Chicago Defender Year In Review Politics

In a year marked with headline news the Defender worked tirelessly to ensure its’ readership never missed a beat in 2017.

More than 70 articles were considered before the Defender’s editorial staff narrowed down our top political selections of the year based on local, county, state and national headlines found in our pages and website this year. Elected officials, affordable housing, education funding, and more made up just the tip of the iceberg in terms of a few of the impactful stories that shaped the year of news in Chicago’s political landscape.

Gov. Rauner Meets With Defender’s Editorial Board

By Lee Edwards

Posted on Feb. 17

Gov. Bruce Rauner visits the Chicago Defender offices. Photo: Mary L. Datcher

Gov. Bruce Rauner paid the Defender’s office, 4445 S. King Dr., a visit for an exclusive interview with its’ editorial staff. The topics raised in the article were Chicago’s gun violence, education, criminal justice reform, and the Illinois Tollway Authority’s (ITA) efforts to increase diversity in its contractors and suppliers.

On the topic of criminal justice reform the state’s head official stated:

““We have to change our criminal justice system. It shouldn’t be just about punishment, it shouldn’t be just about putting people in jail and throwing away the key,” said Rauner, who cited mental health and drug treatment as key to addressing recidivism. “We have to focus on what’s the cause of criminal behavior.””

Church vs. Business? How Churches and Businesses Resolved Conflicts Within Chicago’s Austin Community

By Morgan Lee

Posted February 15

Reporting on behalf of City Bureau Morgan Lee tackled how the Austin neighborhood’s economics may be impacted by the presence of multiple local churches on a potentially vital commercial corridor, North Ave. It’s difficult to gauge what’s next to come given the hopes some have within Austin of turning into a bustling economic engine for the community.

“The issue isn’t limited to foot traffic. Parking is also a sticking point, as are the liquor license restrictions on any business within 100 feet of a church. And since churches don’t pay property taxes, they don’t contribute to the local Tax Increment Financing district, which redistributes excess property tax revenue into community redevelopment funds, and which is supposed to be a tool for economic revitalization.”

Teresa Davis in front of train.

Part 1: Chicago’s “Reverse Migration” Impacts the Black Community

By Darryl Holliday

Posted April 6, 2017

City Bureau co-founder/reporter Darryl Holliday wrote a gripping and detailed two-part piece about “reverse migration” and how Joliet has become a battleground in the affordable housing discussion.

““Teresa Davis packed up her bags, boarded the Rock Island District Metra train with her kids and left Chicago bound for Joliet, a small, former manufacturing city 40 miles southwest of her family’s South Side home. Her three children, an infant, a 1-year-old and a 2-year-old, took the upheaval in stride, playing, sleeping and talking on the 2-hour ride through Chicago’s south suburbs and west, toward the Des Plaines River. Davis describes it as memorable bonding time for the family.””

Part 2: Black Flight: Chicago’s Urban Exodus Meets Racial Resistance

By Darryl Holliday

Posted April 12

Black GOP to Black Voters: Wake Up!

By Ashley Lisenby

Posted April 19

Should African Americans be willing to support President Donald Trump? That was one of the major questions addressed in this view from the GOP side of politics in the African American community.

“…Chicago lawyer Brunell Donald-Kyei, who said she felt disappointed by decades of Democratic leadership nationally and locally. In fact, Trump’s question aided in convincing her to endorse him even at the risk of being shunned by other black people and called derogatory names such as Aunt Jemima.

It’s important to note that Donald-Kyei isn’t a lifelong Republican.”

Illinois for Educational Equity Demand Funding Fix

By Lee Edwards

Posted on May 7

The fight for equitable funding in Illinois was in full swing when the Illinois for Educational Equity (ILEE) Action For Educational Equality gathered its’ members, teachers, lawmakers, and more to discuss what actions needed to take place to get legislation passed for equitable school funding throughout the state.

“Taylor Beale, a 7th grade middle school teacher at KIPP Create College Prep, spoke to the audience about how cuts to the staff directly impact her ability to instruct her classroom. She said she’s a product of CPS and grew up near her school, which makes the challenges it faces all the more personal. She has been a teacher at KIPP for a year but has been a teacher for a total of five years, with jobs in Oklahoma and Wisconsin.”

““How am I supposed to tell my students they are going to get a proper education when I can’t make that promise because the resources aren’t there?””

CTA’s Commuters and the Homeless

By Mary L. Datcher

Posted May 18

A human crisis of the most vulnerable kind was magnified in this cover story. The intersection between Chicago’s homeless population and those using public transportation has long been an issue known to Chicagoans but here Datcher hits several key notes in that wildly untold narrative that’s still relevant.

The Battle For Affordable Housing in Jefferson Park

By Lee Edwards

Posted June 8, 2017

Residents of Jefferson Park clashed with affordable housing advocates in the heart of the summer over a proposed mixed income 100 unit affordable housing development. The staging ground for this portion of the story took place at City Hall where concerns over implied racism from current Jefferson Parks were raised.

“Jefferson Park is among several northwest side Chicago communities to remain by-and-large predominantly White. According to a 2013 report by the Huffington Post, from 1920-2000, Jefferson Park remained over 90 percent White until 2000. The only communities that were still listed as 90 percent White were Edison Park, Norwood Park and Mount Greenwood in the southwest area of Chicago.”

Do Our Black Children Matter?

By Mary L. Datcher

Posted June 21

Changing neighborhood demographics threatened not only the National Teachers Academy (NTA), 55 W. Cermak, but also call into question the direction of the neighborhood once known as the Near South Side’s class, color, and sensibilities for years to come.

“In 2010, Alderman Pat Dowell, who rep-resents the 3rd Ward, was an advocate on behalf of low-income residents fighting for the right of their children to stay within the school district boundaries and against South Loop Elementary takeover of NTA. Now, as the neighborhood has shifted more in diversity and with growing families, she feels it is time for change and compromise.”

Black Pride and Prejudice

By Lee Edwards

Posted June 28

The Defender took a closer look into Pride Month from the viewpoint of the African American LGBTQ community. Through this article it was illuminated that even within the queer community African Americans must fight for equality and equity during a time of the year that is supposed to be accepting for one and all.

Gov. Rauner Signs Several Criminal Justice Bills, Blasts Racism

By Mary L. Datcher

Posted August 25

Multiple pieces of legislation reforming criminal justice in Illinois were signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner with several members of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus represented to witness at the Safer Foundation location in North Lawndale. Rauner also responded to a hot button issue at the time, a racist cartoon, by saying, “…I do not endorse any form of racism.”

“One of the bills signed, HB 3817 creates the Youth Opportunity and Fairness Act. Under current Illinois law, only three in 1,000 juvenile arrests are expunged. According to the governor’s office, this law would allow for a quicker and easier process for young people to have their records erased, would reduce the unlawful sharing of juvenile records.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel at DuSable Museum of African American History’s new event space. PHOTO: Mary L. Datcher

One-on-One With Mayor Rahm Emanuel: School Funding, CPS Plans and Crime

By Mary L. Datcher

Posted September 7, 2017

In an one-on-one exclusive the Defender’s Mary L. Datcher interviwed candidly with Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel concerning some of the biggest moments during his tenure in office including the debt he inherited, the closing of 52 Chicago Public Schools, his run-off election, the shooting of LaQuan McDonald and more.

This interview is particular importance because it gave the Defender an opportunity to ask the hard hitting question but almost just as an importantly the mayor was given a unique platform to share his thoughts directly with Chicago’s African American audience.

Board President Toni Preckwinkle

Toni Preckwinkle Says Cook County’s Beverage Tax Repeal Leads To “Significant Lay-offs”

By Mary L. Datcher

Posted October 11, 2017

With the repeal of the controversial sweetened beverage tax by the County Board Finance Committee (15-1) Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle hinted that cuts to the 2018 budget were looming. The repeal came after significant backlash over the summer from imposing a county-wide one cent per ounce tax on all sweetened beverages.

““If you want good government, you have to pay for it,” says Preckwinkle.

She says they eliminated 254 positions since the County’s first budget in 2011, reducing the workforce by more than 10.3 percent.”

Fighting Back: What Chicago groups are doing to combat domestic violence

By Lee Edwards

Posted October 12

In recognition that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month the Defender dedicated a cover page story during the month toward sharing potentially lifesaving resources for all survivors of domestic violence.

No Justice, No Peace: Modern-Day Jim Crow

By Mary L. Datcher

Posted November 2

The story of Mark Maxson, 55, a torture victim of the infamous former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge who was wrongly accused of murder and rape of a female child, is told in this story. Maxson filed a federal civil rights lawsuit seeking $54 million in damages. His story is one that puts the horrid legacy of Burge on Chicago into graphic focus.



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