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3 Chicago Police Officers Shot In Gun Battle; Suspect Killed

Tue, 2016-03-15 01:40

(Reuters) - Three police officers are expected to survive gunshot wounds suffered in the chase of a suspect shot dead on Monday on Chicago's West side, the police department said.

The officers were investigating possible narcotics activity at about 9:40 p.m. when they encountered two suspects and chased one of them into a dark gangway between two buildings, the Chicago Police Department said.

"At some point, the offender fired shots at pursuing officers," it said in a statement. "At least one officer involved in the pursuit was able to return fire, fatally striking the offender."

UPDATE: per Chicago Police spokesman, 3 officers shot here, 3700 block of weat Polk about 9:50 pm

— Sam Charles (@samjcharles) March 15, 2016

One of the pursuing officers was shot in the back, another injured in the foot and a third shot in the chest area, possibly striking a bullet-proof vest, the Chicago Tribune reported, citing sources.

The officers were being treated for non-life threatening injuries at a nearby hospital, the police department said.

"Tonight we were reminded of the dangers that our police face, and the bravery that they routinely display," the office of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement.

The Officer Down Memorial Page shows that 2011 was the last time a Chicago police officer died in the line of duty.

3 Chicago police officers shot on city's West Side

— ABC7 Eyewitness News (@ABC7) March 15, 2016

Eight people were fatally shot and 22 wounded by Chicago police in 2015. In 2014, 37 people were shot and 16 people were killed by police gunfire in Chicago, the Tribune said.

The incident comes amid a U.S. Justice Department investigation into the department's use of force, including deadly force, following the death of a black teenager in a 2014 police shooting.

Police officer Jason Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder in November, 13 months after having shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times, in an incident captured on a police squad car dashboard video.

The release of the video sparked protests and led to the firing of Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy in December. The city has yet to find a permanent replacement.

"The thoughts and prayers of our entire city are with the officers and their families during this difficult time."

— ChicagosMayor (@ChicagosMayor) March 15, 2016

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When They See the Melee, Do They Hear the Message?

Mon, 2016-03-14 19:22
As I've watched the decay of our civilization and the devolution of our culture displayed at these Trump for president campaign rallies, I have pondered the words of Booker T. Washington, "Let no man pull you so low as to make you hate him."

Donald J. Trump is pulling a whole lot of folk into his cesspit of hate, and he must be held accountable -- not tomorrow when it's too late, but today, before somebody gets killed.

When he pulls you that low, you get drowned in depersonalization and disregard. Your humanity is hidden, and your message is muffled.

He's now pulled us so low that violence has become the storyline.

Love wins, but hate makes the headlines. Why does America seem to have a love affair with hate?

Let's just tell the truth, you can hawk hate, and Donald Trump is one of the best pitchmen in the nation. He can sell it. But he needs distribution.

The mainstream media has had an almost co-dependent relationship with Donald Trump. It's been practically quid pro quo. I've never seen a candidate spend so little and get so much in return. The data is clear. The network evening newscasts, for example, are still wildly overplaying Trump. This story of campaign rally violence is emotionally suffocating, but it's also ratings intoxicating. The media, to my mind, has been complicit in creating this "racial arsonist" who continues to taunt his opponents, and encourage his supporters to verbally and physically harm protesters.

But despite the campaign violence, Donald Trump doubles down, starts calling the protesters "thugs" and gets away with it. We will see if all this helps or hurts Trump this week on so-called "Super Tuesday 2." But his rhetoric is not just divisive and demeaning, it's antithetical to everything America needs in a president right now --- civility, honesty, integrity and a little humility.

But enough about Trump and the corporate media. Let's get back to the rest of us.

What does it say about us that we so easily allow him to pull us into this cesspool of incivility? Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded us that, "Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; and toughness begets a greater toughness." This is not to say that Trump doesn't need to be challenged and called out, but how we go about doing that is another matter altogether.

I have never been a fan of disrupting anyone's presentation, of infringing on their free speech rights. I didn't like it when they threw shoes at President Bush, and I didn't like it when they interrupted President Obama during his State of the Union address - especially since that indignity was courtesy of a sitting member of Congress. And I don't like it when it happens to Secretary Clinton, Senator Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump.

Let me be clear, I abhor most of what comes out of Donald Trump's mouth; too many times he's crossed the thin line between off the cuff and off the wall remarks. And, yet, I would defend with rare exception his right to express himself. I don't recall Dr. King ever interrupting a speech by Bull Conner.

What I do recall King saying is that "our aim must never be to humiliate the white man," but rather to "act in the struggle in such a way that they will see the error of their approach and will come to respect us."

Now, let me be the first to acknowledge that in this presidential campaign, Donald Trump has shown almost no respect for anyone - women, Muslims, immigrants, the president, the Pope, opponents, protesters (I'm running out of space here, but you get the point).

That said, I just don't want fellow citizens to focus on the melee and miss the message. The message that civilization and hate are antithetical concepts. The message that democracy and oligarchy cannot coexist. The message that we have always been and always will be a nation of immigrants. The message that religious freedom in America is non-negotiable. The message that every child in this country has the right to be safe from violence, food secure, well educated, with a chance to flower and flourish perfecting their individual talent.

That's what I think the protesters were trying to say last week. I'm just not sure we heard it over all the fracas and fisticuffs.

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Will Illinois Republicans Slow or Add to Donald Trump's Momentum?

Mon, 2016-03-14 18:47
Ever since Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination in June, many longtime GOP members have been waiting for his star to fade.

Known for his brash personal style, outlandish political statements and stardom in reality TV via "Celebrity Apprentice," Trump seemed destined for a candidacy that would burn very brightly and fade very quickly.

Nearly nine months later, the star of Trump's candidacy only burns brighter with every passing primary and the Republican establishment has gone into overdrive to stop him from winning the nomination. These efforts will reach their apex just as Trump hits Illinois in advance of the March 15 Illinois primary, in which a victory could all but seal the nomination.

On this week's "Only in Illinois," we look at the Trump phenomenon in Illinois, where recent polls show him with large leads over his three competitors. This is surprising because Illinois, home to arguably the most moderate Republican in the Senate in U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, has been regarded as a bastion of moderate Republicanism.

Meanwhile, Illinois native Hillary Clinton registered even stronger support among Democrats in recent polls.

But as we learned last week in Michigan (and, for that matter, in the 2014 Republican gubernatorial primary), polls can't predict results.

Will Illinois Republicans put a speed bump in front of the Trump Express or give it more momentum as it rolls onward to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July? That's one of our topics on this week's "Only in Illinois."

NEXT ARTICLE: Bruce Rauner not on the primary ballot in name, but his presence will be felt

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People Hate Rahm Emanuel So Much It Might Cost Hillary Clinton Illinois

Mon, 2016-03-14 18:25

The race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders has tightened in Illinois' Democratic primary as Sanders' campaign works relentlessly to tie Clinton to Rahm Emanuel, Chicago's deeply unpopular mayor.

The wealth of votes in the Chicago metropolitan area could be key to victory in the state's Tuesday primary. Early voting has already begun, and turnout is reportedly high in the city and surrounding Cook County.

Over the last few years, Emanuel's handling of multiple shootings by city police and public school closures has raised local ire. A Chicago Tribune poll in January found that just 27 percent of voters approve of his job performance and that 4 in 10 Chicagoans want him to resign. He's even more unpopular among Latino and black voters in the city.

The ties between the mayor and Clinton are long-standing. Emanuel, who endorsed Clinton before she had even announced her 2016 presidential bid, worked as a high-profile adviser to then-President Bill Clinton in the 1990s. He served as President Barack Obama's chief of staff while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state.

But since November, Clinton has sought to distance herself from Emanuel following revelations that city officials worked to withhold dashcam footage that showed a police officer shooting Laquan McDonald 16 times as the teenager walked away. Officer Jason Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder that same month.

While Clinton expressed confidence in Emanuel in early December, she also called for a federal inquiry into the October 2014 shooting and its aftermath while the mayor was resisting such an investigation. She was cooler to him in January, saying that it was up to the people of Chicago to decide whether he is credibly reforming the city's criminal justice system.

Sanders' campaign, meanwhile, seeks to highlight the Clinton-Emanuel relationship. At a press conference on Saturday, Sanders said that she "proudly lists" the mayor as one of her endorsers. The independent Vermont senator also criticized Emanuel for the Chicago Public Schools money-losing investment deals with financial institutions like Bank of America.

"Based on his disastrous record as mayor of the city of Chicago, I do not want Mayor Emanuel's endorsement if I win the Democratic nomination," Sanders said. "We do not want the support of people who are indebted to Wall Street and big money interests."

Sanders' campaign is running a television ad in Illinois featuring Chuy Garcia, the Cook County commissioner who unsuccessfully challenged Emanuel for the mayoral job last year. Another ad features Chicago school principal Troy LaRaviere, who criticizes Clinton by saying, "If you have a presidential candidate who supports someone like our mayor, you have a candidate who's not willing to take on the establishment."

Clinton hasn't talked about Emanuel herself in recent weeks, but on Sunday her husband implicitly criticized the city's response to the McDonald shooting in a speech at a Chicago church.

"She believes we need police reform," Bill Clinton said. "We shouldn't have to go through what this community went through, where everybody is waiting around for a video. There's a simple answer to that -- a lot of cities do it. When the video's taken, you don't leave it with the police department; you put it in a neutral place where anybody can get it when they need it."

Assata's Daughters, a volunteer group aimed at empowering black girls, has unfurled banners across the city linking Clinton to Emanuel and to Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, who is also on the ballot Tuesday. Alvarez may be in danger of losing her job over her response to the McDonald shooting.

Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, a 27-year-old gay Chicago alderman who supports Sanders, told HuffPost that he knocked on dozens of doors this past weekend and found that his constituents, roughly half of whom are Latino, were "overwhelmingly" in favor of the senator.

"The message that Bernie puts out there -- that he will fight for working people, that he's not bought by the corporations, by the super PACs and by the billionaires - that resonates with us here in Chicago because we have a hyper-local example of what happens when you have a corporate Democrat like Rahm Emanuel or Hillary Clinton essentially engaging in pay to play," Ramirez-Rosa said.

On Monday, Sanders visited four of the five states with primaries the next day -- Ohio, North Carolina, Missouri and Illinois. (He omitted Florida, where polls suggest Clinton has a large lead.)

In Illinois, Sanders' campaign hopes that he can repeat his Michigan upset win by appealing to enough African-American and Latino voters. He has struggled so far with racial minorities, leaving Clinton to build up a significant delegate lead by sweeping states in the South.

Clinton's allies in Illinois have worked to highlight Sanders' votes against gun safety measures and his mixed record on immigration reform. Still, communities of color may look to her ties to Emanuel when voting Tuesday.

The Democratic primary is shaping up to be a referendum on the mayor with Alvarez as his proxy, according to Amisha Patel, executive director of the progressive advocacy group Grassroots Collaborative. 

But maybe Clinton will serve as a Emanuel proxy, too.

"It's not right that Wall Street banks are getting billions from the city while the mayor is closing schools, while the state is literally forcing homeless shelters to shut down because there isn't a budget," said Patel. "Yet we're continuing to pay the banks every single month on these really rigged deals. All of this is relevant, and the fact that we have a candidate who is speaking out about these issues is powerful and energizing."

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Chicago's Archbishop Preaches Equality, Solidarity at St. Patrick's Day Mass

Mon, 2016-03-14 17:21
One day after violence broke out at a planned campaign event at the University of Illinois at Chicago for Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump, an event that Trump cancelled, Chicago's Archbishop Blase Cupich preached at a Mass for the celebration of St. Patrick's Day, commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the Easter Rising, at the historic Old St. Patrick's Church in Chicago, on the urgent need to recognize equality among people and friendship as the key to democracy that leads to unity, peace and solidarity.

Old St. Patrick's was founded 170 years ago in 1846, by Irish immigrants not welcome elsewhere. The oldest continually-used church and public building in Chicago, it survived the Great Chicago Fire in 1871.

To open his homily, Cupich shared a humorous story about his Croatian last name.

Years ago when I was serving as a bishop's secretary, I was asked to get another bishop on the phone. The housekeeper answered the phone in a strong brogue. I asked, "Is the bishop available." "And who would be callin," she insisted. "This is Fr. Cupich," I replied. "And how would you spell that," she demanded. "C-U-P-I-C-H," I offered. With a laugh in her voice, she blurted out: "Isn't that a funny name?"

Now you have to realize that when all of this took place I was young and lacking in restraint, and so I couldn't let that go by. "Well, don't trouble yourself, deary," I explained. "We shortened it; it used to be O'Cupich." She reported me to her boss, wanting to know who that cheeky lad was.

Turning to the first reading from Isaiah 32:15-18, Cupich highlighted the prophet's use of the "image from the natural world to offer a vision about the restoration of society and the civic order to a people alienated from each other and their God. It is a restoration offered to those open to receiving God's spirit," he said. He continued:

"In those days: The spirit from on high will be poured out on us." The desert will give way to an orchard of justice and the orchard of justice will grow into a forest of peace, calm and security. The message is clear. The growth and preservation of human civilization, culture and the social order requires a discipline, a pacing, a collaboration and coordination involving everyone. Growth cannot be forced. It cannot be advanced by favoring some over others, including some and excluding others. It cannot be left to chance, but it has to be intentional, ordered and purposeful in bringing about social solidarity.

Cupich reminded those in attendance that disordered growth leads to cancer in living organisms, as well as in the human society. "When the common good of all is not the aim of society's growth, whether that be in the economy, education, civil rights or civic participation, a cancer grows that damages the whole social body."

The 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising in Ireland served as an example of social isolation and discrimination that led to the killing of Irish nationalists by British forces and the destruction of much of the Dublin city center.

Cupich asked:

How did this happen? What were the causes? A segment of society was told they didn't matter, and were treated as sub-human, "a lower class" not only economically but socially to be excluded from the body politic. Social cohesion wore thin in a system corrupted by inequality, favoring the powerful and wealthy, their self-promotion and preservation to the exclusion of the weak and voiceless. The result: many people lost hope, solidarity vanished, hearts hardened and society ended up becoming infected by a cancer that harmed all.

Twice in his homily Cupich used the same excerpt from the poem, Easter, 1916, by William Butler Yeats, to capture the outcome of long-term discrimination:

Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.

Cupich pointed out that an alternative reality is possible, one of unity, friendship, equality and solidarity, according to the text in John 15:9-17. "[Jesus] speaks of the importance of friendship for remaining together. The disciples are not just to be acquaintances but friends," Cupich said.

While friendships take time to develop, once rooted, they "transcend differences of opinion and conflicts, bring comfort in trial and they grow in moments of forgiveness and failing," said Cupich. "For their community to remain united, they needed to befriend one another," he said.

Turning to the broader community, Cupich pointed out that centuries ago Greek philosopher Aristotle, in the Nicomachean Ethics, "noted that friendships are needed for the growth of civilization. He remarked that while friendships, like justice, are not found in tyrannies, they are proper to democracies, 'because the citizens, being equal, have much in common.'"

Aristotle's insight seems forgotten in today's politics and public discourse. Cupich continued:

Our nation seems to have lost a sense of the importance of cultivating friendships as fellow citizens who, being equal, share much in common. Instead, our politics and public discourse are often marked by enmity and animosity. There is an overly competitive character that defines how we relate to one another, emphasizing what divides us rather than what we share in common. And because we do not value growing together, a cancer is developing that threatens to harm us all. Positions harden, progress is stalled, and it is becoming clear that the body politic is nearing the limits of how much suffering it can endure.

Given the reality of divisive, and even violent, political discourse, Cupich asked, "Is it not time to remember that we are a democracy and that in being equal we have so much in common? Can we recapture the value of friendship as fellow citizens? Is that not what we should all pray for this day, as we call on the spirit of God promised by the prophet?"

Cupich asked all Chicagoans to be open to the spirit of God, to take up the work of restoration, a restoration that comes in building friendships, with a commitment to dialogue, a commitment to walk together equals who recognize differences, but know they have so much in common.

In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, called by Pope Francis, Cupich recommended that people reach out to each other with works of mercy that foster friendship and reconciliation and open up new horizons for us to live together as children of the one Father.

The full text of Archbishop Cupich's homily can be found here.

Originally published in the National Catholic Reporter (3/12/16). Tom Gallagher is a lawyer, business executive and writer, who has worked on the cause of sainthood of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and helped create and administer the not-for-profit Mother Teresa of Calcutta Center on behalf of the Missionaries of Charity, and he is also a regular contributor to the National Catholic Reporter.

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Election Board to Review Bogus Newspapers Tied to Rauner

Mon, 2016-03-14 15:43

The State Board of Elections is set to review complaints against Chicago-based Liberty Principles PAC about whether it has been coordinating independent expenditures with candidates in violation of state campaign finance law.

Funded by Gov. Bruce Rauner and former Chicago Tribune chairman, Sam Zell, the group has produced political mailings disguised as newspapers to push its candidates for public office. The weekly "newspapers" have been flooding resident mailboxes across six suburban Illinois counties in the ramp up to the March 15th election.

Residents aren't happy. "I dump those newspapers in with the rest of the junk mail. Enough already," said a Lake Zurich woman, who asked not to be named.

The election board will hold a hearing Monday - a day before the primary election -to determine whether the PAC, headed by Cicero political operative Dan Proft, coordinated with candidates and if there will be public hearings on the matter. In one instance, the complaint alleges that one of committee's "newspapers" conducted a front-page interview with Reggie Phillips, a candidate for the 110th house district - a strong indication of coordination.

The Governor's office could not be reached for comment on the nature of the legal complaints or why he is funding the bogus newspapers.

So why are Gov. Rauner and Zell funding these fake newspapers? Now that Michael Ferro, a staunch Rauner ally, is the controlling shareholder in Chicago Tribune, why is it even necessary?

This is the question responsible media should be asking.

Proft has partnered with Brian Timpone, the former CEO of troubled local news service provider, Journatic, LLC, to produce the newspaper-like political mailings. The two men have a history together - both got their start as staffers for Lee Daniels, the embattled former speaker of the Illinois house. After working for Daniels, Proft became the spokesman for Larry Dominick, the scandal-ridden town president of Cicero, and Timpone focused on online data mining.

Timpone's participation in the shady project begs another question: Why is Zell involved in funding any of this? Didn't he learn his lesson with Timpone the first time around?

The answer is no.

In July 2012, Columbia Journalism Review ("CJR") published a story calling out Tribune for continuing its relationship with Journatic after the service was exposed in a segment on NPR's "This American Life" for plagiarizing, falsifying quotes, and using fake bylines in hundreds of outsourced "news" stories. Under fire, the Zell-run Chicago Tribune was forced to suspend its relationship with Timpone's Journatic then rehired the tainted company just six months later.

In addition to its deal with Chicago Tribune, Journatic also provided real estate content to Chicago Sun-Times, under Michael Ferro's leadership, before news of the scandal broke. Tim Knight, then CEO of Sun-Times Media, was also an investor in Journatic and helped expand its publishing contracts.

CJR summed up Brian Timpone's reputation this way: "Journatic is sinking deeper into a journalism ethics scandal that will leave its reputation in tatters."

But it won't prevent you from getting the big bucks from a wealthy governor and his pals if it serves their political interest.

The Liberty Principle PAC political mailings look almost identical to standard newspapers and are mailed unsolicited every week. The fake newspapers include: The Lake County Gazette, The Champaign Urbana Sun, DuPage Policy Journal, Kankakee Times, East Central Reporter, McHenry Times, North Cook News, and West Cook News.

Some of the candidates supported by the PAC and its "newspapers" are: Allen Skillicorn, in the 66th house district; Bryce Benton, in the 50th state senate district; Dan McConchie, in the 26th state senate district; Brandi McGuire, 72nd house district; Mike DeSutter in the 74th house district; Brad Halbrook in the 102nd house district; Reggie Phillips in the 110th house district; and Paul Schimpf in the 598th senate district.

The political mailers mix story content from the Illinois Policy Institute's Illinois News Network with articles favorable to Liberty Principles PAC's candidates or against their opponents in order to resemble newspapers. Illinois Policy Institute is a tax-exempt 501c3 group that is also heavily funded by Gov. Rauner. IPI consistently promotes Rauner's positions on right-to-work laws, state pensions, and the budget impasse.

This isn't the first time Illinois Policy institute has tried to pass itself off as a legitimate news entity.

After being denied media credentials, Illinois News Network "reporters" sued to get access to press areas on the Illinois House and state senate floors. Last March, a U.S. District judge upheld the Illinois General Assembly decision and denied INN's credentials.

To circumvent the media credentialing process, Illinois Policy Institute recently purchased the Illinois Radio Network, which provides local news coverage to 48 affiliated radio stations in Illinois.

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17 Names You Don't Know Now But Will By The End Of March Madness

Mon, 2016-03-14 14:28

The beauty of the NCAA Tournament is that once the field of 68 gets set, it no longer discriminates. If you play like a star, the nation catches on. If you succumb to the pressure, there is nowhere to hide. Of course, we know that the upset reigns supreme this time of the year as well, which also sets the table for new stars to emerge. In the past, it's been unknowns like Davidson's Stephen Curry or Northern Iowa's Ali Farokhmanesh (recall his iconic 3-pointer to help topple Kansas) or Valpo's Bryce Drew, all the way back in 1998. Whether they go on to achieve NBA success is immaterial -- March is about so much more.

With that in mind, here are 17 names you don't know now but will by the end of the madness.

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 Bleacher Report Video for my full college hoops analysis throughout the entire tournament. And tune in to my SiriusXM Radio show Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3-6 p.m. EST on Bleacher Report channel 83.

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Illinois Has a Crisis of Confidence in Government. Here's What We Can Do to Change That

Mon, 2016-03-14 12:32
A recent Gallup poll shows us just how low Illinois politics have sunk in the eyes of the public: We rank dead last among the 50 states when in comes to confidence in state government.

A shocking 75 percent of those polled--a much higher percentage, by the way, than even the other states in the bottom five--believe Illinois government can't do its job.

Sadly, that number is not surprising. The promise of a government that works for all people is badly broken in Illinois. Every day brings fresh news about the gridlock and hyper-partisanship in Springfield, the sinking approval ratings for our state leaders, and the resulting cynicism, anger, and distrust among the public. Closing in on a year without a state budget? Well, what do you expect, we say with a disgusted shrug--it's Springfield.

Illinois isn't an isolated example of political dysfunction. As President Obama has pointed out, America as a whole desperately needs and deserves a "better politics" at every level of government. In a recent speech to lawmakers in Springfield, Obama noted that a "poisonous political climate" drives citizens away from participating in the political process. And in his last State of the Union address, the president argued that a healthier democracy, in which we all have an equal say, requires two essential ingredients. First, we must change the systems that govern political participation. Second, we have to get more people involved in political and civic activity. 

The good news is we can take direct and immediate action now to help level the political playing field in Illinois. Right here in the president's home state, there's growing support for two common-sense solutions that will disrupt politics as usual and make government more responsive to the needs of ordinary people. Each of these reforms would empower voters, and each reflects the core values of any high-functioning democracy: equality, opportunity, fairness, diversity, and transparency. 

Reforms for immediate impact

The first reform is to enact automatic voter registration. Two states, Oregon and California, have already done so, and legislators in 34 states, plus Washington D.C., have introduced such bills. Illinois is among them. SB 2134 - dubbed the new motor voter bill -- would automatically register eligible citizens to vote when they apply for, update, or renew their driver's license or state ID. The legislation would make our voter registration process more cost-effective, secure, and convenient. Anyone who is eligible would have to opt-out if they don't want to be registered, instead of having to opt-in under our current system. 

The second step we can take toward a healthier democracy is to reform our state's partisan redistricting process. The current process virtually ensures that the game is rigged against giving voters real choice at the ballot box. Our recent CHANGE Illinois report, for instance, found a dramatic increase in recent years in the number of state legislators who were elected without any opposition. (Our full report is here.) And when voters go to the polls March 15, they'll find only five of 52 state Senate races, and only 12 of 154 state House races, with at least two candidates on the ballot. 

Luckily, though, a major reform proposal is picking up steam that would give the power to redraw districts to a nonpartisan commission instead of a handful of powerful politicians. Supporters, from the left and the right of the political spectrum, have already gathered more than half a million petition signatures to help place a constitutional amendment on the November 8 ballot that would create a nonpartisan map-drawing commission. It's time to let the voters decide who should draw the legislative maps in the Land of Lincoln.
We, the people, have the power to fix the governing crisis in Illinois.  All of us who care about achieving true democracy should resolve to get informed and get more involved in our public life. Whether it's attending a town hall forum, taking someone to the polls or just making sure we vote in every election ourselves and encourage our friends and neighbors to do the same--we all need to do our part.

The late Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said, "The most important political office is that of the private citizen." CHANGE Illinois is committed to getting more people elected as public citizens who will roll up their sleeves and take the reins of our democracy.

Creating a better politics is up to us.

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The First Rule Of Trump Rally Fight Club

Mon, 2016-03-14 08:27

1st Rule: You do not talk about substantive issues.


2nd Rule: You DO NOT talk about substantive issues.

3rd Rule: Fights end when someone goes limp, taps out, or passes out drunk.


4th Rule: It's not over until the fat lady sings. Or until the old lady heils Hitler.

5th Rule: Get 'em out.
6th Rule: Every fight must contain at least one person wearing camo.

7th Rule: It's not a racial thing. Seriously. We're spitting in each other's faces because we disagree over Chinese tariffs.
8th Rule: If this is your night at a Trump rally, you have to fight.

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Former 'Bachelor:' It's Unlikely You'll Find Lasting Love On Reality TV

Mon, 2016-03-14 07:12

No matter how many break-ups we hear about following "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette" finales, plenty of hopeful singles still sign up for a chance to find true love on television. One of those people was Chris Soules, who was last season's star of "The Bachelor," and he says he knows all to well the reality of reality-TV love.  

Speaking with "Oprah: Where Are They Now?", the Iowa farmer draws upon his own experience at the center of a dating show, opening up about his resulting engagement (and break-up) with "Bachelor" contestant Whitney Bischoff.

Six months after proposing to Whitney on the season finale of "The Bachelor" last year, the couple announced they had ended their relationship. Chris says the break-up was mutual, and admits that a lasting union is pretty unlikely from the get-go.

"The odds of marrying somebody on a TV show and having that work aren't that good," he says. "It's hard."

Still, Chris had no ill feelings toward his ex or the process by which they came together.

"We did the best we could. I have no regrets," he says. "I'm thankful that we can remain friends."

"Oprah: Where Are They Now?" airs Saturdays at 10 p.m. ET on OWN.

Related: Beloved "Bachelor" star explains why he initially turned down the offer

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Bernie Mac's Widow Opens Up About Emotional Moments Before His Death

Sun, 2016-03-13 13:42

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When comedy king Bernie Mac died unexpectedly in the summer of 2008, Rhonda McCullough's world shattered. She had been with Mac since she was 16 years ol

d, and he was her everything. That I all changed that year on August 8.

A few weeks prior, Mac had been admitted to the hospital for labored breathing and ended up heavily sedated, on a ventilator. It's been nearly eight years since that turn of events, but Rhonda tells "Oprah: Where Are They Now?" that she still feels the pain Mac's passing as if it just happened.

"August the 8th, he had woke up," she says. "They said, 'We're going to put a feeding tube in him,' and just everything went wrong."

Mac's heart stopped beating. He had to be resuscitated. 

"When they finally let me go into the room to see him, I was like, 'Oh, my God,'' Rhonda says. "He was just shaking, and his eyes was just, like, wide open and he wasn't really looking at anybody."

Rhonda made an emotional plea to her husband.

"I said, 'Please don't, don't die,'" she says, breaking into tears. "I said, 'I'm here. I'm waiting for you. I'll take care of you. Just don't, don't die. Don't die.'"

A few hours later, Mac was gone.

"It was around 2 o'clock that morning. I remember seeing the door open, and the doctor was standing in the doorway," Rhonda says. "I looked at her and I said, 'He's gone, isn't he?' She [nodded]." 

Even recalling that moment today, Rhonda becomes overwhelmed with emotion.

"My whole life was him, since I was 16," she says through tears. "I didn't know what I was gonna do. It's like, what is my reasoning for being here now? What is my purpose? How am I going to make it now?"

In the years since Mac's death, Rhonda says she has found renewed purpose through the Bernie Mac Foundation, which the late comedian started a year before his death to promote awareness and research for sarcoidosis, a disease from which he suffered.

"What better way to have his legacy live on?" Rhonda says. "The foundation means to me everything that Bernard was and that he wanted."

To learn more about the Bernie Mac Foundation, visit

"Oprah: Where Are They Now?" airs Saturdays at 10 p.m. ET on OWN.

Related: Bernie Mac's philosophy about comedy will make you miss him even more

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Kendrick Lamar's 'Alright' Chanted At Trump Chicago Protest

Sat, 2016-03-12 16:46

Amid the chaos that led to the cancellation of Donald Trump's Chicago rally on Friday night, protesters chanted the song that is becoming an anthem for social activism: Kendrick Lamar's "Alright."

The Republican presidential front-runner postponed the event after thousands of protesters swarmed the University of Illinois at Chicago, resulting in several arrests and police officers being injured.

After the cancellation, protesters erupted into a chorus of the song:

(function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); = id; js.src = "//"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));Kendrick Lamar x Donald Trump Rally

Thousands of protestors disrupted Donald Trump's rally in Chicago this evening, breaking into a chant of Kendrick Lamar's "We Gonna Be Alright".

Posted by Consequence of Sound on Friday, March 11, 2016

"We gon’ be alright! We gon’ be alright!"

Most powerful video I have of tonight! ✊ ✊ ✊ ✊ #TrumpRally

— Oh, bitch nah! ❤️ (@HoneyGuwop) March 12, 2016

#TrumpRally protesters chant "We gonna be alright" after announcement of a Trump no-show.

— Chicago Reader (@Chicago_Reader) March 12, 2016

Tension at Trump's events is nearing a boiling point, with supporters frequently clashing with protesters who object to his racist and xenophobic campaign. At least a few protesters have adopted Lamar's songs as an antidote to Trump's messages.

Lamar, a Compton-based rapper whose lyrical mastery achieved worldwide acclaim with his award-winning album "To Pimp A Butterfly," offers vivid perspectives on police violence, racism and life in the inner city in his songs.

"Alright," from "To Pimp A Butterfly," is a message of hope, Lamar said. It was inspired by a trip he took to South Africa, in which he was exposed to the struggle's of people there. As The Huffington Post noted last summer, it has been adopted as an anthem of people protesting police brutality, racism and oppression. The song was also heard in Cleveland last July when activists were protesting police harassment, and has popped up in Baltimore and in Washington, D.C.

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Donald Trump Rally In Chicago Shut Down

Fri, 2016-03-11 18:58

CHICAGO - A Donald Trump rally at the University of Illinois at Chicago has been shut down due to security reasons. 

The rally was called off little more than half an hour after the scheduled 6 p.m. start time. Throngs of anti-Trump protesters packed into the free event, which only required online registration, while thousands more gathered outside surrounded by a police perimeter. 

“I have never seen anything like it. It’s amazing,” CNN’s Jim Acosta said. The network said approximately 8,500 people at the rally.

“Tonight’s rally will be postponed,”  a Trump campaign staffer announced, as a sea of protesters celebrated and tore apart Trump signs inside the UIC Pavilion.

“Mr. Trump just arrived in Chicago and after meeting with law enforcement has determined that for the safety of all the tens of thousands of people that have gathered in and around the arena, tonight’s rally will be postponed for another date," a statement from the campaign said. "Thank you very much for your attendance, and please go in peace.” 

America inspired by @realDonaldTrump looks decidedly less unified at this Chicago rally.

— M. Scott Mahaskey (@smahaskey) March 12, 2016


This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Trump supporters leaving UIC after he canceled are on the left and protestors are on the right

— Jessyca Malina (@jessycamalina) March 12, 2016

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Three Years After, Pope Francis Faces Mounting Challenges

Fri, 2016-03-11 14:13
As Pope Francis celebrates three years in office this week, there are mounting challenges confronting him and the church which he leads. His honey moon is now over and there are emerging cracks in the church and uncertainty about the future direction of the Catholic Church. Many Catholics are now hoping that Pope Francis could deliver concrete and lasting reform in the church through changes in some of the laws of the church which should go beyond making strong statements and counter-institutional gestures. There are three challenges among many facing Pope Francis which will define his legacy.

The first is how successful he will be in his ongoing reform of the curia, and the institutional culture of the church's hierarchical clericalism. The second is how he responds to the call for a more inclusive church for women and LGBTQs. Many Catholics are waiting to know which way he goes with the recommendations made to him from the raucous synod on marriage and family life concluded in October 2015.

The task before him is to find a common ground on a transformative pastoral ministry to LGBTQs without alienating conservatives in the West. At the same time he must take into consideration the strong appeal to traditional definition of marriage by most Catholics in the Global South where the church is witnessing an exponential growth. Whatever decision he takes on this matter carries consequences for the unity and future of the Catholic Church.

The third is that Pope Francis must deal decisively and conclusively with the shameful cases of clerical sexual abuse in the worldwide church. But dealing with the consequences will demand addressing the fundamental roots of the problems, the church's laws and institutional culture. This last point seems to me to be the most decisive because it undermines the moral high ground and teachings of Catholicism. It also detracts from the mission of the church as a light in the world and in healing the world and being a beacon of hope through concrete acts governed by Gospel values.

Pope Francis must pursue vigorously the reforms of the structure of authority and accountability in all aspects of the life of the Church. Unfortunately, he faces strong opposition from some cardinals, bishops and priests. The schemes and stratagem of some of the Vatican high command who are ganging up against the Francis Revolution have been well documented in the tell-it-all revelations published by the Italian journalist, Gianluigi Nuzzi in the book, Merchants in the Temple: Inside Pope Francis's Secret Battle Against Corruption in the Vatican.

Clerical sexual abuse especially against minors is a cancer to modern Catholicism. The recent marathon testimony on accusations of complicity in covering up clerical sexual abuse by Australian Cardinal Pell, who is Vatican's financial czar, showed once again that this problem is not going away. A week after Cardinal Pell's testimony, Cardinal Phillipe Barbarin of Lyon, France was served papers by prosecutors along with five others in a similar charge. He is being accused of failing to denounce the crimes of others and endangering the lives of people in relation to the sexual crimes committed against young scout members by Father Bernard Preynat between 1986-1991.

One can point to the report on the failings of Cardinal Law in Boston, or the shocking revelation in the Murphy Report set up by the Irish government on how the Irish Catholic Church and the police colluded to cover up hundreds of sexual abuse cases by clerics among the most egregious in recent times. There is already a long line of bishops who were forced to resign in the US because of their failure to defend minors by holding accountable the errant priests who perpetrated these crimes--bishops Nienstedt and Lee Piche in Minnesota, Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas etc. Whether it is in Catholic dioceses or religious movements like Legionaries of Christ or the Sodalitum of Christian Life in Latin America, sexual abuse has become a constant in recent Catholic history.

In May 2009 for instance, Archbishop Paulin Pomodimo of Bangui, in Central African Republic was forced to resign at the age of 54. In the same country and within the same time, Bishop François-Xavier Yombandje of Bossangoa, once president of the nation's episcopal conference, resigned at the age of 52. Their resignations followed a Vatican investigation, conducted by Cardinal Robert Sarah, which found that both of them adopted a moral life which was not always in conformity with their vows "to follow Christ in chastity, poverty, and obedience." This investigation also found out that many celibate priests in that country had homes with women with whom they had children.

Every new charge or investigation of clerical sexual abuse opens another sour on the collective conscience of the Catholic Church, delegitimizing her standing and teaching. Practicing pedophiles or institutions which harbor sexual deviants cannot be a credible teacher of sexual morality or wax sanctimonious on the sublimity of her moral insight on birth control, contraception and a culture of life. Pope Francis has rightly called sexual abuse 'an ugly crime' comparable to 'a satanic Mass.' He has done more than his predecessors to remove this cancer from the church, but it is near impossible to cauterize in three years a cancer which took centuries to calcify in the bones of the church.

What the clerical sexual abuse reveals to me as a Catholic priest is the huge gap between what Catholicism teaches and what is actually practiced by many of her clerics; the disconnect between unrealistic moral ideals and concrete life situations. It also highlights the heavy burden imposed on the conscience of many Catholics including clerics and religious within the system.

Many Catholics are rejecting the teachings of the church on her structure of authority, criteria for the sacraments, clerical culture, sexual morality, celibacy, marriage and family life. Opponents even within her leadership cadre argue that some of these teachings founded on a limited notion of natural law, and reductionist interpretation of the ultimate purpose of the moral demand and the church's traditions no longer offer answers to the questions of today.

But most importantly, clerical sexual abuse is a reflection of unequal power dynamics of a macho culture. This unhealthy mindset and ecclesial culture sublets every other consideration in order to preserve and protect the institutional prerogatives and privileges of an all-male clerical ruling class.

The good news is that Pope Francis' commitment to a poor, merciful and humble church which reveals the face of God has given a new credibility and vibrancy to a once tired and sick institution. Indeed, Francis' quiet reform of the curia, the Vatican bank, the bishop accountability legislation, and his rejection of clericalism, and power play in the church and dirty money from donors are some of the efforts taken to heal the church of the root causes of clerical sexual abuse. This reform must continue vigorously.

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Top 25 Illinois Counties With the Most Bridges in Poor Condition

Fri, 2016-03-11 08:38

There are nearly 27,000 bridges across Illinois. And according to the Federal Highway Administration's 2015 data, 8 percent of them are considered "structurally deficient" and seven percent "functionally obsolete," meaning those Illinois bridges either have major parts in poor condition or are out-of-date. Our state ranks seventh for most structurally deficient bridges and 27th based on percentage of deficient bridges to overall inventory according to a recent analysis.

Using FHWA data, we've ranked the top 25 Illinois counties with the most deficient Illinois bridges.

Top 25 Counties With the Most Deficient Illinois Bridges

25) Massac County, IL

24) Knox County, IL

23) Mercer County, IL

22) Cass County, IL

21) Madison County, IL

20) Lawrence County, IL

19) Effingham County, IL

18) Bond County, IL

17) Bureau County, IL

16) Fayette County, IL

15) St. Clair County, IL

14) Tazewell County, IL

13) Macoupin County, IL

12) Hancock County, IL

11) McHenry County, IL

10) Union County, IL

9) Shelby County, IL

8) Jo Daviess County, IL

7) Kane County, IL

6) Christian County, IL

5) Will County, IL

4) DuPage County, IL

3) Peoria County, IL

2) Lake County, IL

1) Cook County, IL

You can see a detailed breakdown of each county's deficient bridges here.

NEXT ARTICLE: Top 30 counties with the largest decline in median household income in Illinois from 2000-2014

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Politics and the Golden Rule

Thu, 2016-03-10 14:23
"What I'm not trying to do is just pass legislation. I'm trying to change the face of American politics."

Pull these words out of the context of "the news" and let them pulse like the heartbeat of the future.

The words are those of Bernie Sanders, of course -- engaged last week in a confrontational interview with Chris Matthews. Free college tuition? Matthews loosed his skepticism on the presidential candidate, who pushed back:

"You and I look at the world differently. You look at it inside the Beltway. I'm not an inside the Beltway person."

"But the people that vote on taxes are inside the Beltway," Matthews retorted.

"Those people are going to vote the right way when millions of people demand that they vote the right way on this issue. I have no doubt that as president of the Untied States I can rally young people and their parents on this issue. . . . As president of the United States, I would have the bully pulpit. What I'm not trying to do is just pass legislation. I'm trying to change the face of American politics."

I listen in disbelief and feel hope percolate as poll results come in. This week Sanders triumphed in my wounded home state of Michigan, confounding the media and political status quo yet again. Is this really a revolution emerging from a presidential race?

That's not supposed to happen. And I find myself skeptically embracing the possibility, spurred by the near total cynicism and intentional cluelessness of the mainstream media. For the past half century, the American media, in collaboration with the military-industrial corporatocracy -- the Beltway -- has delivered up issueless presidential campaigns to the American public. Business as usual, in all its manifestations, is not to be disrupted. Until now.

Something uncontrolled is happening in American politics. Trump supporters raise their hands in pledges of brand allegiance and the ghost of fascism smirks. America's racists, so marginalized all these years, converge at the edges of his campaign, knowing that his "disavowal" of the Klan is a wink-wink, nudge-nudge sort of thing. He's their man. Allegedly respectable Republicans convulse.

Among the Dems, Sanders is bringing democracy to the disaffected, calling not for slivers of social fairness but a full-blown re-emergence of the New Deal, in defiance of the Democrats' post-Reagan allegiance to compromised ideals. He's standing up for the sovereignty not of Beltway politics but of working-class America -- the people! -- reopening the door of participatory politics and declaring that the American government should not be for sale.

I'm so close to believing in the revolution -- in this reclamation of the United States of America.

At a recent debate, a woman in the audience asked Sanders: "Do you think God is relevant?"

He answered yes, to serious applause, explaining: "What we are talking about is what all religions hold dear, and that is to do unto others as you would like them to do unto you. . . . I believe morally and ethically we do not have a right to turn our backs on children in Flint, Mich., who are being poisoned or veterans who are sleeping out on the street. . . . I want you to worry about my grandchildren and I promise you I will worry about your family. We are in this together."

And the Golden Rule enters the presidential race and I stand in awe of the potency of this ethical imperative. It's the opposite of the spectator idiocy of "my guy is better than your guy," the state to which the media has reduced American democracy.

If the Golden Rule is not simply a personal but a political principle, we cannot wage war. And knowing this, I can't think about social fairness without feeling a shattering sense of despair . . .

"The United States launched a series of airstrikes on an al-Shabab training camp in Somalia on Saturday, killing more than 150 militants and averting what a Pentagon official described as an 'imminent threat' posed by the group to both U.S. and African Union troops stationed in the war-torn country."

As Glenn Greenwald put it, reflecting on this latest impersonal news about dead bad guys: "We need U.S. troops in Africa to launch drone strikes at groups that are trying to attack U.S. troops in Africa. It's the ultimate self-perpetuating circle of imperialism: We need to deploy troops to other countries in order to attack those who are trying to kill U.S. troops who are deployed there."

And here's the beginning of an open letter written by four former U.S. Air Force drone operators, which they sent last November to President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and CIA Chief John Brennan: "We are former Air Force service members. We joined the Air Force to protect American lives and to protect our Constitution. We came to the realization that the innocent civilians we were killing only fueled the feelings of hatred that ignited terrorism and groups like ISIS, while also serving as a fundamental recruitment tool similar to Guantanamo Bay. This administration and its predecessors have built a drone program that is one of the most devastating driving forces for terrorism and destabilization around the world.

"When the guilt of our roles in facilitating this systematic loss of innocent life became too much, all of us succumbed to PTSD. . . ."

Changing the face of American politics is a profound, unfathomably difficult undertaking, but it's nothing at all if it doesn't begin with the Golden Rule. And this rule cannot be selectively applied.

- - -
Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. Contact him at or visit his website at


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Empire's Serayah McNeill & Virgin Hotels Chicago Give Back to Our City

Thu, 2016-03-10 14:19
As Chicagoans, if we turn on the news or flip through the paper, instantly all of the awful things occurring in the city are shoved down our throats. The News Anchors are constantly warning us about everything from the corruption of our city officials all the way to the uncontrollable bankruptcy of our schools. For many Chicagoans, especially the underprivileged and underrepresented, it may seem as though there is no escape from the negative things occurring around us. But this past weekend something amazing happened in our city, which was meant to bring a glimpse of hope to the people.

On Saturday, March 5th, Serayah McNeill a.k.a. Tiana Brown from the #1 hit show Empire teamed up with national non-profit, One Warm Coat, to help ensure that all of the Chicago Public School kids will have winter coats for the remainder of our city's most unforgiving season. Virgin Hotels Chicago went above and beyond by connecting these two philanthropic powerhouses to put on one of Chicago's most successful events of 2016 thus far.

The VIP guest list consisted of Empire cast and crew members, the "whose who" of Chicago, fans of our nation's top show, as well as caring charitable citizens. The people in the room were a reminder of why so many of us cherish the city of Chicago; due to the dashing diversity of the people who filled the room, and the Mid-Western charm that had everyone smiling from ear to ear.

When you entered into the beautiful lobby of the Virgin Hotels Chicago, you were immediately greeted by polite staff who directed you to its radiant rooftop. Once at the Cerise Rooftop, you were instructed to drop off your gently used coat into a big red box; which served as your golden ticket to enter this exclusively elegant event.

Upon entering the party, it became clear that flawless faces, dangerous dance moves and charismatic conversation would soon began to dominate the party. The majority of the night consisted of the 20-year-old TV star sippin' on water while groovin' with her Empire crew to tunes played by the LA-based mix master, DJ Myles Hendrik.

The deranged dancing, caused by the superb spinner, wasn't the only thing that kept the VIP attendees warm; Woolwich John Rich & Bros. donated tens of coats for everyone to party in, while 11 lucky guest got to take a spanking new red parka home!

By the the close of the night, you could feel the vivacious spirit of the partiers and you saw them carrying that same contagious energy back into our city which so desperately craves it. As the party cleared out, the only thing that remained were good memories and a big red box overflowing with tons of coats that would soon be in the hands of Chicago's children; and at the end of the day, isn't that what the event was all about?

Photo Credit: Daniel Boczarski

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Shock: Simon Poll Finds Majority of Illinois Voters Support Right-To-Work

Thu, 2016-03-10 12:53

If constitutional amendments for redistricting reform and term limits are placed on the November ballot, they'd likely get a friendly reception from the majority of voters in Illinois.

A new poll conducted by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute found that two-thirds of Illinois voters support legislative redistricting reform and a whopping 78 percent favor term limits. Just 25 percent and 20 percent say they oppose the measures, respectively. The poll also found more than 60 percent of respondents favor so-called "right-to-work" laws that prohibit mandatory union membership in union-represented workplaces.

Supporters of redistricting reform told polltakers the current system allows lawmakers to gerrymander districts in order to benefit their respective political party, and that having an independent group redraw district lines every 10 years would be a fairer alternative. Opponents argue minority communities are protected by the way maps currently are drawn and writing laws shouldn't be done by individuals who don't hold elected office.

The poll shows 71 percent of voters are in favor of the Illinois Supreme Court adding a neutral, tie-breaking vote to the redistricting panel when lawmakers are at odds over redrawing the legislative map, while 19 percent say they're against the proposed change.

Currently, the Independent Maps coalition is leading the charge against gerrymandering and expects to have enough valid signatures to place a citizen-initiated constitutional amendment on the ballot. The amendment proposes an 11-member, non-partisan commission whose decisions and map-drawing process would be open to the public; 64 percent of voters polled say they favor this type proposal and 25 percent oppose.

Support for redistricting reform is consistent across all demographics and political affiliations, according to the Simon Institute.

"Illinoisans are in a mood to change things," said David Yepsen, director of the Institute. "In addition to redistricting changes, they also support restricting campaign contributions in judicial races and term limits for legislators."

Seventy-two percent say they support campaign contribution limits -- particularly in judicial races -- though liberal voters are more inclined to back campaign finance reform than conservative and centrist voters, according to the Institute.

Of all the state government restructuring questions posed to voters, support for term limits on lawmakers was the strongest, with 78 percent in favor and 20 percent against imposing term limits.

Another interesting finding from the poll is voters' views on right-to-work, which is one of the most divisive items in Gov. Bruce Rauner's "Turnaround Agenda."

More than half, 61 percent, say they would vote or leans towards voting for Rauner's proposal that gives workers the option to opt out of joining a union without putting his or her job at risk; one-third of voters say they would oppose or leans towards opposing right-to-work laws.

While Republican voters were more supportive of right-to-work policies, the majority of Democrats polled surprisingly were in favor of the governor's proposal.

You can see a more detailed breakdown of the poll's findings by political party here.

NEXT ARTICLE: AFK Media Group acquires Reboot Illinois

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Election Forecast... Cloudy With a Chance of Change

Thu, 2016-03-10 12:44
There is never a dull moment in Chicago politics, but this particular election cycle is sort of peculiar. On March 15th, people in the Land of Lincoln will be voting for state and county offices. Normally, this election would get lukewarm media attention, but, Chicago polls do not disappoint.

The race taking center stage in this year's theatrical masterpiece is that of the Illinois State's Attorney. Incumbent Anita Alvarez, is seeking re-election but is in the fight for her political life. States Attorney Anita Alvarez is trying to recover from a collage of scrutiny regarding the Laquan McDonald police shooting. On October 20, 2014, 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was shot 16 times by Chicago Police. Over a year later, the police dashboard camera recording was released to the public showing the chain of events that lead up to and including the police shooting. Hours after the video was released, Police Officer Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder. Alvarez was raised in the Pilsen neighborhood and a mother of four children. She spent her legal career in the Cook County state's attorney's office and became State's Attorney in 2008.

Alvarez's closest challenger is Kim Foxx. Foxx is a Chicago native born and raised in the Cabrini Green housing projects on the near north side. She is married, with two daughters and also has extensive experience in the state's attorney office as a child advocate and former supervisor. Prior to running for state's attorney, Foxx was Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle's Chief of Staff. Kim Foxx is also endorsed by a broad coalition of elected officials and civic groups.

And coming in at a distant third, is Donna More. More is an Evanston native, mother of one child and brings to the table experience as a prosecutor for both Cook County and the United States. Currently, More works in private practice.

In unusual turn of events, there's a hotly contested state representative race, also on this bill. Constituents of Illinois' 5th district are tasked with either re-electing Ken Dunkin or Attorney Juliana Stratton. Representative Dunkin seems to have fallen out of the good graces of the Democratic Party for being a no-show when it was time to vote or voting against the party on a few key bills. When Dunkin was asked in several media interviews, to justify his vote against the Democratic party's typical alliances, he positioned himself as an "independent" and not beholden to any political party. Dunkin has been heard saying several times in interviews, "People over Politics." Juliana Stratton, an attorney, a mother of three daughters and a resident of the Bronzeville neighborhood, may be considered an "outsider" by some, but she has a history in public service. According to her television ads, she positions herself as a reformer in the criminal justice system.

But really, are the voters motivated to get out to the polls or are they fatigued of the mudslinging coming from every and all directions? There's a long-standing bone of contention between voters and elected officials asking one another; "What have you done for me lately?"

And to be perfectly honest, it's a valid question for both to ask.

Voters are thinking what have you done for me in order for you to earn my vote and the candidates ponder what have you done for me so I'll be motivated to help you with some type of service or assistance? (Although it is still their job; whether the constituent voted for them or not).

There are no scientific surveys or sophisticated polling algorithms behind this theory, so, just have a cup of your favorite beverage and enjoy the irony in the discussion.

Voter turnout in election cycles are typically abysmal and sadly, this has become the norm. Unless some star-studded quality politician is running for office, folks just don't seem to see the value of voting.

It puzzles many how some people do not find value in voting for the person who will potentially represent them and the interest of their tax money, in city legislature and beyond. At the end of the election cycle, someone will be declared the winner, so why not vote and have a say so in who that may be?

Earlier, it was mentioned that regardless of voter turnout or even votes casts for their opponent, it is still the fiduciary duty of the winner, to serve all constituents. How are our politicians evaluated on their effectiveness in office? Well, every election cycle pretty much answers that question--even if there are only a few who bother to show up at the polls.

And so it begins, the workers for the politician receive the crème de la crème, while some of the others are left scrapping at the bottom of the barrels.

How can this vicious cycle can be stopped?

Is there really a solution to this dilemma?

We always hear the people should come out and vote and perform their civic duty. Is that what incumbents really want? Statistics have shown that typically low voter turnout usually favor incumbents.

So is all this get out to vote rhetoric, on behalf of the incumbent, all for show; or, is it only important when the "powers that be" are wishing to run a no name candidate, in an effort to get their new flavor of the month into office?

After all, they do call it politics for a reason.

I reckon the moral to the story is, if you are not part of the process, you are more than likely part of the problem. If the outcomes are not to your liking, you have no right to have beef if you did not at least be heard at the polls. One should be very careful and deliberate in whom they choose to represent them in the legislative process.

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AFK Media Group Acquires Reboot Illinois

Thu, 2016-03-10 12:33

We've got some big news about Reboot Illinois.

We're thrilled to let you know AFK Media Group on Wednesday announced it has completed the acquisition of Reboot Illinois from Reboot Media Group, LLC.

Reboot Illinois

Founded in 2012, Reboot Illinois, a political journalism website based in Chicago and Springfield, covers the ideas, people and politics behind government in Illinois. In just three years, Reboot Illinois has become Illinois' top digital hub for political news, infographics and opinions. Its content is distributed on its website, through email newsletters and a variety of social media, as well as through a network of newspaper and website affiliates. Reboot Illinois also sponsors events, debates and lively conversation around the state's big policy debates.

The platform reaches a broad spectrum of lawmakers, political thought leaders, lobbyists, journalists and activist citizens. Its website has grown rapidly, averaging nearly 600,000 page views per month. Its "Daily Tip-Off" newsletter and other newsletters reach more than 20,000 subscribers across the state. The Reboot Illinois team built a coveted and highly active social media community with more than 115,000 highly engaged Facebook fans and 13,000 Twitter followers.

Madeleine Doubek and Matt Dietrich, award-winning journalists who launched Reboot, will continue to lead the platform. Doubek covered Illinois politics for more than a decade and served as managing editor and executive editor of the Daily Herald for five years. Dietrich was the editorial page editor of The State Journal-Register in Springfield. As part of the transaction and effective March 15, Doubek will become Reboot's Publisher and Dietrich will become Editor.

Reboot was founded by Anne Dias, the Chicago-based founder of Aragon Global Management, a hedge fund investing in global equities and in media/internet businesses. Dias provided seed capital for the start-up, hired the editorial and technology teams, and oversaw the digital and marketing efforts in the early days of the platform. "I am proud that Reboot has grown quickly to become a force in Illinois political media. I have always believed in a strong, independent press shining light on our government affairs so that citizens can play an active role in our democracy. The new ownership team shares this belief," Dias said.

"Madeleine and Matt have led Reboot to decode what is happening in Springfield and how it affects all of us. Their coverage of Illinois politics has been shrewd and fair-minded."

AFK Media Group

AFK Media is a Chicago-based investor group that invests in digital technology platforms in Chicago and nationally. The principals have significant experience using technology to successfully grow audiences and revenue in digital media companies. Anthony Knierim, one of AFK's partners, will join Reboot's board of directors.

Knierim, a Chicago entrepreneur, has held a number of senior leadership positions at internet startups including, a digital fitness tracking and health community, as well as Packback, a digital textbook start-up. From 2012 through 2014, he helped launch Reboot Illinois as its director of digital strategy.

"Anne's stewardship of Reboot has left a big imprint on the company. Reboot has created a great critical mass of engaged citizens and lawmakers who are active participants in the political process and debate. The culture of Reboot is fast-paced, data-driven and continuously innovative and it reflects Anne's experience in the investment world."

"We're excited to take the platform to the next level. Our growth plans involve expanding Reboot's content, its technology capabilities and its team of writers, building on the data-driven and strong editorial foundations of the business." Knierim said.


Media questions can be directed to Madeleine Doubek at or 312.265.2014. For inquiries about advertising and sponsorship opportunities, please email requests to

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