WBEZ | Better Government Association http://www.wbez.org/tags/better-government-association Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en No city law exists to recall mayor http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-12-10/no-city-law-exists-recall-mayor-114120 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/rahm resign meredith francis.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The mayor says he has no intention of resigning. And currently there&rsquo;s no city law that allows for the mayor to be forced out of office through a recall vote. But Wednesday a democratic state representative from Chicago introduced a bill to make the recall effort easier.</p><p><a href="https://twitter.com/bobreedbga">Bob Reed</a> of the <a href="https://twitter.com/BetterGov">Better Government Association</a> shares some answers on what it takes to recall an elected official in Illinois.</p></p> Thu, 10 Dec 2015 10:57:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-12-10/no-city-law-exists-recall-mayor-114120 Mayor to CPS on graduation rates: ‘Go back and be accurate.’ http://www.wbez.org/news/mayor-cps-graduation-rates-%E2%80%98go-back-and-be-accurate%E2%80%99-113166 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/4626481280_3e71045657_z.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanuel says he told Chicago school officials to go back and fix the errors in the graduation rate that were first reported in June by WBEZ and the Better Government Association.</p><p>&ldquo;Soon as there were questions raised, I said, &lsquo;Go back, and analyze what&rsquo;s going on and be accurate,&rsquo;&rdquo; Emanuel said. &ldquo;And that&rsquo;s exactly what they did.&rdquo;</p><p>Chicago Public Schools officials announced late Thursday it would <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-lowers-graduation-rate-after-errors-found-113148">revise the past four years of graduation rates</a> and make sure to include students who dropped out but <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-touts-bogus-graduation-rate-112163">were misclassified as having transferred</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;There was an error pointed out,&rdquo; said CPS CEO Forrest Claypool. &ldquo;We studied that information. We had to wait until the end of the summer schools to have all the data. And then we corrected it.&rdquo;</p><p>Claypool said the errors &ldquo;shouldn&rsquo;t deflect from the fact that the trendline is up.&rdquo;</p><p>The trendline is up -- officials also announced late Thursday that the new 2015 graduation rate is 69.9 percent.</p><p>But the errors raise questions about how well the district is accounting for students who are still dropping out. Under Emanuel, CPS nearly doubled the number of <a href="http://www.wbez.org/sections/special-series/meet-companies-profit-when-cps-students-drop-out-111665">alternative schools in the city</a> and opened r<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/how-do-you-find-high-school-dropouts-110816">e-engagement centers</a> to do the work of tracking down kids who are listed as dropouts. But the students who were misclassified wouldn&rsquo;t have been officially listed as dropouts and no one would have known to track them down.</p><p>Emanuel agreed that&rsquo;s cause for concern.</p><p>&ldquo;If we missed a dropout, they&rsquo;re not only dropping out of high school, they&rsquo;re dropping out of life, and their ability to earn a (living),&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;So of course I&rsquo;m concerned. I&rsquo;m concerned (about) what it means for the rest of life, not just the system and its data gathering.&rdquo;</p><p>When the errors were <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-touts-bogus-graduation-rate-112163">first reported in June</a>, officials admitted there was a problem, but said they didn&rsquo;t plan to go back to fix the publicly-reported statistics.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is an education reporter for WBEZ. You can follow her </em><a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZeducation"><em>@WBEZeducation</em></a><em>.</em></p></p> Fri, 02 Oct 2015 16:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/mayor-cps-graduation-rates-%E2%80%98go-back-and-be-accurate%E2%80%99-113166 Emanuel touts bogus graduation rate http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-touts-bogus-graduation-rate-112163 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/CurieHighSchool.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been talking proudly about something that is really a bit of a miracle: Even during a time of tight budgets and leadership chaos, Chicago Public Schools graduation rates have climbed to a record 69.4 percent.</p><p>But new data obtained by WBEZ and the Better Government Association shows that number is wrong.</p><p>CPS records recently obtained under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act show at least 2,200 students from 25 Chicago high schools were counted as having transferred out of the district between 2011 and 2014. In reality, they were dropouts. The transfers aren&rsquo;t factored into CPS graduation rates, while dropouts are.</p><blockquote><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-acknowledges-errors-takes-steps-count-dropouts-correctly-112180"><strong>More on this story: CPS acknowledges errors, takes steps to count dropouts correctly</strong></a></p></blockquote><p>More than half of the 2,200 labeled as moving out of town or going to private schools actually went to alternative schools. Those students should stay in the graduation rate.&nbsp;</p><p>Another 610 of the so-called transfers were listed as getting a GED. State law and policy dictate that students who leave districts to go to GED programs are dropouts.<br /><br />An additional 1,300 had no explanation of what school they were supposedly transferring to or were vaguely listed as going to different states or countries.</p><p>Asked about all this by WBEZ and the BGA, district officials acknowledged problems with the system&rsquo;s accounting, but said they had no plan to go back and adjust the numbers. They insisted the numbers weren&rsquo;t purposely skewed to help Emanuel look better to potential voters.<br /><br />&ldquo;The mayor is absolutely interested in making sure we have accurate data,&rdquo; said John Barker, CPS&rsquo; chief accountability officer.</p><p>Emanuel released a statement late Tuesday that said in part: &ldquo;No one questions the facts: more CPS students are graduating than ever before, those students are more prepared for their futures and we&rsquo;re making huge strides in helping struggling kids graduate.&quot;</p><p>It is unclear when the practice started, but the CPS inspector general found problems at one school, Farragut Career Academy, dating back to 2009. School district officials said they did not know how widespread the problem was until contacted by reporters.<br /><br />Barker said now the district is doing a systemwide audit of what are called verified transfers. He also said school staff has been trained on how to enter information into the system, but as of Tuesday, CPS officials could provide no evidence of such trainings or audits.<br /><br />WBEZ and the BGA attempted to contact several of the principals of the schools whose data we looked at. We tried to reach them through phone calls, e-mails and stops by the schools, but each declined our request for interviews on the subject. CPS spokesman Bill McCaffrey also refused to make any principals available to talk about this story.<br /><br />It&#39;s not just about graduation rates, said Sheila Venson, executive director of Youth Connection Charter School, a network of more than 20 alternative schools in CPS.<br /><br />&ldquo;We have to get a better handle on (the dropout problem),&rdquo; Venson said. &ldquo;You can&rsquo;t get a better handle on it if you&rsquo;re hiding it. If you&rsquo;re not looking at it, you&rsquo;re not even looking at who these kids are.&rdquo;</p><p>Once a student is classified as a transfer, school staff have no reason to try to re-enroll him or her in school or to hand their information to a district re-enrollment center. But Venson points out that schools have no incentive to be honest about the numbers because they are under so much pressure to improve their performance on school rating systems that take into account the graduation rate.<br /><br />McCaffrey acknowledged that the district has a problem, but said officials don&#39;t plan to go back and adjust the rates because of the &ldquo;billion dollar deficit.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Obvious red flags and past problems</span></p><p>For decades, CPS has used a number system to identify where and when students are enrolled. The information is used to determine school funding, and also to track students from grade school to graduation.<br /><br />In examining high school records, WBEZ and the BGA found a number of red flags.</p><p>At Curie Metropolitan High School, the third largest high school in the city, more than 100 students every year since 2011 supposedly transferred out to be homeschooled. Homeschooled students are removed from the graduation rate. But annually, most high schools only listed a handful of students as being homeschooled.<br /><br />Curie Principal Phillip Perry did not respond to phone calls or emails. When reporters stopped by his school, they were not allowed past the front foyer and escorted out by a security guard and a woman who identified herself as a police officer, though she did not have her badge evident and was not in uniform.<br /><br />Students and teachers, however, scoffed at the idea that hundreds of high schoolers were being homeschooled on the Southwest Side of the city.<br /><br />Teacher Marina Kalic said that in her four years at the school she has never once heard of a student leaving to be homeschooled. She points out that most students at the school are low-income.<br /><br />&ldquo;Parents don&rsquo;t have the sources and the funds to homeschool their kids,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;They have to go to work. I&rsquo;ve never heard that.&rdquo;<br /><br />CPS&#39; John Barker said that having so many students labeled as homeschooled raises questions.<br /><br />&ldquo;Is that a concern to us? Yes,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Are we interested in following up? Yes. What we are going to need to do is that we are going to intervene as far as take a look at these a lot more seriously.&rdquo;<br /><br />Despite having access to this information for years, district officials said they only just became aware of the misclassifications when CPS Inspector General Nicholas Schuler started looking into it last year at a particular school. In the <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fcps.edu%2FAbout_CPS%2FDepartments%2FDocuments%2FOIG_FY_2014_AnnualReport.pdf&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNGOKs9u4POI5co9tNLmACTi40_URg" target="_blank">annual report</a> released in January, in a section entitled &ldquo;High School Dropouts Masked as &ldquo;Transfers,&rdquo; Schuler found that an unnamed high school &ldquo;systemically and improperly&rdquo; recorded nearly 300 students over five year as transfers, although internal records show they went to GED programs. That school was later identified as Farragut.<br /><br />&ldquo;Illinois law and policy, however, make it clear that students who leave school to attend a GED program are dropouts and not transfers,&rdquo; Schuler wrote.<br /><br />Another 123 students at this school were labeled as verified transfers, many of them labeled as transferred to Mexico, but student records show the transfer was verified in less than 5 percent of the cases.&nbsp;<br /><br />Schuler then took CPS to task for not disciplining the five employees involved and promoting one of them.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">&lsquo;One of the most complicated, debated and discussed statistics&rsquo;</span><br /><br />The concept of a graduation rate seems pretty simple, but in reality, it is complicated. The state and federal government calculate their rates differently, though based on the same premise as CPS.<br /><br />Barker pointed out that it gets even more complicated in a system of choice like Chicago&rsquo;s. A <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/behind-cps-graduation-rates-system-musical-chairs-111786" target="_blank">WBEZ analysis of CPS data</a> shows that in the Class of 2013, about 16,000 of the districts more than 20,000 graduates started and finished in the same place. More than 4,000 switched schools and still graduated, while more than 12,000 dropped out, died, or were labeled &ldquo;out-of-district transfers.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;The graduation rate is one of the most complicated, debated and discussed statistics in all of K-12 education,&rdquo; Barker said. &ldquo;Go in for four years, get out with a diploma, doesn&rsquo;t take into account all of the complicated factors of student mobility in a district like ours.&rdquo;<br /><br />In Illinois, the issue became even more complex when state lawmakers changed the compulsory age from 16 to 17 in 2004.&nbsp; The idea was that schools would have to hang onto students for longer.<br /><br />Some time around then, the CPS system changed so that students were no longer labeled in the computer system as dropouts. Instead, they are supposed to be labeled as &ldquo;unable to locate&rdquo; or &ldquo;consent to withdraw.&rdquo;<br /><br />Venson said this creates all sorts of confusion: &ldquo;What&rsquo;s a dropout? Is it a chronic truant? Is it someone with 20 or more absences? 30 or 40 more absences? Is that a dropout? Is a dropout somebody who formally withdraws?&rdquo;<br /><br />When WBEZ and the BGA asked about the questionable practices around the graduation rate, McCaffrey and Barker continued to point to the future. They said this year, CPS is going to completely redo the way it calculates graduation rates. As of Tuesday, they had not yet provided any details about the new formula. But McCaffrey says district officials are confident that it will result in an even higher graduation rate than in the past.<br /><br />Barker said the district may also reformat the computer system to prevent clerks from entering in transfer codes unless they have documentation.</p><p>This is not the first time Emanuel&rsquo;s administration has come under fire for doctoring figures. <em>Chicago Magazine</em> found that <a href="http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/May-2014/Chicago-crime-rates/" target="_blank">dozens of crimes were misclassified</a> or made to vanish altogether.</p><p>Larry Lesser, an associate professor of mathematical sciences at the University of Texas-El Paso, noted that statistics can easily be manipulated to say what people want. In cases where the underlying information is wrong, the agency needs to make sure that people understand how they should report things, mathematicians need to be on review committees and standards need to be enforced.<br /><br />&ldquo;Ultimately,&rdquo; he said, &ldquo; it becomes a question of politics.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is an education reporter for WBEZ. You can follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation" target="_blank">@WBEZeducation</a>. Sarah Karp is a reporter for the <a href="http://www.bettergov.org/" target="_blank">Better Government Association</a>. You can follow her at <a href="https://twitter.com/sskedreporter" target="_blank">@SSKedreporter</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 10 Jun 2015 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-touts-bogus-graduation-rate-112163 Morning Shift: Local Food Movement http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-03-18/morning-shift-local-food-movement-111716 <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/Jamie%20McCaffrey_0.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="Flickr/Jamie McCaffrey" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/196500337&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></div><div class="image-insert-image "><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">&nbsp;</p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><span style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 24px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; line-height: inherit;">Schock resignation and pensions explainer</span></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">It&rsquo;s been made pretty clear by various parties that the number one issue facing Chicago in this mayoral runoff election is the city&rsquo;s looming $500M pension payment. Chicago faces some dire consequences if the money is not available when the bill comes due. WBEZ political reporters Lauren Chooljian and Tony Arnold explain how Chicago got to this point and some of the remedies being proposed by the candidates, the legislature and others. Also, we discuss life in Congress after the resignation announcement of IL Rep. Aaron Schock.</p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><em><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;">Guests:&nbsp;</strong><a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: inherit; vertical-align: baseline; text-decoration: none; color: rgb(0, 104, 150); outline: 0px;">Lauren Chooljian</a>&nbsp;and <a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold">Tony Arnold</a> are WBEZ reporters.</em></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/196500334&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p></div><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><span style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 24px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; line-height: inherit;">Mayoral candidates answer questions from the Better Government Association</span></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">The Better Government Association posed a <a href="http://www.bettergov.org/action_policy/2015_chicago_mayoral_runoff_election.aspx">series of questions</a> to Chicago&rsquo;s mayoral candidates. They received answers on a range of topics from government transparency and the city&rsquo;s finances, to public safety and more. Bob Reed of the BGA runs through some of the most interesting responses with the Morning Shift before the document goes public.&nbsp;</p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><em><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;">Guest:&nbsp;</strong><a href="https://twitter.com/bobreedbga">Bob Reed</a>&nbsp;is the Director of Programming for the <a href="http://www.bettergov.org/">Better Government Association.</a></em></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/196500330&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><span style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 24px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; line-height: inherit;">Food Wednesday: Local Food Movement</span></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">In the past decade we&rsquo;ve heard a lot about local food and have seen an exponential increase in farmers markets. But where does it go from here? Are there enough local farmers to supply the need? And how does a small family farm get its products into this market. With us today is Jim Slama, President and Founder of the Good Food Festival, which runs through this weekend for consumers, but kicks off its financing and innovation fair Thursday with a trade show on Friday.&nbsp;</p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><em><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;">Guest:&nbsp;</strong>Jim Slama is the founder of the <a href="https://twitter.com/GoodFoodFestChi">Good Food Festival</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/FamilyFarmed">Family Farmed.org</a></em></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">&nbsp;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/196500324&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><span style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 24px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; line-height: inherit;">Reclaimed Soul</span></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Reclaimed Soul host Ayana Contreras shares music from a few of her favorite groups that straddled the line between rock and soul.&nbsp;</p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><em><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;">Guest:&nbsp;</strong><a href="https://twitter.com/ReclaimedSoul">Ayana Contreras</a> hosts Reclaimed Soul on Vocalo.</em></p></p> Wed, 18 Mar 2015 07:49:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-03-18/morning-shift-local-food-movement-111716 Morning Shift: Car-free and gravity-free http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-09-23/morning-shift-car-free-and-gravity-free-108739 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Spacewalker Flickr by Luke Bryant.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Andy and Alden from the Better Government Association give us the nitty gritty on lawsuits and the city. We also hear from a man who&#39;s walked in space-a lot! Retired astronaut Jerry Ross.</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-130923/embed?header=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-130923.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-130923" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: Car-free and gravity-free" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Mon, 23 Sep 2013 08:36:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-09-23/morning-shift-car-free-and-gravity-free-108739 'Afternoon Shift' #190: Sweet shadow http://www.wbez.org/programs/afternoon-shift/2012-11-15/afternoon-shift-190-sweet-shadow-103865 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Walter Payton flickr.jpg" alt="" /><p><script src="http://storify.com/WBEZ/afternoon-shift-190-sweet-shadow.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="http://storify.com/WBEZ/afternoon-shift-190-sweet-shadow" target="_blank">View the story "'Afternoon Shift' #190: Sweet shadow " on Storify</a>]<h1>'Afternoon Shift' #190: Sweet shadow </h1><h2>The Better Government Association boys return to field questions and concerns about local government. 'Curious City' goes all graphic novel on this week's question about neighborhood formation. And Walter Payton's older brother, Eddie, talks about life in Sweetness's shadow.</h2><p>Storified by &middot; Thu, Nov 15 2012 11:12:13</p><div>#Sweetness#WalterPayton#Best#RunningBack#Chicago#Legend#Carlos_Lopez</div><div>Remembering crime reporter Jim Agnew by WBEZRick Kogan remembers &quot;one of the literary scene's unseen and unsung masters.&quot;</div><div>AndyShaw and Alden Loury of the <a href="http://www.bettergov.org/" class="">Better Government Association</a> return to give tipsto, and answer questions from, listeners trying to deal with the complexitiesand oddities of our local governmental bodies.Call 312-923-9239 or join the discussion on Twitter #AfternoonShift<br></div><div>The Better Government Association answers your calls about local government by WBEZAndy Shaw and Alden Loury of the Better Government Association return to give tips to, and answer questions from, listeners trying to dea...</div><div>House Speaker Dennis Hastert used little-known gov't office to conduct private business, costing taxpayers $1.8M. http://www.bettergov.org/blogs/morning_watch/morning_watch_-_november_14/Andy Shaw</div><div>Derrick Smith trial date tentatively set for Oct. 21, 2013Tony Arnold</div><div>Today's 3@3 panel consists of Angela Caputo of The Chicago Reporter and WXRT's Mary Dixon. They talk about an embezzlement case in Mary Dixon's home town...Dixon, IL and the latest round of Michelin ratings. <br></div><div>Our 3@3 panel talks embezzlement and foodies by WBEZToday's 3@3 panel consists of Angela Caputo of The Chicago Reporter and WXRT's Mary Dixon. They talk about an embezzlement case in Mary D...</div><div>U.S. Attorney: Ex-Dixon comptroller to plead guilty todayFormer Dixon Comptroller Rita Crundwell plans to plead guilty Wednesday to a federal fraud charge that alleges she siphoned more than $53...</div><div>Chicago chefs boast Michelin ratingsThe official annoucement won&amp;#39;t come until Wednesday. But Tuesday afternoon, Chicago chefs took to Twitter to brag about their new Mic...</div><div>Chicago is known as a city of neighborhoods. Well one curious citizen wanted to know how, when and why that happened. So the <a href="http://curiouscity.wbez.org" class="">Curious City</a> gang came to the rescue! And this week, they included some comic relief in their sleuthing. <br></div><div>Curious City: What's in a (neighborhood) name? by WBEZChicago is known as a city of neighborhoods. Well one curious citizen wanted to know how, when and why that happened. So the Curious City...</div><div>WBEZ : Curious City : Kathy Has A QuestionFor the best experience please use the latest Chrome, Safari or Firefox browser.</div><div>@WBEZCuriousCity @KatieKlocksin So what’s up with Chicago being the “City of Neighborhoods”? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/question-answered-how-are-chicago-neighborhoods-formed-103831Scott Klocksin</div><div>Man, I love @wbezCuriousCity. Check out this non-fiction comic about #chicago neighborhooods: http://tmblr.co/ZeKaPyXGgsapTricia Bobeda</div><div><p>Walter Payton is arguably themost celebrated and beloved athlete in Chicago sports history. Sweetness’sgreatness was much bigger than his small frame--so too was the shadow he cast.Walter’s older brother, Eddie, shares his own candid account of the life andlegacy of #34 in his new book, <b><i>Walter &amp; Me: Standing in the Shadow ofSweetness</i>.</b></p></div><div>Eddie Payton, Walter's brother, shares story of life in new book by WBEZWalter Payton is arguably the most celebrated and beloved athlete in Chicago sports history. Sweetness's greatness was much bigger than h...</div><div>Eddie Payton's eulogy of his brother, Walter Paytonsweetnessbook</div></noscript></p> Wed, 14 Nov 2012 13:07:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/afternoon-shift/2012-11-15/afternoon-shift-190-sweet-shadow-103865 Cayne Collier: Does Arne Duncan need a parent teacher conference? http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-02-15/cayne-collier-does-arne-duncan-need-parent-teacher-conference-96396 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//blog/photo/2012-February/2012-02-14/3548577209_bc59df9ef0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-14/3548577209_bc59df9ef0.jpg" style="margin-right: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: left; width: 300px; height: 200px; " title="Arne Duncan at a hearing in 2009. (Flickr/House Committee on Education)">Comedian Cayne Collier takes a look at a new investigation by the Better Government Association that reveals that the city is losing money handing out back vacation pay to employees. But according to Collier, these payouts might have a silver lining we're not looking at. Read an excerpt or listen below:</p><p><em>Halfway through the school year, Chicago Public Schools has already made headlines: by announcing a $700 million deficit, by rescinding - in light of the deficit - an expected four percent pay raise to teachers this year, [by engaging in a] drawn out public battle with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who seems like he'd give half a finger from his other hand to make the school days longer.</em></p><p><em>Well now comes this: Late last week, the first report by the Better Government Association's <a href="http://www.bettergov.org/ill-gotten_gains_at_cps_unused_sick_days_pay_off/">Education Watch Series</a>, revealed that since 2006, CPS paid out $265 million for unused sick and vacation days, with the largest chunk, $227 million, going to longtime employees for days accrued over two to three decades. That's a lot of time.</em></p><p><em>The story made national headlines when the report showed that U.S. Secretary of Education and former CEO of Chicago Public Schools Arne Duncan, when leaving for the White House in 2009 after seven years in that position, took with him $50,297 in unused vacation pay by benefit of this policy.</em></p><p><em>Somebody needs a parent teacher conference.</em></p><p><span class="filefield_audio_insert_player" href="/sites/default/files/cayne collier.mp3" id="filefield_audio_insert_player-125739" player="null">cayne collier.mp3</span></p><p><a href="http://thepapermacheteshow.com/" target="_blank">The Paper Machete</a><em>&nbsp;is a weekly live magazine at the Horseshoe in North Center. It's always at 3 p.m., it's always on Saturday, and it's always free. Get all your</em>&nbsp;The Paper Machete Radio Magazine&nbsp;<em>needs filled&nbsp;<a href="http://wbez.org/thepapermachete" target="_blank">here</a>, or download the podcast from iTunes&nbsp;<a href="http://itunes.apple.com/podcast/the-paper-machete-radio-magazine/id450280345" target="_blank">here</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 15 Feb 2012 14:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-02-15/cayne-collier-does-arne-duncan-need-parent-teacher-conference-96396 Should teachers be allowed to bank on unused sick days and vacation time? http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-02-07/should-teachers-be-allowed-bank-unused-sick-days-and-vacation-time-96172 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//segment/photo/2012-February/2012-02-07/5335000050_84389ea162.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A new <a href="http://www.bettergov.org/ill-gotten_gains_at_cps_unused_sick_days_pay_off/?categoryid=1">report</a> out from the Better Government Association finds that Chicago Public Schools employees have collected $265 million for unused sick and vacation days since 2006. Bob Reed, Director of Programming and Investigations at the Better Government Association, joined Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey to discuss the findings.</p><p>Then, Northwestern University Law School's <a href="http://www.law.northwestern.edu/faculty/profiles/ZevEigen/" target="_blank">Zev Eigen</a> talked with <em>Eight Forty-Eight </em>about the philosophy behind different sick day policies and took calls from listeners.&nbsp; Eigen specializes in labor and employment issues; he also teaches management and strategy at the Kellogg School of Management.</p></p> Tue, 07 Feb 2012 16:02:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-02-07/should-teachers-be-allowed-bank-unused-sick-days-and-vacation-time-96172 The Mirage: A fake tavern that exposed real corruption, ten bucks at a time http://www.wbez.org/story/mirage-fake-tavern-exposed-real-corruption-ten-bucks-time-95567 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//story/photo/2012-January/2012-01-16/Fire Inspector Payoff.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>As a young reporter at the <em>Chicago Tribune</em> in the early 1970s, Pam Zekman had repeatedly asked her editors to buy her a tavern.&nbsp; Then she went across the street to the <em>Sun-Times</em>, and she found an editor ready to say yes.&nbsp;</p><p>To be clear, Zekman’s desire to open a bar was strictly journalistic.&nbsp; Like lots of other reporters, she got calls all the time from small-business owners who complained about being shaken down for bribes by city inspectors-- day after day after friggin’ day.&nbsp;</p><p>“They were fed up,” she recalls. “They didn’t want to pay these bribes anymore.” Somebody, they said, ought to write a story.</p><p>But she could never, ever get anyone to go on the record. They were all afraid that the city would find a way to get back at them and destroy their business.</p><p>Which, she had to admit, was an understandable fear.&nbsp;</p><p>“We thought about it, and we decided that the only way we could document this was to become the victims.”</p><p>Zekman had a ready partner in the Better Government Association, or BGA, a non-profit that worked with investigative reporters, where Mindy Trossman was a young investigator. &nbsp;</p><p>“And as far as what kind of establishment,” Trossman recalls, “we couldn’t do a dry cleaner. After all, what did we know?&nbsp; We knew how to drink. And make a hot dog.”</p><p>Plus, a bar offered special reporting opportunities because so many inspectors had jurisdiction: health inspectors, liquor inspectors, building inspectors—from both city and state agencies. “And that’s just what we wanted,” Zekman says. “We wanted to test out how widespread this was—not just one agency.”</p><p>Thirty-five years ago, at the very end of 1976, Zekman’s boss found the money to fund the project, and sent her off to shop for a seedy tavern.</p><p>It took months. As Zekman notes, there were a lot of factors: “Is the location good? Where could we hide a photographer? Could we afford them? And were there obvious violations?”</p><p>The place they found, on the corner of Superior and Wells, had plenty of those. Frayed wires dangled everywhere, the bathroom’s plumbing was a bad joke, and both rats and roaches had thriving colonies.&nbsp; The basement’s floor oozed raw sewage—and was crawling with maggots.&nbsp;</p><p>It was perfect. They named it The Mirage and started getting ready to open.</p><p>They had some strict ground rules. Most important, says Zekman, was that they couldn’t actually offer anybody a bribe. “We couldn’t say, how much would it cost me to ignore this?”</p><p>And the inspectors were too savvy to just come out and ask for money. “They’d say things like, I’d like to work with you.”&nbsp;</p><p>Luckily, Zeckman and crew had a guy.</p><p>“Our job became much easier when we hooked up with Mr. Fixit, Phil Barasch,” she recalls. “He was straight from Central Casting.”</p><p>Zekman and the BGA’s director of investigations, Bill Recktenwald, were shopping for saloons—posing as a married couple—when they met Barasch, who represented some bar owners who were looking to sell.</p><p>He let them know, at that first meeting, that they’d want him as their accountant. He offered to help them cheat on their taxes, and to make sure inspectors didn't bother them.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>“We weren’t there for more than a few minutes when he just openly told us that he would tell us how to take care of the inspectors,” Zekman recalls. “And in fact he ended up doing just that, telling us to put ten, twenty, whatever—in cash, in an envelope, and tell them Phil Barasch told me to give this to you.”</p><p>And now it turned out, it wasn’t so hard to work with the inspectors after all. Bill Recktenwald sounds like he kind of enjoyed it.</p><p>“We just acted dumb!” he says. &nbsp;“And the dumber we acted, the more people wanted to tell us how things really operated. A number of them asked us, ‘Are you from Chicago? &nbsp;Don't you understand how things work?’”</p><p>And the inspectors came surprisingly cheap. When an inspector came to visit, whoever was handling the guy “would leave an envelope on the bar--which had a whopping ten dollars in it,” says Jim Frost, a <em>Sun-Times</em> photographer who worked on the story.&nbsp;</p><p>Perched in a loft above the bathroom, shooting through a hole in the wall, Frost got photos of the fire inspector who took his ten bucks without even looking at the exposed electrical wiring.</p><p>The building inspector did look around, took note of a couple of serious issues—then scooped up his fifteen bucks and left without writing up a thing.&nbsp;</p><p>“It was an amazing part to everybody that they would sell out so cheap,” says Frost. “The public safety for ten dollars.”&nbsp;</p><p>Actually, the state liquor inspector held out for fifty bucks. &nbsp;</p><p>And not everybody was on the take.&nbsp; The health inspector gave the Mirage a thumbs-up without going near the funky bathrooms or the filthy basement—but he didn’t take a dime.</p><p>“So, he was incompetent,” says Zekman, “But he didn’t take money.”</p><p>And the story went beyond inspectors: Accountants became a big part of it.&nbsp;</p><p>After all, Mr. Fixit had promised to help them keep a set of phony books for tax purposes, so Zekman and Recktenwald wondered if other accountants would offer the same service.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Boy, did they.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>“Over and over and over again,” says Zekman, “they would say, ‘I can show you how to skim 20 percent, I can show you how to skim 30 percent, 40.’”&nbsp;</p><p>The Mirage hired them all, and ended up keeping several sets of books: One honest set, which they submitted at tax time, and another for each of their crooked accountants.</p><p>Then, after just two months of operations, the Mirage closed—on Halloween.&nbsp;</p><p>“We could not stay in business longer,” says Zekman. “There was concern that people already were getting an idea that we were there."</p><p>Especially because the Mirage staff weren’t the only journalists trying to keep a low profile around the joint. Mike Wallace and a crew from <em>60 Minutes</em> had been visiting the bar on and off even before it opened.&nbsp;</p><p>In fact, had they stayed open much longer, they might well have gotten caught—by the competition.&nbsp;</p><p>Zay Smith, the <em>Sun-Times</em> reporter who wrote up the Mirage saga, says that shortly after the bar closed, the <em>Chicago Tribune</em> assigned a reporter to check out rumors about Zekman’s project.&nbsp; “The assignment was to pub crawl,” he says, “and look for a short redhead behind the bar.”</p><p>After the Mirage closed, the staff didn’t exactly mind going back to their day jobs.</p><p>“There is no glamour in being a day-to-day barmaid,” says Trossman, who didn’t find the hot-dog-making side such a thrill either.&nbsp; “It’s like, ‘I have a masters degree, and, yes, you want what? What do you want on that?'"</p><p>The <em>Sun-Times</em> published the first installment of its Mirage Tavern series on Sunday, January 8, 1978. That evening, after the Super Bowl, the <em>60 Minutes</em> segment aired, including a stunning Mike Wallace interview with Mr. Fixit.</p><p>After Barasch acknowledged that widespread tax fraud in cash businesses was “common knowledge,” Wallace went in for the kill, with a purr:&nbsp; “Look, between you and me,” Wallace said to the accountant, cameras rolling, “you do it.&nbsp; Everybody does it.” Barasch didn’t deny it a bit.&nbsp; (Decades later, Wallace titled his memoir <em>Between You and Me</em> in Mr. Fixit’s honor.)</p><p>The world sat up and noticed.</p><p>“I remember sitting in the BGA office one day,” says Trossman, “and getting a call from London: ‘Hullo, I’d like to talk to you about your pub.’”</p><p>Chicago noticed too. Inspectors were suspended, fired, and chastised. The state department of revenue set up a special bureau to investigate cash businesses—and called it the Mirage Audit Unit.&nbsp;</p><p>Readers responded too—by coming forward with their own stories. “After the story ran, we had to set up a phone bank in the city room,” says <em>Sun-Times</em> photographer Jim Frost. The complaints about shakedowns were the same as ever, he says, “but now people would actually talk.”</p><p>The <em>Sun-Times</em> ran stories from the Mirage investigation for almost a month solid. The paper named names of inspectors and accountants, of contractors who passed along bribes, of a gun-runner who did some business in the bar, and of the people who ran the brothel down the street.&nbsp;</p><p>None of them denied that the stories about them were accurate. (The manager of the brothel did complain, says Zay Smith, that the stories about his business were “too accurate—apparently he thought it was in bad taste.”&nbsp; That is, he didn’t think a family newspaper should print that kind of thing.)</p><p>And none of them—not even Phil Barasch, who had admitted on national TV to committing tax fraud—went to jail.</p><p>But federal investigators did then step on the gas in an ongoing sting operation of their own. A few months after the Mirage stories came out, federal prosecutors indicted a third of the city’s electrical inspectors.&nbsp; Zekman thinks the federal case—and all the federal corruption prosecutions that have followed in its wake—did contribute to a real change in the last few decades.</p><p>“All the public corruption indictments have had an effect,” she says. “Maybe not on governors yet. But I do think that-- not just with low-level inspectors but their supervisors, and their supervisors' supervisors-- that has had an effect.”</p><p>Government by shakedown isn’t over-- just ask William Cellini-- but the ante has gotten considerably higher. (Just ask Tom Rosenberg.)</p><p>A lot of the little fish have been scared away.&nbsp;</p><p>“Does it still go on?” says Zekman. “Yes. Is it as wide-open as it was? I don't think so.”</p><p>[<em>Correction: The original version of this story-- and the audio version still posted here-- placed the Mirage at Superior and Clark instead of Superior and Wells.</em>]</p></p> Mon, 16 Jan 2012 06:26:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/mirage-fake-tavern-exposed-real-corruption-ten-bucks-time-95567 Investigation zeros in on Illinois' community college pension system http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-08/investigation-zeros-illinois-community-college-pension-system-91660 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//segment/photo/2011-September/2011-09-08/Andy_Shaw_BGA.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Another issue hung over the state's head is its pensions; more money was promised than available to distribute. But, a new investigation from the <a href="http://www.bettergov.org/" target="_blank">Better Government Association</a> took a closer look at one group that continued to make out nicely upon retirement. The BGA’s president and CEO<a href="http://www.bettergov.org/about/staff.aspx" target="_blank"> Andy Shaw</a> told <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em> more about the investigation.</p><p><em>Music Button: Ocote Soul Sounds, "Pirata", from the CD Taurus, (ESL)</em></p></p> Thu, 08 Sep 2011 14:02:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-08/investigation-zeros-illinois-community-college-pension-system-91660