Politics in review: Rep. Rush vows to stop Metra's project; fresh food relief to food deserts; 41 alderman 'trust' Rahm

Politics in review: Rep. Rush vows to stop Metra's project; fresh food relief to food deserts; 41 alderman 'trust' Rahm
Creative Commons photo by Christopher and AmyCate

Here's a roundup of political news from the past week:

U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush wants to derail Metra before it moves forward with a multimillion-dollar federal construction project in his 1st Congressional District, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Rush is peeved because none of the bidders vying for the biggest contract--an $86 million construction deal--are African American. The project site is located at 63rd and State streets, in Englewood, an almost entirely black neighborhood. "We will stop Metra in its tracks, OK, on the tracks, cause we are not going to sit back and allow this mega-million-dollar project to come into our neighborhood, where unemployment is sky high,” Rush told the Sun-Times. He wants Metra to rebid the contracts before any vote is taken on them. The project has a total price tag of $133 million, most of which is from President Barack Obama's stimulus package-- aka The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Controversial community developer Rev. Leon Finney, Jr. sued Inspector General Joseph Ferguson to prevent Ferguson from snooping around his finances. Read the Chicago Muckrakers story on the suit and The Chicago Reporter investigation into Finney.

West Side neighborhoods will see five new farmers markets this summer, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced in a press release on Thursday. The farmers markets will be in neighborhoods that currently have limited fresh-food options--dubbed "food deserts". Kraft Foods and Safeway are coughing up $75,000 each to bankroll the opening and maintenance of the markets for the next two years. Link cards will also be accepted at the farmers markets, which are located in lower-income neighborhoods. The Sun-Times has hours and locations.

Tenth District state Rep. Derrick Smith did not show up at a meeting convened Thursday by a special House committee investigating allegations that he accepted a $7,000 bribe. The committee voted 6-0 to ask him to testify. If he does not, they could ask for a subpoena. Smith was indicted earlier this month on a federal charge of bribery.

According to the Velvet Hammer--aka House Speaker Michael Madigan--Gov. Pat Quinn's push for an additional buck-a-pack cigarette tax to offset $2.7 billion in proposed Medicaid cuts won't pass the House. Madigan likes the idea, though, he told the Chicago Tribune, but he said Republicans likely won't get behind the measure. But the juice is with Madigan and his Dems, so they could pass the tax if they wanted to, noted Illinois Senate Republican Leader Christine Rodogno, who favors spending cuts instead of a tax hike.

Cook County was publicly criticized Wednesday by members of a Senate Judiciary Committee. Republican Senators John Kyl, of Arizona, and Jeff Sessions, of Alabama, sounded off about the county's decision to ignore detainer requests for suspected illegal immigrants who make bail. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano testified before the Senate committee. She was asked why her office and the Obama administration have been complacent about Cook County's refusal to honor federal detainer requests, especially since both have taken a hard stance on Arizona's immigration policies. Napolitano said she is "trying to work with the county to see if there is a resolution."

Despite vocal opposition from a handful of alderman, Mayor Emanuel got his $1.7 billion infrastructure trust passed on Tuesday. Prior to the specially called meeting, opponents of Emanuel's trust drafted their own ordinance, which went nowhere. Those who opposed the ordinance, which will involve private investment in city projects, fear a possible lack of transparency and worry about murkiness over how projects will be paid back.

State lawmakers were in session in Springfield this week and managed to get a few things done.

SB2520 will make it a felony for family members to help fugitives flee. It passed both chambers and is waiting for Gov. Quinn's John Hancock.

HB3935 made it out of committee and is scheduled for a second reading in the Senate on May 1. The bill states that unlicensed payday lenders would not have to be paid back by consumers. Payday lenders--even the licensed ones-- have been criticized for exploiting the poor and communities of color.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan is supporting a number of legislative items aimed at supporting crime victims, which moved along this week.

HJRCA 29 would amend the Crime Victims Bill of Rights. It guarantees victims the right to be notified of court proceedings, the right to be present at hearings and trials, the right to appeal decisions that impact personal rights, and the right to present statements to the court about the impact the crime has had on them. It is now going to be a referendum question on the November general election ballot.

SB3602 will make it easier to collect fines from criminals which will go into a fund to benefit crime victims. It passed the Senate and is awaiting action in the House. A similar bill--SB3693--made it out of committee last week and was read for the second time in the House.

© Community Renewal Society 2012

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