All posts by alexortiz

Mount Greenwood protests a microcosm of national division on police brutality

By Alex Ortiz

During the afternoon of Nov. 20, a group of some 15 protesters walked down a closed off streets at Kedzie Avenue and 111th Street in Mount Greenwood on the city’s far southwestern edge. It was a cool but clear day — perfect  for a large demonstration. Residents looked on while standing on their front lawns. Many had confused faces, while others shook their heads disapprovingly. Continue reading

Women, and racial and sexual minorities don’t feel welcome, U of C climate survey says

By Alex Ortiz

The University of Chicago made national headlines in August when it declared the campus a trigger-warning-free zone, igniting a national debate about the lack safe spaces for marginalized students. Now, a newly released campus climate survey validates the feeling of many that the campus’ racial climate is, indeed, rife with racism, sexism and intolerant of people with disabilities. Continue reading

Immigrant community finds way forward after election

By Alex Ortiz

“I couldn’t tell them that things were going to be OK,” Jose Muñoz recalls as he and undocumented students watched election night returns Nov. 8 in Pilsen. “All I could tell them was that we are there to support them.”

Students gathered at Resurrection Project that night hoping for an altogether different result than the election of a presidential candidate, who has repeatedly promised to deport undocumented residents, including college students who sought sanctuary under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).  As the night went on and they realized Donald Trump was, indeed, the president-elect, Muñoz, vice president of community ownership, consoled one of the undocumented students who cried.
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Behind the surge: Young Latinos can’t vote but urge others to do so

By Alex Ortiz 

Inside a Target in suburban Bolingbrook, about seven volunteers call hundreds of eligible voters urging them to the polls Tuesday, even though, at 14 to 17, these young Latinas can’t vote themselves.

“We’re not just sitting around and saying ‘Oh we don’t want this president,’” said Claudia Garcia, 14, a junior high schooler. “We just want to make a difference and want more people to vote.”
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Chicago City Council Progressive Caucus holds town hall on 2017 budget

By Alex Ortiz

If all politics are local, then a City Council Progressive Caucus town hall at Malcolm X College Thursday mirrored issues driving the national election conversation. Residents punctuated two main topics: child care access and jobs.

“We’re just looking for more funding in that area,” said April Drayton, a childcare professional from Morgan Park, speaking on behalf of working parents negatively impacted by Legislative cuts to the Illinois Child Care Assistance Program. “And to renegotiate the guidelines again so that families can return and so that children can have that care that they need and be able to be educated for kindergarten to eighth grade.”

Cuts to the program for affordable daycare for low-income working families has resulted in 50,000 fewer children are in childcare, according to the Service Employees International Union. Even with readjustments to program funding by the state and city, many childcare businesses have closed.

Beyond those issues, seven members of the caucus sought to hear constituent concerns for the City Council’s 2017 budget consideration.

“We need a budget that does not harm working families and that ask the very wealthy and big corporations to pay their fair share,” said Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd). “We want to make sure your voices are heard. We need you to have our backs as we continue to fight for progressive budgets for the City of Chicago.”

The Progressive Caucus has proposed three plans to “generate revenue fairly and more effectively”:

  1. To reform Tax Increment Financing (TIF) to make sure taxpayer money isn’t handed out to developers and big corporations over the interests of children and schools.
  2. To implement a stormwater stress tax on big box stores and other large stressors on the city’s sewer system.
  3. To regulate big rideshare corporations like Uber and Lyft to ensure transparency about their impact on the environment and economy, and are paying their fair share in taxes.

Of nearly 30 residents who spoke, nearly 10 of them were crossing guards. The 2016 budget transferred the city’s crossing guards from the police department to the Office of Emergency Management and Communications. Since then, the crossing guards have seen issues with communication and covering missed shifts, which has led to unguarded street corners.

“OEMC has no infrastructure for this,” said Elizabeth Burnside, a crossing guard from Jefferson Park. “They have no management skills and they’re sure not [communicating]. They’ve gutted the program essentially. We are all fearing that worse is going to come.”

The emergency management office generally deals with large crowds during community events and traffic control, and Burnside argued that as the newest members of the department, OEMC is not familiar with how crossing guards work. She said that OEMC doesn’t know how to handle problems crossing guards deal with, and they have not been given direct supervisors where they can report problems. That has led to unmanned street corners when children go to and from school on busy streets, crossing potentially dangerous intersections.

Other issues addressed included community policing, the quality of new police hires and a lack of CTA access on the city’s South Side.

Photo at top: Chicago Police crossing guard Tommy J. Khalid helps kids cross the street in 2011 in Buena Park. (Ronnie Reese/MEDILL)

Looming state budget cuts set up cultural clash at centers for students of color

By Alex Ortiz

Brittney Hopgood graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2014 with a degree in industrial design. The high point? Getting a part-time job as a African-American Cultural Center marketing assistant. She had struggled to find an internship within her major to gain experience, and there, she found opportunity — and context — as a black student.

Hopgood soaked up the center’s cultural programming and got to help plan exhibits like an black artwork showcase. She says cultural centers help students of color avoid getting lost in the maze of being in a mostly white institution. Higher education funding cuts now put these centers in peril.
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A vote of faith: Converting Latinos to registered voters

By Alex Ortiz

Just before the end of 1:30 p.m. mass at St. Agnes of Bohemia in Little Village Sunday, the congregation participated in a blessing for the Society of St. Toribio Romo, named for the patron saint of immigrants. The group is on a mission —  not to convert others to the faith — but to turn followers into voters.

Their neon yellow shirts read “Tu voto es poder. Hazlo por mi,” Spanish for “Your vote is power. Do it for me.” About 20 members aim to convince neighbors to get registered and have their voices heard.

“We know that it’s important to get out the vote,” said Rita Aguilar, an organizer for the 6-year-old organization that advocates for immigration reform in Little Village and Pilsen. While they have been frustrated by the lack of progress on immigration policy, they still see the 2016 election as an important opportunity. “Those who cannot vote need the voices and those votes of those who can vote.”
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