Chicagoans Speak Out On 2016 Budget With Progressive Aldermen At Town Hall Meeting

Chicagoans vented their frustrations over items in Mayor Rahm Emanuel's 2016 budget proposal, including a record $588 million property tax hike, during a Thursday night town hall meeting hosted by the city council's Progressive Reform Caucus.

In addition to the proposed property tax increase, the three progressive caucus members at the meeting, Alds. Scott Waguespack (32nd), Nicholas Sposato (38th) and John Arena (45th), got an earful from residents about Emanuel's proposals to privatize the city's 3-1-1 non-emergency operations and increase fees on taxi cabs and ride-hailing services, like Uber and Lyft.

Emanuel wants to outsource 3-1-1 operations to save the cash-strapped city an estimated $1 million annually.

Debra Powell, a 3-1-1 operator of 10 years, said the privatization plan could cost 58 call center jobs and negatively impact the quality of service provided to Chicagoans.

"You don't know who you're going to be talking to when you call 3-1-1 and it's been outsourced," Powell said at the budget town hall meeting, held at the Copernicus Center on the Northwest Side. "I would rather speak with someone who lives in the city, born and raised, knows the neighborhoods. We have ... 58 operators there who live all across the city, ... so we pretty much can relate to all the residents calling in."

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Illinois Budget Impasse Puts Domestic Violence Survivors At Risk, Advocates Say (VIDEO)

Critical supports for domestic violence survivors in Illinois have deteriorated during the state budget impasse, and the lives of thousands of women and children are at risk, advocates warned at an event held on Thursday.

State Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) and state Rep. Litesa Wallace (D-Rockford) joined domestic violence survivors and service providers at the Thompson Center to deliver that warning and rally for a budget that adequately funds domestic violence services and other important state programs.

"This budgetary issue definitely has a life or death impact," Wallace, a domestic violence survivor, told Progress Illinois. "There are people who are trapped in situations that they cannot get away from without the proper interventions and services and supports, and by not getting away, they put their lives at risk every day that they stay with their abuser."

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Education Organizers Turning Attention To Elected School Board After Dyett 'Victory' (VIDEO)

Education activists celebrated the 34-day Dyett hunger strike during a rally at the Thompson Center Tuesday evening and vowed to press candidates on the issue of an elected Chicago school board during the 2016 state legislative elections.

The rally, attended by approximately 150 people, comes over a week after about a dozen Chicago parents and education advocates ended their hunger strike to keep Bronzeville's Dyett High School open. Dyett closed in June after being slated for phaseout in 2012.

"I'm really proud of the Dyett hunger strikers. They stood up for what they believed in," Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza told Progress Illinois at the rally. "They won. They kept their school open."

Still, Sadlowski Garza said it was unfortunate that parents had to put their health and lives at risk to improve education in their community.

"No one should have to starve or fight for a fully-funded education, not in the world we live in now," she said. "Kids, regardless where you live or the color of your skin, everyone should get an equal education."

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O'Hare Workers Join Fight For $15; Fast Food Laborers Bring Wage Campaign To Chicago Suburbs

The local Fight for $15 movement continues to gain steam as an increasing number of Illinois low-wage workers join the call for better pay and the right to unionize without retaliation.

Initially spearheaded by fast food workers, the national Fight for $15 campaign has since picked up support from service employees from other industries. On Tuesday, the movement welcomed security officers, janitors and passenger service workers at O'Hare International Airport, who are joining the campaign due to their "poverty wages."

O'Hare workers rallied with their supporters outside the airport Tuesday morning to officially kick off their entrance into the Fight for $15 movement.

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Guest Article: On State Mandates — Do Local Governments Really Need to be Taught How to Collaborate?

The following is written by Jenifer Kim, a 2015 fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, "a nonprofit organization devoted to carrying forward the legacy and values of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt by developing progressive ideas and bold leadership in the service of restoring America's promise of opportunity for all."

The struggle between the different levels of government hierarchy is an old one: federal vs. state, state vs. local. In the turbulent political climate of Illinois today, with Governor Bruce Rauner emphatically pushing his turnaround agenda and municipalities wary of losing the vital revenue needed to keep their towns running while (still) recovering from the recession, the lines between state and local government are more important than ever.

The governor's recent creation of the Local Government Consolidation and Unfunded Mandates Task Force reflects this need: concerned with the 7,000+ units of local government in Illinois (the most in any state by more than 1,800 units) and the burden of unfunded mandates on local governments, the task force seeks to reduce the burden on taxpayers by "empowering citizens and government officials to streamline local government through consolidation and eliminating unnecessary state mandates." How effective the task force will be depends heavily on the information it receives about local governments' needs and already-existing intergovernmental collaboration. After all, larger governments do not historically have a brilliant track record when it comes to understanding the complexities of their local governments.

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