I said, “I’m on the job. I have a weapon,” which is – that’s cop lingo obviously. But it starts with compliance. If that young man had said, “I have a firearm. I have a FOID card,” it would have been an entirely different situation.
Ken: He apparently tried to show his FOID card, right?
Garry: Why did he push the officers away? Look, you weren’t there, I wasn’t there.
Ken: This is a crazy conversation.
Garry: And it’s based upon a very small snippet of what we saw.
Ken: But that raises the question, I just don’t understand the logic of releasing an edited piece of videotape. All it does is it just fuels the fires more.
Garry: I can’t answer it. I’m happy that they released it as quickly as they did, but I also want to be clear that that is a new policy. That’s a new policy across the country.
Ken: And Laquan McDonald really basically triggered that, right?
Garry: Well, there were other shootings that did the same thing, but at the time the policy was – don’t release video evidence. We don’t release evidence in a murder case, right? Why would we release evidence in some police shooting investigation if it’s not completed? That was the policy.
Ken: So where are you on that today? Are you opposed to that policy? Would you change that policy?
Garry: Well now that we’ve taken this leap we might as well just keep going and see what happens.

We also talk about education, an area where the former Superintendent has no formal experience. But he says his 30 years in policing in three cities has illustrated the needs of big-city education pretty clearly. He tells us he’s fan of charter schools and he expanded on what he sees as a serious need for combining education with an array of social services.

“So our platform,” he explains, is “to take the social services and actually put them right into the schools and make the schools a hub for the community, and two-tier treatment for not just the kid, but what’s happening in the home. Now government cannot create parenting, but we can create something called collective efficacy, which means that we can create the conditions so that young man or woman will succeed. We’re not doing that right now. And you know I compared what’s happening on the southwest border to closing the schools and pulling the social services from the south and west side. Where is the compassion? Where is the compassion? If you are sitting in an ivory tower dictating what’s going to happen and not listening to what people need, if all you want to do is bring big corporations in downtown, we get cranes in the air downtown while the neighborhoods are withering. So we need to bring back trade schools because not everybody is going to succeed and go on to a college education. And by the way, if you get a B average you can go to community college for free and then you can drive a taxicab. I mean this is not a formula for success. We have to teach people to fish. We need electricians and carpenters and tradesmen, and then what we need to do is stop making small businesses shoulder the burden of taxes because we are giving breaks to companies like Amazon to come here. And they are not paying their fair share but everybody else is getting increases all at the same time. We take those small businesses and we send them to the places where the trade schools are and we create the market for jobs for those kids.”

You can watch the show by tapping the image above.

You can listen to the show on SoundCloud here.

You can read a full transcript of the show here:CN transcript July 19 2018

Posted in Chicago Newsroom past shows | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CN June 28 2018



Pat Quinn has a lot of work to do. He needs more than 50,000 iron-clad, valid signatures from certified Chicagoans before August 6, which he says will allow him to invoke the law which puts his petition question on the November ballot in Chicago.

That question? Shall the Mayor of Chicago be term-limited to two terms (eight years)?

Quinn tells us that, when (if) his measure gets on the ballot, if fifty percent plus one of the people who respond to the proposition answer “yes”, then Rahm Emanuel can’t appear on the municipal election ballot three months later on February 22.

Sound radical? It is. But as we all know, this is Chicago, where knocking signatures off petitions is a highly refined sport, so you have to come in the door with at least twice as many signatures as required.

So far, after two years of collecting signatures, he has just over 50,000. “You need 52,519 signatures to qualify for the ballot,” he tells us, “but we’re in Chicago, so the more signatures the better. We want to fight to protect our referendum.” So he wants to get to about 100,000 by August. It’s a heavy lift.

In fact, he’ll be so busy fighting for those additional 50,000-ish signatures that he probably won’t attend the big grand re-opening of the Governor’s mansion in Springfield hosted by the Rauners.

“I don’t think so,” he deadpans. “It’s on July 14thand our deadline to get the signatures is August 6th, so 40 days and 40 nights, that’s what I’m doing. I go to movies in the park. I go to Millennium Park. I go to festivals…”

We ask Quinn if it isn’t bad sport to try to get Emanuel off the ballot this way, effectively denying those who like and want him as their mayor. Quinn’s un-moved by the argument.

“I think the events that occurred around Laquan McDonald’s killing and the failure of the City to properly tell the public about what happened promptly, a friend of mine actually had to file the Freedom of Information request to get the video. It took over a year to get that information to the public,” he charges. “You know that kind of underlined to me that we needed to take a look at the mayor’s office in Chicago, because of all the big cities in America, the ten largest cities, only Chicago does not have a term limit on its mayor. New York passed a referendum for it, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Houston. The list goes on and on. And I think machine politics and not letting the Freedom of Information Act really be complied with underlines why a term limit on this mayor and all mayors hence forth is a good idea. Two terms, that’s eight years. If you can’t make a difference then step aside and let someone have a shot…The people have the right to set the rules for the mayor. The mayor doesn’t rule them. ”

“And the mayor right now he’s in a gopher hole,” he adds. “He’s terrified that this will go on the ballot. I was at the City Council yesterday. He’s got all his minions you know running us down and running petition-passing down. That’s what I really don’t like, because this is a fundamental right of the people of Illinois guaranteed by our Constitution and they’re not taking it away from us. You know they will try and resist. There’s no question, everything the mayor is doing now with his minions is to try and discourage people from signing our petition, circulating our petition. It ain’t working. We’re out there all over the place getting signatures.”

So, if the ballot initiative survives, and if the people vote no, Rahm Emanuel, with all his money and his powerful friends, would be told he couldn’t run, Quinn believes.

“He would be ineligible, because he would have already served two terms, two four-year terms, the same as the President. If it’s good enough for Barack Obama it should be good enough for Rahm, two terms,” he declares.

The conversation turns to Wednesday’s profound Supreme Court ruling in Janus v AFSCME, a major victory for Quinn’s successor, Bruce Rauner. The ruling’s seen as a serious blow to unions, since it permits anyone who’s not a union member to benefit from the collective bargaining the union provides without contributing financially to the service.

“The right to organize, the right to have a union is the key, the meal ticket to the middle-class, to keep wages moving up, with productivity increasing the wages should go up,” Quinn declares. “The same way with benefits, healthcare benefits, retirement benefits to protect those and also working conditions. So having an organization that protects safety in the workplace is very important, and I believe in that and we’ve got to fight for that.

Quinn takes the opportunity to criticize Speaker Madigan, who he says deprived a lot of minimum-wage workers of a pay-raise. “I was very disappointed in the Speaker of the House. I wanted to raise the minimum wage for all the workers of Illinois. We put it on the ballot as an advisory question in 2014, passed 2 to 1. The Senate passed the increase in the minimum wage, but then the Speaker of the House wouldn’t call the bill after the election. I lost the election, the candidacy, but he wouldn’t call the bill and that really let a lot of workers down, hundreds of thousands of workers in Illinois. I still don’t know why he didn’t do that, and it seemed to me that was the wrong thing to do.”

With gerrymandering in the news, since the Supreme Court appears to have green-lighted some fairly blatant redistricting in Texas an other places, we ask about some heavily Democratic-leaning districts in Illinois that have really agitated Republicans. “Well they can squawk all they want,” he declares. “Nobody has gone to court and shown by evidence that there’s any unfairness. I clearly, carefully looked at those districts and I signed it into law because it did meet the test of the Constitution and there’s no unfairness according to many many studies that are made of this. Sometimes people are sore losers, they don’t win the election.”

Was Quinn ever made aware of problems cropping up in the plumbing systems at the Illinois Veteran’s Home in Quincy? Legionella in the water there killed 13 people in the past couple of years, as reported by WBEZ.

“We never had those kind of problems,” he asserts. “They occurred in 2015 after I left the office. Now any time you have a crisis of any kind the governor has got to promptly take charge. He did not, Rauner I’m talking about, and especially inform the families. You know one of the families called and was trying to reach their mom and she had passed from Legionnaire’s disease. So it was just a total breakdown, and frankly it was fatal mismanagement by the Rauner administration and they have to be accountable for that. They are trying to avoid that.”

And finally, Rod Blagojevich. Should Donald Trump pardon him?

“Well,” he declares, ” I’m not for any pardon or clemency. I did 5,000 clemencies when I was governor, cases, more than any governor. But I always wanted to know if there was remorse, if the person was apologetic, sorry, and that they had done something to repair the damage. People were oftentimes very candid, they made a mistake and they said they made a mistake and they asked for forgiveness and they had remorse. You know Rod Blagojevich has been convicted in court of crimes. It went to the highest court in our land and they said, “Yes, you are guilty. There’s no more appeals.” So when that happens you’ve got to express remorse and say, “I’m sorry,” to the people of Illinois. His failure to do that and started saying the justice system is wrong or something like that, you don’t get mercy for that. No clemency…You know, until you decide you are going to say you’re sorry to the people and admit you are wrong, as thousands of others did who have gotten pardons from me, then I think you have to bear that weight.”

Pat Quinn’s almost 70 now, and if he pulls off his latest petition drive it’ll probably be his most spectacular disruption of the status quo since his successful 1980 “cutback amendment” that reshaped the composition of the Illinois House. But even if  his 2-terms-for-the-mayor campaign fails, he’ll find another cause.

“I’ll be rocking’ the boat in a nursing home someday.,” he laughs.




Posted in Chicago Newsroom past shows | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

CN June 21 2018


President Trump wants to combine the Departments of Labor and Education. Governor Rauner wants to end “fair share” payments by workers in union shops who share in the benefits from organized labor but don’t join the union. These workers are required by law to make a “fair share” payment (negotiated between the union and management) to compensate the union for its service.

The fair-share attack, in the form of a suit, Janus v AFSCME, currently before the Supreme Court, could deal a near death-blow to public-sector unions. The federal merger’s impact is less clear.

But it isn’t a positive move, according the the University of Illinois’ Bob Bruno.

“My perspective is it’s an absurd idea,” he begins. “These are two distinct departments with two very focused and different agendas, and any attempt really to merge them I think it just hides the intent to shrink the size of government. The two units aren’t going to be stronger as one. It’s going to weaken really their capacity to invest in children’s education and also protect workers’ changing labor market, changing work places, so this is a terrible idea and the intent I’m sure is simply to further shrink government services.”

“One has to look at what is the agenda behind the scenes here,”  adds AFSCME’s Anders Lindall. “Where did this come from? What’s been publicly reported is that this file is a blueprint laid out by the right-wing corporate-funded Heritage Foundation, and…it’s the same powerful wealthy corporate interests who are behind the Janus case are also behind trying to gut our health and education and workforce protections.

The Supreme Court, which is expected to rule at any time on Janus, is widely thought to be hostile to AFSCME in this case and favorable – at least in its majority – toward Janus. “Fair share” has been in place since a SCOTUS ruling 40 years ago and there haven’t been any widespread arguments against the concept until now. We ask if there may be a surprise in the making. That perhaps Justice Roberts, with his widely-know appreciation for precedent – might not wish to upset this apple-cart.

Bruno, who wrote recently about this in the Tribune, says he asked the same thing.  “Aren’t these originalists? Aren’t these folks who have made a career out of saying judicial activism is a bad thing, right? Here you have 40 years of a case. There is not a legal record of how this is a problem. It doesn’t exist, right? We are talking minimally 5-million, 6-million workers, thousands of contracts, at least 23 states, and the court is simply going to jump in here, overrule the precedent and is going to wipe out 23 state collective bargaining laws impacting millions of workers, thousands of contracts without a legal record of harm. That seems to me like judicial activism. So how can you be acting principally if he has to overturn? How can Neil Gorsuch be acting? How can Clarence Thomas be acting principally? It’s because they’re not making a legal argument. This is a political assault on organized labor,” he asserts.

“It is Bruce Rauner who brought this case,” adds Lindall. “It is Bruce Rauner who became Governor for no greater purpose than to wipe out the labor movement in Illinois, starting with the public service unions, AFSCME, the service employees and the teachers. And you know if there has been an advantage to that it is that all of our members have been deeply engaged in the last 3, 4, or 5 years in these existential fights to protect their jobs from being outsourced for private profit, to protect their affordable healthcare from Rauner trying to double their premiums overnight, taking $10,000 out of their pocket.

Rauner, says Lindall, attacked Fair Share from his earliest days. “He said, “I am not going to honor fair share agreements,” and that was all about trying to drain the resources from the union. That backfired on him. 2,000 state employees came to the union and said, “This guy doesn’t speak for us,” and they signed a union contract.”

We’re all aware of the fact that, while we’re at “full employment” in the US, a condition in which there are theoretically more open jobs than people seeking them, salaries have not been rising. Bruno says that’s due in part to the fact that workers have been less and less able to act collectively. “You’re not going to be able to be an at-will employee and negotiate better working conditions,” he explains. “You are going to need the group, so it’s in your self-interest to understand that your power is collectively – it’s collectively organized. In fact, if you want any real evidence of that, the oral arguments, the Janus case, it was very clear that the conservative justices were fine. If Anders wants to walk into Ken, and you are in the employer and he wants to negotiate his pay, that’s fine, you can do that, and that’s not a First Amendment infringement. But if Anders takes me in there and I take another ten people, wait a minute now. All of a sudden now it’s a First Amendment infringement. Well the whole point of that is collectively workers have voice. Singly they have none. Isn’t that a Joe Hill song or something?”

Lindall adds that State workers already have evidence of the effectiveness of collective bargaining, because they’ve experienced its power recently. “I think it’s clear that AFSCME members, they recognize that if it hadn’t been for the Union to litigate it all the way to the State Supreme Court, their pension would have been cut,” he claims.

We turn to speculation about what happens after Janus (which happens to be the title of Bruno’s recent report.) “This is certainly not a scenario that labor wanted to be in. But, there is this opportunity to go back deep inside your own membership to remind one another what it means when we act collectively, why we need each other, more so now than ever before. So unions like AFSCME and the teacher unions – they have begun a deep dive into their membership, one on one conversations, contacting people. And yes, our study suggests one would expect that there will be some defection. There will be some reduction.

But maybe what ends up happening is for a short period of time, and these things are always cyclical right, and we’re not sure how this is all going to play out years down the road, but maybe you end up with a drop in membership. But what if the members you have now are all activists?”

Watch the show by clicking the image above.

Listen to the show here on SoundCloud.

Read a full transcript of the show here: CN transcript June 21 2018

Posted in Chicago Newsroom past shows | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CN June 14 2018


Two separate discussions today with authors of two huge investigative series.

Part 1

We begin with Juan Perez, Jr and Jennifer Smith Richards. Juan’s the education reporter for the Chicago Tribune and Jennifer’s a Tribune investigative data reporter. Together with about 20 of their colleagues, they reported the new series “Betrayed” over the last couple of weeks.

Their work outlines, in great detail, ten years of sexual abuse inflicted on students at CPS, much of it at the hands of teachers, coaches and other school staffers.

In this conversation, Perez, Jr and Smith Richards discuss the fact that CPS has internally investigated hundreds of cases of sexual abuse of juveniles committed by adult employees in school buildings since 2011. And the Board’s own law department often stands against the victims since  CPS attorneys will interview victims, and then later, if the student files suit, use some of those same statements against the student when defending CPS. They tell us that it is not illegal in Illinois for a teacher to have sexual contact with a student when the student is 18 or older, and that CPS doesn’t always notify subsequent employers that an individual was involved in sexual misconduct while employed at CPS.

They also recount their stories of some of the worst offenders, including a track coach and a choir director who were later convicted of raping students at their homes and, in some cases, in classrooms at their schools.

Read the Tribune coverage here.


Part 2 (beginning at 29:00)

In the second part of today’s show, we talk with he BGA’s  Alejandra Cancino, who, along with WBEZ’s Odette Yousef, reported on the shocking neglect of elevators in all of the CHA’s high-rise buildings. Most of those buildings serve elderly residents, many of whom are in ill health.

Their findings revealed that the CHA could produce no evidence that any of its 150 elevators were inspected at all during 2016, that elevator mechanical systems in buildings constructed in the 1950s had never been overhauled or modernized, and that the Chicago Fire Department was dispatched nearly 700 times to CHA buildings in the past four years to rescue residents from stuck elevators.  In one building, the management was so frustrated by the situation that they shut off one especially unreliable elevator on weekends to avoid trapping tenants.

Read the BGA/WBEZ reports here.

Watch Chicago Newsroom by clicking the image above.

or listen to it here on SoundCloud.



Posted in Chicago Newsroom past shows | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CN June 7 2018


Dr. Willie Wilson wants an elected school board for Chicago.  But his vision for management of the police department is so unconventional that it doesn’t adhere to any of the four current proposals before the City Council. If elected Mayor, Wilson would split the police department into four entities, each with its own superintendent, all of whom would report to him.

Wilson is highly critical of Mayor Emanuel, who he accuses of handing out contracts and opportunities to his friends and associates while ignoring minority communities. Wilson says he’d re-open the 50 schools Emanuel closed in 2013, converting them into training centers for the trades. He tells us that he sees no need for new taxes, including the graduated income tax, because the budgets can be balanced with existing revenue. He says he approves of ex-governor Pat Quinn’s petition drive to term-limit the Mayor’s office, and says he’d be happy to circulate petitions for Quinn. He pledged that he’d limit himself to two terms if elected.

He stops short of a full endorsement of Bruce Rauner, for whom he now works as a member of a panel reviewing minority contracting. But he says “I’m supporting who is doing things for the people in the community.” And, he adds, “We’ve got a good relationship with him. The other candidate, J. B., I reached out to talk to him last year. He never did call me and never did talk. We give the same options to him.”

Willie Wilson is our guest this week, as we attempt to hold conversations with all of the formally announced candidates in the February 26 mayoral election.

You can watch the show by clicking the image above.

You can listen to the audio-only version here: 

You can read a full transcript of the discussion here: CN transcript June 7 2018




Posted in Chicago Newsroom past shows | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment