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An illegal attack on pensions

 John H. White~Sun-Times

John H. White~Sun-Times

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Updated: April 21, 2013 6:33AM

In Tuesday’s Sun-Times editorial, it was suggested that legislators support state Sen. Daniel Biss’ bill, which extends the time I must work past what I agreed to almost 28 years ago. Not only was this an enforceable contract when I started working, but also there is a state constitutional provision that prohibits the “diminishing of benefits” to a current employee. How can the Sun-Times encourage our state legislators to violate my constitutional rights when I have worked my whole life protecting yours?

Curt James, Orland Park

GOP values are problem, not politics

It’s disturbing to see the Republican Party twist in the wind after its recent electoral defeats. Unfortunately, Republicans fail to understand that it’s not their processes that have to change but rather their values and policies.

Mary F. Warren, Wheaton

Dangers shadow children

It’s sad that my parents have to inform me every time I leave my house that it’s not safe, when most of the time I am just going for a run or walking my dog. Why must they constantly tell me that I will never be safe in my own neighborhood, a neighborhood that was built for families to raise their children in a safe environment?

Being that I am in Chicago, I am not too far from all the gangs and violence that occurs in the city. Times have surely changed, and none of our neighborhoods is safe anymore. Violent people break into people’s homes and steal people’s cars. Children at a park get guns raised at them to empty their pockets, and children are being beaten to a pulp off their bikes. All of these types of incidents have occurred in my neighborhood.

Just recently, a man wandered around in my backyard making noises, thinking my family wasn’t home. Several days passed after that and I still was scared to enter my backyard, worried, wondering if this man would come back.

It would be nice to walk out our doors for once without having to worry. There will always be violence in our world, but it’s time to start thinking of ways to keep the violence out, to gain back our trust of the outdoors.

Kylen Schmitz, Beverly

‘Budget hawks’ look wrong way

A. Barton Hinkle hit the bulls-eye identifying big pockets of government wasteful spending. (“Bad Track Record On Big Projects,” March 15). If Washington would focus more on such matters instead of harping on “gotcha” propaganda points for such items as Benghazi, Solyndra or whether we ought to have saved General Motors from bankruptcy, it could likely balance our budget without sacrificing Medicare or Social Security.

Apart from the $750,000,000,000 spent on a pointless Iraq War, most striking was $60,000,000,000 improperly paid in Medicare claims. Instead of trying to shrink all government, you’d think the budget hawks on the right would be promoting spending to hire more auditors, and for more sophisticated computer programming to catch Medicare cheaters and help end the deficit they keep complaining about. Sixty billion dollars in savings would help tremendously.

The same for a multitude of other government programs mentioned, well-intentioned, but gone amok without rigorous oversight by unfettered accountants not beholden to any politician.

Hinkle evidently ran out of room, or he might’ve also mentioned that under President George W. Bush, instead of taxing to pay for the Iraq War, we put it on our credit card and are now choking on that debt and blaming President Barack Obama for not correcting it fast enough and blocking taxing the rich to start paying for it.

Washington, D.C.: The place where petty politicking trumps logic every time.

Ted Z. Manuel, Hyde Park

Worthy program for ex-cons

We applaud Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and CYA President Forrest Claypool for taking a leadership role in expanding the CTA’s re-entry apprenticeship program, and we urge them to continue to take other commonsense steps to reduce recidivism and strengthen our community. Statistically, we know that employment can make all the difference in whether or not an individual will reoffend:

The percentage of individuals who will reoffend drops from 47 percent to 8 percent if that individual is gainfully employed. The 256 program participants in the expanded CTA program will be well served, but they represent a drop in the bucket when you consider that nearly 32 percent of Illinois residents have a criminal record. Within that 32 percent are mothers struggling to provide stability for their children and fathers who can’t work or pay child support. There is a whole population of “offenders” who are motivated and looking for work.

We believe that by making small changes to the process used by CTA in general hiring, they would gain access to this pool of qualified, motivated community members. By giving them an opportunity to compete, the CTA could do a world of good for struggling communities in Chicago.

Today, CTA notifies applicants with criminal records, via an adverse action letter, that they are being denied employment based on that record. That letter states that the applicant can respond with any inaccuracies in the criminal record within five business days. This is exactly what they are legally required to do, but what if they went one step further?

One person recently applied for a position with CTA, but she was denied due to her criminal record, which was more than 13 years old. She received the adverse action letter stating that she would not be moving forward in the process. This is where most people stop. This is where hope is taken away and otherwise excellent candidates who have mistakes in their past are lost. Fortunately, Jenny came to CGLA and we worked with her to respond to the CTA’s letter with evidence that showed her record did not represent her potential today. The CTA did the right thing, they saw that Jenny had turned her life around and they gave her a second chance. Jenny was offered the job at CTA, not under the apprenticeship program for ex-offenders, but as part of the general hiring process.

If the CTA were to modify the adverse action letter sent to applicants to not only allow for but to request any mitigating and relevant documentation, it would give ex-offenders like her, who might otherwise give up, the opportunity to advocate for themselves to be reconsidered.

The socioeconomic impact of a decision like this means that Illinois would save money by reducing the $255 million a year cost of incarcerating those that re-offend. This is on top of the positive influence that Jenny will be able to have on her community.We also encourage other employers to consider hiring ex-offenders, acting on the momentum that CTA has started. There are many myths and stigmas that exist, and it is important that potential employers understand both their legal and social responsibilities when considering the hiring of ex-offenders. CGLA, in partnership with Morgan Lewis, offers a training titled “The Role of Criminal Records in Hiring: Easy Access, Difficult Decisions” to local Chicago businesses. More than 50 employees from over 10 companies have attended, and each of them believed that their companies should, if they had not already, adopt hiring policies that would be friendlier to ex-offenders.

The CTA is taking a leadership role in Chicago by expanding employment opportunities to the disenfranchised, and we applaud them for it. If Mayor Emanuel will encourage other local businesses to follow suit, Chicago will begin to see the positive effects of providing second chances to those that have made mistakes in their past.


Gretchen Slusser,

executive director,

Cabrini Green Legal Aid

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