Welcome to the Red Star Bulletin!
We just put six socialists into office in the third largest city in the country. We’re in a truly historic moment, and together, we’re going to seize it.
The aim of this bulletin is to bring CDSA members a regular round-up of important legislation, committee meetings, and other updates from City Hall, as well as analysis of what this means for our organizing as socialists.
Make no mistake: City Council is not friendly terrain for us. Whether we succeed or fail will depend first and foremost on whether we continue to build power in the places it derives from–in our workplaces, in our neighborhoods, and in the streets. But we hope to give CDSA members information they need to assess the electoral project we’re embarking on, and to continue building it into a powerful vehicle for working-class politics in our city.
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In addition to putting six CDSA members into office, our campaigns put socialism in the local and national (and international!) media in a big way. Here are some highlights:
- The Washington Post: “How Chicago’s New Democratic Socialist City Council Members Can Change the City’s Politics”
- The Guardian: “America’s socialist surge is going strong in Chicago”
- The Intercept: “Socialists leave Rahm Emanuel Legacy in Tatters in Chicago elections”
Below are links to a video and two podcasts discussing the topic:
- CBC: “Is Chicago Signaling a Socialist Turn for Democrats?”
- WBEZ Morning Shift: “A Democratic Socialist Wave Hits Chicago’s City Council”
- The Daily Line: “‘I Never Imagined We Would Have 6’ – Chicago DSA Celebrates City Council Victories and Plans for Future as Power Center”
The charts below break down how much money was spent on behalf of each candidate in wards which included CDSA-endorsed candidates, and how many dollars they spent per vote received (CDSA-endorsed candidates are in red, their opponents are in blue.)
Below are charts which show sources that made significant contributions to CDSA-endorsed candidates.
Expenditures and in-kind contributions for CDSA-endorsed candidates totaled $1,023,610; expenditures and in-kind contributions for opponents of CDSA-endorsed candidates totaled $2,408,521. The next issue of Red Star will include a look at the sources of our opponents’ funding.
A 100-Day Agenda
CDSA’s platform for the municipal elections–Housing for All, Sanctuary for All, Education for All, and taxing the rich to achieve these goals–was powerful because it built on years of organizing around clear demands in these areas.
Now that we have a City Council with six CDSA members and several other progressive allies, there’s an opening to reintroduce some key ordinances.
All of CDSA’s member candidates, as well as Maria Hadden (49th Ward), Matt Martin (47th Ward), Mike Rodriguez (22nd Ward), and Susan Sadlowski-Garza (10th Ward), were part of a press conference this week with United Working Families and the Reimagine Chicago coalition, announcing their intent to push the below legislation during the first 100 days of their new term.
One of the reasons the fight for rent control is so important is that Chicago, like most other U.S. cities, has almost no other tools to curb developers’ power over one of our most basic needs.
The one major existing tool, called the Affordable Requirements Ordinance (ARO), is woefully inadequate. First passed in 2005 and revamped under Rahm Emanuel, this is an “inclusionary zoning” policy that requires developers to set aside 10% of units in new buildings as “affordable” if the building receives a zoning change or financial assistance from the city.
The Development for All Ordinance would increase the affordability requirement to 30% of units in new buildings and eliminate a gaping loophole. As it stands, developers can opt to pay a fee to the city instead of including affordable units. An investigation by the Chicago Tribune last year found that developers almost always opt out; in its first two years, Rahm’s flagship affordability policy generated just 194 new units of affordable housing.
The Homes for All Ordinance is aimed at addressing the ongoing destruction of public housing in our city by stopping sales of Chicago Housing Authority-owned land to private interests and prohibiting the loss of units in future redevelopment of public housing–a pledge that’s been routinely broken since Chicago began tearing down its high-rise housing under the “Plan for Transformation.”
The Chicago Housing Initiative campaigned for both of these ordinances last fall, but they died in the housing committee then chaired by Ald. Joe Moore, who Maria Hadden just ousted.
A Community Benefits Agreement Ordinance for the Obama Presidential Center would take aim at the gentrification and displacement that’s likely to accompany the new Obama presidential library in Jackson Park. Woodlawn residents have reported that they are already seeing rent increases thanks to real-estate speculation near the future site. The Kenwood Oakland Community Organization is one of the key groups pushing this ordinance.
Chicago is currently a sanctuary city in name only. There are five gaping loopholes that allow police to arrest or detain people based on their immigration status–if they are one of 130,000 people named in the city’s racist and error-ridden gang database, for example. or if they have an outstanding warrant or a previous felony conviction.
Amendments to the Welcoming City Ordinance would eliminate all carve-outs and help protect immigrant communities from harassment, racial profiling, and deportation.
Carlos Rosa introduced these amendments in the previous City Council, but they stalled. Immigrant rights groups Organized Communities Against Deportation (OCAD) and Mijente have been campaigning for these amendments, as well as abolition of the Chicago gang database.
The approval of a nearly $1 billion subsidy for Lincoln Yards was just the latest example of how the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) program has funneled public money–money that should be going to schools and public services–to developers and other private interests.
TIF Surplus Reform would require the city to send available surpluses from TIF districts back to Chicago Public Schools on a yearly basis. The Chicago Teachers Union has pushed for this measure and it was introduced in the previous City Council by Sue Garza and George Cardenas.
Tax the Rich
There’s no shortage of options for how to tax the rich! One of the ones that could be passed with changes at the state level is Bring Chicago Home, aka the Real-Estate Transaction Tax or “Mansion Tax.” This 1.2-point tax increase on real estate transactions worth more than $1 million would generate an estimated $100-150 million annually, which would be used for housing and services to address homelessness.
Rahm unceremoniously shot down this proposal last fall. This time around, proponents are seeking to place a question on the ballot.
Finally, socialist and progressive alderman are seeking to create a $15 minimum wage by 2021, a faster timeline than the one established by a state law passed earlier this year, which would guarantee $15 an hour by 2025.
#LiftTheBan Update: Rep. Tarver’s Flip Flop on Rent Control
Back in March, HB0255–the bill to repeal the 1997 Rent Control Preemption Act, introduced by chief Sponsor Representative Will Guzzardi–was stalled after being voted down by the House’s Commercial Law Subcommittee. Democratic Reps. Curtis Tarver and Rita Mayfield joined the subcommittee’s Republicans in voting ‘nay’, while Rep. Andre Thapedi voted ‘present’.
The freshman Rep. Tarver faced immense backlash because of his ‘no’ vote, as Tarver had previously expressed support for rent control both on Twitter and at a candidate forum while running for election just last year. After constituents and rent control advocates called Tarver out on Twitter for his flip-flop, he responded by claiming that he had never supported rent control, blamed the previous tweet of support on a staffer, and dismissed his critics as “trolls”. Tarver’s staff later apologized for his tweets and took control of his account away from him. Some two weeks after the vote the Lift the Ban Coalition, of which Chicago DSA is a leading member, picketed outside his Hyde Park office.
In an interview with the Hyde Park Herald, Tarver offered a word salad of an explanation for his vote: “If I said I was in favor of rent control, then I said it…and if you asked if I changed my position, I’m not in favor of rent control. I think my vote is clear on that. If there’s any disparity between whatever this article is and my vote, I want to be very, very clear that my vote indicates that my position, and that’s the reason I voted that way.”
It’s perhaps no shock that Tarver opposes rent control, as he himself is a landlord. But in an ironic twist, earlier this month, the Vice District Brewing Company, which Tarver co-owns, was evicted from its South Loop taproom by Cook County for over $100K in unpaid rent.
The fight for rent control continues in Illinois, though, and Guzzardi’s bill will likely return for another subcommittee vote this month. Rep Mayfield has flipped to a ‘yes’ on the bill, while Tarver is likely to substitute his vote to a co-sponsor of the bill. Of course, lifting the ban is only one step towards actually achieving rent control in the state; if the ban is lifted, Chicago could enact rent control on the municipal level, although Mayor-Elect Lori Lightfoot says she opposes the policy. Statewide legislation such as SB3512 is another option.
Regardless of the exact route, any continued push for rent control in the state will mean amped-up attacks from the real estate lobby, which continues to dismiss the policy as bad economics, and offering outdated, technocratic critiques in order to veil the true nature of their opposition: class interest. Instead of rent control, they insist, the solution to the state’s affordable housing crisis is increasing housing supply through giveaways like tax credits and deregulation of the building code. Under the logic of the market, the only way to increase affordable housing is to incentivize developers with the prospect of a higher return on their investment. Meanwhile, the United States’ number of vacant buildings far outpaces its homeless population.
But while the capitalists may have money to sway state legislators, the Lift The Ban Coalition has an entirely different weapon: people power. Recently, members of the Coalition staged a demonstration at the capitol in Springfield. Facing arrest, the coalition instead came out with a meeting with Governor Pritzker’s deputy chief of staff of external affairs.
Subject Area –
CBS: Charles Cui, real estate developer, attorney, and managing partner of the company that owns property on 4900 Irving Park, has been indicted for bribing 14th Ward Alderman Ed Burke. The City Council Finance Committee, chaired by Burke, awarded the project a $2 million financing deal.
ProPublica: A deep dive on Chicago City Council committees, how they work, and how they operate in political contexts.
Chicago Sun-Times: Aldermen discuss reorganization and structure of the new Council, giving some insight into how new blocs will operate.
Chicago DSA: The campaign to make ComEd into a public utility has begun. People can sign up at the link for news, announcements, and opportunities to help give the people their power over electric power.
Chicago Sun-Times: White nationalist and fascist groups attended the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police’s rally against State’s Attorney Kim Foxx on April 1st.
ChiStreetsBlog: An April 24th community meeting saw overwhelming support of Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa’s proposal to create a 100% affordable 100 unit building on public land by the Logan Square Blue Line. There has been loud opposition from a vocal group of residents called “Logan Square Neighbors For Responsible Development”.
Mijente & Erase the Database: After robust condemnation and mobilization against the ineffectiveness, errors, and racism rampant in Chicago’s gang database shut it down, the Chicago Police Department is trying to reopen the project under a different title, “The Criminal Enterprise Database.” Sign the petition on Mijente and engage in other actions through Erase the Database.
Chicago Tribune: Democrats in the Illinois State Senate have passed a constitutional amendment that would move Illinois from a flat-tax system to a graduated income tax. They’re bundling the amendment with bills that would freeze property taxes and repeal Illinois’ estate tax. Despite these conciliatory measures, Senate Republicans voted against all three bills.
TruthOut: An anti-protest bill makes is way to Illinois. HB 1633 is based on model legislation drafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which has worked its way through the country in the wake of anti-pipeline protests and teacher’s strikes. The IL version of the bill seeks to pit organized labor against environmental activists by exempting picketing over “bona fide” labor disputes from prosecution.
Events (in specific wards)
Subject Area – Ward – Description
Community Services – 7th Ward
Friday, June 7th, 10:00AM-2:00PM: 7th Ward Shred-A-Thon
The 7th Ward Service Center at 2249 E. 95th Street, along with Alderman Greg Mitchell, will provide document shredding services at no charge. Resident use only. Call (773) 731-7777 for more details.
Community Services – 50th Ward
Wednesday, June 12th, 9:30AM-11:30AM: Warren Park Produce Mobile
50th Ward alderwoman will present the Warren Park Produce Mobile, delivering free bags of fresh fruits and vegetables to constituents in need. Warren Park is at 6601 N. Western; more information can be found at warrenparkfoodmobile.info.
Health Care – 34th Ward
Friday, May 31st, 8:00AM-2:00PM: Asthma Education Summit
Alderwoman Carrie Austin will team with the University of Chicago Medicine’s Urban Health Initiative to present information about asthma treatment and prevention. It will be at Kennedy King College at 740 W. 63rd Street, and breakfast and lunch will be presented. E-mail SSPAC@uchospitals.edu for details.
Policing – 6th Ward
Tuesday, May 21st, 6:00PM-8:00PM: R.A.G.E. Meeting
R.A.G.E. (the Residents’ Association of Greater Englewood) will be having a village meeting in cooperation with Alderman Roderick Sawyer of the 6th Ward. It will be held at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Academy of Social Justice at 644 W. 71st Street; topics will include cannabis legalization and the gang database.
Policing – 9th Ward
Saturday, June 1st, 8:30AM-6:00PM: Adult & Juvenile Record Expungement Summit
Join 9th Ward Alderman Anthony Beale for a seminar on how to expunge criminal records. It will be held at Westinghouse College Prep High School at 3223 W. Franklin Boulevard. Must have non-federal criminal record to register; details are at cookcountyclerkofcourt.org/secondchance, or call (312) 603-5200 for assistance.
Ward Night – 35th Ward
Monday, May 20th, 5:00PM-7:00PM: 35th Ward Night
Join socialist alderman and DSA member Carlos Ramirez-Rosa for the first ward night of his new term, to be held at his office in Logan Square at 2842 N. Milwaukee.
The Red Star Bulletin was drafted by CDSA members with special contributions from Rebecca Burns, Sean Duffy, Nick Hussong, and Leonard Pierce.