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Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
Thu Oct 31, 2013

Chicagoans Talk 2014 Budget With Progressive Reform Caucus At Town Hall Meeting (UPDATED)

Public schools, mental health services and Mayor Rahm Emanuel's plan to phaseout the city's health care subsidy for a number of retired municipal workers were some of the concerns Chicagoans raised at a budget town hall meeting Wednesday night.

The city council's Progressive Reform Caucus held the packed town hall meeting at United Electrical Workers Hall and heard comments from dozens of residents about the mayor's proposed 2014 budget, which was unveiled last week.

The mayor's $8.7 billion 2014 budget does not increase property, sales or gas taxes, but Progressive Reform Caucus members expressed worry that the spending plan relies mainly on other increased taxes and fees that would impact everyone from drivers to cigarette smokers to cable TV customers as a means to help close the city's $339 million deficit.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
Wed Oct 30, 2013

Chicagoans Demand Aldermen Release Crucial Legislation From Rules Committee (VIDEO)

Chicagoans took to City Hall Tuesday afternoon to demand that aldermen resurrect critical ordinances from the Rules Committee, also known to some as the place "where good legislation goes to die."

About 50 organizers with the Grassroots Collaborative, a coalition of labor and community groups, staged a "burial protest" highlighting the various measures stalled in the rules committee, putting a specific focus on a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Surplus Ordinance Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) introduced back in July.

The ordinance calls for any TIF surplus funds to be sent back to government agencies, including the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) district, which would help ease recent school budget cuts. The measured garnered support from 32 out of the  council's 50 aldermen, but it's been pending in the Rules Committee since it was introduced.

TIF funds come from a portion of collected property tax dollars from those living inside a TIF district. TIF dollars are typically used for economic development projects in the city. The activists, however, said the "buried" TIF Surplus Ordinance would release millions of additional dollars that could be used for the struggling public schools system as well as expanded community services, including the reopening of six city mental health clinics that closed last year.

"But instead of being debated and voted on, this ordinance is stuck in [the] Rules Committee," stressed Grassroots Collaborative Executive Director Amisha Patel. "There it's buried along with many other good ordinances."

Quick Hit
Fri Oct 18, 2013

Op-Ed: City Council Progressive Reform Caucus Calls For Action On Chicago's Pension Crisis

The Chicago City Council Progressive Reform Caucus released the following statement on Friday calling on the mayor and council members to face up to the city's pension crisis. 

Chicago’s thousands of employees keep their promise to our city. But will our city keep its promise to them? This is the question the city council and the mayor must face. 

There is plenty of talk about a looming pension crisis. But this is a manufactured crisis. It is the result of decades of failure on the part of city leaders to meet longstanding fiscal obligations. It represents a failure to make timely, regular and full payments into the city’s 7 pension funds. And it is a failure arising from mismanagement and possible corruption in the oversight of those funds.

The city’s past strategy has been to delay payments to the fund to keep that cash available for other expenses. However, the longer you delay, the deeper the hole you dig. 

Neither the present city council nor the mayor created this situation. Nor is this backlog of pension fund payments the fault of any of the city employees or the unions or professional organizations that represent them. 

Pensions are contractually agreed upon obligations. The city of Chicago as an employer is bound to make its regularly scheduled contributions. They are supposed to be on an equal priority basis to any other obligations such as making payroll or paying the city’s other bills. So while neither the unions nor the mayor nor the  council created the problem, it falls to all to arrive at a just solution. 

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
Thu Oct 10, 2013

Alderwomen, Health Care Advocates Urge City To Keep Breast Cancer Screening Program Open

A Chicago program that works to provide free mammograms to uninsured women may be at risk of being privatized or closed following the state's decision to terminate the city health department's grant funding for the effort over alleged mismanagement and quality of care concerns.

During a Thursday press conference at City Hall, a number of Chicago's African-American alderwomen, breast health advocates and unionized workers said it's crucial for the city to invest in the program in order to keep the program running and operated in-house.

Officials with the Public Health Organization, which has members who are patients and workers of the city’s Breast Health Program, said the city should continue funding the program while it invests in correcting the mismanagement and quality of care issues, which prompted the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) to pull the $296,000 in Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program funds back in April.

The city's Breast Health Program program serves thousands of women each year, and it is specifically focused on working to reduce the breast cancer mortality rate among African-American women in Chicago, a rate that is 62 percent higher than white women in the city. The health advocates at Thursday's gathering said they are particularly worried that if the Breast Health Program ends, four mammography sites located in low-income, minority communities would close.

PI Original
by Ellyn Fortino
Wed Sep 25, 2013

Chicago Board Of Ed Approves CPS' Facilities Plan; Education Activists Hold First People's Board Meeting

Progress Illinois provides a recap of what happened at the Chicago Board of Education meeting, as well as the first "People's Board Meeting".