Chicago Public Schools’ perennial funding woes have occupied headlines since time immemorial, but recently, the bad news seems to be increasing in both quantity and severity. Recently, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Forrest Claypool, his CPS CEO, were forced to walk back statements that CPS schools would close weeks early if the state did not provide more money after a judge threw out their last-ditch lawsuit claiming the state’s public school formula is racially discriminatory. CPS was forced to take out a $389 million high-interest loan to keep schools open, which some aldermen compared to a “payday loan” and does not even entirely fill the budget gap. On top of that, the district is attempting to wring another $467 million it says the state owes it to make its pension payment next month, facing yet another bond rating downgrade if it does not make the payment.
In mid-March, the New York Times published a warm profile of Theaster Gates’s new exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., describing his creations as “monumental structures that echo abstract canvases elsewhere in the institution, but are embedded with unsung stories of black laborers and entrepreneurs.” Part of the piece also detailed how Gates’s Rebuild Foundation, a nonprofit organization that aims at neighborhood and community revitalization through arts-related projects, had acquired the dismantled pieces of the gazebo in Cleveland where twelve-year-old Tamir Rice was killed by a police officer in November 2014. Rebuild would use the pieces, the article said, to create a memorial for Rice later this year at the Stony Island Arts Bank, the organization’s South Shore home and exhibition space.
On Saturday morning, the sound of honking cars echoed up and down 79th Street. Passersby were responding to a group of young people waving signs reading “Free Prayer” and “We Believe,” as part of the Prayer on the 9 prayer line and peace march.
Of the 150 individuals who attended the first Washington Park Summit on April 1, only fourteen actually lived in the neighborhood, according to the Hyde Park Herald. Cecilia Butler, longtime Washington Park resident and president of the Washington Park Resident’s Advisory Council, called the meeting “insulting” due to the lack of notice given to neighborhood residents. An event posted on the neighborhood bulletin website EveryBlock did not appear until less than a week before the event.
In the airy hall of the South Shore Cultural Center (SSCC), the audience screamed with excitement when former president Barack Obama walked in with the first renderings of the planned Obama Presidential Center (OPC) in Jackson Park on May 3. The OPC is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for investment in the South Side—and the audience had reason to be excited, as the former president, with his usual charisma, introduced a “transformational” plan that’s supposed to revitalize the nearby neighborhoods with employment, training, and business opportunities.
On Monday, the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Institute for Research on Race & Public Policy (IRRPP) released “A Tale of Three Cities: The State of Racial Justice in Chicago Report,” a study that analyzes disparities in housing, economics, education, justice, and health between Black, Latinx, and white communities in Chicago. Using robust quantitative evidence from a variety of sources, each section delves deep into the history, causes, and consequences of these racial and ethnic inequities that “remain pervasive, persistent, and consequential” in Chicago’s institutions and neighborhoods.”
Last week the New York Times came to Chicago to host a two-hour conversation about the city’s gun violence crisis. The event, “Chicago at a Crossroads,” was announced as an attempt to “work to turn the tide of violence” by “exploring realistic, promising strategies” and starting “provocative discussions.” It was produced in collaboration with the University of Chicago Crime Lab, which works with the Chicago Police Department to study patterns in the city’s violence though data analysis, and sponsored by, among other entities, Chase Bank. “Too many people are dying in Chicago. Let’s change that,” John Eligon, one of the Times reporters who hosted the conversation, wrote on Twitter in advance of the event.
The University of Chicago announced on January 26 that over the course of this year, the nonprofit South East Chicago Commission (SECC) will gain considerable independence from the university. Much of the SECC’s university funding will be cut, and the university will no longer be able to appoint or approve the organization’s board members. According to both parties, the move reflects the SECC’s need to reevaluate its direction as an organization.
When Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced in 2013 the closing of nearly fifty Chicago public schools, he attempted to address the concerns regarding student safety by calling for the expansion of the Safe Passage program. First launched in 2009, Safe Passage is a combination of programs that harnessed community involvement to ensure the safety of students traveling to and from school. The program enacts stronger punishments for the possession of guns, ammunition, and other dangerous weapons in designated Safe Passage routes and school safety zones. These routes linked closed schools and the “welcoming” schools that students were redirected into in 2013; the school safety zones cover 1,000 feet around any school and public park within the area.