WBEZ | Economy http://www.wbez.org/news/economy Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Obama says Sony should not have pulled film over hacking http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/obama-says-sony-should-not-have-pulled-film-over-hacking-111277 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP809914660283_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>President Obama called Sony&#39;s decision to pull its film&nbsp;The Interview&nbsp;over a hacking by North Korea a &quot;mistake.&quot;</p><p>&quot;We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States,&quot; the president&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/12/19/371881952/live-obamas-year-end-news-conference">said in his year-end news conference</a>.</p><p>He added that he was &quot;sympathetic&quot; about their concerns, but, &quot;I wish they would have spoken to me first.&quot;</p><p>Earlier Friday, the FBI said it has enough information to confirm that North Korea was behind the hacking of Sony Pictures.</p><p>The agency tied the attack to North Korea because the malware used in the attack had the hallmarks of software written by the country in the past.</p><p>&quot;For example, there were similarities in specific lines of code, encryption algorithms, data deletion methods, and compromised networks,&quot; the FBI said in a statement.</p><p>The tools used, the agency said, also had similarities to a cyberattack that took place in March of last year against banks in South Korea.</p><p>The hack has caused serious repercussions for Sony. The stolen data have made public some embarrassing emails written by its executives. Hackers also leaked unreleased movies and scripts.</p><p>The group that took responsibility for the attack, &quot;Guardians of Peace,&quot; said it was responding to Sony Pictures&#39; comedy about an assassination plot against North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.</p><p>After the group issued threats to attack movie theaters that show the film, major movie chains pulled&nbsp;The Interview&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/12/17/371477960/major-theater-chains-wont-screen-the-interview-amid-threats">Sony decided against a Christmas Day release</a>.</p><p>&quot;We are deeply concerned about the destructive nature of this attack on a private-sector entity and the ordinary citizens who worked there,&quot; the FBI said. &quot;Further, North Korea&#39;s attack on [Sony] reaffirms that cyber threats pose one of the gravest national security dangers to the United States.&quot;</p><p>In a separate statement, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said the hack &quot;underscores the importance of good cybersecurity practices to rapidly detect cyber intrusions and promote resilience throughout all of our networks.</p><p>&quot;Every CEO should take this opportunity to assess their company&#39;s cybersecurity,&quot; he added.</p><p>Immediately following the FBI announcement, the chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., criticized the White House for not imposing tough financial sanctions on North Korea.</p><p>&quot;North Korea is attacking our infrastructure,&quot; Royce said in a statement. &quot;It is also attacking our values. The decision to pull &#39;The Interview&#39; from theatres unfortunately is a North Korean victory in its attack on our freedom. We better quickly respond comprehensively to defend freedom of speech in the face of terrorist threats and cyber attacks.&quot;</p><p>Options, though, are limited. The U.S. could impose new financial sanctions on Pyongyang and boost military support to South Korea. Yet these moves have had little impact on the heavily sanctioned country in the past.</p><p><a href="http://money.cnn.com/2014/12/19/media/insde-sony-hack-interview/index.html?hpt=hp_t1">CNN reported earlier today</a>&nbsp;that the hackers behind the attack issued another statement today, praising Sony for pulling the movie. Removing it from screens, the hackers said in an email to Sony executives, was a &quot;very wise&quot; decision.</p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/12/19/371894427/fbi-formally-accuses-north-korea-in-sony-hacking"><em>via NPR</em></a></p></p> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 14:14:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/obama-says-sony-should-not-have-pulled-film-over-hacking-111277 What Christmas does (or doesn’t do) for the economy http://www.wbez.org/news/what-christmas-does-or-doesn%E2%80%99t-do-economy-111275 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/1128_holiday-shopping-624x415.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Is Christmas good for the economy? That&rsquo;s the conventional thinking, but some economists believe that if Christmas didn&rsquo;t exist, all of the shopping we do would actually be distributed more evenly throughout the year, and there might not be so much &ldquo;deadweight loss,&rdquo; i.e., that ugly sweater from your aunt that gets put in the back of the closet.</p><p><a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2011/12/is-christmas-bad-for-the-economy/249618/">Derek Thompson</a>&nbsp;has looked at some of the research and joins&nbsp;<a href="http://hereandnow.wbur.org/" target="_blank">Here &amp; Now&rsquo;</a>s Jeremy Hobson to explain.</p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2014/12/19/christmas-retail-economics"><em>via Here and Now</em></a></p></p> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 14:08:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/what-christmas-does-or-doesn%E2%80%99t-do-economy-111275 Rents may be going up, but residents say they're not going anywhere http://www.wbez.org/news/rents-may-be-going-residents-say-theyre-not-going-anywhere-111269 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Land-trust-2.png" style="height: 240px; width: 320px; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px; float: left;" title="(from right) Arturo Chavez and his roommate, Jorge Herrera, share an apartment for $700 a month in Albany Park. A new building owner is evicting them to convert the units into upscale rentals." />There&rsquo;s a fight brewing in Albany Park over who gets to live there.</p><p>Arturo Chavez would like to stay in the North Side neighborhood, where he&rsquo;s lived for roughly three years &mdash; but that seems increasingly unlikely.</p><p>&ldquo;I go around in a car, looking for places,&rdquo; he says, speaking in Spanish. &ldquo;I see ads, and I call the numbers. Some places were being remodeled. I was told they were going to rent it, but later they told me they had already leased it to family members.&rdquo;</p><p>Chavez is one of the few remaining tenants of 3001 W Lawrence Avenue, a courtyard apartment building with 32 units. In August, new owners bought the building and notified its tenants that they were all to be evicted. The plan is to gut rehab the units and turn them into upscale rentals.</p><p>Inside, ceiling pipes have started to leak and parts of the walls are falling off. Chavez, a car mechanic who has been fighting for workers compensation since he was injured last year on the job, knows he&rsquo;ll have to leave soon. But he says he hasn&rsquo;t been able to find another place nearby that comes close to the $700 monthly rent he pays now.</p><p>&ldquo;The rents are too high and that means people are being separated and they&rsquo;re moving to areas farther away,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Antonio Gutierrez, an organizer with the community group Centro Autonomo in Albany Park, says scores of low-income Albany Park residents have been pushed out in recent years. Just like Chavez, they&rsquo;ve been unable to keep up with the rising rents and property values in some areas.</p><p>&ldquo;I would say about 40 percent of them, they ended up having to leave Albany Park and having to move outside the city to suburbs,&rdquo; said Gutierrez.</p><p>Between 2011 and 2013, the median home price in Albany Park rose almost 40 percent. Gutierrez says after the recession, speculators flocked back to the neighborhood, buying foreclosed homes and driving up property values.</p><p>So last year, Centro Autonomo decided to try a creative idea to bolster affordable properties in the neighborhood: it created a &ldquo;community land trust&rdquo; called Casas del Pueblo. The land trust is a non-profit entity that will acquire properties in the neighborhood, then rent them out.</p><p>&ldquo;(The rent) would just be the taxes for the property, the insurance for the property and a maintenance fee,&rdquo; Gutierrez explained. &ldquo;And they can stay there for as long as they want.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Albany-Park-Median-Home-Sales-Price-Median-Sales-Price_chartbuilder.png" style="height: 349px; width: 620px;" title="" /></div><p>The concept of community land trusts is not new to the Chicago area. Gutierrez&rsquo;s variety is a slight twist on something that&rsquo;s been tried before, just a few miles south, in West Humboldt Park.</p><p>There, three, red brick single family homes sit on a residential street next to the noisy Union Pacific rail line.</p><p>&ldquo;The homeowners say the walls were built in a way it&rsquo;s not really bothersome,&rdquo; said William Howard, former Executive Director of the West Humboldt Park Development Council.</p><p>Under Howard, the Council created the First Community Land Trust of Chicago, also a non-profit, in 2003. He said residents at that time were worried their neighborhood might become unaffordable. With the alderman&rsquo;s support, the land trust bought city property for $1 and built the 3-bedroom homes.</p><p>&ldquo;Were it not for these spots, the gentrification would have just swamped everybody,&rdquo; said Howard. &ldquo;A lot of people would have moved out.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Land-trust.png" title="William Howard led the establishment of the first community land trust in Chicago in 2003. It built three, single-family homes that remain affordable, though the recession halted its expansion. (WBEZ/Odette Yousef)" /></div><p>Howard&rsquo;s land trust follows a more conventional model than the one in Albany Park.</p><p>Instead of renting the homes, it offered them for sale.</p><p>&ldquo;The land trust owns this land in perpetuity,&rdquo; he explained. &ldquo;And then we get the homeowners, and the homeowners own the house.&rdquo;</p><p>Howard said three things keep land trust homes affordable. First, homeowners don&rsquo;t buy the land; they only buy the house itself. That means the house sells for much less than its market value.</p><p>Second, homeowners have to agree to resale restrictions.</p><p>&ldquo;Even if the homeowners decides later on they want to sell the home, they must sell it to someone of a like economic profile,&rdquo; said Howard. &ldquo;Otherwise the land trust goes bust.&rdquo;</p><p>In other words, homeowners have to sell the home to someone that qualifies as low-income. That keeps the resale price of the house low.</p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="320" scrolling="no" src="http://interactive.wbez.org/gentrification/widget/14/" style="float: right; clear: right;" width="400"></iframe></p><p>Finally, homeowners only pay property taxes on the value of the house, not including the land.</p><p>Howard originally wanted to build ten homes, but the timing didn&rsquo;t work out.</p><p>&ldquo;We only got three up,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think anyone at that point had any idea that the recession would last as long as it did or be as deep as it was.&rdquo;</p><p>During the recession concerns about gentrification in West Humboldt Park fizzled out.</p><p>The First Community Land Trust of Chicago still exists, but only to collect the nominal monthly ground lease from the three homeowners in those homes. Property values in the neighborhood dropped so much after the housing bubble burst that it doesn&rsquo;t make sense for the land trust to build additional homes.</p><p>But there is another Chicago-area land trust that&rsquo;s flourishing. It&rsquo;s north of the city, in Highland Park. Luisa Espinosa-Lara and her family once struggled just to rent in this wealthy suburb.</p><p>&ldquo;We thought OK, one day (when) we are able to buy a house, it&rsquo;s not going to be here,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;Houses here are so expensive.&rdquo;</p><p>But thanks to Community Partners for Affordable Housing, Illinois&rsquo;s oldest and largest community land trust, Espinosa-Lara and her husband were able to buy a three-bedroom house in Highland Park. They paid $175,000 for it, roughly half of its market value.</p><p>&ldquo;It was like when you feel that you win the lottery, but like you get millions,&rdquo; she said, &ldquo;because you don&rsquo;t have to go. And I think it&rsquo;s so painful when you have to leave.&rdquo;</p><p>In Highland Park, the community land trust isn&rsquo;t really about gentrification. Instead, it&rsquo;s about creating inclusive, mixed-income neighborhoods.</p><p>That&rsquo;s what Antonio Gutierrez hopes to do back in Chicago&rsquo;s Albany Park neighborhood. But he&rsquo;s taking on a big challenge. Community land trusts typically need hundreds of thousands of dollars in startup costs, to buy, renovate or build homes. Most of them rely on a mix of public grants and private donations.</p><p>Casas del Pueblo doesn&rsquo;t have that kind of money, so Gutierrez hopes to persuade banks to donate foreclosed homes to the community land trust. So far, this strategy has yet to bear fruit.</p><p>&ldquo;Every single time I get to a meeting with a bank, the first thing they ask is how many houses do you have now? How many houses are you managing? And when we say zero, they close the door,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Still, Gutierrez remains undeterred.</p><p>He believes once they have a couple of homes, others will look to his community land trust as a model for how gentrification can benefit even those it would normally displace.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her </em><a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef"><em>@oyousef</em></a><em> and </em><a href="https://twitter.com/wbezoutloud"><em>@WBEZoutloud</em></a><em>.</em></p></p> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 08:15:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/rents-may-be-going-residents-say-theyre-not-going-anywhere-111269 'Uber-gentrification' a force in Chicago's West Loop http://www.wbez.org/news/uber-gentrification-force-chicagos-west-loop-111257 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/uber-gentrification1.jpg" style="height: 240px; width: 320px; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px; float: right;" title="Meatpacking trucks in the shadows of the new Google Chicago headquarters on West Fulton Market. (WBEZ/Natalie Moore)" />Chicago&rsquo;s West Loop used to be called Skid Row &mdash; a dark stretch of emptiness and foreboding industrial buildings. Then in 1990, a local talk show host moved her Harpo Studios into a former cold storage warehouse on west Washington Street.</p><p>Call it the Oprah Effect.</p><p>The neighborhood underwent a massive transformation that hasn&rsquo;t really slowed down since. Oprah Winfrey is long gone. But blocks away another new occupant in a former cold storage warehouse is now the one making waves.</p><p>Call it the Google Effect.</p><p>Google won&rsquo;t move into its new Chicago headquarters on West Fulton Street until next year. But it&rsquo;s already turbocharging more development, a phenomenon some researchers call &ldquo;uber-gentrification.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;If you think of uber relative to what &mdash; so now it&rsquo;s not residential, it&rsquo;s uber relative to the kind of commercial space or the kind of manufacturing that was there,&rdquo; said Janet Smith, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago who compiled the gentrification index.</p><p>Smith says while people aren&rsquo;t really being displaced, the same can&rsquo;t be said for businesses.</p><p>&ldquo;And now you&rsquo;re finding art galleries, you&rsquo;re finding bougie restaurants. So what&rsquo;s replacing it is both a different clientele and different land use and probably contributing differently to the tax base,&rdquo; Smith said.</p><p>A flood of new techworkers is expected to fuel even more exclusive retail in the area.&nbsp; Already this year the Soho House opened a private club with a rooftop pool. It joined swanky cocktail venues and other seen-and-be-seen hotspots on Randolph and Fulton.</p><p>On a recent Friday evening before the sun set, customers crowded Green Street Smoked Meats. As a line of people stretched near the door, the inside sounded more like a nightclub than a rib joint.</p><p>Even during the economic downturn, this corridor proved to be recession proof with celebrity chefs setting up shop along restaurant row.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/insert-images/westloop-small_0.gif" title="It's easy to see the redevelopment of West Fulton from 2007 to 2014 in Google Streetview images." /></div><p>&ldquo;If private sector decisions move the community to where we might have more higher-end retailers, where we might have higher-end restaurants, then let it be,&rdquo; said Roger Romanelli, executive director of the Randolph Fulton Market Association, a nonprofit economic and community development group.</p><p>It&rsquo;s not just the private sector. Investment has been deliberate here. Two decades ago the city created a tax increment financing, or TIF, district to spur economic development.</p><p>The city has also given a slew of incentives to the tech industry, and the number of building permits has remained steady.</p><p>But this part of the West Loop isn&rsquo;t all shiny new offices and high-end restaurants. The area is eclectic and gritty. Remnants of the old meatpacking district are still on full display.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/uber-gentrification2.jpg" style="height: 240px; width: 320px; float: left; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px;" title="A meat warehouse on West Fulton Market (WBEZ/Natalie Moore)" />There&rsquo;s the rumble of trucks, the scent of animal carcasses, and on a chilly afternoon, workers washing a sidewalk in front of El Cubano Wholesale Meats.</p><p>Rolando Casimiro is one of the owners. He said he&rsquo;s not fazed by all the new development.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve always embraced the new businesses, the new restaurants, the new nightclubs. We&rsquo;ve had our issues, we&rsquo;ve resolved them as neighbors. We have a great relationship standing with them. The issues that arise, we deal with them as neighbors. We don&rsquo;t need the government to come in,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Businesses want uneven sidewalks fixed and more stoplights, but less city interference in landmarking historic buildings. Now that the area&rsquo;s a hip destination, they worry landmark restrictions could ultimately hurt their property&rsquo;s resale value.</p><p>Roger Romanelli says he hears that concern a lot. But overall, he thinks &ldquo;uber-gentrification&rdquo; is working out just fine here.</p><p>&ldquo;People are evolving together. People are working together. There&rsquo;s no winners and losers. There are winners and winners and more winners and we&rsquo;re all working it out together &mdash; residents, businesses and property owners,&rdquo; Romanelli said.</p><p>But UIC&rsquo;s Janet Smith said there are losers when it comes to who rents.</p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="320" scrolling="no" src="http://interactive.wbez.org/gentrification/widget/28/" style="float: right; clear: right;" width="400"></iframe></p><p>&ldquo;If people think the next best thing is I can rent this out to a high-end gallery rather than to a low-end gallery, they&rsquo;re going to go with the high-end gallery. Well, the low-end gallery is showing the up-and-coming artist, not the established,&rdquo; Smith said.</p><p>As the business boom continues, a sort of exclusivity sets in &mdash; for better or worse.</p><p>&ldquo;We have to think about what are we doing five years from now that we are either going to regret or we missed an opportunity to keep that diversity that everyone wants,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Back when Fulton and Randolph were sleepy, industrial strips, the homeless and unemployed in the area used to hustle for warehouse work.</p><p>People like Clifford Smiley, who Romanelli and I encountered on the street during our interview.</p><p>&ldquo;They moving a lot of homeless people out of here and we don&rsquo;t have no place to go, and place to get honest money. These restaurants are coming along but what about us? I&rsquo;ll wash a window for a dollar,&rdquo; Smiley said.</p><p>Romanelli then turned to Smiley and discussed an employment training program. After talking for a moment, Smiley quietly asked Romanelli if he&rsquo;d buy him a sandwich.</p><p>Romanelli said he could get him something to eat at the nearby Starbucks.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/nmoore-0" rel="author">Natalie Moore</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s South Side Bureau reporter. <a href="mailto:nmoore@wbez.org">nmoore@wbez.org</a>.&nbsp;Follow Natalie on <a href="https://plus.google.com//104033432051539426343" rel="me">Google+</a>, &nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/natalieymoore">Twitter</a></em></p></p> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 07:52:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/uber-gentrification-force-chicagos-west-loop-111257 Uber's troubles mount even as its value grows http://www.wbez.org/news/ubers-troubles-mount-even-its-value-grows-111221 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/reuters.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Uber, the ride-sharing service that is <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/12/04/368550291/uber-is-richer-than-ever-but-the-company-still-isnt-playing-nice" target="_blank">growing in value</a>, is also watching its troubles mount.</p><p>It&#39;s latest woes are in California where, as NPR&#39;s Laura Sydell tells our Newscast unit, the attorneys general of San Francisco and Los Angeles counties are suing Uber. Here&#39;s more from Sydell&#39;s report:</p><blockquote><p>&quot;Prosecutors say that Uber misrepresents and exaggerates how extensively it does background checks on drivers. Uber searches publicly available data bases on individuals but prosecutors say it needs to take finger prints to check for criminal histories like traditional taxi companies.&quot;</p></blockquote><p>Complaints against the company fall into two broad categories: One is the accusation that it doesn&#39;t screen its drivers properly; the other is the fact that it lacks permits to operate or is unregulated, and hence the charge that Uber has an unfair advantage over traditional taxis.</p><p><strong>Driver screening: </strong>The service was banned this week in the Indian capital, New Delhi, where an Uber driver is <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/goatsandsoda/2014/12/10/369589675/alleged-rape-of-passenger-raises-concerns-about-how-uber-runs-abroad" target="_blank">accused of raping</a> a female passenger. Similarly, in Chicago, police said <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-chicago-investigating-uber-driver-20141209-story.html" target="_blank">today</a> they are investigating allegations that an Uber driver sexually assaulted a passenger.</p><p><strong>Permits: </strong><a href="http://www.oregonlive.com/commuting/index.ssf/2014/12/uber_to_portland_we_will_conti.html" target="_blank">Authorities in Portland, Ore.</a>, shutdown the service Dec. 10, saying its drivers don&#39;t have permits to operate in the city. A day earlier, a <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/business-30395093" target="_blank">judge in Spain</a> ordered Uber to stop its service in the country after protests by taxi drivers. Also this month, <a href="http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&amp;sl=nl&amp;u=http://www.telegraaf.nl/binnenland/23423484/__Uber__beroep_over_uitspraak_app__.html&amp;prev=search" target="_blank">a Dutch court said</a> the company&#39;s low-cost UberPop service could not operate in the Netherlands, and <a href="http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/transport/448541/uber-privately-owned-vehicles-banned-in-thailand" target="_blank">Thailand</a> ordered the company to stop operations, too. In <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-12-08/rio-police-probing-illegal-uber-amid-car-seizure-threat.html" target="_blank">Rio de Janeiro</a>, Uber drivers were told to get off the road or risk having their cars seized. Uber says it will appeal those decisions, and continue to operate in some places where it has been <a href="http://www.oregonlive.com/commuting/index.ssf/2014/12/uber_to_portland_we_will_conti.html" target="_blank">ordered to stop</a>.</p><p>The developments comes amid a financial windfall for the San Francisco-based company. Uber <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/12/04/368550291/uber-is-richer-than-ever-but-the-company-still-isnt-playing-nice" target="_blank">announced last week</a> that it raised $1.2 billion in its latest round of financing. It&#39;s now valued at more than $40 billion. That valuation came, as NPR&#39;s Sam Sanders reported, amid bad press for the company. Sanders noted:</p><blockquote><p>&quot;Uber drivers have been <a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/johanabhuiyan/behind-the-scenes-of-ubers-biggest-driver-protest" target="_blank">striking for higher fares</a>. The company has come under fire for how it uses ride data, with some even accusing Uber of keeping track of <a href="https://gigaom.com/2012/03/26/uber-one-night-stands/" target="_blank">riders&#39; one-night stands</a>. Recently, an Uber executive alluded to the possibility of <a href="http://www.npr.org/2014/11/18/365015988/uber-executive-lashes-out-at-journalists-after-negative-publicity" target="_blank">spying on journalists</a>.</p><p>&quot;Uber has also been accused of going to extreme lengths to bring down competitors. The company has hired <a href="http://www.theverge.com/2014/8/26/6067663/this-is-ubers-playbook-for-sabotaging-lyft" target="_blank">stealth riders</a>, giving them burner phones to cancel fares, and giving them cash payments to lure drivers from other services like Lyft.&quot;</p></blockquote><p>&mdash; <em><a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/12/10/369922099/ubers-troubles-mount-even-as-its-value-grows" target="_blank">via NPR</a></em></p></p> Thu, 11 Dec 2014 10:56:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/ubers-troubles-mount-even-its-value-grows-111221 CPS students take on 'Hour of Code' http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-students-take-hour-code-111210 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/code.PNG" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-40f3cbe1-30f9-957f-253b-6b17f3cdf0d5">Some students in Chicago Public Schools started learning a new language today: The language of computers.</p><p dir="ltr">CPS students took part in a global event, called the <a href="http://hourofcode.com/us">Hour of Code</a>, which gets teenagers, and this year even <a href="http://www.cnet.com/news/obama-jumps-in-to-hour-of-code-event-with-a-little-javascript/">President Barack Obama</a>, taking a crack at computer coding.</p><p dir="ltr">At <a href="http://wellshs.cps.k12.il.us/">Wells Community Academy High School</a> in West Town, about 40 teenagers filled the library. Each one of the kids huddled around a computer.</p><p dir="ltr">Music Teacher Martha Ciurla kicked things off.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We&rsquo;re going to get started,&rdquo; Ciurla says. &ldquo;Now remember, all over the world, at this very hour, at this very moment, there are other kids doing the same exact thing; they are also learning to code because it&rsquo;s a pretty important thing, especially nowadays.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Most people can&rsquo;t go a whole day without using technology,&rdquo; says Angel Sanchez, a sophomore at Wells. &ldquo;Everything revolves around technology and so many careers revolve around knowing this stuff.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Sanchez is hunched over a computer with Traeshaun Norwood, who tells me he already knows he wants to be a video game engineer someday.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I actually think it&rsquo;s fun because the career I&rsquo;m trying to get into now is going to involve a lot of coding,&rdquo; Norwood says.</p><p dir="ltr">Lucky for him, Wells is going to have a new program next year to help him do that.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We&rsquo;re going to start a new computer science academy, starting next year, so it&rsquo;s an entire sequence using the gaming platform,&rdquo; says Wells Principal Rita Raichoudhuri. &ldquo;So students are going to learn how to code the program, but using video games. They&rsquo;re going to create their own video games.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Raichoudhuri says the program is a series of four courses; the final one&rsquo;s an Advanced Placement Computer Science class.</p><p dir="ltr">And it isn&rsquo;t just the library that&rsquo;s filled today. Every student &nbsp;at Wells is logged on to code.org &ndash; trying out different sequences on popular games, like <a href="https://www.angrybirds.com/">Angry Birds</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">For example, if you want to move the bird forward four spaces and then have it turn right, you would drag the block labeled &ldquo;repeat five times,&rdquo; change the five to a four and then underneath that, drop the block labeled &ldquo;move forward&rdquo;. And then you can give it a test run.</p><p dir="ltr">So it&rsquo;s not exactly the complex coding you might be thinking of.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;What these Hour of Code exercises do, it takes out the complexity of the language itself and it puts everything in a block, sort of what we call pseudo-code,&rdquo; says Emmanuel San Miguel. &ldquo;It just shows you how easy it is to pass commands into a computer and see it do something.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">San Miguel is a volunteer and a developer with the company <a href="http://www.8thlight.com/">8th Light</a> downtown. He says he&rsquo;s entirely self-taught and actually got his degree in marketing.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;If I had the opportunity to try out code before I went in to college, I probably would&rsquo;ve gone into computer science,&rdquo; San Miguel says.</p><p dir="ltr">For kids not interested in coding or computer science careers, there was still a pretty simple teenage reason for taking on the Hour of Code.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Whoever gets through the programs first, wins lunch,&rdquo; Ciurla announced halfway through the hour.</p><p dir="ltr">Fifteen minutes later, &nbsp;sophomores Sanchez and Norwood finished their final problem. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Ms. Ciurla! We completed the Hour of Code,&rdquo; they shouted in unison.</p><p dir="ltr">But 45 minutes was not fast enough.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;You guys came in second place, because they finished a minute ago, but I&rsquo;ll put your names down; if not, I&rsquo;ll bring you guys donuts on Monday,&rdquo; Ciurla tells them. &ldquo;Good job! You guys can start the other one if you want.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is a producer and reporter for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 09 Dec 2014 15:31:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-students-take-hour-code-111210 Rules of the ramps: Surviving while homeless in Chicago http://www.wbez.org/news/rules-ramps-surviving-while-homeless-chicago-111207 <p><p>The City of Chicago does a regular count of people who are homeless here. The most recent survey puts the count at more than 6,000 people at any given time&mdash;though advocates say that at some time over the course of a year more than 100,000 individual people are homeless. Many of them are visible as they sleep in parks or panhandle on the streets.&nbsp; But they&rsquo;re still mostly invisible and unknown.&nbsp;</p><blockquote><p><strong>Photos: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/rules-ramps-surviving-while-homeless-chicago-111207#norma" target="_self">A tour of the hut where Norma lives</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>That changed for me over the past year, as I went out to meet some of the people who ask for money along Chicago&rsquo;s expressway exit ramps. I learned about their lives, and the &ldquo;rules of the ramp&rdquo; they survive by. We&#39;ve included the audio of some of their stories here.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/bud.jpeg" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="Bud at the expressway ramp where he asks those driving by for money. (WBEZ/Linda Paul)" /></div><p>I met Bud about a year ago. He used to be a forklift operator in Bolingbrook and after he lost that job, he tried to hold his family&rsquo;s finances together through various remodeling and temp jobs. He struck me as a very unlikely person to be out here working the ramps in Chicago. He panhandled at the Kennedy exit ramp near Diversey and Keeler. He lived in a sort of mini-tent city under the Kennedy expressway.</p><p>Bud told me that &ldquo;rarely a day goes by&rdquo; when someone didn&#39;t give him two pennies for his efforts. He politely says &ldquo;thank you&rdquo; he tells me, laughing. Sort of his way of one-upping them.</p><p>Some of his fellow ramp workers report that if they get pennies, they throw that &ldquo;sh&mdash;&quot; back at the driver. But Bud said that&rsquo;s bad strategy.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t want to cause a scene,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Others will see that and they won&rsquo;t want to give either.&rdquo;</p><p>Plus, Bud didn&#39;t want other people in their cars to think he&rsquo;s ungrateful.</p><p>&ldquo;What am I going to say?&rdquo; Bud said. &ldquo;You&rsquo;re not giving me enough money? I can&rsquo;t get mad at someone about their money.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 22.3999996185303px; line-height: 22px;">Rules of the ramps</span></p><p>I started hearing anecdotes like this about a year ago. That&rsquo;s when I noticed that there never seems to be more than one panhandler at a time at any given ramp&mdash;which seems to suggest a <em>system</em> of some sort. So I started asking if there are rules that govern what happens at the ramps.</p><p>There was no science behind my little investigation. But it turns out there is a system of sorts. If you listen to their stories, you&rsquo;ll hear the &ldquo;findings&rdquo; of my study within the context of their complex lives. The rules of the ramps are roughly the following:</p><ul><li>No one &ldquo;owns&rdquo; a spot, and it&rsquo;s basically &ldquo;first come, first served&rdquo; at the ramps. But if you&rsquo;ve worked there for weeks or months, you have earned &ldquo;dibs&rdquo; on that spot.</li><li>Even if you consider it to be &ldquo;your&rdquo; spot, if you&rsquo;ve earned some money and someone else is waiting &ndash; let them on the ramp. Because everyone needs to eat.</li><li>Don&rsquo;t walk right up to someone&rsquo;s car. Don&rsquo;t ever tap on someone&rsquo;s car window. Don&rsquo;t intimidate or harass people.</li><li>If someone gives you pennies, hold onto it. It all starts to add up.</li><li>Don&rsquo;t panhandle in the rain. Drivers don&rsquo;t want to roll down their windows and get wet. You won&rsquo;t earn much.</li><li>&nbsp;Give the ramp a &ldquo;rest.&rdquo; If drivers always see panhandlers at a given ramp, they become weary and won&rsquo;t donate. It&rsquo;s called &ldquo;burning up the spot.&rdquo;&nbsp; Note: This &ldquo;rule&rdquo; is contested. Many ramp workers think it&rsquo;s fine for a ramp to be &ldquo;staffed&rdquo; all the time.</li><li>Asking for money with a sign is not &quot;begging&quot;. When you walk up to someone and ask for money with words &ndash; that&rsquo;s &quot;begging&quot;. Note: This &ldquo;rule&rdquo; is contested too.</li><li>If you don&rsquo;t want to be judged&mdash;and even pre-judged &ndash; don&rsquo;t&nbsp;work the ramps.</li></ul><p><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 22.3999996185303px; line-height: 22px;">To give or not to give</span></p><p>Some experts on homelessness advise the public not to donate to panhandlers. Nonie Brennan is CEO at an organization called All Chicago, Making Homelessness History. She never gives to panhandlers.</p><p>&ldquo;And I strongly encourage people not to give money to panhandlers,&quot; Brennan said. &quot;If somebody is interested in helping with the issue of homelessness, there are a number of excellent organizations that could really benefit from a donation and you can get a tax receipt and then you know where your money is going. And you know that your money is actually helping something. If you&rsquo;re giving to panhandlers you don&rsquo;t know where your money&rsquo;s going and you don&rsquo;t know what it&rsquo;s doing.&rdquo;</p><p>Last winter I also talked to Jim LoBianco, former head of homeless services in the Daley administration and until recently, executive director at Streetwise, an organization probably best known for the newspaper it publishes and its ubiquitous newspaper vendors. Streetwise is also a full-scale social service agency.</p><p>LoBianco is also convinced that, in general, donating to panhandlers isn&rsquo;t a good idea. Though he says sometimes breaks his own rule and donates a sizable amount&mdash;$25 or more&mdash;if he thinks the person is in real crisis and needs to immediately get off the street.</p><p>LoBianco says at a shelter, someone who is homeless might get access to other services.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;The difference between begging on an expressway ramp and getting enough money to go into a McDonalds and buy yourself a hamburger, versus picking yourself up and going to a local soup kitchen run by charity, is that when you walk into that soup kitchen you&rsquo;re not only going to get the meal&mdash;you&rsquo;re going to be engaged by someone who has some basic case management experience,&quot; LoBianco said. &quot;And you&rsquo;re going to be engaged by somebody who could actually say, &lsquo;What&rsquo;s the bigger picture going on in your life? Why are you forced to beg on the streets? Why are you in such crisis? How do we solve that problem?&rsquo; No one is walking into a soup kitchen in this city without being engaged at that level.&rdquo;</p><p>But a number of panhandlers told me this is not their experience.&nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/tony.jpg" style="height: 464px; width: 620px;" title="Tony has tried using resources from social service agencies but says he has never been offered access to job training. (WBEZ/Linda Paul)" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Take Tony. He has an associate&rsquo;s degree in business hospitality and worked for eight years as a sous chef for Marriott Hotels in Detroit, he says.&nbsp;He regularly stays at an emergency shelter and I ask if he&rsquo;s ever tried to get help from an&nbsp;actual social service agency in Chicago?</div><div><p>&quot;Yeah, I have,&rdquo; Tony tells me. &quot;But actually, all they do is refer you to a shelter. That&rsquo;s the feedback I done got from &lsquo;em. &#39;Well, this shelter here&mdash;&nbsp;have you tried this shelter?&rsquo;&nbsp;&nbsp;Like far as trying to find low-income housing and stuff like that &ndash; they don&rsquo;t do that. If they do, they put you on a lottery waiting list. And for some reason, my name never got pulled..&rdquo;</p><p>Okay, social service agencies &nbsp;have not, thus far, found you permanent housing, I told him. But have they ever tried to hook you up with job training&nbsp;&mdash; or an actual job?</p><p>&ldquo;I ain&rsquo;t never heard social service say anything about job training. Never.&rdquo; Tony says.</p><p>&nbsp;And he asks if the people who told me this know I&rsquo;m a reporter?</p><p>&nbsp;&ldquo;Basically they&#39;re probably telling you what you want to hear. When one of us go up there, it&rsquo;s something totally different,&rdquo; he advises me. &nbsp;</p></div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/deedeecrop.jpg" style="float: right; height: 401px; width: 300px;" title="Dee-Dee panhandles in Chicago. (WBEZ/Linda Paul)" />Dee-Dee panhandles on the expressway ramps too. She&#39;s gone to a social service agency and says she knows very nice people there.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&ldquo;[But] for you to get a place to stay, or any kinda help, it could be two or three years down the road,&quot; she said. &quot;And that ain&rsquo;t gonna help me right now.&rdquo;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><br />She says social service agencies are well-meaning and they&rsquo;ll put you on a list for help.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&ldquo;But in the meantime, what you gonna do? You gotta get out there and hustle&mdash;or fall by the wayside. I mean we can&rsquo;t live with no money in our pocket. I mean you get into emergency situations. I&rsquo;m a woman, like, I get my monthly like... what am I gonna do? Like try and run and find a service agency &ndash; &#39;Oh I need tampons right now!&#39; No. If I can&rsquo;t get no money out here, I&rsquo;m gonna go to Walgreens and steal me some tampons&hellip;. So I gotta do, what I gotta do. If I&rsquo;m hungry, I gotta eat.&rdquo;<p>Many of the ramp workers I talked to acknowledged that there are lots of panhandlers who are mentally ill, strung out on drugs or alcoholics. Or all of the above. And most of them also acknowledged they themselves had a substance abuse problem at some point in their lives. But several insisted that was no longer the case. Now they were simply down on their luck.</p><p>Were they lying? Probably some were&mdash;and some weren&rsquo;t.</p><p>But I know this for sure: I met some pretty high-functioning people on the ramps, many who had held jobs and hope to again.</p><p><em>Audio production of Norma, Ed, Bud and Steven&#39;s stories by Ken Davis</em></p></div><div class="image-insert-image "><em>Follow along this week as WBEZ digs deeper into the issue of homelessness in Chicago.</em></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><p><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 22.3999996185303px; line-height: 22px;">A photo tour of Norma&#39;s hut<a name="norma"></a></span><iframe allowfullscreen="" height="380px" mozallowfullscreen="" src="http://zeega.com/170427/embed" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Tue, 09 Dec 2014 10:47:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/rules-ramps-surviving-while-homeless-chicago-111207 Chicago raises its minimum wage as efforts stall at state level http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-raises-its-minimum-wage-efforts-stall-state-level-111179 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/springfield_0_2.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago aldermen have voted 44 to 5 to raise the minimum wage to $13 an hour over the next five years. But a very similar debate is bubbling up in Springfield, where legislation could be passed that would undo the work of the Chicago City Council.</p><p>The minimum wage, of course, isn&rsquo;t a new topic. Illinoisans have been bombarded with talk about the minimum wage, from the campaign trail for Illinois governor to the streets of Chicago where some fast food workers have been protesting about their low wages.</p><p>But suddenly last week, there was action from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s office.</p><p>&ldquo;Last week, there were rising forces that were talking about not allowing the city to move,&rdquo; he said Tuesday.</p><p>Those forces he referred to are Springfield lawmakers that Emanuel said were going to pull the rug out from under the City Council - locking them out of making any decisions on the city&rsquo;s minimum wage.</p><p>So the day after Thanksgiving, Emanuel announced aldermen would come together for a special meeting Tuesday to vote on his plan to boost the city&rsquo;s minimum wage to $13 an hour by 2019. After that, wages would be linked to inflation. Forty-four alderman supported that plan.</p><p>&ldquo;Dixon, Illinois, and Chicago, Illinois, are different economies,&rdquo; Alderman John Arena (45) said. &ldquo;So it is right that we are able to manage our affairs on this matter. That we are able to pay workers in Chicago who have higher housing costs, higher heating costs, higher costs of transportation, to have a higher wage to go along with that.&rdquo;</p><p>But five other aldermen say they&rsquo;re worried about the cost to local business owners. Tom Tunney is both the 44th ward Alderman and owner of Ann Sather restaurants and catering, and according to him, it&rsquo;s already tough enough for businesses.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s so much pressure on brick and mortar with the internet and how it&rsquo;s driving prices down. You&rsquo;ve seen it in your neighborhoods: the card shop is gone. The handy man shop is gone,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>But Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) said the low wage workers can&rsquo;t wait. Especially since Illinois governor-elect Bruce Rauner&rsquo;s plan to boost the minimum wage won&rsquo;t happen overnight.</p><p>&ldquo;They want to do tort reform, tax reform, and a number of other reforms before we get to that - workers compensation. As someone who spent 11 years in Springfield - each and every one of those is a huge undertaking that will not be done quickly. Years will go by,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>The first boost kicks in next July - when the Chicago minimum wage will increase from $8.25 to $10 an hour.</p><p>Meanwhile, Illinois state lawmakers are in Springfield for perhaps the final week until the new governor is sworn in next month. A lot of attention has been placed on what the state will do about the minimum wage.</p><p>The debate in Springfield has some wondering what it means for their own business, like Dan Costello. He runs Home Run Inn pizza restaurants in multiple locations around Chicago.</p><p>One location is in Chicago&rsquo;s Beverly neighborhood, which is just a few blocks from the city limits. Costello says Chicago City Council&rsquo;s vote for a higher minimum wage puts him at a disadvantage to his pizza joint neighbors and it&rsquo;ll force him to raise prices.</p><p>&ldquo;I think we have a great product, but at the end of the day, can I charge 10, 12, 15 percent more than the guy down the street? I don&rsquo;t know and that&rsquo;s what scares me,&rdquo; he said.&nbsp;</p><p>Costello says he favors raising the minimum wage, he just wants the whole state to raise the wage, too.</p><p>&ldquo;Then we&rsquo;re all in the same boat,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>On the other side of the city limits is Park Cleaners, a dry cleaners in Evergreen Park. Cindy Custer is behind the counter, greeting customers on a first-name basis.</p><p>&ldquo;So what are you gonna do? You gonna make everybody get jobs in the city because the minimum wage is higher? What&rsquo;s gonna happen to the people that own businesses in other towns and villages, you know?&rdquo; she asked.</p><p>Both Costello and Custer - and even the mayor of Evergreen Park - feel that they&rsquo;re at the mercy of what&rsquo;s decided in Springfield this week. And what lawmakers are up to is still up in the air.</p><p>It could undo what Chicago&rsquo;s City Council passed yesterday, and make one uniform minimum wage rate for the entire state. There&rsquo;s no guarantee that has enough support, even though a referendum on last month&rsquo;s ballot asking voters about a higher minimum wage passed by a wide margin.</p><p>Lawmakers have until Thursday to pass a bill that would set a new minimum wage, and maybe put Chicago&rsquo;s wages at the same level as its bordering suburbs.</p><p><em>Follow Lauren Chooljian <a href="http://twitter.com/laurenchooljian" target="_blank">@laurenchooljian</a>. Follow Tony Arnold <a href="http://twitter.com/tonyjarnold" target="_blank">@tonyjarnold</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 02 Dec 2014 18:10:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-raises-its-minimum-wage-efforts-stall-state-level-111179 Labor unions celebrate judge's ruling against Illinois pension law http://www.wbez.org/news/labor-unions-celebrate-judges-ruling-against-illinois-pension-law-111148 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/springfield_0_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>An Illinois judge has ruled unconstitutional a controversial plan to reduce state employees&rsquo; retirement benefits.<br /><br />Labor groups sued the State of Illinois for passing a bill reducing their members&rsquo; pension benefits. The unions representing downstate and suburban teachers, university employees and most other state workers argued the state constitution says, specifically, that retirement benefits can&rsquo;t be diminished. On Friday, Sangamon County Circuit Court Judge John Belz agreed.</p><p>Belz quoted directly from the state constitution in his six-page decision, citing the passage that states retirement benefits &ldquo;shall not be diminished or repaired.&rdquo; He singled out components of the bill that narrowly passed the state legislature last year to explain why he was ruling against the state. For instance, the law changed cost-of-living increases certain employees receive in retirement, and put a cap on some employees&rsquo; pensionable salary.</p><p>&ldquo;The State of Illinois made a constitutionally protected promise to its employees concerning their pension benefits,&rdquo; Belz wrote in his decision. &ldquo;Under established and uncontroverted Illinois law, the State of Illinois cannot break this promise.&rdquo;</p><p>Labor unions representing employees who are in those retirement systems celebrated the decision.</p><p>&ldquo;The court granted us everything. The court saw it our way,&rdquo; said Dan Montgomery, president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers. &ldquo;This is an unambiguous, unequivocal victory for the constitution and for working people.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Retirees who earned their modest security in retirement, they always paid their share. And they should not be punished for the failures of politicians,&rdquo; said Anders Lindall, a spokesman for the We Are One Coalition, a group of labor unions.</p><p>Attorneys who defended the bill acknowledged that it reduced benefits, but argued it is needed to deal with a $105 billion unfunded pension liability. Studies have shown that massive debt tied to Illinois&rsquo; retirement payments is the worst of any state in the country.</p><p>Gov. Pat Quinn, and those who supported the legislation, argue basic functions of state government are in danger if the pension law is found to be unconstitutional.</p><p>&ldquo;This historic pension reform law eliminates the state&rsquo;s unfunded liability and fully stabilizes the systems to ensure retirement security for employees who have faithfully contributed to them,&rdquo; Quinn said in a statement.</p><p>The Democratic governor was defeated in this month&rsquo;s election by Republican Bruce Rauner, who also released a statement asking the state&rsquo;s Supreme Court to take up the case as soon as possible.</p><p>The office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is defending the law in court. Her office said Friday that it will ask the state Supreme Court to expedite an appeal &ldquo;given the significant impact that a final decision in this case will have on the state&rsquo;s fiscal condition.&rdquo;</p><p>Meantime, Democratic Senate President John Cullerton is considering a plan, in case the state Supreme Court agrees with Judge Belz and throws out the law. Cullerton had pushed for a separate pension proposal that would ask employees to choose between earning state-funded health care coverage in retirement or receiving pay increases.</p><p>&ldquo;If they throw it out, we&rsquo;ll be back to square one and then we go back again to the alternative that already passed the Senate and when that passes, save some money that we can then pass on to education funding and whatever else we want to utilize that savings,&rdquo; Cullerton said Friday.</p><p>Legislators would have to re-visit Cullerton&rsquo;s proposal in a new General Assembly, after January&rsquo;s inauguration.</p><p><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/tonyjarnold" target="_blank">@tonyjarnold</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 17:19:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/labor-unions-celebrate-judges-ruling-against-illinois-pension-law-111148 CPS chief backs the mayor's $13-an-hour minimum wage http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-chief-backs-mayors-13-hour-minimum-wage-111138 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Board of Ed at Westinghouse.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>The head of Chicago Public Schools is making a political statement supporting Mayor Rahm Emanuel, ahead of February&rsquo;s municipal elections.</p><p>CPS CEO Barbara Bryd-Bennett told the Board of Education Wednesday that the district wants to move to a $13-per-hour minimum wage. The statement falls in line with <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-emanuel-minimum-wage-hike-push-20140930-story.html" target="_blank">other city agencies</a>, like the Chicago Park District.</p><p>The budget implications of a $13-per-hour minimum wage for CPS workers and contract employees would still need to be worked out internally, CPS officials said.</p><p>Alderman Jason Ervin, of the 28th Ward, urged board members to consider the $15-an-hour wage he and other aldermen are pushing. The meeting was in Ervin&rsquo;s ward, at Westinghouse College Prep, making it the first board meeting held in a community since 2004, when the board met at Orr Academy. It was also the first time in several years the board has met in the evening. Typically, board meetings start at 10 a.m. at CPS&rsquo;s downtown headquarters.</p><p>CPS spokesman Bill McCaffrey said they moved the meeting into a community and held it in the evening in order to give more people the opportunity to come. The district is also in the process of moving its offices to a new building downtown.</p><p>The meeting, which took place in Westinghouse&rsquo;s auditorium, had a larger crowd than usual and frequent interruptions from audience members. One of the biggest gripes had to do with a recent Chicago Tribune <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/watchdog/cpsbonds/" target="_blank">investigation into CPS&rsquo;s debt payments</a> on risky interest rate swap deals. Those deals were entered into when now-Board President David Vitale was the district&rsquo;s chief financial officer.</p><p>Tara Stamps, a teacher at Jenner Elementary in Old Town, spoke about a lack of funding for the school&rsquo;s arts program, even though the school is designated as a fine arts school.</p><p>&ldquo;How is it that you can say you want this kind of student, but you don&rsquo;t want to make that kind of investment?&rdquo; Stamps asked. &ldquo;You&rsquo;d rather not renegotiate these toxic deals and squander what could be hundreds of millions of dollars that could go into classrooms that could create well-rounded classrooms where children are appreciated and they learn and they thrive. But you don&rsquo;t. You refuse. You will not arbitrate. You will not renegotiate. You will not do any of the initial steps to get some of that money back.&rdquo;</p><p>The Chicago Teachers Union first sounded the alarm on the bank deals in 2011, but board members and CPS officials repeatedly dismissed the issue.</p><p>&ldquo;Three years we&rsquo;ve been coming here and being told that our facts are wrong, that we just don&rsquo;t understand, and being dismissed by Mr. Vitale,&rdquo; said Matthew Luskin, a CPS parent and organizer for the CTU. &ldquo;A full week of Trib headlines tell a very different story.&rdquo;</p><p>Luskin said he understands that CPS cannot just cancel the contracts with the banks, but he pushed the board to file for arbitration to renegotiate the contracts, and &ldquo;take a stand.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;They could call these banks out, blame them for the cuts and closings that have happened, instead of blaming retirees and parents and children who take up too many resources,&rdquo; Luskin said. &ldquo;They could announce that CPS won&rsquo;t do business with these banks anymore if they refuse to renegotiate.&rdquo;</p><p>McCaffrey with CPS said the district is monitoring the risks of its swap portfolio closely, &ldquo;including the possibility of termination.&rdquo; But he also said, by the district&rsquo;s calculation, the deals saved more than $30 million in interest costs compared to the costs of fixed-rate bonds.</p><p>The debt payments and the minimum wage weren&rsquo;t the only issues raised at the meeting. Two librarians came to speak about the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/losing-school-librarians-chicago-public-schools-110547" target="_blank">reassignments and layoffs of full-time librarians</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;The loss of school librarians is especially alarming in CPS high schools where there are now only 38 high schools with librarians,&rdquo; said Nora Wiltse, a school librarian at Coonley Elementary.</p><p>A student and a teacher from Kelly High School came to sound the alarm on <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/custodial-contract-causing-problems-start-school-year-110767" target="_blank">cleanliness at their school since Aramark</a> took over CPS&rsquo;s janitorial services.</p><p>The Board also approved <a href="http://www.wbez.org/cps-changes-school-ratingsagain-111118" target="_blank">a new school rating policy</a>.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/177839305&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Thu, 20 Nov 2014 13:16:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-chief-backs-mayors-13-hour-minimum-wage-111138