Tag Archives: Rahm Emanuel

Chicago mayor demands wage, benefit cuts from teachers

By Kristina Betinis
May 7, 2015
World Socialist Web Site


After saying it would not extend the current teachers’ contract for an additional year because it could not afford a three percent wage increase that would come with it, the city of Chicago is demanding sweeping concessions in talks for a new agreement. This includes a seven percent pay cut in addition to higher health care contributions and diminished pensions.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who was recently re-elected in a runoff election last month, is using a largely manufactured budget crisis to demand the concessions from the city’s 32,000 teachers and other school employees whose contract expires on June 30.

The current contract was imposed after the defeat of the Chicago teachers’ strike in 2012. That struggle pitted teachers against Emanuel, Obama’s former chief of staff, and the assault on public education spearheaded by Obama and both big business parties in the name of “school reform.” The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) gave in to Emanuel’s demands for the expansion of testing-based teacher evaluation and loosening restrictions on teacher layoffs.

Allied with the Democratic Party, the CTU betrayed the strike, paving the way for its collaboration in a record number of public school closures and related layoffs. The year 2013 saw fifty elementary schools closed, thousands of layoffs and the dislocation of tens of thousands of students, which exacerbated overcrowding and placed additional strains on remaining teachers and staff.

In demanding the pay cut, the Emanuel administration cites a $1.1 billion Chicago Public Schools budget shortfall. Budget shortfalls and a lack of tax revenue are also being used to press for deep cuts to the teachers’ pension system. In addition, Tax Increment Financing districts siphon existing tax revenue into a mayor-controlled account used to attract investment in wealthy areas.

City estimates for teacher pension underfunding is somewhere in the region of $7 billion. As of 2014, the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund claimed 44,473 members. (See, “City worker pensions under attack”) CPS spokesman Bill McCaffrey expressed hope the CTU would work with the school district in lobbying state leaders to resolve pension issues.

There have been recent calls in the Chicago Tribune and the business press, and from Illinois Republican Governor Bruce Rauner, for the Chicago Public Schools district to declare bankruptcy, with the goal of gutting the teacher pensions. Bankruptcy successfully paved the way for the slashing of pensions in Detroit, Michigan and Stockton, California.

Teacher pensions were introduced as a bargaining chip in the opening bid of the 2015 contract negotiations by none other than Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, who offered last year to negotiate a cut to teacher pensions for educators who have not yet retired, a move lauded in the business press.

Last week, CTU Vice President and ISO member Jesse Sharkey sought to diminish the importance of teacher compensation, declaring, “Money is not our membership’s biggest concern right now.”

This would be news to teachers who work in a city with one of the highest costs of living in the US.

The CTU has not publicly reported any of its own wage or benefit proposals, instead referring to proposals that included smaller class sizes and the hiring of counselors and nurses, neither of which can be bargained over.

Accepting the lie used to justify cuts all over the country—that there is no money—Sharkey continued, “If the district has no money to put a counselor in a school where a half-dozen kids get shot, or not enough money to have the counselor who’s there actually counsel, then they don’t have the money for a three percent raise, do they?”

Sharkey is a leading member of the International Socialist Organization. His comments only underscore the fact that the ISO, like its pseudo-left counter-part in Greece, Syriza, functions as a faction of the bourgeois political establishment.

Last week, school officials announced the smallest capital budget in 20 years. The $160 million budget to repair the city’s many dilapidated schools is about one third of last year’s budget. While claiming there is no money to improve schools or the wages and benefits of educators, Emanuel continues to provide tax breaks to major corporate interests in the city like Boeing and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Last month, Governor Rauner approved $100 million in corporate tax cuts.

While the majority of the city’s 400,000 public school students suffer, politically-connected charter school operators and other businesses continue to siphon money. Federal corruption investigations have been opened into Emanuel’s appointee to CEO of Chicago Public Schools, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, for awarding a $20.5 million no-bid contract to SUPES Academy, an education and training company for teachers and principals that Byrd-Bennett had previous business relationships with.

Chicago Municipal Elections: Reports of Voters Receiving Ballots Already Marked for Mayor Rahm Emanuel

After a Facebook post suggested voting irregularities blew up, similar reports are emerging.

By Global Research
Global Research, April 10, 2015
In These Times


voting-sortitionBy Rick Perlstein

Around 10:30 this morning, Sam Dreessen, a 26-year-old unemployed DePaul University graduate (and former In These Times intern) who’s been voting in Chicago since 2006, walked into his polling place at Kozminski Community Academy on 54th and Drexel, a mostly black neighborhood in the city’s 5th Ward. He approached the election judge at the table and, like thousands of Chicagoans on this mayoral election day, received a paper ballot and a felt-tip pen. But, he says, one of the two blanks—the one you fill in to vote for Mayor Rahm Emanuel—was already filled in. Dreessen, a volunteer for Emanuel’s opponent, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, smelled a rat.

“I just said to one of them, the one who gave me the ballot, ‘This has already been filled out. I want one that’s blank.’ And he acted surprised. He said, ‘I don’t know how that happened.’ And he even said there had been other ballots with similar problems.’ He gave me one that was blank, and I told him more than once that they should look at all the ballots, the ones that hadn’t been handed out yet, to see if this happened.”

Dreessen says he was too shocked to even take a picture. “And I thought, ‘I don’t know, this must be happening to other people.’ It just seemed to be so crude.”

He reported it next to the Garcia campaign office in nearby Woodlawn, where they said they had already received similar complaints. Then he took to Facebook, where he posts under the name “Barry Lyndon.” As of 6:08, 52 minutes before the polls close at 7, his post had been shared 538 times. He also texted what happened to a neighbor of his who is a city election commissioner, Marisel Hernandez, who said she was sending investigators “right away.”

I learned all this after tracking “Barry Lyndon” down and speaking to him late this afternoon. I was especially interested to confirm his story because on Facebook some Chicagoans, ever wary, feared the reports were a dirty trick from the Emanuel campaign to discourage people from voting. But no, Sam Dreessen is real and stands by his story. And similar accounts are circulating. The Garcia campaign says it has received several accounts of ballots pre-marked for Emanuel and was able to confirm one. DelMarie Cobb, spokesperson for 5th Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston, told me she personally talked with one voter who ran into the same problem voting at O’Keeffe Elementary School at 69th and Merrill—an even more heavily minority area. And she had heard similar reports from her boss this morning. (Alderman Hairston, meanwhile, a critic of the mayor, warned about the same ballot irregularity on her own Facebook page this afternoon.) Cobb also fielded a report from a person voting on an electronic machine that tried to register a vote for Emanuel every time she punched in a vote for Garcia.

I have’t been yet been able to turn up any reports of irregularities favoring Chuy Garcia.

Reached by the website DNAInfo, a Chicago Board of Elections spokesman did not deny the story, but did try to wave it away:

“If someone is suggesting that the judges somewhere are trying to slip one past our voters, I think you’re insulting the intelligence of our voters,” Jim Allen said. “If it were a conspiracy, it would probably be the least effective conspiracy in the history of conspiracies.”

This post will be updated if press representatives from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and Board of Elections are able to return my calls. As for young Sam Dreessen, he’s had a busy day. “People have been contacting me from ABC, NBC, etc. It’s just kind of crazy. And honestly I feel like they should go to the people who’ve picked up other complaints. I’m just one person. Others have been saying the same thing.”

Copyright Rick Perlstein, In these Times, 2015

The political issues in the Chicago mayoral election

By Kristina Betinis and Patrick Martin
April 7, 2015
World Socialist Web Site


A runoff election for mayor is being held today in Chicago, the third-largest city in the United States. The contest is between two Democratic Party candidates: incumbent Rahm Emanuel, a close political associate of President Obama, and Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, a long-time Democratic Party operative who is being promoted as a supposed “left” candidate.

The election has national and international significance. The basic issues facing working people in Chicago—the government-corporate assault on jobs and living standards, the closure of schools and decimation of public education, the rising tide of police violence and repression—confront workers and young people across the country. The bipartisan nature of these attacks is underscored by the political monopoly long exercised by the Democratic Party in Chicago.

Today’s election presents in sharp relief the bankruptcy of all political programs and perspectives that are oriented to the Democratic Party. The crisis in Chicago poses the need for the working class to break with the two parties of big business and mount an independent political struggle directed against the financial oligarchy and its profit system.

There is growing disaffection from the entire corporate-controlled political system and mounting signs of renewed class struggle. That is why elements within the political establishment and sections of the trade union bureaucracy, backed by the various fake-left organizations that orbit the Democratic Party, launched the phony “populist” campaign of Garcia. Its purpose is to head off an independent movement of the working class.

Mayor Emanuel embodies the foulest characteristics of American politics in general and the Democratic Party in particular. An operative in the Clinton administration, Emanuel made millions as an investment banker before returning to the White House as Obama’s chief of staff.

As mayor, Emanuel has pursued the same policies in Chicago as Obama on the national level. He has presided over the closure of 50 schools, attacks on the jobs and pensions of teachers and public employees, and a wave of police violence against youth and working people. The money siphoned from essential services has funded tax cuts and other subsidies for corporations and wealthy investors.

Emanuel’s failure to win 50 percent of the vote in the first round of the election, held in February, revealed the deep hostility in the working class to his right-wing policies. It was also a rebuff to Obama, who campaigned for his former aide in southside Chicago.

The Chicago Teachers Union and the Service Employees International Union have spearheaded the campaign of Garcia. It is a measure of the right-wing character of the Democratic Party that the best they could come up as the supposedly “progressive” face of the party was a longtime functionary of the Democratic machine in the city. In the final days of the campaign, Garcia has sought to capitalize on a report of rising homicides in Chicago by stepping up his denunciations of Emanuel for refusing to hire 1,000 more cops. This has been accompanied by attacks on the incumbent mayor for being fiscally irresponsible.

This has not prevented the International Socialist Organization (ISO) and other pseudo-left organizations from either directly promoting Garcia or promoting the unions that back his campaign. Like their counterparts in the Syriza government in Greece, the ISO and other middle class groups that base themselves on racial and gender politics smell the opportunity to get positions of power and influence and improve their financial situation. Their task is to spout occasional “left” phrases while helping maintain the political stranglehold of the Democratic Party on the working class.

It is impossible to halt the attack on working class living standards and rights outside of a struggle to build a political movement of the working class that is independent of the capitalist politicians and directed against the capitalist system. The Democratic and Republican politicians endlessly proclaim that there is no money to meet pressing social needs. But the ranks of multi-millionaires and billionaires continue to grow, along with the obscene levels of wealth they control. These are the paymasters of both corporate-controlled parties.

The fortunes of the Wall Street parasites and corporate CEOs must be seized and put to good use providing decent-paying jobs and building schools and affordable housing. The corporations and banks must be nationalized and turned into publicly owned and democratically controlled entities, so that the economy can be run for the benefit of the many rather than the profit of a few.

There is a massive working class in Chicago, with rich traditions of industrial and political struggle dating back to the fight for the eight-hour day in the 1880s, the Haymarket Martyrs and the first international May Day demonstrations. The mass struggles of the 1930s led to the formation of industrial unions in auto, steel, trucking, meatpacking and other industries.

These organizations, however, were subordinated by the union leadership to the Democratic Party, undercutting any possibility of a radical restructuring of social relations. Over the last four decades, the pro-capitalist unions have suppressed working class resistance to the explosive growth of social inequality.

The 2012 strike by 29,000 Chicago teachers was betrayed by the leadership of the teachers union, which includes a prominent member of the ISO. The strike was nonetheless a sign of the reemergence of open class conflict in the city. This was part of a broader trend, reflected more recently in widespread protests against police brutality and the strike by oil refinery workers.

The Socialist Equality Party is fighting to build a political movement to unite every section of the working class—black, white and immigrant, employed and unemployed, young and old—in a common struggle to take political power and carry out the socialist reorganization of economic and political life. The central lesson of the Chicago mayoral election is the need to build the SEP and its youth movement, the International Youth and Students for Social Equality.

Rahm Emanuel, the Face of Democratic Fascism, Deserves to Lose

Police-state challenge could nurture democracy and an American Spring

By William Boardman
March 12, 2015
Dissident Voice


Chicago’s mayoral election may look like a local event, and the media mostly cover it as a local event, but the presence of a large, diverse, and energized opposition demanding change on basic issues of fairness and justice gives the city’s local result a potentially important, totemic meaning for the country.  The winner of the April 7 runoff election may signify whether peaceful change is possible, or whether the suffocating status quo will grow more stifling.

There is another way of gauging the April vote: is Chicago yet ready to reject the police state practices of its local government?  Is Chicago ready to reject a mayor who seems content to allow police state behavior to go unexamined and unpunished?  Will Chicago be where a majority of Americans finally confront the nationwide plague of police hate and violence that makes the term “American justice” an oxymoron?

The current mayor since 2011, the arrogant and ineffective Rahm Emanuel, has catered to his rich folks base (with “the actions of a mad king”). And he has treated the majority of Chicagoans with destructive disdain, whether he’s closing their schools, attacking teachers and other public employees, or ignoring police brutality and killing. (As a Congressman in 2002, Emanuel supported the Iraq War right out of the box.) He is endorsed by major Chicago media that laud his “significant accomplishments,” but they can’t seem to name any.  His record is mixed.

Given the preening self-satisfaction of the incumbent pugnacious bully, given the  elitist priorities and anti-populist destructiveness of this Clinton-Obama Democrat, the best result for the national Democratic Party – and for the country – would be the clear rejection of regressive, right wing Democrat Rahm Emanuel for a second term as mayor. Emanuel’s defeat could mean the end of almost 30 years of corporate Democrats (including Richard M. Daley, 1989-2011) running Chicago for the 1% and driving the city into heavy debt that the 99% will be expected to pay.

Chicagestapo story breaks, police lie, everyone else starts stonewalling

Chicago is already paying tens of millions of dollars in restitution to victims of the Chicago Police Department over the past four decades (over $50 million paid in 2014 alone). On election day, February 24, Chicago police state tactics became a clear and present issue in the current election, when the Guardian newspaper published a report about one of the city’s darker open secrets, the Homan Square holding facility that has functioned as a municipal black site for torture and interrogation for years.

In its essence, the story is simple and predictable: the Chicago police have a secure facility where they can take prisoners and hold them more or less indefinitely, keeping no official record of their whereabouts, while treating them with torture techniques made familiar by their application to prisoners at Guantanamo. The Guardian story by Spencer Ackerman, a reliable reporter who used to work for Wired, is based on public records and the personal accounts of both victims and attorneys, none of whom hide behind anonymity. The report provides ample detail that can be independently verified by any responsible public official or investigator or other news organization.

Despite the long Chicago police history of chronic brutality, the department promptly went into denial mode, issuing an unsigned,  so-called “fact sheet” that is free of much relevant fact. Beyond that dishonest document, police officials refused to comment.  Much of the police “defense” turns on the characterization by witnesses (not by Guardian reporters) of “what lawyers say is the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site,” which it clearly is, based on current evidence.

Homan Square is a large, well-guarded warehouse secure from scrutiny

Homan Square used to be a Sears, Roebuck warehouse complex built in 1904, on a 40-plus acre site, providing 3.3 million square feet of floor space. In 1978, after Sears moved out, 16 acres of the site became a National Historic Landmark and the rest was re-developed in a variety of ways. In 1999, the police took over part of the Sears complex, one four-story warehouse covering most of a city block. In other words, even this smaller piece of the Sears complex is a big building, as the police acknowledge, without saying just how big the Homan Square Facility is:

It serves a number of functions, some of which are sensitive and some of which are not, however it is not a secret facility. In fact, Homan Square is home to CPD’s Evidence and Recovered Property Section, which is open to the public…. Portions of the facility are sensitive. Homan Square is the base of operations for officers working undercover assignments…. Other sensitive units housed at the facility include the Bureau of Organized Crime (including the narcotics unit), the SWAT Unit, Evidence Technicians, and the CPD ballistics lab…. Homan Square contains several standard interview rooms. Most individuals interviewed at Homan Square are lower-level arrests from the Narcotics unit….

This is an exercise in non-denial denial. The police acknowledge some of what Homan Square contains, but there is no claim that this is all it contains. Most of the facility is “sensitive” and inaccessible to the public. Lawyers and reporters have been barred in recent weeks from entering the grounds. Homan Square also reportedly houses a large number of military vehicles and has plenty of space for a secret section in which to hold and interrogate persons of interest.

The police “fact sheet” claims that there are “always records of anyone who is arrested,” which leaves all the room in the world for the truth of the allegation that people have been held and tortured at Homan Square without ever being arrested (as described by Victoria Suter). Similarly, the assertion that “it is not a secret facility” can be true, since it does not deny that this “sensitive” facility may hide one of more secret sections. Defending themselves against brutality claims, police admit that a prisoner in custody died of a heroin overdose. How does that happen with competent policing?

The second and third pages of the “fact sheet” are even less relevant or persuasive. The second page consists of mostly unattributed opinion from friendly local news media (Tribune, Sun-Times, WBEZ). At least one of the police quotes reinforces the possibility that an actual, unconstitutional detention facility exists: “it’s an exaggeration to call it a ‘black site,’” according to one law professor – only an exaggeration?

It’s so much easier to disappear someone you haven’t arrested

The Guardian report makes consistent allegations supported by testimony that can be independently verified:

  • that police take people into custody without arresting them;
  • that police hold prisoners incommunicado, sometimes for days;
  • that police deny prisoners their right to make a phone call;
  • that police deny prisoners any contact with their lawyers;
  • that police lie to lawyers about the whereabouts of their clients;
  • that police keep prisoners shackled hand and foot.

Additionally, there are allegations of further torture including threats and brutality. Most of this behavior is prohibited by the constitution.

The third page of the police “fact sheet” comprises a detailed outline of Chicago police “arrest and interview procedures.” In other words, it is no answer whatsoever to allegations about the treatment of people who have not been arrested.

Mayor Emanuel, police officials, and others choose not to address the specifics of the Guardian report. They have been hiding behind this “fact sheet” charade of a defense, referring questioners to it as if it actually meant something. The Chicago Sun-Times and MSNBC (perhaps others) ran portions of the police “fact sheet” verbatim,  as if the anonymous police assertions were an independent news story. As the Columbia Journalism Review noted a week after the Homan Square story broke, it “was huge on the internet – but not in Chicago media.”  The Review did not go on to note that the Homan Square story was all but invisible in national mainstream media (Democracy NOW covered the story early and in depth). The Review also made a rookie mistake, attributing the “CIA black site” characterization to reporter Ackerman even though he was careful to attribute it to others.

Police lawlessness in Chicago is an old story – therefore it doesn’t matter?

Remember the Chicago police riot of 1968: it was sanctioned by then Mayor Richard J. Daley who shouted anti-Semitic insults at the Connecticut Senator who spoke out against the violent rampage of city cops against unarmed anti-war protestors. Chicago policing was not good before that, and it hasn’t improved appreciably since. Government in Chicago, as in so many other places, remains tolerant of illegal, racist, brutal, and sometimes lethal police behavior.  That’s why it matters.

Rahm Emanuel has responded to the present “black site” report with denial and silence, mostly silence. Perhaps his only on-the-record comment on the Guardian report is: “That’s not true. We follow all the rules…. Everything’s done by the books.”

It’s not credible that he believes that. Emanuel knows full well that the Chicago police have sheltered its share of serial monsters, and may be sheltering others with its code of silence (that he has affirmed).

Emanuel is still dealing with the case of Chicago police detective Jon Burge who tortured suspects into false confessions for twenty years (1973-1993). Burge was dismissed in 1993. He was never charged criminally. Burge’s settlement with the city protected the mayor at the time from having to testify, perhaps embarrassingly, under oath. That mayor was Richard M. Daley (in office 1989-2011), the son of Richard J. Daley (in office 1955-1976). In 2010, Burge was convicted of perjury in civil suits and sentenced to 4-plus years in prison. He is now a free man, collecting his $3,000-a-month pension, thanks to a decision, apparently barred by statute, by Chicago’s Police Pension Board. Every other taxpayer gets to pay for his crimes through multi-million dollar settlements to his victims ($67 million to 18 victims, and counting) and legal fees. Emanuel has opposed establishing a fund to provide health care and job training to Chicago torture victims.

In 2013, when the city council approved $12.3 million in settlements to two victims, Mayor Emanuel’s comments were cold:

“This is a dark chapter on the history of the city of Chicago…. a stain on the city’s reputation…. I am sorry this happened…. Now let us now all move on.”

Or not, Emanuel is also dealing with the more recent case of Chicago police detective Richard Zuley whose possibly torture-induced convictions are also threatening to come back to haunt the city. Zuley was such a good Chicago torturer (1977-2007), that he went on loan as a Navy reserve lieutenant to Guantanamo where his torture techniques set the bar high for brutality. Zuley, his attorney, and the Chicago police have refused to answer questions from the Guardian.

Police brutality, torture, black sites still not election factor

Emanuel has never shown any inclination to take on the corrupt history of Chicago policing, even as its costs mount for a city in declining financial health. Other public figures, like the media, are also leaving the issue alone. There have been only a few, well-deserved calls for an investigation, especially one by the U.S. Justice Department (which so far has refused any comment).

Even Emanuel’s opponent in the April runoff, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, has only promised public comment. How hard can it be to condemn police torture in Chicago? The charges are many and easy to document and have a long history of turning out to be true. Last November, the United Nations Committee Against Torture issued a report on U.S. compliance with torture law that singled out Chicago police violence against young black and Latino people, as well as “excessive use of force” generally used by Chicago police.

Emanuel was expected to win the mayoral election in the first round, outspending his opponents roughly $15 million to $1.3 million. He also had President Obama’s endorsement. He won 45% of the low-turnout vote, with 55% preferring someone else (voting for three other candidates). Now the runoff is one-on-one and the polls (which overrated Emanuel in the first round) are showing him with a small lead or in a dead heat. He seems aware of his vulnerability, having released an apologetic ad saying he’s sorry he rubs people wrong and should maybe listen more and talk less.

Jesus “Chuy” Garcia is three years older than Emanuel (who is 56) and has a longer political career, all of it Illinois, most of it in Chicago. He is a current member of the Cook County Board of Commissioners. He is an established progressive. He was an ally of Chicago Mayor Harold Washington (1983-1987). Garcia’s silence on Chicago police torture is somewhat mystifying, and likely only temporary.

Police: better than mere citizens, above accountability?

In 2012, Mayor Emanuel attempted to expunge a jury verdict that concluded that the Chicago police “code of silence” was a reality. The mayor backed a court motion to vacate the jury verdict and won the support of a woman who had been beaten by a cop, promising to pay her the $850,000 jury award even after the verdict was vacated. Emanuel effectively reached for a code of silence about the “code of silence,” hoping to protect future cops against the consequences of their own brutality. A federal judge rejected the ploy.

The police torture issue is as universal as it is local. The issue cuts deeply. Emanuel is already on the wrong side of it. Even as mild a position as a call for an investigation by the Justice Department would be difficult for traditional Democrats like Emanuel, Obama, Hilary Clinton, and all the rest of the don’t-prosecute-torturers crowd that has become the dominant, anti-democratic wing of the Democratic Party. The defeat of Rahm Emanuel would be at least a momentary check on the smart and soulless drift of the Democratic Party.

Rahm Emanuel is a particularly nasty piece of work as a political being. Why would anyone think it a good idea to be governed by a nasty piece of work? Have American voters learned nothing since 2000, when five nasty pieces of work on the Supreme Court imposed on us a whole nasty piece of work presidency that gave us endless war and debt for which we still pay dearly? Have American voters learned nothing since 2008 when we elected a not-so-nasty piece of work who promptly hired a nasty piece of work as his chief of staff, encouraging the nasty pieces of work in Congress to keep any good from happening – even closing Guantanamo – by any means possible? This collusion of nasty pieces of work prolongs the war crime of Guantanamo, one of America’s nastier pieces of work, preserved in perpetuity as a monument to the depravity of the nasty.

Is that really so hard to say in Chicago, or anywhere the nastiness won’t end if its not confronted?

William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. This article was first published in Reader Supported News. Read other articles by William.