Friday, April 17, 2015

CBS Chicago: Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett To Step Aside
Interesting development:
Faced with a growing federal investigation, Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett will take a paid leave of absence.

Chicago Board of Education President David Vitale confirmed Byrd-Bennett will temporarily step aside.

“In light of the ongoing federal investigation and its impact on her ability to effectively lead Chicago Public Schools, Barbara Byrd-Bennett is taking a leave of absence from Chicago Public Schools effective immediately,” he said. “Board of Education Vice President Jesse Ruiz is taking the responsibilities of the chief executive officer while Byrd-Bennett is on leave. As board vice president for almost four years, and a former chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education, Ruiz has both the legal and educational expertise and experience to guide the district at this time while ensuring students and teachers continue to make academic gains in the classroom.”

Ruiz will serve as interim CEO as the district prepares to negotiate a new teachers’ contract this summer and deal with budget and pension shortfalls.
Byrd-Bennett, along with at least three other CPS aides, is a focus of the federal probe, along with the Wilmette-based SUPES Academy, which offers leadership training to principals. SUPES received a $20 million no-bid contract in 2013, right after CPS closed 50 schools.

The three other CPS officials are: chief of staff Sherry Ulery; Tracy Martin, head of strategic services; and Rosemary Herpel, a senior project manager.

The Chicago Teachers Union has said the investigation centered on Byrd-Bennett reflects a broader ethics problem at CPS, particularly among leaders.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Sun-Times exclusive: Sen. Kirk won't be talking about race in the future

Lynn Sweet writes more about Sen. Kirk's comments made in a newspaper interview earlier this week:
Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., up for re-election, told the Chicago Sun-Times he won’t be talking about race or ethnicity in the future.

“I would say that whenever a targeted member talks about race or ethnicity, it is impossible for him to get it right. So I’ll leave it at that,” Kirk said.

Kirk is in one of the biggest Senate contests in the 2016 cycle. He is a major Democratic target and his main competition is Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.

Democrats jumped on Kirk after he made a comment about African-Americans at the end of a Peoria Journal Star interview – about how “we drive faster” through a black community.
And then Sweet got Chicago State President Wayne Watson to provide a quote:
When Kirk was running for Senate, he met with Watson and asked what he could do to help. To Watson’s surprise, he told me Kirk called “the day after he won.”

Together, they created what would become the Entrepreneurial Idol program at CSU.

Budding entrepreneurs compete for $7,500 and a chance to showcase their plan to business leaders and government officials. This year marks the fourth competition.

“The issue is not driving through the black community. The issue is what he’s done. . . . In this instance, Sen. Kirk’s actions . . . speak louder than his words, however one may want to interpret,” Watson said.
Read the whole thing and let us know what you think.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Press Release: Smart Meter Program Brings New Jobs to Chatham

Via Market Watch:
  • CHICAGO, Apr 13, 2015 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Today, U.S. Rep. Bobby L. Rush, the Chatham Business Association and ComEd announced a new pilot program to train 10 residents of Chatham and neighboring communities in outreach efforts to secure the installation of smart meters at local residences that will give customers access to greater savings once in place. The program participants will be trained by ComEd to talk to customers about the benefits of smart meters in an effort to help installers gain access to the existing meters. This pilot came as a result of a call to action by Rep. Rush to bring jobs and economic development to the Greater Chatham area.

    “I commend ComEd and the Chatham Business Association for launching this initiative in Chatham. By pairing employment opportunity with consumer education on energy efficiency, the entire community stands to gain. ComEd’s pilot program provides an example of the type of investment and collaboration that I encourage other corporations to follow. They can provide the impetus to turn Chatham around,” said Rep. Rush.

    “This digital smart-meter system will not only better power our homes and create real savings for families; it will also power job creation in our neighborhoods like Chatham," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “I applaud Congressman Rush and ComEd for partnering together to make sure that residents in Chatham have the skills and training to take part in this exciting 21st-century technological innovation that is bringing with it greater value to customers across Chicago and well-paying, middle-class jobs to families in Chatham.”

    "The Chatham Business Association (CBA) has been working with local officials to bring new opportunities to residents of the Chatham neighborhood,” said Melinda Kelly, Executive Director of Chatham Business Association. “CBA is glad to partner in this business savvy smart meter pilot program launched in Chatham. In week one, CBA’s Community Outreach team was able to contact 903 addresses, schedule 45 appointments and eliminate 83 vacant properties from ComEd’s Unable To Complete (UTC) list, bringing the benefits of smart meters and cost savings to area residents. If electric bills go down due to energy efficiency, that means more money in people’s pockets to spend in our neighborhood businesses, thus directly helping small businesses that are thriving in our community. On behalf of CBA’s Board of Directors, I would to thank Congressman Rush for his leadership and ComEd for working with CBA to create an innovative model program that creates jobs with economic value in our community.”

    “More than 3,600 full time equivalent jobs have been created as a result of Smart Grid work in northern Illinois,” said ComEd President and CEO Anne Pramaggiore. “This pilot program will help ComEd ensure all customers in the area can benefit from smart meter technology while meeting the need for jobs in the Chatham area. We are pleased to have worked with the Chatham Business Association and Rep. Rush to bring this program to the area.”

    The pilot is expected to last for three months and the results will be reviewed by all parties to determine next steps.

    Last year ComEd committed to bringing additional meter reader and customer service jobs to the Chatham area. Several Chatham area residents have applied and begun filling those positions.

    Public officials who support the endeavor include: 8th Ward Alderman Michelle Harris, 6th Ward Alderman Roderick Sawyer, 34th Ward Alderman and Budget Chair Carrie Austin, Senator Donnie Trotter, Congressman Danny Davis and Commissioner Richard Boykin

    Chatham Business Association Small Business Development Inc. (“CBA”) is a non-for-profit organization formed with a mission to promote political and economic stability in Chatham over 43 years ago.Since then as a result of our expertise in small business growth and development our market has expanded to serving businesses throughout the City of Chicago and State of Illinois.CBA’s purpose is to serve as a vehicle for enhancing social and economic growth of Chatham and surrounding communities by creating opportunities and programs that promote community stability.

    Commonwealth Edison Company (ComEd) is a unit of Chicago-based Exelon Corporation EXC, +1.00% the nation’s leading competitive energy provider, with approximately 6.6 million customers. ComEd provides service to approximately 3.8 million customers across northern Illinois, or 70 percent of the state’s population. For more information visit, and connect with the company on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

    SOURCE: ComEd

    ComEd Media Relations
    (312) 394-3500

    Copyright Business Wire 2015 
DNA Info also had an article about this.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

DNA Info: Planners Dreaming Up What's Next for Pullman National Monument

Via Chicago Neighborhoods
Mark Konkol who just so happens to be a Pullman resident talks about the implications of the neighborhood becoming a national monument as declared not long before the February municipal elections:
Pullman’s days as a cute historic district with a pretty cool house tour are officially over. Now, the neighborhood has a shot to be a national model for inner-city renewal, creative public transportation and urban tourism that has the attention of architects and city planners from across the country.

And for that, the National Park Conservation Association and the American Institute of Architects have rounded up some of the nation’s most prominent architects, economists, transportation gurus and historic preservationists for a three-day brainstorming session aimed on creative ways to capitalize on the neighborhood’s new national status.

Starting Thursday, about 40 professionals who know a thing or two about making big plans for urban areas will gather in Pullman to come up with plans for everything from renovating Metra stations and restoring historic ruins to coming up with a blueprint for bolstering local business and safer ways to walk across 111th Street.

“We want to visualize what Pullman might look like in 10 years with the influence of the national monument designation,” said Lynn McClure, the conservation association's Midwest senior director.
I could only envision this is not only good for Pullman but good for neighboring Roseland as well.

HuffPost: Mark Kirk Says People Drive Faster Through Black Neighborhoods

Sen. Mark Kirk
Disappointing coming from a Republican US Senator who just so happened to get elected to a seat once held by not only the current President of the United States but also the first Black woman elected to that presitigious body. Not only that he toured Englewood almost two years back:
The comment, with its racial undertones, came during a sit-down interview with the Peoria Journal Star and followed a question about how to encourage business development in Kirk's home state.

“I want to make sure we have elected people constantly looking at helping the African-American community,” Kirk said. “With this state and all of its resources, we could sponsor a whole new class of potential innovators like George Washington Carver and eventually have a class of African-American billionaires. That would really adjust income differentials and make the diversity and outcome of the state much better so that the black community is not the one we drive faster through." [emphasis added.]

The notion that people hit the gas when driving through black neighborhoods is a common racial stereotype about urbanization and criminal behavior among African-Americans. The fact that an elected senator from a state with a sizable black population would make such a comment was deemed unfortunate by at least one African-American leader in Illinois.

"I think what he was trying to say is, he was trying to relate that to crime. But boy, it was a poor choice of phraseology," said George Mitchell, president of the NAACP's Illinois State Conference.
Later a response from Sen. Kirk's office was added to this article:
Eleni Demertzis, Kirk's press secretary, emailed the following response to questions about the senator's comments from last week: "Anyone watching network news in Chicago is aware of the frequent killings and violence that affects various communities in Illinois. Senator Kirk is active in fighting gang violence, keeping assault weapons off the streets, and working within the African-American community to find aspiring entrepreneurs. No one can question Senator Kirk’s commitment to the African-American community."
What are your thoughts?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Dumke: Will the new Chicago City Council still be a rubber stamp?

Mick Dumke of the Chicago Reader begins to further examine if the new city council would be a rubber stamp. It was something I attempted to figure out last week:
Carlos Ramirez-Rosa says it's clear why he and more than a dozen other newcomers have been elected to the Chicago City Council, and why Mayor Rahm Emanuel had to fight so hard for his own reelection.

"What we've seen was a massive shake-up, especially by Chicago standards," says Ramirez-Rosa, who defeated 35th Ward alderman Rey Colon in February. Voters have decided that "it's important to have a group of folks who say they're 100 percent with the neighborhoods and that they're going to be independent. . . . I don't think Chicago politics can ever be the same."

True, the "shake-up" bar is low around here. At the very least, the City Council might not be quite the same.

When the new council meets for the first time next month after 18 runoffs, 14 aldermen will be sworn in who weren't there four years ago, assuming current vote totals hold up. Gone will be several aldermen who were mayoral loyalists and products of patronage organizations. And Ramirez-Rosa is right—most of the incoming aldermen have vowed to be independent and progressive.

But as he well knows, these aren't exactly promises till death do us part.
Read the whole thing

Saturday, April 11, 2015

DNA Info: Poor, Black Chicagoans Overwhelmingly Picked Rahm Over Chuy
Via Chicagosmayor ig
Mark Konkol breaks down the mayoral run-off from this past Tuesday:
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who was dubbed "Mayor 1 percent" by his detractors, ended up winning votes from some of Chicago's poorest residents.

Nearly 60 percent of voters with an annual family income under $30,000 picked Emanuel, according to an Edison Research exit poll.

Sixty-one percent of Chicagoans most affected by poverty, crime and failing schools — poor black families who earn less than $50,000 a year — also voted for Emanuel.

That’s a significantly higher percentage than the 52 percent of black voters with annual household incomes that top $50,000 who voted for the mayor, said Edison Research executive vice president Joe Lenski.
Certainly a much different outcome than the signs I saw the weekend before the election hoped to project. I'm sure this helped:
In the end, those African American voters — some wrangled to the polls by a strong ground operation run by one of the late Cook County President John Stroger’s get-out-the-vote “generals,” Gerald Nichols — made all the difference for Emanuel.

“The swing voters were mainly black voters. There was no black candidate. They had to make a choice and they ended up choosing [Emanuel],” Lenski said.
So the mayor had some help getting across the finish line. That being said since many of his candidates lost in their races for the city council one can only wonder how he'll get along. Does Emanuel have the juice he had when he first got into office?

A comic book cafe

In recognizing that Chatham has a history of entrepreneurship, I found this concept of a comic book cafe interesting. In Philadelphia, a young lady Ariell Johnson - who understands "geek culture's importance to marginalized groups" - is about to open up this community oriented establishment.

I realize that over years there have been attempts at having an independent cafe on our part of town. For example Englewood has Kusanya Cafe and Chatham had the now closed Flecks Coffee. It's a great idea to have a shared space that's community oriented and certainly offer beverages and snacks for that purpose. The concept of a comic book cafe is very unique, and hopefully a success for Ms. Johnson in Philadelpia.

As much as I don't often enjoy being called a geek having been a Star Trek fan in addition to many comic books you can firmly place me into that category. Many of us are eagerly anticipating the release of the new Avengers movie coming out later this month. In addition to that I'm definitely going to see that Batman/Superman movie coming out next year.

Could such an establishment be welcome in our community? Check out this video from the future owner and let us know what you think of this unusual concept. Also refer to this future establishment's FB page.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

City council turnover...

DNA Info takes a look at the runoff elections in the city council wards. There was some turnover between February and this past Tuesday. On the South Side, 7th Ward now has a new Alderman in addition to the 18th and 16th wards. In both the 7th & 18th the incumbents had been defeated on Tuesday.

Hopefully with new Alderman on the city council the potential to add more members to the city council's progressive caucus. And certainly while you may have seen the newly re-elected Mayor faced some cold reception at 95th Street Wednesday morning I wonder if he'll face a more independent city council

Then again we've heard about a more independent city council in 2007 and 2011 and it didn't seem to happen. Perhaps we might see that more this year or perhaps there could be more of the same when the dust finally settles and the new Alderman get settled into their new roles.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

So the Regal Theater is on its way back...

[VIDEO] I wish I hadn't slept on this. Giving props to Worlee for finding this one as it's certainly hoped that the Regal Theater instead of remaining vacant and unused will become one of the south side's greatest assets. Before discussing the recent article it was my goal to find anything earlier and found this Crain's article from last year. It also contained the video you see above:
The 29-year-old businessman, a pilot and drummer in a local rock band, purchased the New Regal for a song, paying $100,000 in a foreclosure deal that closed last month. He and his business partners expect to pour close to $5 million into refurbishing the theater, mainly to repair its terra cotta exterior.

Jerry Mickelson's Jam Productions Ltd. will help oversee operations at the New Regal. Mr. Gary has a long relationship with Chicago-based Jam, having interned there one summer while a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Mr. Gary hopes to purchase adjoining property and build restaurants nearby to make the corner a destination. The recently opened two-mile extension of South Lake Shore Drive will help, he says.

"We really want this to be a spark to a firestorm of development that we think can occur in this area simply because of the low barriers to entry," he says.
It almost makes me wonder if Mr. Gary had been reading this blog.

Here's the most recent development also via Crain's:
The owners of the New Regal Theater have launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $100,000 to renovate the South Shore landmark.

Donors will get special access to the theater with their gift. A $25 donation will get you two passes to a movie, and a $5,000 gift will allow the donor to rent out the elaborate lobby for a night.

That's half the going rate, says Jerald "J" Gary, president of Community Capital Investment Partners, which last year purchased the theater for $100,000.

The fundraising effort will repair the sound system, projection technology and washrooms.

"We're trying to reactivate the theater. We need to do some minor repairs before we can hold events," Gary said.

That's a fraction of the project's $5 million price tag. The company hopes to invest another $4.9 million in the theater.
Mr. Gary according to the article wants to open this venue up for film exhibition, cultural events, and theater productions once the expected renovations are complete. I would also be very curious about any potential development surrounding the theater and the types of businesses they could occupy.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

We got Rahm for four more years

At least on my part of the south side there were a number of Chuy Garcia signs and then over the past weekend on street corners I observed some "Fire Rahm" signs - even posted a pic on Instagram. Then I wonderd if this was more about the Mayor than Chuy.

The media seemed to have been telling us that people were angry with Emanuel. They wanted change and him out of office. Perhaps for a moment Garcia was getting some momentum after drawing a runoff with the incumbent.

Then today came and Emanuel was able to pull off a win. In addition these results from WTTW shows that a number of incumbent Alderman especially two for sure on the south side have been defeated.

In the 2015 election both in February and today we have seen some turnover there will be a number of new Aldermen on the new Chicago City Council. Many of these new Aldermen contested open seats and of course many defeated an incumbent Alderman. So time will tell if there will be change on the city council.

Monday, April 6, 2015

#MBMHMC: UChicago med students explore Chatham

Photo via My Block My Hood My City
I have another idea on this although I think this was a cool post with a cool outcome from Jahmal Cole's My Block My Hood My City:
While editing video at Robust, a coffee shop in Woodlawn, I met a few UChicago Priztker Medical School students. They asked me what the My Block, My Hood, My City logo meant, so I told them about my dream of a more interconnected Chicago. This sparked a conversation.

Turns out, the Med Students recognized there's a disconnect between the University and the surrounding communities. I pointed out the window of Robust and told them about the historic Woodlawn Community Organization and the Apostolic Church of God, both of which play major roles in the Woodlawn Community.

After a few more conversations I was asked to come speak at the University, but after my presentation I knew that more needed to be done to bridge the gap between the University and the surrounding communities. So in an effort to help medical students learn and build authentic relationships with neighborhoods that much of their patient population comes, I decided to ask them to join my Explorers Club.
Our next stop was the Whitney Young Library, where Branch Manager Mitchell Smith spoke to the Med students about the Library being more than a place to come check out books. Mr. Smith envisions the library as a community hub, a central place of engagement for residents. And then it happened, an authentic connection was made. The Med Students and Branch Manager Smith agreed to collaborate on a series of future engagement. Be on the lookout for that in the upcoming months.
So during the course of their exploration in addition to Chatham's Whitney Young Library they also visited West Chesterfield meeting with the neighbors there and Captain Hardtimes dining for chicken and waffles. Hopefully more to come with this group.

BTW, I'll have to admit it would've been nice to see a black face among this group. It's still cool that they had the interest to leave the Hyde Park campus of the University of Chicago to see other parts of the south side. Regardless if only there was a way these group of med students could convince south side student to consider a career as a doctor. Perhaps that's something that could also come with these group of med students.