Contact: Timna Axel
For immediate release
June 29, 2017
CHICAGO – On the eve of the expiration of Chicago’s contract with thousands of police officers represented by the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), community and civil rights groups from across the City appeared at City Hall today demanding changes to the police contract that will facilitate police reform. The groups, collectively known as the Coalition for Police Contracts Accountability (CPCA), urged the City to alter portions of the contract that limit transparency and accountability in the Chicago Police Department.
The City of Chicago is under close scrutiny and pressure to reform the police department after a scathing January report by the Office of Civil Rights at the US Department of Justice. The CPCA presented a list of recommended changes for the FOP contract to advance reform, focusing explicitly on provisions that encourage the “code of silence” that limits many efforts to hold police officers accountable.
“The current police contract makes it far too easy for police officers to get together and concoct a story before giving a statement in a shooting,” said Willie Preston, an organizer with Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation (SOUL). “The contract allows officers to change their statements about incidents without consequences, simply because they were not provided audio or video evidence before giving an initial statement.”
Pointing to another issue, Ryan Cortazar with Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights observed that the expiring FOP contract limits the effectiveness of investigations of police officers for abuse.
“Unlike other jurisdictions, investigators are not permitted to access past complaints against officers, except for excessive force and criminal conduct,” noted Cortazar. “These limited exceptions are not enough, ignoring important issues like patterns of false arrest, illegal searches, and racial and sexual abuse even where past complaints have been sustained.”
Another area of concern to the CPCA is contract language that requires investigators of police misconduct to provide enormous amounts of information to officers before questioning them – treatment denied civilians each day by police.
“Before ever interviewing a subject, IPRA investigators must provide a very detailed report on the facts of the case and the charges that the officer is facing,” according to Rachel Leven, Policy Manager for the Better Government Association. Once an interview begins, Leven noted that “investigators must follow uniquely technical rules during their questioning, effectively removing flexibility from the interview.”
Calling on the City Council to “get it right” on the contract, CPCA member Adeline Bracey of Action Now called on Aldermen to reject “any contract that does not include CPCA's fourteen recommendations.”
The CPCA’s recommendations have been endorsed by: ACLU of Illinois; Action Now Institute; A Just Harvest; Better Government Association; BPI; BYP100; Chicago Council of Lawyers; Chicago Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights; Chicago Urban League; Community Renewal Society; Enlace; Jewish Council on Urban Affairs; MALDEF; NAACP Chicago Westside; ONE Northside; Showing up for Racial Justice (SURJ) Chicago; Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation (SOUL); and Workers Center for Racial Justice.
In January of 2017, Action Now Institute is launching the ANI Fellows Leadership Development Program, a grassroots initiative designed to engage, educate and empower our member-leaders to build capacity to organize their communities and identify community-specific issues. The goal for the Fellows Program is to invest in member-leaders by providing training on organizing skills, while assisting them in building a core group of activists from their own affected neighborhoods.
Each fellow has committed to participating in ANI-led organizing workshops, learning various skills such as canvassing, volunteer recruitment, lobbying and public speaking/media skills training. As a mechanism to build out the core of community activists through the program, each member-leader will identify ten members to serve on a local organizing committee that will be tasked with building community awareness on topics and policies that have an impact on our neighborhood residents. These neighborhood committees will be charged with not only identifying the issues and opportunities for improving conditions, but also building relationships with allies and local elected officials to provide solutions for the pain of systemic disinvestment of resources from black neighborhoods on the South and West sides of Chicago.
Our inaugural ANI Fellows for 2017 are Adeline Bracey, Daphne Bracey, Sonia Cowan, Kirk Donnelly, Anthony Edwards, Anthony Jackson, W.T. Pittman, Donna Roberts-Williams, Larry Valentine, Ann Warren and Patricia Williams.
We look forward to what this initiative will bring forth, both in empowering our member-leaders, and in watching them empower their community members. Our neighborhoods have many problems, but we are hopeful that our fellows program will be a catalyst to bringing solutions and the changes we need.
Action Now Institute
Action Now Institute is joining organizations from across the state of Illinois in a movement to do good in our communities. Tuesday, November 29th is #GivingTuesday, a global movement that celebrates support giving and philanthropy, in response to the big consumer spending days of #BlackFriday and #CyberMonday.
Here in our local community, we are a part of a large network of groups in the #ILGive campaign, which is a 24-hour online fundraising challenge that looks to celebrate local organizations that are making an impact on the causes that are important to us all.
We have an ANI Donation Page through the campaign website that tells our story and has directions on how to donate. As an added incentive, for every $100 donated to our organization through #ILGive during the hours of 11am-1pm on #GivingTuesday, Woods Fund will make a matching donation to ANI!
We hope that you will support us by making a donation!
Just Democracy Illinois is a broad-based and diverse coalition that works to protect and promote the value of a single vote, no matter the geographic, racial, ethnic or party affiliation of the voter. Our current priority is promoting Automatic Voter Registration.
“We are deeply disappointed by Governor Rauner’s decision to veto bipartisan automatic voter registration legislation. The Governor has said that he is ‘a big fan of simplifying the voter registration process,’ but his actions show otherwise. He has passed up the opportunity to be a national leader in modernizing voter registration, while creating a safer system and saving taxpayer money in the process.
“While we have had productive conversations in recent weeks with the Governor’s office about their concerns, those discussions could have and should have happened during the legislative process. The timeline for automatic voter registration should not be pushed back based on political calculations, and we will not accept stall tactics that delay implementation any further. Because of this veto, important initial measures to clean up Illinois voter lists will not go into effect before the November election – a missed opportunity to ensure a smoother Election Day for voters and elections officials. Just Democracy Illinois will work with our allies from both parties to override this veto.
“The bill was drafted in an open fashion, taking input from key stakeholders, including county clerks who administer elections, as well as Democratic and Republican leaders. That is why it passed with broad bipartisan support: 86-30 in the House, 50-7 in the Senate.
“Between Governor Rauner’s veto of Automatic Voter Registration, and the pending lawsuit that seeks to stop Election Day Registration, Illinois is moving away from making the franchise more accessible, and moving toward the sort of tactics that have suppressed the vote in other states across the nation. Now is not the time for Illinois to move backward on voting rights.”
About Just Democracy Illinois:
Just Democracy Illinois is led by a steering committee that includes Action Now Institute, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago, CHANGE Illinois, Chicago Votes, Common Cause Illinois, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, and Illinois PIRG. More than 50 organizations have signed on to support Automatic Voter Registration, which would make voting in Illinois easier, more secure, and save taxpayer dollars.
Chicago - The Illinois House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would implement automatic voter registration in the state, with the potential to add 2 million eligible voters to the voter rolls. The bill, which passed in the Senate in May, now heads to Governor Rauner’s desk for his signature.
The legislation will allow residents to be automatically registered when visiting state agencies (such as the Department for Motor Vehicles, Department of Human Services, Secretary of State, or Department of Employment Security) for services, unless they choose to opt-out of registration.
This is a big win for many people in Illinois, as the policy will help to push voter participation rates throughout the state. Allowing voters to be automatically registered not only clears a path for healthy civic engagement, but also allows communities to come together to educate each other on the policies that impact their neighborhoods. This bill would also allow organizations and community groups to focus their resources on issues, rather than on registration efforts that are time consuming.
“We have cleared another hurdle in the fight for political participation for many whom previously had limited access. Making it easier for residents to engage in the voting process is not only the right thing to do, but it also empowers many disenfranchised people to have a voice in the direction of their communities. We urge Governor Rauner to support this much needed legislation and to sign-on in support”, said Katelyn Johnson, Executive Director of Action Now Institute.
The push for this policy was supported by the Secretary of State, the State Board of Elections, and by a bi-partisan vote in both chambers of the Legislature that includes Representative Art Turner, Representative Mary Flowers, Representative Christian Mitchell, Representative Thaddeus Jones, Representative Andre Thapedi, Representative LaShawn Ford, Representative Sonya Harper, Representative Monique Davis, Senator Kwame Raoul, Senator Jacqueline Collins, Senator Mattie Hunter and Senator Kimberly Lightford.
Much of the effort for automatic voter registration was led by a steering committee that includes Action Now Institute, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, CHANGE IL, Chicago Votes, Common Cause Illinois, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, and Illinois PIRG, with more than 65 organizations signed on to support AVR.
Automatic Voter Registration in Illinois
What is Automatic Voter Registration?
Automatic voter registration is a process that would allow state election officials to automatically register eligible voters using reliable information from other government lists. In the case of Illinois, the information used to register voters would come from the Secretary of State’s office, which is where people go when they want to get a state ID or driver’s license.
How would the process work?
In addition to the standard paper registration forms available at the county clerk’s offices, and through third party orgs/groups, Illinois currently uses an “opt-in” system where folks are asked whether they want to register to vote when renewing or updating a license or state ID. If they do, they must prove they are eligible. The DMV then sends the information to the county clerk’s office for completion of registration.
The new system proposed under SB250 would be an “opt-out” process, which would automatically register eligible voters when they apply for/renew their state ID or license, unless they take action and ask not to be registered.
What are the benefits to AVR?
The new system would provide a number of benefits, including:
- Upgrading the system using modern technology, which would decrease the errors that come with our current paper-based system, and decrease the number of voters who aren’t allowed to vote on Election Day because of errors in the registration process.
- The new system would increase the number of registered voters. In some states, electronic registration has lead to an increase of seven-times the amount of previously registered voters.
- Electronic AVR is cheaper than paper registration. For example, in Arizona it costs 3 cents per application received electronically at the DMV, where as previously the cost was 83 cents when the same state was using paper registration forms.
- Automatic voter registration is also more convenient for voters, as the new system would update a voter’s address as soon as the information is changed at the DMV, and voters would have online access to update their information as well.
Where are we currently with getting the bill passed in the Illinois legislature?
As of today’s writing, the Illinois Senate executive committee has voted to move the bill to the Senate floor for a vote by all state senators. If it passes from there, it will move on to the House for a vote.
***Update*** The Illinois Senate passed the bill, by a bi-partisan vote of 42-16 on May 19th. The measure will now move to the House for consideration. We will update when we have more info on the House schedule.***
CHICAGO -The Westside Benefits Coalition held a press conference calling on Gateway Development Partners to negotiate in good faith a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) for their $300 million project in the Illinois Medical District. The project is projected to create roughly 1,000 permanent jobs while including retail space, a hotel, and housing.
“It is great to see this development happening but west side residents want and need to be very involved in the process,” said Joanne Terrell, a member of Action Now and 31-year resident of the west side. “A CBA would guarantee that this development on the west side will benefit all residents of the west side. The investment in this project must guarantee current residents jobs with decent livable wages and benefits, affordable housing regardless of one's record or the period of time he/she has been unemployed and/or underemployed.”
The coalition is demanding a CBA that guarantees living wage jobs for current west-side residents, for affordable housing to be included in the development, and to not discriminate against ex-offenders or the long-term unemployed. Over 35% of west-side households live below the federal poverty level while nearly 20% of residents are unemployed.
"My goal today is to be a productive tax-paying member of society again,” said Angela McClellan, a member of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. “Ex-offenders without a job and goals will soon be re-offenders! I don’t feel it’s right that these million dollar development projects are here and I might be denied due to my past mistakes. My criminal background does not define who I am, therefore it should not dictate my future.”
The West Side Benefits Coalition is comprised of Action Now, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Community Renewal Society, and community leaders. The coalition is seeking a Community Benefits Agree with Gateway Development Partners for the IMDC project located at 2020 W Ogden. The coalition has garnered the support of west side aldermen and county officials.