President Obama during State of the Union speech
(Charles Dharapak/AP)
February 15, 2013

Obama Wraps State Of Union Speech Tour In Chicago

President Barack Obama is portraying his State of the Union proposals as elements of a concerted effort to build "ladders of opportunity" into the middle class.

In remarks Friday at Hyde Park Academy in his hometown of Chicago, Obama said that every four months, his hometown of Chicago suffers the loss of as many children as were killed in the Connecticut elementary school shooting.

Obama says gun violence is taking too many children's lives, not just in mass shootings like the one in Newtown, Conn., that killed 20 kids. He says 65 children were killed by guns in Chicago last year.

He pushed stricter gun control Friday in a visit to Chicago, including background checks and a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

But he said guns are not solely to blame for the violence. He also pointed to communities with too few fathers involved in children's lives and too few examples of success. He says he wishes he had a father around growing up.

He's also calling for initiatives to encourage marriage, strong parenting and responsible fatherhood.

Obama's address in Chicago is the last leg of a three-day tour to rally support for the ideas he presented Tuesday in his address before a joint session of Congress.

Republicans are already voicing skepticism about many of his proposals.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, seemed unmoved by Obama's appeals to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $9 to help workers paid at that rate escape poverty. Doing so, Boehner said, would cost jobs.

Arriving in Chicago on Friday afternoon, Obama was greeted on the tarmac by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, his former chief of staff, before participating in a round-table discussion with 16 students who participate in a youth anti-violence program targeting at-risk young men.

In this week's State of the Union address, Obama appealed for help for urban and rural areas that have been plagued by high rates of youth unemployment or decimated by the loss of factories. He called on Congress to offer incentives to companies that hire people who have been unemployed for extended periods of time.

He promised that his administration would partner with 20 hardest-hit towns, working with local leaders to direct resources to public safety, education and housing, and proposed new tax credits for businesses that hire and invest. The president who grew up without a father also pledged to try to make it more beneficial financially for low-income couples to marry, and to do more to encourage fatherhood, including through working with the religious community and the private sector.

"America is not a place where chance of birth or circumstance should decide our destiny," Obama said in the speech Tuesday night. "And that is why we need to build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class for all who are willing to climb them."

Obama's visit to his hometown follows the weekend funeral of a Chicago teenager who was killed days after she performed during Obama's inauguration in Washington.

Fifteen-year-old Hadiya Pendleton was shot last month about a mile from Obama's Chicago home. Police say the majorette was the innocent victim of a gang-related shooting.

Michelle Obama attended Hadiya's funeral in Chicago last Saturday. Her parents then sat with the first lady Tuesday during Obama's State of the Union address, and they were present Friday for Obama's speech in Chicago.

Although the purpose of Obama's visit was to promote economic and jobs proposals outlined in the speech, he was expected to also touch on the subject of gun violence, given the setting.

The trip was the third stop outside of Washington in as many days for Obama since Tuesday. On Wednesday, he traveled to Asheville, N.C., to make the case for raising the federal minimum wage. On Thursday, he flew to the Atlanta suburb of Decatur, Ga., to push his proposal to provide preschool for all 4-year-olds.

After Chicago, Obama was headed to Palm City, Fla., to spend the long, holiday weekend relaxing with friends, the White House said. He was to return to Washington on Monday.

January 17, 2013

Rana Lawyers Plan to Appeal Conviction

Attorneys for a Chicago businessman sentenced to 14 years in prison for supporting a plot to bomb a Danish newspaper say they'll appeal his conviction.

Fifty-two-year-old Tahawwur Rana was sentenced Thursday.

His lawyers say U.S. District Court Judge Harry Leinenweber did the right thing by not adding more years for actual terrorism because it didn't apply to Rana.

Jurors in 2011 convicted Rana of providing support for a Pakistani group, and for supporting a never-carried-out plot to attack a Danish newspaper that printed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

But they cleared Rana of more serious charge of involvement in a three-day rampage in Mumbai, India.

Rana's lawyers say they plan to appeal the conviction because the cases should have been tried separately.

January 14, 2013

Chicago Mayor Addresses Gun Control in Washington

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has ordered an analysis of Chicago's city employee pension funds to see if they hold companies that make or sell assault weapons.

Emanuel spoke today in Washington about his support for new gun control measures. He says legislation should focus on limiting criminal access to guns. 

Separately his office announced that Emanuel ordered the pension fund analysis as a "first step'' in removing the companies from city investment plans.

The mayor said the city shouldn't invest in companies that "profit from the proliferation of assault weapons.'' The five city funds are worth more than $13.5 billion.

Emanuel said last week that he is working on a gun control ordinance for the city after an assault weapons ban stalled in the Illinois General Assembly.

January 10, 2013

Chicago Mayor Plans Gun Control Ordinance

Mayor Rahm Emanuel says he's working on a gun control ordinance for the city of Chicago after an assault weapons ban stalled in the Illinois General Assembly.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Emanuel says waiting is not his "strong suit.''

The mayor says he hopes Chicago's efforts will push Springfield lawmakers to ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips.

Emanuel wouldn't offer specifics but said details would be available in "coming days.''

Emanuel says he's frustrated that the General Assembly failure to deal with assault weapons during the lame-duck session that ended Tuesday. 

The mayor says the new state Legislature that was sworn in on yesterday must begin work "immediately'' on the issue.

October 02, 2012

Chicago Mayor Recruits U of I Students to Boost Economy

The mayor of Chicago says he is determined to grow the city’s technological economy as other cities see that industry booming.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel came to the University of Illinois’ Urbana campus on Tuesday to recruit students. Emanuel spoke at the university’s National Center for Supercomputing Applications, where about 20 years ago the first popular Web browser was developed.

“Lot of mayors say, ‘Oh, I got to have a trade mission. I got to go to China. I got to go to Europe,’ he said. “Now, I’ve only been mayor 18 months. I’m sure I’ll take one of those. I’m the first mayor of the city of Chicago to ever come here. I’ll come here seven times before I’ll go overseas.”

Emanuel had a message for students in the computer science and engineering departments.

“I don’t want you to see what’s going on in Singapore. I don’t want you to see what’s going on in New York, in the Valley,” Emanuel said. “I want you to see what I would call the valley in the alley of Chicago as a place you can take your idea and economize it and monetize it immediately.”

Emanuel took part in a panel discussion with Chicago-area executives representing companies, including BrightTag, Groupon, and GrubHub. They each took questions that were pre-approved, and asked by a moderator.

All of the panelists talked about how Chicago has become a better place for tech companies to start up and thrive. 

“The eco-system for start-ups and for growth companies has gotten a lot better,” GrubHub co-founder and COO Mike Evans said. “There’s a lot of cross pollination of ideas. There’s a lot of mentorship going on. There’s certainly an abundance of jobs within the community that have been created. So, all of those things come together to make a pretty exciting environment.”

U of I Sophomore Cole Gleason, who is studying computer science, attended the panel discussion. Gleason interned at Facebook last summer, and he said he would like to end up in Chicago. However, he does not know if that will be possible.

“Right now it’s mostly finance, and maybe a few tech startups,” Gleason explained. “But the tried and true tech and giant companies – Apple, Microsoft - they are not in Chicago, and I’d be interested to see if Chicago can develop that.”

Nathan Handler, a sophomore atthe  U of I studying computer science, said he is hopeful that the university’s efforts to connect students with Chicago companies will make it easier for him when he graduates in a couple of years. He grew up near Chicago, and wants to end up closer to home.

“I’ve been looking for jobs in the Chicagoland area for a while. I’ve gone to many of the career fairs, and even companies with offices in Chicago were really only looking to hire people for their offices in California or other parts of the country,” Handler said. “I would really prefer to stay local.”

According to the U of I, 16-percent of recent undergraduates studying computer science and computer engineering landed jobs in Chicago, while more than 25-percent of electrical engineering students relocated to the city.

“We are an incredible magnet for recruiters,” said U of I Computer Science Department Head Rob Rutenbar, who moderated the panel discussion. “So, it is no surprise that Facebook, and Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Twitter, and LinkedIn; they are literally camping out in our corridors.”

In recent weeks, executives from major companies – like Yahoo! and Square – have also tried to lure U of I students to other parts of the country, but Mayor Emanuel hopes to beat them to the punch.

<em>(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)</em>

September 18, 2012

Chicago Teachers Suspend Strike, Classes to Resume

Chicago teachers are suspending a seven-day strike in the nation's third-largest city, a move that will send thousands of students back to classrooms on Wednesday.

The union's House of Delegates voted Tuesday to suspend the strike after learning details of a tentative contract agreement.

A proposed settlement was presented to delegates during the weekend. Sticking points included teacher evaluations and job security, provisions at the core of a debate about the future of public education across the nation.

The union delayed its vote to give teachers more time to assess the contract they'll vote on in the coming weeks.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel had pushed for a quick resolution as parents found alternatives for about 350,000 students. He even went to court to try to force teachers back to class.

UPDATE:  Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis told a Tuesday evening news conference that the union's House of Delegates voted about 98 percent in favor of ending the strike after hearing details of a tentative contract agreement.

She says some members remained unhappy with some of the economic terms of the proposal.

Lewis says union leaders recognized they "couldn't solve all the problems of the world with one contract and it was time to end the strike.''

September 17, 2012

Strike Continues as Teachers Weigh Contract Proposal

As the Chicago teacher's strike entered its second week, union members spent less time on the picket line Monday morning as they shifted their attention to dissecting the ongoing contract negotiations with CPS.

A group of teachers from McAuliffe Elementary School met at Township, a Logan Square cafe.

Dressed in red shirts, they ate breakfast and drank coffee as they flipped through the latest contract proposal. CTU delegate Scott McNulty said being here and talking with one another was part of their picket.

“Essentially this is democracy at work. We made sure we were at a place that was in the community and supporting local businesses. And we wanted our staff to really know what they were making a decision on and then telling me how they want to proceed.”

The teachers were having a lively and contentious conversation with one another. McNulty encouraged them to "act like teachers and take turns."

Before heading off to the ten other schools that oversees as a strike coordinator he said, “[It’s a] massive amount of pressure to make this kind of decision this fast. I mean we are about 350,000 students being out for two more days. You have to think before you do something. And that’s what we tell our kids think before you act.”

Meanwhile, standing along 69th Street in Englewood, Robeson High School teachers were also flipping through pages of a document. It summarized the terms of a possible agreement between the teachers and the school district—a pay raise, a freeze on health-care premiums and hiring priority for laid-off teachers.

The latest proposal is roughly 180 pages long and the exact language is still being hammered out by negotiators. But Robeson's union delegate Jeremy Peters said a lot of people are disappointed because there’s little commitment to reduce class sizes, increase the number of social workers and limit school closings.

“We didn’t get anything for our kids. We didn’t get the wraparound services. We didn’t get more resources and that’s what, I felt like, gave us the moral credibility throughout this whole struggle,” said Peters.

The Board of Education is not required to negotiate over those issues. A state law passed last year limits collective bargaining in Chicago Public Schools primarily to compensation. Peters says that’s frustrating because it makes teachers look greedy.

Music teacher LaDonna Myers said she would rather be teaching, but she doesn’t trust the board. She wants to know exactly what the agreement says before she goes back. “What person in their right mind signs a contract you have not read? That’s just common sense,” said Myers.

Myers said the delay in getting back to class shouldn’t be blamed on the teachers. “We told you in May how we felt, clearly and unequivocally. If you didn’t get in in November when you first started sitting at the table. In May, you should’ve known you had a problem.... What happened to all the months in the summertime? What happened from May up till the end of summer?”

Union delegates are scheduled to vote again on Tuesday over whether or not to end the strike. Meanwhile, the school district is seeking legal action to force teachers back into the classroom immediately.

September 17, 2012

Chicago Mayor: Court Must End Teachers' Strike

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has asked a state court to force Chicago school teachers back to work, ending a week-long strike he calls illegal.

City attorneys asked the circuit court Monday to force Chicago Teachers Union members off the picket line and back into classrooms.

In a statement Sunday, Emanuel said the strike is illegal because it endangers students' health and safety. Also it concerns issues such as evaluations, layoffs and recall rights that state law says cannot be grounds for a work stoppage.

The union and school leaders had seemed optimistic late last week that they would reach a resolution allowing children back into class by Monday. But teachers uncomfortable with a tentative contract offer said Sunday they needed more time to review a complicated proposal.

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