Category: Op-Ed

My Perspective: To Transform Maywood, Unleash the Arts and Crafts

Tuesday, August 8, 2017 || By Michael Romain || OPINION || @maywoodnews

When I think of ways that Maywood can transform, my meandering thoughts often settle on two seemingly disparate, yet interconnected, forces: the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, a city of around 345,000 in northern Spain, and the Chicago artist Theaster Gates.

Continue reading “My Perspective: To Transform Maywood, Unleash the Arts and Crafts”

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Op-Ed: How to Balance Cook County’s Budget Without Dangerous Layoffs or Soda Tax

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Boykin_SeptemberWednesday, July 26, 2017 || By Richard Boykin || OPINION || @maywoodnews

Cook County government headed into Fiscal Year 2017 expecting to balance its budget in part with $68 million in revenue generated by the sweetened beverage tax that narrowly passed the Cook County Board last fall.

This $68 million can no longer be counted on, due to a lawsuit filed by the Illinois Retail Merchants Association. As part of the initial phase of that lawsuit, a judge has granted a temporary restraining order that prevents the county from imposing the sweetened beverage tax.

From the moment it was first proposed, the sweetened beverage tax was based on a dishonest premise. Board President Toni Preckwinkle tried to sell it to commissioners and residents as a public health initiative, aimed at reducing obesity.

In fact, the tax was never about health — it was always about revenue. Taxpayers saw through the public health charade from the beginning. Now the Cook County Circuit Court has also seen through the charade.

As a result, President Preckwinkle presently confronts a fiscal crisis that she herself manufactured.

Unfortunately, rather than deal with the crisis collaboratively, with an eye toward maintaining essential public safety services during a time when we face severe levels of gun violence in the county, President Preckwinkle has once again yoked herself and the county to a false premise.

The board president now insists that without the sweetened beverage tax, the county must make sweeping, disastrous cuts to essential public safety services. These across-the-board cuts impact services we can ill afford to lose amid rampant shootings in poor communities of color.

However, just as her assertion that the sweetened beverage tax was motivated by public health turned out to be a false justification designed to push through a revenue grab, President Preckwinkle’s current insistence on these painful cuts presents the judiciary with another false choice designed to intimidate.

Allow the tax, she is saying, or I will withhold services from the communities that need them the most. And absent those services, those communities will almost certainly see more pain, more violence, more senseless death.

These disingenuous strong-arm tactics got us into this mess. They will not get us out of it.

Instead, President Preckwinkle should reverse course and do the following:

1. Ask Chairman John Daley to convene an ongoing, emergency meeting of his County Board Finance Committee. Do not adjourn the meeting until key areas of waste in county government have been identified for immediate spending freezes and reductions. We know from previous budget hearings where the fat is. It’s long past time that we trim it. Immediate areas of opportunity include procurement, litigation and overtime.

2. Institute an immediate, countywide hiring freeze, exempting those positions that are court-ordered.

3. Immediately eliminate the 1,500 positions in the county budget that are vacant. I estimate this action itself would save $70 million.

4. After the above three actions are taken, President Preckwinkle should call a special meeting of the Board of Commissioners in August to consider enacting an emergency package of reductions that accomplish meaningful savings while continuing to provide vital services.

President Preckwinkle would have us believe that the above course of action is impossible. It is not.

Cook County never needed a sweetened beverage tax to operate with both efficiency and compassion. Now that we do not have that tax for the foreseeable future, we have another opportunity to achieve meaningful reforms while protecting our most vulnerable citizens.

It is time for President Preckwinkle to abandon her bullying tactics and work with others to solve these long-standing problems.

Richard Boykin is the 1st District Cook County commissioner.

To submit your perspective, email thevillagefreepress@gmail.com. 

Bellwood Public Library is in a Crisis Only Citizens Can Resolve

Bellwood Public Library director Jacqueline Spratt during a meeting last month at the library. | Michael Romain/VFP

Thursday, July 20, 2017 || By Michael Romain || OPINION || @maywoodnews

Residents who value the Bellwood Public Library should learn what’s currently happening at this institution immediately. Start by reading our reporting here. Conduct your due diligence. Do some independent research. You can find the library’s meeting minutes at the library’s website here.

You may well arrive at a conclusion similar to mine, which is that a contingent of people, some of whom don’t even live in Bellwood, are so determined to secure control over the library’s budget that they are doing things that may well be illegal.

They are most certainly doing things that are unethical and unbecoming of citizens who believe in the common good. They even tried to intimidate me, albeit subtly, while I was reporting on the aforementioned article.

I don’t live in Bellwood but I know that the patrons of a public library should not bear the burden of a small group of people’s recklessness. A summer reading program, for instance, should not all of a sudden entail a cost because board members wanted to hire a well-connected ‘consultant’ to fix a bathroom. This is a hypothetical scenario that nonetheless describes the real-world implications of corruption.

When money in the library’s budget is spent on bloated contracts, patrons feel the effects of that action in the form of new, or increased, fees. That’s money that could go toward legitimate capital expenses and operating costs and new, or enhanced, programming.

But this civil problem won’t be dealt with by the police. An outside authority, like a judge or a state agency, has to intervene and make a legally binding decision. Some citizens have already filed complaints with the state, but finding resolution through this process is slow and winding.

What may hasten it, however, is if a lot of residents file complaints with a single state agency and keep the pressure on — make the proper authorities know that a lot of people in Bellwood have a problem with a small group of people trying to take control of an institution that should be free and open to the public, and that should operate in transparency.

In particular, call the office of the Attorney General’s Public Access Counselor: 1-877-299-FOIA (3642) and tell them you want to file a complaint. Tell people who you know to call and complain. Tell them to tell people they know to call and complain.

Most of all, don’t be intimidated. Show your face at library board meetings. Request the contact information of every library board member. Email them. Call them. All of them. Repeatedly. Ask questions. Watch how the money is being spent. Do not allow funds to be spent on unduly expensive, unnecessary and unethical contracts.

Only people acting as free and informed citizens can solve this crisis. Absent citizen power, what will eventually happen is what we’re seeing at the national level — public ruin for private gain.

Most people were surprised at the election of Donald Trump, but they shouldn’t have been. The conditions for Trump’s rise were in the making for decades and they festered because not enough citizens were informed, alert and vigilant. Not enough people took action. Those same people looked up on November 8, 2016 and were in shock by something that shouldn’t have been very shocking.

Close your eyes and imagine the Bellwood library looted into oblivion — its doors permanently closed, the lights forever off, the common good that it encapsulated foreclosed on by private greed. Now open your eyes. And act. VFP

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OPINION: This Father’s Day, Let’s Appreciate Real Dads

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Jeremiah Ratliff, Regi Ratliff, Emerson Ratliff and Shawn Ratliff. | Couresy Regi Ratliff

Sunday, June 18, 2017 || By Rev. Dr. Regi Ratiliff || @maywoodnews

Fathers are challenged by society when it comes to receiving accolades as single parents. There are many single fathers in the black community who don’t receive our just due as the main provider of our children. I know. I was a single father at one time.

Society has slowly transitioned from resisting the fact that a father can be a successful single parent to accepting the fact that single fathers are parents too.

I’m insulted by comments made on radio and social media by single women who believe that they are both mother and father. They might as well say that they don’t need a man to raise their children. On the contrary, you don’t often read or hear comments from single fathers about serving a dual role as daddy and mother.

A few years ago, some child support attorney was on a local Chicago radio station promoting her book, “Girl, Get That Child Support.” This book was just another example of some random person exploiting “non-custodial” fathers in the black Community. Just considering the title, I automatically realized what population she was targeting. With such an insulting book against fathers, combined with low sales, it’s no wonder her book is on the market for only $2.

The truth is that if you and your ex-partner have a child together, each of you play only one role. One of you are the mother and only the mother and one of you are the father and only the father. The arrangement is God’s creation.

My dissertation, “An Investigation of the Socioeconomic, Academic and Psychological Impact of Fatherless African American Males,” addresses how damaging fatherlessness is to the African American population.

For proof, just look inside of the prison walls, where many young African American males are shelved for decades. You can even look at the cemeteries, where you will find many young African American males within their final resting place after having died far too young.

Considering how devastating their absence is within the black family, we need to appreciate the black fathers who are present. The names of men who have made a deep impact on my life are too numerous to list them all. There are, however, several men in particular I want to name — starting with my own dad.

My father, Emerson Ratliff, raised a household of five boys and two girls in Maywood. Raised in Mount Olive, Mississippi, my dad moved to Chicago in the early 1960’s with plans of raising a hard-working, Christian family.

My dad made sure all his children were active members at Second Baptist Church, under the leadership of Pastor Wallace W. Sykes. My dad led by example. He worked the night shift at the U.S. Post Office for over 30 years as an engineer.

But my dad still had time to play tennis with neighbors Alonzo Casteel and Raynard Little at Waterworks Park on 9th Avenue during the hot summer months.

I can only remember one time when my dad was late for work. That was the time when he took me to Rush Presbyterian St. Luke Hospital in Chicago after cutting my foot during wrestling practice my senior season at Proviso East. I knew he was upset, because we rode all the way to the hospital in dead silence; however, my dad took one for me and was never late again.

My Dad was very active in my life. He attended my athletic events, most concerts and college graduations. Here are additional men I would like to honor as father figures in my life.

Moses Green, Sr. was a rock in my life. Mr. Green was a great husband, a great father and very active in his children’s life. Mr. Green never complained when I stayed over for dinner, spent a night at his house and welcomed me as his son. He always provided me with insight about life and he always encouraged me to always think positively. I owe Mr. Green a great deal of gratitude for the impact he has made in my life.

I would also like to acknowledge one of my favorite coaches, the late Lawrence McCall, Sr. Mr. McCall was one of the coolest men I’ve ever known and he was a father figure to many people in Maywood.

Mr. McCall was a science teacher, as well as a basketball and softball coach, at Garfield Elementary School. He was also the assistant varsity boys basketball coach at Proviso East High School.

Mr. McCall infused his strong resiliency into each one of his student/athletes. He was a fiery basketball coach and I remembered him calling his favorite play, “Texas,” during games. I believe that was his play for trapping the opposing team on defense. Since Mr. McCall grew up in Texas, I’m sure that’s where the name originated from.

As a small boy at Garfield, Mr. McCall always offered words of encouragement. He encouraged me to always go the extra mile, to never give up on the field and do well in the classroom — do all those things, he said, and I will see the fruits of my labor in due time. 

Many student/athletes from Garfield and Proviso East owe Mr. McCall thanks for his guidance and serving as a father away from home.

Finally, I would like to recognize my father-in-law Chester Raulston. Although I have only known Mr. Raulston for seven years, I would be remised if I didn’t thank him for granting me his blessings to marry his daughter, Monique.

Mr. Raulston is an example of internal strength and perseverance. This strength and perseverance are two key qualities he has instilled in my beautiful wife.

As a single parent of three very active daughters, it takes two qualities, along with God’s grace, to successfully provide for her children without complaining. I commend Mr. Raulston for doing such an outstanding job in raising his daughter. It is an honor and privilege to know a man of such great integrity.

In conclusion, we all must make efforts to celebrate Father’s Day with our dad. Children purposely staying away from their dads must especially strive to show gratitude for all their support and love.

We must pamper our dads by spending the day in a manner they like the most. It could be barbecuing for him or indulging him with a gourmet meal. We can also express love with thoughtful gifts accompanied by a bouquet of his favorite flowers. The idea is to show our affection and tell Dad how much he is loved and appreciated — not just on Father’s Day but every single day of our lives.

Happy Father’s Day!

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OPINION: Sidelined

Father and son

A father and his son in Chicago by photographer William Camargo. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017 || By Darrick Campbell || OPINION || @maywoodnews 

Yesterday was a very important day for me. When I woke up, I was overwhelmed with excitement and joy as my oldest child was preparing to graduate from high school. I hopped out of bed, made sure my black suit was pressed and ate some oatmeal for that much-needed energy to survive the long ceremony.

I kissed my wife goodbye and headed out for the hour’s drive to DeKalb, Illinois. My joy and excitement grew over the first few miles, but as I got closer and closer, I started to reminisce about the journey that fatherhood has taken me to get to this wonderful day.

I thought about where I was in life when I found out I was to become a dad. I was 18 years old and a few months from graduating from high school. I thought about how I felt when my daughter was born and I had no money to buy diapers. I drove on.

As I pulled up to the convention center, I was quickly spotted by my daughter’s mom. We exchanged smiles as I waited for her family and my son to exit the car. I gave my son dap and kissed him on his cheek as I always do when I see him.

But as we walked toward the convention center, I found myself a couple of yards behind everyone as my ex-wife held hands with her husband and my son. They laughed and smiled together as we entered the convention center.

My daughter walked in and the ceremony started. Oswego High School was putting on the biggest graduation in school history and I was sitting on a plastic stadium seat with my knees on the back of someone’s head. As my daughter’s name was called, we all went crazy, yelling her name and throwing out a Ric Flair whoooooo.

When the ceremony was over, we all gathered in the lobby waiting for my daughter to come out. As dinner plans were being hatched out, I tried blending in with the walls. I wanted to hurry and get out of there as I didn’t feel like I belonged. There was a new man taking charge of the plans.

When I met up with my daughter, I gave her a hug and told her how proud I was of her. She asked if I would join them for dinner but she already knew what my answer would be. I told her I would see her soon and I kissed her goodbye, smiled at my ex-wife and shook her husband’s hand.

When I got back to my car, I took a deep breath and sat there for a minute trying to understand why I felt emasculated, angry, forgotten, replaced. Why did he get to reap what I had sown? I’d given 18 years of sacrifice and broken dreams to provide my children with the very best opportunity I could and now I was reduced to assistant father. It’s not fair, it’s not right, but who will understand?

Later on that evening, I got a text message from my ex-wife’s husband. He stated how proud he was to share that moment with me and that he thought I did a good job raising my children.

As I read that text message, I quickly felt the feelings of inadequacy leaving my body. Along with my ex-wife, I had raised great children and no matter what had happened between us, I’d never left them. My influence over them had never wavered and my opinion still mattered.

In that text message, I was reminded of all this and from the unlikeliest person. Maybe he knew what I was feeling and possibly endured it himself. Instead of ignoring it, he decided to throw out a lifeline to another father, and for that I’m truly grateful. VFP

Darrick Campbell is a writer, father, husband, Proviso East graduate and Maywood native. 

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Op-Ed: Maywood Is Still on the Move

Maywood is on the move

Thursday, June 1, 2017 || By Isiah Brandon || OPINION || @maywoodnews 

Ever since my election in 2015, I’ve pledged to keep residents abreast of my progress as a trustee in the great village of Maywood. For the last two years, I’ve had the honor and high privilege of serving on your behalf, but I haven’t taken anything for granted. This is just a snapshot of the work I’ve done since I last updated you about my progress in January.

Community Outreach

During Black History Month this year, I collaborated with Fire Brand Arts, a vibrant arts education group here in Maywood, to host a celebration of African American history. The ceremony also commemorated the African American present, with talented young people displaying a variety of talent — from spoken word artists to musicians.

This year, I took yet another youth delegation on a trip to the National League of Cities conference in Washington D.C. This is the second group of students I’ve taken. This year, we broadened our reach. In addition to students from District 209, we included students from Walther Christian Academy as well. And we’re already looking forward to next year. In this most recent budget, the Maywood Board of Trustees approved allocating $4,000 to the program, which makes us less reliant on private funds and means that we’ll possibly be able to take even more students the next time around.

In May, I was honored to participate in a Father Daughter Dance and a Men’s Day at Garfield Elementary School in Maywood, as well as Irving Middle School’s graduation. I also connected with our seniors during a pre-Mother’s Day celebration at the Maywood Garden House complex, an event co-sponsored by Mayor Edwenna Perkins and my employer.

Civic Engagement

I’ve always believed that with the title of trustee comes great responsibility to educate the public about what the position entails, and about the structure of our local government in general. With that being the case, I’m proud to have participated in Career Day at Walther Christian Academy, which allowed me to explain the role of a trustee, and the workings of local government, to high school students.

Public Safety 

As a trustee, I believe that we should tap into every resource that is available to protect our streets, families and business community. To that end, I’ve proposed a partnership between the village’s youth delegation, the police department and clerk’s office to target high crime areas throughout the community.

Through this partnership, young people will target four hot zones throughout the village where they will organize residents to create block clubs and to restore and reclaim their communities. The youth will also host a range of events in these areas of the community.

In addition, there will be more officers, vehicles and outside resources, such as Cook County Sheriff’s deputies, deployed to fight the recent surge of violent crime in the village.

Fiscal Responsibility

In this year’s 2017-18 budget, residents can look forward to better streets, additional resources and more youth employment opportunities. This budget allows the Village to hire a new full-time grant-writer who will be completely dedicated to finding alternative means of revenue for the village. In addition, code enforcement officers will receive extra assistance due to the hiring of additional staff members in the department. Public works will also receive some additional help.

Local Workforce Enhancement & Development 

On June 10, we will kick off our 5th Annual Safe Summer Campaign. We’ve identified additional resources to help expand this initiative, which provides programming, volunteer and employment opportunities for at-risk young people.

Maywood’s development prospects are bright. For instance, we are currently in negotiations with a businessman who is looking to open a grocery store at the site of the former Maywood Market. And I’ve also talked with other developers who are interested in doing business in the village.

In addition, a new Metra shelter on Fifth Avenue is nearly complete. This structure will only enhance the viability of our downtown corridor. It will also complement the decreased commuter times and smoother train traffic that will come with the construction of a $100 million third rail line to be funded by Union Pacific and Metra.

Also, on 4th Avenue and Randolph, the redevelopment of the old Baptist Retirement Home is back on track after having been held up for some years. Soon, this historic facility will be transformed into a state-of-the-art senior living facility and put back on the tax rolls.

In order to pave the way for this new development, the village has invested $1 million in Tax Increment Financing funds into improving our roadways.

This is just a snapshot of the progress that we’ve made in the village since January. I’m looking forward to helping us make even more in the months ahead. But we as elected officials can’t do it alone. We need the help of residents. So, what can you, as a Maywood resident, do to move the village forward?

You can create a block club, join a commission, come to board meetings and attend community events, among the many actions that you can take to help our community be what we all believe it can be — a thriving village of eternal light.

Finally, let me congratulate my new board colleagues, Kimyada Wellington and Antonio Sanchez, and my re-elected board colleagues, Mayor Perkins and Trustee Melvin Lightford. I look forward to working alongside them to move this great village forward. VFP

Isiah Brandon is a Maywood trustee. 

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Op-Ed: Fighting for Our Safety

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Mourners carry out the casket of a woman who was shot to death in Chicago last year. | William Camargo/Wednesday Journal

Tuesday, May 23, 2017 || By State Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch (7th) || OPINION || @maywoodnews

Over the past several years we have seen an increase in violence throughout our neighborhoods and streets. So far this year, there have been six homicides in Maywood.

Unfortunately, this increase in violence can be attributed to Governor Rauner’s extreme funding cuts to violence prevention, after-school and summer jobs programs.

I recently introduced legislation with 27 of my colleagues to provide funding to community based organizations throughout Illinois that reduce gun violence and ensure kids are not brought into a life of crime.

House Bill 4008 would provide $2 million to the 7th District to fund programs including violence prevention programs, job training programs, youth sports, library workshops and more.

It is a well-known fact that when children have opportunities to become invested in their communities, violence decreases. I am frustrated that Governor Rauner refuses to see how keeping our neighborhoods safe makes Illinois a better place to live and do business. My focus will always be on helping improve the lives of working families, not the wealthy and well-connected.

I am asking that friends, family and neighbors please sign my petition at: bit.ly/welchviolenceprevention to show Governor Rauner that we deserve a budget that fully funds violence prevention programs now.

For more information, please call my office at 708-450-1000 or email me at RepWelch@EmanuelChrisWelch.com. VFP

MFA AD_April 2017