What we saw in the streets of Chicago last night

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Last night, we drove downtown to provide rides to young people who were trapped, due to Mayor Lightfoot’s sudden declaration of a curfew, and lock down of the loop.

As we drove down Roosevelt to get to the South Loop to get to the safe space where youth had gathered for safety and safe transport, I passed hundreds of other young people, Black and Brown walking and sometimes running to get away from downtown. I saw young Black and Brown people who had gathered to express their outrage and pain at yet another Black life stolen by this country and it’s white supremacy, had been trapped in an increasingly dangerous situation, with Chicago Police who were escalating the violence in the Loop by the minute.

And as we crossed the bridge near the fancy outdoor mall/condo complex near Roosevelt and Clark, I looked at the broken windows of chain stores, I saw the outraged and yet vulnerable young people trying to get out, and then across the river I saw the site of what will become “the 78”, yet another new playground/village for the wealthiest and whitest of Chicago. It’s too much. Our cities are killing Black people, overtly through police violence, and more subtly, by starving the schools and communities of the resources they need to thrive – so that our tax money can be given to the wealthy and to fund a police department that kills and brutalizes Black people. This must end.

Bringing in the national guard won’t heal our communities. We need to move to safety not military occupation, we need to move to divesting from the police and investing in community. You can help get us there by supporting Black led organizing happening in the city right now.

Action Now
Assata’s Daughters
Circles & Ciphers
Black Lives Matter Chicago
Good Kids Mad City
Liberation Library
Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression
E.a.t. Chicago
SOUL
Chicago Torture Justice Center
Workers Center for Racial Justice

Job Posting: Campaign Director

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We are seeking an experienced and talented community or labor organizer. The campaign director will support and develop Chicago organizing staff and potential interns, help craft overall strategy, as well as lead a planning process with our member and allied organizations that explores the adoption of a climate justice lens and strategy to our economic and racial justice mission. This position calls for a person with bold ideas, tactical creativity, an ability to navigate and build coalition relationships, and a commitment to developing long-term strategies that tangibly improve the lives of working people. We are looking for a strong team player who is motivated and highly organized. The ideal candidate will have a keen ability to identify strategic opportunities as well as a deep commitment to movement-building and leadership development. An interest in public budgets, corporate accountability, racial justice and anti-austerity work will be a strong asset.

Download Campaign Director Job Description

Title: Campaign Director

Supervised by: Deputy Director

SUPERVISES: Chicago coalition organizer, organizing interns (periodically)

SALARY/HOURLY, EXEMPT OR NONEXEMPT: Salaried, Exempt, Full-time position

ORGANIZATIONAL SUMMARY: Grassroots Collaborative (501c3) builds power with working families through strategic community-labor organizing, grassroots leadership development, civic engagement, and research. We organize to win progressive policies and systems change that improve the lives of low-to-moderate income people and communities of color. We utilize popular education to build consciousness, and build organization that unites residents, community and labor organizations to create transformative change for a more just society. Our affiliated 501c4, Grassroots Illinois Action, works to build community political power through issue advocacy and electoral strategies. We are based in 2 locations, Chicago and Peoria. 

PROJECT DESCRIPTION: Grassroots Collaborative engages in campaigns to make corporations, big banks, and the rich pay their fair share.  Our member organizations face the combined threat of public financial crises on 3 levels – city, state and schools.  As part of a larger strategy to win revenue for the programs, schools, and services our communities deserve, we are leading campaigns to win a Fair Tax in Illinois, and to win an intersectional platform in Chicago that includes housing justice, climate justice, TIF accountability, and more.

Job Responsibilities:

  • Capacity building – Supervise, mentor, and motivate Chicago organizing staff, interns, and grassroots leaders to flourish, with deepened skills and analysis.
  • Campaign Development – Lead a new planning process to explore adding a climate justice focus to our work, a major expansion. Ensure that Chicago campaigns are strategic and impactful, engaging GC and coalition staff and members to develop, implement, and assess power-building strategies that lead to racial equity.
  • Civic Engagement – Support the development of building grassroots independent political power on the Northwest and Southwest sides of Chicago by leading electoral strategies that center voter engagement work and issue organizing.
  • Public Education & Leadership Development – Conduct popular education workshops and presentations that support our campaign work, developing new curricula as needed. Develop the capacity of grassroots leaders to take leadership roles within their organizations and/or communities.
  • Research and Communications – Work with the research and communications teams of coalition members and other GC staff to develop and implement communications and policy strategies that create and amplify a public narrative that reimagines Chicago as a place where Black and Brown families thrive.
  • Other roles: Participating in Grassroots Collaborative staff team and other organization-wide meetings and activities. Additional roles and responsibilities as assigned.

Qualifications:

  • Full-time labor, community or constituency organizing experience, preferably with at least 2 years supervisory experience
  • Coalition experience and skills at navigating complex organizational relationships
  • Strong organizational, leadership, and problem-solving skills
  • Ability to motivate and inspire others
  • Experience effectively using a model of staff and team management based on coaching and leadership development
  • Willingness to work sometimes long, irregular hours, including evenings and weekends, and some travel to central Illinois
  • Detail oriented, driven to succeed; ability to work independently and in a team
  • An energetic commitment to social justice and working within an anti-oppression framework
  • Excellent verbal communication and writing skills. Ability to communicate effectively with staff and grassroots leaders
  • Demonstrated ability to lead direct actions and events
  • Spanish language skills are a plus
  • Proficient in Excel, PowerPoint, Word, and the voter file. Experience with Salsa a plus
  • Excellent team player, able to meet deadlines and work independently, innovative, creative, mature thinking and reasoning

Grassroots Collaborative is an equal-opportunity employer. People of color strongly encouraged to apply. For consideration, send a resume, cover letter, and three references to hiring@thegrassrootscollaborative.org. No calls, please. Position open until filled.

 

Statement: Building Real Equity in the TIF Program Requires Community Engagement, Not Clouted Corporate Firms

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CHICAGO – Grassroots Collaborative is a labor community coalition that has been working to reform the TIF program for over a decade. Yesterday, Grassroots Collaborative, along with our co-plaintiff Illinois Raise Your Hand for Public Education, appealed the trial court decision in our lawsuit against the City of Chicago over the creation of the TIF district for Lincoln Yards, and the history of discriminatory uses of TIF favoring affluent areas at the expense of communities of color. The following is a statement by Amisha Patel, Executive Director of Grassroots Collaborative, on the changes to the TIF program proposed by the Lightfoot Administration.

“We hear Mayor Lightfoot talk a lot about the need for greater racial equity. We agree with much of what she says but the words we are hearing do not match the actions we are seeing.  The reality is that the changes to the TIF program put forward by her administration will increase inequality by turning over the development of new standards to AECOM, and by reopening the luxury developer cash grab that is downtown TIF districts. 

Some of the changes being proposed are headed in the right direction, such as the clear need to tighten the ‘but for’ test. Yesterday, we submitted a brief appealing appealed the trial court decision in our TIF litigation because we continue to believe that projects such as the Lincoln Yards luxury development are not helping “blighted” areas and fail to meet the current ‘but for’ test set in state TIF law. However, by engaging AECOM, a clout-heavy firm with no accountability, the administration is all-but ensuring that the outcomes will remain inequitable. The city should engage community leaders from the most burdened areas to create the meaningful equity that our city so desperately needs.” 

Budget Address Statement: Chicago is Not Broke, the City’s Priorities Are

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Grassroots Collaborative Response to Mayor Lightfoot’s Budget Address

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

“We hoped that Mayor Lightfoot would choose to work with parents, teachers, and community leaders to end the Tale of Two Cities that has plagued Chicago for generations but that is not the choice we see her making in this budget. Instead of the change voters want, we see a continuation of the same budget policies that hurt working families and further enrich the wealthy. 

The budget she outlined today fails to provide the investment needed to address the inequality in our neighborhoods and schools and fails to make the wealthy and corporations pay their fair share. It contains no corporate head tax or other substantive progressive revenue. It fails to reopen the public mental health clinics that are needed to heal the trauma in Chicago’s neighborhoods or provide the investment in affordable housing and homeless services needed to meet the current housing crisis.

Rideshare and restaurant taxes will not fix our city, neither will doling out TIF money to luxury developers. We need real progressive revenue to reinvest in our schools and Black and Brown neighborhoods. Failure to do so will result in more violence and more residents being pushed out of the city.”
 

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Statement: Community Groups Vow to Continue Fighting Broken TIFs Despite Court Ruling

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CHICAGO – A judge has granted the City of Chicago’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed by Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and national Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights on behalf of  Grassroots Collaborative and Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education over the creation of a new TIF district for the Lincoln Yards luxury development and the systemic racial inequity caused by the City’s administration of the program.

“We are disappointed with today’s ruling,” stated Aneel Chablani, Chief Counsel for Chicago Lawyers’ Committee.  “Although our complaint was dismissed based on legal standing, the ruling did not actually address the substance of our arguments that Chicago’s administration of TIF is discriminatory and illegal and that the Lincoln Yards TIF should never have been approved. We will be evaluating all legal options to address today’s court ruling and continue this challenge.”

Amisha Patel, Executive Director of Grassroots Collaborative added, “Nothing about today’s decision will stop our decades-long fight to end the racist abuse of the TIF program by the City of Chicago. We are going to continue to pursue both our legal and legislative options to stop the abuse of the program. We hope that the Lightfoot administration will join with us in the push for TIF reform instead of fighting us. We continue to call on her administration to hold hearings on the TIF program in the low-income neighborhoods that the TIF program was originally intended to help.” “The $1.3 billion mega-TIF for Lincoln Yards is a perfect example of how our broken TIF system takes public funds away from families in under-resourced communities who need the most support, particularly hurting people of color,” stated Jennie Biggs with Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education. “Our public schools can’t afford for these abuses to continue. Inaction on this issue is not an option.”

A Budget to #ReimagineChicago for 2020 and Beyond

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For the past decade, Chicago has displaced and over-policed Black and Brown families, and starved the city’s working people of the resources they need to live and thrive. Black, Brown and working families overpay through a discriminatory use of fines, fees, and property taxes while corporate developers receive massive handouts for projects that displace residents.

Which is why community and labor organizations have come together with progressive aldermen to release a series of proposals for the 2020 city budget calling for $1.9 billion in new spending, $700 million in divestments, and $4.9 billion in new progressive revenue from requiring the wealthiest and large corporations to pay their fair share.

The proposal comes on the heels of ten aldermen pledging to vote only for a budget that invests in public services, divests from developers and failed policing, and taxes the rich. Working together, aldermen and community groups have prepared concrete proposals, a month before Mayor Lightfoot will deliver her budget address to City Council and are prepared to bargain together to win a budget that serves working families.

Download a A Budget to ReimagineChicago here

 

 

Huge TIF Revenues Sign of Program’s Failure Not Success

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A new report released on Wednesday by the Cook County Clerk showed a record breaking $1.2 billion in TIF funds collected this year.

TIF (Tax Increment Financing) money comes from property taxes in designated areas of the city. Originally the program was intended to help blighted neighborhoods struggling to attract investment – areas like Garfield Park and Englewood. However, for decades, our elected officials have found it more lucrative and politically advantageous to use the program as a slush fund to dump more money into downtown and other affluent parts of the city like Lincoln Yards.

The City creates TIF districts in wealthier and wealthier parts of the city, and the TIF fund increases accordingly.

The shockingly high amount of money that the TIF program took in this year, if used correctly, could still do some real good for the city. On Monday, Mayor Lightfoot made a commitment to greatly expand the number of nurses and social workers in Chicago Public Schools, but did not specify how she would pay for it. Lightfoot could immediately declare a TIF Surplus and could use that $1.2 billion to pay for the critical support staff that parents and teachers have been demanding for their students.

Putting TIF money back into our schools would be a great first step but we can’t stop there. The ever increasing size of the TIF funds should be a giant red flag that needs to be addressed. We need our new Mayor and City Council to take a good hard look at the TIF program and why $1.2 billion was sitting in a slush fund to begin with. We need to address the stark racial and economic inequality that is happening as a result of the misuse of the TIF program. And we need to focus on solutions that help Black and Latinx families across the south and west sides thrive.

Grassroots Collaborative has filed a lawsuit against the city over the misuse of the TIF program and the violation of the civil rights of our residents. You can support our efforts to reform the TIF program by making a donation here.

 

Statement: Grassroots Collaborative Lauds House Passage of Fair Tax

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CHICAGO – On Tuesday, the Illinois House passed the Fair Tax Constitutional Amendment. The following is a statement by Grassroots Collaborative Executive Director Amisha Patel.

“The passage of the Fair Tax Amendment in the House is great news for Illinois working families that have for far to long been burdened by the state’s outdated regressive tax system. It is fundamentally unfair for teachers and service workers to pay the same tax rate as Hedge Fund managers and CEOs. Addressing the unfairness and inequality of Illinois’s tax system has been a priority of Grassroots Collaborative’s membership for years. The Illinois House is correct to move the amendment forward and we strongly believe that Illinois voters will support the ballot question and finally create a structural fix to our broken tax system.

“Giving a tax break to working families and generating new substantial revenue from the wealthy paying their fair share will help create jobs, fund vital programs and services, and reverse the current trend of working families being pushed out of the state.”

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How Chicago City Council Should Choose Committee Chairmanships

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The following is an open letter to Mayor Lightfoot and the Chicago City Council:

Dear Mayor-Elect Lightfoot & Chicago City Council,

We, the undersigned community organizations, are committed to working to pass policies to help low-income and working-class communities of color whose needs have long been ignored in favor of the wealthy and politically connected. Like so many Chicago voters we are deeply disappointed by the corruption that has come to light in recent months.

We appreciate the promises many of you made during the recent election to end practices that allow politicians to profit from elected positions and moving Chicago towards the racial and economic equity our residents deserve.

Towards this end, we write to submit our recommendations to you about the criteria you should use in your selection of Committee Chairs and Vice Chairs.  As you know, the Chair and Vice Chair for each Committee hold tremendous power. We ask your Administration to take steps to ensure that Committee Chairmen and Chairwomen:

  • Wield their power in the interests of the public,
  • Are insulated from corrupting corporate influences and donations from special interest groups
  • Are accessible by average members of the public, and
  • Make a commitment to center the needs of Chicago’s most marginalized and vulnerable people and communities

 

Committee Chairs and Vice-Chairs must commit to center questions of racial and economic equity in how they run the Committee

Residents want a Chicago a where your zip code doesn’t determine your destiny. We urge Committee Chairs and Vice Chairs to make a commitment to centering the voices and needs of Chicago’s most marginalized, vulnerable and under-supported constituencies. This includes using Racial Equity Impact Assessments to evaluate whether proposals in front of their Committee will benefit or burden people of color, low-income and working class people, people with disabilities, and other protected and vulnerable classes. We urge the Lightfoot Administration to make a bold statement about its commitment to racial and economic equity and ask Committee Chairs to do the same in their role as Chairmen.

Committee Chairs and Vice-Chairs must reject donations that present conflicts of interest with their leadership role

We urge that the Lightfoot Administration and Chicago City Council to adopt a policy that Committee Chairs and Vice Chairs must make a commitment not to accept donations from for-profit business sectors or corporate lobbyists whose money may present a conflict of interest in how they run the Committee over which they have power.  Specifically, we urge that the Chair and Vice Chair of the Housing Committee and the Zoning Committee commit not to accept donations from developers or real estate companies who seek zoning changes or financial benefits from the City in their development deals. We also urge that the Chair and Vice Chair of the Public Safety Committee commit not to accept donations from any kind of private detention center or sector with a financial interest in the enduring criminalization and over-incarceration of people and communities of color.  We urge that your Administration further instructs the Office of the Inspector General to assess potential conflicts of interest with Chair and Vice Chair roles for each committee, publish a list of prohibited donors, and then audit Chair and Vice Chair compliance with avoiding potential conflicts of interest every 4-6 months.

 

Committee Chairs and Vice-Chairs must make themselves accessible to members of the public across the entire city, not just from their own wards

In addition, we urge that Committee Chairs and Vice Chairs make the commitment to hold public office hours and times and locations accessible to members of the general public from any neighborhood in Chicago. The Chair and Vice-Chair role is one ideally responsible and accountable to the interests of residents across all of Chicago, not just residents from the specific ward the Chair and Vice Chair were elected from.   In holding open office hours at regular and posted times, the Chair and Vice Chair of each committee will be available to receive input about how to govern in the interests of constituents from all across Chicago.

Similarly, we urge the Lightfoot Administration to adopt a commitment that Committee Chairs and Vice Chairs should hold public comment at every Committee Meeting, in line with the Open Meetings Act.

Questions or follow up regarding this letter can be directed to Amisha@grassrootscollaborative.org. Thank you for considering these recommendations.

 

Sincerely,

Action Now

American Friends Service Committee Midwest Region

Alliance of the  Southeast

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless

Centro Trabajadores Unidos

Chicago Housing Initiative

Chicago Community Workers Rights

Chicago United for Equity

Enlace Chicago

Grassroots Collaborative

SEIU Healthcare

Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights

Jane Addams Senior Caucus

Jewish Council on Urban Affairs

Organized Communities Against Deportations

One Northside

Raise the Floor Alliance

Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education

The People’s Lobby