WBEZ | Economy http://www.wbez.org/news/economy Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en China Markets in Freefall http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2015-07-31/china-markets-freefall-112535 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/China%20stock%20market%201.jpg" title="A Chinese investor walks past displays of stock information at a brokerage house in Beijing, Tuesday, July 28, 2015. Shanghai stocks were volatile Tuesday after falling the most in eight years the day before while other Asian markets also flitted between gains and losses. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)" /><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/217229042&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><span style="font-size:24px;"><strong>China Markets Spiraling</strong></span></p><p>China&rsquo;s economy and stock markets have been on a &nbsp;deep decline. Hundreds of billions of dollars have left the country in the last year. &nbsp;The Shanghai Exchange, on Monday, &nbsp;posted its biggest loss since 2007. The markets bounced back slightly this week, after Beijing announced moves to restore confidence, such as buying back stocks, easing fiscal policy and aggressively restricting unethical practices like &ldquo;stock dumping.&rdquo; The regional reverberations have hit hard at countries like Australia, a major exporter to China. Observers warn that if the downward spiral doesn&rsquo;t turnaround soon, China will displace Greece as the world&rsquo;s most dangerous financial crisis. We&rsquo;ll talk about China&rsquo;s economic slowdown with <a href="http://www.eurasiagroup.net/about-eurasia-group/who-is/consonery">Nicholas Consonery</a>, Asia director for <a href="http://www.eurasiagroup.net">Eurasia Group</a>, a &ldquo;global political risk research and consulting firm.&rdquo; He leads the firm&#39;s consulting and advisory work on China.</p><p><strong>Guest:</strong>&nbsp;Nicholas Consonery,&nbsp;Asia director for&nbsp;<a href="http://www.eurasiagroup.net">Eurasia Group</a>, a &ldquo;global political risk research and consulting firm.&rdquo; He leads the firm&#39;s consulting and advisory work on China.<iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/217229789&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><strong><span style="font-size:24px;">Milos Stehlik Reviews&nbsp;&ldquo;A Pigeon Sat on a Branch&quot; and &quot;Shaun the Sheep&quot;</span></strong></p><p>Film contributor Milos Stehlik joins us to discuss the latest film from Swedish director Roy Andersson - <a href="http://www.magpictures.com/apigeon/">&ldquo;A Pigeon Sat on a Branch.&rdquo;</a> &nbsp;&nbsp;It&rsquo;s the third film in a trilogy that Andersson says looks at the human condition. The film opens this weekend in Chicago at the Gene Siskel Center. &nbsp;Milos also gives his take on the new animated film, <a href="http://shaunthesheep.com/">&quot;Shaun the Sheep&quot;</a></p><p><strong>Guest:</strong> Milos Stehlik is WBEZ&#39;s film contributor and director of Facets Multimedia<iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/217230650&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p dir="ltr"><strong><span style="font-size:24px;">Weekend Passport</span></strong></p><p dir="ltr">Each week global citizen, Nari Safavi, helps listeners plan their international weekend. &nbsp;This week, he&rsquo;ll tell us about an exhibition of street art from Greece and a play that looks at the role food plays in communities.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Guest:</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-2e91bfd6-e59e-640e-dc4a-c304d3205206">Nari Safavi, co-founder of <a href="http://www.pasfarda.org/">Pasfarda</a> Arts and Cultural Exchange</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-2e91bfd6-e59e-640e-dc4a-c304d3205206">Connie Mourtoupalas, curator of the <a href="https://www.nationalhellenicmuseum.org/">Hellenic National Museum</a> exhibit, &quot;The Street is My Gallery&quot;</span></p></p> Fri, 31 Jul 2015 09:46:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2015-07-31/china-markets-freefall-112535 Northwest Indiana steel industry not out of the woods yet http://www.wbez.org/news/northwest-indiana-steel-industry-not-out-woods-yet-112527 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 6.59.22 AM.png" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">It&rsquo;s not easy to find the <a href="http://www.yelp.com/biz/great-lakes-cafe-gary">Great Lakes Cafe</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">The greasy spoon is tucked behind an urban jungle of tall grass and railroad tracks near the lakeshore of Gary, Indiana.</p><p dir="ltr">On the menu, the five-egg Steelworker&rsquo;s Omelet hints at the cafe&rsquo;s regulars.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We&rsquo;re right across the street from U.S. Steel,&rdquo; said Jessica Quezada, whose father Michael Klidaras has owned the restaurant since 1994. &ldquo;We have this big complex here with a few refractories and a couple of other companies. We&rsquo;re very lucky to be here.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">And the folks working inside the massive Gary Works across the street are lucky to have jobs, for now.</p><p dir="ltr">More than 700 workers have been laid off at the site &mdash; U.S. Steel&rsquo;s largest plant worldwide &mdash; this year alone. There are rumblings that there could be more to come at all five major steel mills in Northwest Indiana.</p><p dir="ltr">At the Great Lakes Cafe, retired U.S. Steel worker Malcolm Maxwell worries about the ripple effects.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It would be very devastating not just in Gary but all of Northwest Indiana,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;You know, you think about other people.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">People like Bob Tribble, an electrician at the Gary Works for 22 years.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;There&rsquo;s a lot of talk on the shop floor. It does concern us that there&rsquo;s a possibility of layoffs,&rdquo; Tribble said.</p><p dir="ltr">Union salaries in the mills can range from $50,000 to $100,000, and he says replacing that would be tough.</p><p>&ldquo;These are pretty good jobs. They pay a livable wage with insurance, with pensions. So these jobs are pretty hard to come by,&rdquo; Tribble said.</p><p dir="ltr">Northwest Indiana produces more steel than any other part of the country.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.steel.org/~/media/Files/AISI/General%20Docs/Factsheet-Job_Engine.pdf">An industry group</a> says for every one job, steel creates seven other jobs in the local economy.</p><p dir="ltr">During its heyday in the 1950s and &lsquo;60s, more than 100,000 people worked in the mills in this region. Today, it&rsquo;s about 20,000.</p><p dir="ltr">The domestic steel industry has long experienced booms and busts, but it&rsquo;s been especially slow coming back from the Great Recession.</p><p dir="ltr">Analysts say that&rsquo;s due to a strong dollar, the falling price of oil, and foreign imports.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We have a right to protect the house we live in from people who want to burn it down or take advantage of us,&rdquo; said U.S. Rep. Peter Visclosky, a Democrat from Merrillville.</p><p dir="ltr">Visclosky, who represents Northwest Indiana, has spent 30 years fighting against so called &ldquo;steel dumping.&rdquo; That&rsquo;s when foreign manufacturers flood the market with low-cost steel.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://visclosky.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/visclosky-offers-steel-amendment-to-trade-promotion-authority">Last month Visclosky helped pass legislation</a> that makes it easier for American steel companies to prove they&rsquo;re being hurt by the practice.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We don&rsquo;t have to be bankrupt, we don&rsquo;t have to be out of business to prove injury. That&rsquo;s a huge advantage to the industry,&rdquo; Visclosky said.</p><p dir="ltr">But not everyone buys that excuse.</p><p>&ldquo;They always like to blame somebody else. The biggest importer of steel is the U.S. steel industry,&rdquo; said longtime steel analyst Charles Bradford of New York City.</p><p dir="ltr">He says imposing tariffs on foreign steel companies let&rsquo;s U.S. producers off the hook.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It tends to relieve the companies from a lot of pressure on improving their facilities,&rdquo; Bradford said.</p><p dir="ltr">The <a href="http://www.steel.org/">American Iron and Steel Institute</a> disputes this. It says companies have invested millions in technology while also reducing costs.</p><p dir="ltr">But just this week, <a href="http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/united-states-steel-corporation-reports-2015-second-quarter-results-300120204.html">U.S. Steel reported a 2nd-quarter loss of $261 million</a>. Steel giant <a href="http://www.platts.com/latest-news/metals/pittsburgh/arcelormittal-to-make-final-wire-rod-shipment-21837750">Arcelormittal will soon shutter one of its wire rod facilities in South Carolina</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">At ArcelorMittal&rsquo;s three plants in Northwest Indiana, workers worry they could be next. The company already laid off 300 workers here in January.</p><p>Jose Cortez has worked at an ArcelorMittal plant in East Chicago for 12 years.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;There&rsquo;s always talk about shutting this down or shutting that down,&rdquo; Cortez said. &nbsp;&ldquo;I&rsquo;m not sure what the company specifically intends to achieve with that, but there&rsquo;s always a little bit of that during contract time.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The current contract expires September 1. The United Steelworkers of America is in talks with both ArcelorMittal and U.S. Steel.</p><p dir="ltr">Cortez says he&rsquo;s already saving money just in case.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve worked since I was 15. I have never been without a job. You&rsquo;d just have to make do,&rdquo; Cortez said.</p><p><em>Michael Puente is WBEZ&rsquo;s Northwest Indiana Bureau Reporter. Follow him on Twitter <a href="http://twitter.com/MikePuenteNews">@MikePuenteNews</a></em></p></p> Fri, 31 Jul 2015 06:47:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/northwest-indiana-steel-industry-not-out-woods-yet-112527 Rauner v. Rauner? The fight over child care http://www.wbez.org/news/rauner-v-rauner-fight-over-child-care-112525 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/RAUNER VID.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>Ounce of Prevention, an organization headed by Illinois First Lady Diana Rauner, is asking the state&rsquo;s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules to look at the new child care requirements.</p><p>On July 1<em>,</em> Gov. Bruce Rauner drastically restricted the number of families who can get child care assistance, as the budget impasse continues. Ounce of Prevention has criticized the rule since.</p><p>&ldquo;As many as 90 percent of people who are going to apply for childcare are not going to be eligible and that&rsquo;s really creating a disincentive for low income families to find employment,&rdquo; said Ounce&rsquo;s Ireta Gasner.</p><p>Ounce of Prevention, along with four other advocacy organizations, wrote the letter to JCAR. Gasner says Diana Rauner is aware of everything that Ounce has done and &ldquo;the work moves forward, so I think that kind of speaks for itself.&rdquo;</p><p>The governor&#39;s office did not provide a comment.</p><p><em>Shannon Heffernan is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her<a href="https://twitter.com/shannon_h"> @shannon_h </a></em></p></p> Thu, 30 Jul 2015 17:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/rauner-v-rauner-fight-over-child-care-112525 Without state budget solution, Roseland hospital may have to close http://www.wbez.org/news/without-state-budget-solution-roseland-hospital-may-have-close-112456 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 2.22.14 PM.png" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">The Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law is in federal court Thursday to try and force the Illinois state government to pay the Medicaid payments it owes. It&#39;s the latest issue to wind up before a judge as part of the budget impasse that&#39;s playing out at the Illinois statehouse.</p><p dir="ltr">Some hospitals serving low-income communities are in imminent danger of closing, according to Shriver Center&rsquo;s court filing. The filing further states that If those hospitals close because of the state&#39;s failure to pay bills, it would violate a decade-old court order. The Shriver lawyers argued that order requires the state to complete Medicaid payments to hospitals in Cook County, even though Gov. Bruce Rauner and lawmakers have not approved a spending plan authorizing the state to reimburse those hospitals.</p><p>The court filing specifically named The New Roseland Community Hospital. It said delayed payments &ldquo;will force Roseland Community Hospital, in less than a week, to begin the process of closing its hospital.&rdquo; Roseland Community Hospital is dependent on the Medicaid program for 71 percent of its funding and it anticipates a $2 million shortfall in July and a $2.4 million shortfall in August, according to the Shriver Center&rsquo;s filing.</p><p dir="ltr">Roseland Hospital said in a written statement that it has enough funding to make payroll on July 31st and it will be implementing a voluntary furlough, layoffs and service line suspensions before August 1.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The families of those who are going to die because of this political budget impasse will not give a damn about party lines,&rdquo; said Tim Egan, New Roseland President and CEO, in an emailed statement. &ldquo;Just as bullets don&#39;t recognize political boundaries, grieving families, critically injured patients and an abandoned community will not care about Republicans or Democrats. They will just know that the State of Illinois failed them. And the State of Illinois will have failed the New Roseland Hospital, its patients and its employees over a political stalemate.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services is a named defendant in the lawsuit. John Hoffman, a spokesperson for the department, said in response to the filing, &ldquo;While we believe this motion incorrectly interprets the consent decree, this does highlight the importance of the General Assembly passing a balanced budget so our most vulnerable citizens will know they can continue receiving the care they need in the long run.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Eight other hospitals that depend heavily on Medicaid payments are receiving limited leftover funds from fiscal year 2015, so they can continue operating for now. But the Shriver Center&rsquo;s filing argues that those payments only delay the day of reckoning for those hospitals until August.</p><p><em>Shannon Heffernan is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/shannon_h">@shannon_h</a>. WBEZ&rsquo;s state politics reporter Tony Arnold also contributed to this report.</em></p></p> Thu, 23 Jul 2015 05:05:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/without-state-budget-solution-roseland-hospital-may-have-close-112456 Chicago makes case to change retirement benefits for city employees http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-makes-case-change-retirement-benefits-city-employees-112354 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 4.39.40 PM.png" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">City of Chicago laborers and streets and sanitation workers packed a Cook County courtroom Thursday to listen to more than two hours of legal debate about their retirement benefits. The scene mirrored the months of legal disputes over the funding of troubled Illinois state pension funds.</p><p dir="ltr">Stephen Patton, the City of Chicago&rsquo;s top attorney, said the two city funds are likely to become insolvent, if not bankrupt, in the next dozen-or-so years if the judge rules against the city.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;What is the alternative?&rdquo; Patton asked Circuit Court Judge Rita Novak.</p><p dir="ltr">Patton argued that if the judge strikes down city&rsquo;s pension law approved by Illinois state lawmakers, then labor unions that oppose the pension changes will likely sue in a decade&mdash;when the pension funds will be so depleted, the accounts will have to pay-as-they-go as the bills come in.</p><p>But an attorney for the labor unions argues that changes to pension benefits are a violation of the state constitution&rsquo;s language that says retirement funds can&rsquo;t be diminished or impaired. Clint Krislov said the city&rsquo;s argument that the funds will go insolvent in a decade equates to a Chicken Little &lsquo;the-sky-is-falling&rsquo; defense; and said the retirement funds should&rsquo;ve done more for the past several decades to force the city to put more into the accounts.</p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this year, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled in favor of the unions on a separate lawsuit involving reductions to state pension funds. That decision was heavily cited by the unions in their arguments. It&rsquo;s also led to political leaders in Springfield to try and agree on a new legal strategy to change retirement benefits for state employees.</p><p><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold">@tonyjarnold</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 09 Jul 2015 16:32:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-makes-case-change-retirement-benefits-city-employees-112354 Tuition increases approved for Chicago's City Colleges http://www.wbez.org/news/tuition-increases-approved-chicagos-city-colleges-112348 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/8006734800_8aa94f0551_b.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr"><em>Updated July 9 at 4:30 p.m.</em></p><p dir="ltr">The cost of community college is going up in Chicago&mdash;especially for students who attend part-time.</p><p dir="ltr">City Colleges of Chicago is moving away from a pay-by-credit system to one that classifies students as full- or part-time or charges them $599 for a single course.</p><p dir="ltr">The flat-rate pricing would increase tuition on average by $225, but could be more for some students and less for others. The new prices go into effect this fall.</p><p dir="ltr">The Board of Trustees for the City Colleges of Chicago unanimously approved the changes on Thursday morning. Students and faculty were told about the new tuition amounts in an email late Tuesday, drawing criticism from the few who people signed up to speak.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;You make this decision in the summertime, when a lot of people are on vacation and you know, sneak in an e-mail 1.5 days before the Board is set to vote on this? I call that wrong,&rdquo; said Jessi Choe, a humanities professor at Wilbur Wright College.</p><p dir="ltr">Choe also took issue with the fact that fall enrollment started months ago, calling the price increase a &ldquo;bait-and-switch.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;You don&rsquo;t change the price of something after somebody has already agreed to pay it,&rdquo; Choe said in her testimony. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Chancellor Cheryl Hyman, also a former City Colleges student, said the financial burden is not lost on her. But she blamed Springfield for the uncertainty.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;When fall registration opened in April, we still did not have clarity on state funding plans, so we could not finalize, nor communicate a tuition change,&rdquo; Hyman said in her opening remarks. She did not take questions from reporters after the meeting.</p><p dir="ltr">The new rates will be: $1,753 for full-time students; $1,069 for part-time students; and $599 for a single course. The prices are still competitive compared to four-year universities and are still cheaper than if a Chicago resident were to attend a community college elsewhere. &nbsp;But compared to the cost of resident-tuition at other community colleges in the Chicago-area, the price is on par or now higher.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Even with this new plan, we still remain the lowest cost community college option for Chicagoans,&rdquo; Hyman said.</p><p dir="ltr">Hyman said the new &ldquo;flat-price&rdquo; tuition is designed to encourage students &ldquo;The new flat-price tuition structure is designed to encourage full-time status and faster completion for students,&rdquo; City Colleges Chancellor Cheryl Hyman said in a statement.</p><p dir="ltr">The email sent to students and faculty said that, based on the current average costs, the changes would mean students taking 15 credits would save $91 per semester, but for those taking 12 credits the cost would go up $286.</p><p dir="ltr">Part-time students take the biggest hit. Based on average costs, the email estimated a student taking two classes would pay $384 more. The cost of a single course doubles from around $300 per class to $599. A spokeswoman for City Colleges said 45 percent of students are considered part-time, 15 percent take just one course at a time, and 40 percent are full-time.</p><p dir="ltr">Mary Beth Nick, 56-year-old student who has taken community college classes on and off over the past several years, said people shouldn&rsquo;t be penalized for having &ldquo;complicated lives.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;There&rsquo;s no acknowledgement that a lot of people simply can&rsquo;t (take classes full-time) because of job obligations, family obligations,&rdquo; Nick said.</p><p dir="ltr">Jennifer Alexander, a professor of child development at Daley College, said many of her students only take one or two classes at a time because they&rsquo;re also working as full time child care providers. She noted many have to take courses to be licensed to work for the Department of Children and Family Services.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Realistically, it would almost be impossible to ask them to take even 12 hours,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;I can&rsquo;t imagine 15, while working full-time.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Alexander also said she worries what could happen to students who try to take 15 credits and then drop a class, adding that &ldquo;if you drop a class, it affects your financial aid for next semester.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Alexander is also the chair of the City Colleges of Chicago Faculty Council, but did not want to make any statements on the group&rsquo;s behalf because they just received the information and haven&rsquo;t had anytime to discuss it as a group.</p><p dir="ltr">Laurence Msall, president of the government watchdog Civic Federation, said his organization supports the proposed budget; he said it protects taxpayers by asking the people who use the service to pay, rather than request a property tax increase.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;However, in this case, the size of the tuition increase for certain students could precipitate a larger than projected decline in future enrollment,&rdquo; Msall said. &ldquo;You might have less students signing up to be full-time just because the communication has not been in advance of the registration.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Msall said City Colleges is right to show restraint in asking for more property tax revenue, noting that the City of Chicago, Chicago Public Schools, and the Chicago Park District are all &ldquo;in an intense financial crisis.&rdquo;</p></p> Wed, 08 Jul 2015 18:11:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/tuition-increases-approved-chicagos-city-colleges-112348 Obama administration announces new housing segregation rules http://www.wbez.org/news/obama-administration-announces-new-housing-segregation-rules-112345 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Julian-Castro-AP.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><em><strong style="font-weight: bold; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51); letter-spacing: normal; orphans: auto; text-align: start; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: 1; word-spacing: 0px; -webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px;"><span style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: 'Open Sans', 'Helvetica Neue', Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 20px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51); background-color: rgb(249, 249, 249);">▲&nbsp;</span>LISTEN </strong>The head of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro was in Chicago Wednesday to announce a new rule to help communities across the country meet fair housing obligations. WBEZ&rsquo;s South Side Bureau reporter Natalie Moore attended the event and joined host Melba Lara to explain what it may mean for Chicago.</em></p><p>The nation&#39;s head of urban housing policy announced new regulations Wednesday aimed at fulfilling promises of the 1968 Fair Housing Act by promoting racially integrated neighborhoods.</p><p>&quot;The truth is for too long federal efforts have often fallen short,&quot; Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro said at a news conference next to new public housing apartments and a playground on Chicago&#39;s South Side.</p><p>Besides banning outright discrimination, the 1968 law required cities that receive federal housing money to promote equal opportunity and access to housing regardless of race, origin, religion, sex or disability. But little was done at the time or in the years since to explain precisely what the law&#39;s requirement to &quot;affirmatively further&quot; such goals meant or how to achieve that.</p><p>The Obama administration&#39;s changes aim to provide cities with specific guidance and reams of data on integration and segregation patterns, racially and ethnically concentrated areas of poverty and areas of high housing need.</p><p>Communities will be required to set goals based on the data for smarter investments in housing, schools and transportation that will be closely monitored, Castro said. The new rules will be phased in, though no timetable was announced.</p><p>The new initiative recognizes that half a century after the height of the civil rights movement, parts of America remain divided along racial lines when it comes to access to affordable housing in good neighborhoods with decent schools, public transportation, jobs, grocery stores and opportunity.</p><p>&quot;Where a child grows up shouldn&#39;t dictate where they end up,&quot; Castro said.</p><p>To illustrate the persistent inequality, he cited data showing that a child in the Jeff-Vander-Lou neighborhood of St. Louis can expect to live 18 fewer years than one 10 miles away in the suburb of Clayton, Missouri.</p><p>From Chicago to Ferguson, Missouri, to Baltimore, people remain physically divided, said Philip Nyden, who studies segregated neighborhoods.</p><p>&quot;This is the federal government saying &#39;This can&#39;t continue to go on,&#39; &quot; said Nyden, director of the Center for Urban Research and Learning at Chicago&#39;s Loyola University.</p><p>He called the announcement a good step, though he cautioned against any expectation of quick results, given that the problem is so entrenched.</p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanuel, speaking alongside Castro, said it was no coincidence Chicago was chosen as a backdrop for the announcement, given the city&#39;s history of using housing policy and real estate practices to keep blacks confined to poor neighborhoods.</p><p>&quot;We have a long history as it relates to fair housing,&quot; Emanuel said while standing at the site of what was once Stateway Gardens, one of the city&#39;s neglected high-rise public housing projects. Chicago demolished it and the other projects in the late 1990s and early 2000s.</p><p>On Wednesday, Emanuel cut the ribbon on the latest low-rise apartment building to replace Stateway on what&#39;s now known as Park Boulevard, an example of the new kind of public housing developments that federal officials are promoting.</p><p>The development, open to people of various income levels and with a mix of homeowners and renters, is dotted with town house-style buildings, neatly landscaped walkways, playgrounds and open spaces.</p><p>Most importantly, Emanuel said, a vibrant area of opportunity is developing around the complex.</p><p>Retailers, including a Starbucks, have moved in. To the west is U.S. Cellular Field, home of the Chicago White Sox; to the east is a math and sciences charter school; and just to the north is the Illinois Institute of Technology. Three commuter train lines shuttle residents downtown and toward higher-paying jobs.</p><p>Roberta Wright, 44, loves the area. She lives there with her two adult children, a son who&#39;s in the Army and a daughter attending Illinois State University.</p><p>&quot;I have some great neighbors. It&#39;s really diverse. So that&#39;s a plus for me,&quot; she said. &quot;There&#39;s not a lot of riffraff.&quot;</p></p> Wed, 08 Jul 2015 14:13:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/obama-administration-announces-new-housing-segregation-rules-112345 Judge rules no pay for Illinois workers without state budget http://www.wbez.org/news/judge-rules-no-pay-illinois-workers-without-state-budget-112338 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP120209138862 (1)_1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><strong><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: 'Open Sans', 'Helvetica Neue', Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 20px; background-color: rgb(249, 249, 249);">▲&nbsp;</span>LISTEN </strong><em>A pair of courtroom decisions in Chicago Tuesday is drastically changing the dynamics at play in the political drama unfolding in Illinois state politics. Both rulings have to do with how the state government will operate as it goes further into shutdown mode. WBEZ&rsquo;s state politics reporter Tony Arnold joins host Melba Lara to break down what&rsquo;s at stake.</em></p><p>Illinois won&#39;t be allowed to pay state workers in full during an ongoing budget impasse, a Cook County judge ruled Tuesday, potentially leaving some 65,000 employees without a paycheck and putting added pressure on lawmakers to approve a new spending plan.</p><p>Judge Diane Larsen said that without a 2016 budget in place Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger may only pay some workers who are covered under a federal labor law. Those workers would receive the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour plus overtime.</p><p>But Munger&#39;s attorneys and lawyers for the state&#39;s personnel agency said it would take as long as a year to determine which employees would be paid under federal law and adjust payroll because of antiquated computer systems. That effectively means no workers will be paid until Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democrats who control the Legislature approve a budget, the comptroller&#39;s attorneys said. It&#39;s also likely to trigger federal fines and penalties.</p><p>Larsen&#39;s ruling likely won&#39;t be the final word. Munger and the leader of the state&#39;s largest public-employee union separately said they plan to appeal, and Rauner directed the state personnel department to do the same. Thirteen labor unions representing state employees also have filed a lawsuit in St. Clair County seeking full pay. A hearing in that case could occur this week.</p><p>&quot;Public service workers in state government are on the job despite the lack of a state budget for the fiscal year that started July 1,&quot; said Roberta Lynch, executive director of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31. &quot;Throughout Illinois they are keeping their communities safe, protecting kids, caring for veterans and people with disabilities, and providing countless other vital public services - and they should be paid for their work on time and in full.&quot;</p><p>The comptroller&#39;s office must begin processing payroll on Thursday for workers to receive their first paycheck of the new fiscal year as scheduled in mid-July. Rauner told employees in a memo last week that they must continue coming to work, and AFSCME has said its members plan to do so. The governor also said his office is asking local banks and credit unions to offer loans to workers who need help paying their bills.</p><p>Larsen acknowledged the situation is unfortunate but said the state constitution prohibits the comptroller from paying bills without spending authority or a federal mandate. She said responsibility lies with Rauner and the Legislature for not agreeing on a spending plan, and with state officials who have known since at least 2007 that their computer systems were incapable of meeting federal law.</p><p>Lawmakers have been deadlocked over a budget for weeks. Rauner, a conservative businessman seeking pro-business reforms in Illinois, vetoed a budget passed by the Legislature that fell far short of available revenues. Democrats such as House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton are seeking increases in revenue to ensure the government continues to provide social services and other key operations.</p><p>Lisa Madigan, a Democrat and the speaker&#39;s daughter, had asked the judge to clarify what state government is obligated to pay without an approved budget. Her office argued that the only way for all workers to be paid their regular salaries is for Rauner and the Legislature to act.</p><p>Munger, a Republican, wanted the judge to rule that all state employees be paid their regular salaries. Her attorneys noted Madigan agreed to an order that all workers be paid during a 2007 budget impasse, and he questioned whether the difference this time around is politics.</p><p>Madigan&#39;s office said circumstances are different because in 2007 lawmakers had passed a temporary budget and were days away from approving a full plan. A spokeswoman denied politics played a role.</p><p>&quot;This entire situation has been caused by the failure of the Governor and the Legislature to enact a budget,&quot; Madigan said in an emailed statement.</p><p>Without appropriation power, the comptroller is limited to paying only crucial bills, such as debt service and pension payments, as well as federal-program participation fees and payments required by court orders.</p><p>A Rauner spokesman noted legislators passed a law last year allowing them to continue to be paid without a budget and said the governor would support similar legislation to cover state workers. It was unclear if or when a bill will be introduced.</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 07 Jul 2015 13:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/judge-rules-no-pay-illinois-workers-without-state-budget-112338 No more 'roar' as famed trading pits come to an end http://www.wbez.org/news/no-more-roar-famed-trading-pits-come-end-112315 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 6.38.59 AM.png" alt="" /><p><p>NEW YORK &mdash; Pete Meegan had every intention of going back to college, but then he got a summer job in the Chicago trading pits and fell in love with the &quot;roar&quot; of the floor, the excitement of &quot;4,000 people yelling, &#39;Buy! Buy! Buy!&#39;&quot; and decided no more classroom for him.</p><p>That roar will soon go silent. On Monday, most futures pits in Chicago and New York, where frenzied buying and selling once helped set prices on cattle and corn, palladium and gold, and dozens of other commodities, are expected to close for good. Traders yelled and shoved and flashed hand signals, just as they did in the movie &quot;Trading Places.&quot; But now the computer &mdash; faster, cheaper and not nearly as noisy &mdash; has taken over.</p><p>It will be a sad day for Meegan, still in the pits 34 years after dropping out of college, donning a trading jacket and mustering the courage to tell his dad.</p><p>&quot;I thought he was gonna kill me, but he was like, &#39;I don&#39;t care if you pick up garbage or you&#39;re a dog groomer. If you are happy doing what you are doing, you&#39;re ahead of 99 percent of the people in the world,&#39;&quot; recalls Meegan, now 54.</p><p>The few dozen jobs that will be lost when the pits shut down is just part of it, veterans say. What&#39;s also disappearing is a rich culture of brazen bets, flashy trading jackets and kids just out of high school getting a shot at making it big. The pits were a ruthless place, but they were also a proving ground where education and connections counted for nothing next to drive and, occasionally, muscle.</p><p>&quot;If people came to your spot, you shoved them out of it. &#39;This is my two-foot space ... so get out of it,&#39;&quot; says Dan Sullivan, a broker who&#39;s been working in the pits since 1981. The competition, he adds, also bred camaraderie. &quot;These guys knew me better than my wife.&quot;</p><p>Dan Grant, 53, traces his love affair with the pits to a $150-a-week job as a &quot;runner&quot; ferrying messages between clerks taking phone orders from customers and brokers executing them.</p><p>Six years into his career, on Oct. 19, 1987, stocks were plunging around the world and he was a clerk taking orders from the head traders at Chemical Bank and Drexel Burnham Lambert desperate to buy anything to protect themselves. Grant still marvels that, just 24 years old and with no college degree, he wielded such power in the crash, later known as Black Monday.</p><p>&quot;They were buying Treasurys and currencies, and watching their stock portfolios go to zero,&quot; he recalls. &quot;It was a lot of fun.&quot;</p><p>The pits that are closing deal in futures, or contracts to buy or sell something at a later date at a set price. They&#39;re used by farmers to lock in prices for their crops before harvest, for instance, and investors as a way to bet that prices will go up or down.</p><p>Not all futures pits are going away. In its February announcement about the closings, the owner of the exchanges said the pits where Standard and Poor&#39;s 500 stock futures and options on futures are traded will remain open. Floor trading of stocks on the New York Stock Exchange, which is owned by a different company, won&#39;t end, either.</p><p>But the few remaining pits are a small, perhaps fleeting, victory for the dwindling number of traders who still use hand signals to buy and sell.</p><p>Where once futures on everything from pork bellies and wheat to Treasurys and Eurodollars were only traded in this &quot;open outcry&quot; system, now just 1 percent are. Where once thousands of futures traders stood shoulder to shoulder, now just a few dozen show up on a typical day.</p><p>&quot;There were five (people) in the wheat pit today,&quot; laments broker Virginia McGathey after the closing bell in Chicago last Wednesday. &quot;Back in the day, there were 400.&quot;</p><p>Scott Shellady, a broker standing nearby, worries that fewer humans could mean more violent swings in food prices. He fears turbulence could be triggered by an unusually large offer from a stranger in India or another far off place to buy or sell a futures contract.</p><p>&quot;That pit, with 500 guys, you can&#39;t have a flash crash because ... there are 499 people that know he doesn&#39;t normally trade that big,&quot; says Shellady, who wears a black-and-white cow print jacket, a reminder of a time when brokers needed to stand out on the floor.</p><p>Since at least 1870, when the first octagonal pits were installed in Chicago, traders have been reading the &quot;tone&quot; of the crowd to sense where prices might be heading and feeling the &quot;rush&quot; when placing a big bet.</p><p>After more than 40 years of trading, George Gero knows all about the feel and thrill of the pits. But he is also familiar with wrenching change, and learning to adapt to it.</p><p>After fleeing from the Nazi&#39;s in wartime Hungary, he came to New York, and found a home in the commodities pits downtown. And at 79, he&#39;s still at it, marveling at how the computer allows him to find prices for gold and currencies around the world, no matter the time of day.</p><p>But Gero, a strategist at RBC Capital Markets, is not a complete fan of the new way. &quot;It&#39;s very cold ... strictly numbers,&quot; he says.</p><p>Grant, the runner turned clerk who now oversees his own trading firm, says he has embraced change, too. But he mourns the loss of the kind of entry-level positions that gave kids without much education a chance to prove themselves, just as he did.</p><p>&quot;The customer doesn&#39;t have to call anyone to execute a trade,&quot; he says.</p><p>Sullivan, the broker, puts it bleakly.</p><p>&quot;It&#39;s kind of a slow death for people,&quot; he says. &quot;Maybe I am holding on to something that needs to go.&quot;</p></p> Mon, 06 Jul 2015 06:37:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/no-more-roar-famed-trading-pits-come-end-112315 CPS, Emanuel warn of deep cuts, layoffs to school district http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-emanuel-warn-deep-cuts-layoffs-school-district-112301 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/rahmap.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is proposing &ldquo;a grand bargain&rdquo; to fix the financial woes of Chicago Public Schools.</p><p>The proposal cuts $200 million from schools, raises property taxes, asks teachers to pay more into their pensions, and pushes Springfield to increase overall school funding.</p><p>&ldquo;Everybody would have to give up something, and nobody would have to give up everything,&rdquo; Emanuel said.</p><p>The mayor&rsquo;s proposal came as state lawmakers were entertaining a bill from Illinois Senate President John Cullerton that would freeze property taxes and eliminate grants currently promised to CPS in exchange for picking up about $200 million of the cash-strapped school district&rsquo;s &ldquo;normal&rdquo; pension costs over the next two years.</p><p>The Chicago Teachers Union doesn&rsquo;t support Emanuel&rsquo;s plan and also scoffed at his longstanding push to consolidate the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund with the Teachers Retirement System, which includes all suburban and downstate teachers, and is equally underfunded. Currently, Chicago taxpayers pay into both CTPF and TRS, something Emanuel calls &ldquo;inequitable.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Cuts will hit classrooms, special education and start times</span></p><p>Emanuel and CPS officials said schools will start on time this fall, but not without deep cuts.&nbsp;</p><p>District officials are still in the process of developing the budget for next school year, but CPS Interim CEO Jesse Ruiz <a href="https://www.scribd.com/doc/270216697/CPS-reducing-expenses-by-200-Million" target="_blank">outlined</a> the following cuts they&rsquo;ve already determined they&rsquo;ll make:</p><ul><li>Eliminate 5,300 coaching stipends for elementary school sports. ($3.2 million);</li><li>Change magnet school transportation by having students report to local attendance area school to be picked up. ($2.3 million);</li><li>Shift start times for some high schools back 45 minutes. ($9.2 million);</li><li>Eliminate 200 vacant special education positions. ($14 million);</li><li>Cut startup funding for charters and alternative schools. ($15.8 million);</li><li>Reduce professional development in turnaround schools run by AUSL ($11.6 million).</li></ul><p>&ldquo;In my view, they&rsquo;re intolerable, they&rsquo;re unacceptable and they&rsquo;re totally unconscionable,&rdquo; Emanuel said of the cuts. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re a result of a political system that sprung a leak and now it&rsquo;s a geyser.&rdquo;</p><p>The cuts do not solve the district&rsquo;s pension problems. Late Tuesday, just before the deadline, the school district paid its full pension payment, a hefty sum of $634 million, for 2015. But that payment was only to close out last year&rsquo;s budget. The Emanuel administration has already asked the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund to push $500 million of the required 2016 payment to 2017.&nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Where will the revenue come from?</span></p><p>Chicago Public Schools officials and Emanuel find themselves in the middle of a delicate dance with Springfield: They take every opportunity to blame Springfield for the financial mess the district is in, but at the same time look for lawmakers to bail them out.</p><p>If Springfield doesn&rsquo;t go along with Emanuel&rsquo;s idea to merge all teacher pensions into a single fund, he wants them to contribute the &ldquo;normal&rdquo; pension cost, which amounts to about $200 million annually.</p><p>This portion of his plan coincides with a <a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/fulltext.asp?DocName=09900SB0316sam001&amp;GA=99&amp;SessionId=88&amp;DocTypeId=SB&amp;LegID=84277&amp;DocNum=0316&amp;GAID=13&amp;Session=" target="_blank">bill</a> that&rsquo;s currently floating around Springfield. Senate President John Cullerton sponsored an amendment that would kick in that annual &ldquo;normal cost,&rdquo; and also freezes property taxes for two years. Cullerton says it&rsquo;s his attempt to compromise with Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, who&rsquo;s advocated freezing property taxes. The bill would also require the state to create a task force to overhaul Illinois&rsquo; school funding formula.</p><p>Cullerton&rsquo;s bill made it through its first legislative hurdle with only Democratic support, but Cullerton said he&rsquo;d continue working with Republicans to get bipartisan support.</p><p>And then there&rsquo;s that thing Chicagoans have been waiting to hear details about: A property tax hike. Emanuel said without Springfield&rsquo;s help on teacher pension funding, he will restore the CPS pension levy to the pre-1995 tax rate of .26 percent. Emanuel estimates that would bring in around $175 million.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t easily go to taxpayers, but part of a solution is you&rsquo;re willing to give up things you don&rsquo;t support, in an effort to get other things you think are essential to a solution,&rdquo; Emanuel said.</p><p>Emanuel said he will also ask teachers to contribute the full 9 percent to cover their own pension costs. He said he will also put the city&rsquo;s block grants on the table, in exchange for the state to increase education funding by up to 25 percent.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">How we got here</span></p><p>These pension problems stem from 15 years of neglect and mismanagement at CPS and the city.</p><p>From 1995 to 2004, CPS did not make a single payment to the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund, and instead used revenues to pay for operations. From 2011 to 2013, the school district got a &ldquo;pension holiday&rdquo; that temporarily shrunk payments, but didn&rsquo;t make a dent in the unfunded liabilities.</p><p>Ralph Martire, executive director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, said the district should be &ldquo;front and center taking blame&rdquo; for &ldquo;using the pension system very much like a credit card, running up debt and deferring payment of it until now.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;The City of Chicago has known that more money was going to have to go into the pension systems in 2015,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;They had four and a half years to plan for it and they did nothing.&rdquo;</p><p>Emanuel disputes that he&rsquo;s been putting the pension problem off, telling reporters Wednesday that over the past few years, &ldquo;we negotiated with the laborers and municipal fund, we negotiated with police and fire and we negotiated with park district employees and reached pension agreements and passed a number of them...so I would slightly beg to differ the characterization that we were passive.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>Martire didn&rsquo;t place all of the blame at the mayor&rsquo;s feet. He said state lawmakers are equally at fault for not contributing to Chicago teachers&rsquo; pensions, like they once promised and by generally underfunding public schools.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;When you have such significant underfunding from the state, the mayoral administrations and the administrations of the CPS are going to look to beg, borrow and steal,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;And just simply write an IOU into the system saying, &lsquo;We&rsquo;ll pay you back someday at compounded interest.&rsquo; And someday has arrived.&rdquo;</p><p><em>WBEZ&rsquo;s Tony Arnold contributed to this story from Springfield.</em></p><p><span style="font-size: 24px;">A timeline of CPS pension problems</span></p><p><strong>1981</strong> &ndash; Chicago Board of Education starts picking up 7 percent of the 9 percent employee pension contribution, in exchange for no salary raises.</p><p><strong>1995</strong> &ndash; Illinois General Assembly gives control of the city&rsquo;s public schools to Chicago&rsquo;s mayor and agrees to let CPS manage the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund. The dedicated pension levy is eliminated and for 10 years, CPS doesn&rsquo;t pay anything into the Fund, instead using revenue that should have been earmarked for pensions on other things, like operations, new school expansion and staff raises.</p><p><strong>2005</strong> &ndash; Chicago Teachers Pension Fund &ldquo;funded ratio&rdquo; drops to 79 percent.</p><p><strong>2006</strong> &ndash; Board starts making payments into CTPF again.</p><p><strong>2008</strong>&nbsp;&ndash; Stock market crashes, dropping the Fund&rsquo;s &ldquo;funded ratio&rdquo; even further.</p><p><strong>2010</strong> &ndash; CPS CEO Ron Huberman gets a pension holiday from Springfield. From 2011-2013, CPS is only required to pay $200 million year &ndash; instead of $600 million &ndash; pushing ballooning payments to 2014.</p><p><strong>2012</strong> &ndash; The &ldquo;funded ratio&rdquo; drops to 53.9 percent.</p><p><strong>2014</strong> - $612.7 million payment</p><p><strong>2015</strong> - $634 million payment</p><p><iframe class="scribd_iframe_embed" data-aspect-ratio="undefined" data-auto-height="false" frameborder="0" height="600" id="doc_76159" scrolling="no" src="https://www.scribd.com/embeds/270216697/content?start_page=1&amp;view_mode=scroll&amp;show_recommendations=true" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Wed, 01 Jul 2015 13:53:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-emanuel-warn-deep-cuts-layoffs-school-district-112301