WBEZ | News http://www.wbez.org/news Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Disbelief by some in Hammond after accused cops are reinstated http://www.wbez.org/news/disbelief-some-hammond-after-accused-cops-are-reinstated-111159 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/hammond_1.png" alt="" /><p><p><em>Updated 11/25/2014 at 4 p.m.</em></p><p>Two Hammond, Indiana police officers involved in a controversial traffic stop that invited comparisons to Ferguson, Missouri are back on patrol after the mayor asserted they were cleared of any wrongdoing by the FBI.</p><p>But now&nbsp;the FBI agent in charge of the investigation, Bob Ramsey, denies that, saying the case is ongoing and the officers have yet to be cleared.</p><div>&quot;At this point, no,&quot; Ramsey said. &quot;The Hammond police department has been very open with us, very cooperative, very forthcoming through this entire process. They have provided us information pertaining to the events that happened on the day of question. However, we are still in the process of gathering additional information and a review is not complete at this point.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Asked to respond, Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott Jr. is sticking to his guns.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>He says he received a letter on Sunday from another FBI agent that the officers were cleared and it was appropriate to put them back on patrol.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Officers Patrick Vicari and Charles Turner, who are white, were caught on video smashing a window and tasing an unarmed black passenger during an incident that stirred outrage at both the local and national level.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The news of their reinstatement came just hours before a Grand Jury decided not to indict the police officer at the center of events in Ferguson.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;Now that we received the results back from the FBI, I made the decision, we made the decision to place both of these officers back on duty,&rdquo; McDermott. said Monday afternoon. &ldquo;They will be back on duty immediately.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Lavance Turner, a student at Purdue University Calumet in Hammond, was perplexed by the decision.</div><p>&ldquo;I really do believe that was a complete violation of any and everything regarding [the passenger&rsquo;s] personal well being and how they went about it,&rdquo; Turner said.</p><p>He and fellow student Michael Carson reacted to the news while watching the Ferguson Grand Jury announcement on TV in the student center on campus.</p><p>&ldquo;You see that! They&rsquo;re about to riot. No indictment?&rdquo; said the 22-year-old Carson moments after the decision was read by the prosecutor in St. Louis County, Missouri.</p><p>The two students were equally baffled that criminal charges weren&rsquo;t filed against the two Hammond police officers who had been on desk duty the past few weeks.</p><p>The case stemmed from an incident on Sept. 24 when Lisa Mahone, a black motorist was pulled over for not wearing her seatbelt.</p><p>Officers Vicari and Turner stopped Mahone, 27, on 169th Street near Cline Avenue in the city&rsquo;s Hessville neighborhood.</p><p>The officers&rsquo; attention quickly turned to a front seat passenger in the car, 42-year-old Jamal Jones. They ordered him to produce identification and get out of the car. After Jones spent several tense minutes trying to explain he had no I.D. and refusing to exit the vehicle, officers smashed the passenger window, used a taser and arrested Jones.</p><p>Much of the incident was recorded on a cell phone by Mahone&rsquo;s 14-year-old son in the backseat. A young girl also sitting in the rear of the vehicle is heard crying in the video.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="465" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/XsW-QCxXkQA?showinfo=0" width="620"></iframe></p><p>The video went viral and Purdue Cal student Lavance Turner says he watched it dozens of times on social media.</p><p>&ldquo;You can&rsquo;t really resist physically if you&rsquo;re in your own car. So, I don&rsquo;t understand if the officer felt threatened. It was really strange,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>A Hammond police spokesman said the officers feared for their safety when one officer said he saw Jones drop his hands behind the center console of the vehicle.</p><p>Mayor McDermott was steadfast in his defense of Officers Turner and Vicari.</p><p>&ldquo;If we condone this type of behavior and make it so that every time a person who is pulled over for a seat belt violation or anything else that it can drag on for 15 or 20 minutes for something as simple as someone handing over an ID,&rdquo; McDermott said.&nbsp; &ldquo;If that&rsquo;s the America that we&rsquo;re heading towards, that&rsquo;s not going to be an ideal place to live.&rdquo;</p><p>Lisa Mahone and Jamal Jones filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Hammond Police Department.</p><p>Their attorney, Dana Kurtz, says McDermott is part of the problem.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not just officers engaging in excessive force, it&rsquo;s police departments and, especially in this case, the mayor of the city of Hammond, condoning what these officers did,&rdquo; Kurtz said. &ldquo;That just encourages this kind of conduct to continue.&rdquo;</p><p>McDermott has long rejected the comparisons to Ferguson by pundits. But he says the incident has impressed upon him that he needs to work closer with the city&rsquo;s African-American population.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think there are any winners or losers in this. I can tell you the Mayor of Hammond has heard the frustrations loud and clear,&rdquo; McDermott said.</p><p>The Hammond chapter of the NAACP is pushing the city to hire more African American police officers. Currently, the Hammond Police Department has 9 black officers out of a force of 151.</p><p>Blacks account for 20 percent of Hammond&rsquo;s 80,000 residents.</p><p>&ldquo;The (African-American) numbers in the Hammond Police Department are too low and I&rsquo;m going to fix that,&rdquo; McDermott said.</p><p>Rev. Homer Cobb, head of Hammond&rsquo;s NAACP, said he always had his doubts about whether the FBI actually cleared the officers, and he still thinks the controversial traffic stop could&rsquo;ve been better handled.</p><p>But Cobb adds he appreciates the dialogue that&rsquo;s been established with the mayor and police department since then.</p><p>&ldquo;I wouldn&rsquo;t consider Hammond to be as volatile as Ferguson but there&rsquo;s every bit of a concern all across the nation because we&rsquo;re dealing with profiling and events happening without accountability,&rdquo; Cobb said. &ldquo;What we want is a better Hammond.</p><p><em>Correction: A previous version of this story mistakenly stated that the FBI had cleared the two police officers of any wrongdoing. That was according to Hammond mayor Tom McDermott, Jr. The story has now been updated with direct comment from the FBI.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 25 Nov 2014 12:44:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/disbelief-some-hammond-after-accused-cops-are-reinstated-111159 Grand jury: No indictment for Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson http://www.wbez.org/news/grand-jury-no-indictment-ferguson-police-officer-darren-wilson-111152 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP762329691737.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>FERGUSON, Mo. &mdash; A grand jury declined Monday to indict white police officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown, the unarmed, black 18-year-old whose fatal shooting sparked weeks of sometimes-violent protests and inflamed deep racial tensions between many African-Americans and police.</p><p>Moments after the announcement by St. Louis County&#39;s top prosecutor, crowds began pouring into Ferguson streets to protest the decision. Some taunted police, broke windows and vandalized cars. Within a few hours, several large buildings were ablaze, and frequent gunfire was heard. Officers used tear gas to try to disperse some of the gatherings.</p><p>Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch said the jury of nine whites and three blacks met on 25 separate days over three months, hearing more than 70 hours of testimony from about 60 witnesses, including three medical examiners and experts on blood, toxicology and firearms.</p><p>&quot;They are the only people that have heard and examined every witness and every piece of evidence,&quot; he said, adding that the jurors &quot;poured their hearts and soul into this process.&quot;</p><p>As McCulloch read his statement, Michael Brown&#39;s mother, Lesley McSpadden, sat atop a vehicle listening to a broadcast of the announcement. When she heard the decision, she burst into tears and began screaming before being whisked away by supporters.</p><p>The crowd with her erupted in anger, converging on the barricade where police in riot gear were standing. They pushed down the barricade and began pelting police with objects, including a bullhorn. Officers stood their ground.</p><p>At least nine votes would have been required to indict Wilson. The grand jury met in secret, a standard practice for such proceedings.</p><p>Speaking for nearly 45 minutes, a defensive McCulloch repeatedly cited what he said were inconsistencies and erroneous accounts from witnesses. When asked by a reporter whether any of the accounts amount to perjury, he said, &quot;I think they truly believe that&#39;s what they saw, but they didn&#39;t.&quot;</p><p>The prosecutor also was critical of the media, saying &quot;the most significant challenge&quot; for his office was a &quot;24-hour news cycle and an insatiable appetite for something &mdash; for anything &mdash; to talk about.&quot;</p><p>In his statement, McCulloch never mentioned that Brown was unarmed when he was killed.</p><p>Brown&#39;s family released a statement saying they were &quot;profoundly disappointed&quot; in the decision but asked that the public &quot;channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change. We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen.&quot;</p><p>Shortly after the announcement, authorities released more than 1,000 pages of grand jury documents, including Wilson&#39;s testimony.</p><p>Wilson told jurors that he initially encountered Brown and a friend walking in a street and, when he told them to move to a sidewalk, Brown responded with an expletive.</p><p>Wilson then noticed that Brown had a handful of cigars, &quot;and that&#39;s when it clicked for me,&quot; he said, referring to a radio report minutes earlier of a robbery at a nearby convenience store.</p><p>Wilson said he asked a dispatcher to send additional police, then backed his vehicle up in front of Brown and his friend. As he tried to open the door, Wilson said Brown slammed it back shut.</p><p>The officer said he then pushed Brown with the door and Brown hit him in the face. Wilson told grand jurors he was thinking: &quot;What do I do not to get beaten inside my car.&quot;</p><p>&quot;I drew my gun,&quot; Wilson told the grand jury. &quot;I said, &quot;Get back or I&#39;m going to shoot you.&quot;</p><p>&quot;He immediately grabs my gun and says, &quot;You are too much of a pussy to shoot me,&quot; Wilson told grand jurors. He said Brown grabbed the gun with his right hand, twisted it and &quot;digs it into my hip.&quot;</p><p>Asked why he felt the need to pull his gun, Wilson told grand jurors he was concerned another punch to his face could &quot;knock me out or worse.&quot;</p><p>After shots were fired in the vehicle, Brown fled, and Wilson gave chase. At some point, Brown turned around to face the officer.</p><p>Witness accounts were conflicted about whether Brown walked, stumbled or charged back toward Wilson before he was fatally wounded, McCulloch said. There were also differing accounts of how or whether Brown&#39;s hands were raised. His body fell about 153 feet from Wilson&#39;s vehicle.</p><p>Thousands of people rallied in other U.S. cities, including Los Angeles and New York, to protest Monday&#39;s decision, leading marches, waving signs and shouting chants of &quot;Hands Up! Don&#39;t Shoot,&quot; the slogan that has become a rallying cry in protests over police killings across the country.</p><p>President Barack Obama appealed for calm and understanding, pleading with both protesters and police to show restraint.</p><p>&quot;We are a nation built on the rule of law, so we need to accept that this decision was the grand jury&#39;s to make,&quot; Obama said. He said it was understandable that some Americans would be &quot;deeply disappointed &mdash; even angered,&quot; but echoed Brown&#39;s parents in calling for any protests to be peaceful.</p><p>Monday night&#39;s violence initially resembled the unrest during the days that followed Brown&#39;s death, when business windows were smashed and police vehicles damaged. But the destruction soon widened, with several large fires burning out of control and reports of frequent gunfire.</p><p>At least 10 St. Louis-bound flights were diverted to other airports because of concern about gunfire being aimed into the sky over Ferguson. Only law-enforcement aircraft were permitted to fly through the area, the Federal Aviation Administration said.</p><p>The Justice Department is conducting a separate investigation into possible civil rights violations that could result in federal charges, but investigators would need to satisfy a rigorous standard of proof in order to mount a prosecution. The department also has launched a broad probe into the Ferguson Police Department, looking for patterns of discrimination.</p><p>Regardless of the outcome of those investigations, Brown&#39;s family could also file a wrongful-death lawsuit against Wilson.</p><p>The Aug. 9 shooting heightened tensions in the predominantly black St. Louis suburb that is patrolled by an overwhelmingly white police force. As Brown&#39;s body lay for hours in the center of a residential street, an angry crowd of onlookers gathered. Rioting and looting occurred the following night, and police responded with armored vehicles and tear gas.</p><p>Protests continued for weeks &mdash; often peacefully, but sometimes turning violent, with demonstrators throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails and police firing smoke canisters, tear gas and rubber bullets. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon briefly summoned the National Guard.</p><p>Throughout the investigation, some black leaders and Brown&#39;s parents questioned McCulloch&#39;s ability to be impartial. The prosecutor&#39;s father, mother, brother, uncle and cousin all worked for the St. Louis Police Department, and his father was killed while responding to a call involving a black suspect in 1964.</p><p>McCulloch was 12 at the time, and the killing became a hallmark of his initial campaign for elected prosecutor.</p><p>A Democrat, McCulloch has been in office since 1991 and was re-elected to another term earlier this month.</p><p>___</p><p>Link to grand jury documents</p><p>___</p><p>Associated Press writers Alan Scher Zagier in Clayton, Andale Gross and Jim Suhr in Ferguson and Catherine Lucey in Des Moines, Iowa, contributed to this report.</p><p>Chicago reaction to Ferguson verdict -</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/chicago-reacts-to-ferguson-grand-jury-decision/embed?header=false&amp;border=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/chicago-reacts-to-ferguson-grand-jury-decision.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/chicago-reacts-to-ferguson-grand-jury-decision" target="_blank">View the story "Chicago reacts to Ferguson grand jury decision" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Mon, 24 Nov 2014 14:14:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/grand-jury-no-indictment-ferguson-police-officer-darren-wilson-111152 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