Law enforcement officials say white substance found in letter is harmless
by Lesley R. Chinn
A letter with threatening language and racial epithets was sent to Congressman Bobby Rush’s office last Thursday.
Firefighters and police arrived on the scene shortly before noon at 700 E. 79th Street, where Rush’s office was located. Streets were blocked off around 79th Street and Langley near the Congressman’s office. The office was evacuated at around 11:30 a.m., said Toure Muhammad, Rush’s spokesman.
The letter arrived around 10 a.m. to the office in the mail. After fire department officials analyzed the substance, they discovered it was NutriSweet, a sugar substitute often used in coffee, said Sixth District Police Sgt. Ray Okonski, who joined FBI and fire department officials to work on the case. The note is in custody with law enforcement agents, Muhammad stated.
Congressman Rush, who was in Washington, D.C. at the time of the incident, had been known for his outspokenness in support of seating Roland Burris for the vacated U.S. Senate seat once occupied by President-elect Barack Obama.
Asked whether the note had anything to do with the Congressman’s actions, Muhammad said that there is no way to tell at this time. He said, the note, which was confiscated by law enforcement officials, did not contain any references to Burris at all. “Congressman Rush has always been someone who has spoke up for the people, but we don’t know what sparked (the threatening letter) at this time,” Muhammad stated.
At the time of the incident, Rush representatives in Washington, D.C., were also informed about the matter. “We’re very concerned. Things are happening very fast right now, but we’re letting the authorities do their job,” Muhammad stated.
FBI officials did not issue a comment on the case because it is an ongoing investigation.
Agreement to obtain more than 50 percent Black participation reached
by Lesley R. Chinn
By this summer, for numerous senior citizens who are looking for affordable housing that provides independent living or supportive service accommodations, the Montclare Seniors Building will become the place to be in the 8th Ward.
After the 3.3-acre site is completed, the building will serve as an independent and a supportive living facility. Affordable rents for the 102- unit facility will range from $168 to $725 per month. Montclare will be located at 78th and Avalon. The senior facility will include amenities such as a library, a business center, an exercise center and a medical room. The building will be similar in appearance to a facility previously built on the Northside located at 6640 W. Belden.
Eighth Ward Ald. Michelle Harris solicited the assistance of the Chatham Business Association (CBA) to ensure that Black participation needs were met. The project is currently in the first of three phases of construction. It will not be completed until this summer. Right now, contracting bids are still open for the next two phases. The overall cost of the entire project is $60 million including $22 million for the first phase. These costs also include the $16 million for the construction of the first phase aspect of the project and $48 million for the total construction, according to Philip Mappa, managing director for the MR Properties, L.L.C.
The CBA renegotiated contracts on the construction project in previous meetings that were issued before its involvement in October 2008. Before the group’s involvement, CBA Chairman William Garth and publisher of the Citizen Newspapers, said there was a lack of Black participation. After continuous negotiations with the CBA and the Citizen Newspapers, an agreement to ensure more than 50 percent of Black community participation was reached, according to an announcement Garth made at a special CBA meeting regarding the Montclare project on Monday at the Quentis Bernard Garth Foundation Building, 806 E. 78th St. The foundation is also home to the Citizen Newspaper, a corporation which prides itself on serving as the eyes and ears of the community. Mappa praised efforts of Alderman Harris and the CBA to ensure local participation. His development company is also working with Crane Construction, the general contractor for the construction project. Mappa said that having local participation makes the contracting process a lot easier.
“Relative to contractors, it’s very difficult to get the experience that they need if they don’t get the small jobs first,” Mappa stated. “From the developers’ standpoint, we direct the contractors.
“If we don’t have access to those groups such as this one in the beginning, it becomes very difficult,” Mappa continued. “Once the city, state and our lenders make all those requirements, it’s hard to backtrack.” The second phase will bring additional contracting opportunities, which is still under negotiation at this time. “We need you to let us know which contractors can do the job before we get all the financing in place,” Mappa told the CBA.
Attendees asked questions about whether or not this is a 100-percent union labor construction project and if assistance would be provided to non-union workers.
Jeff Crane, Crane’s president, said the site is a labor union project and will provide whatever assistance they can to non-union members. Meanwhile, CBA executive director Melinda Kelly said the group would provide assistance through its workshops in partnership with the developers and construction firm. These workshops will focus on issues such as business development, finance, computer training, general liability, compensation insurance and bonding.
“This is a million dollar project on some of the bids. It’s going to take some financing. We know we are not done yet, but we are definitely prepared to sit down one-on-one to get our minority contractors ready to do business,” Kelly stated, while telling Mappa and Crane about experts who are also members of CBA that can help point them in the right direction.
CBA Vice-Chairman Joe Caldwell said after the contracts are issued, services will be needed. “If you’re not in construction, don’t sell yourself out and think that you can’t get involved,” he stated. “If you want to be part of this, come to us and let us know what your needs are.”
For information about employment opportunities, call the CBA Small Business Development Inc., at (773) 994-5006.
by Dwayne T. Ervin
Coming together to discuss issues in education, faculty, students and alumni said they would like to see part of President-elect Barack Obama’s economic stimulus plan go towards supporting jobs for young people, violence prevention in schools and support for alternative education programs for students.
At a recent panel discussion hosted by the Chicago Urban League, representatives from state and local educational institutions came together with ideas on how to fix some of the problems in Chicago schools and talked about increasing funding for students at risk.
President and CEO of the Chicago Urban League Cheryle Jackson addressed the issue of youth violence and suggested more intervention from the government will be needed in order to correct the problem. Jesse Ruiz, Chairman of Illinois Board of Education and Illinois State Council on Re-Enrolling Students Who Dropped Out of School, talked about job creation. “If students can not see the goal, they are not going to learn,” he said. Others chimed in on the importance of job training. “Twenty out of 100 youth are not working. One million jobs went to teens during the Clinton administration. If Congress is going to give funds, it should go to people under 25 and they should be trained for jobs,” said Joseph McLaughlin, research associate at the Center for Labor Market Studies.
In 2005, there were 101,835 students in Illinois who dropped outof school, said Jack Wuest, executive director of Alternative Schools Network, costing the state $470 million. Taking a systematic approach towards supporting the Truants Alternative Options Education Program could help decrease the drop out rate, he added.
Reiterating Jackson’s point about school violence, Myra Sampson, principal of Community Christian Alternative (CCA) Academy in the North Lawndale community said two students were murdered at her school and she hopes any additional funding will go towards violence prevention. CCA Academy provides high school dropouts with a lastchance opportunity to get a diploma and a chance to be placed into a college or technical training program.
CPS students also made a plea for job opportunities and support for alternative education programs. “It is not easy in the streets,” said Fredrick Williams, a student from the Academy of Scholastic Achievement (ASA) High School, an alternative school on the West Side that helps dropouts re-enter school. “I was at a magnet school where I was not getting the one-on-one help,” he said. “I transferred to ASA my junior year. The teachers treated me like an adult…when you take away the jobs, what do you expect the youth to do,” he asked.
The case moves to the Senate on January 26
by Lesley R. Chinn
The Illinois House voted 114-1 to impeach Gov. Rod Blagojevich for abusing his power, mismanaging the state government and allegedly committing criminal acts.
However, after the House voted on their decision last Friday, the Governor blasted the chamber for their actions during a press conference downtown at the Thompson Center. Blagojevich said that he was not surprised at the decision because he knew that they had been planning this action since the summer of 2007. At that time, the state was faced with a government shutdown just to pass a budget after the
House was responsible for not passing a budget, according to the Governor.
The Governor said that the House has given him problems ever since he was re-elected to a second term in 2006. He claimed that he has worked very hard with the House to pass public works legislation that would create 500,000 jobs and has worked to expand affordable and equal access to health care for adults and children. The Governor also added that the House stood in the way of providing property tax relief for Cook County residents. “The House’s action and the causes of the impeachment are because I’ve done things to
fight for families,” Blagojevich contended.
Blagojevich also claimed that the House is impeaching him for implementing an affordable prescription
drug program for senior citizens. He said through this action drugs can be purchased from Canada and save them up to 50 percent.
Joined by constituents who have benefited from health care reform efforts, the Governor asked, “Is that an impeachable offense?” “I took actions with the advice of lawyers and experts to find creative ways to use the executive authority of a Governor to get real things done for people,” he said.
Before he left the podium, the Governor reasserted that he is not guilty of any criminal wrongdoing and will not resign. “That issue will be dealt with on a separate course and in an appropriate forum in federal court. At the end of the day, I will be properly exonerated. In the meantime, I have a job to do for the people.”
State Rep. Monique Davis (D-27), who voted to have the Governor impeached, dismissed Blagojevich’s comments. She said that the Governor has abused his power and this fight is not about health care or any other issue that he wants to bring up. One example Davis mentioned was the state’s $2.8 million lawsuit that resulted from a previous purchase of a flu vaccine that totaled more than $8 million that was not approved by the Federal Drug Administration. “He has refused to accept the fact that Illinois operates under a democracy…it is improper and illegal to decide to spend dollars in anyway that has not been approved or gone through the legislative process,” Davis stated.
Rep. Milt Patterson (D-32) was the only member who decided not to vote for the impeachment. Patterson, who served two terms and previously suffered a stroke, decided not to run for re-election last year. His successor, Andre Thapedi, will be sworn in with the rest of the 96th General Assembly on Wednesday. In a
statement, Patterson explained his decision:
“I was not comfortable with casting an affirmative vote. I believe the special committee did its job to the best of its ability. However, I did not feel like I had enough information based on the report to make an
informed decision to remove the governor from office.”
Meanwhile, it was also reported that another outgoing State Rep. Elga Jeffries (D-26) voted present. Jeffries, who served oneterm, was defeated by Will Burns in the February 2008 primary for re-election. Burns will also be sworn in.
The Senate is expected to have a trial on January 26 on whether to remove the Governor from office. Aconviction by more than two-thirds of its members would result in Blagojevich’s removal from office. In the meantime, Blagojevich said he hopes to have a different outcome in the Senate.
State Sen. Donne Trotter (D-17) described public opinion regarding the Governor’s impeachment and arrest as nothing but “hype.” “The man has not been indicted and convicted, but thankfully there is a Constitution
that adheres to due process and equal protection under the law.”
Trotter said that the decision to remove the Governor from office will have a large impact not only on his life, but on his family’s life as well. “That’s a big judgment that we will have to make. I pray that all of my colleagues will listen to this (trial) with an open mind,” he stated.
Earlier, a group of more than 150 protestors under a new organization, “Rod Must Resign,” stood outside the Thompson Center to demand the Governor’s resignation. The group was led by Scott Cohen, a local businessman and entrepreneur. Citing reasons such as the Governor’s alleged attempts to sell the U.S. Senate seat, Cohen said that anything he tries to do is “put under such scrutiny that nothing is getting done.”
In 1988, Arizona Gov. Evan Mecham was the last governor in U.S. History to be impeached and removed from office. He was convicted of obstruction of justice and misusing $80,000 in state funds allegedly funneled to
his Pontiac dealership to keep it afloat, according to court documents.