Blog Archive

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Ay, Julian!

After the clothes extravangaza, Dawn came over this evening. We've hung out and watched TV some this week, but we haven't talked much. "I missed you," I told her out on the back porch. "I was feeling kind of crabby this week because I didn't have anybody to talk to."

"Me, too," she said.

Dawn filled me in on the upsetting latest about her big brother. Julian hasn't stayed at home overnight since Friday. He wanted to go out, his dad told him no, he went anyway and Dad said, "If you go now, don't come back." He went. Apparently he stopped in yesterday while Dawn and her dad were out of town visiting relatives, but he hasn't been back since.

Adriana was trying to tell me some of this while we were checking out the clothes, but I wasn't getting everything. Since I'm not studying Spanish right now my capacity seems to be getting weaker. Sometimes I feel like Mr. Magoo, except it's my hearing and understanding, not my sight. I stumble around in conversations bumping into things because I can't "hear" well enough. It sucks.

Dawn said something that broke my heart--she told me her mom told her that since all the rest of them have messed up, she feels like Angel is her last chance to get one of them to be somebody. "Since I kind of messed up," was how Dawn put it about herself.

"You're getting back on track!" I insisted. Especially since she had just told me minutes earlier that she's getting into a book right now. When she started, she didn't understand it and thought it was kind of boring, but she kept going and now it's kind of like watching a novela on TV--she wants to know what happens next.

"That's more important than any grade," I told her. "I'm really excited that you feel that way about a book."

Adriana told me earlier she would like to talk to Oscar about what's up with Julian. I'll call him tomorrow. Meanwhile I have to get on with things for Joey. Last week Adriana said it would be OK if my friend worked with Joey to see if he's dyslexic. We need a clean copy of the San Miguel application for him, too. (Angel got at the first one we picked up.) Adriana says Joey failed all his classes third quarter and is likely to get held back in 5th grade. I talked to someone at San Miguel who thought it might be possible to strike a deal with Chavez that if San Miguel takes him, he wouldn't be held back. I really don't think he's going to make progress there. He needs more one-on-one attention to stay focused, I think. And we really do need to see if there's a hard-wiring problem with him about reading. He's so smart and curious and artistic; I would hate to see that go to waste because of an unidentified learning disability.

Baby Clothes Galore

Friends of mine in Hyde Park stopped by this afternoon with sackfuls of baby clothes and toys. They have two boys in elementary school and at last were ready to part with their baby clothes, etc. Their mom is a friend of mine from college and emailed last week asking if I knew of a good social service agency that could use them.

I suggested they avoid the middleman and go straight to my neighbors. She was agreeable. Apparently it was quite a challenge to make the whole load fit in the car. We put everything in the basement.

Later, Adriana was free and came by to take a look through all the goodies. She brought Angel along. He got a little sleepy and I carried him around trying to get him to go out. We almost got there but not quite. Joey popped in and out, playing with/annoying his little brother, much to the amusement of his mother and me.

Angel liked a couple of the toys right off. There was a house made out of fabric with a mirror for a window and cloth doors with a picture of a baby duck behind them. He was playing "gravity check"--dropping the house and getting happy when I would pick it up and give it back to him.

We joked around a lot while Adriana checked out the rest of the loot. Lots of Osh-Kosh. "Ropa para gueros," she said. (Clothes for white people.)

"Gueros ricos," I said. We started laughing about Angel dressing like a rich white boy. Adriana figured she got about two years' worth of clothes for him out of it. Then we were laughing about all the trips to Swap-O-Rama she could skip. I suggested she could sell the clothes at Swap-O-Rama when he's through with them and she smiled. I hope she does.

It reminded me of a time when I was about 14 years old and my favorite cousins came over with grocery bags full of their hand-me-downs. I remember being really excited about going through them to see what fit me. I was wearing some of their sweaters through my 20s.

Eventually Adriana decided she would take the whole business and split it up between herself, her niece (with a newborn) and some neighbors up the street who have two toddler-ish boys.

Joey and Adriana and I hauled the whole mess out of the basement into my back yard. Joey hopped the fence and we handed the bags and boxes over to him. They're stored on their back porch for now. I hope there were some socks in there--a few weeks ago poor Angel's socks were hanging off his toes, he'd outgrown them so much. There were a nice pair of sneakers and some sandals for later. Adriana really liked the sandals.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Richards Meeting at Holy Cross

About 30 people attended tonight's meeting with Dr. Smith, the principal of Richards High School. I'd say between five and 10 were parents. The rest were a mix of community residents, youth outreach workers and institutional reps from the Peace and Ed Coalition: San Miguel, Precious Blood Ministries, I think Instituto del Progreso Latino, Catholic Charities Street Intervention. A parent volunteer and the LSC community rep, Veronica Lopez, also came out.

The heaviest outside hitters present were 9th District Commander Eugene Roy and Phil Hampton, director of community relations for CPS. I didn't get the name of his assistant, who stayed for the entire meeting, but she expressed interest in attending future Peace and Education coalition meetings.

Dr. Smith committed to attending or sending a rep from Richards (her AP or dean) to future Peace and Education Coalition meetings, though she added it is difficult to send someone when her staff is small.

The meeting mixed pre-set questions with some time for dialogue between Smith and the audience. She was first asked to explain what Richards is doing about security. Like most schools, they have things in place on the inside: cameras, a short lunch period (23 minutes) to prevent fights/food fights, but the outside has been a harder struggle. Cmdr. Roy has increased police presence outside the school at dismissal, which she says has helped. The school keeps an eye on 50th and 51st, but it wasn't clear to me from what she said how far east or west they watch. I'm sure they don't cross Ashland; I doubt they go more than a block, but it wasn't clear.

Dr. Smith also talked about Richards' response to the shooting of a student about a month ago. I'm not sure exactly where it took place--I believe not on the grounds but nearby. She said she went to the hospital to talk with the young man and his mother directly, asked him what he wanted his classmates to know, and got on the PA the next day to let people know. A crisis team from CPS did visit the school.

Agency workers told her they would like to build continuing relationships with Richards to provide ongoing safe space where students could talk about their feelings about this and other violence they have experienced.

Later, when the community was asked to let Dr. Smith know what we are doing about security, a woman who lives in the school's beat said she is pressing to get a CPD camera installed outside the school.

Youth intervention workers present pointed out that the problem is not so much the immediate area around Richards, but north of the viaduct--the blocks between 47th and 49th. I realize east of Ashland is having a tougher time, but kids also cross a line at Marshfield, which they pointed out.

The gentleman I believe was from IPL (I could be wrong) seems to have been roped into helping organize a parent patrol to make safe passage in and out of Richards. Some parents present said they are dropping their children off in cars because it is unsafe to walk. Dr. Smith says they have had two CTA buses, one northbound, one south, come to the school at the end of the day for students only. Parents admitted convincing their kids to ride these buses is difficult, and some said they have heard reports of fights on those buses, too. I personally have tried to be around between 2:30 and 3:00 on Mondays and Fridays (the days my work schedule sometimes lets me), just to keep an eye out and call the police if necessary, but I can't always be here then.

Many next steps were floated, but I think the most important one was Dr. Smith's public commitment to attend meetings of the Peace and Education Coalition. Someone I know who has been connected to Richards for a long time said afterwards, "We've been pushing for a long time, and this is the first time she has moved. Let's see if she moves more."

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Thanks to Rufus Williams

...and CPS for posting a letter on the front page of the district website about Chris Pineda and the search for his killers.

Here's the key stuff, since it won't be up there forever:

The tragedy of Chris’s death has shocked and angered people throughout the school system and the city. The future for this young man was bright. His death is a devastating shame.

In the name of justice, and in Chris’s name, if you have any information about this crime, please call the State Police at (847) 294-4605. The Board of Education and CPS — through its Children First Fund — is offering a $10,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the killer or killers.


Rufus Williams, President
Chicago Board of Education

Announcements and Upcoming Events

A couple more items from last week's Peace and Education Coalition meeting.

Mobile C.A.R.E. is looking for office space. They need about 2500 square feet of free or cheap space. I'm forgetting the geographic boundaries in which they are looking, but I think south of Roosevelt and east of Kedzie were part of it. If anyone reading this is interested, try the web site link above for contact info.

Also, this Thursday at 6 p.m. at Holy Cross there will be a meeting about the discipline and security issues at Richards High School. I posted about this last November, in "Death to the Disciples!"

Getting this meeting organized and publicized seems like a giant step forward in school-community relations for Richards. They don't post their LSC meetings out front of the school. School Lady from the end of the block, whose daughter is a sophomore there, told me she's frustrated with the LSC but my Spanish wasn't strong enough to pick out exactly what problems she's observed thus far. She's not even sure exactly who's on it, and this is someone who has been very active and committed to Chavez Elementary. If she can't figure it out I don't know who can.

Immigration Raid in La Villita

I got a call from a friend this afternoon saying Immigration and Customs Enforcement had raided the Discount Mall on 26th Street in Little Village. Tonight at 10 I went to watch the news next door and it was the top story on Univision. Dawn and I watched it together while we kept her littlest brother company.

"People will be afraid to go out of their houses now," Dawn predicted.

It was so creepy watching this on TV. I just biked down 26th Street right past there on Sunday. I couldn't help thinking this is how it started in Germany under the Nazis--police rounding up people and taking them away. I said this to Dawn, who read Elie Wiesel's Night last year for school.

"Yeah," she said. "I think about this sometimes. What if they came for my mom or dad? What if they came for me?"

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Home Depot Hiring

At Wednesday's Peace and Education Coalition meeting, someone from Instituto del Progreso Latino announced that Home Depot at 47th and Western is looking to increase its numbers of local employees. Right now their numbers aren't good--only 10 percent of the current staff are from the surrounding neighborhood.

Home Depot is partnering with IPL to find prospective employees. Nancy Munoz at 773-927-7712 is the contact person. or stop by the neighborhood IPL office at 4600 N. Wood.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Yup-Yup calls the cops

For real! I got home late this evening and heard some loud noise, including Yup-yup's voice. I considered calling the cops but it subsided quickly. Then my doorbell rang.

"Miss Maritza, before you yell at me, it's an emergency. I called the po-lice. They tried to jump me for my lawnmower," he told me. Sure enough, there was a lawnmower sitting on the sidewalk in front of Dawn's house.

"I'm 45 years old. I'm too old to be doing this," he added, raising his fist to indicate fighting. He says some young guys down the block tried to get him to sell drugs but he said no and then they wanted to jump him for his lawnmower. Given that he's unhurt and his lawnmower is still here and he looked like he might be high, I'm not sure this is all for real.

But sure enough sure enough, a cop car pulled up after he'd finished spilling his entire story to me in hyperactive detail. He went over and leaned in the window and started the spiel all over again. At that point I just went back in the house.

While we were talking, I asked him if he knew what was up with the street brawl Sunday night, but he clearly had no idea.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Coleman Concedes!

According to the Board of Elections, with only one precinct yet to report, Thompson leads Coleman by about 57 to 43. A friend texted me to say Coleman has conceded; I just found the 9:35 p.m. post on the Trib's Clout Street blog.

It's a new day here in the 16th; I sure hope it's a good one.

Monday, April 16, 2007

My Runoff Prediction

...Coleman gets my bet. I talked to someone with pretty good connections in Englewood today, who tells me that she's getting not just leftover Daley campaign cash, but some actual bodies to work the precincts and get out the vote.

There is too much robo- in SEIU's work, at least as I've seen it thus far, to beat out live bodies out there taking the old ladies over to the polls.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Ronin Teacher

I went back to the birthday party later this evening. My former next door neighbors, the family who moved in after Mr. Married moved out, were still there. Eddie and Xochitl were happy to hang out some more. Eddie asked me if I knew how big infinity was, so we started talking about numbers.

A while ago, I was telling a teacher friend of mine about my life here in Back of the Yards and he said to me, "You're a ronin teacher." I realized that was exactly right. In the days of the samurai, ronin were soldiers beholden to no lord. Nowadays they are martial arts students in search of a school. I'm a teacher without a school or a principal, so in that sense I am ronin, too.

So I just go around doing my thing when the teachable moment appears, as it did tonight with Eddie and big, big numbers. We talked about infinity and the symbol for infinity, we talked about how infinity was bigger than a million, a billion, a trillion and a quadrillion. (I doubt the place order lesson stuck--we went from hundreds up, but it might have cleared up whether a thousand was bigger than a million for five minutes. That one is tough because thousand is mil in Spanish.)

I asked Eddie if his teacher had mentioned a googol and he said no. So I told him he should go to school tomorrow and ask his teacher, "How big is a googol?" I made Xochtil promise she would check up on whether he did it or not, and made them both repeat the question. I gave them high fives when they pronouced googol right.

I had some tequila with the girls: Adriana, Marisa and Eddie's mom. At least I think I was having tequila--it seemed fairly mild, Gallo Something, it had agave and it was from Jalisco, but on three shots I should be wicked wasted and I'm not, so I'm not sure what I was drinking. Xochitl and Eddie were collecting the pop tops off of beer cans for something at school. They had a large collection by the end of the night.

At the end Julian put on some music and said "We're going to dance," but Daya and Angelito and I were the only people out on the floor. Angel was fussy so I took him from Adriana and went dancing with him a little. He quieted down. I think he had the hiccups. Daya showed off her moves.

As I was leaving, Adriana said "Until 20-what?"

"Twenty-five," I answered. They are fired up to host my birthday next month.

I pulled out my favorite old joke and said I'm the old lady, turning 40. The one person left I didn't know said he is 40. Julian told me "it's like tequila, you just get better." Good attitude!

A Tale of Two Birthday Parties

Yesterday I went up to the North Side for an old friend's 40th birthday. Eight of us gathered at a North African restaurant for crepes. They let us bring in our own wine, so we had a bottle of a nice California Pinot Noir. There was one baby in the group. We talked about politics, media and education. After dinner we went back to my friend's apartment for homemade chocolate cake, more wine (including my gift to her), and some Belgian beer. Her apartment is neat and painted in a faint shade of green she did herself. We had to move the small bowl of shells for fear the baby would break or eat them. I had a couple of conversations about academia and we made fun of people's former workplaces. We almost made it to the Green Mill to catch up with some other friends, but collectively pooped out around midnight.

Late this afternoon I went next door to Dawn's house for the joint birthday of her dad and Marisa's husband. Their place was covered in balloons, streamers and Happy Birthday signs. I would guess there were about 15-20 adults, maybe 10 kids between toddlers and tweens, and three babes in arms. Julian was wearing the shirt I brought back for him from Cuernavaca:

Cuida el agua
Toma cerveza

Save Water
Drink Beer)

Dawn's aunt was there with her new baby girl. She's a month old. There was a lot of Seven Up, Corona, and Budweiser with Clamato, Julian's favorite. He offered me some; I declined. We both grinned. I tried it before and it's OK but not my favorite--he likes to tease me about it. There was pork in mole, rice, beans and plenty of tortillas. There was also some kind of ceviche, but less of it, so I just had a little taste. There were two cakes--Julian's was chocolate, Marisa's husband's was carrot cake. I think this was Julian's 34th birthday, but his cake only had the four. Earlier we were kidding about the numbers for the other birthday boy--he's 26 but

This was one of the more fun Spanish-speaking parties I've been to because I knew enough of the people not to worry about my lack of language. Adriana gave me Angel to hold. He fell asleep and Dawn and I put him down in the bedroom. Then Dawn's aunt let me hold little Ashley while she ate. My old next-door neighbors--the family with six kids--came over and they wanted to see the little baby. Xochitl and Eddie and I chatted in English. Eddie is a big talker--he wanted to brag about his English compared to his big sister's. I suggested he stop talking and let her practice. She told me about watering the plants at the Chavez after school Garden Club.

I think Eddie was surprised to hear me speaking Spanish to Ashley. He came over at one point and said, "How do you learn two languages at once?

"That's what you're doing right now, right?"

"Yes. I'm learning Spanish and English."

"Well, how do you do that?" I asked him.

"I talk a lot," he said.

"That's what you do, Eddie, to learn any language. You talk a lot. Practice, practice practice." He smiled and went to play with a balloon.

I should take my own advice. I'm pretty shy at Spanish-language parties. Some friend of Dawn's from school was there with his dad. He clearly wasn't sure what language to speak to me--I came in and spoke Spanish but then missed some conversational cues, so he switched to his pretty weak English. I'd rather just hold the babies and talk to them than try to talk to people I don't know.

Dawn's aunt smiled when I told her daughter that Tia Maritza was going to teach her some English.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Chicago Tonight: Coleman vs. Thompson

I missed it on TV, and in case you did, too, here's a transcript of the discussion, with thanks to AlderTrak. Click the link and scroll down if you want to see this with live links. (Note 4/17: For some reason, this link is not working. The site is:

I'll let it speak for itself.

Chicago Tonight: Alderman Shirley Coleman, Joann Thompson

Christian Farr: The race is between a sixteen year incumbent and a challenger facing each other for the third time in four years. Personal attacks and issues of personal integrity have come up in this race. We'll get to those in just a moment. But first, while the ward has some new development it still is dotted with abandoned buildings, empty lots, and empty storefronts. The 16th Ward covers the South Side neighborhoods of New City, parts of Englewood, Gage Park, and Back of the Yards. And now joining us in the order they'll appear on the ballot are Joann Thompson, a correctional officer in the Cook County Sheriff's Department, and Alderman Shirley Coleman, who's been a member of the City Council since 1991. And I want to welcome both of you to Chicago Tonight. Joann, let's start with you. First of all, what was your reaction when you came in first in this election?

Joann Thompson: Well, I was pleased. I was very pleased in letting me know that the residents of the 16th Ward is ready for a change.

Christian Farr: Alderman Coleman, your reaction in coming in second in this. Sixteen years in this ward.

Shirley Coleman: Well, actually, I didn't come in second. I'm still in the race and I would like to congratulate Channel Eleven. We've been trying to have a debate with my opponent for six debates, so this is the first one she's showed up at. So let me just congratulate the power that Channel Eleven had that the unions have finally let her talk and let the people hear what we're really up against.

Christian Farr: Ms. Thompson, do you have a reaction to that?

Joann Thompson: Yes, I do. The unions haven't kept me from talking to...

Shirley Coleman: Three hundred and ninety thousand dollars worth of talking and coming out to public hearings to debate the issues.

Christian Farr: Let's let Ms. Thompson answer that. Go ahead.

Joann Thompson: I wasn't ever invited to a debate, so...

Shirley Coleman: That's...

Joann Thompson: ...I don't know what she's talking about.

Christian Farr: OK, well, let's talk about this union issue because the Big Box ordinance is a big issue and the unions have backed you because you believe in that Big Box ordinance.

Joann Thompson: Right, I do. I believe in the Bix Box ordinance because the residents of the 16th Ward, they should not have to decide whether to have a job or to have a living wage. Alderman Coleman here, she voted three times for a raise for herself totalling fifty-seven thousand dollars.

Christian Farr: Ms. Coleman, would you like to respond to that. You voted against...

Shirley Coleman: You know, that is...the only platform that they have is the fact if you will check the records, I did vote for a living wage ordinance. I believe that the 16th Ward, every family should have and make as much as you can. Let me say that you told me, 16th Ward residents, you were tired of going out shopping elsewhere. We have an opportunity to bring a Wal-Mart in. Even if you're not in the union, or if you're in the union, aren't you tired of going to 95th? And then one thing, why is such a big deal now , they were not talking about a livable wage when it was built on 95th and Western. But now all of a sudden that it wants to come into the 16th Ward, into the Englewood community where...

Christian Farr: Ms. Coleman, Ms. Coleman...

Shirley Coleman: ...we need jobs, then it's a problem?

Christian Farr: Ms. Coleman, you did side with the mayor on this. Why?

Shirely Coleman: I did, because I had an opportunity...because we had a community meeting two hundred people were there. Four percent of them told me that they do not want a Wal-Mart in our community. The other ninety-six percent of the people--two hundred people--when we took the poll, physical poll, said they want the Wal-Mart in our community, that they want to be able to shop in their own community. And, again, it's not a problem at 95th and Western. Our people are tired of going elsewhere to shop when we have an opportunity to shop right in our community.

Christian Farr: Let's give Ms. Thompson an opportunity to respond to that. I mean, again, you want to bring a Wal-Mart in...

Joann Thompson: Right

Shirley Coleman: No, she's on record for not bringing a Wal-Mart. Will not support a Wal-Mart

Christian Farr: I understand that but you...

Shirley Coleman: She's on record. On public record...

Christian Farr: But respond to that, in terms of...

Shirley Coleman: So now she's going to change her mind...

Joann Thompson: That's not, that's not true...

Christian Farr: Let's give Ms. Thompson an opportunity to speak...

Shirley Coleman: which...what is she going to...

Christian Farr: Ms. Coleman, one second. Ms. Thompson?

Joann Thompson: First of all, on the 27th of February, eighty-three percent of the voters voted for the living wage ordinance. Now, that's eighty-three percent of the voters...

Shirely Coleman: That was not even in the ward...

Joann Thompson: Now, she's talking about two hundred...

Shirely Coleman: That was not even in the 16th Ward...

Joann Thompson: voters. That's what she's talking about.

Christian Farr: So, can you be an independent alderman? I mean...

Joann Thompson: Exactly.

Shirely Coleman: Of course not. How can you be...

Joann Thompson: Sure I can be. Sure I can be an independent alderman. I...

Shirely Coleman: I know, I didn't pray for you either

Joann Thompson: I'm for the people of Englewood, for the 16th Ward, not Shirley Coleman.

Christian Farr: Well, let's talk about you, Alderman Coleman. You've gotten money from supporters of the Mayor.

Shirley Coleman: Yes.

Christian Farr: Some money there.

Shirely Coleman: Yes

Christian Farr: You've also gotten some money from what I understand a 'First CD Victory PAC' which is connected to ComEd. You're on the ComEd board. Resond to that.

Shirley Coleman: I'm not on the ComEd board.

Christian Farr: Or the committee. Excuse me. You're the vice chairman...

Shirely Coleman: I'm the Vice Chairman of the Energy Committee

Christian Farr: I stand corrected. Respond to that. I mean, you're getting money from, of course, the Mayor's supporters

Shirley Coleman: I'm not nearly getting three hundred and ninety thousand dollars that the unions have paid to sit me down, first and foremost. I do not have a conflict when it comes to my community. My community is my family. And I listen to my family. She happens to be a member of the family that we have helped. We're going to help all of our family members in the 16th Ward. And so when she says eighty-three percent, that vote was not taken in the 16th Ward. The 16th Ward wants to shop, want to have a job, want to be able to work in their own community. We have the highest unemployment in the City of Chicago. And, you know, it's been said that I don't believe that a job is better than no job. That's not the case. But when unemployment is high, crime is up. We find that when employment is high, crime is down. We have attacked all of the issues of crime. I think it's an insult when you go on radio talking about the murder rate is up. We have three great police commanders that have all...we have double digit decrease in crime.

Christian Farr: Well, now, let's give Ms. Thompson an opportunity to respond

Shirley Coleman: But you know, the lies that have been told...

Christian Farr: Let's give her an opportunity to respond. What do you think of the 16th Ward in terms of jobs, in terms of crime, in terms of employment.

Joann Thompson: I think that crime is up. We have a high concentration of ex-offenders. When they come home from prison their pleas for help fall on deaf ears. We have no support services for them. We have no referral programs. If we had some of those things maybe they wouldn't go back into a life of crime.

Christian Farr: What would you do about it as alderman? What would you do?

Joann Thompson: I would bring those services to the ward for ex-offenders. For sixteen years, sixteen years Coleman has not done anything for our ward. We are tired. We are tired of her. We're tired of everything that she says that's not true. We're tired.

Christian Farr: Alderman Coleman, respond please.

Shirely Coleman: If my opponent had any idea of what was going on in the ward she would know we just got a hundred thousand dollars for an ex-offenders program. But, of course, we see her every four years and so she does not know what's going on in the ward. She does not know that there are programs available for ex-offenders...

Joann Thompson: I do. I do.

Shirley Coleman: You don't know because you have not come out. We saw you four years ago and we haven't seen you since. So, they are right at 63rd and Halsted. But I'll give you that information after this, after Tuesday. I'll let you know. I'll let you know.

Joann Thompson: There is no programs. There's not.

Shirley Coleman: Teamwork Englewood was just awarded a hundred thousand dollars for ex-offenders. Ex-offenders, that's why we want to put you back to work.

Joann Thompson: The programs are not in service

Shirley Coleman: We want to put you back to work. Don't be fooled.

Christian Farr: Let's talk about something else that has come up in this election and it's the alcoholism that you went through back in 2002.

Joann Thompson: 2003

Christian Farr: Or 2003. Talk about that. And talk about why you brought it up and why you thought it was important.

Joann Thompson: Well...

Shirley Coleman: That's because it was the only thing she had to bring up.

Christian Farr: Let's give Ms. Thompson an opportunity to respond

Joann Thompson: I thought it was important that the residents of the 16th Ward, the ones that didn't know Joann Thompson, know what Joann Thompson is about. I wanted them to know and I'm proud of the fact that I have recovered, I had nothing to be ashamed of. Proud of it.

Christian Farr: Now, Alderman Coleman, you say you helped her through this.

Shirely Coleman: You know, I'm very proud of Joann Thompson. As a matter of fact, we're the ones that helped her with it. The last community meeting she was at, everyone--and I have witnesses--where she stood up, and we congratulated her for being able for me to direct her to where she could get her job where she's presently at. So, Joann, we are very proud of you. We're going to continue to pray for you. Since you made that an issue, whether I prayed for you or not, sweetheart, I'm going to continue to pray for you. Tonight, as a matter of fact.

Christian Farr: Ms. Thompson, did she help you?

Joann Thompson: No, absolutely not.

Shirely Coleman: [laughing]

Joann Thompson: And I think it's sad that a reverend, that a reverend...

Shirely Coleman: It's sad that she tells...

Christian Farr: Let's let Ms. Thompson respond.

Joann Thompson: ...would be on TV saying this. It's sad. It's really sad that she, as a reverend, that she would get on TV and say that she prayed for me when she didn't. I didn't even know her at the time. Did not know her. It's sad. It's sad.

Christian Farr: What was the nature of your relationship?

Shirely Coleman: You know what, I am very proud to be a pastor. I don't have to sit here and lie. Like she said, I never prayed for her. She's been to my church, so God bless you, I'm going to keep praying for you.

Christian Farr: OK, let's try to move on. You have an endorsement from the Sun-Times. Why do you think you got that endorsement?

Joann Thompson: I got that endorsement because I represent fresh leadership and my committment to my ward. I'm very proud of that endorsement.

Christian Farr: In terms of your endorsement, you got an endorsement from the Tribune.

Shirley Coleman: I've never got an endorsement from the Sun-Times in the sixteen years that I've run, so it's no surprise to me. I've won without the endorsement and I'm going to win again without the endorsement. I'm proud of the Tribune's endorsement because they can see the work we've done in the 16 years. Stevie Wonder can see what's on 63rd and Halsted between Halsted and Ashland. Everyone can see but my opponent because she's not been around to see anything. She's not been around to know any of the programs. She's not been around to know any of the programs that have come into the 16th Ward. The millions of dollars. Over three hundred million dollars of renovative work we have going on right now. We're going to break ground for a brand new 7th District Police Station that I fought for to keep in the 16th Ward. We have a $254 million dollar Kennedy-King getting ready to open next month. When I became alderman it was all in the 16th Ward. And so now, through the redistricting, some of it got into the 20th Ward, but that's something, a project we have labored over for the last eight years to make sure there was minority representation, we have Black people on the job, Black people working...

Christian Farr: Well, let's let Ms. Thompson respond to that.

Joann Thompson: Thank you.

Christian Farr: As Alderman Coleman said there's a lot going on

Joann Thompson: Yes

Shirely Coleman: A lot

Joann Thompson: The Kennedy-King sits in the 20th Ward

Shirely Coleman: That's not true

Joann Thompson: She has...

Shirley Coleman: She doesn't even know the ward boundaries

Christian Farr: Let's let her respond

Joann Thompson: She has a school at 55th and Morgan, Holmes school, where the six hundred children there use the gym room for the lunchroom, for the auditorium. She voted three times for the LaSalle Street development project which took one billion dollars out of the Chicago Public Schools, and she sits on the Eduction Committee.

Christian Farr: OK

Joann Thompson: Now, not only that, what about her pending cases

Shirely Coleman: Well, you asked about as far as responding. Now, here's a candidate that lives right down the street from the school. If she was so concerned about the school, it wouldn't have taken since 1971 to do something about that school...

Joann Thompson: She's the alderman...

Shirley Coleman: Now, you go figure...

Joann Thompson: She's the alderman...

Shirley Coleman: You go figure

Christian Farr: Alderman Coleman, Alderman Coleman...

Shirley Coleman: You're a resident. You can do something to help that school

Christian Farr: Alderman Coleman, let's talk about this lawsuit that's been going on in terms of this real estate consultant who received a half of a million dollars from some investors. Are you involved in this lawsuit?

Shirley Coleman: No, I am not. I have been accused wrongly. Just like, I mean, she's been accused of being a prostitute. We all have accusations against us. I have not done anything wrong. I am going to continue to lead the 16th Ward where it needs to go. That's...I've been accused of doing something wrong. Who of us in this world has not been accused of doing something wrong? If I had been proven anything I wouldn't be sitting here.

Joann Thompson: Well, the case is pending.

Christian Farr: Well, let's...we've only got one minute to go. Alderman Coleman, really quickly, last pitch.

Shirley Coleman: 16th Ward, please, don't be fooled. Don't be fooled by all of the garbage and the lies and the distortions that have been printed. Let me lead the 16th Ward into these next four years. Don't...You know what? Where your heart is where your money is...

Christian Farr: Ok, Ms. Thompson...

Shirley Coleman: Unions. Three hundred and ninety thousand dollars...

Christian Farr: Ms. Thompson's going to get the last word

Shirley Coleman: She will report to the unions...

Christian Farr: Ms. Thompson, your last pitch here

Joann Thompson: Thank you very much. The 16th Ward...

Shirley Coleman: And I'll keep praying for you

Joann Thompson: ...The 16th Ward know they need a chane. They voted for a change. I got forty-two percent of the vote to her thirty-six percent of the vote.

Shirley Coleman: Thirty-eight percent, thank you.

Joann Thompson: Do not vote for Shirley Coleman. She represents the same. Nothing.

Christian Farr: All right, that's it. Our time is up. My thanks to Joann Thompson and Alderman Shirley Coleman

Friday, April 13, 2007

Phone Wars

Someone named Blanche from Ald. Coleman's office left two messages yesterday, inviting me to her monthly meeting tomorrow morning. No, she didn't offer any cash, in case you wondered. But she was very hopeful that I would attend and she reminded me to vote Tuesday. She was a real person and I'm guessing she got mixed up in her lists; thus I got called twice.

Meanwhile, Joann Thompson's recorded voice left me a message and reminded me to vote Tuesday. Just an observation: no live human being from her campaign has ever called me.

Oh, and someone took a poll last night or the night before. This time just one question: "If the election were held tomorrow, who would you vote for, Joann Thompson or Shirley Coleman?" I told them, but I'm not telling you. I asked the questioner who had commissioned the poll, which threw her for a loop, but then she just said she represents whatever company was conducting the poll and that was that.

On the email front, Big Picture is having a meeting tomorrow to talk about how to stay open.

Alas, I have a hot date with my taxes tomorrow and won't be at anybody's meetings for any reason. I'm hoping to be done in time to go to Julian Jr's birthday party at 4.

Sadly, our ward race did not make the Reader's last Aldermania column. I notice a growing number of Coleman signs in windows on my block--from one to three. None are up for Thompson.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Runoff Update: ACORN Gets in the Game

Last night there was a pink flyer stuck in my gate when I got home. One side has a big photo of Joann Thompson with SEIU Local 880 President Helen Miller and other officers. Two are wearing "Fighting for a Living Wage" t-shirts.

The other side bears the headline: ACORN Political Action Committee News
What's going on in the 16th Ward?

The flyer asks a version of my earlier question about Hal Baskin and Shirley Coleman: "Why is Shirley Coleman, who runs against Hal Baskin every election, hanging out with Hal Baskin?" The flyer says she has been seen driving around the neighborhood with him and he managed security for a meeting she held at her church last summer. I have no idea if either of these statements are true.

Then the flyer speculates why this is going on: "Were Shirley and Hal Baskin trying to set it up so that when there is a runoff, it was between Shirley Coleman and Hal Baskin? Then we all run to Shirley and vote for her, because we don't want to hand the ward over to Hal and his friends. Has this all been a big game all this time?" Interesting questions.

The flyer also alleges Coleman paid people to attend her meetings. It implies people didn't know about them. If they mean her monthly ward meetings, she does put the word out about them-her flyers are stuck in my fence pretty regularly-so that's not a fair charge. I've been to a few and I never got paid. Maybe I'm just a chump and missed out on my chance to eat at the trough. Who knows?

Monday, April 09, 2007

Runup to Runoff

Here are some things I'm noticing from the Coleman/Thompson showdown around the neighborhood as April 17 approaches. Incumbent alderman Shirley Coleman has lots more signs up--Thompson favors weekend lit drops. Someone from Thompson's campaign left me literature last Saturday but when I tried to get her to talk to me she went across the street.

Word is Coleman held a breakfast not last Saturday but the one before for election judges. Hmmm....

Within a week after the election there was a crew out patching potholes on this block. I laughed out loud when I looked out the window and saw them putting down new asphalt.

The campaign is getting down and dirty on both sides. Thompson had a robo-call out in the last two weeks accusing Coleman of being friends with Hal Baskin, a former gang leader turned community activist. While there have been questions floating around for years about how former Baskin's gang ties really are, it's pretty clear to me he and Coleman aren't friends. His signs from running against her years ago are still up and fading along both Ashland and 51st.

Today I got a piece of literature from the Committee to Re-Elect Shirley Coleman accusing Thompson of being a union stooge, responsible to "Boss Tom Balanoff" and others (sorry I forget all the union guys they named). It was pretty amateurish in content, though nicely designed and the essence was not wrong--yes, Thompson is financed almost entirely by SEIU and other unions to a lesser extent.

Although I've heard from two or three ordinary citizens in various part of the ward that they are tired of Coleman and are ready for a change, I see Coleman at important events here (like the March Peace and Education Coalition meeting) and I don't see Thompson anywhere.

The only thing I can figure about this runoff is it will likely be close. Thompson had more of the popular vote than Coleman did in the first round (very bad for an incumbent)--I think it was 42 to 36 or something like that. But who knows who will show up for the runoff, and it's clear Coleman is trying somewhat harder now than she was in March.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Quiet Easter

Junior's mom is sick, so we did not go out for Easter today. Dawn came over and helped me clean the house. It's better than it was. I showed Dawn this puzzle I bought at the National Museum of Mexican Art. It's a lot of different colored shapes you can put together to fill in a square. The first time I tried it, I couldn't figure out how to get all the pieces to fit in. Dawn spent some time with it and came up with a nice design. Once I saw hers, I tried it later and made them fit, with a different color pattern.

While we cleaning up, I found an essay template from a North Side high school for when a student misbehaves. It helps them think about what happened, how different people might look at the same situation, and what other decisions they could make in the same situation in the future.

I asked Dawn if she was willing to try writing one about what happened on Friday. She said yes. With a hint of a smile she said, "Alfredo made me do one of these one time." She took the paper home with her. We'll see what she comes up with.

Joey came over later. He wanted to see the Homies web site. So we were looking at it. I thought he would like the puzzle but he gave up after a short try.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Friday's Good and Bad

Yesterday Dawn joined me for the Good Friday Walk for Justice downtown. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers led a station about justice for immigrant workers in English and Spanish. I was hoping Dawn would show it to her dad. Even though CIW is about farmworkers and her dad is a welder, I'm pretty sure he would want to hear about what they are doing to organize. Julian, Sr.'s factory was bought out by new owners who want to get lean and mean compared to the old guys. The old guys were no prize, either, if you recall from last year's immigration march hoo-hah at the factory. Rather than make you hunt down the post, I'll quote a bit from March 2006:

The good news about the march was that somewhere between 100,000 and 500,000 people showed up. Now here's the bad news. Dawn's dad may be getting fired over it. He and all the other folks working at the factory went Friday, despite being told Thursday night that anyone who went would get the axe.

No one has received official termination letters yet. It sounds like the official company staff, including Dawn's dad, may be able to stay on, but the company wants to dump the day labor folks who were working there and chose to march. The company employees are saying they won't stay unless everyone gets their jobs back. ... It was pretty rough sitting with Dawn and her parents on folding chairs and large buckets in their new house, with dust all over the floor and white paint drying on the walls, wondering whether they're going to be able to make the mortgage payments.

That time, thanks to lots of media and help from Interfaith Worker Justice, they all got their jobs back and won back pay for their week off.

The new management, from California, is used to squeezing its labor force with lower wages than what is standard in Chicago. So far Julian has not been forced to take a pay cut, but they are making him work more hours and they are swinging his shift around, which is hell on a person's sleep cycle and health. Their contact from Interfaith Worker Justice is on vacation.

So the good in Good Friday was going to the walk and seeing lots of people. Dawn got to meet my friend Kathy Kelly and lots of other peace activists. Dawn seemed pretty interested and engaged, especially given I didn't know what she would make of a group of mostly old white people wandering around downtown beating drums and stopping traffic at corners.

So after all this, we take the bus home and Dawn says she's going to a friend's house. Well, she didn't stay there long, and then no one knew where she was for hours. Her folks finally tracked her down and she was home by about 1 a.m. Given what we just went through around here over Chris Pineda, it really wasn't the week to be pulling teenage stunts like that. But if teenagers always acted with that sort of knowledge in mind, I guess they wouldn't be teenagers.

I spent last night in the kitchen at Dawn's house. Adriana and Julian were cooking up fried fish with a ton of chopped garlic. Joey wanted to know where the fish's brain was. His dad did a little surgery on his fish's head when we sat down to eat and produced a slimy pea-sized globe.

Joey's been pursuing his drawing, and papa Julian is backing him up on it. That was fun to see. Somebody found Joey a Homies poster and he's trying to draw the figures from it, especially the dogs.

It was Julian, Jr's 17th birthday. He spent most of the evening outside in a Jeep with his buddy listening to music, loudly but not too loudly. I could hear it from 10 feet away from the car with its windows shut, but only at a dull roar, not a full-on blast.

By 11 we'd had it with pretending we weren't worried about Dawn and put the full-on press to find her. Adriana called her friends and their parents, Julian and Joey went out looking, I kept Adriana company and watched the baby while she called up a storm. We were under the impression you can't report someone missing until they've been gone 24 hours. I called the 9th District to check that out and they said, no you can report her, but it has to be a parent. That's when she called in. Adriana gave me the phone--she was too angry to talk to her, I think.

I wasn't much help. "Where are you?" I yelled.

"Somewhere," Dawn said.

"How many kids got killed this week?"

"I'm fine," she said in a small voice.

"When are you coming home?"


"Well, hurry up!" I said, exasperated. "I'll be here when you get home."

Apparently that scared her into not wanting to come home, which I could have guessed but at that point I wasn't real rational either. She called later to say she was at her friend's house, named the friend and asked to stay over. Her mom talked to her, said no, she needed to come home, and then gave it to me.

This time I had a better grip. "Honey, just come home. We're worried about you."

Then she didn't want to get in the car with her dad. (He had driven over there suspecting that's where she was, and was waiting outside for her.) "I'll walk home by myself," she said. It was now shortly after midnight.

"At this hour?" I said. "No way. Nobody walks home by themselves at this time of night." (To be fair, I do sometimes, but I'm almost 40 years old, know self-defense and walk the one block from the bus stop to the house with my hand in a fist and my keys in between my fingers.)

Anyway, she's supposed to be coming over to wash baby clothes at some point.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

"See how they loved him"

Chris Pineda's funeral was this morning. I heard the bell tolling for the casket as I walked to church. There were easily 2000 people there, and a line of TV cameras stood tall behind the last pew.

Fr. Ed performed his usual miracles with liturgy. The family chose the first reading from Isaiah, where it talks about the feast of rich foods and pure, choice wines, because Chris liked to eat. The second reading was the 23rd Psalm, also at the family's request.

The gospel was part of the recent gospel of the raising of Lazarus. We stopped at the part where Jesus wept and the crowd remarked, "See how he loved him."

Ed's voice broke in the homily talking about Chris's mother going to pray with the Virgin Mary. Two mothers who lost sons, praying together.

Stephanie Valentin of Poetics Magazine and the St. Joseph's youth group read the prayers of the faithful.

After Communion, Whitney Young's principal, Joyce Kenner, was invited to the podium. Five young men, friends of Chris, went with her. She invited everyone from Whitney Young to stand up. I could see at least a hundred--there were probably more. Dr. Kenner announced that Chris's diploma will be awarded to his family at the June graduation ceremony. That's when I started crying. Lots of other people did, too.

A college scholarship will be awarded annually to a Whitney Young senior who has similar qualities to Chris. "NOT a gangbanger," Kenner proclaimed, drawing sustained applause. The scholarship winner will have a C average or higher, a friendly spirit and a sense of humor, among other qualities.

To see video from the funeral (as long as the Trib keeps it up--I think it's got five days left), click here

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Chris Pineda Murdered

This morning in church, Fr. Ed Shea told us during his homily that Whitney Young student Chris Pineda had been murdered. His body was found Friday in the Cal-Sag Channel. Today is Palm Sunday, when we read the Passion of Christ and remember an innocent man condemned to die. As Fr. Ed put it, we remember an innocent boy today, too.

The Sun-Times story is here.

At the 12:30 Mass, a group of Chris's friends from Whitney Young were selling t-shirts to raise money to increase the reward for information about his death. I heard that St. Procopius in Pilsen also held a fundraiser today. The funeral will be held at St. Joseph's at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday.

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