WBEZ | News http://www.wbez.org/news Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Labor unions celebrate judge's ruling against Illinois pension law http://www.wbez.org/news/labor-unions-celebrate-judges-ruling-against-illinois-pension-law-111148 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/springfield_0_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>An Illinois judge has ruled unconstitutional a controversial plan to reduce state employees&rsquo; retirement benefits.<br /><br />Labor groups sued the State of Illinois for passing a bill reducing their members&rsquo; pension benefits. The unions representing downstate and suburban teachers, university employees and most other state workers argued the state constitution says, specifically, that retirement benefits can&rsquo;t be diminished. On Friday, Sangamon County Circuit Court Judge John Belz agreed.</p><p>Belz quoted directly from the state constitution in his six-page decision, citing the passage that states retirement benefits &ldquo;shall not be diminished or repaired.&rdquo; He singled out components of the bill that narrowly passed the state legislature last year to explain why he was ruling against the state. For instance, the law changed cost-of-living increases certain employees receive in retirement, and put a cap on some employees&rsquo; pensionable salary.</p><p>&ldquo;The State of Illinois made a constitutionally protected promise to its employees concerning their pension benefits,&rdquo; Belz wrote in his decision. &ldquo;Under established and uncontroverted Illinois law, the State of Illinois cannot break this promise.&rdquo;</p><p>Labor unions representing employees who are in those retirement systems celebrated the decision.</p><p>&ldquo;The court granted us everything. The court saw it our way,&rdquo; said Dan Montgomery, president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers. &ldquo;This is an unambiguous, unequivocal victory for the constitution and for working people.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Retirees who earned their modest security in retirement, they always paid their share. And they should not be punished for the failures of politicians,&rdquo; said Anders Lindall, a spokesman for the We Are One Coalition, a group of labor unions.</p><p>Attorneys who defended the bill acknowledged that it reduced benefits, but argued it is needed to deal with a $105 billion unfunded pension liability. Studies have shown that massive debt tied to Illinois&rsquo; retirement payments is the worst of any state in the country.</p><p>Gov. Pat Quinn, and those who supported the legislation, argue basic functions of state government are in danger if the pension law is found to be unconstitutional.</p><p>&ldquo;This historic pension reform law eliminates the state&rsquo;s unfunded liability and fully stabilizes the systems to ensure retirement security for employees who have faithfully contributed to them,&rdquo; Quinn said in a statement.</p><p>The Democratic governor was defeated in this month&rsquo;s election by Republican Bruce Rauner, who also released a statement asking the state&rsquo;s Supreme Court to take up the case as soon as possible.</p><p>The office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is defending the law in court. Her office said Friday that it will ask the state Supreme Court to expedite an appeal &ldquo;given the significant impact that a final decision in this case will have on the state&rsquo;s fiscal condition.&rdquo;</p><p>Meantime, Democratic Senate President John Cullerton is considering a plan, in case the state Supreme Court agrees with Judge Belz and throws out the law. Cullerton had pushed for a separate pension proposal that would ask employees to choose between earning state-funded health care coverage in retirement or receiving pay increases.</p><p>&ldquo;If they throw it out, we&rsquo;ll be back to square one and then we go back again to the alternative that already passed the Senate and when that passes, save some money that we can then pass on to education funding and whatever else we want to utilize that savings,&rdquo; Cullerton said Friday.</p><p>Legislators would have to re-visit Cullerton&rsquo;s proposal in a new General Assembly, after January&rsquo;s inauguration.</p><p><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/tonyjarnold" target="_blank">@tonyjarnold</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 17:19:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/labor-unions-celebrate-judges-ruling-against-illinois-pension-law-111148 Hoosiers divided over Obama’s executive action on immigration http://www.wbez.org/news/hoosiers-divided-over-obama%E2%80%99s-executive-action-immigration-111144 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Indiana Immigration 1.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>In his speech Thursday night, President Barack Obama spoke about the kind of immigrants he hopes to help with his executive action.</p><p>&ldquo;Most of these immigrants have been here a long time. They work hard, often in tough low paying jobs. They support their families. They worship at our churches,&rdquo; Obama said on national TV.</p><p>The president could have been talking about St. Mary&rsquo;s Catholic Church in East Chicago, Indiana. Located in a working class city, where half the city&rsquo;s 35,0000 residents are Hispanic, the church is expecting lots of undocumented immigrants in the coming days.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re going to be swamped with people,&rdquo; said Jose Bustos, executive director of the Casa Santo Toribio Center at St. Mary&rsquo;s Church, a place where undocumented immigrants regularly seek assistance from his small, mostly volunteer staff.</p><p>&ldquo;Basically we&rsquo;re telling the folks to start gathering all the documents they have to prove that indeed they had been here in this country from the day they are going to claim that they got here,&rdquo; Bustos said.</p><p>But others, including Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, a possible presidential contender, is looking for ways to block the presidents&rsquo; actions.</p><p>&ldquo;The American people do not want comprehensive immigration reform. Part of the solution is to prevent the administration from overturning laws that have been enacted,&rdquo; Pence told NBC earlier this week.</p><p>Pence has instructed Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller to look into suing the Obama administration.</p><p>&ldquo;It is beyond frustrating both that Congress has thus far failed to exercise its authority to reform immigration policy and that the President has apparently exceeded his authority by declining to enforce certain laws, in an area where states are prohibited from acting,&rdquo; Zoeller stated in a news release. &ldquo;Inaction by the federal legislative branch does not justify the federal executive branch overstepping its bounds.&nbsp; Two wrongs don&rsquo;t make a right.&rdquo;</p><p>In the meantime, East Chicago residents like Enriqueta and Alejandro, who asked that her last name not be used, are relieved by the President&rsquo;s action.</p><p>The couple arrived in Indiana more than a decade ago from Mexico City. Both clean houses for a living while their American-born kids go to school.</p><p>Alejandro said he welcomed the president&rsquo;s efforts.</p><p>&ldquo;I feel happy that the President is going to try to help immigrants,&rdquo; Alejandro said in Spanish while sitting in Bustos&rsquo; office. &ldquo;Obama is providing calm and peace to those who are undocumented.&rdquo;</p><p>Until now, Enriqueta constantly worried about being arrested and deported.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m not the only one who is afraid but there are others like me who would rather just stay home and not go outside. But we have to go outside to work,&rdquo; Enriqueta said in Spanish.</p><p>The State of Indiana has long had a reputation for cracking down on undocumented immigrants.</p><p>In 2011, the Republican-led Indiana General Assembly adopted measures nearly as strict as the border state of Arizona.</p><p>It included provisions for state police officers to stop suspected undocumented drivers. But some in Indiana&rsquo;s small but growing Hispanic community loudly objected, saying police would be racially profiling motorists.</p><p>The law in Arizona was ultimately deemed unconstitutional, effectively nullifying Indiana&rsquo;s law.</p><p>Under the President&rsquo;s action, federal immigration authorities would stop the deportation of parents with American born children who have been living in the country for at least 5 years.</p><p>&ldquo;President Obama set forth a bold plan to secure our nation&rsquo;s borders, help keep families together, and expand our economy.&nbsp; The President&rsquo;s action was a necessary step in a Republican Congress that has refused to take up immigration reform,&rdquo; U.S. Rep. Andre Carson, D-Indianapolis, said.</p><p>Many immigrants are drawn here to work on Hoosier farms &ndash; from Northwest Indiana communities like Crown Point and Lowell &ndash; to southern Indiana cities bordering Kentucky.</p><p>The comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed the Senate last year included a guest worker program designed to help those farms.</p><p>The Indiana Farm Bureau supported it, as did U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly.</p><p>But yesterday Donnelly, a Democrat from South Bend, said the President was now going too far.</p><p>&ldquo;It is clear the immigration system in this country is broken, and only Congress has the ability to change the law to fix it. The Senate passed bipartisan immigration reform last summer with my support, though we are still waiting on the House to debate this issue,&rdquo; Donnelly wrote in a statement. &ldquo;I am as frustrated as anyone that Congress is not doing its job, but the President shouldn&rsquo;t make such significant policy changes on his own.&rdquo;</p><p>That sentiment was echoed by many in Lake County.<br /><br />&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s wrong. What about the people who did it the right way?&rdquo; said Larry Hine, the owner of Larry&rsquo;s Barber Shop in downtown Crown Point, about 25 miles south of East Chicago. &ldquo;They did it the right way and these people just walked across the line and we&rsquo;re paying for them, our tax dollars.&rdquo;</p><p>When asked about the notion that undocumented immigrants take low paid farm jobs that most Americans don&rsquo;t want, Hine acknowledged it was an issue but said, &ldquo;I couldn&rsquo;t prove that one way or the other.&rdquo;</p><p>Fellow Crown Point resident John Moose says this is about more than just economics. He thinks the President is ignoring the resounding defeat his party suffered in the mid-term elections.</p><p>&ldquo;He&rsquo;s wrong with all this and the American people spoke a couple of weeks ago and they spoke clearly whether he wants to say he heard it or not,&rdquo; Moose, who runs an insurance company, said. &ldquo;I love immigrants. This is what this country is all about. Even the American Indians are immigrants. They came over from China. People should be sent back and they should come through the normal process.&rdquo;</p><p>Back in East Chicago immigrant advocate Jose Bustos isn&rsquo;t sure what the fuss is about.</p><p>&ldquo;The state of Indiana has always been anti-immigrant. It is something beyond me. If you look at the demographics, if you look at the numbers, we are something like not even 2 percent of the population of the state. What is it that they are afraid of? These are people who are not criminals. These are people are helping the economy,&rdquo; Bustos said.</p><p>Bustos adds the President&rsquo;s move will end the fear many undocumented parents and their American-born children have felt for years.</p><p>&ldquo;These kids are in fear. They are in fear of losing mom and dad. They go to school and come back with an empty home. Where is the justice in that?&rdquo; Bustos said.</p><p>Bustos admits the executive order will only aid about 5 million of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.</p><p>&ldquo;As the old saying goes, we didn&rsquo;t get the whole loaf. We got a little bit under a half of loaf,&rdquo; Bustos said. &ldquo;But this half a loaf is going to alleviate the fear that so many, so many people are going through right now.</p><p>Today, a group of lawyers from nearby Valparaiso University will be helping Bustos counsel immigrants on how to take advantage of the President&rsquo;s move.</p><p><em>Michael Puente is WBEZ&rsquo;s Northwest Indiana Bureau Reporter. Follow him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/MikePuenteNews">@MikePuenteNews</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 13:01:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/hoosiers-divided-over-obama%E2%80%99s-executive-action-immigration-111144 Alderman says police overtime is main reason he voted against mayor's budget http://www.wbez.org/news/alderman-says-police-overtime-main-reason-he-voted-against-mayors-budget-111140 <p><div>Just four out of 50 aldermen voted not to approve Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s $7.3 billion budget for next year. 32nd Ward Ald. Scott Waguespack said the main reason he voted against it was unanswered questions about the Chicago Police Department&rsquo;s portion of the pie. More specifically, the department&rsquo;s growing overtime costs&mdash;and the lack of information on the expense.<p>Waguespack said over the last couple of years, he and other members of the self-titled Progressive Caucus repeatedly have asked both the budget office and the police department for more information on police overtime. And, during budget hearings last month, Waguespack directly asked Supt. Garry McCarthy for a month-by-month breakdown of overtime costs. The superintendent and budget committee chair agreed it was a request the police department could fulfill&mdash;but it didn&rsquo;t.</p>&ldquo;What we&rsquo;re just gonna vote yes, even though we don&rsquo;t know about $100 million worth of budgeting and specifics on it? That is unacceptable,&rdquo; Waguespack said. &ldquo;We actually have to vote on it, which really puts us in a horrible position.&rdquo;<p>Waguespack said he didn&rsquo;t receive anything from CPD or the city budget office on the issue before he cast his vote Wednesday. Waguespack also said he and others were mocked by fellow aldermen for asking about hiring more officers in lieu of spending millions on overtime. Other members of the council echoed the superintendent&rsquo;s stance that it would cost more to employ additional officers.</p>&ldquo;I found that pretty offensive,&rdquo; Waugespack said, &ldquo;especially when the police department superintendent himself could not provide details about how his budget worked from month to month.&rdquo;<p>Waguespack believes the lack of transparency on the subject shows that the police department is &ldquo;out of control&rdquo; in the way it&rsquo;s budgeting for overtime. In 2013, CPD budgeted $32 million for overtime but wound up spending over $100 million. This year&rsquo;s projected expense is $95 - $100 million, more than $20 million over what was budgeted.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think they&rsquo;re providing evidence to the people of the city that shows they should be allowed to continue doing this,&rdquo; Waguespack said, adding that it&rsquo;s bad policy to carry on this way.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/chart.PNG" style="height: 172px; width: 620px;" title="" /></div></div><p>Waguespack was part of a group that last year supported an amendment to spend $25 million to hire 500 new cops to deal with violent crimes&mdash;but the plan was blocked in committee. Fellow Progressive Caucus member Ald. John Arena (45th) voted for that amendment too.&nbsp; He pointed out the trend to overspend on overtime during budget hearings last month&mdash;and asked Supt. Garry McCarthy if [the proposed] $71 million was going to be sufficient for next year?</p><p>&ldquo;You know what, alderman, I can&rsquo;t answer that...I really can&rsquo;t,&rdquo; McCarthy said. &ldquo;I can&rsquo;t answer that next year we&rsquo;re going to do that much better. We&rsquo;re trying to knock it down. We&#39;re putting systems in place to do that, and slowly but surely I anticipate we&#39;re going to bring it under control.&rdquo;</p><p>WBEZ pressed the police department for an explanation as to why Waguespack&rsquo;s request was not fulfilled before the budget was called for a vote. CPD spokesman Martin Maloney wrote in a statement that the CPD receives numerous information request during the budget process. And that &ldquo;if any of these responses have not yet made it to the inquiring aldermen, they will be delivered soon.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p><em>Katie O&#39;Brien is a WBEZ reporter and producer. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/katieobez" target="_blank">@katieobez</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 20 Nov 2014 18:09:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/alderman-says-police-overtime-main-reason-he-voted-against-mayors-budget-111140 CPS chief backs the mayor's $13-an-hour minimum wage http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-chief-backs-mayors-13-hour-minimum-wage-111138 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Board of Ed at Westinghouse.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>The head of Chicago Public Schools is making a political statement supporting Mayor Rahm Emanuel, ahead of February&rsquo;s municipal elections.</p><p>CPS CEO Barbara Bryd-Bennett told the Board of Education Wednesday that the district wants to move to a $13-per-hour minimum wage. The statement falls in line with <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-emanuel-minimum-wage-hike-push-20140930-story.html" target="_blank">other city agencies</a>, like the Chicago Park District.</p><p>The budget implications of a $13-per-hour minimum wage for CPS workers and contract employees would still need to be worked out internally, CPS officials said.</p><p>Alderman Jason Ervin, of the 28th Ward, urged board members to consider the $15-an-hour wage he and other aldermen are pushing. The meeting was in Ervin&rsquo;s ward, at Westinghouse College Prep, making it the first board meeting held in a community since 2004, when the board met at Orr Academy. It was also the first time in several years the board has met in the evening. Typically, board meetings start at 10 a.m. at CPS&rsquo;s downtown headquarters.</p><p>CPS spokesman Bill McCaffrey said they moved the meeting into a community and held it in the evening in order to give more people the opportunity to come. The district is also in the process of moving its offices to a new building downtown.</p><p>The meeting, which took place in Westinghouse&rsquo;s auditorium, had a larger crowd than usual and frequent interruptions from audience members. One of the biggest gripes had to do with a recent Chicago Tribune <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/watchdog/cpsbonds/" target="_blank">investigation into CPS&rsquo;s debt payments</a> on risky interest rate swap deals. Those deals were entered into when now-Board President David Vitale was the district&rsquo;s chief financial officer.</p><p>Tara Stamps, a teacher at Jenner Elementary in Old Town, spoke about a lack of funding for the school&rsquo;s arts program, even though the school is designated as a fine arts school.</p><p>&ldquo;How is it that you can say you want this kind of student, but you don&rsquo;t want to make that kind of investment?&rdquo; Stamps asked. &ldquo;You&rsquo;d rather not renegotiate these toxic deals and squander what could be hundreds of millions of dollars that could go into classrooms that could create well-rounded classrooms where children are appreciated and they learn and they thrive. But you don&rsquo;t. You refuse. You will not arbitrate. You will not renegotiate. You will not do any of the initial steps to get some of that money back.&rdquo;</p><p>The Chicago Teachers Union first sounded the alarm on the bank deals in 2011, but board members and CPS officials repeatedly dismissed the issue.</p><p>&ldquo;Three years we&rsquo;ve been coming here and being told that our facts are wrong, that we just don&rsquo;t understand, and being dismissed by Mr. Vitale,&rdquo; said Matthew Luskin, a CPS parent and organizer for the CTU. &ldquo;A full week of Trib headlines tell a very different story.&rdquo;</p><p>Luskin said he understands that CPS cannot just cancel the contracts with the banks, but he pushed the board to file for arbitration to renegotiate the contracts, and &ldquo;take a stand.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;They could call these banks out, blame them for the cuts and closings that have happened, instead of blaming retirees and parents and children who take up too many resources,&rdquo; Luskin said. &ldquo;They could announce that CPS won&rsquo;t do business with these banks anymore if they refuse to renegotiate.&rdquo;</p><p>McCaffrey with CPS said the district is monitoring the risks of its swap portfolio closely, &ldquo;including the possibility of termination.&rdquo; But he also said, by the district&rsquo;s calculation, the deals saved more than $30 million in interest costs compared to the costs of fixed-rate bonds.</p><p>The debt payments and the minimum wage weren&rsquo;t the only issues raised at the meeting. Two librarians came to speak about the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/losing-school-librarians-chicago-public-schools-110547" target="_blank">reassignments and layoffs of full-time librarians</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;The loss of school librarians is especially alarming in CPS high schools where there are now only 38 high schools with librarians,&rdquo; said Nora Wiltse, a school librarian at Coonley Elementary.</p><p>A student and a teacher from Kelly High School came to sound the alarm on <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/custodial-contract-causing-problems-start-school-year-110767" target="_blank">cleanliness at their school since Aramark</a> took over CPS&rsquo;s janitorial services.</p><p>The Board also approved <a href="http://www.wbez.org/cps-changes-school-ratingsagain-111118" target="_blank">a new school rating policy</a>.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/177839305&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Thu, 20 Nov 2014 13:16:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-chief-backs-mayors-13-hour-minimum-wage-111138 Luxury brands court Chinese students http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/luxury-brands-court-chinese-students-111127 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/CHINESE STUDENT1 (lavinia).jpg" alt="" /><p><p>On a recent blustery night, stylish Chinese college students lined the aisles of the Bloomingdale&rsquo;s department store in downtown Chicago. They were sipping cucumber cocktails and checking out the latest fashions modeled by and for Chinese students.</p><p>They&rsquo;d been invited by the high-end retailer in an effort to connect with a new generation of U.S. college student from Mainland China.</p><p>&ldquo;The reason they want to reach us is very simple because we are going to buy their product,&rdquo; said party attendee Kim, a marketing major at DePaul University.</p><p>Kim is one of the 274,000 Chinese students attending college in the States. That number has tripled in the last six years, cementing China as the biggest source of international students to the U.S. for several years running.</p><p>But these are not the thrifty Chinese grad students of yesteryear. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, Chinese students (who are now about half graduate students and half undergrads) spent $8 billion in the U.S. in 2013 alone.</p><p>&ldquo;These are the elites of the Chinese population,&rdquo; said Peggy Blumenthal, a senior counselor at the Institute for International Education. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re mostly from cities and used to spending for big brands and used to having a new car and a new watch.&rdquo;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>The spending power of these students hasn&rsquo;t been lost on U.S. government officials.</p><p>Earlier this month, the state department relaxed rules on visas for Chinese students, expanding them to five years. As Secretary of State John Kerry was handing out the first batch, he told one Kansas University grad returning to the states to remember to &ldquo;spend a lot of money.&rdquo;</p><p>Wen Huang is a Chicago based writer and China watcher who came to Springfield Illinois as a Chinese grad student 24 years ago. And as he recalls it, things were very different then.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I came here with $76 in my pocket, which was the case with lots of Chinese students who came in the 1990s and 80s,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;We would shop at Venture. That was like a Walmart place. We never had money to buy name brand stuff but we felt that everything that was made in America was name brand. On weekends we&rsquo;d treat ourselves to Old Country Buffet and then go shopping at Venture.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>Most students at that time came on scholarships, but the Chinese undergrads flooding American colleges today are supported largely by family money.</p><p>&ldquo;They are the children of either government officials or the children of entrepreneurs who have amassed a huge fortune during China&rsquo;s economic boom over the last 7 or 8 years,&rdquo; Huang said.</p><p>Others come from middle class families who have channeled much of their resources into the future of their single child.</p><p>Chinese-American college student Solomon Wiener is majoring in East Asian Studies at Dennison University. Although he has traveled to China, he is still amazed by the spending power of this new wave of Chinese students.<br />&nbsp;&nbsp;<br />&ldquo;I drive a Lexus but my friend from China drives a Ferrari,&rdquo; he noted before hitting the runway in a sleek gray Hugo Boss suit. &ldquo;There is just a lot of cash coming from China and the kids are just able to afford these brands.&rdquo;</p><p>That&rsquo;s why Chicago-based publisher John Robinson recently launched a new digital magazine Mandarin Campus in addition to his flagship magazine Mandarin Quarterly. He co-sponsored the Bloomingdale&rsquo;s event.</p><p>&ldquo;Mandarin Campus was born out of brands&rsquo; increasing interest in this lucrative demographic that&rsquo;s the Chinese university student,&rdquo; said Robinson who spent several years in China and speaks fluent Mandarin. &ldquo;The editorial focus is a little younger, a little more rock-and-roll than say Mandarin Quarterly, which is targeting sort of early-to-mid-career professionals.&rdquo;</p><p>The stories in these two magazines focus on business and career advice, fashion, and dining and lifestyle issues. Much of the content would be at home in Chicago magazine, if Chicago were written entirely in Chinese. The magazines are aimed at helping readers fashionably navigate mainstream Chicago (and San Francisco and New York where Quarterly is also published). But, they are also about marketing these high-end brands.</p><p>&ldquo;Brands like Omega, Burberry, Cartier, Tiffany, Bloomingdale&rsquo;s and Saks have all reached out to our business and asked for our support in their efforts to effectively engage Chinese,&rdquo; Robinson said.</p><p>Lavina, a Chinese marketing major at Loyola, served as one of the evening&rsquo;s models, sporting fashions from Theory and Burberry. Like a lot of the students at the party, she lives downtown and shops along the Magnificent Mile.&nbsp;<br />&ldquo;There&rsquo;s a lot of clothes I like to wear and the place I like to go shopping is at Bloomingdale&rsquo;s,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m a very loyal customer because I live three blocks away, so it&rsquo;s very near and convenient.&rdquo;</p><p>The shifting financial dynamics of China have allowed the surge in enrollment at U.S. universities.&nbsp; But what&rsquo;s behind the new openness to parties and fashion that were never a part of student life for someone like Wen Huang?<br />&ldquo;The current education system is different in mainland China,&rdquo; said DePaul marketing major Caroline. &ldquo;We are more open to the foreign cultures like American and European cultures.&nbsp; We get more and more information about them and so when we came here we learned there are parties and different things we have to attend. We are starting to get used to that environment, and it is making us change.&rdquo;</p><p>Despite the continued double-digit growth in Chinese enrollment last year, Huang predicted it will start tapering off soon.</p><p>He cited the slowing Chinese economy and the recent anti-corruption campaign under Chinese president Xi Jinping that has put the country&rsquo;s rich and powerful under a microscope.</p><p>&ldquo;Right now they are under close scrutiny,&rdquo; Huang said. &ldquo;And sending your children abroad is becoming an easy target for investigation.&rdquo;</p><p>So does that mean Coach, Tiffany, Bloomingdale&rsquo;s and Burberry are wasting their time courting the young Chinese consumer? Huang said no<ldquo;i a="" as="" because="" buy="" buying="" cheaper="" china="" designer="" have="" he="" higher="" in="" lot="" much="" of="" only="" p="" pay="" s="" said.="" see="" still="" students="" t="" than="" the="" they="" thing="" think="" to="" will="" you=""></ldquo;i></p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng">@monicaeng</a> or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Wed, 19 Nov 2014 18:21:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/luxury-brands-court-chinese-students-111127 Entrepreneurs in low-income areas find ways to grow businesses http://www.wbez.org/news/entrepreneurs-low-income-areas-find-ways-grow-businesses-111124 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/microbusiness_141117_nm2.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In underserved communities, entrepreneurs have a hard time finding capital to start and grow their businesses.</p><p>But several programs in Chicago are helping these micro-business owners secure loans and be financially successful.</p><p>One of those programs is Sunshine Gospel Ministries in the Woodlawn neighborhood. Participants regularly go through hypothetical scenarios to learn how to complete contracts and balance their books. The business academy&rsquo;s mission is to help train and support entrepreneurs in low-income communities</p><p>Over the past two years, 70 micro business owners have gone through the program.<br />These are one-person home operations -- people who cut hair, make T-shirts or do event planning.</p><p>Jittaun Priest, who owns a decorative painting business, completed the program earlier this year.</p><p>&ldquo;My books are more balanced and I believe that it&rsquo;s given me more confidence to go out and talk to people more because I have a better focus of what I&rsquo;m doing,&rdquo; Priest said of participating in Sunshine&rsquo;s programs. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m not all over the place like I was. The focus (is) helping me realize what my niche is, and go out there and make that step.&rdquo;</p><p>Joel Hamernick is executive director of Sunshine Ministries and said the business academy started as a way to deal with the absence of work in communities - and lack of capital.</p><p>&ldquo;If you grow up in a cash economy where nobody has a bank account, everybody goes to the payday lender and the cash advance places to pay their bills, then you really don&rsquo;t have the basic functional tools that allow you to save a tremendous amount of money over time and put you on a pathway where you can navigate to know when you&rsquo;re being taken advantage of and when you&rsquo;re not,&rdquo; Hamernick said.</p><p>Earlier this year, the non-profit research group the Woodstock Institute put out a study on race and income disparities when it comes to access to business credit. Among the findings: Businesses in majority white tracts were more likely to receive loans than businesses in majority minority tracts of the same income level.</p><p>In some cases, Sunshine graduates end up getting micro loans.</p><p>Accion Chicago is probably the best known local microlender. Most of its clients are people of color with moderate to low income. The average loan is $8,400.</p><p>&ldquo;Most financial institutions would prefer not to give somebody a loan under $25,000, (instead) maybe a credit card because it takes a lot of labor to produce a loan,&rdquo; said Steve Hall, Accion Vice president of business development.</p><p>Hall said most people associate microlending with developing countries. But in the United States, the average small business is more than $400,000.</p><p>&ldquo;Having a microloan is basically any loan than can help you bridge a gap, whether its short-term working need to cover payroll (or to) pay off an additional vendor to get additional inventory,&rdquo;&nbsp; Hall said.</p><p>Recently, Accion started SEED Chicago. It helps entrepreneurs find money via online crowd sourcing.</p><p>It&rsquo;s just another way to give people access to much needed capital&hellip;.when there is none readily available.&nbsp;</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/nmoore-0" rel="author">Natalie Moore</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s South Side Bureau reporter. <a href="mailto:nmoore@wbez.org">nmoore@wbez.org</a></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Follow Natalie on <a href="https://plus.google.com//104033432051539426343" rel="me">Google+</a>, &nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/natalieymoore">Twitter</a></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 19 Nov 2014 11:07:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/entrepreneurs-low-income-areas-find-ways-grow-businesses-111124 Cupich becomes Chicago archbishop, decries abuse http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/cupich-becomes-chicago-archbishop-decries-abuse-111123 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP604006552951.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">Blase Cupich became the Archbishop of Chicago on Tuesday after his predecessor handed him a bishop&#39;s staff and relinquished the chair that symbolizes the leadership of the nation&#39;s third-largest diocese.</p><p dir="ltr">During a Mass at Holy Name Cathedral, the transfer of power was completed as Cardinal Francis George, who is battling cancer, stepped aside to retire. He&rsquo;s been the spiritual leader of more than 2 million Catholics in Lake and Cook Counties since 1997.</p><p dir="ltr">The installation of Cupich &mdash; who was bishop of the Diocese of Spokane, Wash., when he was selected by Pope Francis to succeed George &mdash; marks the first time in the history of the Chicago archdiocese that a new archbishop assumes leadership while his predecessor is still alive.</p><p dir="ltr">It also represents the pope&#39;s first major American appointment. By replacing a leading conservative cardinal with the more moderate Cupich, Vatican watchers say the decision shows the pope wants more focus on mercy and compassion instead of divisive social issues.</p><p dir="ltr">The cathedral was packed with more than 90 bishops, a half dozen cardinals and hundreds of guests, including Cupich&rsquo;s large extended family and friends from every stage of his career as a priest.</p><p dir="ltr">During his homily Tuesday, Cupich, 65, spoke forcefully on the sexual abuse scandal that has plagued the church, including Chicago&#39;s archdiocese. In one of his last official acts, George released files on three dozen priests who had been accused of sexual abuse in the last 60 years and whose alleged crimes were in many cases concealed by the archdiocese.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Working together to protect children, to bring healing to victim survivors and to rebuild the trust that has been shattered in our communities by our failures is our sacred duty, and so is holding each other accountable, for that is what we pledge to do,&rdquo; Cupich said.</p><p dir="ltr">As he comes to an archdiocese that has shrunk in recent years and been forced to close schools amid declining enrollment, Cupich also spoke of the &quot;formidable task&quot; of passing on the faith to the next generation in a skeptical world. He said the church needs to work to become relevant to young people, who require authenticity in words and deeds.</p><p dir="ltr">Cupich repeatedly called on everyone, including church leaders, to act with mercy, and to be daring in their faith.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Pope Francis tells us that the temptation is to think and say, &lsquo;I&rsquo;m religious enough, I&rsquo;m Catholic enough.&rsquo; Or for the church leaders to resist needed reform by claiming, &lsquo;We haven&rsquo;t done that before&rsquo; or &lsquo;You can&rsquo;t say that&rsquo;.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Cupich voiced his support for Pope Francis&#39; call for leaders in the church to be pastoral in nature. He also emphasized mercy and and reiterated a call to reach out to people rather than lecture them, and to openly communicate with those with whom the church might disagree.</p><p dir="ltr">&quot;Jesus invites us, not only to take the risk of leaving our comfort zone, but also to deal with the tension involved in change, not dismissively but in a creative way,&quot; he said. &quot;Pope Francis is giving voice to this invitation in our day ... to leave behind the comfort of going the familiar way.&quot;</p><p dir="ltr">There&rsquo;s been some confusion and discord among bishops following the Synod on Family, and several conservative bishops have been openly critical of the pope&rsquo;s leadership.</p><p dir="ltr">Cupich firmly aligned himself with Pope Francis in his closing remarks: &ldquo;He can count on the Archdiocese of Chicago to be fully behind him and with him.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Several spectators had high hopes, saying they had &ldquo;new hope&rdquo; and calling him a &ldquo;breath of fresh air.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;He&rsquo;s very devoted to the youth and to poor people,&rdquo; said long-time friend Jim Kineen. &ldquo;He&rsquo;s particularly keen on immigration since his family immigrated from Croatia. He&rsquo;s a very down-to-earth common fellow, and he&rsquo;s got a great attitude. If you notice, he smiles all the time.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Terry Berner, who lives on Chicago&rsquo;s North Side, said he hopes Cupich reaches out to gays, women and victims of priest sex abuse.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I hope that he&rsquo;ll open up dialogues with some people that have been kind of turned off lately. I hope he opens a lot of channels, I hope there&rsquo;s a lot of &nbsp;back and forth between not only the Catholics but other denominations &nbsp;and religions in the city because we certainly need it,&rdquo; Berner said.</p><p dir="ltr">The new archbishop has asked for patience as he adjusts to his new role, and emphasized he hopes to keep a sense of normalcy. Cupich tried to dampen down expectations a bit with humor. He joked that he had a &ldquo;bit of a panic attack&rdquo; when he realized his first homily as archbishop followed the gospel about Jesus walking on water.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;This new responsibility is going to be demanding, but seriously folks, I don&rsquo;t do walking on water,&rdquo; Cupich said to laughter from the crowd. &ldquo;I can barely swim. So I hope this image in today&rsquo;s gospel is not reflective of anyone&rsquo;s expectations.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Cupich set the transition in motion Monday night in a ceremony steeped in tradition and symbolism. He arrived at the cathedral &mdash; which was filled with hundreds of priests, civic officials and leaders from several faiths &mdash; and knocked on the door three times. Those knocks symbolized his request to be admitted into the cathedral and started a three-day installation process.</p><p dir="ltr">In his Monday homily, Cupich vowed to take an active role in the community, pushing for immigration reform and taking part in the battle against gangs and gun violence, among other issues.</p><p dir="ltr">He is finishing up the three-day celebration Wednesday, leading morning and evening prayers for religious sisters and brothers and lay leaders.</p><p><em>WBEZ&rsquo;s Claudia Morell contributed to this story.</em></p><iframe width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/177673495&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false"></iframe><iframe width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/177568268&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false"></iframe></p> Wed, 19 Nov 2014 10:46:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/cupich-becomes-chicago-archbishop-decries-abuse-111123 What’s filling the gap in small business lending? http://www.wbez.org/news/what%E2%80%99s-filling-gap-small-business-lending-111115 <p><p>Since the financial crisis, small business owners have had greater challenges getting loans. Traditional banks rarely lend those small amounts, and the community banks that typically serviced those loans have shrunk significantly.<br /><br />That lending gap has been a boon for a rapidly growing financial product called a merchant cash advance. Business owners can quickly get the money they need, but it can come at a very high price.</p><p>Edgar Jones explained that many in his position don&rsquo;t have other options. Jones asked to change his name for the story. He owns a company that cleans commercial sites. With less than 15 employees, the company makes about $500,000 in revenue each year. After booking a big job to do post-construction clean-up, Jones needed fast cash to buy more equipment. But the bank wouldn&rsquo;t approve the small loan he was looking for. So he turned to a merchant cash advance, or MCA.</p><p>&ldquo;At that time, you be so vulnerable you take it because you really need the money at that time. After that, that&rsquo;s when things either go uphill or downhill,&rdquo; Jones said.</p><p>The MCA company deposited the money in Jones&rsquo; account and began collecting on that debt the next day.</p><p>&ldquo;When the checks don&rsquo;t come on time, then they hit your account and then your account is in the negative,&rdquo; Jones said.</p><p>So when the repayment period was up, Jones said his bank account was still being drained. In order to pay off his most recent advance, he had to take on side jobs.</p><p>Jones&rsquo; credit score wasn&rsquo;t much of a factor in getting approval for the merchant cash advance. What mattered most was his daily cash flow.</p><p>Here&rsquo;s how it works. The MCA firm will deposit a lump sum into the business&rsquo; account, and then repayment can happen one of two ways. The MCA firm could collect by taking a cut of the business&rsquo; daily credit card sales. If there&rsquo;s no credit card sale that day, there&rsquo;s no collection.</p><p>With the other repayment plan, the MCA firm takes a daily withdrawal from the business&rsquo; account. If there&rsquo;s no sale that day, the MCA firm still debit the account. The repayment period is usually a short amount of time, like 90 days.</p><p>Sean Murray with the Daily Funder, a merchant cash advance forum, said it&rsquo;s the business owners&rsquo; responsibility to comb over the fine print. He hasn&rsquo;t heard of bad actors in the industry, but said he&rsquo;d be disappointed if the contract wasn&rsquo;t fully explained.<br /><br />&ldquo;At the end of the day, if they don&rsquo;t get back their money. It hurts them, too,&rdquo; Murray said.<br /><br />Merchant cash advances first came on the scene in the late 90s, but really took off after the financial crisis. Murray expects this industry to be worth about $5 billion for 2014. That&rsquo;s small compared to the personal lending industry, but it&rsquo;s big growth from the millions MCAs earned before the financial crisis.</p><p>Murray said the interest rate on an APR basis does seem high, upwards of 80 percent.</p><p>&ldquo;But what&rsquo;s important to note when we&rsquo;re talking about costs that are high like that---these loans sound really, really high--is that these loans amortize daily. And so the actual cost of the money might only be 20 percent. Let&rsquo;s say I give you $10,000 and the cost is $2,000, so that&rsquo;s 20 percent,&rdquo; Murray explained.</p><p>The MCA might be referred to as a loan, but it isn&rsquo;t the traditional personal loan with which most are familiar. It escapes the scrutiny of regulation.<br /><br />&ldquo;Merchant cash advances are business-to-business transactions. They don&rsquo;t involve consumers. The consumer protections that exist elsewhere in the market don&rsquo;t really apply to businesses. It doesn&rsquo;t mean there are no laws, and it&rsquo;s a free for all. But the laws are generally pretty lax,&rdquo; Murray said.</p><p>There&rsquo;s not really a central office these companies report to. It&rsquo;s not something that state lawmakers are keeping an eye on either.</p><p>Murray said people can certainly file any complaints with the Federal Trade Commission. He said the general industry consensus is that self-policing is the best option.<br /><br />&ldquo;Regulators come in and have a tendency to see part of the picture. It makes things more difficult for everyone else in the long run. It ends up hurting the customers they&rsquo;re trying to protect rather than helping them,&rdquo; Murray said.</p><p>Kevin Daleiden is the owner of Flange Advantage in Waukegan. He and two other men sell nuts and bolts out of a warehouse. Daleiden&rsquo;s taken out at least seven merchant cash advances. He said he&rsquo;s planned carefully for each one, but has still been caught off guard by fees he didn&rsquo;t notice in the contract terms.</p><p>&ldquo;One of the hardest things to get out of people at the very front is give me the payoff information. Give me the way I pay this back to you. There&rsquo;s not a one of them out there that will tell you the facts upfront. And they won&rsquo;t put it in writing until you&rsquo;re signing the documents,&rdquo; Daleiden said.</p><p>He said he&rsquo;s constantly getting calls, emails and letters from MCA firms trying to get him to sign a deal.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t know how they get my name, but there&rsquo;s hundreds of these companies out there and I think they call me everyday. I&rsquo;ve had one gentleman that yelled at me, says &lsquo;you need to give me all your business.&rsquo; I said &lsquo;I&rsquo;ll give my business to who I feel comfortable with,&rsquo; and he actually yelled at me on the phone,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />Daleiden is trying to move away from MCAs and toward microloans. He&rsquo;s now working with the Chicago non-profit Accion for his latest deal.<br /><br />Microloans are what they sound like, smaller loans to small businesses distributed by a qualified non-profit. Accion services amounts $100,000 and less.<br /><br />CEO Jonathan Brereton said it&rsquo;s a better loan option with less than 5 percent defaulting, but MCA firms can distribute the money faster. Brereton admits meeting the demand is a big challenge.</p><p>&ldquo;We think the market has a need and supply, there&rsquo;s still an enormous gap. So we think we&rsquo;re only serving about 15 percent of the market demand in Chicago,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />Brereton said this past year has exploded with clients like Edgar Jones and Kevin Daleiden trying to get out from under merchant cash advances. He&rsquo;s even seen people layering them.<br /><br />&ldquo;So they take one, cash flow gets tight. They take another. We&rsquo;ve seen people take five or six loans from different lenders. All in the 100-190 percent interest range. But no where on any of the agreements does it specify the actual interest rate,&rdquo; Brereton said.<br /><br />The gap in small business lending left behind by the financial crisis allowed merchant cash advances to thrive. The product has helped some businesses increase their revenue when they otherwise wouldn&rsquo;t have.</p><p>But Kevin Daleiden said it&rsquo;s also the reason why some businesses have failed.</p><p>&ldquo;My merchant advances have made them more money than I&rsquo;ve taken home this year, and I&rsquo;m doing the work. But I did that knowing it would be expensive. I had a goal,&rdquo; Daleiden said. &ldquo;If you don&rsquo;t&rsquo; have a long term goal, a way in and a way out, the merchant advances will kill you.&rdquo;</p><p><br /><em>Susie An is the business reporter for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/soosieon">@soosieon</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 18 Nov 2014 06:33:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/what%E2%80%99s-filling-gap-small-business-lending-111115 Mayor Byrne remembered as feisty, trailblazer http://www.wbez.org/news/mayor-byrne-remembered-feisty-trailblazer-111114 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/byrne funeral.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago said goodbye Monday to Jane Byrne, its first and only female mayor. Byrne was celebrated for her &ldquo;feisty&rdquo; personality and her &ldquo;trailblazing&rdquo; career in the mayor&rsquo;s office.</p><p>Her funeral was held at the St. Vincent de Paul Church in Lincoln Park - the same parish her parents attended in the late 1890s. Byrne&rsquo;s mother also attended grammar school there. A steady stream of friends, family members, politicos and regular Chicagoans attended her visitation and funeral Monday - including Mayor Rahm Emanuel.</p><p>&ldquo;She led our city in a way that captures the true spirit of Chicago: dogged, determined and dignified,&rdquo; Emanuel said. &ldquo;As the first woman to lead not just our city, but any major American city, Jane Byrne will always have a special place in the history books</p><p>The morning began with a traditional visitation at 9 am sharp. Jane Byrne lay peacefully inside an open casket with the Chicago flag laid delicately on top. The sun snuck in through the ornate stained glass windows of the church and made her blonde hair shine.</p><p>For the most part, the mood was more jovial than somber: Old friends and colleagues greeted each other in more of the manner of a holiday party. Many, like Angel Correa, sported Byrne&rsquo;s old campaign buttons.</p><p>Correa said he campaigned hard for Byrne back in the early 1980s -- even as he clocked hours as a circulation manager at the Chicago Tribune.</p><p>&ldquo;And I&rsquo;ll tell you one thing,&rdquo; he said, while clutching a collage of old pictures of Mayor Byrne. &ldquo;I used to take her literature and actually stuff it in the Tribune papers. If they would have found that out, I probably would [have] got canned!&rdquo;</p><p>Correa later went on to serve as the deputy commissioner of neighborhoods for Mayor Byrne.</p><p>&ldquo;Believe me when I tell you: A very feisty lady, very bossy, but a very, very good, warm person with a good heart.&rdquo;</p><p>That feistiness was a constant theme throughout the funeral mass -- especially in the homily from Monsignor Kenneth Velo.</p><p>&ldquo;I remember walking into her room one day. She was peering out her window to the east, looking toward the lake. She didn&rsquo;t know I was there. I said Jane! She looked back and said &ldquo;you scared the hell out of me! And I said, good!&rdquo;</p><p>Velo spoke both of Byrne&rsquo;s accomplishments and her trials: like her vision for the museum campus, or the death of her first husband soon after the birth of their only child Kathy.</p><p>&ldquo;Was she perfect? Are you? Am I? Did she have faults? Sure. Don&rsquo;t you? Don&rsquo;t I? But she loved the city of Chicago. And she was proud that she was mayor of the city of Chicago,&rdquo; Velo said.</p><p>According to Velo, Byrne also proudly planned this mass.</p><p>Her great-grand nieces read the petitions and prayers, and her only grandson, Willy, read one of her favorite quotes from Senator Robert Kennedy.</p><p>But some of deepest emotion and reflection came from Byrne&rsquo;s daughter, Kathy.</p><p>&ldquo;My mother was dragon slaying, problem solving, 24/7 guardian angel,&rdquo; Byrne said.</p><p>Byrne said she often thinks about how life would have been if her dad had survived - she says her mom would have likely lived as a socialite on the North shore. But instead, Byrne said her mom fought for her independence. Back then, women weren&rsquo;t allowed to have their own credit accounts. When her dad died, Byrne says her mom had to fight tooth and nail at Saks Fifth Avenue to get that credit back -- a hurtful and humiliating experience that came to back to Byrne when she lived in Chicago&rsquo;s housing projects.</p><p>&ldquo;When my mom spoke to the mothers in Cabrini. And she heard how some of the merchants in the area refused their food stamps and called them names, called them worthless [and] did this in front of their children. My mother could share what they felt,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>And Byrne says her mother loved every minute of her time as mayor.</p><p>&ldquo;She was a great lady. And I&rsquo;ll never know anyone like her.&rdquo;</p><p>As Byrne&rsquo;s family carried her casket into the brisk Chicago winds - another fitting - but unplanned - theme appeared: Snow.</p><p>It was a snowfall in 1979 that swept Mayor Byrne into office. So it only seemed fitting that snowflakes fell softly on the Chicago flag that covered her coffin.</p><p><em>Lauren Chooljian is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian">@laurenchooljian</a></em></p></p> Tue, 18 Nov 2014 06:13:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/mayor-byrne-remembered-feisty-trailblazer-111114 StoryCorps: Adoptive mom encourages teenage boy http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/storycorps-adoptive-mom-encourages-teenage-boy-111112 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/scorpsadopt.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>&ldquo;My mom was the only one there, but she was a good mom,&rdquo; Matt Fitzsimmons says in this week&rsquo;s StoryCorps. &ldquo;She loved us very much. But she didn&rsquo;t have much to work with, because she was a single mom. And she passed on from cancer when I was 14. My dad came back like two months before my mom passed, and he was going to take care of us. But my dad had enough troubles of his own, with alcohol. So my sister and I had to deal with a single alcoholic parent in the house and basically he was perpetually mad at us for no good reason.&rdquo;</p><p>Fitzsimmons came to StoryCorps with Shirley Paulson, a woman who&rsquo;d known him since before he was born. She had just moved back to Chicago around the time of Fitzsimmons&rsquo; mother&rsquo;s funeral.</p><p>&ldquo;I found you then after your younger sister had gone off to school and you were living alone then with your dad&hellip;That was bad. If I remember correctly you were living with your dad in the house with a dog and a couple cats and it seemed like they had more care than you did.&rdquo;</p><p>Paulson explains how Fitzsimmons worked one summer at a camp alongside their son, Tim.</p><p>&ldquo;When we went to the airport to pick up Tim from camp, Tim said, &lsquo;Matt needs a ride home. Can we bring him home?&rsquo; Sure. So we just jumped you in the car and when we dropped you off at your house, I was stunned to realize that here you&rsquo;d been away all summer, you got your luggage out of the car, went up to the house, and there was nobody there to even say hello.&quot;</p><p>&ldquo;Oh he was there,&rdquo; Fitzsimmons says. &ldquo;He was just asleep on the couch, with the five cars in the driveway and the lawn really long.&quot;</p><p>&ldquo;Exactly,&rdquo; Paulson says. &ldquo;Well, the next day was Labor Day and I thought: Why don&rsquo;t we invite Matt over? We thought maybe you&rsquo;d like to come and join us. So I was a little bit nervous calling you &lsquo;cause I didn&rsquo;t know you that well. So we invited you and you said so quickly: &lsquo;Yes! Sure!&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;And I noticed that you ate and ate and ate and ate. You were hungry. And so I said to my husband afterwards: &lsquo;Do you think Matt would like to come over for some more food tomorrow?&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Then it became obvious that you were joining us more than the typical teenager coming over to have food with a family.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I think I talked your head off,&rdquo; Fitzsimmons says. &ldquo;We talked a lot.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Yeah, we did talk a lot,&rdquo; Paulson says, &ldquo;and I loved that. I felt honored that you would &ndash; as a teenager - take the time to talk to me. And share your life, and it meant so much to me. It really did. But I don&rsquo;t think you realized for a while what it meant to be in the family. It took you a while to register. And it was hard to do because you had to deal with the fact that you had a family. And yet you also were being part of us. And you had loyalty to your family, which was right to do.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;It was frustrating to me to have to drive you home every day across Glenview and drop you off into that nothing of a house. And then come back and pick you up the next day and bring you home and have some nice time with you and drive you back home again. And I thought: &lsquo;Why won&rsquo;t he just move in?&rsquo; But there was some stuff you had to deal with.&rdquo;</p><p>Fitzsimmons says, &ldquo;So, you were the nice person helping me. Then you converted into parental person, which is a huge shift, because you went from nice to &lsquo;You have to do this to get to the next stage of your life.&rsquo;&hellip;When I think about all those twists and turns throughout life. And if I didn&rsquo;t do this turn or that turn where would I be&hellip;That was probably the biggest turn for you to say, &lsquo;We&rsquo;re going to save him from devastation.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Of course we didn&rsquo;t think of saving you. We thought of we needed you. You&rsquo;ll get that through your head one of these days.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ll say it officially: I love you.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Oh, Matt! Can I say &lsquo;I love you&rsquo; too?&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;You do all the time!&rdquo;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/playlists/6250422&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="888px"></iframe></p></p> Mon, 17 Nov 2014 17:42:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/storycorps-adoptive-mom-encourages-teenage-boy-111112