Call To Action For Chicagoans

On the Friday night after the election, I sat in a circle talking with my fellow Chicagoans.

One person in the circle said she saw a bright spot: Illinois was the first state to be called Blue for Hillary Clinton as she was watching the TV, and she was proud of that.

One person wondered about moving to a Red state.

One of my friends spoke up. He urged her to stay. He reminded us of the urgent, thorny questions in our own state and city.

I thought about the way the Electoral College map distorts how we see our country every four years. If you emotionally identify with Blue, and your state is Blue, it suggests that your state is alright.

I want to live in a world where I can feel pride in Illinois’s politics. But that is not today’s world: Our state and our city are not alright. I love Chicago. But I hate its politics. The state of our state is very ugly.

Chicago suffers from hypersegregation, with unemployment and violence concentrated on the West and South sides of our city.

Chicago suffers from divestment in Black and Brown communities. Closing schools, closing mental health clinics and empty public housing.

Chicago suffers from police impunity. Jason Van Dyck, the Chicago Police Officer who shot Laquan McDonald 16 times, now works as a janitor for the Fraternal Order of Police.

Illinois suffers from dysfunctional government. Our state was left for more than a year without a budget, leaving social service providers unpaid and support for the neediest deteriorating.

Illinois suffers from a corrupt Democratic establishment. Michael Madigan, Speaker of the Illinois House, runs a property tax appeal firm. He helps his clients lower their tax bills while running a state in fiscal crisis at the same time.

Illinois suffers from an unjust and inequitable distribution of taxation. Since we fund our schools with local property taxes, the Chicago Ridge School District spends $9,794 per student and a school district in the suburbs spends spends $28,639.

All of these things were true the day before the Presidential election, and all of them were true the day after. These issues demanded our urgent attention and action the day before the presidential election. And they demand them now. We have so much work to do.

Nearly four-fifths of Chicagoans wanted to see a Democrat in the White House. I wonder how many of them are satisfied with the Democratic leadership in their own state. I wonder how many of them are satisfied with the Democratic leadership in their own city.

Four years from now, when I watch the Red and Blue states on television, here are the questions I pledge to ask myself:

How hard have I worked to build a more equitable Illinois: one where schools on the South Side of Chicago have equal funding to schools on the North Shore?

How hard have I worked to clean up corruption in our state and city: removing the Madigan machine from power, and passing public campaign financing in Chicago?

How hard have I fought to fund funded restorative justice programs, mental health clinics, jobs programs, and others to help build a more equitable city?

This work can take many forms: Pressuring legislators. Showing up to rallies. Donating to causes. Building websites. Organizing your friends or family or religious community.

Come join me.