Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Taste of Justice Twice in One Week

It's not often that the citizens of Chicago can see justice served up twice in a week. The first helping came with the sentencing of John Burge-Torturer on Friday Jan. 21. His sentence of 4 1/2 years in prison is miniscule in relation to the havoc he created, but after years of fighting to have some sort of justice meted out, most folks are just glad that he got something.

As I write this column on Monday night, I have been jumping for joy ever since learning that Rob'em Manually won't be on the ballot. If there ever was a case where it appeared that the law was going to be shaped and manipulated to accommodate someone, this was it. Yes, at one time Rahm did live here. But packing up all his stuff, renting out his house and filing an income tax form that stated that he considered himself a part-time resident all combined to turn a ruling that should have been a cakewalk into a huge debacle.

When people talk about "why" Rahm rented out his house, I can answer it with one simple word. Actually I have a couple of words. Cheapskate and greed. After looking at the salary ($172,000) he would be making as White House Chief of Staff, Rahm figured out a way to make even more money. Renting out the house ($60,000). Then to add insult to injury, rather than pay a few dollars to have valuables stored in a heat-controlled storage locker, Rahm had the stuff stored in a crawlspace in the family's basement. I told you, "cheap" should be Rahm's codename.

It is also interesting that in April, 2010, Rahm stated he wanted to run for mayor. The lease on his house was expiring at the end of August, 2010 and he could have claimed his house and not gone through the headaches he just went through. But no, even though a mayoral election was looming, Rahm went ahead and renewed the lease and then ... Daley announces his retirement. Now that sends Rahm into a tizzy as he tried to terminate the lease on his house and return to Chicago to become our anointed next mayor. But fate intervened and two judges of the Appellate Court have ruled that Rahm isn't eligible to be on the ballot.

Last week, I told how Rahm bypassed the NAACP Mayoral Candidate forum. It was held at Friendship Baptist, 5200 W. Jackson. That church was founded by Sheldon Hall and in a case of pure irony, one of the presiding judges making the decision regarding Rahm was Shelvin Louise Marie Hall - the founder's daughter. I was hoping that in the back of her mind, Rahm's insult to her father's church would play a role. Can't say that it did, but the irony is still pure "payback."

I also had gotten a call from several activists because, with the exception of Bill Dock Walls, all the candidates had ignored the forum put on by the Montford Point Marines Association. These are all men who have served this country while none of the candidates have any military service. Just another insult to a black organization by those who will do commercials claiming they want to serve you. But what we end up getting is a kick in the behind.

For the next couple of days, until the Illinois Supreme Court rules on the case, we can expect Rahm to be off the ballot. The Supreme Court ruling, I expect, will just reaffirm the lower court's decision. But what it all comes down to is each voter doing his or her homework about who will best represent their interests as this city moves forward.

And in the back of my mind, as always, is the future of the black West Side. Our land has been valuable for years and political games have kept those valuations low.

So pay attention, Westsiders, pay attention! And on Election Day, come out and vote like you did in November 2008.

Lastly, several of the candidates for alderman of the 28th Ward have been coming on Garfield's show on Sunday night as well as those from the 24th Ward. These are two of the hottest contests around. Tune in Sunday nights from 10 until midnight on WRLL 1450AM.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Why Their Happy Asses Were "No Show!"

In last week's column, I inadvertently stated that Harold Washington ran against Bernard Stone. I should have said Bernard Epton. I do apologize to Alderman Stone for the error.

Now with that out of the way, you know I have to talk about the Westside NAACP's candidate forum. I see that we have a two-tiered mayoral race going on. If the event involves television and non-political black folks, then Gery Chico and Rahm Emanuel are front and center. But if the audience consists of politically astute black folks asking hard questions and wanting answers, then the two aren't to be found.

I had been forewarned that Rahm, although in town, didn't consider the NAACP forum to be worth his time. My friend, who is working his campaign, wasn't as enthusiastic as she had been as she made excuses for why he didn't feel the need to come before the audience at Friendship Baptist Church last week. So I'll say it for her and him: "Hell, we're just Westsiders. We don't count or matter. We get the last and worst of everything. We don't complain. And when we do, it is just amongst ourselves. As rumor has it, we don't even half vote. So there's no need for the so-called front-runners (Emanuel and Chico) to waste their gasoline on us unless they have a minister or two at their side."

That's just my opinion, but before I continue on my tirade, I need each and every one of you to understand exactly what is at stake in the quest to be the next mayor. Thanks to Dwayne Truss of the Westside NAACP, we started the forum off with a PowerPoint presentation as to what kind of funding the current mayor has under his belt.

The mayor controls, first and foremost, the city of Chicago's budget: $6.15B. Yup, that "B" is for billion. Add in the CPS budget of $6.6B; CTA, $2.6B; CHA, $1.6B; City Colleges, $582M, McPier, $480M; Park district, $398M; O'Hare expansion $6.6 to 15B; Tax Increment Financing (TIF), $1.2B; and as head of the Public Building Commission, the mayor controls contracts worth tens of millions, totaling billions, depending on the project. And folks, that is each year. So there is a lot at stake as to who gets their hands on that money in the next election and how it is spent in our community.

When Mayor Washington got into office, he issued an executive order that began to redistribute that money to black folks. But few politicians want black voters to be knowledgeable, so they don't talk about what is at stake. Rather, they offer us scare tactics of the monster "Republicans" and what will happen if they get in office. But the mayoral primary election is non-partisan. It's simple: Whoever gets 50 percent of the vote, plus one, wins.

So hell yeah, the so-called front-runners aren't willing to come to the West Side and tell you what they plan on doing with all that money. Instead, they view us as being so stupid that all they have to do is run a few commercials or appear with Pastor This, Bishop That or Reverend Whomever, and we'll rush to the polls and give them our vote.

Well, I know my people and we ain't falling for the okey-dokey this time. We saw thru Alexi Giannoulias when he campaigned and expected that the Obama effect would glide him into the U.S. Senate, and the same is true for Emanuel. Plus, he still has to survive the court challenge to his candidacy, which I hear isn't looking so good.

The four candidates who did come to the NAACP forum were Carol Mosley Braun, Patricia Van Pelt Watkins, Miguel Del Valle and William "Dock" Walls. They answered questions about their priorities when they become mayor, what they will do regarding the huge ex-offender population on the West Side, if they had ever attended a budget hearing, and questions regarding education.

To be fair, I won't write about any of their answers so that I won't be accused of favoring my candidate over the others. But if you visit my blog, I did tape a lot of the forum and you can see what they had to say.

The Feb. 22 primary election is more important that the 2008 one in which we elected President Obama. Why? Because whoever leads us through the next four years will have to be creative, resourceful, innovative and technologically savvy to put Chicago back in the running as a major player in the world economy. That is why the president of China, Hu Jintao, is making this city the only other place he visits besides Washington. He sees Chicago as a Chinese economic gateway to America, the same way my candidate sees Chicago becoming the nano-technology capital of the world.

We are still talking politics every Sunday night on WRLL 1450AM from 10 until midnight on the Garfield Major Show. Call-in number is 773-591-8000. Share this with everyone you know


Friday, January 14, 2011

Let's See If Rahm Brings His Happy Azz to the WestSide

I voted for Mayor Harold Washington each time he ran. I was young - in my early 20s - and not really into politics during his first run. I got on the Harold Washington bandwagon because my boyfriend at the time was wearing Washington's button, so Harold became my candidate too.

Many of Mayor Washington's accomplishments didn't resonate immediately with me because politics wasn't my priority at the time. I was single, living on my own and in my view, I had the world at my door. Growing older, having children, and buying a house all contributed to my getting into politics.

My political views have always been jaded. I tend to see things in a very realistic vein. I don't believe any candidate will come along and "save us." But what I do subscribe to is that some candidates who get elected will do a better job of making sure the black community is treated fairly. That is what happened when Harold Washington won the election over Bernie Epton. For the first time in over 200 years, a black man was again at the helm of this city and being fair to all of its inhabitants was his number-one priority.

With Washington's death and the upheavals that came after it, many of the gains we had made as a people slowly eroded. City jobs, access to affordable housing, fairness in the allocation of resources to all of the residents of Chicago had been a trademark of the Washington administration. I can still remember when one of my friends with a vacant lot next door to her house finally got it cleaned up. It was only under a Washington administration that she was able to get the city to come address the issue. She could never get any type of response to her requests under any of the previous administrations. I can still remember her joy at feeling like she mattered for being a part of this city.

Remembering vividly such a small detail is a testament to just how well Mayor Washington delivered and distributed city services to everyone. There was a lot of hope in this city and many residents who never bought into the idea of a black mayor (and these were black people as well) soon found themselves believing because they were seeing it with their own eyes.

We now have the opportunity to again have the kind of city that offers fairness to all. I know some folks think a certain mayoral candidate was sent here by the White House to be anointed our new mayor. Many heard President Obama say that person could be a good mayor. But when I heard it, I heard a boss bidding an employee farewell and saying kind words just to get him out the door. I didn't hear a ringing endorsement. For what it's worth, I think the words the president said were spoken by someone glad to see an interloper leave rather than someone who was saddened and would truly miss that person upon departure.

I have been having wonderful debates with a friend who is a supporter of Emanuel. She knows that I support Bill "Dock" Walls. So as we banter back and forth with the politics, I had to ask her a question. Will her candidate, who has spent his time campaigning at el stops ever come into the actual community and talk with people who don't ride the CTA (like myself), who won't ever see his commercials on television because they don't watch it (like myself), but who, like myself, have lots of questions and want answers?

I go and listen at mayoral forums because I want to hear the issues being discussed. I want to know how the next mayor of the city of Chicago will solve our financial problems. I want to know how they will deal with the parking meters issue, in light of the fact that they are now $5 an hour downtown. I want to hear the next mayor's plan for Austin, for the West Side, for ex-offenders, for schools, for policing issues, for the ever expanding issue of guns and violence. I want the next mayor to not follow the pattern of the existing mayor who made this side of town a seldom-to-never visit.

So I challenged my friend. This Sunday Jan. 16, at Friendship Baptist, 5200 W. Jackson Street from 5 to 8 p.m., there will be a mayoral candidates forum, sponsored by the Westside NAACP. After my last column, the NAACP quickly reached out and invited Dock Walls to participate. All the other major candidates have been invited too. So let's see if her candidate has the "balls" to come out and answer questions from people who aren't in a hurry trying to get on and off a train.

Later that same night, we'll talk politics like we do each and every Sunday night on the Garfield Show. Tune in to WRLL 1450-AM from 10 until midnight.

The race for mayor has turned into a circus

There is an old saying that "politics is theatre." And during the entire month of December 2010, we saw performances worthy of the Academy Awards by several candidates for mayor.

One of the first things to remember in looking at politicians is that their motto is thus; "we have no permanent enemies, just permanent interest." Those interests, for the most part, involve themselves and not what is good for the citizenry.

For weeks I had been hearing via the political grapevine that both State Sen. Meeks and Congressman Davis would be dropping out of the race. The stage for it to occur was during the so-called "historic" WVON 1690 AM radio show forum held on Dec. 15, with the three "leading" black candidates. During the course of the talk, Meeks conveniently asked if the others would be willing to dropout of the race to have a single consensus candidate. Carol Moseley Braun said she was "In it to win it," while Davis gave his usual conciliatory speech on unity.

Then just over a week later on Christmas Eve, Meeks announced he was dropping out. That left both Braun and Davis. Davis gave a good performance when he stood up to tell his "homeboy" Bill Clinton not to get involved in the political race here. It almost had me believing that Davis was going to be a serious candidate until I got a gander at his political campaign posters for mayor. They looked like the ones he had just used to run for congress.

On New Year's Eve, Davis dropped out of the race. What is very interesting is that as a seasoned politician, Davis knows full well that there are dates one needs to respect to withdraw from the race. Dropping out in a timely fashion means it keeps their name from appearing on the ballot. Davis missed that deadline. His name may still be on the ballot and any votes that go to him will not be counted. Thus the votes for him won't be looked at as part of the 50 percent plus one that a candidate needs to win to garner the office. I'll let you all judge whether that was a political oops or a calculated action.

What makes me sick of the political games I see being played is that it is done with no regards for the lives of the people who are affected by it. Politicians are cutting deals and conveniently dropping out of the race. Rumors are spreading like wildfire that Braun is going to dropout next. If her "I'm in it to win it" speech is repeatedly met with her other new retort, "Because I don't want to" we are in trouble. Gaffes like that shouldn't be done by a seasoned politician. Plus it makes me wonder the seriousness of a candidate who even before taking office is giving us the finger and expecting the voters of this city to take whatever mess they have to dole out.

My advice is for everyone to begin to seriously follow who is running for mayor and their position. The race for mayor needs to be about issues and not celebrity - especially when the so-called leading candidate spent Christmas not only outside this city but the country to boot. I guess we know where Rahm Emanuel's priorities lie and it isn't among the average citizenry.

We need to hear solutions and not excuses. How will the next mayor solve the huge unemployment rate here on the West Side amongst so many young black men? What are the plans for all the vacant land on the West Side? Can the Brach site become a Black Entertainment Complex to offer thousands of jobs to local residents if Chicago is to get a land based casino? The questions we need to ask are staggering.

I recently got a flyer about the West Side NAACP candidate forum and it didn't include either William "Dock" Walls or Patricia Van Pelt Watkins, both candidates for mayor. Both are West Siders and it is sickening to know that an organization that is representing this side of town doesn't include everyone in a debate that is so important to our future. The race for mayor is for an open seat just like your vote can be given to whomever you please. Demand to hear from all the candidates. Our future depends on knowing who has the plans and solutions for the future of this city, and who is just a figurehead likely to lead it down the same tired path.

Lastly, it is again time to focus on politics every Sunday night. Tune in to the Garfield Major Show on 1450 AM from 10 p.m. until midnight. There you will hear from many of the candidates for both mayor and alderman. Call 773-591-8000 and be heard.

Hanging on in '10, charging into '11

Coming to an end is 2010, and I'm just glad I "made it." I'm still living and breathing. The struggle to hold on this past year has been immeasurable. But I did it by putting my pride to the side and taking on jobs that helped me keep my head above water. So I am grateful for what I have and optimistic about what will come in 2011.

As always, it is time for me to review my year of columns. No issue was of greater importance than the loss of my colleague Delores McCain. The stilling of her voice has had a major impact on this paper. Delores and I traveled in many of the same circles, and it is still strange to go places and not see her there. I do enjoy seeing the previously published Streetbeat columns. But with so many pressing issues out here for people to voice their opinions on, it leaves a huge void as to what people are currently thinking.

Politics as usual played a major role in many of my writings. From the race to become the new president of the Cook County Board to the governor's race, we saw the fall of Stroger while Quinn was able to hold onto his seat by the slimmest of margins. We even had Tavis Smiley show up with his symposium on the "Black Agenda." Yet months later, nothing has truly come of it as it was just another opportunity for people to posture without purpose.

One of the continuous themes of my columns was what is good about living on this side of town. Over the course of the year, I wrote about Douglas High School. The children there want a future and a good education and are seeking it in spite of it not being a proper high school. I got to meet DeAndre Robinson, a young man whose future is bright and who has already declared he will one day be mayor of this city. DeAndre represents the young people of Chicago who, rather than bemoan what they don't have, takes a look at what is available and sees how to make it work. That kind of ingenuity has always been at the forefront of the black experience in this country.

Two other hidden gems are hospitals. Loretto Hospital specializes in the treatment of addiction while Hartgrove Hospital does the same for mental illness. Both diseases are plagues that we don't often speak about within the black community. Thankfully, we have a place and specialists to help heal those problems.

We had several of what I call "stunt" events. State Rep. LaShawn Ford's call to bring out the National Guard garnered headlines, led him to host a huge meeting, but the issue fizzled after that. The shootings and mayhem continue. A study published by some "deep thinkers" claimed that the West Side Wal-Mart caused businesses as far away as Roosevelt and Western to Harlem and Irving to shut down. To believe that people would drive past the HIP shopping plaza to come to Wal-Mart on our side of town is farfetched to say the least. Plus, they could easily zip further north to go to the one in Niles.

Is there anyone who believes that Supt. Weis' decision to call in "gang leaders" and threaten to arrest them for the crimes of their members was anything more than a stunt? Months later, the killings are still occurring, and I'm not seeing headlines about those so-called leaders going to jail. If our society doesn't hold parents responsible for their children's actions, how are we going to hold their so-called gang leaders' feet to the fire?

I spent over a month letting everyone know about how Bethel New Life fired local workers who were doing a good job in exchange for hiring new workers. Then there was the flood that brought as much as 6 feet of water into some people's basements. Many of us are still recovering from that event. One local homeowner had a minor fire, then watched her entire house flattened by the authorities, which should make all of us leery because if it happened to her, it can happen to the rest of us.

The final quarter of the year has brought the news that will dominate the first quarter of 2011. That was the decision by Daley not to seek re-election. That brought candidates, whom we haven't seen or heard from in ages, out the woodwork, all wanting to be the next mayor of Chicago. The new year will have all of them going full force and I can't wait for it.

Two more community gems to honor

If you've ever gotten an e-mail from me, I end it with an African Proverb: On the day of victory, no one will be tired. That proverb has served me well in terms of hoping for/expecting/wanting a victory so some of our social ills can be solved and have a definitive end.

Until that day comes, there are agencies that have committed themselves to the process of helping us one day arrive at that "victory." Last week Tuesday, I got a chance to attend the 10th annual meeting to hear a report on Sankofa Safe Child Initiative (SSCI). They are located at 1500 S. Keeler in the North Lawndale community. The meeting was held at the brand new Hartgrove Hospital, 5730 W. Roosevelt Road.

The partnership between those two agencies is a perfect fit. Sankofa, which means "looking back to go forward," has taken on several areas of social need. One of their biggest initiatives is focusing on grandparents/kinship caregivers raising children and youth who have aged out of foster care. To accommodate those families, they built Sankofa House, a five-story, 58-unit residential facility at 4041 W. Roosevelt Road. SSCI also offers services in job training, life skill, parenting classes, GED, expungement, child care and counseling/mentoring, just to name a few. They also offer a wonderful boutique, It's In The Bag, at 2413 W. Madison.

SSCI is the brainchild of Executive Director Annetta Wilson, who is barely 5 feet tall, but what she lacks in physical height she makes up for in energy put forth. She has given her best to SSCI and demands the same of her staff.

One of the questions I posed to Mrs. Wilson was how SSCI ended up partnering with Hartgrove Hospital. For years she had known Chuck Levy the Community Relations representative from the hospital. Because of their mutual concern about issues on the West Side, they developed a personal relationship which led to a business arrangement as well.

For years, I have driven by Hartgrove Hospital's site at 520 N. Ridgeway. I knew they dealt with mental health issues, but that issue wasn't on my immediate radar. About three years ago, the hospital moved to the new location on Roosevelt Road. Attending the annual report meeting was the first time I had been at the new facility, and I admit I didn't know it was there. I do remember when the land was vacant and plans had been announced for the new development that would occur on it. But I also have to admit the furthest I had ventured was into the new Aldi's on south Central Avenue.

Hartgrove Hospital's new building is beautiful and the staff was very pleasant. They offer services for all age groups who have behavioral issues. They are especially concerned about children and adolescents who display sexually problematic behavior. Other services include substance abuse, neuropsychiatric inpatient services, self-injury services, and corresponding services in Spanish.

I want to keep highlighting the little-known-but-positive forces at work here on the West Side. When places such as SSCI and Hartgrove Hospital are put on people's radar, then we know where we can go or send our love ones for treatment. And when those persons have been treated and are "cured," that is a victory we all can celebrate.

Merry Christmas and Celebrate Kwanzaa. I'll be at Malcolm X every day, beginning the day after Christmas, as part of the Chicago Black Author's Network. It goes on each day through New Year's Day, and there is plenty of free parking. Come out and join in the activities.