Speak Out

Where Do We Go From Here?

 

 

 

By Beverly George
ACE Leader

In this time of COVID-19, Black Lives Matter protesters have been marching for over three weeks. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and now Rayshard Brooks. The hanging deaths of Robert Fuller in Palmdale, California, on June 10 and of Malcolm Harsch in neighboring San Bernardino County on May 31 were first reported as suicides, but are now under further investigation. The list of black victims seems to never end, not even with resounding protests in our streets.

Where do we go from here?

That question led me last week to Oprah Winfrey’s webinar of the same name with a distinguished panel of experts. Her guests elucidated the constant fear of black Americans who are just trying to live their daily lives in our country. Discussion of the their experience was compelling. The panel also covered what they want white people in our country to know and what they want white people to do. Current protests offer all of us a chance to begin a long process of making our democracy stronger so that it can deliver to all Americans the promise of equal justice under the law.

Winfrey’s panel included Charles Blow, from the New York Times; David Oyelowo, the actor who played Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in “Selma”; Nikole Hannah-Jones of The 1619 Project, filmmaker Ava DuVernay, director of the documentary, “13th”; Jennifer Eberhardt Ph. D., professor of psychology at Stanford University and author of Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See; Ibram X. Kendi, Ph. D., author of How To Be an Antiracist; Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms; Stacey Abrams, champion of voting rights and author of Our Time is Now; Rashad Robinson, civil rights leader and president of Color of Change; and Bishop William Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign.

Barber listed five interlocking injustices that affect poor people, particularly black people, in America: systemic racism, systematic poverty, ecological devastation, denial of healthcare, and our nation’s war economy.

“The system is not broken,” said DuVernay. “It was built this way.”

Barber further cited “the false oral narrative of religious nationalism that consecrates all this evil.” What a bold, clear assessment.

All of this takes its toll on the black community, according to Eberhardt. “When we suffer, people are numb. People don’t feel we’re as vulnerable to pain,” she said.

“It’s a collective grief in the history of black Americans,” Hannah-Jones added. “White Americans will tolerate it until something egregious happens.”

I am a first wave Baby Boomer, born in 1946 in Atlanta, Georgia, born with white privilege. While my family worked hard to secure their place in the middle class, we had the advantage of our white skin. We did not have to seek food service from the back door of a café, take a seat at the rear of a bus, look hard and long for a public restroom or water fountain, worry about an encounter with the police or public officials, or fret about the logistics of making a purchase in a store. Today, the Jim Crow laws from my youth have been replaced with voter suppression laws and a two-faced legal justice system in many states.

I embrace my responsibility to push for change for black and brown Americans who have struggled for over 400 years. Paraphrasing a woman protesting somewhere in our nation last week, “You should all celebrate that we do not want revenge. We only want to live equal under the law!” This applies to law enforcement and court rulings, but it extends far beyond that.

Black lives matter. “Equal under the law” should apply to healthcare, education, the environment, equal pay for equal work, voting rights, and more. Our black brothers and sisters need us to stand united with them to this goal. When their lives improve, we will leave white privilege behind, and together, we will all embrace the American privilege of being equal under the law.

Isabel Wilkerson spoke at the College of DuPage in 2018. I had devoured her book, The Warmth of Other Suns, and I looked forward to hearing her discuss it.

Sometimes when you hear an author speak, you take away a beautiful, golden nugget of truth that sticks to the very fabric of your being. I am paraphrasing her now, but here’s the gist of that truth Wilkerson offered. She said that when one group of people continually tries to hold down another group in a ditch, that first group has to crawl down in the ditch themselves to control and suppress the other. I recall thinking in that moment—as I do even now—how absolutely exhausting this all is and has been for 400 years. It diminishes us all to continue this American caste system, born as slavery in 1619.

For the sake of our black and brown brothers and sisters, we must change this now. Together we can pull each other out of that deep, bloody ditch.

Therefore, I urge all ACE members and friends to get to work and advocate now for the following that disproportionately affect black and brown Americans.

 

Access the Ballot and Vote by Mail

Access the ballot in all states —now and in the future—by mail. Voters should be able to vote safely and comfortably in their homes and mail their ballots to be counted. What happened with the Wisconsin and Georgia primaries gave us a preview of how November 3 will play out. Polling sites will be closed and condensed into fewer without proper notice. Votes will inevitably be denied as poll books are not updated in time. Voting machines will not be rigorously tested nor learned to secure a smooth election process. All of these and more will produce a successful and complex strategy for overall voter suppression. Vote by Mail (VBM) works and delivered reliable election results in Oregon, Colorado, Washington, Utah, and Hawaii.

First, you can register to vote online at https://ova.elections.il.gov . If you’re not registered, but will be 18 years old on November 3, 2020, you can also register online today using that link.

Second, on June 16, 2020, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill into law expanding our state’s existing Vote by Mail process. The new law, effective immediately, applies only to the 2020 general election on November 3, 2020, and it is aimed at ensuring “safe and active participation in the 2020 general election during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.” Local election officials must mail or email absentee ballot applications to voters who have participated in recent elections, namely, the 2018 general (mid-term) election, the 2019 consolidated election, or the 2020 general primary held on March 17, 2020. The applications will also be mailed to voters who registered or changed addresses after the March primary.

When you receive your application for an absentee ballot, fill it out and return it by October 1, 2020 to receive your ballot by October 6, 2020. The final step is to complete your ballot and return it. You do not have to wait until November 3 to mail your ballot. Vote by Mail works smoothly, is more convenient for most voters, and delivers reliable election results as we’ve seen in Oregon, Colorado, Washington, Utah, and Hawaii. The number of ballots cast is always higher in a VBM state because it makes the ballot accessible to more voters. Higher voter turnout is a healthy nonpartisan outcome that strengthens a democracy.

Third, take on your own grassroots project. Pick Wisconsin or Georgia and write a letter or email their state house members advocating for Vote By Mail.

 

Census: Fill It Out and Encourage Others to Do the Same

Census data is due August 14, 2020. If you’ve answered the Census 2020 questions, pat yourself on the back. Then, phone or email your friends and family, here and in other states, and encourage them to do the same. The complete response from each community now will determine the amount of federal funds they’ll receive for public education and other services for the next ten years.

 

Encourage Reform of the Criminal Justice System

We need to rethink and reconstruct law enforcement. Chokeholds and other brute force measures should be outlawed, primarily because they are too often used disproportionately on black or brown people stopped for a broken taillight or a DUI. Social services should respond to drug overdose and mental health calls, not armed police officers. I think we can find an effective model for reform in other countries like the U.K.

Prisons for Profit must end. To fill these businesses, black and brown people, including minor children, who have been found guilty are sentenced to lengthy, unjust terms. Bryan Stephenson’s Equal Justice Initiative provides the numbers here to show that America is, indeed, number one in the industry of incarceration.

This is a beginning. More changes will be needed later. Let’s get to work.

 

For more ways to be an ally, visit our Human Rights Committee page.

 

Sources

http://www.oprah.com/app/own-tv.html

http://www.oprah.com/own-wheredowegofromhere/part-1_1

http://www.oprah.com/own-wheredowegofromhere/part-2

https://ova.elections.il.gov

https://my2020census.gov

https://www.dailyherald.com/news/20200616/pritzker-signs-vote-by-mail-expansion-declares-election-day-a-state-holiday

https://eji.org/criminal-justice-reform/

 


ACE Leader Beverly George also is a member of Indivisible, the Naperville League of Women Voters, and the Citizens Climate Lobby. She also volunteers with her parish PADS group. A former chemist, George worked in clinical chemistry and hematology research at the Centers for Disease Control for six years and taught chemistry and freshman science at Naperville North High School for 20 years.

 

 

A Fair Tax for Illinois and Illinoisians

Now that the Fair Tax will be on the November 2020 ballot, here are a few things you should know.

 

By Beverly George,
ACE Leader

 

On May 14, I attended a Fair Tax Town Hall in Palatine with former State Sen. Daniel Biss presenting strong arguments for the amendment. Biss used a slideshow presentation prepared by the Responsible Budget Coalition, a nonpartisan alliance of 300 organizations across several different sectors, including human services, health care, civic organizations, pre-K through 12, higher education, and faith communities. A math professor, Biss was thorough in his explanation of the Fair Tax and how it would affect Illinois.

His presentation included the following points:

  • a review of how Illinois’ economy got into this budget hole over many years;
  • why the Flat Tax is unfair in structure and application to Illinoisans, as well as being a constitutional albatross around the state’s economic neck;
  • a comparison of the current Flat Tax structure and formula with tax plans used in other states;
  • how the Fair Tax would affect Illinois taxpayers; and
  • how the proposed Fair Tax would be a positive step forward in turning Illinois’ fiscal ship of state around.

Here is the slideshow. Please read and study the numbers for yourself. FairTax.final

How the Illinois economy got this way

From FY2000 to FY2019, there were several years when the state tried to operate without any budget. This overlapped in part with a period when the country was in a recession, so what was bad to begin with became worse over time. Like a family experiencing a job loss, a rising cost of living, and unpaid bills, routine but necessary maintenance projects, such as infrastructure, went undone as well. One slide shows how critical services lost significant funding from 2000 through 2019.

The Flat Tax as both a fiscal and constitutional albatross on the state’s economy

The Flat Income Tax was written into the state constitution in 1970 as a means to raise revenue. At that time, it seemed like a good idea to the legislators to tax all citizens at the same rate, but in 1970 the economic disparity between the lowest income earners and the highest income earners was far, far less than it is today.
Fast forward 49 years and times have changed, more funds are needed to pay down debt and deliver services. However, to raise more money, the general assembly can only raise the Flat Tax rate with the same rate falling across the backs of rich and poor alike.

How the Fair Tax will affect Illinoisans

Wait! It’s not alike at all, you say. Raising the tax rate 0.5 or 1% would be felt more acutely by the working poor through the middle class. Most Illinois taxpayers believe the top earners (over $250,000 per year) should pay a higher rate, and earners making $1M or more per year, should pay an even higher rate. The Fair Tax will increase income tax on the top 3% of Illinois earners and also provide some modest income tax relief to the bottom 97% who earn less than $250K per year.
Seven states have no state income tax, eight states have a Flat Tax policy, and only four mandate a Flat Tax in their constitutions. The federal government, the remaining states, and the District of Columbia all have graduated tax laws.

In those states that have a flat tax without the constitutional mandate, if voters want to raise revenue by moving to a graduated tax formula, they can vote for candidates running on the promise to enact that policy and bring change by election. However, in Illinois, voters wanting change and/or candidates promising change are ineffective because the Illinois constitution has to change with a new tax amendment.

Here’s the two-step process for change to the Fair Tax:

1. With a vote of 60%, both the state senate and house must pass a resolution to put it on the ballot for November, 2020. (Done.)
2. Once it’s on the ballot, we need 60% of voters to vote in favor of the ballot question, or, because many voters arrive uninformed on resolutions and choose not to vote on them at all, we need more than 50% of the people who vote to vote in favor of it.

And finally, the resolution will propose both the graduated tax structure and that it no longer be constitutionally mandated.

Finally and most importantly, if it gets on the ballot, we all have to sell it. This is a good plan. There will be plenty of money spent to defeat the Fair Tax, and the anti-Fair Tax messages will be false, intimidating, creative—perhaps even ridiculous—persistent, and ubiquitous.

So engage, get informed, and speak out.

 


ACE Leader Beverly George also is a member of Indivisible, the Naperville League of Women Voters, and the Citizens Climate Lobby. She also volunteers with her parish PADS group. A former chemist, George worked in clinical chemistry and hematology research at the Centers for Disease Control for six years and taught chemistry and freshman science at Naperville North High School for 20 years.

Coming April 1, 2020, and Back by Constitutional Demand: The National Census 2020

 

By Beverly George,
ACE Leader

 

“Get Out the Count!”

Sound familiar? This is the slogan for the national U.S. Census to be taken April 1, 2020. Preparation has already begun, and this Speak Out explains why a complete and accurate census is vital to our democracy.

If you’ve been following the news, last week U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman of New York ordered the Trump administration to stop its plan to add the citizenship question to the census form. The administration is asking the Supreme Court to hear its appeal soon. In his ruling, Judge Furman admonished Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross for not heeding the advice of career professionals who warned that adding the question would result in much lower counts in densely populated areas.

Has a citizenship question ever been used on past census forms?

According to “Fact Check: Has Citizenship Been A Standard Census Question?” by NPR’s Tamara Keith, the census has been conducted every decade since 1790 to get the required headcount for deciding the national distribution of congressional representation. Originally taken by U.S. Marshals, the U.S. Postal Service took on the task as population grew.

In 1950, there was a census question asking where each person was born followed by the statement, “If foreign born—is he naturalized?” In 1960, there was no question about citizenship (the follow-up question in 1950), but there was the question about place of birth. In 1970, the Census Bureau sent a short form to all households seeking basic population information. They also sent long forms to one-sixth of American households, asking questions ranging from household income to plumbing, so five out of six households did not receive the long form.

Questions about citizenship were included in the long form beginning in 1970, but not the short form. For example, in 2000, citizens who received the long form were asked, “Is this person a CITIZEN of the United States?”

Later the census bureau added the American Community Survey, which is conducted every year and sent to 3.5 million households. It asked many of the same questions as the census long-form surveys from 1970 to 2000, including the citizenship question.

In 2010, the short form had no questions about citizenship. In 2020, there will be 11 questions on the census form. At this writing, there will be no citizenship question.

2020 Census

Responding to the U.S. Census is critical to maintain a robust democracy for several reasons, including the following.

  • An accurate and complete survey of U.S. population distribution provides for accurate congressional districting and representation.
  • An accurate and complete survey also determines how many Electoral College votes a state has. Like it or not, the Electoral College is still a part of the U.S. Constitution.
  • When a state or district applies for SNAP funds or other government programs, accurate and complete survey data is essential to meet the needs of diverse, local populations.

For the first time, there are three ways to respond to the 2020 Census—paper form, on the web, or on your mobile phone.

If you’re wondering how homeless people are counted, there will be “boots on the ground” census takers with iPads to gather this data. There also will be census takers on reservations because many Native Americans don’t have individual mailing addresses by house number and street. Young people, ages 18-24 years old, are also labeled as hard to reach in the census count because they often don’t open their snail mail, nor do they read their email. In every case, the census wants to count once and count accurately where individuals reside on Census Day, April 1st, 2020.

Census data is protected (that is, not removed or erased) for 72 years for genealogy purposes, and the president, ICE, and the FBI will not have access to census data, according to Census Bureau representatives.

Illinois is a diverse state, and the census bureau plans to adapt to that. The online form will be available in 12 languages. Efforts are being made now to partner with trusted community groups to message the importance and the how-tos of taking part in the census. There will be heavy recruitment for these six-month jobs, which will pay between $13 and $21per hour. If you’re interested, visit https://www.census.gov/about/regions/chicago/jobs/all.html.

The Census window extends from March 16, 2020 through April 30, 2020, and the official Census Day is April 1st. The census has real impact on real people via representation, and government assistance to states for SNAP, ESL programs, and more. The goal is to count everyone once and accurately. With the guaranteed cacophony of primary election news breaking daily in early 2020, it’s important that we keep beating the U.S. Census drum loudly to #GetOutTheCount!

 


ACE Leader Beverly George also is a member of Indivisible, the Naperville League of Women Voters, and the Citizens Climate Lobby. She also volunteers with her parish PADS group. A former chemist, George worked in clinical chemistry and hematology research at the Centers for Disease Control for six years and taught chemistry and freshman science at Naperville North High School for 20 years.

 

 

 

Trump Administration Proposes to Weaken Yet Another EPA Rule

 

By Dale Bryson, 

Former Senior Manager, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently came out with a new rule called the “Waters of the U.S. Rule,” which, naturally is designed to do away with another very important thing former President Barack Obama did. To appreciate what has happened, let me give you a bit of background.

When I was head of the entire water program in EPA Region 5, I denied a permit to the Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County where they wanted to fill in a 500+ acre wetland up by Barrington by creating a new garbage landfill there. I denied the permit for three main reasons. First, the large wetland fed water into the Fox River through the groundwater, which we had verified by tracer studies. To fill it in with garbage would add pollution to the headwaters of the Fox River. Second, there was a major black heron rookery in the wetland that would be destroyed. There are only three or four such rookeries left in Illinois. Third, this wetland was a major stop for migrating birds as they headed south for the winter.

That Solid Waste Agency sued the EPA over the permit denial. We won in the Federal District Court. The Solid Waste Agency appealed to the Federal District Court of Appeals where we won again. The Solid Waste Agency then appealed to the Supreme Court. At the same time, another wetlands case, this one from Michigan, went to the Supreme Court as well. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court agreed with the Solid Waste Agency and the Michigan firm. The majority opinion was written by Justice Antonin Scalia, the most conservative judge, who wrote a quite harsh opinion that included a couple of lines that basically would, if left standing, allow the destruction of most wetlands and would remove Federal protection of millions of miles of rivers in the U.S.

Under the Bush administration and then the Obama administration, the EPA and the Corps of Engineers spent 10 years developing a new definition of what rivers and wetlands would have Federal protection from pollution and filling in. They held over 200 public meetings, reviewed over a million comments, and then came out with the new rule in 2015. It was approved by the Federal Courts.

That brings me to the Trump administration and their new rule, which basically destroys all of the Obama rule. For example, 51% of the wetlands in the U.S. will now be fully open for filling in for development. Over 18% of the U.S. rivers will no longer be protected, which affects 30% of the population who get their drinking water in part from those rivers.

 

One of largest development companies on the East Coast was quoted yesterday saying, ‘We love it.  Now we can build anywhere!’

 

To give you a specific example, near the Potbelly restaurant on Diehl Road is a huge wetland. Diehl Road makes a curve around that lake/wetland. Again, on my watch at the EPA, Cantera Development wanted Diehl Road to go straight through the wetland and maybe fill in part of it for development. I denied their permit application because that is the largest wetland left in DuPage County and for other reasons. I insisted they go around the wetland. We won. They built a curved road, and the wetland was protected. That could all change now. Under this proposed rule by the Trump administration, they would allow the wetland to be filled in and apartments or a strip mall to be built there.

Why is that wetland on Diehl so important? It has a berm that separates it from the river. When the river floods, the water flows into the wetland thereby becoming a huge reservoir for water, thereby protecting from flooding downstream. Under the Trump rule, for a wetland to be protected, it must have a direct connection to a river and that connection must have water flowing into the river 100% of the time. This wetland has flows to the river, but they are through the groundwater.  Under the Trump rule, that does not count as a wetland that needs protection.

Think of all the small wetlands you pass as you drive to, say, Whitewater, Wisconsin.  Those are called “isolated wetlands.” Even though they are crucial to replenishing the groundwater, under the new rule they can be drained and/or filled in because they have no direct connection to a river. All of the “prairie potholes” in eastern South Dakota and North Dakota (where 50% of the migratory wildfowl reproduce) would also lose their protection.

One of the national farm organizations came out with a statement saying this new rule is just what they want so that they can “drain all these small swamps!” One of largest development companies on the East Coast was quoted yesterday saying, “We love it.  Now we can build anywhere!”

The National Resource Defense Council, Earth Justice, the Sierra Club, and many others will contest this new outrageous rule. Let us hope they prevail, and that the wetlands and rivers of this country will be protected!

 


Though retired now, Dale Bryson was a senior manager of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. He was in charge of all water programs, including water pollution control, water protection, safe drinking water, and wetland protection.

 

The Trouble with ‘Midterms’

 

By Dawn DeSart
ACE Campaigns and Candidates Team Leader
Candidate for DuPage County Board, District 5

There’s a problem with “midterms.” No, not the elections themselves, but with the moniker of midterms. The word sounds like “halftime,” as in “halftime” during a football game, when you get up off your La-Z-Boy®, stretch, maybe use the restroom, maybe grab another beverage, and relax a bit until the thrill of the game begins again for the second half.

The midterm election, especially this midterm election on November 6th, is too important to be shrugged off as halftime between when 45 was elected and when (God willing) he is replaced in 2020. This midterm, voters have the opportunity to change the faces in Congress to reflect most Americans’ values, to elect people who will stand up to and call out 45’s egocentric agenda.

What’s at stake? Political commentator and radio host, Thom Hartmann, characterizes the nation’s political sides this way. “In 2018, being a conservative means being in favor of rich people and corporations running the country,” he says. “Being a progressive means you are in favor of ‘We, the People’ running the country.”

The upcoming midterms are our shot at taking back control of the House and the Senate, allowing “We, the People” to once again lead this great country.

Tired of the hatred? Me, too! The vitriol and negativity spewed by this president is utterly exhausting. Christian pastor and author, John Pavlovitz, writes on his blog that “we don’t need to convince or coddle or win over hatred, and we don’t need to outdo it either. We need to outnumber it. We need to outlove it. We need to outvote it.”

The midterms on November 6th is our opportunity to vote it out.

But, what’s in a name? I was reminded of how weak midterms sounds when I heard radio host Norman Goldman call the upcoming election the “congressional election.”

Yes! Now that’s powerful!

November’s “congressional election” is vital to elect brave, ethical leaders who will work toward affordable healthcare, education, jobs and wages, and clean energy. People who will not use our valuable resources toward things that don’t benefit real people, like the Space Force and the Wall.

Congressional elections matter now more than ever!

This is not halftime, this is act time!

Time to get up out of your La-Z-Boy® and act, march, volunteer, make calls on behalf of candidates, register to vote, donate, talk to your friends and neighbors, and most of all, vote on November 6th.

Vote in this congressional election, as if your country is at stake.

Because it is.

 


A five-time Emmy Award winner, Dawn DeSart is a journalist and local activist. She is running for the DuPage County Board, District 5, and has previously held positions on the Indian Prairie School District 204 School Board, the Wheatland Township Democrats, and the Fox Valley United Way. In 2000, then Naperville mayor A. George Pradel declared May 9th as “Dawn DeSart Day” in Naperville. For more information on Dawn, visit her website.