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Top 5 Quotes From Rauner's 2016 State of the State Speech

Thu, 2016-01-28 10:54
Here are 5 top selected quotes from Gov. Bruce Rauner's second State of the State speech:

5. "We have the ability to lead the nation in growth and opportunity. And yet, jobs and people are leaving our state. And we watch other states emerge from the Great Recession, while our employment and growth stagnates."

4. "The vast majority of all Illinois voters, both Democrats and Republicans, are in overwhelming support of both term limits and redistricting reform. The time for excuses and blame is over. The time for action is now. Let's get it done."

3. "Like it or not, there's a serious deficit in public trust when it comes to government in Illinois. Citizens don't trust their government, and businesses don't either. We pay for this trust deficit in lost economic growth - victims of a widely held perception that everything in Illinois is lobbyist tested, special interest approved."

2. "We've paid $22 million in overtime for the 15-minute roll call that occurs at the beginning of shifts. Our former Auditor General also highlighted, as ripe for abuse, the practice of so-called shift-swapping, where workers use sick time for a regular shift, but then get paid overtime to work a later shift that same day. We need to install common-sense into our union contracts!"

1. "Our job in this Capitol is to improve the lives of all the people of Illinois, through more economic opportunity, better educational opportunity, and more value for their hard-earned tax dollars. To achieve a grand compromise, we must cast partisanship and ideology aside. We must break from the politics of the past and do what is right for the long term future of our state. I'm ready - and it's my genuine hope that you are too. Let's continue this journey together. Illinois can't wait any longer."

In case you missed Rauner's speech, you can find a full text version here.

NEXT ARTICLE: The state of the state of Illinois in graphic detail

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These Are The 10 Happiest States In America

Thu, 2016-01-28 07:49

Say "aloha" to the country's most joyful state.

According to the latest Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index report, Hawaii ranks number one in the United States for the highest overall well-being. It's the fifth time the secluded state has claimed the top spot since the organizations began releasing annual reports in 2008.

Alaska, another remote state, came in second, dethroned from its top spot in last year's report.

To rank the states, Gallup-Healthways conducted 177,281 interviews nationwide in 2015, talking to U.S. residents nearly every day. The data measured five elements that make-up well-being: Purpose (liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals), social relationships, financial security, community (liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride in your community) and physical health.

For the second year in a row, Alaska was the only state to earn placement in the top 10 for all five categories. Hawaii ranked in the top five for each category except social relationships, where they placed 16th. 

"Culture is hard to quantify in survey research, but it's very real and very significant," Dan Witters, research director for the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, told The Huffington Post. "If you look at the top states on the list, many of them have a pretty distinct brand and identity about them. I think that unique identity can grease the wheels to having a more unified culture around well-being."

Perhaps that's why states like Hawaii, known for its welcoming spirit, and Alaska, where people embrace the great outdoors, consistently rank high in the report. Colorado, Montana, South Dakota, Minnesota and Utah also earned top ratings. Kentucky and West Virginia were at the bottom of the list, ranking 49th and 50th, respectively.

It's safe to say uprooting your entire life for a new state with better well-being isn't always practical. However, Witters says adopting the "best practices" for well-being from the top states can help improve your quality of life.

"While it may sting for the states on the low end of the spectrum, the rankings can provide them with a real call-to-action," he said. "We can look at the states that are getting it done year end and year out, see what they're doing differently, look at the kind of culture they've built and make that the foundation upon which our change is based."

If you're feeling like it's high-time you start living a happier, healthier life, consider the 10 states below that ranked the highest in overall well-being.

If you're curious, here are the five states with the worst levels of well-being:

46. Indiana
Well-Being Index Score: 60.5

47. Ohio
Well-Being Index Score: 60.5

48. Oklahoma
Well-Being Index Score: 60.4

49. Kentucky
Well-Being Index Score: 60.3

50. West Virginia
Well-Being Index Score: 58.5

Check out the full 2015 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index report here to see the breakdown for each state.

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Lawsuit: Chicago Police Entered Family's Home, Shot Their Dog, Won't Explain Why

Wed, 2016-01-27 17:30

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CHICAGO (CN) - Chicago police shot and killed a man's dog in front of his kids and they refuse to turn over records about the incident, he claims in a Cook County lawsuit.

Antonie Glasper's attorney, Torreya Hamilton, said Chicago Police Department (CPD) officers showed up at his house in August 2015 and busted down his front door while he was home with his 9-year-old and 20-year-old autistic children.

It "appears that they had a search warrant," Hamilton said, although they never showed it to Glasper.

Police officers insisted Glasper let go of his dog instead of putting it in another room, and when he did they shot and killed the dog in front of the two kids in their kitchen, Hamilton says.

Glasper was arrested on drug charges but insists no drugs were in his home, and his case was eventually dismissed in criminal court.

According to the Jan. 25 lawsuit, Glasper filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with CPD and the city's Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC) for "documents, and audio and video recordings relating to the Chicago police entry and search of plaintiff's home, the detention of plaintiff and his family, the shooting and killing of this family's dog, and the unlawful arrest and prosecution of plaintiff."

OEMC eventually sent a denial of Glasper's request, claiming "exemptions based on an alleged open and ongoing investigation by the Chicago Police Department, which is a separate public body," according to the complaint.

Cook County Judge Franklin Valderrama ruled in November that OEMC's reasoning is invalid, and ordered that CPD release a police dash camera video of the shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

"This is the same type of FOIA exemption that was claimed by the city and rejected by Judge Valderrama in the Laquan McDonald FOIA lawsuit," Glasper's 6-page complaint states.

Glasper's lawsuit adds that the charges against him were dropped in October, so "it is not likely that any Chicago police investigation concerning this incident is on-going."

He claims CPD never responded to his FOIA request.

Hamilton said her office is "not getting adequate responses" to any FOIA requests and CPD and OEMC are "being told not to respond by the [city's] legal department."

"It's shameful," Hamilton added, and "it's just the City of Chicago that's doing this." She said that, although Mayor Rahm Emanuel has promised more transparency, these departments are "being the opposite of transparent."

Glasper wants a court order forcing the City of Chicago, CPD and OEMC to produce the records he asked for, which Hamilton says are part of discovery for a possible federal lawsuit.

The city's legal department told Courthouse News via email that it would look into the lawsuit, but it has not yet responded to a request for comment.

This story was originally published by Courthouse News.

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Meet The Visionary Chicago School Leader Who Just Won A MacArthur 'Genius' Grant

Wed, 2016-01-27 12:15

CHICAGO, Illinois — It’s 5 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon, and final preparations are underway for a mural unveiling at Chicago’s Instituto Health Sciences Career Academy. As the room quickly fills with students curious to see the final artwork, the charter high school’s CEO, Juan Salgado, makes his rounds, shaking hands and sparking small with talk with youngsters he deems “the people that matter the most.” He eyes a girl wearing a Cubs t-shirt in the front row: “Let’s hope for a win! I’m mostly a Sox fan...but I’m a Chicago fan.”

The sentiment is a familiar one on this mid-October afternoon, as the city braces for game three of the National League Championship Series: Cubs vs. Mets, hosted at Wrigley Field. The stadium’s just 10 miles away from Instituto Health Sciences Career Academy (IHSCA), but the revelry and euphoria of America’s pastime couldn’t be further from the fear and violence that Salgado’s students face every day — or his relentless quest to alter their daily reality.

Salgado has devoted his life’s work to brightening the present and future of Chicago’s Latino community. And as years of success stories have piled up — as word has spread across the city, and been passed down through families — he has become an admired fixture of his city. He’s a force for meaningful change in a city that’s struggled with more than its fair share of negative headlines.

Which is perhaps why no one but Salgado was surprised by the sudden, shocking news release that made national headlines in September: He had been singled out as one of 24 recipients of the elite and mysterious 2015 MacArthur Fellowship — more commonly known as the “Genius Grant.” Unbeknownst to Salgado, a committee working in secret had nominated and vetted Salgado’s work, and chosen him to be the recipient of the five-year, $625,000 fellowship. Salgado learned of his nomination, his victory and his prize when his phone rang. In an instant, a life-long cause became a focal point of national inspiration. Overnight, his name appeared in many of America’s top publications.

“I think the recognition of the work that we’re doing as a whole is in so many ways even more rewarding than the resources,” Salgado says, pointing to the honor over the money. “It’s the ecosystem screaming to us saying: ‘You’re on the right track!’” 

Since 2001, Salgado has led Instituto Del Progreso Latino, the nonprofit organization that operates IHSCA. Instituto’s mission is to educate and empower Latino immigrants through adult programming that drives and facilitates upward mobility within the community. This includes pathways to citizenship, literacy classes, childcare and employment assistance.

“Instituto has always had a vision for ensuring that we work with the entire family,” says Salgado, now the president and CEO. In 2010, that vision inspired the organization to plan and launch IHSCA, the first of Instituto’s two charter high schools in Chicago.

IHSCA is unique in that students take twice as many math and science credits as required at traditional public schools, and commit to both an extended school day and summer classes which facilitate a 32-credit curriculum. Behind most of the structure here is a deliberate strategy: Keep the kids off the streets, while actively encouraging them to explore careers in healthcare, “a growing industry where there are a lot of job opportunities,” Salgado says, and “very few Latinos going into those occupations.”

Since opening its doors in August 2010, IHSCA has served 760 students, with 96.7 percent of them coming from low income families, according to official Chicago Public Schools data. Ninety-five percent of the student body identifies as Hispanic, and the inaugural Class of 2014 saw a 95 percent college acceptance rate, with 132 first-generation college students and $4.5 million awarded in scholarships.

By contrast, over 40 percent of residents in the Lower West Side neighborhood where IHSCA is situated reported having no high school diploma. That number is more than twice the Chicago average, according to the Chicago Tribune’s crime report.

Those grim statistics prompted Salgado to open a second charter high school with a separate mission: Re-engage students who previously dropped out of school.

“More children should be able to benefit from our approach,” he explains, an insight as to how he might spend the “Genius Grant” fellowship money.

The Instituto Justice and Leadership Academy, or IJLA, is an alternative school for 16 to 21 year old youth. Many of its students no longer live with their parents, and over 50 percent of them are parents themselves. The school, which shares a space with IHSCA, also houses several students who are from rival gangs.

“When you come here it’s not just about getting the right academic preparedness,” Salgado says. “You also have to demonstrate social emotional skills that are critical to your functioning in society.” Those skills are something that Salgado embodies as he walks the halls throughout the day, stopping to shake hands and talk to every student and parent he passes.

“It’s not good enough just to run a school,” he says, “you have to be present.”

Which brings us back to the mural celebration, and Salgado’s persistent outreach, from shaking hands to answering questions and constantly tying school events to the unique challenges of his community. On this Tuesday evening, the mural is part of a broader commemoration of the “Year of Peace,” an initiative set in motion by Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office as a response to the city’s overwhelming violence among youth. It’s an ideal that hits particularly close to home for students at Instituto’s two charter high schools on Chicago’s southwest side.

“We lost two youth in the last two years ourselves,” Salgado tells me later. He’s referring to Michael Orozco, 14, and Angel Cano, 16, both of whom were killed by gang violence, and whose stories reverberate off the brightly painted murals adorning the halls of Instituto.

Michael, a freshman at IHSCA, was a known member of the gang Satan’s Disciples. He was walking with friends to get ice cream when he was fatally wounded by a rival gang during a drive-by shooting. “He was a fearful young man,” Salgado tells me while recounting the story of how Michael became affiliated when he was only in the seventh grade.

“He just wasn’t given enough time to find the right escape route,” he says.  

Angel, on the other hand, had been trying to cut ties with his former gang, and even dropped out of school in an apparent effort to go undetected. He worked construction with his father for two years before deciding to re-enroll at ILJA. Salgado tells me that Angel didn’t even make it past the first 35 days of school before he was identified and killed.

“You can almost say that he would have been better off had he stayed out of school,” Salgado says, but Angel “wanted schooling for himself, and it ended up costing his life.”

Both Michael and Angel fell fate to the same tragic deaths; their casualties a byproduct of Chicago’s rampant gang violence.

Sadly, they are not alone.

Over the last two years (2013-2015), there have been 1,378 homicides in Chicago, with 310 of those deaths among children and teens, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. And 2015 proved to be the deadliest in recent years, with 497 confirmed murders, as compared to 445 and 436 in 2013 and 2014, respectively.

Moreover, 2015 saw 2,986 shooting victims in the city, according to the Chicago Tribune.

That’s precisely why, Salgado tells me, the Year of Peace has such a deep and profound meaning for Instituto’s students. “They live the same situation on a day-to-day basis,” he says, “and so that’s why having a safe environment like ours is so critical.”

At the mural unveiling, the festivities begin with a performance by the school’s dance team. Their choreographed movements are accentuated by glittery skirts, as the all-girl team salsas their way through the song “Day 1” by singer Leslie Grace. The American-born vocalist with Dominican roots weaves together a melody of Spanish and English lyrics to describe love at first sight in this new genre of Spanglish Bachata Urbana.      

Watching them perform is a reminder of the concentrated effort to not only incorporate, but also celebrate, the influences of Latino heritage and culture at Instituto. They are a community that learned Spanish before English, and part of Instituto’s mission speaks to that cultural dignity and identity.

At ISHCA, students are required to take four years of Spanish and English classes, and many participate in after school activities that celebrate indigenous rituals.      

“You have to appreciate who you are,” Salgado tells me, “in order to really have a deep appreciation for other cultures and other beings.”

Like many of his students, Salgado is a first generation Mexican-American living in Chicago. He likes to tell the story of how his mother held Spanish classes at home, but registered him for kindergarten using the English version of his name - John - so that he’d have an easier time assimilating. It wasn’t until he was about to graduate from college at Illinois Wesleyan University that he decided it was time to start going by his real name - opting to have “Juan” put on his formal degree.

“It was kind of that point in life where I knew that I was going to be doing something in community,” he says.

Salgado recalls being truly alone for the first time in his life during his college years, and how that solitude enlightened his perspective of what his mother had gone through when she came to America. “Being an immigrant is incredibly hard - you’re leaving everything,” he tells me.  “It’s a huge sacrifice and people do it because they want something better for their children.”

After earning a bachelor's degree in economics from Wesleyan, Salgado went on to obtain his Masters degree in Urban Planning from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He later received an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Illinois Wesleyan University, and was recognized by the White House in 2011 as one of 13 people nationally serving as Champions of Change for social innovation in their communities.

“You have to appreciate who you are,” Salgado tells me, “in order to really have a deep appreciation for other cultures and other beings.”

Despite the many accolades and awards for his work, Salgado says the news of his MacArthur fellowship landed like a shock to the system. He says he received the phone call on September 8, 2015, shortly after he dropped his three children off at school. A representative from the MacArthur Foundation asked if he was alone, and if he could find his way to a quiet space.

“It was just a complete, complete shock,” Salgado recalls wide-eyed, “because this was happening without me knowing.” The MacArthur process is shrouded in secrecy, including the foundation’s backgrounding of Salgado’s work, as they interviewed people who had worked with him. “It’s the kind of thing that you don’t even dream of,” he says, “because our dreams are even limited.”

When Salgado broke the news of the exclusive award to his wife, Leticia, she was happy — but also worried that this new role would make her already overworked husband even crazier. “Just don’t forget,” she told him, “that your family is what grounds you.”

“Absolutely,” he said. “I’ll never forget.”

Salgado tells me that his children are always around his work. His eldest son, Angel, does homework in Salgado’s office as the ceremony continues with student speakers and remarks from a representative of the Mayor’s office. The mural, a visual representation of the Year of Peace, was commissioned as part of the Mayor’s challenge to students to combat school violence.

Finally, it’s time to unveil the mural. The paper is unrolled, and the image of a Phoenix - the school’s mascot - emerges surrounded by colorful flames. As the Greek legend goes, the Phoenix obtains new life by arising from the ashes of its predecessor.

“This is just a painting for some of you guys, but it’s supposed to transcend the subconscious,” explains the artist, Miguel Del Real.

“We all have our inner struggles, our inner challenges,” he says, but “it’s finding that place to grow or prevail.”

Salgado studies the mural, preparing to say a few words next. The teacher introducing him mentions the news of the MacArthur Genius Grant, and the audience erupts in applause.   

As Salgado takes the microphone, he asks them to close their eyes and imagine a world where no child is lost to gun violence. “Imagine a world where just a few blocks away from us, Cook County jail is not necessary,” he says.

He goes on to ask young people what they can do to solve the problem of violence and take leadership roles in their community. He challenges them to be like the Phoenix, and “rise from the ashes no matter what their circumstances, no matter what their past, no matter what their crimes on society might be.”

Finally, he asks them to imagine a world where “we let the voices of young people drive the solutions that are necessary to save their own lives in our city.”

“Imagine that world, because it’s not a dream,” he tells them. “It can be a reality.”

This story was originally published by The Seventy Four, a non-profit, non-partisan news site covering education in America.

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Here's Everything You Need Today For Rauner's State of the State Address

Wed, 2016-01-27 11:43
Gov. Bruce Rauner today delivers his second State of the State Address in the Illinois House chamber at the Capitol.

In his first address last year, the newly-inaugurated governor said correcting Illinois government's fiscal troubles and driving down its persistently high, post-recession unemployment would require "shared sacrifice." The speech was noteworthy for its audacity: Rauner called on Democrats to help him take on some of their closest allies -- organized labor and trial lawyers -- and to embrace concepts, like term limits, they've long opposed.

If you read only one thing today about the State of the State, this should be it. We've got the real deal right here in Fast-Facts form. No spin. It's Illinois by the numbers in easy-to-read, graphic format. You won't find a more useful depiction of Illinois. Take a look and pass it on. We're all about powering up the people.

WATCH LIVE: Rauner's 2016 State of the State Address

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Illinois Among Top 5 Best States for Animal Protection Laws

Wed, 2016-01-27 11:33

Illinois is the very top of the nation when it comes to animal protection laws. Surprised? Maybe you shouldn't be -- the state's ranked No. 1 for the past eight years.

The top ranking is based on data from the Animal Legal Defense Fund's year-end report for 2015. The Fund combed through 4,000 pages of statutes from each jurisdiction for new animal safety laws. The ALDF says a study of the past five years shows the U.S. has made big strides in improving legal protection for animals -- more than three-quarters of all states and territories have "significantly improved" their laws. It also notes animal fighting is now a felony in all 50 states, and eight of those states have also made fighting a racketeering offense, which can make it easier to prosecute and may elicit tougher punishments.

This year's report also points out the importance of new legislation that includes animals under domestic violence protective orders. Twenty-nine states plus Puerto Rico and Washington D.C. now have these laws.

"Protective orders are crucial for removing both human and animal victims from the cycle of domestic violence, because human victims are often afraid to leave their pets behind," says Stephen Wells, Executive Director of the ALDF.

Illinois has also passed some new laws regarding pet protection for 2016, including a law that prohibits leaving animals outside in very hot or cold weather. Owners who violate the law could face a $2,500 fine or up to a year in prison.

You can see ALDF's map here, along with the five best and worst states for animal protection laws.

NEXT ARTICLE: Infographic offers quick, detailed look at the state of the state of Illinois in 2016

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Rauner, AFSCME Impasse Could Benefit The Governor

Tue, 2016-01-26 10:58
Opinion by Reboot Illinois' Madeleine Doubek

Gov. Bruce Rauner's request that that state's labor relations board declare an impasse between his administration and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 31 didn't get too much attention when it was announced, but it certainly will be one to watch.

Rauner spoke out vehemently against organized labor, in general, and AFSCME in particular, during the 2014 Republican primary, but not many non-primary voters were paying attention. After a close call in the primary, when unions rallied against him and made the race much closer than expected, Rauner curtailed the anti-union theme through the general election campaign. When he came out swinging against unions, fair-share fees and prevailing-wage laws shortly after his inauguration, he seemed to stir a sleeping giant.

The anti-union rhetoric seemed harsher, I suspect, than many independent voters who supported Rauner were expecting. His anti-union Turnaround Tour also solidified public labor's animosity toward him and support for Democratic legislative leaders.

Plenty of people have speculated since that Rauner pushed too hard, too far, too fast in his anti-union crusade, but was he playing the long game all along?

Consider the down-the-road scenarios from Rauner's request to the labor board.

If the labor board sides with AFSCME and its nearly 40,000 members, then Rauner and the union continue negotiating and essentially keep at what they've been doing for the past year. It would be a win for AFSCME, but it's mostly a moral victory. Certainly they get to thumb their noses at the governor and give themselves and Democrats a round of high-fives and I-told-you-sos, but it's not as if they'd be winning huge concessions or big pay raises. They just go back to negotiating.

In announcing he was going to the labor board, Rauner noted that its majority was appointed by Quinn and that he re-appointed two Quinn appointees. AFSCME's Executive Director Roberta Lynch said union leadership did not believe it was at an impasse. She made clear the union will seek any and all appeals and legal recourse available to it if the board doesn't side with union management.

If the labor board sides with Rauner and declares the two sides are at an impasse, then Rauner wins the moral victory and probably much, much more. At that point, Rauner can offer the union his last, best offer. AFSCME leadership then must decide whether to accept that last offer or strike, something they have never done.

If they accept Rauner's last, best offer, it's a big win for Rauner. He becomes the taxpayer's hero by saving the state money in personnel costs. Moreover, he boosts his national bona fides as the cutthroat business management dealer. He will claim he pushed the state's biggest union several steps closer to private-sector pay levels. He already has noted he's successfully re-negotiated contracts with several other, much smaller unions this year as the state faces never-before-seen levels of debt.

If AFSCME strikes, Rauner could be an even bigger winner. In this scenario, don't be surprised if he fires striking workers and then hires new workers at far cheaper salaries and benefits. Likewise, he could re-hire former state workers at far cheaper salaries and benefits. He'll be a bigger hero nationally and in Illinois, claiming to have stood up for taxpayers and stood up to what he will portray as the unreasonable and greedy union bosses who control the state and its Democratic party. The governor can dip into his campaign fund to send that message far and wide should he so choose. Depending on when that labor board ruling comes, all of this also could become campaign fodder for both Rauner and the unions this fall as they battle for control of legislative majorities.

Again, if the labor board rules with the governor and the union opts to rouse its members against the evil, union-busting Rauner Rule by striking, a long walkout could just compound the pressure on Democrats to start working with Rauner here and there. Perhaps helped by a governor uncooperative and unwilling to negotiate with the union, a long strike might help build enough pressure from Illinois voters and citizens to end, finally, the ceaseless political playground games we've been forced to endure or ignore for the past year.

Illinois remains more blue than red and Rauner did anger and solidify the hatred union households feel for him after his inauguration, so I don't doubt many Illinoisans will stand in solidarity with AFSCME.

That said, the long-game scenarios look pretty good for the governor.

And with Gov. Bruce Rauner's second State of the State Address a day away, make sure you check out Reboot Illinois' infographic to catch up on the state's current condition, from pensions and jobs to education and the estimated bill backlog for fiscal year 2016.

NEXT ARTICLE: Cullerton says Illinois school funding reform the 'defining crisis of our time'

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The New Chicago Police Civil Rights Adviser Is A Smart Hire -- For Rahm Emanuel's Reputation

Mon, 2016-01-25 22:34

A veteran police commissioner hired to guide civil rights reforms in the embattled Chicago Police Department may end up salvaging not just the department's reputation, but Mayor Rahm Emanuel's, too. 

The mayor announced Sunday he had tapped Charles Ramsey, the recently retired Philadelphia police commissioner, as a consultant to help reform Chicago's police force, now being investigated by the Department of Justice for racial disparities and officers' use of force. 

Ramsey's hiring comes two months after the now-infamous police video of Laquan McDonald's shooting was released, sending Emanuel's administration into a tailspin. Allegations that Emanuel's office knew about the damming video and tried to cover it up have prompted fierce calls for his resignation. Meanwhile, two more videos have surfaced of Chicago cops killing young blacks. 

Samuel Walker, a civil liberties and policing expert, said the appointment of a police civil rights adviser is "very unusual." 

"I do think it’s absolutely the right choice, the right thing to do," Walker said of Ramsey's hiring. "But I would attribute it to the fact that you have a very high-profile mayor in serious political jeopardy." 

Emanuel, who famously said "you never want a serious crisis to go to waste" because "it gives you an opportunity to let you do things you never did before" selected someone uniquely qualified for the advisory post.

Ramsey, 65, a South Side Chicago native, rose though the ranks of the CPD to its second-in-command. (He was passed over twice for the top spot.) In the '90s, Ramsey helped craft the then-groundbreaking Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy before leaving to become chief in Washington, D.C., and later in Philadelphia. Ramsey, who retired from Philadelphia this month, also co-chaired President Barack Obama's 21st Century Policing Task Force. 

"Ramsey is one of those gateway guys. He opens the door for the more progressive ideas," said Michael Woods Jr., the former Baltimore police sergeant-turned police reform advocate who made headlines last year for speaking out about police brutality and racism on the Baltimore force. "He’s about as well-regarded as you have."

Walker said Ramsey's Chicago experience is more an asset than a liability. He brings an approach to police accountability, transparency and community engagement rarely seen in Chicago leadership, he said. 

Ramsey has said the Black Lives Matter movement has the potential to be "the most significant civil rights movement since the '60s." As Philadelphia's commissioner, he instituted a policy to publicly identify police officers involved in a shooting within 72 hours. He called Chicago's withholding of the McDonald shooting video "almost more controversial than the shooting itself." During a 2012 Occupy Philly protest, he read his officers the First Amendment during roll call, outlining civilian rights to protest.

Ramsey's time leading police in Washington and Philadelphia wasn't without controversy. He issued an apology after D.C. police in 2002 arrested hundreds of World Bank protesters and bystanders. The unannounced sweep, in which some people were left hogtied and in custody for 24 hours, prompted an $8.25 million class-action settlement. 

When police-involved shootings were on the rise on Ramsey's watch in both cities, he invited the Justice Department to review policies on the use of force.

In a 2015 interview with The Marshall Project, Ramsey addressed high expectations to reduce crime and improve the police department. 

"I remember telling people, the name’s Ramsey, not Moses. Don’t expect miracles."

Ramsey's civil rights advice to Chicago police won't be a miracle -- and it won't be a mystery, either, predicted law enforcement expert Neill Franklin. 

"I guarantee you the advice he gives will not be much different than the report from the president's 21st Century Policing Task Force," said Franklin, a Maryland State Police veteran who now leads the anti-war on drugs nonprofit Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. 

Franklin called Emanuel's hiring of Ramsey “a bit of political maneuvering."

"It doesn’t mean [Ramsey] cannot have an impact. But again, I don’t think it’s necessary," Franklin said.

Franklin said Ramsey's $350 an hour rate could be put to better use with enhanced police training.  

Walker, however, said Ramsey's work "will produce some results."

"One of the major things you had in cities like Ferguson, Cleveland and Baltimore, the local political leaders aren’t prepared to face up to the reality of how bad their place was," Walker said. "And Ramsey is very well-positioned to help [Chicago's leaders] understand what they’re up against and what they’ve allowed to exist."

Also on HuffPost: 

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National Review Just Handed Donald Trump the Election

Mon, 2016-01-25 11:13
National Review's publication of the collective anti-Donald Trump missives from 22 self-appointed conservative potentates has caused quite a stir in Republican circles.

The nationwide responses range from, "Wait, I thought National Review went out of business years ago," to "Ed Meese? Seriously?"

The Gang of 22 have officially become parodies of themselves. One would have to reach back to the days of Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew to lift an adequate quote to describe them.

"Nattering nabobs of negativism," "vicars of vacillation," "pusillanimous pussyfooters," "the decadent few," "ideological eunuchs," "the effete corps of impudent snobs," or "the hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history" - take your pick, because they all apply about equally well to each and every one of them.

So clueless is the Gang of 22 they can't even see how they've stumbled right into the narrative Trump's been communicating so successfully for months. Just like the elected officials from both parties, the Gang of 22 has been GREAT at complaining about stuff, year, after year, after year.

But getting anything accomplished? Not so much.

Many of the Gang of 22 have been hanging around and chattering for decades, and some are active cogs in the Conservative Entertainment Complex, deriving their income by pandering to conservative anger while offering no real solutions.

Donald Trump represents a threat to these ineffectual poohbahs in the same way he represents a threat to do-nothing public officials.

Jealousy is also seriously at work here. Trump is inspiring and exciting a broad spectrum of the country like no member of the Gang of 22 ever has, or ever will.

In just seven months of campaigning, Trump already has more Americans listening to a Republican message than the entire Gang of 22 could muster over decades. Trump understands that before you can advance the ball, you have to convince people to take time from their busy lives to listen. No one on the GOP side since Ronald Reagan has accomplished that like Trump.

No one else has come close, and certainly no one from that "effete corps of impudent snobs" to which the National Review thinks we should defer.

The Gang of 22 had their chance. They've done a lot of bitching over the years, and it paid well for some.

But Americans care about results. They can plainly see that all of the empty talk from the Gang of 22 got us eight years of Barack Obama, and a loss in pretty much every conservative battle there was to lose.

At the same time when Americans look at Donald Trump's life they get a lot of assurance that here is finally a man who shares their focus on actually getting results. And Trump returns the respect by recognizing regular hard-working Americans are a lot smarter than any of the "ideological eunuchs" in all of their pontificating glory.

The "pusillanimous pussyfooters" love to nitpick Trump's words, but what voters are looking for this year is competence and accomplishment. Donald Trump has an actual record of delivering both in spades.

The Gang of 22 is right to be terrified. A President who could get things done would expose them as the irrelevant creatures they truly are.

It can't happen fast enough.

Doug Ibendahl is a Chicago Attorney and a former General Counsel of the Illinois Republican Party.

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Infographic: The State of the State of Illinois in 2016

Mon, 2016-01-25 10:09
Gov. Bruce Rauner on Wednesday delivers his second State of the State Address in the Illinois House chamber at the Capitol.

In his first address last year, the newly-inaugurated governor said correcting Illinois government's fiscal troubles and driving down its persistently high, post-recession unemployment would require "shared sacrifice." The speech was noteworthy for its audacity: Rauner called on Democrats to help him take on some of their closest allies -- organized labor and trial lawyers -- and to embrace concepts, like term limits, they've long opposed.

What kind of progress report can Rauner give this week when he returns to the podium?

From pensions to education, here's a quick look at the state of Illinois, then and now.

NEXT ARTICLE: Illinois job losses totaled 3,000 in 2015

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Majority Black College Faces Shutdown Thanks To Bickering Lawmakers

Mon, 2016-01-25 10:02

CHICAGO -- As Chicago State University senior Charles Preston plans his future, he's contending with a unique variable most other college students will never face: the possibility that his school will close before he can finish his degree. 

Shutdown looms for the nearly 150-year-old school -- the only majority black public university on Chicago's South Side -- due to a state budget impasse in Springfield that has remained unresolved since last June. 

Without a budget, everyone from Illinois' state-funded schools to scratch-off lotto winners have gone unpaid.

CSU officials project its reserve funds will run out by March 1, more than two months before the end of the current semester. CSU relies on the state for approximately 30 percent of its budget, or about $36 million. 

"The current budget situation is historically unprecedented and therefore makes it very difficult to predict exactly how it will eventually be resolved," newly installed CSU President Thomas Calhoun Jr. said in a Jan. 14 memo to staff and students.

While the school committed to finishing the semester, Calhoun warned the financial crunch "may lead to a massive disruption of services."

Neither students nor school officials are sure what that means in actual terms of staff payment or administrative function. CSU spokesman Tom Wogan said everyone at the school is dealing with the issue "day by day."

“We have to get to the end of the semester one way or the other," Wogan said Sunday. "We have a moral, legal and ethical obligation to do that." 

Preston, who has one additional semester left before graduation, said a school shutdown would not only jeopardize his future, but most certainly drive him deeper into student loan debt.

"I would be stuck in limbo," Preston said, noting that his African-American studies major is not widely offered at other schools. "A lot of my credits would be untransferable to another school."

This university is basically an oasis in the desert."
Charles Preston, CSU Senior

A coalition of CSU students have organized to pressure lawmakers into passing a budget, though Preston said the group is at a disadvantage with the shutdown threat less than six weeks away. Rumors of a possible shutdown didn't start bubbling up on campus until about December. 

"The lawmakers in the state tend to look at us as numbers, not as lives," Preston said. 

The majority Democratic legislature and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner have been at odds for months over who's to blame for the lack of budget, but it's Rauner who is drawing the ire of the CSU community.

Rauner's deputy chief of staff on Wednesday sent a memo to the Illinois legislature criticizing CSU's pleas for financial help. Richard Goldberg wrote the school's financial mismanagement was rife with "waste" and "cronyism," according to The Associated Press. 

“For them to all of a sudden go, ‘Hey, we’re sorta more broke than most,’ while they’ve been throwing money down the toilet -- you know what? Let’s have some standards of behavior," Rauner said a day after the memo's release.

CSU faculty voiced concerns about patronage and cronyism during the tenure of previous President Wayne Watson, who resigned under fire in 2009. The CSU Faculty Voice blog criticized Watson for patronage hiring after he brought on a slew of well-paid administrators he worked with in his prior role as chancellor of the City Colleges of Chicago, and noted that the number of executive leadership and administrative roles ballooned under Watson.

Calhoun immediately sent an open letter to the governor criticizing Rauner's office for crafting "misleading statistics" about CSU's graduation rate and for failing to recognize the unique challenges that come with a nontraditional student body; more than 40 percent of CSU's students are the first in their family to attend college and more than half come from families living below the poverty line. 

"This university is basically an oasis in the desert," Preston said. "It’s a resource -- whether it’s jobs, mental health, or mentorship or people coming to the school to engage politically."

"[Rauner’s] not just withholding funds," Preston added. "He’s withholding futures."

Yvonne Pugh, a 1966 CSU alumna, said she had heard "some things that weren't agreeable" regarding the school's previous fiscal management but said the university was still "necessary and should be allowed to flourish and reach its potential." 

"I think a university should have a tremendously positive impact in the community in terms of housing, job and health development," Pugh said, noting the value the school adds to its lower middle-class neighborhood of Roseland. 

Preston, who lives in the neighborhood, uses his own life as an example of just how critical the need is for a school like CSU in a place like Roseland. 

“Back in 2013 I was diagnosed with clinical depression and suicidal ideation. In order to get that diagnoses, I had to go through three doctors at Chicago State," Preston said. "And you see the city already closing half of its mental health facilities. You have a free service here on the South Side of Chicago, free to CSU students."

"CSU provides mentoring for incoming freshman, and even high school seniors, to get adjusted to college life," Preston added. "Especially if they come from a bad community or a community with a lot of obstacles." 

Preston said CSU is a second-chance school of sorts. 

"People getting their life back together attend CSU. I know a nursing major who is 51 years old. She had troubles with drug addiction and totally turned herself around," Preston said. "And for this school to close after all she’s been through, what happens to her? It’s a very scary situation."

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A Warm Reception for Cold Storage

Fri, 2016-01-22 14:33
GT Fish and Oyster has always been my favorite restaurant in Chicago. The atmosphere is casual, yet refined, you can always sit at the bar if you can't snag a reservation, and the menu boasts a killer New England clam chowder.

Then I went to Cold Storage.

Now let's not get ahead of ourselves. I'm not abandoning GT Fish & Oyster any time soon. Cold Storage, the new seafood restaurant inside the relatively-new Swift & Sons, isn't necessarily a better experience than GT Fish & Oyster, but it's definitely a different one. (It's worth mentioning that they're actually both owned by Boka Restaurant Group.)

The meal started out like most of mine do: with a glass of wine. But as the four of us glanced at the menu, debating between hot and cold seafood dishes to share, our waitress let us know about a few specials. She said there was one giant crab left, a crab that would be steamed and served in pieces with clarified butter. We instinctively nodded yes and abandoned a few of our original menu choices.

The crab arrived on a serving platter, neatly arranged in its original shape, but in pieces made easy for sharing. Not only was the crab incomparably fresh, but eating it served as an activity. We marveled at the presentation as we cracked and dipped each piece, and before we knew it, 20 minutes of our dining experience were taken up by just one dish.

The meal continued on like this for more than two hours. By no means do you have to sit in one of their booths this long to get the full experience, but we were so caught up in admiring our food that time no longer mattered.

Latin-inspired sardines were fishy, but not overpowering, and they were playfully served in an old-fashioned tin with a side of Saltines. We were newly exposed to 'nduja, a spicy, spreadable pork sausage that accompanied perfectly grilled octopus. And another special, the plump and delicate uni, challenged all of our taste buds. The uni won.

Most playful and exciting (and slightly unnecessary), though, was the dessert. While three of us were still fawning over our last dish (the shrimp bahn mi), our fourth sneakily ordered a giant ice cream sundae called The Narwahl. It arrived with eight scoops of homemade ice cream, four different sauces, and a bottom layer of homemade cakes. When it came to finishing it, I gave us an A for effort.

We did take some time away from our food to admire our surroundings. The Cold Storage space is special enough for a birthday dinner, but relaxed enough for a midday lunch. It might have been the day's specials scrawled on the mirrored walls, or maybe it was the crab (definitely the crab), but my experience at Cold Storage is one I'm still thinking about days later.

In the end, was the seafood there that much better than at GT Fish & Oyster? Not quite. But I'm happy to have an alternative that's just as good - and where eight scoops of ice cream is an acceptable dessert order.

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Why we need Roe v. Wade now more than ever

Fri, 2016-01-22 11:11
Today, the landmark Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade turns forty-three years old. For forty three-years, the Supreme Court has upheld their decision that a woman's constitutional right to privacy also protects her right to make personal health care decisions about abortion. And, for forty-three years, women have had the constitutional right to access abortion services without government interference. After the unprecedented attacks this past year on Planned Parenthood and reproductive health broadly, it is perhaps more important than ever to wish Roe a resounding happy birthday.

Through our efforts in Congress and across the state of Illinois, we are fighting to protect all women's access to reproductive health care. Unfortunately, that fight has only intensified in recent years. On Capitol Hill and in state houses across the country, anti-women's health politicians continue to make it clear that they will stop at nothing to end access to a safe, legal abortion. Data released from the Guttmacher Institute shows that in the year 2000, 31 percent of women of reproductive age lived in a state hostile to abortion rights, with no women living in a state with enough restrictions to be considered extremely hostile. By 2014, 57 percent of women lived in a state that is either hostile or extremely hostile to abortion rights. This alarming increase was in part because of the 288 state level restrictions on safe, legal abortions that have been enacted since the 2010 mid-term elections.

Even in our home state of Illinois, where access is less restricted, women still bear the undue burden of increasing national attacks on abortion and reproductive health services. Because of restrictions on abortion access in their own state, many women in neighboring states are forced to travel hundreds of miles and cross state lines to seek an abortion. However, their rights should not have to depend on their zip code. In our own state, restrictions on Medicaid coverage for abortion unfairly impact low income women, making abortion inaccessible to them through the Medicaid program.

As Americans, it is always important to remember where we once were and how far we have come. Before Roe, illegal abortions were common. In the 1950's and 60's, estimates indicate anywhere from 200,000 to 1.2 million illegal abortions were performed annually. Of course, these are only the reported numbers, and given the stigma surrounding abortion, the actual numbers were likely much higher. By making abortion legal, Roe v. Wade made abortion safe, not only marking a major step forward for women's rights but also saving countless women's lives.

Unintended pregnancy was a reality for American women in the decades before Roe and remains a reality today. However, persistent, misinformed attacks--in states like Texas, where the state legislature aims to entirely defund and shutter Planned Parenthood statewide--are making it impossible for women to access their constitutionally protected right to abortion. How can the United States claim to be the world's leader while simultaneously denying basic rights to half of its citizens?

As 2016 begins, we await the Supreme Court hearing arguments in Whole Woman's Health v. Cole, the biggest abortion case in decades. As advocates for choice, we must be resilient. We must not let politicians, who believe they are above the Constitution, interfere with the personal health decisions of women. It is the job of a woman, not a politician, to make informed decisions about her own pregnancy.

U.S. Congressman Mike Quigley (D-IL-05) is a member of the Pro-Choice Caucus in the House of Representatives. Carole Brite is the CEO of Planned Parenthood of Illinois.

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HomeSnacks' Top 25 Safest and Least Safe Cities in Illinois

Fri, 2016-01-22 11:03
Using the FBI's most recent Uniform Crime Report statistics, the website Homesnacks ranked the safest cities in Illinois by looking at the number of reported violent crimes and property crimes per capita in towns with more than 5,000 people.

From Homesnacks on its methodology:

For example, there were a total of 99 crimes committed in Campton Hills which had a reported population of 11,351. That means the number of crimes per capita is 0.00872 which translates into a 1 in 115 chance of being the victim of a crime.

We only looked at cities that have populations of more than 5,000 people reported to the FBI in 2014. This left us with a total of 202 places in Illinois to rank.

Listed below you can find a list of the 25 safest and least safe cities from Homesnack's ranking, along with the total number of violent crime and property crime offenses reported to the FBI in 2014.

Least safe cities in Illinois

*Violent crime and property crime figures are the total number of offenses reported to the FBI.

202. Mount Vernon

  • Pop.: 15,232

  • Violent crime: 192

  • Property crime: 948

201. Danville

  • Pop.: 32,404

  • Violent crime: 348

  • Property crime: 1,878

200. Harvey

  • Pop.: 25,377

  • Violent crime: 329

  • Property crime: 1,210

199. East St. Louis

  • Pop.: 26,523

  • Violent crime: 967

  • Property crime: 1,095

198. Springfield

  • Pop.: 117,134

  • Violent crime: 1,248

  • Property crime: 5,535

197. Rockford

  • Pop.: 149,586

  • Violent crime: 1,847

  • Property crime: 6,401

196. Centralia

  • Pop.: 12,727

  • Violent crime: 99

  • Property crime: 617

195. Sauk Village

  • Pop.: 10,558

  • Violent crime: 84

  • Property crime: 494

194. Kankakee

  • Pop.: 27,026

  • Violent crime: 221

  • Property crime: 1,232

193. Peoria

  • Pop.: 116,923

  • Violent crime: 759

  • Property crime: 4,858

192. Alton

  • Pop.: 27,157

  • Violent crime: 137

  • Property crime: 1,198

191. Calumet City

  • Pop.: 37,281

  • Violent crime: 192

  • Property crime: 1,560

190. Riverdale

  • Pop.: 13,640

  • Violent crime rank: 156

  • Property crime rank: 415

189. Zion

  • Pop.: 24,316

  • Violent crime: 170

  • Property crime: 817

188. Chicago

  • Pop.: 2,724,121

  • Violent crime: 24,089

  • Property crime: 85,161

187. Carbondale

  • Pop.: 26,370

  • Violent crime: 138

  • Property crime: 940

186. Hazel Crest

  • Pop.: 14,223

  • Violent crime rank: 72

  • Property crime rank: 473

185. Maywood

  • Pop.: 24,174

  • Violent crime: 213

  • Property crime: 680

184. Chicago Heights

  • Pop.: 30,456

  • Violent crime: 199

  • Property crime: 915

183. Matteson

  • Pop.: 19,182

  • Violent crime: 56

  • Property crime: 904

182. Quincy

  • Pop.: 40,972

  • Violent crime: 190

  • Property crime: 1,363

181. Forest Park

  • Pop.: 14,223

  • Violent crime: 46

  • Property crime: 529

180. Galesburg

  • Pop.: 31,538

  • Violent crime: 126

  • Property crime: 1,035

179. Effingham

  • Pop.: 12,619

  • Violent crime: 52

  • Property crime: 409

178. Wood River

  • Pop.: 10,370

  • Violent crime: 28

  • Property crime: 455

You can see the 25 cities that were ranked by HomeSnacks as the safest here.

NEXT ARTICLE: WalletHub's Top 20 best and worst Illinois cities for families

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Mike Frerichs Talks Star Wars, Hillary, His Height and More with Reboot Illinois

Fri, 2016-01-22 10:38
In our Jan. 15 "Only in Illinois" video, we talked with Illinois Treasurer Mike Frerichs about his first year in office and the challenges he has faced as the state's top investment officer during a time of extreme instability in state finances.

That interview focused on Frerichs' official side.

Today we take a different approach to find out more about Frerichs' non-official side.

What did we learn?

  • Though he's 6-foot-8 and did play basketball in high school, he wasn't a star.

  • Like many parents of small children, his reading and viewing habits have taken a youthful turn.

  • His lifelong baseball allegiance dates back, literally, to the moment he left the womb.

  • He's got high hopes for his candidate in the presidential election in November.

Frerichs grew up in the Champaign County town of Gifford (population 975) in east-central Illinois, and is the only constitutional officer from downstate. He served eight years in the Illinois State Senate before his election as treasurer in 2014.

A Yale graduate who spent time teaching English and studying Mandarin in Taiwan before returning to Champaign County, Frerichs says he's living proof of the adage, "You can take the boy out of the small town, but you can't take the small town out of the boy."

Check out Frerichs' lighter side in this week's "Only in Illinois" video.

NEXT ARTICLE: Revived Illinois pension reform efforts already DOA

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Evolution: The Candidate

Thu, 2016-01-21 16:02
"And finally, how can we make our politics reflect what's best in us, and not what's worst?"

The president asked the right question in his State of the Union address last week. What if he'd actually answered it -- or at least addressed it honestly?

Oh, torn heart, torn citizenship.

I find myself disconnecting from national politics in a profound way, even as the 2016 presidential race continues to transcend the media-controlled same old, same old charade of races past. The Republican presidential free-for-all is a suicidally End Times-esque spectacle the likes of which I've never seen. And on the other side of the divide, the Dems, thanks to Bernie Sanders, are daring to wade ankle-deep into progressive values. But it's not enough. It's not enough.

I simply can no longer tolerate our political inability to face the obsolescence of war and refuse to keep coddling the military-industrial profiteers and true believers.

"Priority number one," Obama said in his address, "is protecting the American people and going after terrorist networks. . . .

"We just need to call them what they are -- killers and fanatics who have to be rooted out, hunted down, and destroyed. And that's exactly what we're doing. . . . With nearly 10,000 air strikes, we're taking out their leadership, their oil, their training camps, their weapons. We're training, arming, and supporting forces who are steadily reclaiming territory in Iraq and Syria."

The transition is so smooth: from moral condemnation of what "they" do to a moral justification of what we do, no matter that what we do -- my God, 10,000 air strikes, and that's just in the last year and a half -- can only be called collateral slaughter. And it doesn't even accomplish its stated ends. The "war on terror" we've been waging for most of the 21st century is an unmitigated disaster, destabilizing vast regions of the world, killing and displacing millions of people, expanding terrorist organizations, but our political leaders have to keep extolling the war's glory and moral rectitude.

Something is terribly amiss here. Everything we value in our day-to-day lives -- every behavioral proscription that makes society possible, beginning with "thou shalt not kill" -- transforms into its opposite on the way to becoming national policy. Maybe the problem is nationalism itself. The nation-state, as currently conceived, manifests humanity's shadow: our hunger to dominate, to control, to act aggressively without consequence. What would be called pompous stupidity at the level of social reality becomes "greatness" at the altar of nationalism.

For instance: "Washington's war on terror strategy has already sent at least $1.6 trillion down the drain, left thousands of American troops and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Muslims dead," Peter Van Buren writes at TomDispatch. "Along the way we lost precious freedoms to the ever-expanding national security state."

How is it that such (relatively conservative) War on Terror data doesn't come up in presidential debates or State of the Union addresses? How is it that, in the land of the free, in the world's greatest democracy, so little military-industrial behavior is officially challenged? Almost no one even expects it to be challenged, even though, as Van Buren notes:

"The sum of all this activity, 14-plus years of it, has been ever more failed states and ungoverned spaces."

Isn't there something better we could be doing with this enormous corralling of potential called the United States of America? What we call leadership is mostly just public relations -- for the military-industrial matrix, as I think of it: this secret collusion of profit and desire that is committed to nothing so much as endless war, which is mostly endless (and endlessly profitable) carnage and failure dressed up as glory.

Are we past the point where presidential candidates are allowed to stand up to war? Is the American public so frightened by the non-threat of terrorism that it would not tolerate a candidate who refuses to acquiesce to its alleged demand for multi-trillion-dollar, existential "protection"?

I don't think so.

As the Republican Party careens (let us hope) toward permanent marginalization, perhaps the American -- and global -- political process will yield to a higher form of human organization.

David Korten, writing almost a decade ago in Yes! Magazine, put it this way: "We face a defining choice between two contrasting models for organizing human affairs." One of them, humanity's political template for the last 5,000 or so years, he called "Empire." The other, he called "Earth Community."

"Empire," he wrote, "organizes by domination at all levels, from relations among nations to relations among family members. Empire brings fortune to the few, condemns the majority to misery and servitude, suppresses the creative potential of all, and appropriates much of the wealth of human societies to maintain the institutions of domination.

"Earth Community, by contrast, organizes by partnership, unleashes the human potential for creative co-operation, and shares resources and surpluses for the good of all. Supporting evidence for the possibilities of Earth Community comes from the findings of quantum physics, evolutionary biology, developmental psychology, anthropology, archaeology, and religious mysticism. It was the human way before Empire; we must make a choice to relearn how to live by its principles."

Is it too much to ask the American political process to participate in something larger than itself -- something the size, perhaps, of human or planetary evolution? Perhaps this question is the starting point of the future.

- - -

Robert Koehler is an award--winning, Chicago--based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound (Xenos Press), is still available. Contact him at or visit his website at

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Keep Your Friends Close and Your Enemies Closer

Thu, 2016-01-21 14:46
There was blood in the water at Edison Regional Gifted Center on November 9, 2015.

The Local School Council was holding a special (and sparsely-attended) meeting to discuss its upcoming evaluation of the school's principal, and I was one of the few non-LSC members to show up for the festivities. Over the course of 75 minutes that night, I did a lot of listening, I offered a couple of comments, and I quickly concluded that a movement was afoot to ride the principal out of town on a rail.

And that upset me greatly.

My youngest daughter is an eighth-grader at Edison, and she's been there since kindergarten. I served on the school's LSC from 2008-10 (when the current principal was still the assistant principal), and I generally stop by the building several times a week, either to help out with the girls' basketball team, chaperone a field trip, or give presentations to classes on everything from constitutional rights to the history of rock-'n-roll. The security guards and most of the staff know me by name.

And I'm able to do what I do at Edison because the current administration works hard to make the building a place where parents feel welcome.

Don't get me wrong. Over the years, I've questioned and even disagreed with some of the principal's decisions -- particularly in the area of staffing -- but I understand, thanks to her open-door policy, why, in each particular case, she decided to do what she did.

My daughter is fortunate to attend Edison, and she's benefited greatly from the vision, wisdom and kindness of our current principal and assistant principal.

That's why she'll be crushed to learn that a divided LSC will almost certainly vote Monday night to send her principal off to an early retirement -- and since the principal hires the assistant principal, next week's vote will likely mean that the two strong, intelligent women who run my daughter's school will finish their tenure at Edison in June, when my daughter, too, will leave the building for the last time.

Even the number-crunchers at CPS's central office will be shocked by next week's anticipated vote, because Edison outperformed nearly every public school in Illinois on Arne Duncan's much-loved PARCC test in 2015, and it's ranked by the district as a Level 1+ school.

I know how the principal evaluation process is supposed to work, and I know it varies not only from school to school, but it can also vary from year to year within the same school. I took part in the process when I served on Edison's LSC, and I've worked through it several times since then as an LSC member at Rogers Elementary School, where I've served since 2010.

For reasons I'll never understand, principal evaluations are often filled with education jargon and riddled with acronyms like CIWP, PPLC and STEM. Clever LSCs (like the one that will vote Monday night on the fate of Edison's principal) know enough to stick with those education buzzwords, so that an imminent discharge won't appear personal, arbitrary or capricious.

And they also know they can turn a principal loose without having to answer questions from parents, teachers or reporters, simply by singing the "it's a confidential personnel matter" refrain.

Elections have consequences -- even LSC elections, where a mere 30 or 40 votes will usually get you a seat at the table.

Pay attention, principals. If Monday's Edison vote goes the way I sensed back in November that it would, you may want to think twice before suspending a kid whose parent sits on your LSC. And you may also want to look around before hiring an otherwise great assistant principal who once butted heads (at another school) with that same parent.

You want to keep your job in a high-maintenance CPS school? Remind yourself that it's never the kid's fault. It's live and let live, because the helicopter parent is always right. And just to be on the safe side, make sure everybody gets a trophy.

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Surrogate Mom Saves 6-Orphaned Puppies

Thu, 2016-01-21 13:44

Sometimes in our darkest moments a light suddenly appears.

On a very hectic Saturday morning at Animal Medical Center of Chicago, a recently rescued pregnant pit bull came to see me with a 24- hour history of labored breathing and restless behavior. This young pit bull, newly named Hallie, was in labor and could not successfully deliver her puppies on her own. On physical examination, Hallie appeared to be in relatively good body condition with an abnormal vaginal discharge. An abdominal radiograph was taken and revealed at least 6 puppies in a greatly distended uterus. Given Hallie's 24-hour history of a non-productive labor and concern for a uterine tract infection, I recommended a caesarian section.

Hallie was immediately transferred to a local specialty practice for her surgical procedure. A few hours later, I learned that the caesarian section went well- seven puppies successfully delivered and the mother was recovering nicely from anesthesia. The surgeon informed me that one puppy was tightly wedged against the wall of the mother's cervix and had some purulent material around her face.

The following day, I called the specialty practice to see how Hallie and her puppies were doing. To my shock, the receptionist told me that the mother died of cardiac arrest a few hours after recovering from anesthesia and one puppy died shortly thereafter.

I immediately contacted the rescue organization and expressed my heartfelt condolences on the loss of Hallie and her one puppy. I told Kristen Gerali, the Founder and President of Alive Rescue, that Hallie's death was tragic and truly unexpected but we should be thankful that she lived to deliver 6 healthy puppies.

Overwhelmed by the prospect of hand feeding 6-orphaned puppies, Kristen and Alive Rescue volunteers used social media to locate supplies and volunteers to nurse these puppies. Fortunately, another rescue organization, called Wagging Hearts Rescue, contacted them and told them they may have a surrogate mom, named Trixie, for the puppies. Around seven weeks ago, Trixie gave birth to a litter of puppies and was still lactating. Given Trixie's sweet disposition, this rescue group thought she might be receptive to raising these 6-orphaned puppies.

Just 36 hours after their birth, these puppies were off to meet their potential surrogate mother, Trixie. With in seconds of meeting Trixie, everyone knew that she was capable and receptive to taking on the responsibilities of feeding and caring for the orphaned puppies. Upon seeing the puppies, Trixie slowly lowered herself down onto the floor and allowed the puppies to latch onto her. I only wish I was there to witness this beautiful sight of 6-hungry puppies happily nursing.

Yesterday, I met Trixie and the 6-orphaned puppies. It brought tears to my eyes to watch the puppies nurse off of Trixie and to see how proud she was of her new role as a surrogate mom. She was gentle and relaxed with the puppies! This pairing was definitely a stroke of genius and good fortune!

I do not want Hallie's dreadful time on the streets and death to be forgotten. What a tragedy for a lovely young dog to be wandering the streets of Chicago in search of food and shelter. When I first looked into Hallie's eyes, I immediately sensed an old soul with a gentle heart. I strongly suspect her owner, careless with her life, abandoned her. Tossing Hallie onto the streets to fend for herself and her unborn puppies was a cruel act. I wished this person had taken her to a local animal shelter to be properly cared for. In Chicago, Animal Care and Control, at 2741 South Western Avenue, receives strays or owner relinquished pets every day from 8 am to 10 pm. They can be reached at 1.312.747.1406.

Fortunately, an Alive Rescue volunteer captured Hallie just two days before she went into labor. I wish Hallie had survived to see her puppies and experience the warmth and love of a new home. With the help of Alive Rescue, Hallie did not have an agonizing death alone on the streets and was strong enough to successfully give birth to 6 healthy puppies. I'm very proud to have witnessed this series of events and the commitment of so many animal lovers to right a wrong.

All three events -the rescue of Hallie, the survival of 6 puppies and the timely appearance of Trixie - demonstrate how a community of animal lovers can make a difference. Alive Rescue now needs your help! If you'd like to donate supplies, your time, or in a few months, adopt Trixie or one of the puppies, please contact Alive Rescue at 773.913.8100. If you'd like to donate to the Hallie fund, visit https://www/ Now is your time to make a difference in your community!

Dr. Donna Solomon is a veterinarian at Animal Medical Center of Chicago and invites you to email her your questions or future topic ideas to

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This Drastic Proposal Shows What Dire Straits Chicago Schools Are In

Wed, 2016-01-20 20:49

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Nearly three years after the single largest school closing in history, the Chicago Public School system is facing another budget crisis so massive, some state lawmakers are suggesting a state takeover and even bankruptcy. 

Backed by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, Illinois state Republicans on Wednesday made an aggressive proposal that would wrest control of Chicago's financially troubled school system from the city and hand it over to the state-selected board of managers. 

CPS faces sinking bond ratings and more than $1 billion in debt for the 2016 fiscal year, largely due to a massive $676 million pension liability.

During a joint press conference Wednesday, state Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno and House Republican Leader Jim Durkin characterized their proposal as a "lifeline" for the CPS financial system they said was "near collapse." 

“We don’t come to this position lightly,” Radogno said. “But the track record of Chicago and its public school system is abysmal."

The proposal would include Chicago in a state law -- from which it is currently exempt -- that allows a state-appointed board to take over for the mayor's hand-picked Chicago Board of Education and effectively run the district until it's financially stable. The five- to seven-member board would also negotiate with the teachers union but "cannot unilaterally cancel or modify existing collective bargaining agreements."  

State Democrats, who hold a supermajority in both chambers, strongly oppose the idea. Senate President John Cullerton was blunt: "This is not going to happen," the Chicago Democrat told the Associated Press Wednesday. 

Similarly, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Teachers Union -- two parties that almost never see eye-to-eye -- shot back at the proposal with digs at Rauner's inability to pass a state budget. Illinois has been without a budget since last July. 

The CTU pegged the proposal to Rauner and called it "just the latest example of the ‘bull in a china shop’ methods in which [the governor] clumsily attempts to lead."

Emanuel, who was in D.C. for a conference, said through a spokeswoman that he was "100 percent opposed" to the plan. 

"If the governor was serious about helping Chicago students, he should start by proposing -- and passing -- a budget that fully funds education and treats CPS students like every other child in the state," said Emanuel spokeswoman Kelley Quinn.

In addition to being excluded from the state law that allows independent takeover of failing school districts, Chicago's school system is also excluded from the state fund that pays into teacher pensions. As a result, CPS receives just a fraction of state pension funding compared to other districts. 

Though the Republican-backed legislation is unlikely to pass in a Democrat-controlled legislature, if it succeeded it would not be the first time CPS's finances were handed to an oversight board. In 1980, lawmakers created the Chicago School Finance Authority with appointees by both the mayor and the governor, according to Catalyst Chicago. 

Wednesday's proposal is just the latest in a string of hardships and scandals the school district has faced since the massive school closing in 2013: The shutterings forced hundreds of CPS students to take longer, often more dangerous routes to their new schools; enrollment has dropped; the former schools chief was indicted on bribery and a kickback scheme; and needy students lost out on untold dollars worth of perfectly good school supplies from the shuttered schools due to poor record-keeping. 

Due to its looming debt, CPS also is facing midyear layoffs and another potential teachers strike. Meanwhile, even more schools could close this year in a district that comprises mostly low-income black and Latino children

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Greatest Hits: 10 Notable Episodes From The First 10 Years Of Dynasty Podcasts

Wed, 2016-01-20 16:38
Back in summer of 2005, I launched Dynasty Podcasts as Chicago's first ever and longest-running music podcast. Over the last ten years, I've been fortunate enough to conduct interviews with some genuinely remarkable artists and industry figures from the Chicago music community. What follows are ten episodes of Dynasty Podcasts from the last ten years that stand out to me for one reason or another. From Metro owner Joe Shanahan to Flosstradamus to The Lawrence Arms and more. Enjoy!

(Photo: Joe Mazza/BraveLux)

Joe Shanahan (Metro Chicago)
In 2012, Chicago's iconic Metro concert hall celebrated its 30th anniversary. To mark the occasion, Dynasty Podcasts visited venue founder and owner Joe Shanahan at a visual retrospective for the venue held in a Chicago Loop event space. Joined by graphic designer Ryne Estwing, Shanahan reflect on the venue's past three decades, recalling relationships with legacy artists like R.E.M. and The Smashing Pumpkins. For an enhanced version of this interview, check out the short film edition, featuring posters, passes, and other memorabilia from Metro's historic archives.

Gabe McDonough
Chicago music licensing operation Music Dealers has been a longtime supporter of Dynasty Podcasts, and in fall of 2013, the music company partnered with the podcast for a live industry discussion with then-VP, Music Director at Leo Burnett, Gabe McDonough. Over the course of 45 minutes, McDonough spoke at length about the intersection of music and advertising, as well as shedding light on how artists can pursue music licensing opportunities and the potential for monetization.

(Photo: Gabriel Olsen/Getty Images)

Billy Corgan (The Smashing Pumpkins)
Since the end of 2011, The Smashing Pumpkins have been reissuing their classic albums in chronological order. In the summer of 2014, the reissue of 1998's experimental effort Adore and the then-forthcoming full length Monuments to an Elegy were both on the horizon. At a coffee shop in the northern suburbs of Chicago, Corgan opened up about simultaneously living in the past, present, and future of the Smashing Pumpkins all at once. The Pumpkins frontman also shed light on his decision to open up his songbook from all eras of his work for upcoming live events.

Joe Trohman (Fall Out Boy)
When pop punk juggernaut Fall Out Boy took a hiatus in 2009, there were more questions than answers, with little concrete info to be found. Which made the inclusion of FOB guitarist Joe Trohman in a Morrissey tribute set in December of that year alongside Chicago music icons like Bob Nanna and Mike Kinsella all the more surprising. Recorded in the upstairs green room of Subterranean, Trohman opens up about stepping out of his comfort zone after the initial and nonstop advent of Fall Out Boy, as well as speaking candidly about the band's break.

While Chicago boys made good Flosstradamus are now regularly spreading the HDYBYZ and HDYGRLZ gospel all over the world, in November of 2011, the duo were in Chicago for an EP release show at Lincoln Hall. In an interview recorded backstage at the Lincoln Park venue, Floss' Josh Young and Curt Cameruci open up about their Midwestern work ethic and reflect on the group's culture during their earliest days.

Tim McIlrath (Rise Against)
For Record Store Day 2010, Rise Against frontman Tim McIlrath made a visit to Reckless Records in the Loop, where he found time for a quick chat with Dynasty Podcasts. There, McIlrath recalled the suburban Chicago record stores where he discovered pre-grunge punk acts like Minor Threat and Fugazi--purchases that would play no small part in influencing the sound and direction of Rise Against.

Kill Hannah
Chicago's infamous glam-rock institution Kill Hannah recently closed out their career with a string of farewell shows both at home and abroad in December of last year. But back in December of 2012, the group's Mat Devine, Dan Wiese, Greg Corner, Elias Mallin, and Jonny Radtke gathered at JBTV to answer audience questions as part of that year's New Heart for Christmas holiday event. The discussion is noteworthy if for no other reason than the fact that it's a rare occurrence to get a full lineup of Kill Hannah in the same room and all on mics at the same time, given how many of the group's (now former) members live out of state these days.

Celine Neon

Chicago electro pop act Celine Neon has been making noise across the city lately, from theatrical live shows to their recently released Kitty EP. In the upstairs green room of Subterranean in March of 2015, the duo of Emily Nejad and Maggie Kubley brought their trademark snark and effortless interplay to Dynasty Podcasts for an interview around the release of their self-titled debut EP. What followed was a discussion ranging from more serious subjects like the building of their brand, to the reveling in the celebration of all things BILF.

(Photo: Ben Pier)

The Lawrence Arms
The Lawrence Arms have always been one of Chicago's strongest and most underrated punk rock offerings, responsible for classic efforts like 2003's The Greatest Story Ever Told. Yet 2014's Metropole came almost a decade after the group's prior full length: 2006's Oh! Calcutta!. In an interview backstage at Metro in summer of 2014, vocalists Chris McCaughan and Brendan Kelly weighed in on the break between records, sharing how the band's hiatus helped their creative process.

At Spring Awakening 2012, Krewella was a up-and-coming act starting to make noise in the Chicago underground and on forward-thinking music blogs. Backstage at the annual EDM fest, frontwomen Jahan and Yasmine Yousaf and former member Kris "Rain Man" Trindl spoke excitedly about their festival set, in addition to sharing thoughts on their then-forthcoming debut EP, Play Hard. An early glimpse into Krewella just before they broke through.

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