The Week in Review: Many problems, many protests

These may be the dog days of August, but there’s no quiet in Chicago. Over the past week, protests have mushroomed across the city.

On Monday, youth organizers took the to street to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Damian Turner’s death and demand, yet again, that the University of Chicago Medical Center build an adult trauma center as part of its sprawling medical complex. After Turner was shot and wounded at 61st Street and Cottage Grove Avenue, but had to travel by ambulance 10 miles to the North Side for treatment at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

There is a dearth of trauma centers on the city’s South Side  The Chicago Reporter’s Steven Ross Johnson wrote later in the week. “[T]here’s no adult trauma center located in Chicago south of 16th Street,” he wrote. “As a result, significant portions of 19 South Side communities are not within 45 minutes of the nearest trauma center by ambulance, according to the Reporter’s analysis of a 2010 American Trauma Society map of Illinois trauma centers.”

On Tuesday, mental health advocates gathered outside of the University Club in the Loop, hoping to catch Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel before he headed inside the club for an event. The protesters wanted to question the mayor about his mental health priorities. The city’s mental health facilities have been roiled over the past several years: they’ve faced closure and could now be privatized.

On Wednesday, immigrant rights activists were arrested blocking a highway on-ramp; the action took place during what the Reporter’s Maria Inés Zamudio described as an “emotional and heated public hearing” about the controversial federal Secure Communities program.

Under the program, when people are arrested by local authorities, the arrestees fingerprints are sent to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to identify undocumented immigrants. The program “has come under fire for deporting immigrants with no criminal record,” Zamudio wrote.

On Thursdays, members of the Grassroots Collaborative got theatrical with their protest, arranging student desks outside of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange building on Wacker Drive to mock the $15 million Tax Increment Finance (TIF) agreement the trading company and the City of Chicago agreed to in 2009.

The collaborative wants that money to go toward Chicago Public Schools. With public sector budgets bleeding red, calls are increasing to use the city’s unallocated TIF dollars to help close those budget holes. The city’s 2012 budget gap is estimated at more than $635 million, while CPS faces a $712 million deficit.

Elsewhere this week on the Muckrakers’ blog, Megan Cottrell wrote about a zoning battle in West Humboldt Park. Residents there were worried about the prospect of losing open space in their neighborhood. Cottrell discussed some of the research about what it means to have easy access to parks:

Research shows that access to parks is important for city children, especially in disadvantaged neighborhoods. The University of California, Los Angeles found that teenagers living within 400 meters of a safe park got more physical activity than those who did not live close to a park. Further research … shows that “communities without parks and playgrounds often lead to sedentary children and stressful lives.” Data from the Journal of Leisure Research showed that parks were even important for adults, and visits to parks helped adults deal with stress more positively.

Latinos, meanwhile, comprise a growing share of the population across Illinois, in Cook County and in the City of Chicago, a trend that has big implications. Sylvia Puente, the executive director of the Latino Policy Forum, said that the numbers have pushed her organization to emphasize the need for an equitable early childhood education system in the state.

We also wrote about the new state commissions that will study various forms of racial and economic inequality in Illinois this week.

In other Chicago media this week, the Chicago News Cooperative’s Kari Lydersen took a look at the frustration the medical community feels about the consultants that the county has hired for advice.

“The role consultants play at County Health is the object of strong criticism from doctors, nurses and other staff members who say they fear that consultants driven by the bottom line are at odds with the system’s obligation to serve Cook County’s neediest patients. Hundreds of front-line staff members have been laid off in the last two years,” Lydersen wrote.

In state government news, there’s really one big story–one shoe to drop–in Springfield these days, and a recent WBEZ headline puts it clearly: “All eyes on Quinn as gambling bill hangs in the balance.” Governor Quinn’s comments of late have seemed skeptical of the massive gambling expansion bill the General Assembly passed this spring, but Mayor Emanuel in Chicago wants the bill, and the money it would generate for the city, badly. The two engaged in a war of words about the legislation this week.

Emanuel also took to the South Side to announce a new foreclosure prevention program this week, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Hollywood, meanwhile, is taking an interest in Gary, Ind., using the city’s decay as a dramatic back drop.

Finally, need a weekend reading opportunity? Check out the writer Alex Kotlowitz’s new posts over at Chicago Magazine‘s Off The Grid site.

© Community Renewal Society 2011

Leave a comment