Tag: Rep. Davis

In Maywood, A Congressman Takes Stock of Republicans

Tuesday, August 15, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

Davis Maywood Town Hall 2During a town hall meeting he hosted on Aug. 14 at Council Chambers, 125 S. 5th Ave. in Maywood, U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-7th) gave a dire assessment of a political climate controlled by Republicans and lorded over by President Donald Trump.

“We probably are in the worst position that we’ve been in in a long time,” Davis said, referencing the Democratic Party’s minority status in most statehouses and in Washington, D.C.

Continue reading “In Maywood, A Congressman Takes Stock of Republicans”

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Hillside Church to Host Funeral of Prominent Chicago Politician

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Services for Cook County Commissioner Robert Steele, who died on June 19, will take place at Freedom Baptist Church in Hillside. | Courtesy Cook County Board of Commissioners

Monday, June 26, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

Funeral services for prominent Cook County Commissioner Robert B. Steele, who died on June 19 at the age of 55, will take place at Freedom Baptist Church, 4541 Harrison St. in Hillside on Saturday, July 1.

Steele, a lifelong resident of Chicago, became commissioner of the 2nd District, which covers Chicago’s Loop and a significant portion of the West Side, in 2006 — the year Steele’s mother, Bobbie Steele, served a stint as Cook County board president. When Bobbie retired that year, Robert was appointed to replace her and serve out her term, to which she had just been reelected. 

Before his tenure as a county commissioner, Steele had been a community outreach manager for the Chicago Park District and executive director of the Lawndale Business & Local Development Corporation.

During his time on the county board, Steele was president pro-tempore, heading up meetings when Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle was absent. He was also chairman of the Environmental Control Committee and the Contract Compliance Committee, and vice chairman of the Heath and Hospitals Committee.

In a statement released last week, Preckwinkle praised her longtime board ally, whose life, she said, “was marked by his long career in public service.” 

“He was a tireless advocate for organ donation after receiving a kidney transplant from his sister [in 2010] and could always be counted on to explain why organ donation is so important,” Preckwinkle said. 

In addition to his board duties, Steele sat on the boards of numerous local and national organizations, including Mt. Sinai Hospital, the Gift of Hope Organ and Tissue Donor Network and Frazier Preparatory Academy.

Steele also sat on the boards of the National Association of Counties Officials (NACo) and the National Association of Black County Officials (NABCO), for which he served as president from 2008 until 2010, according to Preckwinkle’s statement. 

Shortly after Steele’s death was made public, elected officials and community leaders from across Chicago and the western suburbs took to social media to offer their condolences. 

In June 19 Twitter posts, Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (2nd), whose district encompasses large swaths of the West Side, described Steele as “a committed and dedicated public servant” while Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer (10th) said she “heartbroken” by the loss of a friend and a “tireless advocate for his community.” 

In a statement, Mayor Rahm Emanuel described Steele as a “committed Chicagoan who dedicated his life to public service and strengthening communities.”

Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. said in a statement that he had been “especially close to Steele and his entire family this year.” 

“Robert was co-chair of our first PUSH Tech Expo 2017 being held during this year’s annual PUSH convention,” Jackson said. “

City of Chicago Treasurer Kurt Summers said that he “had the incredible privilege of working with Commissioner Steele” when he was Preckwinkle’s chief of staff. 

“I will forever be touched by his spirit,” Summer said. “My prayers are with former President Bobbie Steele and the rest of Robert’s family and many friends during this incredibly difficult time.” 

During an interview on Saturday, Congressman Danny K. Davis (7th) said that Steele was a “true son of the community.” 

“He spent his whole life in North Lawndale,” Davis said. “That’s the only place he’s ever been other than going away to college, to Morgan State. He was bright, articulate, always energetic although he was a juvenile diabetic. He’d been engaged all of his life. I did five minutes on him on the floor of the House the other day and I mentioned that my family and I moved into North Lawndale the year Bob was born.”

In a statement released last week, Steele’s family said that they called the late commissioner “Man of Steele,” partly because of his work ethic. 

“He loved working in the trenches among community organizations, churches, schools, at-risk youth, and senior citizens,” the statement read. 

Davis said that, more than his official position, Steele was defined by his commitment to his community. 

“Bob was not just a man with a title,” Davis said. “The title meant nothing to him. He was Robert Steele before he ever had a title and he was doing the same things without that title that he did with it. We’re going to miss him.” 

A visitation will be held on Friday, June 30, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., at Lawndale Community Church’s Agape Chapel, 3827 W. Ogden Ave.

The wake and celebration of life services will take place at Freedom Baptist Church, 4541 Harrison St. in Hillside, on Saturday, July 1, 10 a.m. to 11:15 a.m., with the funeral immediately following the wake.

In lieu of flowers contributions can be made to the Greater Westside Community Coalition in memory of Cook County Commissioner Robert B. Steele, 3936 Roosevelt Road, Chicago, IL 60624. VFP

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A Peace March by Fraternity from Bellwood to Maywood Becomes Rallying Cry for State Budget

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State Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, left, leads a peace march through Maywood on Saturday. The march started in Bellwood on the corner of 22nd Avenue and St. Charles and ended behind the Maywood Police station. | Photos courtesy Rep. Welch/Facebook

Alphas in the Streets_1Sunday, June 25, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews || Updated: 6/26/17

A crowd of at least 200 people converged on the streets in Bellwood and Maywood on June 24 during a peace march coordinated by Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, the nation’s oldest black intercollegiate Greek fraternity, and state Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch (7th) — who is a member of the Alpha organization.

The march is just the latest in a series of peace marches that the venerable fraternity has coordinated in Chicago since at least 2015. Saturday’s march, however, is likely the first one that the fraternity has held in the western suburbs.

The marchers — at least 75 of whom were Alpha men, most of them donning the fraternity’s trademark gold and black colors — walked down St. Charles Road from 22nd Avenue in Bellwood to 5th Avenue in Maywood, before crowding into the park behind the Maywood Police Station, 125 S. 5th Ave., for a brief rally.

Alpha member Byron Stewart, a Maywood native who was the village’s first African American treasurer, said that the suburbs of Bellwood and Maywood experience some of the same issues, such as gun violence, affecting Chicago.

A march, he said, is an appropriate counterweight to the problems plaguing some areas of the city and surrounding suburbs.

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Members of the Proviso East High School marching band during Saturday’s peace march organized by Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity and state Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch. | Courtesy Rep. Welch/Facebook

“This is something for everybody to see and something for everyone in Maywood to understand,” Stewart said. “The struggle continues and there’s much work to do wherever we are as a people.”

Maywood Police Chief Valdimir Talley and Willie Norfleet, Jr. both lauded the event, which they said has an immediate positive impact on the community. The march featured the Proviso East marching band as two food trucks were parked along Oak Street.

“You have a positive organization involved in a positive activity,” Talley said. “You have a congressman out there, a state representative out here, village officials out here, saying that we’re not tolerating violent behavior.”

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At least 200 people took to the streets during Saturday’s march, which was followed by a rally. | Courtesy Rep. Welch/Facebook

“This is a great concept,” said Norfleet. “It sows that you don’t have to live in a place or know a people to care about a people.”

Some of the elected officials present for the march, including Maywood Mayor Edwenna Perkins, Congressman Danny K. Davis (7th) and Welch, used the rally to mobilize support around state and federal problems that Welch said exacerbate the violence in communities like Bellwood and Maywood.

Illinois has been without a budget since July 2015, which has put the state on track to possibly have its credit rating downgraded to “junk” status. If that happens, Illinois would be the first state in the country to receive a “junk” rating.

The state’s fiscal troubles, Welch said, has translated into a lack of support and resources, such as the anti-violence program CeaseFire, for areas struggling with high rates of crime. Maywood’s CeaseFire program was eliminated several years ago due to a lack of funding and the village, along with virtually every municipality in the country, would be hurt by President Donald Trump’s series of proposed budget cuts and defunding initiatives.

“When Congressman Davis goes back to Washington, we need to make sure Trump knows that we have [Davis’s] back! When I go back to Springfield after this rally, we need to make sure Gov. Bruce Rauner knows that I have your support!” Welch said.

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Saturday’s march was organized by the Rho Zeta Lambda chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. | Courtesy Rep. Welch/Facebook

“Rauner is trying to kill communities like Maywood by holding our budget hostage,” Welch said. “He’s trying to hold it hostage not to help people like me and you, but to help wealthy people like him! We need to make sure he knows he needs to fund our budget. Getting a budget will help us decrease violence.

“It’s no coincidence that since Rauner has taken office and since we haven’t had a budget, violence has increased. That budget is a moral document that funds our schools and gives kids who aren’t working during the summer jobs,” Welch said. “If kids aren’t working during the summer, what are they going to do? They’re going to do crazy, stupid things because that’s what they do when their minds are idle.”

“I’m going to say it to Welch, any bill that you put forward it will pass,” said Perkins. “To each one of you that have marched here this morning, you don’t know what you did. Not only did you put it on the map, you put it on God’s agenda.”

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Maywood Mayor Edwenna Perkins and Rep. Welch during Saturday’s peace march. | Courtesy Rep. Welch/Facebook

Referencing Alpha Phi Alpha’s rich history, which dates back to 1906, Davis, who is also an Alpha, said that Saturday’s march was an echo of the struggle that necessitated the fraternity’s founding Cornell University in New York.

“When times like these existed back in the early 1900s, a group of fellas got together and decided they needed to form a brotherhood,” Davis said. “They needed to get together so they could protect each other. Things were happening then just like they’re going on now.” VFP

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The Anatomy of a Murder in Broad Daylight

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Bystanders gather near the scene of a murder on Central in Austin on April 7. One man was killed and several bystanders wounded when the occupants of a gray or white vehicle drove by Corcoran Grocery and began shooting in the middle of the day. | William Camargo/Wednesday Journal

Wednesday, April 12, 2017|| By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

B.J. McKinney Jr., 24, of Chicago’s Austin neighborhood, was pronounced dead at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood last Friday afternoon. He was one of countless shooting victims from around the Chicago area that the hospital takes in each year.

We often read about how victims were in good, stable, serious or critical condition at Loyola; or how, in too many cases, they were pronounced dead there. Rarely do we read the circumstances leading up to their presence at the hospital, one of Maywood’s largest employers. 

Until now. 

This is the story of how McKinney died in the middle of the afternoon and how a community responded the next day. To listen to the audio of the moment the shots were fired, click here

At around 1:25 p.m. on April 7, inside of Corcoran Grocery, on the corner of Central Avenue and West Corcoran Place, a native West Sider was asked about his experience growing up in Austin.

“I’ve been here all of my life,” he said. “I grew up here.”

Was he proud of being from the West Side?

“Yeah. I’ve made it here all my life,” he said. “This is all I know. I moved away and wound up coming back. Back to my roots.”

As this conversation was happening, a young, African-American man who appeared to be in his 20s came inside of the store, shopped for a few minutes and left out, music from portable speakers blaring in his wake.

How has the neighborhood changed over time?

“It’s changed a lot,” the older man said. “Different things done changed. I was here before cell phones and computers and cameras and all that stuff. Social media changed the whole area.”

The man didn’t appear entirely comfortable with this random moment of introspection. He had been thrown off by the request for an interview, which started with President Trump, about whom, the man said, he didn’t have an opinion.

So he was asked to talk about life on the West Side. Although uncomfortable, he labored for a language to articulate his home and what it means to be born and to live in Austin.

To live through it.

He wanted to have the words and seemed to be fighting to lift his thoughts above the gravity of the mundane — an elderly black woman sitting by a window, near an ice cream freezer, waiting for someone to ask her to scoop out a serving; the infectious bump of the rapper and producer Future decibels away, just outside of Corcoran’s concrete walls.

What made him return home after having left so many years ago?

Before the Austin native could answer, a barrage of bullets assaulted the senses. At least a dozen rounds were fired in quick, random succession like kernels popping.

Within microseconds, bodies inside of the store were crouched, shaking, prostrate, standing paralytic. Several seconds later, the piercing sound stopped and, after a moment of silence, someone near the store’s entrance asked, “Am I shot?”

“If you was shot, you wouldn’t be walking!?” said someone else, before a voice further in the distance, just a few feet south of Corcoran, yelled, “B.J. shot!

“Who?!”

“B.J.!”

“S—t! No! No! No!”

“He dead.”

A crowd of at least a dozen people gathered around the 20-something-year old who had not long ago walked out of Corcoran’s, taking the sound of his music with him.

Apparently, the shooting started as soon as he stepped out of the store, with the shooter — assuming there was only one —  aiming at B.J. as he ran south on Central Avenue. Not long into his attempt to escape, the young man dropped on the sidewalk, his body limp near a CTA bus stop, where shards of glass met blood.

He was not yet dead. He was gasping for air, fighting as he lay still. On the ground, he may have heard sounds, textured with dread, coming from a shrill chorus crowded around his body — shouts to stay awake, to pray.

“Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!” one woman shouted.

“You see what the f—k we go through? Every f—ing day!” said another woman to no one in particular, and to everyone, as she walked away from the malaise.

“Talk to him! Talk to him!” instructed a man who, along with several other bystanders, hovered over the victim. B.J. may have heard the blare of traffic, police sirens, car horns, the admonition of cops clearing the scene — the gravity of the mundane.

The police arrived shouting and mad, bulldozing their way through the crowd, yelling commands, taping off the perimeter, turning people who claimed to have known the young man or to have seen the shooting, into mumbling spectators.

The first-responding officers seemed less focused on shoving potential witnesses away than asking about details of the shooting. What was seen and heard and experienced came out piecemeal and almost by happenstance.

There was more passion in the confrontations between the civilians and the cops, who did not still the chaos as much as shift its focus. So the scene of a daytime shooting and, as later news reports would have it, a murder (of one young black man by, it is likely, another), became an arena pregnant with the possibility of another conflagration of violence.

An African American man, a few dozen feet away from B.J., had apparently hauled off and punched another African American man before being restrained by an officer. Two bodies now lay in the street. Another officer, yelling and pointing, rushed over to where B.J. lay. A few people were still administering CPR.

Ruby Humphrey, 56, said that she was standing next to B.J., near the entrance to Corcoran, when the shots rang out. Witnesses say the gunfire came from a gray or white van. Humphrey confirmed that the shots were coming from a vehicle, but said that she couldn’t identify it.

Humphrey may have been the last person to speak with the victim, who she said was nicknamed “B.J.” by those in the neighborhood. No one could give his real name.

“I said, ‘Where you living at now? You used to live over here.’ Soon as I walked away, they was shooting,” she said. “They shot all in that doorway [of Corcoran]. They shot in the store. I haven’t been in nothing like this before.”

Humphrey, who said that she’s homeless, added that she didn’t know B.J. to have been involved with gangs, “but you know how these people are around here. They try to force you into that stuff.”

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Broken glass at the entrance of Corcoran Grocery in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood after a shooting that resulted in five wounded and one man dead on April 7. | William Camargo/Wednesday Journal

According to a report published hours after the shooting by the Chicago Tribune, “four other men and a teenage boy” were shot along with B.J. They were taken to West Suburban Medical Center in Oak Park, where they’re in good condition.

B.J. was rushed to Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, where he was pronounced dead. A relative told Chicago Tribune reporters that the victim was 23 and that “Facebook killed him.”

“[T]hat’s what did it,” the man said. “They boxing over Facebook. It’s so stupid.”

The cousin told the reporters that B.J. was seen by people inside of a “gray vehicle traveling east” as the young man walked out of Corcoran. The cousin said that the other people who were wounded were bystanders. They ranged in age from 17 to 46 and were all shot in the lower extremities.

Police found at least 27 shell casings at the scene. They were marked by “little yellow police cards,” Chicago Tribune reporters wrote.

Before those markers were placed, police had urged bystanders not to accidentally kick any of the casings as they were backing away from B.J.’s body.

“Papa you ain’t got no pennies do you?” Humphrey asked a reporter as she was walking across the street in order to get outside of the taped-off crime scene. When she got to the “L” station entrance, she was asked whether or not she would be willing to be photographed.

“What’s this for?” she said while striking a pose.

Someone asked her about the vehicle.

“I didn’t see it,” Humphrey said. “Baby, I was so busy running I hit the ground. God take care of us fools.”

The morning after

The next day, on April 8, the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office released its daily ledger. The third case listed is that of Byron McKinney, Jr., (pictured below), a 24-year-old black male of the 500 block of North Pine Ave.

At 10 a.m., Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (1st) convened a press conference in front of Corcoran Grocery “to demand immediate action following mass shooting in Austin.”

At the scene, which was taped off for several hours after the incident, the shards of glass and blood from the afternoon before had been swept away. Commuters waited for the 85 Central at the bus stop, inches from the spot where McKinney dropped dead. Shoppers streamed in and out of Corcoran. People gathered in front of storefronts, basking in the summertime weather.

Except for the bus stop’s missing glass and the lower left portion of Corcoran’s glass doorway that had been shattered by a bullet, it was hard to tell that a fatal shooting had happened less than 24 hours earlier.

“It’s a great morning, but it’s also a sad morning,” said Ald. Emma Mitts (37th). “Every day or every other day someone is being shot down. All I know is funeral after funeral.”

Mitts said that while on her way to work that morning, she had mistaken the head of an angel that she has in her home for a bullet hole.

“That little angel has white wings with a black head,” she said. “I look and says, ‘There’s a bullet hole in my window. Lo and behold, it was in my mind. There was an angel there looking at me, but in my mind [I saw a bullet hole].”

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Boykin, along with Mitts, Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th), Congressman Danny K. Davis (7th) and Rev. Ira Acree, demanded that local, state and federal leaders release a comprehensive plan to address the violence on the city’s West and South Sides.

“This violence is in three [police] districts primarily,” said Boykin. “District 15, District 11 and District 7. I know we have the collective will and political courage to reduce this violence. We must do it because we must save our children. We must save our young people. Senior citizens who live in this community deserve to walk down the street without fear of being shot and killed.”

“People who control budgets can send resources to get some of these young men some jobs, give them viable options for life,” said Acree, the pastor of Greater St. John Bible Church in Austin who, over his 27 years of pastoring, has buried a small congregation of people slain by gun violence.

“We’re calling upon the governor, the mayor and the president of the county board to help us,” Acree said. “And we’ll pledge that we’ll continue to do our part.”

Taliaferro said that he’d heard from residents who lauded efforts by the police to clear the scene. He also praised one officer’s efforts to revive McKinney shortly after he was shot. But he criticized the department’s leadership for not calling him in the shooting’s aftermath.

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U.S. Congressman Danny K. Davis and Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (1st), along with other elected officials, area residents and community leaders during an April 8 press conference.| Michael Romain/VFP

“It has been almost 24 hours and as alderman of this ward, I have not received a phone call from the police superintendent assuring me they have a plan in place to help reduce violence in this community and stop the bloodshed,” Taliaferro said.

Taliaferro added that he plans on meeting with 15th District Commander [Betts] about some officer’s treatment of bystanders while trying to clear the scene. The alderman also emphasized what he said was the city’s unfocused efforts at stopping the violence on the West and South Sides, particularly when compared to the focus given to dealing with North Side traffic.

“I have not heard from the superintendent’s command staff, but I look at the news and see how much they’re preparing for the traffic at Wrigley Field,” said Taliaferro, who is a former Chicago police sergeant. “I’m worried because I don’t see that same concern about the gun violence on the West and South Sides of Chicago.”

Acree, who said that members of his church were passing out pieces of religious literature in the area of the shooting while it was taped off, described a “tale of two cities in Chicago.”

“I was just teaching up at North Park University a few weeks ago,” he said. “On the North Side, you can be safe, but when you come to North Lawndale, you got to duck and dodge. In Austin, wives can’t even go to their cars at night. It’s obvious that you can’t even walk out in the daytime.”

While talking about the lack of federal funding focused on poor, minority areas across the country, Congressman Davis subtly referenced President Donald Trump. The day before McKinney was killed, the president ordered the launching of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase, which U.S. government officials believe was used to launch a chemical weapons attack on Syrian civilians earlier in the week.

“You cannot go into a state in this country and not find poverty, deprivation, people who have almost given up and lost hope,” said Davis, whose own grandson was murdered on the South Side last year. “They don’t know what else to do.”

“We all know that money is scarce, but it’s not too scarce to bomb and shoot missiles,” Davis said. “It’s not too scarce to kill people without knowing whether or not they were the targets that you ought to be looking at.”

West Side resident Anthony Ruffin, 46, posited himself as the embodiment of the poverty and depravity that Davis referenced.

“They done took everything we had here,” Ruffin said. “The after-school programs, the summer jobs. They done closed the schools. You got guys who will do whatever is necessary to take care of their families. I’m an ex-offender, I been out for over 10 years. I done did everything they asked me to do and it ain’t no jobs here in the city. All the jobs they are giving us are out in suburbs where we can’t get to.”

“We can’t do it alone,” Davis said, responding to Ruffin’s comments. “If I could appropriate $5 million to do something on this block, I’d say, ‘Well let’s do it.’ But I can’t do it alone. You’ve got to help convince others to have the same thoughts and ideas we have. Nobody in the country does more for ex-offenders than I do.”

James Cole, 73, owns Shine King, a venerable shoe-shining store that’s a few doors down from Corcoran. Cole also owns the building where Corcoran is located, as well as several parcels across the street. He was inside of Shine King when the shooting happened.

“This is really kids fighting each other,” Cole said. “They fight little personal fights and they want to display it on the streets … I’ve been working every day for the last 53 years. I hope things go right. I’m scared to stay in bed sometimes.”

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On Facebook, a compilation of old photos of McKinney, including one that shows him in a cap and gown, were posted to the timeline of his mother, Charlene Redmond. The post had generated over 700 like, sad and cry emojis, and over 280 comments, most expressing condolences, within a span of fewer than 48 hours.

As the politicians and news cameras dispersed, Beverly Hughes (pictured above) was sitting inside of the glassless bus shelter, waiting for the 85 Central. She said that she’s aware of what happened on Friday afternoon but that it wasn’t going keep her from getting to work.

Was she at least a little more afraid considering what happened yesterday in broad daylight?

“Baby, it’s fearful out here, period,” Hughes said. “I done lost a son to this crap. They shot my baby five times for his car.”

So how does she cope with the fear? How does she handle the cloud of sudden death hovering over this sunlit Saturday afternoon?

“Grace of God,” Hughes said. “That’s how I deal with it. If it’s my time, it’s my time. But it’s sad out here. Very sad.” VFP

Study: Area Residents Crushed By College Debt | Congressman and State Rep Seeking to Help Ease the Pain

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Sunday, February 26, 2017 || By Michael Romain & Igor Studenkov || @maywoodnews

According to a recent study by LendEDU, which describes itself as “a marketplace for student loans and student loan refinance,” 70 percent of college graduates who live in the 7th Congressional District — which covers all or parts of Maywood, Bellwood, Broadview and Melrose Park — leave school with debt. The average student debt per borrower in the district is almost $30,000.

“In 2017, more than 44 million Americans are working to repay student debt,” the LendEDU study notes. “And, the average borrower is working to repay more than $28,000 after graduation.”

Two lawmakers at the state and federal level, however, are working on plans to help ease that heavy financial burden.

U.S. Representative Danny Davis, who represents the 7th Congressional District, is working on legislation to could make it easier for first-generation college students to pay for their education and he wants his constituents’ input.

The details of the proposal are still being worked out, Davis said, but the goals are clear. The congressman wants to create something that would not only help cover tuition but things like room and board, transportation and supplies.

Davis’ Education Advisory Committee, which is working on the proposal, held a public hearing on Feb. 18 in Chicago. The congressman said that residents are welcome to call his office to share their ideas of what the bill should include.

As Davis explained during the Feb. 18 meeting, the committee is just one of the many committees he has set up to help him create legislation.

“We have advisory committees on almost everything we can think of,’ he said. “When we run for office we ask [voters] to give us the ability to represent them. The reality is, I don’t know what you think and how you feel, and what your priorities are, so I spent a great deal of time asking people how they feel.”

The idea from this particular bill, he said, came directly from conversations with constituents.

“Every year, I encounter students who went [to college] for the first semester, but couldn’t go the next semester because they were in debt to the school,” he said.

To give your input, contact Davis’s district office, located at 2746 West Madison St., at (773) 533-7520. Office hours are from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. You can also visit his website at davis.house.gov.

At the state level, Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch (7th), whose district spans all or parts of Maywood, Bellwood, Broadview and Melrose Park, has co-sponsored House Bill 3447,  which would establish the Tuition Reduction Act. The bill is currently in the House Higher Education Committee, which Welch chairs.

Rep. WelchThe bill provides individual grants to full-time undergraduates in Illinois who are enrolled at public universities in order to help offset tuition costs.

The bill also requires “each university to annually report updated estimates of the total amount in grants awarded in an academic year to the governor and the appropriate committees of the General Assembly,” according to a summary of the legislation.

“As Chair of the House Higher Education Committee, I see a lot of proposals that would affect a student’s ability to enroll into one of Illinois’ many public universities,” said Welch.

“Constant tuition increases can prevent students from applying to state universities and colleges,” he added. “It can also force them to look at colleges out of the state, and many times these students do not move back to Illinois after receiving their degree.” VFP

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Maywood Aldi Closing A Done Deal, But Officials Have Made Concessions

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Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., with Maywood Mayor Edwenna Perkins, Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin and Congressman Danny K. Davis, among other community members, outside of the Maywood Aldi on Madison Street. | Michael Romain/VFP

Wednesday, December 21, 2016 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews || UPDATED: 12/22/16

Despite a vigorous push to keep the store open, a group of village officials and elected leaders have resigned themselves to the reality that the Maywood Aldi, 216 Madison St., will close on Dec. 24. Company executives announced the news earlier this month.

Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (1st), who convened a Wednesday afternoon press conference outside of the store, said that, during meetings held earlier this week, Aldi executives gave two main reasons for the store’s closing.

“The first reason is because this store is the least shopped store in Cook County,” Boykin said. “[Aldi] has over 160 stores in the Chicagoland area. [There’s been a] downward trend in terms of the number of shoppers at this store over the last 10 years.”

Boykin said the other main reason Aldi gave for leaving is because of rising property taxes.

“Property taxes, at this location, have increased 80 percent over the last six years,” he said. “So, the combination of low shopper rate, high property taxes and high sales taxes makes it untenable to do business here in Maywood.”

When asked why it decided to close on Christmas Eve, Boykin explained that Aldi officials were thinking about the work schedules of its employees.

“Whenever you close a store it’s never easy,” Boykin said. “But they said it’s the fourth quarter. In 2017, they want to start anew and fresh, so the timing is kind of awkward. But they also indicated that they wanted to give their employees a chance to have a bit of a vacation.”

Boykin said that county officials “would do well to heed this trend [of business leaving the village],” before referencing Corbin Colonial Funeral Chapel, located at 1001 Madison St., which closed its doors roughly a decade ago because of the village’s high property taxes.

It was previously reported that, according to village officials, Aldi received a Class 8 property tax incentive. But based on a recent communication with an Aldi official and Cook County records, the company didn’t receive any property tax exemptions. According to county records, the 2015 first and second installment tax bills for the Maywood Aldi totaled nearly $150,000

In a 2009 West Suburban Journal article, Corbin Colonial’s owner estimated that his 2008 second installment property taxes were $110,000.

“We have to figure out a way to make sure that the county is competitive and that we’re attracting business here and in Maywood,” Boykin said.

Rev. Marvin E. Wiley, pastor of Rock of Ages Baptist Church, 1309 Madison St. in Maywood, said that the problem with taxes also rises to the state level.

“The taxes in Maywood are high,” Wiley said. “I think the problem is state government and we need to talk to the governor, who came out and said that he was concerned about Maywood. We need to talk to him about lowering the taxes in Maywood — if only for three years — to try to bring in businesses […] If you don’t’ lower the taxes, other businesses are going to go.”

Boykin said that he was able to negotiate a three-pronged agreement with Aldi. The company, he said, has agreed to provide free shuttle service to nearby Aldi stores for shoppers who relied on the Maywood store. The details of the transportation arrangement, Boykin said, will be hammered out in the days ahead.

Aldi also agreed to lift any restrictions on the sale of the store, which it owns, to another grocer that may be interested in moving in; and that no jobs will be lost because of the closing.

Thirdly, Boykin added, employees at the Maywood store have been notified that they will be transferred to other stores in the area.

During the Dec. 21 press conference, village officials explained that they’re looking beyond Aldi to other prospective development projects. Boykin said that, according to Aldi executives, there may be another grocer looking to seize the soon-to-be-vacant property. Village officials agreed, adding that the grocer is among other developers that are knocking on the door.

“I would like to ensure all of Maywood that I’m working around the clock to improve the goods and services of this village,” said Maywood Mayor Edwenna Perkins.

“Currently, we’re looking at adding businesses and are in talks with grocers and manufacturers who are interested in making their products in our village and the surrounding consumer trade area,” she said. “We’re looking forward to adding many additional businesses to our village.”

Maywood Village Manager Willie Norfleet, Jr. said that he considers Aldi’s exit an opportunity.

“It’s always disheartening when you lose a service, but the right posture is to get back up, snap out of it and seek another alternative,” Norfleet said. “We need to begin recruiting somebody to come in and not just limit ourselves to one company. We need to find another way to get those services back. Sometimes, you can get something a bit better if you don’t lock yourself in for somebody who wants to leave.”

U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis (7th), who said he frequents Aldi, said that the Maywood Aldi’s exit is part of a larger narrative of economic change happening across the country.

“When people moved out here there were jobs everywhere, but many of those jobs have left urban America,” he said, adding that the expansion of expressways into far-away that allow people to travel to and from, and live in, faraway suburbs puts inner-ring suburbs like Maywood in a bind when it comes to attracting, and retaining, both customers and the businesses they serve.

“Trying to balance a budget, especially if you’re not getting much in the way of commercial tax revenue, is hard,” Davis said. “It’s hard to keep a community going.”

Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. said that Aldi’s exit from Maywood, where it’s been located since 1992, is part of a more insidious pattern.

“I saw them leave 87th Street (in Chicago), I saw them leave Peoria and now Maywood,” Jackson said. “It looks as if they’re expanding, generally, but moving away from black communities. We find that pattern unacceptable. And they’re getting tax breaks from the state and county and cities. We need a good social contract with consumers, taxpayers and store owners to share in the benefits of the relationship.” VFP

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misstated the amount of property taxes Aldi was paying on its Maywood location and that the company received tax exemptions. VFP regrets the error.

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Woman Sets Self on Fire Inside Danny K. Davis’s Offices

Rep. Danny K. Davis

Tuesday, August 30, 2016 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

A woman is in stable condition after she reportedly set herself on fire inside of the congressional offices of U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis (7th) on Tuesday afternoon.

According to a statement released by Davis’s office, at around 3:15 p.m., the woman entered the offices at 2746 W. Madison St. and started causing a scene. The congressman said he wasn’t at the office when the woman came in. He noted that he was coming from a meeting just down the street.

“My staff said she started picking things up out of the office and the receptionist asked her not to,” Davis said in a phone interview on Tuesday.

“Eventually, they told her if she kept on, they’d have to call the police and at that juncture she said, ‘I’m not going to jail,’ and start drinking hand sanitizer and then started taking the stuff and rubbing it on her clothes. Then, she lit her clothes on fire with a cigarette lighter.”

Davis said one of his staffers grabbed a fire extinguisher and put the fire out before calling 911. The woman, Davis said, suffered burns and was taken to Stroger Hospital.

Davis said the woman was carrying no identification at the time of the incident and emergency responders could not immediately identify her.

“We have people like her who come to our office every day in need of mental health services and many are just a little bit away from that point,” Davis said.

“It just reinforces the tremendous need for mental health services in our community,” he added. “Those needs are going unmet. We hope and pray for this woman’s speedy and complete recovery and that her family finds out where she is.” VFP

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