HITTING LEFT #91

Friday, January 29, 2016

After more than a year of stalling, finally a serious contract offer to the CTU

A SmallTalk Salute goes out to Karen Lewis and the CTU for forcing Rahm/Claypool's hand and finally getting a serious contract offer. This comes after a year of CPS stalling and forcing teachers to work without a contract.

Of course, the offer still has to be voted on by the union's Big Bargaining Team, the House of Delegates, and ultimately ratified by the membership itself if a strike is to be avoided. This is what union democracy looks like.

The details of the offer aren't being made public. But Lewis says that the "basic framework calls for economic concessions in exchange for enforceable protections of education quality and job security." She says those losses could include the end of the city's practice of picking up the bulk of teachers' required contributions to their pensions. But she says that the union would not bend on another key issue, incremental pay increases known as "step and lane" bumps that are doled out based on seniority and experience.

If accepted, the contract agreement would be a big blow to Gov. Rauner, who's been holding the state's education budget hostage and even threatening a state takeover of CPS, in an attempt to pressure Democrats into busting the CTU and the state's public employee unions.

An agreement and lessening the threat of a teachers strike may also take some political heat off the mayor, especially with the IL Democratic primary coming up in March. A strike would surely be another giant nail in his political coffin.

The next test will be whether the unions, battered social service agencies, and community organizations can keep the pressure on Sen. Pres. Cullerton and House Speaker Madigan to keep them from selling out to Rauner's demands. Cullerton is already showing his willingness to coalesce with Rauner on another pension-theft bill, even after the last one was declared unconstitutional by the State Supreme Court.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Flint water disaster was preceded by takeover of schools and local govt's

In Michigan, the idea of a government of, by, and for the people did not apply to poor black cities, and when residents were robbed of the ability to govern themselves, they suffered. In Flint, it meant they got poisoned. -- Bill Moyers
The current disaster in Flint has its roots in Gov. Snyder's racist, anti-democratic coup d'etat in which power was usurped from local elected officials in financially distressed municipalities across Michigan. Snyder replaced them with his own appointed political cronies and corporate managers.

Flint isn’t the only city in Michigan deeply affected by the coup. In fact, Flint was one of six cities — most of which were poor and had a majority black population — to be placed under emergency management by Snyder since 2011.

Bill Moyers, who grew up in Flint, writes:
The emergency manager law gave unchecked power to the governor in the name of helping these communities emerge from financial distress. But in reality, it unleashed a series of devastating austerity and privatization measures adopted in the name of progress, and took away democratic rights from poor communities of color.
The financial distress came, not as a result of mismanagement or corruption -- although there was plenty of that right in Snyder's office as well as in the legislature -- but from the state's massive de-industrialization and collapse of the state's auto industry which began in the '70s. But Snyder, a right-wing ideologue, who believes that autocratic rule should trump democratic decision making, didn't want to let a good crisis go to waste.

His next target was the state's local school districts where he seized control of their budgets. In Detroit, the district was put under the rule of an emergency manager, Robert Bobb by Snyder's predecessor, Jennifer Granholm. Bobb then contracted with Barbara Byrd-Bennett to run the schools. It was there that BBB and her partner in crime, Gary Solomon, embarked on a trail of corruption that would run through Chicago and end finally in conviction and a possible 7 year prison sentence.

Snyder replaced the elected city governments in Muskegon Heights. and Highland Park with hand-picked business czars. In Muskegon Heights, an emergency manager dissolved the public school system and turned it over to a for-profit charter school, only to have the company bail on the contract because, as the emergency manager put it, “the profit just simply wasn’t there.”  The districts were left in a state of chaos rather than academic improvement.

In Pontiac, emergency managers privatized or sold nearly all public services, outsourcing the city’s wastewater treatment to United Water months after the company was indicted on 26 counts of violating the Clean Water Act, including tampering with E. coli monitoring methods to cut corners on costs.

In Flint, says, Moyers, "children were poisoned to save money."

The poisoning of the children and families of Flint was part and parcel of the poisoning of democracy in the state of Michigan. Now IL Gov. Rauner is proposing the same measures for Chicago and its school district. If you want to see where that leads, look no further than Flint.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Little Village schools fighting school crowding hold the line

Community activists gather outside Saucedo/Telpochcalli to demand that CPS postpone its co-location plan. 
I'm told that CPS has pulled its plan to move Spry Community Links High School into Saucedo/Telpochcalli, off the agenda of the February board meeting and agreed to protesters' demand to review the plan with community input. While there's nothing in writing yet, community activists who staged last week's sit-in against the consolidation plan, are calling it a victory.

This from Progress Illinois:
The district faced community pushback, including a sit-in staged by parents, students and community stakeholders last week, over its plan to co-locate the high school grades of John Spry Community School in the building that houses Maria Saucedo Elementary Scholastic Academy and Telpochcalli Elementary School, at 2850 W. 24th Blvd. 
"CPS has postponed the proposed Saucedo/Spry co-location at the request of the community," CPS spokesman Michael Passman confirmed in a statement Wednesday. "We will hold regular meetings with stakeholders to seek more input."
Writes Telpochcalli teacher Maria Cosme:
Thanks to all the groups for all we have done and accomplished. We have yet to get something in writing from CPS regarding postponing this proposal, but we had agreed that we want it completely off their agenda so we may come together as a community (parents, students, teachers, administration, and community agencies) to develop what is best for our students. So, them postponing is a victory but the hard work of developing this plan begins today. United we will have more successes.
This from Saucedo teacher Sarah Chambers:
This is definitely a victory for the Spry Community Links High School, Saucedo Academy, Telpochcalli, Spry and the community at large. The parents, community members, teachers and students made their voices loud and clear against this top-down proposal. Christina Lopez, mother of a student at Saucedo School, says “we will not accept anything less than a positive and safe school for our students. Our school is named after Maria Saucedo, an activist, educator, and mother who believed in education, equality and justice. We will continue to stay vigilant and engaged until there is a community created plan.
And from Jennifer Rocque, a teacher at Spry Community Links High School
"We commend CPS's decision to postpone the proposal. We look forward to working with key stakeholders to create a well suited proposal that provides [Spry] Community Links High School the opportunity to continue serving our families." 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Life In the Clay Pool


Rahm Emanuel knew what he was doing when he brought educational know-nothing, Forrest Claypool over from the CTA to run the schools. Claypool, who like Rahm, sends his kids to private school, didn't come to CPS to lead an educational transformation. With apologies to Shakespeare, he came to bury public ed, not to praise it.

While stalling contract negotiations with the CTU, he's contracted (no-bid of course) with his old firing squad from CTA to help him engineer the mass firings of thousands of teachers and staff.

In the midst of budget cuts and mass layoffs at the board, Claypool gives no-bid contracts to two highly-paid CTA cronies to help him plan the next round of mass teacher firings. 
Carol Rubin was chief administrative officer at the CTA and the Park District while Claypool ran those entities for Daley and Rahm. Rubin has been working with Sally Csontos, another former CTA and Parks staffer who’s married to John Filan, once a budget director for former Gov. Rob Blagojevich and another longtime Claypool associate.

This is the same way Claypool ran the CTA. Readers may remember back in 2014 when he hired Jimmy D'Amico to help "manage the CTA's rail maintenance" even though D'Amico has no railroad experience.

I'm anticipating that one day, Claypool may even share a cell with Blago.

This week's layoffs of 227 central office staffers was billed by Claypool as a way of avoiding classroom cuts. But most of those laid-off were the very staffers (lower-paid) who deliver direct services to schools, many in the area of special education. His central office is stocked with high-paid patronage hires or former CTA cronies. They were untouched by the lay-offs.

CPS claims it is "reorienting" its special education services "around a bottom-up approach, replacing the formulaic, centralized operation that had been in place with a focus on schools to keep resources in classrooms."

But Access Living's Rod Estvan makes a good case against the "bottom-up" approach when it comes to funding special ed.
“Those people are critical. The school itself isn’t an island for special ed. … These kids have evolving needs. They may need more support like an aide, they may need more technology." 
Kids who have behavioral issues can’t just be removed from schools, he said. Managers must observe them before they can even consider a move to another program.
“No rational school district is going to give each individual school the right to make those decisions, because you will make the decisions that are right for your school not necessarily right for the kid or for the law. These kinds of issues require that human interface.”
Gov. Rauner placed the blame for the state's budget crisis on Democrats who have a veto-proof majority in both houses. If his point is -- Dems are too cowardly to really take on a psychopath like me -- he's got one. Sen. Pres. Cullerton continues to play footsie with Rauner. He's still trying to make a deal with the guv on a new (unconstitutional squared) pension-theft bill while distancing himself somewhat from Rauner's virulent union-bashing rhetoric. See Brother Fred's post this morning for more on Cullerton's budget shenanigans. 


At the City Winery last night, the great Steve Earle paid tribute to Bernie Sanders before singing his anthemic "The Revolution Starts Now". Packed-house crowd of loyal fans gave serious applause. 


Monday, January 25, 2016

WEEKEND QUOTABLES

Rahm at press conference: "I agree with Karen Lewis..."
Karen Lewis
"It's just that simple, it's not rocket science, it's negotiations. Nobody's going to be happy, completely happy, with the outcome," she said. "They're going to have to give a little, we have to give a little. That's what contract negotiations are, but we're doing fairly well." -- Chicago Tribune
Forrest Claypool on stalled negotiations with CTU
"Our priority is not saving money by a week or two paying teachers. Our priority is to allow the current union negotiation process to come to a positive conclusion, and so buying time is the prudent thing to do in that regard." -- Tribune
 Lobbyist on Rauner's failed Chicago takeover attempt
"It's like taking kids away from the junkie mother and giving them to the alcoholic father." -- POLITICO
Sheriff Tom Dart
 “Lutheran provides essential services to the very people government is supposed to care for in times of distress. For the Governor to allow these programs to wither way is simply deplorable. Without Lutheran’s diversion programs, my Cook County Jail population will rise, costing taxpayers significantly more in both the short-term and long-term.” -- CBS
Kent Redfield
“Frankly, as much of a public presence as [Diana Rauner] had in the last year, she might as well have been in the Witness Protection Program.” -- CBS
Chicagoans march for Bernie
Greg Sargent, Plum Line blogger
Sanders is not arguing that the sheer force of persuasion can win over Republicans to compromise, a key element of Obama’s promise of transformation. -- Washington Post
Sarah Palin (after the teleprompter froze)
 'The man can only ride you when your back is bent,' she said, as audience members looked at each other quizzically. 'So strengthen it! Then the man can't ride you, America won't get taken for a ride, because so much is at stake.' -- Daily Mail


Friday, January 22, 2016

Urban Prep's anti-union version of teacher professional development


“Urban Prep has always respected teachers’ right to organize." --  Chief operations officer Evan Lewis 
Urban Prep Charter Academy, one of the most highly touted, yet worst performing charters in Chicago, had its own special version of staff development. No, it wasn't about improving reading or math instruction. Instead, the school used staff time and PD funds to train teachers on the evils of unionization.

Thanks to Chicago ACTS Pres. Brian Harris for getting me Urban Prep's power point slides, used to propagandize the staff. It looks like they were put together by Andrew Broy's union-busting team at INCS.

Slide 1: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B8RpkGJdu8iyUlhtNV9zMHRxN2M/view
Slide 2: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B8RpkGJdu8iyTGVNQjRlNTJhTjg/view?usp=sharing

Needless to say, their tactics failed. UP teachers voted to unionize. So Tim King and his board fired 17 teachers -- most of them African-American -- suspected of being involved in union activity. But after the NLRB ruled that the teachers were fired illegally, UP was forced to hire them back and pay out some $261,000 in back pay plus interest.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

He can run, but he can't hide

April Goggans stood silently holding a sign that said "16 shots and a cover up #LaquanMcDonald #ResignRahm." Others in the room chanted "Black Lives Matter."
Rahm Emanuel did what he does best when things get hot. He split town and headed to D.C.to hang out with his mayor friends. For some reason, the Conference of Mayors thought it was a good idea to have Rahm of all people, lead the panel called, “Reducing Violence and Strengthening Police/Community Trust.”

That's like having Donald Trump lead a workshop on immigration reform (or tourism in Britain).

But then this happened. The picture that this morning, appears on front pages and national media news everywhere.

Protest at Saucedo
Back home, a group of Little Village parents, teachers and community activists sat-in last night at Saucedo following a press conference and meeting about CPS's attempt to co-locate a high school at Saucedo/Telpochcalli. The consolidation plan, which would overcrowd the two schools, is still being pushed despite community and teacher opposition. But yesterday's protest looks like it got Forrest Claypool's attention.
In response to the sit-in, a spokesperson for CPS released a statement Thursday morning, writing: "CPS appreciates the community's feedback on proposed school actions. We will carefully consider the supportive and concerned comments from the community." 
And a SmallTalk Salute goes out to the entire student government at Loyola Univ. whose elected members now face disciplinary action from the administration for speaking out in solidarity with dining hall workers in their struggle against private contractor, Aramark. That's the same company that was brought in by Rahm to privatize CPS janitorial services and cripple the union. And what a mess that's been.

Chelsea
Where's Chelsea? Did anybody see Chelsea Clinton who was allegedly in Chicago last week to attack Bernie Sanders and raise money for mom's campaign? No public appearances or photo ops with the mayor who served in both the Clinton and Obama White House and actually chaired Obama's election campaign. Just meetings with the rich and super-rich in private.

Chelsea attended $1,000/plate events hosted by the likes of Kevin Conlon of Conlon & Dunn Public Strategies,  Trisha Rooney, Nora Daley (daughter of former mayor) Amalia Mahoney, Holly Maloney, M.K. Pritzker, a major Hillary Clinton donor and Linda Johnson Rice, the chief of Johnson Publishing.

I really can't blame her for avoiding the mayor. Even though Hillary should have no trouble winning the IL primary, Rahm is now considered political poison for the Democrats and he's made Chicago a problem for the party entire ticket. He's the Democrat's Rick Snyder. Nobody wants to be seen with him. This, in the town where people used to say of old man Daley: The road to the White House runs through Chicago.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Rauner makes his move to take over Chicago and CPS


If you want to see what it looks like when a right-wing governor pulls a coup d'etat and appoints corporate managers to supplant elected local officials, take a look at Flint, MI.

Yesterday, we heard the news that Gov. Bruce Rauner and top Republican leaders are planning to introduce legislation aimed at an emergency financial takeover of the city of Chicago and Chicago Public Schools. Their rationale is the $500 million shortfall within the Chicago Public Schools system which they themselves -- with help from sellout Democrats -- created.

We are told that the legislation would also allow for CPS and the city of Chicago to declare bankruptcy – something by law both cannot currently do. To sweeten the pot, Rauner threw in the promise of a elected CPS school board, but only "once the financial situation is remediated". 

Given the history of corruption, racism, and incompetence behind Rahm Emanuel's own autocratic rule over the schools, the promise of an elected board may sound attractive, given the widespread support shown for an end to mayoral control by Chicago voters. But it's merely a ploy.

The move is also Rauner's way of heading off a budget compromise and a contract agreement between CPS and the CTU and cutting the heart out of collective bargaining rights for teachers public employee unions, statewide. It's their alternative to raising taxes on their wealthy and corporate patrons to pay for the operation of a predominantly black and Latino school district.

It's the "Katrina model" which Paul Vallas used to bust the teachers union and privatize the entire New Orleans school system, getting Arne Duncan's stamp of approval in the process. Gov. Snyder used it in Michigan to destroy democracy, including elected city government and the school system in Detroit. Snyder poisoned the people in Flint as a cost-cutting measure, along with way.

It's all based on Rahm's dictum, "never let a serious crisis go to waste."

The move brings to mind the Tribune editorial board's call back in May, for a "Mussolini-type" dictatorship over CPS followed by the Trib's Kristen McQueary praying for a Katrina-like storm to hit Chicago.

Can Rauner pull it off? Can he do what Snyder's done in Michigan? Not without complete and total acquiescence from Madigan, Cullerton and state Democrats who still hold a veto-proof majority in the legislature. Rahm claims he is "100% against the plan". But we don't know what kind of deal he's cut with his pal the governor, behind closed doors, to save his own ass.

In other words, yes he can. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Rauner, Smith & Meeks: Killing Special Ed in IL

Rauner's  hand-picked State Supt. Tony Smith called the board's move, "basically the most equitable way of distribution we've got."
The center-piece of Gov. Rauner's divisive, winners-and-losers plan for funding Chicago Public Schools operations is to divert millions from the state's (mostly suburban district's) special education fund.

The State Board, headed by Pres. James Meeks, consists of nine Rauner appointees.

Rauner and Meeks
The Tribune reports:
The Illinois State Board of Education is proposing to take $305 million from an account designated for special education services and give that money to districts next school year for general expenses that may have nothing or little to do with kids with disabilities.
 Even without this source of funding for special education, districts would be expected to continue covering those costs as required by law.
 "The state is in a budget crisis — I understand that. But it is crazy to put that on the backs of children with disabilities," says Beverly Holden Johns, who is active in several special education organizations in Illinois. She questions the legality of the state board's proposal.

So do I.

It's also a way to pit the state's poorer urban school districts against wealthier suburban ones rather than adequately and equitably fund both.

Standard English: What's a wazzock?



Donald Trump was branded a racist demagogue, a buffoon and a “wazzock” in the British parliament as MPs debated whether to ban the Republican presidential candidate from coming to the UK. -- Guardian

I had to look up the term in the Urban Dictionary. Here's what came up:
idiot pillock twat moron daft dipstick gordonite muppet slaphead spack head twit wassock wazz wazzer widget harding offensive in actions and words wanker wassuck wazzuck
Got it.

Monday, January 18, 2016

WEEKEND QUOTABLES

On April 3, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. traveled to Memphis to support AFSCME sanitation workers. That evening, he delivered his famous “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech to a packed room of supporters. The next day, he was assassinated.
Dr. Martin Luther King
The two most dynamic movements that reshaped the nation during the past three decades are the labor and civil rights movements. Our combined strength is potentially enormous. -- Speech given to the Illinois State AFL-CIO, Oct. 7, 1965
CTU's Jesse Sharkey
“We’ve got our big bargaining team coming in on a holiday, and we’re trying to see if there’s a deal here. So far, there isn’t.”
“Everyone knows that if you tried to lay off 5,000 people in the middle of the school year, you would crash and tank the schools, and if you did that, you would only get halfway through their claimed deficit. So no, I don’t think that any of us think (Claypool) was really going to do it. But I don’t have any doubt that they’re contemplating making cuts.” -- Sun-Times
Flint water bill over $1,000 with late fees.
 Stephen Mittons DCFS worker
If the wealthy elite use the Supreme Court to silence us, who will oppose big corporations and their CEOs when they manipulate our economy and try to buy our democracy to serve only themselves? And without unions, who will speak up for the middle class? -- Sun-Times
Flint, MI mom
 "I can’t afford to go buy 20 gallons of water just to bathe him one time,” said Hawk, a 25-year-old single mother of three who attends Mott Community College and is pregnant. "We get treated like … we don’t matter,” she said. “That’s how it’s been feeling.” -- Detroit Free Press
Michael Moore in Flint
 “This is not a mistake. Ten people have been killed here because of a political decision. They did this. They knew.” -- Detroit Free Press

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Boycott of mayor's MLK Breakfast was effective

Timuel and Zenobia Black with keynoter, Rev Sekou at Chicago Teachers Union King Day Breakfast.
The Mayor's MLK Day Breakfast was a complete bust. The boycott called by a coalition of black ministers was effective. Protests outside and inside, disrupted the mayor's pathetic attempt to clean up his image. The turnout was so sparse, Rahm had to bus in the hungry from the senior citizens homes to fill the empty seats.

Keynoter Isabel Wilkerson, author of The Warmth of Other Suns backed out. They had to pay Dorothy Tillman a hefty fee to replace her. Sad.

But a mile west...
The Tribune reports:
A mile west, at the teachers' MLK breakfast in the South Loop, CTU president Karen Lewis said she had little interest in whether Emanuel resigns, though her own union's governing body has called for him to quit. The mayor has said he'll serve out the remaining three years on his term. 
"I don't care what he does," Lewis said. "Somebody else, maybe worse, would take his place." 
While the often-combative Lewis sounded conciliatory, the featured speaker at the breakfast, the Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou, brought hundreds of attendees to their feet.
"Mayor Emanuel, it's time for you to step down!" said Sekou, who was involved with civil rights demonstrations that followed the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. "Stand down, have integrity."
Police wrestle with protesters at the mayor's boycotted King Day event. 
This morning...
BYOP100CHI-led protesters have marched on the FOP bank and shut it down. Damn, I didn't even know they had a bank. Public funds are being used to support Van Dyke and other killer cops.

Friday, January 15, 2016

On MLK Day, time to talk about inequality in America and schools


Chicago State students march to save their school from closure
 "Inequality is inevitable; the vast inequality of America today isn’t." -- Paul Krugman in today's NYT
Krugman even tips his hat to Pres. Obama for raising the tax rate on top earners and pushing through his health care reform. Not only didn't the sky fall, as conservatives predicted, but over the past six years, we've had the best job growth since the 1990s.

But job growth is only a small part of the struggle for equality, especially when that growth is accompanied by flattening or shrinking real wages, union-busting, and the re-creation of a two-tier school system through privatization and charteriztion, and limited access to higher education.

Case in point -- the imminent closure of predominantly-black Chicago State Univ. as a result of Gov. Rauner's austerity program and his holding hostage the state education budget.

What Krugman doesn't mention is that Obama's job recovery has been far less beneficial to African-Americans whose unemployment rate is still high and has long been double the rate for whites.

Dr. King in Chicago in the '60s.
King Day -- I'm going to the Martin Luther King breakfast this morning. No, not the one the mayor is throwing in hopes of shoring up his dwindling support in the African-American community. That one is being boycotted. No photo-ops for Rahm with black leaders today, following the release of another video showing unarmed teen being gunned down by a Chicago cop.

I'll be at the one sponsored by the Chicago Teachers Union with CTU Pres. Karen Lewis Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou, a religious scholar and leader of protests in Ferguson, Mo. doing the keynoting.

Also today -- CPS students will embark on a “education equality” march from the Thompson Center in the Loop to Benito Juarez Community Academy in Pilsen. Along the route, students plan to march past CPS offices and the home of Chicago Board of Education President and retired Com-Ed CEO Frank Clark, calling on Rauner, state lawmakers and local pols to avoid deep budget cuts and layoffs at CPS schools this year.

Happy birthday, MLK.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The trail to the 5th floor of City Hall gets warmer. CPS' 'confidential' memo.

Asking the right questions. 

Rahm is pleading ignorance... Not the top quality you want in the city's top executive. Of course, he was conveniently ignorant until after winning the election.

From today's Trib:
Mayor Rahm Emanuel has said he didn't understand the gravity of Laquan McDonald's shooting death at the hands of a Chicago police officer until just before the city settled with the teen's family last spring, and that he wasn't aware other officers may have falsified reports about the shooting until just after the video was released to the public.
And then there's this:
 But interviews, official city calendars and emails show in both cases the mayor's closest aides and City Hall attorneys knew much earlier than that.
Chou's confidential memo
That would be Rahm's top lawyer, Steve Patton. Not to mention, State's Attorney Alvarez.

They probably didn't want to bother Rahm about it. Right?

CPS enters the picture...
Now comes news that the mayor's top staffers were alerted, in a "confidential" memo, the day after the shooting, by CPS security chief Jadine Chou, that Laquan McDonald was a student at YCCS-Sullivan House Alternative H.S.
Email traffic at City Hall started almost immediately after the shooting, and inquiries about the dash-cam video were made in the first month.
The trail to the 5th floor is getting warmer.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Today's knee-slappers

Funniest Quotables:
Fariley
"I plan to operate independently. That’s how I operated as a federal prosecutor. I would go off and do the investigations and report on them and take my actions. Nor do I feel any pressure from the mayor to conduct my work in any way.”-- IPRA chief, Sharon Fairley  
“Urban Prep has always respected teachers’ right to organize, and as such, would never dismiss any teacher because of his or her organizing activity.” -- Chief operations officer Evan Lewis 
Patton 
“He's [Dan Webb] not going to sully his reputation by not doing a good and thorough job, and I don't want him to." -- Rahm's top City Hall lawyer, Steve Patton 
 The bipartisan reform of No Child Left Behind was an important start, and together, we’ve increased early childhood education, lifted high school graduation rates to new highs, and boosted graduates in fields like engineering. -- Pres. Obama's SOTU speech 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Tuesday questions... What? A tangled Webb?

Dan Webb
1) Will Rahm's pet aldermen finally find their backbones? 
"On Monday, that new era of independence was on full display", writes Fran Spielman in the Sun-Times
I don't buy Spielman's new era hyperbole, There are some small spine signs. But not many. At least some questions are now being asked before the pups sit up and beg for cookies.

Some are even asking for a little time to consider things before dancing to the mayor's tune like they did on the parking meters, red-light cameras, $5M cover-up payment to Laquan McDonald's family, killer property-tax hike, etc... Amazing!

Eg. they put Rahm's $2M TIF plan to build a park near the new Marriott Hotel on hold. OMG!

Originally, that money was part of $55M that was going to build DePaul's (mea culpa St. Vincent) shiny new (but I predict, largely empty) basketball arena. Now the money has been shifted to the hotel after protests against the building of the stadium caused the pols political embarrassment. Not enough to stop it, however. This was millions that should have been spent in classrooms. 

Still friends?
2) How real is Rauner's fallout with Rahm?

My friend, Benny J. says it's completely phony. I say, it's real and phony at the same time. Rauner knows that Rahm agrees with him on neutering the CTU and on much of his austerity reform. But the gov thinks that Rahm and Sen. Cullerton are too cowardly to stand up to machine boss, Mike Madigan

It's not just them. Many more Dems are with Rauner on the QT, says the gov. I believe him. 

3) Will Rahm's hiring of his friend, Dan Webb, save him?

Answer: No. 

It's a desperate move and could be his last. The Law Dept. is just a floor away from the mayor's office. Webb was brought in to circumvent the Justice Dept.'s planned investigation. The Pinex killing cover-up is hotter than even the McDonald murder. Jordan Marsh, Rahm's lead attorney who withheld evidence in the Pinex family's suit, has taken the fall and resigned. But was Marsh operating independently of the mayor and his law chief ? A rogue city attorney? No way.

Rahm's claims that it's 'not possible' that the Law Dept.was part of the cover-up. Well, it's not only possible, it's likely. If an investigation leads beyond March and connects to Rahm's top attorney, Stephen Patton, there's no way the mayor isn't culpable. 

Bringing Webb in, smells to high heaven. The deal has even got Rahm's pals at the Sun-Times board nervous. 

Webb's a partner in the clout-heavey firm of Winston & Strawn which has lots of City Hall contracts. Both the firm and Webb himself have given big bucks to Rahm's election campaigns. 

Webb is also representing the city of Ferguson, Mo. in its civil rights case with the U.S. Department of Justice. He charging the impoverished St. Louis suburb his full hourly rate at $1,335. But he working for Rahm for a measly $295/hr. I'm not sure if that's good or bad. If W&S is not in it for legal fees, what then?

He also worked as special prosecutor in 2012 to investigate the death of David Koschman. In 2004, Koschman was punched by Richard Vanecko — a nephew of then-Mayor Richard Daley — and died days later. Vanecko eventually pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter in 2014. But Webb never revealed the depths of the police cover-up in the case or Daley's testimony. 

Webb is defending Ferguson, MO in Justice Dept. civil rights suit. 
Even though Webb has agreed to report his findings only to the city's IG Joe Ferguson, the attempt to undercut the federal investigation is sure to bring down even more scrutiny on Webb and his law firm. Plus you can count on continuing street protests to apply added pressure.

In other words, Rahm's gambit just won't work. 

Remember, Hillary Clinton is coming to town. The IL primary is in March. I'm trying to imagine her posing with Rahm in the middle of a smelly cover-up investigation of his own Law Dept. with black community protesters and allies demanding that Mayor 1% resign. 

Not many of my more political junkie friends agree with me on this, but I still think he will. Of course, I've been wrong once or twice before. I had my money on Clemson last night, for example. 

Monday, January 11, 2016

WEEKEND QUOTABLES

The mayor of San Francisco is sworn in — to boos and arrests

Valerie Jarrett on #RahmResign

“So I really shouldn’t comment on Chicago in particular because it’s under that investigation of [Loretta Lynch] hers.” In the interview with BuzzFeed at the White House Friday, Jarrett praised the protests, giving them credit for the current focus on the Chicago police.
“We’ve seen so many peaceful demonstrations. I don’t think we get sufficient credit to the demonstrators who are out there in the cold in Chicago — all over — demonstrating, trying to say we want change." -- BuzzFeed
Community activist Jared Steverson
 "As you can see, [Mayor Emanuel] is going to black colleges. He's going to places where black people and Latino people are because he wants to get us back before election time comes in the next three years," Steverson said. When asked if that could happen, Steverson said, "not at all." -- ABC7
Pedro Noguera
[ESSA] is not addressing the real issues related to poverty that are contributing to why those schools are struggling... Students respond well to teachers they know, believe in them, care about them, but also who teach in a matter that elicits a more active approach to learning, rather than just sitting and listening. -- Mother Jones
David Kirp
Mr. Cerf and Raz Baraka, who succeeded Cory Booker as mayor, recently announced that up to $12.5 million of the Zuckerberg gift will be invested in a network of “community schools” — sunrise-to-sunset schools that offer health care and social services, located in the city’s most troubled neighborhoods. -- N.Y. Times
Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan
"Families in Flint were forced to drink lead-tainted water while the administration scoffed at their concerns and cries for help. An entire generation of Michiganders now face an uncertain future because of Republican cuts to essential and life-giving services." -- Common Dreams

Saturday, January 9, 2016

In the Mailbox: Testing at New Trier

My good friend at New Trier High School told me that the parents in Winnetka could care less about the PARCC test. He tells me that the high school was a ghost town on the day the tests were taken.

Only 35% of the students took the test. New Trier is considered by many to be the best high school in the Chicago area and the scores of those who took the test were very low. They apparently they did not teach to the Common Core in Winnetka township, the equivalent of Pelham Manor, Rye, Larchmont, or Stamford in New York and Conn. or Marin C in the Bay area.

Valerie [Strauss] might recall that many New Trier teachers signed a letter that she published a couple of years ago signed by New Trier teachers, Lab School teachers, and the CTU about standardized testing. (it took me a week to organize)

I will link it here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2013/02/15/open-letter-to-arne-duncan-from-chicago-teachers/

Paul Horton
History Instructor
University High School
The University of Chicago Laboratory Schools

Durbin embraces disgraced Rahm. Clinton watches.

Durbin claims Rahm has "visible support" in the black community. He knows this from having attended a recent meeting. (AP)
Sen. Dick Durbin is the only Democrat in town willing to be seen within 10 yards of disgraced Mayor Rahm Emanuel. In an interview on Wednesday, Durbin claimed that Rahm still maintains significant support in the city and particularly in the black community, despite his role in covering up the police killing of Laquan McDonald. How Durbin knows this or how he has the nerve to speak for the black community is beyond me. I'm guessing he read Laura Washington's defense of Rahm in the Sun-Times.

In his attempt to bail out the mayor, Durbin blames most of Rahm's troubles on his predecessor, Daley.
“I don’t question that there are things that happened under the mayor’s watch that have caused problems for him that he will still have to address,” Durbin said. “Those sorts of things are real and on his watch. But most of the things he’s facing are left over.”
That's some stretch. 

Seeing Durbin and Emanuel posing together takes me back to another Durbin photo-op. That one was with Republican Sen. Mark Kirk proposed spending $30M on rounding up and imprisoning 18,000 black men ("gang bangers") back in 2013.

Durban/Kirk call for jailing of 18,000 black me. 
Durbin now dismisses #RahmResign protesters as "the same people who have supported his political opponents, such as 2015 primary foe Chuy Garcia" (Is that a bad thing?)  and claims that Rahm is “doing better than most outsiders would believe.” 

I'm definitely an outsider, but I read the insider's polls showing that Rahm's numbers are lower that snail shit (18%), and that was before the announced FBI investigation into his law department's role in the cover-ups. Durbin is the first insider I've heard dispute that. 

I can only wonder what Hillary Clinton's folks must be thinking about Durbin's embrace of the Little Emperor. Is it possible that they put him up to it, knowing that his seat is probably safe enough to test the waters? Remember, the IL primary is in March and Clinton has to decide how safe it is to campaign in Chicago and do her own photo ops with the mayor. Or play it safe and avoid Chicago altogether.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Rahm's mea culpas don't extend to school closings and wild charter expansion

Given all Rahm's recent mea culpas, the one he hasn't made is about his wholesale school closings, mostly in the black community and his replacement of them with privately-run charter schools. CPS's publication of a new list of supposedly "underutilized" schools, indicates another round of closings and charter openings is coming.

His appointment of Jaime Guzman, a shill for the charter operators, to the CPS board, shows that Rahm's game plan remains intact. Guzman takes Jesse Ruiz' spot as the lone Latino on the seven-member board.

The amazing thing about that appointment is that Guzman previously sat on the State Charter School Commission, the group that has the authority to create charters even when they've been rejected by local school boards, including Chicago's.

That's the same group, acting under pressure from House Speaker Mike Madigan, that actually reversed CPS's rejection of Concept (Gulen) charter schools' application at a time when the FBI was investigating Concept's operations.

Last year, the senate voted to abolish the commission on grounds that it had become "too politicized" and a purveyor, rather than an objective evaluator and authorizer of charters. Yet it still survives. Guzman says, he will resign his post on the commission, which is set to hear appeals from three more charter schools that the district has slated for closure at the end of the academic year.

The Guzman appointment and Rahm's commitment to wild charter school expansion may seem puzzling to anyone looking at the underutilization list. The list contains dozens of supposedly underutilized high schools appearing side-by-side with underutilized charter schools.

Among those on the list are several from the Noble Charter Network. That's the group that was pushed back in its attempt to invade the north side recently. They just opened a new charter high school directly across the street from Prosser, even while many of their existing schools are stilling partially empty. Now Prosser is completely surrounded by competing charter schools.

Among the many other charters on the list, are highly-touted Urban Prep, three Perspectives charters. and three KIPP charter schools.

Isn't it clear by now that CPS has to be taken out from under the control of City Hall?

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

David Brooks' shaky defense of liberalism



David Brooks opens his NYT Op-Ed piece this way: On New Year’s Eve some friends and family members had a drink at a bar in Tel Aviv...

I suppose this literary device is meant to assure the Netanyahu regime that he won't step on their toes in this column. He then goes on to attack rising Donald Trump-ism and call for a defense of cultural pluralism and an open society. Pretty tempting stuff. I'm definitely on board for both. 

Brooks writes:
In country after country this anxiety is challenging the liberal order. I mean philosophic Enlightenment liberalism, not partisan liberalism. It’s the basic belief in open society, free speech, egalitarianism and meliorism (gradual progress). It’s a belief that through reasoned conversation values cohere and fanaticism recedes. It’s the belief that people of all creeds merit tolerance and respect.
Fine words, Mr. Brooks. But it seems you have a blind spot or two. Did you look around that bar in Tel Aviv? Anyone excluded?
These liberal assumptions have been challenged from the top for years — by dictators. But now they are challenged from the bottom, by populist anti-liberals who support the National Front in France, UKIP in Britain, Viktor Orban in Hungary, Vladimir Putin in Russia and, in some guises, Donald Trump in the U.S.
A very short and selective list. Not a bad start, but classical liberalism has its own Achilles heels -- war, racism, gender and economic inequality.

Notice, Brooks fails to list our two main allies in the so-called war on terror: Salafist Saudi Arabia (ISIL's birthplace) where mass executions and beheadings of opposition religious leaders  have now brought the region to the brink global war. And apartheid-state Israel, where Palestinians as a people are imprisoned in the Gaza ghetto, Arab family homes are bulldozed to make room for settlers, and where new proposed "transparency" laws are being used to "squelch dissent" and make NGO's register as "foreign agents".
  
I don't usually judge a person by where he drinks, but his opening line makes me suspicious about his definition of open, liberal and pluralistic. And his reductionist view of rising violence and terrorism in the world as being "self-motivated" and a result of "anxiety" and "emotion" leaves me flat. It shows that Brooks hasn't a clue, or is turning a blind eye to the real roots of violence and terror.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Rahm to Atty Gen. Lynch: 'But you said fed probe wouldn't go any higher than CPD.'

"The Law Department holds its employees to the absolute highest professional and ethical standards and does not tolerate any action that would call into question the integrity of the lawyers who serve and represent the City of Chicago." -- City Hall Liar in Chief, Bill McCaffrey
Rahm probably should have stayed in Cuba. I'm sure his ratings are higher than 18% in Havana.

Instead he came home to Chicago only to find the hot mess he created has gotten hotter and messier. He also found that the cover-up of yet another police killing on his watch may lead to the federal probe moving up the ladder to City Hall and closer to him.

Judge order retrial in shooting case of Darius Pinex.
Yesterday U.S. District Judge Edmond Chang ruled that a lawyer for the city intentionally misled the court when he concealed a key recording of a police radio dispatch to attorneys for the family of Darius Pinex, who was shot to death by Chicago cops in 2011. Jordan Marsh, Rahm's lead attorney handling the Pinex family's suit, resigned eight hours later. Obvious question -- Was Marsh operating independently of the mayor? A rogue city attorney? No way.

His resignation comes four years after the Pinex killing. That's four years of lying and hiding evidence from the Pinex family. What has the mayor, IPRA, and State's Atty. Alvarez been doing about the Pinex case since 2011? Ducking for cover. That's what.

All this comes on the heels of  disclosures about the Rahm's oversight of his police department. A Justice Department investigation of police misconduct has begun in the wake of the November release of a video showing Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting Laquan McDonald 16 times in 2014. The subsequent release of police reports showed that cops' written accounts of the shooting differed starkly from what the video shows. And so much more.

Up until now, the feds have been focused exclusively on actions within the Police Department. A.G. Loretta Lynch had practically the mayor that her probe wouldn't go any higher.

From Lynch's Dec.7th press conference:
Reporter: Will City Hall -- will officials at City Hall be part of this review ?  
Lynch: With respect to your first question, what we will be looking at, again, is the Chicago Police Department's method and manner of dealing with use of force, particularly deadly force, and if we find racial, ethnic, and other disparities in how they handle those force allegations. It will encompass a number of things, including how officers are disciplined, and the disciplinary systems. We will be working with city officials, but the matters that you are talking about seem to relate to a different issue. 
Following this latest judge's ruling and the exposure of yet another administration cover-up, all that may change. Now comes word that the investigation may include the city's legal department.

When he first heard that Pres. Obama was sending in Lynch and the feds, Rahm called the possibility of a civil rights investigation “misguided”. But, a day later, he reversed course and said he would "welcome" such an investigation with open arms. By welcome, he meant that he would hire two of the biggest and priciest law firms in the country to counter the investigation.

Now, in response to the threatened probe of the legal department, the mayor is scrambling

According to the Tribune:
When the mayor was asked about adding the Law Department's handling of lethal force cases to the federal probe, he laughed and did not directly answer the question. Pressed again, Emanuel said that step is not needed to give Chicagoans confidence that necessary changes are being made.
Each passing day moves #RahmResign from the realm of coffee-table chatter and more into the realm of possibility. Staying on won't help him. Either way, he's toast.

Rauner tells POLITICO: 'I wasn't in Cuba. I was in, um...Europe.'

“You’d be amazed at what we ate. I’m not going to tell you that.” -- Gov. Rauner
Natasha Korecki is one of my favorite reporters on the Chicago scene. I peruse her Illinois Playbook in POLITICO most mornings over breakfast. You should too.

It looks like she perused mine on Saturday when I raised the possibility that Gov. Rauner's secret vacation had taken him to Cuba to hang out with his pal, Rahm Emanuel.
Got that last piece from reliable sources who say they spotted the gov in Havana. Are reporters even curious? I mean, Rahm/Rauner wining and dining together in Cuba while the city sizzles and the state floods (literally).
To her credit, she took my charge seriously and undaunted by Rahm's previous hissy-fit over her colleague Mike Allen's broaching of the Cuba topic, Korecki put it right to the gov. Here's what she came away with.
 To the conspiracy theorists who believed Emanuel and Gov. Bruce Rauner were secretly puffing cigars and toasting Mojitos in Cuba on a joint, clandestine vacation -- not true. They were drinking Cuba Libres? No, no, no. While the two have been known to enjoy a pricey bottle of wine and fish together in their free time, the governor was in fact in Europe with his family on vacation over winter break. He paid for the trip himself and flew commercially, the governor’s office told POLITICO. 
Conspiracy theorist? Moi? Maybe so. There's definitely more than enough conspiring going on between Rahm and Rauner to theorize about. But all I did was raise the possibility after friends in Havana reported the Rauner spotting. Were they wrong? I'm dubious.

Knowing Korecki, I'm almost certain she won't be totally satisfied with Rauner's response. I mean, "Uh, no, no, no. I wasn't in Cuba. I was in...Europe. Yeah Europe. That's the ticket. Paid for it myself..."

Europe? Nobody says they're vacationing "in Europe". Where in Europe? Rome? Romania? Donetsk?

Clout Street digs deeper.
The wealthy former private equity specialist said he spent part of his two-week holiday break riding a camel in the Sahara desert.
Last I heard, the Sahara was still in Africa and the Middle East -- not Europe.

Vacationing in Europe or riding camels in the Sahara, while holding the IL school budget hostage and while a big chunk of the state was under water? Really? And if really in "Europe" or Africa and not in Cuba, why all the secrecy? Is this a national security matter?  Inquiring minds want to know. There may even be a conspiracy afoot.

Rauner tells Clout St., he wanted to keep the destinations quiet for security reasons, saying he was traveling with his children, including two who live in Africa and a “Spanish-speaking country.”

What?
In addition to the camel ride, Rauner said he slept in tents and met with local ambassadors and counsel generals who offered chaperons when needed. Rauner said he did not travel with taxpayer-funded security.
So many questions here.

Anyway, thanks for raising it, Natasha. Glad you're paying attention.

Monday, January 4, 2016

WEEKEND QUOTABLES

Brother Fred

Mercedes Schneider
Duncan is gone, and the USDOE test worship continues. -- Deutsch 29
Valerie Strauss
[New Ed Sec. John] King was so enamored with test-based “accountability,” he pushed new Pearson-developed tests aligned to the Common Core before teachers had enough time to learn the standards and develop new curriculum and lessons. -- Washington Post
S-T sports columnist Rick Telander
Can you imagine the Chicago we know today inviting the world into our living room soon? I can’t. Nor will we. -- Thank goodness Chicago won't host the 2016 Olympics
Recall expert Joshua Spivak
 “There’s no jurisdiction I know of that have just one guy” open to recall. -- Sun-Times


Saturday, January 2, 2016

Were Rahm & Rauner drinking Cuba Libres together in Havana?

Cuba libre
Send lawyers, guns and money. The shit has hit the fan. -- Warren Zevon
Happy New Year to all.

And a special New Year's welcome back from Cuba goes out to both Mayor Emanuel and GOV. RAUNER. Got that last piece from reliable sources who say they spotted the gov in Havana. Are reporters even curious? I mean, Rahm/Rauner wining and dining together in Cuba while the city sizzles and the state floods (literally).

At our family New Year's get together, we all wrote down our predictions for 2016 and put them in a box. No, not about weight loss. That's so 2015. Yes, it's all about politics. Mostly easy stuff like Hillary's winning in November. Against who? Rubio? I hear she's already shopping for new drapes for the White House.

The prediction box
I think I'm the only one predicting and early Rahm Emanuel exit. I just think that the persistence of the #RahmResign protests combined with federal investigations and e-mail leaks about his role in the cop-shooting cover-up, plus the deepening financial crisis and impending property tax revolt, all add up to an unmanageable city. He's got corporate and DNC undies in a twist.

I know that the cops want him gone. The sooner the better.

At least this cop does. Check out this video clip:



How about by Spring? I could be wrong. Lots of progressives I know hope that Rahm hangs (no pun intended) in there. A certain CTU leader told me that there's nobody they'd rather have on the other side of the contract negotiating table right now than Rahm Emanuel. That can't make Rahm's pal Rauner happy.

The latest coffin nail is driven by the FOIA release of emails proving that Rahm's so-called "Independent" Police Review Authority (IPRA) is a fraud. No surprise there. Turns out that IPRA did nothing without getting City Hall's okay in advance.

As I've been saying for the last month, we need to create a community-based commission to counter City Hall's lack of transparency and the cover-ups around the police killings. Does anyone still have faith or confidence in Rahm's latest hand-picked Task Force?

BROKE ON PURPOSE...Crain's reports that Rahm is already spending big city bucks, lawyering up in the face of Loretta-Lynch's federal investigation of the CPD. He hired two of the nation's power-house law firms--Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr and Taft Stettinius & Hollister. Wilmer Hale is also representing the city of Baltimore in the wake of the Freddie Gray killing.

This, after Rahm played contrite to the media and claimed that he welcomed the investigation and will "pledge the City's complete cooperation."

Makes you wonder. Why spend $1,200/hr of taxpayer money on stick-pin lawyers when Lynch is supposed to be the people's lawyer? Hasn't she already promised not to look anywhere higher than the police department?

Cut the crap, Mr. Mayor. Nobody's buying it.