Grassroots Collaborative Statement on Jason Van Dyke Verdict

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It is difficult to feel any real satisfaction at a murder being called a murder. For the communities that we represent it was never a question whether or not Jason Van Dyke murdered Laquan McDonald. The only question was whether or not our court system is capable of holding a white Chicago police officer accountable for killing a young Black man. Today, as is far too often the case, our court system fell short, convicting Jason Van Dyke of 2nd-degree murder instead of 1st-degree murder.

The fact that there was a verdict at all was made possible by the dedication and courage of young people who are part of the Movement for Black Lives who continue to demand justice for Laquan and all victims of police violence. We still have so far to go before real justice is realized. We know that no verdict handed down by jury or judge will end police violence, stamp out white supremacy, or improve the lived realities in our neighborhoods. A guilty verdict can not erase the fact that Chicago failed Laquan McDonald and continues to fail residents across the city, especially in Black and Brown neighborhoods. We must do better.

We can and should honor Laquan by throwing out the old failed policies that are destroying the lives of our young people. Chicago must make a massive reinvestment in our neighborhoods and prioritize the needs of communities over the wants of luxury developers and well connected political donors. We must listen to the voices of Black youth saying no to a new cop academy. Instead of awarding the police department that produced officers like Jon Burge and Jason Van Dyke with a brand new training compound, complete with raid equipment and new shooting range, we should invest those resources in mental health facilities, supportive school-based services like counselors and nurses, affordable housing and a real jobs program.

Together we can create a city where a young man like Laquan can get the education, job, housing, and healthcare that he needs to live a good life.

Statement on Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court Decision

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CHICAGO – Grassroots Collaborative unites labor and community-based organizations representing tens of thousands of Illinois residents whose families and communities will be hurt by today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision. The following is a statement by Grassroots Collaborative Deputy Director, Abbie Illenberger.

“Today’s ruling by Trump’s Supreme Court is the latest in a long series of attacks by billionaires and big business seeking to demolish any and all institutions that give a voice to working people.

These attacks have not been limited to the courthouse or Trump. Governor Rauner made undermining the bargaining rights of Illinois workers a cornerstone of his agenda and devastated our social service sector along the way. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has gutted our neighborhoods by shuttering clinics, closing public schools, and displacing Black residents in droves. The public employees harmed by the actions of Rahm, Rauner and now the Supreme Court are disproportionately women and people of color.

Despite the constant attacks on our people and organizations, we see opportunities for Illinois residents to come together like never before. Instead of letting wealthy elites, like the Koch Brothers, divide us by pitting worker against worker and neighbor against neighbor, Grassroots Collaborative member organizations are bringing people together. Just this year Grassroots Collaborative launched a new initiative in central Illinois. The Peoria People’s Project is uniting union members and other community residents to demand elected officials make their wealthy donors pay taxes for the great public services we deserve.”

 

Following Trump’s Lead, Rauner Protects Wealthy Money Managers in Budget Address

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On Wednesday, Governor Rauner delivered his fourth budget address which was long on rhetoric, but short on solutions. The following is a statement from Amisha Patel, Executive Director of Grassroots Collaborative.

“Today, Governor Rauner again failed to present a budget proposal that would lead Illinois towards stability and prosperity for all. Instead, he proposed that Illinois workers give up more, and invited Illinois taxpayers to play a shell game, one with very serious consequences for our communities, our children, and our state. Just like Trump’s grand infrastructure plan that places the huge burden of payment on local communities, Gov. Rauner’s claims of new investments in education amount to nothing more than forcing new financial burdens on local school districts.

As our state struggles to recover from the damage done by the budget impasse and address the $8.4 billion unpaid bill backlog, our state needs bold leadership. Governor Rauner could have followed the example set by New York’s Governor Cuomo. Facing significant budget challenges, and in anticipation of the fall out that will come from the Federal Tax overhaul, Cuomo presented a budget address that called for new sources of progressive revenue, including one proposal that closes the outrageous carried interest loophole – a proposal that would raise $1 billion annually in Illinois. Governor Rauner, once again demonstrated that he is unwilling to make the hard choice to pass legislation that will ask his peers, including wealthy money managers, to pay their fair share. He is unwilling to bring Illinois in line with our neighboring states, by supporting a graduated income tax.

Today, on Valentine’s Day, Governor Rauner showed no love for the diverse communities that Grassroots Collaborative represents. From Peoria to the West side of Chicago, today’s budget address offered little more than another disappointing example of failed leadership.”

llinois Must Pursue State Level Solutions to Counteract Failures in GOP Tax Bill

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Grassroots Leaders and State Legislators Push to Close Carried Interest Loophole in Illinois Following Passage of GOP Tax Bill

Chicago, IL – As Congress continues to pass legislation and policy that is out of line with the values of the American people, states and cities have jumped in to take action to protect their residents, including city and state action around climate change, net neutrality, and sanctuary status. Now that the GOP has passed its tax bill, it is imperative that Illinois take action to protect our residents by passing legislation to close the egregious carried interest loophole at the state level, generating over $1 billion in new revenue in the first year.

The GOP Tax Bill is especially dangerous to states like Illinois, which has already been destabilized by years of budget crisis and whose communities will be further hurt by changes to state and local tax exemptions. State lawmakers must take action to avoid increased taxes and cuts to local services for working families living in our state. 

State Representative Emanuel Chris Welch (D-HIllside) explained, “The Republicans in Congress have just given the 1% an early Christmas present.  They have chosen to vote for a huge tax break for the wealthy donors to their PACs, instead of protecting the families living in their districts.  We cannot afford to repeat that same mistake here in Illinois. We need to act now and pass legislation that requires the wealthy hedge fund managers who exploit the carried interest loophole to pay their fair share.”

The carried interest loophole is a federal tax loophole that benefits a small, but very wealthy and well-connected group of hedge fund and private equity billionaires. The loophole allows wealthy investors to declare their income as carried interest to receive a lower effective tax rate than kindergarten teachers or truck drivers. Although Trump used the carried interest on the campaign trail as an example of a rigged economic system and promised to close it the GOP tax bill fails to close the loophole.  

Amisha Patel, Executive Director of Grassroots Collaborative, added, “Legislation to close the carried interest loophole (SB 1719) passed the Illinois Senate last year but didn’t make it to the Governor’s desk, as some legislators wanted to wait for the federal government to act instead. The GOP’s tax bill makes it clear that Trump flat-out lied to the American people when he promised to close the carried interest loophole. It is time for Illinois to step up and take action to close the loophole ourselves. We can’t afford to wait.”   

 

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Grassroots Collaborative Response to Mayor Emanuel’s Budget Address

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Chicago, IL – The following is a statement from Amisha Patel, Executive Director of Grassroots Collaborative on Mayor Emanuel’s budget address.

“Today’s budget address shows Mayor Emanuel’s continued commitment to policies that have failed Chicago’s families as he continues to prioritize the interests of city elites over those of working families. The Mayor has continued to raise taxes and fees on everyone and everything with the exception of wealthy individuals and corporations. Instead of pursuing regressive revenue fees that further hurt our city’s working families, the Mayor should be implementing revenue solutions such as reinvesting the TIF Surplus funds and reinstating the corporate head tax.

Rideshare and amusement taxes will not fix our city, neither will doling out taxpayer money to try and woo Amazon. Our city needs to reinvest in schools and Black and Brown neighborhoods. Failure to do so will result in more violence and more residents being pushed out of the city.”

Governor’s $15 Veto Will Hold Back Economy and Increase Economic Inequality in Illinois

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Chicago, IL – On Friday, Governor Rauner vetoed SB 81, which would have gradually raised the state minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022. Grassroots Collaborative is a labor-community coalition representing tens of thousands of Illinois low-income families whose lives and communities would have greatly benefited from the passage of SB 81. The following is a statement from Amisha Patel, Executive Director of Grassroots Collaborative.

“Governor Rauner showed his true allegiances by protecting his wealthy friends at the expense of Illinois working families. By vetoing the bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, Rauner denies a desperately needed raise to 40% of all Illinois workers – 46% of all female workers in Illinois, 48% of African American workers, and 61% of all Latino workers. After cutting funding to communities across the state by not passing a budget for two years, Rauner’s veto further devastates these 2.3 million Illinois workers. Bruce Rauner cares only about corporate CEOs and their lobbyists – and millions of workers will be the ones who pay the price.”

Finally. Statement on Override of Governor Rauner’s Budget Veto

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Chicago, IL – Today, the Illinois House joined the Senate in overriding Governor Rauner’s veto of the state budget giving the state its first budget in years. The following is a statement from Amisha Patel, Executive Director of Grassroots Collaborative.

“Finally, state legislators have pushed aside Rauner’s obstructionism to pass a state budget. Community residents have been fighting for years for a fully funded budget and are clear that this is not enough. The budget provides insufficient funding for critical services and asks Illinois families to foot the bill instead of demanding the wealthy pay their fair share by implementing progressive revenue solutions such as closing the carried interest loophole or a financial transaction tax. But it is a budget and it is progress.

At the same time we recognize this step forward, we deplore the lives and livelihoods lost as a result of it taking so long to get to this point. We mourn for every breast cancer screening that came too late, for the jobs lost across the state, and for every resident denied the help they needed as result of this tragic and unnecessary crisis.

Grassroots Collaborative thanks the tens of thousands of Illinois residents who worked to make their voices heard by writing letters, making phone calls, and visiting legislators. We remain committed to fighting for a People’s Agenda that puts the interests of the people of Illinois over those of deep-pocketed political donors.”

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IL Senate Passes Hedge Fund Tax to Close Loophole

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Illinois Department of Revenue Estimates SB 1719 Would Raise $1.7 Billion for State in First 12 Months

Chicago, IL – On Tuesday, May 23rd, the Illinois Senate voted 34-24-1 in favor of passing SB 1719. The legislation places a privilege tax on Hedge Fund and Private Equity Managers like Bruce Rauner and Ken Griffin who exploit a federal tax loophole to get a lower tax rate than that paid by many working Americans.  

Amisha Patel, Executive Director of Grassroots Collaborative, explained, “This is great news for Illinois residents that have been languishing under an extended budget impasse. Illinois needs new revenue. SB 1719 generates significant revenue – raising it from  those who have profited for years off of a rigged tax system, instead of asking for more sacrifices from our most vulnerable residents.”   

“This is an important step in creating the kind of state we want to live in,” stated Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston), lead sponsor of SB 1719. “We have a small group of very wealthy individuals using an archaic loophole to avoid paying their share, at the expense of other taxpayers and vital social services. Illinois now has an opportunity to right this wrong, to move towards greater fairness, and raise $1.7 billion in new annual revenue that our state desperately needs.”

Representative Welch (D-Hillside), lead sponsor of the legislation in the Illinois House added, “I believe that to those whom much is given much is required- and so far Illinois Hedge Funds have given very little and taken an awful lot. At a time when our seniors are being asked to go without, our public universities are at risk, and shelters are being shut down we can not afford to wait. I’m looking forward to working with my colleagues in the House to quickly pass this legislation and get it on the Governor’s desk.”

“The people that make the most of this loophole will not change their line of work if it is eliminated. They make plenty of money with or without it, and the tax advantage that they receive due to this rule is not the reason they are in it. They are in the business because they make a ton of money doing it. And that is OK. But the absurd advantage they receive due to this rule is just that; absurd! So simply change the law so that it treats them the same way that John Q Public is treated…or myself, I might add, who paid in last year at a 38% rate (happily so) on a pretty good number,” concluded Stephen Prince with the Patriotic Millionaires, CEO of Sterling Card Solutions.

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Rauner Donors Get Visit From Upset Residents on Tax Evasion Trolley Tour

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Community Groups Demand Hedge Fund Managers Profiting From Carried Interest Loophole Pay Fair Share to Help Solve State Budget Crisis

 

Chicago, IL – On Thursday, community residents being impacted by the school funding crisis and state budget impasse took part in a Tax Evasion Trolley Tour to the homes of Hedge Fund political donors who have profited off of the carried interest loophole at the expense of schools and vital social services.   

The first stop on the trolley tour was the $20 million dollar home of Donald Wilson, founder of DRW Trading Group. Wilson has personally benefited from the carried interest loophole and made significant political contributions to both Governor Rauner and Chicago Mayor Emanuel. Participants were joined by Representative Welch (D-Hillside), lead sponsor of HB 3393, a bill that would generate close to a half billion dollars by placing a privilege tax on people like Wilson.

Joining with community members, Representative Welch hand-delivered a large overdue tax bill to Wilson’s front door.

“It’s okay to own a nice home, everyone dreams of being successful and living a good life. But to those who much is given, much is required. What we are saying is if you have the privilege to live in a $20 million dollar house you should pay your fair share in taxes and that means closing the carried interest loophole,” stated Representative Welch to the energetic crowd.   

Alejandro Sanchez, Safe Passage program coordinator with the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council added, “In our community, shootings have increased by 300% between 2013 and 2016. I have a question for Don Wilson and others like him who are profiting off of this loophole. Do you think that skimping on your tax bill is worth students in Brighton Park losing their after-school programs and guidance counselors, or domestic violence centers being closed, or more young people dead because of massive disinvestment in anti-violence programs?”

Participants left sidewalk messages outside Wilson’s home, citing the devastation caused by the state’s lack of sufficient revenue. In addition to visiting Donald Wilson, the Tax Evasion Trolley Tour went to the homes of Sam Zell, Ken Griffin, and Dmitry Balyasny, all deep-pocketed political donors who have capitalized on a rigged tax system resulting in the current school and state funding crisis.

“The impacts on our communities are real – increasing violence, students forced to stop their college educations, seniors going without home care and needed programs like meals on meals, immigrant families losing programs that assist them, and the prospect of our schools being closed 3 weeks early, due to lack of revenue. We organized this tour because these impacts feel real to us, but standing here in front of multi-million dollar mansions, it’s hard to imagine they feel real to these Hedge Fund managers. We want them to know that the money they are getting from the carried interest loophole isn’t being pulled from thin air – it is coming from our community programs and schools,” explained Abbie Illenberger, Field Director of Grassroots Collaborative.

Grassroots Collaborative expects HB 3393 to be voted on in the Illinois House next week.

Photos from the Tax Evasion Trolley Tour can be found here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/ac8iwhjl3y50a2f/AABXPqa9Nd1lNJyrmysLIzMha?dl=0

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Village of Robbins Calls on Governor Rauner to Put People Before Wall Street Banks

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Robbins Unanimously Passes Resolution against Predatory Bank Deals Draining State and Local Budgets, asks for Attorney General to Take Action

Robbins, IL – On the eve of Governor Rauner’s budget address the Village of Robbins Board of Trustees passed a resolution targeting Wall Street banks that have drained hundred of millions of dollars from taxpayers through toxic interest rate swaps.

The resolution calls on Governor Rauner to negotiate a termination of the state’s remaining interest rate swaps with no further cost to Illinois taxpayers; resolves that the Mayor and the Board of Trustees of Robbins enforce a moratorium on entering into interest swap deals; and calls on Attorney General Lisa Madigan to investigate the state’s predatory swap deals and sue to recover the money that banks have taken from the state.

“I’m am thrilled that my community is standing up to Wall Street and articulating clearly that we want public resources to be going to helping people not padding Wall Street bank profits,” said Barbara Pillow Sidibeh, a resident of Robbins following the vote. “Black and Brown communities across the state are facing massive targeted disinvestment as a result of these toxic deals with Wall Street banks.”

“Even while they consider halting payment to state workers, gutting public education, and cutting services, Rauner and the political establishment have been unwilling to stand up to Wall Street banks. Tonight the Village of Robbins showed how it can be done. Now we need Governor Rauner and Attorney General Lisa Madigan to do the right thing and put the interests of Illinois families before Wall Street bankers,” stated Amisha Patel, Executive Director of Grassroots Collaborative.

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