Race, poverty and politics: Supreme Court rules on health care; cabbies plan strike; city passes pot law; Emanuel introduces new gun ordinance

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the majority of President Barack Obama's signature health care law Thursday. Five of the nine justices ruled that key provisions, such as the individual mandate were constitutional. But it threw out a provision that would have withheld federal funds from states that elected not to expand their Medicaid programs. Check out The Chicago Reporter's coverage to see how the law will affect folks in Illinois.

Violence in Chicago has continued to raise eyebrows around the country. The New York Times estimated this week that killings had risen by 38 percent in 2012. The article pointed out that shootings had gone down in other major cities including New York and Los Angeles. "As of June 17, 240 people had been killed here this year, mostly in shootings, 66 more deaths than occurred in the same period in 2011," the article noted. A particularly heartwrenching statistic is the number of Chicago Public School children shot so far this school year. That number is 319, more than any of the last four school years. Read a Chicago Reporter investigation from earlier this year that looks at some failed strategies for staunching youth violence, and another story on whether school closures in low-income neighborhoods could contribute to the spike.

Schools in Chicago remain one of the central points of segregation, reported WBEZ. While white suburban schools are becoming more diverse, schools with majority black and Latino populations continue to be mostly composed of one race. The article characterized a situation when 90 percent or more students were from one race as "extreme segregation." A story looking at one block in Englewood also further highlighted the city's segregation. "Danita tells me she'd love to leave Englewood and move with her two sons to Lincoln Park on the city's North Side, even though she thinks she’d be signing up for extra scrutiny," the story says.

Chicago is facing a group of disgruntled taxi drivers who are threatening to strike during rush hour every Monday morning between 6 am and 11 am until they get a fare increase. The United Taxidrivers Community Council says it represents at least 2,000 cabbies. Cab fares have been frozen since 2005, when the City Council imposted an 11.7 percent increase. The drivers are asking for a 22 percent hike, reported the Sun-Times.

Two former Chicago pols were arrested Thursday on federal bribery charges. Ex-con Ambrosio Medrano, former 25th Ward Alderman, and former 7th District Cook County Commissioner Joseph Mario Moreno are accused of collectively using bribery and kickbacks to sell bandages to Stroger Hospital and other public hospitals. In a separate charge, Medrano individually teamed up with businessmen in a similar scheme to obtain business from an out-of-state hospital system. Medrano was imprisoned from 1996-98 after the FBI caught him on tape accepting a bribe from an informant. Medrano's arrest was part of Operation Silver Shovel, which brought down a number of Chicago pols, although Medrano complained that most of those charged and convicted were minorities. Medrano openly discussed the incident with the Reporter back in 2001.

In other corruption news, former Chicago Alderman Dick Simpson, who now heads the political science department at the University of Illinois at Chicago, released a report this week examining corruption in suburban Chicago. In the report, Simpson argues there needs to be an Inspector General watching suburban government because the Illinois Attorney General's Office and the Cook County States Attorney's Office have not vigorously gone after suburban corruption.

The city council passed a law Wednesday making small amounts of marijuana a ticketable offense. Under the ordinance, people 18 and over caught with 15 grams of marijuana or less will be slapped with fines ranging from $250-$500.

Forty-ninth Ward Ald. Joe Moore introduced a resolution Wednesday calling on the U.S. Congress to pass a constitutional amendment overturning the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which allowed unlimited political spending by corporations and unions. This followed the Supreme Court's refusal Monday to hear arguments in a case from the Montana Supreme Court. In that case, Montana said states could still maintain restrictions on campaign financing despite the Citizens United ruling. In February, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Montana's decision, and by its actions Monday said it essentially considers the case closed.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel also introduced on Wednesday a tweaked version of the city's 2010 gun law. The ordinance would prohibit someone with a violent felony or misdemeanor conviction from having a gun permit for five years. The change followed a federal judge's decision last week to strike down part of the city's 2010 law which bans permits for people who have been convicted of unlawful use of a weapon.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced Thursday that the county's fiscal year 2013 budget would likely see a $267.5 million deficit. In dealing with the shortfall, Preckwinkle told reporters that "everything [is] on the table". Her office announced that a hiring freeze will be implemented as a result of the expected revenue shortage.

--Nick Moroni contributed to this post

© Community Renewal Society 2012

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