Thursday, February 23, 2017



Congressman Danny K. Davis is flanked by clergy and civic leaders participating in the planning meeting to organize a Conference on the State of the African American Male in Chicago. (Photo by Isaac Jones)
 By Isaac Jones
    Congressman Danny K. Davis called a planning and strategy meeting for a major conference on the State of the African American Male in Chicago. It was held at New Landmark M.B. Church, 2700 West Wilcox in North Lawndale.
    Statistics presented by the Congressman on the plight of Black men are dismal and clearly define the severity of the crisis:
•    White males in Chicago are 30% more likely to obtain a college degree than Black men.
•    Black males are 5% more likely to drop out of high school than White males.
•    52% of Black males are not in the Chicago labor force.
•    The Black male unemployment rate is 14% higher than the White unemployment rate in Chicago.
•    African American men living below the poverty line is double that of White men in Chicago.
•    20% of Black males in Chicago do not have a high school diploma.
•    In Chicago,
    the African
    American male
    unemployment rate is 21% - more than triple the national average.
•    In 2016, Zip Code 60644 in Austin had the largest number of prisoners released by the Illinois Dept. of Corrections – more than 90% of those were African American males.
•    In 2016, African American males comprised 57% of all persons released by the Illinois Dept. of Corrections.
    Congressman Davis points out that African American males are under-represented in colleges, universities, and the labor force, while being over-represented in the criminal justice system. They are more often both the perpetrators and the victims of violence.
    Davis declared the goals of the State of the African American Male in Chicago Conference are to facilitate dialogue between individuals and organizations addressing the issues affecting African American males to encourage networks improving conditions of these men and boys, and to promote legislation improving the quality of life for African American males. This includes healthcare, education, criminal justice, employment, and civic responsibility.
    Persons interested in becoming part of this planning process are asked to call 773/533-7520.
Congressman Danny K. Davis guides the participants through the grim statistics in planning a major Conference on the State of the African American Male in Chicago to draw up a blueprint for solving the problems. (Photo by Isaac Jones)


    The controversial practice of “policing for profit” in Illinois will come to an end under a massive overhaul of the state’s civil asset forfeiture law sponsored by Senator Don Harmon. Senate Bill 1578 requires more accountability of enforcement agencies that seize property while investigating possible crimes and more transparency on behalf of innocent property owners who want to get their belongings back.
    As currently written, Illinois law incentivizes police agencies and prosecutors to seize cash, cars, land, and other property from people suspected of – but not necessarily charged with or convicted of – criminal activity. The property frequently is forfeited and auctioned off, with proceeds going into the police department coffers.
    “Illinois has allowed a system to take root in which grandparents, for example, can be exploited by the justice system simply because they loaned their only car to a relative whom they didn’t realize had a revoked license. The next thing they know, that relative is in jail, the car is impounded, and they have limited recourse for getting it back,” Harmon explains.
    Critics of the state’s current law cite numerous problems with it. For example, it’s unclear if probable cause is a requirement for police to seize property in Illinois. Even if an owner is never charged or convicted of a crime, law enforcement agencies are not obligated to return property that was seized during an investigation. Further, current state law makes it especially difficult for people to reclaim their property through the court system.
    Senate Bill 1578 would improve the civil asset forfeiture law by doing the following:
 •    Remove all financial incentive for police agencies to seize property.
 •    Require probable cause for a civil asset seizure.
 •    Require the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority to create a searchable public database for seized and forfeited property.
 •    Require an annual accounting of expenditures from asset forfeiture proceeds.
 •    Create a fund where forfeiture proceeds would be deposited for disbursement to organizations for specific purposes, such as mental health and substance abuse services, law enforcement programs or state’s attorneys.
 •    Require a conviction before proceeding with a forfeiture, with limited exceptions.
 •    Require that property be returned within five days if a state’s attorney determines the owner is not responsible for the seizure.
 •    Require an itemized receipt for seized property be given to the owner.
 •    Remove the cash security a person must deposit when petitioning the court for release of the property due to substantial hardship.
    Senator Harmon notes that Illinois’ asset forfeiture guidelines are written into 25 different laws that authorize police and state’s attorneys to seize property in cases involving everything from drug investigations and money laundering to DUIs and basic traffic stops. The result is a convoluted system that can be difficult to navigate.
    According to a 2016 report co-authored by the ACLU of Illinois and the Policy Institute, Illinois police agencies collect about $30 million every year from forfeited property.
    “Illinois is overdue for a rewrite of this part of our criminal justice code. We should have taken care of this long ago, and I am more than happy to make this one of my priorities this spring,” Harmon declares. “I think the changes we’ve proposed in this legislation address many of the recommendations that have been brought to our attention and, in fact, go even further.”

Wednesday, January 25, 2017


    State Representative La Shawn K. Ford (D-8) has been appointed by Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan as Chairman of the House Financial Institutions Committee. The committee is the key panel debating legislation dealing with the banking, savings & loan, and mortgage institutions in the Illinois General Assembly.
    Ford, a 6-term representative, notes, “Illinois has more state-chartered banks than any other state in the United States and ranks in the top three states in the amount of total banking assets, total trust assets, and number of foreign bank offices. A strong Illinois banking system promotes economic development, supports the growth of small businesses, encourages home ownership, and provides for the financial security of Illinois residents,” says Ford.
    “As Chairman of the Illinois House Financial Institutions Committee, one of my goals will be to fight for economic opportunity for every community, so hardworking taxpayers can achieve financial independence,” Ford continues. “We will do our best to find ways to strengthen community banks, learning from the many banks that have failed in Illinois. We will help build up the non-profit credit union industry to provide more options for individuals who struggle to have banking relationships.”
    A study released in 2015 by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reveals stark disparities in the amount of wealth American households recovered after the last recession, with White-owned homes and assets recovering more fully than Black-owned ones. The ACLU report, which covers the timeframe that includes the recession and the economic recovery, found that average Black household wealth dropped 33%, while White household wealth declined by only 12% during that 4-year period. An earlier study similarly found that White household wealth dropped 16% between 2005 and 2009, while Black household wealth declined by 52%. In the meantime, this week the Attorney General of New York settled a major mortgage discrimination case against a major bank that does significant work in Illinois.
    “I am looking forward to using this opportunity as Chair to work with Bryan A. Schneider, Secretary of the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, and the many banks and lenders doing business in Illinois to better serve those seeking loans in Illinois,” says Ford. “Financial institutions are major factors in increasing the number of stronger businesses, families, and communities in Illinois. I will be setting up meetings with leaders in our financial industries to continue to learn the best ways these institutions can help the growth of Illinois, partnering with people of all colors and economic situations.”
    La Shawn Ford is a licensed Realtor and Broker, as well as having a history as a public school teacher in the city of Chicago before being elected to the General Assembly. His constituent service office is located at 4800 West Chicago Avenue. His phone number is 773/378-5902 and his email is, or visit