PI Original Aricka Flowers Saturday January 19th, 2013, 10:19pm

The PI Week In Review

The week that was in news and politics (January 14 - January 19).

City and County News

Busloads of Chicago and suburban residents filed into the pews of a South Side church Sunday for an afternoon remembrance of Martin Luther King Jr. and called on a dozen elected officials to join their push for social and economic justice in the area.

Rate hikes on the Chicago Transit Authority took effect Monday. The price of one-day, three-day, seven-day and 30-day passes have increased to $10, $20, $28 and $100 respectively. The cost of the passes have jumped between 16 percent and 74 percent.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is calling for a look into city pension funds to see if there are any investments in manufacturers or sellers of assault weapons. If there are investments in such companies, the mayor wants the city to divest from them.

Emanuel said he supports more thorough background checks and a standard on federal gun prosecution Tuesday night during a South Side panel discussion with policymakers and scholars about the politics of guns in America. The public meeting was on the eve of President Barack Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden’s announcement of acomprehensive gun control package, that calls on Congress to pass an assault weapons ban and law requiring background checks on all gun buyers.

Belmont-Cragin resident Mary Bonelli is 76-years-old, has cancer and is about to be thrown out of the home that’s been in her family for nearly 100 years. Her home went into foreclosure in the spring of 2011 due to a bank error, she said, and by the time she realized the problem, it was too late. Tuesday, she was put on the Cook County Sheriff’s eviction list. On Wednesday, Progress Illinois was there for a candlelight vigil meant to bring attention to the issue and help save Bonelli's home.

One day after reports surfaced that the owner of a custodial firm failed to disclose that he sold half his stake in the company prior to winning a $99 million city contract, members of SEIU*, which represents former janitors at O'Hare Airport, called on Mayor Rahm Emanuel to void the deal that resulted in the laying off of more than 300 workers last month at a press conferene Tuesday morning. Five Chicago aldermen are calling for an investigation in the controversial $99 million janitorial city contract that has made headlines for the past several months. On Wednesday, Alds. Roderick Sawyer (6th), Ricardo Munoz (22nd), Scott Waguespack (32nd), Nicholas Sposato (36th) and John Arena (45th) sent a letter to city Inspector General Joe Ferguson to investigate the deal after the Sun-Times reported that United Maintenance Co. owner Richard Simon sold 50 percent of the company one year before getting the O'Hare Airport janitorial, yet failed to tell city officials about the change in ownership during the bidding process, which is required by city law. 

Thursday, Emanuel proposed amendments to the city's gun ordinance that boost penalties for firearm possession without a permit and the sale of high-capacity magazines, and increase jail time for gun violations and failure to report a lost firearm, among other things.

Emanuel has officially begun the process to replace former 7th Ward alderman Sandi Jackson, who resigned last week. A web site went live Friday morning where interested parties can get information to apply for consideration for the job.

Proposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel last March and approved by the Chicago City Council in April, the Infrastructure Trust outlined a way to finance infrastructure projects in the city during a time of prolonged federal and state budget crises and near absolute political aversion to tax increases. Its polarizing central concept of private companies investing in public infrastructure and then receiving some undefined return on their investment was alternately seen as a revolutionary way to improve Chicago and a nefarious step towards private investors opaquely dictating public policy. We took a look Friday at what has come of the controversial Trust thus far.

Logan Square Neighborhood Association’s Parent Mentor Program is expanding to 45 low-income schools across Illinois this spring, thanks to a $1 million grant from the Illinois State Board of Education and a partnership with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and other state-wide community organizations. Progress Illinois was there for the kick off the program's expansion. 

Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett reportedly agrees with the preliminary recommendations of a panel she commissioned on school closings, which says high schools should not be closed. Last Friday, the Commission on School Utilization released a preliminary report stating that high schools should be taken off the chopping block list due to the effect that closures could have on gang violence. This Friday, Barbara Byrd-Bennett said most top performing schools and high schools will not be on the school closure list. But the keyword is most: Byrd-Bennett says that high schools and top performing schools located in older buildings that are in bad shape requiring a great deal of costly repairs would be considered for either closure or relocation.

The Chicago Teachers Union held community outreach sessions Saturday at seven locations to "educate and provide an opportunity for residents to speak out for quality public education, be a voice for their own communities and join the CTU in efforts to save neighborhood schools."

State News

Several Illinois counties are experiencing devastating levels of poverty, with 1 in 5 residents living below the poverty level, according to a new report PI covered on Tuesday. Social IMPACT Research Center's report found that nine counties have poverty levels over 20 percent. The state poverty level is 15 percent. 

Seven Illinois Department of Employment Services (IDES) offices are set to close due to a reduction in federal funding. IDES is almost 100 percent funded by the federal government. 

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has given the thumbs up to gun control legislation that has been introduced in Springfield. State Sen. Antonio Munoz and State. Rep. Edward Acevedo have introduced gun control legislation that will put restrictions on assault weapon and high-capacity magazine sales and force gun owners to contact state police when a handgun has been stolen or is lost. The legislation also calls for harsher punishment of straw purchasers, or someone with a clean record who buys a gun for someone else. 

Residents of Springfield had a chance to meet with Mayor Mike Houston on Wednesday evening during a meet and greet session. 

Gov. Pat Quinn appointed former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald to the University of Illinois' Board of Trustees, citing his record of fighting political corruption that "has protected the public interest."

A winter season that has thus far been defined by a record number of snowless days and unseasonably warm temperatures has experts, advocates and some of Illinois’ newly-elected congressional lawmakers raising concerns over the kind of impact such conditions will ultimately have on the environment.

Longtime Illinois political figure Dawn Clark Netsch has announced that she is battling ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

National News

President Barack Obama unveiled a comprehensive gun control plan Wednesday that includes 23 executive orders, three of which he signed at the announcement. Among other things, Obama’s plan calls on Congress to pass a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazine clips as well as a law penalizing staw puchasers, or those who buy guns for someone else.

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is looking to be actively involved in immigration reform. Ryan has reportedly spoken with U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), who has been a staunch voice in the call for comprehensive immigration reform in Washington, about the issue and is set to continue to do so as the process moves forward. 

Former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh is reportedly in talks with WIND for a radio talk show. Walsh is nationally known for his polarizing rhetoric and confirmed to the Daily Herald that the conservative radio station has voiced interest in having him as a regular on WIND. 

Jobless claims in the U.S. have hit a five-year low, according to the Department of Labor. 

The National Latino Coalition on Climate Change (NLCCC) is calling on President Barack Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to address air pollution and the health hazards associated with it. The group sent a letter to the President and the EPA Thursday asking for stronger carbon emission standards for coal-fired power plants. The coalition noted that the Latino community is especially vulnerable to such emissions since half of its U.S. population lives in counties where there are violations in clean air standards.

President Obama's well-oiled and successful grassroots-style campaign machine for election, and then re-election, will not fall fade into the ether now that he is set to be inaugurated on Sunday. Instead, the heavily tech and social media dependent campaign will be turned into a grassroots non-profit called Organizing for Action with the aim of moving forward the issues and policies that united his supporters in the first place.

* The SEIU Illinois Council sponsors this web site.

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