Letters to the Editor

Community invited to celebrate noteworthy preservation efforts

Dear Friend of Historic Preservation:

The 2016 Despres Preservation Award, given for outstanding achievement in preserving Hyde Park Township’s architectural heritage, will be given to Theaster Gates and the Rebuild Foundation for the pioneering restoration of various buildings in the Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood.

The Despres Award will be presented at the Hyde Park Historical Society’s annual dinner on February 27, 2016 at the Quadrangle Club, 1155 E. 57th St.

The Rebuild Foundation projects are aimed at revitalizing the community by “re-imagining” vacant buildings and neglected artifacts. The goal is to provide unique cultural spaces and programming that are community-driven. This broad approaches extends the definition of standard preservation projects, embracing what Gates terms “ethical re-development.”
The most recent project is the widely acclaimed adaptive reuse of a 1923 bank at 6760 Stony Island Ave. The neoclassical structure, now called the Stony Island Arts Bank, was bought from the city in 2013 for $1. The restoration makes extensive use of original materials.  The building now holds such rescued artifacts as the archives of Johnson Publishing (Ebony and Jet magazines) and an architectural lantern slide collection from the University of Chicago. It was a focal point of the recent Chicago Architecture Biennial.

Other projects cited are the Dorchester Art + Housing Collaborative at 1456 E. 70th Street, built in 2010 in partnership with Brinshore Development; the Archive House and Listening House, both at 6918 S. Dorchester; and the Black Cinema House at 7200 S. Kimbark. Gates is also involved with several other restoration projects in the Washington Park neighborhood (the Arts Incubator; Currency Exchange café; and Bing, a fine arts bookstore).  Theaster Gates is a visual arts professor and director of arts and public life at the University of Chicago.

The Despres Awards honor long-time Fifth Ward alderman Leon Despres and his wife, Marian Despres, both noted preservationists.

To reserve a seat for the Hyde Park Historical Society 2016 annual dinner on February 27, mail a check for $80 ($90 for payments received after February 22) payable to the Hyde Park Historical Society, to Janice A. Knox, Hyde Park Historical Society, 5529 S. Lake Park Ave., Chicago, IL 60637. Credit card payments may be made online at hydeparkhistory.org. For more information, send an e-mail to Janice A. Knox at janice.a.knox@gmail.com, or call 773-317-1520.

Jack Spicer   

To the Editor

To the Editor:

Though the Hyde Park Herald covers interests and concerns of the Hyde Park community, Hyde Park residents are also Illinois residents. I’ve recently discovered that auto registration renewals will no longer be mailed to Illinois residents due to budget constraints. It is up to all Illinois residents to know when to renew their auto registration. All residents must now go in person to renew their registration, as there is no budget to mail registration renewals and tags to residents. Sec. Jesse White communicated this by sending out a press release in September 2015. This is a terrible transition to a new policy. Although it will save the State $450,000 a month in postage, this decision will also increase registration penalties and ticket fines providing even more dollars to the State. Since most residents do not read press releases from Jesse White’s office they will remain unaware of the new registration policy. I’d like the Hyde Park Herald to provide communication and alert residents of this change. It’s essential and after I’ve researched even more about this, I’m finding there has been little or no communication to Illinois residents. Please consider printing an article about this transition for your Hyde Park residents.

Thank you,
Norma Adams

To the Editor

To the Editor:

There was an odd sentence in the Jan. 6 Herald report on the “Memorandum of Understanding” signed by the U. of C. and the city on Dec. 16, which caught my attention and so I obtained a copy of the press release distributed by the U. of C.

Among other things, the press release states that in the agreement “the city will provide the university with … development of a framework plan for Nichols park…” That is apparently the source for the odd sentence in the Herald article but doesn’t clarify much.

First, how does the city propose to ‘provide the development of’ a framework plan? Second, a framework plan for Nichols Park already exists. Is the city proposing to ‘provide the development of’ a new one? Third, why would the city agree to ‘provide the U. of C. with development of a plan instead of provide the community or the park? Maybe, if we’re really lucky, what’s actually meant by ‘provide the development of’ means provide the money for the implementation of the existing plan.

For the sake of clarity, I suggest that it would be appropriate for any entity wishing to ‘provide for the development of’ something regarding Nichols Park to bring its suggestion to the Nichols Park Advisory Council, before signing an agreement to do it.

Stephanie Franklin
Nichols Park Advisory Council

To the Editor

To the Editor:

This letter is prompted by the Dec. 16 article “Project 120 Update” as well as by your comments about Jackson Park in your end-of-year coverage.

We and many others in the community have many concerns about Project 120, as was made very clear by the large number of participants raising questions at the Nov. 9 public workshop on the current proposals for Jackson and Washington Parks and the Midway Plaisance.  These concerns include:

  • What exactly is Project 120 proposing?  The plans appear to change on an on-going basis.
  • What are the specifics concerning the concert pavilion proposed to replace the existing parking lot east of Darrow Bridge close to the Museum of Science and Industry?  Who would control, operate, staff, and maintain it?  Would this be another privatization of public park space?  What about noise and parking?  If part of the goal is to provide a visitors’ center with displays and restrooms why not improve the existing Park District restroom facilities in the area and work with MSI to develop a display about the history of the Wooded Island and its environment there?
  • When and how will the public have the opportunity for decisive input beyond these sporadic workshops?

We hope that we are not wrong in trusting that significant public debate will be required to make any of the major changes to our beloved local parks that Project 120 appears to have in mind.

Brenda Nelms
Margaret Schmid
We can be contacted at jacksonparkwatch@gmail.com.

Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:

The article on the presidential library in the Dec. 30 Herald is an unfortunate example of the power of misleading advertising. No, it is not “inevitable” that the proposed library will be located in either one of our landmark parks. Yes, the U. of C. “had its work cut out for it” to convince reasonable people that either of the historic parks would be appropriate locations. They did not succeed. The massive campaign, cleverly blurring the distinction between Washington Park (the neighborhood) and Washington Park (the park) has succeeded only in distracting the gullible from the fact that these two sites still are, at this point, merely proposed locations.

The same slick advertising tactic, substituting an “it’s a done deal” assumption for a “proposed” idea, is currently being used to push the suggestion for a hotel at 53rd and Dorchester into the “done deal” column. However, as Ald. Hairston (5th) was quick to remind us at the community meeting on Dec. 15, any such idea is merely a suggestion until it has both unified community support and city council approval.

For both suggestions, there must be less destructive alternatives. Regarding the library, the land along 63rd Street between Cottage Grove and Woodlawn avenues is almost entirely empty. The library complex, if built there, would not displace anybody or destroy any heritage. The same is true for most of the land on both sides of Garfield Blvd. between King Drive and the Expressway (much of which the U. of C. already owns). Regarding the hotel idea, consider the possibility of a four-story, Harper Theater-style building with two floors of retail space and two floors of parking. Great creative ingenuity could transform this corner, reduce congestion, increase parking, provide substantial mixed-use retail opportunity, and not despoil the landscape.

More imaginative thinking is needed on these projects. Didn’t the U. of C. recently inaugurate an “innovation exchange?” Well? We need not settle for any proposal that destroys historical features or priceless and irreplaceable public assets, and blocks our view, just because no one has yet envisioned a creative alternative. The community still has a voice – it should be loud. We can do better.

Stephanie Franklin

To the Editor

To the Editor:

The tribute to Jane Averill in the Dec. 16 Herald was certainly well deserved, but there is much more to her story. Jane was indeed a passionately and dedicated teacher; and she was also a passionate and dedicated community volunteer.

During our long fight to secure the expansion of Nichols Park, Jane was a stalwart supporter of the Friends of the Lot. As one of the original and active members, she was always available to attend even last-minute meetings, make phone calls, distribute leaflets, and advocate for the park expansion. Following our success the meadow, and – vital to the 4th on 53rd – allowed the use of her apartment’s electricity to power the “Bouncy House.” She took on an even larger role this summer by managing the Children’s Stage.

As a continual friends of the park, a stalwart volunteer, and a special friend of ours, she will be deeply missed.

Stephanie Franklin

To the Editor

To the Editor: 

I was born and raised in Hyde Park.  I went to Lab school.  I get angry when Cutler throws interceptions.

But with the passage of HR 158, because of my Iranian heritage, I stand to lose the right to travel as freely as other Americans… all of a sudden I’m “less American” than other people.

Because Iranian citizenship is passed down via the father, most of us in the Iranian diaspora are technically dual nationals—even if we have never even travelled to Iran.

I am as Chicagoan and American as it gets, accent and all. I plea that Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk do not vote for this bill and make me a second-class citizen.  I’d like to think that here in Illinois we don’t take pages out of the Donald Trump playbook.

Thank you,
Cyrus Dowlatshahi

The truth versus the incumbent’s spin

Jay Travis response to 12/9/15 letter from Rep. Mitchell letter, Hyde Park Herald.

Good governance is built on the truth. Facts empower people — and the families of the 26th district deserve elected representation that is honest. So I’d like to provide the facts, along with sources, for Herald readers about Rep Mitchell’s record, a record he seems instead determined to spin and shun.

Fact: Rep. Christian Mitchell worked for a lobbying firm that did business with the payday lending industry. Mitchell’s LinkedIn page lists his work for Conlon Strategies, from November 2011 until July 2014 — a year and a half after he became state representative. The company is registered as a lobbyist of Illinois agencies that include the Illinois Commerce Commission, the Departments of Commerce, Corrections, Human Services and Insurance — and General Assembly members!

Conlon’s clients have included the Community Financial Services Association, the national trade association for payday lenders, which paid Conlon at least $150,000 between 2008 and 2009. When Mitchell worked for Conlon in 2012, 2013 and 2014, the company’s clients included the Retail Energy Supply Association, whose members include AEP Energy, which forked out $50,000 to bankroll last year’s annual meeting of the right-wing bill mill ALEC — and whose corporate parent just slashed weatherization assistance for poor people in Ohio by half. Illinois officials are currently investigating another prominent Illinois Conlon client — Integrys (2012, 2013), the parent company of People’s Gas — for hiding huge cost overruns in its pipeline project to grease state approval for its merger with another energy company. Those cost overruns could cost the average Chicago customer $7,700 over the next 20 years, according to the Chicago Tribune, while Integrys executives pocketed more than $30 million from the merger.

Mitchell currently lists himself as a as a “Senior Strategist” with The Strategy Group, whose clients have included Chicago mayors Richard M. Daley and Rahm Emanuel — and IEC, the Illinois Environmental Council. Mitchell touts his support from IEC, which initially backed Illinois’ fracking law — but which has also said “the safest and best solution to this issue is a moratorium on fracking.”

Fact: Rep. Mitchell could have — but didn’t — sign on as a cosponsor of HB 3086, which called for a moratorium on fracking. Instead, he voted for SB 1715, the controversial fossil fuel industry-driven fracking bill that deeply divided Illinois environmental groups. That legislation required the State’s powerful Joint Committee for Administrative Rules to issue regulations for fracking. JCAR predictably buried the devil in the details and issued rules so toothless that by September of 2014 two of the most prominent environmental groups that originally backed SB 1715 (in direct opposition to their sister groups in California) — the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club — abandoned their support and instead joined the demand for a moratorium advocated by the very grassroots groups they’d earlier opposed.

Fact: Rep. Mitchell has accepted over $35,000 from the We Mean Business PAC, whose funders include both Governor Bruce Rauner and billionaire hedge fund boss Ken Griffin, a generous donor to both Rauner (more than $13 million) and Mayor Emanuel ( $425,000 from Griffin and over $100,000 from his wife, as well as $850,000 to the pro-Emanuel PAC Chicago Forward). Crains succinctly laid out the group’s agenda: “to bankroll candidates who are willing to cross labor unions and vote to reduce pension benefits and/or require workers to pay more for them.” Rep. Mitchell has accommodated that mission, voting four times to reduce the earned retirement income of seniors who rely on public pensions: the unconstitutional SB 1; HB 1154, to cap public pensions; 1165, to reduce cost-of-living increases; and 1166, to increase retirement ages.

There is no need to distort Rep. Mitchell’s record. When it comes to undercutting the earned retirement income of seniors, working for firms that profit from payday lenders and price-gouging energy giants, or smoothing the way for pro-industry fracking ‘regulations’, his record speaks for itself. For original source
documentation from the Illinois State Board of Elections, the Illinois General Assembly legislative database, et al, go to www.jayfor26.com/factchecking.

Jay Travis

Thurow’s letter missing key facts

To the Editor:

The Letter to the Editor from Chuck Thurow published on Nov. 25 was interesting and provocative. Unfortunately, it also was missing a key fact, contained errors and reflected an apparent lack of familiarity with property assessment in Cook County. Please allow some information and clarification from the Cook County Assessor’s Office (CCAO).

Omitted by Mr. Thurow is the extremely important fact that his home’s market value increased tremendously since it was last assessed in 2012. Happily for him, his neighborhood, Kenwood, benefitted from the best growth in value among homes in Hyde Park Township. Obviously, greater Estimated Fair Market Value requires an increase in Assessed Value (AV).

Assessment of property in Cook County is not “opaque and clearly broken.” In fact, CCAO uses specific metrics, factors and policies, all on the public record, to approximate the market value on which each AV is calculated. Factors include square footage of property and living space, type of building, number of bedrooms, additions and market-based data such as sales, etc.

There are no secrets, nothing opaque. Assessment history and essential data for each property is on www.cookcountyassessor.com and www.cookcountypropertyinfo.com. The 25.2% increase shown for Kenwood, more for Mr. Thurow’s property, is not unusual for three years with such a desirable area in the rebounding real estate market. For him and many others, the good news is their home is worth more; the bad news is their home is worth more. Thus, AV correctly rises.

The median AV for all of Hyde Park Township rose only 12.59% since 2012. To say CCAO’s assessments are “arbitrary and willfully high” is utter nonsense. Residential assessments are driven primarily by years of sales, and this agency does not ignore facts or seek to raise assessed value. Further, the Assessor has no control of tax rates and multipliers set by municipalities and the state to compute tax bills.

Assessor Berrios insists on transparency. He made appealing AV easier and more open, not to aid “[supposedly] connected lawyers” but because a vibrant appeal process double-checks and maintains the integrity and fairness of an assessment. He is committed to ensuring no one pays more than his or her fair share of property taxes. Importantly, homeowners don’t even need attorneys to win appeals.

Mr. Thurow “…hope[s] that Berrios can explain [sic] and that it makes sense.” That has been done here. Preconceived, unsubstantiated rhetoric is convenient and sensational but it serves only to misinform and confuse honorable taxpayers, of whom we trust Mr. Thurow is one.

Tom Shaer
Deputy Assessor for Communications
Office of Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios

CPD accountability task force major step toward systemic change

To the Editor:

State Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-13) issued the following statement on the dismissal of police superintendent Garry McCarthy and the City of Chicago’s appointment of a task force on police accountability:

The Dec. 1 announcements represent a positive step out of a dark time in our city. While no individual is solely responsible for the crisis of public confidence that has converged on the murder of Laquan McDonald and the culture of inaction and obfuscation that hid it from public view for more than a year, Superintendent McCarthy’s departure is a necessary step. It sends a signal of seriousness. But just as replacing a head coach does not automatically correct deeper weaknesses within a team, new leadership will not necessarily bring about the systemic change desperately needed in Chicago’s law enforcement and criminal justice apparatus.

That’s why I’m encouraged by the appointment of a police accountability task force made up of individuals with the integrity and experience to move beyond platitudes to real reform.

The choice of Deval Patrick, who was raised on the South Side, headed the civil rights division of the Department of Justice and served two terms as governor of Massachusetts, to advise the task force is a wise one. I’m optimistic that he will bring to the endeavor outside eyes but also a deep love for this city.

Inspector General Joe Ferguson, former State Police director Hiram Grau, Chicago Police Board President Lori Lightfoot, University of Chicago law professor and former Cook County public defender Randolph Stone and former federal prosecutor Sergio Acosta will round out the group, lending valuable experience and insight to the critical task of restoring public trust in the police. To move that process forward, they must determine patterns and practices that need to be overhauled. And our city’s leadership must exercise the will to follow their counsel.

I also stand behind Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s decision to ask the U.S. Department of Justice to undertake a civil rights investigation of the Chicago Police Department. Rep. Elgie Sims and I met with her yesterday prior to her announcement, and I look forward to continuing to work with her on statewide policy solutions that build on the landmark law enforcement reform legislation Rep. Sims and I passed this year. The road ahead is long, but the journey has begun.

State Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-13)

Metra underutilized on South Side

To the Editor:

The Metra Electric, which serves Chicago’s Southside and South Suburban communities, is a hugely underutilized asset. If run like CTA lines, with trains every 10 or 15 minutes, full Ventra integration, and a transfer discount, the Metra Electric could unlock the enormous development potential of the Southside and South Suburbs.

The Metra Electric differs from Metra’s other commuter lines. The Electric was built as a transit line much like the CTA. With its electrified tracks and complete separation from the freight network, the Metra Electric is well suited to serve many more residents.

The Metra Electric serves many key destinations like the University of Chicago, the Pullman district, Chicago State, the Museum of Science and Industry, Governor State, McCormick Place, the South Shore Cultural Center, and the proposed Lakeside Development. The communities surrounding its stations are densely populated and walkable, ideal areas for rapid transit development.

Today, the Metra Electric is hampered by a fare structure more appropriate for suburban lines and a lack of schedule and fare integration with Pace and CTA buses. Most important, the trains run too infrequently to serve the needs of the community.

With more frequent and affordable service, current residents could access jobs across the region, and communities along the route would become more attractive places to live and locate businesses. Furthermore, Metra Electric service could be extended to O’Hare using existing right-of-ways, which would provide better connections among the universities and cities in the Midwest, and would strengthen Southside and South Suburban access to worldwide markets.

We call on Metra, Pace, the CTA, and our elected officials to work together to:

· Integrate fares and schedules across the agencies using the Ventra card and a transfer discount

· Increase frequencies on the Metra Electric lines to every 10 to 15 minutes

· Investigate the cost of extending the Metra Electric to O’Hare

· Increase federal, state, and local funding to accomplish the above


- 4th District Senior Advisory Committee
– 7th Ward Senior Advisory Committee- Active Transportation Alliance
– Alliance of South East
– Center for Neighborhood Technology
– Chicago Hyde Park Village
Coalition for Equitable Community Development
– Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference
– Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce
– Midwest High Speed Rail Association
– South Chicago Chamber of Commerce
– South East Chicago Commission
– South Shore Planning Coalition
– South East Side Block Club

Jay Travis’ “facts” are all wrong

To the Editor: 

Jay Travis is entitled to her own opinions, but she isn’t entitled to her own facts. And plain and simple, her latest letter to the editor was an utter misrepresentation of the truth.

Her implication that I worked as a lobbyist is patently false. In 2012, after I won my first primary race but before I was sworn into office, I worked as the Midwest Media Director for President Obama’s reelection campaign, with primary responsibility for the critical battleground states of Iowa and Wisconsin. Ms. Travis’ false intimations refer to public affairs work I did for a firm that provided communications advice to organizations such as the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, Children’s Memorial Hospital and the Illinois Coalition Against Handgun Violence.

The “fracking bill” that Jay referred to was a piece of legislation that implemented toughest-in-the-nation restrictions and regulations on hydraulic fracturing. I supported that bill, as did the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Sierra Club and the Illinois Environmental Council. To say that somehow had I voted against the EPA and Sierra Club, I would have been an “environmental hero” is craven political hackery. I’m proud to have a 100 percent voting record with the Illinois Environmental Council all three years I have served in the General Assembly. And I’m proud to have received Sierra Club’s endorsement for my reelection.

She also suggests that I am somehow beholden to some of the wealthy individuals who have supported my campaigns. It’s hard to imagine that I am beholden to them when I have written bill after bill calling on them to pay their fair share so we can invest in quality public schools, healthcare for our seniors, and access to quality, affordable child care for our working families. My campaigns have been supported by labor unions, community organizations, environmental groups and individuals from all throughout my district. It is my expectation that they support me because they know me to be a thoughtful and independent leader who tackles the difficult problems facing the state of Illinois.

Jay knows all of this. But for her, political ambition trumps the truth.

What Jay needs to understand is that this kind of playing fast and loose with the facts will get you nowhere in Springfield. If she had given a speech on the house floor with this level of distortion and flagrant misrepresentation, my colleagues would have laughed her out of the room.

Good governance demands of us the highest standards of honesty. It’s my hope that in the future, the standard of integrity to which you hold yourself is higher than the standard you demonstrated in last week’s paper.

State Rep. Christian Mitchell (D-23)

Murray meeting not just about principal

To the Editor:

Your article on the Murray LSC (“Murray teachers question LSC”, Nov. 25, 2015) contains two gross inaccuracies. First, the annual state of the school address was not a “hearing about whether to retain” the principal.

Local School Councils do follow a process to decide on renewal of the principal’s contract every four years, but this process does not include public hearings. Second, there was no “intense three-hour debate”. The annual state of school meeting usually runs from two to three hours presenting school performance data, and this year’s meeting was no exception. Three teachers did participate in public comment at the end of the meeting to express support for Mr. Mason, but it was hardly a three-hour debate.

Michael Scott
Community representative, Murray LSC
5213 S. Kenwood Ave.

MTS responds to Laquan McDonald shooting

To the Editor: 

We the community of McCormick Theological Seminary, along with the rest of the city of Chicago and our nation, are saddened and dismayed by video footage documenting the fatal police shooting of 17-year old Laquan McDonald by Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke.

In January of this year, African American Presidents and Deans of Theological Schools issued a call to action in order to respond to the killing of African American men and women in the streets of cities across America. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) presidents issued a statement of support and committed ourselves and our seminaries to respond faithfully. As a seminary and Christian community that believes in and works for the gospel values of liberation and justice, McCormick is called as theopen letter says, “to arise from the embers of silence to speak up and speak out as the prophet of old, ‘let justice run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream’ (Amos 5:24). As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

The release of this police video, documenting the shooting of Laquan McDonald, will send ripples of action and emotion throughout Chicago. The video and the delay of its release are testaments to the fact that our system of law enforcement is in dire need of reform. We cannot be silent, passive, or neutral as we continue to witness the violent relationships between law enforcement and community members, endangering the lives of especially young people of color. We see violence in our streets, and we see the need for justice. We want to be agents of change in the city, and so we will respond in ways that support affected communities, families, and individuals. We will seek justice for individuals and reform of systems that do harm to communities of color.

As affirmed by the ministry of our seminary’s Annual Theme, which seeks to equip transformational leaders to build peace, McCormick has committed itself to being a peace-maker in our city. We are committed to responding to our urban context, engaging in the social, political, and theological issues that affect our seminary community and our neighbors in Chicago. Additionally, we are humbled to participate in this work, in which we have attracted, nurtured, and formed leaders—students, faculty, staff, administration, trustees, and alums—who are advocates for social justice and God’s shalom. We are called to be change-agents in this city, our nation, and our world. It is this deep sense of God’s calling that compels us to affirm this identity and vocation in the days and weeks following the video’s release.

We stand in solidarity with the activists of our city, young and old, who are calling for justice and transformation. We stand with our alumni/ae, many of whom are faith leaders in Chicago, who are ministering to their communities in the wake of this video’s release.McCormick, the institution that nurtured them and helped them discern theircall, supports them in those efforts. We stand with those in our city who seek to build bridges, to bring justice and restore trust between communities ofcolor and law enforcement. We stand as a seminary community in a state of holy prayer and action, as we seek to respond to God’s call for justice and peace.

As a seminary in the world, McCormick is in a position to offer space to our community and neighborhoods in which positive action can arise. McCormick alumna, Minister Michelle Day, aleader who is working with the Restorative Justice Community, is organizingamong faith-based communities across Chicago to open their doors to all those who feel the need to lament, to process, and to act. Through Restorative Justice-led dialogues and circle conversations, Minister Day and other faith leaders are actively building community, healing relationships, and transforming the dynamics between residents and law enforcement. McCormick is joining with our neighboring churches on the South and West Sides by opening our doors, as well as our hearts, to provide sacred space for this peace-making initiative. Details of when and where these conversations will be held will be posted on our website.

In addition to providing safe space for dialogue and healing, McCormick continues to pray for our city and our nation, knowing that our action is also a form of prayer. We pray that the release of this video will result in reform of our law enforcement policies and procedures. We pray that the voices of the youth and the witness of experienced social justice advocates in Chicago will be heard and included in these efforts. We pray that the relationships between the police and the communities that they serve will be transformed into partnerships based on respect, trust, and compassion. We pray for continued guidance and courage to stand in the gap and live out our call to God’s justice and peace in our beloved city of Chicago.

Frank M. Yamada
President of McCormick Theological Seminary

Jay Travis to Christian Mitchell: Time for you to walk the walk

To the Editor: 

I’m not surprised that State Rep. Christian Mitchell (D-26) can’t get his facts straight about my support for fair tax initiatives in Illinois. He is, after all, a politician who claims to be progressive — but who’s abandoned progressive positions when it really matters. He must have missed my call for a graduated income tax last April in the Hyde Park Herald. He certainly missed me protesting in Springfield on March 11 against Gov. Bruce Rauner’s inhuman budget cuts — and joining hundreds of residents like Alphonso Jones to demand fair tax reform. He didn’t join me in June with local leaders at the Grassroots Collaborative’s gathering, which focused on progressive revenue strategies — including a graduated income tax. And he missed me in July rallying at the State of Illinois building with over 500 people to demand a fair tax.

But Mitchell has often been missing in action — or voted dead wrong — on issues of critical concern to our residents.

He could have been an environmental hero like his colleagues State Rep. Robyn Gabel (D-18) and Ald. Deb Mell (33rd), who voted against fracking in Illinois in 2013 — but he wasn’t. He could have prioritized public school kids over his deep-pocketed pro-privatization donors and supported local school district control over charter-school applications in 2014 — but he didn’t. He could have resigned from a lobbying firm that has represented payday lenders and school privatization heavyweights after he was elected in 2012 — but he didn’t. He could have supported parents who want to opt their kids out of controversial and deeply flawed high-stakes tests in May 2015 — but he didn’t. He could have backed a bill for an elected Chicago school board — but instead opposed it — and only changed his tune during election season.

And he could have voted to protect our seniors’ retirement security — but he didn’t. Instead, he voted the agenda of his big-money donors, including “We Mean Business”, a group that promotes cutting pensions. That group, whose donors include billionaire hedge fund bosses Ken Griffin and Bruce Rauner, has given Mitchell more than $35,000 alone. Mitchell’s vote for SB1, the unconstitutional raid on seniors’ pension benefits, is not his only vote against retirement security. In 2013 alone, he also voted for House Bills 1154 (capping pensions), 1165 (to delay and cut cost-of-living increases) and 1166 (to increase retirement ages).

If that’s Mitchell’s idea of a state legislator who does “real work”, then we need a new kind of work ethic in Springfield. We need a work ethic that isn’t beholden to opportunistic corporate elites and their raids on critically needed programs for our seniors, students and working families. We need a work ethic — and a representative — who tells the truth and puts the needs of ordinary people first.

Jay Travis