Letters to the Editor

I still want to know more about Ald. Sophia King

To the Editor:

I have read various articles about the new 4th ward alderman Ms. Sophia King.  Although I am not familiar with her I was encouraged to hear about her background and passions.

My apprehension in becoming too excited is that when I took a close look her resume that she submitted it says a lot but not much specifically.  In addition, I have some concerns with the lack of significance that her organization Harriett’s Daughters has demonstrated which she credits as a vehicle for her work in the community; the organization’s website was surprisingly light on activities, outreach and any measurable outcomes.  This is surprising since she does point to this organization as one of her major outlets in which she was an advocate.

Could someone please identify where one can get a better understanding of her previous work that led to her appointment?  Although I do not get around like I use to, I have not run into her at the various, educational, economic, safety and housing forums and meetings that I have attended.

Education has been stated as a big focus of Alderman King’s, but I do not recall her voice or person present during the Dyett journey of the past three plus years or during the back and forth of the fifty school closings.

In addition, her organization’s Facebook has only 1 post.  They may just not very active on social media as myself, but I would think that they would want to be more active to promote their work and accomplishments to recruit support.

I have attempted to do various searches with her name and found very little output.  Not much more than I would for a person as myself that has been retired for 16 years.  I do not know Ms. King but I am surprised that there isn’t more work of hers to identify given that that was the reason stated that she was chosen.

I would like to presume the best about Alderman Kings’ resume and application that was released the other weekend, but I am concerned that I cannot find any substance to support it.

Her resume states that she has not held a day-to-day job since 2003.  I would just like to better understand that if she left for-profit work to focus on the community why her local activities for the community can’t be verified.  This seems puzzling today with the amount of information one can gather.

I also understand that she has been interested in this position since former Alderman[Toni] Preckwinkle stepped down but was not able to garner political support.  The relevance with this, if true, is that if she was interested in this position six years ago, why would she not have become more visible with things to point to since then.

She has said on numerous occasions that she was not sent by anyone.  I believe that.  I have not heard one elected official come out to speak aggressively in her favor.  That is both refreshing and alarming at the same time.

The same individuals from city hall that shared that she had an interest back in 2010/2011 said her sponsors may not have been elected officials but that the mayor was lobbied by the business elite.

Any input that you can give would be appreciated.  Although I do my best to get out of the house to attend community events and meetings (much less the past year due to a debilitating condition) so I am thankful for outlets like your newspaper and web presence to get information out to the masses when I cannot be there in person.

My goal is to get a more precise understanding of who Ms. King is by clarifying who she has been.  There is a local pastor that said he would not stand by as someone who has not been involved in community engagement becomes alderman.  Well, he is one of the references for Ms. King, yet I can not find any references to Ms. King being involved in the community on the development, education or violence that has been out front as issues the 4th ward has faced.

The good news is I have heard again and again that Alderman King has worked tirelessly to meet individuals, groups and organizations since she took office.  That is a great sign of someone that is willing to work and a reason to think the best.

Anything you can do to bring light to this subject I would be thankful.

Thank you.  

James T. Wilson

Thank you Hyde Park for making my 90th birthday a great one

To the Editor:

Just celebrated my 90th birthday and the 40th anniversary of my organization, Jane Addams Senior Caucus. Your newspaper helped me considerably. In addition to my family, I wish to thank my friends and neighbors in Hyde Park and the surrounding communities as well as Alderman Leslie Hairston who honored me with an uplifting statement which she passed through the City Council. And of course I cannot forget the generosity of Mac Properties in which magnificent space the event took place. If there is a better neighborhood any place, I wish to know where it is.

Alfred D. Klinger

Aging is an issue that affects us all

To the Editor:

Thank you to the Herald for the good pictures of the community forum discussion on May 7 of our important consideration of issues that affect us all.   This forum was organized by the Chicago Hyde Park group of OWL ~ The Voice of Women 40+, on the topic of the 2016 Mother’s Day Report Aging in Community: Contributions and Challenges of Different Models. The research summarized in the report builds on the facts that our community — and our world — is aging. Many of us are surviving to be old and very old, and we find that most of our housing is not designed for our changing needs and capabilities. Many forms of organizations are operating to meet some of the needs of this changing demographic — hoping to create more aging-friendly communities so that adults can do what 90 percent say they want to do: stay in their own community as long as possible. In our own community we have several different options, which differ in how they are organized, governed, managed, and funded. Many services are funded by taxes, such as the Atlas Senior Center in South Shore (whose Director, Robin Tillotson, spoke at the Forum; and the City of Chicago Home Service Division, who provides care for Grace Latibeaudiere-Williams and her 100-year old mother, Herga. Some services are provided by philanthropic foundations, such as the Mather Lifeways Cafe on 83rd and Wabash; Beedie Jones reported on how they provide physical fitness, social activities, and nutrition to thousands of clients every year. Consumer-driven models include the Villages, now a national movement; they are member-funded, member-organized, and much of the work is done by volunteers; Susan Alitto, the Founding President of CHPV spoke about how we work.  Esther Wong, representing a very large, complex model, The Chinese American Service League, receives tax supports, philanthropic funding, member fees, and uses professionals and volunteers for programs from birth to death.

Each model has benefits and challenges. The emerging goal must be to work on collaborating across groups and organizations who are trying to contribute something toward aging well. Collaboration is much more difficult than working within one type of service, or one particular need, but because we need to be more efficient in using scarce resources we need to work together. A wide variety of public-private partnerships have been developed — sometimes coming out of forums like this one. This forum was co-sponsored by our Chicago Hyde Park Village, the DuPage County OWL, Lincoln Park Village, North Shore Village, and Skyline Village.

We had a capacity crowd. Thanks to the University of Chicago Community Programs Accelerator for the meeting space, and to all the community supporters who provided refreshments for the lovely reception that followed the discussions. The report is available online at owl-national.org; I have a limited number of printed, bound copies of the report available for $10.00.

My future goals are to work more intensively toward an aging-friendly community, and toward a dementia-friendly, utilizing the manuals developed already. We have some elements already, but we have much more to do.

Margaret Hellie Huyck, Ph.D.
President, OWL National Board
President, Chicago Hyde Park Village

Community members made first Blackstone book sale a success

To the Editor:

We would like to express a heartfelt thank you to the Hyde Park-Kenwood community for making the first Spring Book Sale to Benefit Blackstone Library a success. Come rain or shine, the community really showed its love of Blackstone and of books! Thank you to all the volunteers who sorted, packed, moved boxes, counted books, and served customers. A special thank you to the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference (HPKCC) for providing the first donation of books for the sale and for sharing their expertise in operating a book sale. An extra special thank you to Rod Sawyer for his invaluable help and support.

We are no longer accepting books at the library. Please save your donations for the Hyde Park Used Book Sale in October in the Treasure Island courtyard on 55th Street. Proceeds from that sale fund the work of HPKCC, supporting many great community causes including local schools, parks, and our work at Blackstone Library. See you next spring!

Brenda P. Sawyer
Friends of Blackstone

Anne Keough
Chicago Public Library
Blackstone Branch

Who is monitoring UCPD activity in the neighborhood? 

To the Editor:

Due to the recent shootings, I have noticed a heavy saturation of police patrols in the North Hyde Park and South Kenwood areas, by both Chicago and University of Chicago police departments. But UCPD patrols have been much heavier, despite the fact that the University of Chicago has sold off much of its residential and commercial property north of its 55th Street campus borders.

Former 4th Ward Ald. Will Burns asked UCPD to increase patrols back in September in response to a shooting in Kenwood. But they have become heavier since his resignation in March and prior to the appointment of Interim Ald. Sophia King. This implies that UCPD is operating on its own agenda by taking the initiative to significantly increase these patrols.
They do so because current state statutes and city ordinances allow for this, for which State Senator Kwame Raoul, and 5th Ward Alderman Leslie Hariston have not kept the commitments they made to reign in UCPD.

State Senator Raoul has made a commitment to re-introduce HB3932, which subjects UCPD to the same Freedom of Information Act standards all public Illinois police forces are required to abide by. Sen. Raoul recently praised Chief Walker’s decision to equip his officers with body cameras. But if a UCPD officer unloads a clip into a resident ala Laquan McDonald-style, that video will never see the light of day. While Senator Raoul helped to write the standards that govern the use of police body cams, he continues to neglect the public’s right to see them if a private police force, one given constitutional law enforcement powers, declines to make them public. The bill has been stalled in the judiciary committee he chairs, since May of 2015.

Ald. Hariston agreed to head a task force to look into claims of abuse by UCPD in a community meeting back in October of 2014, the same month the McDonald shooting occurred. In that same meeting, the 4+ term alderman stated this was an issue she was familiar with since having attended the University’s Lab School as a child. Yet since she has chaired the committee, I have heard nothing coming from it. As someone who is currently advancing reforms within the Chicago’s Police Department, such as abolishing the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), the only ordinances I am aware of that she has backed was the advancing of 2011 and 2015 Memorandum of Understandings with the University, which endorses UCPD as a law-enforcement partner. Not once has she used her position or past experiences to make UC’s independent review body independent from the University, nor has she pushed to require UCPD be subject to FOIA, something the City of Chicago is not prohibited by state statute from doing.

UCPD Chief Fountain Walker says that his department may have committed abuses in the past, but now they’ve turned over a new leaf. I’d like to educate him on how those past abuses occurred. (1). The community is encouraged to call UCPD because of its’ lack of trust of a police department it pays for, (2). Serious incidents begin to make community residents fearful, which is now occurring, (3). A tipping-point crime that involves a University student makes national headlines, and, (4). A University response, that makes creative use of current, inadequate laws, provides an avenue via UCPD for the University to protect its’ reputation in part by abusing the rights of non-university residents. When protests of these abuses reaches a crescendo, the police chief will be removed from his position. We’ve seen it before, Chief Walker.

Both State Sen. Raoul and Ald. Hariston have also seen it before. It is incredible that they both would decry Cook County’s State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez and the time she took to prosecute police misconduct, but have taken similar timeframes to act upon HB3932, and a taskforce to institute real reform on private police forces, issues they’ve understood for most of their lives. Should not the voters take a similar stance with them as they have done with Ms. Alvarez?

Roderick Sawyer

Workmen renege on parking promise

To the Editor:

For a few weeks the workmen on the Vue 53 building honored their promise not to park on Kimbark and Kenwood Avenues. They are supposed to put their cars in the parking garage on Lake Park at 53rd Streets and walk to work. But they don’t. Once before they were asked not to fill up our streets, but they are at it again. Kimbark has very few cars at night but by 8AM the street is wall to wall with pick up trucks and other vehicles that are not local. If the workmen cannot be kept from filling our streets with their vehicles even though they have available parking designated for them, how will people living in Vue 53 find places for their cars considering that there is very little designated parking in that building for them?

Sharon Bowen

JPW applauds Ald. Hairston’s push for more community involvment in Project 120

To the Editor:

Jackson Park Watch (JPW) is a community initiative dedicated to ensuring that community members have a decisive voice in any major changes made to Jackson Park.  In particular, JPW has focused on the varied and changing proposals for the north end of the Park that have been advanced by Project 120 over the past few years. The most significant of these concern a large multi-purpose visitors center/pavilion that would be located east of the Darrow Bridge and the very major changes in traffic patterns and parking options that would result.

For that reason, JPW applauds Alderman Leslie Hairston’s April 26 announcement that she has asked the Chicago Park District to convene a community process to consider those proposals, to sort out fact from fiction, and to identify a possible timeline for any work that might eventually occur.  We know that many JPW participants have communicated their concerns about Project 120’s proposals to the alderman, and we offer a collective JPW THANK YOU! to Alderman Hairston for her leadership on this issue.

For those readers who have not yet learned about JPW’s work to ensure that Jackson Park neighbors and users have a priority voice in future plans for our Park, we invite you to learn more by visiting our website (http://jacksonparkwatch.org) and to sign up to receive periodic email Updates by contacting us at the address below.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid,
coordinators, Jackson Park Watch

Time for clean elections across Chicago

To the Editor:

Voter disenfranchisement is real in this country, as we saw in Arizona’s March 22nd presidential primary election, where tens of thousands of voters — particularly in non-white and working class communities — were denied the right to cast ballots that counted. We’ve seen this dynamic grow since 2013, when the Supreme Court essentially gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act — with dire consequences for young people, the elderly, the poor and people of color.

Voter disenfranchisement remains an issue right here at home in Chicago, which has a long and notorious history of suppressing, steering and outright fabricating election results. In the 26th District race, in my own home precinct, judges handed me the wrong ballot for my own race for State Representative — and when I complained, essentially showed me the door despite the presence of reporters!

We heard this complaint repeatedly on primary election day not just in our district but across the city, with numerous complaints about incorrect ballots filed with the Chicago Board of Elections. The Board has new leadership, yet serious problems persist in polling places — including failing to put the correct ballot in voters’ hands.

The problem was particularly acute in “split” precincts — roughly a third of the precincts in Chicago and fully 40 percent in the 26th District. Voters in the same ‘split’ precinct may in fact be assigned to different districts — in part a legacy of the endless gerrymandering of legislative boundaries for our wards, our state legislative and our congressional districts. If you steer a vote to the wrong race, you undercut the number of legitimate votes for a particular candidate — and you can even conceivably change the outcome of an election.

Why care? Because our vote is essentially the only voice we’re allowed as citizens to determine who will speak for us in the halls of government power. Rob us of that right to democratically choose who represents us, and you’ve undermined the very backbone of our democracy.

People died for the right to vote, yet this fundamental right is under attack across the nation, with political elites working in states from Florida to Texas to deny people the right to vote.

We’ve got to do better in Chicago. Getting the wrong ballot is just as bad as getting no ballot, or seeing that ballot go uncounted — or being turned away at the polls — because in each of these scenarios people are being denied the right to elect their representation.

There was some good news for local voters on March 15 — including a heartening uptick in turnout, with more than 11,000 voters in my race alone casting ballots to support a platform built on a commitment to the retirement security of our seniors, quality neighborhood public schools for our kids, and accountability to working families. That’s a powerful testament to committed, issues-based grassroots organizing that lives well beyond Election Day.

Yet as activists, organizers and engaged residents, we must add a critical issue to our list of concerns: fair and transparent elections — and the right of every registered voter to cast a ballot for the candidate of their choice.

Jay Travis

Benign neglect has not helped Jackson Park

To the Editor:

Ms. Newhouse is correct (Herald, March 2, 2016). The Paul H. Douglas Nature Sanctuary occupies a significant portion of Wooded Island in Jackson Park, and almost all of the park is a haven for migratory and resident birds.
Squirrels and other mammals, turtles, fishes, and a vast array of invertebrates — insects, crayfish, worms thrive there despite the temporary disruption of Project 120.  They will continue to do so.

Benign neglect has not helped Jackson Park, nor will it. Over the years, non-indigenous  plants and trees, including buckthorn, white poplar and garlic mustard took over woodland, grassy fields, and lagoons, making the park unsuitable, even unlivable, for many native species.

On a broader scale, benign neglect led to the breakdown of physical structures — roofs of buildings decayed, and concrete walls crumbled. Benches, walkways, and playgrounds, even our beloved Darrow Bridge succumbed to the powerful forces of nature.  And, when a park’s superstructure is neglected, at what point does benign neglect morph into overt abuse?

All park-goers have seen the results of such abuse — accumulation of filth in open areas and underused buildings, deliberately ruined benches and park equipment, damaged and often destroyed trees and other vegetation, and the too-common practices of trading in drugs and sex.

Project 120 addresses all of these issues.  Experts in park history, ecology, and geology are already improving the ecological balance within the park.  The park’s infrastructure will be stabilized with improved walkways and bridges so that once again it is safe to look for birds, engage in photography, or simply stroll in a superb natural garden. “Neglect” must no longer be a part of Jackson Park.  Parks must be safe, beautiful places for all to enjoy, respect, and become a part of.

Project 120’s organizers have held several public meetings to encourage open-ended discussion about the future of Jackson Park, Washington Parks, and the Midway, most recently on Feb. 8 at the Washington Park Refectory.  These meetings are publicly announced — all concerned individuals are welcome to attend.

Ms. Newhouse, please visit Jackson Park to see it change and grow.  You will be impressed with what is there, and what it promises to become.

Guided tours of Wooded Island take place the last Saturday of each month, beginning at 10 a.m., at the south bridge of the Island. We hope to see you on March 26.

Frances S. Vandervoort
Nature Trail Coordinator
Jackson Park Advisory Council

Jackson Park is not for profit

To the Editor:

Jackson Park is a sanctuary. It is a haven. Jackson Park is everyone’s Sanctuary. Jackson Park is not for profit. It is not for anyone’s exploitation.

My highest priority is the protection and preservation of the Wooded Island, the bird sanctuary and the Bowling Green. For 50 years I have cared about Jackson Park. Also, Jackson Park is in the midst of a quiet residential area.

Benign neglect is far preferable to the 120 Project encroachment or any project of its ilk.

Thank you for your attention and concern.

Kathie Newhouse

Christian Mitchell is no friend of public education

To the Editor:

The Herald gets it wrong: Christian Mitchell is no friend of public education. He IS a friend of the charter school expansion and anti-union movement that has donated more than $150,000 to his campaigns through organizations such as Stand for Children and Democrats for Education Reform and individuals such as Eli Broad and Andrew Broy. We advocate for policies to keep public education public and free of private and corporate interests. Mitchell IS NOT our friend. We advocated twice for a bill to reduce the power of the Illinois State Charter Commission, an appointed body, which currently can overrule local school board decisions about opening new charter schools. He voted against this measure, twice. We advocated for an opt-out bill so parents can push back against the influence of the standardized testing industry on our children’s schools. He voted against this measure. We have advocated for three years for an Elected Representative School Board for Chicago; he did not support it until it became politically expedient. He was silent during the massive school closings of 2013 and failed to stand with those who fought for years to get Dyett High School re-opened. As public education advocates, we know that we need truly progressive voices in Springfield; in the 26th District race that candidate is Jay Travis.

Brenda I Delgado Als
Joy Clendenning
Debra A. Hass
Hannah Hayes
Victoria Long
Patricia Smith
Julie Vassilato

Endorsing spin,ignoring facts insults readers

To the Editor: 

Seasoned news professionals check their facts and know how to separate truth from spin. So it was shocking to see the Hyde Park Herald print the unsubstantiated claims of a desperate incumbent who will say anything to hold onto his seat — including taking credit for other hard-working legislators’ work.

The Herald claims its endorsement of Mitchell is based on bills that Mitchell takes credit for proposing, pushing and passing. But the facts show otherwise. The Herald also ignored Mitchell’s repeated votes to cut our seniors’ retirement security, undermine democracy in our schools, shortchange already cash-strapped school systems and vote the agenda of his fat cat corporate backers.

Mitchell takes credit for the work of State Representative Elgie Sims and State Senator Kwame Raoul, who together proposed and pushed for passage of SB1304. The police reform omnibus bill provides for police body cams as well as other policing and criminal justice reforms. It’s not Mitchell’s bill; he wasn’t even added as a cosponsor until more than three months after Raoul and Sims proposed the bill.

Same thing with HB0218, which decriminalizes possession of small amounts of marijuana.The bill was actually introduced in the House not by Mitchell, but by Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) and in the Senate by Sen. Michael Noland (D-Elgin). Again, Mitchell didn’t even sign on as a cosponsor until more than three months after Cassidy proposed the bill, which died when Rauner refused to sign it.

In terms of Mitchell’s so-called education reform bill, HB4272 — really a pension cost shift that has sweeping bipartisan opposition across the state. Mitchell’s bill does NOTHING to address either Chicago’s school funding crisis over the long term or our state-wide crisis in education funding, which is simply inadequate. Slapping school districts outside of Chicago with the new burden of pension costs — when more than 60 percent of those districts already confront deficit spending challenges — does nothing to address the fundamental structural deficit in statewide education funding. Mitchell, CPS CEO Forrest Claypool and his boss Rahm Emanuel like to trot out their political spin on this scheme, but the bill has garnered only a handful of cosponsors and is simply electioneering smoke and mirrors that has zero possibility of passing.

And it’s truly cynical of Mitchell to try to take credit for SB 570, actually pushed in the Senate by Toi Hutchinson and in the House by Peoria State Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth. The bill would have restored access to child care subsidies to many low-income families. Chicago Democratic State Representative Esther Golar literally checked herself out of the hospital to vote for Gordon-Booth’s bill. It failed by one House vote. That was Golar’s last trip to Springfield. She died the following week. Yet Mitchell would seek to take credit away from these two committed Black women legislators to pad his own shoddy resume.

That’s the kind of behavior we expect from hedge fund bosses and investment bankers — the very political elites who bankroll Mitchell’s campaign.

The Herald could have done at least a little basic fact-checking instead of swallowing Mitchell’s distortions whole. And it bears noting that there was no endorsement ‘process’ at the Herald — publisher Bruce Sagan and general manager Susan Walker never invited my campaign to make a case for support over Mitchell. If they had, I would have reminded them that Mitchell’s campaign is funded by those who share his agenda: Rauner allies who include school privatizers, union busters and corporate opportunists who don’t give a damn about either the truth or the greater public good. Neither, apparently, do Sagan and Walker.

Jay Travis

Rauner’s reform agenda won’t work

To the Editor:

Despite Gov. Bruce Rauner still holding last year’s budget hostage to his radical, right-wing, proven-not-to-work Turnaround Agenda, he gave his second budget address last week.

Nowhere in his speech did the governor present a realistic plan forward. Nowhere did he talk about the struggling college students who may have to drop out because Rauner hasn’t provided them with their MAP grants, or the single moms whose child care was cut by the governor, or the seniors who have seen their in-home care disappear, or the social service agencies who provide critical services to Illinois’ most vulnerable citizens.

Instead, he stuck to his same old talking points, demanding that we dismantle unions, lower the wages and workplace protections of our hardworking state employees, and place the entire burden on the backs of the working poor.

If the governor wants to talk about structural reforms, let’s talk about changing a system where two-thirds of corporations pay no income tax, and where 50 percent of the savings from the rollback of the income tax increase went to the richest one percent. Let’s talk about changing the education funding formula so that schools on the south side of Chicago have the same resources as schools in Rauner’s neighborhood in Winnetka. Let’s talk about making investments in infrastructure, education, public transportation, workforce development, and green technology – the areas that are proven to make Illinois competitive.

The governor insinuated that those of us who oppose his “Turnaround Agenda” do so because of special interests and campaign donors. The truth of the matter is that I oppose his agenda because there is no evidence that it will work. In fact, there is significant evidence that it will actually hurt our state. I oppose his agenda because it sells out working people and makes it easier for Rauner and his golf buddies to continue lining their pockets while the rest of us are scraping for crumbs.

I will continue fighting for a fair budget in Springfield, but I can’t do it alone.

I am asking you – whether you are a parent of a student in CPS, a senior who relies on in-home care, a college student without a MAP grant, a working mom who depends on a little help with your child care, or simply someone concerned about the direction of our state – to please get involved. The governor must hear from everyday folks. You can call his office at 312-814-2121 and tell him to put aside his reckless political agenda, and support a budget that works for everyone, not just those at the very top.

Together, we must demand a stronger, brighter, and more secure future for everyone.

Christian Mitchell

Hold the Term Limits, Give Us More Voters

To the Editor:

There is a push in Illinois to pass legislation that introduces term limits on political office. Gov. Bruce Rauner is a proponent of such legislation and Michael Madigan is a prime target of it. But before we go that route, let’s make sure that as many people as possible vote. High voter participation can stop the political evils targeted by term limits and deliver a more representative democracy.

To many people, serving in office election after election enables political self-dealing. As time passes in office, incumbents get stronger holds on their seats and become less accountable to the public. Each challenger warded off makes an elected office look more and more like a permanent job. With permanency the incentive to tackle problems disappears. This is one narrative on political life sans term limits.

On these facts, term limits seem attractive. They’re certainly not uncommon. In Philadelphia the mayor is limited to two consecutive four-year terms. The same was true of New York’s mayoral office until Michael Bloomberg changed the cap to three consecutive four-year terms because he could.

If only term limits were effective at eliminating elected slugs and their political inertia. A term-limited politician intent on holding office simply runs for a different seat. Instead of new entrants to the political scene, the public gets a reshuffling of the deck. To avoid exiting elected office altogether, a term-limited legislator moves from the lower house to the upper house or a position that is not term-limited.

The real problem is that too few people vote. In the 2014 Illinois Governor’s race, only 36.4 percent of registered voters in Chicago cast a ballot. Chances are this older, more formerly educated portion of the electorate has a vested interest in the status quo. Elections on these terms have not diminished political self-dealing or brought about swift and effective solutions to pressing problems. Instead they have functioned to determine which camp of supporters closest to political power will benefit from an election night win. Term limits won’t solve this problem.

Increased voter turnout can because it naturally creates more accountability. While you can ignore public sentiment when only a third of registered voters cast ballots, it becomes increasingly difficult to do so when a larger portion of the populous, many of which are disaffected by political self-dealing, are involved in electoral politics. Elected officials are more likely to do the right thing when more eyes are watching.

Greater voter turnout also pushes politicians to abandon special interests in favor of more broad-based appeals to the average Jose or Jennifer. We see this happen when candidates move from primary elections to general elections and massage their messages to appeal to the demands of the general electorate. Why shouldn’t we expect these broad-based appeals to become a more defining characteristic of our electoral politics as voter turnout expands in all elections? Why shouldn’t we expect politicians to act on more populist appeals when there is certainty they’ll be held accountable by a constituency that will show up to vote in bunches?

For politicians seriously looking to tackle political inertia, the push for term limits should take a back seat to initiatives to multiply the number of registered voters and maximize turnout. Let’s set party politics aside and make it easier to vote by increasing access to polling sites for people with disabilities, offering translators to voters facing language barriers, and extending election day voting hours. Then let’s match these reforms with initiatives to grow the number of registered voters by restoring the right for ex-felons to vote, allowing same day registration, and experimenting with automatic registration. After all, there is power in numbers – large numbers of people voting.

Alex Breland

Time to reject ‘reform’ rhetoric and demand transformative legislation

To the Editor:

Illinois families deserve leadership with the guts to address the state’s structural deficit — and provide real relief to the thousands of constituents who are suffering under Gov. Rauner’s indefensible refusal to pass a responsible budget.

We got the usual rhetoric from Rauner in his most recent budget address — while he continues to stall a viable budget for this fiscal year, at tremendous harm to Illinois residents who are being denied critical services that range from college tuition support to child care subsidies for poor working mothers. But we also must be crystal clear about the deep differences between real solutions that truly protect our working families and the most vulnerable, versus gimmicks promoted by special interest groups and the political operatives they bankroll.

While the governor continues to dig in his heels to push anti-worker policies in his ‘turnaround agenda’, the reality is that the scheme to strip away vital labor protections predates his election by many years. That scheme has intensified with the financial backing of groups like the We Mean Business PAC (bankrolled by Rauner and his political allies) and Stand For Children, which Rauner helped bring to Illinois and which cuts its proposals from the agenda of ALEC, the right-wing corporate bill mill for polluters, privatizers, and profiteers.

There is a responsible path forward to tackle Illinois’ budget impasse, chronic structural deficit and the state crisis in education funding.

First, as I wrote in this newspaper last April, legislators should not have allowed the temporary tax increase to expire without putting in place a long-term revenue fix anchored in fairness — and based on individuals’ ability to pay, not special interests’ schemes to dodge paying their fair share by shouldering ordinary residents with the bulk of the state’s revenue burden. We should restore the temporary increase — whose rollback blew a multi-billion dollar hole in the state’s budget thatbenefitted wealthy elites like Rauner the most — while we work to create a more truly and systematically fair tax system.

Second, we should move immediately to slam the door on lucrative corporate loopholes throughlegislation like HB 4300, which could bring more than $3 billion into state coffers, according to the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association.

Finally, we’ve got to reject the fake rhetoric of pension ‘reform’ — code language from powerful political players like the We Mean Business PAC for hacking away at the hard-earned retirement security of public workers. Unfortunately, these kinds of fake ‘reforms’ continue to be backed by elected officials like 26th District State Rep. Christian Mitchell, who’s voted repeatedly to support Rauner-esque objectives to cut public workers pensions and support school privatizers like his donors at Stand For Children at the expense of neighborhood public schools  and retirees.
That also means rejecting legislation like HB 4272, the deceptively named “Fund Education First” bill which, like its predecessor SB16, does nothing to address the appalling structural deficit in state education funding and instead imposes a huge increase in pension payments on the backs of workers and cash strapped school districts. That approach has drawn widespread opposition, with a House resolution opposing any such cost shift winning overwhelming bipartisan support from 62 state representatives — among them those like Eddie Jackson of East St. Louis, who represent districts that Mitchell claims his pension cost shift scheme would help.

Illinois legislators have the responsibility to break Rauner’s stalemate by actually moving revenue-positive, financially fair bills like HB 4300 to a vote — and rejecting fake solutions that benefit a narrow corporate agenda at the expense of the rest of us.

The alternative is to continue to starve our public schools, strangle the futures of our college students, undercut our small businesses and undermine the wellbeing of our most needy residents — who ironically, shoulder the greatest burden proportionally of our meager public revenue stream. And that’s an alternative we cannot and must not accept.

Jay Travis