Friday, November 29, 2019

Passage of $15 minimum wage is a big victory for Chicago workers

“This vote is easy for me,” Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza, 10th, said, because it closed the gap without layoffs, increased the minimum wage and opened libraries closed on Sunday.
Chicago's city council has approved by a 39-11 vote, a budget that will raise the minimum wage for city workers to $15/hr and it won't take six years to fully implement as it does under the new state minimum wage law. The city's minimum wage will rise to $15 by 2021 and apply to youth, people with disabilities and other groups that historically have been paid less.

The vote represented a big win for Mayor Lori Lightfoot who, after only six months in office, has been able to end so-called, "aldermanic prerogative" and slowly begin to close the city's huge budget gap without a large property tax hike.

And guess what? Businesses aren't fleeing the city and the Willis and Trump Towers (unfortunately) haven't crumbled into the river as predicted by the corporate lobbyists' fear campaign.

Restaurant servers and other tipped workers aren't fully covered under the new law and that's not good.

As the Chicago Reporter's Nicole Hallet points out:
There are many good policy reasons to abolish the tip credit, including ensuring that workers have pay stability and combating the problem of sexual harassment in the service industry. Women working in restaurants with lower minimum wages than other industries in the state were twice as likely to report being sexually harassed by a customer than women who were paid their state’s minimum wage.
But tipped workers will see their minimum increase to $8.40 an hour on July 1, from $6.40 currently, and the city is directed to study the impact of tipped wages on working-class families so it can revisit the issue in the future. The tipped wage will be set at 60% of the minimum wage — meaning it will rise to $9 in 2021 — and increase accordingly as the minimum wage rises annually with the consumer price index.

As for me, I think all workers should be paid a living wage and that none should have to work for tips. But that's for another post and another day. I still think passage of the mayor's budget is an important victory for the city's working people and marks a significant break from the policies of the previous regime.

Shia Kapos at Illinois Playbook writes:
The vote should have been easy — and it was for 39 council members — but 11 progressives voted no.
Well, that's not exactly right. Six of the no-votes came from the council's socialists who blocked with a handful of what's-in-it-for-me and anti-Lightfoot aldermen to try and stop passage of what is arguably the most progressive budget in the city's history.
"No" voters: Daniel La Spata (1st), Anthony Beale (9th), Raymond Lopez (15th), Jeanette Taylor (20th), Michael Rodriguez (22nd), Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th), Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33rd), Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), Andre Vasquez (40th), Matt Martin (47th) and Maria Hadden (49th) 
This from Crain's:
Supporters said Lightfoot’s proposal pointed the city’s ship in the right direction and closed a projected $838 million gap without raising substantial taxes or fees. Most aldermen praised a brand new budget team—Lightfoot, Budget Chair Pat Dowell, and Finance Chair Scott Waguespack—for conducting a transparent process that included community input.
“This vote is easy for me,” Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza, 10th, said, because it closed the gap without layoffs, increased the minimum wage and opened libraries closed on Sunday. 
While I'm elated that there's finally some real debate in the council, I'll leave it to the 11 to explain their votes on this one.


The overstuffed and possibly hungover Klonsky Bros. are taking today off. But you can listen to our archived interview with veteran civil rights activist, Timuel Black and his co-author of Sacred Ground, Susan Klonsky. That's today from 11-noon on WLPN 105.5 FM in Chicago. Streaming live at 

Tune in on Friday, Dec. 6th, when our in-studio guest will CTU Pres. Jesse Sharkey

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

14 years after Katrina, half of the schools in New Orleans all-charter district are considered "failing".

"Hurricane Katrina gave a great American city a rebirth." -- Kristen McQueary, Chicago Tribune

On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina decimated much of the Gulf Coast, including the city of New Orleans. The hurricane triggered a chain reaction which led to the near-total abandonment of the city and its public school system. Over 1,200 died in the storm and nearly half the evacuees never returned.

For some conservative ideologues like Univ. of Chicago economist Milton Friedman and other neo-liberal reformers, the storm's devastation wasn't as much a disaster as it was an opportunity to replace the city's highly segregated, predominantly African-American public school system with privately-run, publicly-financed charter schools.

Former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called Katrina “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans,” because it gave the city a chance to rebuild and improve its "failing public schools."

Former Chicago and Philly schools chief Paul Vallas got hired to lead the city's educational reconstruction project, which included firing the largely-black teaching force, busting the teachers' union and ultimately replacing every public school with charter schools.

The Tribune's McQueary wished for a similar disaster to strike the city of Chicago so it might follow the New Orleans example.

Now, 14 years later, comes the news that nearly half of the schools in the all-charter New Orleans district are considered "failing."

According to the Times-Picayune, a whopping 35 of the 72 schools in the district scored a D or F on their performance report, meaning nearly half of local public schools were considered failing, or close to it, in the school year ending in 2019. Since then, six of the 35 have closed.
While New Orleans has long been home to struggling schools, the data released this month are concerning. There was an increase of nearly 11% percentage points in the number of schools that received the state's lowest grades from the 2017-18 school year to 2018-19.
"It makes me angry and hurt. Because these are the children of our city," said Ashana Bigard, a parent of two children in Orleans Parish schools and a longtime critic of the post-Hurricane Katrina education reforms that rebuilt the district as a network of charter schools.
Me too. I'm angry and hurt by the great privatization scam that's been run on the citizens of post-Katrina New Orleans. As far as "failing" schools are concerned, as long as there's concentrated dire poverty in the city, there will be schools that are labeled "failing", whether they are charter or regular public schools.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

More Biden debate blunders

Yes, I'm keeping track...
Biden last night: I think we should decriminalize marijuana, period. And I think everyone -- anyone who has a record should be let out of jail, their records expunged, be completely zeroed out.
MeBiden is the sole Democrat in the 2020 field who opposes legalizing marijuana at the federal level. Just five days earlier, speaking at a town hall meeting in Las Vegas, Biden said he opposed the legalization of marijuana claiming, there is not “enough evidence” as to “whether or not it is a gateway drug.”
BidenI come out of a black community...
Me: Really? Who knew?
Biden: I have more people supporting me in the black community that have announced for me because they know me, they know who I am. Three former chairs of the black caucus, the only African-American woman that's ever been elected to the United States Senate, a whole range of people...
Kamala HarrisNo, that's not true. The other one is here.

Me: And she sure hasn't endorsed Biden.
Biden: No, I said the first. I said the first African-American woman. The first African-American woman.
Me: No, you didn't. You said, "the only." Maybe you meant to say, "the first."
BidenThe fact is that right now the vast majority of Democrats do not support Medicare for all.
Bernie Sanders: Not true.

Me: 77% of Democrats support Medicare for all (KFF Tracking Poll).

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

I've got problems with the impeachment strategy

Republicans aren't disputing the facts. They're telling Democrats where to shove them.

I know it's early in the game, but so far my fears about the current shitshow that is the Democrats' impeachment hearings are coming true. It's not that I'm against impeaching the grifter president. His attempt to use the weapons sale to Ukraine as quid pro quo to get dirt on Joe Biden and his son is a clear criminal act and should be prosecuted. Trump and the Republicans aren't even disputing the facts. They are simply reminding us that POTUS is above the law.

In my mind at least, the hearings, which are taken by most as impeachment itself, fail as a political strategy leading up to the 2020 elections.

I just can't imagine the predictable outcome of a failed impeachment attempt moving the needle much, especially in the battleground states, let alone inspiring millions of young voters in a crusade to win the White House and Congress.

To make matters worse, Nancy Pelosi's messaging about the "dangers" facing us in the upcoming election (even when she is misquoted on Fox News) gives the impression that without the hearings, Trump is bound to win the election.
“The weak response to these hearings has been, ‘Let the election decide.’ That dangerous position only adds to the urgency of our action, because the President is jeopardizing the integrity of the 2020 elections.”-- Nancy Pelosi
Pelosi's pessimism is understandable, especially given the slumping of her favorite candidate, Joe Biden. But I'll leave that for a future post.

The hearings, duller than a Chicago Bears game, have put all the Democrats' eggs in the Ukraine basket. They have nearly pushed all other issues like health care and education to the side, issues that gain traction with key voter blocs. Stories and events that present an even stronger rationale for impeachment or certainly for defeating the Republicans next year now pale in comparison to the Ukraine fiasco.

On the global front, there's Trump's pardoning of convicted war criminals, a move opposed by his own Pentagon brass. Or his putting the final nail in the coffin of a negotiated just peace settlement in Israel/Palestine by sanctioning and encouraging future Israeli settlements in the West Bank. This happened, by the way, with hardly a peep from the Democrats.

I could go on about the U.S. role in sanctioning the right-wing coup in Bolivia; the continued separation of thousands of children from their parents as part of the human rights immigration crisis on the southern border; or Trump's disastrous trade wars. All of these now have a media half-life of about four days because of all the air all being sucked up by Trump's phone call to Zelensky.

I hope I'm wrong and that the hearings inspire a move of swing Trump voters. I just don't see it happening that way.

Monday, November 18, 2019


COUNTING VOTES -- 81% of the teachers who voted backed the contract.
CTU Prez Jesse Sharkey
...called the contract, "a powerful advance for our city and our movement for real equity and educational justice for our school communities and the children we serve." -- Channel 3000
Ald. Ed Burke "Diminished and preoccupied"
That's how Sun-Times Fran Spielman describes indicted Ald. Edward Burke. "He's no longer the center of attention at council meetings he once dominated. He occupies the front-row seat closest to the door, arrives late, leaves immediately and seldom if ever, speaks." --Illinois Playbook
Barack Obama vs. the party's 'left activist' wing
He tells wealthy donors: “The average American doesn’t think we have to completely tear down the system and remake it.” -- New York Times
Now contrite former N.Y. Mayor Michael Bloomberg 
“I got something important wrong. I got something important really wrong. I didn’t understand back then, the full impact that stops were having on the black and Latino communities.” -- New York Times
Bill Russell accepts HOF ring 44 years after his induction

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Better to teach journalistic ethics by example

Why were faces blurred in this Facebook photo used in the Sun-Times story?
A routine news story became a viral controversy Sunday night after the editors of Northwestern University’s student-run newspaper issued an apology for interviewing and photographing campus protesters. Journalists from around the country quickly took to Twitter to attack the paper’s staff, saying they shouldn’t apologize for doing their job. -- WBEZ
It reads like a Who's Who in Chicago news reporting. I'm referring to the list of TV and newspaper reporters who have been lining up to teach a lesson to the students who staff the Daily Northwestern. The hubbub and overkill is about the paper's recent editorial apologizing for the way they covered the campus protest over the university's speaking invitation to arch segregationist and former Trump Atty. General, Jeff Sessions.

It was an unnecessary apology for interviewing and photographing campus protesters in a way that might put them in jeopardy. It's not the job of the press to protect the identities of protesters, say the critics and I generally agree. But I also applaud the student journalists for at least wrestling with the moral implications and unintended consequences of their actions and how their coverage might impact the lives and security of their fellow students. This, at a time when student activists, especially students of color, are often targeted for expulsion or arrest when they exercise their constitutional right to protest.

This kind of ethical and moral questioning goes to the very heart of democratic education and is something we rarely see among members of the corporate media.

There's no clearer example than the Sun-Times own coverage of a different sort of protest back in April when the racist FOP and other fascist and white nationalist groups marched in Chicago in an attempt to take down progressive States Attorney Kim Foxx and raise their profile in the city. While the article was a good exposure of some of the extremist groups involved, the Sun-Times editors also made a decision to blur the faces of some of the cops participating in the rally.

Who made the decision to blur the faces in the photo? Why wasn't there the same kind of critical response and ethical questioning from the professionals as there was around the Northwestern student editorial? I raised the question about the blurred faces at the time to a member of the Sun-Times editorial board who told me they would get back to me with an answer. Seven months later, I am still waiting for their explanation.

So until then, the pros who were silent back in April would do well to save the lecturing and teach by example.

This from Northwestern Daily's Editor Troy Closson.

Monday, November 11, 2019


Bolivians take to the streets in support of overthrown President Evo Morales after the U.S.-backed military coup. The placard reads: ‘Evo you are not alone.’ 
Trump hails the coup
 Calls it “a significant moment for democracy in the Western Hemisphere”. -- Guardian
 A twisted view of the latest U.S.-backed military coup in Bolivia
For a socialist president who was until recently hailed as the great success story of the Latin American left, this unseemly end serves as a cautionary tale of what happens when world leaders remain in office for too long. -- New York Magazine
Chesa Boudin
S.F.'s District Attorney-elect, Chesa Boudin
Many of Boudin’s policies, though, are even more progressive than those of Gasc√≥n, who was one of the country’s most liberal district attorneys. One departure, Boudin said, is he will no longer charge gang enhancements, which greatly increase the penalty for crimes if a defendant is found to have participated in a street gang. The law has faced criticism over the disproportionate number of black and brown people who are charged with gang crimes. A 2016 audit of the state’s gang database found that only 8% of documented gang members are white. -- San Francisco Chronicle
 CTU Pres. Jese Sharkey 
...leaders knew it was time "to start thinking about ending the strike and counting up what we had achieved. We began to realize that we had gotten as much out of CPS as we thought that we were going to get," Sharkey said on the union’s podcast, CTU Speaks!
The CTU later published a series of tweets about the veteran pay issue and implied some people “are looking to manufacture a crisis" about it. -- Tribune
R.I.P. Noel Ignatiev
In time his view that whiteness is a social and political construction — and not a phenomenon with a biological basis — has become mainstream. The resurgence of white identity politics and white nationalism in recent years made Ignatiev’s arguments relevant to a new generation of readers who argued the notion that race is more about power and privilege rather than about ancestry, or even identity. -- L.A. Times

...Only if we start with Gorsuch and Kavanaugh.

Breaking...NY’s poor causing congestion, says de Blasio

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Billionaire Bloomberg says he's running. But why?

The prototype for the Rahm Emanuel mayoralty was Michael Bloomberg's New York. -- Crain's
The oddsmakers in Vegas put the odds on Michael Bloomberg winning the presidency at 14/1. That puts him even in their minds with Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg and trailing only Donald Trump 7/5, Elizabeth Warren 3/1, and Joe Biden 8/1 in the eyes of bookies.

I follow this stuff only because the bookies usually have a better handle on things than do the pollsters. That's why the house always wins.

Why is this billionaire Republicrat media tycoon and former New York mayor even considering jumping into a crowded Democratic primary as a 14-to-1 longshot? He knows the odds as well as anyone. One, because he can afford to, and two, he wants to be a hedge against the progressive insurgents like Warren and Sanders.

If either of them won the primary, I could even imagine Bloomberg running as an independent or third-party candidate in key battleground or swing states to draw away votes. Bloomberg is worried much more about the progressive ascendency than about his off-and-on frenemy Trump (who calls Bloomberg "Little Michael").

Known as the stop-and-frisk mayor in New York, Bloomberg once claimed that the biggest problem was his cops "over-stopping whites", and that he was just evening the score.

During his time in office, Bloomberg wielded his personal power against New York's communities of color and their public schools. He imposed a tidal wave of privatization on the city, including a big swing towards privately-run charter schools. What pissed me off most was how he used our "small schools" rhetoric to promote charters.

He was an advocate of using standardized testing results as the main vehicle for evaluating school and teacher performance.

He thought poor and especially immigrant parents were too ignorant to have much to say about their children's education.

Bloomberg once claimed:
“Unfortunately there are some parents who just come from — they never had a formal education, and they don’t understand the value of education...The old Norman Rockwell family is gone.”
That last part is true, and good riddance.

All this reminded me of this great quote from NYT's Michael Powell back in 2011:
"There is an 'autumn of the patriarch' feel to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg these days."
He's an outspoken enemy of organized labor and even compared the teacher unions to the NRA and used the big-lie technique to charge the unions with protecting child molesters.

Bloomberg's charter school cronies, Eva Moskowitz and Joel Klein. 
He hired corporate-style reformers like of Joel Klein and the totally incompetent (thank goodness) Cathie Black to replace public schools with charters and erode public space and public decision-making. Among his partners in crime was the city's supreme charter hustler, Eva Moskowitz, who enriched herself running the so-called Success Academies.

Bloomberg is a horrible politician who was only elected because of his bottomless war chest. You need only go back to his paper-thin 2009 victory in the NY mayor's race over relative political unknown Bill Thompson. Bloomberg poured $90 million of his own fortune into the race, a sum unequaled in the history of municipal politics, that gave him a 14-to-1 advantage in campaign spending. Yet he won by only 5%.

So, is Bloomberg's announced candidacy a bluff, a real threat to anti-Trump forces, or neither? One thing is for sure: Michael Bloomberg offers no positive alternative to Trump or to the current field of candidates in the Democratic primary.

Monday, November 4, 2019


Sean Doolittle won't go to the White House
"My wife and I stand for inclusion and acceptance, and we’ve done work with refugees, people that come from, you know, the ‘shithole countries,” Doolittle said, referring to Trump’s comments about Haiti, El Salvador and African nations in a January 2018 meeting. “At the end of the day, as much as I wanted to be there with my teammates and share that experience with my teammates, I can’t do it. I just can’t do it.” -- Washington Post
Union V.P. Stacy Davis Gates
... called it a “sad day” and criticized Lightfoot for taking “vengeance” on teachers and students. But then added, “We have a better Chicago Public Schools as a result of the last 10 days." -- Tribune
Union Pres. Jesse Sharkey
...said the last two weeks have been “tense” but added that “it’s not about me or the mayor. It’s about the members of the Chicago Teachers Union." -- Tribune
 Mayor Lori Lightfoot
"It was a hard-fought discussion. It took us a lot of time to get there. But I think this is the right thing ultimately for our city, and I’m glad that this phase is over.” -- Tribune
California Gov. Gavin Newsom fires back at Trump
“You don’t believe in climate change,” Newsom tweeted. “You are excused from this conversation.” -- The Hill
Annie Lowrey at The Atlantic
Wildfires and lack of affordable housing—these are two of the most visible and urgent crises facing California, raising the question of whether the country’s dreamiest, most optimistic state is fast becoming unlivable. -- California Is Becoming Unlivable