Illinois "Moral Monday" activists protested for a "fair and just" state budget in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood and outside the Lincoln Park home of a top campaign donor for Gov. Bruce Rauner. Progress Illinois was there for the Monday evening demonstration.
Activists, faith leaders and recipients of state services brought their fight for a "fair and just" Illinois budget to Chicago's North Side early Monday evening.
With the budget battle still raging in Springfield, approximately 200 protesters with the "Moral Monday" campaign rallied and marched in the city's Uptown neighborhood before traveling by bus to Lincoln Park, where the group demonstrated outside the home of Elizabeth Christie. She is the former CEO of the baby product firm Avent Ltd., now Philips Avent, and was a top donor of Gov. Bruce Rauner's campaign.
The Moral Monday demonstrators with Fair Economy Illinois, a group that supports "fair-share" state revenue options over deep budget cuts, chanted, "Christie, Christie, you can't hide. We can see your greedy side."
Rogers Park resident Cranston Cox, 71, was among those at the protest. He depends on the state's Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which helps seniors and other households pay for their utilities. The Rauner administration froze LIHEAP funding as of July 1, when the state entered the new fiscal year without a budget in place.
"LIHEAP helped seniors pay (for) air conditioning and heat. It kept seniors alive," Cox, a One Northside member, said outside Christie's home. "This July, LIHEAP vanished, and I am fearful of the cold months. Rauner thinks nothing of me getting heatstroke or pneumonia. His donors pay him not to care."
The state has been without a budget for close to a month and a half as Rauner and state lawmakers remain at odds over a new fiscal plan. Democrats want to, in part, fill the state's $6 billion budget hole with new revenue. Rauner, however, is pressing lawmakers to adopt items on his pro-business, anti-union policy agenda before he considers a tax hike.
While lawmakers and the governor continue to tussle over the budget, Inspiration Corporation is at least one Chicago-based provider of homeless services that is being impacted by the Springfield standoff. Inspiration Corporation, which has sites in Chicago's Uptown and Woodlawn communities, provides workforce development, supportive housing and other services to 2,500 people facing homelessness and poverty each year.
Evan Cauble-Johnson, Inspiration Corporation's chief development officer, said three of the organization's seven housing case mangers have been laid off because of the uncertainty surrounding state funding.
Cauble-Johnson explained that Inspiration Corporation and other local supportive housing providers have had to cut services to match the lowest possible funding level they will receive from the state during the budget impasse. That translates into a 50 percent cut to Inspiration Corporation's supportive housing funding, according to Cauble-Johnson.
"We're looking at a future where we're gonna have to reduce services to total people," he said. "We're gonna have to drop people from our case loads, and we're just gonna have to hope and pray that they stay in housing, and that's not right."
"What's worse of all is that none of this is necessary," Cauble-Johnson continued. "If we just had a sensible tax policy where everyone paid their fair share and where the sacrifices weren't all being asked of people at the very bottom of the socioeconomic ladder, we could keep providing these services."
U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL,9), state Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago), state Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) and Chicago Ald. James Cappleman (46th) attended the Moral Monday demonstration in Uptown.
Protesters marched from the corner of Broadway and Wilson Avenues to Alternatives Inc., a local youth and family agency located at 4730 N. Sheridan Rd. Programs at Alternatives are in jeopardy as the state budget impasse continues.
Outside Alternatives, Schakowsky noted that if Illinois raised taxes on millionaires and corporations, the state could adequately fund services and programs.
Steans added that the state would have $5 billion in more revenue this fiscal year if the 2011 temporary income tax hike did not sunset back in January.
"It is reprehensible and immoral that this is what we're doing right now," Steans said of the current budget situation. "We need to go ... back up on the income tax. I'd much rather have it [be] a graduated income income tax where the wealthier could pay more. I supported that twice already, but we haven't got it passed and put on the ballot. We need to do that."
Steans also called for the closure of corporate tax loopholes.
Here's more from Steans and Schakowsky plus other scenes from the protest:
Also at the demonstration was Willie Dixon, 31, a One Northside member and former CeaseFire outreach worker in Rogers Park and Uptown. CeaseFire laid him off in April and suspended programming in the area after being hit by a state funding freeze.
"Not only did I lose my job, but my co-workers and I lost the ability to help the people find a different path," said Dixon, a Rogers Park resident.
Dixon said violence in his community has ticked up since CeaseFire programming stopped. His own 14-year-old son was a victim of street violence in Rogers Park about two months after CeaseFire's program was suspended. Dixon's son was wounded in his hand after being shot at while walking with a group of friends. Two men reportedly walked up to the group and opened fire. Dixon said his son's group of friends was mistaken for a gang.
"The gang violence has gotten out of hand," Dixon said, adding that the "main thing about it is being scared to come out in your own neighborhood, where you're born and raised and haven't done anything wrong to anyone."
He said the state should restore CeaseFire's funding.
"I know what our work can do," Dixon said. "We give these guys different ways of viewing situations, different outlets. We're taking them to resources that (are) changing their lives. But the minute that we're down, they don't have that assistance, that helping hand. Because not everybody's going into these places to help these guys."