- Created on 06 November 2012
To retain, or not to retain?
That is the question that will face Cook County voters 58 times on Tuesday, as they'll be asked whether scores of county judges should be able to keep their gavels.
Yes, that's a lot of names to keep in mind, on top of all the other pols you'll have kicking around in your head. But fret not: a handful of Chicago-area legal groups have compiled information on Cook County judges up for retention.
The information in this blog post comes mostly from a nifty website called voteforjudges.org that aggregates ratings and reviews on judges from a handful of legal groups – a one-stop-shop for the dedicated Cook County citizen.
I'll summarize their findings in a moment, but first, a brief civics lesson:
A goodly number of the judges you'll see on your ballot are running for election in Cook County (though, this being a heartily Democratic county, most Dems are running unopposed). These elections, like any other, require a simple majority to win.
But the 58 Cook County judges up for retention have to play by slightly different rules.
By default, believe it or not, these folks are about to lose their jobs. At the end of their terms, they must get 60 percent of the vote in order to be retained.
Okay. So how do you learn more about all of these people?
There are a handful of groups that conduct interviews with judges, look through their disciplinary and complaint records, talk to lawyers who go before them, then make recommendations on who should stay and who should go.
Most of the reasons for not retaining aren't all that sexy, but there are exceptions. Take Cook County Circuit Court Judge Cynthia Brim, who was reportedly declared "legally insane" and put on leave after a scuffle with a sheriff in the courthouse. Then there's Judge Gloria Chevere, also in the Cook County Circuit Court, who was caught sunbathing in the middle of a workday by a Chicago TV news crew, after they'd learned she had a habit of leaving work early.
Note that the groups below say they don't judge the judges based on politics, but on how well they do their jobs (if they're on time for work, if they've read their briefs, if they have sufficient experience, etc.)
You should also note, though, that some judges were listed as "not recommended" simply because they didn't participate in the review process. These groups didn't find problems with most judges. But here's a thumbnail of the ones they did:
The Chicago Bar Association says these judges are not recommended for retention:
Rodney Hughes Brooks
James D. Egan
Pamela E. Hill-Veal
Lisa Ruble Murphy
Meanwhile, the Chicago Council on Lawyers found these judges "not qualified" or, if they didn't participate in the survey, "not recommended:"
Kathy M. Flanagan
James D. Egan
Joyce Marie Murphy Gorman
Pamela E. Hill-Veal
The Alliance of Bar Associations aggregates recommendations from a variety of lawyers groups around Chicago to compile its pocket-ready report. This includes input from groups ranging from the Black Women's Lawyers Association of Greater Chicago to the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago. Different groups have some different recommendations for each judge, so I don't have a copy-and-paste-able list. But many of their "not recommendeds" line up with the above.
Finally, you can check out the Chicago Tribune's ed page endorsements to learn more about county judges. (The Sun-Times stopped doing political endorsements earlier this year).
I did make an effort to reach out to all judges who are not recommended for one reason or another. Judge Brim has been on leave from her duties since March. Judges Rodney Hughes Brooks and Lisa Ruble Murphy both declined to comment for this story. Judge James D. Egan is retiring. The rest didn't immediately get back to me, but I'll update this post if they do.
- Created on 05 November 2012
(CNN) -- The Developing Communities Project is a faith-based, nonprofit organization formed when area churches wanted to help people hurt by the 1970s steel plant closings on the South Side of Chicago.
It offers job training and literacy programs.
It's working with Loyola University and area municipalities on an infrastructure project designed to address the region's growing population and create jobs.
And its first executive director was Barack Obama.
That's right, the man often accused of being a Muslim spent years working for a Christian organization. The man who supposedly only wants to give handouts to people spent years empowering them through education. The man Republicans accuse of only caring about himself spent his entire adult life helping those less fortunate.
True, his first term as president has not come without its disappointments.
He said he would cut the deficit -- he hasn't.
He said his administration would not be politics as usual and then he played politics with immigration reform and gay rights.
And Gitmo is still open.
But before he was president or senator or even an Illinois state representative, Obama was a young man with a degree from Columbia University who could have done just about anything he wanted, and he chose to go back to his adopted home of Chicago and help poor people.
A politician's record is not confined to what he or she does in office. That's important, but it's an abbreviated version co-authored by consultants and edited by poll numbers.
To really understand a candidate, voters have to look at the original, unabridged manuscript, the record he or she began writing before realizing someone else might read it.
I didn't vote for Obama in 2008 because he wasn't George W. Bush.
I didn't vote for him out of racial solidarity or because he gives pretty speeches.
I voted for Obama in 2008 for the same reason why I voted for him in 2012 -- his record. And his time as a community organizer is part of that of record.
Sure, I could rely on numbers to present a strong argument for a second term. About this time four years ago, the country lost 159,000 jobs, the country's ninth consecutive month of job loss. Last week we learned we created 171,000 jobs, the 25th consecutive month of job growth. Regardless of party, I would think that would be seen as a good thing.
Our housing prices have rebounded to where they were nine years ago, and the Dow Jones Index recently closed at its highest mark in five years.
I could also point to the death of Osama bin Laden or the currency collapse in Iran because of the sanctions that he's led.
But to fully understand why I voted for Obama, one only needs to look at this quote from author H. Jackson Brown Jr.: "Our character is what we do when we think no one is looking."
When no one was looking, Obama was a humble community organizer fighting for poor Americans who had lost their jobs. Four years ago, his critics mocked him for that. Today, we see a lot has changed about him ... but not that. He is still fighting for those Americans who are hurting, and it gives me a measure of peace knowing that the person in charge of making tough budget cuts has a record of working with people who are hurting.
I'm sure Mitt Romney is a decent man, and he's given millions to his church. But I can't shake the fact the self-proclaimed "son of Detroit" did not come around the city when it began to struggle in the 1980s. The great "job creator" did nothing for the city when it was hemorrhaging jobs in the 1990s and to this day he only seems to come around Detroit during election time.
If this is how the "son" treats family, I can only imagine the disregard he holds for strangers. Actually I don't have to imagine. I watched the 47% video. The one that was taped when he thought no one outside of the room would be listening.
This is why he's trailing in Michigan and Massachusetts, the two states to which he's most closely tied. It's not because he's Republican. The three Massachusetts governors before Romney were Republican, while four of the past six governors in Michigan were Republicans, including his father.
He trails because the people there know him.
They know his record. His real record.
Not the manicured version he presents on the campaign trail, but the unabridged version he began writing before his life in politics began. The version all future politicians script with the decisions that they make.
I'm not wearing blinders. I know Obama is just as flawed as Romney. He's a politician. How can he not be?
But at the end of the day I'd rather have President Barack Obama in the White House, someone with a record of being about the work of helping others before he was in office, than Mitt Romney, someone who has a record of talking about it once he got there.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.
- Created on 02 November 2012
Reminding us that ignorance is alive and well in the midst of the greatest storms, GOP presidential hopeful, Mitt Romney, and VP running mate Paul Ryan, hit the campaign trail today to attack President Barack Obama's statement about potentially creating a "secretary of Business," reports ABCNews.com.
"He wants to create a new 'secretary of business,'" Ryan said. "We already have a secretary of business. It's actually called secretary of commerce. That's what this agency does. Let me ask you a question: Can anybody name our current secretary of commerce? You know why? We don't have one! It's been vacant for over four months ... we don't need another bureaucrat or another bureaucracy, we need another president."
There are three problems with that statement:
1.) Commerce is a major part of business, but by no means is it business in the whole.
2.) Ryan lied. We do have a secretary of Commerce.
3.) That's not what President Obama said.
- Created on 02 November 2012
(Special to The Root) -- In the day-to-day pre-election grind, it's so easy to get bogged down in the 24-hour news cycle that we start to lose sight of what's actually at stake in this presidential election. We simply can't afford to do that this year, especially when two such different visions and plans for our country's future are offered. The choice between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney truly will determine our nation's future, and nowhere is the contrast more apparent than on the issue of education.
These are not hollow words for me. When I think of my own life story, I recognize that without education, I would not be walking the hallowed halls of Harvard today. I grew up in a working-class family in California, and I was the first in my family to graduate from high school.
Although I was the one who walked across the stage, there were many hands that helped guide me along the way. It would not have been possible without my family's support; nor would it have been possible without the training, support and effort of great teachers in the public schools I attended. But I wasn't done yet. Thanks to scholarships and people believing that I, too, deserved a chance at a great education, I attended Stanford and then Harvard Law.
Though my story is not the most unusual story ever told, it is still an exception rather than a rule. For too long, too many children in too many homes have been denied access to high-quality educational opportunities because they simply live in the wrong ZIP code.
The persistent achievement gap serves as a sobering reminder that in spite of all the political rhetoric about equality of opportunity, we have a long way to go before all American children are guaranteed the world-class education that they deserve. But our president realizes that this is not acceptable and that a high-quality education should not be a luxury.
In an effort to ensure that our young people do not fall behind before it's too late, he has made historic investments in Head Start programs; he's championed his administration's Race to the Top program, which has already raised academic standards in 46 states; and recognizing that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn't work, he has encouraged more-innovative approaches to teaching and learning.
Now let's consider class size. The president understands that class sizes matter, so in an effort to make sure that our classrooms aren't overcrowded, he has taken measures to protect top-quality teachers from layoffs.
The president's commitment to a high-quality education doesn't stop when a student graduates from high school. As someone who paid off his own student loans fairly recently, President Obama doesn't want costs to be a barrier to higher education. To ensure that this isn't the case, he has instituted a series of policies to make college more affordable for students and their parents.
His student-loan reforms have cut out the middlemen and invest in students instead of giving more money to the banks that don't need it. Meanwhile, the $10,000 tax credit that he extended to families of college students helped more than 9 million students and families pay for college last year. He has doubled Pell Grant funding, increasing the number of students receiving grants from approximately 6 million to 10 million. And his administration has secured a $2.55 billion investment in HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions across a 10-year period to ensure that more African Americans have access to higher education.
But that's not all. President Obama is actively investing in community colleges to support education and career-training programs for students and workers. He has laid out a plan to forge new partnerships between community colleges and businesses to train 2 million workers for well-paying middle-class jobs that already exist in high-growth, high-demand industries like clean energy, health care and transportation.
At a certain point, any attempt to list all of the president's education-related accomplishments starts to read like a laundry list. Ultimately, President Obama understands that a good education is an economic necessity, not a luxury; it's the only surefire way to create good jobs and grow the middle class.
While all of these measures are steps in the right direction, the president has gone further and established the White House Initiative on Education Excellence for African Americans, which is designed to produce a more effective and comprehensive range of programs for African-American students from cradle to career.
Unfortunately, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan seem to have missed the memo. They would eliminate the president's college tax credit -- and slash Pell Grants for nearly 10 million students. To make matters worse, Romney's plan would gut investments in education, leaving schools with fewer teachers and more crowded classrooms.
Romney has even gone so far as to admit that he believes class size doesn't matter. But as any teacher in a classroom of 40 students will attest, class size does matter. It matters a lot.
These are the stakes, and they have never been higher. We cannot afford to let our children's futures fall by the wayside. Do not underestimate the impact that your voice can have on our country's future. If everyone commits to doing at least one thing to organize his or her community, the combined impact will ensure that President Obama can keep moving this country forward for another four years. Now is not the time to take chances with our children's future.
Charles J. Ogletree is a professor at Harvard Law School, the founder of the school's Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice and the author of numerous books on legal topics.
- Created on 01 November 2012
We're getting down to the wire in this year's race for the White House. In our digital world of sometimes dizzying 24/7 information overload, both political camps are relying heavily on media in its plethora of forms to reach you and influence your vote. As we draw closer to November 6, you are correct if you think the intensity of the political ads has increased. According to Nielsen data, this is especially true if you live in any of this election's nine key "swing" or "battleground" states – Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia or Wisconsin. Nielsen's summarized Designated Market Areas (DMAs) within each state show that year-to-date through the beginning of September; President Obama's reelection campaign has saturated those states with almost 230,000 ads, more than twice the ads from the campaign of his opponent, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (87,000). The lone exception here is Wisconsin, where Gov. Romney's campaign leads by 561 ads.
How much influence do these ads actually have? Data shows that an effective advertising campaign in a swing state can mean the difference between victory and defeat on Election Day. It might be most interesting to watch which way Ohio goes, as no Republican presidential candidate has ever won the race without the assistance of this critical state's electoral votes. Thus far in Ohio, the margin of the number of ads is the greatest, with the Romney campaign running just over 17,000 ad units; and the Obama camp running nearly three times that amount – 51,000 ads.
Then there are the Presidential debates. At this writing, Nielsen ratings show that an estimated 67.2 million people watched the first debate between President Obama and Gov. Romney. That was up 28% over the first presidential debate in 2008 between then-Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain. Eleven networks broadcast live coverage from 9:00 to 10:30 pm, while Telemundo aired coverage on tape delay.
To put our viewership of this year's first presidential debate in a different perspective, 111.3 million people watched the New York Giants beat the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl this year, making it the highest rated TV broadcast in U.S. history. So, the Super Bowl still reigns supreme.
As for the 2012 political conventions, according to Nielsen's analysis of both the Republican and Democratic gatherings, nearly as many people (57% of all U.S. Households or 65.4 million homes) tuned into at least one of those political events as watched the first presidential debate. That, however, is down from 64.5% (or 73.2 million homes) in 2008. Taking a look at the viewership of each of the speeches by each candidate (given on the final night of each convention), President Obama had a slight edge, with 13.7% of viewers to Gov. Romney's 12.5%. Breaking it down even further, both candidates were pretty much neck-in-neck with people over age 55. Almost 26% of this demographic tuned in to watch Gov. Romney, and 25% of the same demo watched President Obama's speech. Each party, of course, selected high-profile speakers to address their respective conventions; with the Republicans choosing veteran actor Clint Eastwood and the Democrats engaging former President Bill Clinton. The ratings results there: Clinton drew slightly more viewers across all demographics. However, viewership among males was closest, with 9.7% watching Eastwood's speech and 9.8% tuning into Clinton. Are you seeing again how much your choice of what you watch matters? It is as though you are "voting" with your remote (only in terms of TV though, not the voting booth. There, you have to show up in person).
The political "games" continue with the vice presidential debate, two more presidential debates and yes, intensified ads from both sides. In every column, I show you all the many ways in which You Matter with every consumer choice you make. But, you matter more now than ever, and it does not matter whether you are blue or red. According to the recent African-American Consumers: Still Vital, Still Growing report, approximately 71% or 28 million of us are of voting age. So, whatever the color of your state, you've got the power. Make sure you use it on November 6.
Cheryl Pearson-McNeil is senior vice president of Public Affairs and Government Relations for Nielsen. For more information and studies go to www.nielsenwire.com