Our thoughts are with Karen tonight.

Early evening news reports are that our dear friend and union leader Karen Lewis is in surgery at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Here is the link.

While reporters and pundits speculate on what this means for Chicago’s politics, our family is concentrating on the health of our friend.

Join us in keeping her in your thoughts.

We wish her and John nothing but the best.

The solution to the problem of the CTU bargaining with the Mayor is the Mayor getting out of the the school-running business.


DFER Illinois’ Rebecca Nieves-Huffman. Photo: Substance.

What is the deal with telling Karen Lewis that she should step down from being head of the Chicago Teachers Union?

Not CTU members who last year voted her another term by a huge margin.

But the Wall Street hedge fund managers of Democrats for Education Reform.

I remember a few years back when the Tribune’s Eric Zorn said she should resign.

Now it is DFER-IL State Director Rebeca Nieves-Huffman.

Damn. Let us pick our own leaders.

DFER is a national group funded by the hedge fund manager wing of the Democratic Party. They are the ones who pushed Obama to appoint Arne Duncan over Linda Darling-Hammond. They are the big money behind charters, vouchers and all other sub-categories of corporate reform.

Nieves-Huffman says that since it is all but official that Karen Lewis is running against their pal Rahm Emanuel for mayor, it is a conflict of interest to run and be president of the teachers union.

“With a $40,000 contribution to her mayoral campaign, President Lewis has made it clear she is running for mayor, but she has also said that she will force negotiations over a new teachers contract this year,” DFER-IL State Director Rebeca Nieves-Huffman said in a statement. “Doing both would present nothing short of a conflict of interest. Chicagoans won’t know whether President Lewis is representing her members, her political interests, or if she’d use the negotiations merely as an extension of her campaign. If Karen Lewis truly cares about representing the interests of all Chicagoans, she should step down from her role as head of the CTU as she pursues a campaign for mayor.”

Of course, this is just Nieves-Huffman fronting a dance for the Mayor.

But let’s take the suggestion seriously for a moment.

It seems to me that it is DFER, Nieves-Huffman and the Mayor who have a conflict of interest.

Their interests conflict with democracy.

They don’t want us to decide who our leaders are.

They don’t think union elections should count.

And they don’t think we should choose our own school board.

Chicago is the only place in Illinois that doesn’t elect its school board.

In Chicago the mayor runs it.

And he has made a mess of it.

The solution to the problem of the CTU bargaining with the Mayor is the Mayor getting out of the school-running business.

It is always very weird to me that we can elect members of the Metropolitan Water District, the people who clean our water, but not members of our board of education.

But this is Chicago.

DFER and their hedge fund manager funders want to tell teachers who their president should be.

And the Mayor gets to tell us who are school board members must be.

Mark Anderson. To those who don’t understand the political importance of Karen Lewis’ race against Rahm.


– Mark Anderson writes for the Ward Room.

Every once in a while, a race comes along where two or more different candidates couldn’t be any less alike. In fact, one is shaping up here right in Chicago in the 2015 mayoral race between potential candidates Karen Lewis, Bob Fioretti and Rahm Emanuel.

That doesn’t stop stories being written in the media that suggests these candidates are really almost one and the same. Or that one or the other says they’re different, but really isn’t telling the truth.

To be clear, let’s stake out who we’re talking about. On the one hand we have our current mayor, who, while positioning himself as a liberal Democrat, has in fact enacted policies that benefit corporations and campaign donors, slashed social services and public education, starve neighborhoods of resources, diminish public service pensions, spy on political enemies and more.

There’s a reason why, in this town, Rahm Emanuel is known by some as “Mayor 1%”.

On another, we have Chicago Teachers Union president and potential mayoral challenger Karen Lewis. Despite the fact that she hasn’t even announced yet that she’s going to run, the Chicago media has created a bit of a feeding frenzy around her, all in search of copy for political reporters.

Lewis, for her part, has made it clear she is almost diametrically opposed to Mayor Emanuel on a number of key issues facing Chicago. As head of the CTU, she advocates for public education funding and resources, and opposed the shuttering of 50 schools under Rahm. She speaks out against inequality affecting dozens of Chicago neighborhoods, calling for mere equitable allocation of resources. She’s against balancing budgets by slashing pension benefits, much like what is being proposed in City Hall, Springfield and elsewhere. And she favors taxing financial transactions to help rebalance budgets, a move that puts her squarely against the richest taxpayers in Illinois.

Yet to some political reporters, such positions are nothing more than somethign to ignore when filling up column space on a newspaper page. Take a look, for example, at a recent piece in the Chicago Tribune entitled “9 Things Rahm Emanuel and Karen Lewis Have in Common.”

“[T]he bitter rivals have striking similarities,” the Trib tells us, before going on to point out that both of them are Jewish, were once set up on a blind date and have run for some kind of office in the past.

While such an example can perhaps be written off a the kind of fluff reporting usually offered in the middle of a political season, other examples aren’t so benign. The city’s other daily, the Chicago Sun-Times, recently dropped a one-two punch against Lewis and another potential mayoral challenger, 2nd Ward Alderman Bob Fiortetti, that appear designed to undercut both candidates’ reputations as reformers.

The one on Lewis, entitled “3 homes, $200,000-plus pay for possible mayoral candidate Lewis”, takes great pains to point out that the trappings of a solidly middle class lifestyle Lewis has earned after a lifetime of teaching and union service is somehow the equivalent of the multi-millions of dollars Emanuel made during previous careers as an investment banker and power broker in national Democratic politics. And that perhaps Lewis isn’t the champion of the disadvanteged as she claims to be.

The other story on our third candidate offers a dispute over pay that was resolved by the Illinois Department of Labor for two campaign staffers who say they didn’t get paid on time seven years ago. The story suggests that Fioretti is dishonest and shouldn’t hire anymore staff without “accepting responsibility” for the whole matter.

The underlying message in both of these stories? See, the current crop of potential mayoral challengers can be crooked and corrupt just like the current mayor. Or the former, who left office under the weight of a series of scandals we haven’t yet finished unearthing.

There’s only one problem with this: by tarring everyone with the same brush, it blurs the lines between candidates and paints over very real differences in their positions and how they would differ in policies and programs if they were elected.

Read the entire article here.

Robin Potter. Karen Lewis at the National Lawyers Guild.

– Chicago activist and attorney Robin Potter sends this:

The National Lawyers Guild is holding its national convention starting Thursday in Chicago. The NLG is a pivotal progressive organization of lawyers and legal advocates, and provides legal defense at mass rallies and demos, including during the CTU strike and our marches. The NLG honored our many CTU lawyers at its annual dinner in 2013. I have been asked to extend an invite to CTU folks who wish to attend Thursday’s events. If you want to attend other parts of the convention, give a shout.

Starting at 5 pm, the Chicago Chapter Labor & Employment Committee will honor 2 of our CTU family members who have been inspirational to CORE and the CTU: Pete Camarata, rank & file labor leader and founding member of Teamsters for a Democratic Union, also Jackson & Aimee’s step dad & my late husband; Ed Sadlowski, like Pete, also a fiery rank & file leader & former Dist. Director of District 31, USWA – father of CTU member / school counselor Sue Garza, and Alice Peurala, the first woman President of a basic steel local, USWA L. 65 (South Works).

Join us at the welcoming reception that follows from 6-7 P.M. Many local Guild members will be there, along with the national leadership and others in Chicago’s progressive legal community.

Immediately after the reception, join us for the keynote address opening the Convention, to be given by our Karen Lewis. I have the honor too, of introducing Karen. We will have fun!

Location: Crowne Plaza Hotel, 733 W. Madison (Madison and Halsted, just outside the Loop). If you enter through the restaurant (called “Dine”), we will be on the upper level. Light refreshments will be served.

We hope to see you there! If you can take a moment and RSVP, we will be able to plan better. Here’s the link: http://tinyurl.com/WelcomeReceptionRSVP

For more information about the NLG Convention, please visit: http://www.nlg.org/law-people-2014-national-convention


Rahm’s paid “volunteers.”


Karen Lewis comes to Logan Square tomorrow. Training for her volunteers starts Saturday.

The problem for Rahm is that Chicago politics is not like it was in the old days.

When Dick Mell ran this ward, if you wanted a job with the city you had to “volunteer” to, among other things, collect signatures for Da Mayor.

Or buy tickets to fund raisers.

Or work election day.

It wasn’t direct pay. It was more than that. Your job depended on it.

After the Shakman decree in the 60s that kind of Democratic precinct stuff began to subside.

Although there is still plenty of it.

I remember a couple of years ago some Streets and San guys showing up at a candidate forum to root for the Machine aldermanic candidate. They were sitting in front of Anne and me and one turned to the other and said, “Which one are we for?” The other guy just shrugged.

They finally figured it out and proceeded to boo and cheer on cue.

In his last election, not all the Democratic Party mob families were enthusiastic enough for the kid from the north shore. Rahm had to buy his petition gatherers.

And he has to do it again. He doesn’t have many volunteers. And the ward bosses aren’t providing much.

Dan Mihalopoulos in the Sun-Tmes reports:

According to a help-wanted job listing posted on the Idealist website, an unidentified “Chicago-based campaign” will pay $2,500 a month to organizers who can “recruit and train volunteers to collect petition signatures required to get the candidate on the ballot.”

The ideal candidates will have experience in political campaigns and “knowledge of Chicago politics,” according to the ad. They also must be willing to work “long hours (including nights and weekends)” for the seven weeks between their start date of Sept. 29 and the filing of the nominating petitions in November.

The job posting doesn’t name the candidate, but an e-mail from the Emanuel campaign operative who posted the ad makes clear he’s looking for help for the mayor’s re-election.

This says something about the million dollar advantage that Rahm has.

If local Machine bosses aren’t putting out for the Mayor.

If Rahm is forced to rent people to canvass.

And Karen has actual volunteers.

And actual ward organizations.

What does the money advantage mean?

If you love this city…


When I read that the Karen Lewis mayoral campaign committee filed papers with the State Board of Elections Wednesday morning it just added to what we all know.

Karen is running for Mayor of Chicago.

“If you love this city, write a check,” I wrote on Facebook.

When I read my own words I kind of surprised myself.

Do I really love this city?

I don’t love Rahm’s Chicago. Or Penny Pritzker’s Chicago. Or the Civic Committee’s Chicago.

I don’t love all the corporate names engraved all over Millennium Park.

Although I do love the Park.

I love Studs Terkel’s Chicago. And Tim Black’s Chicago.

The Chicago of Lucy Parsons. And Fred Hampton.

And Jackie Vaughn.

And the beloved Harold Washington.

Eddie Balchowsky.

Curtis Mayfield.

Oil Can Ed Sadlowski.

And Rudy Lozano (senior and junior).

I love the idea of Chicago. The sometimes romanticized Chicago.

I hate the Chicago that Rahm has made worse for the working people.

I hate what he’s done to our schools and neighborhoods.

Many of us had so little to begin with.

But I do love Karen Lewis’ Chicago.

If you love this city, write a check.

And then we need to get to work.

At the Hideout. A sinking ship and a teacher in charge.


The after-party outside the Hideout last night. 

The First Tuesday at a north side dive bar called The Hideout is becoming a Chicago phenomenon.

Last night the place was so packed that folks unable to get in ended up sitting in the front patio holding a party of their own.

Holding court in the back room where the bands I’m too old to even have heard of usually play were Mick Dumke and Ben Joravsky of the Chicago Reader.

Karen Lewis and Will Guzzardi have been among the past guests I have liked.

That old bastard and racist ex-Alderman Dick Mell and pension thief State Representative Christian Mitchell have been among the guests I didn’t like.

In fact I didn’t like Mitchell’s BS so much that I was compelled to get into an exchange over pensions (7:16 on the video) that led my friend Joravsky to label me Fred – the Hammer – Klonsky 

This is a reference to the old football player turned actor in 70s Black action flicks that most in the room last night were too young to remember.

When it comes to confronting pension stealing politicians, it is a comparison that I appreciate.

Joravsky has a gift for giving me nick names. A few years ago he labeled me the Paul Revere of Senate Bill 7 and corporate education reform. I liked that too.

Last night I told Ben I would behave myself. Which was no problem since the panel was made up of education writers Linda Lutton of WBEZ, Lauren Fitzpatrick of the Sun-Times and Sarah Karp of Catalyst.

Their stories of journalistic attempts at getting information out of the CPS headquarters (“I’m convinced everything goes through Rahm’s office first,” said Sarah Karp) makes White House media control seem like a model of transparency.

Of course, that’s where Rahm earned his stripes.

When a member of the audience asked the panel when they thought CPS CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett would be gone, nobody suggested she would be around past March.

Not lost on the audience was  that this would be after the election for mayor.

In fact, my take-away from what the panel of CPS watchers were saying was that dozens of central office and network administrators are jumping ship already.

Either jumping or pushed yesterday was Rahm’s education deputy, Beth Swanson.

She was replaced by Analdo Rivera.

For those of my friends who think the problem with corporate reform is that the person pretending to make the decisions isn’t an educator – well, we have one now.

I’m pretty sure it won’t be an improvement.

Bagels with Karen.


Representative-elect Will Guzzardi from the 39th District introduces Karen Lewis.



95-year old Chicago activist and historian Timuel Black and Karen Lewis.

The Chicago mayoral election is just 7 months away.

“What do you think about having a thing with Karen Lewis,” Mike and Susan asked Anne and me.

“Great idea!”

The responses from friends and neighbors came pouring in.

The Logan Square apartment was packed.

“This is not an announcement,” the President of the Chicago Teachers Union said. “We need to have a conversation. It’s about schools. But we all know what Rahm and my positions are on schools. We need to have a conversation about neighborhoods, and services and jobs.”


Chicago politics. Magical thinking, perfect storms and bean bag.


All weekend I have been asked the same question.

“Is Karen going to run?”

I consider Karen a friend.

But let us be clear. I am not on her exploratory committee, an insider or political confidant.

I don’t like sitting in on strategy meetings.

I’m great at knocking on doors.

But my answer to those who asked was YES.

Because I hope she does and believe she will.

The cynics in the press either ignore the possibility that she will run. Or laugh at the possibility she can win.

When Toni Preckwinkle announced that she would not run, the Trib’s Eric Zorn wrote,  “Mayor Emanuel can now be extremely confident of having another four years in office.”

That was followed up by Zorn printing Ten Question for Karen Lewis written by the teacher union-bashing Democrats for Education Reform.

I was asked if the idea that Karen Lewis could win wasn’t just some more magical thinking on the part of Chicago’s progressive activists? A kind of self-delusion among Chicago progressives.

This is a good question.

The thing is I believe in magical thinking. And perfect storms. If it is combined with good organization and hard work.

I was a delegate to the NEA Representative Assembly two weeks ago in Denver. I was talking to another retiree who was volunteering to work the Assembly. When a voice vote was called on a New Business Item I supported, I stopped our conversation to yell “aye.” And lost. The guy I was talking to laughed and pointed out that I didn’t win many votes.

“Nobody ever went to heaven because they won a lot of votes,” I said. Laughing, because I have no anticipation of going to heaven anyway.

The truth is that I have won some political victories over the years.

Chicago has a wealth of perfect storms.

Jane Byrne.

Who thought Harold would win when he first announced? That he could beat the Daley Machine?


Who thought Will Guzzardi would win two years ago? That Jay Travis would come within 400 votes of beating Christian Mitchell?

What the cynics among the local pundits forget is how many times magical thinking and perfect storms – combined with hard work – have occurred in this City.

There is a strong progressive base. There is a strong dislike of the current mayor.

That is a winning coalition.

If we organize it.

Magical thinking.

Perfect storms.

And remember what Harold said.

Politics ain’t bean bag.

We have to organize it.