by Lesley R. Chinn
Having a school sit right off the lake may be a good idea to some people, but members of Friends of the Parks and the South Shore Community Organization have other ideas for relocating Powell Elementary School. The two groups oppose moving Powell across the street to the north end of Rainbow Beach Park. Right now, the school is located on 7530 S. South Shore Drive.
Last Friday, members of both groups toured the area to seek alternative sites. However, it’s the current site that impressed them most. Instead of relocating the school, the groups see room for expansion and using the current space more efficiently.
Erma Traintor, president of Friends of the Parks, pointed out that the land on the South side of Powell School, where the two trailers are located on the current site are not being used at all. Friends of the Parks is a membership organization that works to protect, preserve and improve park and beach properties. “All of that land is available if an addition (is needed),” she said.
About five years ago, a similar situation erupted on the North side where residents opposed a school being built in Warren Park. “We researched the land and found that the land couldn’t be transferred for a school because the state had given the park district the land,” Traintor recalled.
Park land, especially in the Black community, is being threatened and this latest issue seems to be part of a trend said, Aarafa Payne, a co-facilitator of the South Shore Community Organization. “Building a school on the lakefront in Lincoln Park would never happen in Lincoln Park,” she added.
In addition, Traintor said building a school on the lakefront would violate the city’s lakefront protection ordinance. The ordinance, adopted in 1973, mandates that the City of Chicago create parks along the entire Lakefront. “This lakefront belongs to everybody to use for health and fitness. The community of South Shore and even further south as Southeast Chicago are very park poor. They don’t have enough space for recreation,” Traintor said. “Park land should never be given to the board of education. Schools should be built when they are needed. The board of education needs to find the appropriate land, do good planning and build a school on the land they acquire and not look to the park district to (get) it.”
Dr. Akilah Martin, also a member of the South Shore Community Organization, agreed. She said new property shouldn’t be taken away when there is existing property that could be used for expansion.
Citing safety concerns such as drowning and crossing a busy intersection, Payne said that Rainbow Beach is the only real access to park space for the South Shore area and a school built at Rainbow Beach Park, would only reduce opportunities for recreation. “Our issue is don’t take our park space away for a school. We love a school. Our property taxes may go up and we’re ok with that, but we’re not ok with putting a school in the scarce park space that we have,” Payne said.
In response to both groups’ concerns, an official from 7th Ward Ald. Sandi Jackson’s office who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the alternative site that the groups request have been reviewed. The official stated that the current site would not be the best alternative because it would involve tearing down the school in order to rebuild it and temporarily displacing the students. The official also said that Rainbow Beach Park is a much better location because the space allotted would accommodate more than 900 students.
CPS spokesman Frank Shuftan said construction for the new school is projected to start in the Spring of 2009, adding that it will be ready for student enrollment in the Fall of 2010. Shuftan said the announcement of construction of the new Powell School was made as part of the Modern Schools Across Chicago program in June 2006. The new school will follow a prototype design on 2.43 acres of land, offering about 106,000 square feet to 900 students from prekindergarten to 8th grade, he said. As part of this project, the Chicago Park District will receive approximately two acres of land in return for the approximate one acre to be used in the development of Powell School. The land the park district will get is farther south in Rainbow Beach Park, according to Shuftan, who said the plan is scheduled to go before various city agencies sometime this month.
The alderman’s official said the school would be relocated closest to the street and not the lakefront. She said the same concerns about safety at the current location would be similar at the proposed site. Afence separating the school land from the lakefront property would be erected and there would be crossing guards onsite to help patrol traffic during school hours, she added.
Calls were made to Powell School’s principal Derek Jordan, but he had no comment about the relocation process.
Prosecutors Allege He Tried to Sell U.S. Senate Seat
by Lisette Livingston
Yesterday, at around 6:30 a.m. Governor Rod Blagojevich was taken into federal custody at his North side home and brought up on federal corruption charges stemming from allegations that he put the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Presidentelect Barack Obama “up for sale,” in an pay-for-play federal investigation scheme.
In the two-count criminal complaint, Blagojevich and his Chief of Staff are charged with conspiring to obtain personal financial benefits by leveraging the Governor’s sole authority to appoint a United States Senator; threatening to withhold substantial state assistance to the Chicago Tribune Newspaper in connection with the sale of Wrigley Field unless certain editorial board members critical of the Governor were fired. The allegations also include obtaining campaign contributions in exchange for other political favors. According to the Department of Justice, the Governor pushed for these things before a new state ethics law could take effect on January 1, 2009. The men are also charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud plus solicitation of bribery. Conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, while solicitation of bribery carries a maximum of 10 years. Each count carries a maximum fine of $250,000.
“This is a very sad day in Illinois government. Governor Blagojevich has taken us to a totally new low. You might have thought that in that environment, that pay-to-play would slow down. The opposite happened. It sped up,” said U.S. States Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. “Governor Blagojevich was working feverishly to get as much money to contractors, shaking them down to pay-to-play, before the end of the year,” he said.
According to the allegations, Blagojevich and his Chief of Staff John Harris schemed with others—including previously convicted defendants Antoin Rezko, Stuart Levine, Ali Ata and others—since becoming governor in 2002 to obtain financial benefits for himself, his family and third parties including his campaign committee, Friends of Blagojevich.
In a 76-page affidavit released by the United States Attorney’s Office, Blagojevich, among other things, is accused of withholding an $8 Million commitment in state funds from the Chicago Memorial Hospital when he failed to receive a $50,000 contribution. The Governor and Harris are also accused of meeting with two other individuals —one of whom sought state help with a business venture. Blagojevich allegedly told “Individual A” to approach the other person, “Individual B” about raising $100,000 for Friends for Blagojevich. “Individual A” allegedly said he later learned that the Governor reached out directly to “Individual B,” and asked about holding the fund-raiser himself. According to Fitzgerald, there is no evidence to suggest that President elect Barack Obama was aware of the alleged schemes.
The complaint also alleges that the Governor promised to raise state money to fund a tollway project—beyond $1.8 billion that he announced on October 15—but was waiting to see how much money a contractor in the case had raised for his campaign committee first.
The complaint further alleges that Governor Blagojevich was intercepted on wiretaps that in exchange for the Senate appointment, Blagojevich discussed obtaining a substantial salary for himself at either, “a nonprofit foundation or an organization affiliated with labor unions,” according to a released statement. The allegations also involve granting political favors if his wife was placed on paid corporate boards where he allegedly speculated she might garner as much as $150,000 a year. There are also promises of campaign funds, including, “cash up front,” alleged in the complaint. In addition, the governor allegedly considered bargaining for himself a cabinet post or ambassadorship position.
In the earliest intercepted conversations caught on tape regarding the Senate seat, Blagojevich reportedly told an official on his staff, “ ‘if…they’re not going to offer anything of any value, then I might just take it.’ ” Later, the Governor is taped as saying, “ ‘I’m going to keep this Senate option for me a real possibility, you know, and therefore I can drive a hard bargain.‘ ” He later added that the seat “ ‘is a [expletive] valuable thing, you just don’t give it away for nothing.’ ”
The day after the election, the Governor was captured discussing with another individual in his office about whether he could obtain a cabinet position, such as Secretary of Health and Human Services or the Department of Energy. In a conversation with Harris on November 4, Blagojevich is accused of analogizing his situation to that of a “sports agent,” shopping, “ ‘a potential free agent, ‘” to the “ ‘highest bidder. ‘”
The day after the election, Harris allegedly suggested to Blagojevich that the President-elect could make him (the Governor) the head of a private foundation. On November 10th, there are also accusations that Blagojevich, his wife, Harris, the Governor’s General Counsel, an advisor and other Washington-based advisors participated at different times in a two-hour phone call in which they allegedly discussed among other things, a deal involving the Service Employees International Union. (SEIU).
Allegedly, Harris said they could “work out a deal,” with the union and the President-elect, where SEIU could help the President-elect with the Governor’s appointment of one of the candidates being considered. In exchange, the Governor would allegedly use this as a way to obtain a position as the National Director of the Change to Win campaign, an organization affiliated with various union groups, including SEIU. In exchange for the deal, SEIU allegedly would get something favorable from President-elect in the future. However, the complaint states that Blagojevich agreed it was unlikely that the President-elect would name him Secretary of Health and Human Services or give him an ambassadorship because of all of the negative publicity surrounding him.
The charges come on the heels of a push by several local groups, including Concerned Clergy of Illinois, to name an African American to the position. Several other groups have also endorsed various other candidates including Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., Congressman Danny Davis and Illinois Senate President Emil Jones Jr., all of whom were unavailable for comment. Other candidates the Governor was considering before the arrests, included Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill); Tammy Duckworth, director of Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
Under the law, the Governor has the sole responsibility of appointing a replacement. The United States Department of Justice refused to comment on how the new revelations could affect the appointment process or any modifications in the law.
Psychiatrist Promotes Block-by-Block Approach
by Lesley R. Chinn
According to the American Psychological Association, about 71 percent of youth say they are interested in learning about the warning signs of violence. One in twelve highschool students is threatened or injured with a weapon each year. With all of the statistics, models for intervention, medications and diagnoses, getting back to basics is a start. “If we want to solve this problem, we need to rebuild our villages by starting block clubs and going to these schools to start strong parentteacher associations…,” said Dr. Carl Bell, president/CEO of the Community Mental Health Council.
Although people don’t necessarily develop long-term psychiatric disorders such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after a traumatic event, it can still traumatize the person as well as families and communities. However, for victims, constantly stressing over a traumatic event, increases a person’s chances of developing a serious disorder by as much as 30 percent said Bell. Bell added people need to start building blockby-block in order to protect the youth from violence since the whole community is affected. “You don’t put the burden on the child to fix the problem. It’s the community, family, and school’s responsibility, not the child’s responsibility. We’re supposed to be protecting the children,” he said.
On December 17, a group of parents who have lost children to gun violence, will be joined by youth city-wide along with a number of prominent leaders including Rev. Father Michael Pfleger; Mayor Richard M. Daley; Min. Louis Farrakhan and Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan. At that time, the community will come together to hold an anti-violence rally downtown at the State of Illinois Building, 100 W. Randolph at Noon. Organizers, calling for an end to violence, plan to urge legislators to pass common sense gun laws and equal school funding reform measures.
Community involvement is a cure for the issue, said Bell. “When children are given a sense of safety, all of those horrible things that happen don’t stick,” he added. For more information about how to participate and to begin organizing your block against violence, call Saint Sabina Church at (773) 483-4300.
Insurance and Certification Discussed at CBA Meeting
by Dwayne T. Ervin
Representatives fromCountry Insurance and Financial Services spoke about insurance and Montel Gayles, Chief Procurement Officer of Chicago Department of Procurement Services, spoke about how to become a certified minority or women-owned business in Chicago at Chatham Business Association (CBA) meeting recently.
Roger Robinson, investment representative agent with Country Financial, gave an introduction of the type of insurance Country has to offer for businesses.
“We have been referred to as the best kept secret in Chicago for doing insurance,” Robinson said. Country started to do business in Chicago last year. Previously, the company was based in the southern rural towns in Illinois and suburbs.
Country was created in 1925 in Bloomington, IL and began offering life insurance in 1929. It’s a full-service investment management and trust institution. “Our mission is to be the best financial security in America,” Robinson added.
“You have to ask yourself is that policy keeping up with the finances of your business,” Country presentative/agent Artis Simpson said. “If you don’t have proper coverage,
you will have to close your doors. In these times, we have to protect ourselves and our customers. We want to work as business partners.” gt;
Country’s target market is small to medium-sized businesses. They offer general liability, workers compensation, umbrella coverage and business owner policy. Country Insurance and Financial Services office is located at 87th Street near Cottage Grove.
Montel Gayles spoke about what’s ahead under an Obama administration. “He wants to rebuild roads, bridges and communication polls,” Gayles said. “Obama is going to give us the tools to get things done.”
Gayles stated that every Monday his office sends out an alert for procurement opportunities and target market opportunities. Minority and women-owned businesses are eligible. “The common thread is to turn in your paperwork on time. It takes 30 days to respond.”
Gayles mentioned that the most profitable are construction businesses, which make up 40 percent of all contracts awarded. What hurts African Americans is the fact that they are behind in becoming certified.
“You have to have partnerships,” Gayles continued. “You cannot isolate yourself to get your business going. We want to see each of you successful.”
To receive weekly Department of Procurement Services alerts, send an email to DPSalerts@cityofchicago.org or visit www.cityofchicago.org/procurement.
Also, Executive Director Melinda Kelly announced the new members of the CBA and other upcoming events were announced.