Category: Local Politics

Trump hints at declaring martial law in Illinois’s largest city, even though seven cities have higher murder rates

A few hours ago, President Donald Trump took to Twitter and hinted at possibly declaring martial law in Chicago over the city’s high murder rate:

I really don’t know of any presidential powers at Trump’s disposal that could be used in regards to a city having a high murder rate outside of two presidential powers: one would be to declare a state of emergency in Chicago, and the other would be declaring martial law in Chicago. Unlike a state National Guard or a state militia, the President cannot take over a city police force.

States United, part of the Mike Bloomberg-aligned pro-gun control political network that has been known to support far-right Republicans, has a couple of infographics about the actual state of the Chicago murder crisis:

As you can see, guns originally purchased in states like Indiana, and, to a lesser extent, Wisconsin and Mississippi, all three of which have weaker gun safety laws than Illinois does, have played a large role in Chicago’s murder crisis, and seven U.S. cities (St. Louis, Baltimore, Detroit, New Orleans, Cleveland, Newark, and Memphis) all have higher murder rates than Chicago does. Despite the facts, Trump and his Republican allies haven’t hinted at martial law in cities with a higher murder rate than that of Chicago, and Trump and his Republican allies want to make it easier, not harder, for people to take guns across state lines.

While murder is a serious problem in this country, declaring martial law is going to do absolutely nothing to solve the murder crisis of Chicago or any other city.

We now have a competitive Democratic gubernatorial primary to celebrate the Illinois bicentennial

Next year, Illinois will celebrate the 200th anniversary of our state gaining statehood, and, as a proud Illinois Democrat, there is no better way to celebrate our state’s bicentennial than a fight for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party of Illinois. Well, we’ve officially got one, and it’s in the Democratic primary for governor:

“I am running because we’ve gotten to a point in this country where wealth worship is the only qualifier for public office, trumping public policy. Chopping benefits or declaring strategic bankruptcy or selling companies off in pieces for profit is somehow seen as the secret ingredient for an Illinois utopia,” said (Ameya) Pawar.

Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar is officially running for the Democratic nomination for Governor of Illinois, joining businessman and former University of Illinois Board Chairman Christopher G. Kennedy, who intends to formally launch a gubernatorial bid later this month. CGK and Ameya are probably not going to be alone:

Does Pawar have the wherewithal to go up against the potential primary election cash of Democratic billionaires (Chris Kennedy & JB Pritzker)? Or to take on, maybe, a couple of state senators (Kwame Raoul & Andy Manar), a pair of congresswomen (Robin Kelly & Cheri Bustos) or an Attorney General named Madigan?

A note to gubernatorial candidates and potential gubernatorial candidates: don’t ask me if I want to be your lieutenant-gubernatorial running mate, because the answer is going to be no, and I’m currently serving a two-year term, which includes the spring 2018 primary, as an election judge in Vermilion County.

The 2016 Order of The Progressive Midwesterner Awards

As 2016 comes to a close, I hereby present the 2016 Order of The Progressive Midwesterner Awards. The Person of the Year will earn a spot on the list of members of the Order of The Progressive Midwesterner. Starting in 2017, listings of individuals on the list of recipients of the Order of The Progressive Midwesterner will become separate from the Order of The Progressive Midwesterner Awards.

PERSON OF THE YEAR – JENNIFER WEISS-WOLF

2016 was, all around, an awful year for progressives, both in the United States and worldwide. However, one bright spot in progressive advocacy is Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, a women’s rights advocate from New York City. Weiss-Wolf’s advocacy for increased access to feminine hygiene products in public restrooms and advocacy for abolition of sales taxes on tampons and other feminine hygiene products has earned her support for her ideas from Democrats and even a few Republicans. States like New York and Illinois have eliminated sales taxes on tampon thanks to Weiss-Wolf’s advocacy, and Weiss’s hometown of New York City has mandated that tampons be made freely available in public restrooms of city schools, jails, and shelters. Jennifer Weiss-Wolf is the ProgMid Person of the Year for 2016.

ELECTED OFFICIAL OF THE YEAR – BERNIE SANDERS

For the second time in consecutive years, Sanders, who represents Vermont in the U.S. Senate and unsuccessfully ran for the Democratic presidential nomination this year, is the recipient of a ProgMid award. Although Sanders didn’t win his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination and isn’t technically a Democrat, he has had a significant and largely positive impact on the Democratic Party. Sanders successfully pushed to make the national Democratic Party platform, which is non-binding for Democratic candidates, more progressive than in previous years and decades. Sanders helped bring progressive policies like making higher education truly affordable, single-payer health insurance, and expanding Social Security into the American political mainstream, even though none of those ideas will be enacted in the near future, at least at a national level. Furthermore, Sanders’s candidacy has led to the creation of the DNC’s Unity Commission, which will examine potential reforms to the Democratic presidential nomination process for the 2020 presidential election and future presidential elections after 2020. For his advocacy for progressive ideals and his efforts to improve the Democratic Party, Bernie Sanders is the ProgMid Elected Official of the Year for 2016.

ATHLETE OF THE YEAR – LILLY KING

While 2016 was a banner year for the far-right Vladimir Putin regime in Russia, one thing that did not go well for Russia this year was their performance in the Games of the XXXI Olympiad in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Russia sent considerably fewer athletes to Rio than originally planned after the Putin regime was caught running a large-scale doping operation. Even worse for the Russians, they were completely embarrassed by Lilly King of the United States, who, after publicly criticizing Russia’s Yuliya Yefimova for doping, defeated Yefimova in the pool for the gold medal in the women’s 100m breaststroke swimming event. King was also a member of the U.S. team that won gold in the women’s 4 x 100m medley relay in Rio. For continuing the time-honored tradition of Americans defeating Russians in international sport, and for promoting ethical competition in sport, Lilly King is the ProgMid Athlete of the Year for 2016.

PLACE OF THE YEAR – REPUBLIC OF AUSTRIA

While the far-right has gained significant ground worldwide, Austria is, to an extent, an exception. Austrians rejected a far-right presidential candidate not once, but twice, in 2016. In the first of effectively two presidential elections held in Austria in 2016, left-leaning European federalist candidate Alexander Van der Bellen received more votes than far-right fascist candidate Norbert Hofer in a runoff election after no candidate received an outright majority of the vote in the first round of the first election. However, the Constitutional Court of Austria annulled the runoff results because Hofer complained of election irregularities, resulting in the runoff being re-held. Voters gave Van der Bellen an even larger majority in the re-run of the runoff, and Hofer finally conceded. For rejecting a fascist would-be head of state not once, but twice, in the same year, the Republic of Austria is the ProgMid Place of the Year for 2016.

 

CONCEPT OF THE YEAR – POLITICAL RESISTANCE

As I’m sure that virtually everybody who reads this blog knows, Republican Donald Trump won this year’s presidential election despite winning a minority of the national popular vote. Not surprisingly, I’ve seen more than a few people on the left, and even many establishment Democrats, call for a non-violent political resistance to the incoming Trump Administration. With a barrage of right-wing federal legislation likely to be enacted starting early next year, progressives are going to expect resistance from the Democratic minorities in both houses of Congress. Political resistance is the ProgMid Concept of the Year for 2016.

The proposed Danville, Illinois beltline would be a road to nowhere

danville-beltline
Approximate map of proposed Danville, Illinois Beltline (proposed route is in red and hand-written on a Google Maps printout)

One potential road-building proposal that could receive federal funding from any kind of federal infrastructure bill that could be passed with either Republican or bipartisan support in the Donald Trump era of American politics is an eastern one-quarter beltline highway around the city of Danville, Illinois, which has been proposed for many years:

The originally studied beltline was for a highway to bypass the city on the east side to connect Interstate 74 with Illinois Route 1 north of Danville.

The proposed beltline route, to run parallel to Bowman Avenue but farther east, ran from West Newell Road, hooking south on Bowman Avenue, going east on Poland Road and then turning south through farm fields, east of the railroad tracks east of the airport, stretching south between Daisy Lane and Brewer Road and hooking up with Interstate 74 and Perrysville Road.

The Federal Highway Administration approved construction of a new Interstate 74 interchange between the Bowman and Lynch Road exits years ago.

Some residents have voiced concerns in the past about the beltline’s need and the potential to hurt existing businesses, the impacts on their properties and increased noise and traffic.

It’s possible that U.S. Route 136 (US-136) and/or Illinois Route 1 (IL-1) could be realigned from their current routing in Danville to the new beltline, or, more likely, to a more feasible reconstruction of Bowman Avenue that would involve the construction of overpasses over railroads along the route. If IL-1 is rerouted to Bowman Avenue, it’s not clear how such an alignment of IL-1 would connect to the current IL-1 alignments leading to places like Rossville and Hoopeston to the north and Westville and Georgetown to the south. Another, even less likely, possibility is that part of the proposed beltline connecting to, and north of, Interstate 74 would be built to Interstate Highway standards and become part of an eastern extension of Interstate 72 running from its intersection with Interstate 57 in Champaign, Illinois to Toledo, Ohio via Lafayette, Indiana and Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Danville doesn’t really have a high enough population nowadays to support another suburban-type development like what already exists along North Vermilion Street in the northern part of the city or along Lynch Road near the Indiana border. As a result, I don’t think there would be a ton of traffic along the proposed Danville beltline, meaning there probably will not be a lot of economic development opportunity. The proposed Danville beltline could end up being a road to nowhere.

I hope that any new federal infrastructure legislation goes primarily towards rebuilding existing bridges that are crumbling and/or obsolete, not gaudy new highway developments or, even worse, private infrastructure like oil pipelines.

Email shows that Green Bay (WI) city clerk denied easier access to early voting to college students because they vote for Democrats

A recently-released email shows that Kris Teske (who is female), the city clerk of Green Bay, Wisconsin who was appointed to the office by Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt, had blatantly partisan motives in denying easier access to early voting to students at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay:

Green Bay’s city clerk asked state officials if she could rebuff a request to put an early voting site on the UW-Green Bay campus because, in her words, “students lean more toward the democrats,” a newly released email shows.

The email, first reported Tuesday by The Nation Magazine, was from Green Bay City Clerk Kris Teske, an appointee of the city’s mayor, Jim Schmitt.

Schmitt describes himself as nonpartisan. He was considered for a post in Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s Cabinet, and records show he contributed to the campaigns of Republican lawmakers.

Note that “Democrats” was misspelled by Teske; the first letter is capitalized, since the name of a specific political party is capitalized due to being a proper noun.

For voters in Green Bay, only one early voting (in Wisconsin, the term “in-person absentee voting” is used to officially describe early voting) site is available for the entire city at Green Bay City Hall. Google Maps estimates that the drive time from the UWGB campus to City Hall is 12 minutes, and the quickest route involves the use of an Interstate highway, meaning that the early voting site is not easily accessible by those without a motor vehicle. Google Maps estimates that, via a route that one can legally walk or ride a bicycle on, it would take 28 minutes to ride a bicycle from UWGB to City Hall or 1 hour and 46 minutes to walk from UWGB to City Hall.

It’s clear to me that Green Bay, Wisconsin city officials want to make it harder for college students to vote because the Republican economic policies of Donald Trump, Ron Johnson, Mike Gallagher, and their right-wing cohorts are absolutely awful for them.

In 2011 email, Bruce Rauner made false, racist claim about Chicago public school teachers

In a 2011 email to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other people seeking to dismantle the Chicago public school system, Republican Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner claimed that half of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) teachers are “virtually illiterate”.

Not only is that an absurdly false claim about public K-12 teachers in our state’s largest city, it’s also a flagrantly racist one.

According to the CPS website, 50.3% of CPS teachers are white, and the race/ethnicity of 1.7% of CPS teachers is unknown. That means that 48% of CPS teachers are of a known ethnic minority. I’m very convinced that Rauner was referring to non-white CPS teachers as “virtually illiterate”.

The latest email release from Rahm’s administration in Chicago has proven that Rauner is a total racist who thinks that minority teachers are illiterate, and that the Rahm-Rauner agenda to destroy public education in Illinois is motivated by racism. The truth of the matter is that public school teachers in Illinois, whether it be in Chicago or another part of our great state, are intelligent, functionally literate, and do a great job of educating our state’s children.

Three Wisconsin endorsements for the August primaries

On August 9 of this year, Wisconsin voters will go to the polls to vote on candidates running in partisan primaries for both houses of Congress, seats in the Wisconsin State Legislature (all State Assembly districts and even-numbered State Senate districts), and many county-level offices that are elected on a partisan ballot.

I’ve already endorsed Russ Feingold in the U.S. Senate Democratic primary, Sarah Lloyd in the 6th Congressional District Democratic primary, and Jimmy Anderson in the 47th State Assembly District Democratic primary. In three other contested Democratic primaries in Wisconsin, I hereby announce endorsements.

3rd Congressional District – Myron Buchholz

I proudly endorse Myron Buchholz, who is running in the Democratic primary against incumbent U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D-La Crosse). I wrote this blog post when Buchholz entered the race, but now I formally endorse Buchholz. Myron Buchholz is a strong progressive who will oppose any unjustified war, even if a Democratic president wants to lead our troops into a full-scale unjustified war. Ron Kind, on the other hand, is a corporate Democrat who supports the NRA’s agenda of proliferating guns into every part of American society. Furthermore, Buchholz opposes international trade deals, such as President Obama’s proposed Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), which is supported by corporate Democrats like President Obama and Congressman Kind, but would result in tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of U.S. jobs being moved to low-wage countries like Vietnam. Buchholz believes in protecting America’s economy, not allowing foreign countries to take our jobs.

4th State Senate District – Mandela Barnes

I proudly endorse Mandela Barnes, who is running in the Democratic primary against incumbent State Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee). Lena Taylor is probably the most right-wing Democrat in the Wisconsin State Legislature, being a supporter of the NRA’s gun proliferation agenda, a supporter of giving taxpayer money to religious schools, and a political ally of Scott Walker. Mandela Barnes, who was named after the late, great South African leader Nelson Mandela, is obviously more progressive than Lena.

Dane County District Attorney – Ismael Ozanne

I proudly endorse Ismael Ozanne, who is seeking re-election for the job of top prosecutor in Wisconsin’s most progressive county. Ozanne is facing a primary challenge from Bob Jambois, a close ally of State Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha). Jambois is from Kenosha County, which is nearly 50 miles from Dane County (measured as distance between Cambridge, Wisconsin and Genoa City, Wisconsin), and Jambois is a former Kenosha County District Attorney. Jambois is a carpetbagger and not a native Dane County resident.

Republicans in Wisconsin and Missouri disrespect the American flag

On June 14, 1777, exactly two years to the day of the founding of what is now known as U.S. Army, the Second Continental Congress officially adopted the first version of the national flag of the United States of America. In 1916, then-President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation declaring June 14 to be Flag Day.

Sadly, some politicians have used Flag Day to disgrace the American flag.

First off, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a Republican, sent out a Flag Day tweet featuring a 48-star flag, which hasn’t been in official use since July 3, 1959:

The U.S. flag has officially featured 50 stars since July 4, 1960, the first Independence Day since Hawaii became the most recent state to join the Union.

Even more disgraceful, in my opinion, was a decision by two of the three members of the Republican-controlled Cole County, Missouri commission to not lower the U.S. flag on county grounds to half-mast, as ordered by the president to commemorate the terrorist attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Cole County, Missouri includes Jefferson City, which is Missouri’s state capital:

Following this weekend’s shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, President Obama ordered that, “as a mark of respect for the victims,” the United States flag be flown at half-staff “upon all public buildings and grounds” through the end of the day Thursday. Officials in Cole County, Missouri decided this didn’t apply to them.

The three-member commission that governs the county voted 2-1 against lowering the flag. “We (the commission) still have control over how the flags are displayed,” Commissioner Jeff Hoelscher (R) told the Jefferson City News Tribune. “Lowering it too much takes away from the honor. I feel for these victims and for their families, but I don’t feel this was a time for the flag to be lowered.”

Commissioner Kris Scheperle (R) similarly suggested that the Orlando shooting just doesn’t rise to the occasion. “I want to honor those who have served our country,” he said, “but we can’t lower it for every event like this that occurs. I do feel for those who were gunned down, but I don’t think it warrants lowering the flag.”

After public outcry, the Cole County commissioners decided to reverse their original decision and obey the president’s orders to lower the U.S. flag to half-staff after all.

While America celebrates our national flag, Republicans are busy disgracing our flag.

Madison, Wisconsin replaces every single lead pipe in the city

Madison, Wisconsin, the second-largest city in Wisconsin, did something incredible with their water supply. They replaced every single lead pipe in the city’s water system in response to the lead concentration in the water supply being one part per billion over the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) limit for lead concentration in the water:

Long before Flint, Mich., faced a water-contamination crisis, this city dealt with one of its own. The local utility had sampled residents’ tap water in accordance with the federal government’s new Lead and Copper Rule and discovered unacceptable levels of lead.

But Madison’s response was like hitting a gnat with a sledgehammer. It was so aggressive that only one other major municipality in the United States has followed its approach so far. It’s also why some people now call Madison the anti-Flint, a place where water problems linked to the toxic substance simply couldn’t happen today.

Madison residents and businesses dug out and replaced their lead pipes — 8,000 of them. All because lead in their water had been measured at 16 parts per billion — one part per billion over the Environmental Protection Agency’s standard.

Although the federal government defines lead contamination of water as the lead concentration level in water being over 15 parts per billion, no level of lead in water is safe. Madison has proved yet again why it’s America’s most forward-thinking city.

Bernie is still fighting for public education in Chicago

Even though Illinois held its primaries over a month ago, Bernie is still fighting for public education here in Illinois.

Recently, the Rahm Emanuel-controlled Chicago School Board removed Troy LaRaviere from his post as principal of Blaine Elementary School in Chicago because he was a vocal critic of Rahm and his agenda to destroy public education in Chicago. Bernie is standing up for LaRivere:

Bernie has NEVER, in his entire lifetime, given up on progressives and progressive causes. Why should he give up his presidential campaign because because a bunch of party bosses don’t believe that states that haven’t yet voted in a Democratic presidential primary or caucus should be able to choose between multiple candidates who are actually campaigning for their votes?