On stopping violent crime in Chicago

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On any day given day, you can turn on the news and hear stories about the violence, crime, and tragedies in Chicago. What is missing from that narrative is that those neighborhoods are not just buildings and bullets, but they are filled with families and people who are faced with harsh realities like being afraid to walk to the park and trauma of losing loved ones to violence.

While the root causes of the violence are complex, the outcome has been the same...death, fear and suffering for people that want to thrive and live in a safe community. There have been solutions proposed from multiple stakeholders at many levels of government, but it seems that our elected officials have not done what is necessary to stem the tide of violence; often leaving our most vulnerable community members to make impossible choices about life and death for their families.

It is in the spirit of community engagement that we seek to capture stories from people like you on how the violence in the city has affected their neighborhoods, and to gather input on what types of changes they would like to see implemented by our elected officials to stop the violence and to provide help for our people. We want to lift up the voices of everyday community members, and make sure that the people most affected by these issues are included in all conversations about the violence and let our elected officials know that our communities have the wisdom and strength to come up with solutions for their neighborhoods.

We are asking folks to answer this brief questionnaire about what is happening in their neighborhoods. This is your chance to tell your story, and to be a part of the process that brings forth solutions to the problems that affect us.

In Solidarity,
Action Now

 

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Action Now member Anthony Edwards

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What neighborhood do you live in?

South Shore

How long have you been a member of Action Now?

I joined Action Now in 2010

What made you get involved?

It was the late Hueron Wilks, a good brother and former organizer, that reached out to me because he'd heard I had concerns about the education system in Chicago. He invited me to attend a meeting on the South Side. He taught me that I didn't have to stand by while things were happening, and that I had the power to make changes and help people in my community.

What do you hope to accomplish with Action Now?

I am hopeful that I can do my part to help bring "a little bit of justice" to my community. What Action Now has done for me is shown me that I can open up and speak out on the things that matter to me, and that I can use my loud voice to advocate for people who might not know that they too can affect great change in our neighborhoods.

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Action Now Executive Director Katelyn Johnson supports raising the wage in Illinois

 

imageedit_1_5797699049.jpgThis week, Action Now joined State Rep. Will Guzzardi, local organizations and other community members to introduce new legislation to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour here in Illinois.

We need your help right now to give this bill the best shot of becoming law. Send a letter to Labor & Commerce Committee Chairperson Rep. Jay Hoffman.

As many of you know, raising the wage is an issue that is very close to my heart.

I am happy to have been in this fight since the beginning. We have seen prices rise along with productivity, but wages have remained stagnant. Taxpayers are subsidizing the big corporations because their workers rely on taxpayer funded support programs (SNAP, welfare, etc) while the employers are making billions in profits. Corporate welfare is killing our economy and our families!

Meanwhile the service sector is growing, with more people building careers in this field. But make no mistake, this is not just about fast food work or retail workers. This is also about a recognition that "a rising tide lifts all boats". If we raise the wage-floor, it means earnings for all workers will go up, across all sectors.

It's time to raise the minimum wage and allow workers to make enough money to support their families and get the economy moving again!

We need you to send a letter right now to make sure the $15 minimum wage bill gets out of committee. The corporations that profit by paying poverty wages are going to use all of their resources to fight against this legislation, and we can't sit by and do nothing. 

Click here to send a letter to Commerce Committee Chairperson Jay Hoffman. 

Make your voice heard in the fight for a living wage in Illinois. With your help, we can make sure workers throughout Chicago and the state get the wages they so desperately need.

In Solidarity, 
Katelyn Johnson, 
Executive Director
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Statement on lack of charges against Chicago Police officer in Bettie Jones and Quintonio LeGrier shooting


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                                                                                                
 
 Contact: Katelyn Johnson
Action Now rejects State's Attorney's decision
Prosecutors need to provide answers to community 
 
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office has declined to bring charges against Chicago Police Officer Robert Rialmo in the fatal shooting of Quintonio LeGrier and Bettie Jones on December 26, 2015. The State’s Attorney’s Office said there is “insufficient evidence” concerning the officer-involved shooting. We at Action Now reject the State’s Attorney’s Office’s conclusion and are disappointed in the decision not to prosecute the officer.

The recent Department of Justice findings of glaring failures in investigating cases of misconduct by the Chicago Police Department are further proof of the long-held belief that justice is being denied to people who have been violated by police officers. The State’s Attorney’s office has the power to investigate and prosecute police misconduct despite the lack of accountability within the police department. A failure on the part of the county’s investigative arm to provide justice for former Action Now member Bettie Jones’s and Quintonio Legrier's families is ample reason for our communities to distrust those in power to protect them.

“This is frustrating and beyond discouraging.  There is no reason why these two community members should have died, other than police negligence. State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and the State’s Attorney’s Office will have to do much better if they are ever going to earn long-term trust of community members,” said Katelyn Johnson, Executive Director of Action Now.

Despite this disappointing decision, Action Now members invite Kim Foxx to speak with us about her plans to build trust between the community and the State’s Attorney’s Office. We are eager to share our ideas with her on moving forward withcommunity-based plans to hold police officers accountable for misconduct. 

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Statement on minimum wage 'grand bargain' in IL Senate Bill 2

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                                                                                                
 
 Contact: Katelyn Johnson
No Bargain for Illinois Workers
Senate Bill 2 Needs to Do Better

Illinois workers are falling farther and farther behind because of stagnant wages. For years, Action Now has been part of a coalition that has sought a living wage for Illinois. This has meant working with groups across the state who have been concerned about the rising inequality here that has accompanied fiscal crisis after fiscal crisis. We see the Fight for $15 as the answer. And that's why we believe that Senate Bill 2, currently being considered as part of the so-called "grand bargain" package does not honor our principles and is, in fact, a significant step back, as written.

 Locking in a wage floor of $11 by 2020 does not go far enough in dealing with the problem of inequality. Currently, more than 41 percent of all workers in Illinois earn less than $15 per hour. Setting that as the standard for 2020 is a reasonable and phased-in solution. Across the country, state and local governments have felt the same. This could be our moment.

SB 2 also pre-empts places like Cook County and the City of Chicago from raising wages on their own. Given the significantly higher costs of food, transportation and housing in these communities, it is a major step back to take away their local government's ability to respond to the needs of their workers. And the idea of "pre-emption" and erosion of home rule also brings with it the types of insult to racial justice that are so abundantly evident in places like Flint, Mich.

"The fact of the matter is that Illinois is overdue for a reasonable wage of at least $15 per hour. There are too many working families struggling to get by to continue to compromise on doing what is fair and what is right", said Katelyn Johnson, Executive Director of Action Now

Simply put, we can't support SB 2 as it's written. If this is supposed to be the "progressive" part of the "grand bargain," it needs to do a lot better. A $15 wage floor and eliminating pre-emption is the place to start.

Action Now is a part of a coalition of organizations including Fight for $15, Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, Chicago Coalition of the Homeless, and Centro de Trabajadores Unidos, fighting for working families and a minimum $15 per hour living wage.

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Action Now board member Alvesta Sanders

 

                                                                                                                                 

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What neighborhood do you live in?

Englewood

How long have you been a member of Action Now?

Since 2008.

What made you get involved?

An organizer spoke with me about a community action and invited me to come out. I attended a neighborhood march and saw the immediate impact on bringing awareness to the neighborhood. What I saw that day affected me, and made me want to get involved and take action to change my community for the better.

What do you hope to accomplish with Action Now?

My community needs resources and investment to make things better for everyone. I want to help bring those resources so that our kids can thrive in a safe and stable environment, which will hopefully help put an end to the violence that has plagued our streets.

 

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Action Now statement on the Department of Justice report on the Chicago Police Department

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                                                                                                
Contact: Katelyn Johnson
(312) 676-4280

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Action Now calls for delay on new FOP contract
The City should agree on consent decree for federally mandated reforms

The Department of Justice investigation into the practices of the Chicago Police Department has been released, and the conclusion is that the department is in need of major reform. Action Now believes that it is imperative to stop negotiations on the new police contract until the City and the federal government introduce the framework around how reform will be implemented.

We have engaged in multiple conversations with city residents on police reform, with many concluding that the FOP contract is a critical starting point for improving community policing. The current contract makes it too hard to identify police misconduct by allowing practices such as requiring investigators to ignore and destroy evidence, requiring affidavits to investigate misconduct and limiting the investigation of anonymous complaints against officers. The DOJ uncovered a pattern of disturbing practices in Chicago that includes excessive uses of force, the need for de-escalation tactics taught in officer training, a critical lack of oversight of rogue officers, and a glaring deficit in investigating cases of misconduct. These issues can and should be addressed through the negotiation of the union contract.

“The FOP contract could present significant barriers to the reform measures agreed upon by the city and the federal government.  The city council must consider delaying the negotiations until the consent decree process is complete”, said Katelyn Johnson, Executive Director of Action Now.

Any negotiations regarding the new FOP contract must cease until there is not only clarity on the federally mandated reforms that can be overseen by an independent monitor, but also robust input on the changes the people in our communities want to see. The top down approach to community policing is a part of the problem, and it is about time that the voices of the people are heard in this ongoing fight for accountability.

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Action Now Statement on DOJ report on Chicago Police

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                                                                                                Contact: Katelyn Johnson
(312) 676-4280

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Action Now calls for delay on new FOP contract
The City should agree on consent decree for federally mandated reforms

The Department of Justice investigation into the practices of the Chicago Police Department has been released, and the conclusion is that the department is in need of major reform. Action Now believes that it is imperative to stop negotiations on the new police contract until the City and the federal government introduce the framework around how reform will be implemented.

We have engaged in multiple town-hall conversations with city residents on police reform, with many concluding that the FOP contract is a critical starting point for improving community policing. The current contract makes it too hard to identify police misconduct by allowing practices such as requiring investigators to ignore and destroy evidence, requiring affidavits to investigate misconduct and limiting the investigation of anonymous complaints against officers. The DOJ uncovered a pattern of disturbing practices in Chicago that includes excessive uses of force, the need for de-escalation tactics taught in officer training, a critical lack of oversight of rogue officers, and a glaring deficit in investigating cases of misconduct. These issues can and should be addressed through the negotiation of the union contract.

“The FOP contract could present significant barriers to the reform measures agreed upon by the city and the federal government.  The city council must consider delaying the negotiations until the consent decree process is complete”, said Katelyn Johnson, Executive Director of Action Now.

Any negotiations regarding the new FOP contract must cease until there is not only clarity on the federally mandated reforms that can be overseen by an independent monitor, but also robust input on the changes the people in our communities want to see. The top down approach to community policing is a part of the problem, and it is about time that the voices of the people are heard in this ongoing fight for accountability.

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Community conversations on police reform

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Community members gathered to discuss Police Reform

As part of the fight for justice in our communities, Action Now recently held two town-hall meetings on police accountability. With the recent passage of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability ordinance in the city council, and the upcoming police contract bargaining sessions, we felt it was important to hear from community stakeholders on what reform should look like.

In November we held our first meeting with residents on the South Side, together with our partner organizations Workers Center for Racial Justice and S.O.U.L. in the BlackRoots Alliance. The focus of the meeting was not only to hear testimony from members who have experienced police misconduct, but to get input on what changes can be implemented from both the City of Chicago and the community to fix the problems that exist.  It was important for us to bring together people from across the South Side, and we found that a majority of people shared negative interactions with police officers. People expressed having no trust in the police or the system under which they serve, as well as an overwhelming anger about the failures of leadership to discipline cops when they abuse power. Members stressed the need for real reform, not just more of the same ‘smoke & mirrors’ that has been the status quo for decades in Chicago.

We held another meeting in early December, this time on the West Side. The experiences of the West Side residents mirrored what we heard from folks on the other side of the city.  It was clear the people felt that the time for talking without action was over. They are fed-up, tired of seeing their brothers and sisters profiled, harassed and gunned down in the streets without repercussions for the cops that continue to treat them like their lives don’t matter.

At each meeting there were break-out sessions, which allowed participants to come together in smaller groups to answer the question, “If you had oversight of the Chicago Police Department, what changes would you like to see?" There were many suggestions made through rigorous back-and-forth debate, but among the many suggestions that people at both meetings agreed upon were the following:

  • An FOP (police union) contract with the city that removes previous barriers for police accountability.

  • A mechanism that allows for community members to participate in the contract bargaining process.

  • A process for dealing with police misconduct that includes community oversight both in the investigation of and in the discipline/removal process of bad officers in the department, as the recently passed COPA ordinance does not provide this necessity.

  • An emphasis on restructuring the recruitment and training of new officers that provides for things such as cultural sensitivity training, PED testing and mandatory community service in the communities they will work in.

We will continue to engage in this conversation with our neighbors and our elected officials.  The path to a better community policing model has to include all of our voices in the process and implementation, and we are confident that this is the beginning of the reform that has been so desperately needed.

In Solidarity,
Action Now

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Action Now fighting for reform in 2016

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Action Now members on the move

2016 has been a busy year for Action Now.  While fighting for economic justice and education reform, we have also demanded changes to the criminal justice system in Chicago, in light of the recent exposure of police violence that has wreaked havoc in our neighborhoods. Here is a quick synopsis to get you up to speed of where we are, and what is coming next:

Elected Representative School Board
  • ERSB - We have pushed for an elected school board that is representative of Chicago communities, as we are the only school district in the state that does not have an elected board. The current board is appointed by the mayor, with the voices of parents being shut out on major decisions.  The issue has been put to a vote in the state not once, but TWICE by referendum, with almost 90% of voters in support of the measure. We are currently working with local organizations like Pilsen Alliance, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization and Lugenia Burns Hope Center in pushing the Senate to vote on the issue during the fall veto session.  State Senator Kwame Raoul (D- Chicago) is a sponsor of the bill and is pushing for the bill to be called to a vote, after changes are made that will improve the effectiveness of the law.

Progressive Police Oversight

  • Police Accountability - Our membership has picked up the pace in our fight for police accountability reform in Chicago. Over the summer, Action Now members attended both the South Side and West Side meetings sponsored by the city council to give community input on solutions to the problem of police violence on our streets. While this was a chance for our community members to voice their concerns on how to bring bad cops to justice in Chicago, much of the decision-making was done without community input. In early October, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the city council passed the Civilian Office of Police Accountability Ordinance (COPA), an agency meant to replace the old police oversight agency (IPRA) that had been in place since 2007. Action Now is not in favor of COPA because there is not enough community oversight in the agency, as well as the problem of the mayor still having the power to appoint the person who will lead the investigative body.  As members of Black Roots Alliance along with Worker’s Center United for Justice and S.O.U.L., we are working with aldermen, activists and community members to push the city council to amend the ordinance to include more oversight and a community focused election/selection process.

State Budget & Economic Justice

  • Families First, Banks Last Campaign - Through our membership with Grassroots Collaborative, we joined with multiple organizations from the Chicagoland area in demanding that Governor Rauner stop making payments to the big banks in bad interest rate swap agreements that cost our people millions of dollars every year. Even in the midst of a stop-gap budget passed during the budget crisis, that money should instead be used to fund early childhood education programs, anti-violence initiatives and after school programs that will help the most vulnerable in our communities. We will keep up the pressure for budget fixes that benefit all of Illinois, not just the wealthy and folks with connections to the powerful.

There is still much work to be done, in 2016 and beyond. We are hosting a community meeting on police accountability on November 19th.  To find out more information, contact your organizer.

In solidarity,

Action Now

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