Letters to the Editor

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

Thank you from Indie City Writers

To the Editor:

We’d like to thank the Hyde Park Herald for a wonderful article about the Indie City Writers. You really captured the spirit of our unique writers’ group.

Indie City Writers is growing steadily and it’s nice to get the word out to the Hyde Park community about our readings, critiquing, prompt writing, expert author talks and workshops. We also have a reading coming up at 57th Street Books on Jan. 14. Any of your readers with questions about joining our group and our latest schedule can emailindiecitywriters@gmail.com.

And thanks for doing a great job each week. Your coverage helps makes the Hyde Park community stronger.

It’s time for a tax revolt

To the Editor:

I wrote earlier how dumbfounded I am with the reassessment of Hyde Park and Kenwood (a median increase of 25.22 percent with my own being over 36 percent). How did Joseph Berrios and his crew come up with those numbers?

I say that this is the right moment for our neighborhoods to lead a tax revolt or more accurately an assessment revolt. The Cook County tax assessment system is definitely opaque and clearly broken. But worse, it is a system of cronyism that verges on the corrupt. We could help the entire county if we helped clean it up.

Where else in the country is the assessment appeal process the rule instead of the exception? You are made to feel that you have been snookered if you don’t appeal. Aldermen run special sessions to help people appeal, and on and on. Then we are satisfied when it is knocked down a little bit without ever challenging the original assessment as arbitrary or willfully high.
When I talk to my neighbors about the sheer size of my increase, I am amazed by the number who say, “Don’t worry, Chuck. I have a connected lawyer. I can give you the name.” There is a reason that I get daily mailings from lawyers offering to appeal my assessment: they are making money from the system. The Herald should investigate which lawyers are making the most money and to which politicians they are contributing.

But to the revolt: I am asking people to appeal their assessments to the Cook County Board of Appeals based on the Assessor’s formula for the entire Hyde Park/Kenwood neighborhood, not on consistency with surrounding buildings. I want transparency. Hopefully our Alderman and Alderwoman will support this effort. I hope that Berrios can explain and that it makes sense. I would be a much happier Chicago resident. And, happiness is good.

But we must act before Dec. 8 when the appeal process closes. We are having a discussion of this at ShoP, 1448 E. 57th St., on Sunday, November 29th at 5:30 p.m. We would love to hear ideas, strategies and action plans.

Chuck Thurow
(aka A hip but not hot Kenwood Resident)

Jay needs to do the real work for change

To the Editor:

I was happy to read in last week’s paper that Jay Travis strongly supports my bill to amend the constitution and institute a progressive income tax for the State of Illinois.

In that letter she called for real leadership on the issue. I find that perplexing, though, given that neither I nor my colleagues in the Capitol building have heard anything from Jay on this issue other than during election seasons.

I didn’t see her at the Fair Economy Illinois rally that I spoke at two weeks ago that showcased nearly 1,000 people calling for progressive revenue solutions. I haven’t seen her in Springfield meeting with other legislators. She wasn’t standing with me and the hundreds upon hundreds of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students who marched at the Thompson Center last week calling for more funding. In fact, I haven’t seen her at any public events that are aimed at solving the state budget crisis. It begs the question – why is Jay just now talking about this issue? Waiting until it’s election season to simply write a letter to the editor about such an important issue is not “real leadership.” It’s opportunistic.

My team and I have spent months knocking on doors and speaking with constituents about the need for a progressive income tax. We organized mass phone banks and letter writing campaigns pleading the Gov. Bruce Rauner to support progressive revenue measures. We mobilized our neighbors to attend rallies with grassroots organizations from across the city. And I have personally been garnering support from legislators up and down the state for this measure – our last effort achieved dozens of co-sponsors, and included visits with editorial boards across the state.

While I welcome Jay’s support for my bill to create a progressive income tax, her letter to the editor was simply an attempt to prop up her own political campaign. The State of Illinois is facing an unprecedented crisis and now more than ever we should expect leaders to move beyond political posturing and actually roll up their sleeves and do the difficult work it takes to solve the state’s problems.

State Rep. Christian Mitchell (D-26)

Mesa Construction is breaking a pledge

To the Editor:

At one of the TIF meetings held at Kenwood HS last year to present the plans for the new 53rd St. development opposite Nichols Park, audience members raised concerns about the impact of parking by construction workers on residential streets adjacent to the site. A pledge was then tendered to the community by the developer, Mesa Development Co., that construction personnel would not park on residential streets and that construction workers would be directed to alternative parking sites. The construction company, McHugh Construction, also confirmed the audience that all subcontractors were notified of this restriction. Alderman Burns, 4th Ward, and Jim Hennessey, U. of C., were present at the meeting, as well as representatives from other supporting agencies including the SECC and the HP Chamber of Commerce. The pledge presented to the assembly indicated that Mesa and McHugh would take full responsibility for ensuring that construction personnel did not park on adjacent residential streets.

However, as the construction progresses we find parking on our nearby streets increasingly occupied by cars belonging to construction personnel. Now that what we were told would not happen is happening, we would like to know to whom we should direct our reminders. Who is enforcing this pledge? A name and phone number would be extremely helpful. In addition, perhaps Mesa or McHugh would post our streets with “No Vue 53 Parking” signs. This will of course need to be left in place for the foreseeable future, since we were also assured that the new residents would have parking within the building and would not be parking on the adjacent streets.

I can be reached at 773-955-3622, or via email to Ira Abrams at att.net.

Stephanie Franklin for the McMobil Adjacents Delegation

Illinois needs fair, progressive revenue

To the Editor:

Illinois’ ongoing – and indefensible — ‘budget impasse’ has one principle architect: Governor Bruce Rauner, and his attempt to link anti-union reforms to the passage of a balanced state budget. This manufactured crisis highlights the need for a critical – and fundamental — remedy: the need for Illinois legislators to create stable, progressive revenue streams.

What hangs in the balance are vital services on which our seniors, working families, students and people with disabilities depend.

We must focus on long-term solutions that both improve Illinois’ fiscal health and enable our state to provide the public services that are vital to communities across Illinois. We can simply no longer avoid the decision to move Illinois away from a state in which all residents, regardless of their income, pay a ‘flat tax rate’. Illinois is an outlier in following this kind of taxing scheme; only seven states in the nation rely on a flat tax to fund public services. This fundamentally unfair and unsustainable revenue system taxes working and low-income families at a higher effective tax rate than wealthy individuals. At the same time, it allows corporations to exploit loopholes and corporate welfare schemes to dodge – or altogether avoid – paying their fair share of taxes to fund vital services.

Simply put, this unfair tax system has meant that for decades the state has failed to generate enough income to cover the costs of critical public services, relying instead on costly borrowing and public pension raids that actually exacerbate Illinois’ structural deficit. Our state legislators need to take bold, practical action, by moving to change Illinois’ constitution to implement a fair and progressive tax system in which wealthy individuals who reap the benefits of public infrastructure and taxpayer-funded services pay their fair share – instead of foisting the revenue burden on low-income and working families.

It’s time for real leadership on this critical issue. Our legislators must support a resolution to place a referendum on the ballot that allows residents to vote to amend the constitution by instituting a fair, graduated income tax. Two-thirds of legislators in both the Illinois House and Senate must approve this resolution to allow a vote on this common-sense reform.

Governor Rauner’s entrenched view of ‘reform’ relies on anti-worker strategies – by attacking collective bargaining rights, by pushing for ‘Right to Work’ for less policies that limit labor’s ability to fund union efforts, and by ultimately weakening the earning potential of working families. His effort to choke these regressive policies through the legislature relies on hijacking the budgetary process to get his way, intensifying the challenges that Illinois families face. Progressive revenue reform would end this fiscal banditry – and is long overdue.
The temporary tax increase that expired on January 1, 2015 blew a nearly three billion dollar hole in the state’s revenue stream – at precisely the same time that Governor Rauner accelerated his anti-labor austerity agenda. Rauner has used the resulting budget shortfall to his advantage – at the expense of Illinois’ families. As I have said before in the Hyde Park Herald, while implementing a fair tax system is critical to addressing Illinois’ long-term fiscal challenges, our legislators should not have allowed the temporary increase to expire before a fair tax system had been put in place. Big corporations reaped a 25% tax break when Illinois’ temporary tax increase expired — when they should instead be paying a higher and more fair tax rate. Yet in the short term, simply restoring the current tax rate to the 2014 level of 7% would generate nearly $770 million in revenue for critical public services.

The current budget impasse has derailed a sweeping range of crucial needs — including child care, services for senior citizens, financial aid support for students, and services for people with intellectual and physical disabilities. That has got to end. We must instead seek long-term, progressive structural solutions. The time for a fair, progressive income tax is now!

Jay Travis

Lights at La Quinta dash its promise

To the Editor:

I am an owner/neighbor resident of an East Hyde Park/Kenwood condominium area along the lake shore otherwise known as the “Indian Village” (48th-51st Streets….The Powhatan, The Narragansett, The Barclay, 5000 East End and 5000 Cornell, to name a few). These historic and landmarked architectural jewels that we call home have seen their share of Chicago history, the good and bad.

We looked forward to welcoming the new ownership and renovation of our small neighborhood hotel,  (the former Hyde Park Hilton, former Ramada Inn, most recently The Lakeshore Hotel)  There have clearly been many improvements to the property,  and thus , our neighborhood.

Here is where my confusion/sadness/anger begins…..
Last week, at dusk I noticed 4 highly glaring rooftop lamps… not parking lot lights, not sconces attached to the side of the building, not downlighting…..4 huge blinding lamps attached to the rootop, thus sending high beams out and up immediately to our residential buildings!!  These lights are high intensity bulbs, these are not decorative fixtures! These are prison yard lights, high beam headlights, and that is exactly how it looks from our apartments all around the area!  These Lights have totally lit up my apartment, I need not turn on a lamp…! they are intensively intrusive!

After several calls to the manager, which were never returned, I needed to share this situation and hope that we may reclaim our lovely quiet, lakeside community, with beautiful views, which are now completely compromised…How can I see the downtown Skyline with Prison Yard lights glaring into my eyes.

It appears that the La “Squinta” Inn does not care whether they are good neighbors. If they felt that the neighborhood was unsafe and that they needed such extreme and distasteful lighting for security, they are clearly in the wrong area.  If they are hoping for a Helicopter rescue team or to be seen from Space, they have the right lights….but we who have appreciated our area for years and can no longer do just that… shame on La Quinta Inn.

To say the we are shocked and even feel like this is being forced upon us is an understatement.  How about installing some light poles in the parking lot, as all of our neighboring lots have done, it’s called “downlighting”……

La “Squinta” Inn, the new prison at the lakefront, ..and I had such high hopes..

Regina Volpi

Comey’s YouTube effect is a fiction

To the Editor:

At a recent event at the University of Chicago Law School (FBI head visits U. of C. campus, Oct. 28, 2015), UC Alum and FBI Director James Comey spoke to the audience regarding the “Ferguson” effect, in which police officers pull back from confronting some situations because they fear that they will be videoed by persons with cellphones and have it go viral on the Internet, negatively affecting both their careers and lives. I find this a curious label, especially since this is attributed to a situation that never happened. There is no videoed encounter between former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, and Ferguson resident Michael Brown. However, there is plenty of video (journalists would call it “footage”) afterward between protesters and the police, who were armed military-style. Those pictures and videos, along with the justice department’s investigation, in which Mr. Comey’s FBI was also a part of, found systemic abuse of Ferguson’s minority residents by law enforcement, municipal government and the court system. This led to wholesale changes (and a Justice Department takeover) of that city’s, and I might argue many other cities, approach to law enforcement of and police interaction with its minority population.

While he was speaking, I wished he had contrasted that effect with many of the local phenomena that do have evidence to back up assertions of police overreaction and overreach.

Let’s begin with the “Driving While Black” effect, which is a subset of the “Racial Profiling” effect. Had he bothered to reference the data (no video required), he would have seen that the University of Chicago Police Department’s officers stopped far more minority drivers in the recent past, and only when called out on it, they began practicing the “Pull Up Stakes and Go Home” effect, insinuating and promoting the “Whose Gonna Protect You Now” effect amongst the non-campus community.

This is backed up by a recent story concerning a theft in a retail outlet on property previously owned by the university. A call was made to UCPD to report the crime, in which the person was told that UC no longer owned the property, and UCPD officers would not take a police report for incidents on non-university property. This flies in the face of two theories advanced at a September community meeting by 4th Ward Ald. Will Burns and the Chicago Police Department, which I’ll call the “You Can Call Both CPD and UCPD” and the “Hyde Park/Kenwood Are Protected By Two Police Department” theorems. These theorems give way to the “UCPD Selective Policing” effect, one that the Campaign for Equitable Policing (CEP) has been protesting against for years.

In all fairness, First Resident, President Barack Obama, in a speech to the International Chiefs of Police, tried to soothe fears amongst the policing community by saying that a few viral videos of bad police conduct should not tarnish the policing community as a whole. But you can’t really argue that point without bringing up the “Racial Profiling” effect, which to his credit he did. But instead of producing the “Now You Know How It Feels” effect, it all too often produces the “We Can’t Properly Police Without Violating Someone’s Rights” effect, which goes to how we train our police. Until serious, structural changes are made, the “Us vs. Them” effect will continue to dominate policing and delay indefinitely the “Why Can’t We All Just Get Along” effect.

We must continue the push for police accountability, Freedom of Information access laws for private forces such as the UCPD, and proper policing staffing and training from the City of Chicago and CPD, amongst other things, so that we can produce more than labels, explanations and excuses, but positive and long-lasting “effects”.

As for Mr. Comey, maybe his next stop should be to South Carolina, which his FBI has been called to investigate yet another phone-recorded incident, a sheriff’s deputy dragging a high school student across the room from a chair. The Associated Press quotes Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott, regarding the deputy he fired who was involved in this incident: “I can’t fix problems if I don’t know about it,” … “I would say that every citizen with a camera, if they see something that’s going on that disturbs them, they should film it. Our citizens should police us.”

This perfectly demonstrates the “This Is How It Should Work” effect.

Roderick Sawyer