bring it home
By Bob Roman
Over three hundred people attended the first of two Town Meetings on Economic Insecurity on February 25 in Ida Noyes Hall at the University of Chicago. Entitled "Employment and Survival in Urban America", the meeting was sponsored by the UofC DSA Youth Section, Chicago DSA and University Democrats. The panelists were Toni Preckwinkle, Alderman of Chicago's 4th Ward; Barack Obama, candidate for the 13th Illinois Senate District; Professor William Julius Wilson, Center for the Study of Urban Inequality at the University of Chicago; Professor Michael Dawson, University of Chicago; and Professor Joseph Schwartz, Temple University and a member of DSA's National Political Committee.
The meeting demonstrated that economic insecurity is an issue not exclusive to Buchanan Republicans. It is a vital issue for the left as well. More than that, it illustrated that, unlike the Right, the democratic left has a number of potential solutions that go beyond mere demagoguery.
Alderman Preckwinkle began the discussion by observing that the Chicago City Council rarely takes up the great issues facing the city even when it is presented with legislation dealing with these issues. Hearings are not held. Legislation rarely makes it out of committee.
As examples, she used Alderman Joe Moore's (49th) Privatization Ordinance which was introduced last year and the Jobs and Living Wage Ordinance which will be formally introduced in the Council very soon.
The Privatization Ordinance (see January - February, 1995, New Ground, page 1) was a modest effort to regulate the manner in which city services were privatized. It would have made the process accountable and made sure savings were not accomplished at the expense of employees. The measure was consigned to oblivion in committee. While a majority of the Council "supported" the ordinance, an attempt to release it from committee failed for lack of votes.
The Jobs and Living Wage Ordinance (see January - February, 1996, New Ground, page 10) is a more ambitious attempt to require city contractors to pay a minimum living wage. The measure will be formally introduced into the Council in April or May. Alderman Preckwinkle was not optimistic about its prospects although the presence of the Democratic National Convention may provide some opportunities for better leverage.
Barack Obama observed that Martin Luther King's March on Washington in the 1960s wasn't simply about civil rights but demanded jobs as well. Now the issue is again coming to the front, but he wished the issue was on the Democratic agenda not just on Buchanan's.
One of the themes that has emerged in Barack Obama's campaign is "what does it take to create productive communities", not just consumptive communities. It is an issue that joins some of the best instincts of the conservatives with the better instincts of the left. He felt the state government has three constructive roles to play.
The first is "human capital development". By this he meant public education, welfare reform, and a "workforce preparation strategy". Public education requires equality in funding. It's not that money is the only solution to public education's problems but it's a start toward a solution. The current proposals for welfare reform are intended to eliminate welfare but it's also true that the status quo is not tenable. A true welfare system would provide for medical care, child care and job training. While Barack Obama did not use this term, it sounded very much like the "social wage" approach used by many social democratic labor parties. By "workforce preparation strategy", Barack Obama simply meant a coordinated, purposeful program of job training instead of the ad hoc, fragmented approach used by the State of Illinois today.
The state government can also play a role in redistribution, the allocation of wages and jobs. As Barack Obama noted, when someone gets paid $10 million to eliminate 4,000 jobs, the voters in his district know this is an issue of power not economics. The government can use as tools labor law reform, public works and contracts.
Finally, Illinois needs an industrial strategy. How do we create more jobs for everyone? Illinois has no strategy for encouraging high wage, high productivity jobs.
Professor Wilson's presentation was based on his forthcoming book, When Work Disappears: the World of the New Urban Poor. William Julius Wilson began by demanding that the left not be intimidated by the Contract on America and how it has limited the terms of the debate. What we need, he asserted, was a jobs policy based roughly on the New Deal's WPA. The work would concentrate on badly needed infrastructure maintenance and improvement. It would be a universal program; the jobs would be available to everyone, "including Donald Trump" if he chose to do some useful work for a change. These would be new jobs. State and local government would not be allowed to subsidize their own budgets the way they did with CETA in the 1970s.
Professor Dawson spoke on how critical the issues facing this country have become. Not only have the problems themselves become severe, but the politics resulting from them have become a danger to freedom and democracy.
DSA member Joe Schwartz brought the presentations to a rousing close. He observed that any politics of the democratic left needs to confront racism. There is no way we can finesse the issue by simply organizing around universal programs; we need to build a new politics of social solidarity. He concluded by pointing out that all of the proposals given tonight, even the most modest, will be red-baited. We must grow up and be forthright about how social democracy / democratic socialism has made the life of working people better the world over.
Which is exactly our point.
This is not Danny K. Davis' first run for Representative of the 7th Congressional District any more than 1983 was Harold Washington's first campaign for Mayor of Chicago. This time he's going to win the Democratic ballot line and go on to Congress.
UFCWU International Vice President Ron Powell said it best:
"The Union Movement and the working families that it strives to protect are certainly not foreign to Mr. Davis. As a community organizer, he's been out front in the battles for jobs, justice and equality. As a public official, Mr. Davis has worked hard to implement solutions to problems faced by urban areas; he's led the way to empower those he serves to help take control of their futures. His work for the Chicago City Council, as a Commissioner on the Cook County Board, and his long term devotion to civic matters have provided Mr. Davis with the experience, knowledge and ability to be an effective, much needed new voice for change and progress in the U.S. House of Representatives."
And Danny Davis is certainly not foreign to Chicago DSA. From the very beginning, he has always been willing to help: appearing as a speaker with Michael Harrington, serving as a Master of Ceremonies without peer at the annual Debs - Thomas - Harrington Dinner.
The Seventh Congressional District runs from the lakefront straight west to the Cook County border. If you'd like to get involved, contact the Davis for Congress headquarters: (312) 626-1996. Folks out in Oak Park can also call Larry Shapiro at (708) 445-0072. Contributions can be sent to Davis for Congress, 5730 W. Division, Chicago, IL 60651. Note that Federal law requires political committees (i.e. Davis for Congress) to report the name, mailing address, occupation and name of employer for each individual whose contributions aggregate in excess of $200 in a calendar year.
William Delgado is a candidate to win the Democratic ballot line for the Illinois House of Representatives in the 3rd District out on the west side of Chicago. He's a long time community activist with an academic background in criminal justice and social work. As such, he has been a youth program coordinator at the West Town YMCA and with Association House. Most recently, he was Director of Community Services for State Senator Miguel del Valle.
Mr. Delgado is a real firebrand, but he's running a campaign that includes middle class issues concerning reinforcing sentencing laws and property tax relief. But he's also in favor of community policing, vigorous in his defense Medicaid and Medicare, and, most importantly for his constituency, an advocate for full state funding for schools.
If you'd like to make contribution to William Delgado's campaign, make the check payable to Volunteers for Delgado and send it to 3643 W. Fullerton, Chicago, IL 60647. If you'd like to get involved as a volunteer, call the campaign headquarters at (312) 278-6679.
Patricia Martin is a candidate for the Democratic ballot line for Judge of the Cook County Judicial Circuit, Seventh Subcircuit. The Seventh Subcircuit is on the west side of Chicago, roughly encompassing the same territory as the 7th Congressional District. Ms. Martin comes from an old west side family and has deep roots in the community. She has worked as a public defender and has contributed her services to Pro Bono Advocates, an organization representing indigent clients. Ms. Martin has also been active with a west side community organization, Concerned Citizens, and most particularly with Mothers House, a residential rehabilitation program for women with addiction problems, including their children. This history of community involvement has set the theme for her campaign: people working together.
Any rational candidate for such a position is vulnerable to the charge of being "soft on crime". In truth, the charge is actually being soft on criminals. Coming from a troubled community as Ms. Martin does, where crime is an ongoing threat to daily life, the charge is absurd. Yet the immence of the problem demands a solution to crime, not the hatred of criminals, and this is an intregal part of Patricia Martin's campaign. While the legislature has mandated minimum sentences for a bewildering variety of offenses, judges still have some leeway, and it is here that Ms. Martin hopes to find alternatives that rehabilitate, not just punish and warehouse. Likewise, Ms. Martin's experience in representing the poor has left her sensitive to the way their voices are not heard in the judicial process, whether as defendants or as victims.
If you would like to contribute to the campaign, checks should be made out to Citizens to Elect Patricia Martin and sent to 2944 W. Madison, Chicago, IL 60612. If you'd like to volunteer your time, call the campaign at (312) 638-2490.
Barak Obama is running to gain the Democratic ballot line for Illinois Senate 13th District. The 13th District is Alice Palmer's old district, encompassing parts of Hyde Park and South Shore.
Mr. Obama graduated from Columbia University and promptly went into community organizing for the Developing Communities Project in Roseland and Altgeld Gardens on the far south side of Chicago. He went on to Harvard University, where he was editor of the Harvard Law Review. He graduated with a law degree. In 1992, he was Director of Illinois Project Vote, a voter registration campaign that made Carol Moseley Braun's election to the U.S. Senate much easier than it would have been. At present, he practices law in Judson Miner's law firm and is President of the board of the Annenberg Challenge Grant which is distributing some $50 million in grants to public school reform efforts.
What best characterizes Barak Obama is a quote from an article in Illinois Issues, a retrospective look at his experience as a community organizer while he was completing his degree at Harvard:
"... community organizations and organizers are hampered by their own dogmas about the style and substance of organizing. Most practice ... a 'consumer advocacy' approach, with a focus on wrestling services and resources from outside powers that be. Few are thinking of harnessing the internal productive capacities, both in terms of money and people, that already exist in communities." (Illinois issues, September, 1988)
Luckily, Mr. Obama does not have any opposition in the primary. His opponents have all dropped out or were ruled off the ballot. But if you would like to contribute to his campaign, make the check payable to Friends of Barak Obama, 2154 E. 71st, Chicago, IL 60649. If you would like to become involved in his campaign, call the headquarters at (312) 363-1996.
Chicago DSA has endorsed the Jobs and Living Wage Ordinance. This ordinance would require any company that receives a Chicago municipal contract or subsidy to hire first from community-based hiring halls for non-construction work. It would further require those companies to set a wage floor for all employees sufficient to support a family of four above the poverty level. In the 49th Ward only, a non-binding referendum question is on the ballot. We recommend a "yes" vote in support of the question. You do not have to vote in the primary to vote on this question.
by Ron Baiman
Greater Oak Park DSA had many good reasons to make the anti-Westside Incinerator struggle a high priority political activity.
The move to retrofit and restart the incinerator is a prime example of "environmental racism" as the facility is situated in a predominantly African-American community, one of the poorest in the city. At full capacity, it would burn a third of the garbage of the city of Chicago.
It directly effects Oak Park and surrounding communities as it is situated within 20 blocks of Oak Park.
"Dumping poison in the air" undercuts recycling (which would have much greater economic development impact) by creating a tremendous incentive to burn paper and plastic, increases air pollution of heavy metals and (completely unregulated) dioxin - already linked to learning disabilities, cancer, birth defects, and causes a new problem of how to get rid of the highly toxic ash residue.
And finally, a very large coalition group which included key activists from Oak Park, such as Barbara Mullarkey, major community leaders from Austin, and representatives of National and Chicago-based environmental organizations had formed to fight the incinerator. We felt we could help with the effort, network with other progressive groups in doing so, and that this issue linked Oak Park with Austin and the broader progressive constituencies with whom we wanted to be in contact.
We also felt that fighting the City's secretive and undemocratic resolve to move ahead on this issue demonstrated how private economic power distorts democracy under capitalism.
For example, members of GOPDSA were able to assist WASTE by finding out that an RFP for the incinerator project had been put out months ago in spite of the City's assurances to WASTE that a decision had not yet been made. Allegedly, one of the prime candidates for the project is a company whose board includes a brother of Mayor Daley. Before that we (accidentally) found out about a "public hearing" on the issue in Austin to which WASTE, the major group active on this issue in Austin, had "inadvertently" not been invited.
As our first action in support of the "Westside Campaign for a Safe and Toxic Free Environment" (WASTE) we decided to sponsor a fund raiser featuring Northeastern Brazilian folk music performed by John Cabral, one of the leaders of our branch. Our information from WASTE meetings was that the coalition was broke and desperately needed funds to pay the organizer's salary and maintain activity until anticipated foundation grant money was obtained. Over 50 people came to our January 27, 1995, fund raiser. We raised over $500, enough to pay half of the month's salary owed by WASTE to their organizer, Fred Friedman, who had recently also had his position cut to part-time.
Little did we know, however, just how central and revealing of the political economic system, the anti-incinerator struggle would become. Just before the fund raiser the Illinois State Legislature, responding to the Governor's "State of the State" address, voted to repeal the notorious "Retail Rate Law" which subsidizes incinerator development in the state with tax payer money. At this writing the bill is still sitting on the Governor's desk waiting to be signed into law. Intense pressure is being applied on Edgar to exempt three incinerator projects, including Robbins and Ford Heights, from subsidy repeal.
In a blatant move to make sure that the Governor Edgar understands the consequences of causing possible defaults on $500 million in bonds, which were lent with full knowledge of the riskiness of depending on the Retail Rate Law for repayment, a "unified investment community" boycotted a routine $52 million, "AAA" rated state bond offering the week after the Retail Rate Law repeal went through the legislature.
According to Crane's Chicago Business (2/5-11/96), there were "next to no bids by institutional investors" (controlling our money!) which included some of Wall Street's biggest bond buyers. This "unified investment community" is controlled by a universe of 20 people, according to Joseph Starshak quoted in Crane's. Crane's goes on to note that:
"While there was a possibility that Wall Street's tough tactics could backfire ... analysts note that the state has little leverage with Wall Street if it wants to continue borrowing."
Next time you start talking about "Capital Strike" and get accused of conspiratorial fantasy mention this! Call Edgar's office at 800-782-2000 and tell him to sign the repeal, with no exceptions, now.
by Gloria Hannas
Gambling has become the most rapidly growing segment of the U.S. economy, according to Reverend Tom Grey, a leading church opponent of casino gambling expansion. James Sterngold reported in the New York Times that the present U.S. gambling economy amounted to $482 billion. Doug Dobmeyer of the Religious Task Force to Oppose Increased Legalized Gambling stated in the Chicago Sun Times that "In 1995 casinos separated $1 billion from the gambling public in Illinois". But this is not economic development. Instead, our federal and state systems of public support are in grave danger unless citizens become informed and aroused to action.
According to Professor John Warren Kindt of the Business School at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, for every dollar a state takes in from gaming taxes, there is an outlay of three dollars for infrastructure costs, relatively high regulatory expenses, costs to the criminal justice system, and large social-welfare expenses. Since this one dollar in three dollars out pattern is a national average, in a larger, more populous state, one having a significant concentration of casinos (such as Illinois), Kindt says that the ratio can be as much as eight, ten or even twelve dollars spent for every gambling-generated dollar. Some of these costs are incurred locally, others at the state level, but it is the taxpayers who pay in the end.
This spring our Illinois state legislators will be asked to vote approval for ten casinos, five in Cook County alone. Heading up this impetus in the Chicago area is Mayor Donald Stevens of Rosemont, who owns a veritable fiefdom, the convention center and most of the hotels surrounding O'Hare Airport. Although Rosemont is a small suburb, a little more than 3,000 inhabitants, it has been able to lure many companies from Chicago, and Stevens is now in a head-on race with Chicago to have the Chicago-area casino. To fortify his endeavors, Stevens has a formidable array of politically powerful associates, former Governor Jim Thompson and his law firm, and other influential former state and city officials. Working through the three Cook County municipal conferences in the suburbs, Stevens is offering to share what he calls 80% of revenue from the proposed Rosemont casino with the Cook County suburbs if the suburbans boards of trustees accept the carrot and agree to lobby by writing and talking with legislators in Springfield. In other words, the trustees, who are supposedly answerable to their local constituents, become Stevens' hired lobbyists.
Hamstrung by the rising costs of providing public services, some trustees are succumbing; some, having read the fine print, have rejected the proposal. One of the sticking points is the liability clause, whereby any participating suburbs would automatically share liability costs with Rosemont in the event of a casino-related lawsuit, a not unlikely prospect. A careful study shows that Rosemont would be sharing 5%, not 80%, of the casino revenues.
This is a typical casino ploy, an end-run around the voters. Eileen Lyons, Illinois State Representative serving LaGrange and Western Springs, told a public forum on gambling at the First Presbyterian Church of LaGrange last November, "We're being told in Springfield that you people are for the Rosemont casino." She kept saying how much she appreciated hearing our input. The work of the casino interests' PR firms in the state capital is reinforced every time a Cook County suburban board of trustees signs on and fulfills its contractual obligation to Don Stevens.
According to Rev. Tom Grey, Methodist minister from Galena who heads up the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling, 85.7% of Illinois voters polled support the people's right to vote in a referendum before gambling is expanded. Furthermore, referenda on specific gambling proposals show that a majority oppose gambling expansion in their area.
What are the gambling myths being propounded in Springfield and other state capitals?
First, it is said that casinos are good for the local economy because they create jobs. This they do, but the jobs are not new. Restaurant workers in town end up working for restaurants in the casino. The existing restaurants lose customers and, more often than not, go out of business as casinos tend to cannibalize the business community by absorbing most of the discretionary money.
Second, casinos are good, clean family fun. But for families with a pathological gambler, the family is destroyed. The gambler follows the usual dynamics of addiction, becoming increasingly obsessive and isolated, less attentive to job and family, and not infrequently being fired and divorced. There is also a class dimension. While the wealthy and middle class often perceive gambling as a game, the less well off view it as an investment. It is a highly speculative investment in which the house almost always wins.
Furthermore, because of the economic havoc and concomitant police problems, disposable income is sapped from the local economy by gamblers of all stripes and not offset by the tourists who tend to stay for a day or part of a day and move on. Given an increased number of local gamblers, some of whom will become pathological gamblers, local businesses, starting with restaurants, begin to suffer, some to fail. With increased police problems, appliance stores, even car dealers, are affected. Eventually homes for sale have to come down in price. All of these are reflected in decreased taxes locally.
Finally, village governments can go into debt and have nothing to show for it. Because of competition from Iowa riverboat casinos, the Silver Eagle in East Dubuque closed down, leaving 350 people unemployed. The casino owners, nonresidents affiliated with national casino companies, frequently even residents of another state, do not suffer. Instead they move the casino to another location. Efforts are being made to relocate the Silver Eagle to Michigan City, Indiana. Meanwhile, what happens to the town the casino has abandoned? Many of them have invested heavily into infrastructure, e.g. roads, sewers, utility lines, and are left paying for the proverbial dead horse.
In 1993, Senator Paul Simon of Illinois introduced the Gaming Impact Study Commission Act, S1720, and is still promoting it and working on the issue nationally. He needs our support, and a look at the U.S. gambling history is certainly instructive. According to Professor John Warren Kindt, previously mentioned, there were two significant "boom and bust" economic cycles in the nineteenth century, one between 1800 and 1820, the other after the Civil War. Because gambling played a significant part in each depression, by 1910 there was almost no legalized gambling in the U.S. Prohibitions had been incorporated into state constitutions. Kindt says this lesson gives "credence to arguments that both historically and currently, the legislation of gambling activities eventually causes: increased taxes, a loss of jobs from the overall region, economic disruption of other business, and large social-welfare costs for society in general and government agencies in particular." In the same statement, he goes on to say, "in states with legalized gambling activities which were intended ... to bolster tax revenues to 'education', the funding in 'real dollars' was almost uniformly decreased." This has been the case with Illinois. Springfield has released lottery revenue to public schools, but has withheld the moneys previously allocated, leaving the schools with less than before the institution of the state lottery.
The myth of gambling as an economic boon stems also from history. During the depression, Las Vegas was granted several casino licenses and retained the national monopoly for 40 years. The city was in the middle of a desert with no economy to be cannibalized, and tourists did go there and stayed in the hotels. Today Las Vegas casinos continue to thrive but are siphoning money from southern California. State legislatures don't have all the control they would like to have. As for the rest of the country, most people wanting to gamble can drive to and from the local casino, gamble, eat in the casino restaurants, and return home without contributing a dime to the community in which the casino is located.
In his November 2, 1995, statement to the U.S. Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, Kindt states that 0.77% of the 1976 population were pathological gamblers. Today, with the advent of legalized gambling again, and more local at that, the percentage has risen to 1.5% to 6% nationally. The percentage for teenagers who have been socialized by computer games is double that of the adult population, Kindt added.
Another phenomenon is the increasing accessibility of gambling from off-site betting facilities, at first in local bars and, more recently, on the Internet. Increasing the accessibility of gambling seems to decrease exponentially the time a pathological gambler takes to pass through the progressive stages of addiction.
The political situation is worsened by the fact that most people know very little about the issue. They are, in fact, more or less in favor of gambling in general until they learn the facts of the matter. An October, 1995, survey conducted by Barry Rundquist and Gerald Strom of the University of Illinois at Chicago, was more than a survey. It was a teaching instrument, whereby previously uninformed Chicago residents, once informed, rejected by 70% the concept of gambling expansion. This writer's experience has shown that opponents to casino gambling expansion represent a wide spectrum: churched and unchurched, liberal and conservative. It behooves us to educate the people, our state and national representatives and senators. Reverend Tom Grey says, "Make it a campaign issue!" Just do it!
Plans for hiring a Midwest DSA staff person are proceeding toward a target date of April 1st. A February 4th conference call included representatives of Ann Arbor, Central Indiana, Central Ohio, Chicago and Mahoning Valley DSA. The participants agreed to a "fast track" proposal to hire an organizer and begin fundraising this spring. Bruce Bentley, George Boas, Alan Curry and Eric Ebel volunteered to be an organizing committee for this project.
Organizers of the IDS Project met in New York the last weekend in January. They produced a name and a plan for action. The brainstorming session at Pat Sexton's apartment generated the name "Center for Democratic Values". This intense, sometimes grueling, and very productive weekend also produced two major projects as well as some offshoots. The major projects are (please, better names are welcome): 1) the Mainstream Project and 2) the Ideas Project. The Mainstream Project will develop a network of Left intellectuals and make their work on current issues available to a wider public. The Ideas Project will explore important current themes and rethink Left positions on them in ways that are accessible to a mass public. This may result in articles, conferences and books. It will begin with one or more sessions at the Socialist Scholars Conference on "The Role of the State in a Democratic Society". The weekend also yielded a group wanting to work on DSA pamphlets, beginning with one on "The Myth of the Market", another on the issue of a balanced budget, and another group that will explore how the internet can become a central part of whatever work we undertake. Work on these projects is beginning immediately. If you'd like to help, contact Ron Aronson: (810) 548-5824.
The Chicago DSA endorsement cycle was over but one candidate stopped by to talk to the CDSA Executive Committee at its February meeting. The unanimous opinion of the committee members present was that we wished we had known about him sooner. The candidate is Marc Loveless, and he is a candidate for the Harold Washington ballot line for Clerk of the Circuit Court. Marc Loveless was a charter member of DSA back in Detroit, and he's still very much a radical. What is he doing with the Harold Washington Party. Apparently the party is attempting to broaden its base beyond the original appeal to middle class black nationalism. One obvious possibility would be a coalition between the Harold Washington Party and the New Party, but don't take this as anything more than speculation. Those who don't have anything worth voting for in the Democratic primary might consider requesting a Harold Washington ballot (and it is possible to request a Harold Washington / Democratic ballot); Marc Loveless does have an opponent in the primary.
Chicago Jobs with Justice and ACORN held a huge rally on February 24th in support of the Jobs and Living Wage Ordinance. The rally was swarming with candidates for office, most for offices having nothing to do with the passage of the ordinance. There were not so many aldermen present, but Ed Burke was there- a fact that might be encouraging.
The Chicago Jobs with Justice Workers Rights Committee pulled off a very successful fundraiser for the blacklisted SETMI workers in El Salvador. The event, a dance held this last January 13, raised $2,500, and was part of a nationwide effort to raise money to help the fired union workers. The committee is planning future work around corporate responsibility and international labor solidarity. The committee is also conducting a public education campaign around the video "Zoned for Slavery" about labor conditions in the "Free Trade" zones in Central America. If you'd like to arrange for a presentation, contact Frank Klein at (312) 738-6060.