Sunday, December 19, 2010

When Families Gather, Politics Should Be On The Table

Over the next few weeks as we celebrate Christmas, Kwanzaa, and the New Year, we will be getting together with family and friends. We will see people whom we see all the time. We will see others whom we don't see as often. A lot of the conversation when people get together will be discussing their lives, the lives of their children and life in general. One subject that people don't bring up but should be at the forefront of any conversation is politics. Now, I know a lot of people like to proclaim that they don't deal in politics. Unfortunately, if you're "living and breathing," then politics is affecting you. In truth, it affects 100 percent of what we do.

Now, there is one subject that I would like everyone to discuss over Christmas dinner, while lighting the Kinara at Kwanzaa or during the commercials on all the football games on New Year's Day. That subject? Why it's one which should be on the mouths of anyone living or even visiting this city. Who will be the next mayor of Chicago?

The major media and many pundits have already anointed Rahm Emanuel as our next mayor even before the voting has begun. Heck ... truthfully, it's been even before we know who will officially be on the ballot and who will be kicked off. But I am not one to give Rahm that much credit. In truth, the very strategy of his campaign to overload the media with his face has backfired. It has done little more than draw attention to the fact that he is quickly becoming "the candidate whom we see but never hear." Rahm is becoming like Jackie Kennedy Onassis. A face we all recognize but a voice that we don't.

A lot of talk has been going on because Rahm has decided that he doesn't want to do many of the political forums. He wants to win the mayoral ship without addressing issues directly to the voters. He wants to win based on hearsay and not speech that is directed at us, the everyday man and woman walking the streets of the West Side.

If you're like me, any candidate wishing to become the next mayor of this city has a lot of questions to answer. This city is currently near bankrupt, directly related to having had a mayor who didn't feel he needed to talk to his populace. He did what he wanted to do and look at the fine mess we are now in.

So, as you gather together this holiday season, talk about the upcoming municipal election and whom you would like to see win. Encourage your family members if they aren't registered to vote, to get registered. If any member of your family will turn 18 on or before Feb. 22, they can register and vote. And, most importantly, on Election Day get out and vote.

Voting and for whom will be the subject of my columns for the next few weeks. I am a believer that politicians spend their entire time figuring out how to lord over us with politics. Therefore it is imperative that we do back to them what they have been doing to us for decades. And the easiest way to do it is to vote into office those who will serve our needs, and vote out of office those who don't.

XCan Rahm Pick and Choose When He Wants To Be A Resident?

Anyone who reads this column on a consistent basis, or knows me, knows that the period between June 30, of any year and July 15, is one of both joy and dread. Joy because for 15 days, I can take the city sticker off of my car and not risk a ticket. That's because the prior year's sticker expires on June 30 and a new one doesn't have to be displayed until July 15. Now, buying a city sticker is one of those mandatory purchases that a resident of the city of Chicago has to make if they own a car. Unlike the state of Illinois' emission test-which can be postponed or pended because the car wasn't in the area-a city sticker ain't optional.

And paying that $75 dollar pisses me off every year because buying it doesn't guarantee me anything. Not a parking space or a street free of potholes. Not even the ability to be given priority parking privileges at any city-owned venue.

I searched this paper's website to see how many times I wrote about the city stickers. As expected, I found quite a few as far back as 2005. I seemed to always have something to say about that city sticker whenever I wrote about the budget hearings. I've written about the cost of the sticker being so high that for many of Chicago's poor living on minimum wages, the sticker's cost is literally a day's pay.

So imagine my delight in learning that the city sticker is playing a major role in the Chicago Board of Election's hearings concerning whether or not Rahm Emanuel can stay on the ballot to run for mayor.

At first I thought he might take a stance against the city sticker because it causes a major financial burden on a struggling populace. Or that he was going to declare his intentions to slash the cost for the sticker once he became mayor. But instead, a very interesting scenario is playing out. The man who claims to be a Chicago resident after leasing his house to go work in Washington has been exposed for not purchasing a June 2009-10 city sticker. Come again???

After repeatedly telling us how he kept his car registered here he, in fact, didn't pay the $75 bucks-a measly sum for him-for that piece of plastic that sometimes doesn't like to even stick. What gives?

His car is registered here and not in Washington, where the insurance rates are much higher. Nah...somebody who wanted to be mayor wouldn't be trying to pull a fast one over on his car insurance company. Now we are learning that even though the car is registered here at the address he leased out to his tenant, he can't buy a city sticker for it because the car is parked in Washington D.C. Wait a second. Does Rahm Emanuel really think that we are that stupid? Cause right about now, we know that he is a cheapskate.

Rahm is said to be a millionaire several times over. Yet, rather than leave his house empty or allow someone to room in it in exchange for house sitting, Rahm leases the house out while still professing to be a Chicago resident. According to the city clerk's website, this Q&A is the closest I could come to seeing how the issue of the sticker would be addressed:

"My vehicle is registered to another state and I live in the city only a portion of the year. Do I need a vehicle sticker from Chicago also?"

"Yes, you do need to purchase a vehicle sticker. Regardless of where your vehicle is registered, as long as you reside, or your vehicle is principally garaged, within the city limits, you are required to have a vehicle sticker."

Hmmm. The "as long as you reside" portion stuck out to me. The city clerk says that a resident must buy a city sticker. Rahm claims that he is a resident but, yet, didn't buy the sticker. It is quite clear that our mayoral wannabe is already skilled at asking everyone else to do what he feels he doesn't have to do. Is there a question in anyone's mind that he shouldn't have had to buy that city sticker? I mean this is the same city that will boot, tow and demolish your car for unpaid parking tickets and still have you owing for those tickets. I know there has to be people who have been forced to pay for prior years' city stickers when found guilty of having not purchased them.

The rules at the Board of Election are quite clear. A candidate cannot "owe" the city any money when they file to run for office. If we are to take Rahm at his word that he is a resident of the city, then he should have bought the city sticker regardless of the car being in Washington or not. I'm sure that the application for the sticker was sent to him. Seeing that Rahm didn't buy a sticker, he owes the city money, and, therefore, is in violation of the rules and should not be allowed to get on the ballot. At least, that's how I see it.

Let's see what the Board of Election does because there are a number of candidates who are being challenged for owing the city money.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Shop Locally This Christmas

Recently I heard one of the mayoral candidates speak on his campaign platform. One of the things he mentioned was questioning how he could get manufacturers to return to Chicago.

Over the past 30 years, we have lost a number of jobs that were in the manufacturing arena. Jobs like Brach candy, Ecko, Stuart-Warner and a host of others. Many of those jobs went to China as business model after business model joined in the rush to manufacture in China to sell in America. This has led to the phenomena of ships coming into this country loaded with containers full of goods and returning to China empty. We as Americans have embraced those goods and have contributed to our own economic demise by purchasing those items without impunity. Our unwillingness to boycott items made in China has led to job losses and an American economy no longer based on manufacturing.

The current American economy of consuming without producing has already been the reality in the black community for the past 50 years. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that a people who don't produce are doomed. Many of the social problems plaguing the black community will soon be the problems facing the majority community as what goes on in the black community eventually becomes the reality for mainstream America.

What amazed me in listening to the politician speak was that he and his ilk are all responsible for the current state of the economy in this country. Rather than focus on saving jobs, creating new ones and being innovative, they have spent their time on frivolous measures that haven't brought about jobs or a growing economy.

But my column today isn't about critiquing those politicians. Rather as we focus on Christmas and purchasing gifts for that day, where we spend our money is as important as on what we spend our money. There are two types of gifts given for Christmas. One is purchasing items that an individual needs. The other is buying things that the person wants. But no matter the two, as we spend what truly is hard-earned money this Christmas season, trying to buy a Made in America product will be hard but not necessarily impossible.

Thanks to the advances in the internet, finding products that are still made in this country is just a few clicks away. I am grateful for companies like JC Penney catalog and Menards for always highlighting products made in this country. One of the things I am most leery of is food products made in China. Somehow a country with a population of a billion people isn't on my radar as one that can afford to over produce food to send abroad. Manufacturers have gotten wise to people like myself who look to see where items are produced. So they stamp their product with an innocuous label of Made in PRC. That's the People Republic of China for those that don't know.

Lastly, don't overlook doing your Christmas shopping by supporting local business owners and entrepreneurs. There is a new group in Austin that has been promoting that very idea. I attended their event last month and really like the concept. Basically they want to empower women by having us meet, get to know one another, share information, and in my case they supported me by purchasing my book. The name of the group is SOUL SISTA SOUL and they will meet this Saturday Dec. 4 at 4:30 pm at 1732 N. Meade, 2nd Floor. For more information, call Tammie at 773-981-8813.

Poets Wanted

• CALL FOR POETRY: The American Dream: A Juxtaposition
Sunday, February 20, 2011 / 2-4 p.m.
A beautiful country with a history damning and redeeming in turns. A nation where all have opportunity but one percent of the population controls over a third of the wealth. A crucible of Enlightenment democracy that accepted slavery. We ask writers to consider any and all sides of the American dream, e.g. odes, persona pieces, rants, etc. and submit the results.

Selected poets have to be available to read in person. Please send five poems on the theme ALONG WITH a 50 to 75 word bio, IN THE BODY OF AN E-MAIL to by January 10. We will make every effort to inform those chosen of our decision by January 17 , 2011 .

Read more about poetry events at Woman Made Gallery here:

Beate C. Minkovski

Executive Director

Woman Made Gallery

685 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Chicago , IL 60642

Group Exhibitions:
Nov. 5 - Dec. 23, 2010
Reception: Nov. 5 / 6-9pm
Mothers and Girl: Please!
Press Releases

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Video Links

WestSide2Day Videos

Three Heroes That I Am Thankful For

Today's column is dedicated to my heroes.

My first hero I met several weeks ago. At an early morning breakfast following the elections, I met Eric Monte in person. If his name doesn't ring an immediate bell in your mind, Eric is the writer who created Good Times, The Jeffersons, and the movie that for hundreds of us who grew up in the Cabrini-Green housing projects, will always be our "coming of age" saga; Cooley High. I have been Facebook friends with Eric for awhile. I was originally under the impression that he was living in California, but in actuality Eric has been back here living in Chicago for a number of years. Eric's story is unfortunately like a lot of individuals who garnered fame and fortune only to lose the money it brought to drugs, and being cheated out of earnings by Hollywood moguls and bad financial decisions.

Eric's story of his rise to fame and subsequent fall should be a movie/novel or both. Hollywood is not kind and Eric made mistakes that allowed those in the business to take advantage of his naïveté. He did end up getting a $1 million settlement out of a lawsuit over Good Times, but that money was lost in his quest to put on a play he wrote. He ended up broke and living in a homeless shelter. Eric suffered a stroke, which left his speech impaired.

Fortunately, there are people who want to help Eric. After being introduced to him and hearing of his struggle, I immediately began to look into giving him a tribute that would put some money in his pocket. As I reached out to other former residents of Cabrini, I learned that a tribute was already in the works for him. Jackie Taylor, playwright and CEO of Black Ensemble Theatre, is honoring Eric and several other black playwrights on Monday, Dec. 6. The show starts at 6 p.m., the cost of the ticket is $20, and the theatre is located at 4520 N. Beacon. I'll be there and hope that you too will join me to honor the man who helped put a positive light on people who lived in public housing.

My second hero is someone I didn't know but I, along with the entire country, am grateful for what he did. Staff Sergeant Derrick Westmoreland spent 10 years in the Marines and the last 10 months doing a tour in Afghanistan. It is so interesting that we call it a "tour' seeing that going to Afghanistan is not on anyone's vacation radar.

Derrick is Johnny Westmoreland's brother. Johnny is another constant fixture on the Garfield Major Show that we do each Sunday night on WRLL 1450AM from 10 until midnight. Johnny's family, when learning that their brother was coming home, contacted the USO. Together the USO and the Westmoreland family put on a hero's welcome for Derrick. They arranged for television coverage of his return home, and a police escorted procession to his family's home in Oak Park. It was a magnificent sight to see. The response from people on the streets was fantastic, too. Thank you Derrick Westmoreland for a job well done.

My third hero is Terrence Davis, who recently held his retirement ceremony from the Navy. Davis was given the opportunity to make one final request for "permission to go ashore." I had never attended a ceremony celebrating a person's leaving of the service before. It was a wonderful event to see and the young sailors from Great Lakes Naval Base came out in force to put on a ceremony that was both informative and entertaining. "Anchors Away" Petty Officer Terrence Davis.

Visit my blog to see the links to the videos for both Derrick and Terrence.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Support A Local Author - Buy A Book For Christmas

Just over a year ago, my novel Billion Dollar Winner was released. As with most authors, the next step in the process is to promote and sell the book. In order to accomplish that goal, I joined a writers group that a local store owner on the South Side was attempting to put together. The first couple of meetings went well. Then all hell let loose. The group disbanded because of bickering.

By chance, I happened to meet one of the authors from the group at another event. He was putting together the opportunity for authors to sell their work at the Thompson Center (State of Illinois building). I got excited and jumped at the opportunity to vend my book downtown. We had a good run at the Thompson Center and, as a group, we continued to meet so often that we established ourselves as the Chicago Black Author's Network (CBAN).

We are a talented group of black Chicago authors who have banded together to form a network to highlight our work. Our goal is to bring our novels and literary publications to the forefront for the reading public. We are dedicated to being a Chicago Renaissance for both urban literature and fiction/non-fiction in general. From romance to comedy, children's lit to fantasy, history and culture to inspirational and religious, we know we can fulfill whatever literary form your mind desires.

CBAN recently celebrated its one-year anniversary. As a group, we're proud we made it to this point, seeing that the previous group didn't make it one month. We haven't bickered and have all stepped up to the plate to work together to promote our books. We have encouraged friends who came to buy our works to purchase the books of others. We have given book-selling opportunities to others within the group when we learned of them. Trust me, it is very rare to find a group of people all trying to sell books, who are willing to share, but we have done it.

Earlier this year, we held a spring book fair at the Bronzeville Cultural Center. It was wonderful to meet the people who came out. Now we are coming to the West Side, and I hope everyone will come out and support this group. We will hold our winter book fair on Saturday, Dec. 4, at Chez Roué, 5200 W. Chicago Ave., from 11 a.m. to 5 pm. If you haven't seen the remodeling inside the landmark bank building on the corner of Chicago and Laramie, you are missing a jewel within our community.

The members of CBAN will not only be selling their books, but at 3 p.m., we will host a panel discussion on how to get your book published and marketed.

And we will have a really special treat starting at noon. Did you know that we have an African-American woman who makes wine? If you are a connoisseur, here is an opportunity to sample and support Simple Spirits. We'll also have an area resident who specializes in baking cakes, cookies and pies because nothing goes better with a good book than a glass of wine and a slice of cake.

Christmas is coming. A gift of a good book and a bottle of wine can be the perfect gift to give to those who are tough to buy for because they have everything. Our area has a number of individuals who are incarcerated. A novel is a great book to buy to send to a loved one who is away from Chicago, especially when the book is set here in Chicago and on the West Side - like my novel, Billion Dollar Winner.

For more information about the event, please give me a call at 773-330-6277. Or visit the website of CBAN at to learn more about our books

Saturday, November 13, 2010


There are a lot of groups of which I am proud to be a member. Then there is one that I made myself a member of because of choices I undertook. I am a member of the 72 percent of black women who gave birth to children without the benefit of marriage. Now, being a member of that group wasn't something that I undertook lightly or something of which I am most proud.

I was 28 years old when my daughter was born. I had been on my job for nine years, had a car that was almost paid for, had completed almost four years of college, and had money in the bank and excellent credit, and my own apartment. Looking back, my becoming pregnant was part of my natural attraction to my children's father. But in retrospect, as much as I love my children, becoming a single parent was the worst thing in the world that I could do to them.

There is a recent movement called No Marriage, No Womb started by blogger Christelyn Karazin. Her point was to call attention to the news about so many black women having children without the benefit of marriage. And ever since she began to blog about the phenomena, the backlash has been substantial. Being a single mother is considered an automatic "badge of honor" in the black community when more often that not, it is the underlying cause of many of the social ills that plague our community.

Before I became a single parent (my preferred term), I had the option of not continuing the pregnancy. I can still remember sitting in the playground at Sheridan and Ainslie and my friend Arnold offering to go to the abortion clinic with me and pretend to be the father. Having an abortion was never really on my radar, but I do recall being angry that I had lived my life for 27 years without becoming pregnant and the anger I felt at myself for "slipping up" birth control-wise and ending up being pregnant and unmarried. I was now becoming another statistic in the black community.

For seven years after giving birth to my daughter, her father and I participated in an "on again off again" relationship. When we were "on" the relationship was wonderful. When it was "off" the relationship was strained. When I found myself pregnant a second time, the only words out of my mouth as the doctor prepared to perform an emergency C-section after 32 weeks of pregnancy was "tubes tied." I tell you all this because I don't make a fairy tale out of raising two children alone. It was the hardest thing I ever did.

The sacrifices and strains of having to be both mother and father is an undertaking that I will tell anyone is something one shouldn't opt to do. One of my most painful memories was choosing to attend at an important meeting and missing helping my son participate in a project. And because their father chose to abandon his children when it came to participating in their lives, everything was left up to me. All decisions, all the rearing, all the successes and all the failures. Thank God the failures were few and far between. I now have two grown children, well-mannered, responsible and the kind of individuals that would make any parent proud. But getting them to that point came at a cost. Their father is a stranger to them because that is the decision he made to not participate in their lives.

I've written all this because I can see the pain and hurt my children suffered in not having an active father in their lives. I know that they had to fend for themselves often because I didn't have a spouse in the house to share in their rearing. I have neighbors and girlfriends who without them I couldn't have done it. I don't have family members on the West Side and while alive my mother was too disabled to be of much help.

So even though I raised children by myself, I am the first to see the disadvantages to having done so. Parenthood is far too important an undertaking for us to still have ill prepared individuals taking it on. Then to complicate it by having people as parents who are still more focused on "getting their own groove on" than raising children is the underlying reason why our community is becoming more dysfunctional day-by-day.

There is something very wrong when a man is good enough to father your children but not good enough to marry and build a life together.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Still No Anger, Still No Outrage

I didn't know Donysha Stovall, 28, her daughter Clarisma Torrey, 9, her son Nate Davis, 4, or her boyfriend's son Shaquille Davis, 16. On the night of Oct. 26, just before 10 p.m., shots were fired in the 300 block of west 151st place. When police arrived, they found Shaquille already dead at the scene. Donysha and Clarisma were declared dead at the hospital and Nate, his body filled with six to seven bullets, somehow managed to survive and is said to be expected to recover.

Everyday since the shooting, I have diligently searched the internet for updated information about the case. Two days after the crime took place, the only news available was that three suspects had been arrested in connection to the crime. But to date, their names, ages, race, sex, relationship to the victims and any other pertinent information has not been disclosed.

Black Leadership (what an oxymoron!) has been missing in action. I haven't seen or heard from any of the usual suspects denouncing this crime. There is something so intrinsically wrong in a society when a 4-year-old can be shot six to seven times and not a peep of public outcry occurs! No Rev. Jesse Jackson at the scene. No Father Pfleger leading a prayer vigil. No community activists, no columns from the daily newspaper columnists, no inquiring stories from the downtown television media, no rally by black preachers.

Well the lack of response may be from Nate, the 4-year-old, surviving. As such, his being shot is just paltry news. But what about Clarisma? She was just 9 years old. A fourth grader, learning to do long math, enjoying riding her bike, and anticipating what she wanted to be for Halloween. What would cause someone to shoot that little girl in the face? What kind of animals are the three that have been arrested for the crime? Who are they, and their family members too? Don't we as a society need to know the kind of person who believes he or she can shoot children with impunity?

I got to learn a lot about Donysha Stovall after her death. I went to her Facebook page and read every single post she wrote. When she entered her bio she said, "I am a crazy, sexy, cool person easy to get along with. I am also a hard worker, loves life, and family." I am haunted by the image of her smiling profile picture. Her eyes are so alive and she emitted life in the glow from her smile.

I weep tears for a young mother who was doing her best to raise her children. One of Donysha's earliest posts lets everyone know the kind of mother she was. She wrote, "At home having family time me and my daughter cooked dinner together now we are baking cookies." Or there was the other post about her son that is too long to post verbatim, but it basically had him asking her not to pick him up from the daycare by blowing the horn but to come inside and look for him like the other mother does for her son.

I was only able to find scant information about Shaquille Davis. I heard over the radio that he was buried without fanfare last week. It is also interesting to read that Shaquille had recently been released from the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center. I wrote several columns about that facility earlier this year. The men who work there have been alleging that the violence occurring on the streets amongst our young people is being fueled by what is going on at that juvenile detention center. Is that the reason the major news media has dropped the reporting on these murders?

What I do know is that there was a time when we lamented about the weekly killings in the black community. Now the mayhem going on is at the point where we can say hourly shootings. And although Donysha, Clarisma, and Shaquille were murdered in Harvey, what goes on there also goes on within the city of Chicago's limits.

I know I cannot be the only one still angered and burdened by the ongoing violence in the black community. Talk is cheap and action speaks louder. I stand always ready to answer the call for action. What about you?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Brady may be Elitist, But you have to prove "racist"

By now, the entire world knows and has heard State Senator Rickey Hendon's tirade against state Senator Bill Brady. If you are one of the few who missed it, here is what Hendon said in introducing Gov. Pat Quinn at a rally last Saturday.

"I've never served with such an idiotic, racist, sexist, homophobic person in my life. If you think that the minimum wage needs to be three dollars an hour, vote for Bill Brady. If you think that women have no rights whatsoever, except to have his children, vote for Bill Brady. If you think gay and lesbian people need to be locked up and shot in the head, vote for Bill Brady."

When I spoke about the issue on the radio show I co-host every Sunday night (Garfield Show, WRLL 1450-AM, 10 till midnight), I was taken to task because quite a few audience members were in agreement with the comment. Many verbally attacked me because they assumed that my calling for fair reporting and that "every coin has two sides" was an endorsement of support for Brady. Had they listened, they would have learned that my goal in taking an opposite position was to get them to think and to see the other side of the issue. For the most part, it didn't work.

The most common response I heard was that Hendon had the "right" to say what he did.

Now having the right doesn't automatically give one the license to so do - especially when the comments aren't accompanied by examples of what made Hendon call Brady a "racist." That is a very strong term to use. It labels someone and without substance to back it up, it then becomes mere conjecture and not reality.

Now had Hendon called Brady an "elitist," that is an adjective easier to prove and even easier to apply. Brady is a millionaire and his wealth alone is not in question. When one struggles to gain wealth, they know they've earned every dime and are reticent to buy into social programs that come off the taxes on their earnings. I've always said if you want to turn a black person into a Republican, let them come into a whole bunch of money. Suddenly the idea of giving 30-40 percent of your money to the government isn't an enticing idea, especially if you see the money wasted more than serving a true purpose. My favorite example occurred years ago when someone who was on welfare won the lottery and balked at the idea of paying back the money he had received from the state. The man felt he was "entitled" to that state money.

When politicians stand true to their convictions, they will be attacked. One of the things each of us must look into is the reason why politicians don't support a particular bill. For example, the Democrats in Congress added a provision to give citizenship to foreign nationals, here illegally but who came as children, onto a major spending bill for the military. The Dream Act is a very contentious issue and to add it to a bill about military spending guaranteed that the bill would fail. So when politicians who are opposed to granting citizenship to those here illegally stand by their convictions and voted down the bill, it would be very easy to label them "anti-military" when in reality the issue was the addition to the bill and not the bill itself.

I like to see people given all sides on a candidate and an issue. Then, based on what they learned, they make a decision to support or not support a candidate. What I don't want is for us to continue blindly supporting a party that gives us nothing until the next election, where promises are made and always broken.

This Sunday night, Gov. Pat Quinn has agreed to come on Garfield's show. I have not been a big supporter of him and have criticized some things he has done. If you're like me and haven't made up your mind about who to vote for, tune in Sunday night. Be prepared for hard questions and to hear if he has answers. Then base your vote on who will serve you best.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Here Today....Gone Tomorrow! What Gives?

On Sunday, Sept. 26, 2010, Frances Funches got a phone call. Her two-flat frame building at 1132 N. Parkside had caught fire. She was in the process of having the building rehabbed and only had electrical service hooked up. The fire was put out and Frances began the process of having her insurance company begin to adjust for the fire and the damage to the property.

The property was secured and boarded up. The wrought-iron fencing in front would keep people off the property until the insurance company could fully appraise the damages. On Wednesday, Oct. 6, Frances stopped by the property to check on it and everything was in order. In fact, she was expecting the insurance adjuster to come by the next day. On Thursday Oct. 7, the adjuster did stop by the address. The adjuster then placed a call to Frances and asked her where the house was. Frances gave her the address but was shocked to learn that the house was no longer there. Somehow, an order had been signed within 11 days of the fire to have Frances' house totally demolished.

In the past, Chicago was known as the "city that works." But when that city works so fast to take down a building on a block with numerous boarded-up houses, one has to question why Frances' building was deemed such an imminent danger over all the others.

As I stood at the press conference held this past Monday evening in the empty lot where her house once stood, memories of Meigs Field came to mind. One night we all went to bed and had a wonderful little airport on the lake, and the next day it was destroyed. Frances had a house one day and a vacant piece of land the next. Even worse, the city wants Frances to pay $21,000 for the demolition.

As I looked at pictures of Frances' house taken before and after the fire, one thing struck me as very interesting. If the next door neighbor's house to the south was barely singed by the fire, and the garage of the neighbor to the north wasn't touched by the fire, why did the demolition company tear down Frances' garage too?

In the past, the city has torn down structures that were deemed too dangerous to remain standing after an incident. But if the fire were arson, wouldn't the building be considered a crime scene? I watched the television news report done later that night with interest. One reporter mentioned that the city response is that it has the right to take down dangerous structures. The Channel 2 news report also claimed that the city was unable to find the owner. But little ol' me did nothing more than put the address "1132 N. Parkside, Chicago" into Google and the first thing that popped up was BlockShopper. I clicked on it and scrolled down to the address for the property and the name F.W. Funches. But the city, with all its resources, ordered an immediate teardown of someone else's property and couldn't find the same information? Give me a break.

In speaking with the owner, I also learned that all the wrought-iron fencing that once surrounded the front of the property is now missing, making me wonder if someone is getting a kickback from metal scavengers because it takes a lot of nerve to remove fencing facing the street on private property.

What happened to Frances Funches should outrage every one of us living in this city. I didn't see a single elected official at the press conference and now must wonder what Ald. Deborah Graham, state Rep. Camille Lilly, state Senator Don Harmon, Cook County Commissioner Earlene Collins, and Congressman Danny K. Davis will do to sponsor a law to prevent such actions on the city's part against a private landowner.

And This One Pleads Guilty Just Like The OTHER ONE!


Friday, October 15, 2010

Hmmm..."NOT MY CHILD" Pleads GUILTY to murder

Gregory Brooks pleads guilty.

I wasn't polite about calling Gregory Brooks Jr a thug and hoodlum when this crime first occurred. I feel even stronger now in my words that the little fool has plead "guilty." A strategic move to save his butt from the Electric Chair. But hopefully he will become a "girlfriend" in jail and get what he deserves.

Judge Leo Holt talking about Howard Morgan

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Everyone knows that a defendant is "innocent until proven guilty." What goes hand-in-hand with that thought is the ability of a defendant to make bail. Bail is the great equalizer during the criminal justice process. Most of us are aware that the constitution gives us the right not to be subjected to "cruel and unusual punishment." An additional caveat of the 8th amendment to the constitution gives us the right to not have excessive bail or fines placed upon us.

The vagueness of that amendment gives judges a lot of leeway. A judge can set a reasonable bail based on the seriousness of the crime. The amount of the bail is not a measure of whether or not a person can afford it. Rather three major factors -- uncertainty, risk and overcrowded jails -- go into a judge's decision according to the book "Criminal Justice in Action" by Larry Gaines and Roger Miller. If there is a concern that a defendant will commit additional crimes, then bail can be set so high that the defendant cannot possibly afford it. There are even federal laws that allow judges to simply deny bail.

A defendant able to make bail can work, be with their family, and have access to sources to defend themselves. When determining the bail amount according to the Gaines-Miller book, a judge in Illinois is required to take 38 different factors into account. Fourteen of those factors involve the crime itself; two relate to the evidence gathered; four to the defendant's record, nine to the defendant's flight risk and immigration status, and nine to the defendant's general character.

An "incident" occurred on Feb. 5, 2005 involving four Chicago police officers and a man who would soon become known as the defendant. That man was a 54-year-old Chicagoan, married, property owner, former Chicago police officer. He has numerous plaques and accolades that line his walls and is currently a railroad police officer licensed to carry a weapon. During the course of the "incident" two Chicago police officers were wounded and the defendant was shot 28 times by the four police officers who he encountered.

Now that wasn't a typo you just read. Howard Morgan was shot 28 times and lived to tell about it. Lying in his hospital bed with 28 bullet wounds to his body, shackled to the hospital bed as if he could escape, Morgan was charged with four counts of first degree attempted murder of the police, three counts of aggravated battery and discharge of a firearm. With 28 bullet holes piercing his body and his stellar background, the judge who handled the Morgan case had the right to set a bail that would show fairness towards the defendant based on the "alleged" crime. Yet Judge Kathleen Mary Pantle set an outlandish bail of $2 million for Morgan.

When Morgan's attorney, retired Judge Leo Holt learned of the amount for bail, he immediately became incensed. Back then this is what Holt had to say, "In my years as a practicing attorney and the 18 years that I sat on the bench, I've never seen a bond like it. People charged with murder were out on less bond."

Morgan's wife was eventually able to secure $12,000 in donations for the bond. Morgan spent almost an entire year in Cook County jail unable to post the entire 10 percent of the bail amount until an anonymous donor gave the remaining $188,000 so that Morgan could be free. Remember people, this man had been shot 28 times. His flight risk if he could flee would be minimal.

It is not often that the black community can send a message to the legal system in a manner it can understand. But come Nov. 2, election day, we can send a strong message to the criminal justice system by voting 'No' on retaining Judge Pantle on the bench. Her decision to impose such a high bail on Howard Morgan is reflective of the basic unfairness of the criminal justice system when with the exception of race, all things were equal with him and the other police officers. It can only be the race of Howard Morgan that would have allowed him to be subjected to a bail higher than what a killer would have gotten. Punch 297 and tell everyone you know not to retain Judge Pantle on the bench. She deserves to pay a high price, the same as she asked of Morgan and his family. Only she'll pay by losing her role on the bench.

Friday, October 08, 2010

I attend a lot of meetings all over the city. I do it not only to be able to report to those who read this column or follow me on Facebook, Twitter or my blog, but also because I enjoy following the political antics of this city. Following politics is a good way to see the world through a variety of spectrums. When I go to the polls to vote, I want to vote for the candidate who is offering to represent my best interests and not what some people say.

Part of the problem with listening to already elected officials who spout the party line is that good candidates who are on the ballot don't get any press. For example, most folks have only heard of the Democratic and Republican candidates for U.S. Senate. Very little press has been given to the Green Party candidate, LeAlan Jones. Why? Because we are being led to believe that Mark Kirk as a Republican or Alexi Giannoulias as a Democrat are the only options.

Who is LeAlan Jones? Well to start, he is a very intelligent, young, African-American man who has been slowly gaining more percentage points as voters have become disenchanted by the other two candidates. LeAlan Jones is a native Chicagoan, who came to the public's attention at the tender age of 13 when he, along with another young man, Lloyd Newman, and a radio producer, David Isay, made a NPR documentary "Ghetto Life 101." At age 16, he followed up that successful report with an in-depth investigation into the death of Eric Morse, the 5-year-old who was dropped from the 14th floor of the Ida B. Wells housing project where Jones was a resident.

Now if this is the first time you've heard about LeAlan Jones and his run for the "senate seat of Barack Obama," that is not surprising. Candidates who are not of the top two parties are relegated to the oblivion of "no news coverage." That's why small newspapers like this are so very important. We report on the news, people and events that the big papers don't consider worthy of their ink. Jones has been out campaigning and trying to get press, but the mainstream media has been blocking him. The U.S. Senate candidates are scheduled to do a Meet the Press debate on Oct. 10, but Jones hasn't been invited to participate. Why not? His numbers are growing and he is on the ballot. The media doesn't have a problem telling us daily about the Tea Party and its shenanigans. But a Green Party candidate who is also a young, highly qualified black man doesn't warrant a chance to speak on the issues.

Jones has taken some very interesting and astute stances on the issues. When asked to comment on the political process, he responded, "When people ask me if I am a spoiler candidate, I ask them: 'How do you spoil something that's already rotten?'" Now that's a refreshing answer. On fixing the economy, Jones says, "I want to finish what the New Deal started and create a sustainable economy with good, green jobs by moving our money out of big banks and Wall Street." On the state of education in Illinois: "If the economic meltdown taught us one thing, it is don't trust Wall Street. So why are we trusting for-profit companies with the education of our children and turning our public schools into corporate factories run by the mayor's hand-picked CEO?" His position on health care: "Nobody should make a profit when you get sick. We need a single-payer health care system that is accountable to patients, puts prevention first, and ends inequality."

LeAlan Jones is a young man who shouldn't be ignored in his quest to go to the senate. His website is Take the time to learn more about this young man and on Nov. 2, don't be scared of going Green. A fresh new voice and choice may be exactly what this state needs.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Rob'Em Manually Films his Announcement In Washington

Wow. The man is truly showing his lack of knowledge about this city. First he announces his intentions via video and films it in...CHI...HELL NO NOT IN THE CITY HE WANTS TO REPRESENT......BUT IN WASHINGTON DC.

Then to top it off, he says he going to visit bowling alleys? How many bowling alleys does Chicago have? Less than 20. Yeah that's really going to give him a fanstastic insight into what is needed in this city.

So Rob'Em Manually Wants to be Mayor?

First he tapes his annoucement in Washington DC.

Now he's getting into a car without a city sticker? A CAR WITHOUT A CITY STICKER IS political suicide! The man and his team don't have a clue?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Tale of Three Grannys

This is the tale of several grandmothers living on the same street less than a mile apart. It is also the story of two twelve-year-olds who are out of control. As I juxtapose their stories, I’ll let you be the judge.

Corliss Holland is a 50-year-old grandmother who I can tell comes from my school of being “no nonsense.” We don’t know the reason why she has her grandson under her tutelage. But like many black parents, her word is law and she runs a dictatorship and not a democracy.

At some point she told her 12-year-old grandson to not leave off the 8200 block of South Coles where they live. The stubborn and willful child who has decided that his decisions outweigh his grandmother’s warning opted to leave the block. Grandma Corliss on September 25, 2010 rewarded his decision with an introduction of her ironing cord to his hardheaded butt.

“I’m not messing around anymore and this is what he needed,” she allegedly told the police. Ms. Corliss’ reward; she was arrested, charged with aggravated battery of a child and has a bond amount of $50,000.

Now fast-forward to a different grandmother. Margaret Matthews is a woman in her 70’s who come home to the 7600 block of south Coles to find several 12-year-olds running away from her home and her windows broken by bricks. She goes inside only to have the hardheaded young thugs return with profanity laced mouths and additional bricks to threaten/scare her. She like the other grandmother is also a “no nonsense” woman. She doesn’t back down from the young punks and when they continue to threaten her, she pulls out her pistol and shoots one of them. Her aim is even good enough so that the one she shoots is wounded in the arm and not dead.

Of course we gotta’ have a third grandmother come into the fray. She is the grandmother of the alleged perpetrator. She has quickly appeared on television with the perennial “my grandbaby is a good boy” story as well as claiming the boy was just walking down the street when the woman with the broken windows came out of her house shooting at her “sweet, little, innocent choirboy.”

Of course Grandma Virges’ story carries very little weight when neighbors of Ms. Matthews are willing to go on camera and call Dion a “little monster.” The woman’s windows didn’t get broken by being so old that they fell apart. And Dion who is not the brightest star but more appropriately entitled the “baddest” star in the sky has no idea that his DNA is all over the bricks he picked up to toss. Or that climbing over a locked fence and standing on the woman’s shed as he tortures her with profanity and bricks are criminal behavior of the juvenile detention ilk.

We are living in a very rough time here in Chicago. A granny tries to keep her grandson from being another young thug and her reward is jail and bond. Another granny refuses to see the behavior of her grandson and he ends up with a bullet in his arm. The granny in the middle has to suffer because as a society we are sending the message to our children that they can do what they want to whom they want without consequences.

I gotta’ ask. Where’s the outrage?

Loretto Celebrates the Road to Recovery

The word "recovery" has a variety of meanings, depending on which industry you're in. For me as a former data processing professional, the word means a computer system that has gone awry and now I need to recover data. To the hip-hop world, "Recovery" is the title of Eminem's latest CD. To an economist, "recovery" is what our economy needs for us to go on successfully.

So when I got an invitation to go to Loretto Hospital to be a guest at their sixth annual "recovery month" program celebration, my curiosity was piqued. Loretto Hospital is another gem in Austin that is often overlooked. Located at Congress and Central avenues, its status as a hospital is not often on people's radar in an emergency. It is not a Level One trauma center or a hospital that handles births.

But September is national Alcohol and Drug Addition Recovery Month, and Loretto Hospital has positioned itself to be at the forefront in that field, servicing adults 18 and older. The program I attended may have been the sixth annual celebration, but Loretto proper has been in the business of dealing with "recovery" for over 40 years, including the last 25 years during the "crack" epidemic.

What are the current top drugs of choice? Well, they're no longer cocaine or marijuana. The old standby, alcohol, still reigns supreme, followed closely by heroin, the current substance of choice. Those are the two main areas where Loretto has opted to put its focus.

Loretto has allocated 44 beds to its recovery program. It has succeeded as a program because of word of mouth, networking, and recommendations from various agencies. The patients coming to Loretto's Substance Abuse Services Program range from here on the West Side to as far away as Rockford.

Loretto Hospital has four levels of treatment available. They have an in-patient detox program that can last 3-5 days, depending on the severity of the dependency. They offer Residential Rehab, which involves partial hospitalization. That program can last from 17-28 days. The Intensive Outpatient service lasts five days, three hours a day and includes 75 hours of outpatient services. Lastly, Adult Aftercare is done on an outpatient basis for 25 hours.

Other services available include DUI Evaluation Services, Compulsive Gambling Assessment and Education, Family HIV Support Program, Comprehensive Family Education Program, Active Alumni Group and open self-help groups, (Alcohol Anonymous, Narcotic Anonymous and ALANON, as well as others). Many of the treatment services can be paid for by Medicaid, Medicare or private insurance. But lack of money shouldn't be an impetus to not seek help. If you or someone you know needs "recovery," call the hospital at 773-854-5445 to speak with a certified addiction counselor who can assess each individual's needs.

The 6th Annual National Recovery Month celebration that I attended on Sept. 21 had as its theme, "Join the Voices of Recovery: Now More Than Ever." And that is just what happened. It was a very inspirational program, and I was grateful to newly installed addiction service coordinator, Michael Applegate, for reaching out to invite me. The audience was packed with many of the graduates of the recovery program. We heard from Congressman Danny Davis who spoke on behalf of his annual Walk for Recovery event.

Also, we heard from Edith Ozark, clinical supervisor, who spoke on the subject of relapse. It was refreshingly honest to hear those in the recovery business admit that the road will be hard and lapses will occur, but the program and the people committed to it will be there to support those in the recovery movement if they stumble.

I got to hear several testimonials from alumni in the recovery community. Their passionate pride in contrasting where they came from to where they are now was evident in their voices. They were supplemented by the newly graduated recovery members who had gone down the same road.

The keynote speaker, "Kwesi" Ronald E. Harris, director of the African American Male Resource Center at Chicago State University, gave a motivational speech that had everyone on their feet clapping. It was a positive and inspirational message that one need not be in "recovery" to enjoy and absorb.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Miracle of September 8, 2010

A miracle occurred on Sept. 8, 2010 - a miracle that amazed me and a lot of others who follow local politics. A miracle so profound that historians will analyze it for decades to come. And even those who were the recipients of the miracle will forever ponder it in retrospect, amazed at what a difference less than 24 hours can make.

What was the miracle that engulfed our local politicians that has me so in awe? It was the sudden discovery of vocal chords in politicians who found themselves no longer suffering from 21 years of Daley-laryngitis. You know, the condition that afflicted almost 100 percent of our local politicos who until that day never raised their voice in any significant manner against anything the mayor did. They never had anything but kind words to say, even as he demolished Meigs Field, sold off the Skyway and parking meters, and basically anointed himself despot.

But the simple words that came out of Daley's mouth on Sept. 7, stating that he will not seek election for another term, sent a shockwave of words blubbering forth from politicians who want his job. Aldermen regained their critiquing voice and began pontificating that they, too, can and should be the next mayor of Chicago. The city clerk changed his re-election petitions to ones that indicate he now wants to be mayor. Congressmen, state senators and representatives were miraculous in their praise of the mayor on one hand while taking jabs at what he had been doing in order to make themselves appear more palatable to the voting public. Even retired politicians stumbled in front of television cameras to say that they, too, could be mayor even if they have hadn't been active in politics in decades.

The entire scenario of scrambling for the mayor's job would be hysterical if it weren't for the near bankrupt state this city is in. Yes, folks, it is that bad. Every boarded up and vacant home is money not being paid in property taxes. Every empty storefront is one not sending sales taxes downtown. Even the proposed WalMarts can't cut the deficit looming over the city budget. The next mayor of the city of Chicago will have to have plans that involve an influx of money from both inside and outside the city. That means people spending money within the city limits and outside meaning more than just city residents will need to do the spending.

As our local politicians jockey for position in the mayor's race, here's something to keep in mind. Alderman or city clerk, they will have to give up running for that position in order to run for mayor. So those are very serious candidates - willing to lose one job while seeking another.

If the person is a state senator, state representative or congressman, they still have a job. So we need to ask them to be serious in seeking the job of mayor. That seriousness should involve a willingness to give up their current position in order to seek the new position. I've already been told "that ain't gonna happen," but it is still a valid question to ask. I tire of politicians who get elected to one job and then seek another, all the while knowing they have the safety net of their current position to fall back on. They take no risks in running for a different office. How may employees in the private sector can spend time looking for another job on the company's dime without risking the wrath of their employer? Well, we taxpayers are the employer of all these politicians, and if they are so unhappy with their current position, then resign from it and let the voters know they are that serious about the new position. Otherwise we're being played.

Another question to ask these Johnnies-come-lately is why they had nothing to say on Sept. 6 and everything in the world to say on Sept. 8? Prior to that time, the only declared candidate for mayor was Bill Dock Walls, whom I have supported every time he has run. To those who call him the "perennial candidate," I counter that had Dock not run, there wouldn't have been a single voice against the mayor. I dismiss the candidacy of Dorothy Brown because as many of us know, she was just a shill for the mayor. Interestingly, hers is not one of the names being touted for mayor this time around.

Ask for detailed plans on what these candidates want to do and don't accept the generic fluff response, "I want to bring more jobs." When they do that, ask them, "How?" If their answers don't make sense, then they're offering nonsense, and it is not what's needed. Even if the responses make sense, ask for specifics. Make your vote one that is servicing your best interest.

Lastly, this Sunday, Sept. 26 from 4 to 7 p.m., the NAACP will host a candidate forum at Christ the King School, 5088 W. Jackson. It will involve those running for governor, lt. governor, U.S. senate and a few more. Everyone needs to come out and learn what is going on with those who want to make the laws that affect your life.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Delores left giant footsteps for us to follow

When we lose people in our lives, we always want to ask the question: "Why?" Why did they die so soon? What about them made God want them now and not later? Why does God take some and not others? I can't answer those questions but I can ponder the responses. I have concluded that when God called Delores McCain home, it was because he had a big story and only she could report on it. Lord knows she knew how to lift every stone to get to the answers.

She was everywhere and on top of everything. She was an opinionated voice who brought many ideas to the table. And she loved this newspaper and reporting for it. One of my earliest memories of the Austin Weekly News was seeing my neighbor's brother-in-law in the Streetbeat section. I felt like he was a star getting his picture and comments in a newspaper. Over the years, that part of the paper has always been my favorite. Delores handled that feature and I loved being able to see the average Austinite's opinion regarding current issues.

The first time I ever met Delores, I was sitting at home in front of my computer and the phone rang. It was Dee. I will always remember that call because since I don't have an office at the Weekly, I was honored that she took the time to reach out to me. I was a new person writing for the paper and she had read what I had written and wanted to get to know me. I remember we talked about a number of things, but mostly about the paper and my writings.

Over the years, I would run into Dee at different events. It was always a pleasure to see her. Why will I miss her? Because she was a source of information and would freely pass on her knowledge. If an important event happened where she got the "inside" photos, she passed it on. I still have a number of emails in my inbox where she sent me things that no one else did. Delores and I both shared a passion for how black people are portrayed in the media. We both have been advocates in making sure this neighborhood paper does its best to put out real news and information. Her shoes will be hard to fill, but anyone walking down the path she forged will have giant footsteps to follow.

When you saw Delores McCain, 99 percent of the time she had Frank Pinc by her side. He was her photographer and Frank's "other wife." They traveled together so often as a team that I couldn't imagine Delores doing anything without him. Even after Frank announced his "retirement," I still saw the two of them together doing Streetbeat. Life will go on after Delores' passing, but what she added while here is immeasurable.

She will be missed.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Delores McCain Funeral Information

Delores McCain lost her battle with life on Saturday, September 11, 2010. Her funeral will be held on Wednesday, September 15, 2010, at Greater St. John Bible Church, 1256 N. Waller. Visitation is at 10:00, with the funeral to follow at 11:00 AM. Unique Funeral Home, 3425 W. Chicago, Chicago, Il in charge

Friday, September 10, 2010

We Survived the first one, we'll survive the second one too

For months now, I have been getting emails from potential candidates in the 37th ward asking me if I was going to again run for alderman. Every time my response was the same: an emphatic "NO!" I even told Ald. Mitts that I wasn't going to run because my current focus is on spending the last half of my life as an author. So when I heard the announcement that Mayor Daley wouldn't be seeking reelection, I wasn't surprised.

As I've told anyone who asked me why I didn't want to run, my response is simple: the city is broke, almost bankrupt. Fixing the problem is gonna be the hardest part. It is going to take a savvy, smart, and creative person to fix all that is broken. And it will be a major headache to undo a lot of the negative decisions perpetrated by Daley.

Now, the writing has been on the wall for weeks that something was up. I first noticed it when many of the long-term aldermen began announcing that they wouldn't seek reelection. As I read their names something smelled fishy. And now the biggest fish of them all has decided to get out of the race, and all the wannabees are coming out of the woodwork.

If you don't follow politics, I suggest you pay attention now like you've never done before. Without Mayor Daley in the race, those who never could find the time to have anything to say are cackling like a chicken. As I write this column, I'm listening to WVON. All the politicians are frothing at the mouth as they try and position themselves as "the only candidate" for mayor.

I am particularly incensed whenever a white candidate comes on WVON and panders to the black community. I'd rather have a candidate that doesn't know a damn thing about black culture but who wants to create jobs and economic development, versus someone who talks about listening to jazz and drinking Kool-Aide.

As we begin to hear from the mayoral candidates, we need to carefully vet them. Now is the time to find out their plans for the city, asking them hard questions. How will they fix the budget shortfall? What are their plans for the burgeoning crime problems involving guns? How fast will they kick out Ron Huberman from CPS and bring in a real educator? Will they continue with Daley's plans for the fast-track demolition of public housing or will they save the remaining buildings as safety nets for those who need it?

What of the shortage in manpower at the Chicago Police Department? Will the next mayor work with the city council or will we have "Council Wars 2011?" What can be done to renegotiate the parking lease agreement? Will the TIF (tax increment financing) monies-which had been controlled by Daley-be audited to make sure that it is all there like it's supposed to be? How will the next mayor work to bring jobs and opportunities back to the city?

Many names are being thrown around as the 2011 mayoral race begins. I have always said that you can't have a race without runners. As all the runners are now lining up, don't just watch the race but participate in it. Ask the runners questions. Make sure they answer them and not give you the run around. When those aldermanic candidates begin to appear, asking you to sign their petitions to run for office, find out who they are willing to publicly support for mayor.

That is always an eye opener.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Weis Met With The Wrong Gangleaders

Like a lot of people, the headlines and stories in the newspapers and on the TV news sounded impressive. Police Superintendant Jodie Weis tells gang leaders they will be held responsible for the mayhem their members are creating on the streets. But once past the headlines and given the opportunity to learn more about the meeting, my initial impression has quickly fizzled to hysterical laughter. You see, if I could have instructed Weis on convening a meeting with gang leaders, it is not the ones on the streets that I would have had sitting in a room. It’s the ones currently in jail who he should have spoken with.

Why? Because the message to inmates will quickly resonate amongst the criminal elements on the street. The message is quite simple. Kill someone on the streets and upon your arrival in jail, there will be someone waiting to kill you. Point blank. Jail and prison will no longer offer you a safe haven amongst your ilk.

Now in ordinary times, it is “unconscionable” for those in the position of leadership and law enforcement to send out that kind of message. But these are not ordinary times and thus extraordinary measures are needed. Because one of the underlying positions that our young people have taken is that they are not scared to go to jail. In truth, going to jail is seen by some of them as a badge of honor. But if one doesn’t make it out of the prison system alive to tell about it, then the message on the streets will be glaring. Going to jail will be akin to signing their own death sentence.

The first thing out of Weis’ mouth should have been that the prison industrial complex (yeah he should call it just what the activist have labeled it) is no longer concerned about the safety of inmates. If you are a 4-corner-hustler, we are going to house you with the members of the Mexican Mafia. If you are a Latin King, we’re going to house you with the Gangster Disciples. If you’re black, we’re going to put you in the same cell as the Skinheads. If you’re white, we’re practicing integration and putting you in the cell with the blacks. And if any of this leads to your losing your life, a limb or two or becoming someone’s girlfriend while in jail—oh well, you shouldn’t have been involved in that mess to begin with.

Now initially the murders won’t stop overnight. But then again, no new program will immediately stop the mayhem. But as the word gets out on the street that Pookie got 20 years for murder and he’s now in prison in Idaho where blacks can be counted on one hand, the message will slowly but surely resonate. Or let’s outsource our prisoners to jails in Mexico and other third world nations where water is a privilege and food not laden with bugs a rarity.

A second piece of the discussion Weis should have had is to have gone on television and announced that heads of households will now be responsible for the actions of everyone living under their roofs. So if you are the girlfriend and “yo’ man” is shooting up folks, when he goes to jail you’ll be going with him. If “yo’ baby” or “grandbaby” is committing heinous acts while bloodsucking off of you by living under your roof, you’ll share a cell with him or her. I could go on, but I’m sure you folks get my drift. Only when we take harsh actions can the message get out to those that normally don’t listen.

Now after reading this column, I hope you all know that I’m just being cynical. But there is a sliver of truth to what I’ve written. And that truth is that very few of our criminals when caught can maintain that bravado that they had on the streets. Yet far too often, their breakdown is not a subject for public discourse. When we make it such, the message will resonate louder than any public service announcement.

I was inspired to write this column after reading an article regarding 17-yr-old India Spellman from Philadelphia. She along with an accomplice is alleged to be responsible for the vicious murder of an 87-yr-old vet in his front yard. Her mug shot with one tear running down her face and her eyes reflecting deep thought for possibly the first time in her life needs the following caption; “I’m accused of a crime and now I’m finally scared cause I just realized my butt is on the line.”

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Like Most Folks, I too Suffered Flood Damage

Like most people, when I went to bed on the night of July 23, I knew that it had rained and the night was stormy. So when I got a call that woke me up on July 24 asking if I needed help cleaning out my basement, I was taken aback.

In the 21 years I have lived in my home, I have flooded only twice before. The first time was about a year after I moved in and then again in 1996. This time, I got more water than I have ever seen, and it must have stood in my basement for hours.

The flooding of my basement has been a slight blessing in disguise. After years of becoming the place where we put the stuff we didn't just want to throw out, so much stuff got ruined by the sewer water that backed up, I was forced to make decisions about things I had been putting off for years. I am about 85 percent done with cleaning up from the storm, and it has been very hard work.

Storm damage has been the constant subject of the townhall meetings Congressman Danny Davis has been hosting all over town. I have witnessed angry homeowners, upset with all the damage their property and personal possessions have undergone. Davis has had the FEMA representatives out to talk, but if there is truly anger about the flood and the damage, it should be directed at the city.

Everyone by now should know the FEMA number (1-800-621-3362) to call and put in their claim. I am hearing that people are learning FEMA will not cover everything damaged by the flood. Many people, like me, lost furniture. I had bookcases that I bought when I was 16 years old from the Montgomery Ward catalog store on Chicago Avenue. Those bookcases had survived at least seven moves, but the sewage water that backed up into my basement did them in.

I have spent the last four weeks working on my basement as time permitted. Fortunately, the water that drained out didn't leave an odor, but still I had to start to clean and sanitize everything because it was sewer water.

I started with my storage room. Fortunately, it is filled with those storage shelves that are metal with particle board shelves. I found so much stuff in there that didn't get touched by the storm water but made me realize I will have to host a yard sale before the end of summer. As I worked on my basement, throwing out the various items that I no longer wanted, there were tears in my eyes when I opened the metal file cabinet to discover all my children's school pictures that I had filed away got wet and damaged.

It is mentally taxing to have to sort through so many of life's treasures. I was amazed that the Christmas Wrapping paper plastic bins had a hole that allowed the water to seep in and held it inside. Tossing out wrapping paper, thankfully, isn't as heartbreaking as tossing those pictures out.

One of the few things I had done in the past and forgot to do for the filing cabinet was to build stands for everything to sit on. I normally use a 2 x 4 and build a base the exact dimensions of the item and then cover it with some plywood. I have even stained the stand to match the item so it doesn't look out of place. Since both my basement refrigerator and filing cabinets didn't have one, I have another project to undertake in the coming days.

Last week I wrote a column asking people to attend the City of Chicago's Budget Hearing Meetings. After writing that column and sending it off to this paper, the city announced that the hearing had been postponed until September. Everyone should be done cleaning and assessing their basement by the time those meetings are held, and I hope that the two held on the West Side will be filled to capacity with residents seeking relief from the city. If the city can't compensate us for our losses, the least they can do is freeze our taxes so that in this rough economy we can have some relief in order to purchase and replace all the items we lost in the flood.

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.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Our "FRIENDS" have a strange way of showing it

I've been writing about Bethel New Lie the past two weeks. In an era where many of us have become callous, the mistreatment of seniors galls me no end. At age 56, my road to senior citizenship is my future. I hope to not ever have to live in a senior building, but should it happen, I want to know that I will still have rights and am able to make decisions about how I live. Sadly, the seniors at Bethel's facilities for both the independent living and assisted living aren't being treated as such.

For months now, those living in the independent living building at 4950 W. Thomas have been infested with bedbugs. Yup, those same yucky critters from the "goodnight, sleep tight, don't let the bedbugs bite" nursery rhyme have taken over the building. The exterminator hired by Bethel has ordered the seniors to "toss out" their furniture and mattresses as the first step in addressing the issue. But in speaking with famed West Side exterminator Garfield Major, he tells me only a lazy exterminator makes people throw out their furniture. There are methods that can be used to kill the bugs while saving people's possessions.

I thought of that when I learned several seniors with little to no money were forced to purchase new mattresses and furniture after being told to throw out their possessions. When they went to Bethel New Life for assistance in paying for that sudden expenditure, they were told no financial help was available. Many of those seniors had lived there for years without bedbugs but now found themselves inundated with them. The current and most effective method for killing bedbugs without having to throw everything out is to heat the area between 135 and 150 degrees for several hours. Every critter has a heat tolerance limit and then it dies. Bethel is now using this method. But prior to the heat method which doesn't require furniture to be tossed, those who did lose their furniture have had little to no recourse in recovering the money they spent while already living on a limited and fixed income.

I understand that Bethel has opted not to respond to what I've written. That is their right. However, no response is a response. Plus it would be interesting to hear why they don't live up to all those Christian principles they espouse. Seniors at both complexes say they are being subjected to subtle threats. If they speak out, they are afraid they'll be labeled troublemakers and their ability to stay in the complex will be put at risk. My voice can only go so far. Those of you who have grandparents, family members and friends living at Bethel need to speak up and stand up for the residents.

Staying on the theme of standing and speaking up, I want to congratulate 8th District state Representative LaShawn K Ford for having introduced SB-3531. That bill is called the African American Employment Act. In an era where far too many black elected officials do little to truly help the plight of black people, his bill is an attempt to make sure that black people get fair treatment in employment with the state.

The act is designed to:

1) improve the delivery of state services to Illinois' African Americans;

2) increase the number of African Americans who are employed and promoted throughout state government;

3) assist state agencies in meeting goals established by the African American Employment Plan; and

4) establish an African American Employment Plan Advisory Council.

The bill requires the Department of Central Management Services to develop and implement plans to increase the number of African Americans employed by state government, including those at supervisory, technical, professional, and managerial levels; prepare a state African American Employment Plan; annually report to the General Assembly about each state agency's activities to implement the plan; and assist state agencies with training programs to meet their affirmative action and equal employment opportunity goals.

This state already has a similar bill for Hispanics, signed into law by ex-governor Blagojevich in 2005. Yet the similar bill for black folks is languishing on Gov. Quinn's desk. It was sent to Quinn on June 4 and once signed would be effective immediately. I placed a call to Quinn's office, asking if perhaps he needed a pen, but was given myriad reasons why Quinn hadn't signed the bill yet.

I strongly urge people to call Quinn's office and ask why he hasn't signed the bill. His number is 312-814-2121. Election time is coming. I believe he is playing politics by not signing the bill and waiting until he can get the biggest bang for his buck. In the meantime, black folks are suffering. Everyone should remember that come Nov. 2, 2010 when we go to the polls. The mistreatment of black people should never be ignored.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

If She Makes It On The Ballot, Will She Win?

(FOX News Channel) - Wisconsin state legislature candidate Ieshuh Griffin wants voters to know she is "NOT the white man's b*tch" and is NOT happy about being prevented from spreading her message, Fox News Channel reported late Thursday.

Griffin, who is running as an Independent, wanted that statement -- and capitalization -- posted under her name on the ballot for state representative, in the place where the candidate's political party would usually be listed. But the state's Government Accountability Board (GAB) denied her request.

"It's not racist, it's not a slur ... it's not pointed to a particular person. In my point of view, the average politician is a token," said Griffin.

She is now suing on the grounds that her "freedom of expression" is being "suppressed."

GAB spokesman Reid Magney explained why Griffin's request was denied, saying, "Staff determined that her language used on her declaration of candidacy is pejorative in nature and does not satisfy the requirements of Wisconsin statutes."

During a hearing, a board member asked Griffin if she would be satisfied omitting the expletive and simply writing that she was "not under the white man's influence." Griffin did not respond to the query.

Griffin is running to replace State Representative Annette "Polly" Williams, who is retiring after 30 years in office.

Source: FOX News Channel

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Bethel New Lie Part II - Unedited Version

There has always been the understanding that “to tame the natives, you send in the missionaries.” The same juxtaposition can be said of the black community. Just create a non-profit, 501C-3 organization that tells poor black folks on the west side that it is interested in helping to solve our economic/social/educational problems and voila, everything will appear to be alright.

When Bethel New Life got started in 1979 that is what it offered. Bethel chose a passage from the Bible to create its mission statement. If you’re not a biblical scholar, I highly recommend pausing right now before reading this column and looking up Isaiah 58:9-12. Those verses are so ironic (especially the twelfth verse) when you think of why they were chosen in 1979 and how current leadership at Bethel has made them a mockery in 2010.

In doing the background research for this column, I found a statement that then founder Mary Nelson wrote a few years back. She reflected that in choosing those biblical passages for their mission statement, it would “keep Bethel focused on a combination of justice, compassion, and building on the capacities of its own people.”

Well can someone please tell that to the recently hired administrative staff at Bethel? You know the outside folks that now run it and the majority of whom have less than two years worth of experience working there. What “justice or compassion” did Bethel put forth when it fired almost everyone who worked at the supported living facility (SLF) located at 1134 N. Lavergne? The WestSiders who were terminated had ten-to-twenty years of service there plus they lived right here in the neighborhood. I’m not going to be politically correct and say “let go” or “laid off” because what Bethel New Lie did is to use that missing ‘f’ on both their terminated employees, the people living in the SLF and to the Westside community they purport to serve.

Bethel has reached out with its left hand to get money, from both governmental and private groups, while its right hand has done all it could to contribute to the very problem that plagues the black west side; a lack of employment Then to add to the irony of it all, Bethel recently announced it was going to help create 700 jobs this year. I wonder if all the employees they hired after firing the previous staff will be included in that count.

Bethel F’d their terminated employees because they were doing a “fine job” towards the residents of the SLF. I spoke with quite a few residents and they are in tears over losing those employees because they had come to know, like, and trust them. So much for Bethel “building on the capacities” when it claims that to do the job the person needed a college degree, yet the new “degreed” current employee can’t even manage to do something as simple as get the seniors at the SLF to the funerals of current and former residents. I got to keep shouting it so that everyone understands, college is theory. Real work experience can never be trumped.

Bethel has F’d the current residents because those living there are not nursing home patients. They are independent people who need the security of knowing that help is nearby should they need it. But there is no “help” to send when the new staff is so trifling that they removed photos of the residents from off the lobby walls and devastate the activity room by throwing away board games the residents had placed there so that they could be a community of elders. Now the once active residents of the SLF who used to go on several outside trips a week are now making a visit to the first floor television room their main outing. The residents who used to be very happy with the food are now infighting because some of them got two breakfast sausage while others only got one.

Even worst, some of those residents are being disrespected when current workers drop serving utensils on the floor and then when those workers attempt to still use the utensils without washing them off are told to “shut up” when they complain about the unsanitary actions. The residents who used to have a voice in how their building is run (it is their home) now are not asked for any input into what is going on. They are expected to accept what is offered. Several residents say that the new staff members haven’t even taken a moment to introduce themselves to the residents. Hey Bethel…, SLF is support and not manipulation. Those seniors are not in prison although the treatment of those seniors is closely approximating it. And rather than encourage those seniors to keep their minds active by having them read the morning paper, the new staff has taken to reading the newspaper to them as if they are in preschool.

Bethel mission statement for seniors is this: “Elders living to the fullness of life in community.” The question that remains is who gets to make the decision about that fullness? The elders or the employees?