Notes for 10/24/18

The Politics of the Possible

While Chance the Rapper and Kanye West made headlines with their support for Amara Enyia this past week, two lesser-known but still influential Chicagoans lent their lefty cred to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. 35th Ward Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa and 39th District State Representative Will Guzzardi, who both represent parts of Logan Square, stood with Preckwinkle at the neighborhood’s Blue Line station and praised her for adopting a “bold progressive agenda.” Preempting the inevitable backlash from his progressive base, Rosa pointed out that Preckwinkle has agreed to a platform with some key progressive stances, including a fifteen dollar minimum wage, lifting the ban on rent control, and eliminating the Welcoming City carve outs which allow local law enforcement to collaborate with ICE. Still, this is a puzzling move for Rosa and Guzzardi. Until this point they had both seemed like genuine independents and progressive upstarts, not beholden to the old Democratic machinery. Now they’ve closed ranks behind Preckwinkle, who is about as machine as any candidate can be without having the last name Daley.

Maybe they’ve chosen the pragmatic path: choose a “viable” candidate and move her left. Still, it seems like they left some money on the table by lending their endorsement so soon. And besides, young progressives aren’t supposed to be pragmatic. They’re supposed to imagine beyond what the political establishment has to offer. Chance the Rapper summed this up nicely when he endorsed Enyia at his press conference last week: “Chicago politics is about people knowing what’s possible.” Guzzardi and Rosa could have led the charge to make new progressive leadership possible. Instead they’ve fallen prey to the old guard.

The Mortality Gap

Last week, the Illinois Department of Public Health released a shocking report which analyzed, among other things, the deaths of over ninety-three women who died in 2015 within one year of pregnancy. While the report found thirty-six of those deaths were in fact pregnancy-related, the wider findings showed a disturbing racial disparity in pregnancy-related deaths: non-Hispanic Black women were six times as likely to die from pregnancy-related issues as white women. “Clearly [this report] begs for action,” Shannon Lightner, a public health official, told the Tribune. Indeed—especially considering many of the deaths were likely due to racial profiling and assumptions of drug use. The committee that compiled the report is working to release recommendations for doctors and patients alike, but for now all they can do is encourage women to see a doctor regularly, educate themselves, and hope for the best.

Big Charter Gears Up for a Fight

With charter school booster Mayor Rahm Emanuel not running for reelection, and many regular Democrat alderman facing challengers from the left, the future of charter schools in Chicago could well be hanging in the air. In response to these threats, pro-charter forces are getting ready to jump into the municipal election cycle, Chalkbeat Chicago reported last week. The Illinois Network for Charter Schools (INCS) Action PAC plans to give “millions” of dollars to mayoral and aldermanic candidates, whom it declined to name. In municipal elections, especially ward-level aldermanic races, the money could greatly increase a candidate’s chances of winning (unless it backfires in a particularly public school-supportive ward). Though City Council has no direct oversight of CPS, these charter-funded aldermen could push the mayor and the mayoral-appointed Board of Education, to expand the footprint of charter schools in Chicago. Advocates say this would draw more students and resources away from the open enrollment neighborhood schools, which anchor their communities.

Though INCS Action claimed that it is looking for candidates “with different positions” on the issue, the group’s history, and the fraught future of charters, makes it difficult to believe they are as ambiguous on the issue as they say.

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