Politics | Bleader | Chicago Reader


Thursday, October 18, 2018

Staffer Ryan Smith says goodbye to the Reader

Posted By on 10.18.18 at 05:15 PM

Bruce Rauner adopts some culturally liberal causes in service of his cruel economic campaign. - RYAN SMITH
  • Ryan Smith
  • Bruce Rauner adopts some culturally liberal causes in service of his cruel economic campaign.

Shortly after Sun-Times Media bought the Reader, CEO Edwin Eisendrath admitted he didn't really know what an "alternative" publication in Chicago had to offer these days. Alternative to what?

In some ways, he had a point. Alt-weeklies have increasingly become a victim of their own success. The countercultural beat of weed, LGBTQ pride, edgy theater, and punk music that once set the alternative press apart have increasingly become permanently etched into mainstream urban life. The entrenched power structures that used to vehemently oppose the rights of gays—Republicans, the police, and the military—now regularly march at Pride parades. Billionaire businessman J.B. Pritzker wants Illinoisians to be able to smoke weed for fun. Riot Fest, punk rock's annual nostalgia fest, doesn't inspire anything resembling a riot.

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Rauner and Pritzker tout government transparency while blocking access to records

Posted By on 10.18.18 at 02:08 PM

J.B. Pritzker and Governor Bruce Rauner debate earlier this month in front of the Sun-Times Editorial Board. - RICH HEIN/CHICAGO SUN-TIMES
  • Rich Hein/Chicago Sun-Times
  • J.B. Pritzker and Governor Bruce Rauner debate earlier this month in front of the Sun-Times Editorial Board.

This story was originally published by ProPublica Illinois.

Since he first entered politics as a candidate five years ago, Illinois governor Bruce Rauner has pledged his commitment to open government.

As he put it during a debate last week with challenger J.B. Pritzker before the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board: "Transparency is great."

As he fights for reelection, making the declaration is a great move on Rauner's part—and an easy one. Voters are demanding more and more information about what their governments are doing with their tax money, and every candidate at every level is wise to speak in favor of sharing it with them.

But what Rauner means when he vows to be transparent isn't so clear, given his administration's habit of fighting against the release of information. The governor's office won't even disclose how often it blocks the release of records sought by the public.

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Monday, October 15, 2018

Where and what to vote for this midterm election in Chicago

Posted By on 10.15.18 at 10:00 PM

  • Jeff Helsel

The spring Democratic primaries may be the hottest elections in Chicago, but there's plenty of action on this midterm ballot too. This November's    election features an opportunity to decide Illinois's next governor and attorney general, Cook County's new tax assessor, and a few contested county commissioner, state legislator, and congressional seats. Plus you can choose whether to retain dozens of judges in our civil and criminal courts.

First things first, however: registration. To vote, you must register. Luckily, you can do this at the polls. If you've never voted in Chicago before, you should bring two forms of identification, one of them with your current address—like a utility bill or a report card. You can find more information about ID requirements for voter registration here. You can vote in Illinois even if you have a felony conviction, by the way.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Making All Black Lives Matter: Barbara Ransby talks politics and protesting in 2018

Posted By on 10.10.18 at 06:00 AM

table at yesterday's book talk.
  • Sign-in table at yesterday's book talk.
Barbara Ransby, a history professor at UIC, author of Making All Black Lives Matter, and one of the keynote speakers for the March to the Polls this Saturday, October 13th, hosted a book talk and discussion panel Tuesday at the SEIU Healthcare headquarters on Halsted. The panel also included Jaquie Algee, a board member and organizer of Women's March Chicago, and Chicago poet and playwright Kristiana Colón, cofounder of #LetUsBreatheCollective and creator of #BlackSexMatters.

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Monday, October 8, 2018

In a face-off against Pritzker, Rauner tries a little Reagan-style voodoo economics

Posted By on 10.08.18 at 06:00 AM

Governor Bruce Rauner and Democratic opponent J.B. Pritzker - WLS-TV CHANNEL 7
  • WLS-TV Channel 7
  • Governor Bruce Rauner and Democratic opponent J.B. Pritzker

They were about 12 minutes into the most recent gubernatorial debate last Wednesday when ABC Seven political reporter Craig Wall asked J.B. Pritzker the tax-rate question.

"Mr. Pritzker," Wall asked, "don’t you think the voters deserve to know how much you intend to raise taxes and what those rates would be?"

Pritzker responded by explaining why he thinks the state needs a progressive or "fair" tax that sets a higher rate for the rich. But he said he wouldn't be settling on rates until he had negotiated a deal with state legislators.

In other words, he ducked Wall's question.

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Friday, October 5, 2018

Indivisible Chicago’s Blue Wave Rave uses improv to mobilize political action

Posted By on 10.05.18 at 06:00 AM

Volunteer sign-in table
  • Volunteer sign-in table
Wednesday night the Athenaeum Theatre hosted the Blue Wave Rave, a free improv show featuring cast members from iO, the Second City, and the Annoyance Theatre and put together by Indivisible Chicago, a coalition of 12 chapters around the city that was created after the 2016 election.

"I spent almost ten years as the CEO of the League of Chicago Theatres, so I know lots of theater folks," says Marj Halperin, the cofounder of the Blue Beginning chapter that meets at the Hideout. She was one of the main organizers of the Blue Wave Rave. "Also, I have this political life where I've managed campaigns and been a volunteer." Halperin got the idea to combine canvassing with improv after attending an event put on by Swing Left, another group that organizes progressives.

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Monday, October 1, 2018

Rauner vs. Kavanaugh—who's the biggest fraud?

Posted By on 10.01.18 at 06:00 AM

What is it with Illinois governors? - JESSICA KOSCIELNIAK/CHICAGO SUN-TIMES
  • Jessica Koscielniak/Chicago Sun-Times
  • What is it with Illinois governors?

As recent events unfold, a pressing question emerges: Who's the bigger fraud, Judge Brett Kavanaugh or Governor Bruce Rauner?

Consider the case for Kavanaugh, Donald Trump's latest Supreme Court nominee. Kavanaugh wants America to believe he's the victim of a massive left-wing conspiracy hatched by the Clintons as payback for the 2016 presidential election.

As opposed to what he really is—a Republican political hack who threw a hissy fit at this week's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing after Christine Blasey Ford, a highly credible psychologist who has nothing to do with the Clintons, accused him of sexual assault.

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Friday, September 28, 2018

Chicago Votes launches Give a Shit Weekend to get young people in Chicago excited about election season

Posted By on 09.28.18 at 04:10 PM

The voter registration table at last night's event
  • The voter registration table at last night's event
Chicago Votes is a nonprofit organization that works toward mobilizing young people to vote. This weekend it's hosting a "Give a Shit Weekend" that includes art shows and installations of various kinds. Last night at Hubbard Inn voter registration and volunteer training was available before, during, and after a fashion show put together by local streetwear brand Runako.

"Our whole premise as an organization is to get more young people involved in politics, but the culture of politics traditionally is pretty boring, pretty old, and pretty white," says Stevie Valles, the executive director of Chicago Votes. "We couldn't take ourselves seriously trying to recruit people from the communities that we're trying to recruit people from." The Give a Shit Weekend is Chicago Votes' way of meeting young people in Chicago halfway.

At last night's event, the room was filled with young creatives, who were registering to vote at the door, and signing up to volunteer before moving onto the bar or the dance floor, where there was a DJ. I saw a couple of baby boomers walk in, their expressions resembling that of Dorothy's when she woke up in Oz. To my surprise, they actually stayed for the duration of the event, which was pretty cool.

The runway, which doubled as a dance floor after the show.
  • The runway, which doubled as a dance floor after the show.
Elijah Runako Boyd, the creator and founder of Runako, draws his inspiration from Chicago. "I'm based [on] the south side of Chicago, and I would say Runako is a direct representation of me and where I come from and my background." He thought getting involved in the Give a Shit Weekend would be an amazing opportunity to get young Chicagoans excited about voting. "Any chance that we get to make a difference [or] a step towards progression is always something that Runako wants to tackle and be a part of." The fashion show reflected Runako's megalocal, community-oriented philosophy with a laid-back energy and friendly models who interacted with the supportive, cheering crowd. They smiled, waved, and sometimes even danced down the runway in bright, shiny mini skirts, crop tops, animal prints, and bold black-and-white patterns.

Elijah Runako and three of his models after the show
  • Elijah Runako and three of his models after the show
This is the first year that Chicago Votes has hosted a Give a Shit Weekend. "This year we're kind of getting a feeler for what we want it to be in the future," says Valles. The event originally started out as an eight-day fashion week but was chiseled down to four days that focus on many different things. "We're doing a fashion show tonight, then an afterparty, then we're doing an art installation tomorrow followed by an afterparty. We're having a Give a Shit happy hour Saturday night in Avondale that's focused on mental health awareness, and then we're having a big party on Sunday night too, that we're not even hosting. We're just showing up to a club and doing voter registration at it. That's what happens when you start trying to blend the worlds. Things just start to happen organically."

Something else that's happening organically is that more well-known artists are being drawn to the initiative as well. "Mick Jenkins is upstairs, I think I saw Taylor Bennett walk in," says Valles. "These things are just kind of happening on their own, we didn't even invite them directly, and that's pretty cool because they have more power than a lot of politicians, and I don't think they really know it." Taylor Bennett later closed out the fashion show, to the surprise of the crowd.

The Give a Shit initiative doesn't stop after this weekend, though. At tonight's event, Chicago Votes is launching the Give a Shit Collective. "It's essentially our creative network," Valles explains. "We're bringing [creatives] into this network that is focused on advancing politics to a younger audience, to their individual audiences, audiences that typically wouldn't engage in politics and we're giving them free-reign to figure out what that would look like. . . . We have a dude that's putting together an album that's centered around politics, we have somebody who's putting together art exhibits." The creatives that make up the Give a Shit Collective range from visual artists and designers to musicians and poets and even the creator of a line of beauty products.

Volunteer sign-up table
  • Volunteer sign-up table
Voter registration is available and encouraged at every event. "Every night we're asking people to register to vote as they sign in and fill out one of our pledge-to-vote cards." By the time I left the event last night, 35 people had registered to vote, including me.

"This is the first night. Tonight seems to be going really well, and it makes sense to hit repeat on things that are going good," Valles says. "Next year, I think there's gonna be more people interested in being a part of it because they've seen it actually happen already."

Give a Shit Weekend Through 9/30: various times and places; see Twitter, @chicagovotes, free, $25 VIP.

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Monday, September 24, 2018

Here's hoping that the myth of the bad teacher is finally laid to rest

Posted By on 09.24.18 at 06:00 AM

Karen Lewis, then-president of the Chicago Teachers Union, speaking at CTU rally outside the Thompson Center, April 1, 2016 - ONE ILLINOIS/TED COX
  • One Illinois/Ted Cox
  • Karen Lewis, then-president of the Chicago Teachers Union, speaking at CTU rally outside the Thompson Center, April 1, 2016

If I'm reading the cards right, 2018 will go down in history as the year the  myth of the bad teacher finally, mercifully, and hopefully was consigned to the dustbin of history.

I say hopefully, because some myths die hard, especially when the powers that be—and that would be you, Governor Rauner—have much to gain by promoting them.

But let's focus on the good news.

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Monday, September 17, 2018

With Bill Daley running for mayor, it’s good to remember what happened the last time we turned Chicago over to the Daleys

Posted By on 09.17.18 at 01:09 AM

  • James Foster/Sun-Times
  • Bill Daley

Just when I thought the mayor's race couldn't get any weirder, into the fray jumps a Daley.

William M., to be exact. As opposed to—well, I'll get to the Daley clan in a bit.

There were already 11 announced candidates when, on September 4, Mayor Emanuel dropped a "Rahm-Shell," as the Sun-Times headline put it, announcing he wouldn't seek reelection.

Now 20 or so relatively high-profile pols—including Toni Preckwinkle, Susana Mendoza, and Jesus "Chuy" Garcia—are talking about running.

If this keeps up, the Tribune may have to rewrite its recent story about how tough it is to run Chicago. If being mayor is so "grueling," how come so many want to do it?

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