Race, poverty and politics: NATO and Chicago's finest; 3rd-party candidate talks politics; Medicaid cuts pass House

As the city winds down from a weekend of riot police and protesters, different takes on the NATO summit are emerging. Despite claims of police abuse during the NATO summit, much of Chicago media has lionized Chicago Police Department superintendent Gary McCarthy. The Chicago Sun-Times ran a cover story saying “the city has a new hero” and RedEye ran an op-ed patting the police department on the back for its self-restraint. Some people beg to differ, like Chicago-based political journalist Kevin Gosztola, who writes about the climate of repression during NATO weekend.

While much attention was focused on the NATO 6, what about the other 2.3 million people incarcerated in the U.S.? At the online news magazine Truthout, editor Maya Schenwar wrote an opinion piece about the millions of people who, like those arrested during the NATO summit, are behind bars, many for the indefinite future. The only difference is that their arrest and imprisonment didn’t make headlines. Maybe “the wake of mass activist arrests–specifically, when vocal activists (some of them white and middle class) are arrested by the dozen and thrust into the public eye–might be an apt time to spread awareness of the stark injustices perpetrated every minute, across the country, in the name of ‘criminal justice,'” says Schenwar. (full disclosure: The Chicago Reporter’s Yana Kunichoff also works at Truthout.)

On Wednesday, a panel of Chicago Democratic committeemen slated Lance Tyson to compete as a third party candidate in the 10th District state representative race against indicted lawmaker Derrick Smith. Tyson is a public finance attorney and a top aide to ex-Cook County Board President Todd Stroger. Read The Chicago Reporter‘s exclusive interview with Tyson.

Tom Ricketts’ damage control campaign continued this week, when he met with the City Council Black Caucus and Rev. Jesse Jackson, Jr. He’s trying to smother a political firestorm ignited by a report that his father, Joe Ricketts, put $10 million into a racially insensitive attack ad against President Barack Obama. Jackson and 20th Ward Ald. Willie Cochran commended Ricketts for the move, but 4th Ward Ald. Will Burns said Ricketts has “more work to do.” Ricketts, the owner of the Chicago Cubs, is trying desperately to smooth things over with Mayor Rahm Emanuel–a former aide to Obama– and black aldermen. He’ll need all of their support if he has any hope moving forward with a $300 million plan to renovate Wrigley Field.

Lawmakers in the Illinois House passed a bill Thursday that would cut $1.6 billion from Medicaid services. The legislation would require low-income parents with “medically fragile” children, who receive specialized services for their kids through Medicaid, to begin paying $400-a-month co-payments. It eliminates Illinois Cares Rx, which helps about 180,000 low-income seniors purchase medicine. The changes would also reduce the eligibility age for Family Care, another health-insurance program for the poor. That could affect as much as 264,000 people. In addition, the legislation would require the state to do more to weed out people who are not eligible for Medicaid services, but are receiving them. The state estimates that number is currently as high as 300,000. If that many people are excluded, it could save the state $350 million. The overall cuts follow calls from Gov. Pat Quinn earlier this year to plug a $2.7 billion hole in the state’s Medicaid program.

The Illinois legislature also rejected anti-bullying legislation this week on the basis that it could be used as “cover to indoctrinate students.” In particular, NBC reported, there were concerns from some conservatives that the legislation could be used to lecture students to embrace homosexuality.  The framers of the HB5290 intended to spell out what would happen to students caught bullying, and how to investigate allegations of bullying. The legislation was one vote short of passage, but it could be called for a vote before the end of the legislative session.

–Yana Kunichoff contributed to this post.

© Community Renewal Society 2012

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