Friday, August 29, 2008

Reducing the budget shortfall

As luck would have it, I missed Mayor Daley's recently held budget hearings due to a personal emergency and because I was already scheduled to be out of town. So since I know all the local politicians read this newspaper and my column, I will give my testimony here, and they can give it or send it to the mayor. And if they like any of my ideas, those same politicians have my permission to use them to help solve the current multimillion-dollar budget shortfall:

1) I still want all city stickers to glow in the dark. Since all Chicagoans have to buy that darn thing, I don't want people who continue to register their cars in the suburbs to be able to park them on any city street overnight. Let's say from 2 a.m. until 6 a.m. If there is one guarantee Chicagoans should have, it's priority for overnight parking. Any visitor can go to a 24-hour currency exchange and buy a $5 permit (we could give a discount for weekly permits) and affix it to their car windshields. Those without the stickers should get a $200 parking ticket. This will eliminate those folks who continue to register their cars in the suburbs but live in the city. Plus those who work in Chicago and park on our streets for free can now contribute to our economy by buying an annual city sticker as well.

2) Since the city is so big on photo-enforcement of red light violations, why not authorize a sting for the hundreds of drivers who daily use the ramp from the northbound Dan Ryan to the Eisenhower and rather than line up, they drive up and cut in front? Not only is there a danger of a major traffic collision, they are crossing a solid white line. Add to that the danger created by cars stopping in the right lane as they try to cut into the left lane. Even worse, it's illegal to pass on the right which is what those drivers are doing. Drivers who truly want to exit onto Congress Parkway now have to squeeze around those stopped cars. I would suggest a $500 fine at the minimum. And judging from the numbers of drivers who practice that behavior, the city could earn over $500,000 in a single rush-hour period. Plus the violations would be handed out by police officers who use cameras to take the pictures.

3) Why not a special scratch-off lottery ticket to help out the Chicago schools, sold exclusively at Midway and O'Hare airports? Since travelers have to spend hours sitting around the airports before their flights take off, why not offer them the opportunity to invest in a Chicago student by buying a scratch-off ticket where 100 percent of the profits go directly to CPS? We can for once at least have one lottery ticket where the schools do benefit.

4) Lastly, it is time to crack down on all street vendors. Since the city started the process by picking on the people selling stuff for the Bud Billiken Parade, let's begin cracking down on all carts parked on the city sidewalks without a permit or a peddler's license. Our city sidewalks are paid for by taxpayers and anyone wanting to use them to establish their own business should be paying for the privilege.

One of the best things about the ideas that I have come up with is that they don't target Chicagoans in general. Who they do target are people using or abusing the system. We're in tough economic times and, as such, we need to look into a revenue stream from those who should be penalized rather than just picking on the easiest target.

If you agree with any of this, send this column to the Office of the Mayor, City Hall - 121 N. LaSalle, Room 507, Chicago, IL 60602. Tell Mayor Daley which feature listed above you support or if all of the above should be implemented to close the budget shortfall that he and his administration have created.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Largest Immigration Raid in Mississippi has Americans Lining Up for Jobs

One of the greatest con jobs in recent history has been the propaganda that Illegal Aliens take the jobs Americans won't. With the unemployment rate being so large in the Black community, Black politicians haven't addressed the issue at the proper level. In fact most have avoided it or played the role of buying into it. I have always been down on record of not supporting illegal immigration because as a Spanish-speaker, I know the push for illegal immigration has always been on the backbone of black people.

Here are several very interesting links:

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Hillary's Speech - What Did You Think?

She gets an 'A+' from me. Especially in terms of her delivery.

Michelle gets a 'A' because she appeared to hang on to every word that Hillary said as if she was waiting for the bomb to drop.

Craig Robinson gets the most "AAAA" because he didn't believe Hillary for one moment and his face reflected it.

Bill gets an "A" because no matter what, there was pride in his watching Hillary do her thing.

Chelsea gets an "A" because she was such a homely child and somewhere, someone worked miracles on everything but her legs. She has her mother's tankles!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Obituary Etiquette - What to do?

Death is the great equalizer. Rich, poor, young, old, fat, skinny, black or white, death is the inevitable ending for all of us who had the privilege of being born.

Recently, while visiting in California with some relatives, I had the opportunity to read over some obituaries my cousin had saved from several funerals she attended. In the course of reading those obituaries, we got into a lively conversation regarding "obituary etiquette."

Now in the past, the majority of obituaries were for old people who had been married for years and the surviving spouse got to write the obituary for the deceased. If not the spouse, then the children wrote it. But in today's world, with so many young people getting killed, obituaries are now in the hands of parents, sisters or brothers and even more distant relations.

One of the major issues in our lively discussion involved children-specifically, children born to a man from multiple mothers. When a woman has children by several different fathers, those children are usually with her and therefore people know that she has four children. But when a man dies and he has a number of children, from both within his marriage and outside his marriage, what is the proper etiquette for acknowledging those children? Or if the young man never married and has a number of children, do the mothers of those children get recognized in the obituary? Should the multiple fathers of the children be acknowledged in a mother's obituary?

Now an obituary serves a number of purposes. For many families, they are placed in a bible and become part of the family history tree. The obituary helps to connect distant relatives to others whom they don't see often. An obituary is also the deceased's personal life history. So how informative should the obituary be?

Well as you can imagine, my cousin and I disagreed on the issue. She felt when a man dies and has children by a number of women, then only the children's names should be acknowledged in the obituary. I feel the obituary should list the mother's or father's name the same way the spouse of a sibling is named in parenthesis. For example, an obituary for a young man with three children by three mothers would read, John Smith, 22, leaves to mourn his three children John Jr. (m. Mary Jones), Terrill (m. Barbra Wilson), Sam (m. Keisha Johnson).

Or is it better to just say: John Smith, 22, leaves to mourn his three children John Jr., Terrill, Sam?

As the conversation between my cousin and I went on, her issue was that there isn't any need for people to know about the "baby mama's" names. The only thing relevant is that the children's names be listed. She was also adamant that anyone who didn't know John well enough to know the three different mothers didn't know him at all and therefore didn't need to know which person was the mother of each child.

I disagreed. Families are now spread out all over the country. A person not knowing the names of the mother (or father) of the deceased children isn't a reflection on that person's connection to the deceased. It is the reality of the deceased person's life and the complexity of modern society that doesn't permit people to keep up with the affairs of their relatives as much as they would like. It can also solve the problem of people who, when reading the obituary, knew, for example, that Keisha Johnson had a son, but wasn't familiar with the child's name, or for relatives who weren't aware that John had three children as opposed to two. Older relatives and today's busy lifestyle for example, sometimes makes it difficult for people to keep up with all the family relationships outside of their immediate families.

So I am asking those of you who read this column to chime in and tell me: What should the etiquette be? Should everyone write their own basic obituary since what does get written is at the will of the person writing it? For example if a young man dies and there are questions about the paternity of a child whom the mother says was his, what action should the family take? If John has always felt that Terrill was his son and the rest of the family disagreed, who should make the decision to include Terrill's name? Write or e-mail me or this newspaper ( and tell us your opinions on what an obituary should be and how to handle some of the situations I mentioned.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Miscellaneous Rants

For the past few weeks, I have been writing about people attending the Budget Hearings that will be happening next week Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. That is the premiere opportunity for Chicagoans to speak to the mayor about anything that they want.

I have been out of town for the past few weeks. Worse, as a person who is a "news junkie," I have had limited access to a computer and the Internet. So every time I've been able to get online, it was interesting.

I was browsing a number of papers when one article caught my attention. The Chicago Police Department (aka Mayor Daley) announced that any vendor selling items without a permit at the Bud Billiken Day Parade would be required to shut it down or get a ticket.

Wow! Every day in Austin and across a lot of Chicago streets, we have unlicensed people selling food from carts that they park on sidewalks-carts that don't have any running water, carts that have open bottles of mayonnaise in 90-degree weather with flies flying about and no method of refrigeration, carts that are filled with food products where we have no idea of the sanitary conditions in which the food was prepared. And yet even though it has been going on for over half-a-year, the city waits until the Bud Billiken Day Parade to begin to implement an enforcement action. Interesting!

Admittedly, I have been out of town for the past couple of weeks, so some of those unlicensed vendors like the ones at North and Cicero avenues in front of Walgreens, or at Laramie and Thomas, may be gone. Also the man who sits at Cicero and Grand Avenue every Sunday and sells fruit out of a box-the big green fruit he cuts with a knife and sticks a straw into. He too may be gone. Because when the city cracks down on black folks during our one-day parade for doing the exact same thing other ethnic groups do on a Daley ... oops, I mean daily basis, then I am sure its nothing personal against us.

Speaking of the Bud Billiken Day Parade, I saw a news report about a tow truck company that erected signs after cars had parked and then began to tow them. Of course, our mayor might need to hear a few choice words from you on that subject. From what I read, it did sound like it was a targeted attack against those in our community who drove to the South Side to see the parade and then wound up paying hundreds of dollars in fines to get their cars back.

And speaking again of Bud Billiken Day, isn't that the parade the black community loves because it signals the end of summer is almost here and our little black boys and girls should be getting ready to go back to school? But wait! Isn't the first day of school supposed to be the one that's being boycotted? So if the first day of school is to be ignored, why didn't the parade get cancelled or boycotted as well? It was interesting to see and hear that Rev. Al Sharpton came to Chicago and endorsed the boycott but also marched in the parade. Seems a bit ... nope, it is hypocritical to be a part of a back-to-school parade celebration when the children are being told to boycott school.

Lastly, on my blog site, someone posted the comment that New Trier doesn't give out books. Rather, the parents buy the books. Now that is an activity that those supporting the boycott should advocate. It would guarantee that each child had a brand-new, up-to-date book. Parents would be less willing to accept the "I left the book at school" excuse when it was time for the child to do their homework and it might free up about $500 per child to be used toward other school needs.

Budget hearings schedule:

Aug. 19 - Falconer Elementary School, 3020 N. Lamon Ave.

Aug. 20 - Central West Regional Center, 2102 W. Ogden Ave.

Aug. 21 - South Shore Cultural Center, 7059 S. South Shore Dr.

Registration starts at 6 p.m. and the hearings start at 7 p.m

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Ditching School on the First Day - What a Dumb Stunt!

Recently State Senator Rev. James T. Meeks held a press conference. At the conference, Sen. Meeks asked Chicagoans to keep their children home on the first day of school. He wants parents to instead take their children to a school like New Trier in Winnetka and attempt to enroll them there. The reason behind his request was to call attention to the disparity in school funding between a Chicago school and a school like New Trier.

Now in my opinion, what Sen. Meeks is calling for is a stunt. Some stunts are powerful and can attract positive attention to an issue. Other stunts just highlight a lack of political savvy and can be readily identified as being just that - a stunt!

I do have a very strong opinion on what Sen. Meeks is attempting to do. I believe he should be putting his efforts in being a "political animal" and working the political process garnering the support of the majority of his 58 other Senators and 118 State Representatives to come up with a school funding policy for Chicago that is fair to our students. He should also work with all the Chicago aldermen to get their support in looking into how the Board of Education is spending the money it gets. But Sen. Meeks has chosen to ask that Chicago parents keep their children home on the first day of school.

So let's say that fifty percent of Chicagoans heed his call and keep their children home. What are those children supposed to do all day? I haven’t heard him calling for parents to begin to home school their children. Or will all the local churches open their doors so that the children will have a safe place to go as their parents go off to work? What if tens of thousands show up to board the buses to go to New Trier and attempt to be enrolled - will there enough buses to take them all there?

If for example New Trier enrolls all the students that go there on the busses, how will they get there the next day? We currently have children who are being bussed to schools within Chicago being picked up as early as 6:00 am. How will a child from 121st and State St. or Madison and Laramie Ave. get to New Trier School if they are enrolled? Is there anything in place to get the children there the rest of the school year? Or will we now have young people leaving home at 5:00am in the morning so that they can catch CTA and RTA to get to that northern suburb by the time first period starts? Once the children get there, how will they get back home at night? Looking at the website and class schedules for New Trier many activities occur early in the morning and into the evening. Including parent meetings at 7:00pm. So if a child is enrolled at the school, I am sure the Chicago parent will make sure they attend those meetings.

New Trier has two campuses. One in Northfield for the freshman and then one in Winnetka for the upper classmen. Those are two separate suburbs. So if two siblings are enrolled and one is a freshman and the other a junior gets enrolled, they can only travel so far together. I am sure Sen. Meeks has a plan to address that issue.

Now what I found out about New Trier in doing my homework for this column was interesting. They are a school that is truly online. So if our children from Chicago don’t have laptops or home computers, how will they compete? Everything is done online. I hope Sen. Meeks has a plan for that as well.

Now there are several Chicago Public Schools that can compare to New Trier. Schools like Whitney Young, NorthSide Prep and Walther Payton. I wonder why Sen. Meeks didn’t call on Chicagoans to go to those schools and demand that our children be given the opportunity to enroll seeing that they are Chicago Public Schools as well.

I am anxiously waiting what will happen on September 2. By the way, the New Trier school year begins on August 21st. By the time Sen. Meeks pulls his stunt on September 2 and goes to New Trier, they will have already had seven days of school. All the books will have been passed out and all the classes started. They will have also already hosted Freshman Athletic Orientation, Special Education Parent Night and College Application Info Night. I hope those who are involved in this stunt are prepared to support our children with all the tools they will need to make up for already missing 7 days of school at New Trier as well as the first day of school in Chicago .

Don't forget that you will have three opportunities this month to speak to Mayor Daley about anything under the sun at the annual budget hearings. Registration starts at 6:00pm and the hearings start at 7:00pm.

The schedules for the hearings are:

AUGUST 19, 2008 Falconer Elementary School
3020 N. Lamon Avenue
AUGUST 20, 2008 Central West Regional Center
2102 W. Ogden
AUGUST 21, 2008 South Shore Cultural Center
7059 S. South Shore Dr

Friday, August 01, 2008

Arlene Jones on Chicago Tonight

Here's a link to my appearance on Chicago Tonight.,8,4&vid=

Here's your chance to speak to Mayor Daley - 2008

For over ten years, I have been a member of the 25th district housing subcommittee. It is an official subcommittee of the BEAT program. Our mission was to work on problem buildings. From drugs-to gangs-to illegal conversions, we would meet diligently once a month to press the issues.

About two years ago, the city rewarded our efforts by changing the meetings from once a month, to once every three months. The city when it doesn’t want to truly deal with an issue does what it does best; frustrate the citizens with the hope that we will tire of it and go away. We haven’t. We were a voice pointing out problems in the mortgage industry years before the current mortgage crisis became headline news.

We didn’t know the fancy lingo to describe the problem, but what we did know was this. People who could ill afford to own a home were being put in them and with it came the instability of the neighborhood. Houses that once held people with the same goals and desires as those already living on the block were soon filled with people who didn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the community.

Homes on blocks that contained bungalows suddenly found real estate ads describing properties on their block with eight bedrooms, two home offices and three kitchens. ‘For rent’ signs appeared in the windows and the those same blocks found that a once-a-week garbage pickup didn’t suit their needs when they put out three-to-four times more the amount of garbage than the other houses.

The city didn’t care to hear our concerns. At one budget hearing, I presented Mayor Daley with actual listings of properties that showed a bungalow for sell without a dormer and stating it had six bedrooms and three kitchens and yet even with concrete evidence before their eyes, our elected officials were unresponsive. So as I travel all over the city and see blocks with empty or boarded up houses, I know that the buck stops at the feet of all our elected officials. Especially the mayor since he was presented the evidence in person.

When we elect representatives to every level of government, we hope and expect that they will watch out for our interests. But one of the mistakes many of us make is leaving decisions in their hands without actively monitoring what they are up to. For example the recent shooting nears Chicago Ave. and Lorel had many of those being interviewed blaming drug sales, lack of jobs and all the normal excuses. Yet as a community, we allowed the 15th district police station be relocated from the Chicago Ave and Lorel Ave site to west Madison Ave where it now serves to symbiotically protect Oak Park as police cars drive to and from the station thru that suburb.

Over the years, I have written about how the mayor MUST attend the annual Budget Hearings held at one of three neighborhood locations. At those hearings, residents can testify to the mayor and to the heads of all the city departments (including Jody Weiss CPD, Arne Duncan CPS and Ron Huberman CTA) , about anything that they are concerned about when it comes to this city and what is going on. All you have to do is register to speak between 6 – 7pm, and then once your name is called, you can give the mayor a piece of your mind on any subject under the sun.

If you can’t think of what you want to talk about, I’ll give you a few pointer based on what has been happening in the city right now; Brach candy site, shootings, red-light cameras, schools - including a new high school for Austin, parks, police, sanitation, housing crisis, cook county tax increase, property taxes not going down even as our property values have fallen, dogs without tags being walked down the streets, city taxes on gasoline, phone service, electricity and cooking gas, price of city stickers, TIF money and how its being used, jobs for youth, opportunities for ex-offenders, a land-based casino for Chicago and on and on.

The schedules for the hearings are:

AUGUST 19, 2008 Falconer Elementary School
3020 N. Lamon Avenue
AUGUST 20, 2008 Central West Regional Center
2102 W. Ogden
AUGUST 21, 2008 South Shore Cultural Center
7059 S. South Shore Dr

I will be at the Ogden location on Tuesday. Since the mayor cannot leave until everyone who wants to testify does so, let’s fill the location and keep him there overnight. That along with voting to elect someone to take his place are some of the ways we can make him understand that as a city, we are tired of the antics of our elected officials and we’re not going to take it anymore.

By the way, arrive early. All the city officials drive cars so as to take up all the parking spaces thereby frustrating people who can’t find a place to park and thus don’t come to the hearings. If I had my way, every one of the people employed by the city and including the mayor should have to take the CTA to attend those hearing so that they can experience what the rest of us do every day.