Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Budget Hearing Dates Changed

After sending my column to the paper, I got an announcement that the dates for the Budget Hearings had been changed. The new schedule is as follows:
Sept. 9 at the South Shore Cultural Center, 7059 S. South Shore Dr.

Sept. 10, Westinghouse College Prep, 3223 W. Franklin

Sept. 16, North-Grand High School, 4338 W. Wabansia

Another Budget Hearing - Another Chance To Be Heard

I no longer believe people when they use that famous quote of Fannie Lou Hamer. You know, the one where she states, "I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired!" If people were truly that sick and tired, they would have done something by now.

Every year I write and remind people that the mayor of the city of Chicago must, by law, attend the three budget hearings. At those meetings, people can sign up and give the mayor a piece of their mind regarding any issue under the sun. Yet year after year, those hearings held in the neighborhoods are some of the least attended events by residents of this city.

As an individual who doesn't believe in giving up, I am still going to tell people to come out to one of those hearings.

What can you discuss at the budget hearings? Anything and everything. But to help you out, here are a few things that have been going on in Chicago that you might want to voice your opinion on: Track 'E' schools holding classes in August with no air conditioning and children falling ill in the heat; the parking meter fiasco and just how will those pieces of paper work in the winter with snow on the windshields; the recent flooding of basements; garbage pickup or lack thereof; the shootings by young people, killing other young people; the CTA; unemployment; nickel tax on a bottle of water; firing of Chicago public school teachers; CAPs meetings; taxes on utility bills; response time when calling 911; library hour cutbacks; Wal-Mart; foreclosures; city colleges now being told not to offer remedial classes after students have spent years in CPS not getting a basic education; red light cameras; TIF (tax increment financing) money and why we have yet to see a successful TIF district and just how that money is being spent; the neighborhood stabilization money and what is going on with it; open air and open market drug dealing, why after all these years it is still permitted; ex-offender issues and what to do about them; the Chicago Housing Authority; why Chicago is so filthy outside of the downtown areas; storefront churches and how they prevent economic development of business areas; new curbs and sidewalks; street lighting; potholes here ... potholes there ... potholes everywhere with another winter looming; loud music from cars; whether traffic circles are the biggest waste of money yet; why so many white street carts are allowed to operate on corners without any sanitation provisions; city services like street cleaning, sewer cleaning, tree trimming; cars being booted when people don't have jobs; the price of the city sticker and what is done with all that money; parking tickets being the city's main method of revenue generation; what plans the mayor has to bring more businesses back to Chicago; the former Meigs Field and why taxpayers should have to pay for his personal decision; McCormick Place and the cancelling of conventions; illegal immigration and Chicago as a sanctuary city; how come there are so many temporary plate stickers on junk trucks; what about residents who don't buy a city sticker; whether Ron Huberman who doesn't have any formal training in education is the right person to be at the helm of the Chicago Public Schools; whether Jody Weis is a misfit as head of the Chicago Police Department; why we are still paying the pension of Jon Burge and how come the mayor, who was the state's attorney at the time, hasn't been indicted yet; should we have a moratorium on People's Gas and Com Ed turning off the utilities as people are struggling in this economy; what activities are being planned to keep our young people safe as they prepare to go back to school; what plans does the city have to bring grocery stores to the food-desert areas of the city.

And on and on.

This year, two of the budget hearings have been moved to brand new, state-of-the-art high schools where you can see your tax dollars at work. Come early and register to speak between 6 and 7 p.m. The hearing starts promptly at 7 p.m.

Responding to McCullough's Defense of Bethel

When I wrote my three recent columns on Bethel New Life, it was done from the perspective of someone who has been up close and personal with both the assisted living facility on North Lavergne and the independent living facility on West Thomas. Not only have I been there numerous times, but I took the time to speak with actual residents about what has been going on at both residences.

When those who used to work for Bethel actually reached out and asked people to visit the facility without public notice, it shows the seriousness of their concerns. Plus, they were Westsiders themselves. As they lived in the community that they were serving, they were committed to Bethel in a way that those living outside the community wouldn't necessarily show.

I didn't decide lightly to criticize Bethel. When I first learned of them firing the entire staff, I took the time to look into it. And the more I looked, the uglier it got. Some have tried to claim that Mary Nelson, who founded Bethel, didn't have anything to do with the firing. My contention is that her silence on the subject is tacit to agreeing with what has happened. To see local residents lose their jobs because of whim instead of substance sends a very bad message to this community. I haven't even mentioned the ex-offenders who worked at Bethel for years and were let go before their "state waiver" came through, which would have permitted them to keep their jobs.

I read Steve McCullough's response in last week's paper. He mentioned three major points, and I feel I must respond.

First, he wrote, "The number of elders in need of critical services is growing at a rapid rate and the supply of services on the West Side does not meet the demand." Readers can use their own common sense to determine how firing an entire staff serves to help a situation here on the West Side where McCullough admits there is already a severe shortage. Not once did Bethel build upon their foundation (remember those fired employees had 10-plus years of service). Bethel has quickly forgotten where it came from, and now that its budget is in the millions, it has kicked to the curb the very folks whose talents got the organization there to begin with.

Second, he said, "Elders' needs are growing more complex. We are experiencing higher numbers of elders who have dementia, Alzheimer's disease, and mental and physical disabilities." Many illnesses and problems come with an aging population. So giving the seniors stability during that time would seem to be more productive than removing the staff that those seniors have come to know, love and trust. Society is quick to point out the disruption that comes with important people leaving a young child's life. The same can be said for our elders as well. There's a reason we have the saying, "Once an adult, and twice a child."

Lastly, McCullough wrote, "The final trend is that our elders come to us with increasingly limited resources. The state of Illinois is hindering our ability to provide services to low-income elders with its slow reimbursement for the care we provide. Based on these trends, we are always evaluating the quality of our work. In some cases, we have to increase our capabilities to address complex issues in care." If ever there was an "Aha" moment, this was it. This is not a wealthy community. So it is not shocking that the elders who look to live at Bethel don't have a lot of money. If you first get rid of the community members who work at Bethel, then you can slowly change the complexion of the people Bethel is serving and most of us would be none the wiser.

What is going on at Bethel is not done in a vacuum. The plans they make today affect us down the road. How can they speak for us when they don't live amongst us?

I invite Bethel residents to call or write this paper and tell the community what really is going on.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Young People Will Find A Way To Entertain Themselves

I dropped off a friend at her home last Friday evening. She lives around California Avenue and Warren Boulevard. As I drove westbound past Wallace's Catfish Corner before getting to her house, I saw about 100 young people in the alley directly behind Wallace's parking lot. They were milling about in such a large number that I was curious as to what was going on.

So after dropping my friend off, I drove around the corner again just as one solitary police SUV went down the alley where the young people were. The officer turned on his blue lights and drove through the crowd. I watched with concern because the police car was greatly outnumbered by the young people hanging out. The officers' actions could make or break the situation as I could hear some very derogatory comments from those young people who, though not part of the main crowd, had clustered closer to Madison Street. Anger emanated from those young people simply because the police car had shown up. From what I sensed and heard, they didn't see themselves doing anything wrong, and they viewed the police SUV as just out to "F___ with them."

Fortunately for everyone involved, the police SUV made it through the crowd with the windows down and without any negative interaction. I took Lake Street to head home and saw a second huge group of young people milling about off Lake Street just past Homan Avenue. A third large group of young people were just off of Lake on Keeler Avenue, and by the time I got to Laramie and made the right turn to head north, I saw lots of young people hanging out in front of the liquor store.

Of all these scenarios, it's easiest to blame the liquor store for the young people milling about in front of it. But from the time I was a kid, hanging out in front of someplace has been a rite of passage - especially when young people don't have places to go and things to do.

The issue of what our West Side young people are supposed to do for entertainment should be at the forefront of our minds. On a warm summer night, young people hanging out on the corners and milling about on the streets is the perfect recipe for negative behavior. Until we provide them with public places of amusement, they will create their own versions of entertainment on the corners and in the streets.

Where are the skating rinks, arcades, dance and pool halls for our young people to go to learn how to socialize? Those establishments offer job opportunities as well as ways to keep our money right here on the West Side instead of giving it to outsiders who take it back to their home communities to create those same things for their young people.

When we are mistakenly led to believe these establishments are the problem and not the individuals who create the havoc, we are left with a community filled with no place to go. I know many who love block after block of storefront churches, yet we have more crime than any other community.

I have nothing against churches, but the majority of them are closed five days a week with the exception of Sunday service and Wednesday bible study. I'd like to see a rule that if a church exists in a storefront, it must be open seven days a week offering programs to the area. Otherwise, that church should combine with another church and become a bigger entity able to fulfill the requirement. At no point should we accept excuses because "doing the Lord's work" requires a 24-hour-a-day commitment, 52 weeks a year.

P.S.: Governor Quinn quietly signed the African American Employment Act last Tuesday after I lambasted him on both the Emilie and Friends show, broadcast on WVON 1690-AM, and the Garfield Major show on 1450-AM. This Sunday from 10 until midnight, we'll be talking about Chicago Public Schools on Garfield's show. Tune in.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Chicago Public Schools

Last night on the Garfield Major show, we had a round table discussion regarding the Chicago Public School. The conversation was excellent, especially DeAndre Robinson who is a senior at Douglass High School.

We will do part II next week. So post your questions in advance or give us a call at 9
773 - 591 - 8000 next Sunday night.

The Garfield Major show airs every Sunday from 10:00pm until Midnight on WRLL 1450AM.