Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Emanuel and "tough" decisions

At last night's first community meeting around the city budget, Mayor Emanuel once again warned residents really "tough" decisions were going to have to be made to balance the budget.

Whenever I hear words like "tough decisions" or "shared sacrifice" or "everybody's got skin in the game" I immediately wonder if those include the rich and making the rich, large corporations, banking and investment firms pay even their "fair share" of taxes. Maybe it's the cynic in me, but I sincerely doubt it.

The "tough" decisions invariably means the working class of the city must keep making all the "sacrifices."

Taxing the rich, ending the TIF slush funds to private developers and the well connected, imposing a Financial Transaction Tax on the Mercantile Exchange or an emergency tax on the largest of the non-profits, banks, hedge funds and corporations and revoking the disastrous parking meter deal are among those subjects that are sacred cows, not to be discussed, off the table. Instead they are the "tough" decisions that needs to be taken.

TIF taxing districts to be more ‘efficient,’ ‘accountable’ — and still here - Chicago Sun-Times

TIF taxing districts to be more ‘efficient,’ ‘accountable’ — and still here - Chicago Sun-Times

Monday, August 29, 2011

Wild Budget Math




Evanston Citizens Fight to Keep Public Services in Public Hands

From Community Labor Alliance for Public Services

Evanston, Illinois -- The Community Labor Alliance for Public Services (CLAPS) is organizing Evanston residents to stop the privatization of at least nine public services and associated job losses. Such services include Recycling, Street Lights, Street Maintenance, and Parks and Forestry.

At an August 8th Evanston City Council meeting, the City Manager, Wally Bobkiewicz, recommended the possible privatization of services as part of the city’s 2012 budgeting process. According to the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) 31/Local 1891, over 60 jobs are threatened by the proposal, and many of the jobs are held by Evanston residents living in the historically African-American 2nd and 5th wards. The proposed city budget will be made public on October 7th, and City Council will vote on the final budget November 28th.

Besides the job losses, residents are concerned about the loss of accountability and quality as well as increased costs associated with contracting to private vendors. Many Evanston residents have complained about the garbage pick-up services the city contracted to Groot Industries last November. Citizens are now required to talk to the company with service complaints rather than the city, which has created a second level of bureaucracy. Groot also raised its’ price by $700,000 after four months into the contract.

The Community Labor Alliance for Public Services (CLAPS) is an advocacy organization formed by concerned Evanston residents and public sector workers to fight further privatization of City services. CLAPS has successfully organized a petition drive, collecting almost 2000 signatures to date from Evanston residents opposing privatization. CLAPS has been mobilizing residents to attend and speak at City Council meetings and reaching out to various community, student, and religious organizations, who are pledging their support for public sector workers and to maintain quality services. CLAPS' mission is to bring awareness to City of Evanston residents about the value of keeping public services in-house, educate the community about the hidden costs of privatizing public services, keep public service jobs in the community, and lobby local decision makers about the importance of accountability, flexibility and safety in the delivery of services to the community.

If the City Council passes a budget eliminating public services and public sector jobs, CLAPS has vowed to continue organizing and mobilizing citizens until all public services are securely restored.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Uneasy Residents Await Changes at Lathrop Homes - Chicago News Cooperative

Uneasy Residents Await Changes at Lathrop Homes - Chicago News Cooperative

$2,902,029,728 into Illinois Economy

From the New Bottom Line:

Fixing the Housing Crisis Would Create Pump $2,902,029,728 into the Local Economy and Create 42,893 Number of Jobs in State Annually, New Report Finds

Homeowners, Clergy, Unions & Community Organizations Call on Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to Demand Principal Reduction for Underwater Homeowners as Part of Settlement with Banks

(Chicago, IL) While Washington, D.C. gridlocks over job creation, Illinois and Indiana Regional Organizing Network (I.I.R.O.N.) and The New Bottom Line have answers: by writing down all underwater mortgages to market value, the nation’s banks could pump $2,902,029,728 into the state’s economy, create 42,893 jobs in Illinois, save Illinois families $500 per month on mortgage payments, and fix the housing crisis once and for all, according to a new report entitled “The Win/Win Solution: How Fixing the Housing Crisis Will Create One Million Jobs.” Nationwide, the plan would inject $71 billion per year into the economy, create more than one million jobs annually, save families $6,500 per year on mortgage payments, and end the housing crisis.

Grassroots organizations across the country aligned with The New Bottom Line campaign are calling on State Attorneys General who are investigating the banks for foreclosure fraud to stand firm for a settlement agreement that (1) includes large-scale principle reduction for underwater borrowers; and (2) does not to release the banks from claims beyond the robo-signing scandal. This would provide real restitution for homeowners and allow states to sue the banks for wrongdoing connected to the origination of mortgages and the steps leading up to foreclosure.

“The banks are still acting like the economy is robust. Banks need to be held accountable for crashing the housing market and driving the economy into deep recession. Chicago homeowners are struggling to pay their boom-era mortgages with their recession-era salaries. The first bail out was for the banks, now it’s the banks turn to pay back the taxpayers. Writing down the principal and interest rates on all underwater mortgages to market value would bring in over two trillion dollars annually into our state-wide economy, creating over 42 thousand jobs. Its time to fix our economy.”

One in five Americans owe more on their mortgage than their home is actually worth. Collectively, underwater homeowners will have to pay down $709 billion in principal before they can start building equity in their homes. Every effort to reboot the housing market to date has failed because it has not done the most essential thing: reduce the massive debt load carried by underwater homeowners.

If the banks fix what they broke and wrote down principals on all underwater mortgages to current market value, it would inject a direct cash stimulus into the economy, redirecting billions of dollars that cash-strapped homeowners are currently paying on inflated mortgage debt toward other job-creating sectors of the economy. Nationally, the plan would lower homeowners’ mortgage payments by an average of more than $500 per month or $6,500 per year.

Six billion dollars per month that is currently going to mortgage payments would instead go toward buying groceries, school supplies, and other household necessities. As consumer demand picked up, businesses would start hiring again. The report estimates that putting $71 billion into American consumers’ pockets annually would help create more than one million jobs per year.

The report notes that the banks can afford to execute this plan. Last year, the nation’s top six banks paid out more than twice the cost of the plan ($71billion per year) in bonuses and compensation alone ($146 billion in 2010). Currently, the nation’s banks are sitting on a historically high level of cash reserves of $1.64 trillion.


Illinois and Indiana Regional Organizing Network is a grassroots, multi-issue power organization made up of organizations and individuals who seek a voice in the decisions that affect their lives. Current coalition members are: Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation, Northside POWER, Northwest Indiana Federation, and the IIRON Student Network.

The New Bottom Line is a new and growing movement fueled by a coalition of community organizations, congregations, labor unions, and individuals working together to challenge established big bank interests on behalf of struggling and middle-class communities. Together, we are working to restructure Wall Street to help American families build wealth, close the country’s growing income gap and advance a vision for how our economy can better serve the many rather than the few. Coalition members include PICO National Network, National People’s Action (NPA), Alliance for a Just Society, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Industrial Areas Foundation of the Southeast (IAF-SE) and dozens of state and local organizations from around the country. Learn more at www.newbottomline.com