Governor Bruce Rauner signed into law legislation that makes automatic voter registration the law of the land in Illinois. This represents a victory for people that were left disenfranchised by a process that was often burdensome and unfair.
The legislation comes on the heels of years of organizing work by lawmakers and community members, not the least of which is the advocacy work done by our sister organization Action Now Institute, as a part of their work with the Just Democracy Coalition Illinois.
The new law changes the current registration process so that whenever an eligible voter goes to the Secretary of State’s office to apply for, update or renew their driver’s license or State ID, he or she will be automatically registered to vote based on the information and address they provide, unless they choose to opt out. AVR creates a similar program for other state agencies, which will make it the farthest reaching automatic voter registration law in the country.
In addition to making voter registration an easier process and more accessible to people in our communities, the new law also saves money by reducing paperwork, streamlining the system and making it more secure and less cumbersome.
The Department of Motor Vehicles will implement AVR by July 1, 2018, and other the other state agencies covered by the law will implement it by July 1, 2019. There are estimates that the new law will possibly add 1 million eligible citizens to the voter rolls in Illinois.
Action Now members joined organizations from all over the city to deliver a message to Mayor Emanuel and the City Council – there should not be any agreement on the FOP contract that does not include the recommendations of the Coalition for Police Contract Accountability (CPCA). Our sister organization, Action Now Institute, is a part of this group of community, policy and civil rights organizations working to improve the process and practice of police accountability in the city of Chicago.
Among the key points stressed from CPCA are:
- The union contracts make the “code of silence” official department policy.
- The contracts make it too easy for officers to lie about misconduct
- The contracts require officials to ignore and destroy evidence of misconduct.
- The contracts make it too hard to investigate and be transparent about police misconduct.
- On average, Chicago has paid $1M a week for misconduct lawsuits over the past 13 years. ($662M from 2004-2016)
Communities of color are the primary victims of police abuse and of the structural racism within the criminal justice system. There are documented systematic patterns and practices of misconduct in the Chicago Police Department including excessive use of force, racial profiling, and deficient systems of accountability. The DOJ has concluded the police union contracts pose a significant barrier to accountability and must be reformed.
Action Now members joined residents and community groups to demand justice on the property tax problem in Cook County.
Cook County Assessor Joe Berrio's office is using a deeply flawed formula to assess taxes, and folks living in minority communities are paying the price. Berrios' methods creates an unfair advantage for wealthy communities, at the expense of low-income homeowners. Pricier homes are assessed at a lower price, and taxed accordingly, while lower-priced homes are paying taxes that are higher than their homes are worth.
Donna Roberts, an Action Now member and homeowner from Englewood, is a taxpayer that has been taken advantage of by the County’s assessment scheme. Donna has been through the appeals process with the County Assessor’s office THREE times, with her “adjustment” amounting to a refund of less than $100! Not to mention the difficult process involving the extensive paperwork to even get the assessment reviewed. Needless to say, this system is broken.
To make matters worse, Assessor Berrios admitted to knowing the current system is flawed, and boasted in 2015 about his office's new and improved property valuation system. A new system that was funded by the MacArthur Foundation and designed to address system inequities was not used by the assessor’s office, despite promises from Berrios that it would resolve many of the problems of the old system.
We are demanding more transparency in how taxes are assessed, that the County use a more fair and equitable system that the Assessor's own office agreed to use in 2015, and we are demanding a refund to people that have paid more in taxes than they should have. The current system is more of the same politics in Chicago and has the most vulnerable suffering the consequences of injustice while waiting for our elected officials to do the right thing.
What neighborhood do you live in?
How long have you been a member of Action Now?
What made you get involved?
To see a change in our communities, and be a part of the process to implement justice.
What do you hope to accomplish with Action Now?
I'm hoping and praying for justice in my lifetime, for our children's sake, especially concerning a living wage, and education reform. I don't want our kids to have to fight as hard as we did.
The Coalition for Police Contracts Accountability (CPCA) proposes critical changes to the police union contracts and mobilizes communities to demand that new contracts between the City of Chicago and police unions don’t stand in the way of holding officers accountable. CPCA is composed of community, policy, and civil rights organizations taking action to ensure police accountability in the city of Chicago.
If the City of Chicago and our elected officials are serious about rebuilding trust between the police and the communities they serve, there should be a public commitment to making the changes recommended by the CPCA and the Department of Justice. However, we cannot truly implement police accountability reforms until we eliminate the barriers written into contracts with police unions.
Among the recommendations for reform are:
1. Eliminate the requirement of a sworn affidavit for investigating civilian complaints of misconduct.
2. Allow for the filing of anonymous complaints.
3. Prevent the disclosure of a complainant’s name prior to the interrogation of an accused officer.
4. Remove the ban on offering rewards to officers that cooperate or provide information on ongoing investigations.
5. Eliminate the 24 hour delay on officer statements in shooting cases and create a clearly outlined process to receive statements from all officers involved in a timely manner.
6. Eliminate officer’s right to review and amend statements previously made to investigators.
7. Eliminate the need for the Superintendent’s authorization to investigate complaints that are five years old or older.
8. Allow past disciplinary records to be used in investigating and resolving present complaints.
9. Eliminate the provision requiring the destruction of police misconduct records.
10. Remove constraints on how interrogators can ask questions.
11. Specify that information provided to officers prior to interrogations should be a general recitation of allegations.
12. Allow for the disclosure of the identities of officers who are the subject of civilian complaints.
13. Require officers to disclose secondary employment and any other pertinent information that may cause a conflict of interest in performing their duties as a sworn officer.
14. Reduce years of seniority for officers who have been repeatedly recommended for suspension because of findings of complaints filed against them.
Communities of color are the primary victims of police abuse within the criminal justice system, and we believe that in order to bring justice, our recommendations are a big part of the solution.
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.
What neighborhood do you live in?
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.
This 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.
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.
Statement on lack of charges against Chicago Police officer in Bettie Jones and Quintonio LeGrier shooting
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.
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.