WBEZ | Chicago http://www.wbez.org/tags/chicago Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Migrant farm worker sacrifices for son's college dream http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/migrant-farm-worker-sacrifices-sons-college-dream-111636 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/StoryCorps Debra and Roberto Olivera bh.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Roberto Olivera&rsquo;s entire family worked as migrant farm workers. His stepfather came from Jalisco, a largely agricultural area on the west coast of Mexico, and was not particularly educated. There was domestic abuse and alcohol in the home.</p><p>Roberto says his stepfather was a cruel man.</p><p>Roberto found refuge in school and at work. One day, his high school counselor called Roberto in and told him that he had a strong aptitude to succeed. He told him about a summer bridge program at the University of Santa Barbara, in preparation for going to college.</p><p>&quot;&#39;There&rsquo;s no way I can do that,&rsquo;&rdquo; Roberto remembers thinking. &ldquo;&lsquo;My stepfather will never let me leave home.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Then, on one weekend, the director of the program&mdash;baldheaded, Jewish man&mdash;showed up unexpectedly on Roberto&rsquo;s doorstep and asked to speak to his stepfather.</p><p>The discussion did not go well. &ldquo;He&rsquo;s not going anywhere,&rdquo; his stepfather said. &ldquo;No way.&rdquo;</p><p>Shorty thereafter, the acceptance letter came.</p><p>&ldquo;So, now I had a choice,&rdquo; Roberto said. &ldquo;Was I going to go to school? Or was I going to stay and work in the fields?&rdquo;</p><p>One day, Roberto&rsquo;s mother was waiting for him in the dark of their kitchen. She was smoking a cigarette. It was after midnight.</p><p>Roberto had just come home from work at a restaurant, and as he lay down on his cot, his mother broke the silence.</p><p>&ldquo;I packed a suitcase,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s in the garage. Next Saturday, go. And don&rsquo;t look back. Whatever you do, do not look back.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I left her to that miserable man and all the people that were a part of it,&rdquo; Roberto said.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/playlists/6250422&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Fri, 27 Feb 2015 12:35:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/migrant-farm-worker-sacrifices-sons-college-dream-111636 The rise of Casimir Pulaski Day http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/rise-casimir-pulaski-day-111624 <p><p>Casimir Pulaski Day. If you grew up in Illinois in the 1980s or 1990s (or, if you raised a kid at the time), you probably remember a school and government holiday &mdash; the first Monday in March &mdash; that most of the rest of the country does not observe.</p><p>Nic Levy, our question asker, remembers coming to Oak Park in fifth grade and being surprised. &ldquo;There was this holiday I saw on the calendar,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;I couldn&rsquo;t pronounce it. I asked my parents. They also didn&rsquo;t know because they were from New England.&rdquo;</p><p>Nic remembers that one of his history teachers added a short aside about Pulaski during his class&rsquo;s unit on the Revolutionary War, so he grew up understanding that Pulaski was a hero of that war and that he was from Poland. But all that info was about the hero. For help with the holiday, he sent us this question:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>How did Casimir Pulaski Day become a public holiday in Illinois?</em></p><p>We let Nic, a history buff, take a crack at an answer. He guessed that Casimir Pulaski Day came about as an expression of Polish-American pride, maybe in the 1970s or 1980s.</p><p>&ldquo;After the &lsquo;60s, there was this climate in the U.S., not just of ethnic tolerance, but of celebration of different cultures in cities across America,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;I feel like that kind of started in the &lsquo;70s.&rdquo;</p><p>Nic&rsquo;s on the right track, but the details make the story worth telling. Just consider what was working <em>against</em> the state holiday: Casimir died more than two hundred years ago, he never set foot in Illinois, the community that adored him arrived in Chicago nearly a century after he died, and, it turns out, he&rsquo;s not even the most famous Polish-American war hero.</p><p>The story behind this most &ldquo;Illinois&rdquo; of holidays involves Casimir, of course, but it&rsquo;s more of a story about a strong community that was willing to spend political capital to honor him.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Casimir Pulaski: Polish Patriot, American Volunteer</span></p><p>Let&rsquo;s start with Count Casimir Pulaski the man. He grew up in the struggle of Polish patriots against the neighboring powers that sought to annex or assert control over what was at the time the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. By the time he was 22, he was fighting against the new Polish King Stanislaw II, who was seen by many as a puppet of the Russians. Pulaski became an important cavalry officer in a series of wars. But by 1775, the conflict had gone badly for the Polish patriots, and he was exiled to France. There he met the Marquis de Lafayette and Benjamin Franklin, who recruited him to come to America, to fight in the Revolutionary War.</p><p>Columbia College historian Dominic Pacyga says Pulaski considered the American Colonists&#39; fight for independence from Great Britain as similar to Poland&rsquo;s own struggle for independence.</p><p>&ldquo;There was this revolutionary spirit, the Enlightenment was going on, soon there was going to be the French Revolution,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;So a lot of people were wrapped up in this revolutionary fervor that was going through the West at this time, and they ended up in the United States.&rdquo;<a name="painting"></a></p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="363" mozallowfullscreen="" scrolling="no" src="//www.thinglink.com/card/627225578885349377" type="text/html" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="620"></iframe></p><p><span style="font-size:11px;"><strong>Above: Click on the painting&#39;s hotspots to hear about the artist&#39;s motifs. </strong>Analysis comes from experts at The Polish Museum of America. Painting:&nbsp;<em>Brigadier General Kazimierz Pulaski mortally wounded at the battle of Savannah on the 9th of October 1779</em>&nbsp;by Stanislaw Batowski Kaczor.&nbsp;</span></p><p>George Washington and other Colonial leaders were skeptical of these European idealists because not all of them lived up to their billing as great soldiers. But Ben Franklin helped Pulaski by writing a letter of recommendation to George Washington, describing the Pole as &ldquo;&hellip; an officer famous throughout Europe for his bravery and conduct in defense of the liberties of his country.&rdquo; Although the Continental Congress wouldn&rsquo;t approve a commission, Washington allowed Pulaski to enlist informally. Casimir Pulaski then proved himself at the <a href="http://www.ushistory.org/brandywine/thestory.htm" target="_blank">Battles of Brandywine</a> and <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Germantown" target="_blank">Germantown</a>, and George Washington named him a Brigadier General and the first Commander of the American Cavalry.</p><p>At first, American soldiers balked at the idea of fighting under a &ldquo;foreign&rdquo; officer. So, in March of 1778, Congress organized the Pulaski Legion, which was made up of mostly &ldquo;foreign&rdquo; soldiers &mdash; Colonists and volunteers from France, Germany, and Poland. Pulaski&rsquo;s Legion turned the tide at the skirmish at Egg Harbor, New York. In May, they drove the British out of Charleston, South Carolina.</p><p>But just a few months later, Pulaski died from a mortal wound he received in Savannah, Georgia. In the Early Republic, Pulaski was remembered as a Revolutionary hero, alongside his friend, the Marquis de Lafayette. Several new towns and counties were named &ldquo;Pulaski&rdquo; in his memory.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Pulaski&rsquo;s backers in the Polish-American community</span></p><p>Pulaski remained a great hero in his homeland as well, a sentiment that wasn&rsquo;t forgotten when Poles began arriving in the United States. If Pulaski hadn&rsquo;t had a community that respected his achievements, who knows if there would have been Casimir holiday.</p><p>By 1800, the independent Polish state had been divided between Russia, Austria, and Prussia. Poles began immigrating to Chicago in the 1860s as economic refugees from lands where they were ethnic minorities and often disenfranchised.</p><p>White Anglo-Saxon Protestants saw themselves as the &ldquo;real&rdquo; Americans, and they did not always welcome Poles with open arms.</p><p>&ldquo;They are from the other Europe. They have the names nobody can pronounce, they&rsquo;re not Protestants. There&rsquo;s a good deal of anti-Polish prejudice at the time,&rdquo; Pacyga says. Because of this, he says, Polish Americans used Casimir Pulaski &mdash; alongside the other Polish revolutionary hero, Tadeusz Kosciuskzko &mdash; as a symbol that Poles had contributed to the American Republic from the very beginning.</p><p>As early as the 1930s, Polish Americans in Chicago lobbied for public recognition of Casimir Pulaski. Their first major victory was a declaration, in 1933, that the former <a href="http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/1427.html" target="_blank">&ldquo;Crawford Road&rdquo; in Chicago would now be &ldquo;Pulaski Road.&rdquo;</a> According to Dominic Pacyga, many of the merchants and the shopkeepers in the area were not happy about <a name="wherescasimir"></a>the new name. &ldquo;They have to change letterheads, they have to change addresses, they have to mail out letters saying they&rsquo;re no longer on Crawford Road.&rdquo; For more than a decade, the issue remained contentious.</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/where%27s%20casimir%20topper.png" style="height: 143px; width: 620px;" title="" /></div><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="500px" src="https://a.tiles.mapbox.com/v4/curiouscity.l9pnj16d/attribution,zoompan,zoomwheel,geocoder,share.html?access_token=pk.eyJ1IjoiY3VyaW91c2NpdHkiLCJhIjoibGM3MUJZdyJ9.8oAw072QHl4POJ3fRQAItQ" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><span style="font-size:11px;"><strong>Above: Local historian Dan Pogorzelski says there&#39;s no statue of Casimir Pulaski in Chicago</strong>, but there are still places to find the Polish war hero around the city. Here are a few of Pogorzelski&#39;s suggestions. Anything missing? If you&#39;ve spotted Casimir somewhere else, write us at curiouscity@wbez.org and we&rsquo;ll add it to the map.</span></p><p>In 1944 a streetcar conductor got into a fight with a Polish-Chicagoan when he referred to the Pulaski Road stop as &ldquo;Crawford Road.&rdquo; But in the end, Pulaski Road stuck, due to support from the Democratic political machine. Pacyga says: &ldquo;In the Democratic Party, the Poles [were] an important faction, and they were able to pull it off.&rdquo;</p><p>Much of Chicago&rsquo;s Polish-American history, including the importance of Pulaski, is preserved at the Polish Museum of America. The museum, which occupies much of the headquarters of the Polish Roman Catholic Union of America, sits on Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago, near the traditional &ldquo;Polish downtown.&rdquo;</p><p>Malgorzhata Kot, the museum&rsquo;s managing director, says Polish Americans relate to Pulaski because he was a soldier. He fought for freedom and independence in Poland and America, and he had to fight for acceptance when he came to America. She says Polish Americans relate to those struggles, and see them as at the center of their history. &ldquo;Kazimierz [Casimir] Pulaski is a symbol of a Pole who was important in Poland, who risked it all to come here and fight for your freedom and ours.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Casimir&rsquo;s day arrives </span></p><p>The Polish-American community that remembered Casimir so fondly did everything it could to get the political system to recognize him. The persistance paid off.</p><p>In the 1970s, the Polish American Congress in Chicago took up the cause of a statewide Casimir Pulaski holiday. In 1977, they succeeded in getting a law passed designating the first Monday in March &ldquo;Casimir Pulaski Day.&rdquo; This was only a commemorative day, meaning Illinois schools, public offices and banks stayed open.</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/first%20pulaski%20day%20maybe.jpg" title="Former Illinois Gov. Dan Walker signs the Pulaski Day bill September 9, 1973 at the Polish Museum of America in Chicago. First a commemorative holiday, Pulaski Day became an official public holiday in 1985. (Photo courtesy Polish Museum of America)" /></div><p>The lobbying efforts simmered for years, and gathered momentum again in 1985 when State Senator Leroy Lemke <a href="http://www.luminpdf.com/files/14235190/ST052185%20CASIMIR%20PULASKI%20FLOOR%20DEBATE.pdf" target="_blank">introduced a bill in the Illinois Senate</a> to make Casimir Pulaski Day a full public holiday. It would give public schools and some government offices a day off, at the governor&rsquo;s discretion.</p><p>Speaking in support, Senator Thaddeus Lechowicz cast the law as part and parcel of the ethnic pride movements increasingly common in American cities. &ldquo;Every ethnic group, every racial group has a person or persons they that they see have contributed to an extra degree in making this country great. ... Casimir Pulaski fills that need for Polish Americans,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Dominic Pacyga says the timing suggests the bill got traction due to the recent passage, in 1983, of a national holiday honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., the slain civil rights activist. Lawmakers knew Martin Luther King Day would go into effect the next year, in 1986. Pacyga says the &ldquo;white ethnic&rdquo; community, including Poles, Jews, Italians, Greeks, Irish, wanted something similar. &ldquo;There was a feeling the white ethnic community should also have a day, and in Illinois, it made sense to make it Pulaski Day, because the Polish community is so large in Chicago.&rdquo;</p><p>Retired State Senator Calvin Schuneman still remembers how the debate played in 1985. At the time, <a href="http://www.luminpdf.com/files/14235190/ST052185%20CASIMIR%20PULASKI%20FLOOR%20DEBATE.pdf" target="_blank">he raised concerns about the holiday</a>, and thirty years later, he has the same concerns.</p><p>&ldquo;If it&rsquo;s going to be a state holiday where government offices are going to be closed and schools are going to be dismissed, I think we have enough of those holidays.&rdquo; For Schuneman, who represented portions of western Illinois, this was a matter of Chicago politicians pushing something that didn&rsquo;t make sense for the rest of the state.</p><p>&ldquo;It was good politics for them,&rdquo; he says, &ldquo;but there certainly was no demand for recognizing Casimir Pulaski in my district.&rdquo;</p><p>The law did pass, though, and Governor Jim Thompson fulfilled the terms of the bill and declared a public school holiday across the state. Some municipal offices chose to close in honor of Casimir Pulaski, as did some banks. That freed many people up to visit the Polish Museum of America on Pulaski Day.</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/rahm%20pulaski%20day.jpg" style="height: 414px; width: 620px;" title="Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel speaks at the Polish Museum of America on Casimir Pulaski Day in 2014. In 2012, negotiations between Emanuel and the Chicago Teacher’s Union resulted in Chicago Public Schools dropping Pulaski Day as a day off from school. (Photo courtesy Polish Museum of America)" /></div><p>Every year on Pulaski Day, the president of the Polish Roman Catholic Union, currently Joseph Drobot Jr., presides over a formal ceremony honoring Casimir Pulaski. The Great Hall at the museum can hold up to 500 people, and he says it&rsquo;s usually full during the ceremony. There&rsquo;s an honor guard in bright red and blue eighteenth century cavalry uniforms. The event is open to the public and there&rsquo;s free Polish food. According to Drobot, &ldquo;This being an election year, there will be many politicians. It&rsquo;s an opportunity to be seen.&rdquo;</p><p>The ceremony is always held in front of the centerpiece of the Museum&rsquo;s Great Hall: a fifteen- foot-wide painting of Casimir Pulaski, painted by Stanislaw Batowski. It depicts Pulaski&rsquo;s mortal wounding at Savannah.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Whittling away Casimir Pulaski Day</span></p><p>While memory of Casimir Pulaski is alive and well at the Polish Museum of America, his holiday has been chipped away in the state&rsquo;s public schools.</p><p>In 1995 the legislature made Casimir Pulaski Day optional. Individual school districts in Illinois could apply for a waiver to opt out. Downstate districts were the first to seek waivers.</p><p>By 2009, 74 percent of the districts chose to keep school open on Pulaski Day. And in 2012, Chicago Public Schools dropped Pulaski Day during negotiations between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Teacher&rsquo;s Union.</p><p>When this happened, many Polish Americans felt disrespected, and even hurt. One <a href="http://blogs.chicagotribune.com/news_columnists_ezorn/2012/03/columbus.html" target="_blank">commenter on a blog post wrote</a>: &ldquo;So to sum it up, it took over 200 years for America to acknowledge the man and only in Illinois because of Chicago&#39;s large Polish population and a few decades later we are getting rid of the holiday.&rdquo;</p><p>But historian Dominic Pacyga says, while it might be a shame to lose the holiday, it&rsquo;s also part of what always happens with ethnic immigrant culture in America.</p><p>&ldquo;Many Polish Americans have assimilated. Seventy-five to 80 percent live in suburbs instead of Chicago,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;When you all live in Chicago, you had a lot of clout, when you live in 100 to 200 municipalities, your clout is fragmented. So the lesson is: Stay in Chicago. Come on back home, and we&rsquo;ll get Pulaski Day back.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/question%20asker_0.jpg" style="height: 267px; width: 200px; float: left;" title="(Photo courtesy Nic Levy)" /><span style="font-size:22px;">Nic Levy, Curious Citizen</span></p><p>Nic Levy, who asked Curious City to investigate Casimir Pulaski Day, agrees with Pacyga&rsquo;s take that the loss of the holiday is just part of how history works. Nic does feel that having memories of Pulaski Day is something that will define his generation in the decades to come. He enjoys thinking about how history affects geography, as in how the contributions of a Polish nobleman in the 18th century, could change the name of a Chicago road in the twentieth.</p><p>He&rsquo;s studying geography now, at McGill University in Montreal. He says his interest in geography and history began as a teenager in Chicago, right when he started driving. He used maps to plan routes, and was fascinated by the names of the streets, Chicago&rsquo;s orderly grid plan, and the way the grid intersected with the geography of the river, canals, and the lake.</p><p><em>Jesse Dukes is Curious City&rsquo;s audio producer.</em></p></p> Wed, 25 Feb 2015 16:22:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/rise-casimir-pulaski-day-111624 No conspiracy required: The true origins of Chicago's February elections http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/no-conspiracy-required-true-origins-chicagos-february-elections-111585 <p><p>With Chicago&rsquo;s municipal election less than a week away, we couldn&rsquo;t help but notice a bevy of questions related to the fact that the races for mayor and city aldermen are settled in late February. In short, a lot of folks suspect that the timing, with the chance of sub-zero temps and snow, amounts to a conspiracy &mdash; one that undercuts the whole democratic thrust of the election itself.</p><p>&ldquo;I mean, nasty cold weather would seem to suppress voter turnout,&rdquo; says Curious Citizen Dave Seglin.</p><p>Another question-asker, Jesse Ackles, adds: &ldquo;My cynical take on it is that it really seems to favor incumbents.&rdquo;</p><p>The most concise formulation of the question comes from Eric Sherman, a local campaign worker who&rsquo;s been canvassing for votes in this nasty cold weather. Here it is:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>Why are the Chicago Municipal Elections held in February? What&rsquo;s the REAL reason?</em></p><p>For the record, Eric&rsquo;s not entirely sure the timing is a ploy meant to mess with the administration of democracy, but his formulation (&ldquo;the REAL reason&rdquo;) resonated with a lot of commenters on Twitter and Facebook.</p><p>Regardless, we&rsquo;re going to clear things up, for sure. But a warning to conspiracy theorists: You&rsquo;re not gonna like this. It turns out, there&rsquo;s good evidence that the timing of the February elections was intended to broaden voter participation, not narrow it. Don&rsquo;t blame us. Just read ahead and then blame the historical record.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">On the paper trail</span></p><p>Let&rsquo;s clarify what we&rsquo;re talking about when we say &ldquo;Chicago&rsquo;s February elections.&rdquo; Most towns in Illinois hold party primaries on the last Tuesday of February, while the municipal or so-called &ldquo;consolidated elections&rdquo; happen on the first Tuesday in April.</p><p>Chicago, though, is different. The city holds no primaries for alderman or mayor. Since 199, mayoral candidates have been elected on a nonpartisan basis. Run-offs are held between the top two vote getters if there is no clear majority. Those occur in April.</p><p>Ok, on to the origin story.</p><p>The obvious call to make first is to the Chicago Board of Elections. Jim Allen, a spokesman, says Chicago has held its election around this time of year as long ago as 1837.</p><p>&ldquo;The first mayoral election where Ogden beat Kenzie was in May, and ever since then as far as I can tell we&rsquo;ve been swearing in our mayors in May.&rdquo;</p><p>Of course, this was back when mayors only served one-year terms and City Hall was a saloon. But even Allen, who&rsquo;s been doing this for awhile, is a little stumped about the origins of the current date.</p><p>&ldquo;The part that&rsquo;s going to be hard is finding this bridge between May and when it got pushed back to February,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Is it a political reason that it&rsquo;s incumbent protection, by keeping the voters at home and turnout low? Who knows. That&rsquo;s for a political scientist to noodle over.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Primary election reform </span></p><p>Our next stop: Chicago&rsquo;s Municipal Reference Collection, which resides on the 5th floor of the Harold Washington Library. There, librarian Lyle Benedict begins with relevant passages in the<a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/fulltext.asp?DocName=001000050K2A-1.1" target="_blank"> Illinois compiled statutes</a>.</p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s elections, like every Illinois municipality, are set by state law. Except for a few years after the Civil War, these elections were held in April, as set forth in the Cities and Villages Act of 1872.</p><p>For most of the 19th century these were elections in name only; candidates that appeared on the ballot were chosen ahead of time by party bosses at state conventions.</p><p>All of this changed during the Progressive Era, when reformers pushed to institute open primaries, which would let average party members participate.</p><p>The change was hailed as a huge step forward.</p><p>On March 7, 1898, the<em> Chicago Tribune</em> wrote about a gathering of 800 young African-Americans at Bethel Church. The esteemed lawyer Edward E. Wilson was quoted addressing the crowd:</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;The days of corrupt politics in Chicago are numbered. A few more wise laws such as the new primary law will sound the death knell of the corrupt politician, the ballot-box stuffer, and ward heeler, and honest men will control the elections, and when that time comes honest men will cease to be ashamed to play their part in politics.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" height="400" scrolling="no" src="http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1898/03/07/page/7/article/honest-primaries-discussed" width="300"></iframe></p><p>According to Benedict and legislative records, there was another change in the works: These primaries were set for February &mdash; more than a month before the April elections. In 1905, Benedict says, Chicago held its first February primary elections.</p><p>&ldquo;Looks like the Republicans were February 14, the Democrats were February 24 and the Socialists were March 4,&rdquo; Benedict notes, pointing to old election rolls.</p><p>These open primaries empowered average voters (at least eligible<em> male</em> voters), but reformers felt it didn&rsquo;t go far enough. Over the next decade they advocated for direct primaries, which would consolidate all of the state&rsquo;s primaries &mdash; regardless of party &mdash; on a single day.</p><p>This was a contentious issue, as entrenched party interests sought to preserve the status quo. A <em>Chicago Tribune</em> article from Oct 15, 1907, was headlined: &ldquo;New Primary Act May Cause Spasm: Measure to be Introduced Today at Springfield Is So Direct That It Staggers Politicians.&rdquo;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" height="400" scrolling="no" src="http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1907/10/15/page/1/article/new-primary-act-may-cause-spasm" width="300"></iframe></p><p>Reformers eventually won out, however, and the day lawmakers selected was the last Tuesday in February. That date has stuck ever since.</p><p>At the time this was a radical change, according to Maureen Flanagan, a historian at the Illinois Institute of Technology.</p><p>&ldquo;The parties can&rsquo;t just hunker down and control everything,&rdquo; she says, adding that since the general elections were in April, moving the consolidated primaries back to February gave voters a lot more say.</p><p>&ldquo;So if you&rsquo;ve got, say, 6 weeks, [candidates] have a chance to get out and give speeches, do interviews, and it does in fact make it possible for people to know who the candidates are,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>And, Flanagan says, people felt they now had a voice in deciding who would run the city, which led to an increase in voter turnout.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Timing is everything</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/snow%20gearing%20up.jpg" style="float: right; height: 467px; width: 350px;" title="A trio of campaign volunteers for Alderman Proco Joe Moreno bundle up against the cold as they prepare to hit ward precincts with flyers and door-hangers. (WBEZ/Derek John)" />Okay, at this point, we can just say it: The conspiracy theories are dead wrong about why Chicago elections are in February. The timing wasn&rsquo;t originally created to suppress voter turnout &mdash; quite the opposite.</p><p>The next question is: Why do so few people remember it that way?</p><p>Well, one reason is that &mdash; starting in the 1930s &mdash; the Democrats have dominated municipal elections. Then, there&rsquo;s the Democratic Machine, which has been implicated in notorious election shenanigans: Sitting politicians doled out jobs for votes, ballots sometimes were &ldquo;lost&rdquo; during key contests, and nepotism often prevailed in the selection of candidates. Little wonder that citizens find the very timing of elections suspect.</p><p>Dick Simpson, a professor of political science at UIC, was one of the few independents who was elected to the City Council back in 1971. He says for local ward races, especially, the Machine was hard to beat.</p><p>&ldquo;Aldermanic elections are frequently thrown to the Machine for many reasons: patronage, jobs, favors, corrupt contracts. But the winter weather does not help,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>And yet Simpson provides at least one example of when February&rsquo;s blustery weather worked against the Democratic Machine.</p><p>This was during the 1979 Democratic mayoral primary. The incumbent, Michael Bilandic, faced Jane Byrne. As the two went head to head in January, blizzard after blizzard deposited enough snow to practically shut down the city. By the end of one gigantic snowstorm, Simpson says, Chicagoans could look out their windows and see 5 or 6 feet of snow staring back at them.</p><p>&ldquo;They&rsquo;d be skiing to the grocery store because you couldn&rsquo;t get there any other way,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;The &lsquo;L&rsquo;s weren&rsquo;t running, so they cut the &lsquo;L&rsquo; stops in the black community, which enraged the black community.&rdquo;</p><p>These political problems piled up &mdash; nearly as high as the snow &mdash; until just a few weeks later, when Bilandic went down to a shocking defeat.</p><p>While Simpson acknowledges other factors, he says the timing of the election was huge.</p><p>&ldquo;If it had been held in April, Jane Byrne probably wouldn&rsquo;t have been elected.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Today&rsquo;s election reforms</span></p><p>While it&rsquo;s still hard to campaign during the winter, in some ways it&rsquo;s never been easier to vote in Chicago.</p><p>Echoing the Progressive reforms from a century ago, new rules have extended the early voting period and allowed more people to use mail-in ballots. Starting in 2016, every polling station in the city will have same-day registration.</p><p>One last thing to note. Chicago&rsquo;s average voter turnout for municipal elections hovers around 40 percent. Compare that to turnout in San Antonio, Texas. According to <a href="http://www.fairvote.org/research-and-analysis/blog/fairvote-report-low-turnout-plagues-u-s-mayoral-elections-but-san-francisco-is-highest/#.UqoBkvRDtrE" target="_blank">figures collected by the voter advocacy group Fair Vote </a>, turnout in that city&rsquo;s last few mayoral elections averaged below 10 percent.</p><p>Translation? Chicago&rsquo;s turnout is higher than nearly every other big city &mdash; even those in warmer climates, where braving the outdoors in February isn&rsquo;t so intimidating.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/question%20asker2.jpg" style="height: 400px; width: 300px; float: left;" title="Question-asker Eric Sherman standing in front of a map of Chicago’s 1st ward. (Derek John/WBEZ)" /><span style="font-size:24px;">Who asked our question?</span></p><p>We received several versions of this question about the timing of Chicago elections, but the one we got from Eric Sherman accompanied a great backstory. He&rsquo;s a local political activist and self-proclaimed political science nerd. He&rsquo;s currently working on Alderman (1st) Proco Joe Moreno&rsquo;s reelection campaign, which means he&rsquo;s often going door-to-door in this brutal weather.</p><p>&ldquo;People are nice about it and sometimes they&rsquo;ll let you in,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;If you can get into an apartment complex, that&rsquo;s great. That&rsquo;s a good 15 to 20 minutes where you&rsquo;re inside a building.&rdquo;</p><p>When we tell Eric how the February election date was originally a reform that encouraged greater voter participation, he gets ecstatic.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s another example of the contradictory nature of Chicago politics,&quot; he says. &quot;People get really negative and really pessimistic, and they assume the whole system is rigged. As someone who&rsquo;s involved in local &nbsp;politics, it&rsquo;s not rigged. If it was, we wouldn&rsquo;t be out there knocking on doors and getting supporters.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Derek L. John is WBEZ&#39;s Community Bureaus Editor. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/derekljohn" target="_blank">@derekljohn</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 18 Feb 2015 18:13:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/no-conspiracy-required-true-origins-chicagos-february-elections-111585 Two Chicago-area malls limit teens on weekends http://www.wbez.org/news/two-chicago-area-malls-limit-teens-weekends-111561 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/fordcity.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Malls are, by definition, teen-magnets. But new policies at two Chicago-area malls will change that.</p><p>If kids 17 and under want to hang out on Friday and Saturday nights at the Ford City Mall on Chicago&rsquo;s southwest Side, they&rsquo;ll have to bring a parent or adult. A similar rule started last weekend at nearby Chicago Ridge Mall.</p><p>If you ask people at Ford City Mall about teenagers, it&rsquo;s pretty likely you&rsquo;ll hear about trouble.</p><p>&ldquo;Throughout the mall, like around Christmas time, there was a couple little fights going on,&rdquo; said Ford City Foot Locker employee Jackie Cox.</p><p>People still talk about an incident two years ago when crowds of teenagers ran through Ford City and out into the parking lot, jumping on cars.</p><p>And<a href="http://www.yelp.com/biz/ford-city-mall-chicago"> online reviews of Ford City</a> describe a place that used to be THE COOLEST. Now, reviewers say, it has too many closed stores, and that it &rsquo;just doesn&rsquo;t feel safe.&rdquo;</p><p>Though managers at both Chicago Ridge and Ford City say teen violence isn&rsquo;t why they&rsquo;re restricting kids on weekend nights, they&rsquo;re just the third and fourth malls in all of Illinois to do it.</p><p>Jesse Tron, industry spokesman for shopping centers in the U.S., said it may seem like this is a growing trend, but only about 80 malls in the country have rules about teens. That&rsquo;s about 6.5 percent.</p><p>&ldquo;They like to sort of exhaust all options beforehand,&rdquo; Tron said. &ldquo;But if there&rsquo;s a repeated pattern of issues and it becomes clear that it&rsquo;s necessary, then they will absolutely go to it. Because their number one priority is creating a safe, comfortable environment for all consumers.&rdquo;</p><p>At Ford City Mall, managers say that means making the mall more &ldquo;family friendly.&rdquo;</p><p>Most of its 130 storefronts are still occupied with typical mall stuff &mdash; there&rsquo;s a pretzel place and a Bath and Body Works. It&rsquo;s not hard to spot security guards &mdash; they travel in pairs..</p><p>&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s a good thing for as far as keeping, you know, the violence and things away,&rdquo; said Brian Rodgers, who works security at the Carson&rsquo;s department store.</p><p>&ldquo;But as far as business, I don&rsquo;t think it&rsquo;s a good thing. Because a lot of young people come in on the weekend, and they spend money.&rdquo;</p><p>Rodgers has been working at Carson&rsquo;s for more than five years, but his connection to the mall goes farther back.</p><p>When he was a teenager he hung out at Ford City and still lives right around the corner.</p><p>When asked where else teenagers can go, Rodgers is speechless.</p><p>&ldquo;I never thought about that,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>&ldquo;That <em>is</em> a good question. Where are the kids gonna go? I mean, they can still go to the movies and things like that &hellip; but I mean, wow.&rdquo;</p><p>Ford City is a little over two miles south of Midway Airport on 79th and Cicero. It&rsquo;s surrounded by Best Westerns and used car lots and pizza joints and dollar stores.</p><p>&ldquo;As far as the South Side, it really doesn&rsquo;t offer a lot for the youth,&rdquo; Rodgers said. &ldquo;I think we need more places like rec centers for youth, and YMCAs and stuff, on the South Side. I think those things would help a lot.&rdquo;</p><p>The West Lawn community around Ford City has seen demographic changes over recent decades, going from mostly white to a racial mix, with a largely Latino population, with white and African American minorities.</p><p>There are parks nearby. Some offer activities after 5 p.m. on Fridays, like team gymnastics, or soccer, or piano lessons.</p><p>And five libraries sit within three miles of Ford City, but they close at 5 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.</p><p>To some, spending time at the mall might not seem like such an enriching activity.</p><p>But Joel Rodriguez, who works with kids at the Southwest Organizing Project, said kids need to be able to spend time with their peers in a safe place.</p><p>He said just the other day, a high school kid asked if he&rsquo;d take him to the mall.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s very, very few organizations that have evening opportunities for young people,&rdquo; Rodriguez said. &ldquo;And then we have to talk about the realities of our community. So if there&rsquo;s a program, a music program at a park district that&rsquo;s not too far, the young person really has to make some decisions about their safety.&rdquo;</p><p>Just four miles from Ford City Mall, the suburb of Chicago Ridge has had its own trouble with teens at its mall.</p><p>In December, police were called when a fight broke out at the food court.</p><p>Shoppers said they heard a gunshot, which caused total panic. But police said the sound was just clanging pans, and no arrests were made.</p><p>Again, managers say that fight wasn&rsquo;t the only reason for the teen rules it put into place last weekend. But it was clear at 5 p.m. that first evening security guards and police were taking it seriously, finding groups of kids and quietly telling them they had to leave.</p><p>&ldquo;We were just walking around because it&rsquo;s a Friday night and we had no school, no homework to worry about,&rdquo; said 15-year-old Ammad, who was kicked out with a group of friends. &ldquo;And then all these cops, they were like, &lsquo;You guys gotta get out at five.&rsquo; We were like, &lsquo;Oh, why?&rsquo; They were like, &lsquo;Because you guys don&rsquo;t have a parent or you aren&rsquo;t 21.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Chicago Ridge police said the transition went well &mdash; they say that&rsquo;s partly because mall management worked with the community to make sure people &nbsp;knew about the new rules.</p><p>That might be easier for a smaller community like Chicago Ridge. Compared to Chicago, the suburb is tiny, with a population of around 14,000. As of 2010 census numbers, it&rsquo;s largely white, with a racial mix that includes Latino and African American minorities.</p><p>One officer told me there were what he called &ldquo;teenage ambassadors,&rdquo; kids who knew about the new mall plan and introduced it to their peers at the Chicago Ridge schools.</p><p>There&rsquo;s also just more stuff for teenagers to do &nbsp;in Chicago Ridge.</p><p>Within three miles of the mall, there&rsquo;s a family fun center, a bowling alley, and an amusement park.</p><p>But Ammad and his friends had other ideas about where they would head after being kicked out of the mall.</p><p>&ldquo;Now we&rsquo;re going to start going to Orland Square.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Greta Johnsen is a WBEZ anchor and reporter. Follow her </em><a href="https://twitter.com/gretamjohnsen"><em>@gretamjohnsen</em></a><em>.</em></p></p> Fri, 13 Feb 2015 09:45:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/two-chicago-area-malls-limit-teens-weekends-111561 Super PAC brings 'DC-style politics' to local ward races, but to what effect? http://www.wbez.org/news/super-pac-brings-dc-style-politics-local-ward-races-what-effect-111551 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Super PAC thumb.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A well-funded political action committee has sent a fresh round of negative mailers against two of Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s more vocal critics on City Council, but it remains unclear how much of an impact it&rsquo;s having on their local ward races.<br /><br />With city elections less than two weeks away, much has been made of the so-called &ldquo;super PAC&rdquo; created by a longtime aide and supporter of Mayor Rahm Emanuel to bolster his policy agenda.</p><p><a href="http://chicagoforward.org" target="_blank">Chicago Forward</a> is the first political action committee created expressly to funnel unlimited contributions into Chicago municipal races. So far, it has raised roughly $2.6 million from fewer than 50 donors, as it seeks to influence the mayoral election and roughly 20 aldermanic races.</p><p>But to some observers, the super PAC&rsquo;s involvement in often sleepy ward races is a little like bringing a gun to a knife fight.</p><p>&ldquo;Of course Rahm is using this to attack the Progressive Caucus of alderman,&rdquo; said Steve Jensen, an IT consultant and president of the Bucktown Community Organization.</p><p>Jensen&rsquo;s own alderman, Scott Waguespack (32nd), is among the most vocal of the eight Progressive Caucus members in City Council. As a bloc, they often dissent from Emanuel.</p><p>Jensen said he doesn&rsquo;t think it makes sense for a multimillion dollar, outside organization to try its hand in local ward races.</p><p>&ldquo;We can reach constituents more effectively with town hall meetings at the neighborhood level, social media, and a few mailers,&rdquo; Jensen said. &ldquo;And that right there is less than $100 thousand.&rdquo;</p><p>With a highly-coordinated field campaign of volunteers door knocking, phone banking and spreading the word about a candidate, Jensen said a relatively low-budget grassroots campaign could certainly prevail, even when a better-funded super PAC deploys glossy attack mailers.</p><p>That&rsquo;s the main reason Waguespack said he wasn&rsquo;t too concerned with Chicago Forward&rsquo;s negative pieces against him. In fact, at a recent campaign fundraiser at WhirlyBall, he tried to turn the point to his advantage.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t know how many of you got the mailer the other day,&rdquo; he said to a seated crowd of supporters. &ldquo;I was the recipient of the first mail piece from the superPAC.&rdquo;</p><p>The mailer blamed Waguespack for keeping potholes in his ward unfilled, because he voted against Emanuel&rsquo;s budget last year (which still passed). Waguespack said the message backfired, because voters know that Chicago&rsquo;s Department of Transportation is responsible for potholes &mdash; not aldermen. CDOT falls under the purview of the mayor.</p><p>&ldquo;I need your support over the next few weeks, phone banking, calling your friends, telling them (to) get out there and vote. This is not going to be an easy election,&rdquo; Waguespack continued. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re throwing millions of dollars at my fellow members.&rdquo;</p><p>In fact, Chicago Forward has spent much more money trying to get Emanuel&rsquo;s city council allies re-elected. John Arena (45th) is the only incumbent who&rsquo;s found himself, like Waguespack, at the receiving end of an attack.</p><p>This week, Chicago Forward blanketed his ward with a negative mailer that claimed Arena would raise taxes. Arena, also a member of the city council&rsquo;s Progressive Caucus, has a record of voting the least with the mayor.</p><p>The injection of an outside player with access to limitless funds worries Waguespack. He accuses Emanuel of using Chicago Forward to bring &ldquo;DC-style politics&rdquo; to Chicago. &ldquo;[He&rsquo;s] using money to stifle any kind of discussion,&rdquo; Waguespack said. &ldquo;Divisive, mean-spirited, bullying-type attitude that he brought with him.&rdquo;</p><p>Rebecca Carroll, the CEO and Chairman of Chicago Forward, says the super PAC&rsquo;s objective is the opposite of that: she claims the group is trying to create consensus around how to deal with city challenges.</p><p>In an email to WBEZ, Carroll wrote, &ldquo;We need strong leaders at city hall who will roll up their sleeves and work as partners with this administration to address these challenges, even if they have differences in opinion or don&rsquo;t always agree with it.&rdquo;</p><p>In fact, in Chicago, very few aldermen ever disagree with the mayor &mdash; city council votes with him <a href="http://pols.uic.edu/docs/default-source/chicago_politics/city_council_voting_records/city-council-report-7-january-2015.pdf?sfvrsn=2" target="_blank">90 percent</a> of the time. So what&rsquo;s the point?</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s aldermen that are being rubber stamps that don&rsquo;t want to be rubber stamps,&rdquo; said Cook County Clerk David Orr. &ldquo;It has a very chilling effect, which is what it is designed to do.&rdquo;</p><p>Orr, a former Chicago alderman, said the purpose of Chicago Forward may not just be to weaken Emanuel&rsquo;s critics in the Progressive Caucus. Instead, it may be a tool to keep Emanuel&rsquo;s allies in check.</p><p>&ldquo;I already have got a lot of alderman that I know darn well tell me one thing in terms of who they&rsquo;re publicly supporting [versus] who they want to support,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;So yes, it doesn&rsquo;t always have to be to defeat someone. It can make you worry about being free to speak your mind.&rdquo;</p><p>But if Chicago Forward serves to muzzle some voices, it may also amplify others.</p><p>&ldquo;It distorts things by making the views and opinions basically of the wealthy donors &mdash; gives them an unfairly loud voice in the candidates&rsquo; ears about what policies and positions the candidates should pursue,&rdquo; said David Melton, Executive Director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.</p><p>Indeed, Chicago Forward&rsquo;s money is overwhelmingly from super-wealthy power players in the finance industry, with each contributing an average of $53,000.</p><p>&ldquo;And that is not a good thing for our democracy,&rdquo; Melton said.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/wbezoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 12 Feb 2015 12:46:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/super-pac-brings-dc-style-politics-local-ward-races-what-effect-111551 Chicago Ald. JoAnn Thompson dies http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-ald-joann-thompson-dies-111530 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/JoAnn-Thompson-Head-Shot-Transparent.png" style="height: 273px; width: 200px; float: left;" title="16th Ward Ald. Joann Thompson died Tuesday Feb. 10, 2015. (Courtesy aldermanthompson.com)" />Chicago Ald. JoAnn Thompson (16th) has died from sudden heart failure.</p><p>Thompson missed a debate last weekend for medical reasons. At the time, her campaign manager said the alderman had undergone a medical procedure but her prognosis was good.&nbsp;</p><p>Thompson&#39;s ward covers Englewood and Gage Park on the city&#39;s South Side.</p><p>The alderman&#39;s chief of staff, Debbie Blair, said Thompson died surrounded by her family, friends and &quot;lots of love from the greater Englewood community which she served with devotion to her final day.&quot; Thompson was 58.</p><p>Thompson was known by many for her recent efforts to bring a Whole Foods to Englewood, raise the minimum wage, and neighborhood initiatives like the 16th Ward Festival on 63rd street. &nbsp;</p><p>South Side Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) knew Thompson before her City Council days, and he says even though he didn&#39;t side with Emanuel as often as Thompson did, the two council members found ways to work together.</p><p>&quot;Sometimes, we had to work, like we called it an inside outside game. But we were fighting for the same thing. She was working internally within the constructs of the administration, I would work as a fighter on the outside, but we were working for the same cause,&quot; Sawyer said.</p><p>Others remember her as a &quot;genuine&quot; and &quot;honest&quot; leader.</p><p>&quot;I would say the alderman was a litmus test. It was either yes or no with her. And that&#39;s good, because you didn&#39;t have anything between. She was very straightforth with her opinions, she was very honest with her opinions,&quot; said Glen Fulton, President of the Greater Englewood CDC.</p><p>Thompson was in a heated election battle with 15th ward Ald.Toni Foulkes. Foulkes is a member of the progressive caucus, whose ward was shifted in the remap. She&#39;s faced some attacks from a pro-Emanuel PAC.</p><p>Today, Ald. Foulkes said she was &quot;deeply saddened&quot; to hear of Thompsons&#39;s death.</p><p>&quot;We worked together as members of the Black Caucus on many important policy initiatives since we were both elected in 2007,&quot; Foulkes said in a statement. &ldquo;I admired her fierce commitment to the constituents and communities of the 16th Ward.&quot;</p><p>Members of the Black Caucus said &quot;today is not a day of politics&quot; and celebrated Thompson as an &quot;exceptional alderman, member of the Black caucus and most of all, a fighter for her community.&quot;</p><p>Thompson was born on the South Side of Chicago.</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 10 Feb 2015 08:59:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-ald-joann-thompson-dies-111530 For Chicago blues, sweet home is hard to find http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-blues-sweet-home-hard-find-111519 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Blues-1-Muddy-Waters-creative-commons-photo-by-Kevin-Dooley.jpg" style="height: 219px; width: 320px; float: left;" title="Muddy Waters, circa 1971. The late music legend will be honored at this year’s Chicago Blues Festival (Kevin Dooley/flickr)" /><em>Updated 11:13 a.m.</em></p><p><em><em>(Editor&#39;s Note: After our story was published the Chicago Blues Experience&nbsp;<a href="http://www.chicagobluesexperience.com/" target="_blank">launched this official website</a>.)</em></em></p><p>Back in the 1950s Buddy Guy was a young guitarist living in Louisiana. Like others he eventually traveled north to Chicago, where the blues scene was thriving.</p><p>&ldquo;Muddy Waters, Howlin&rsquo; Wolf, all those great guys,&rdquo; said Guy. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s why I came here. To get a day job and go watch them play at night.&rdquo;</p><p>Those musicians not only inspired him to play, but to open the famed Checkerboard Lounge in the 1970s followed by Legends in the late 80&rsquo;s to keep the music alive. Guy says he&rsquo;ll never forget those early days watching <em>his</em> legends.</p><p>&ldquo;The beer was 25 cents a bottle when I came here. And when Muddy played there wasn&rsquo;t no cover charge. The beer was 35 cents,&rdquo; remembered Guy. &ldquo;So the 10 cents was going for the band members. Muddy Waters was in the band. And those were the greatest days of my life.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Guy just received a Lifetime Achievement award at this year&#39;s Grammys. But he and other artists in town say their music should be just as celebrated locally. And they wonder: If Chicago is the home of the blues, then why doesn&rsquo;t it have a permanent home honoring it?</p><div>The blues made important stops in Memphis and St. Louis, but Chicago is where the blues really came alive in the middle of the last century. That&rsquo;s when musicians like Muddy Waters came here from Mississippi, electrified their down home Delta Blues and recorded it for labels like Chess Records.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>You can still see remnants of this history around town. Like at the old Chess Records on S. Michigan Avenue and Muddy Water&rsquo;s former house at 4339 S. Lake Park Avenue.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><p>&ldquo;This is the house of the blues before there was a house of the blues,&rdquo; said Barry Dollins, former director of the Chicago Blues Festival, standing in front of the boarded up building. &ldquo;This was the rehearsal house.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Blues-4-Barry-Dollins.jpg" style="float: left; height: 373px; width: 280px;" title="Former Chicago Blues Festival Director Barry Dollins stands in front of Muddy Waters’ former home (WBEZ/Yolanda Perdomo)" />Muddy Waters bought the home in the 1950s at the peak of his career and lived there for 20 years. It wasn&rsquo;t just a home for Waters and his family. It was a gathering place for other musicians, where countless jam sessions were held.</p><p>Today the red brick two flat is in bad shape.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s just depressing just to see that X up there,&rdquo; Dollins sighed, pointing to a big red X affixed to the front.</p><p>That X means the house is abandoned and unsafe. It&rsquo;s been on and off the market for years. Dollins says the home could&rsquo;ve served as a historic space, much like the Louis Armstrong home in New York. A place where people can see where and how the musician lived and what inspired them.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s sad that there was no forethought in what the significance of this building is,&rdquo; said Dollins. &ldquo;And how it could&rsquo;ve been preserved and utilized.&rdquo;</p><p>In some ways, the neglected house is symbolic of the overall failure to erect a permanent space to preserve Chicago&rsquo;s music heritage.</p><p>&ldquo;Why don&rsquo;t we have a blues museum? It comes down to money,&rdquo; Dollins said. &ldquo;It takes millions of dollars to create a museum.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>Steve Cushing is the host of the national radio show &ldquo;Blues Before Sunrise.&rdquo; He said Chicago deserves to have a blues museum, but he&rsquo;s not sure how viable it would be.</p><p>&ldquo;How would you pay for it and where would you put it?&rdquo; asked Cushing. &ldquo;It would seem that you would want it in a place that was related to the actual location of the blues. But if you put it on the south side, would tourists, would white folks go down there?&rdquo;</p><p>If something does ever get off the ground, it won&rsquo;t be called the Chicago Blues Museum. That&rsquo;s because local guitarist Gregg Parker copyrighted that title.</p><p>&ldquo;They call me the black Indiana Jones. If I can&rsquo;t find it, it doesn&rsquo;t exist,&rdquo; said Parker.</p><p>Parker once played with Mick Jagger and Buddy Miles among others, but now mostly collects artifacts for traveling exhibitions.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t need a building to do what I&rsquo;m doing. I own it,&rdquo; said Parker. &ldquo;The blues museum is a state of mind. It&rsquo;s not a building.&rdquo;</p><p>In fact, the address for Parker&rsquo;s museum&rsquo;s is a P.O. box number. He once had a storefront space but won&rsquo;t say why it closed. He gets a little defensive&nbsp;when asked when the public could see his whole collection.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m not going to tell you my itinerary,&rdquo; scoffed Parker. &ldquo;You might be a thief!&rdquo;</p><p>Parker shows how fragmented and disorganized efforts are to showcase the blues in Chicago. Many say the only way to get everyone on the same page &mdash; and all the artifacts under one roof &mdash; is for the city of Chicago to get involved. They point out that City Hall moved mountains for the proposed George Lucas Museum and the Obama Presidential Library.</p><p>So why hasn&rsquo;t it done more for the blues?</p><p>The Department of Cultural Affairs sent this statement: &quot;The City of Chicago celebrates its rich blues music heritage each year with the world renowned Chicago Blues Festival on the shores of Lake Michigan. More than 500,000 blues fans attend the festival each year, proving that Chicago is the &ldquo;Blues Capital of the World.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>But some tourists at last year&rsquo;s free festival&nbsp;said they wished there was more to see while they were in town.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve been to Buddy Guy&rsquo;s place, but that&rsquo;s about it,&rdquo; said&nbsp;Karl Roque, who came all the way from the Philippines. When asked if he&rsquo;d like to see a museum dedicated to his favorite art form, Roque didn&rsquo;t hesitate. &ldquo;Yes. Why not? Maybe it&rsquo;s about time.&rdquo;</p><p>Buddy Guy agrees.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve been begging for it for almost 30 years.&quot;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Blues-3-Buddy-Guy.jpg" style="height: 373px; width: 280px; float: left;" title="Buddy Guy’s 78th birthday party celebration at his South Loop club Legends (WBEZ/Yolanda Perdomo)" />According to Guy he may not have to wait too much longer. Guy has been working with a group that&#39;s been trying to build a blues museum for a few years now. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;They already got the building on Navy Pier,&quot; said Guy. &ldquo;A blues experience museum on Navy Pier.&rdquo;</p><p>No one at Navy Pier would comment. A statement from Tim Wright, co-founder of the so-called Chicago Blues Experience, said they&rsquo;re close to finalizing the details, but can&rsquo;t confirm when.&nbsp;</p><p>In the meantime, another blues museum is moving full steam ahead. Built with a mix of public and private funds, the $13 million, 23,000 square foot space will feature interactive exhibits and a theater for live music.</p><p>But you won&rsquo;t find it in Chicago.</p><p>The <a href="http://www.nationalbluesmuseum.org/" target="_blank">National Blues Museum</a> is set to open this summer in St. Louis.</p><p><em>Follow WBEZ reporter Yolanda Perdomo on Twitter </em><a href="https://twitter.com/yolandanews"><em>@yolandanews</em></a> <em>&amp;&nbsp;</em><em><a href="https://plus.google.com/u/0/106564114685277342468/posts/p/pub">Google+</a></em></p></p> Mon, 09 Feb 2015 07:41:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-blues-sweet-home-hard-find-111519 Illinois officials not enforcing rules on school vaccinations http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-officials-not-enforcing-rules-school-vaccinations-111513 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP233664971953.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>According to state records, at least 130 Illinois schools report measles vaccination levels of under 90 percent. That is the minimum percentage <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/city-chicago-falls-below-safe-levels-measles-vaccination-111512">health officials believe communities must achieve for &ldquo;herd immunity&rdquo;&mdash;</a>an environment that can prevent a disease from spreading. &nbsp;</p><p>Schools are supposed to lose 10 percent of their state funding when they fall below the 90 percent level of vaccinations. But no school has ever been sanctioned for this violation, according to the Illinois State Board of Education.</p><p><a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/fulltext.asp?DocName=09300SB0805&amp;GA=93&amp;SessionId=3&amp;DocTypeId=SB&amp;LegID=3675&amp;DocNum=805&amp;GAID=3&amp;Session=">Illinois code</a> states that funding &ldquo;shall be withheld by the regional superintendent until the number of students in compliance&rdquo;... reaches the &ldquo;specified percentage or higher.&rdquo;</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/officials-predict-more-illinois-measles-cases-111509">But even as measles cases arrive in Illinois</a>, the state&rsquo;s Board of Education says it has no plans to start enforcing the rules through funding sanctions any time soon.</p><p>&quot;We are not looking to penalize a district or remove money from a district,&quot; said ISBE spokesman Matt Vanover. &quot;What we&#39;re looking for is compliance. It&#39;s difficult for educators to remove or exclude a child from education, especially when the child is from a poor or struggling family. Local districts will follow through with initaitves and reminders of their own.&quot;</p><p>Still, some doctors believe the state&#39;s purported 90 percent vaccination standard is too low.</p><p>&ldquo;In order for a community to have herd immunity you really need to maintain vaccination rates around 95 percent,&rdquo; said Dr. Tina Tan, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Lurie Children&rsquo;s Hospital in Chicago. &ldquo;Otherwise, what happens is that when the rates below drop below 95 percent, you can have the reemergence or reappearance of these preventable diseases occurring in individuals that are either not vaccinated or are too young to be vaccinated.&rdquo;</p><p>That&rsquo;s what happened this week in Illinois when <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/five-children-palatine-day-care-diagnosed-measles-111503">infants at a day care center</a> in northwest suburban Illinois were diagnosed with measles.</p><p>All those children were too young to be eligible for the measles, mumps and rubella vaccination (MMR), which is traditionally administered after a child turns 1-year-old. But Cook County health officials say they expect the disease to spread.</p><p>&ldquo;The cat is out of the bag,&rdquo; Dr. Terry Mason, chief operating officer of the Cook County Department of Public Health said yesterday at a press conference in Oak Forest.</p><p>According to the <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/measles/about/complications.html">Centers for Disease Control and Prevention</a> one in 20 children who contract measles will also get pneumonia; one in 1,000 may develop encephalitis that could lead to deafness and mental retardation; and for one or two in 1,000, the disease could be fatal.</p><p>Thursday, WBEZ contacted schools who, according to the ISBE vaccination site, self-reported measles vaccination rates as low as 27 percent. The schools claimed that the site was showing inaccurate information.</p><p>Vanover acknowledges that the self-reported data may be flawed, but says it can&#39;t be fixed.&nbsp; After the yearly November 17 deadline, &quot;the data becomes locked in for reporting purposes and we don&rsquo;t have any opportunity to go back and correct it,&quot; he said.</p><p>For more updated information, Vanover suggests calling individual districts.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at <a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng">@monicaeng</a> or write to her at meng@wbez.org.</em></p><p><em>WBEZ web producer Chris Hagan contributed to this story. </em></p></p> Fri, 06 Feb 2015 13:38:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-officials-not-enforcing-rules-school-vaccinations-111513 City of Chicago falls below safe levels for measles vaccination http://www.wbez.org/news/city-chicago-falls-below-safe-levels-measles-vaccination-111512 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP903599864933.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In the City of Chicago, only 88.8 percent of adolescents are covered by the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine, according to data from <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6329a4.htm" target="_blank">Center for Disease Control and Prevention.</a> That level could threaten herd immunity<a href="http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/about/terms/glossary.htm" target="_blank">, the point at which &ldquo;a sufficient proportion of a population is immune to an infectious disease&hellip; to make its spread from person to person unlikely.&rdquo;</a></p><p>Dr. Tina Tan, an infectious disease specialist at Lurie Children&rsquo;s Hospital in Chicago, says to be safe, vaccination rates should be at 95 percent. That sentiment is echoed by the <a href="http://www.who.int/immunization/newsroom/Measles_Rubella_StrategicPlan_2012_2020.pdf">World Health Organization</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;Here in Illinois unfortunately we still have medical as well as philosophical exemptions from vaccines,&rdquo; Tan said. &ldquo;So there are some parents who decide they don&#39;t want to vaccinate their children and take advantage of these exemptions.&quot;</p><p>The state&rsquo;s overall adolescent measles vaccination rate is at 93.5 percent.</p><p>State law requires children in school to be vaccinated, but allows for two categories of exemption: medical and religious. Illinois law has a fairly low bar for showing the need for religious exemption.</p><p>The state requires &ldquo;a written and signed statement from the parent or legal guardian detailing the objection&rdquo; and the law states <a href="http://www.ilga.gov/commission/jcar/admincode/077/077006950000300R.html">&ldquo;the religious objection may be personal and need not be directed by the tenets of an established religious organization.&rdquo;</a></p><p>The Illinois Department of Public Health has yet to comment.</p><p><em>Shannon Heffernan is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/shannon_h">@shannon_h.</a></em><em> WBEZ digital producer Chris Hagan contributed to this story. </em></p></p> Fri, 06 Feb 2015 13:29:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/city-chicago-falls-below-safe-levels-measles-vaccination-111512 Friends honor disabled brother's legacy http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/friends-honor-disabled-brothers-legacy-111510 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/StoryCorps 150206 Scott Nance Adam Ballard.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Scott Nance and Adam Ballard are part of a network of disability activists who frequently shut down intersections and grind business to a halt in order to draw attention to the needs of the disabled.</p><p>Nance and Ballard had volunteered separately to scope out the site of the group&rsquo;s next protest when they met.</p><p>Nance hadn&rsquo;t planned to be on the same bus as Ballard that day. But when the two friends interviewed at Access Living earlier this month for StoryCorps, they agreed it was a fitting place for their friendship to begin. Since then, the two have been arrested together for protesting for the rights of people living with disabilities.</p><p>Ballard uses a wheelchair and though he has been disabled his entire life, only sought out a community of other disabled people as an adult. That came after he had an accident that put him in a nursing home for several months.</p><p>Nance, on the other hand, was born with an audio disability, as were his brother and sister. But Nance&rsquo;s brother Devin also had physical, developmental, growth, learning and speech disabilities. For many years, Scott Nance acted as his brother&rsquo;s personal attendant. But then Devin died suddenly and tragically. &quot;That put me in a really dark place,&quot; Nance says. &quot;And I didn&#39;t crawl out of that hole until we did this march in front of the White House.&quot;</p><p>Nance was passing out flyers with other disability activists in Washington, DC, when he had a realization. A woman asked him why he was there and &quot;in that moment I had to challenge myself and think. And I gave her an honest answer. I&#39;m here for my brother.&rdquo;</p><p>&quot;He died at the age of 26,&quot; Nance says, of his brother Devin. &quot;And that&#39;s ridiculous that we live in a society where that still happens. He was someone who loved life. Loved playing catch. Loved going out in the community. He died alone and he never should have been in a position to die alone like that.&quot;</p><p>&ldquo;I never met Devin,&rdquo; Ballard says. &ldquo;You entered my life after all that had gone down. But a couple years ago I think we were out drinking and it happened to be Devin&#39;s birthday so I offered a toast to your brother. And I said, &lsquo;Here&#39;s to your brother because if he&#39;s even halfway responsible for the man you are now then I&#39;m really sad that I didn&#39;t know him.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p></p> Fri, 06 Feb 2015 09:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/friends-honor-disabled-brothers-legacy-111510