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home : community forum : community forum - submit/review comments September 29, 2016


Posted: Friday, September 9, 2016
Community forum entry by: Alyce Barry

In response to the letter "Sees Something Very Wrong" on p.24 of the Sept. 8 issue from William Graham.
Mr Graham,
I was pleased to find your letter here because on July 14th I wanted to speak with some motorists and didn't have the chance. The Evanston Police Department did a great job of protecting us marchers, led by two young women from ETHS, from cars. In fact, I thought they did so well that very few motorists were stopped long enough to be much inconvenienced, and they thereby effectively undermined our reason for marching. Speaking for myself, I marched because I had been brought to my feet by the events of the previous week. I marched to help make other Evanstonians aware of daily threats to black lives here and elsewhere, and aware of the rising level of trauma in black communities across the country.
Mr. Graham, perhaps you were unaware that in the days prior to our march, many people were reeling from the combined impact of murders in Minnesota and Louisiana and the violent reactions to them by young men with military training who had clearly had enough. I was relieved and thrilled to have a chance to yell in the streets that violence like we'd seen in the news affects us all and must not be allowed to continue. I, a 65-year-old white woman, yelled until my voice was hoarse that "Black lives matter" and that either the US tradition of police immunity and impunity must end or we must find a way to live without police. Today's police departments derive from the days of slavecatchers, and many have tacitly been given carte blanche to commit murder so long as they can say they "felt threatened."
I've worked for 20 years in the field of personal growth, Mr. Graham, and I assure you that people in my field take responsibility for their "feelings" and don't place the responsibility for them onto others.
Mr. Graham, our march delayed your arrival home by some minutes. Alton Sterling, killed on July 5th in Louisiana by a police officer who had pinned him to the ground, never gets to go home again. Philando Castile, killed by a police officer on July 6th in Minnesota, never gets to go home again he was killed after being stopped by the police 52 times for minor traffic violations. Hundreds more unarmed people of color, men, women, and children, killed by police officers over the decades, never get to go home again. Most of those officers will never be indicted, much less convicted, and many excuse their actions only by saying they "felt threatened."
Mr. Graham, I believe our protest on July 14 is what democracy looks like, and all those who love democracy can be proud. The US Constitution protects citizens' right to protest. I don't believe it protects the right of motorists to avoid being inconvenienced by the free exercise by fellow citizens of their constitutional rights. You mentioned that you're a hard worker I have no doubt that many people have been inconvenienced over the decades by fellow citizens protesting unfair working conditions. In France, July 14 is Bastille Day, a national holiday honoring a day in 1789 when I'm certain many people in Paris were inconvenienced by their fellow citizens rising up against oppression.
Mr. Graham, I'd like to extend you 3 invitations. First, to join me in applauding the passion, commitment, and civic duty of these two young women who put democracy into action. I think Evanston and ETHS specifically should be really proud of them. Second, if you have a smartphone, I invite you to download the Waze app, which will direct you around many known traffic problems, among them those created consciously to raise awareness. And third, if there's a cause you believe isn't getting enough attention from Evanston residents, I invite you to call on me to join you in Evanston's streets.

Posted: Wednesday, September 7, 2016
Community forum entry by: Steven Sampson

Achievement Gap A Complex Problem: I am writing in response to Ms. Carolyn Laughlin’s letter (RoundTable 8/25/16) concerning the academic performance of Evanston’s low-income black students. Ms. Laughlin blames the “achievement gap” on what she characterizes as many white Evanstonians’ false beliefs along with incapable and unaccountable teachers. This thinking is unhelpful. We live in a time of scarcity that attracts scapegoating and simplistic answers to difficult problems. Ms. Laughlin asserts the reason for the achievement gap is caused by many white Evanstonians’ beliefs that low income black students start from behind and come from chaotic households, so helping black students is out of their hands that many white Evanstonians care more about their own children’s education than that of black children and that many white Evanstonians simply prefer to write checks and donate old clothes to solve the problem. Ms. Laughlin sees the solution to the achievement gap in having capable teachers who are held accountable implying that we do not now have capable teachers who are held accountable. It is a too sad fact that teachers have become the current politically correct scapegoats. History teaches that blaming a targeted group for a complicated problem is not only wrong, it is dangerous. I have lived in Evanston 34 years. Some here might say I am a newcomer, but even a newcomer only need read the RoundTable or the Evanston Review to see we are not only a unique and diverse community but also one that is fully committed to solving our problems. Over the years, when I served on the Commission on Aging, the Zoning Board of Appeals, the Economic Development Committee, and the Plan Commission, I witnessed Evanstonians of all different backgrounds coming forward, not to complain, but to apply their time, money, energy, and expertise to the different problems facing our community. Our race, religion, ethnic origin, education level, or socio-economic group may be unique to each of us, but our common commitment to solving Evanston’s common problems is the quality that makes Evanston truly unique. The achievement gap is a complex and nuanced problem not created or made worse by any one source or group. Its answer is not in division. Its answer is in the continued multiplication of our diverse efforts applied to solving the problem. That is the Evanston I know. -- Steven Samson

Posted: Sunday, September 4, 2016
Community forum entry by: Kathy Judge

Short and simple: if Evanston would like to boost revenues for reported budget crises, have police stationed and give speeding tickets around Church St & Dodge(especially west of intersection). There are so many offenders, we're talking thousands of dollars, not to mention quieter, safer streets.

Posted: Thursday, August 25, 2016
Community forum entry by: Carolyn Laughlin

Our ‘Gap’ Isn’t a Mystery
Having lived 30 years in Evanston with perennial hand wringing over “the gap,” I say it’s time to stop. The disappointing academic performance of Evanston’s low-income black students is never a surprise and may always be with us. Why? I believe our “gap” is attributable to the following beliefs held by many white Evanstonians:
1. Low-income black students begin school so far behind, and come from such chaotic households, that no investment can make a real difference in their academic outcomes. The real answer is in the home life of these students. We care, but it’s out of our hands.
2. Resources are finite. Investment in boosting outcomes for low-income black students reduces investment in more affluent white students. We care, but when the School Board hosts focus groups and sets priorities, we put our own students’ interests first.
3. We can’t close the achievement gap, but we make up for it. We show how much we care by donating clothes to ESCCA and writing checks to Y.O.U.
We don’t talk about these beliefs. But these beliefs underlie our actions, most importantly the way we leverage our political power. It influences who we elect to the School Board, what the School Board expects from the superintendent, what the administration requires of school principals, and how our principals manage our classroom teachers. It all begins with the voters of Evanston, and our beliefs hold us, and low-income black students, back.
These beliefs are fallacious. Students who begin behind can and do make significant strides with strong and capable teachers. Dollars are always finite, but great teachers impact an entire classroom of students. Finally, handouts plug holes, but can never substitute for a hand up, and a way out.
Our “gap” isn’t a mystery. Evanston could close the gap if we thought we could, we made it the priority, and we held our board, administrators, and teachers accountable for doing the necessary work. Until that time, we only have

Posted: Thursday, August 25, 2016
Community forum entry by: Thomas Witt

Independent Map Amendment
By late August, the Illinois Supreme Court will have ruled on whether the Independent Map Amendment will be submitted to voters this November.
We all recognize that Illinois government is in a sorry state – and it certainly hasn’t helped that our state’s elected representatives have essentially been able to pick their voters behind closed doors.
The Independent Map Amendment is a thoughtful reform of the rules and promises to change that process. Until now, however, opponents (incumbents) have bottled up this citizens’ ballot initiative in the courts based on an extremely narrow and unfounded reading of the Illinois Constitution.
Yet more than 563,000 Illinois voters signed a petition supporting the Independent Map Amendment. A diverse coalition of business, consumer, and public interest organizations submitted a “friend of the court” brief urging the Court to allow a vote on it. And a great many newspaper editorial boards around the state have written in support of it.
If the Court does in fact uphold the amendatory rights of Illinois voters granted them by the state constitution, we can expect an unrelenting campaign by opponents to maintain the status quo, joined by some who will argue that the Independent Map Amendment could be improved upon and therefore isn’t worth supporting.
But this could be (literally) a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reform the way the electoral process works in Illinois – let’s not blow it.

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