Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Memo to Paul Vallas: Lose the broom

“There’s nothing Chicago politicians fear more than this broom." -- Paul Vallas

So here's Paul Vallas, running for mayor of Chicago and carrying around a broom in his TV ads,  a prop designed to portray him as the anti-corruption candidate. Clever, right? He's the one who's going to sweep corruption out the door.

It harkens me back to 2008 when D.C. schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee posed holding a broom for the cover of Time Magazine and then  was implicated in one of the country's biggest test cheating scandals. Rhee became the darling of the corporate-style school reformers and school privatizers who poured millions into her Students First organization. Then, after serving as a corporate exec with a fertilizer company, she tried to become Trump's ed secretary but lost out to Betsy DeVos.

Now comes another former big-city school chief with a broom, the guy who was Gary Solomon's mentor. You remember Solomon. The force behind the biggest scam --SUPES -- ever to hit the Chicago Public Schools. Solomon and his partner in crime, former CEO at CPS, Barbara Byrd-Bennett are now doing prison time for that scam. But it was Vallas who taught Solomon the ropes and somehow, he's walking free, carrying a broom, and running for mayor of the country's third largest city.

After leaving CPS, Vallas developed ties with education consultant Solomon during his tenure at the Philadelphia and Louisiana districts. He then named Solomon to run his Synesi consulting company. Solomon had become adept at penetrating school districts from around the country after buying off their top school officials with perks and bribes in exchange for expensive consulting contracts.

According to the Tribune:
When Solomon worked as vice president of sales at The Princeton Review, the Philadelphia district Vallas ran was a client. Solomon later launched an educating consulting firm that touted itself as connected to the “Vallas model” of school reform. Vallas, who had no formal links to Solomon's firm, chastised the consultant for trying to capitalize on Vallas' reputation.
But Vallas got over his annoyance. He took Solomon with him as a consultant when Vallas moved to Louisiana to rebuild a school district battered in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina. A few years later, Vallas was recommending to Peoria that it hire another Solomon-run consulting firm, though no contract was signed. Vallas disputed the assertion that he had pitched work specifically for Solomon's firm.
Vallas previously has told the Tribune he stopped working with Solomon in 2010, but has declined to explain why.
My advice to Vallas. Ditch the broom. It doesn't wear well.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Will Chicago elect a mayor who's back in bed with Bezos on HQ2?

Toni Preckwinkle and Bill Daley on board with Bezos. 
...bringing Amazon to town will probably cost untold millions in tax credits—money diverted straight from the state's coffers. That spells a tax hike for everyone else as the state jacks up taxes to compensate for the money it's giving to Amazon.
-- Ben Joravsky
Like Freddy Krueger in Nightmare on Elm St., Amazon boss Jeff Bezos and his HQ2 plan for Chicago just keeps coming back from the dead. It looks like, now that New York has said no, Rahm/Rauner's $2.5B tax and land giveaway to Bezos is back on the table in Chicago.

How can that be with Rauner gone, Ed Burke on his way to jail, and Rahm on his way out the door? It can only happen if Gov. Pritzker and a new Chicago mayor are ready, willing and able to meet all of Bezos demands and accept his unsubstantiated estimates of tens of thousands of "high-paying city jobs".

And which of the current mayoral candidates is ready to bend over for Bezos? According to Crain's there's only two (maybe three) -- Bill Daley, Toni Preckwinkle and possibly, Paul Vallas who hasn't said yet.

While I would expect no less from Daley and Vallas, I'm still amazed that Preckwinkle, who's only in the race because of backing from CTU and SEIU, is willing to play ball with union-buster supreme, Bezos. The jobs Bezos promises are unsustainable and without long-term security. Amazon has the highest employee turnover this side of Walmart and their working conditions are reported to be the worst of any major corporation.

Burke may be under indictment and Ald. Danny Solis may have gone underground, wire and all. But the spirit of pay-to-play and quid pro quo, obviously still lives on among these three.

ONE MORE POINT, if I might... Bezos is also a big backer of charter schools and other school privatization schemes in the state of Washington. According to a report in the Nation, the Bezos Foundation has donated to Education Reform Now, a nonprofit organization that funds attack advertisements against teachers’ unions and other advocacy efforts to promote test-based evaluations of teachers. Education Reform Now also sponsors Democrats for Education Reform (DFER).

Other education philanthropy supported by the Bezos Foundation include KIPP, Teach for America and many individual charter schools, including privately funded math and science programs across the country.

Monday, February 11, 2019


Raise Your Hand on return of PARCC
“To have the Illinois test ready for spring, ISBE has basically adopted PARCC for one more year,” the group said in a statement. -- Sun-Times
John Dingell's last words
Opponents of the Medicare program that saved the elderly from that cruel fate called it “socialized medicine.” Remember that slander if there’s a sustained revival of silly red-baiting today. -- Washington Post
Amy Klobuchar's poke at Clinton
"I think we're starting in Wisconsin because as you remember there wasn't a lot of campaigning in Wisconsin in 2016. With me, that changes." -- The Hill
Toni Preckwinkle
 “Can we count on you when it’s needed to say no to the teachers union?” Flannery asked. “Of course,” Preckwinkle said. “Of course.” -- Chicago Tribune
Robert Reich
 America will never be a socialist country,” Donald Trump declared in his State of the Union address. Someone should alert Trump that America is now a hotbed of socialism. But it is socialism for the rich. Everyone else is treated to harsh capitalism. -- Guardian

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Rahm hard at work trying to clean up his legacy on education

Rahm and his predecessor, Richard M. Daley. 
In the latest issue of The Atlantic, Mayor Rahm Emanuel tries to do a clean-up job on his years of crisis-ridden, chaotic one-man rule over the Chicago public schools. "I used to preach the gospel of reform," writes Rahm. "Then I became the mayor."

I'm not sure what gospel of reform Rahm was preaching in the first place. With no background in education and a long string of inept and corrupt managers surrounding him, His policies were neither research-based nor educationally sound. Rather they represented a googob of top-down, politically-driven policies and strategies that had more to do with breaking the union, real estate speculation, patronage and disinvestment in black and Latino neighborhoods than in anything curricular or pedagogical.

His mantra during his first campaign was, more classroom seat time equals better learning outcomes, holding up Houston, of all places, as his model. "The data shows that the longer you stay in the classroom learning,  you'll learn more...", claimed Rahm.

But we never were shown any such data. Maybe because, none existed. Everything depended on what was happening in those classrooms, how crowded they were, and who was teaching in them and what else was going on, inside and outside of school.

That led to the first of many clashes Rahm would have with the CTU and it's president, Karen Lewis. ultimately leading up to the great teachers strike of 2012. That strike would end in victory for the union which was able to gather wide parent and community support.

Rahm's revision of history has him winning the strike and Karen Lewis conceding on the longer school day.
My initial doubts emerged four days into what turned out to be the first Chicago teachers’ strike in three decades. After a series of arduous negotiations with Karen Lewis, the union president, we’d arrived at the basic contours of an agreement. In return for higher salaries, Lewis accepted my demands to extend the school day by an hour and 15 minutes, tack two weeks onto the school year, establish universal full-day kindergarten, and rewrite the outdated evaluations used to keep the city’s educators accountable.
In fact, it was the teachers who won that strike, fighting for much more that high wages, but smaller class size and an end to layoffs and much more.

Now Rahm claims to be a school-reform apostate who has abandoned "the gospel of teacher-focused reform for a more top-down approach centered on empowering principals." As any educator could have told him, real reform is not just about power struggles between principals and teachers. It’s more about school/community relationships and adequate resources.

Since Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that he wasn't going to run for a third term, it seems all he's interested in is cleaning up (whitewashing) his brand. That's perfectly understandable if his goal is making a credible transition from the public, back to the private or non-profit (foundation or university) sector at the end of his term, the way his predecessor Rich Daley did after his notorious parking meter deal.

That won't be as easy as it's been for him in the past when he managed investments and other enterprises for the likes of Bill Clinton and Bruce Rauner. For one thing, he's got a poor track record when it comes to enticing giant companies like Amazon into Chicago by hook or by crook. Chicago still owns the reputation as the most corrupt city in the most corrupt state in the union. We still don't know how high up the current Burke/Solis scandal will go or if Rahm can steer clear of it. And despite finally getting a school budget passed in Springfield, Rahm still has to own the fact that he drove CPS finances in the debt hell.

Then there's his role in the cover up following the police murder of Laquan McDonald.

Finally and probably most important is the destruction he's left in the wake of his policy of mass school closings in the city's black communities, replacing them with school vouchers and privately-run charter schools. It was his misleadership on the schools, more than anything, that bottomed out his poll numbers and caused him to finally drop out of race for mayor.

He can now spend his time remaking his brand and rewriting history.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Candidate Bill Daley, the man from JPMorgan Trust

MY FAVORITE BILL DALEY QUOTE -- "I stopped wearing a tie every day when I joined the hedge fund. It's a lot easier."

He doesn't always tell the truth, but at least great-white-hope mayoral candidate, former Commerce Secretary Bill Daley, the man from JPMorgan Chase,  and the Swiss hedge fund Argentiere Capital, tells the Daily Line straight-up where he's coming from and where he's heading.
"I’m proud of the fact that I am pro-business."
Unlike some of the new-found progressives running for office, Daley has been consistent in his contempt for progressivism and liberal politics. In case you had any doubt, he supports building the new Cop Academy and Sterling Bay's Lincoln Yards. He's a strong supporter of charter school expansion. He's a teacher union hater (Peter Cunningham is his campaign manager for chrissakes), and he's calling for camera-bearing drones on every block in Chicago.

You want more? In response to CTU’s demand for higher pay and hiring nurses, librarians and aides Daley offers this:
“Conceptually, everyone would like to see everybody get a pay raise as much as she could, and give everybody whatever they want. The reality is, we have to deal with reality."
“Let’s be honest, ‘progressive’ is just because Democrats didn’t want to call themselves ‘liberals’ anymore because it was such a negative term… [I'll make] sure that the economic pie grows and isn’t just the economic pie of government, it’s the economic pie of the private sector, which is much larger and much more meaningful than government’s ability to affect things. 
No, that's not a quote from Trump.

But when I say he's not always truthful, I mean...
 “I’ve been fortunate over the years of having a lot of friendships and relationships around the country. I had one senior businessperson, a Republican, give me a substantial amount of money and has no interest in Chicago other than his attitude was we need reasonable sensible leadership in urban America,” he said. While many connected Chicagoans have donated to his campaign, including the Ricketts, former Tribune owner Sam Zell’s trust, and dozens of Chicago-based investors, he said, “The people that have supported me don’t play in the game of Chicago politics, they have no business interest in that sense."
Yes, you heard it here first. None, zero, nil of Daley's biggest campaign contributors, including Cubs owner Tom Ricketts, former billionaire Trib owner Sam Zell, Byron Trott, CEO of BDT Capital Partners, or Christopher Reyes and M. Jude Reyes, executives of Reyes Holdings,  play politics in Chicago and have "no business interests" there.

If that sounds to you too much like Trump claiming he has never had business interests in Russia...well.

And if you aren't familiar with the billionaire Reyes brothers, they are among the Republican Party's biggest donors.
During his 18-year tenure at Chicago Title’s National Commercial Services unit, Chris Reyes has received increasing responsibility in various departments. Currently, he oversees the Local Commercial Operation responsible for underwriting and closing transactions involving all of Chicago’s trophy buildings, such as the Sears Tower, John Hancock building, Merchandise Mart and AON Center. Most recently, Chris and his team completed the largest commercial deal that has ever closed in Chicago, involving 32 different properties and a price tag of $3.2 billion.
Reyes makes Eddie Burke look like a novice.

I'll stop here. Don't even get me started on the ways Daley is ducking and dodging on #MeToo and women's choice issues. Let's just say that if Daley is elected (latest polls have him in the lead in fundraising and near the top for white voters), you can expect nothing more than a continuation of Rahm's 1%er policies, including massive taxpayer investment for super real estate projects, disinvestment in isolated neighborhoods, autocratic rule over the schools, and less police accountability.

No, definitely not a progressive.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Problem: How to talk about Chicago politics on community radio?

Amisha Patel of the Grassroots Collaborative, will be our guest Friday on Hitting Left

Friday's Hitting Left show should be a good one. Brother Fred will be back from vacation and Amisha Patel from Grassroots Collaborative will be our in-studio guest. As you might expect, we'll be talking about the current list of Chicago's pay-for-play politics and machine scandals in the roll-up towards election day.

These will include, of course, the mayor's Lincoln Yards/Sterling Bay land giveaway which was being greased up until recently by prison-bound real estate attorney, Ald. Ed Burke. Sterling Bay had to dump him after the the feds arrested him. And then there's the little problem of having possibly the dirtiest alderman of 'em all, wire-wearing Danny Solis, sitting atop the zoning committee.

Amisha and her group have been in the forefront of the struggle to put the Lincoln Yards project on hold, at least until the new administration comes in and the city council has time to vet it. Problem is, it's looking now like the top-monied mayoral candidates all have strong Burke/Solis machine ties and unless the polls are way off (entirely possible) City Hall will likely remain in hands that are just a corrupt as Rahm's, or even worse.

Let's hope there's at least some progressive change coming in the aldermanic races, where some insurgents, women, teachers, and candidates of color have a chance to unseat the incumbents.

As listeners know, Hitting left is aired on a community radio station WLPN 105.5 FM in Chicago. It is live-streamed on lumpenradio.com every Friday from 11-noon CT. According to latest numbers I have received Friday, 30-50 thousand listeners are regularly tuned in to Lumpen Radio, with many more listening to our show each week on Mixcloud or downloading it on podcast.

I love being a part of community radio and that's exactly what our show is all about-- community building. But having a political show on a community radio station also has its drawbacks. One of which is language censorship. We cannot uses language that is considered obscenity based on "community standards" without facing serious fines.

As far as Fred and I are concerned, that's not a problem. Mom raised us right and we've managed to get most of our guests to clean up their act for our show. Our producer also keeps a hand on the red bleep button and he's had a pretty strict interpretation of allowable words.

Here's the problem. We're talking about politics and politicians from the likes of our "pussy grabbing" president to Alds. Burke and Solis here in Chicago. We often find ourselves unable to quote them directly or even report the news accurately without resorting to metaphors and code language.

For example, the Sun-Times reports:
The affidavit, sworn out by FBI special agent Steven Noldin, portrays Solis as deeply in debt and routinely on the prowl for sex, Viagra, campaign contributions and other favors.
...In July 2015, Solis called Caldero with another request.
“I want to get a good massage, with a nice ending. Do you know any good places?” the alderman said.
 When Caldero promised to arrange the liaison, Solis asked, “What kind of women do they got there?” “Asian,” Caldero said. Oh good. Good, good, good. I like Asian,” Solis said.
See what I mean? Chicago politics is so vulgar, is so racist, it's unfit for community radio standards. So we have to constantly find alternative ways to talk about it while still keeping our political edge. Actually, it's not such a problem that we can't and don't have fun with it.

Thanks for sticking with us.

Rahm's Wintrust Arena is a monument to neighborhood disinvestment

As we learn more and more about how Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his corrupt cronies in the City Council, like Ed Burke and Danny Solis traded development projects for personal and political gain, it's worth taking a look back on one of Rahm's early superprojects.

The plan for a new DePaul basketball stadium, now called Wintrust Arena, was announced about a week before City Hall closed 49 public schools and nearly all the city's mental health clinics in 2013, was met with heavy protests when it was it was proposed. Protests grew louder after the mayor approved $55 million in tax-increment financing (TIF) funds to pay for it. Ultimately, it was financed through $82.5 million in tax dollars levied by the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, the quasi-governmental agency that oversees McCormick Place and Navy Pier. It also received $82.5 million from DePaul University, which will use the arena for 23 men’s and women’s home basketball games. It's still not clear what the final cost (not counting operating costs) actually was. But it's probably up around $250 million.

To community residents, the new arena was a slap in the face, continuing the pattern of moving public investment towards downtown and lakefront private development and away from the neighborhoods, from schools and city services.

Not only that, but as many of us predicted it would, the shiny new arena now sits mostly empty during games and events. The supposed anchor team, DePaul men's basketball Blue Demons, which for the past decade or more has refrained from recruiting inner-city Chicago high school players, is not a draw. I went to a WNBA game there and you could sit anywhere you wanted. So many empty seats.

Arena operators claim the building broke even on its expenses during its first year of operation and will turn a profit of roughly $350,000 per year in its second and third years of operation, respectively. But if you go to a ball game at Wintrust you can't help but wonder.

DePaulia, Managing Editor Shane Rene writes:
As the Blue Demons settle into their second season at DePaul’s new 10,000-seat Wintrust arena, men’s basketball fans showed little interest in attending the Blue Demons’ 2018-19 non-conference slate, according to documents obtained by The DePaulia via Freedom of Information Act. 
Through DePaul’s final and most well-attended non-conference game of the season — a crushing last-minute loss to Boston College — Wintrust saw an average of 1,274 fans scan their tickets for each game. Out of the Blue Demons’ nine home games over that time, five saw fewer than 1,000 spectators. 
If there was ever a private university that didn't need a taxpayer (TIF) funded arena, it is DePaul, the largest private, Catholic university in the nation. Wintrust Arena now sits as a near-empty monument to the Rahm Emanuel, pay-to-play era in Chicago politics.

Monday, January 28, 2019


Susan Klonsky and Tim Black talk oral history and Sacred Ground on Hitting Left radio
Timuel Black
 Change is going to come. How will you participate in making that change the one that you would like to have? Because the other side will have people participating to keep it like it is or make it go back the other way. Trump says ‘make America great again.’ My attitude is, make America like it ought to be. -- Chicago Tribune review of  'Sacred Ground'.
Susan Klonsky
...who wrote the book with Black, said the two aimed to “document a fairly typical story of the life of a community.” It just so happens this community was where Harold Washington had ties, former President Barack Obama started on his political path, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made a stand on desegregating housing in the Chicago area. (Black invited King to visit and speak in the city as early as 1956 and helped to organize the notable march on Washington in 1963.) -- Tribune review
L.A. teacher/striker Larry Strauss
Overcrowded classrooms are a brutal expression that our students don’t matter. They are someone else’s kids – and all too often they are no one’s kids. -- Guardian
L.A. teacher/striker Cristopher Bautista
Bautista was teaching “Cannery Row,” John Steinbeck’s classic tale of Central Coast haves and have-nots. “I’ve been teaching about the [Los Angeles] strike to my kids,” Bautista said on Day 5 of the UTLA walkout, which ended last week with the union making incremental gains in wages, classroom sizes and support staff. Bautista sees thematic overlap between Steinbeck’s book and the L.A. work stoppage, which drew international attention. “It’s about class struggles, what people need to get by, low pay. There are parallels.” -- L.A. Times
Actress Alyssa Milano
“The red MAGA hat is the new white hood.” -- The Wrap
Ann Coulter
... on Believing Trump’s Wall Promises: “OK, I’m a Very Stupid Girl”. -- Slate