Friday, April 4, 2014

Rahm Emanuel's Chicago, a Tale of Two Cities by Kevin Coval/ Revealed: Rahm Emanuel cuts public pensions; diverts money to benefit campaign donors by David Sirota




“Rahm Emanuel is building a Second City. Two cities really, as the ‘two summers’ theme shown in Episode 4 of ‘Chicagoland’ suggests. One white, one black. One for the rich, one for the poor. One for private schools, one for closed schools. A new Chicago for the saved and the damned. Gold coast heavens and low-end hells. It's biblical, binary.



“The mayor's new Chicago is a second city for the first citizens who colonized the land and took it from the Pottawatomie. The mayor's vision is not for most Chicagoans who live here now. It is not for Jason Barrett. In last week's ‘Chicagoland’ episode, Principal Elizabeth Dozier of Fenger High School secures the early release of Barrett, who she is mentoring. But he is re-arrested and becomes one of the thousands of black and brown bodies disproportionately locked up and routed into America's growing, often privatized, prison system.

“The mayor's new Chicago is not for black and brown and white workers who toil in multiple service sector jobs that the mayor's neo-liberal economic advisers hail as job creation. In fact, Emanuel and his advisers have been the proponents of a global economic policy that packs up the kind of blue collar jobs that built Chicago and sends them south with ease: Emanuel championed NAFTA at the Clinton White House.

“The Chicago that the mayor and his team of wealthy financiers are continuing to create and sell is a second city of tourists and grand inequities. The disparity gap grows between those who have and those who have to rent. Those who can afford private schools like the mayor's children and those whose public neighborhood schools are underfunded and tracked and given impossible and idiotic standardized tests to validate their existence.

“The new Chicago is for new businesses that will be lured with tax-free incentives, gaining advantages they won't have to pay back in order to be responsible citizens. The new Chicago is based on old European models of urban planning, concentric zones of wealth where working and poor people are pushed to the margins of the land and public discourse.

“The mayor is like a suburban kid back in the city with his parents' money who wants to go to Lollapalooza. When the list of 50 school closings in mostly black and brown neighborhoods was leaked, he was skiing on spring break in Utah. This month when a group of poets from the Chicago public high school Team Englewood hoped to speak to the mayor directly at Louder than a Bomb: The Chicago Youth Poetry Festival, he chose instead, the same night, to be on a giant swing at a $450-a-ticket gala, eating a $1,000 priced meal, served by a celebrity chef… The mayor maintains systemic inequity and champions individual exceptionalism… 

“The dismantling of public education in Chicago is a pathway toward a privatized school system living at the center of the Department of Education in Washington. The mayor and his cronies are the architects of these blueprints concerned with standardized tests but not standards for every student's academic success and environment. Until they hold the system to the standards they demand for their own children, for all children, schools will continue to fail students they seek to teach. The mayor is not a mentor or educator. He is a millionaire businessman… 

“As Chicago goes, so goes the country. And we are here fighting for freedom, for all, for every person from every zip code. We are fighting for the soul of the city, the soul of the country. We are building again, indeed, a second city, as we derive our nickname from the ability to rise after the ashes and great fire of 1871. Chicagoans have the ability to rise like a phoenix. This is a testament to the resiliency of hard working people everywhere, not the backroom dealings of a millionaire mayor or his posse.

“We are the city of the eight-hour workday and the Haymarket martyrs. The home of Margaret Burroughs and Fred Hampton, home of Jane Addams and the mothers of Whittier Elementary School. A city of genius and gangsters. This is a writer's and fighter's town as Nelson Algren would say. And this is a fight to counter the mayor's vision of a future city, of two cities. We are trying to write and fight for a united city, a different city. A second city. A new city, a city anew, a city for all. For real.”

Editor's note: Kevin Coval is an author and poet the Chicago Tribune called "the voice of the new Chicago," artistic director of Young Chicago Authors and founder of Louder than a Bomb: The Chicago Youth Poetry Festival. Follow @kevincoval on Twitter and @KevinCoval on Instagram. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author. "Chicagoland" airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET on CNN.

from Rahm Emanuel's Chicago, a tale of two cities by Kevin Coval (CNN)




Revealed: Rahm Emanuel cuts public pensions; diverts money to benefit campaign donors by David Sirota

“If you’ve read the financial news out of Chicago the last few weeks, you’ve probably heard that the city faces a major pension shortfall, supposedly because police officers, firefighters, teachers and other public workers are selfishly bleeding the city dry.

“You’ve also probably heard that the only way investment banker-turned-mayor Rahm Emanuel can deal with the seemingly dire situation is to slash his public workers’ retirement benefits and to jack up property taxes on those who aren’t politically connected enough to have secured themselves special exemptions.

“This same story, portraying public employees as the primary cause of budget crises, is being told across the country. Yet, in many cases, we’re only being told half the tale. We aren’t told that the pension shortfalls in many US states and cities were created because those same states and cities did not make their required pension contributions over many years. And perhaps even more shockingly, we aren’t being told that, while states and cities pretend they have no money to deal with public sector pensions, many are paying giant taxpayer subsidies to corporations — often far larger than the pension shortfalls.

“Chicago is the iconic example of all of these trends. A new report being released this morning shows that the supposedly budget-strapped Windy City - which for years has not made its full pension payments – actually has mountains of cash sitting in a slush fund controlled by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Indeed, as the report documents, the slush fund now receives more money each year than it would cost to adequately finance Chicago’s pension funds. Yet, Emanuel is refusing to use the cash from that slush fund to shore up the pensions. Instead, his new pension ‘reform’ proposal cuts pension benefits, requires higher contributions from public employees and raises property taxes in the name of fiscal responsibility. Yet, the same “reform” proposal will actually quietly increase his already bloated slush fund.

“But it gets worse: an investigation by Pando has discovered that Emanuel has been using that same slush fund to enrich some of his biggest campaign contributors…”

For the rest of this story, Click Here.


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