WBEZ | Front and Center http://www.wbez.org/tags/front-and-center Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Wildsounds: The conversation between a city and nature http://www.wbez.org/news/wildsounds-conversation-between-city-and-nature-111435 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/wildsounds.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>When environmental science professor Liam Heneghan moved to Chicago, he noticed something surprising.</p><p>The farther he got away from the city, the harder it was to find interesting habitats to study, because there was just a lot of farmland.&nbsp; He found less of the protected forest preserves or even parks you see inside the city limits.</p><p>&ldquo;Strangely, Chicago is the place you go, that you deliberately seek out if you want to do conservation in the midwest.&rdquo; Heneghan said. &ldquo;That blows my mind.&rdquo;<br />&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br />So when Heneghan discovered a project that set out to record nature sounds across the world, he wanted to make sure cities were a part of it.&nbsp; He has been recording, alongside his students, in Chicago for about a year.</p><p>By listening to nature sounds in the city, researchers have learned the complex way that human noise makes animals change the way they sound; from insects that shift their pitch to be heard over traffic, to birds that sing at different times of day.</p><p>But Heneghan does not want the message of the recordings to be that people sounds are bad. He wants this project to help the rest of Chicago have that same experience he did when he first moved here.</p><p>When they listen, he wants them to notice how much nature is right here &mdash; outside their apartments and office buildings, beside highways and train lines.</p><p><em>Shannon Heffernan is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/shannon_h" target="_blank">@shannon_h</a></em></p></p> Thu, 22 Jan 2015 11:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/wildsounds-conversation-between-city-and-nature-111435 Drought drives drilling frenzy for groundwater in California http://www.wbez.org/series/front-and-center-water/drought-drives-drilling-frenzy-groundwater-california-110483 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Rig_DeLaCruz_SK.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><em>The drought in California may be thousands of miles away, but it&rsquo;s having a direct effect on the rest of the country, including the Great Lakes region. </em></p><p><em>As part of our Front &amp; Center series, we&rsquo;ll be reporting on that all week.</em><em> But first we take you back to California, which grows nearly 50 percent of the nation&rsquo;s produce.</em><em> </em></p><p><em>The situation for farmers and ranchers has become so dire there&rsquo;s a potentially dangerous drilling boom going on. Not for oil or gas. For water. </em></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>Steve Arthur practically lives out of his truck these days. But he&rsquo;s not homeless. He runs one of Fresno&rsquo;s busiest well drilling companies.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s officially getting crazy. We go and we go but it just seems like we can&rsquo;t go fast enough,&rdquo; he says, sitting behind the steering wheel as he hustles up and down Highway 99 to check on drilling rigs that run 24 hours a day, probing for water.</p><p>Some days, Arthur doesn&rsquo;t even have time to stop for gas; he&rsquo;s got an extra tank hooked up to the flatbed of his pickup. He says he&rsquo;s lucky if he gets three hours of sleep a night.</p><p>&ldquo;Toward the end of the week, I start to get run down pretty good,&rdquo; he sighs. &ldquo;On a Friday afternoon, you might see me parked on the side of the road taking a cat nap.&rdquo;</p><p>Counties in the farm-rich Central Valley are issuing record numbers of permits for new water wells. Arthur says his company&rsquo;s got an eight-month waiting list. Some of his competitors are backlogged more than a year. Drillers like Arthur say they&rsquo;re even busier than they were during the drought of 1977, when Californians drilled 28 thousand new wells.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Related: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/california-drought-renews-debate-regional-food-systems-110497">Will California drought prompt a stronger Midwest food system?</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>&ldquo;This is off the scales, here,&rdquo; says Arthur, shaking his head. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s just amazing, the amount of people that call and want wells. A customer called this morning and I&rsquo;m supposed to do two for him, and he said, &lsquo;Add 14 to the list.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;You have to literally grab these guys and drag &lsquo;em to your property and say &lsquo;Please, please drill me a well!,&rsquo;&rdquo; laments citrus farmer Matt Fisher, who&rsquo;s been scrambling to keep his trees alive after learning that he won&rsquo;t get any water from federal reservoirs this year.</p><p>&ldquo;I have even heard of drilling companies that won&rsquo;t tell growers who&rsquo;s in front of them, because guys are trying to buy the other guy&rsquo;s spot in line,&rdquo; says Fisher. &ldquo;Its crazy, some of the things that are going on, but if you&rsquo;re in our shoes, and you have to pay a guy $10,000 for his spot in line, that&rsquo;s cheap compared to what you&rsquo;re going to lose if you lose your whole orchard.&rdquo;</p><p>It&rsquo;s not always about losing trees, though. Right where a brand new almond orchard will be planted in rural Fresno County, a 70-foot high drilling rig bores a hole in the earth 2,500 feet deep. This well will cost the farmer about a million dollars.</p><p>Juan de La Cruz works on this rig 12 hours a day, seven days a week, carefully guiding the drill bit. He&rsquo;s standing in a little hut next to the drill hole that they call &lsquo;the doghouse.&rsquo; It&rsquo;s where workers keep a log of the layers of sand and clay they find, collecting samples every ten feet as the drill probes deeper.</p><p>It&rsquo;s also home to two other essential pieces of gear: a microwave and a fridge.</p><p>&ldquo;This is basically where we live while we&rsquo;re working,&rdquo; says De La Cruz in Spanish. &ldquo;We&rsquo;ve got some nopales (cacti) and zucchinis in here to cook up. The farmers bring us cantaloupes, tomatoes, whatever we want. They are so grateful because when we&rsquo;re done with this well, these fields will have water.&rdquo;</p><p>Bob Zimmerer&rsquo;s company, Zim Industries, owns this rig and a dozen others. He knows there&rsquo;s a silver lining to the drought for well drillers this year. But he knows it can&rsquo;t last forever.</p><p>&ldquo;We can&rsquo;t keep sustaining this amount of overdraft, we all know that,&rdquo; says Zimmerer, standing on the platform next to the drill. &ldquo;At this point in time, we don&rsquo;t want to keep going on at this pace. It&rsquo;s more of a temporary fix.&rdquo;</p><p>That&rsquo;s a sobering admission from a well driller.</p><p>California&rsquo;s aquifers supply 40 percent of the state&rsquo;s water in normal years but in this drought year, it could be closer to 65 percent. That makes it our biggest water reserve &ndash;- bigger than the Sierra snowpack.</p><p>Scientists are already sounding alarm bells about pumping too much groundwater. State water managers estimate that water tables in some parts of the Valley have dropped 100 feet below historical lows. As water levels sink, the land can sink, too &mdash; in some places by about a foot per year. Groundwater pumping could also put more stress on the San Andreas Fault.</p><p>That&rsquo;s not the only seismic consequence.</p><p>&ldquo;We are a one-way trajectory towards depletion. Toward running out of groundwater in the Central Valley,&rdquo; warns Jay Famiglietti, a hydrologist at UC Irvine. He points out that California is the only western state that doesn&rsquo;t really monitor or regulate how much groundwater farmers and residents are using.</p><p>&ldquo;If you own property, you can dig a well and you can pump as much groundwater as you a want,&rdquo; says Famiglietti, &ldquo;even if that means you are drawing water in from beneath your neighbor&rsquo;s property into your well. So it&rsquo;s not unlike having several straws in a glass, and everyone drinking at the same time, and no one really watching the level.&rdquo;</p><p>That could change. A bill making its way through the state legislature could, for the first time ever, require local agencies to track, and in some cases, even restrict groundwater pumping. Some farmers oppose it, saying it&rsquo;s a violation of their property rights.</p><p>But retired attorney and water activist Jerry Cadagan says counties should be thinking hard right now about the permits they&rsquo;re giving to farmers to drill thousands of new wells.</p><p>&ldquo;You&rsquo;ve got to put reasonable restrictions so people are only pumping out a reasonable amount of water that underlies their land,&rdquo; says Cadagan, who lives in Stanislaus County, and is suing farmers there for drilling wells without considering the environmental impact. &ldquo;Groundwater is like a bank account. You can&rsquo;t take out more than you put in on an ongoing basis.&rdquo;</p><p>Farmers too, are starting to worry. In Merced County, farm leaders are trying to stop two private landowners from selling as much as 7 billion gallons of well water to farmers in another county. They call it &ldquo;groundwater mining.&rdquo;</p></p> Mon, 14 Jul 2014 05:55:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/front-and-center-water/drought-drives-drilling-frenzy-groundwater-california-110483 Morning Shift: Legislation aims to make changes at charter schools http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-04-08/morning-shift-legislation-aims-make-changes-charter <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Classroom Flickr cayoup.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>We look at what some charter school supporters are hoping for as several bills work their way through the state legislature. Plus, how the popular business model of franchising is squeezing small business owners between corporations and workers.&nbsp;</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-what-s-at-stake-for-charter-schools/embed?header=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-what-s-at-stake-for-charter-schools.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-what-s-at-stake-for-charter-schools" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: Legislation aims to make changes at charter schools" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Tue, 08 Apr 2014 08:43:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-04-08/morning-shift-legislation-aims-make-changes-charter Getting landlords to make energy efficiencies http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/getting-landlords-make-energy-efficiencies-108420 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/renters energy.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>It hasn&rsquo;t been difficult to get some homeowners to shell out the cash to make some energy upgrades on their homes. After all, they&rsquo;re the ones paying for electricity and gas.</p><p>But when it comes to rental units, many property owners are reluctant to make those changes because they&rsquo;re not the ones paying the utility bills. It&rsquo;s the renters.</p><p>Some organizations are trying to change that.</p><p>Sandeep Sood and his wife own the Jeffery Parkway Apartments, a 55 unit, 7 story building. They acquired the South Side building four years ago.</p><p>&ldquo;When we bought the building, it was in really bad shape. We had a lot of book management and construction to do on this building,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Sood showed me around the boiler room where insulated pipes run along the walls. He said the old boiler was huge and spewed out enormous amounts of heat.</p><p>&ldquo;The first year we got this, we were able to retrofit a new stainless steel boiler. A little different design than your typical boiler. But we were able to increase our efficiencies by more than 60 percent with just this one measure,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>This and other efficiency upgrades cost about $110,000. The Community Investment Corporation provided a low interest loan to help finance the bulk of the work.</p><p>&ldquo;I think our total payback was within a year and half to two years on those invested funds. That&rsquo;s a great return on investment. There are other buildings where you might get payback in 4-5 years depending on which improvements you chose. But on any horizon, the longer the horizon, you&rsquo;re going to save more money,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Sood estimates monthly utility costs of water, electricity and gas combined are $50-60 per studio apartment.</p><p>It&rsquo;s in his interest to make these upgrades here since utilities are lumped in with the rent. But it&rsquo;s harder to get some landlords on board if they aren&rsquo;t reaping the benefits.</p><p>&ldquo;I would maybe call it a generational divide. We&rsquo;re relatively young. But I&rsquo;ve run into a lot of owners who are just resistant. Well, they&rsquo;re a little shortsighted to what these improvements are going to bring to their building. They&rsquo;re looking at it like cash out of their pocket,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Daniel Olson is the senior energy efficiency planner with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. The agency&rsquo;s mapped out a regional plan that identifies energy efficiency as one of the easier measures that can move the area toward sustainability. That includes things like upgrading to a high efficiency hot water heater, insulating buildings and simply changing light bulbs to compact fluorescent lights.</p><p>&ldquo;Before you would ever want to do something big like solar panels or wind or anything like that, you want to take the first step in the loading order which is always energy efficiency,&rdquo; Olson said.</p><p>He said if all the region&rsquo;s residential units took up simple retrofits on gas alone, emissions could be cut by 15 percent. That&rsquo;s about 345,000 cars off the road or 3.8 million fewer barrels of oil.</p><p>&ldquo;When you have happy tenants who have lower bills. They are going to lower your vacancy rates, so that you actually keep your buildings full with tenants which will increase the funds you have available,&rdquo; Olson said.</p><p>Since Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas began its savings programs in 2011, 19,000 residential customers have saved more than 10.5 million therms of natural gas consumption. That&rsquo;s about 11,000 cars off the road.</p><p>160,000 residential Com Ed customers saved more than 4 million megawatt hours of energy since the start of its 2008 Smart Ideas program, saving more than $400 million on their bills.</p><p>About 40 percent of Cook County&rsquo;s residential stock is multi-unit property. A significant part of that is renter occupied.</p><p>It&rsquo;s that population the Center for Neighborhood Technology and the Community Investment Corporation&nbsp;is targeting with the Energy Savers program. It helped Sandeep Sood make upgrades to all his rental properties.</p><p>&ldquo;Multifamily building owners have been harder to reach by efficiency programs. And that&rsquo;s because they&rsquo;re kind of stuck between a residential program and a commercial program. And typically the programs that are out there don&rsquo;t meet their needs,&rdquo; said Anne Evens, CNT executive director.</p><p>The program gives owners a free evaluation of their property, listing how much savings they&rsquo;d get with recommended upgrades. It also offers various rebates and financial options.</p><p>&ldquo;For a smaller apartment building, you could spend between $15-20,000 in order to get a 30 percent savings on your energy bill. And it&rsquo;s typical to get those savings and payback your investments in 5 to 7 years.</p><p>Sood says his energy costs are down by 65 percent.</p><p>&ldquo;I do care about the environment,&rdquo; Sood said. &ldquo;Now, when I&rsquo;m put in the role of making business decisions and taking a risk on an investment property like this, I tend to think in dollars and cents. But there&rsquo;s a lot of bad things you can do when you think only in dollars and cents. This you get both things. You&rsquo;re increasing your efficiencies and you&rsquo;re helping the environment.&rdquo;</p><p>Sood said his tenants might not see the efficiencies, but they feel more comfortable.</p><p>Currently, all 55 of his units are occupied.</p><p>Michael Cotten, a retiree, lives in one of them. He&rsquo;s been in the building for about 7 years, before Sood acquired it.</p><p>&ldquo;It was more like a transient place. And I was glad when he took it over because I was thinking about moving,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Before upgrades were made, Cotten said, the heat would go out multiple times in the winter, but now he feels comfortable.</p><p>&ldquo;Sandeep has done amazing things with this building. He&rsquo;s really fixed it up,&rdquo; Cotten said.</p><p>He said he&rsquo;ll be sticking around for awhile.</p></p> Thu, 15 Aug 2013 07:53:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/getting-landlords-make-energy-efficiencies-108420 Demonstrators demand Goodwill stop paying sub-minimum wages http://www.wbez.org/news/demonstrators-demand-goodwill-stop-paying-sub-minimum-wages-108210 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/DAWWN wages 1.JPG" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">Over a hundred organizations in Illinois hold a license that allows them to <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/labor-laws-allow-workers-disabilities-earn-less-minimum-wage-107389">legally pay workers with disabilities less than minimum wage</a>. <a href="http://www.accessliving.org/index.php?tray=content&amp;tid=top683&amp;cid=2al73">Disabled Americans Want Work Now (DAWWN)</a> says it&rsquo;s unfair places like Goodwill can pay CEO&rsquo;s six-figure salaries, while disabled workers earn less than a dollar an hour.</p><p>DAWWN activists marched in front of a Chicago Goodwill store and office building and then entered the building to deliver a letter on Friday. Activists were met by Pat Boelter, Chief Marketing Officer Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin.</p><p>Boelter said all their Chicago locations pay above minimum wage, but she defends other Goodwills that don&rsquo;t. &ldquo;These are individuals who are not employable in the community. This is an opportunity for an individual with severe disabilities to feel like they belong,&rdquo; said Boelter.</p><p>DAWWN activist Susan Aarup said that pay is a matter of dignity. &nbsp;&ldquo;When they pay you less than a dollar an hour, they are telling you that you are worthless. We want honest pay for honest work.&rdquo;</p><p>Activist Rene Luna said disabled workers can do equal work when given the right accommodations and opportunities. He praised the <a href="http://www.progressillinois.com/news/content/2013/07/17/quinn-signs-law-boost-job-opportunities-people-disabilities">Employment First Act</a>, a bill which was signed into law earlier this month with the goal of boosting employment for workers with disabilities. &ldquo;In some ways there is a kind of revolution going on for us,&rdquo; said Luna.</p><p>DAWWN says it will continue to protest until wages change.</p><p><em>Shannon Heffernan is a reporter for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="http://www.twitter.com/shannon_h">@shannon_h&nbsp;</a></em></p><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Mon, 29 Jul 2013 10:02:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/demonstrators-demand-goodwill-stop-paying-sub-minimum-wages-108210 Labor laws allow workers with disabilities to earn less than minimum wage http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/labor-laws-allow-workers-disabilities-earn-less-minimum-wage-107389 <p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-694b77d3-ec4c-245a-b7ec-68b893950fe7"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Disabled%20Workers_130604_sh.JPG" style="float: right; height: 232px; width: 350px;" title="Michael Grice outside Access Living, an organization working for the labor conditions for disabled workers. Grice says having a job with standard wages is a human right. (WBEZ/Shannon Heffernan)" /><em>There&rsquo;s currently proposed legislation for a higher minimum wage at both the state and federal level. But some of the fastest growing fields, like homecare and restaurant workers, aren&rsquo;t included in the minimum wage. WBEZ&rsquo;s Front and Center series, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/exceptions-rule">Exceptions to the Rule</a>, introduces you to people who aren&rsquo;t protected by the same labor laws as everyone else.</em></p><p>When I meet Michael Grice, he&rsquo;s sharply dressed in a turquoise pinstripe shirt and nice beige slacks. He says people are quick to judge him because he has Cerebral Palsy and uses a wheelchair, so he pays special attention to his appearance.</p><p>A few years ago, Grice moved into supportive housing at Ada S McKinley. The agency provided him with a job doing piece work in one of their workshops. &nbsp;Grice remembers filling bubble gum machines and packing boxes. He hated the repetition of the work. He had previously done marketing at a University Gym and worked as a customer service representative at a bank.</p><p>But even worse, were the wages. Ada S. McKinley has a special license called a <a href="http://www.dol.gov/elaws/esa/flsa/14c/" target="_blank">14c</a>, which allows them to pay workers with disabilities below the minimum wage. The license was originally written into the Fair Labor Act of 1938. The agency said it allowed them to hire people for jobs they otherwise might not get because of their disabilities.</p><p>Under the license worker&#39;s wage is calculated based on their individual ability.</p><p>For Grice, it was less than a dollar an hour.</p><p>&ldquo;To buy the essential things was impossible,&quot; Grice said.&nbsp;&quot;To buy clothes, to get a haircut, to buy hygiene products. It was just impossible to do.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>Grice&rsquo;s pride in his appearance was compromised. He also couldn&rsquo;t afford to go to movies, or out to dinner, so he was rarely out in public. &nbsp;He says that made him feel isolated and the wages made him feel unworthy.</p><p>&ldquo;I was embarrassed to cash a check that was $5.40 for 2 weeks,&quot; Grice said.&nbsp;&quot;I didn&rsquo;t even bother to cash my check. It was, believe me, very degrading.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>Grice&rsquo;s wages aren&rsquo;t that unique for workers with disabilities. According to the <a href="http://www.nationalcoreindicators.org/charts/?i=68" target="_blank">National Core Indicators</a>, the majority of people in Illinois facility-based jobs (jobs in workshops separated from the general public) earned less than $2.50 an hour. Less than 10 percent earned at least the Federal Minimum wage.</p><p>Still, the licensed agencies say they are doing important work.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Disabled%20Workers2_130604_sh.JPG" style="float: left; height: 350px; width: 350px;" title="Envision's facility in Logan Square hires workers to make placemats at subminimum wages. The organization also trains people with disabilities to make and sell art. (WBEZ/Shannon Heffernan)" /><a href="http://carc.info/" target="_blank">Envision Unlimited</a> serves people with developmental and intellectual disabilities.</p><p>Susan Gardner is its Division Director of Day and Employment Services.</p><p>In their offices, people played card games, or relaxed in an area with quiet music and lowlights. In another area, a young man showed me his paintings of caves and another displayed a carpet he was weaving. Both will be able to sell their artwork through Envision, for a portion of the profits.</p><p>The actual workshop has cutting tables and big industrial looms. This is where people work the hourly jobs.</p><p>The organization gets contracts from for-profit organizations to make tablecloths and napkins. But Gardner stresses that Envision is a non-profit and says all the money they bring in from the contracts goes directly to materials or workers wages.</p><p>&ldquo;If we weren&rsquo;t allowed to pay subminimum wages and then those people would not be able to earn a check,&rdquo; Gardner said. &ldquo;And you can see they are invested in what they are doing, they are taking a lot of pride. And it&rsquo;s preparing them to take those jobs into the community and really be a functioning part of the community and the work world out there.&rdquo;</p><p>Envision says that about 60 people they employ now have regular jobs. Including two women who have worked at Shedd Aquarium for over 30 years.</p><p>But work placement rates like Envision&rsquo;s are rare. <a href="http://www.ncd.gov/publications/2012/August232012/" target="_blank">95 percent of people </a>with these sub-minimum wage jobs never go on to get regular work. Illinois is particularly weak. It <a href="http://www.ucp.org/the-case-for-inclusion/2013/" target="_blank">ranks 44th</a> in terms of placing people with disabilities in regular jobs. And over a hundred organizations in Illinois hold the 14c license that allows them to pay subminimum wages.</p><p>While many organizations continue to pay workers subminimum wages under 14c licenses, concerned that there are no alternatives, other disability organizations, such as the <a href="https://nfb.org/fair-wages" target="_blank">National Federation of the Blind</a> and <a href="http://tash.org/speak-out-against-subminimum-wages-for-workers-with-disabilities/" target="_blank">The Organization for the Severely Handicap (TASH) </a>&nbsp;have picked up subminimum wages as a civil rights issue.</p><p>Advocates have been especially critical of larger organizations <a href="https://nfb.org/americans-disabilities-protest-goodwill%E2%80%99s-subminimum-wages" target="_blank">like Goodwill</a>, where executive directors earn huge salaries and have multimillion dollar budgets, while workers make very little. Beyond wages, advocates say that segregating workers into special workshops, goes against the Americans with Disabilities Act.</p><p>Rene Luna organizes with <a href="http://www.accessliving.org/index.php?tray=content&amp;tid=top683&amp;cid=2al73" target="_blank">Disabled Americans Want Work Now (DAWWN)</a> and is an advocate with Access Living.</p><p>&ldquo;It doesn&rsquo;t help our perceptions of disability,&rdquo; Luna said.</p><p>A few bills have tried to eliminate the subminimum wage, but never successfully. And this current round of minimum wage conversations doesn&rsquo;t seem like it will end it either.</p><p>In order to change things, Luna says we have to think about work differently. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;We have to not think about a job description and trying to fit a disabled person into that description, but consider reasonable accommodations,&rdquo; Luna said.</p><p>Grice for example, was put in a job that required him to assemble materials, even though his disability meant he lacked hand dexterity. &nbsp;One day, about 5 months into his job, he looked down at his work, frustrated with how slowly it was moving.</p><p>&ldquo;I just said to myself I can&rsquo;t do this anymore, I can&#39;t do this.&rdquo;</p><p>Grice asked his social worker to take him out of the program and help him find a job in marketing or outreach, like he had before at the gym and bank.</p><p>&ldquo;Her response was, &lsquo;we are doing the best we can do. Just go along for now and we will try our best,&rsquo;&rdquo; Grice said.</p><p>But Grice didn&rsquo;t want to just wait. Many other people in workshops are afraid to speak up or leave, explained Grice. Keep in mind these organizations sometimes also provide housing, transportation and other services.</p><p>Grice felt like if he was able, it was his responsibility to take a stand. So he&rsquo;s left it all behind. He now organizes with DAWWN, lives in a nursing home and is looking for a job.</p><p><em>Shannon Heffernan is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/triciabobeda">@shannon_h</a></em></p></p> Tue, 28 May 2013 12:57:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/labor-laws-allow-workers-disabilities-earn-less-minimum-wage-107389 Emanuel pushes mandatory minimums for gun crimes, but research shows they are ineffective http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-pushes-mandatory-minimums-gun-crimes-research-shows-they-are-ineffective-106621 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Screen Shot 2013-04-11 at 8.35.48 PM.png" alt="" /><p><p>Harold Pollack cares deeply about Chicago&rsquo;s murder problem and he knows a lot about it too. In 2008, when he was part of the team working to establish the Crime Lab at the University of Chicago, he read through medical examiner reports for 200 consecutive homicides of young men in Chicago, and a couple things about the murders really stood out.</p><p>&ldquo;They were impulsive acts where a gun was present, and so an altercation that would have led to somebody getting punched in the face suddenly becomes someone being sent to the morgue,&rdquo; said Pollack.</p><p>Another thing that stood out to him was just how deadly guns can be, and like all of us who grieve over the high number of young people being killed, Pollack is looking for any solutions that could help reduce the number of murders in Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;We have many people in the city walking around carrying these really lethal weapons and causing tragedies for themselves and other people and if we can make that less common by the imposition of the risk that they&rsquo;ll face some sort of a mandatory minimum sentence if they&rsquo;re caught, I think we&rsquo;ll save some lives,&rdquo; said Pollack.</p><p>That&rsquo;s why Pollack supports Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s push to impose mandatory minimum 3-year sentences on all people caught carrying an illegal gun. In fact Pollack testified in Springfield before legislators considering the law, and his appearance carries some weight because he&rsquo;s the co-director of the Crime Lab at the University of Chicago, which is dedicated to using science to improve crime policy. So as I was doing research for this story I went to Pollack to see what research he has to show that mandatory minimums will work. His answer surprised me.</p><p>&ldquo;Well I don&rsquo;t think we have research that nails it down,&rdquo; said Pollack. &ldquo;I must say I personally am very influenced by the situation in New York.&rdquo;</p><p>The situation in New York -- that&rsquo;s one of the main &ldquo;arguments&rdquo; Emanuel and Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy have repeatedly made over the past few months as they&rsquo;ve pushed their agenda on gun legislation..</p><p>&ldquo;And just look at New York,&rdquo; said McCarthy at a press conference this week. &ldquo;It couldn&rsquo;t be a clearer example of how to do this. The fact is, where these conditions exist, it&rsquo;s working. I mean, what research do we need?&rdquo;</p><p>Well, Frank Zimring did do the research. He&rsquo;s a professor of law at the University of California Berkeley and author of the book &ldquo;The City That Became Safe: New York&rsquo;s Lessons for Urban Crime and its Control.&rdquo;<br /><br />&ldquo;The mandatory minimum punishments, is, if you study the New York experience, beside the point,&rdquo; said Zimring.</p><p>Zimring studied 19 years of data tracking crime in New York. He says in 1990 the city had 2,250 murders. In 2012, it had 419. That&rsquo;s an astonishing 80 percent drop in murder.</p><p>It&rsquo;s that success that&rsquo;s being used to justify the mandatory minimum sentences being proposed by Emanuel and McCarthy, but mandatory minimums weren&rsquo;t signed into law in New York until late 2006.</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s after 90 percent of the crime reduction!&rdquo; said Zimring. &ldquo;I think that what&rsquo;s going on is that the superintendent and the mayor in Chicago are under a &lsquo;do something fast political pressure,&rsquo; and in my experience, at least, that&rsquo;s never been good for penal codes.&rdquo;</p><p>So, mandatory minimums were not part of the formula that led to New York&rsquo;s success. But can they work to deter crime? Police Superintendent McCarthy has been making the argument that they can.</p><p>At his weekly press conferences on guns and mandatory minimums McCarthy has been profiling cases where young men who had previous gun charges are either shot or charged with shooting someone. Here&rsquo;s what he said at a press conference at the beginning of April:</p><p>&ldquo;Akeem Manago was shot and killed this weekend. In April, less than a year ago, 2012, he was sentenced to 42 months for aggravated battery and one year for aggravated UUW.&nbsp; He was paroled on January 28th and two months later he was shot and killed. With truth in sentencing he would have been incarcerated instead of on the street to be a crime victim,&rdquo; said McCarthy.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s an emotionally powerful claim your police chief is making,&rdquo; said Mike Tonry, a professor of law at the University of Minnesota. &ldquo;Probably most people&rsquo;s intuition is that it&rsquo;s legitimate, which is why it&rsquo;s an effective public argument. Of course it&rsquo;s completely intellectually dishonest.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s simple, with 100 percent&nbsp; accuracy, to make statements like that retrospectively, say, this guy was convicted, didn&rsquo;t go to prison, six months later committed an offense, don&rsquo;t you see if he had been sent to prison six months ago this wouldn&rsquo;t have happened,&rdquo; said Tonry. But he says the problem is that if you go back six months and look at the number of people who came to the attention of police that day, there&rsquo;s no way to know which ones would reoffend in the future unless you lock them all up and that gets costly.</p><p>The Illinois Sentencing and Policy Advisory Council has studied Emanuel&rsquo;s mandatory minimum and told legislators that if the law had been in effect over the last three years it would have cost the state an extra $400 million in incarceration expenses.</p><p>Tonry says there are better ways to spend that money to bring down crime. &ldquo;You could do some things with greater police intensity, changes in patrolling techniques, all kinds of outreach work with gangs, all kinds of community center stuff that would probably be more effective,&rdquo; said Tonry.</p><p>In a 2009 paper on mandatory minimums Tonry looked at sentences before the laws took effect and after and surprisingly he found that the sentences were often exactly the same. The mandatory minimums had no effect because prosecutors and judges simply found ways to work around them, most commonly by bringing charges without attached mandatory sentences.</p><p>In such cases Tonry says the mandatory minimum laws are just political theater and fall into a category of law called expressive punishment laws.</p><p>He explains them as &ldquo;Laws that are meant to essentially convey a message to the public irrespective of what they do in practice, and since your mayor is a smart guy and I&rsquo;m sure he is surrounded by smart people, I have no doubt that they perfectly well understand that this is a symbolic proposal of their making and if it&rsquo;s enacted they will claim credit for having responded to public anxiety and having done something about whether or not it&rsquo;s likely to have any effects in the real world,&rdquo; said Tonry.</p><p>But so what?&nbsp; What&rsquo;s wrong with passing a law that says we as a state take it very seriously when people carry guns illegally?</p><p>Tonry says if the mandatory minimum proves misguided as such laws often have -- it will be&nbsp; tough to take back. &ldquo;No state has yet repealed any major bit of expressive tough-on-crime legislation,&rdquo; said Tonry. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s really hard to do.&rdquo;</p><p>Emanuel has said he&rsquo;s confident that mandatory minimums will be part of any new state gun legislation. In announcing his push for mandatory minimums he said, &ldquo;When you commit a serious gun offense, you should serve the time. The victims deserve it, the public demands it, and the criminal justice system shoud deliver it.&rdquo;</p></p> Thu, 11 Apr 2013 19:45:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-pushes-mandatory-minimums-gun-crimes-research-shows-they-are-ineffective-106621 Without Means: The role of guns in suicide deaths http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/without-means-role-guns-suicide-deaths-106590 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Guns and Suicides_130409_sh.jpeg.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Lindsay Van Sickle&rsquo;s dad loved to shoot. He lived on a farm and hunted as a little boy. As an adult, he spent time at the shooting range. He collected what she calls &ldquo;cowboy guns&rdquo; and loved the history behind some of his WWII firearms.</p><p>Van Sickle describes her dad as the life of the party. But he also struggled emotionally.&nbsp; In July of 2011, he took one of his guns, locked the rest of them up, left his house and shot himself at a park. He was 54. The year he died, of the 30,867 gun deaths in the U.S., 19,766 were suicides.</p><p>Van Sickle says her dad was a model of responsibility with guns.</p><p>&ldquo;At the house they were locked up in the basement. I didn&rsquo;t even know where the keys were,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;Even a few of my dad&rsquo;s cousin&rsquo;s who grew up kind of like my dad, were shocked that he would take something he loved so much and use it to end his life.&rdquo;</p><p>As Van Sickle watches the news, and sees all these debates about guns, she&rsquo;s found herself wondering, what role these suicides play in the debate.</p><p>&ldquo;When something like this happens, you can&rsquo;t help but wonder about the what if. If laws were different, if rules were different, if the outcome would be the same,&rdquo; said Van Sickle.</p><p>I posed that question, about laws and suicide, to Dr. Cathy Barber at the Harvard School of Public Health.</p><p>She says first, it&rsquo;s important to note why the method of suicide matters.</p><p>A number of years ago, Barber was helping develop a new system for the federal government called the National Violent Death Reporting system.</p><p>&ldquo;In the process of doing that, I would read through thousands of suicides, little thumbnail sketches of suicides,&rdquo; Barber recalled.</p><p>Barber was surprised at how many of the suicides seemed impulsive. Barber, like many others, assumed that suicide is something people plan. In another study, people who almost died in a suicide were asked how long after they decided to attempt suicide did they actually try it. Twenty-four percent said under 5 min. Two-thirds said under an hour. Only 16 percent said a day or more.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;You&rsquo;d think this is such a huge decision, you&rsquo;d think it would be a more deliberative one,&rdquo; said Barber.</p><p>This matters because even though people may have long battles with depression, the window of time in which they actually want to attempt suicide is small. And many people who survived suicide attempts, never go on to try again.</p><p>So Barber, came to a simple conclusion. What mattered in that tiny window was the instrument available to the person wanting to commit suicide.</p><p>&ldquo;There is a huge difference across methods of suicide in how likely they are to actually kill. Firearms are actually at the top of the heap.&rdquo;</p><p><br />Suicide attempts with a gun, result in death 85 percent of the time. Poisoning, for example, only results in death 2 percent of the time.</p><p>State suicide statistics illustrate this as well.&nbsp; Eastern states, like Massachusetts have a much lower rate of suicide death than Western states like Wyoming. They don&rsquo;t vary much in depression rates or even suicide attempts.The biggest difference is the number of guns in each state.</p><p>This has gotten some public health workers thinking about a method called &ldquo;means restriction.&rdquo;</p><p>The term comes from the U.K., where gas&mdash;sticking your head in the oven&mdash;was once a leading means of suicide.</p><p>&ldquo;Back in the 1960s, they started replacing the source of gas with a non-toxic source, and suddenly suicides in Great Britain went down by a third,&rdquo; Barber said. &ldquo;And so that&rsquo;s when we started realizing means restriction actually can save lives.&rdquo;</p><p>But of course, &ldquo;means restriction&rdquo; with guns in the U.S. is not as simple.</p><p>Gun control usually focuses on homicide. Even laws like waiting periods, or background checks, haven&rsquo;t really been shown to help. That&rsquo;s because people usually don&rsquo;t go out and buy a gun for a suicide.</p><p>What matters is having a gun around. And no one is proposing laws that would get guns out of homes all together.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t see it as being in line what the courts have decided about second amendment rights,&rdquo; said Barber.&nbsp; &ldquo;I mean people can have their opinions about this, but personally, my interest is looking at this and saying &lsquo;how do we save lives right now.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>So Barber&rsquo;s approach is a public health one. Her project based at Harvard School of Public Health is called Means Matters. She encourages programs that work with, not against gun owners. For example, a New Hampshire project trains gun shop owners in suicide prevention.&nbsp; In addition to learning about how to lock up and store a gun, gun purchasers learn about how to keep guns away from suicidal individuals. They also receive resources for mental health support.</p><p>But the politicized debates over gun laws sometimes spill over to these public health approaches too. Dr.&nbsp; Joseph O&#39;Neil used to work as a family doctor. At appointments, he asked about general safety concerns.</p><p>&ldquo;When I was talking about car seats, when I was talking about seatbelt use, I often asked families if there was a firearm in the house. And I had several families take exception to that.&rdquo;</p><p>Some patients were so upset, that he would ask what they considered a personal, non-medical question, that they switched doctors.</p><p>But O&#39;Neill didn&rsquo;t stop. In fact, he expanded his efforts. He became part of the Indiana Violent Death Prevention Project. One of the organizations projects was training clergy in suicide intervention.</p><p>Over a third of clergy members, said they had actually lost someone in their congregation to suicide. The training helped them counsel potentially suicidal individuals.</p><p>&ldquo;Clergy felt more empowered to say by the way I know you feel this way. Is there a gun in the home, would you be willing to get it out of the house,&rdquo; said O&rsquo;Neill.</p><p>But they never got to see how well it worked. Their funding, from the Joyce Foundation, the same private foundation that supports this series, ran out. Other funding for firearm injury research is scarce.</p><p>The Center for Disease Control funds research on causes of death and injury. But since 1996, most of their research on firearms was restricted by congress, who was pressured by the NRA.</p><p>Another problem: The Consumer Product Safety Commision, which regulates household products like toys or cars, doesn&rsquo;t oversee firearms.</p><p>O&#39;Neil said there just isn&rsquo;t the same oversight or information on guns. &ldquo;Since 1975, we&rsquo;ve reduced the number of infants killed in motor vehicle accidents by 75%. For toddlers, 50%. I wish we could do that for firearm injuries.&rdquo;</p><p>But without the research dollars and oversight, he thinks they won&rsquo;t. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s sort of like going without a compass. We don&rsquo;t know where we&rsquo;ve been and we don&rsquo;t know where we are going unless we have the data.&rdquo;</p><p>Both Dr. O&#39;neill and Dr. Barber say that the current political battles over guns are a catch 22. It brings more attention to their issue.&nbsp; But it makes any mention of guns so contentious their work becomes political. And it&rsquo;s hard to talk to gun owners-- the very people most at risk of gun suicides-- without coming across as anti-gun.</p><p>As for Lindsay Van Sickle, the experience of actually losing someone to a firearms suicide has changed the way she feels.</p><p>&ldquo;If you have a gun, even if it&rsquo;s for hunting or protection, there may come a time in your life that you may be depressed. And that may be a means to take your life. So I am definitely more nervous and scared about guns now based on what my dad did to himself.&rdquo;</p><p>She doesn&#39;t&rsquo; know if any policies or programs could have changed what happened to her father. But she does think, at the very least, it&rsquo;s worth us asking the question.</p><p><em>Shannon Heffernan is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/shannon_h" target="_blank">@shannon_h</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 10 Apr 2013 14:06:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/without-means-role-guns-suicide-deaths-106590 Mental health advocates say gun debate misses the mark http://www.wbez.org/news/mental-health-advocates-say-gun-debate-misses-mark-106579 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/city hall protest_130409.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Last month in Springfield, a committee gathered at 8 a.m. in a quiet hearing room to talk about the connection between mental health programs and guns. It was the same committee that had previously met three times to talk about gun control regulations. At each of those meetings, a velvet rope was set up outside the room to control the huge line of people waiting to get in. At the mental health hearing, the velvet rope was set up but hardly anyone showed up.</p><p>One person who did show up was Todd Vandermyde, a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association in Springfield. He talked about how the NRA is somewhere between wanting to make sure those who need mental health treatment can get it, but also advocating so that those who want guns can get them.</p><p>&ldquo;I want to make sure that we don&rsquo;t stigmatize people in such a way that they don&rsquo;t want to seek treatment and that we take other behavioral issues and start classifying them as mental illnesses that just start becoming broad prohibitors on people when they&rsquo;re trying to exercise a fundamental right,&rdquo; Vandermyde said.</p><p><br />That right he&rsquo;s referring to is the Second Amendment. Vandermyde says the N-R-A wants to make sure mental health services are funded - but also that the rights of gun owners are respected.</p><p>In our ongoing series <em>Front and Center: Flashpoint</em> we&rsquo;re continuing to a look at how the debate over guns is affecting mental health programs. Many politicians and mental health providers say funding for mental health has dwindled in recent years. But recent mass shootings have changed the political conversation.</p><p>Still, how do people who actually work in the mental health field feel about this debate?</p><p>&ldquo;People are mixing apples and oranges with porterhouse steaks,&rdquo; said Dr. Carl Bell, the head of the Institute of Juvenile Research at the University of Illinois-Chicago. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s a lot of confusion in the conversations about mental illness and violence.&rdquo;</p><p>Bell has been involved in mental health issues around Chicago for decades and he&rsquo;s outspoken and blunt. Bell said the problem with how the mental health debate has been tied to gun violence is that the connection is complex. He goes down a list of the different types of gun violence.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s drug-related violence, there&rsquo;s hate crime violence, there&rsquo;s inter-personal altercation violence, there&rsquo;s stranger, robbery homicide, there&rsquo;s serial killers, there&rsquo;s mass killers, there&rsquo;s suicide, there&rsquo;s legitimate violence where people are doing self-defense,&rdquo; he said.<br />Bell is critical of how the media has covered mass shootings and he said his solution is not a new concept.</p><p>&ldquo;The way that you fix problems in people is you make sure they&rsquo;re surrounded by community that&rsquo;s going to take care of them: social fabric,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>But so far, some state legislatures have taken on the issue through proposals by requiring more doctors like Bell to report patients who may pose a threat to themselves or others. Legislation like that hasn&rsquo;t gone very far in Springfield.</p><p>Instead, Illinois has acted mostly by cutting mental health funding in recent years and closing mental health facilities, including one Bell used to run on Chicago&rsquo;s South Side. Bell said it happened so fast, he doesn&rsquo;t even know what happened to his patients.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s egregious,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s reprehensible. I think it&rsquo;s tragic.&rdquo;</p><p>Here in Chicago a year ago, the city also closed six of its twelve mental health clinics to consolidate&nbsp;services. The renewed focus on mental health and gun violence comes as Governor Pat Quinn now says he wants to add $25 million to mental health programs.&nbsp;</p><p>That&rsquo;s good news to Elizabeth Rahuba, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizoaffective disorder and has encountered the stigma so many people who work in mental health say they want to avoid.</p><p>&ldquo;If it ever comes up in a conversation where I reveal my diagnosis, most of the people have been pretty good about it, but some people can get kind of skittish,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Rahuba spent six years living in a nursing home where a lot of people seeking mental treatment in Illinois end up living. She now lives in Hyde Park on her own and said she used to work for a private security company in Texas. She even occasionally had to carry a gun for the job, but she said those days are gone.</p><p>&ldquo;I was a commissioned security officer. I did carry,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;But right now, knowing my illness, that I could trigger it at any time if it ever got that bad, I wouldn&rsquo;t want one.&rdquo;</p><p>Rahuba said people with mental health issues like her need to recognize symptoms before they become problems. She doesn&rsquo;t like the idea of requiring more doctors to report patients who might pose a threat to themselves or others.<br /><br />Rahuba says that&rsquo;d make it harder for her to open up to people.<br /><br />Yet another reason, she says, why the current debate about mental health and gun violence may be missing the mark.</p><p><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him at <a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold" target="_blank">@tonyjarnold</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 10 Apr 2013 08:11:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/mental-health-advocates-say-gun-debate-misses-mark-106579 Reality TV: A shortcut to the American Dream? http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/reality-tv-shortcut-american-dream-103497 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Jesse-0348-Edit.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="http://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F65257026&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false&amp;color=ff7700" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Tales of rags to riches have a history in television--but the last decade created a whole new stage for young people wanting to show off their talents.<br /><br />Every year, tens of thousands of Americans try out for talent-related reality shows. In March, <em>The Voice</em> drew more than 6,000 hopefuls to Chicago auditions alone. And for these people, it&rsquo;s changing the idea of the American Dream.</p><p>Take <a href="http://www.jessecampbell.com/" target="_blank">Jesse Campbell</a>, for example. He&rsquo;s a preacher&rsquo;s son who grew up in modest Maywood, Illinois. But earlier this year he stepped into the national spotlight when he made it to the finals of <em>The Voice</em>. Though the NBC hit was not his first go at talent-based reality TV. In fact, he&rsquo;s tried out for a few shows.</p><p>The first was <em>America&rsquo;s Got Talent</em>. He was rejected but knew there were plenty of other shows and so he kept trying.</p><p>&ldquo;I stood out there, all day, all night at those auditions. And now I see why they call them the cattle call,&rdquo; Campbell recalled.</p><p>In one audition, Campbell says he hadn&rsquo;t even reach the second note of his song when one of the judges made him stop.</p><p>&ldquo;And the judge said, &lsquo;Very very nice, but no,&#39;&quot; Campbell recalled, &quot;So, I went about my business, and said, &#39;well I (still) believe this is a platform for me. Maybe the judge was just having a bad day.&rdquo;</p><p>So, Campbell saved up his money up and flew to another city to audition. That time, he didn&rsquo;t even make it past the first round.</p><p>He kept trying, though, because his chances at making it any other way were slim.</p><p><strong>Searching for fame and fortune</strong></p><p>Campbell&rsquo;s road to success has been a bumpy one, to say the least. After performing in churches, he signed on to Capitol Records and moved to Los Angeles where he met his wife--but the happiness was short-lived.<br /><br />&ldquo;The career did not take off as I hoped, and therefore the wife did,&rdquo; Campbell said.</p><p>One person who didn&#39;t taken off, though was his three-year-old daughter.</p><p>In 2003, Campbell hit rock bottom: He and his daughter ended up living in their car; they parked it in a 24-hour grocery market in Santa Monica, California.</p><p>&ldquo;Because it was open 24 hours a day, I figured people would probably think I was coming out or waiting for someone,&rdquo; Campbell reasoned, &ldquo;And that&rsquo;s where we slept for two nights.&rdquo;</p><p>Campbell wondered what he was doing, putting his daughter&#39;s safety and comfort at stake. He realized he could reach out to friends and family for help.</p><p>Campbell&rsquo;s family and pastor gave him money to get by and offered him a place to stay--but work was sporadic. He performed in churches, waited tables, did some landscaping and sang on the streets of Santa Monica. All the while, Campbell didn&rsquo;t give up on his childhood dreams: to have a modest home for his children.</p><p>He auditioned for <em>The Voice&rsquo;s</em> first season and didn&rsquo;t make the cut. But when he tried out again for the second season which aired earlier this year, <em>The Voice</em> said &quot;yes.&quot;<br /><br />&ldquo;I looked over and saw my daughter, her eyes lit just so brightly and she was just so happy because she was just there with me as I sang on the street, not even a year ago. And now here she is watching daddy on television,&rdquo; Campbell said.</p><p><strong>A Shortcut to the American Dream?&nbsp;</strong></p><p>These shows have made an impact on the American Dream for some young people. Sociologist Karen Sternheimer wrote a book called <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Celebrity-Culture-American-Dream-Mobility/dp/0415886791" target="_blank"><em>Celebrity Culture and The American Dream: Stardom and Social Mobility</em></a>. She says the glut of reality television during this recession has produced a new jackpot.</p><p>She says that when the more traditional ways of having economic success or even economic stability seem impossible, there&rsquo;s always the fantasy of the overnight success. She points to the lottery and reality shows, and even posting videos on YouTube as examples of how people think they can strike it rich, quickly.</p><p>&ldquo;I think in recent years, these examples have been kind of like a last hope when people have trouble finding a job. Reality shows have really proliferated in recent years and there are more people who we might believe those people we see on television are just like us. And so in a strange way it seems like there are more opportunities,&rdquo; Sternheimer explained.</p><p>And in fact, the Internet has created stars even without the help of television. Think of Justin Bieber who was discovered on YouTube: He&rsquo;s the son of a single mom and he earned $108 million dollars in just the past two years. But his experience is a fluke.</p><p>Because most times, the amount of money and time invested by reality TV contestants doesn&rsquo;t pay off.&nbsp;</p><p>Sternheimer said research shows people on reality shows make an average of $1,500 a stint.</p><p>Sternheimer says the Internet and reality TV create the perception that we&rsquo;re closer to celebrities and becoming a star seems more within reach. Some of the more popular reality shows like <em>American Idol</em>, <em>The Real World</em> and <em>Bad Girls Club</em> limit participants over the age of 30. That means young people are especially vulnerable in some cases.</p><p>Sometimes, television shows these young people engaging in unprofessional behavior like drinking heavily or using drugs and that would have serious job consequences in the future.</p><p>Campbell&rsquo;s journey thus far has not brought him to riches from rags just yet. But he&rsquo;s hopeful.</p><p>&ldquo;These shows have great potential to bring about economic mobility, because it&rsquo;s the exposure and what you do with it, it&rsquo;s up to you. It has really made a big difference in my life simply because I can now do more than before because more people are aware of what it is that I have to offer, Campbell said.</p><p>Campbell&rsquo;s main income comes from live performances right now. He&rsquo;s investing those earnings into the album he&rsquo;s currently making, while shopping it around. He&rsquo;s also trying to get into commercial singing. And since he once before fell on his way up the economic ladder, he emphasizes education, hard work and perseverance for his daughter, Soraya.&nbsp;<br />&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe align="middle" frameborder="0" height="315" id="nbc-video-widget" scrolling="no" src="http://www.nbc.com/assets/video/widget/widget.html?vid=1383126" width="560"></iframe></p></p> Tue, 30 Oct 2012 05:02:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/reality-tv-shortcut-american-dream-103497