Letters to the Editor

Looking for long-term budget fixes

By state Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-25)

Whither the budget?

What is the long-term solution for the state’s budget challenges? Clearly the first priority is adequate and responsible funding for the state’s current fiscal year. While courts have, so far, mandated ongoing payments to some programs, not every critically important program is protected. These forced payments are based on last year’s spending. That guarantees the state will run out of money long before the end of the current fiscal year, as income tax rates fell Jan. 1.

What it will take to stabilize state finances, while protecting the vulnerable, is a balanced approach to the state budget that includes both spending reductions and new revenues. Many groups and budget experts agree.

That includes the Civic Federation, an independent, nonpartisan government watchdog organization founded in 1894. Its members include the leaders of Chicago’s business and corporate community.

The Federation proposes a five-year plan that it believes will restore fiscal stability to the state of Illinois. The Federation notes that the repeal of a portion of the income tax last January pushed the state off a fiscal cliff: the sudden 25 percent drop in income taxes, it maintains, should be rescinded and retroactively increased until 2018. The Federation plan includes additional ideas for new revenues. One, for example, is to expand the sales tax base to include some services. When the sales tax was first adopted, ours was a sales economy. Families used to buy lawnmowers, which are taxed. Families today increasingly buy lawn care services, which are not taxed.

The report calls for stronger controls on state spending, with reductions that would amount to a quarter-of-a-billion dollars a year over the next five years. The report isn’t wrong: the state does need to cut. The budget the General Assembly sent the Governor cut spending close to that amount, although higher overall budget totals reflected mandated increases in pension contributions.

The Federation’s report recognizes that the state’s fiscal crisis imposes real hardships on our low-income neighbors. The programs they depend on face budget cuts, even though they are by no means immune from paying the higher taxes. To help struggling families, the Federation recommends an increase in the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). I sponsored the measure that first created the state EITC and I’ve worked to expand the relief it provides low-income, working families.

I don’t agree with each of the suggestions in the Civic Federation’s report. But that it seems an unlikely group to lead the charge for new taxes gives, to me, special credence to its analysis of our serious fiscal problems. Beyond the Federation’s proposals, other ideas to increase revenues are also on the table. It is my hope that the Governor, lawmakers and the Illinois body politic sit up and take notice: this state needs budget cuts—but it also needs an infusion of new money in order to stabilize and sustain our finances.

Items in DuSable exhibit provoke painful memories

To the Editor:

In reference to [the] recent article “New Display at The DuSable Museum”(August 19), I am concerned about an item that will be displayed, for “Freedom, Resistance, and the Journey Toward Equality.” To get an idea of where one is headed, in my opinion, one must first know where he/she has been. Moving forward, means someone should take a look at the things in the past that will not beneficially serve his/her future and release and let go of those things. Therefore, I applaud certain items that will be displayed to show Black Americans the progress they have made from obstacles that were placed before them. However, other items on display would be a reminder of extremely traumatic and painful things of the past and would seem to serve only to bind one or many from successfully moving forward. I make reference to “…a Ku Klux Klan robe from 1920…”

Synonymously, I am reminded of a classroom category assignment where the teacher tells the students to place an “X” on the item that does not belong. The teacher goes on to list the items: orange, book, banana, [or] apple. Every student is happy to place an “X” on the book, because even though the book may be about fruit; it is not a fruit and therefore does not belong.

In conclusion, “…a Ku Klux Klan robe from 1920…” may have reference to Black History, but I am certain that it does not belong on display at the DuSable Museum, as it would appear as mockery.

Concerned Citizen,
La Verne D. Green

Hunger strikers want to hear from officials

By JAY TRAVIS

As the Hunger Strike for Dyett enters its 9th day, the silence of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Alderman Will Burns (the Education Chair of the City Council), and State Representative Christian Mitchell is deafening. This strike is not only about ensuring that African American students in the heart of the 26th District do not lose access to our last public, open enrollment neighborhood high school, it is also about ensuring an effective K-12 system of education in Bronzeville. After 6 years of diligent planning for a new high school, with a new math and science based curriculum that was developed in collaboration with scholars, the Chicago Public School Board chose to cancel a critical hearing regarding the future of Dyett High School. The Committee’s courageous, determined grandparents, parents, and community leaders made the difficult decision to place their physical bodies on the line, and began a hunger strike on August 17, 2015. As one of the parents on the hunger strike was rushed to the hospital on August 24, 2015, the continued racial injustice endured by parents and youth in the Black community is unconscionable, and wounds my heart.

Access to an equitably-funded, well-resourced public neighborhood school within walking distance from their homes is a right that should be afforded to all children regardless of their race or income. It is a right that is afforded to children that live in Hyde Park, Beverly and Lincoln Park.

Sixty years after the landmark Brown vs. the Board of Education decision, separate and unequal education is alive and well in this city. The disinvestment, subsequent closure and disingenuous process regarding the future of Dyett School are glaring examples of not only the inequality that persists within the Chicago Public School district, but also the devaluing of the voices of African American grandparents, parents, youth and educators.

It was the sheer determination of the Committee to Revitalize Dyett which was illustrated by its decision to file Federal Title VI Civil Rights complaints, engage in sit-ins in front of the Mayor’s and Alderman Burns’ offices, and take arrests on more than one occasion that saved Dyett from indefinite closure. The committee has also secured the support of well over 2,000 people from Bronzeville for their proposal through a petition and post card drive. African American parents are often demonized as being uninterested in their children’s education. Instead of the hope, hard work and diligence of the parents and community members that have fought for new Dyett being embraced by the district, a sham process was established to call for new proposals for Dyett. Despite being ignored for numerous years by the elected officials and the district, the Committee to Revitalize Dyett submitted its proposal.

A review of all three proposals clearly indicates that the Committee to Revitalize Dyett proposal is the strongest, and has the most academic depth. So why is the decision regarding the future of Dyett being delayed? Why are the voices of Black parents ignored, when the voices of White parents in other parts of the cities are listened to? When white parents in Lakeview rejected the proposal of Noble Street Charter to open a new campus in their neighborhood, elected officials and CPS adhered to their wishes; but Black parents must endure arrests and travel to Washington DC to file Civil Rights complaints for a neighborhood school? Why do the Mayor and his close allies, Alderman Will Burns and State Representative Christian Mitchell, refuse to address the concerns and African American grandparents and parents who simply request the same treatment given to parents in neighboring Hyde Park?

Parents from Hyde Park, Lakeview, Albany Park, Englewood, Beverly, Lincoln Park, Auburn Gresham, South Lawndale, Pilsen and numerous neighborhoods in Chicago have traveled to Dyett High School to support the hunger strikers. In fact, Cook County Board Commissioner Jesus (Chuy) Garcia and 22nd Ward Alderman Ricardo Munoz have visited the hunger strikers, but not a word from our local elected officials. Unfortunately, this response (or lack thereof) continues their pattern of silence around the impact of school closures and the subsequent displacement of thousands of students, teachers and school staff; which have a disproportionate impact on African American neighborhoods and families. Perhaps speaking out on these critical issues would offend the special interest groups such as Stand for Children, Democrats for Education Reform and the We Mean Business PAC (which are PACs supported by Gov. Bruce Rauner); which bankroll their political campaigns.

The parents, grandparents, students and community members of the Committee to Revitalize Dyett are solution-driven. They saw the challenges facing Dyett, and rolled up their sleeves and collaborated with scholars and several organizations such as DuSable Museum, the Chicago Botanic Garden, the Black Metropolis Convention & Tourism Council, and Blacks in Green to develop a new school. Their definitive action deserves swift support.

“Justice delayed, is justice denied.”

No reponse from Fourth Ward office

To the Editor:

My name is Larry A. Green a resident of the 4th Ward and I have been trying for months to get a drain cleaned at the corner of 52nd street and Kimbark. I have called the 4th ward office as well as reported it by 311 and no seems to care about the standing water every time it rains hard. This seems to be a recurring issue not only with repairs but also trying to get the police to enforce the law of no heavy trucks on Kimbark and 52nd street. On Tuesday and Friday, Budweiser, Miller Lite. US Foods, Kehe, Kemps and several other large 18 wheel vehicles making deliveries to Kimbark Liquors and Hyde Park Produce roll up and down the street sometimes even going against the one way signs. I was told by CDOT that the trucks were to enter and exit off of Woodlawn but they do not do that. I have called the Chicago police department numerous times and was even told by a car that did come to just let them make delivery. There is a sign posted at the corner of 51st street and Kimbark that sys no trucks over a weight limit allowed but this is not even enforced by the Chicago police department. This is a problem that tears up the streets and it seems that no one cares. I am sure if this was happening at the corner of North Dearborn Parkway and Schiller on the Gold Coast this would not happen.

Larry A. Green

Burns needs to deal with real problems

To the Editor:

I feel disgusted that my alderman, Will Burns, is putting forth resolutions about a movie tax credit in response to what accounts say is the working title of a Spike Lee film based in a neighborhood that isn’t even part of his ward. If that’s not enough, all of this is going on during a time when the governor of Illinois has already frozen film tax credits and at a point when the real violence happening every day (not the fake movie kind) is a challenge that actually requires the attention and effort of our elected officials.  Will Burns, you represent the Fourth Ward.  Please try your hand at actually doing that in a way that truly benefits your constituents.

Cory Petty

Hyde Park is not bashing Metra

To the Editor:

We would like to clarify for the community that “bash[ing the] Metra app” was not the purpose of action at the July 22 Metra board meeting, reported on in the August 5 Hyde Park Herald. We acknowledge that Metra’s “Ventra Mobile App” will offer many benefits, but those benefits will only be available to persons who use the required high end smart phone. We are calling for Metra to also implement a single fare card that is usable on CTA, Metra and Pace (as called for by the 2011 Universal Fare Card legislation), making it easier to ride on and transfer between all of the Chicago region transit services by all persons, including seniors and low-income persons who rely on public transportation. It is “both/and” – not “either/or.”

Linda Thisted and Roger Huff

Montgomery Place striving to serve changing needs

To the Editor:

We appreciate the thoughtful report on the recent White House Conference on Aging prepared by Hyde Park Older Women’s League (OWL) and Chicago Hyde Park Village (CHPV). Everyone associated with Montgomery Place shares their commitment to providing the finest services and programs for older adults in our community. We concur with the current discussion and think two public policy issues need further discussion.

The first: Demographics clearly show an exponentially increasing number of seniors will want or need support services. The vast majority will choose to stay in their own homes. Montgomery Place, like OWL and CHPV, recognizes this trend and is developing more programs that reach beyond our campus to older adults in their own homes.

Eight years ago to further extend our services to more seniors, Montgomery Place created a subsidiary, LifeCare@HOME, to provide home-based services for older adults in Cook, DuPage, Lake and Will Counties. We now are in the process of reaching out to individuals who live in nearby high-rise apartment buildings so we can provide wellness services and assist them in organizing social and education programs. We also are testing a pilot project to offer modestly priced transportation to seniors.

Because many people are cared for by family members, Montgomery Place’s chaplain Rev. Dr. Julianne Buenting also helps those caregivers by offering regularly scheduled support group meetings on our campus.

As we serve a greater variety of older adults, we continue to believe one factor is paramount for our success — our caregivers. This leads to the second policy issue: Ensuring the fair treatment and compensation of hourly workers. The not-for-profit governing board of Montgomery Place already has taken measures that all our employees are fairly compensated, and treated with dignity and respect.

We strive to recognize the work and dedication of the hundreds of employees who work for Montgomery Place and LifeCare@HOME. To achieve our mission of providing quality, senior-centered care, we commit significant resources to ensure our caregivers are not only well-trained and supported by ongoing education and peer-group programs, but also generously compensated, well above industry standards and the requirements of the city of Chicago.
As part of this commitment, we pay our caregivers time-and-a-half on holidays to thank them for putting the lives of their clients first and include paid holidays in their compensation plan. We also offer them healthcare benefits and a 401k-retirement plan.

We acknowledge senior living industry practices are not always what they should be. Montgomery Place is committed to leading the way for best employment practices. We encourage families to choose employers who treat their employees well, invest in their training, and offer them generous compensation and benefits.

It is only this level of recognition and training for caregivers that makes it possible for Montgomery Place and LifeCare@HOME to respond quickly to an older adult in need.

We are grateful to our caregivers for their eagerness to continually improve their skills and knowledge and for their selfless dedication and genuine affection for the older adults whom they serve.

Susan M. Levy, President Board of Directors, Montgomery Place and LifeCare@HOME LLC
Michael Apa
CEO/Executive Director; Montgomery Place and LifeCare@HOME LLC

Local pols need to talk straight about budget

To the Editor:

While the state budget impasse continues, state Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-25) and state Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-13) still support the spending plan passed by the legislature promising to cover essential services but with a deficit of more than $3 billion (See their articles in the June 17 Herald). Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed this budget , insisting on passage of his business growth plan. Now, a one-month budget extension is pending.

Both approaches seem wrong-headed. Currie in her article in the June 17 issue of the Herald proposes solving the budget short-fall by looking first for “new sources of revenue” by which I think she means new taxes. Some of the governor’s proposals may well benefit the state in the long run. However, he has spent too much time trying to limit union power rather than finding immediate solutions to our fiscal problems.

Taxpayers doubtless will pay more to help cover the deficit. I’d like to hear much more from the legislative leaders and the governor about decreasing the size of Illinois government. We have more governmental units such as townships, mosquito abatement districts and mid-level administrators than other states, all requiring personnel, funding, etc. Here, the average citizen needs the courage of the state’s legislative leaders including Currie to point the way to downsizing government without hazarding services to those most in need.

The legislature and its leadership should remember that a Republican governor was just elected, signifying a wish by voters for a change in direction. Speaker Mike Madigan and Currie are a bit disingenuous when in recent news reports they insist on negotiating with the governor only on budgetary matters, failing to acknowledge that politicians are usually willing to negotiate on all kinds of issues at once. Recently, the legislature passed a bill to be sure that their salaries are paid, despite a possible governmental shutdown.

Let us urge our state leaders to support a balanced approach to our budget problems that includes reducing unnecessary units of state government. Meanwhile, we taxpayers anxiously await contributions that are yet to be made by other constituencies – state pension reform still pending, state workers’ contracts uncertain — and up to now no sign that the legislature will cut its own expenses to help cover the deficit.

Alfred L. Baker M.D.

Dowell is shifting blame for missing units

To the Editor:

In response to the column (“Planning requires everyone’s support” Hyde Park Herald, July 1, 2015), I find it very interesting that Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) would speak out about the guest column that reminds the public that the City of Chicago and the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) refused to honor their commitment to replace affordable housing in the Third and Fourth wards. After all, it was Dowell who said that the Third ward was “overburdened” with public housing. Is this the reason that little, if any effort, has been given to the replacement of low-income housing that has been lost in the Third ward?

I was in attendance at the meeting where she announced that she was giving $2.8 Million in TIF money to XS Tennis for a tennis facility on public land where affordable housing was supposed to be built. What is even worse, in Dowell’s column, she is trying to hide behind CHA to cover her involvement in the land swaps that have turned over land at the former Robert Taylor site to XS Tennis, and land at the former Ida B. Wells site to Mariano’s.
She knows she was the one who brokered the deal for public land to be sold to commercial interests. There are approximately 139,000 homeless people living in Chicago; 75 percent of those are African- American. How does Dowell have the nerve to play God by not holding CHA accountable for replacing the agreed-upon number of units that were torn down?

Unfortunately, Dowell did the same thing a couple of years ago when she hid behind CPS as they closed the schools in her Ward. A little more than 98 percent of homeless students are children of color. It is obvious that Dowell is playing to the hand of City Hall, and is complicit in development strategies that are turning Chicago into another South Africa — where Blacks are not allowed to live within the city limits, but on townships on the outskirts of town. Dowell, please stop throwing rocks and hiding your hands.

Alphonso Jones

Kenwood coverage doesn’t ring true

To the Editor:

Last week’s headline article “Kenwood center ready to move” has a version of history puzzlingly different from the Herald’s previous coverage. According to the article, “In wake of the school’s closing, Ald. Will Burns (4th) held a series of open meetings that explored how CPS should repurpose the Canter building. Behind a strong push from the community, it was decided that Kenwood’s Academic Center would be moved into the vacant building…”

The record as reported in the Herald shows NO open meetings to explore what to do with the Canter building, only one meeting on June 16, 2014 announcing a decision (see the Herald article “Selective enrollment middle school will replace Canter” from June 25, 2014). I can find no record in the Herald or in any of Alderman Burns’s newsletters of any prior open meetings. Indeed, the July 2014 Herald article cites criticism of the lack of such a process.

I also sought in vain for any mention in the Herald archives of a “strong push from the community” for the plan to use it for the Kenwood Academic Center. All I found was a letter to the editor from April 16, 2014 – but that letter was written by Alderman Burns.

At best, the reporter did not check the facts, not even against previous coverage in the Herald; at worst, the Herald published a deliberately misleading account provided by the alderman’s office of a contentious issue. I expect better journalism from the Herald, especially on a local school issue.

Michael Scott

Be sure to join in the 4th on 53rd Parade this Saturday

To the Editor:

Thanks for your wonderful article about our 4th on 53rd Parade Grand Marshal Joan Steggemann. We are honored to have her as grand marshal for this year’s Hyde Park July Fourth festivities and it means a lot to us that you took the time to write about her.

We’d also like to let you and your readers know that we are still looking for volunteers to help out on July Fourth for the parade and picnic. We need everyone from banner carriers, decorators and marshals to face painters to pitch in and make the 24th annual 4th on 53rd Parade and Picnic a success for our community.

To help out or find out more information about how to get involved with the parade, your readers can contact 4th on 53rd Committee Chairperson Stephanie Franklin at (773) 955-3622 or e-mail 4thon53rdstreet@gmail.com.
The 4th on 53rd Committee also asks those bringing a vehicle, float or group of 12 people or more to register in advance at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/4th-on-53rd-street-parade-registration-17085488155.

Thank you for your coverage and all your wonderful stories about the Hyde Park community. We really appreciate it.

Kirsten Srinivasan

A Wailing Wall for Chicago

To the Editor:

Chicago needs its own Wailing Wall to mourn the loss of so many to gun violence.

If a climbing wall can’t be erected safely in Grant Park, how about a memorial boxwood hedge maze. Kids could roam through it; those who have lost loved ones already feel like they’re lost in a maze.

Winifred Mason

Thanks and luck to a local shopkeeper

To the Editor:

Thank you to Bader ElShareif, owner of Harper Foods, for 17 years of excellent service to the community. You opened the store in the best and worst of weather and we always could count on your stocking just what we needed with a friendly smile and comment on the day. I know many people join us as we wish all the best to you as you enter the next chapter of your life.

Elaine and Jonathan Smith

Support school choice for our neighbors to the north

To the Editor:

I am writing to ask folks to stand with the Bronzeville community and support the Walter H. Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School proposal from the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett. I believe you should support the proposal from the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett because it is for a CPS-run, neighborhood, open-enrollment high school open to all children in the attendance boundary (and beyond if there is room). And it was developed over years by parents, students, folks in the community, partners and educators dedicated to working with communities for sustainable quality public schools for all kids.

You can show your support by coming out to the CPS Community Meeting on Wednesday, June 17, 2015 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at King High School, 4445 S. Drexel Blvd. At this meeting, the Coalition and the two other groups will present their proposals followed by community testimony. A candlelight vigil will follow the community meeting.

Whether you live in Bronzeville or outside, come to this meeting and support the community’s long-developed plan. Supporting this proposal shows your support for community-based sustainable district-run public education for all children. Now is the time to stand up for a neighborhood high school for Bronzeville.

Joy Clendenning

Thanks to all who helped out Bret Harte

To the Editor:

We would like to publicly thank all of the community members who supported the Bret Harte 8th graders as we traveled to Washington, D.C., this spring. This is the first year that Bret Harte has had an 8th grade due to the school actions in the last few years and the administration and staff wanted to be sure that they had every opportunity to experience the 8th grade activities that many students do at this time in their lives.

Our trip to Washington, D.C., was a huge success. We were able to take 27 students on the trip and five adults. We flew out of Midway Airport and spent three days there, touring all day long, taking in all of the memorials and museums. It was a packed trip and the students all gave it favorable reviews. For many, it was their first time flying.
We did a lot of fundraising to make this trip happen. We appreciate all of the community members who had their cars washed, bought raffle tickets, came to our Silent Auction/Raffle Event at Woodlawn Tap, bought chocolate bars and taffy apples, or donated through our Donorschoose Project site online. Without the generosity of those who helped through these efforts, and the parents who volunteered their time for each of these, we would not have been successful.

This trip was such a formative moment in these students’ lives. The students talk about the impact the Vietnam Memorial had on them or how they didn’t realize so many soldiers had lost their lives while we were touring Arlington National Cemetery. Our tour guide was great and one student came back reciting the one thing he wanted them to take away from his time with them – that freedom is not free. We expected them to take in the sites, learn to be respectful (they were so, so reverent at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier), have fun walking around together, but we didn’t realize the way they would internalize the trip as a whole and what all those memorials together represent. Many of them said they want to return to D.C. at some point and revisit places that we just didn’t have enough time to take in fully.

We are already laying the ground work for next year’s trip. We are tired, but all who participated (students and educators) have been changed by this experience. We look forward to making these events, specifically the Silent Auction/Raffle Event, an annual opportunity to bring the outside community together with the Bret Harte school community.

We thank you with warm hearts for your support for our students and neighborhood school.

Donna Dyer-Williams (8th grade instructional assistant)
Kristy Ulrich Papczun (8th grade homeroom teacher)
Nicole Stuart (8th grade diverse learners teacher)
Emily Forrest-Mattfield (art teacher)