WBEZ | News http://www.wbez.org/news Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Questions raised about Daley's health http://www.wbez.org/news/questions-raised-about-daleys-health-110548 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Daley_1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The health of former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley could be keeping him from testifying in a lawsuit over a contract from when he was in office.</p><p>Daley was subpoenaed by attorneys for a restaurant in Millenium Park to testify in their lawsuit against the City of Chicago. Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s administration sued the restaurant in 2011 over its original contract.</p><p>Through court filings, Daley&rsquo;s lawyers argued he wasn&rsquo;t healthy enough to take the stand, and he didn&rsquo;t want his medical situation made public. The former mayor suffered symptoms similar to a stroke earlier this year, but last month, Cook County Commissioner John Daley told reporters at an unrelated press event that his brother was in &ldquo;excellent health&rdquo; and was &ldquo;enjoying life.&rdquo;</p><p>Judge Moshe Jacobius ruled Wednesday that Daley&rsquo;s medical records could be kept private, but that any other hearings regarding whether or not Daley could testify would be open, though his medical information would always be omitted. Jacobius said as a former mayor, Daley affords no greater rights than an average citizen, but no lesser rights either, and thus his medical history can remain out of the public viewing. Jacobius ruled that only those involved in the case would be allowed to attend a hearing Wednesday where the medical records were revealed.</p><p>But after that group met behind closed doors, the Park Grill lawyers were convinced they should withdraw their subpoena of Daley.</p><p>&ldquo;We saw the medical information which I cannot disclose, and it was such that it was the right thing to do to withdraw the subpoena,&rdquo; said Stephen Novak, one of the Park Grill attorneys. &ldquo;I can&rsquo;t say anything at all about what was in there - you heard what the judge said.&rdquo;</p><p>The judge said the case would continue without Daley, unless his situation changes. Attorneys are now able to use a discovery deposition the former mayor gave last summer, though that document has been called into criticism for the lack of answers the mayor gave to general questions.</p><p><em>Lauren Chooljian is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her</em> <em><a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian">@laurenchooljian</a></em></p></p> Wed, 23 Jul 2014 17:41:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/questions-raised-about-daleys-health-110548 Losing school librarians in Chicago Public Schools http://www.wbez.org/news/losing-school-librarians-chicago-public-schools-110547 <p><p>Having a school library with a full-time librarian is becoming something of a luxury in Chicago&rsquo;s 600-plus public schools.<br /><br />Two years ago, Chicago Public School budgeted for 454 librarians.<br />Last year: 313 librarians.<br />This year? 254.<br /><br />Those are the numbers Megan Cusick, a librarian at Nancy B. Jefferson Alternative School, laid out at a recent meeting held by the parent group Raise Your Hand.<br /><br />&ldquo;As many of you recall, around the time we went on strike, we talked about how we had 160 schools that did not have school libraries,&rdquo; Cusick said. &ldquo;This shows what came after.&rdquo;<br /><br />Cusick and her colleagues have started speaking out about the dwindling number of librarians in CPS. They showed up at last month&rsquo;s Board of Education meeting and many spoke at last week&rsquo;s budget hearings.<br /><br />CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett says the librarian shortage is because there aren&rsquo;t enough librarians in the hiring pool.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not that we don&rsquo;t want to have librarians in libraries,&rdquo; Byrd-Bennett said at last month&rsquo;s board meeting. &ldquo;Nobody can argue that point, but the pool is diminished.&rdquo;<br /><br />So where have all the librarians gone?<br /><br />Cusick said there&rsquo;s not a shortage, like Byrd-Bennett stated, and it&rsquo;s not that librarians are being laid off. It&rsquo;s that they&rsquo;re being re-assigned to classrooms..<br /><br />&ldquo;There are a number of certified librarians who are in classrooms,&rdquo; Cusick explained. &ldquo;English classrooms, world languages, in elementary schools, teaching a particular grade level. The people are there, they&rsquo;re just not staffing the library, they&rsquo;re staffing another classroom.&rdquo;<br /><br />Some of the city&rsquo;s best-performing schools have eliminated full-time librarians.<br /><br />That&rsquo;s what happened at Nettelhorst Elementary in East Lakeview last school year. Scott Walter is a parent representative on the local school council at Nettelhorst and a librarian at DePaul University.</p><p>&ldquo;We got down to the point of saying, well, we have a classroom and it doesn&rsquo;t have a teacher,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />In the state of Illinois, all librarians must also have teaching certifications, and most also have endorsements to teach specific grades and subjects.<br /><br />When the district stopped funding positions and let principals and school councils decide how to spend their money, many had a hard time making the numbers add up.</p><p>For Nettelhorst, it was &ldquo;here&rsquo;s the position and she can be in a library or we can have a teacher in front of 30 kids,&rdquo; Walter said. &ldquo;And no matter how much you love libraries and as much as I do, you can&rsquo;t have a classroom without a teacher in front of it.&rdquo;<br /><br />Walter says even though the librarian is now teaching 4th grade, the students can still use the library, because the clerk and parent volunteers help staff it.<br /><br />Still, he says, it&rsquo;s a lose-lose.<br /><br />&ldquo;As a parent, it feels that CPS has set us up into a situation where we have to decided which finger we don&rsquo;t want,&rdquo; Walter said.<br /><br />There&rsquo;s no required amount of minutes for library instruction in the state of Illinois.<br /><br />In a fact sheet to WBEZ, CPS officials touted the expanded virtual libraries available to all students. And at the very top of the page in bold letters and underlined, a spokesperson wrote &ldquo;we will not be satisfied until we have central and/OR classroom-based libraries in every school.&rdquo;<br /><br />Cusick said librarians do so much more than just check out books. They teach kids how to do research, how to find and evaluate information, a skill that&rsquo;s becoming even more important in the digital age.<br /><br />&ldquo;Kids don&rsquo;t just know how to do that,&rdquo; Cusick notes. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not a skill that they develop just because they have an iPhone or because they have a computer at home, which many of our students don&rsquo;t have.&rdquo;<br /><br />Cusick and her colleagues don&rsquo;t want to see librarians added at the expense of other positions, like art teachers and physical education teachers. But they also don&rsquo;t want to see school libraries just become places where meetings and press conferences are held.</p></p> Wed, 23 Jul 2014 16:40:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/losing-school-librarians-chicago-public-schools-110547 Winners of WBEZ’s Student Stories http://www.wbez.org/news/winners-wbez%E2%80%99s-student-stories-110541 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/wbez-education-student-stories.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In March, Mayor Rahm Emanuel sat down for <a href="http://www.msnbc.com/the-daily-rundown/watch/emanuel-chicago-will-be-100-college-ready-201075267595">an interview with MSNBC&rsquo;s Chuck Todd</a>, and in the course of a five minute conversation about school reform, Emanuel used the term &ldquo;high-quality&rdquo; 13 times.</p><p>The mayor mentioned a few things he considers high-quality: military schools, schools that test kids for admission, and elementary schools focused on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.</p><p>By coincidence, the same week as that interview, a young man named Troy Boccelli wrote WBEZ with an idea. He thought maybe the wrong people are defining what &ldquo;high-quality education&rdquo; is.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think you really gauge well enough what&rsquo;s wrong with a school or what you can change if you don&rsquo;t asked the students themselves,&rdquo; Boccelli said.</p><p>So <a href="http://wbezstudentstories.tumblr.com/">WBEZ put out a call for submissions</a>. We asked students to tell us what they think makes a high-quality school.</p><p>We heard everything from more diversity to more student voice to bigger hallways and smaller class sizes.</p><p>The kids interviewed in this story went to five very different schools. Boccelli, the kid with the question, went to Walter Payton College Prep, a selective enrollment school on the north side. Several go to Hancock College Prep, a neighborhood high school on the South West side. &nbsp;Two attend other neighborhood schools in the city and one attended a suburban public high school and will be transferring back into a private Waldorf school this fall.</p><p>Of all of the responses about high-quality schools, WBEZ picked two to highlight. The first comes from two recent graduates from Chicago Public Schools.</p><p>Mahalia Crawford and Rae Bellinger proposed their idea of a perfect school.</p><p>&ldquo;<em>Our school was basically the American Dream High School. It would have like more vocational classes and classes we would really need like logical math. I go to a vocational high school, and I see how it benefited people who graduated before me and how it benefited me because I learned stuff and now I can go and get a job that I can help pay for college with.&rdquo; - Rae Bellinger</em></p><blockquote><p><a href="#bellinger"><strong>Read Bellinger and Crawford&rsquo;s complete submission</strong></a></p></blockquote><p>But lots of kids in Greater Chicago don&rsquo;t go to Chicago Public Schools. We got a few submissions from outside of CPS and one was from a young lady named Olivia Love-Hatlestad.</p><p>Olivia went to Da Vinci Waldorf School in Wauconda until her freshman year, when she transferred into Grayslake Central high school. She talked to us about the culture shock&hellip;.</p><p>&ldquo;I went to this school where the teachers shook our hands every morning and asked us you know how we were and they got to understand who we were as people,&rdquo; Love-Hatlestad said in an interview with WBEZ. &ldquo;They could tell if you were sick or if you were faking sick or if you needed help outside of class because they knew you and they actually cared about you. And then I entered public school, where, to know our last names, teachers had to check a roster.&rdquo;</p><p>She talked a lot about giving students individual attention and really focusing on comprehension, rather than memorizing facts, something she thinks public schools focus far too much on.</p><p>&ldquo;I retained, like, zero information, because what&rsquo;s being given to us are packets and lists of names and dates that we have to memorize,&rdquo; Love-Hatlestad said. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s in one ear and out the other. And sure I can retain it long enough to be assessed on it and since that&rsquo;s all that matters, that&rsquo;s fine. That&rsquo;s been swept under the rug. The actual comprehension is kind of just a byproduct. It&rsquo;s a bonus, like if you actually get it that&rsquo;s great, but you don&rsquo;t really have to.&rdquo;</p><blockquote><p><a href="#olivia"><strong>Read Olivia&rsquo;s complete essay</strong></a></p></blockquote><p>These are just two of the couple dozen responses we got when we put the question about &ldquo;high-quality&rdquo; education out to students.</p><p>In the interviews WBEZ did with Love-Hatlestad, Crawford and Bellinger, Boccelli asked the other students what they would change about their schools if they could change <em>only one</em> thing. So, I flipped the question on him.</p><p>He had two responses. First, he talked about the seminar classes at Payton, which are days when students can choose to do something separate from their regular schedule, everything from tutoring elementary kids in math to Tai Chi to hunting for vinyl records.</p><p>&ldquo;My freshman year, it was pretty much like every week,&rdquo; Boccelli said. &ldquo;Then my junior and senior year, they made it every other week. I guess I would change it back. And that sounds like one of those 12-year-old/18-year-old decisions, but I felt like having seminars was really important just because it gave me a break during the week, but I was still learning to a degree.&rdquo;</p><p>But the other thing Boccelli said he would change is that, with all the focus on college at his school, he didn&rsquo;t get an opportunity to take any vocational classes, like Mahalia and Rae. &nbsp;</p><p>Troy heads to Harvard in less than a month, and is confident he&rsquo;ll do just fine. But still, he says, it would be nice to see what it&rsquo;s like to be an electrician or a plumber, and it would be nice if every kid graduated with the ability to fall back on a decent paying job.</p><p><strong><span style="font-size:22px;">Bellinger and Crawford&rsquo;s submission<a name="bellinger"></a></span></strong></p><p>Our best school in the world would have:</p><ul><li>Vocational classes: learn how to do hair, cook, nurse, and housework.</li><li>A student government</li><li>Job opportunities at or through school</li><li>Big Brother and Big Sister</li><li>Gardens and nice sports fields</li><li>At least 12 counselors</li><li>Available to everyone</li><li>Classes that make sense: logical math, &nbsp;engaging reading</li><li>Life planning classes</li><li>Hands-on learning</li><li>A healthy environment. (Sometimes we can have salad and sometimes we can eat ribs.)</li><li>&ldquo;Giving back&rdquo; programs, to make it easy for us to do service learning.</li><li>Instead of calling them field trips lets call them&nbsp;<u>GOAL TRIP</u>.</li><li>Cultural festivals and make the schools more diverse.</li><li>Classes where students can learn each others cultures.</li><li>I want my teachers to be able to have faith in me when they walk outside the classroom or when they test us.</li></ul><p><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>Olivia&#39;s Essay<a name="olivia"></a></strong></span></p><p>I attended a small private school for ten years, by the name of Water&rsquo;s Edge Waldorf School. The classes were small, with the same teachers every year. We had a snack time&nbsp;<em>and</em>&nbsp;a lunch time, two recesses, Spanish, German, woodworking, painting, handwork, language arts, hands-on science and practical math. Every morning our teachers shook our hands and asked us how we were. They cared about us, and made the consistent effort to connect with and understand us. We not only learned the (what I now realize is invaluable) skill of engaging in conversation with an adult, but we developed deeply respectful relationships with our teachers. We were inspired to strive for excellence not by the pressure put on a grade, but by the desire to please these mentors to whom we looked up so earnestly. Every day as a child, I&rsquo;d come home from school, and my father would ask me, &ldquo;What did you learn today that you didn&rsquo;t know this morning?&rdquo; And every day, for ten years, I could tell him something different. I was as eager to relay the information as I was to learn it. I&nbsp;<em>loved</em>&nbsp;school. I loved learning. I didn&rsquo;t realize how rare a quality that was until I entered a world of total apathy. A world of standardized tests, worksheets, and a mass of people who literally couldn&rsquo;t care less about any of it. A system of education making teachers obsolete by pushing independent projects, independent reading, and packets to be done (wait for it) independently.</p><p>Ask any random public school student what they learned on an average day of school, and they will tell you: nothing. Nothing is being&nbsp;<em>taught</em>&nbsp;in public school. Facts are drilled, not taught, memorized, not learned. Posters on the walls of every classroom scream &ldquo;<strong>BE YOURSELF</strong>,&rdquo; &ldquo;<strong>DIFFERENT IS GOOD</strong>,&rdquo; and yet every student is force-fed the same material in the same dry, loveless way. Where in all these fill-in-the-blank worksheets and assigned textbook readings is there wiggle room for individuality? How can we&nbsp;<em>be</em>&nbsp;ourselves if we&rsquo;re being drilled in droves to be basically indistinguishable? Millions of colorfully unique children should not be taught in an identical way, let alone expected to perform with equal aptitude. It would seem that the goal is no longer to build a brighter generation, but to breed instead a population of brainwashed, mindless yes-men.</p><p>In the best school in the world, creative opportunity is present in every class, so the students can take pride in their work and have the freedom to create something truly uniquely beautiful. There is hands-on study in things like science, as well as relevant, relatable sciences classes. Math is taught not for blind memorization, but for actual comprehension, exercising critical thinking skills. There is outdoor time at least once a day, as well as an additional 15 minute break in the early morning, because not only is it scientifically proven to stimulate neurological function, it just makes good sense! Lectures are delivered with context, opportunity for questions, and by a teacher who in turn asks the students about said topic, so as to ensure that they not only know, but understand &nbsp;and can discuss it. Teachers make an effort to connect with their students, so as to better understand their weaknesses/strengths. Educators are given the freedom to do just that, unencumbered by the ties of a government-set standard and curriculum. There is study of other cultures in multiple classes, drawing parallels between them. &nbsp;Religion is not pushed, but multiple religions are studied, so that students may better understand the world as a whole.There are a wide range of subjects, all required, so that each student can &nbsp;discover his/her passion, and pursue it. No one feels talentless or worthless, because differences are not only celebrated, they are nurtured.</p><p>This school is not a pipe dream. It is not some unachievable fantasy. It exists. School has become demonized as this thing we all hate and suffer through because we&nbsp;<em>have&nbsp;</em>to, but it doesn&rsquo;t have to be that way. We can save the world by putting a stop to the breeding of quietly dispassionate conformists, and allowing humanity to embrace its natural diversity. We can really educate, and raise people who care about what&rsquo;s happening in the world, and&nbsp;<em>why</em>. If there is to be any real hope for humanity, schools must stop being so concerned with teaching &ldquo;what,&rdquo; and remember how to teach &ldquo;why.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is a producer and reporter for WBEZ. Follow her </em><a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation"><em>@WBEZeducation</em></a><em>.</em></p></p> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 17:09:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/winners-wbez%E2%80%99s-student-stories-110541 Billboards demand respect for transgender women http://www.wbez.org/news/billboards-demand-respect-transgender-women-110535 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/transgender_140722_nm.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Ten billboards targeting misperceptions about transgender women are up on the South and West Sides of Chicago.</p><p>A pair of anonymous high-heel clad legs is paired with this message: &ldquo;She&rsquo;s just walking, not working. Respect transgender women.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I think the biggest stigma is that trans are street workers,&rdquo; said Danielle Love, a peer outreach educator for <a href="http://www.chicagohouse.org/?post_causes=translife-center">TransLife</a>, a program of Chicago House. The nonprofit advocates for the transgender community and is behind the billboards.</p><p>&ldquo;My own personal story to tie into that is just 15 years of if I&rsquo;m walking to a store and I get stopped by the police and they say what are you doing? Where are you going. Why are you out here?&rdquo; Love said. &ldquo;Just by those questions and the fact I was pulled over, that already says right there a lot.&rdquo;</p><p>The intent of the campaign, which kicked off in July, is to blanket areas where there are fewer resources for transgender women who face many societal and health barriers. Soon posters will go in doctor&rsquo;s offices and health clinics. <a href="http://firebellydesign.com/">Firebelly Design</a> did the billboards pro bono.</p><p>Lex Lawson, housing manager of the TransLife Center, acknowledges some transgender women engage in sex work.</p><p>&ldquo;That is work and that&rsquo;s valid work. It&rsquo;s survival. There&rsquo;s no shame in that. This is more to say that that&rsquo;s not the only thing trans women are. They are more than sex workers and if they are, we need to examine why people feel that&rsquo;s the only option they have,&rdquo; Lawson said.</p><p>It&rsquo;s hard to quantify the local transgender community in Chicago. But Chicago House encounters individuals who have difficulty accessing housing and employment. <a href="http://www.thetaskforce.org/downloads/reports/fact_sheets/transsurvey_prelim_findings.pdf">National research</a> from a few years ago found widespread discrimination against transgender people.</p><p>&ldquo;All we want are equal rights as everyone else. We are employable. We are your neighbors,&rdquo; Love said.</p><p><em><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> Follow Natalie on <a href="https://plus.google.com//104033432051539426343" rel="me">Google+</a>, &nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/natalieymoore">Twitter</a></em></p></p> Mon, 21 Jul 2014 14:14:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/billboards-demand-respect-transgender-women-110535 Neighborhood value a challenge for housing recovery http://www.wbez.org/news/neighborhood-value-challenge-housing-recovery-110530 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/buying-distressed.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s housing market has been recovering steadily in recent years. The rate of foreclosure filings has gone down across the city, and home prices have significantly increased compared to a year ago.</p><p>But some neighborhoods aren&rsquo;t recovering nearly as fast as others. You might think you know all the reasons why, but there&rsquo;s a new wrinkle in this post-bubble housing market.</p><p>It&rsquo;s no surprise that a nicely finished four-bedroom, two-bathroom single family home in Chicago&rsquo;s North Center neighborhood can be listed on the market for $669,000. A similar home in Austin on the city&rsquo;s West Side could be listed at $179,000.</p><blockquote><p><a href="#map"><strong>Map: See how housing numbers compare in Chicago communities</strong></a></p></blockquote><p>Geoff Smith with DePaul Housing Institute says in this recovery, hot neighborhoods like Lincoln Park are reaching sale prices beyond their original peak.</p><p>&ldquo;Really, the price increase you&rsquo;re seeing in these stronger markets are more a function of supply and demand dynamics and access to credit. To the extent that [credit] is available is going to be more abundant in those areas because borrowers have stronger financial conditions,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>So a nearly half a million dollar price difference from one neighborhood to the next is likely based a lot on location.</p><p>But in some cases, it could actually be more difficult for a middle class family to get a bank loan to buy the cheaper house in the distressed neighborhood.</p><p><strong>One family&rsquo;s odyssey</strong></p><p>This happened to my friend Leila Noelliste. Her middle class family wanted to put down roots in North Lawndale on the West Side of the city. Last year, 80 percent of its total residential property sales were cash transactions and nearly a quarter were considered extremely low value, like about the price of a car.</p><p>Noelliste wasn&rsquo;t making a cash purchase. She offered $182,000 for a two- flat in the neighborhood.</p><p>&ldquo;When we got it inspected, it was really sturdy. Good foundation, good roof, didn&rsquo;t need a lot of repairs,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;There were two sets of tenants living in it. It was just a good building on a good block.&rdquo;</p><p>She had plans for her family to live in one unit while renting out the other. But those plans came to a halt because of the home&rsquo;s value --its appraisal.</p><p>&ldquo;It was appraised for like in the 140s. And we were shocked. I mean, I know this isn&rsquo;t a great area, but that just seemed really, really low,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>The bank would only finance a loan for the appraised amount. Noelliste and her husband Norman Baldwin didn&rsquo;t have the out of pocket money to pay the extra $40,000 on top of a down payment, so they had to move on.</p><p>That block in North Lawndale is wedged between two main thoroughfares, Cermak and Ogden. The street is mostly rental units, nicely maintained buildings. But there were a number of boarded up houses and vacant lots.</p><p>A short drive east on Ogden Avenue takes you in front of small businesses, boarded up commercial properties and some vacant lots before you get to the vast manicured greenery of Douglas Park. The rising buildings of the Medical District can be seen in the distance, and new rehabs start to pop up along the residential streets.</p><p><strong>&ldquo;Baffling, frustrating&rdquo;</strong></p><p>A less than 10-minute drive brings you to the Near West Side, where Leila ended up buying a home.</p><p>&ldquo;Upstairs we have a master bedroom with a walk-in closet, with a master bathroom. And then we have two smaller bedrooms. One of the bedrooms we use as my office-guest room. And the other room, my son is in. So it&rsquo;s a beautiful home,&rdquo; Noelliste said.</p><p>They offered $285,000 for the place, and it was accepted..</p><p>&ldquo;My credit was good, Norm&rsquo;s credit was good. We had a lot in our savings. All it was &nbsp;[the lower appraisal on the two-flat] was the value of the house. That&rsquo;s all it boiled down to. &nbsp;Which is baffling, very, very frustrating,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Here&rsquo;s a family now living in a $285,000 house, but couldn&rsquo;t get the financing for a place &nbsp;$100,000 cheaper in a less desirable neighborhood.</p><p>&ldquo;Our friends who were looking in the area, they too were like middle class people who wanted to move back into Lawndale and to try to help build the community and they were just essentially being shut out,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>To be clear, this applies to homebuyers looking to get a loan and not cash purchasers.</p><p>Geoff Smith with DePaul says cash investors aren&rsquo;t bad. They can even help market recovery.</p><p>&ldquo;You need those types of players to continue to have the market be active and for it to recover. If there&rsquo;s weak demand in a market and no one&rsquo;s buying anything, the properties will continue to deteriorate,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;So the hope is the investors will stabilize the neighborhood to some extent.&rdquo;</p><p>But for neighborhoods like Lawndale, that recovery is slow going with the cash activity. &nbsp;The Noelliste family couldn&rsquo;t get the loan they needed because values were low in this distressed neighborhood. &nbsp;So they went to a nicer area, a neighborhood that includes the Medical District and the United Center, &nbsp;and they had no problem getting a loan to buy a house for $285,000.</p><p>A number of housing people I talked to about Noelliste&rsquo;s home buying story, including mortgage lenders, housing advocates, appraisers-- none of them were surprised. They all said, &ldquo;Yeah, that happens.&rdquo;</p><p>Michael Hobbs, president of Pahroo Appraisal and Consultancy was one of those people.</p><p>&ldquo;If distressed properties are the predominant occurrence in that market, then that is what&rsquo;s typically going to drive pricing,&rdquo; he said.</p><p><strong>Comparing neighborhood properties</strong></p><p>That means if you&rsquo;ve got an area with lots of boarded up houses and lots of extremely low value sales, then it&rsquo;s likely that even a newly rehabbed house would be appraised at a lower price. Hobbs says that&rsquo;s because most residential appraisals are determined by comparing that property with ones that have recently sold in the neighborhood.</p><p>&ldquo;In the desirable neighborhoods, there&rsquo;s an insufficient amount of inventory or supply and therefore buyers are competing even more ferociously to be in place, to be the one individual or family that is successful in buying that property,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>So in an area like Lincoln Park, that demand drives prices way up, even beyond peak prices. And appraisers and banks feel comfortable with that because they have the numbers to back it up. But when someone wants to make a traditional purchase in a marginal area like Lawndale, appraisers and lenders are more conservative, especially after what happened during the housing crisis.</p><p>&ldquo;You&rsquo;re not rewarded for taking risk,&rdquo; said Rob Rose, chief operating officer of the Chicago Community Loan Fund.</p><p>He said it can be more punitive for banks to go against regulation or to make policy exceptions, like approving a mortgage loan for $182,000 when the house was appraised at $140,000.</p><p>According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, lending policy exceptions will be reviewed to determine whether the lending institution&rsquo;s decisions are adequately documented and appropriate in light of all of the relevant credit considerations. According to FDIC, a lot of exceptions may signal a weakening of a bank&rsquo;s underwriting practices.</p><p>Rose said for people in Noelliste&rsquo;s situation, it&rsquo;s just easier for banks to say no. &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;For those bankers involved, then that&rsquo;s a bit of their own equity they have to put at risk for the regulators to explain why they made that exception,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Rose said in the post-bubble market, banks are putting more weight on the value of a property than they did before. He thinks using cash transactions and distressed sales as comparables doesn&rsquo;t really give a true market sense for what a house should sell for.</p><p>&ldquo;So if I&rsquo;m telling you the market is such that I can now sell this house for a higher amount, that should mean something,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Rose says banks sometimes get in their own way in this post bubble market. He says banks need to start having the courage to make policy exceptions and be willing to explain their actions.</p><p>Rose says it&rsquo;s unlikely that national institutions like Bank of America or Chase would do this because of the volume of loans they deal with. But he says community banks have the opportunity to step up and give loans at a higher value to people who are willing and have the ability to make the payments.</p><p>He says then we might eventually see values edge up in these marginal neighborhoods.</p><p><span style="font-size: 22px;">Map: Chicago housing statistics<a name="map"></a></span></p><p><iframe height="750px" scrolling="no" seamless="seamless" src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/maps/housing/index.html" width="600px"></iframe></p><p><em>Susie An is WBEZ&rsquo;s business reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/soosieon">@soosieon</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 21 Jul 2014 08:18:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/neighborhood-value-challenge-housing-recovery-110530 After Water: 'How do you sleep at night?' http://www.wbez.org/series/front-and-center-water/after-water-how-do-you-sleep-night-110529 <p><p>This summer WBEZ has been reporting <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/dayton-ohio-economic-comeback-water-110520">a lot on water</a> and the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/great-lakes-brace-more-toxic-algae-110112">Great Lakes.</a> But this week we are beginning a series that puts a twist on that&mdash;it is called <a href="http://afterwater.tumblr.com/">After Water.</a> We have asked fiction writers to pen stories set in the Great Lakes region some 100 years from now. We paired them with scientists and asked them to leap off from there. &nbsp;</p><p>As we looked for writers who would be game for this experiment, we came across <a href="http://www.michelemorano.com/">Michele Morano</a>. She teaches creative nonfiction at DePaul University and it turned out she was already talking with scientists. We decided to launch our series with the story about those conversations.</p><p>It all started when Morano was having trouble sleeping. She would wake up in the middle of the night, thinking about climate change. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t even think I knew enough then to imagine scenarios, I think I just had this blank fear of, what&#39;s going to happen, what&rsquo;s going to happen to my child?&rdquo; she explained.</p><p>All her 3 a.m Googling wasn&rsquo;t helping much. But then she tripped upon this online support group for people anxious about climate change. No one was debating politics or policy, they were just genuinely trying to figure out the same problem Morano was trying to solve.</p><p>&ldquo;How do we get through, not even through the global warming, but how do we get through what we are facing right now, which is the kind of knowledge that something awful is coming, but not knowing exactly what&rsquo;s that going to look like?&rdquo; said Morano.</p><p>This online support group was for everyday people, but Morano started to wonder if the people who study climate change were having these conversations, too. Do scientist feel better because they know more? Or is it scary studying about what could be ahead? So she did something kind of crazy and kind of brave: she called some of the top climate change scientists and asked: What are you seeing and how are you coping?</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">How it feels to predict the future</span></p><p>Morano thought it would be hard to get the scientists to be emotionally open, but it turned out they were eager to talk. Some scientists said they just did not focus on the future too much, because they had to detach themselves if they were going to keep working to solve the problem. Others said they worried about their children and grandchildren.</p><p>Morano says most scientists she talked with did not &nbsp;think we will be able to stop the earth from heating up by at least <a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/energy/2014/02/1402277-global-warming-2-degree-target/">two degrees on average</a>. As Morano talked with scientists, she started to get a more real idea of what that was going to look like.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Related: <a href="https://soundcloud.com/morningshiftwbez/water-issues-in-the-west-could">What water issues in California mean for the Midwest</a></strong></p></blockquote><p><a href="https://woods.stanford.edu/about/woods-faculty/terry-root">Terry Root</a>, one of the &ldquo;go-to scientists&rdquo; looking at how animals and plants handle climate change, told Morano that if we get to 2 degrees warmer, we could lose 20 to 40 percent of all the known species on the planet. If we get to 4 degrees warmer then we could lose as many as half.</p><p>&ldquo;Some of them are going to be species that we need. How do we know what species we need ahead of time? We can&rsquo;t save them all. That&rsquo;s why I get into<a href="http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/conservationists-triage-determine-which-endangered-species-to-save/"> triage</a>,&rdquo; Root told Morano.</p><p>Morano said it was comforting for someone to be frank about the harsh situation we were up against, it was also comforting to hear such practical solutions. But Morano says she could tell that Root was also someone who was struggling with the realities.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I just had a discussion on the phone with my boyfriend about how much longer can I do what I&rsquo;m doing,&rdquo; Root told Morano. &ldquo;I &nbsp;mean all I do all day long is think about how species are going extinct. It is tough. It truly is tough.&rdquo;</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/Screen%20Shot%202014-07-21%20at%2012.01.48%20AM.png" style="height: 438px; width: 620px;" title="This little brown fish is called a sculpin. (Flickr/Ohio Sea Grant)" /></div><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The local take</span></p><p>Morano talked to scientists all across the country. But we wanted to hear local scientists answer Morano&rsquo;s questions&mdash;what were they predicting for Chicago and how they were coping with those predictions. So we joined Morano as she talked to some local scientists.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Related: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/front-and-center-water/california-drought-renews-debate-regional-food-systems-110497" target="_blank">Will California drought prompt more Midwest agriculture?</a></strong></p></blockquote><p><a href="http://www.sheddaquarium.org/Conservation--Research/Conservation-Research-Experts/Dr-Phillip-Willink/">Philip Willink</a> is a research biologist at Shedd Aquarium and he took us down to Lake Michigan. He said the lakes are predicted to get warmer and he pointed out species that would thrive in that environment, such as the &nbsp;big mouth bass. But he also told us about species that would struggle in warmer water, for example, a fish called a sculpin.</p><p>Sculpins are not the kind of charismatic creature that you&rsquo;d see in an environmental ad&mdash;like a dolphin. It&rsquo;s brown and grumpy looking. But Willink studies it. It is his brown fish.</p><p>He says sculpins are having a hard time because of habitat destruction and invasive species. But climate models show the fish may have bigger problems. The fish likes cool water.</p><p>&ldquo;So do we go through all the effort to save this species from invasive species and habitat loss if it&rsquo;s just going to be doomed by climate change?&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Willink says studying an obscure and at-risk fish can be a lonely pursuit. But as a scientist he is used to change.</p><p>&ldquo;If we were to go out over here in Lake Michigan there&rsquo;s the remnants of a forest, because we know at one time Lake Michigan was 50 to 100 feet lower, at one time. &nbsp;So we know over the past several thousand years the waters have gone up and down,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>To understand the kind of long-term changes Willink talks about we went next door to The Field Museum where we met <a href="http://www.fieldmuseum.org/users/abigail-derby-lewis">Abigail Derby</a>, a conservation ecologist.</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/Screen%20Shot%202014-07-21%20at%2012.02.00%20AM.png" style="height: 421px; width: 620px;" title=" A display from the Field Museum’s Evolving Planet exhibit. (Flickr/Rebecca Gaines)" /></div><p>She took us to an exhibit on <a href="https://www.fieldmuseum.org/happening/exhibits/evolving-planet">earth&rsquo;s evolution.</a> The exhibit covers five mass extinctions, including the dinosaurs. Then at one point, you turn a corner, and you are suddenly in present day&mdash;the sixth mass extinction. &nbsp;According to a ticker in the museum, 33 species were estimated to have gone extinct between 8 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. that day.</p><p>Derby told us that there are two big differences between current mass extinction and the previous five. The first is the rate: change is happening faster than at any other time we know about in geological history. The second big difference is what&rsquo;s causing the change; Derby calls this the driver. And this time, it&rsquo;s us.</p><p>&ldquo;The good news for the driver is we can change that. We can make choices to do something different,&rdquo; said Derby.</p><p>Morano asked her how optimistic she was that we would make the right choices, and make them quick enough.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it depends on the day you ask me,&rdquo; she told us ruefully. &ldquo;I happen to work with municipalities to do green infrastructure, and I find that a very rewarding and very optimistic field to be in. There is lots of action on the local level.&rdquo;</p><p>Derby acknowledged that she was not quite answering the question. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I purposefully didn&rsquo;t answer whether or not I felt that we would make enough gains in the amount of time needed to reduce the most negative impacts, because I feel in some way if I say out loud, &lsquo;Oh I don&rsquo;t think that can happen,&rsquo; then somehow I am contributing to it not happening. And I don&rsquo;t truly believe in my heart of hearts that it can&rsquo;t happen. So I am careful about what I say. Because at the end of the day I want the message to be what you do matters.&rdquo;</p><blockquote><p><strong>Related: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/front-and-center-water/drought-drives-drilling-frenzy-groundwater-california-110483">Drought drives drilling frenzy for groundwater in California</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>There&rsquo;s <a href="http://thebreakthrough.org/index.php/programs/energy-and-climate/the-psychology-of-climate-change">research</a> that backs up Derby&rsquo;s worry. It shows that if you tell people about a possibly terrible future and you do not give them any sense of hope, they shut down.</p><p>Scientists worry about that because they want people to act on the research. Morano said almost everyone she spoke to was optimistic technologically and pessimistic politically.</p><p>&ldquo;Over and over again people said, we can fix this. But we&rsquo;re not doing it. And there&rsquo;s no indication we will.&rdquo; said Morano.</p><p>One of the reasons for that political pessimism is because of how we think about time.</p><p>For scientists who study big changes&mdash;the formation of the lakes, species adaptation&mdash;it may be easier to think over long, geological stretches.</p><p>But it&rsquo;s a struggle for the rest of us to think even 10, 20 or 100 years into the future.</p><p>But that is just what we are up to in a series we are beginning today. We&rsquo;re focusing on the future of the Great Lakes, in a way that is a little different for us. We have brought fiction writers together with scientists and then asked the writers to create stories set decades from now&mdash;when clean, fresh water could be a rare resource.</p><p>We want to contemplate the future from a dual lens of science and art. We will be sharing our writers&rsquo; stories online and on air over the next couple of weeks. It&rsquo;s called <a href="http://afterwater.tumblr.com/about">After Water.</a> We hope you join us.</p><p><em>Michele Morano teaches creative non-fiction at DePaul and is working on an essay about her climate conversations. You can find out<a href="http://www.michelemorano.com/"> more about her work here</a>. </em></p><p><em>Shannon Heffernan is a WBEZ reporter. <a href="http://twitter.com/shannon_h">Follow her</a>.</em></p><p style="text-align: center;">***</p><p><em>Front and Center is funded by The Joyce Foundation: Improving the quality of life in the Great Lakes region and across the country. </em><br />&nbsp;</p></p> Sun, 20 Jul 2014 23:50:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/front-and-center-water/after-water-how-do-you-sleep-night-110529 Chicago's biggest high school charter told to fix admissions policy, make it easier to apply http://www.wbez.org/news/chicagos-biggest-high-school-charter-told-fix-admissions-policy-make-it-easier-apply-110521 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/RS3523_board of ed-scr_7.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Public Schools is telling its largest charter high school network to make it easier for students to apply to its schools.</p><p><a href="http://noblestreet.noblenetwork.org/" target="_blank">Noble Network of Charter Schools</a> runs <a href="http://www.noblenetwork.org/campuses" target="_blank">16 high schools</a> in the city, including two opening this fall. The network educates 10,000 CPS students.</p><p>In the past, Noble has only given applications to families who attend <a href="http://www.noblenetwork.org/sites/default/files/images/nnais_flyer_13-14-english_merged_1.pdf" target="_blank">scheduled &ldquo;information sessions&rdquo; on particular dates</a>. If parents wanted to apply to five campuses to increase the likelihood their child would be accepted at a Noble charter, they had to go to five information sessions.</p><p>Noble CEO and founder Michael Milkie says the goal was to get parents to make an informed choice about whether to sign their children up for the schools, which have a reputation for strict discipline. He says he also wants parents to know the basics, like where the campuses are located.</p><p>&ldquo;They&rsquo;re going to have to get here 200 days in a row in their freshman year, so we don&rsquo;t think it&rsquo;s unreasonable to ask them to go to five sessions if they&rsquo;d like,&rdquo; says Milkie. &ldquo;But, at the same time, we are adjusting (the admissions policy) slightly.&rdquo;</p><p>Noble Street&rsquo;s charter renewal with the school district, signed by Chicago Public Schools board president David Vitale last month, says &ldquo;the application must be available to all parents and students without limitations, such as an open house or school visit requirement.&rdquo;</p><p>Noble must also indicate that a student essay it has required on its application is actually optional.</p><p>&ldquo;Any essay requested must be optional for the student, will not be judged, graded or considered as a part of the application process, and completion of such essay will not impact lottery submission,&rdquo; Noble&rsquo;s new charter contract states.</p><p>Milkie says Noble Street has never graded the essays, which ask students why they want to attend a Noble school. Nor have they been used to sort kids. &ldquo;We just want to make sure they&rsquo;re interested,&rdquo; says Milkie, who says requiring the essay gave kids who really wanted to attend Noble school a greater possibility of going, and sorted out &ldquo;people who don&rsquo;t know anything about Noble. Because Noble is different than other schools, and they should know about it.&rdquo;</p><p>Changes to the application process come as <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/big-sort-110502">a new WBEZ analysis </a>shows that in every community with a Noble high school, the charter attracts a significantly higher proportion of above-average incoming students than the nearby traditional neighborhood high school&mdash;even though both types of schools must be open to all kids. <a href="https://soundcloud.com/wbez/neighborhood-sort-w-intro-outro" target="_blank">For instance</a>, at Kelvyn Park High School, 25 percent of incoming freshmen scored above the district average on an exam CPS mandated all schools give in the fall of 2012; at the nearby Noble-Pritzker campus, 54 percent of incoming freshmen scored above average.</p><p>The Noble charter network <a href="http://www.noblenetwork.org/job-opportunities/careers" target="_blank">touts high ACT scores and college-going rates </a>and has used its success to fuel <a href="http://www.noblenetwork.org/about-noble/campaign-expansion" target="_blank">expansion</a>. It hopes to open 20 schools by 2020. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has called Noble &ldquo;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RmnFQkD0Eg0" target="_blank">the most successful high schools I&rsquo;ve seen</a>.&rdquo;</p><p>Jack Elsey, Chicago Public Schools&rsquo; Chief Innovation Officer,&nbsp; said CPS&nbsp; &ldquo;routinely evaluates charter school policies and procedures&hellip;to ensure alignment with the district&rsquo;s values and expectations&rdquo; &ndash;particularly during the sort of charter renewal process Noble just went through.</p><p>Elsey said Noble has always been transparent about its application process, but that &ldquo;CPS expectations have evolved since Noble&#39;s contact renewal five years ago.&nbsp; Previously acceptable practices may not meet the current standards,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It&#39;s important that every student has as easy access to an application as possible.&rdquo;</p><p>Elsey could not say whether the district believes Noble&rsquo;s admissions policies are the reason <a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/schools/the-big-sort.html" target="_blank">the network enrolls more above-average kids and fewer low-performing students</a> than nearby schools. &ldquo;It&#39;s impossible to say what kind of role this played,&rdquo; said Elsey, noting there are other reasons why higher performing students might be disporportionately represented at the schools. &ldquo;Good schools attract certain students, and Noble has a very good reputation here in the city of being a great school.&rdquo;</p><p>Milkie disputes the notion that his incoming students achieve any higher than students at other schools. He says the Noble scores look higher because by the time students took the incoming test, which was given 4-6 weeks into ninth grade, his students had pulled ahead. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s no question that a part of this or maybe all of it is the learning that they get early,&rdquo; Milkie says. &ldquo;Other schools may not be so focused. We really tell them, &lsquo;Hey, this test is important. Focus on it.&rsquo;&rdquo; A citywide admissions pool may be another factor, Milkie says. Neighborhood schools may also enroll students from any part of the city, as long as there is space.</p><p>Milkie says Noble will enroll anyone of any ability level. There is room today in a third of Noble campuses for anyone who wants to come, he says. The schools&rsquo; new application materials are available at the campuses.</p><p><em>Linda Lutton is a WBEZ education reporter. Follow her @WBEZeducation</em></p></p> Thu, 17 Jul 2014 21:24:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicagos-biggest-high-school-charter-told-fix-admissions-policy-make-it-easier-apply-110521 In Dayton, Ohio an economic comeback is in the water http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/dayton-ohio-economic-comeback-water-110520 <p><p>Dayton&rsquo;s Mad River wellfield is on a grassy island in the middle of one of the city&rsquo;s three major rivers. Phil Van Atta, head of Dayton&rsquo;s water treatment operation, says the wellfield, where Dayton pumps up groundwater from the <a href="https://www.miamiconservancy.org/water/aquifer_what.asp">Great Miami Buried Valley Aquifer,</a> is one of his favorite places. The shallow sand and gravel aquifer in some places lies just feet below the ground, and its 1.5 trillion gallons of freshwater is constantly recharging from the rivers and rainfall.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve got loads of capacity now,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;We would love to see more demand, more industry come in. Not just to increase their demand for water, but also so there are more jobs available to people in this area.&rdquo;</p><p>Dayton is Ohio&rsquo;s sixth-largest city, but its population has stagnated in recent years due to the foreclosure crisis and loss of industry. In Dayton, both crises hit years before they tore apart the national economy. But now the city may be on the cutting edge again. As states like California face major water shortages, city officials in Dayton sense a business opportunity.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Related: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/front-and-center-water/drought-drives-drilling-frenzy-groundwater-california-110483">Drought drives drilling frenzy for groundwater in California</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>Almost all local jurisdictions draw from the Great Miami Aquifer, and Dayton&rsquo;s water treatment system serves 400,000 in the city and surrounding Montgomery and Greene Counties. It&rsquo;s no Lake Michigan, but the self-filtering, self-recharging freshwater supply, along with the rivers, once made Dayton attractive to water-intensive industries in the 19th century.</p><p>Mills, factories, and countless little breweries lined the river before Prohibition, and Dayton was a hub of innovation and wealth. The airplane, the cash register, the self-start automobile ignition, and the pop-top soda can were all invented here. But now that&rsquo;s just a distant memory.</p><p>&ldquo;We lost all the GM plants and the Delphi plants and the parts plants associated with those plants,&rdquo; says Van Atta, turning the truck onto the gravel road that makes a loop around the island.</p><p>Tens of thousands of jobs evaporated &mdash; the final blow was when GM left in 2008. &ldquo;That was a big hit on our water demand,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>Now Dozens of out-of-use wells dot this island; Van Atta says they rotate them in and out of use following a reduction in demand of over 25 percent since 2008.</p><p>And yet, Dayton is betting that in the future, water will be the key to turning things around.</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/Dayton%20Water%201843.jpg" title="Water sits in softening ponds at the Dayton water treatment plant. The system's two wellfields supply water for 400,000 people in the area from the Great Miami Buried Valley Aquifer. (Lewis Wallace)" /></div><p><span style="font-size:22px;">&#39;We&#39;re running into limits&#39;</span></p><p>U.S. census numbers reveal that in recent years the population has been <a href="http://www.census.gov/dataviz/visualizations/043/">virtually flat or shrinking in places like Ohio, Illinois and Michigan</a>, where there&rsquo;s tons of water. The biggest areas of growth are in the west and <a href="https://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/population/cb13-94.html">southwest</a>, where water scarcity is a growing emergency. Parts of Texas have seen the worst droughts on record for four years and counting, and California&rsquo;s facing much the same.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re running into limits,&rdquo; says Peter Gleick, the head of the <a href="http://pacinst.org/">Pacific Institute</a>, a nonprofit research organization in Oakland, California. &ldquo;The Colorado River no longer reaches the sea in an average year because humans use all of the flow. We&rsquo;re over-pumping groundwater aquifers in the western U.S...In the past we&rsquo;ve sort of assumed enough water would always be available, and I think we can no longer assume that&rsquo;s going to be the case.&rdquo;</p><p>The parched conditions are affecting everything from food prices to energy spending and the intensity of wildfires. Climate change means this is probably just the beginning.</p><blockquote><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="20" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/158677537&amp;color=ff5500&amp;inverse=false&amp;auto_play=false" width="100%"></iframe><strong>Related: <a href="https://soundcloud.com/morningshiftwbez/water-issues-in-the-west-could">What water issues in California mean for the Midwest</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>&ldquo;Some of these south-western cities that not only have water scarcity problems but are gonna start to see more and more costs for energy, for cooling, more and more uncomfortable extreme heat days,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;In that kind of situation I think it&rsquo;s possible that we may see a change in the kind of migration we&rsquo;ve seen over the latter part of the 20th century, maybe back to some of these population centers in the midwest and in the east.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Dayton calling</span></p><p>&ldquo;Back to the midwest&rdquo; &mdash; that phrase is music to Karen Thomas&rsquo;s ears. Thomas is the head of water marketing for Dayton (yes, that&rsquo;s actually a job).</p><p>&ldquo;We have an abundant water source,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;We don&rsquo;t believe that we would have to worry about water.&rdquo;</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/Dayton%20Water%201750.jpg" title="The Mad River wellfield in Dayton sits on a wooded island between heavily industrial areas in northeast Dayton. (Lewis Wallace)" /></div><p>The water in the vast underground aquifer is usually out of sight, but it&rsquo;s up to Thomas to make it visible, and sell it. Efforts in the last few years have included a <a href="http://www.daytonwater.org/uploads/docs/SWPA%20Brochure.pdf">&ldquo;Take Back the Tap&rdquo;</a> campaign to encourage citizens to use Dayton tap water rather than bottled water. Officials have also reached out to companies in water-stressed areas, pushing Dayton as a cheap alternative.</p><p>Thomas thinks this is what could put Dayton back on the map.</p><p>&ldquo;Water is a public good, but it&rsquo;s also a commodity,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>An economic development team in Dayton has conducted talks with several food processors, manufacturers, and beverage makers that could use an inexpensive and abundant supply of water. Companies that choose Dayton would face little of the regulation placed on water diversions in the Great Lakes basin; here, if you can drill a well, you can drain it.</p><p>&ldquo;If they&rsquo;re looking for water, this would be a great place to relocate to,&rdquo; says Thomas.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">You can&#39;t make beer without water</span></p><p>Dayton&rsquo;s water pitch may sound like something out of a post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie, but it&rsquo;s not all that far-fetched.</p><p>&ldquo;You know people turn on the tap and they think water&rsquo;s free, they just assume it&rsquo;s gonna be there,&rdquo; says Peter Kruger, master brewer at <a href="http://bearrepublic.com/news/using-space-technology-to-conserve-water/#.U8fOR41dWKI">Bear Republic brewery</a> in California, north of San Francisco.</p><p>&ldquo;There was a period in early February where the governor listed 17 cities in California that were within a hundred days of running out of water,&rdquo; he says, &ldquo;and our brewpub in Healdsburg was one of those towns, and our production brewery in Cloverdale was another.&rdquo;</p><p>In the brewing industry, water isn&rsquo;t negotiable &mdash; most of it is used for cleaning equipment and of course for the beer itself, which is why Kruger is nervous. I called him to hear about the work they&rsquo;re doing to conserve, but he says they are actually considering a move.</p><p>&ldquo;We have talked about other locations for a brewery that are not as water-stressed as California is.&rdquo;</p><p>They&rsquo;ve looked at Pennsylvania, Wisconsin &mdash; and yes, even Ohio.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Related: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/front-and-center-water/california-drought-renews-debate-regional-food-systems-110497" target="_blank">Will California drought prompt more Midwest agriculture?</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>But Karen Hobbs, a <a href="http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/khobbs/">senior policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council</a> is not on board with this idea.</p><p>&ldquo;These are difficult economic times. But the troubling part about marketing water resources I think is that it tends to devalue that asset,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>Hobbs thinks clean water in the Great Lakes region comes too cheap. In Chicago, almost 2 billion gallons of water a day leave Lake Michigan for use in homes and industry, and drain into the Chicago River, never to be returned or recycled.</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/Dayton%20Water%201848.JPG" title="Karen Thomas, the city of Dayton's full-time water marketer, holds up a brochure advertising Dayton's water supply. (Lewis Wallace)" /></div><p>Plus, the midwest is not immune to the effects of climate change, like drought or huge storms and floods, which can affect water quality as well as quantity. She says before companies just move to where the water is, they should work harder to reduce, reuse and recycle.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s lots, lots of low-hanging fruit in terms of improving water efficiency and increasing conservation that companies and individuals can take,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>But Peter Kruger says Bear Republic Brewery is doing a lot of that already (Hobbs actually referred me to its conservation efforts.)</p><p>&ldquo;Traditionally breweries have used anywhere from 10 to 15 gallons of water to make one gallon of beer,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Our ratio now is down to 3.5 gallons of water to make a gallon of beer.&rdquo; They get their water from the Russian River, which has been dramatically low; the company is now putting its own money into sinking a well to access groundwater at the edge of town.</p><p>Still, their water use may not be sustainable in the long run. Kruger says he&rsquo;d hate to leave beautiful sunny California, but this year has been a reality check.</p><p>&ldquo;Water is really gonna be the challenge our kids and grandkids deal with,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;As there are more people there&rsquo;s not gonna be more and more water, there&rsquo;s gonna be less and less clean water. That&rsquo;s anywhere. That includes Ohio or, you know, the wettest place in the world.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Betting on a future where water is king</span></p><p>Some people in Dayton believe they&rsquo;re walking on a liquid gold mine: people may have lost jobs, people, and whole industries, but the Great Miami aquifer is still here.</p><p>Though not entirely unthreatened: In the 1980s, the drinking water in Dayton was found to be contaminated with dangerous levels of industrial chemicals. A 1987 fire at a Sherwin Williams paint warehouse had to be allowed to burn for days on end to avoid dousing the plant&rsquo;s chemicals directly into the aquifer near the wellfield.</p><p>Following the fire, Dayton and the surrounding municipalities that use the water system passed stringent drinking water protections that incentivize industry to keep chemical contaminants away from the wellfields. Still, today the city sometimes cleans up industrial chemicals including trichloroethylene (TCE) from the water before it&rsquo;s sent to the tap.</p><p>Now a handful of local manufacturers are pushing to reduce some of those protections, saying the chemical limits treat smaller businesses unfairly. The city says reduced demand on the wellfields has shrunk the area in need of active protection, and has <a href="http://wyso.org/post/dayton-discuss-proposed-changes-drinking-water-protections">put forth a controversial proposal</a> to reduce that area by 40 percent.</p><p>Even as <a href="http://wyso.org/post/residents-speak-out-against-proposed-water-protection-changes-video">a public debate over water gets underway</a>, Dayton leaders aren&rsquo;t concerned about the future water supply. Karen Thomas&rsquo;s message for master brewer Peter Kruger? Come and get it.</p><p>&ldquo;To be able to turn the faucet on, to get a cup of coffee, to flush your toilet, to take a shower, and the water&rsquo;s there and it&rsquo;s clean, why not love water?&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;Especially Dayton water!&rdquo;</p><p><em>Lewis Wallace is an economics reporter and host for WYSO, the public radio station for Ohio&rsquo;s Miami Valley region. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/lewispants">@lewispants</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 17 Jul 2014 17:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/dayton-ohio-economic-comeback-water-110520 Parent group wants more eyes on CPS budget http://www.wbez.org/news/parent-group-wants-more-eyes-cps-budget-110517 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/wendy katten budget training.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">A city-wide parent group wants more eyeballs on Chicago Public Schools spending before the Board of Education votes on its <a href="http://www.cps.edu/FY15Budget/Pages/FY15Budget.aspx">budget proposal</a> for next year.</p><p dir="ltr">On Monday night, leaders of the group Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education transformed a meeting room inside the Eckhart Park field house into a training center.</p><p dir="ltr">The group&rsquo;s executive director Wendy Katten and board member Dwayne Truss gave a crash course on the budget proposal that CPS officials <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/neighborhood-high-schools-again-take-hit-new-cps-budget-110444">released late in the evening on July 2nd</a>. Three simultaneous public hearings were held last night.</p><p dir="ltr">But Katten said even people closely connected to the public schools tend to have a hard time figuring out where CPS is spending taxpayer money. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;This is public money and we want to give people access just to the information,&rdquo; Katten said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s available. It&rsquo;s public information. It can be intimidating and hard to find and read. So we want to get people involved and feeling comfortable.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">There have been major shifts in the last few budget cycles, the biggest being a change in how schools are funded. Each school now gets a dollar amount &ldquo;attached to each child&rsquo;s head,&rdquo; Truss explained to the audience. The per pupil amount this year is up from last year and ranges from $4,400 to $5,400, depending on the grade. &nbsp;Most of the increase just covers the cost of inflation and teacher raises.</p><p dir="ltr">The training was not unbiased. Katten, Truss and other Raise Your Hand members encouraged people to ask specific questions at tonight&rsquo;s hearings, like why the district is cutting librarians and increasing spending on standardized tests. Raise Your Hand mostly advocates for neighborhood schools, which continue to face steep cuts as Mayor Rahm Emanuel pushes for more charter and magnet schools.</p><p dir="ltr">Katten said the group is still frustrated by the closure of 50 neighborhood schools last year, a decision that&rsquo;s even harder to swallow given that CPS keeps opening new schools.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Since the fall of 2012, which was when CPS announced there was a massive underutilization crisis, we found that they have opened 21,481 new seats of all kinds,&rdquo; Katten said. &ldquo;We were told that winter, that fall, that the district would be taking resources and investing them more wisely in existing schools, which would make sense. But we see that they continue to just be spread thin.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">CPS spokesman Joel Hood said this year the number of new seats at charter schools is roughly the same as the enrollment declines in existing district-run schools. Hood also said it&rsquo;s unfair to say the district did not invest in the schools that took in students from closed schools.</p><p dir="ltr">However, most of those so-called welcoming schools are seeing cuts this year.</p><p dir="ltr">The three public meetings were held at the following locations:</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Wilbur Wright College</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Events Building Theater</p><p dir="ltr">4300 N. Narragansett</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Kennedy King College</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Theater</p><p dir="ltr">740 West 63rd Street</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Malcolm X College</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Theater</p><p dir="ltr">1900 West Van Buren</p><p><br /><em>Becky Vevea is a producer and reporter for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 17 Jul 2014 13:47:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/parent-group-wants-more-eyes-cps-budget-110517 Housing group wants CHA to slow down Altgeld redevelopment http://www.wbez.org/news/housing-group-wants-cha-slow-down-altgeld-redevelopment-110503 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Altgeld_Gardens.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A social justice nonprofit long involved in desegregating Chicago public housing wants redevelopment on the far South Side to slow down.</p><p>Five hundred units are slated for rehab at Altgeld Gardens, a de-industrialized area with a population that&rsquo;s black and low income. Business and Professional People for Public Interest wants the Chicago Housing Authority to first put in more amenities, such as a community center and an upgraded library.</p><p>&ldquo;Improve the quality of life for the community, for the families that live there now. When you&rsquo;ve done that, make a determination whether it&rsquo;s the right thing or not to bring back 500 units. But CHA&rsquo;s doing it in the reverse order,&rdquo; said Julie Brown, a lawyer with BPI. Motions have been filed in federal court.</p><p>Brown said BPI hasn&rsquo;t asked Judge Marvin Aspen to rule on anything except for the parties to mediate. Aspen is the same judge from the Gautreaux case, a class-action lawsuit BPI filed against CHA to end the segregation of black families in public housing.</p><p>But CHA officials and current Altgeld residents are actually on the same page. Both parties say upgrades to facilities are in the works, and they want more families to move back to a rehabbed Altgeld.</p><p>Resident Cheryl Johnson said BPI is out of touch, and fixing up facilities shouldn&rsquo;t stop CHA from also fixing up apartments.</p><p>&ldquo;As a legal tenant holder I have the right to consultation of what&rsquo;s going to have an impact on my quality of my life. These folks have never lived in public housing,&rdquo; Johnson said.</p><p>CHA officials said work is being done to improve school, transportation and recreational facilities at Altgeld. The housing complex was originally built in 1945. Currently, more than 1,200 units are occupied and CHA is expected to present an implementation strategy to residents in the coming months.</p><p>&ldquo;While CHA cannot speak specifically about the motion, it has worked closely with residents and the larger Altgeld community with respect to the revitalization plan. The preferred design concept was the culmination of more than 25 meetings with residents, community members, sister agencies and organizations, including BPI,&rdquo; a statement read.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/nmoore-0" rel="author">Natalie Moore</a>&nbsp;is WBEZ&rsquo;s South Side Bureau reporter.&nbsp;<a href="mailto:nmoore@wbez.org">nmoore@wbez.org</a>&nbsp;Follow Natalie on<a href="https://plus.google.com//104033432051539426343" rel="me">Google+</a>, &nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/natalieymoore">Twitter</a></em></p></p> Wed, 16 Jul 2014 09:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/housing-group-wants-cha-slow-down-altgeld-redevelopment-110503