Politics in review: Rep. Rush tossed for hoodie; set asides process streamlined in Chicago, Cook County; 15th Amendment anniversary

Here's a roundup of the elections and political news that made The Chicago Reporter's radar this week:

An Illinois House committee formed to investigate a federal charge of bribery against 10th District state Rep. Derrick Smith asked the U.S. Attorney's Office for help. The six-member, bipartisan panel wants more information on U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's case against Smith before the committee proceeds with any punishment. "If we didn't [have information] we would simply be acting on allegations of which no one has testified or proved," 57th District state Rep. Elaine Nekritz told the Associated Press this week. The U.S. Attorney's Office has not said whether it will provide that info. The House panel could vote to censure or reprimand Smith, who has not shown his face in Springfield since being arrested two weeks ago. The panel is hoping to meet again an April 9. A week after being arrested for bribery, Smith, a West Side Democrat, won another term in the statehouse in a contest that heavily focused on issues of race and party politics.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced Tuesday that the city and the county will join forces to make it easier for women- and minority-owned businesses to get public contracts. It's an attempt to improve already existent county and city programs designed to give such companies a leg up in obtaining contracts. Before the city and county required separate certifications, making the process more difficult and the waiting times, in some cases, extremely long.  The merger of the program is also an attempt to make sure that non-minority-owned companies do not pose as eligible applicants and fraudulently receive contracts, which has happened in the past.

Preckwinkle also spoke at the African American and Latino Social Work Symposium in River Forest on Thursday. She discussed a litany of topics including the need to overhaul the criminal justice system, because of its devastating impact on communities of color, and likewise, to stop jailing low-level offenders for crimes like having small amounts of marijuana, which lands a disproportionate amount of black men in prison. Preckwinkle said that the city needed to invest more in neighborhood schools, as opposed to charter and magnet schools. She also talked about job creation and training, economic development, social and financial inequality, and healthcare. The Reporter's editor and interim publisher, Kimbriell Kelly, was also a speaker at the event.

A bill that would expand the types of offenses that could be sealed from a person's record is lingering in the statehouse, the Reporter's Yana Kunichoff wrote this week. HB5723, sponsored by 8th District state. Rep LaShawn Ford, a West Side Democrat, would allow ex-offenders to be able to petition courts to remove more non-violent felonies from public view of their records than they're currently able to. Advocates argue that it would allow ex-offenders to more easily find work, housing and or education.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court finished hearing arguments for and against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It is taking a tentative vote on the constitutionality of the law, but will not deliver a ruling until June. As was reported in previous posts, many states, like Illinois, have remained sidelined in passing legislation that adheres to the federal law, choosing instead to see how the high court rules.

First District U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, a South Side Democrat and former Black Panther, was booted from the House floor Wednesday for wearing a hoodie and sunglasses. He did so to draw attention to the recent shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black Florida teen. Rush called for a full investigation into the matter before he was escorted out for violating the House's no-hat rule. “Racial profiling has got to stop,” he said, while in the lower chamber. “Just because someone wears a hoodie does not make them a hoodlum.”

Today, March 30, is the 141st anniversary of the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which made it illegal to deny a person the right to vote based on "race, color, or servitude [having previously been a slave]." Despite the 1870 passage of the 15th Amendment, intimidation of voters of color continued through much of the 20th Century. Women would not get the right to vote for nearly a half a century.

© Community Renewal Society 2012



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