WBEZ | Aurora http://www.wbez.org/tags/aurora Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Aurora finishes 2012 homicide-free http://www.wbez.org/news/aurora-finishes-2012-homicide-free-104640 <p><p>AURORA, Ill. &mdash; Illinois&#39; second-largest city finished 2012 without a single homicide.</p><p>The Beacon-News <a href="http://bit.ly/XhUI49" target="_blank">reports</a> that Aurora was homicide-free last year for the first time since 1946.</p><p>The last killing reported in the western Chicago suburb was on Dec. 21, 2011. That&#39;s when a 21-year-old woman died in a domestic violence attack.</p><p>Aurora has struggled with gang violence in the past. The city&#39;s homicides peaked with 26 in 1995 and 1996. As recently as 2007, the city averaged more than one homicide per month. By 2011, Aurora logged only two homicides for the year.</p><p>Aurora Police Chief Greg Thomas calls the turnaround &quot;amazing&quot; and says the city went through a lot to reduce violence.</p><p>Aurora had almost 198,000 residents, according to the 2010 census.</p></p> Wed, 02 Jan 2013 08:24:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/aurora-finishes-2012-homicide-free-104640 Suburban Chicago bird hoarder pleads not guilty http://www.wbez.org/news/suburban-chicago-bird-hoarder-pleads-not-guilty-104192 <p><p>AURORA, Ill.&nbsp; &mdash; The defense attorney for an Aurora man who house was found filled with nearly 500 birds says that weeks later there are still birds in the residence.</p><p>Defense attorney Roderick Mallison said Tuesday that there are still birds inside the Aurora home that David Skeberdis &quot;has not been able to capture yet.&quot; Skerberdis pleaded not guilty Tuesday to one count of misdemeanor animal hoarding. Authorities discovered in October that his home was filled with hundreds of birds. It also contained mounds of garbage, bird feces and bird seed.</p><p>The <a href="http://bit.ly/R5v3cB" target="_blank">Daily Herald reports</a> that the 57-year-old Skeberdis&#39; town house has been condemned. The house held finches, canaries, parakeets along with 120 dead birds.</p><p>Skerberdis has acknowledges his bird collecting got out of control.</p></p> Tue, 04 Dec 2012 16:10:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/suburban-chicago-bird-hoarder-pleads-not-guilty-104192 Foster glides past Biggert after race that looked tight http://www.wbez.org/news/foster-glides-past-biggert-after-race-looked-tight-103708 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/foster_smal_1.jpg" alt="" /><p><div><p>Defying opinion polls that depicted a neck-and-neck contest, Democrat Bill Foster easily defeated Republican U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert in the 11th Congressional District on Tuesday. With nearly all precincts reporting, Foster had almost 58 percent of the vote; Biggert had 42 percent.</p><p>In his victory speech, Foster expressed misgivings about the race&rsquo;s negative television advertising, a months-long barrage funded by campaign contributions and outside spending totaling roughly $14 million. &ldquo;I sense that both Congresswoman Biggert and myself were forced into an increasingly ugly world of politics today &mdash; a world that we were both deeply uncomfortable with,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Biggert, a seven-term House member, appeared to blame her loss on congressional redistricting controlled by Illinois Democrats. &ldquo;This race wasn&rsquo;t supposed to happen,&rdquo; she told supporters in her concession speech. &ldquo;They thought that I would shy away from a tough race in a district tailor-made for my opponent, and they were wrong.&rdquo;</p><p>Other factors contributing to Biggert&rsquo;s defeat included strong Democratic get-out-the-vote efforts and growing Latino numbers in Chicago&rsquo;s suburbs. In the 11th District &mdash; which includes parts of Aurora, Naperville, Bolingbrook and Joliet &mdash; Hispanics constitute 22 percent of the population. Foster rallied them by pointing to Biggert&rsquo;s&nbsp;vote against the DREAM Act, a stalled bill that would have provided many young undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship.</p><p>Despite a bitter tone through much of the race, the candidates claimed to be moderate and eager to work across party lines. And they did not stand far apart on some hot-button issues. Both, for example, warmed up to legal recognition of same-sex marriage and avoided weighing in on whether Joliet should pursue a privately run detention center that would hold immigrants awaiting deportation.</p><p>On other issues, particularly economic matters, the candidates showed greater differences. Foster blasted Biggert&rsquo;s vote for a budget plan that would slash spending and overhaul Medicare, providing government subsidies to individuals who chose to buy private insurance.</p><p>On Social Security, Biggert backed enabling individuals to invest a portion of their contributions in the stock market &mdash; a proposal Foster called too risky. On health policy, Foster touted his vote for President Barack Obama&rsquo;s Affordable Care Act, a law Biggert characterized as a jobs killer and sought to repeal. On taxes, Biggert supported extending all of President George W. Bush&rsquo;s cuts, while Foster called for allowing them to expire for incomes above $250,000.</p><div><p>The election marks a comeback for Foster, 55, who served almost three years in a nearby House district. Republican Randy Hultren unseated Foster in a 2010 election that swept the GOP into control of the House.</p><p>As the Republicans retain their majority, Foster is vowing to work with them by focusing on, as he puts it, &ldquo;numbers instead of political positions.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;We have to make sure that government investments are as cost-effective and highest-return as possible,&rdquo; he told WBEZ late Tuesday. &ldquo;And that&rsquo;s something that Democrats and Republicans agree on.&rdquo;</p><p>Foster said bipartisan points of unity could include cutting &ldquo;military systems the Pentagon doesn&rsquo;t want&rdquo; and encouraging a rebirth of domestic manufacturing. &ldquo;One of the best things about the ongoing recovery is that U.S. manufacturing is leading that,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Foster also had a prediction about the election results. He said they would end acrimonious debates about Obamacare and financial reregulation.</p></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 07 Nov 2012 00:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/foster-glides-past-biggert-after-race-looked-tight-103708 Biggert, Foster turn to big names to drum up votes in tight House race http://www.wbez.org/news/biggert-foster-turn-big-names-drum-votes-tight-house-race-103671 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Judy Biggert AP cropped.jpg" alt="" /><p><div>After a firestorm of negative television advertising in their tight Illinois congressional race, Republican U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert and Democrat Bill Foster are trying to get their supporters to the polls using a few bells and whistles.<br><br>Foster, a former one-term U.S. House member, started robocalls Monday to potential voters in the suburban Chicago district using the voice of former President Bill Clinton, who said the candidate&rsquo;s experience in science and business provided &ldquo;the kind of common-sense experience and leadership we need in Washington.&rdquo;<br><br>Biggert, a seven-term House member, came up with an attention grabber of her own. In a YouTube video, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk praised her as &ldquo;one of the ultimate suburban moms who should be representing us in the Congress next year.&rdquo; Kirk, the state&rsquo;s top Republican, has kept a low profile since suffering a stroke in January.<p>&nbsp;</p>The uplifting words from Clinton and Kirk stood out after months of mind-numbing accusations and counteraccusations in the TV ads. The money behind those ads flowed in as polls suggested the 11th District contest was one of the closest House races in the country. By October 17, according to their latest federal filings, the Biggert and Foster campaigns had raked in more than $2.5 million each.<p>&nbsp;</p>And that&rsquo;s just the beginning. The race attracted more than $8 million in outside money, according to the Federal Election Commission. Figures from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics last month showed Biggert&rsquo;s campaign with an edge in that spending.<p>&nbsp;</p>On Friday, Foster resorted to lending his campaign $500,000. The money paid for his final TV ad, according to Foster campaign aide Aviva Bowen. &ldquo;We have to keep pace with the millions that [Biggert], her allies and the rightwing super-PACs have put up in false claims on TV,&rdquo; Bowen said.<p>&nbsp;</p>Biggert&rsquo;s team saw the loan differently. &ldquo;Congressman Foster is clearly desperate and terrified that Illinois voters are about to reject him and his dishonest smear campaigns once again,&rdquo; Biggert spokesman Gill Stevens wrote.<p>&nbsp;</p>On Monday, the candidates made a flurry of stops across the barbell-shaped district, which includes parts of Aurora, Naperville, Bolingbrook, Joliet and other suburbs west and southwest of Chicago. Foster&rsquo;s campaign said U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Maryland) was joining him on afternoon visits to sites set up for campaign volunteers. A Biggert aide said the Republican would attend a Joliet dinner hosted by the local chamber of commerce.<p>&nbsp;</p>Amid the combative TV ads, both candidates claimed to be moderate and eager to work across party lines. And they did not stand far apart on some hot-button issues. Both, for example, warmed up to legal recognition of same-sex marriage and avoided weighing in on whether Joliet should pursue a privately run detention center that would hold immigrants awaiting deportation.<p>&nbsp;</p>On other issues, particularly economic matters, the candidates showed greater differences. Foster blasted Biggert&rsquo;s vote for a budget plan that would slash spending and overhaul Medicare, providing government subsidies to individuals who choose to buy private insurance.<p>&nbsp;</p>On Social Security, Biggert backed enabling individuals to invest a portion of their contributions in the stock market &mdash; a proposal Foster called too risky. On health policy, Foster touted his vote for President Barack Obama&rsquo;s Affordable Care Act, a law Biggert characterized as a jobs killer and sought to repeal. On taxes, Biggert supported extending all of President George W. Bush&rsquo;s cuts, while Foster called for allowing them to expire for incomes above $250,000.<p></p>Both Biggert and Foster said they were trying to protect the middle class but neither seemed to have a personal stake in reversing the economic squeeze of recent decades.</p><p>&nbsp;</p>Biggert, 75, lives in Hinsdale and grew up in Wilmette, a suburb north of Chicago. Her father was a Walgreen Co. executive who headed the drugstore chain in the 1960s. She received a Northwestern University law degree and clerked for a federal judge. In politics, she began on a Hinsdale school board and made it to the U.S. House.<p>&nbsp;</p>Foster, 55, and his brother launched a theater lighting business that made them rich. Foster, a Harvard-educated physicist, also spent more than 20 years at the U.S. Department of Energy&rsquo;s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory near Batavia, a suburb west of Chicago.<p>&nbsp;</p><div>Foster won a 2008 special election to replace retiring Republican U.S. Rep. Dennis Hastert, a former longtime House speaker. The Democrat served just one full term before Randy Hultgren, a Republican state senator, unseated him in 2010. Foster moved to a Naperville section included in the 11th, a new congressional district with borders drawn by state Democrats after the 2010 census.</div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 05 Nov 2012 15:46:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/biggert-foster-turn-big-names-drum-votes-tight-house-race-103671 East Aurora School District announces new committee in the wake of transgender controversy http://www.wbez.org/news/east-aurora-school-district-announces-new-committee-wake-transgender-controversy-103499 <p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="348" mozallowfullscreen="" src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/52432249?badge=0" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="620"></iframe></p><p><em>(Slideshow: Parents and community members talk about what Aurora is like for transgender students.)</em></p><p>The East Aurora School District has announced that a committee will hold its first meeting Nov. 8 to discuss potential new anti-bullying and discrimination policies.</p><p>The formation of the committee comes in the wake of a controversy in which <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/turnabout-east-aurora-school-board-tosses-out-transgender-protections-103300">the school board passed and then rescinded a policy</a> on transgender students in just five days&rsquo; time, and one key administrator was placed on leave for her part in developing the initial policy.</p><p><a href="http://https://v3.boardbook.org/Public/PublicItemDownload.aspx?ik=33042109">The policy</a> would have allowed transgender students to use their preferred names and pronouns at school, and to have access to bathrooms and locker rooms aligned with the gender they identify with. It also stipulated that transgender students had a right to privacy, and said they could be out at school without having their parents notified.</p><p>District spokesman Clayton Muhammad said Monday that the committee will be selected by board members and administrators, but meetings will be open to the public. He said the new committee will develop an &ldquo;all-inclusive&rdquo; anti-discrimination policy for students, but will not necessarily address issues specific to transgender students.</p><p>During the week of Oct. 15-19, the East Aurora school board received hundreds of calls and emails in protest of the policy &ndash; many from outside of the district. One conservative group called it &ldquo;a radical policy on gender confusion&rdquo; in a <a href="http://illinoisfamily.org/education/aurora-east-high-school-board-of-education-adopts-radical-policy-on-gender-confusion/">web post</a> asking its members to send emails.</p><p>But when over twenty people from the area spoke at a packed public board meeting Oct. 19, almost all spoke out in favor of keeping the protections in place. At least one suggested forming a committee to address the issue.</p><p>Advocates in favor of the transgender protection believe the district rescinded the policy because of pressure from outsiders.</p><p>The district said they rescinded it because they did not fully understand its implications and were not prepared to implement it.</p><p>And some parents said the new protections seemed like they should be uncontroversial, because East Aurora was already a supportive place for LGBTQ students.</p><p>What happened in East Aurora?<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS6612_East%20Aurora%20035-scr.jpg" style="height: 210px; width: 280px; float: right; " title="East Aurora High School (WBEZ/Lewis Wallace)" /></p><p><strong>&quot;They never said their kids were being bullied&rdquo;</strong></p><p>In the few days between passing and rescinding the policy, East Aurora School Board President Annette Johnson estimates the board received over a thousand communications, mostly emails, about the protections for transgender students. The Illinois Family Institute, a conservative Christian ministry designated as a &ldquo;hate group&rdquo; by the Southern Poverty Law Center, was behind at least a few hundred of these communications.</p><p>But Johnson said it wasn&rsquo;t those calls that led to the school board&rsquo;s quick turnabout on the issue.</p><p>&ldquo;Here&rsquo;s the big thing that I want to point out to everybody,&rdquo; Johnson said, &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t have an issue with us rewriting the policy.&rdquo; She says that&rsquo;s the task the new committee will take on. But when it was passed, she said, the district was unprepared: &ldquo;It&rsquo;s just that that particular policy on that particular day...we did not have a prayer of implementing that program. You can&rsquo;t put a policy in place before people get trained.&rdquo;</p><p>Johnson also said the board was misled by an administrator to believe they were just updating policies to meet state requirements.</p><p>That administrator, Dr. Christie Aird, was placed on administrative leave nearly two weeks ago. Johnson said the leave was a result of Aird&rsquo;s part in passing the policy. District representatives had no comment and Dr. Aird has not returned calls.</p><p>Aird worked with other administrators and the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, an LGBT youth advocacy group, to develop the policy over several months. According Alliance leaders, the process was initiated after a parent with a young transgender child in the district sought the help of school administrators.</p><p>&ldquo;I was approached by an outside organization and by Dr. Aird, saying hey, we&rsquo;ve got a gender nonconforming student, and we want to make sure that East Aurora is prepared to support transgender students,&rdquo; said David Fischer, the Alliance&rsquo;s program manager.</p><p>The Alliance provided Aird with model policies and advised her on the one she brought to a school board committee chaired by Annette Johnson in July. Johnson&rsquo;s committee unanimously approved the new policy in October after district lawyers gave it the go-ahead.</p><p>The same committee looked at proposed changes to the district&rsquo;s <a href="https://v3.boardbook.org/Public/PublicItemDownload.aspx?ik=32683916">anti-bullying policy</a> in July. East Aurora has yet to update it to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected groups, an update required by the state of Illinois as of 2010. When Aird brought the transgender policy to the board, she also brought this proposed change. Johnson said the board still plans to vote on a new bullying policy.</p><p>But Johnson also said she thinks the district is already doing a good job dealing with bullying and said no parents had come forward to the contrary. Even the parents expressing support for the transgender protections, she said, &ldquo;never said their kids were being bullied.&rdquo;</p><p>Some of the confusion on all sides may stem from the fact that the transgender policy passed in East Aurora was not exactly an anti-bullying policy, nor was it an update required by the state of Illinois. Most of it focused on the responsibilities of teachers and administrators to accommodate and protect students who are out as transgender at school by allowing them to participate in school activities under their preferred name and gender.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS6610_East%20Aurora%20011-scr.jpg" style="height: 210px; width: 280px; float: left; " title="Dr. Amanda Lowe (WBEZ/Lewis Wallace)" /><strong>Are transgender students safe in Aurora?</strong></p><p>&ldquo;The district in general, and the community, are very, very protective of the students,&rdquo; said Dr. Amanda Lowe, a psychologist whose daughter attends East Aurora High. &ldquo;So this was sort of a shock...it was exactly the opposite of the way they usually respond to these types of issues.&rdquo;</p><p>East Aurora or District 131 is a small school district contained within the larger city of Aurora, a municipality of nearly 200,000 people. Aurora&rsquo;s kids attend schools in <a href="http://www.aurora-il.org/links.php">six different districts</a>. Of about 14,000 students in District 131, 84 percent are Latino, 8 percent are black, and 5 percent are white. Many students are poor and many have parents who are undocumented; Lowe says the district&rsquo;s protectiveness extends to issues like deportation raids and dropout rates. East Aurora High has an active Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), mental health services and an anti-bullying program in partnership with an <a href="http://www.violencepreventionworks.org/public/bullying_prevention_program.page?menuheader=9.">outside organization</a>.</p><p>Lowe has lived in Aurora for fifteen years. She said she moved to the community because she liked its diversity, its schools, and its progressive politics. She is bisexual, and she works with LGBTQ-identified clients as well as East Aurora students in her professional practice. When she and her daughter &ndash; whom she describes as &ldquo;also not straight&rdquo; &ndash; found out about the policy, she said they &ldquo;had a little celebration.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;The next morning,&rdquo; Lowe said, &ldquo;it was gone. There was an article saying there had been some kind of backlash.&rdquo; After being contacted by the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, Lowe attended the public meeting a few days later and spoke in favor of keeping the policy.</p><p>Asked whether she might become a member of the new committee, she said she doubts she&rsquo;ll get a call.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think they [the school board] like me very much,&rdquo; Lowe said.</p><p>Sandra Conti is a mental health therapist who has lived in Aurora for seventeen years. Her son, who is transgender, goes to school in Aurora in District 204, which is east of District 131 and extends into Naperville.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS6613_East%20Aurora%20046-scr.jpg" style="height: 180px; width: 240px; float: right; " title="Sandra Conti (WBEZ/Lewis Wallace)" /></p><p>She said her son has encountered some difficulty with students and teachers at school, but she believes he&rsquo;s had an easier time because of her advocacy.</p><p>&ldquo;The frustrating part for me are adults who do nothing,&rdquo; she said in an interview at the home of a friend. &ldquo;In my school they do attend to it, but I&rsquo;ll be honest, I think they attend to it because I&rsquo;ve been so active in the school district.&rdquo;</p><p>While Conti&rsquo;s son has chosen to stay at his school despite some difficulty, she says bathrooms, locker rooms, and pronouns were all issues at first. Before he came out and was given access to a private locker room, she said, &ldquo;he was to the point where I worried about suicide.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;He spent two and a half years in hell,&quot; she said. &quot;Sad to say, but we need the policies for adults to step up to the plate.&rdquo;</p><p>Nationwide, transgender people report a high rate of harassment and discrimination for their gender identities. The <a href="http://transequality.org/PDFs/Executive_Summary.pdf">suicide rate among transgender people is 41%</a>, 26 times the rate among the general population. A <a href="http://www.glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/news/record/2897.html">national survey</a>&nbsp;published by Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN) in 2011 said 80% of transgender students reported feeling unsafe at school because of their gender identities, and nearly 40% of LGBT students reported feeling unsafe in locker rooms and bathrooms.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS6615_East%20Aurora%20072-scr.jpg" style="height: 210px; width: 280px; float: left; " title="West Aurora High School (WBEZ/Lewis Wallace)" />In West Aurora, just across the river from the east side, the main high school has had a GSA group for eight years; it changed its name to Spectrum this year. The group&rsquo;s advisor, Joe Maston, said he has never had any problem with the administration and believes the school is generally protective of LGBTQ students. But if a policy like the one in East Aurora were passed at West, he said, &ldquo;it would bring the controversy to the forefront, I&rsquo;m sure. I&rsquo;m sure there are many people who would be upset on both sides.&rdquo;</p><p>Maston also said he knows students don&rsquo;t always bring their concerns to teachers, even the ones with a reputation for being supportive.</p><p>&ldquo;If someone came to me tomorrow and said, &lsquo;what are you talking about, all these terrible things happen all the time&rsquo;...I guess I don&rsquo;t know if I would be surprised or not.&rdquo;</p><p>See our slideshow (above) for more from parents and community members about what Aurora is like for LGBT students.</p></p> Tue, 30 Oct 2012 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/east-aurora-school-district-announces-new-committee-wake-transgender-controversy-103499 Losing James Holmes http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-08/losing-james-holmes-101406 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/3596136287_1082172045_z.jpg" style="float: left; height: 160px; width: 300px; " title="Aurora, Colorado. (Flickr/Jeffrey Beall)" />After the recent shootings in Aurora, Colorado, few felt bad for alleged shooter James Holmes, who has since been charged with 24 counts of murder. WBEZ&#39;s own Al Gini wrote that he wasn&#39;t sure that our society could ever really forgive people like Holmes, or former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky. &quot;Given the immensity of their actions, I think forgiveness is asking too much,&quot; <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-07/when-forgive-101213">he wrote</a>.</p><p>But writer and performer Lisa Buscani feels that, since Holmes is just the latest of &quot;many disenfranchised gunman&quot;, there might be more there that we&#39;re missing. Read an excerpt of her thoughts below or listen above:</p><p><em>You knew him. He was the kid who got good grades without even trying, but blinked and swallowed constantly during show and tell, when he tried to talk about the time his parents, &quot;Um took him, uh, to the like Epcot Center,&quot; and no one wanted to hear it because he was a stupid, boring geek. The restlessness spread through the class like thin kindling on fire, as the kids giggled and imitated him until he cut his story short. </em></p><p><em>Maybe he was the kid who brought up the rear of your pack, the one who, to your everlasting credit, you took the time to find out what he thought and discovered he was funny and sarcastic and smart. His advice, when you asked him for it, saved you work and pain. You even encouraged him to step away from the wall that always had his back; you threw the spotlight to him once when he said something funny that everyone missed and you made them stop and listen and he said it and everyone laughed. He looked like a guy who&rsquo;d spent three weeks in the Mojave who just got his hands on a Snapple. </em></p><p><em>But when he tried to do it himself, tried to take center stage with his contribution, primarily because you had said he could, you had shown him how it felt to be heard finally, and he stepped out into the light only to fight that same enemy in his audience&rsquo;s restlessness, only to have his brilliance caught and carried away in a stiff wind, only to see eyes glaze over as points and friends and potential were lost. Only to start him on the road you wouldn&rsquo;t follow, to become the person you didn&rsquo;t recognize.</em></p><p><em>In the mass murderer story arc, James Holmes, the latest alleged lone gunman, is an unabashed cliché, the quiet young man who never caused trouble but who no one ever knew, who brought home the grades and played soccer like all the rest of the white suburban kids but failed to walk at commencement. He went from doing honors work in undergrad to working at a dead-end job at McDonald&rsquo;s to entering a prestigious UC Denver neuroscience doctoral program to withdrawing from that future.</em></p><p><em>You&rsquo;ve known guys like James Holmes. What you don&rsquo;t know are the details of the spin out. I mean, think about it. What it&rsquo;s like to be that smart and yet unable to share; to be of the world and never in it. It&rsquo;s like the dreamer who pushes through race walls for a third or fourth wind and crosses through tape to a roar of adulation only to wake to a brace and a walker. It&rsquo;s a high-flying mind dragged down and buried under a suffocating wet blanket of a personality that offers no impact. It&rsquo;s madness. It&rsquo;s a slow death.</em></p><p><a href="http://thepapermacheteshow.com/" target="_blank">The Paper Machete</a><em>&nbsp;is a weekly live magazine at the Horseshoe in North Center. It&#39;s always at 3 p.m., it&#39;s always on Saturday, and it&#39;s always free. Get all your</em>&nbsp;The Paper Machete Radio Magazine&nbsp;<em>needs filled&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/paper-machete" target="_blank">here</a>, or download the podcast from iTunes&nbsp;<a href="http://itunes.apple.com/podcast/the-paper-machete-radio-magazine/id450280345" target="_blank">here</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 02 Aug 2012 09:54:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-08/losing-james-holmes-101406 Aurora combats gang violence with a new special prosecutor http://www.wbez.org/story/aurora-combats-gang-violence-new-special-prosecutor-91056 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-August/2011-08-25/latin kings_flickr_nvaughn.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The city of Aurora, Illinois has gotten a new $60,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to help pay for a special prosecutor who will go after street gangs. He or she will file civil lawsuits against Aurora's known gang members to stop them from gathering or wearing certain colors.</p><p>Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon said the position will help the police department use new methods to combat gang violence. "They have the ability to make an on-scene arrest, which then can lead to the removal of weapons or illegal street drugs, as opposed to waiting for the gang member to use that weapon or to deal that drug," said McMahon.</p><p>McMahon believes the city has done a good job preventing gang activity, but this hire is "another step we can take."&nbsp;</p><p>Aurora doesn't track gang related activity, however, <a href="http://www.aurora-il.org/detail_news.php?newsDateID=823">crime records</a> for 2010 show an 11 percent decrease in overall crime from the year before.</p><p>"This is certainly not a one-year project. This is a step in a long-term approach to getting gangs to stop expanding in and around the city of Aurora," said McMahon, citing the nearby city of Elgin, which has received a similar grant.</p><p>According to <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-01-17/news/ct-met-street-gang-lawsuits-0118-20110117_1_gang-members-gang-activity-satan-disciples">the Chicago Tribune</a>, since <a href="http://law.justia.com/codes/illinois/2005/chapter57/2052.html">a 1993 law</a> passed allowing injunctions against against gang members, suits have increased in Illinois, and in the greater Chicago area. The <a href="http://www.aclunc.org/issues/criminal_justice/facts_about_recent_gang_injunctions.shtml">popularity of injunctions in California</a> has prompted the American Civil Liberties Union to become heavily involved in combatting what they see as a racially targeted and ineffective method of reducing gang violence. Ed Yohnka, Director of Communications and Public Policy for&nbsp;the ACLU-IL, said that the issue was not one that had yet been heavily targeted by his branch.</p></p> Thu, 25 Aug 2011 18:32:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/aurora-combats-gang-violence-new-special-prosecutor-91056 How Latinos are changing the Midwest’s economy for the better http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-06-13/how-latinos-are-changing-midwest%E2%80%99s-economy-better-87760 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-June/2011-06-13/Aurora_photo.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Recent census reports show Midwestern cities are shrinking and people are moving out. But at least one group is growing - the Hispanic population. For the series <a href="http://www.changinggears.info" target="_blank"><em>Changing Gears</em></a>, Niala Boodhoo reports that’s a good thing for our region and our economy.</p><p>Drive down the main strip of Aurora, Illinois, a town about 50 miles west of Chicago, and strip malls like the “Plaza del Sol” are a common sight on the landscape. In the 2010 census, Aurora ranked <a href="http://2010.census.gov/news/releases/operations/cb11-cn31.html" target="_blank">as the state’s second most populous town</a> – a jump boosted by the growth in the Latino population.</p><p>“Aurora’s like Little Mexico,” said Javier Galvez, who’s a month away from opening his pizza shop on the corner of New York and Lake Street in downtown Aurora.</p><p>“Everybody stops here. They’re going to take their chances here first to start their business because they know that [in] a 40 mile radius or more, there are going to be towns they can take advantage of,” Galvez added.</p><p>Aurora actually extends into four counties – two of them, Will and Kendall, had <a href="http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/17000.html" target="_blank">explosive population growth</a> in the past decade.</p><p>Even if Aurora is not as well-known as other Hispanic enclaves like Chicago’s Little Village or Pilsen, its population goes back generations. <a href="http://www.changinggears.info/2010/11/26/the-next-wave-of-immigrant-entrepreneurs/" target="_blank" title="The next wave of immigrant entrepreneurs">(I did a story last fall looking at small businesses in Little Village.)</a></p><p>Galvez came to Aurora when he was two years old because his father got a job working for Burlington Northern, laying railroad track across Illinois.</p><p>Galvez started in industry, too. He worked his way up at Caterpillar, where he started on the floor, building excavators, but moved into employee training and logistics.</p><p>Then two years ago, he was laid off. So now he’s using those management and logistics skills to run the restaurant, <a href="http://www.spizzicopizza.com/" target="_blank">Spizzico</a>, which has already found success in its first location in Elwood Park.</p><p>Galvez said their slogan – “the best pizza for the best price” – is especially suited for large, Latino families looking for a bargain.</p><p>“I know that everybody says that restaurants and everything are the first to flop,” Galvez said, “But you never know if you don’t take that chance, right?</p><p>He’s not the only one.</p><p>According to the <a href="http://www.ahcc-il.com/" target="_blank">Aurora Hispanic Chamber of Commerce</a>, one out of every two businesses in Aurora are Hispanic-owned. Executive Director Norma Vazquez describes the growth as “unstoppable”.</p><p>In the three years since Vazquez become executive director, the chamber’s membership has gone from 50 to 342 members.</p><p>One of the Hispanic-owned businesses that’s been around for a while is <a href="http://www.franksdigitalprinting.com/" target="_blank">Frank’s Digital Printing</a>.</p><p>While the recession has been hard on the business, owner Frank Garcia said he still gets lots of new business from other Hispanic entrepreneurs who come to him to have their new signs and fliers printed.</p><p>Frank’s oldest brother, Manuel Jr., said that when their family moved to Aurora, there were probably just ten others.</p><p>That was a 100 years ago, when Burlington Northern recruited Mexicans, including Manuel Sr., to work on the rail lines.</p><p>Many lived in boxcars because they weren’t allowed to live in town. Frank told me he remembers as a kid visiting his uncle who lived in a boxcar.</p><p>Frank and Manuel Jr. are two of nine children. A few generations later, the entire Garcia family numbers almost 80. They all still live in Aurora, where the Latino population makes up almost half of the 200,000 or so people.</p><p>The Garcias are part of a nation-wide <a href="http://pewhispanic.org/reports/report.php?ReportID=140" target="_blank">Hispanic population boom</a> that happened between the 2000 and 2010 census.</p><p>For the first time in fifty years, there were more Hispanic births than immigration.</p><p>The Hispanic population across the Midwest is still small compared to traditional population centers in the southwest and Florida.</p><p>But here, Latino growth stands in stark contrast to declines among white and African-American populations.</p><p>A few hundred miles away in South Bend, Indiana, Allert Brown Gort has been studying the economic impact of these ethnic encalves.</p><p>Gort is the associate director at the <a href="http://latinostudies.nd.edu/" target="_blank">University of Notre Dame’s Institute for Latino Studies.</a> He told me while Latino households are still mostly low-income, they have a greater economic impact than other poor American households.</p><p>“What we see is a difference in how money is spent and on what things money is spent on,” he said.</p><p>That’s in part because Latino households are larger, and have more wage earners, because children tend to stay at home longer.</p><p>The Institute has researched how Latino households also have more spending power in two key ways: more money goes towards buying food and clothes, and more of those purchases are made at small, mom and pop stores owned by people who also live in the same neighborhood – so the money stays within the community.</p><p>“There is a lot more local shopping, there are lot more small businesses that are being maintained through the shopping,” Gort said.</p><p>Hispanic enclaves are popping up in places you might not expect – outside of cities like Indianapolis, Columbus, and Detroit.</p><p>Melvindale, Michigan, is just south of Dearborn, home to the largest Arab-American community in the Midwest.</p><p>On Oakwood Blvd., not far from the police department, the ivy green awning outside the Town Market grocery store is in three languages: English, Arabic – and Spanish.</p><p>Inside, cans of fava beans are stacked next to salsa and refried beans. There is pita bread, and tortillas.</p><p>“I was thinking it was going to be an Arabic store,” owner Faoud Waseem said.</p><p>Waseem moved to Melvindale from Dearborn because he knew a lot of Arabic newspapers were setting up shop here, and lots of his fellow Yemenis were buying houses.</p><p>“But when I got here, a lot of Spanish started moving here and they started asking me to bring their products here,” said Waseem.</p><p>Before he came to Melvindale, he didn’t have a clue what a tortilla was. But his customers made sure he learned – they would bring in cans from home, and tell them this is what they needed in the store. He called the companies and found distributors who could provide the food they wanted.</p><p>Now, Latinos make up about 20 percent of his customer base. He’s even hired a Spanish-speaking clerk.</p><p>It’s not just Melvindale.</p><p>In other Detroit suburbs like Lincoln Park and Allen Park, the Hispanic population has expanded in the past ten years from southwest Detroit.</p><p>“The Latino community in Detroit everybody knows each other – it’s pretty small,” said Angie Reyes, the <a href="http://www.dhdc1.org/" target="_blank">Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation</a>’s Executive Director. She’s spent her entire life in Detroit.</p><p>“About five, six years ago, at the Cinco de Mayo parade, we’re looking at the people and we’re going, who are all these people? Because we saw so many new faces.”</p><p>She said that’s when she started to realize how much the Latino population had exploded in recent years.</p><p><a href="http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/26000.html" target="_blank">Michigan is the only state </a>that lost population in the census. Reyes pointed out had it not been for the 30 percent increase in Latinos throughout Michigan — the overall population decline of Detroit – and the state – would have been even worse.</p><p>The Hispanic Development Corporation offices are off Trumbull Street near downtown, in a neighborhood where Dominican hair salons are just as common as Mexican taqueiras.</p><p>Reyes said these businesses often start small, but then they grow – like her own nonprofit, which she started in her house.</p><p>“You’ll see a little shack, then it’s brick, then it’s a two story building, then the next thing you know they’re have another location that’s down the street,” she said.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>That presence is starting to get noticed. More and more business owners from the rest of the city are now coming to the center to sign up for Spanish classes.</p><p>And Reyes said as others start to recognize the role her community is playing not just in Detroit, but the region’s economy, they’re starting to refer to Latinos as the “silent giant”.</p><p><em>Changing Gears</em> explores the future of the industrial Midwest. The series is a public media collaboration between WBEZ, <a href="http://www.michiganradio.org/" target="_blank">Michigan Radio</a>, and <a href="http://www.wviz.org/" target="_blank">Ideastream in Cleveland</a>. Support for <em>Changing Gears</em> comes from the <a href="http://cpb.org/" target="_blank">Corporation for Public Broadcasting</a>.<br> &nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><object width="400" height="300"><param name="flashvars" value="offsite=true&amp;lang=en-us&amp;page_show_url=%2Fphotos%2F44283423%40N06%2Fshow%2F&amp;page_show_back_url=%2Fphotos%2F44283423%40N06%2F&amp;user_id=44283423@N06&amp;jump_to="><param name="movie" value="http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=104087"><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"><embed allowfullscreen="true" flashvars="offsite=true&amp;lang=en-us&amp;page_show_url=%2Fphotos%2F44283423%40N06%2Fshow%2F&amp;page_show_back_url=%2Fphotos%2F44283423%40N06%2F&amp;user_id=44283423@N06&amp;jump_to=" src="http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=104087" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="400" height="300"></object></p><p><em>Conrad Herwig, "Adam's Apple", from the CD The Latin Side of Wayne Shorter, (Half Note)</em></p></p> Mon, 13 Jun 2011 14:04:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-06-13/how-latinos-are-changing-midwest%E2%80%99s-economy-better-87760