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Candy Canes, Petcoke Coal Coming to Aldermen Nice or Naughty on CPS Issues

By Ted Cox | December 6, 2013 3:30pm
 A protest scheduled at City Hall Monday will deliver petcoke coal to aldermen who have not been sympathetic to some education issues, activists said.
A protest scheduled at City Hall Monday will deliver petcoke coal to aldermen who have not been sympathetic to some education issues, activists said.
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CITY HALL — Parents, students and teachers with their own list of naughty and nice aldermen plan a City Hall protest for Monday.

An array of groups involved in Chicago Public Schools plan to hand out gifts to either reward or punish aldermen, depending on how they voted on a recent attempt to free key CPS issues from the Rules Committee.

Evelin Rodriguez, of the Albany Park Neighborhood Council, said that agency will be busing people downtown Monday afternoon, when they'll join with several groups, including Chicago Students Organizing to Save Our Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union, to stage a protest. According to Rodriguez, they'll be "delivering lumps of coal and candy canes with holiday cards to some aldermen according to their vote on freeing up the [Tax Increment Finance] surplus from the Rules Committee."

They'll also be delivering a wish list to Gov. Pat Quinn at the Thompson Center asking him to support an elected Chicago Board of Education and limit the expansion of charter schools.

"We are going to be asking for the things our students need and deserve for Christmas and that Chicagoans deserve for their city," said the CTU's Jackson Potter, adding that they would specifically be delivering petcoke coal to those who've sustained a "lack of democracy."

Potter said they'll also be visiting Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

"There will be a delegation going to the Fifth Floor," he said. "I think you can guess what gift the mayor will receive."

Potter added that their wish list to the governor will also include a fairer tax system to fund education.

Both Rodriguez and Potter said the protest was in observance of a national day of action to defend education on Monday.

Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) proposed an ordinance in July asking for the city to sweep all Tax Increment Finance districts for surplus funds that would then be redistributed, with about half going to CPS.

Various city officials have said the city has $1.7 billion in TIF funds, but $1.5 billion is already allocated to projects. The 2014 budget passed last month declared a $49 million TIF surplus to be redistributed, but Fioretti and Ald. John Arena (45th) have led the call for more.

Arena also proposed a resolution on a citywide referendum on an elected school board in September. Yet, like Fioretti's proposal, it was sent to the Rules Committee, which has been called "where good legislation goes to die."

After neither proposal received a hearing in the Rules Committee, Fioretti and Arena invoked an obscure rule asking that the issues go directly before the City Council. Yet a vote to free them from the committee failed last month, as more than 20 of the 32 aldermen who had signed up to support Fioretti's CPS ordinance switched sides and voted it down, 36-11.

Those aldermen figure to be at the top of Monday's naughty list. Potter said protesters would be targeting "people who've prevented us from allowing TIF money to go back to schools instead of to wealthy corporations."

Potter estimated that "hundreds" of protesters will show up, adding, "We expect there will be quite a good turnout. We hope that the decision makers will use this holiday season to reflect on the things that are both needed and deserved."