This holiday season, we seek wisdom and goodness and all things to better our city, state and nation
November 30, 2017

Wise men still seek Him.

What image does this conjure up in your mind? Those of the Judeo-Christian faith tradition turn to their long-held belief of mystical Magi of the East following a new star in the heavens, leading them from their far-away lands to a stable in the small town of Bethlehem. It was there they would find shepherds huddled with their flock, trying to keep warm, with ox and ass nearby. The breath of both shepherds and animals crystalized in the wintry air.  Yet, it wasn’t shepherds these astrologers were seeking at the end of their long journey.

If you are familiar with the Christmas story, then you know the Magi had sought the Christ child and as the star came to its final resting place, they found Him wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Not a very impressive beginning for a “new-born king.” However, the Three Wise Men knew then that their journey had been fulfilled.

The biblical story doesn’t offer much more about these Magi other than that they avoided telling King Herod where the baby Jesus lay. Were they kings in their own right? How large was their entourage? They came from different countries—did they get along well? What else did they talk about on their journey?

It’s been our tradition to provide Gazette Chicago readers with a hopeful holiday message. One that includes a “wish list” of presents that only a very creative Santa could arrange to have gift-wrapped and placed beneath our collective Christmas tree: Presents that would benefit our community, our nation, and our world.

Perhaps you don’t always agree with what we have to say, but we have it on good authority that you are wise in your own right. So, what do you seek this Christmas season?

Here is what we seek:

We seek the preservation of our democracy. It has been a very long, trying, and troubling time for many of us living in the era of the Trump Presidency. Just a few weeks ago, a long-time reader of Gazette Chicago asked its publisher if we were happy yet with President Trump. Sadly, that answer would be no. It isn’t that we purposely root against Mr. Trump, for we love this country very much and if the President fails, many of us pay the price—especially those who can least afford to bear the brunt of damaging legislation. But, try as we may, we cannot find anything good that has been accomplished by this President. Our rights, freedoms, and collective sanity are being pushed to the brink. The daily onslaught against women, minorities, immigrants, working class people, the elderly, the LGBTQ community, the Dreamers, and those who cannot defend themselves takes every ounce of energy to defend against. Thankfully, many Americans are participating in the effort to Resist.

We seek dignity, fairness, empathy, and righteousness from our leaders in Washington. Instead of the above, we endure Charlottesville and the shocking defense of white supremacy. Instead of a denouncement of wrongheaded, torch bearing white nationalists spewing chants of “blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us,” we receive from our President his infamous “blame on all sides” statement.  When a 31-year-old American woman, who felt compelled to rise up against bigotry, is mowed down in cold blood, we don’t benefit from a calming voice or one that extends sympathy to a grieving mother. When a deranged madman rains a hail of bullets down on concert-goers in Las Vegas, killing 58 and injuring more than 500 in the worst mass shooting in our nation’s history, we once again have a Republican-led Congress and White House that respond with “now is not the time” to have a public discourse on the matter and usher in rational gun control measures. When a person with a record of violence is allowed to purchase an assault rifle as the United States Air Force, no less, fails to do its due diligence, and that individual murders half of a church congregation in Sutherland Springs, Texas— many of them children—our pleas for a ban of assault weapons once again falls on deaf ears. The United States far outweighs every other country in the free world in the number of mass shootings and our Republican leadership shrivels behind the glare and money of the National Rifle Association.  We seek more people like Governor Terry McAuliffe (D-VA) who has beaten back the NRA in its home state. We seek leaders who won’t sell themselves out for fear of being primaried out of office.

We seek a President and a Congress that care about the middle class and want to help all people improve their lives. Instead, we get multiple efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. No matter the number of Americans potentially harmed by Congress’s irresponsible behavior, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan tried to push through bill after bill after bill this year. “Repeal and Replace!” bellowed Trump. It didn’t matter that ten million, 15 million, or 20 million Americans would lose their healthcare coverage; that thousands of fellow citizens would die as a result; or that the middle class would once again carry the burden of the uninsured.  And by the way, if they were going to “replace” Obamacare (and again, we say that’s the real crux behind this—the name—not the coverage), then wouldn’t seven years have given the Republicans enough time to come up with a sound alternative? Nope. It goes to show you they cannot lead—they can only obstruct. We seek more people with courage like Senator John McCain (R-AZ) to stand up against this folly.

We seek a Senate denial of the charade known as “tax reform.” As Gazette Chicago went to press, the Senate had yet to take action on the biggest hoax coming out of Washington in many years. The hypocrisy of this bill is astounding. We have a Republican Party, which has proudly stood by its decades-long platform to control and shrink the deficit, come up with a bill that would drive the deficit upward by $1,500,000,000 (yes, that’s trillions, folks).  What do you have to say about this, Grover Norquist?  Frankly, we are getting sick and tired of “austere” Republicans like Presidents George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush providing tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and thereby driving the country in deeper debt, and then having Democratic Presidents like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama having to spend their time in the White House mopping up their predecessors’ messes. Can we finally stop talking about “trickle down economics” like it actually works? It never has and it never will—the wealthiest corporations will throw more money at their CEOs and stuff their shareholders wallets, but they won’t provide more jobs, better wages, or bring back their factories from overseas.

This is not a tax reform bill. This does nothing to even the playing field among the wealthiest 1% and the rest of us. This is a neatly wrapped present to the wealthiest of Americans and the largest corporations that will give them billions of dollars over the long term. The bow on this present is a repeal of the federal mandate that all Americans need to have health insurance or pay a penalty. Sure that makes sense—Congress had to find a way to pay for some of this hypocrisy.  If you are not among the top 1% of the wealthiest Americans, then this bill harms you, and you, and you. And your children, too.  No longer would your college graduates be able to write off the interest on their trillions of dollars in federal loans that helped get them through college. To make matters worse, the Republicans want to tax the endowments provided to universities through private giving. That will mean less money for your children to receive for scholarships. Think this will harm the children of the wealthiest Americans who don’t need scholarships to pay their way through the Harvards and Yales of the world?

No longer would you be able to write off your state and local income and property tax deductions on your federal tax return. It also reduces the corporate tax rate from 35% to 20%. What a misnomer. So few corporations even come close to paying the full rate. When the rate gets pared down to 20%, we will be lucky if they pay more than eight or nine percent. And, small business owners—who generate the most jobs in this country—will wind up paying more.  All of this will only add to the burden of the middle class to cover the bills and the mounting deficit. 

Gone too will be the federal estate tax for the wealthiest Americans by 2025, and their heirs will benefit significantly. This will be a boon for the Koch brothers, the Mercers, Betsy DeVos and her brood, and oh yes, the Trump family. Hundreds of millions of dollars will flow out of the federal coffers and into the hands of the wealthiest children in America. That nice big, fat tax cut for most of the middle class? That $1,600 cut of yours? It isn’t permanent, you know. In fact, by 2021 your taxes will increase again and, unlike the tax cuts for the wealthiest 1% and the large corporations, your cuts are only temporary, while theirs are permanent. We could go on and on. But, you get the picture. We can’t help but imagine the Grinch himself, with his spindly fingers, sitting up on his mountain, eating raw onions and writing this bill—all with a heart that is two sizes too small.

We seek an even playing field in all levels of government. Under the Trump Administration, 53 of the 58 nominees to lifetime positions to the appellate and district courts, and his nominee to the Supreme Court as well, have been white, with 47 of those males. Only 11 are women and only five are minorities. Trump promised to “drain the swamp,” but he has more rich, white men in his Cabinet and representatives of the top 1% overall, than any other President in history. His appointments are dismantling the Environmental Protection Agency (Scott Pruitt), public education (Betsy DeVos), Health and Human Services (Tom Price), and Commerce (Wilbur Ross, who is under the glare of the Robert Mueller investigation for alleged ties to Russia). What is happening at the EPA and the Education department is very troubling indeed. Shocking, no. Appalling, yes.

We seek fairness, opportunities, and equal representation in our local community as well. We seek leaders who are unencumbered and unafraid of bucking the status quo. Frankly, we are tired of 50-0 and 49-1 votes in the City Council. Do you really think that everything that Mayor Rahm Emanuel proposes deserves to sail through the Council like it does? What ever happened to the group of progressive aldermen that would lead the effort to change the face of the City Council? Please, aldermen, stand up and resist and put pressure on your colleagues not to vote in lock step every time the Mayor pushes for higher taxes. Readers, buy and read Tom Tresser’s book, Chicago Is Not Broke, and host a “Book in a Box” meeting in your home. Buy a bunch as Christmas presents—they aren’t expensive and carry a wealth of information. Start the resistance movement right here at home.

We seek open and honest debate among the Democratic candidates for Governor. We look forward to the March primary and we hope that moneyed interests won’t have their way in this critical election—especially when it comes down to selecting the best candidate for the general election next fall. We ask influential politicians like Speaker of the House Michael Madigan not to use his influence and stay out of the gubernatorial primary and let the voters decide who best should stand up against Governor Bruce Rauner and his failed politics.

We seek a strong field to surface next year in a 2019 run against Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The only way to have fairness in democracy is to have open elections and to encourage more to participate in the democratic process. This means we need strong candidates and more voters—voters willing to educate themselves on the issues. We need to find more creative ways to solving our fiscal crisis than taxing Chicagoans to death:  property taxes, phone bill taxes, water and garbage collection taxes. Be careful this Christmas Eve—we heard a rumor that the City will be taxing homeowners $25 for every five minutes Rudolph and the other reindeer rest on your roof while Santa makes his way down your chimney.

We seek fairness from the Chicago Housing Authority, the Chicago Public Library Commission, Mayor Emanuel, and Aldermen Ervin and Solis when it comes to dealing with the residents of the Near West Side/Little Italy. It certainly seems as if the concerns of residents regarding the Roosevelt Square library/apartments development are falling on deaf ears. We continue to support a return of some of the former residents of ABLA, but the City’s plan isn’t fair and it will harm local businesses when much needed parking is stripped away. That new lot at Taylor and Racine: How long will it be there? LICNA is so frustrated with a lack of response to its concerns that it is contemplating going to court. Molly Sullivan of the CHA is quoted in this issue of Gazette Chicago as saying, “We are moving forward. We are moving at a pace that has never been seen before.” Curious that she says that. The CHA has never been accused of moving at break-neck speed. Certainly not in the lagged pace of completing the Roosevelt Square development over the past eight years and in sitting on more than $400 million to rebuild public housing in Chicago. Oh now, they want to move at a “a pace that has never been seen before.” And break ground before year’s end. Curious? Hardly. It’s just business as usual in the City of Chicago. When the powers that be want something, they just ram it through. See, we can criticize Democrats as easily as we can Republicans.

We seek justice for the residents of Pilsen and throughout our City when it comes to spiraling rents and gentrification. We seek the repeal of a 1995 law in the State Legislature that bans rent control. Developers are pushing residents out of Pilsen at an alarming rate—some 10,000 in the past decade—half by eviction. What will happen if Mayor Emanuel is successful in bringing Amazon to Chicago? Not only will we have given away $2 billion-plus in tax cuts and other perks, but those 50,000 new jobs will push rental costs to staggering new levels. Just look at what happened in Seattle when Amazon arrived and in San Francisco when the tech industry there exploded. We also seek passage of a Community Benefits Agreement for Pilsen and an expansion of the Keeping the Promise ordinance to address the homeless problem in Chicago.

We seek fairness in treating the business owners and residents of Chinatown when it coms to the SSA tax. Call us pessimists, but it seems the Special Service Area tax in Chinatown is a done deal. The City Council had its window dressing hearing and Alderman Daniel Solis has endorsed it. There is little to stop this now. Gazette Chicago expects fairness in dealing with the taxes being levied and transparency in communicating the benefits to the residents. If this all works out and more business is drawn to Chinatown, we will be the first to say congratulations. But, if the appointed SSA commissioners and the City don’t treat the locals fairly, we will be the first to call them out on it.

We also seek the following:

A cleanup of Bubby Creek and stoppage of the waste being dumped into the Chicago River and Lake Michigan from area industry. See what happens when the EPA is weakened? People and the environment pay dearly.

We seek development of a riverfront park at the site of the shuttered Fisk power plant that has community input in its design and access.

We seek an easy transition of the National Teachers Academy to a new high school in the South Loop and that all current students at NTA graduate into the new high school, and lower grade students have access to the new South Loop elementary school.

We seek the generosity of our readers and their support of the many charitable organizations reaching out and doing good in our community this holiday season. You can find the list of organizations that you can offer your gifts of time, talent, and treasure in our annual Spirit of Giving guide beginning on page 30 of this issue. Please be generous and make a difference in the lives of neighbors in need. If every Gazette Chicago reader helped out just a little—we could make Christmas brighter for more than 40,000 families. See, there is strength in numbers!

We seek your help in supporting our advertisers. It is through their advertisements that we can serve the community the way that we do. So, when you go out shopping this holiday season, stop by your Gazette Chicago advertisers first and tell them thank you for supporting our newspaper and spend locally, with them. We very much appreciate you doing so.

Finally, we seek peace in our community, in our nation, and in our world. These are troubling times to say the least. We cannot sugar coat that. But, all is not lost. We have hope. If we stay together, goodness and righteousness will prevail. It’s been a tiring year. Find the time to relax over the holidays and put your feet up for a few moments. Read a good book. Watch a warm, uplifting movie with family and friends. Enjoy some holiday cheer (but do so responsibly). Go to church—the church of your choice—and say a prayer that all will be well.

Don’t give up looking for your inspiration, your guiding light. Like the Magi, follow your shining star—your moral compass. Go out there and do good. Resist wherever necessary, but do so with kindness and a compassionate heart. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes—even if you do not agree with their politics. Try and have a dialogue where you can and move on where you cannot. Our country needs you. We need you.

Have a blessed holiday season. From all of us here at Gazette Chicago, we wish you peace and joy, good health and happiness in 2018. Let’s work together to better our community, our nation, and our world.