WBEZ | Barack Obama http://www.wbez.org/tags/barack-obama Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Chicago universities to Obama: Just don't pick New York for library http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-universities-obama-just-dont-pick-new-york-library-111705 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/obamapullman_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The two Chicago universities in the competition for President Barack Obama&#39;s library came together Monday to send a message to the White House: Choose either one of us, just don&#39;t pick New York.</p><p>Officials from the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago, as well as Mayor Rahm Emanuel and others gathered in a crowded hotel ballroom for what was billed a &quot;Unity Breakfast.&quot; Speakers took turns reminding the president and the first lady where their roots are and implored them to &quot;bring it on home,&quot; as Carol Adams, a member of the University of Chicago&#39;s Obama library community advisory board, put it.</p><p>&quot;Chicago is the only place with the historic political trajectory of President Barack Obama, and his presidential library should be erected here,&quot; said Adams, a former president of the DuSable Museum of African American History. &quot;&#39;For indeed, he did get there from here.&quot;</p><p>The effort to convince Obama to build his library in the city and not at the University of Hawaii or New York&#39;s Columbia University has been a major story in Chicago &mdash; and has even made its way into next month&#39;s mayoral election between Emanuel and Cook County Commissioner Jesus &quot;Chuy&quot; Garcia.</p><p>Emanuel, Obama&#39;s former White House chief of staff, has pushed hard for the library and was dealt what was widely seen as a blow to his campaign when it was reported earlier this month that the Obamas would delay announcing their decision until after the April 7 runoff election.</p><p>The mayor did not receive nearly as much support among black voters in last month&#39;s primary as he did when he was elected in 2011, after a campaign in which he made no secret of his access to the president.</p><p>Now, those same voters Emanuel is trying to win back have overwhelmingly supported a project that would bring thousands of jobs and tens of millions of dollars to one of two predominantly black communities that are in desperate need of some good financial news.</p><p>&quot;It can be on the South Side, it can be on the West Side, but it cannot be on the Upper West Side of Manhattan,&quot; Emanuel said.</p><p>The mayor also alluded to Garcia without saying his name during a later press briefing, drawing a contrast between himself and his challenger, who initially opposed the transfer of park land on the South Side.</p><p>Emanuel even seemed to suggest that the library foundation wanted to make sure he was re-elected before awarding the library to Chicago &mdash; though individuals with knowledge of the delay told the AP last month that the foundation decided to delay because it did not want to inject itself into a campaign or be seen as giving Emanuel an unfair advantage.</p><p>&quot;I do think the foundation made a decision because they believe leadership counts, and having strong leadership that can make sure you not only have a plan but that you can see it through will help us secure the library,&quot; he said.</p><p>Garcia&#39;s campaign did not immediately return a call for comment.<br />&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 16 Mar 2015 11:44:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-universities-obama-just-dont-pick-new-york-library-111705 Fundraising for future Obama library picks up http://www.wbez.org/news/fundraising-future-obama-library-picks-111408 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP401486246971.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>WASHINGTON &mdash; The nonprofit raising money for President Barack Obama&#39;s future library has picked up the pace of its fundraising, with up to $4.4 million rolling in during the final months of 2014, records released Thursday show.</p><p>All told, the Barack Obama Foundation has raised at least $3 million and possibly as much as $6.2 million since its formation nearly a year ago. The largest checks have all come from donors in Chicago, which is working aggressively to shore up its bid to host the presidential library and museum.</p><p>Two universities in Chicago have been competing vigorously with schools in Honolulu and New York to build the project, and the president and first lady Michelle Obama are expected to announce their decision within the next few months. Building the library is expected to cost hundreds of millions of dollars, financed mostly by donations raised by Obama&#39;s foundation.</p><p>Contributing most generously to the project have been longtime Obama supporters who gave or helped raise hefty sums to Obama&#39;s presidential campaigns. Many were repeat donations from those who have given to the library project before.</p><p>Fred Eychaner, founder of Chicago-based Newsweb Corp., gave the foundation between $500,000 and $1 million in the last three months of 2014, records show. A major Democratic fundraiser, Eychaner gave almost $8 million in the last election cycle to liberal groups and has hosted fundraisers for Obama at his home.</p><p>The foundation&#39;s only other donors to exceed $500,000 came from Cari and Michael Sacks, also of Chicago. Michael Sacks is a business executive with close ties to Obama&#39;s former chief of staff, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Obama appointed Cari Sacks to the Kennedy Center&#39;s presidential advisory panel in 2010. The couple previous gave the foundation more than $250,000.</p><p>Two members of the Obama foundation&#39;s board &mdash; Kevin Poorman and board chairman Marty Nesbitt &mdash; have also given sums of less than $100,000 to the nonprofit.</p><p>Obama&#39;s foundation is voluntarily disclosing large contributions in ranges of dollar amounts. While it&#39;s already raising money to cover its own costs, the foundation has said most of the funds to build the library won&#39;t be raised until after the Obamas leaves the White House. Obama and the first lady have pledged not to raise money for the foundation until after they leave office.</p></p> Thu, 15 Jan 2015 14:53:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/fundraising-future-obama-library-picks-111408 House votes to undo Obama immigration policies http://www.wbez.org/news/house-votes-undo-obama-immigration-policies-111400 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP408512381832.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>WASHINGTON &mdash; Shunning a White House veto threat and opposition within their own party, House Republicans approved legislation Wednesday to overturn President Barack Obama&#39;s key immigration policies and expose hundreds of thousands of younger immigrants to expulsion from the U.S.</p><p>The 236-191 vote came on a broad bill that would provide $39.7 billion to finance the Homeland Security Department through the rest of the budget year, legislation that lawmakers of both parties said was sorely needed to pay for counterterrorism, cybersecurity and other priorities at a moment when the Paris terror attacks have underscored dire threats.</p><p>Democrats accused Republicans of putting that money at risk by attaching veto-bait amendments on immigration, and some Republicans voiced the same concern. But House GOP leaders and most of their rank and file accused Obama in turn of reckless and unconstitutional actions on immigration that had to be answered.</p><p>&quot;This executive overreach is an affront to the rule of law and to the Constitution itself,&quot; said House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio. &quot;The people made clear that they wanted more accountability from this president, and by our votes here today we will heed their will and we will keep our oath to protect and defend the Constitution.&quot;</p><p>But Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., who chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said the Republicans were simply pandering to the far right.</p><p>&quot;Shame on Republicans for attacking the Latino community,&quot; Sanchez said. &quot;Republicans are consciously targeting millions of families who work hard, contribute to our communities and are just trying to give their children a chance at the American dream.&quot;</p><p>One of the immigration amendments, approved 237-190, would undo executive actions that Obama announced in November to provide temporary deportation relief and work permits to some 4 million immigrants in the country illegally, mostly people who have children who are citizens or legal permanent residents. The amendment also would cancel earlier directives to immigration agents aimed at giving them discretion in focusing deportations on criminals.</p><p>A second amendment would delete Obama&#39;s 2012 policy that&#39;s granted work permits and stays of deportation to more than 600,000 immigrants who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children under age 16. That measure passed narrowly, 218-209, as 26 of the more moderate Republicans, some representing large Hispanic populations, joined Democrats in opposition.</p><p>The underlying bill passed on a mostly party line vote, with 10 Republicans voting &quot;no&quot; and two Democrats voting &quot;yes.&quot;</p><p>But even with Republicans in control of the Senate, the bill faces tough sledding there. Republicans are six votes shy of the 60-vote majority needed to advance most legislation, and some GOP senators have argued that the Homeland Security bill shouldn&#39;t be the vehicle for a contentious debate on immigration.</p><p>Within the House GOP, too, there&#39;s frustration from some centrist lawmakers that two weeks into a new session of Congress, with a bigger party majority in the House, the most conservative lawmakers are still calling the shots, successfully pushing leaders for a vote to undo the 2012 policy dealing with younger immigrants known as &quot;Dreamers.&quot;</p><p>&quot;If we were just specifically dealing with the November overreach of the president, you&#39;d have Democrats who&#39;d be voting with us on that piece of it but we&#39;ve gone well beyond that,&quot; said Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif. &quot;We&#39;re passing a bill for political reasons, a bill that has no ability to pass the Senate.&quot;</p><p>Before leaving town for a two-day retreat in Hershey, Pennsylvania, Republicans also steered the House to approval of legislation to ease the landmark Dodd-Frank law, which aimed to rein in banks and Wall Street. The new legislation would give U.S. banks two extra years to ensure that their holdings of certain complex and risky securities don&#39;t put them out of compliance with a new banking rule. The Dodd-Frank changes, approved 271-154, also face an Obama veto threat.</p><p>Given the growing importance of Latino voters, Wednesday&#39;s immigration votes could end up raising questions in the 2016 presidential election for the eventual GOP nominee. Potential candidates weren&#39;t touching the issue Wednesday. Requests for comments from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former GOP nominee Mitt Romney went unanswered. At an event in Manchester, New Hampshire, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky refused to say if he would back his House colleagues&#39; efforts.</p><p>Democrats, on the other hand, were eager to weigh in.</p><p>Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois warned Republicans they were igniting &quot;the mobilization of an immigrant community throughout this nation that will be the death knell to the future of your party.&quot;</p><p>Wednesday&#39;s votes were set in motion late last year, after Obama infuriated Republicans by announcing executive moves on immigration not long after the GOP swept the midterm elections. Republicans passed full-year spending bills for most of the government but kept the Homeland Security Department on a short leash in order to revisit the issue when they would be in full control of Congress.</p><p>Yet given Obama&#39;s veto pen and Senate rules granting significant rights to the minority party, it&#39;s not clear that the GOP has much more leverage now than it did before. House and Senate Republican leaders have ruled out a government shutdown or any disruption to Homeland Security funding, so it appears likely that once the House bill is rejected by the Senate or vetoed by the president, the House will have to accept a version with less contentious language on immigration.</p><p>Current Homeland Security funding expires at the end of February, so House leaders have given themselves more than a month to find a solution. It&#39;s expected to be a topic of debate at the Hershey retreat.</p></p> Wed, 14 Jan 2015 11:29:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/house-votes-undo-obama-immigration-policies-111400 Hundreds attend hearing on South Side Obama library proposal http://www.wbez.org/news/hundreds-attend-hearing-south-side-obama-library-proposal-111396 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/obamalibrary.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Hundreds gathered on Chicago&#39;s South Side to sound off about a University of Chicago proposal to build the Obama Presidential Library and Museum in a public park.</p><p>Many at Tuesday&#39;s Chicago Park District hearing say they support carving out about 20 acres in one of two historic parks as part of the university&#39;s bid.</p><p>Jackson Park was the site of the 1893 World&#39;s Columbian Exposition, and Washington Park is a national historic site. Both were designed by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted.</p><p>Proponents say the library would be a boon for the area and using a relatively small part of either park could assure the city is chosen. Finalists include the University of Illinois at Chicago and New York&#39;s Columbia University.</p><p>Opponents say relinquishing parkland sets a dangerous precedent.</p></p> Wed, 14 Jan 2015 07:54:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/hundreds-attend-hearing-south-side-obama-library-proposal-111396 For Obama library, a contest of haves vs have-nots http://www.wbez.org/news/obama-library-contest-haves-vs-have-nots-111319 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Obama-debate_0_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>President Barack Obama has preached economic opportunity and equal access to education as cornerstones of the legacy he wants to leave behind.</p><p>But in the contest to host his presidential library, two public universities that serve needy communities fear the playing field has been tilted against them by a pair of elite, private schools with seemingly endless money.</p><p>As Obama weighs a decision he&#39;ll announce within months, the University of Hawaii and the University of Illinois at Chicago are struggling to offer the upfront resources needed to offset the massive cost of building the library and presidential museum, expected to run close to half a billion dollars.</p><p>The other two schools in the running, Columbia University and the University of Chicago, are both top-10 schools with a combined endowment of more than $15 billion.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Related: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-bids-obama-library-risk-111313" target="_blank">Chicago bids for Obama library at risk&nbsp;</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>The Obamas are expected to raise much &mdash; but not all &mdash; of the money themselves, so a university&#39;s ability to contribute will be a major factor. The Barack Obama Foundation, which is screening proposals and will recommend a winner to Obama, has asked each school in the running for explicit details about what financial and other resources they can bring to bear.</p><p>&quot;Look, when it comes to raw fundraising prowess, we&#39;re not in a position to compete with New York and Chicago,&quot; said Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, during a recent interview in his Honolulu office, overlooking the panoramic, oceanfront site that Hawaii has proposed for the library. &quot;We bring different assets to the table. But if the question is who can raise more money, Honolulu&#39;s going to come in third.&quot;</p><p>In an unusual move this week, the Obama foundation let it be known that it was displeased with Chicago&#39;s proposals &mdash; in particular, the fact that the University of Chicago can&#39;t guarantee access to its proposed South Side sites because they sit on city park district property. Still, the blunt warning through the media appeared designed mainly to light a fire under the University of Chicago to fill holes in its proposal, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel&#39;s office quickly stepped in to say the city was working to acquire the land for the library&#39;s use.</p><p>Across town at the University of Illinois at Chicago, student trustee Danielle Leibowitz said her university has suspected that it&#39;s the underdog all along. A key player in her school&#39;s bid for the library, Leibowitz said the university wants to team up with a community foundation to build the library in North Lawndale, a blighted, heavily black neighborhood on the West Side.</p><p>&quot;If he wants to be consistent with the message he&#39;s given throughout his presidency, it really only makes sense to give it to us,&quot; Leibowitz said. &quot;To suddenly hand over your legacy to a private institution seems rather hypocritical.&quot;</p><p>The University of Chicago and Columbia declined to comment for this report.</p><p>The Obama foundation said each school has its own unique strengths and regardless of which school is chosen, the foundation will be able to raise the needed money.</p><p>&quot;The foundation is looking at each response as a complete package and will choose a partner which, on balance, offers the best opportunity to create an outstanding presidential library and museum,&quot; the foundation said in a statement.</p><p>As public, taxpayer-funded institutions, the University of Illinois and the University of Hawaii face legal and practical limitations on how much they can contribute to a project such as Obama&#39;s library. Still, both schools have sought to show they&#39;re eager to do what they can. Hawaii lawmakers have expressed interest in having the state pitch in, while the foundation partnering with the University of Illinois has pledged $5 million. Obama was born in Hawaii and started his family and political career in Illinois.</p><p>Columbia and the University of Chicago have been coy about what they&#39;re offering. But people familiar with those schools&#39; proposals, who weren&#39;t authorized to comment publicly and requested anonymity, said both schools are prepared to absorb a substantial chunk of the cost themselves. They&#39;re also working to secure attractive real estate where the library can be built.</p><p>Although the foundation has tapped Julianna Smoot, a major Democratic fundraiser and former Obama campaign official, to direct fundraising, the foundation&#39;s board has said it won&#39;t start seriously raising money to build the library until much later. The Obamas have pledged not to solicit donations until after they leave office.</p><p>Meantime, the question of what message Obama wants his library to convey has grown more pronounced as the economic recovery continues to leave many behind. Marcus Betts, a spokesman for the North Lawndale Presidential Library Committee, said Obama has a rare opportunity to show that one&#39;s background need not predetermine one&#39;s ability to succeed.</p><p>&quot;If you think about what Martin Luther King Jr. would do, where he would put a project like this, I think the answer becomes very clear,&quot; Betts said. &quot;It really boils down to the have and the have-nots.&quot;</p></p> Wed, 31 Dec 2014 14:05:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/obama-library-contest-haves-vs-have-nots-111319 Chicago to add new Barack Obama College Prep High School http://www.wbez.org/news/education/chicago-add-new-barack-obama-college-prep-high-school-110073 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/IMAG2549.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago is getting another selective enrollment high school.</p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Thursday the city will build the Barack Obama College Preparatory High School on the Near North Side. It will enroll 1,200 students and is slated to be ready for the first 300 freshmen in the fall of 2017. The first students who will be eligible to enroll in the school are currently fifth graders.</p><p>Emanuel made clear in announcing the school he&rsquo;s responding to heavy demand for the city&rsquo;s top high schools&mdash;where many students need near perfect scores to be admitted. Emanuel said he recognizes the angst many parents face once their kids hit upper elementary school.</p><p>&ldquo;&rsquo;Where am I gonna send my child?&rsquo; It is the biggest anxious question that exists across the city of Chicago,&rdquo; Emanuel said at a press conference at Skinner North Elementary, a classical school that will see part of the park behind it gobbled up for the new high school.</p><p>&ldquo;Twenty-four hundred kids every year <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/chicagos-best-high-schools-who-gets-who-doesnt-97110" target="_blank">get turned away</a> who are prepared for our high schools; and we are not prepared for them. Well, we&rsquo;re gonna be prepared for them,&rdquo; Emanuel said.</p><p>Obama College Prep will be built on park district land near the corner of North Halsted and West Division streets, where the towers of Cabrini Green once stood. School officials said 70 percent of students will be admitted based on grades and test scores.</p><p>This will be the city&rsquo;s eleventh selective enrollment school and one of four elite public high schools clustered in a roughly one-and-a-half mile radius. Walter Payton College Prep, ranked one of the best schools in Illinois, is less than a mile away.</p><p><span style="font-size:18px;"><strong>Location is &quot;a slap&quot;</strong></span></p><p>The location of the new school drew immediate criticism.</p><p>Teacher Ray Salazar said he was &ldquo;shocked&rdquo; to hear the city was locating another selective school on the North Side. Salazar said it showed &ldquo;city politics again are influencing decisions that benefit white, affluent families.&rdquo; He said any new selective school should be located on the Southwest Side.</p><p>&ldquo;We do not have a selective enrollment high school in a predominantly Latino neighborhood, and it is unfair that our high-achieving students have to travel over an hour to get to the nearest high-achieving school,&quot; said Salazar, who teaches writing at Hancock High, near 56th Street and Pulaski Road.</p><p>Salazar also said the system has become so competitive, disadvantaged students have trouble getting in at all. All selective schools have lower percentages of poor students than the district as a whole. At Payton, just 31 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, compared to 85 percent citywide.</p><p>West Side activist Dwayne Truss called an Obama High near Halsted and Division &ldquo;a slap to both black families and children.&rdquo; Truss said the money planned for the school should be used &ldquo;to provide adequate funding for all of Chicago&rsquo;s neighborhood schools rather than cater to wealthy middle-class families the school is targeting.&rdquo;</p><p>Others wondered why Obama&rsquo;s name was going on a North Side school when the president lived and worked on the South Side. &ldquo;He knows about it and he&rsquo;s excited about it,&rdquo; said Emanuel. It would be the first CPS school to be named after a living person.<br /><br />Emanuel said the location for the new school was chosen because the land was available, it&rsquo;s on various transportation routes, and&mdash;perhaps most importantly&mdash;it&rsquo;s in a TIF district with $60 million available.</p><p>Thirty percent of the seats at Obama High will be set aside for students nearby.</p><p>That&rsquo;s a provision 27th Ward Ald. Walter Burnett said he pushed for &ldquo;because we should not spend money in a neighborhood and people from the neighborhood cannot go to the school,&rdquo; said Burnett. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s asinine. This is the TIF money that&rsquo;s supposed to go back in the neighborhood that comes from the people in the neighborhood. I did the same thing with Westinghouse. When Westinghouse was built, they used my TIF money, (and) I told them they have to have a neighborhood component.&rdquo;</p><p><a href="http://newwestinghouse.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=56511&amp;type=d&amp;termREC_ID=&amp;pREC_ID=81978&amp;hideMenu=1">Westinghouse College Prep </a>has selective admissions and a less competitive &ldquo;career&rdquo; track, but admission to that program still requires minimum test scores and an extensive student essay. No students are automatically admitted to the school by virtue of their address.</p><p>Emanuel has come under fire for miraculously coming up with money for big-ticket capital projects at vaunted North Side schools with well-connected parents&mdash; current additions are underway at <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20131111/lincoln-park/overcrowded-lincoln-elementary-get-three-story-19-classroom-annex" target="_blank">Lincoln</a>, Coonley and <a href="http://www.suntimes.com/news/education/22644102-418/payton-college-prep-to-get-17-million-annex-room-for-up-to-400-more-kids.html" target="_blank">Payton</a>&mdash;while students on the Southwest and Northwest Sides <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/no-simple-answers-chicagos-severely-overcrowded-schools-107651">hold class in trailers and stairwells due to overcrowding</a>.</p><p>A new Near North Side high school was <a href="http://www.cps.edu/About_CPS/Policies_and_guidelines/Documents/CPSEducationalFacilitiesMasterPlan.pdf">not called for in the Facilities Master Plan</a> the district adopted less than a year ago; that plan actually predicts a drop in the population of 15-to-19-year-olds living in the area. And the district admits it has an <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/future-uncertain-chicagos-neighborhood-high-schools-108834" target="_blank">oversupply of high school seats</a>.</p><p>Asked how another North Side selective school fits into what many view as a two-tiered educational system, Emanuel said he rejects that view. But analyses show that <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/race-out-loud/greater-segregation-regions-black-latino-students-100452">racial segregation in the system is increasing</a>, with the middle class disproportionately concentrated in CPS&#39;s magnet and gifted schools, and many charter and neighborhood schools enrolling disproportionate numbers of low-income and minority kids.</p><p>Emanuel said strong schools exist in minority communities and pointed to his efforts to strengthen neighborhood high schools with new International Baccalaureate and STEM programs.</p><p>Lakeview parent Patricia O&rsquo;Keefe, who has three grammar-school-aged children in three different selective schools, praised the decision to expand the number of selective high school seats.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s heartbreaking to see kids turned down who are completely qualified. So from my lens, it is a fantastic thing,&rdquo; O&rsquo;Keefe said.</p><p>And O&rsquo;Keefe believes it may help parents buy into the system rather than fleeing to the suburbs or private schools.</p><p>&ldquo;If you get more confidence in the city about high school, I think you reach a tipping point where everything will start to get better.... Something like this will not only help the selective enrollment, but it helps the whole momentum of high schools in general.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Linda Lutton is a WBEZ education reporter. Follow her on twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 25 Apr 2014 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/education/chicago-add-new-barack-obama-college-prep-high-school-110073 Obama vows to flex presidential powers in speech http://www.wbez.org/news/obama-vows-flex-presidential-powers-speech-109595 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP283719503471.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Seeking to energize his sluggish second term, President Barack Obama vowed Tuesday night in his State of the Union address to sidestep Congress &quot;whenever and wherever&quot; necessary to narrow economic disparities between rich and poor. He unveiled an array of modest executive actions to increase the minimum wage for federal contract workers and make it easier for millions of low-income Americans to save for retirement.</p><p>&quot;America does not stand still and neither do I,&quot; Obama declared in his prime-time address before a joint session of Congress and millions of Americans watching on television.</p><p>Draped in presidential grandeur, Obama&#39;s address served as the opening salvo in a midterm election fight for control of Congress that will quickly consume Washington&#39;s attention. Democrats, seeking to cast Republicans as uncaring about the middle class, have urged Obama to focus on economic mobility and the gap between the wealthy and poor. His emphasis on executive actions was greeted with shouts of &quot;Do it!&quot; from many members of his party.</p><p>Declaring 2014 a &quot;year of action,&quot; Obama also sought to convince an increasingly skeptical public that he still wields power in Washington even if he can&#39;t crack through the divisions in Congress. Burned by a series of legislative failures in 2013, White House aides say they&#39;re now redefining success not by what Obama can jam through Congress but by what actions he can take on his own.</p><p>Indeed, Obama&#39;s proposals for action by lawmakers were slim and largely focused on old ideas that have gained little traction over the past year. He pressed Congress to revive a stalled immigration overhaul, pass an across-the-board increase in the federal minimum wage and expand access to early childhood education &mdash; all ideas that gained little traction after he proposed them last year. The president&#39;s one new legislation proposal calls for expanding an income tax credit for workers without children.</p><p>Republicans, who saw their own approval ratings fall further in 2013, have also picked up the refrain of income inequality in recent months, though they have cast the widening gap between rich and poor as a symptom of Obama&#39;s economic policies.</p><p>&quot;Republicans have plans to close the gap, plans that focus on jobs first without more spending, government bailouts and red tape,&quot; said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., in the Republicans&#39; televised response to the president&#39;s speech.</p><p>The economy and other domestic issues, including health care, dominated the president&#39;s address. He touched only briefly on foreign policy, touting the drawdown of American troops from Afghanistan this year and reiterating his threat to veto any new sanctions Congress might levy on Iran while nuclear negotiations with the Islamic republic are underway.</p><p>Even as Washington increasingly focuses on income inequality, many parts of the economy are gaining strength, with corporate profits soaring and the financial markets hitting record highs. But with millions of Americans still out of work or struggling with stagnant wages, Obama has found himself in the sometimes awkward position of promoting a recovery that feels distant for many.</p><p>&quot;The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by, let alone get ahead,&quot; Obama said. &quot;And too many still aren&#39;t working at all.&quot;</p><p>The president garnered some of his loudest applause &mdash; at least from Democrats &mdash; when he took on lawmakers who oppose his signature health care law, which floundered in its initial rollout last fall. Obama said that while he doesn&#39;t expect to convince Republicans on the merits of the law, &quot;I know that the American people aren&#39;t interested in refighting old battles.&quot;</p><p>The president&#39;s speech drew an eclectic mix of visitors to the House chamber. Among those sitting with first lady Michelle Obama were two survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing, as well as Jason Collins, an openly gay former NBA player. Republican House Speaker John Boehner brought business owners from his home state of Ohio who say Obama&#39;s health care overhaul is hurting their companies. Willie Robertson, a star of the television show &quot;Duck Dynasty,&quot; also scored a seat in the House gallery, courtesy of the Republicans.</p><p>Though Obama sought to emphasize his presidential powers, there are stark limits to what he can do on his own. For example, he unilaterally can raise the minimum hourly wage for new federal contractors from $7.25 to $10.10, as he announced, but he&#39;ll need Congress in order to extend that increase to all of America&#39;s workers.</p><p>The executive order for contractors, which Obama will sign in the coming weeks, is limited in its scope. It will not affect existing federal contracts, only new ones, and then only if other terms of an agreement change.</p><p>Republicans quickly panned the executive initiative as ineffective. Said Boehner: &quot;The question is how many people, Mr. President, will this executive action actually help? I suspect the answer is somewhere close to zero.&quot;</p><p>White House officials countered by saying many more working people would benefit if Congress would go along with Obama&#39;s plan to raise the minimum wage across the board.</p><p>&quot;Give America a raise,&quot; Obama declared.</p><p>Among the president&#39;s other executive initiatives is a plan to help workers whose employers don&#39;t offer retirement savings plans. The program would allow first-time savers to start building up savings in Treasury bonds that eventually could be converted into traditional IRAs. Obama is expected to promote the &quot;starter&quot; accounts during a trip to Pittsburgh on Wednesday.</p><p>The president also announced new commitments from companies to consider hiring the long-term unemployed, the creation of four &quot;manufacturing hubs&quot; where universities and businesses would work together to develop and train workers, new incentives to encourage truckers to switch from dirtier fuels to natural gas or other alternatives and a proposed tax credit to promote the adoption of cars that can run on cleaner fuels, such as hydrogen, natural gas or biofuels.</p><p>The president&#39;s go-it-alone strategy is in many ways an acknowledgment that he has failed to make good on two major promises to the American people: that he would change Washington&#39;s hyper-partisanship and that his re-election would break the Republican &quot;fever&quot; and clear the way for congressional action on major initiatives.</p><p>Some Republicans have warned that the president&#39;s focus on executive orders could backfire by angering GOP leaders who already don&#39;t trust the White House.</p><p>Obama isn&#39;t abandoning Congress completely. He made a renewed pitch for legislation to overhaul the nation&#39;s fractured immigration laws, perhaps his best opportunity for signing significant legislation this year. But the odds remain long, with many Republicans staunchly opposed to Obama&#39;s plan for creating a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million people already in the U.S. illegally.</p><p>Seeking to give the GOP some room to maneuver, Obama did not specifically call for a citizenship pathway Tuesday, saying only, &quot;Let&#39;s get it done. It&#39;s time.&quot;</p><p>Opening a new front with Congress, the president called for an extension of the earned-income tax credit, which helps boost the wages of low-income families through tax refunds. Obama wants it broadened so that it provides more help than it does now to workers without children, a view embraced by some Republicans and conservative economists.</p><p>Obama singled out Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who has proposed replacing the tax credit with a federal wage supplement for workers in certain low-paying jobs. Unlike Obama, however, Republicans have suggested expanding the tax credit as an alternative to increasing the minimum wage.</p><p>Pivoting briefly to foreign policy, Obama reaffirmed that the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan will formally conclude at the end of this year. But he said a small contingent of American forces could be left behind if the Afghan government quickly signs a bilateral security agreement, a prospect that looks increasingly uncertain.</p><p>The president also warned lawmakers in both parties against passing new economic sanctions against Iran while the U.S. and international partners are holding nuclear negotiations with the Islamic republic. He renewed his commitment to veto sanctions legislation if it passes, arguing that a new round of penalties would upend the sensitive diplomacy.</p></p> Tue, 28 Jan 2014 21:25:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/obama-vows-flex-presidential-powers-speech-109595 Jobless aid available for those hit by tornadoes http://www.wbez.org/sections/work/jobless-aid-available-those-hit-tornadoes-109298 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP116418840387 (1).jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois&#39; Department of Employment Security says people who lost jobs as a direct consequence of the Nov. 17 tornadoes and high winds could qualify for federal unemployment aid.</p><p>That option arose after President Barack Obama recently designated parts of the state disaster areas.</p><p>Two massive tornadoes killed seven people and injured many others. Washington was among the hardest hit communities. The state agency said in a Tuesday statement that tornadoes and winds destroyed or damaged more than 2,400 homes.</p><p>Individuals can receive benefits as long as their unemployment continues to be a consequence of the storms. Eligibility is determined on a week-to-week basis. The longest period someone can qualify is 27 weeks</p><p>The disaster declaration also makes it possible for residents seeking to rebuild to receive grants and loans.</p></p> Wed, 04 Dec 2013 11:58:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/sections/work/jobless-aid-available-those-hit-tornadoes-109298 Obama's Syria speech and a preview of Chicago's World Music Festival http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2013-09-11/obamas-syria-speech-and-preview-chicagos-world-music-festival-108654 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP271407432433.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>President Obama addresses the nation and U.S. policy in Syria. The 15th annual World Music Festival returns to Chicago, we&#39;ll tell you what to expect.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F109916081&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-obama-s-syria-speech-and-a-preview-of-ch/embed?header=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-obama-s-syria-speech-and-a-preview-of-ch.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-obama-s-syria-speech-and-a-preview-of-ch" target="_blank">View the story "Worldview: Obama's Syria speech and a preview of Chicago's World Music Festival" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Wed, 11 Sep 2013 11:34:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2013-09-11/obamas-syria-speech-and-preview-chicagos-world-music-festival-108654 Wariness, optimism from IL Congressmen after Obama’s Syria speech http://www.wbez.org/news/wariness-optimism-il-congressmen-after-obama%E2%80%99s-syria-speech-108651 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP199828675580.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois Congressmen are having mixed reactions to President Barack Obama&rsquo;s decision to hold off on a military strike against Syria. The administration is working out a developing diplomatic deal aimed at destroying Syria&#39;s stockpile of chemical weapons.</p><p>The plan Obama outlined in his speech Tuesday likely means Illinois&rsquo; congressional delegation won&rsquo;t have to take a tough vote in the near future about whether to authorize a strike, which polls show has become increasingly unpopular among a war-weary American public.</p><p>Democratic U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, her party&rsquo;s House chief deputy whip, said the president made a strong moral argument to keep up the threat of military action against Syria.</p><p>Schakowsky, from Evanston, said she was especially stirred by the president&rsquo;s graphic description of a Syrian father trying to rouse his children after they had been gassed.</p><p>&ldquo;Part of my decision is informed by my being a Jew, whose people were gassed and the world stood by,&quot; she said, &ldquo;And I think the U.S. can save innocent children by deterring the use of chemical weapons.&rdquo;</p><p>Schakowsky said that moral argument would incline her to vote in favor of a military strike if the issue comes up for a vote, though she&rsquo;s hopeful that recent discussions about having Syria turn over its chemical weapons to Russia might spur the international community into acting before that.</p><p>Meanwhile, Republican U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam of Wheaton, the House GOP chief deputy whip, criticized the president for seeming to take two options off the table: overthrowing the regime of Bashar al-Assad, and having the U.S., itself, secure Syria&rsquo;s chemical weapons.</p><p>&ldquo;What the president is basically arguing for is for a gesture, for a response,&rdquo; Roskam said. &ldquo;And I think that he&rsquo;s not made the case that American military might is going to be unleashed in such a way that it will make a difference.&rdquo;</p><p>Hours before the president&rsquo;s speech, Roskam announced he was bucking the House GOP leadership in opposing a military strike on Syria, though he wouldn&rsquo;t say specifically what - if anything - the U.S. should do if diplomacy fails.</p><p>Before Tuesday&rsquo;s developments, the vast majority of Illinois&rsquo; 20-member congressional delegation said they were still undecided on whether to authorize a strike. Some were deeply skeptical, citing overwhelming constituent opposition to U.S. intervention. Only three lawmakers - Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, and Sen. Mark Kirk and Rep. Adam Kinzinger, both Republicans - had spoken in favor of a U.S. strike.</p><p>But as flurry of diplomatic activity surrounding the so-called &ldquo;Russian plan&rdquo; put the brakes on a possible strike authorization vote Tuesday, some Illinois congressmen seized on the diplomatic option as a possible way out of a military strike.</p><p>Earlier in the afternoon Tuesday, Chicago Democratic Congressman Danny Davis announced he would have likely voted against a military strike. And after the president&rsquo;s speech, Democratic Congressman Bill Foster, of Naperville, urged diplomacy to move ahead, with a military strike as a &ldquo;last resort.&rdquo;</p><p>But Democrat Rep. Brad Schneider, of Deerfield, also expressed a wariness about whether Syria and Russia could be trusted to make good on their diplomatic vows.</p><p>&ldquo;[It&rsquo;s] a positive potential development,&rdquo; Schneider said after Tuesday&rsquo;s speech. &ldquo;We&rsquo;ll have to see and let it play out. I still, as the president said, believe that the United States has to stand ready. It can not be an effort to delay or stall or extend Assad&rsquo;s ability to use his chemical weapons.&rdquo;</p></p> Wed, 11 Sep 2013 08:44:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/wariness-optimism-il-congressmen-after-obama%E2%80%99s-syria-speech-108651