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

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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.”

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


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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

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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.




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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

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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.



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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




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CN May 31 2018


We’re joined this week by Lauren FitzPatrick, education reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times, and Sarah Karp, education reporter at WBEZ. They discuss yesterday’s announcement by Mayor Emanuel that he intends to bring four-year pre-K classes to every CPS elementary school in the next several years, and the free pre-K that already exists at Oscar Mayer school, which serves some of Chicago’s wealthiest residents. They also discuss the recent report by the University of Chicago on the aftermath of CPS’ closure of almost 50 elementary schools in 2013. The report concludes that the process “caused large disruptions without clear benefits for students.” Lauren FitzPatrick brings us up-to-date on her report about filthy conditions in the schools since the hiring of two private contractors, and Sarah Karp explains her ongoing reporting about cuts in Special Education, a story that resulted in the state taking control over the management of the program.

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

You can listen to the audio of this show here on SoundCloud

and you can read a full transcript of the show here. CN transcript May 31 2018


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CN May 24 2018

A City Council meeting attracts about a hundred off-duty police officers and  more than a hundred anti-police protesters for one of the most raucous meetings in recent memory. They manage to approve the construction of the Obama Presidential Center, but the news accounts all note that there was a “no” vote. It came from first-term Alderman David Moore. The Mayor, according to the Daily Line’s Managing Editor Heather Cherone, wasn’t amused.

When Emanuel called president Obama, “The Mayor said it was 47 to 1,” Cherone tells us. “And apparently the former President responded, ‘Well who was that one?’…That one vote is going to stick in the Mayor’s craw for a little while, and again, David Moore was consistent. The Obama Center will need somewhere in the neighborhood of $175-million in taxpayer money to move several roads to make the plan possible. And Alderman Moore’s point was, “Where is that money coming from? Am I going to have to give up road resurfacing or infrastructure projects in my Ward so that we can pay for this? And if that’s what the trade-off is I vote no’”.

“And we should note that the City Council’s approval is sort of the first hurdle that the Center had to get over,” she adds. “It still has to undergo a federal review because the park is on the National Historic Landmarks list, and also there is already a lawsuit that is seeking to stop it. So it’s sort of the end of the beginning, I think, as one of the aldermen said yesterday.”

Governor Rauner did something very confusing earlier this week. The Legislature passed a bill calling for a 72-hour “cooling off” period before the purchase of “assault” weapons.  But Governor Rauner, using his amendatory veto, essentially re-wrote the bill, extending the waiting period to all firearms purchases, but also adding a reinstatement of the death penalty. It seemed not to please anybody. “I think the Governor is trying to heal a rift with the conservative Republicans in his party that don’t like his votes to broaden abortion rights, and at the same time put the Democrats in some sort of trick box, but I don’t think he expects that legislation to pass,” explains Hal Dardick, (recently appointed) investigative reporter with the Chicago Tribune. “His calculation I think is that to reinstate the death penalty for a police officer, people that shoot and kill police officers or that commit mass murders is that that will appeal to the base, and that he doesn’t have to worry about the 72-hour thing passing because the whole package is sort of dead on arrival for any number of reasons. So he’s made his political statement and let’s move on.”

“For most of this year the debate about guns in Springfield has been about licensing gun stores,” adds WBEZ’s state politics reporter Tony Arnold, “which hasn’t really been much of a discussion outside of anywhere but Illinois, and it’s been really pushed hard by the Mayor and the police superintendent, and it’s been adjusted a few times in Springfield. They have a few more Republicans than they had before, but it’s not clear if it has the Governor’s support still. And so this could be a way for Rauner to be, rather than waiting to see what the legislature sends him in terms of legislation of public safety, this is his way of trying to take control, or at least address some other policy besides just what is handed to him.”

We also note that a recent meeting in Springfield, the Governor’s  policy chief admitted that the Governor might be willing to sign a bill that didn’t include the death penalty measure, but a press person almost immediately  disputed that claim.

When the Council turned to voting for partial funding of the Mayor’s proposed police training facility in West Garfield Park, two aldermen jumped ship, calling for a deferral of the matter to the next meeting. The Latino caucus denied that it had anything to do with that vote, but the group expelled one of the Aldermen, Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, the same day.

“I mean it’s unprecedented for a caucus to expel a member,” Cherone explains. “And (Chairman) Villegas told me that it was not related to the police academy issue, but that Alderman Ramirez-Rosa just did not attend the caucus meetings. The other members of the caucus were putting 100% in and he wasn’t, and that was why this move was made. They will meet again next month in a caucus, and Alderman Villegas said that they will give Alderman Ramirez-Rosa a chance to address the caucus.”

The training facility is emerging as one of the most contentious issues facing the mayor right now. Almost every alderman wants it, but there’s stiff community opposition from protesters who insist that the money should be spent on projects that directly benefit impoverished neighborhoods.

“It goes back to the 2016 investigation of the Police Department by the Obama Justice Department that found that police officers were essentially leaving the training academy ill-equipped and unprepared to constitutionally police,” Cherone points out. “And part of the problem was that the current training facility is near Whitney Young High School on the near west side and it is essentially falling apart. So one of the recommendations in that report was for the City to build a new training facility. Mayor Rahm Emanuel said, “Yep, we’re going to do that.”

Tony Arnold brings us up-to-date on the remarkable serial tragedy at the Illinois Veterans’ Home in Quincy. WBEZ reported that a Legionnaire’s disease outbreak occurred in 2015, killing 13 residents. One, they reported earlier this month, was Delores French. “She was living at the Veteran’s home in an independent living building and her husband who needed more care was in a separate building, so she was healthy other than the fact that she was deaf,” Arnold explains. “The coroner had found that there was severe decay in her body when she was discovered. In the hearings and the legislative hearings that came out of those initial stories the Director of Veteran’s Affairs ended up saying there’s documentation showing that that is not true. We asked to see that documentation and were told ‘no’, so the family of Delores French asked to see the documentation. They said, “Okay, but give us $100.” So they took the documentation and gave it to my colleague Dave McKinney who ended up writing that story saying that it turns out that there is documentation that shows that they visited Delores French’s room but she wasn’t there. It’s just that that was written after the body was found. And so the rules say that there needs to be record-keeping in this environment up-to-date, not written after the fact.”

In fact, WBEZ’s reporting has resulted in several laws being written or modified to address the tragedy.

You can watch Tony Arnold elaborate on the entire legislative initiative by clicking the link above.

You can listen to the program on Soundcloud.

And you can read a full transcript of the conversation here: CN transcript May 24 2018




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CN May 17 2018

Paul Vallas visits Chicago Newsroom this week to talk about his candidacy for Mayor.

He begins by arguing the the police force needs to be expanded to about 14,000 officers, of whom 1200 are detectives.

“And when the police don’t have enough resources, Vallas asserts, “when you have gutted your Detectives Division, literally almost cut it in half, when you have allowed through attrition the supervisory infrastructure to significantly deteriorate…when police officers don’t have working radios and working cameras, when we have waited six years to start putting tasers into hands of our police officers, and we had like 700 tasers I think six or seven years ago, where New York City had 15,000. So you know, the police when faced with the possibility of having to use their weapons doesn’t have an alternative to the use of lethal force…That has contributed, I believe that has contributed to the escalating crime rate, the increase in murders over the past few years, particularly the increase in carjackings.”

Vallas has a long list of grievances against Mayor Emanuel. He begins by repeating his criticism that the Mayor waited too long to start making significant structural changes.

“You know,” he explains, “if it’s year three and you’re gearing up to run next year you might have an excuse, but it’s year seven now. We are now entering year eight, and for the first term Emanuel made none of the tough financial decisions. He didn’t go to the legislature to get equity funding for Chicago teachers, which is costing taxpayers about I would say $250-million a year. He got it in 2017.”

But he also concedes that Mayor Daley didn’t do anything about the financial restructuring either.

“I mean Pat Quinn was governor,” he reminds us. “You had an elected Democratic governor. You had almost a veto-proof house and Senate. Daley could have gotten it in 2010. Rahm Emanuel could have gotten it in 2011. He pushed for another pension holiday in 2013…but at the end of the day he could have taken action. Secondly, he made none of the tough decisions on the tax and fee increases, decisions that were deferred until the next term.”

Vallas acknowledges that the City will need to enter into a consent decree to reform the police  department. But he says he’s not on board with civilian control.

“Look,” he says. “there’s going to be a consent decree that we’re going to have to implement, and there’s going to be some, whatever the compromise is on civilian oversight, there’s going to be some civilian representation on police oversight. I don’t support civilian control. I support civilian representation, because they’ve got to have some transparency.”

An important finding of the Police Accountability Task Force was the critical need for improvements to the CPD training program. Mayor Emanuel has proposed a $95 million training academy on the west side, something that has been vigorously opposed by community groups. Vallas, though, supports it.

“Yeah,” he affirms. “I support it and I think it should be located on the west side… My question about the Academy is whether or not the footprint is large enough because you need a rifle range. You need a driving range. You need an area where they can do physical education so that you’re not cordoning off the streets as the police officers are doing their PT, their physical training up and down the streets. My question is more about whether or not the site is adequate to provide for a modern police training center that is not going to be obsolete the day it opens and that’s my concern.”

Paul Vallas has long been associated with the introduction of charter schools during his tenure at CPS, but he tells us that they were limited in his time.

“When I left we had 558 schools and 15 charter schools,” he asserts. “Today they have 120 charter schools, so you know, we did charter schools as an alternative, but we didn’t close schools. We didn’t need to close schools in the process because our enrollment grew by 30,000 during that period. It’s the only period in the last 30 years that enrollment actually grew, so we got considerably more state funding because our enrollment was growing. And we didn’t open charter schools right next to thriving traditional public schools, so there was a balance. You know I’ll let the people who succeeded me defend themselves and defend their records.”

We dive into some history and discuss Mayor Daley’s Renaissance 2010, a program initiated with then-Superintendent Arne Duncan that envisioned the creation of scores of new charters and other initiatives.

“It didn’t work,” he claims. “It didn’t work, because let me tell you, for two reasons, one is they created overcapacity. And incidentally, that was announced like two years after I was gone…What they also did was they shut down schools and they dispatched the kids from those existing schools to other communities. I think that destabilized the schools and that destabilized the communities so that they could open then these new schools as kind of these freestanding charter schools. And I think that was not a good strategy, and I  believe it hurt the school system.”

He also had some choice words for Rahm Emanuel’s decision to close fifty schools during his first term.

“Look, even the strategy of closing 50 schools, you know if you are going to close a school you should never close a school that’s performing,” he insists. “You should find a way to get more kids into that performing school even if you bus them or whatever. And if you’re going to close a school then have a plan to repurpose the building. You know there are huge numbers of individuals aged 17 to 40 – dropouts, chronically unemployed, ex-offenders, etc., some of these numbers outnumber the number of students in those neighborhood high schools. You could easily repurpose those buildings and convert them into adult ed and occupational training centers, so have a strategy.”

You can watch the show by clicking the image above.

You can listen to the audio on SoundCloud here

You can read a full transcript of the conversation here: CN transcript May 17 2018

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