Cook County Clerk Orr Encourages Youth Voter Registration Before Tuesday's Deadline

With next Tuesday's voter registration deadline quickly approaching for the March 15 Illinois primary election, Cook County Clerk David Orr is reaching out to young people about the importance of voting and how they can register.

Orr spoke to Evanston Township High School students Thursday morning, and his staff helped eligible teens register to vote before the regular registration period ends February 16. Evanston Township High School's community service club has already registered about 180 students to vote so far this election cycle.

In Illinois, 17-year-olds who will turn 18 by the November 8 general election can participate in the primary election.

Speaking to Progress Illinois after his youth voter engagement event, Orr said his office has "seen a lot of interest" in registration among 17-year-olds, with at least a few thousand teens taking advantage of the opportunity thus far.

Orr discussed the importance of the youth vote and how it is influencing the presidential primary races.

"When young people vote, they can have a dramatic" impact, Orr said.

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Ald. Arena Talks Next Steps On TIF Funding Proposal For CPS

Although a tax increment financing (TIF) surplus resolution has stalled in the Chicago City Council, one alderman says the fight to redirect such funds to the cash-crunched school system continues.

Ald. John Arena (45th), with the council's Progressive Reform Caucus, spoke about the TIF surplus resolution during a Tuesday evening education forum on Chicago's Northwest Side. Chicago Jobs with Justice hosted the event at Irving Park Baptist Church, 4401 W. Irving Park Road.

Just hours earlier, Budget Committee Chairwoman Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) used a procedural move to delay consideration of the TIF surplus ordinance -- which is backed by 34 aldermen -- by sending it to the Finance Committee.

"It's not done," Arena said of the TIF resolution, introduced by progressive Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th). Progressive Reform Caucus members are working with "some other folks to try to modify the resolution" in an effort to "get a [TIF] sweep done within the next month or two," Arena told the crowd.

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State Commission Presses Illinois Leaders To Invest $4 Billion In African-American Communities

As the state budget impasse continues into its eighth month, the executive director of a state commission said African Americans in Illinois are in "a state of emergency."

Speaking Tuesday morning during a press conference at the Thompson Center, the leader of the Illinois African American Family Commission (IAAFC) urged Gov. Bruce Rauner and state lawmakers to redirect $4 billion in public funds, or approximately 15 percent of the state's budget, to African-American communities "to repair the harm done as a result of Illinois' budget crisis."

"Now eight months without a state budget, our communities are left with little to no services," said Michael Holmes, executive director of the state-mandated IAAFC, which works to "facilitate partnerships between government entities and communities to ensure a safe, healthy and secure environment" for African Americans across Illinois.

IAAFC, he said, "is calling on the governor and the General Assembly to reinvest in black neighborhoods."

The commission spoke out one day before President Barack Obama's speech to the Illinois General Assembly.

"I'm hoping that he can convey a message to the General Assembly that this [budget impasse] needs to get resolved quickly, and people need to begin to talk about serving the residents of this state," Holmes said.

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Travis Campaign Calls Mitchell A 'Rauner Democrat' In 26th District Race

Jhatayn "Jay" Travis, a community organizer who is challenging incumbent state Rep. Christian Mitchell in the 26th District Democratic primary, took jabs Monday at her opponent during a press conference with members of the Chicago Teachers Union and a few elected officials.

U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (7th) joined Chicago Alds. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10th) and Brendan Reilly (42nd) at the press conference, held at the Billy Goat Tavern on Michigan Avenue, to tout their support of Travis, who made an unsuccessful bid to unseat Mitchell in 2014.

Travis' campaign is calling Mitchell a "Rauner Democrat," because the incumbent allegedly shares "elite donors and a political agenda" with Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

"He receives over $200,000 from the very same interests he claims to be fighting against, and these are also the very same interests that back a governor who has held the needs of families and the services that they need hostage in this indefensible budget impasse," said Travis, former executive director of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO). "So I would say to you, it's time that we have representation in the 26th District that stands with the people and not with corporate interests."

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Chicago State University Students Protest Against Illinois Budget Stalemate (VIDEO)

Chicago State University students and their supporters rallied at the Thompson Center Monday morning, demanding state action to avert a possible shutdown of the predominately black university due to the budget impasse.

Holding signs that read, "Black minds matter" and "Save CSU," students urged Gov. Bruce Rauner and state legislators to end the ongoing fiscal battle that has left Illinois without a budget since July 1. 

CSU serves over 4,000 students and depends on the state for 30 percent of its budget. The university and other Illinois higher education institutions have gone unfunded during the stalemate in Springfield. As a result, CSU declared itself in a financial state of emergency last week, increasing the possibility of layoffs and cuts to keep the university operating. CSU officials have previously stated that the university could go broke by March.

CSU senior Lakeisha Perry, a psychology major on track to graduate next December, said the budget uncertainty is "nerve-wracking."

"You work so hard and then this happens," she told Progress Illinois at the Thompson Center.

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