Thursday, July 31, 2014

The politics of water and schooling in Detroit

A SMALL VICTORY -- Ongoing protests against Detroit's massive water shut-off to the city's poorest have forced a restructuring in the city's already bankrupt government. The so-called Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr has handed over control of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) to elected mayor, Mike Duggan.

Jason Stanley writes in yesterday's New York Times:
Orr’s actions are a result of sustained and heroic activism by Detroit citizens, and a concomitant international outcry. Still, any victory they may be tempted to claim remains tenuous. Clause 6 of the order reads, “The EM may modify, amend, rescind, replace, supplement, or otherwise revise this Order at any time.” ("Detroit's Drought of Democracy")
And the reshuffling begs the question -- why is it that thousands of city residents can't afford drinking water?

Detroit photo-op for Duncan and T-Party pal Synder.
The state takeover, led by Tea Party Gov. Rick Snyder has been a disaster for the state's poor and low-income workers.  Snyder had disbanded local elected governments and school boards, placing them in the hands of corporate managers.

Detroiters haven't been the only targets of water shut-offs. Across the state Hamtramck, Warren, Pontiac, Eastpointe, Romulus and other cities have shut off delinquent customers.
Writing for The Guardian, Martin Lukacs argues that Orr’s focus on privatizing the water utility, “a prized resource worth billions,” turns the shut-offs into “a way to make the balance-sheet more attractive in the lead up to its privatization.” 
FOREIGN AID...W. Virginia environmental activists expressed solidarity in the form of more than 1,000 gallons of bottled water trucked into Detroit where more than 15,000 of the city’s poorest people have already had their water shut off — for being unable to pay their bill.

W.V. recently suffered its own water woes, with 300,000 people in its capital, Charleston, and surrounding areas told not to drink their water for several days after a January coal processing chemical spill.

As for the schools, Detroit's black community has also become the laboratory for class-size experiments like this one where 100 kindergartners are taught in one class. I suppose the aim is to prove Arne Duncan's thesis that class size doesn't matter. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

What's not to love about Chicago politics?

When I think of Chicago politics, one word comes to mind, family. I think of a guy like Joe Berrios, the chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party, reaching out to help 15 of his relatives including sister Carmen , not only land a job with the county but collect on her disability claim after she “tripped on a floor outlet and landed on the floor,” and injured her foot, umm I mean shoulder.

IF I HAD KNOWN WGN's Patti Vasquez was looking for someone (anyone) to run for mayor next year, I would have thrown my hat into the ring while I was on her show last week (32:30). Instead, Patti goes down to Boul Mich to find a candidate and learns that Rahm is so beatable, Mickey Mouse or even Mike Oquendo (says he will re-open 50 schools and fix 50 pot holes) can take him head to head.

Most polls now show that Karen Lewis can win if she runs and if progressives and unions can get their act together and stop gnawing at each other and jockeying for position, at least for a few months and come together in the new coalition. Even yesterday's more favorable (for Rahm) poll has him failing to avoid a runoff. And this is before Karen's campaign has even begun. By my reckoning, if Progressive Caucus leader, Ald. Bob Fioretti jumps into the race along with Karen, that would all but ensure a runoff in which Rahm would likely lose. Even though Rahm's war chest is overstuffed with millions of corporate (don't-tax-me) dollars and dozens of press secretaries, he's still the asshole nobody likes -- except maybe the Griffin's. And they're heading for their own hedge-fund divorce.

Remember how we trampled the Berrios/Madigan machine and elected Will Guzzardi as our state rep? There's no reason why we can't do it again in February.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Moral Monday yesterday in Durham

Moral Monday yesterday in downtown Durham
The Moral Monday movement is spreading across N.C. this summer as part of the NAACP’s “Moral Freedom Summer” initiative to get out the vote for fall elections. The focus of the multi-racial weekly protests is the attack on voting rights by the Republican legislature. Thousands have also turned out to protest school re-segregation, attacks on union rights, and the the state’s denial of Medicaid expansion.

MM leader Rev. William Barber spoke addressed yesterday's rally in Durham.
 “Nobody gave us our right to vote. Someone died for our right to vote,” Barber said. He said the legislative majority was wrong to attack Medicaid, the working poor and teachers, but voting is another level. “How dare you,” he said.
Three Durham clergy also spoke in support of voting rights – Rabbi John Friedman of Judea Reform Congregation, Rev. Jimmie Hawkins of Covenant Presbyterian Church and Rev. Ginger Brasher-Cunningham of Pilgrim United Church of Christ.

MORAL MONDAYS – with the slogan “Forward Together” – is not about Democrats, Republicans, liberals or conservatives, says Barber. Republican Mayor Adam O'Neal of Belhaven, NC who is parting ways with his fellow Republicans (this is a big deal for a white southern mayor) led a 273-mile march to D.C. to draw attention to the health care crisis threatening his rural coastal community following the closure of the area's only hospital. He was joined by Rev. Barber who was in the nation's capital to protest his state's the denial of Medicaid expansion.

O'Neal is also raising concerns about wealthy nonprofit hospital corporations like Greenville, NC-based Vidant Health shutting down critical access hospitals like Vidant Pungo.
"Not for Profit companies that make $100,000,000 in a year shouldn't be able to close a hospital like Belhaven's they own for a new immoral business plan," O'Neal wrote in a press release published in his local paper. "We the people need to stand together to protect healthcare for all of us."
O'Neal and the march to D.C. were featured on MSNBC and other news shows yesterday.

Monday, July 28, 2014


"I am the decider, and you have nothing to do with it.” -- Christie to Mayor Baraka

Kristen Crowell
“Certainly, it is our opinion that the current leadership is not doing enough to take care of our folks." United Working Families will focus on “finding, recruiting and supporting candidates who are going to be with us.” -- Chicago Teachers Union, progressives form new Chicago coalition
Inquirer Editorial
No wonder 13 percent of the nation's 3.4 million public school teachers either change schools or quit the profession every year. Understanding the difficulties urban teachers face, many believe those educators in particular aren't paid enough for all they do. That sympathy has helped dampen criticism of Philadelphia teachers' refusal to agree to contract concessions. The estimated teacher attrition rate in U.S. schools has doubled in 15 years. In some urban districts, teacher and student dropout rates are almost identical. -- Teachers drop out, too
David Callahan (Inside Philanthropy)
Yup, we’re fascinated by the big money. And we’re especially focused on tracking the emerging billionaire philanthropists who’ll be creating foundations bigger than Ford and Rockefeller. Already you can see the philanthropic pecking order getting turned upside down by new money. That’s just a hint at things to come. --WSJ
Eugene Robinson
“Israel is acting as if it is free of moral responsibilities." The onslaught on a tiny enclave people can’t escape is “wrong by any reasonable moral standard.” -- Washington Post

Friday, July 25, 2014

On Patti Vasquez Show last night

Patti Vasquez and Pete Lee on WGN last night
Special thanks to WGN's Patti Vasquez for having me on her show last night. Comedian Pete Lee was Patti's co-host and we had a friendly and far-ranging discussion on ed issues. Patti and Pete are both very funny, but serious when it comes to schooling and other social issues.

I felt at times that I should be interviewing Patti who describes herself on Twitter as, Special Needs Mom. Also known as Latina Supermom, about the trials and tribulations of a parent with an autistic child in public school.

She definitely got it when I commented on the Board's new budget which robs programs for kids with disabilities and throws more money at privately-run charter schools. I also got to talk about the problems with mayoral control of the schools and the need for an elected school board.

I found common ground with Patti and Pete who carried the ball in response to a couple of callers who blamed lazy, greedy teachers for bringing down the school system. You know -- those teachers who make tons of money for only working 8 months out of the year. The shows co-hosts would have none of it.

Thanks again, Patti and Pete.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Budget vote: Another reason to get rid of mayoral control of the schools

WGN'S WALTER "SKIPPY" JACOBSON says he's seen everything now that the board has decided to hire more press secretaries as a way of dealing with the current fiscal crisis at CPS. 
Note to "Skippy: All the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put Humpty Dumpty together again. Never before has a mayor spent more city money on press releases, only to have his ratings sink lower and lower with every dollar spent.

AS IF WE NEEDED ANOTHER REASON to replace mayoral control of the schools with an elected school board, yesterday's approval of Rahm's $5.8B smoke-and-mirrors school budget gives us reason #842 by my count.

The budget once again cuts funding for neighborhood schools and programs serving kids with special needs, while funneling millions more into the pockets of privately-run charter school operators. It was passed by the mayor's hand-picked minions (at least by those who showed up) of bobble-heads despite loud protests from the gallery of angry parents and school activists.

The Tribune reports:
Board members seemed miffed over criticism about increased spending from two watchdog groups, the Civic Federation and Access Living. The budget is 3 percent higher than last year’s, despite the ballooning deficit.
The Civic Federation said Wednesday it could not support the spending plan, which it called “shortsighted” for not addressing the fiscal crisis with long-term solutions and increasing spending by $400 million.
Access Living, a disability rights group, said that while the district increased funds for special education programs, it failed to develop a plan to address the structural deficit.
George Schmidt does a good job of calling out no-show board members.
Considering that they only have to perform that public duty one day a month, and at a location conventient to their downtown offices, the seven members of the Board have seemed since the year began to be alternating "days off" so that they don't have to listen to the public criticisms of their hypocrisies and craven subservience to the mayor's privatization programs. And so it was on what is arguably the most important meeting of the year, July 23, 2014. That was the meeting at which the Board was to approve its annual budget. Deborah Quazzo, the millionaire financial planner, was missing, just as Andrea Zopp, Henry Bienen and Mahalia Hines had been during the previous months.
But I don't see why they all don't just phone in their always-predictible votes since the public sessions bounce off them like water off a duck's back.

George Schmidt photo from Substance.
Board President David Vitale runs meetings like a military tribunal. He allows little for public voice since members serve entirely at the pleasure of the mayor. Parents and community members are allowed only in strict 2-minute sound bites which have no weight in the minds of the bobble-heads. And when the dialogue gets real --well, this picture of CPS parents being carried out of yesterday's meeting says it all. You can watch the video clip of the Board's actions here.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Rahm's school budget takes from kids with disabilities to give more to charters

Rod Estvan
“This budget does not even attempt to formulate a plan to address the structural deficit the district is faced with.” -- Access Living’s budget analyst Rod Estvan 
The latest proposed Chicago Public Schools budget, due to be voted on tomorrow will badly hurt children with disabilities, says Estvan.

The problem is part of the city's inability to generate enough revenue to run a high-quality, equitable school system. It stems in large part, from the mayor's unwillingness to fairly tax the city's biggest corporations and LaSalle St., choosing instead to balance his budget on the backs of those least able to bear the weight -- children with special needs and retirees.

Rahm's hand-picked school board intends to pass his budget in its existing form, which uses an accounting trick of collecting 14 months of property tax revenue to pay for 12 months of expenses. Tim Cawley, the district’s administrative officer, told a crowd at a state-required budget hearing last week that this one-time fix is intended to “buy time” until the state could resolve the pension problem.

Tricks and sleight-of-hand aside, Emanuel has failed to make a dent in the mountain of debt piled on Chicago taxpayers. 

The budget proposes cutting $67 million at neighborhood schools and adding $62 million more to charter schools over last year. Charters aren't required to enroll disabled students, kids with special needs or students who speak English as a second language.

Special education positions are actually down over the 8,890 in the district at the end of the 2014 fiscal year, according to Estvan. Among those cut were an occupational therapist, 10 school nurses, seven school psychologists and three social workers, according to the analysis. CPS also added 15 speech pathologists and three health services nurses. 

Rahm's likely opponent in next year's election, Karen Lewis is calling for a "LaSalle St. Tax" as part of a reformed and more equitable taxing system. She opposes Rahm's call for more pension theft. 

What else do you need to know?

Monday, July 21, 2014


Natasha Korecki
A new progressive movement that’s swept through New York; Bridgeport, Connecticut; Jersey City, New Jersey; Oregon; and Seattle has arrived in Chicago. -- Sun-Times
Amisha Patel, executive director of Grassroots Illinois Action
“We’re building ward committees with everyday people who are wanting to take back their city from elected officials who don’t care about them. The city election coming up is an opportunity to really bring the kind of change you saw in New York City. That same kind of frustration is really high here in Chicago.” -- Sun-Times
Incoming NEA Pres. Lily Eskelsen García 
“We must measure what matters and put students’ needs at the center of the system once again. We can no longer allow politicians who have never stepped into a classroom define what it means to teach and learn.” -- MSNBC
Biden at Netroots Nation
V.P. Joe Biden
 Describing the American middle class as "the glue that has enabled us to be the most stable political and stable social system in the world", Biden raised the spectre of civil unrest, warning: "When that begins to fray, much more will fray than the loss of economic opportunity." -- The Guardian
James Fallows tweets
"When strategic message becomes ‘They’re forcing us to kill children,’ strategy is in trouble. As US learned [in Vietnam]."  -- Greg Mitchell, Pressing Issues

Friday, July 18, 2014

Greg Hinz has more sage advice for Karen Lewis. Really?

Harold Washington's 1987 victory speech at Navy Pier.
Although I rarely agree with his take on Chicago politics, I have generally found Greg Hinz  to be a knowledgeable, dispassionate and relatively sane pro-business commentator. That was, until he started writing about a possible Karen Lewis run for mayor. There's something about a Karen Lewis campaign for mayor that pushes Crain's main corporate blogger over the edge.

No sooner had she hinted that she was "seriously considering" taking on Rahm, then Hinz jumped out with a patronizing, borderline racist column, warning Lewis to rethink the prospect. In that post, Hinz portrayed Lewis as the stereotypical angry black woman who "needs to dial down her public persona."

Will Karen be standing alone on those bus stops?
In today's column, Hinz outdoes himself, debasing Karen's supporters and offering her some strange advice (coming from him at least). Instead of telling her to "tone it down", this time around Hinz asks Karen to "be more like Harold" and tell her supporters to "put up or shut up."
Right now, all kinds of folks are whispering in her ear that she's the one to take out Rahm Emanuel. Some mean it, some are hyperventilating, some just enjoy a good race. Whatever their motivation, Ms. Lewis' response ought to be the same: Charlie, how much can I count on from you? Five grand, ten? Will you work these five precincts in the 12th Ward? How about your colleagues?
If can get pretty lonely out there on those bus stops at 6 a.m. in January. For Ms. Lewis' sake, she'd better figure out if there will be anyone there standing with her.
Does the patronizing Hinz have some secret desire to become Karen's campaign manager? Is he suffering from delusions of grandeur? White, male entitlement syndrome?

As for the advice itself, it's downright silly. First, I don't know who the "all kinds of folks" are or who Charlie is, but I doubt anyone's whispering in Karen's ear, to run for mayor. Everywhere I've been, from Texas to New York and back to Chicago again, it's been more like a loud roar -- "RUN KAREN, RUN!"

Does Hinz really believe that nobody will be "standing with her" out on those bus stops at 6 a.m.? Has he forgotten the great Chicago teachers strike? Her landslide victory in the CTU election? The tens of thousands of parents and community activists who rallied with her against the school closings. Doesn't he read the polls? Did he miss Will Guzzardi's grass-roots campaign win over the Berrios Machine?

As for that Harold Washington thing -- All I can say is: Greg, you don't know Jack (or Charlie) about Harold or about his campaign(s). If you did, you'd be able to separate myth from reality. Not only that, but your people, the city's corporate interests, opposed Harold every step of the way. "Anybody but Harold" was their cry. But Harold won anyway. He didn't win with big money. He won by relying on a strong, unified peoples movement.

A lot has changed since then but that last part remains the same. Nobody is going to outspend Rahm. He's got more money in his golden war chest than he can use on his own re-election campaign. If history is any clue, Rahm will sprinkle enough of it around to pay for a few other phony candidates (See Sneed's column in today's S-T) to jump into the race to try and take votes away from Karen.

My advice to you, Greg Hinz, and whoever's whispering in your ear -- save your advice for Rahm. From what I can see from the polls, he needs it more than Karen does. Unless of course, you change your mind and want to support Karen Lewis. If that's the case, take your own advice and put up or shut up.


In response to the unraveling situation in Detroit, the United Nations issued a statement out of Geneva last month that said, “Disconnection of water services because of failure to pay due to lack of means constitutes a violation of the human right to water and other international human rights.”
Warring factions in Ukraine are using basic necessities of life, such as water, as weapons against the civilian population. Horrible! A clear violation of basic human rights. The U.N. reports that half of Gaza population, "without water supply". Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon also expressed concern over reports that water supplies in the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo were deliberately cut off by armed groups for eight days, depriving at least 2.5 million people of access to safe water for drinking and sanitation.

It raises the question, how can anyone stoop so low as to deny people, including small children, the aged and infirm, access to water? Unthinkable here in the U.S. Right?
The average monthly water bill for a family of four in Detroit is nearly double the national average. Chris Hayes reported on MSNBC that, though the E.P.A. recommends that families spend no more than 2.5 percent of their pretax income on water and sewage, some residents of Detroit pay 20 percent of their pretax income for these services. Those who can’t pay face a shutoff—and a stigmatizing blue slash of paint in front of their houses, signifying that they are, in fact, waterless. -- The Nation
Congressman John Conyers says that the causes of this crisis include the economic problems with the country, deindustrialization, higher unemployment rates, population decline, and the number of families who cannot afford water.

At the Netroots Nation conference in Detroit this week, N. Carolina civil rights leader, Rev. Wm. Barber called for a lifting of the water blockade affecting hundreds of thousands of the city's poor and unemployed.

Retweeted by The Nation's John Nichols:
ABC News7 reports that poor and unemployed residents can receive assistance from the city if they can prove to a Water Dept. bureaucrat that they are truly deserving of aid. Even this offer of assistance came only after the city's bankruptcy judge, Steven Rhodes, ordered Deputy Director Darryl Latimer to  "do something."

According to Latimer:
"When you're getting to the range of 40-50% of your customers in delinquent status, that becomes alarming so you have to react to that." 
But The Atlantic reports:
Residents targeted by the shut-off campaign have been reluctant to speak up. Some have stayed quiet because they’ve resorted to illegally hiring plumbers, and others—who are without water and relying on neighbors and friends for drinking water and showers—are afraid child-protective services may intervene, as a lack of running water is grounds for social services to immediately take children out of parents’ care.
Even those without children remain reticent. Some feel tarred by a general notion of shame and culpability for not being able to meet such a bare necessity as water. Last week, a headline in one of the local newspapers, The Detroit News, described delinquent customers as “water scofflaws.” 
Rev. Charles E. Williams II, in an interview on MSNBC's All in With Chris Hayes says:
 We celebrate this year, 50 years since the signing of a Civil Rights bill that gave Blacks access to public accommodations that were segregated by race. Now, 50 years later we are marching to maintain public services that are human rights, but being segregated by class. Detroit's water crisis should remind us that this is class warfare, that's waged on those who are at the bottom. In Detroit we will march and we will fight not just for those who are losing water daily, but for those who are being shut out and driven into poverty across the nation.
Rev. Williams II and National Action Network Michigan will lead a National demonstration today to call for a moratorium on water shut offs in Detroit. National Nurses United, which claims that the shut-offs will trigger a large-scale public health disaster, is calling on people to turn out for today's march.

You can join the movement by going to or

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

It was Duncan who launched Chicago schools on the trail of tiers

Rahm's closing of 50 schools, a stab in the heart for the city's black community, may be the very act that brings him down in 2015. Latest polls show that it's the mayor's (and Byrd-Bennett's) mishandled school closings, along with (related) pandemic gun violence, largely in those same communities, which account for his single-digit ratings among Chicago's African-American voters.

But the mayor's disastrous mass school-closing debacle (this according to a report, issued last month by the Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force) should be seen as a continuation of a two-tier schooling and gentrification strategy that goes back to the Daley/Duncan years. Then it was called Renaissance 2010, a plan hatched in the offices of the Civic Committee, focusing on the rapid growth of privately-run charters and selective-enrollment alternatives to neighborhood schools. That same Civic Committee would later attack its own plan as an "abysmal failure."

It was the Civic Committee's chosen one, Arne Duncan, trained and nurtured by his predecessor Paul Vallas, who initiated the move to compel Judge Kocoras to get CPS out from under the desegregation decree. In 1980, the federal government had sued the Chicago Board of Education, arguing that the city ran a segregated public school system in violation of both the U.S. Constitution and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It was under that federal mandate that the city had been forced to consider race as part of magnet school admission policy and take other significant steps to undo decades of conscious racial segregation and discrimination. But Duncan argued that deseg was "too expensive" and that the city had already done all it could to remove the barriers of racial segregation. One of the great lies ever told.

AFTER DUNCAN DEPARTED to D.C. to push his opposition to "forced integration" nationally, Ron Huberman was brought in to seal the deal. Kocoras agreed and in 2009 Chicago's puny attempt at school desegregation formally came to an end (see Matt Farmer's excellent 2009 Huffington Post piece). Kocoras also halted the court's monitoring of the district's bilingual program which now is just a shadow of its previous self. 

Five years later, with Rahm Emanuel in charge of the schools and with no elected school board, minority enrollment is sinking in the city's 10 selective-enrollment high schools leaving the aldermen in black wards wringing their hands as election day approaches. The city and city schools are more segregated than ever, African-American families are leaving the city in droves, and the school system is on the verge of bankruptcy. 

The verdict is in as well on Rahm's school closings. Not only have they failed to save the system any money, but the gap between the tiers continues to grow. A new Root Shock report, by UIC researchers, shows public school closings have had a negative impact on students as well as parents who "played many important and varied roles in their closed schools"and now "feel excluded from new schools." Privately-run charters continue to get the lion's share of a dwindling school budget while neighborhood schools have to bite the bullet. 

Polls now show that CTU Pres. Karen Lewis will give Rahm a run for his money in 2015. There's a growing cry nationally for Duncan's firing. The chickens are coming home to roost. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A ray of hope

Donna Brazile
“The very premise of ‘market-driven education reform’ rests on the fallacy that the public school system is in crisis, and that the only solution is to let the market pick winners and losers.” -- Donna Brazile
Wow! What an amazing couple of weeks.

It started with the NEA, the nation's largest union, condemning current testing lunacy and calling for Arne Duncan to resign. The AFT delegates (when allowed to speak) essentially followed suit, except for leaders Randi Weingarten and Michael Mulgrew's desperate efforts to hang onto a failed Common Core and to pull Duncan's chestnuts out of the fire (with delegates' wimpy call for his remediation rather than firing). UFT President Mulgrew even threatened to punch in the face anyone who tried to "take away my Common Core.”

Alex Caputo-Pearl
But the very fact that a real debate broke out at an AFT convention and that rank-and-file voices were heard (especially from Chicago) offers a ray of hope that union democracy will somehow triumph. I was especially impressed with the speech by new L.A. teachers union head Alex Caputo-Pearl, who aligned himself and his union with CTU President Karen Lewis in calling for “social movement unionism,” which he said is “explicit about fighting for racial and social justice." L.A. could well become the scene of the next great teachers' strike.

All this culminated in the formation of  new opposition group within the Democratic Party, led by Democratic National Committee Vice Chair Donna Brazile, former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland called Democrats for Public Education. This new formation is aimed at countering the influence of corporate reform, anti-union and pro-privatization groups like DFER, within the Democratic Party. It's about time. The announcement prompted DFER leader Joe Williamsugly response to Donna Brazile: "Welcome to the jungle, baby.”  

Who's laughing now? Not Rahm. 
MORE GOOD NEWS... And of course, then there's this.
Karen Lewis’ potential bid for Chicago Mayor has moved beyond just a thought — it’s  an “organic,” growing movement, the fiery Chicago Teachers Union president said. Lewis revealed on Monday she already has an unofficial exploratory committee in the works, a chairperson has been named and her camp is working to have a representative in each of the city’s 77 neighborhoods. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

More polls now indicate Rahm can be had

Emanuel's weakness has been known for months—he lost the left ages ago, and has lost Chicagoans more generally over basic competence issues. In the Sun-Times, his response to the poll is an anonymous insult, "laughable." But this same pollster nailed the 2011 race, which Emanuel entered late and won. -- Politico
h/t Brother Fred
There should be no question now that even with his bloated war chest and friends in high low places, Mayor 1% is beatable in his run for re-election. Wednesday's Early & Often poll conducted by We Ask America, shows Karen Lewis and Toni Preckwinkle either leading Rahm head-to-head, or if several candidates run, at least forcing the mayor into a run-off where he would be vulnerable no matter who finishes second on the initial ballot.
  If the mayoral election were held today, the lightning rod union leader who was the architect behind a 2012 teachers’ strike would beat Emanuel by 9 percentage points in a head-to-head contest, the survey found. Lewis was leading Emanuel 45 percent to 36 percent with 18 percent of the likely voters undecided.
And Emanuel could face an even steeper hill if he faces Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, long considered his most formidable challenger. A head-to-head contest found Preckwinkle in a romp vs. Emanuel by a stunning 24 points.
And Ald. Bob Fioretti looks formidable as well at this early stage, in sight of Rahm, with a 30% poll rating.

David Weigel at Politico writes:
When a politico's first on-the-record response to a poll number is "wow," you know it's good for them. "Wow" is what Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, told the Chicago Sun-Times after being informed that she would easily lead Rahm Emanuel in a mayoral election. In an automated poll of more than 1,000 voters, Lewis led Emanuel by a 45–36 margin, cutting into every group that backed him four years ago. She trailed by only 3 points with white voters, led by 4 points with Hispanics, and led by 18 points with black voters—a margin that might increase if Lewis ran and black voters discovered that she, too, was black. And Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle (a black woman, like Lewis) led Emanuel by 24 points.
I would keep this early poll in perspective. It's only a "snapshot in time," as E&O is quick to point out. But it is an indicator that even before any viable opposition candidate has announced or spent even one penny on the campaign, Rahm is in trouble. And despite his staffer's "entirely laughable" comment, he knows it. If he's truly laughing at the results, Rahm's in even more trouble than I thought.

Again, Politico:
Here's the twist, which doubles as the reason we know Emanuel's camp believes the polling. At the end of June, Emanuel supporters launched a super PAC (yes, super PACs for mayoral races) to vacuum up hedge fund money. It worked, and in 10 days Chicago Forward announced $1 million in funds—from just eight people. Hedge funder Ken Griffin, who had just given $2.5 million to a PAC for the (independently wealthy) GOP gubernatorial candidate, gave $150,000 to Emanuel.
Washington Post analyst Philip Bump, sounding a little pollyanna, tries to minimize the poll results:
The Democratic primary takes place in February 2015, during the winter, when the level of violence in the city will almost certainly have receded. 
First, Mr. Bump, there is no Democratic primary any more in Chicago. The machine got rid of that two decades ago after Harold Washington won it twice to become the city's first black mayor. Where have you been? Secondly, even an expected drop in the violence numbers (does anybody believe them any more?) won't likely make people forget what's happened here this summer. Not to mention the school-closing debacle which has devastated so much of the city's black community.

The poll offers at least Lewis and Fioretti (and less likely, in my opinion, Preckwinkle) an open invitation to enter the fray. So far, only Lewis has publicly announced her intent. But the interesting thing is that, in an election of this type, even two or three strong anti-Rahm candidates won't hurt each other as much as they'll hurt Rahm, because of the wider range of voters they can turn out, leading to a likely run-off when two enter and one leaves the ring.

Another interesting survey, conducted by MoveOn.Org, of its 75,000 left/liberal Chicago members, finds that 85% of them want to see a progressive challenger to Rahm Emanuel. If that number somehow translates into actual voters and a core group of campaign workers, it could be another real incentive to Lewis, Fioretti or Preckwinkle to announce.


Tells AFT delegates, "We will go forward together."

Rev. Wm. Barber II, president of NC's NAACP chapter 
“If they’ve got to fight us this hard, we’ve got to be some bad somebodies,” Barber said eliciting a standing ovation from the crowd. -- Teacher union convention opens with fiery speech
Salim Muwakkil
Chronic poverty is criminogenic; the links are thick and reinforced by rigorous scholarship. In Chicago's communities, rates of violent crime correlate to poverty rates in ways that make that point irrefutable. There is little dispute that if violence prevention is the goal, reducing poverty is the most effective tactic. -- Chicago Tribune
Alex Caputo-Pearl, new UTLA pres. 
The new L.A. union leader framed his remarks around defining “social movement unionism,” which he said is “explicit about fighting for racial and social justice. It’s explicit in fighting against privatization. It’s explicit in taking people on who need to be taken on, including a lot of Democrats.” He added: “It’s a unionism that is willing to strike. It’s a unionism that is willing to build to a strike and strike if that’s what we need to do.” -- At AFT Convention 
Clarence Page
Obama has boosted border security and deported so many undocumented immigrants (a record-breaking 409,849 in 2012) that the National Council of La Raza, a leading Hispanic rights organization, has branded him "deporter-in-chief." No, that was not a compliment. -- Chicago Tribune

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Want to get your unqualified kid a teaching certificate? You know who to call...

If you're a powerful suburban billionaire like Bruce Rauner and you want to get your daughter into one of Chicago's elite selective-enrollment high schools like Walter Payton, you give a call to Arne Duncan or to his wife, Karen. They each carry clout lists and with a phone call or two, they can and usually will make it rain. Likewise, if you want to get your child into a good college internship program or a paid summer job. Only there you need to call Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford and tell him how big a contributor you are.

And in the same vein, if you're a campaign contributor to any one of a number of powerful IL pols and you want your kid to become a teacher or principal, without going through that bothersome qualification process, simply make a call to Mike Madigan's office and voilà, your child will likely be fast-tracked on the road to certification. Backdoor admission to the U. of I. is also one of Madigan's fortes.

This according to a Tribune investigation report.
State lawmakers have intervened repeatedly in Illinois' teacher licensing process, going to bat in some cases for candidates who did not meet state requirements and applicants with criminal pasts as well as for relatives, donors and constituents...
The newspaper found nearly 100 cases in the past five years in which lawmakers got involved in the system that determines who can work as classroom aides, teachers and school administrators or hold other jobs.
The cases are outlined in hundreds of pages of documents and email exchanges obtained by the newspaper, dating to 2009, when House Speaker Michael Madigan's office helped push a young woman's licensing case to the head of the line.
It shouldn't surprise anyone to learn that these very same pols and corporate reformers are the ones screaming the loudest about how teacher unions are defending bad teachers and who are supporting bills to take away teacher tenure and to void union contracts and teacher collective bargaining rights.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Sen. Kirk has outdone himself

Our "moderate" Republican Senator Mark Kirk, who has called for the mass incarceration of 18,000 young black men as a crime-fighting strategy, has outdone himself this time. Kirk, who has to legitimize himself with his anti-immigrant base, is now demanding criminal background checks on all unaccompanied children that have crossed the U.S. border with Mexico looking for sanctuary.

FREE WRITE...I thoroughly enjoyed last night's gallery exhibition, at Chicago Art Department in Pilsen, "The Artists Will Not Be Present", which featured creative writing, visual art, music, spoken word poetry, and performances by Chicago's incarcerated and court-involved youth. Special thanks to Free Write Jail Arts & Literacy Program director Ryan Keesling and his crew for all the hard work that went into to creating the exhibit.

SPINNING...While the mayor and his police supt. continue to spin the gun violence stats, we're already off to another bloody weekend in Chicago. This morning's Trib reports at least 2 dead, 16 wounded just since last evening.

DETROIT WATER BRIGADE...If, like me, you're looking for ways to support the activists who are protesting the shut-off of water to tens of thousands Detroit citizens who can't afford to pay their utility bills, check out the website of the Detroit Water Brigade.

I'm not surprised to find Rock guitarist Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine) on the front lines in Detroit. Morello, tweeted this week details about the July 18th nurses-sponsored march organized by Netroots Nation. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Byrd-Bennett's Folly

WHO BESIDES THE MAYOR and BBB thought this was a good idea? 

When CPS officials first announced the plan to borrow two months' worth of revenue from the 2015-16 school year to pay for 2014-15 expenses, Catalyst reported on the plan with skepticism and incredulity. Now the Tribune does the same:
The money grab would be a "bridge," they said, to "help us get to structural reforms." Among other hopes, they were hoping state lawmakers would save the district money by reforming public pensions.
What looked like a bad idea in April no longer looks merely bad. It looks like an all but certain path to financial catastrophe for Chicago's public schools — a catastrophe conveniently postponed until after the 2015 city elections.
With the latest version of pension theft apparently off the table, it seems the mayor's team would rather privatize, sell-off piece by piece or put the school district financially under water than raise property taxes before the 2015 election and ultimately implement a progressive revenue and taxing structure that would make their corporate patrons pay their fair share.

As budget expert Rod Estvan writes in the comment section of the Catalyst piece:
CPS and the city will also have to look at other methods of increasing revenues, including some suggested by the Chicago Teachers Union.
But to do that, we will need a new team in place. Karen? Bob? Toni?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

More fudging the numbers on Chicago's horrific gun violence

Gwen Ifill interviews Chicago Tonight's Paris Shutz on the PBS News Hour about the city's killing fields, after the horrible July 4th weekend when 82 people were shot, 14 fatally. Nobody seems to have a handle on the actual numbers from that weekend and PBS strangely offers three different weekend shooting totals ("up to 80", "58 people were injured in 50 shootings", "at least 14 dead, more than 80 wounded") in this same story. Ifill thinks it's because news organizations are using different times for the start of the weekend. Even if that's the case, there's still a huge unexplained spread -- 50 to 82 people shot -- because the media can't agree on when a 3-day weekend begins and ends. I think there's a lot more to it than that. Shooting numbers have turned into a political game being played by the mayor and Supt. McCarthy.
GWEN IFILL: How do you keep track of these numbers? We know that there are some discussions about a couple of police-involved shootings. We know there are some questions about what counts as a domestic shooting, what counts as an accidental shooting, what counts as a gang shooting.
PARIS SCHUTZ: Right. Sure.
Well, over the long term, over decades, homicides are down in Chicago, as they are in New York or L.A. They’re less than half of what they were in the ’90s. But year to year, they may be down 10, they may be down 20 from the year before. And by law, the police department and the coroner’s office has to report every homicide, but there are ways that some say they fudge those numbers.
For instance, if there’s a murder that happens or a homicide that happens on an expressway in Chicago, that doesn’t not count towards the city’s homicide rate, because the city says, well, that occurred on state property, so we’re not going to count that. Or if it’s a police officer that shot and killed somebody in self-defense, they don’t count that toward the homicide rate.
Schutz is right. Yesterday's shooting out on the Dan Ryan Expressway is not being counted as a Chicago murder -- even though it took place in the city and the victim lived in the city -- because the expressway is on state, not city, property. Now the mayor's people are reporting a shooting where 6 people are shot, as one shooting.

And then there's cases, like Tiara Groves's murder which was reported by the coroner as an"undetermined death" even though she was found in the abandoned warehouse last July, naked, the body badly decomposed, with what appeared to be wire near her wrists and ankles, and a gag in her mouth, according to police and published reports.

GWEN IFILL: The mayor, what kind of pressure is on him now to come up with a solution to this?
PARIS SCHUTZ: There’s enormous pressure on the mayor. The mayor faces reelection in about a year. He has trouble in the African-American community, where a lot of this violence is happening. In his first year in office, homicides spiked to above 500. They sort of went into emergency mode after the murder of Hadiya Pendleton, who was that high school student who had marched in the president’s inaugural just the week prior.
PARIS SCHUTZ: And that’s when this sort of overtime police strategy went into effect.
You did see homicides dip right away. But they acknowledge that is not a long-term strategy. The pressure is on the mayor every time a weekend like this happens. Now, the mayor has a significant war chest. He has a lot of money. He is very unpopular in the African-American community, but most observers say that wouldn’t be enough to prevent his reelection.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Rahm: 'Don't ask, don't tell' on shootings

Edward Marshall, Political Producer for WBBM TV/CBS2 Tweets:
I can understand why the Little Emperor is refusing to take questions about the horrific July 4th weekend shootings. He has no clothes.

Weekend shooting victims
Rahm has already called in national Democratic Party bigwigs. like A.G. Eric Holder, to reshape the message on the city's killing fields, turning the mayor into a hero for leading a miraculous turnaround on violence. But last weekend blew that all away.

He and Supt. McCarthy (We're not supposed refer to the chief while he's still in recovery) have already been caught tinkering with the crime-rate numbers. This past weekend's shooting numbers are all over the place. Today's Sun-Times reports 13 dead and 58 others wounded over the weekend. But the Tribune, CBS, and ABC News all have it at 82 shootings, 14 of them fatal. Either the S-T is intentionally low-balling or the mayor's people are putting pressure on them to toe the party line. That is, unless 24 shooting victims somehow miraculously healed up between the time today's paper went to press.

Rich Miller hits it hard at Capitol Fax:
For 10 minutes, it seemed like the shooting was everywhere in the South Chicago neighborhood.
It started when someone shot and wounded a couple, then two people fired at the shooter, then there was a chase and shots exchanged and a man sitting on a porch was hit. Responding officers kept cutting each other off on their radios as they reported other gunfire in the area late Sunday night and early Monday morning.
Then the heavy equipment rolled in: A helicopter and SUVs packed with lockers of rifles. SWAT teams in green coveralls patrolled the streets with uniformed officers.
It was just one of dozens of shooting scenes across Chicago over the long Fourth of July weekend. In all, at least 82 people were shot, 14 of them fatally, since Thursday afternoon when two woman were shot as they sat outside a two-flat within a block of Garfield Park.
Hundreds of extra officers were assigned Chicago streets this past weekend, Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said […]
Nearly all of those killed were black or Hispanic men age 35 or younger. Two — Shaquille Ross, 18, and Kezon Lamb, 19 — were teenagers. One was a woman. And details of the most recent shooting victim was not yet available Monday morning.
In places like West Englewood, South Shore and Austin, gunshots seemed almost as common as fireworks this past weekend.

Rahm tries to outflank unions and political opponents on minimum wage

Members of the Progressive Caucus, including Aldermen Bob Fioretti (2nd), Roderick Sawyer (6th) and Scott Waguespack (32nd), proposed raising Chicago's minimum wage to $15 an hour. | Al Podgorski~Sun-Times
The Little Emperor is caught between a rock and a hard place on the minimum wage. Unions and community groups want the MW raised to $15.  Rahm's corporate patrons want something far less are even threatening a pull-out if that passes. So with a wink to hedge-fund pals, like Ken Griffin (Citadel), who just dropped big money into his campaign war chest, and buddy Bruce Rauner, who wants to cut the MW down to $7.25, the mayor got his so-called Working Group, led by flunkie Ald. Will Burns, to come up with $13/hour (in four years) plan as a way to outflank likely opponents like Karen Lewis and Bob Fioretti and still keep his creds with loyal union leadersThe Working Group which includes the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, the Chicago Retail Merchants Association and the Illinois Restaurant Association, wants to put off a vote to raise the current $8.25 an hour minimum wage until after the Nov. 4 election.

The Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago, the union of fast food and retail workers, responded in a press release yesterday:
 Any recommendation that is less than $15 is an insult to the hundreds of fast food workers that have risked their jobs and made sacrifices for the well-being of this city. Chicago fast food workers will not sit back and wait for politicians to act, we will continue to bring our fight to the $200 billion a year fast food industry until we win.
In the Chicago metro area there are 80,930 frontline fast food workers. An adult with one child needs to make $20.86 an hour working full time in the Chicago area just to afford the basics, according to a model developed by a professor at MIT.
The WOOC is part of a coalition that includes: Action Now; Albany Park Neighborhood Council; Arise Chicago; Brighton Park Neighborhood Council; Chicago Coalition for the Homeless; Chicago Jobs with Justice; Chicago Teachers Union; Grassroots Collaborative; Illinois Hunger Coalition; Jane Addams Senior Caucus; ONE Northside; Southside Together Organizing for Power (STOP); SEIU Local 1; SEIU Local 73; SEIU Healthcare Illinois;  Indiana, Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation;  United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America Western Region; and Workers United.

Supporters on the City Council include Progressive Caucus members: Fioretti (2nd); Roderick Sawyer (6th); Toni Foulkes (15th); Ricardo Munoz (22nd);  Scott Waguespack (32nd); Nick Sposato (36th) and John Arena (45th) along with Walter Burnett (27th), Jason Ervin (28th), and “Proco” Joe Moreno (1st). 

Moreno points to a study by the Center for Popular Democracy that showed that a $15-an-hour wage paid by large Chicago companies alone would impact 510,000 working Chicagoans, spur $616 million in economic activity, generate $45 million in new sales tax revenue and create 5,350 new jobs.

Monday, July 7, 2014


"Vergara was the straw that broke the camel's back.The Secretary's response to the Vergara verdict—it was just shameful. And it underscored his lack of understanding." -- CTA Pres. Dean Vogel    

Dennis Van Roekel, outgoing NEA president
"Let's be clear—we as educators are not opposed to tests. Good God, we invented them! But we know that the purpose of testing should be to drive learning, not to label and punish." -- Teacher Beat
New NEA V.P. Becky Pringle
New NEA V.P.-elect Becky Pringle 
"The political landscape has not changed and we expect the threats to our union to continue. The corporate reformers are spinning these complicated webs that we anticipate will continue and pick up." -- EdWeek

Fred Klonsky
 So, for this meeting to choose three women of color to lead the organization and do it without much fanfare. For them to vote in the sharpest of language against the use and misuse of standardized testing. For them to vote – even by a razor thin margin – for Arne Duncan to resign. That makes it a big story. Of course, I wanted more. -- Fred Klonsky Blog
Toni Preckwinkle
Carol Marin
Preckwinkle seemed to have a lot of friends that night. Mayor Emanuel, on the other hand, not so many, judging from people who, unsolicited, walked up to volunteer their views, offering adjectives like “high-handed” and “arrogant.” One word, however, was used more than any other. It was “schools.” -- Sun-Times, What does the applause for Preckwinkle mean?

Friday, July 4, 2014

Eric Holder turned into a political hack for Rahm

Shame on Attorney General Eric Holder for allowing himself and his office to be used to kickstart Rahm Emanuel's re-election campaign. Holder was in town Wednesday to hail the “amazing” turnaround in school safety since the 2009 beating death of Fenger Academy student Derrion Albert — even after 50 school closings.
“There are a lot of great things going on in Chicago. There is an organized, a galvanized community led by a great mayor that has led to reductions in all the viable statistics — really amazing reductions,” Holder said during a roundtable at police headquarters.
What a bunch of horsebleep! Remember, Rahm is the same guy who, as Obama's chief of staff, told Holder to "STFU' when it came to drafting any gun-control legislation. It may be borderline legal for a cabinet guy to campaign for politicians, but it's shady, as Holder well knows. Especially when an administration like Rahm's is so notorious for corruption and with Holder's Justice Dept. possibly having to carry out investigations an prosecutions.

Yes, "galvanized community" indeed. It's galvanized alright, galvanized against the mayor's school closings and against his failure to control the growing gun violence epidemic. I'm certain Holder has seen Rahm's single-digit approval ratings on the south and west sides.

Emanuel and Holder both claimed that the just-ended school year was the "safest on record" in the seven years since the Chicago Public Schools started tracking safety.

What Holder failed to mention or worse, failed to notice was, thousands of black and Latino children having to navigate through cordons of "safe passage" guards just to get to their receiving schools an the psychological impact that has on students and families. Holder might have pointed out that there was never many in-school shootings. Even Albert wasn't killed in his school. Schools have always been a safe haven for kids, especially in neighborhoods lacking in jobs and after-school programs. Another reason why Rahm's mass school closings may be a great contributor to the dramatic rise in gun violence this year. It's on the streets, not just in the hour preceding or following school, where these same children, thousand of them afraid to go out and play after school, are facing the threat of gun violence every day, primarily in the very neighborhoods where the mayor has closed their schools.

Holder might have also noticed that Rahm and his top cop Garry McCarthy have been caught tinkering with the crime stats to try and make the city's gun violence pandemic look more palatable to voters.So whatever numbers he and the mayor are tossing around are hardly worthy of serious consideration.  Even with the tinkering and political spinning, there no question that Chicago remains among the worst cities in the nation when it comes to shootings. The shooting numbers this year are even higher than last and continue to rise during the summer months.

Hardly "amazing", Mr. Holder.

Shades of 2010 when Sec. of Ed Arne Duncan went out on the stump for then-mayor Adrian Fenty (and Michelle Rhee) in D.C. Duncan had no juice in D.C. communities and couldn't deliver for Fenty. I think the same applies to Holder here in Chicago. But whether Rahm wins or loses, Holder has denigrated himself and his office on many levels by singling Rahm out for  undue praise on the violence issue as the campaign season approaches.