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  WINDY CITY TIMES

1,200 at ONE Northside convention push pols for budget action
2016-04-12

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More than 1,200 ONE Northside community leaders called on elected officials to promote equal opportunity and put "people ahead of corporate profits" at the group's April 10 annual convention.

The event at Lake View High School kicked off campaigns to pass a new solution to Illinois' budget crisis and to preserve affordable housing in Chicago.

"For too long, the rules have been rigged in favor of big corporations and the wealthy over the rest of us," said Rev. Monte Johnson, Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church and President of ONE Northside's Board of Directors. "But more than a thousand people are here today because together we can change the rules. We're holding our elected leaders accountable so they represent all of us—not just big corporations and the wealthy."

More than a dozen elected officials—including Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky and U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, six state legislators and five aldermen—attended and committed to policy initiatives that put people before corporate profits.

"ONE Northside, your agenda is my agenda!" said U.S. Rep. Schakowsky.

This largest community convention in ONE Northside's history showed how pressure is building in Chicago communities for politicians to address the vital issues that affect people's lives and to end the state budget impasse by ensuring that big corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share, the group said. Two-thirds of corporations in the state pay no Illinois corporate income tax at all.

"Our state can't afford to keep allowing big corporations and the wealthy to shirk their fair share of responsibility," said Eugene Lim, a leader of ONE Northside's Economic Justice Team. "Our schools, our health and our safety are being put at risk while big corporations continue to benefit from tax loopholes they don't need and that our state can't afford. We simply cannot continue on a path that is driving our state further into debt while leaving the majority of us behind."

ONE Northside unveiled legislation that would close $2.5 billion annually in corporate tax loopholes, cutting the current budget shortfall in half. The amendment to HB293 sponsored by State Rep. Will Davis ( D-30 ) and State Sen. Toi Hutchinson ( D-40 ) is a first step toward closing the current budget shortfall and ending the 10-month long impasse that threatens universities, has closed essential health care facilities and decimated funding for programs that make our communities safer.

At the convention, Senate President John Cullerton committed to moving legislation closing corporate loopholes in the Senate, calling fair tax legislation for a vote and working to pass a fully funded two-year budget by May 31.

It is crucial to the health of our state that Governor Rauner stop putting corporate profits ahead of people's lives and start to compromise on a fair budget that benefits everyone—not just big corporations and wealthy campaign contributors, ONE Northside said.

"The governor is trying to divide us. He's trying to divide workers from the people who use human services," said State Rep. Greg Harris. "We must stay united."

Fully funding a state budget would stabilize communities by supporting programs that make communities safer, make housing affordable and make sure everyone has equal opportunity to contribute, ONE Northside said.

"Too many Chicago area neighborhoods are under pressure because we are not making the investments we need in housing," said Elia Baez, whose family lost their home after predatory lending pushed them into foreclosure. "Thousands of families like mine have to move repeatedly because mortgage payments and rents keep getting more unaffordable—forcing our children out of their schools and making it hard for them to succeed. Neighborhoods are stronger when housing is affordable and people can stay in their communities."

The five aldermen who attended—James Cappleman, Harry Osterman, Tom Tunney, Walter Burnett, and Joe Moreno—committed to support affordable housing by bringing at least 50 new units of CHA housing to their wards and to supporting a right to purchase ordinance for renters whose buildings are put up for sale.

Neighborhoods are stronger when everyone has equal opportunity to succeed, ONE Northside said. "Investing in education programs—like mandatory GED classes in Illinois prisons—would benefit everyone by setting people up for success and helping them gain employment when they come home from our broken justice system," said Ralph Edwards, former Ceasefire supervisor. "It costs the state $118,000 a year when someone returns to prison, but people who participate in corrections education programs are 43% less likely to return to prison."

Seniors, veterans and people who have disabilities are also being shortchanged by policies that favor the wealthy few over everyone else. About 70 million Americans who rely on Social Security and critical veterans' benefits did not receive any increase to keep up with inflation in 2016—only the third time this has happened in more than 40 years.

Senator Dick Durbin notified the convention that he is signing on to the SAVE Benefits Act, which provides seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities with an emergency payment to keep up with inflation—fully paid for by closing one of the many tax loopholes that subsidize giant pay packages for executives.

"Too many of us can't pull ahead no matter how hard we try—let alone save for the future—and we rely on Social Security when we can no longer work. Social Security keeps almost 15 million seniors out of poverty," said Ann Marie Cunningham, a leader with ONE Northside's economic justice team and Jane Addams Senior Caucus. "Last year CEO's got a 3.9% raise—an average $635,000 a year increase for the people who need it the least—while people like me are seeing our benefits eroded. Seniors, veterans and people with disabilities need to be sure their benefits keep up with costs so they can make ends meet."

The community leaders at the convention committed to holding politicians accountable, posing for pictures and using social media to call out politicians like Senator Mark Kirk, Congressman Mike Quigley, Commissioner Bridget Gainer, and Alderman Joe Moore who did not attend the event.

"Strong communities don't happen by accident. They result from decisions we make together—through our government—to write rules that are fair, equitable and reflect our shared priorities," said Erin Ryan, a ONE Northside Board Member. "Today, 1,200 of us joined together across our differences to hold our elected leaders accountable and make sure the rules are balanced to benefit everyone—not just a select few."

ONE Northside is a mixed-income, multi-ethnic, intergenerational organization that unites diverse Northside communities including Rogers Park, Edgewater, Uptown, Ravenswood, North Center, Lake View, and Lincoln Park. They develop grassroots leaders to build the collective power to "eliminate injustice in our community."


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