The most vociferous advocate for Black self-interests in the United States, relentless in his determination to the answer to the question, "What's in it for the Black People?" And if they don't like it, "You can tell 'em, Maze Said!"
After a highly contested primary battle, filled with lies and misinformation, this week The Maze Jackson Social Media Question of the Week, is:
What media outlets can Black people trust? Watch the video and give us your thoughts. Who do you trust to give you your news?
Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court appears at the South Side Democracy for America endorsement session after being dumped by the Democratic Party of Cook County. She discusses her office, the allegations, and the return of her cell phone!
Multi-talented actress, dancer, and performer Jasmine Guy stopped by 1690 AM WVON to discuss her new BET special and her woman play. She also discussed everything from her roles in School Daze and a Different World to why she can’t seem to get enough of Chicago men. Make sure watch this video.
I believe that teachers should be compensated fairly, but I am not sure that the CTU strike this past Friday had anything to do with making things better for the kids. Do you think the Day of Action was effective? Did you support it? What will be the long-term benefit? What do you think?
Last night, for the first time since Election Night, March 15, 2016 I attended a Democratic fundraiser. While I have not been in hiding, as some would like to think, I had avoided attending some high-profile events because as a true Chicago political operative, I knew it was coming…the jokes about 68%-32% drubbing that my good friend Ken Dunkin received. I knew I would be the target of the jokes, because as many felt, rightfully so, that I had worked for Dunkin behind the scenes.
Dunkin was ultimately crushed by the sheer weight of the entire Democratic Party putting every available resource against him, but he did not go down without a fight. And when he was given the resources, party leaders were clearly concerned that Dunkin could still win the election, so concerned that they even called in the leader of the free world. That’s right, even President Obama weighed in on the election, at which point I faced the reality that the Democratic Party was willing to do ANYTHING to ensure Dunkin’s defeat. It was a tough loss and I knew they would come for me afterwards.
But walking into that fundraiser and hearing fellow Black political operatives laugh about how they “Kicked my butt!” stung a little. Then when a committeeman that I have known, supported, and respected shouted out in front of a table of strangers, “WE KICKED YOUR ASS!” it stung A LOT. It stung because so many times, I had been on the other side, laughing at those idealistic political wannabees, whose hopes we laughed at, as we mercilessly kicked their butts at the ballot.
It stung because as a Black political operative, I know that there are two different “WE’s.” As a Democratic political operative any win against the opposition is cause for celebration. But “WE” for Black Democratic political operatives usually means working as the “field” director, while inexperienced young White Democratic political operatives handle jobs like media director, communications director, campaign manager, and fundraiser.
“WE” to Black Democratic political operatives means that you get a small raise or promotion, while White Democratic political operatives get lucrative contracts or new business clients. “WE” to Black Democratic political operatives means a win bonus that may pay for a weekend in Wisconsin, while it means buying a vacation home in Michigan for a White Democratic political operative.
I was content being a Black Democratic political operative until I went to Springfield and saw what it meant to be a White Democratic political operative. I saw all of those young twenty and thirty something hustling around the Capitol in their fancy suits, with big contracts, representing corporate America working 3 days a week, six months per year. I saw them taking multiple family vacations, living in big houses in (847) area codes, and driving fancy cars on the weekend. Their outcomes looked nothing like those of the Black Democratic political operatives I know.
The top Black Democratic political operatives I know are the people behind the desks at your local ward office. You may see them walking around city hall, or they may be sitting in the back of the room at your local block club meeting. They know what to do, who to talk to, and where to be in their communities. Black political operatives are experts in their communities. It’s generally who the White Democratic political operatives rely on for success when they are dispatched to Black communities.
But few if none of them will ever be millionaires like the White Democratic political operatives that they work along side during election season. As a political operative, I understand that when the boss sends you on a mission, your only goals are to destroy the competition and win. But as a Black Democratic political operative, I know we are rarely if ever allowed to control the budgets, make decisions, or be part of the strategy team. They will let us handle the “ground game” and “visibility” which is cool, but we won’t ever retire millionaires like the White Democratic political operatives.
Going against the Party in the Dunkin race may not have been the smartest thing for my political or professional career, and I admit that. I’ll even admit I did get my butt kicked. But while that Black Democratic political operative was at the same event with me on a cold dreary March night, laughing, the White Democratic political operative that needed him to win, was chilling on a beach with his family. When I reminded him of that, things weren’t so Democratic or funny anymore.
During the darkest hours of Mayor Emanuel’s runoff campaign, he worked hard to downplay the looming property tax that many insiders knew was inevitable. Last Wednesday, that inevitability became reality when the Chicago City Council passed Mayor Emanuel’s $588 million tax increase. In addition, the City Council passed a much maligned garbage pick up fee that will cost Chicagoans approximately $9.50 extra monthly. Many assumed the inevitability of that massive tax increase and the impending voter backlash is what led Emanuel to declare during his campaign, that this would be his last term.
But in what was an unexpected turnabout, immediately following the passage of the historic tax increase, Emanuel announced that he was planning on running for a 3rd term. Perhaps he was emboldened by passage of the tax increase, maybe he has given up his national aspirations after becoming damaged goods in Chicago’s first ever-mayoral runoff, or it could be the lack of a credible challenger on the horizon. Regardless of the circumstances, Emanuel got his tax increase, and Chicago has its Mayor for the foreseeable future.
But according to Danielle Stanley, Research Assistant at the Center for Budget and Tax Accountability, Chicagoans are not in the clear. As previously reported in the Chicago Defender, a significant part of the solution relies on a dysfunctional Springfield that has not been able to solve it’s own budget issues.
“In the spring of 2015, the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 777 (Cullerton/Currie), which changes the 2010 law and reduces the City’s required contributions to the police and fire pension funds. If SB77 is not signed into law and the city will need other funding/revenue options,” Stanley said.
While Mayor Emanuel and Governor Rauner are known friends and associates, the budgetary crises at state and local levels have strained the relationship between the two men, with Emanuel calling for Rauner to “Stop name calling and do your job!” To which Rauner rebutted with an offer to send Emanuel some dead frozen fish in a not so veiled reference to Emanuel’s past election antics. Regardless, Emanuel will need Springfield to fix his budget.
Assuming the two can get their act together approximately 62% of the tax increase will go to shore up police and fire pensions and percent will go to debt service. According to Stanley, “The city is responsible for paying the employer contribution for the Firemen’s Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago, the Laborers’ Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago (LABF), the Municipal Employees’ Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago (MEABF), and the Policemen’s Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago. Three of the four city pension funds have a current funded ratio below 50 percent.”
She continues, “In 2010, Governor Quinn signed into law PA 96-1495 which created tier 2 of pension benefits for public employees hired after January 1, 2011. The legislation also created a new funding plan for police and fire funds, which required the City to begin putting more money in those funds starting in FY2015. The total amount in the City should have budgeted to contribute to all four pension funds for FY2015 was $1.1 billion. However, the City only budgeted for $557 million.”
So the question remains, how will Chicagoans respond to such a large tax increase, when the funding goes to pay old bills with limited new services? Stanley says the taxes and fees collected would, “bring an additional $125.3 million in revenue for the Corporate Fund Tax (city’s general operating fund).”
According to an Emanuel press release, that will provide:
• 27,000 youth afterschool opportunities
• 25,000 summer job opportunities
• 5,500 pre-school slots
• Open 15 new early learning centers at Chicago Public Library Branches
• Transform 5 CPS-School-Based Clinics into Health Clinics serving 3,000 patients annually per site
• Repaving roads
• Expand free breast health services and mammography screenings to more uninsured women
• Expand primary health care services to low income individuals living with HIV/AIDS
• Improvements to sewer and water
• Moving police officers from the desk to walk the beat
• Expand city services by adding 5 more baiting crews and 10 additional tree trimming crews to eliminate the backlog
• Affordable housing for senior-citizens and transit for accessibility
And while the Mayor’s office touts the benefits of the budget, Stanley warns of the negative impacts to the Black community. “A property tax hike will have a negative impact by raising the tax bills for homeowners and, most likely, landlords will shift the cost to renters.”
“Senior citizens who are living on a fixed income most likely cannot handle the pressure of additional bills. Working black families who have not received a raise in years are expected to handle the financial burden of annual increase taxes, garbage fees, and taxi or ride sharing fees on top of their household expenses,” she continues.
But Stanley also shared the impacts that Mayor Emanuel hopes will benefit the Black community directly, including afterschool opportunities for our youth and wrap around services for youth. “Mayor Emanuel is restoring 5,500 pre-school slots that Governor Rauner slashed from the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) last summer.”
She also says in the current budget, “Emanuel will also move more police officers to the beat from the desks which means safer streets essentially. Communities plagued with gun violence should receive a stronger police presence in impacted neighborhoods. New officers to the beat, (but those) officers should receive sensitivity and cultural training beforehand.”
Regardless, Emanuel and the City Council have done the heavy lifting that they hope will get Chicago on the proper fiscal course. “Four years ago we began charting a new course for Chicago’s future, and with today’s vote, we took a big step toward finally finishing the job,” said Mayor Emanuel. “I want to thank the members of the Council who voted to take decisive and determined action to right our financial ship and put progress ahead of politics. We have a lot more work to do and I look forward to continuing working together to create jobs and ensure the economic opportunities reach every neighborhood of Chicago.”
Chicagoans will have 3 ½ years to decide if they are headed in the right direction or if they should change course. Emanuel is betting $588 million dollars, his job, and the careers of his city council allies on it.
On October 15, 2015 reports of a “raid” on the home of Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown surfaced. Brown acknowledged that federal agents issued a subpoena for her county issued cell phone, but maintains that was the extent of her interaction with federal agents. Brown claimed that reports of a full out “raid” were exaggerated. Nonetheless, those reports were enough to launch a string of events that led to the leaders of the Cook County Democratic Party rescinding its endorsement of Brown, and switching to powerful Rules Committee Chairman, 8th Ward Alderman Michelle Harris.
The string of events leading up to Brown’s stunning downfall were seemingly quite innocuous by Cook County standards, a county with a reputation of having elected officials that often find themselves the targets of “investigations.” In fact with the proliferation of targeted “investigations” that seem to disproportionately focus on Black politicians, many of the Black committeemen quietly expressed concern that it was setting a very low bar for future endorsement reversals.
When Brown entered the Erie Café in the odds seemed very unfavorable for her keeping the Democratic Party endorsement. Democratic staffers were hurriedly preparing new packets of petitions to be distributed to committeemen for Cook County Recorder of Deeds Karen Yarborough. Conspicuously absent was the name of Dorothy Brown who had previously been listed with Yarborough, as is commonly the practice of the Democratic Party to make the collection of signatures for endorsed candidates easier.
As Brown delivered an impassioned speech to remain the Party’s endorsed candidate, there was a quiet buzz in the room, signaling that Brown’s speech was falling on deaf ears. Brown, in her best attempt to use her law degree suggested that the Democratic Party had entered into a “contract” when they accepted and cashed her $25,000 campaign check. After Brown delivered what was to be her swan song, the committeemen went into executive session, and after some discussion returned with the decision that Brown’s endorsement had officially been rescinded, opening the doors for reconsideration of the endorsement.
As the candidates came before the committeemen one by one, including Brown, Attorney Jacob Meister, former Cease Fire Director Tio Hardiman, and Alderman Michelle Harris, it was clear that Harris had the overwhelming support of the Democratic Party leaders. After Harris presented her case, party leaders went back into executive session, and within a span of 90 minutes, the Democratic Party had made an about face, Dorothy Brown was out and the 8th Ward powerhouse Michelle Harris was in.
Now the pressure is on Party leaders to deliver for Harris, who must expand her influence beyond the boundaries of the 8th Ward throughout all of Cook County.
While Cook County is still considered ground zero of local politics, Harris will have to rely on a Party organization that is shadow of it’s former self. There was a time when county endorsed candidates could rely on a disciplined and powerful Democratic “Machine” to deliver votes en masse, but a look at the last two election cycles demonstrates the uphill battle Harris faces getting committeemen to deliver.
For instance, Cook County Democratic Party Chairman Joe Berrios lost two of his most trusted allies in back to back independent challenges. First Berrios’ daughter Maria “Toni” Berrios lost to upstart Will Guzzardi in a state representative contest. Then Berrios lost his Alderman Ray Suarez to independent challenger Millagros “Milly” Santiago. Santiago, who is rumored to be mulling a challenge to Berrios as Ward Committeeman presents Berrios with a unique challenge if he hopes to remain relevant in party politics. If Santiago wins, Berrios would be forced to resign as Party Chairman. Under those circumstances, Harris would take a back seat to Berrios’ own need for self-preservation.
Harris will also count on the support of Illinois Speaker of the House and Democratic Party of Illinois Chairman Mike Madigan, who stands to lose the most because of the number of employees he is rumored control in the Cook County Clerk’s office. By abandoning Brown, many of Madigan’s highest earning captains and lieutenants find themselves in a precarious position, because they work in Shakman-exempt positions, meaning they can be hired and fired based on political considerations.
In fact, until last weeks decision, Brown’s campaign was being run by Fred Moody, one of the politically famous Madigan twin operatives that are deployed to ensure the Speaker’s will is imposed wherever they land. Because Clerk’s office is one of the last bastions of patronage and boasts the highest number of positions that pay in upper five and six figure salaries, Madigan has taken particular interest in the office, making his flip on Dorothy Brown curious to say the least. Compound that with the fact that Madigan is infamous for not defending Black candidates, will be facing a number of challenges for his members from Governor Bruce Rauner, and is pushing current City Clerk Susana Mendoza for State Comptroller makes Harris’ campaign an after-thought.
And rescinding Brown’s nomination and endorsing Harris does not necessarily mean Brown is not running. Brown began her political career outside of the Regular Democratic Organization in Black churches, and based on her Facebook posts featuring her in photos with mega church Pastor Bill Winston, that’s where she looks to return.
If Brown is able to collect the necessary signatures, that will place, Brown, Harris, and Tio Hardiman, three Black candidates in a race against Jacob Meister, a White, gay, Jewish attorney. This fact was not missed by a few White and Latino North Side Committeemen who are openly supporting Meister, in spite of the Party’s endorsement, and were palpably giddy when Harris’ endorsement was announced.
For Alderman Harris to be successful in her historic run for Clerk of the Circuit Court, she will need to rely on the relationships and experience of her own 8th Ward Democratic Organization. The 8th Ward has been the epicenter of Black power politics on the South Side since the deceased Cook County Board Chairman John Stroger made it that way from the 70’s to the present day. Win or lose the Clerk’s race, as Chairman of the Chicago City Council’s Committee on Rules, Alderman Michelle Harris be influential for years to come, but if she wants to win this one it will require more than the endorsement of Party leaders.
Just the other day I had the opportunity to attend a high-profile political event and it was interesting to say the least.All the political big wigs were in the room and based on how some of them were looking at is me, it was apparent that someone had told them what “Maze Said.”
“Good!” I quietly said, “hopefully someone will do something about it!” I thought to myself.I was optimistic until I approached an old friend to take a picture and he said, “I love what you do, don’t stop, but I can’t take a picture with you…I might get in trouble!?!?”
Trouble?!?! I thought to myself… for what, better yet from who?So I asked him had I lied about anything? Perhaps I was spreading some misinformation?!?! Nope he assured me that I had told the truth, which further baffled me!Why would he be scared to take a picture with me for telling the truth about what is being done to our people?
Taking that one step further, why was he more scared of this mythological figure outside of our community, than the people he was elected to represent?That was apretty disconcerting thought, that he was more fearful of a white guy from another neighborhood than the peoplehe lives among that elected him to represent their issues!How does that work out for Black people?Not very well as we can see by Black participation levels in state business.
Well here’s the deal…there are a lot of us that are tired of being scared and have decided that no white man who ain’t never loved us will decide which Black people BLACK people get to talk to!And to the Black people who let white people pick your friends…just know you are not special.Get out line…tell too much truth and the same white people will be telling our people they are in trouble for talking to you!
White people don’t tell me who I can talk to, and if they do you have to ask yourself why?!?
And if you don’t like it you can tell them Maze Said!
(as published in the October 7-13 Chicago Defender)
When Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that he would be proposing over a $588 million property tax increase in the city of Chicago, a collective groan was heard across the neighborhoods. While many knew that the day of pension reckoning was finally upon us, the shock of actually hearing Emanuel deliver the message was palpable. While he discussed a wide range of services savings and cuts, most Chicagoans fixated on the $500 million property tax increase.
A $588 million increase that equates to an approximate 58.1% increase over what Chicagoans had been paying. That increased property tax assessment could potentially have a dire effect on the Black community whose property values are rapidly increasing, while their incomes are not. Combine that with the fact that the Black community has not fully recovered as quickly as others from the recession, while struggling to hold on to their homes. At the same time, White developers are buying every bit of property they can get their hands in anticipation of the Obama library on the South Side, and Silicon Valley 2.0 which is being built on the near West Side.
In an effort to provide some relief from the enormous tax increase, and prevent some of those things from happening, Mayor Emmanuel proposed an exemption for homes that are valued under $250,000. The move was hailed as an attempt to ensure that the cities most vulnerable homeowners would be spared the massive increase that would eventually drive them from their homes and communities, a fact that members of the Chicago Aldermanic Black Caucus applaud.
“I believe it will encourage investment, while lessening the impact on people with less income,” said 27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett, Jr. who represents a portion of the West Side and West Loop, where high-income development is booming.
But to get the necessary relief, the mayor’s budget relies on approval from a dysfunctional Springfield that has not been able to pass its own budget. As a matter of fact the state of Illinois has been operating without a budget for the past five months with no solution in the foreseeable future. In spite of that, Burnett remains optimistic that “Governor Rauner will do the right thing, help the city of Chicago, and low income residents.”
While all parties would agree that the city of Chicago is on the brink of financial peril all parties do not agree on the solution, the most important of which is Governor Rauner, who has called for a statewide property tax freeze. Combine that with the fact that when Governor Rauner addressed the Chicago City Council back in July, he made it perfectly clear that if Chicago expected to get any relief from the state he expected that they would make concessions in Springfield. Regardless of Rauner’s ominous statements, Springfield insiders remain optimistic that they will be able to pass the property tax exemption and get Governor Rauner to sign it.
Assistant Majority Leader Art Turner, Jr. (D-Chicago) is one of those insiders. “Most of the constituents I represent would benefit from the exemption and I am for it. It’s progressive which is something that we should look at on the state level as well. Those who can pay more should,” Turner states.
“The City of Chicago is the largest economic engine in the state, and while I think it will be tougher to get through Springfield, I am confident that the Governor understands how important Chicago is to the rest of the state. Mayor Emanuel has taken the first step in fixing the situation, but because he and the Governor have a working relationship and talk regularly, I think we will get a bill passed and signed,” Turner explained.
Turner’s optimism is based on Emanuel and Rauner’s relationship, because Rauner’s relationship with Democratic leaders in Springfield is tense to say the least. Governor Rauner and Illinois Speaker of the House Mike Madigan are currently locked in a budget fight to the death over who will control Springfield, and neither seems willing to compromise. But if the city of Chicago hopes to plug its budget holes and pension problems, it must rely upon cooperation with legislators, leaders and the Governor to get it done. But so far no party has shown any willingness to give, which is what makes Emanuel’s role in the situation so crucial.
Mayor Emanuel has stated, we must fix the “structural deficit” and we cannot “kick the can down the road any longer” as he has so often accused the previous administration of. And, while he is careful not to blame the Daley administration by name, one only need listen to Emanuel talk about the city’s financial situation to know that he will not wear the jacket for the massive property tax increase alone.
One thing is clear, if the City of Chicago wants to keep growing, it must tackle the financial woes created by years of underfunding police and fire pensions. The intentional underfunding of police and fire pensions have reduced Chicago’s bond ratings to junk status, driving the cost of borrowing money to unmanageable levels. But with the property tax increase, Emanuel and the Chicago City Council still have to convince voters why they should accept such a large property tax with very few to no new services.
To combat the perception, Emanuel has also proposed using a rare state law that allows the city to levy a $45 million school improvement tax to ease the tensions associated with such a large increase. Emanuel has also tried to make the increase more palatable by phasing it in over 3 years, with increases being $318 million in 2015, $109 million in 2016, $53 million in 2017, and $63 million in 2018.
But none of that will make a difference if he can’t get Springfield to work together, something they have been unable to do for the last five months. Emanuel needs them to if he hopes to save Chicago from being devoured by its pension obligation.