Month: May 2013

Cars Should Be For People — Not The Other Way Around

This is an ongoing series of extracted readings from various authors we’ve come across who offer unconventional, out-of-the-box thoughts on the social, the political, the religious and everything in between. This column will run each Friday and will feature authors with varying backgrounds and philosophies. The common thread is that their wisdom is sought by some of the most successful and effective people in the world, thus putting you, the reader, in that same elite company. Although this column is for everyone, we have a hunch that it will prove particularly valuable to leaders and individuals — in government, in business, in religion, in the nonprofit sector, etc. — who are on the cutting-edge of making the world a better place. And it all starts in Maywood.

Lewis Mumford (October 19, 1895 – January 26, 1990) was renowned as a humanist, architectural critic, innovative urban thinker, historian of the city and philosopher of sorts. His 1961 book, The City in History, won the National Book Award and its insights are relevant today. Mumford is particularly important, in our opinion, because his writings hold some of the keys toward both understanding and dealing with a future that will almost certainly be defined not so much by humanity’s failures, but by our successes — in getting what we want, in inventing and exploiting new technologies, in increasing our material comfort, etc. These successes are causing our present, gradual downfall — from precipitous global warming to abominable income and wealth inequality. Mumford explains that in order to save ourselves, we have to discover and realize those values that made us so unique in the first place and we have to realize them in our day-to-day lives. Below is an excerpt from an essay called “The Highway and the City,” which Mumford published in Architectural Record (April 1958):

“As long as motorcars were few in number, he who had one was a king: he could go where he pleased and halt where he pleased; and this machine itself appeared as a compensatory device for enlarging an ego which had been shrunken by our very success in mechanization. That sense of freedom and power remains a fact today only in low-density areas, in the open country; the popularity of this method of escape has ruined the promise it once held forth. In using the car to flee from the metropolis the motorist finds that he has merely transferred congestion to the highway; and when he reaches his destination, in a distant suburb, he finds that the countryside he sought has disappeared: beyond him, thanks to the motorway, lies only another suburb, just as dull as his own. To have a minimum amount of communication and sociability in this spread-out life, his wife becomes a taxi driver by daily occupation, and the amount of money it costs to keep this whole system running leaves him with shamefully overcrowded, understaffed schools, inadequate police, poorly serviced hospitals, underspaced recreation areas, ill-supported libraries.

In short, the American has sacrificed his life as a whole to the motorcar, like someone who, demented with passion, wrecks his home in order to lavish his income on a capricious mistress who promises delights he can only occasionally enjoy.

For most Americans, progress means accepting what is new because it is new, and discarding what is old because it is old. This may be good for a rapid turnover in business, but it is bad for community and stability in life. Progress, in an organic sense, should be cumulative, and though a certain amount of rubbish-clearing is always necessary, we lose part of the gain offered by a new invention if we automatically discard all the still valuable inventions that preceded it. In transportation, unfortunately, the old-fashioned linear notion of progress prevails. Now that motorcars are becoming universal, many people take for granted that pedestrian movement will disappear and that the railroad system will in time be abandoned; in fact, many of the proponents of highway building talk as if that day were already here, or if not, they have every intention of making it dawn quickly. The result is that we have actually crippled the motorcar, by placing on this single means of transportation the burden for every kind of travel. Neither our cars nor our highways can take such a load. This overconcentration, moreover, is rapidly destroying our cities, without leaving anything half as good in their place.

…we lose part of the gain offered by a new invention if we automatically discard all the still valuable inventions that preceded it.

What’s transportation for? This is a question that highway engineers apparently never ask themselves: probably because they take for granted the belief that transportation exists for the purpose of providing suitable outlets for the motorcar industry. To increase the number of cars, to enable motorists to go longer distances, to more places, at higher speeds has become an end in itself. Does this overemployment of the motorcar not consume ever larger quantities of gas, oil, concrete, rubber, and steel, and so provide the very groundwork for expanding the economy? Certainly, but none of these make up the essential purpose of transportation, which is to bring people or goods to places where they are needed, and to concentrate the greatest variety of goods and people within a limited area, in order to widen the possibility of choice without making it necessary to travel. A good transportation system minimizes unnecessary transportation; and in any event, it offers a change of speed and mode to fit a diversity of human purposes.

[…]

The fatal mistake we have been making is to sacrifice every other form of transportation to the private motorcar — and to offer as the only long-distance alternative the airplane. But the fact is that each type of transportation has its special use; and a good transportation policy must seek to improve each type and make the most of it. This cannot be achieved by aiming at high speed or continuous flow alone. If you wish casual opportunities for meeting your neighbors, and for profiting by chance contacts with acquaintances and colleagues, a stroll at two miles an hour in a relatively concentrated area, free from vehicles, will alone meet your need. But if you wish to rush a surgeon to a patient a thousand miles away, the fastest motorway is too slow. And again, if you wish to be sure to keep a lecture engagement in winter, railroad transportation offers surer speed and better insurance against being held up than the airplane. There is no one ideal mode or speed: human purpose should govern the choice of the means of transportation. VFP.

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Rep. Chris Welch Talks Jobs, Jobs and Jobs

By Michael Romain

On June 5, State Rep. Chris Welch (D-7th) will be hosting his Second Annual Community Job Fair at the Broadview Park District. And a week later, on June 13, he’ll be hosting the Summit of Hope for Ex-Offenders at Proviso West High School in Hillside. I spoke with Rep. Welch about what motivated him to put on these initiatives, his general thinking on job creation and some of the jobs-related legislation he’s proposed in the Illinois House.

Job creation seems to be at the center of your community outreach activities.

One of the things I talked about in my 2012 campaign was that if I was elected, I’d focus on jobs, education and crime. And if you follow my legislation, I’ve been focusing on jobs, education and crime. I was worn in on January 9. From that day on, we’ve been focusing on those things. I have people calling me up all the time saying, ‘We need work.’

What kind of employers are going to be at the Second Annual Community Job Fair and what kind of skills will they be looking for?

We’ve got over twenty-five companies and state agencies ready, willing and able to hire people. Every agency and company will require different skills. So, the skill requirements depend on the employer and the jobs they’re offering. Some of the employers who will be coming out include the Illinois State Police, the Illinois Dep. of Transportation, the Illinois Tollway Authority, the Illinois Department of Human Services, Chase Bank, Walgreens, MB Financial Bank and Harris Bank. So, its going to be a wide-ranging spectrum of jobs available. We’ve been marketing heavily to those people just arriving home from college and are looking for employment. Also, I’ve run into a number of people looking for work and a great deal of people have backgrounds, which is why we’re doing the Summit of Hope.

Tell me more about that. What can participants expect from this event?

The Summit is a job fair and a resource event all rolled up into one. It’s designed solely to get ex-offenders back on their feet and headed in the right direction. So, for instance, we’ll have the Secretary of State there giving guys state ID cards, driver’s licenses, etc. The DHS will be there to work with guys who may owe child support and other debts. They’ll be able to attend this event and count it as a check-in with their parole officers. We’ll be administering penalty-free drug tests. We expect this event to attract over 2,000 ex-offenders, so we’re really looking for volunteers to help us work the event. It will be Thursday, June 13 from 8am to 4pm.

AD-DOES YOUR CHILD NEED MENTORING?

In addition to your outreach activities, what kind of legislation have you helped promote that deals with job creation?

If you go to the ILGA website, you can pull up a lot of the bills I’ve sponsored, such HB 1547, which would would give companies higher tax credits for hiring qualified ex-convicts.

What’s your larger, big picture thinking about job creation and what the government, in cooperation with the private sector, needs to do to get people working again?

I think the education and crime parts of my platform are critical to job creation. I think, from a policy perspective, we have to promote good schools. We can do it at the local and state levels. We need to make sure schools don’t get their funding cut. We’re passing a budget right now that doesn’t cut education funding. This is the first time in four years that this has happened. We have to properly educate people if we’re going to keep them out of jails and trouble. We also need policies that prevent crime on the front-end, as well as on the back-end — policies that help people find skills. But when we continuously cut education funding, we’re cutting our nose off to spite our face.

Job-training is also critical. We have done a good job of maintaining level funding for important measures such as public safety and human resources. So we can help organizations like PLCCA and Vision of Restoration receive state money to assist with particular job-training programs. And when the budget is approved this week, you will see the money is still there for these programs.

Weren’t you involved with helping Vision of Restoration receive an urban weatherization grant recently?

Yes. But first and foremost, organizations who apply for those grants have to do a good job with the application process. But I did write a letter advocating on their [VOR’s] behalf and I’d like to think that my letter and phone calls went a long way in getting it done. But I don’t want to take anything away from [VOR] and the work they put into that application.

For people who may not be familiar with the concept, weatherization is basically modifying residential and commercial buildings so that they use energy more efficiently and thus reduce energy consumption. So it entails things like caulking windows to prevent air from leaking, installing energy efficient ventilation systems, replacing drafty doors with more efficient foam-core doors, etc. These are the kinds of job skills VOR will be administering. These are supposed to be the jobs of the future. Do you think that this type of job-training can be scaled up?

We’re trying to get the General Assembly to increase the amount of grants from $500,000 to $1 million each. It probably won’t happen until next year, but its important that green, environmentally friendly jobs go to communities that need them. So, we’re trying not only to maintain, but to increase funding for these kinds of programs.

How important has the federal government been to state-level efforts at creating jobs?

I think President Obama and his administration have been very influential in helping districts like ours not just on jobs, but also on health care. For example, Senate Bill 26 basically creates Obamacare in Illinois. For every dollar we spend in Illinois, the federal government will match it. That will allow 342,000 additional low-income individuals get on healthcare and will create an additional 24,000 new jobs in healthcare to help deal with those new patients. That will help communities like the 7th district.

And I understand that you have resources for job-seekers available at your Westchester office?

Yes. People can go to my Westchester office on Roosevelt Road. We’re back open after severe flooding. There, I have pamphlets and brochures offering information on resume-writing (among other important matters) and other useful tips. VFP.

For information on job-hunting and/or to volunteer for one of Rep. Welch’s events, go to his district office at 100055 W. Roosevelt Rd., Suite E, Westchester, IL, or call (708) 450-1000.

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Yet Another Reason to Love, Love, Love Libraries

maywood public library shelves

The Maywood Public Library District (121 S. 5th Ave.) is holding a Buck-A-Bag Book Sale from now through June 6, 2013. Buck-A-Bag means what it sounds like – 1 full grocery bag of books (romance novels, histories, sci-fi, children’s reading, biographies, you name it) for $1. It’s enough reading to make a kid skip two grades (for any impatient parents).

 

 

One Summer Chicago Website Offers Summer Jobs For Local Youth

(This squib courtesy of NoMCO): Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle are proud to announce One Summer Chicago — a collaborative effort between the City of Chicago, Cook County, and the civic and business communities to provide summer programming for youths. Summer in the Chicago area is a time for young people to be engaged in a broad range of activities that are fun,healthy and safe.From this website www.onesummerchicago.com a young person can apply for a job and find jobs in your community. Job opportunities will be added as they become available.

One Summer Chicago Additional Info

Rotary Taxi Service: Rides For A Cause

(This squib courtesy NoMCO) Rotary Taxi Service:  This is still going strong earning Rotary $4,000 a year all of which is used to help fund local and international service projects.  We make over 150 runs a year, most, but not all, to and from the airports.  We still charge only $30 one way for the airports with tipping discouraged.  It is $35 if very early in the morning or in the later part of the evening.  You save money, get great service and help fund important projects. We have two drivers:  Gary Woll, 708-345-2706garywoll@comcast.net and Chuck Laabs, 708-345-2706charles.laabs@cuchicago.edu   Hope to hear from more of you.  Try us, you’ll like us.

 

 

Larry Shapiro Talks Communications, The Senior Club And Why Retirement Is Not An Option

By Michael Romain

Last week, I had a conversation with Larry Shapiro, the former Communications Director for Mayor Yarbrough, whose position as the Village’s Senior Citizen Coordinator was effectively eliminated when he resigned. Shapiro shared his thoughts on whether or not he’d want the Village to revive his latter position, his functions as Communications Director and why the word retirement is not in his vocabulary, among other matters.

What did you do as the Mayor’s Communications Director?

I’m Congressman [Danny K.] Davis’s suburban representative and I was then-State Rep. Karen Yarbrough’s chief-of-staff before serving with Mayor Yarbrough. Some people say, ‘Well, you’re just a spokesperson.’ And they believe that the only time people need one is when there’s some crisis like a shooting. But I understood the position as, ‘How do we communicate what we’re doing with the residents?’ So, for instance, during the flooding of 2008, we did robocalls for a week and a half. We created the Maywood News, which has over 400 subscribers. We started Coffee with the Mayor.

So the whole ideas was visibility, accessibility, interactivity. We wanted to make government active. We felt that the newsletter we put out four times a year (which I created with the help of Tina Valentino, publisher of Neighbors), was an excellent newsletter. In addition to helping with the Mayor’s board reports, I helped compile his briefing notes and speeches. But beyond that [technical communications matters], I wanted to emphasize the importance of human services.

And this flows into your other role as the Senior Citizen Coordinator. So, you expanded the functions of Communications Director to include social, and/or human, services?

Yes. I didn’t look at the job of Communications Director in isolation. There were a lot of social initiatives that I considered in my purview. For instance, I was a teacher for 20 years and I felt that it was important for government to highlight successful young people. So, I established a relationship with District 89 and we did the Honor Roll Reception. Students from every school in Maywood who made the honor roll got rewarded. Then we added another element that we did at the board meetings. I wanted to do something for students who haven’t made the honor roll, but just need the motivation to do it. So we did the most-improved students program.

We also started the Larry Rogers Annual Board Review Town Hall meeting. This is bringing the government to the people. When we had issues dealing with public safety, we brought the state’s attorney to the town hall meeting. We had a large number of Latino residents who weren’t bilingual, so we created a town hall meeting in Spanish. We also started a series of meetings between the Mayor and the pastors in the community. We did about three or four of those. All these things are predicated on communications, reaching out to people about what’s important to them.

How did your involvement with the Senior Club come about?

I started the current Maywood Senior Club, because whenever I’d go to other villages like Broadview and Bellwood as part of Rep. Yarbrough’s staff — all of them had well-established Senior Clubs. Maywood had one of its own then, but it was hodge-podge compared to those in other villages. So, me and people like Dot Lindsey and Dorris Penington got together and we talked about what we could do. That’s how we came up with the concept that is the model for what we have today. And it’s a wonderful, wonderful thing.

We would have a variety of special guests come in. Seniors got legal services. Loyola would come four times a year and talk about health issues. The seniors got lunches provided by different people who I would call up ahead of time. We’d appoint a volunteer to create a menu for the week. Volunteers rotated the menu-creating duties. And I’d call about twelve people a week to see if they could bring food. It didn’t cost the seniors anything, but they’d get good, whole, nutritious lunches. Fortunately, the Board voted to keep our budget, which amounts to about $5,o00 total.

What’s your future role in the Club?

Whether or not I stay on as Senior Director is up to the Board. I would love to continue to be involved in the senior program. It’s not just the Senior Club, it’s the entire ream of activities that benefit seniors, like interacting with the Secretary of State to help the seniors renew their driver’s licenses, having the Cook County Sheriff’s office come to talk about issues of elder abuse, putting on health fairs, etc. So, I would be happy to continue to coordinate senior services in Maywood, but that’s not my decision.

And what about the position of Communications Director?

I believe that’s been eliminated. The new mayor might ask the Village Manager to take on that role.

Were you full-time when you were the Director?

No, it wasn’t a full-time position. I averaged between twenty and twenty-five hours a week.

What do you think Mayor Perkins will do with the Senior Club now that she’s in office?

I don’t presume to know what she’d want to do with the Club in the future.

What are your plans going forward in retirement?

I don’t know how to retire. I’m still on staff with Congressman Davis. I have reconnected with over a thousand of my former students at South Shore High School, where I was a creative writing teacher and the drama director. I intend to continue to be involved in the South Shore community, as well as in Maywood.

But there will never, ever be in my life, based on my belief system, dead time. I’m not a cruise guy, a vacation guy, a sit in the backyard and chill guy. I’m someone who believes in community. VFP

Guns Plan Approved By Illinois House Falls in Senate, Leaving Maywood Ordinance Intact

By Michael Romain

An Illinois House bill that, if passed into law, would’ve effectively wiped out an ordinance here in Maywood that bans the carrying of concealed weapons was defeated in the Senate Executive Committee on Tuesday by a 10-6 vote. Village Ordinance 130.81(a) states, “A person who is not a Village officer shall not carry about his person any concealed pistol, switchblade, knife, metal knuckles or any other weapon or thing of deadly character.”

The Senate Executive Committee, of which former Maywood resident Sen. Kimberly Lightford is a member, voted instead to approve a stricter proposal that would keep local ordinances banning concealed weapons intact.

The failed House proposal, which passed the lower chamber by a vote of 85-30, called for eliminating local gun laws in municipalities, permitting establishments that sale less than 50 percent of alcohol to allow patrons to carry guns on their premises and requiring law enforcement authorities to issue permits to anyone deemed qualified to own a gun. Typically, such qualification entails accumulating at least “16 hours of gun-safety training – most in the nation – [passing] a background check and [paying] a $150 fee,” according to an article by the Associated Press.

Rep. Chris Welch (D-7th), who was born and raised in Maywood, said the House bill was negotiated “by a committee that didn’t include one black legislature – there are 20 of us – and not one Hispanic legislature – there are 6 of them. So it didn’t take into consideration the communities that I represent, which deal with gun violence everyday.”

Welch’s reason for voting against the bill seems an inversion of Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan’s reason for voting in support of it. Madigan noted that the proposal’s single, statewide standard for dealing with gun ownership would eliminate confusion.

“As people attempted to move about the state,” said Madigan in the AP article, “they would contemplate the possibility that there would be a change in the rules up to 220 times” (220 being the number of home-rule communities in Illinois, each with different gun ordinances).

But Madigan’s reasoning doesn’t seem to take into account the fact that this statewide diversity in gun legislation may be necessary to accommodate diverse local conditions, a reality that a uniform, blanket approach to gun control may only exacerbate.

The House proposal derived its power to basically wipe out local ordinances controlling concealed weapons from a provision in the state constitution called preemption. “What preemption does,” Welch said, “is preempt home-rule municipalities from passing a law on something if we [the State legislature] pass a law on that issue with 71 or more votes.” Since the House proposal garnered 85 votes, it was well above the threshold for preemption.

Rep. Christian Mitchell, in the same AP article, called the bill a “massive dismantling of local administration of gun safety” and that it’s the “opposite of small government […] This bill is massive overreach, it is dangerous […]”.

Perhaps the most potent danger is the bill’s disregard for local variations in how guns affect people’s lives. While carrying concealed weapons may be relatively benign behavior in certain areas of rural Southern Illinois, it constitutes extremely hazardous behavior in much more dense urban and semi-urban areas such as Maywood.

“There’s no reason people should be allowed to walk the street with military style weapons,” Rep. Welch said. “These weapons will make the light in ‘The Village of Eternal Light’ go dim very quickly.” VFP