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Stephen Colbert Teases Viewers With Spoof Interview Of Donald Trump's 'Top Cop'

Sat, 2016-09-03 04:37

Donald Trump’s crime-fighting super-cop from Chicago does exist after all! Well, at least in Stephen Colbert’s mind.

The Late Show” host conducted a hilarious spoof interview Friday with a man he said was the senior officer who last month told Trump he could stop the city’s crime in just one week.

Only, it wasn’t the real cop. Mainly because the Chicago Police Department says no one in its senior command has ever met with Trump or a member of his campaign. But also because Colbert’s interviewee turned out to be a male stripper who was only dressed as an officer. 

“I told him there are some naughty people out there who need to be in cuffs,” the officer, who called himself Rod Johnson, told Colbert of his chat with the GOP presidential nominee ― before launching into a rather racy routine.

Check it out in the clip above.

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.

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Fact-Check Friday: Rauner Resurrects 2014 Campaign Theme vs. Democrats

Fri, 2016-09-02 10:49
This article was created for PolitiFact Illinois, a collaboration between Reboot Illinois and Pulitzer Prize-winning national website PolitiFact. For additional fact checks in this partnership, visit the PolitiFact Illinois website.

In August 2014, as the race between former Gov. Pat Quinn and Bruce Rauner hit full throttle, no issue was more hotly contested than Rauner's charge that Quinn had reduced spending on K-12 education as state finances spiraled ever-downward under his leadership.

Specifically, the Rauner campaign cited Illinois State Board of Education data that showed school funding going from $7.4 billion in Fiscal Year 2009 to $6.8 billion in FY 2015. Rauner said that amounted to a $600 million reduction. Quinn, however, said his administration actually increased state-level funding during that time by $442 million.

Whether school funding increased or decreased from FY 2009 to FY 2015 depended on whether you counted $1.8 billion in federal economic stimulus money in your calculation. Rauner did, Quinn didn't. The issue never was settled, and seemed to disappear after Rauner defeated Quinn in the 2014 election.

Then came Governor's Day at the Illinois State Fair on Aug. 17. Rauner is not up for election this year, but his legislative agenda is. His campaign fund in recent weeks has given $10 million to the Illinois Republican Party to support GOP candidates who are running against what Rauner describes as a "corrupt machine" run by Democrats. Throughout the summer, Rauner has revived some of the themes that were a big part of his own, successful campaign two years ago.

As he rallied the Republican faithful at the fairgrounds for the final charge to Election Day, Rauner reached back into his 2014 campaign quiver for another shot at Democrats' stewardship of school funding in Illinois.

"They are strangling our state. They are driving jobs away. They are raising your taxes to the highest property taxes in America. They are building massive government bureaucracy everywhere, crushing our economy," Rauner told an enthusiastic crowd. "They are cutting our school funding. Four times in the last 10 years before we came into office."

So here we are again, almost exactly two years from when this debate first erupted, only this time the argument is expanded to include all Illinois Democrats and narrowed to "four times" that they cut school funding. We decided to dig back in and find out if it's true.

Here's how Rauner's claim rates on the Truth-O-Meter.

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Women's Shelter Family Rescue Sees Miracles Daily

Fri, 2016-09-02 10:04

By Natalie Crawford

It came down to a matter of matching blinds.

Women, removed from shelters, lived in their cars, awaiting the opening of Family Rescue's Ridgeland Transitional Housing because the state objected to the fact that some window blinds did not match. After six long years of jumping through the state's hoops and convincing private investors that Ridgeland and domestic violence was worth their money, Family Rescue found the only thing standing between 22 families in need of a home and the December elements was matching window blinds. So, housing center officials opened anyway, ready to face whatever fines the state would throw at them.

In an interview, Joyce Coffee, the executive director and chief executive officer of Family Rescue's women's shelter on Chicago's South Side, recalls this moment in December as one she'll  never forget.

Finally open, women stood inside Ridgeland for the the first time, never having met each other, and around them spun a little girl. She went woman to woman, offering a hello and kind smile, before off again she'd twirl. The girl turned to her mother to ask, "Mom, will this be our home? Can we have a Christmas tree?"

The women began to weep.

Shelters like Family Rescue pull off more than just Christmas trees and Christmas miracles every day. Coffee and the other workers at Family Rescue prove every day can be miraculous through the work they do shepherding women through recovery from domestic violence. Family Rescue provides women with more than shelter, food, and clothing. They also offer court advocacy, helping women navigate a complex court system. They are the only agency with offices inside a Chicago police station to aid victims. Open since 1981, Family Rescue was only the second domestic violence shelter in the city of Chicago and the first and only shelter operating on the South Side until February. The numbers, from  the most recent anual report, show:

  • 12,358 nights of safe shelter were provided

  • 23,242 nights of affordable housing were provided

  • 1,462 crisis called were answered

  • 938 orders of protection were obtained for victims

Throughout its 35 years, Family Rescue has faced hardships--struggling through the recession, the state budget impasse, and other funding challenges. As a result, the management of the women's shelter faced expensive yet necessary building renovations that could have resulted in them having to close their doors. Instead, Family Rescue got a lifeline when it was won an Impact 100 grant that allowed the shelter to continue its work. Impact 100 is a volunteer organization of metropolitan women who pool $1,000 donations into four, $100,000 grants they award annually.  

Illinois faces many challenges. And there are many ordinary Illinoisans rising up daily to meet those challenges. In the first of an occasional series of Illinois success stories, Reboot Illinois sat down with Coffee to learn more about Family Rescue's struggles and how it is rising up to achieve success for women who need help. The interview that follows has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Bulletin board in Family Rescue.

Q: What is the mission of Family Rescue?

Joyce Coffee: It basically says that we are an agency that is dedicated to eliminating domestic violence in the Chicago community, and we do that through direct services, through systems advocacy, and through community education, which fosters prevention...The mission statement has enough flexibility to allow us to experiment and do things but enough structure so that we don't stray from ... the original purpose of the organization.

Q: How did Gay Northrup start Family Rescue?

A: She went to England and worked for a year for a woman by the name of Erin Pizzey, who is generally credited with opening the first battered women's shelter...Erin had written a book called Scream Quietly or Your Neighbors Might Hear...Then [Gay] came back to Chicago and coordinated a speaking tour for Erin to come here, and Gay started the Domestic Violence Project with the Salvation Army. The Salvation Army was like her incubator; they knew she was going to spin off to become Family Rescue, and that lasted a couple of years. Then she incorporated Family Rescue and bought this building. This was a convent, and she bought it with money from Angela Lansbury, the actress...and the Benjamin J Rosenthal Foundation.

Playground at Family Rescue.

Q: How did you get involved with Family Rescue?

A: My first job was running a day care center, and I had women in my day care center and DCFS was taking their children away from them. This woman finally came to me and she was crying and...said 'Joyce, can you help me?' And I said, 'Well, why are they taking them away? Are you abusing your child?'...and she said, 'No no no!' Well, someone was doing something, and you know what she said? She said, 'My boyfriend did this or did that'...I didn't know about domestic violence, didn't even know the word, and I wrote this proposal and it was funded. Judges would allow women to keep their children if they went to counseling ... so that was my first touch with domestic violence even though I didn't know that's what it was.

My second real job was as a HeadStart coordinator ... in Michigan, and the bus drivers would come to me and say, 'Joyce, you know, I think you need to look at this particular child.' 'Well, what's happening?' 'Have you ever noticed that if you move real fast around that child they'll flinch?' I said, 'No, but we'll pay attention.' Now there's my second go around, and I'm finding there's women, who'd joined HeadStart and whose children were being abuse ... Still didn't know any words about domestic violence.

I left, went to California, and worked in a residential facility for severely emotionally disturbed teenagers, and then moved back here--moved to Chicago. Gay was looking for a shelter director and put an ad in the paper, so I applied ... I looked up Family Rescue and saw it was a domestic violence agency, and I didn't know anything about domestic violence, so I went to the library to get a book ... The book at the library was Scream Quietly or Your Neighbors Might Hear. So I read this book and said, 'Man, I've come in contact with domestic violence.' So I come into the interview, and Gay gets to this thing about do you know anything about domestic violence? And I said, 'You know, I didn't think that I did, but I've been working with this issue ... and I read this book ... And remember what I told you about that book? She was sitting there smiling, and she hired me right on the spot.

Joyce Coffee, executive director and chief executive officer of Family Rescue.

Q: What are some obstacles that Family Rescue has had to overcome?

A: We've had challenges all along. This period has certainly been very difficult and not just because of what is happening to Family Rescue, but what is happening to the social services community period. It's being decimated. Partners that we rely on to help us with our clients to meet their goals ... are closing or their wait-lists are getting longer. It's harder for us to transition women into housing and get them off of welfare. The safety net underneath them is crumbing. So the challenge has been in trying to adequately fund these services during a recession where even in times of plenty, domestic violence services have never been funded to the degree they should and could have been ... But the issues that you're dealing with and the complexity of the problems that the families bring, you need the brightest and the best, but we don't have the brightest and the best money.

Children's playroom at Family Rescue.

Q: How is the Impact 100 grant going to help relieve some of the funding stress you might have today?

A: Obviously with the funding constraints that happened and even as we were seeing the recession coming to an end, the funding community hadn't rebounded and then the state did a tail spin, so last year and this year, no budgets ... Domestic violence fortunately got our contracts paid, but in the beginning of the fiscal year last year, it was a slow path. I think we went five months with no state funding before that kink got worked out, so we used up our reserves. We used our line of credit, and the interest on your line of credit you can't pay back with government funds, so you have to pay it back out of private funds. Even though we were able to live, we didn't have any reserves, so last year ... well, towards the end of 2014, some critical renovations needed to happen. This building needed significant tuck-pointing. The brick facade was pulling away from the parapet ... There was all of this stuff that was going on with the building, and it was going to cost a little over a $100,000 to fix it. And we didn't have any money to fix it, so when the Impact 100 opportunity came, we applied and fortunately we were selected. The $100,000 is paying for this major rehab of the facility that we wouldn't of had the reserves to do, and eventually we would have had building and code violations, which would have endangered the operations of the shelter.

Q: What was it like applying to Impact 100?

A: "They are the most amazing group of women...'You're among friends.' 'You're among friends.' They kept coming over to the table ... and they'd come up and ask you questions, and they would all say a variation of that: 'You're among friends' ... You don't jump through hoops. Yeah, you have to present your cause and et cetera, but after you got selected, the helpfulness and...the ease of stuff that happened ... for a hundred thousand dollars? Do you know, I've got government grants that make you go through heck and high water for $10,000, and this is a hundred thousand dollars? ... They are so amazing.

Q: How have you seen the field of domestic violence services changing for the better?

A: One of the good things that has happened over the years is that there have been corporate sponsors who have stepped up and as a corporation championed domestic violence. When before, for many years, corporations and business would say that's a negative image or cause, and they didn't want their brand associated with you've have Liz Claiborne...Chico...Avon, Mary Kay...Kraft Foods...these corporations began championing domestic violence, and now you've got Verizon, Allstate...these champions had opened the door and made it more acceptable to acknowledge domestic violence and the impact that it's having. So that's a good thing--that's a very, very good thing.

Next article: How does Illinois stack up when it comes to bullying prevention

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A Long Wait

Thu, 2016-09-01 21:57
Our nation is at a crossroads. What's going on has been a century in the making. I, myself, have been following this nonstop, day in and day out, 45 years straight. Every day brings yet another piece of jaw-dropping news that makes me more and more nervous.

Soon it will all be over -- we'll see how it this process finally ends, and we'll have to pick up the pieces and deal with our new reality. The country needs this more than ever. And if it should happen, it will be my happiest day in 45 years.

And that day is coming very soon. Not on November 8th, but October 8th. Go, Cubs, go!

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Why Not Take a Chicago Sexual History Tour?

Thu, 2016-09-01 12:55
Dennis Rodkin writes about real estate and talks about sex. The Crain's Chicago Business reporter churns out real estate news during the week, but on Saturdays, he unearths stories of carnal trailblazers and maniacs in his Sexual History of Chicago walking tour.

Rodkin presents Chicago through a lens of sexual evolution. "I am trying to show that we have increasingly been open to experimentation and that we've become more accepting," he explained. "With this path we've been on, we've gone from point A to point G, and in the tour, there is an implicit suggestion to move onto points L, M, and N. We need to keep that progress going."

Delivering his lines with bravado, Rodkin often garners puzzled looks from passersby who hear talk of monkey testicles and prostitution. "I'm still laughing about the stranger who caught up with us, heard what the topic is, and called us all 'Normal-Looking Perverts,'" wrote Rodkin on the tour's Facebook page.

"Normal Looking Perverts'" Jorge Newbery and Dennis Rodkin

Although the tour visits sites of historical debauchery, all lewdness remains in the past: the naked ladies and brothels that Rodkin recollects are now ghosts of Chicago's architecture. "It's about history and it's about people who helped move the boundaries of self expression," said Rodkin.

During his twenty-five years of real estate reporting in the Windy City, Rodkin has discovered sexual stories behind historic buildings, homes, and estates. "They all went into a file over the years and eventually I had so many, I knew I had to make use of them."

The two-hour tour explores downtown's Loop as Rodkin shares tales of sexual activists and deviants alike. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Chicago became a commercial capital of America. Its central location and railroad system brought farmers, executives, and characters of all kinds to and from the city. "Chicago at the time was one of the most modern American cities," explained Rodkin. "There was a lot more experimentation and a lot more people breaking the rules."

Throughout the tour, he details the history of these rule breakers, including a transgender man who in 1906 fooled multiple wives into believing he was anatomically male. The man, an employee of the Russian Consulate in Chicago, had two marriages and a fetish for showgirls. When he died, however, it was discovered that he was actually a woman wearing a prosthetic penis.

"It's one of the reasons that I like to tell the stories in person instead of writing them and sharing them online," said Rodkin. "I want to see people respond because they just go gaga when they hear that story! It's a crazy one, but it links up to a lot of the transgender questions we have today."

In an era when gay rights and transgender identities dominate social discussions and legislation, Rodkin's tour destigmatizes sexual preferences. "Conversations with friends at dinner about what happens to them sexually or what they're interested in are conversations that your parents would never have discussed. But I think it's great, I mean, why not?" asked Rodkin.

"There was a whore house in Chicago in the 1960s that had 'Why Not?' painted on the blinds and I think that's a theme of this tour," he said. "As adults, why not discuss it? It's just sex."

The Sexual History of Chicago walking tour continues through October 15th. Visit for tickets, dates, and information.

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What Labor Day Is Really All About

Thu, 2016-09-01 12:02

Get the grills going! Stock up on beer and burgers! Labor Day is here and most of us will be heading out to picnic with friends and family. We‘ll salute the passing of another summer and note, however grudgingly, the onset of fall. But how many of us will pause to recall, even briefly, the origins and meaning of this national holiday?

Labor Day was, in fact, founded by America’s earliest labor unions as a tribute to the working people who built our country. The first Labor Day parade was held in New York City in 1882, organized by the city’s Central Labor Union to demonstrate “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations.”

Workers then had no legal right to form unions and few protections on the job. Twelve-hour work days and seven-day work weeks were the norm, child labor was commonplace, and workplace fatalities were a daily occurrence.

Yet it was an era known as the Gilded Age because its merchant class grew ever wealthier, with vast fortunes to squander on untold luxuries.

That gaping inequity between the moneyed few and the millions who struggled just to survive soon sparked widespread rebellion. Workers began to stand up for themselves, to develop unions as an organized counterweight to the power of employers, to challenge the harsh working conditions that cut short so many lives.

The reaction was swift and fierce. Employers harassed, fired, beat, and even killed workers who dared to press for dignity and fairness on the job.

It was in the midst of these fierce battles that New York’s labor unions decided to stake their claim to public space and recognition. Though billed only as a parade, that first Labor Day celebration was a bold affirmation of workers’ growing power. It required participants to defy their employers by not reporting to work that day.

At first it seemed few were willing to take that risk. Only a small number of workers had assembled at the parade’s start. But as the bands began to play and the first marchers stepped off, more and more groups joined in. Before long some 10,000 working men and women, proud and strong, jammed the city streets.

Labor groups in other states quickly followed suit—and some states even passed laws making it official. But it took more than a decade and one of the great battles of American labor history to formally add Labor Day to the roster of U.S. holidays.

In May 1894, some 4,000 workers at the Pullman rail car manufacturing plant on Chicago’s South Side walked off the job in response to wage cuts of 25 percent. Having barely begun to form a union, they faced daunting odds.

“We do not expect the company to concede to our demands,” one worker said. “We do know that we are working for less wages than will maintain ourselves and our families … and on that proposition we absolutely refuse to work any longer.”

The strike spread to other cities, eventually involving more than 100,000 workers. The American Railway Union pressed the railroad industry to agree to arbitration of the dispute. When employers refused, a boycott of rail transport shut down most of the nation’s rail lines.

In response, President Grover Cleveland sent in federal troops to break the strike. The ensuing battles were bloody and brutal, with 13 workers killed and more than 50 seriously wounded in Chicago alone.

Working people nationwide were outraged. With an election looming, Cleveland tried to appease their anger by championing Labor Day as a new federal holiday and Congress quickly gave its stamp of approval in June 1894.

But that gesture did not suffice. Cleveland was defeated for reelection. And the raw memory of the Pullman strike became the engine that powered a renewed labor organizing effort all across the country.

By the early part of the 20th century, America’s workers had built strong unions in every major industry. In the ensuing years, unions reshaped the nation’s workplaces through contracts and laws that established 40-hour weeks and overtime pay, provided for holidays and vacations, raised wages, improved safety and ensured that workers were treated with a measure of respect and fairness.

I will never forget speaking on a panel years ago with a man then in his eighties. His personal history went back to the days when the labor movement was just emerging—and he summed up the changes it had wrought in the starkest of statements: “Before the union,” he said simply, “they treated us like dogs.”

This year as we gather for Labor Day, we can’t ignore the rise of those forces who want to wipe out unions in our country—to go back to the days when employers had all the power and workers were at their mercy. Here in Illinois, our own governor, Bruce Rauner, is a prime example of this ferocious anti-unionism.

So let’s also take the opportunity to recall the dedication of those American workers who came before us, who refused to bow down or be walked on, who took risks to uphold their basic rights, who built strong unions not just for themselves but for all of those—like us—who came after. Let’s honor their courage and carry it on.

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What Kanye Had To Say In 2005 About Being Called 'Arrogant'

Thu, 2016-09-01 08:57

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Kanye West has never been an under-the-radar kind of guy. Ever since he first pursued a career in the music industry, the rapper has lived his life out loud, not shying away from voicing his opinion, touting his greatness or speaking out against perceived slights. So, while fans maintain that Kanye’s just being Kanye, some people think Kanye’s just being arrogant.

It’s a criticism that Kanye addressed directly 11 years ago on an episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” when Oprah confronted the then-28-year-old superstar about his reputation.

“Before I met you ... I had heard that you were really arrogant and really full of yourself and really, like, out of control,” she said to him.

“That’s not what it is. I fight for what I think is the best at the time,” he replied. “The year before the Grammys, 50 Cent didn’t win any Grammys. I went on TV the next day and I said, ‘You all robbed 50 Cent of his Grammy.’ He was the most important thing; he was the soundtrack to our life in 2003. Now, when it was my turn, I was just being an advocate for what was the best out there, which just so happened to be me.”

He certainly wasn’t the first star to refer to his own greatness, he pointed out. “Whatever happened to the Muhammad Alis?” he asked.

This attitude, Kanye continued, doesn’t come from a bad place. In fact, he suggested, it comes from a foundation of gratitude.

“I feel like I’m disrespecting the amount of blessings that God has given me to not scream it out loud and testify every single day about how happy [I am with] the situation I’m in,” he said.

Ultimately, Kanye pointed out that he’s just enjoying his life and doesn’t plan on changing anytime soon.

“It’s fun, it’s entertainment,” he said. “Life is in color and I plan to be bright red.”

Another Kanye throwback:

Long before making an album, Kanye ran into Oprah in Chicago and predicted he’d end up on her show

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It Turns Out Trump Isn’t Speaking To Black Churchgoers In Detroit

Wed, 2016-08-31 13:34

Big buzz garnered this week around news that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump would be delivering his first speech before congregants at a black church in Detroit, Michigan.

It turns out, it was all a farce. 

Trump’s campaign announced the event on Monday claiming that the candidate would attend Great Faith Ministries to address churchgoers to “outline policies that will impact minorities and the disenfranchised in our country” and answer questions “that are relevant to the African-American community,” according to a statement from Trump surrogate Pastor Mark Burns.  

Instead, according to the Detroit Free Press, Trump’s appearance will only include a one-on-one interview with the church’s pastor Bishop Wayne T. Jackson. The interview, which will be conducted on the church’s Impact Network, won’t air to the public until at least one week after it's taped. 

“He’ll be here Saturday. He’s going to sit in service and have the experience in the black church, and then he and I will be in this office and do an interview for the Impact Network that will be aired later on,” Jackson told the paper. “Just like any visitor, there will be fellowship at the service, and he can talk to people one-on-one.”

Trump’s resignation from speaking to black voters in Detroit comes on the heels of a new push from his campaign to expand his outreach efforts to black communities. However, so far, attempts to court the black vote, which have been laid out in a number of troubling speeches, have sparked criticism around Trump for merely reinforcing his own base of white, anti-black supporters than to show any real concern for the issues black voters demand that candidates address. 

Jackson, who told the Detroit Free Press that he has always voted for Democrats, said he feels the same way. He also said he plans to ask Trump if he’s a Christian, and if he’s racist.

“He needs to come to African-American communities,” he told the paper. “You can’t talk to African Americans in white venues.”

However, Jackson still believes Trump’s visit, which may include a private meeting with a small group of church-goers, will be beneficial in some way.

“My congregation trusts my judgment,” he said. “They know that I’m not going to put anything or anyone in front of them that I feel is going to be harmful, and I feel we should have an educated conversation about what you’re going to do.” 

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.

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5 Things I Learned In My First Year As A Vegan

Wed, 2016-08-31 10:57

A photo posted by nzinga young (@veganzinga) on Jun 17, 2016 at 6:14pm PDT

Going vegan has been a learning process.

Learning the atrocities of the meat and dairy industries and living more ethically are part of it, but here are other things I learned during my first year as an ethical vegan.

Exploitation is everywhere.

I was on vacation when I realized the $5 I paid to take a picture with a python was supporting its captivity. Colored candies I bought for my niece seemed vegan at the time, but were probably dyed with bug juice. Getting my sunscreen and multivitamins right was hard enough, but every few months I learned something new.

I didn't realize how pervasive animal exploitation is in our culture.

I didn't realize how pervasive animal exploitation is in our culture until I had to become more mindful. I'm a lot better now, but I'm sure there are a few more "uh oh" moments left in me.

Vegans are nicer in person.

My experiences with vegans online and offline have been very different.

Some online vegans can be pretty intense. Honest questions from aspiring vegans and differing views from well-meaning people are subject to brutal criticism in Facebook groups. There are more great vegans on social media than unnecessarily judgmental ones, but I have yet to meet a rude vegan offline.

The people I've met have been lovely. We can discuss differing opinions without raising our voices. We may not always agree, but we honor and respect each other for being different parts of the same fight.

I'm not sure if the anonymity of the internet makes people bolder or if I'm not in the right circles, but my view of vegans changed for the better when I started connecting in person.

A photo posted by nzinga young (@veganzinga) on Jul 20, 2016 at 6:35pm PDT

Activists are trying their best.

If you maintain a consistent argument and fight for full liberation, you're called a rigid abolitionist who's too stuck in your ways.

If you work for incremental change and improved conditions for farm animals, you're called a dirty welfarist who's doing more harm than good.

And let's not get started on vegans who urge us to consider the human rights issues tied into animal exploitation.

As a new vegan, I started to believe these reviews of vegan thought leaders, but I have yet to meet anyone from differing camps who wasn't passionate about animal liberation. The methods may differ from person to person, but the ultimate goal of freedom for all animals seems to be the same.

Connecting with vegans helped me formulate my own opinion about the biggest names in the movement. I may still disagree with their tactics -- especially ones that disrespect other social justice movements -- but everyone seems to be making an impact the best way they know how.

Intersectionality matters.

With a situation as dire as systematic murder, it's easy to focus solely on what's best for non-human animals. That's why it's important to have vegan organizations with a broader perspective. Groups that understand all oppression is intertwined and remind us that fighting for animals doesn't mean disregarding other injustices.

Collectively Free protests the forced impregnation of dairy cows and the underpaid Ethiopian workers that keep your favorite coffee shop in business.

Food Empowerment Project reminds us that the factory farm employees we often vilify are also being exploited.

Veganism is certainly about animals, but it doesn't mean we disrespect our own species along the way.

Veganism is certainly about animals, but it doesn't mean we disrespect our own species along the way.

I should be doing more.

I spent a lot of this year buying vegan without being vegan. I was caught up in vegan consumerism without doing anything to inspire change. I hope my latest initiative helps vegans everywhere get those closest to them to understand the importance of a vegan lifestyle.

My goal is to have a bigger impact during my second year of veganism. For more on my initiative to get our friends and family to go vegan, visit Wanyama Box.

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Dear Mayor Emanuel: I Resign My Position As Principal Of The #1 Rated Neighborhood School In Chicago

Wed, 2016-08-31 10:52
Dear Mayor Emanuel:

In 2010, Chicago Magazine ranked Blaine Elementary School as the 16th best elementary school in Chicago, and the 6th best neighborhood school. After being hired to lead Blaine in the fall of 2011, I told my Local School Council (LSC) I had a "six-year plan" to turn Blaine into the #1 neighborhood school in Chicago.

I have the pleasure of informing you that I lived up to my promise to the Blaine LSC, and I did so a year earlier than promised. Last Monday, Chicago Magazine released its elementary school rankings for 2016. Blaine is now ranked as the #1 neighborhood school in Chicago, and #3 public school in the city overall. In the process, working with motivated teachers and engaged parents, we increased the percentage of students meeting reading standards from an already high 79 percent to 89 percent in just our first two years. That kind of growth from an already high performing school-without the addition of a selective enrollment program-is unprecedented.

Behind this significant accomplishment are a series of basic concepts based on empirical evidence regarding effective school practices and thoughtful consideration of how we might apply those practices at Blaine. One fundamental element of improving the school was ending selective access to advanced curriculum. When I arrived, less than 30 percent of students had access to it; today more than 90 percent have access. As is the case with most CPS schools, Blaine has a talented hard working staff. Another critical element of our success was to involve that staff in an effort to create systems, relationships and patterns of collaborative activity that are proven to improve teacher performance, and therefore improve student achievement. In many ways, that was the easy part.

You have made it increasingly difficult for principals and teachers to provide strong academic programs for our students.

The difficult part was mustering the will and stamina to remain steadfast in our commitment to use evidence-based practice in the face of tremendous pressure-from politicians like you-to adopt baseless "school reform" ideas like "tracking" (school based selective enrollment), "choice," and the over-evaluation of teachers; ideas that are grounded in ideology and politics as opposed to proven effective educational methods. In a word, the biggest obstacle to Blaine becoming the #1 neighborhood school in Chicago was politics. And while many people contributed to this problem, nobody in our great city is more responsible for that political obstruction than you.

I spent a lot of time fighting those politics during my first two years at Blaine. Some of the people I fought had good intentions, but it was abundantly clear that they did not understand effective education policy. Rather, they came with ideology and politics. We came, instead, with empirical research and evidence.

I take my profession seriously and I practice it with integrity. I did not succumb to corporate educational fads. I did not pander and I did not bend to the selfish aims of a privileged few. If an idea was not in the interests of the school as a whole, it did not happen under my watch. However, during those first two years I kept my fight behind-the-scenes and between the walls of Blaine. Like all CPS principals at the time, I took no public stances against your incompetent and uncaring mismanagement of our school system. It was my sincere hope that internal advocacy and leading by example could and would prevail.

Instead, the achievement gap steadily increased under your mismanagement as you and your appointees at CPS made one disastrous decision after another, in defiance of the evidence and research on educational practices. You have made it increasingly difficult for principals and teachers to provide strong academic programs for our students.

Accordingly, in the summer of 2013, I began efforts to ensure that the residents of our city understood the negative consequences of your administration's backward and reckless management of our school district. I did so for the following reasons:

* Decisions by you and the board you appointed and completely controlled had damaging consequences for our school system.

* Although your board was unelected, and therefore unaccountable to the residents of Chicago, you were indeed elected and could be held accountable.

* As a public servant, it was my responsibility to ensure the public understood the negative consequences of your school-related decision-making so they could hold you and your board accountable.

So for the next three years, I consistently and publicly advocated for credible evidence-based education policies. This, in turn, made me also be a consistent public critic of the ideological and politically driven policies coming out of your office and implemented by your hand-picked board.

One might think that after witnessing the unprecedented academic gains of Blaine students, you and your appointees might call on my school leadership team to help you understand how we improved at such an incredible rate. Instead, at your direction, your appointees are pushing forward with efforts to terminate my employment. It is clear that I am being punished for my advocacy, and that this retribution is more important to you than effective public education for Chicago's children.

I don't expect your appointed board to deliver justice any more than I expect it to practice fiscal responsibility or competent educational management.

Instead of learning from our work at Blaine, your appointees attempted to suppress that work and silence my voice. When CPS officials removed me as the principal at Blaine, I was already planning to relinquish my post to assume the office of president of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association (CPAA). However, after being chosen by my colleagues to serve as CPAA president, I decided to fight the removal on principle and to use the administrative hearing process to demonstrate the charges against me are baseless. Now, in light of the factors listed below, I will conclude that process by tendering my resignation:

* Since I have taken on the role of CPAA President, I cannot return as Blaine's principal, no matter what the outcome of the hearings. Meanwhile, the Blaine school community cannot move forward and hire another permanent principal until my case is resolved. I cannot allow those for whom I have worked so hard in the last five years to suffer the consequences of your destructive political agenda.

* The hearing process is, of course, a kangaroo court that ends with a determination by your appointed school board; the very school board that voted to censure me in the first place. I don't expect your appointed board to deliver justice any more than I expect it to practice fiscal responsibility or competent educational management.

* Thus far, during the hearing process, your appointees have failed to produce any of the requested communications to and from your office regarding me and my work at Blaine. Yet the records you produced to justify your refusal contain clear evidence that your office was involved in my removal. You confess that at a minimum the CPS legal office communicated with the City legal office multiple times regarding my termination. I will therefore have to fight for these documents outside of the hearing process through FOIA requests and possible litigation should your office continue its pattern of refusing to release information that, by law, should be publicly available.

* The flimsy charges you've leveled against me-combined with the recent elevation of my school as the #1 neighborhood school in Chicago-makes it obvious that your actions against me have everything to do with politics and nothing to do with what's good for students and families. Therefore, the point that I wished to make in the hearing process has already been made-loudly and clearly.

With the above factors in mind, I hereby resign my position as principal of Blaine Elementary School. However, my efforts to reverse your poor fiscal and educational management of our school system are just getting started.

Your actions against me have everything to do with politics and nothing to do with what's good for students and families.

In just six weeks since since I became its president, the CPAA has saved the Illinois Administrator Academies for principals after your appointees at CPS attempted to sabotage the program; made significant amendments to the Education Platform of the Democratic Party; worked with principals to form action teams that will influence city and state education policy; built relationships with elected officials in order to create access to the legislative process; created the foundation and framework necessary to build a democratic representative structure for both CPAA governance and input in CPS decision-making; joined with the engineers and teachers to oppose your wasteful expansion of absentee facilities management under Aramark and SodexoMAGIC, and started a news service that keeps school leaders informed by providing them with a thematic summary of the week's education and political news. We intend to build on this work for Chicago and its school children.

In closing, should you ever decide to prioritize student learning over the profits of your campaign donors, feel free to reach out to me and the principals I was elected to represent. We have an abundance of ideas for improving the system for the students we serve. In the meantime, we will continue in our efforts to vigorously advocate for the kind of effective evidence-based education policies and practices that your office does its best to ignore and suppress.


Troy LaRaviere, Former Principal
James G. Blaine Elementary School
Chicago's #1 Rated Neighborhood Elementary School

A version of this post originally appeared on

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Crime Survivors Are Organizing. They Want Criminal Justice Reform, Too.

Tue, 2016-08-30 22:19

Change has come to the criminal justice system in America’s most populous state. California’s arrest rate last year dropped to its lowest level ever recorded, the result of a voter-approved initiative to reclassify several nonviolent felonies as misdemeanors. Funds saved by the drop in arrests are being shifted to other priorities like victim services and mental health treatment. Meanwhile, state residents with criminal records are currently benefitting from the largest opportunity in U.S. history to remove certain felonies from their records. Supporting these policy changes is a first-of-its-kind statewide network of crime victims, including survivors of violent crimes, who have lent their moral authority to reform efforts.

A linchpin of all these developments is a former punk drummer turned prosecutor named Lenore Anderson. She was the co-author and campaign chair of Proposition 47, the state ballot initiative that reclassified several felonies, and the nonprofit she leads organized the network of crime survivors. With big victories under her belt, Anderson is expanding her focus. Her new organization, Alliance for Safety and Justice, will deploy a similar model in a host of other states with large prison populations. The group is organizing new networks of crime survivors and pushing more states to shift resources from incarceration to effective alternatives.

“Our most important goal is safety,” she said. “Over-incarceration is really unsafe. So our intervention is to ask, how are we spending our safety dollars?”

We spoke with Lenore Anderson for Sophia, a project to collect life lessons from fascinating people. She shared personal stories of the lives caught up in a broken justice system, and of the alternative approaches that are rising to replace it. 

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You said of your younger years, “I made a lot of mistakes. For a time, it wasn’t clear I would make it safely into adulthood.” What shifted you to the path you’re on now?

(Laughs) Hindsight is always much more linear than reality, right? I was a troublemaker as a kid. I got in trouble with neighbors, parents, police, teachers, and it wasn’t until I was older that I understood that the help that was offered me is not the help that is offered to kids of color in my exact same position. In realizing that, I made a commitment to work on racial equity and criminal justice reform for my career.

I was in California in the 80s. During the exact same time that I was in high school, the number of tough-on-crime laws that were being passed in the legislature, the number of laws that were focused on the juvenile predator ― that was when it was occurring. And at that same time, I’m in high school ― middle-class white female ― doing things that are not that different from what a lot of young kids of color would be doing at that time in their lives, and the response to me was one of forgiveness.

Police would take me home instead of taking me to juvenile hall; my parents had resources to get me counseling and therapy; teachers let me pass classes that I didn’t actually pass. There was a perception that what I was doing were cries for help, and we need to figure out how to help her get on the right path; to see me as one that needed to be protected through my juvenile confusion to adulthood.

Fast-forward ten years and I’m talking to parents of incarcerated youth. These are young people whose stories are not that markedly different from mine, with the exception of the response ― the exception of what police did, what parents had resources to do, what teachers did. I think that’s really why I do the work I do.

I didn’t go straight to college after high school. Eventually I went to junior college, mainly because I needed health insurance, and I enjoyed it. I did really well and ended up at UC Berkeley, and there I was very much interested in social justice. I go to an event where one of the speakers is Cornelius Hall, whose son Jerrold Hall was shot in the back by a law enforcement officer working for BART [the Bay Area’s rapid transit system] upon suspicion that he had stolen a Walkman.

That was a pivotal moment for me because, you know, half my friends stole Walkmans. No doubt, no question, I was one of the many teenagers who could have been Jerrold Hall, with the difference being he’s an African-American male and I’m a white female. I think that was one of the key moments where I was clear on the privilege that I had benefitted from.

What we’ve done is just so far beyond the number of people we’ve stuffed into prisons. We actually took generations of people, mostly low-income communities of color, and completely stripped hope and opportunities for basic economic stability and dignity. And we called it public safety.
- Lenore Anderson

You’ve made it a major priority to elevate the voices of victims of crime.

I worked with parents of incarcerated youth for a long time. We were organizing to replace youth prisons with community alternatives. Then I was in the district attorney’s office in San Francisco, and I similarly saw the gap between who is commonly victimized by crime and where the resources and attention go in the criminal justice system.

So when we started Californians for Safety and Justice, the mission was to replace over-incarceration with new safety priorities. And to me there has been a real big missing voice here ― the people who are most commonly victimized by crime. What are their current experiences with the criminal justice system? And what would they prefer to see?

When you look at the tough-on-crime era, they had a pretty successful media strategy. That was a 30-plus year march of dramatic expansion of a public system, dramatic expansion of the number of people incarcerated. And there were some myths that have been propping it up. One of the myths is, incarceration is the best way you protect public safety. The other myth is that that’s what crime victims want.

Well, most of the people that have been victims of crime had never been the center of public policy making during the tough-on-crime era. So the question is, how can we be more authentic in integrating the experiences of people who are victimized by crime and violence in what we’re going to replace over-incarceration with?

Safety has obviously got to be a top priority. There’s possibly no more important role that government can play in the lives of its citizenry. And to know how we’re going to deliver safety, you would think that we would talk a lot more to people who have experienced a lack of safety. We really have not. So from the outset, I wanted to make sure that we had a strategy for incorporating the voices of the victims of crime.

Facebook cofounder Dustin Moskovitz and his wife Cari Tuna recently announced donations of $2 million to the Alliance for Safety and Justice. They compared your political strategy to the one used by Freedom To Marry, the group that helped legalize gay marriage. What is your strategy?

Man, [Freedom To Marry] were great, weren’t they? We certainly aspire to be that effective and that successful. They’ve changed the country in a pretty short period of time.  

In terms of what we’re doing in states, we’re supporting local state-based advocacy organizations to advance criminal justice reform. We’re building crime survivor leadership to advance criminal justice reform. And we’re trying to advance public policies in states that reduce over-incarceration and replace spending on prisons with spending that’ll get us safer. Smarter safety investments.

Our focus has been the state systems because that’s where the majority of the money is and the majority of the people are.
Lenore Anderson

The role of the crime survivor work is valuable in terms of the substance, valuable in terms of a missing voice, and also valuable in terms of the political dynamic around criminal justice reform. The tough-on-crime era was very successful at framing all of those policies as “the pro-victim approach,” so we’ve tried to put forward an alternative vision that can allow us to see how those policies have been flawed. Those tough-on-crime policies actually haven’t helped the majority of crime victims, and so here’s the majority of crime victims ― here’s who they are and these are the kinds of things that they want to see. Promoting their voices has both substantive value as well as political value.  

In terms of political strategy, we’re looking at the top 15 incarceration population states in the country. A smaller number of states are disproportionately responsible for a lot of the over-incarceration in the country. When you look at national incarceration rates and you start to see them come down a little bit starting in 2012, it’s almost all California. One state has that much of an impact on that curve. Why? Because we’re such a large state. We have a huge general population and a very, very large incarceration population. When we’re talking about making big change, it makes sense to go to the big states, so we’re looking at the top 15 large incarceration population states ― it’s Florida, it’s Texas, it’s Illinois, Michigan, places where a lot of people live and a lot of people are incarcerated.

Are you focusing at all on federal legislation?

We just released a report on crime victims and we both hope and anticipate that it affects the conversation on federal approaches to criminal justice. But our focus has been the state systems because that’s where the majority of the money is and the majority of the people are.

You just surveyed crime victims nationwide about criminal justice issues. What did they say?

Lots of things that are counterintuitive. The common assumption is that crime victims want vengeance, or that they want the toughest possible longest sentence. What we found is actually quite different.

We found that the majority of crime victims want rehabilitation over punishment. The majority of crime victims want shorter sentences and prevention spending over long sentences. We found the majority of crime victims think that prosecutors should spend more time focused on neighborhood problem solving and rehabilitation, even if it means fewer convictions ― even if it means fewer convictions. Those kinds of findings really stand out, and these are diverse crime victims from all backgrounds across the country.

There are enough people at this point that have had direct personal experience with the failings of our current approach to criminal justice that pretty much everybody agrees that most people get worse in prison, not better. How can that possibly be a good investment? Hearing that from victims I think is a really powerful intervention on the conversation on what we should be doing.

You told the New York Times, “My highest hope is that we start to really see some innovation that we haven’t seen in the past.” What sorts of criminal justice innovations are you impressed by right now?

There is great innovation happening in the sphere of safety and justice. For the most part, they are boutique programs, they’re on the side, they’re operating on a dime. Getting those things to scale is the issue. We know what to do. The problem is, it’s not the centerpiece.

So we have general run-of-the-mill felony calendars that all day churn out the same sort of stuff. And then you have the neighborhood court program that operates in one neighborhood, that’s holistic in its approach, that has caseworkers on site that evaluate the drivers behind why someone’s involved in crime and addresses those drivers, like addiction or mental illness or homelessness. Then the person is stable, the crime stops happening, the neighborhood’s in better shape. Those things are often on the side. So I can definitely share the things that work well and are exciting, but also recognize the main issue is scaling them up.

So neighborhood court programs are excellent models of what could be done differently, especially when it comes to cycles of low-level crime.

There are a lot of wonderful restorative justice programs. They’re really powerful because they involve the crime victim in the resolution of the case in a way that the traditional criminal justice system can’t and won’t. A lot of the members of our Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice team have become inspired around criminal justice reform precisely because of a restorative justice experience that they had in their own dealings with the crime that occurred. It is really a missing piece that victims should have when it comes to solving crimes, up to and including serious crime. That’s a huge one.

There are a lot of excellent diversion programs. There’s Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion that comes out of Seattle; this is where police officers say to people who are struggling with addiction: “Hey, I won’t arrest you if you go into X treatment and case management program.” It’s more of a public health approach, understanding that people may relapse, that that’s part of the process of addiction. Law enforcement officers and case managers are trying to get this person out of the cycle of addiction and that is the goal of the program. It’s very different than a goal of, “Hey, I saw you on the street again, you’re still possessing drugs, we’re going to arrest you once again.”

So, diversion programs; all of the collaborative court models, in particular the community court models; and then restorative justice stand out to me as some of the things that have really been missing in terms of priorities.

I’ll mention one other, the Trauma Recovery Center model. We talk a lot in criminal justice reform about people committing repeat crimes and recidivism rates. But there’s another less-discussed reality: the people who are most likely to be victims of crime have been victims before. Their pathway to recovery is one that we completely miss when it comes to our safety investments, and this is something that we’ve been pushing a lot. 

What if we had a better sense of who around us are victims of crime that are vulnerable to being repeat victims of crime because they haven’t gotten the help that they need to recover? There’s this model in San Francisco called the Trauma Recovery Center, and we’ve been supporting them. Any victim can use it, and when you come in, you get help filling out your victim compensation forms, but you also get on-site access to mental health counseling, relocation assistance, and other things, they’re all incorporated.

So we found this one program and started working with our state senator. We’ve now gotten enough pieces of legislation and budget allocations passed in the last four years such that in California, there are now nine Trauma Recovery Centers across the state. One of them, it’s called Fathers & Families of San Joaquin, in San Joaquin County, a remarkable organization. They also work with kids who have been incarcerated and kids who are on probation. So right there in that one community center, they have the awareness and understanding of the risks that kids face to become victims of crime, and also are helping kids who have committed crimes get off that pathway and get onto productive lives. Really amazing stuff that’s popping up.

The majority of crime victims want rehabilitation over punishment. The majority of crime victims want shorter sentences and prevention spending over long sentences. We found the majority of crime victims think that prosecutors should spend more time focused on neighborhood problem solving and rehabilitation.
Lenore Anderson

And how do you view the ideal role of prisons?

The Vera Institute of Justice took a group of people from the U.S. to Germany to see their system. One of them was the Santa Clara District Attorney, Jeff Rosen, and hearing him talk about what that looks like is really interesting. He’s written a few pieces on it and given some speeches, you should check it out if you can because I think he paints an interesting picture of an actual real system today that works.

For example, in Germany, the people who run the prisons, it’s a highly-regarded job. They are Ph.D.’s in criminology and sociology, they understand rehabilitation and so forth. It’s taken very differently in that regard.

The proper role of our criminal justice system is to stop cycles of crime, and the vast majority of ways to best do that are at the community level; if people are a danger and cannot be in the community, then the priority responsibility is to rehabilitate them during the time that they’re separated from society.

So the focus is on the pathways for someone to safely return to the community. A system that emphasized that and focused on that would look radically different than what we have now, and it would be for a smaller number of people. Because if we had the kinds of programs in place on the front-end at the community level that offered alternatives to incarceration ― diversion and mental health treatment, drug treatment, all those kinds of things ― you’d see a lot fewer people get far downfield in their involvement in crime.

What are some books that had a substantial impact on your intellectual development?

Certainly Maya Angelou was very influential. “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.” I read that when I was young, a very influential book, taught me perseverance and growth through challenge.

And when I was in college, Frederick Douglass. I had a college professor tell me there are only about 200 written autobiographies by people who were enslaved in this country. Slavery lasted over 200 years and there are only 200 autobiographies actually in print. Isn’t that amazing? It’s just horrifying that we have that little direct knowledge of what this country did. At any rate, Frederick Douglass’s first autobiography was really impactful.

Violent crime in California was up about 10 percent last year. Why do you think that is?

There are a couple of things that are important to note. One is, most criminologists would say you want to look at crime trends for longer periods of time to be able to accurately evaluate where they’re going and why.

Two, we know that crime trends are often very localized. A severe challenge in one jurisdiction may not be the same in another. So when you break out what’s happening in San Francisco versus what’s happening in Monterey versus what’s happening in Fresno or Richmond, it looks pretty different. It doesn’t look quite like there’s one statewide trend. You can see a lot of diversity in how crime is happening. For example, it’s down in Oakland, it’s down in Pasadena.

There are a lot of jurisdictions where it’s going up and I would say that there’s a lot more that needs to be researched and understood to get a sense of what’s happening. Violent crime is certainly up in other parts of the country, as well. This requires close attention.

The other thing I will say is that every reform that occurs does need to result in adaptive practices at the local level. Sometimes those adaptations happen and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes it takes a while to figure out what you’re gonna do now that a particular crime no longer means automatic incarceration. What are the other strategies you’re going to use to address these things? We’ve been clear, as it relates to Proposition 47, that implementation requires that locals change their practices. If locals do or don’t, that could be having an impact as well. 

There are enough people at this point that have had direct personal experience with the failings of our current approach to criminal justice that pretty much everybody agrees that most people get worse in prison, not better.
Lenore Anderson

You’ve been doing this work for years. Is there a moment that stands out when you knew you’d made a major impact?

Proposition 47 took six crimes, changed them from felony to misdemeanor, and applied that retroactively very broadly. Anyone in California who had one of these crimes on their old criminal record can apply to get that felony removed. Rough estimates are that there are about 1 million Californians that may be eligible for record change under Proposition 47. 

So we’re like: Let’s tell the public about this. We did outreach to grassroots organizations, we did billboards, we did television, radio, and then we decided we wanted to organize a large-scale fair, like a community fair, where we would have free lawyers on site, we would have hot dogs, music, and get people to come on down and get their records changed.

So it was Exposition Park in Los Angeles, and we got 150 lawyer volunteers all trained up, and they came to volunteer. And we got 150 event volunteers. We had no idea how many people were going to show up. Just no idea, we’re rolling the dice here.

The event starts at 11am on a Sunday and our team shows up at seven in the morning, and there are people who are already in line. At seven in the morning. My staff is like, “Hey, you know we don’t start until 11am?” And people have lawn chairs, sleeping bags. The response from the people in line was, “Oh no, we’ve been here since four in the morning. This is a really important day for us.” Five thousand people showed up at this event!

Watch the video below for scenes from the Los Angeles record change event.

I mean, it was totally overwhelming, total chaos, computer systems break down (laughs), we need to get more water. We had no idea, we had no idea. And the stories of the impact of these felony convictions on people’s lives was devastating and overwhelming. The grandma who can’t get her granddaughter out of foster care because she has some drug possession conviction from like 30 years ago. The guy who’s been only able to find part-time work for a decade, even though he has three kids. The woman who wants to get a student loan to go to college. I mean, it just goes on and on and on. There were moments where it was just tears.

And it is overwhelming. How are we ever going to possibly be able to help all these people ― not just on this day but in this country? What we’ve done is just so far beyond the number of people we’ve stuffed into prisons. We actually took generations of people, mostly low-income communities of color, and completely stripped hope and opportunities for basic economic stability and dignity. And we called it public safety. 

Looking back, would you have handled your own education any differently?

I sure wish I took high school more seriously than I did because I probably would have gone straight to college. On the other hand, perhaps I needed those years for growing up. I certainly encourage younger folks to take high school seriously and go to college when they can. I am grateful for the junior college system in California. I think community colleges are critical tools. Not everyone can go to a four-year.

There’s so much about education that is a luxury, in terms of the chance to grapple with ideas, learn as much as you can, absorb as much information as you can. Especially as a mom and working all the time, the opportunity to just read and learn is not the luxury that I have. I really wish that I’d spent more time in the libraries. I really wish I had taken more opportunities to learn everything I possibly could from the brilliant teachers that I was around.

Think of it as this very very short period of time where you’re actual job is to learn. I mean, that’s the coolest thing ever. And it’s not permanent. That’s a very, very short window. So absorb as much as you can.

I spent some time in other countries while I was in law school, and I remember a colleague of mine in Guatemala asking me all kinds of questions about the library at the law school that I went to. It was just such a remarkable thing that there would be this many books. Recognize that college and law school in particular are serious privileges and you should take them seriously and absorb everything you can.

To know how we’re going to deliver safety, you would think that we would talk a lot more to people who have experienced a lack of safety. We really have not.
Lenore Anderson

Anything else to mention?

It’s funny to me that this is even of interest to you, to be honest. Criminal justice reform is a totally new thing to all of a sudden be a very big issue. For the majority of the time I’ve been working on criminal justice issues, it has not been a major topic in the media or a major subject of presidential candidates, all this kind of stuff. That change just in the time that I’ve been doing this work has been interesting.

I’m really hopeful that means we’ve reached a point where we can have a breakthrough on this issue in the country. It certainly wasn’t what I would have expected 10 or 15 years ago. I mean, we now have Democrats and Republicans talking about some of the same things when it comes to criminal justice reform. Wayne Hughes Jr. was a major backer of Proposition 47, a very prominent conservative business leader here in California. Newt Gingrich endorsed Proposition 47. It’s just kind of amazing, right?

It’s such an exciting time for criminal justice reform and the possibility of completely changing how the country understands safety. What that will mean for millions of people is really humbling to me. It’s so important that we turn this moment into something meaningful, that we actually take the opportunity that I think we’re being handed right now.

What’s going to make the biggest difference? How are we going to turn mass incarceration into something of the past, something that we recognize was a huge mistake in terms of public policy and human development? That’s a very humbling but exciting opportunity that I see that exists right now in this country, and something that I don’t think I foresaw happening so soon.

This interview transcript has been edited for clarity and length.

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The Chicago Gang Diaspora And The Origin Of Gun Violence

Tue, 2016-08-30 11:28

Chicago is front and center in the gun violence debate that is happening within the presidential campaign. The issue was underscored by the shooting of basketball great Dwayne Wade's cousin while she was walking with a stroller post registering her other children for school. Everyone keeps asking, "why?" Why in the adopted hometown of President Obama?

The answer is simple; the Chicago gang diaspora. Gang violence in Chicago has increased dramatically since the closing of the city's housing projects, most notably Cabrini-Greene which housed 15,000 residents. As with most housing projects, Cabrini-Green was known for crime, drugs, violence and gangs. When it was decided that the Near North real estate was too close to Chicago's Miracle Mile, and too valuable with the backdrop of the murder of a young girl, it was announced that the housing project would be closed.

Cabrini-Green had a dividing line with different gangs on the north and south sides of Division Street. When the projects were closed, families were moved to other housing projects or used housing vouchers to move into areas on the West and Southsides of Chicago. During this diaspora, no consideration was given for the gang affiliation of the family. Whether it was a young son, daughter, grandson or granddaughter who was affiliated with a gang, no one asked before the family was placed in a new neighborhood.

The end result is the gangs that were divided by Division Street in Cabrini-Green now live next to each other in new neighborhoods, resulting in shootings across the entire city on the West and Southsides. Middle-class African American neighborhoods are now experiencing violence they have never known, all because of the gang diaspora.

Everyone wants a solution; politicians, the Chicago Police, the Nation. Unfortunately, it is too late. The families have been relocated without any concern for familial gang affiliation. A generation will be lost until those affiliations are somehow realigned. So the killings will continue until the current gang bangers retire. That's what happens when gang leaders and members don't understand where their territory begins and ends.

I know it sounds strange to equate a diaspora with gangs, but in the end, they believe that they are culturally a family. Gangs have been split and placed next to their rivals; house by house, apartment by apartment. The result is over 2700 shootings in Chicago this year.

The only solution is to reevaluate each family and move them again to concentrate familial gangs within certain neighborhoods. I know it sounds crazy but it will save lives.

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Democrats Kill Redistricting Reform While Taking Credit for Supporting It

Tue, 2016-08-30 10:10
Opinion by Reboot Illinois' Madeleine Doubek

On Thursday, we got the news that the Democrats elected to the Illinois Supreme Court had rejected giving Illinois voters a chance to have their say on redistricting with some of the partisanship removed.

The decision was completely partisan. Majority Democrats on the court voted no to letting the redistricting question go before voters while the Republicans voted yes.

On Friday, I came home to another letter from one of the Democrats who is supposed to represent me in Springfield. This one was all about how that Democrat voted to make legislative mapmaking fairer.

What fortuitous timing, she wrote sarcastically. I'm guessing nearly everyone who lives in a district considered contested or competitive got one of these letters that surely were ordered and designed by House Speaker Mike Madigan's and Senate President John Cullerton's minions. Of course, less than a third of districts up for election this year even are contested because of the political control over redistricting.

My letter said Legislator or Candidate X "believes Illinois must change the way the state's legislative district boundaries are drawn so politics can be removed from the process and true reform can begin." It even implied my legislator owned or authored a House Joint Resolution that was "superior to other so-called 'reform' proposals because it provides: true independence," true diversity, true transparency...blah, blah, blah.

What a crock of baloney. Do not buy it.

In classic, clever campaign legislating, majority House Democrats pushed through and approved one redistricting reform proposal, while majority Senate Democrats pushed through a different one. In order for redistricting changes to be made law, the two Democratic-run chambers would have to approve the same plan and then it could go to the governor for his consideration.

That didn't happen. On purpose. So now you still can have Democratic lawmakers and Democratic candidates saying they support redistricting reform, or they're on record supporting it, or they practically sponsored it as they campaign to win your vote Nov. 8.

Let's be crystal clear on three points:

  1. If Republicans won the power to draw legislative maps after a U.S. Census, they would draw them to their political advantage too, just as they did once in the 1990s.

  2. Democrats have won the power more lately and have used it to full advantage.

  3. Democrats are the ones blocking a less-partisan approach to legislative mapmaking.

If you want to have a shot at fixing Illinois politics, redistricting reform is one of the best ways to start. Corruption is born when politicians draw maps to their advantage, packing voters into districts they know will vote for their candidates based on their voting histories. Or they pack candidates or lawmakers from their opposing party into the same district so one of them can't win. Often in the process, they draw districts that look like ear muffs or spaghetti or spiders. Or they draw districts where one side of a block is represented by one lawmaker and the neighbors across the street have a different politician.

There's no guarantee that changing the way legislative maps are drawn will fix everything. Few things are perfect and most such attempts create unintended consequences. But nearly any change in the redistricting process that removes the conflict inherent in politicians drawing their own home bases is worth a shot.

The Independent Map Amendment group that was the second consecutive one to try and to be shot down by Democrats in the courts is weighing whether to ask the court for a rehearing.

Last week, Democratic Supreme Court justices said the amendment group erred by including the state's Auditor General in its plan by having that officer oversee the process for selecting independent commissioners to draw maps.

Having seen the history of rigged mapping and attempts at changing it in Illinois, Republicans on the supreme court assailed their Democratic brethren.

"The Illinois Constitution was meant to prevent tyranny, not enshrine it," Republican Justice Bob Thomas wrote.

Enshrined tyranny. That's just what we have in Illinois. We've become numb to it.

Independents and Democrats with common sense have to join Republicans in concluding any attempt at changing redistricting is rigged against the people as the current maps are. Our very democratic, small d, rights are being stripped from us. We need to wake ourselves up from the stupor of our Illinois political slavery. Stop thinking that it doesn't matter or it's hopeless. Recruit family, friends and neighbors.

Call, email, visit your elected officials. Tell them to work with the other chamber and approve the same form of redistricting changes to send to the governor. Keep telling them. Keep up the pressure. Again and again. When they tell you they voted for reform, laugh at them. Tell them you'll vote for them after they see that redistricting changes are Illinois law.

That letter? The amendment it mentions, House Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 58, was supported by some reputable groups in Illinois that also supported the Independent Map Amendment. The letter correctly says that other version of redistricting reform was supported by Common Cause Illinois, the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, the Illinois Public Interest Research Group, the Illinois Chamber of Commerce and the Small Business Advocacy Council.

But again, Madigan and Cullerton made sure each chamber passed different versions of redistricting reform. Tell them to get HJRCA 58 to Gov. Bruce Rauner after the election or to call a special session and get it done now. Or tell them to pass the Independent Map Amendment version because lawmakers can approve whatever they want, unlike citizen voters. Tell them then, and only then, will you consider voting for them.

Call them on their campaign crocks of nonsense. Democrats control the Supreme Court, the state House and Senate. Voting for something isn't enough. Give us a real redistricting reform law supported by non-partisan experts.

Call the Democrats' bluff. Hold them accountable. Illinois Republicans, Democrats, and independents of common sense must unite. We have nothing to lose but our chains.

Next article: Personal info of up to 200,000 Illinois voters compromised in cyber attack

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23 Reasons To Love Having Natural Hair

Tue, 2016-08-30 09:40

The presence of Black American Olympians dominating their respective sports this summer was a representative testament to our country’s diversity. The ongoing shaming of Gabby Douglas’ natural edges, however, portrays our country’s lack of acceptance of that diversity ― particularly when it comes to natural hair. 

What better way to combat that prejudice than with unapologetic and celebratory expressions of self love from the natural hair community? That’s why The Huffington Post asked readers to share a selfie of their natural curls, coils and kinks with a caption telling the whole world what their hair means to them using our hashtag #MyNaturalHairJourneyIs.

The submissions show that no two hair journeys are exactly alike. Some wear their hair natural as a declaration of defiance, a symbolic crown worn proudly against the status quo. Others do it to be true to nature, their heritage and their beautiful selves.

Check out all of the compelling photos below and join the conversation in the comments section, on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using the hashtag #MyNaturalHairJourneyIs. We may even feature your selfie next time!

#MyNaturalHairJourneyIs a celebration of my Blackness @HuffPostBlog @blackvoices

— Ogorchukwu (@ogorchukwuu) July 21, 2016

A photo posted by Aevin Dugas (@aevindugas) on Nov 27, 2014 at 5:36am PST

#MyNaturalHairJourneyIs natural by any means necessary.

A photo posted by Safi Mai (@eyeamqueenmai) on Jun 18, 2016 at 8:17am PDT

#MyNaturalHairJourneyIs proof that I don’t have to follow rules to be accepted by society! My hair is loc’d, not my mind or the way I handle myself.

A photo posted by Stacys_FaithandStars (@stacys_faithandstars) on Jul 14, 2016 at 9:36pm PDT

#MyNaturalHairJourneyIs glorious! My crown is a reflection of God’s creativity.

A photo posted by Terri Hardaway (@projectnaptural) on Jul 12, 2016 at 7:39pm PDT

#MyNaturalHairJourneyIs hopefully an inspiration to women who need help accepting their natural beauty in a society that values Eurocentric beauty standards.

A photo posted by Denise (@dlsprat) on Jul 24, 2016 at 9:31am PDT

#MyNaturalHairJourneyIs explorative. 

A photo posted by Taylor Paige (@mstaylorpaige_) on Jul 21, 2016 at 8:43am PDT

#MyNaturalHairJourneyIs responsible for my confidence. 

A photo posted by Amber Amour (@ambertheactivist) on Jul 21, 2016 at 9:35am PDT

Growing my hair ― all of it everywhere ― makes me feel free, wild, and connected to the divine. 

A photo posted by Jassy Onya'e (@jassyonyae) on Jul 21, 2016 at 12:16pm PDT

#MyNaturalHairJourneyIs learning to be comfortable with my thick wool-like hair that I was born with. 

A photo posted by Dr. Phoenyx Austin, MD (@drphoenyx) on Jul 25, 2016 at 3:35pm PDT

#NyNaturalHairJourneyIs is a great expression of self-love. 

A photo posted by Kenya W. Ross (@kenyawinifred) on Jul 21, 2016 at 12:59pm PDT

#MyNaturalHairJourneyIs cosmopolitan, not comical.

A photo posted by deecii (@deecii) on Jul 24, 2016 at 8:54pm PDT

#MyNaturalHairJourneyIs my return to to my ancestors.

A photo posted by Deb Gregoire (@heymommyabc) on Jul 22, 2016 at 5:16am PDT

#MyNaturalHairJourneyIs big and fun! I love my hair! 

A photo posted by SASHA D. (@zuri_natturals) on Jul 24, 2016 at 6:24pm PDT

#MyNaturalHairJourneyIs feeling one with nature.

A photo posted by Nurse_Write_or_die (@nurse_write_or_die) on Jun 18, 2016 at 12:53pm PDT

 Loving our coils helps us feel a closeness to our lineage.

A photo posted by Jasmine (@eenerenimsaj) on Jul 28, 2016 at 8:10pm PDT

#MyNaturalHairJourneyIs dauntless, deliberate me.

A photo posted by Lady Bizness (@ladybizness) on Jul 30, 2016 at 8:30am PDT

#MyNaturalHairJourneyIs something that makes me feel proud, healthy, and happy that I made the choice to stop using relaxer.

#MyNaturalHairJourneyIs Carefree, versatile, beautiful and strong.

— Elaine Hegwood Bowen (@englewoodelaine) July 21, 2016

@HuffingtonPost #MyNaturalHairJourneyIs Liberation! Even with stares all hair is good hair. #negrabella

— Black Latina (@BLnegrabella) July 22, 2016

#MyNaturalHairJourneyIs gorgeous, versatile, it's my crown, it's ME. #MyDaughter @blackvoices

— Roy Williams Jr. (@RoyWilliamsJr) July 21, 2016

@blackvoices everyday I proudly rock my short hair celebrating its strength & versatility! #Mynaturalhairjourneyis

— Jam Gamble (@MsJamPccs) July 21, 2016

#MyNaturalHairJourneyIs About Me EXPRESSING Myself AUTHENTICALLY and CELEBRATING My #RealRootz w/#RealRootzPride! ✊

— Real Rootz Naturals (@RootzNaturals) August 13, 2016

#MyNaturalHairJourneyIs . . . One that frees me to love myself after hiding it all these years

— Deborah Washington (@nugslilsis) July 23, 2016


— gusta booker (@GustaB3) July 21, 2016

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Donald Trump Is Wrong About Crime In Cities

Mon, 2016-08-29 12:13

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Donald Trump on Monday continued his clumsy efforts to appeal to black voters, tweeting a false claim about “inner-city” crime nearing record highs.  

As his campaign again attempts to right itself after plummeting in the polls, Trump has argued that black voters should support him because Democratic policies have failed their communities. He’s largely relied on stereotypes and generalizations to make his case, and it hasn’t been especially effective: Trump’s support among black voters continues to hover in the single digits. 

Still, Trump is sticking to this approach even as it alienates the people he’s ostensibly trying to attract. Last week, Nykea Aldridge, cousin of NBA star Dwyane Wade, was shot and killed in Chicago. Trump’s reaction to the death of Aldridge, a mother of four, was to brag that it proved him right about unsafe cities, and to seize on it as evidence that “African-Americans will VOTE TRUMP!” Not even Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, could defend that statement.

On Monday, Trump fired off several tweets about crime in cities, again leaning heavily on stereotypes and dubious claims:  

Look how bad it is getting! How much more crime, how many more shootings, will it take for African-Americans and Latinos to vote Trump=SAFE!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 29, 2016

Inner-city crime is reaching record levels. African-Americans will vote for Trump because they know I will stop the slaughter going on!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 29, 2016

Now that African-Americans are seeing what a bad job Hillary type policy and management has done to the inner-cities, they want TRUMP!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 29, 2016

There’s a problem with Trump’s claims, though: Violent crime is on the decline nationally, having hit its lowest point in decades in 2014. And while some cities saw upticks in the homicide rate in 2015 from the previous year, the overall trend in most cities is still downward. Year-over-year changes don’t really give you the whole picture.

In New York City, for example, there were 350 homicides in 2015 versus 333 in 2014. But that’s nowhere near the city’s peak. In 1990, 2,245 people were killed in New York City. Something similar is happening in Chicago, where the murder rate fell dramatically from the 1990s to the mid-2000s. There are, of course, exceptions ― 2015 was Baltimore’s deadliest year on record, with 344 homicides.

A Brennan Center for Justice analysis of America’s 30 largest cities found that while the homicide rate did rise in 19 of those cities between 2014 and 2015, the overall number of homicides is relatively low compared to the 1990s.

“Murder rates are so low that a small numerical increase can lead to a large percentage change,” reads the report. “Murder rates vary widely from year to year, and there is little evidence of a national coming wave in violent crime.”

Also on HuffPost: Donald Trump Wants To Remind White People That Gun Violence Is A Black Problem

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.

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We Pick The 20 Breakout Stars Of The 2016 NFL Season

Mon, 2016-08-29 09:46

Football is a game of opportunity, and every season of the NFL reminds us of that. Take last season, for example: Who envisioned Atlanta running back Devonta Freeman amassing 14 touchdowns on over 1,600 total yards, while earning All-Pro honors? Better yet, who predicted Doug Baldwin ― an undrafted free agent in 2011 ― catching 14 touchdown passes for the Seahawks? And who can forget about the sensational rookie campaigns by running backs David Johnson and Thomas Rawls, of Arizona and Seattle respectively?

"There are a lot of weapons in that offense... I think Dallas wins the East." @Schultz_Report #GMFB

— GMFB (@gmfb) August 23, 2016

However, it is worth noting that this column has yielded some quality results in years past. Top sleeper predictions from last preseason included Derek Carr, Allen Robinson, Brandin Cooks, DeAndre Hopkins, Doug Martin and Tyler Eifert.

My top sleeper from a rather inaccurate 2014 was Jordan Reed.

"This is the biggest of the bold!" @Schultz_Report on predicting @RGIII being the comeback player of the year

— GMFB (@gmfb) August 23, 2016

2013 included Eddie Lacy, T.Y. Hilton, Jamaal Charles, Greg Olsen, Emmanuel Sanders and ― yikes ― Montee Ball! 

And 2012 was a stellar series of predictions, including Russell Wilson, Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, A.J. Green, Demaryius Thomas, Doug Martin and ― oh no ― Isaiah Pead.

With that in mind, here are the top breakout candidates of 2016. For more NFL, click here to read my five bold predictions.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post misidentified the team John Brown plays for. It is the Arizona Cardinals, not the San Francisco 49ers.

Email me at or ask me questions about anything sports-related on Twitter at @Schultz_Report, and follow me on Instagram at @Schultz_Report. Also, check out my SiriusXM Radio show 3 p.m. - 6 p.m. ET on Bleacher Report channel 83.

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Donald Trump Makes Another Tragedy All About Him

Sat, 2016-08-27 09:42

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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump exploited the death of a black mother in Chicago on Friday, saying it was a clear example of why African-Americans should vote for him.

Nykea Aldridge, the cousin of Chicago Bulls player Dwyane Wade and a mother of four, was killed on Friday as she pushed a baby in a stroller. Aldridge was not the intended target. Wade tweeted about his cousin’s death on Friday, calling  for an end to “senseless gun violence.”

Less than 24 hours later, Trump was exploiting Aldridge’s death in a tweet in which he misspelled Wade’s first name. Trump later deleted the tweet and posted another, correcting the spelling of Wade’s name.

Dwyane Wade's cousin was just shot and killed walking her baby in Chicago. Just what I have been saying. African-Americans will VOTE TRUMP!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 27, 2016

Several hours after his initial tweet, Trump tweeted his condolences to Wade and his family.

My condolences to Dwyane Wade and his family, on the loss of Nykea Aldridge. They are in my thoughts and prayers.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 27, 2016

An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released at the beginning of August showed Hillary Clinton led Trump among African-Americans 91 to 1 percent.

Recently, he has tried to appeal to African-Americans by claiming their communities had gotten so bad they have nothing to lose by voting for him. African-Americans have said that Trump’s description of their lives isn’t accurate.

Trump tweeted a similar boast after a deadly shooting at a gay Orlando nightclub, where gunman Omar Mateen killed 49 people, saying it showed his warnings about terrorism were correct.

In an interview with Bill O’Reilly on Monday, Trump claimed to have met with a top Chicago police officer who told him he could stop Chicago crime in a week. A spokesman for the Chicago Police Department said no senior member of the department met with Trump or anyone from his campaign.

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.

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Remap Reform Kicked Off Ballot Again. So What's Next?

Fri, 2016-08-26 13:36

The Illinois Supreme Court on Thursday closed the door on the Independent Map Amendment for the 2016 election, but not too tightly.

The ruling majority of justices in their decision singled out one problem with the proposed amendment that put it in violation of the state constitution. Fix that, the court said, and we'd give this another chance.

It has to do with two issues: First, the constitution says citizen-led initiatives like this one "shall be limited to structural and procedural subjects" of the General Assembly. Second, the Independent Map Amendment sought to set up an independent map-drawing commission in which the Illinois Auditor General -- who is not a member of the General Assembly -- would play a role.

"Independent Maps makes the policy argument that upholding the circuit court's finding that the plaintiffs were entitled to judgment on the pleadings will 'make it largely impossible to make meaningful reforms in the redistricting process.,'" writes Justice Thomas Kilbride, writing for the four Democrats on the court. "We respectfully disagree. The Auditor General is not the only potential nonlegislative actor capable of filling the duties outlined in its proposal."

Later, Kilbride writes, "Our decision is not intended to reflect in any way on the viability of other possible redistricting reform initiatives." (The full decision is here.)

Two years ago, the court was more explicit in ruling that term limits are not a subject that citizens can impose via a ballot proposal. (The court also had rejected a citizen-led term limits effort in 1994.) Thursday's decision hints that absent the auditor general in the process, redistricting reform might make it onto a general election ballot.

But given the tremendously arduous process necessary to get any ballot initiative before the court -- it starts with gathering a minimum of nearly 300,000 verifiable voter signatures -- another Independent Map-style effort for the 2018 election is anything but certain.

"The Supreme Court rules give us the opportunity to seek rehearing and our legal team is weighing that option," said Dennis FitzSimons, chairman of Independent Maps. But  FitzSimons' statement did not indicate optimism. "...In short, the system is broken, and the way this Court interprets the Constitution seems likely to prevent its repair."

The Illinois General Assembly could place a redistricting reform amendment onto the 2018 with three-fifths majority votes in the House and Senate. Lawmakers are not restricted in what they can amend.

Gov. Bruce Rauner has spent the summer giving speeches that emphasize the heavy public support for redistricting reform and legislative term limits. He wants the General Assembly to act on both when it returns to Springfield a week after the November election.

But there is virtually no chance of either being taken up in the Legislature, where Democrats hold three-fifths majorities and where its most powerful member -- House Speaker Michael Madigan -- has been the state's most vocal and adamant opponent of both.

But Madigan is taking a gamble by fighting to preserve the current map-drawing system, in which Democrats have substantially boosted their power with maps they drew in 2001 and 2011.

Under the Illinois Constitution, new district maps following each U.S. Census are passed much bills in the General Assembly and signed into law by the governor. This is no problem when the House, Senate and governor's office all are controlled by a single party. But if there are two parties involved, it's a different story. If the House, Senate and governor can't agree on a map, the constitution calls for creation of an eight-member commission with four members of each party to hash it out.

If the commission can't agree, "Supreme Court shall submit the names of two persons, not of the same political party, to the Secretary of State (who) shall draw by random selection the name of one of the two persons to serve as the ninth member of the Commission," says the state constitution.

The luck-of-the-draw option was inserted in the 1970 constitution because the framers believed it would force compromise. They had faith that state leaders would never leave a decision as important as drawing district maps to an all-or-nothing gamble.  Instead, the parties have opted three times to go for the luck of the draw.  Democrats won in 1981 and 2001. Republicans won in 1991, and their map helped win them the majority in the House for the 89th General Assembly (January 1995-January 1997). Those were the only two years between 1983 and today that Michael Madigan was not Speaker of the House.

Should Rauner run for and win re-election in 2018 and the system remains as it is, Republicans will have a 50-50 shot at drawing the new map in 2021.

Next: Soaring premiums, fewer choices on Illinois Obamacare exchange

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Poll: IL Voters Want More Spending on Mental Health, Drug Treatment

Thu, 2016-08-25 16:07
Historically, stigma weighed heavily on individuals struggling with mental illness or drug/alcohol addiction or both. In the '70s and '80, families easily shunned and abandoned relatives who were under psychiatric care, embarrassed by their existence. Politicians acted scarcely better.

But over the last 30-years, persistent advocacy and political trench warfare by committed mental health care and addiction treatment activists have demonstrated effective therapies exist and have helped reverse the tide of negative public opinion.

In fact, in recent years after mass-shootings, a broad bipartisan consensus of lawmakers has loudly embraced increased investment in mental health care as a long-term strategy to deflect potential shooters from horrific crimes - (though after individual, inner city shootings a bi-partisan embrace of tougher gun crime prison sentences has been the typical public policy response) - and that has undoubtedly helped change public opinion.

In Illinois, spending more on mental health care is a big winner among voters, according to a new poll.

A July 26 automated poll commissioned by The Illinois Observer of 826 likely voters finds that 70.1% back "investing more money in mental health care" while just 11.5% oppose "investing more money." That's a net +59 points. Wow. 18.4% are undecided.

In the legislative district of State Rep. Michael McAuliffe (R-Chicago), who is being targeted by Democrats in November, voters are nearly as equally supportive of increased expenditure for mental health. An August 1-2 automated survey commissioned by The Illinois Observer of 548 likely 2016 voters in McAuliffe's district finds that 66.9% support more mental health funding and 13.6% oppose or a 53-point net positive on the issue. 19.5% are undecided.

Those are some eye-ball popping numbers.

Voter support for investing more money in drug treatment is less dramatic than compared to mental health, but still startling from the perspective where voters stood barely two years ago.

The new poll says that 55.4% of likely voters support investing more money to "provide treatment to individuals struggling with drug addiction, such as addiction to heroin" and 27.2% oppose. 17.4% are undecided.

However, in 2014, on the edge of an unfolding heroin epidemic in Illinois, voters were in an ungenerous mood.

According to a May 12, 2014 automated poll commissioned by the Illinois Association for Behavioral Health (IABH) (formerly Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association) few Illinois voters wanted to spend money on drug treatment even with a heroin crisis exploding.

The poll of 534 likely voters, conducted by Strive Strategies of LaGrange, found that only 24.4% supported "increasing state government funding for drug treatment to fight the Illinois heroin crisis" and 40.4% opposed the idea. 35.2% were undecided.

It's public opinion whiplash.

"Two years ago voters were unprepared to spend money to fight the emerging heroin crisis," said IABH COO Eric Foster. "But in the ensuing two years, the heroin conversation and the perception around the issue is being transformed as the crisis has expanded to every community and deepened as deaths have mounted and as bipartisan coalitions of lawmakers here in Illinois and across the country have fought to respond.

"Even 2016 presidential primary candidates addressed the issue."

In McAuliffe's district support of more money for drug treatment stands at nearly half of voters, 46.7%, backing increased funding and 30.4% opposed. 22.9% are undecided.

Voter support for increased funding for mental health care and addiction treatment comes as the Rauner Administration has placed behavioral healthcare at the "center" of its human services "transformation" plan and as a key component of its criminal justice reform ambitions.

While behavioral health serves as a strategic policy centerpiece for the governor, funding for both programs has retreated.

In Fiscal Year 2016, state addiction treatment contracts issued to community providers, with money coming from the state's general revenue fund for drug treatment, were cut 25% from FY 2015 levels. Mental health care contracts saw a 21.8% cut. In 2017, addiction treatment contracts had 21.4% reduction and mental health got a 26.7% cut.

Insiders note that "some" of that money was "shifted" to Illinois' Medicaid system to provide behavioral health services, but they argue that that provides no benefit to large non-Medicaid eligible populations served by non-profit community providers. And advocates point out that it is notoriously difficult to track behavioral health money from one budget year to the next once that money is shifted into the larger Medicaid pot.

Budget cuts to mental health and addiction treatment are, however, not a recent phenomenon. The state legislature cut addiction treatment funding by 40% between FY 2009 and FY 2015. Mental health suffered a similar budgetary fate, getting cut by approximately 30%, during the same period.

The social stigma falling on those struggling with either mental illness or addiction has been rapidly lifting with public opinion swinging sharply in favor of public support for care and treatment. For those folks working to recover, that is swell news.

For elected officials, they must be alert on the campaign trail to the political stigma of cutting those programs that voters now strongly embrace. Otherwise, they may find themselves shunned, abandoned in November and beyond.

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

5 Stadium Names the White Sox Should've Chosen Instead of Guaranteed Rate Field

Thu, 2016-08-25 11:28

The Chicago White Sox are having a bit of an identity crisis.

After starting the 2016 season looking like an aggressive playoff contender, the wheels came off. Now, White Sox fans will have to make another adjustment. Starting Nov. 1, the South Side stadium no longer will be known as U.S. Cellular Field and instead, will be named Guaranteed Rate Field in a sponsorship deal. Guaranteed Rate is the name of a national mortgage company based in Chicago.

The name doesn't exactly roll off the tongue and Guaranteed Rate ran into a bit of bad press recently. Earlier this year, a judge ordered the company to pay $25 million in an alleged loan diversion scheme.

Can @WhiteSox mascot called the Guaranteed Rat be far behind? via @RebootIllinois #guaranteedratefield

— Matt Dietrich (@MattReboot) August 25, 2016

So if not Guaranteed Rate Field, then what? Glad you asked, dear reader.

Here are the five names we think would be a bit more befitting.

Have any better ones in mind? Tweet us at @rebootillinois with your top pick!

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