Sunday, October 31, 2010

Thanks a Bunch!!

I thank everyone who showed up on Saturday October 30th to go out canvassing the 24th Ward to get petitions signed. We had an opportunity to network with one another, meet more people in the Ward, and hear about the issues that matter most to them. We were very impressed to hear young people share their concerns about the need to reduce violence in their schools and to increase opportunities and funding for after school programs.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Help Me Get on the February Ballot in 3 Hours!

As you may have heard, there are a lot of people in the race for Alderman of the 24th Ward. Depending on who you believe, there could be anywhere from 13 to 25 candidates on the ballot in February. Because there are so many people in the race, there’s a good chance that people have signed for more than one candidate. When people sign petitions for more than one candidate, their signatures can be disqualified. If enough signatures are disqualified, then the candidate gets kicked off the ballot. We can’t take that chance.

I NEED YOUR HELP!! Join us on Saturday, October 30, 2010 from 9:00 am to 12:00 noon, for Walkers and Talkers, an event for circulating petitions and phone banking. We will meet at Carey Tercentenary AME Church, 1448 South Homan Avenue.

Each session will include an overview of the issues, an update on our campaign, training for petitions and phone banking, followed by 2 hours of gathering signatures and making phone calls. I will bring donuts & coffee.

Optional: Bring a copy of your resume to be included in the Job Exchange bulletin board immediately (no strings attached), and to be considered for community development committees when I am elected. Contact me if you have questions about the bulletin board.

For Further Information: Contact me 773-521-3137, or

Visit my Online Candidate Profile at
Visit the campaign website at

Visit the campaign blog at

Follow me on Facebook, MySpace, Scribd, Twitter, and Every Block Chicago-24th Ward.

This message was approved by Citizens to Elect Valerie F. Leonard.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Where Do We Go From Here on the Education Front?

The Chicago Public Schools has been under Mayoral control for the past 16 years. Under the Mayor’s leadership we have had School Reform, Renaissance 2010 which called for school closings and reopening them as charter schools, and attempts to qualify for the national Race for the Top (which seems to have been modeled after the local Renaissance 2010 initiative). The changing of the guard in City Hall could have serious implications for the direction of education in Chicago.

The Chicago Tribune ran an interesting article regarding the fact that the State's standardized tests have been made increasingly simpler over the last 5 years. (“Students Can Pass ISAT With More Wrong Answers", October 17, 2010 online edition,,0,308277.story). It should be noted that the article does not mention the fact that Chicago Public Schools lobbied the State to simplify the test 5 years ago.

At the same time, the Chicago Tribune’s Editorial Board is urging the next Mayor to continue the course that has been laid by the current Mayor, and suggested that the new Mayor keep the current CPS CEO on board to continue the reforms that have been made. ("Reform on the Ropes?" October 17, 2010 online edition,,0,6816965.story).

Reading the editorial and the article causes me to think about a number of questions. 1) Should the next Mayor continue the same course in education, including keeping the same staff in place? 2) How has North Lawndale fared under the current school reforms? 3) Can we believe the headlines we have been reading over the past 16 years telling us that the schools have improved? 4) Do we need more of the same policies, or do we change course?

While there is a case to be made for keeping the current team in place to minimize further disruption of the school system, I believe the next Mayor needs to hire his own team. This would increase chances of loyalty to the new administration; increase the likelihood that the new cabinet members will fit within the new Mayor’s vision; and increase accountability to the new leader, who will in turn, be accountable to the public. Under the current system, the Mayor’s team would include the CPS CEO.

The best performing school districts in Illinois are headed by a duly qualified Superintendent, with a doctorate in education, with significant experience with the business of running schools. Members of the business and civic community that are most influential in shaping our public school policies typically send their own children to school systems headed by educators. I believe that over time, Chicago should have an independently elected school board headed by a duly qualified Superintendent with a history of real success in school improvement. I also realize that meaningful future school improvements will not be completed over night, as it took several years for Chicago Public Schools to go from one of the best systems in the country to where we are now.

CPS ISAT data reflect that on average, 49.21% of CPS students met or exceeded state standards in reading in 2005. In 2006, the year the test was changed, 59.66% met or exceeded standards in reading. CPS students have been making steady "gains", as the required number of points to pass the test were steadily decreasing over the years. By 2009, the CPS school performance data showed that 66.2% of CPS students were passing the test. It should be noted that Illinois ranks 46 of 50 states in terms of academic standards.

What has School Reform meant for North Lawndale in recent years? One indicator is test scores. The data show that even though North Lawndale schools' performance continues to lag behind the rest of the City, our schools were making greater "gains" than the students citywide. CPS data show that 36.4% of North Lawndale students met or exceeded standards in 2005; 48% passed the test in 2006 and to 55.5% met or exceeded standards in 2009. Some North Lawndale schools have made significant one year gains--as high as 8 percentage points between 2008 and 2009.

With few exceptions, when we move past the headlines and review CPS school performance data, it is difficult to see where we are making real improvement. The data show that elementary school students are making significant gains in performance on standardized tests, yet only 38% of North Lawndale students graduate high school (CPS 2004). Our top performing community based high school had 17% of its students passing the reading section of the Prairie State Achievement Test in 2009. Only 3% of African American students going through CPS were graduating from college in 2004. At the rate we’re going, our children will not be able to compete for jobs in a global economy, and very few, if any, world class employers will re-locate to North Lawndale given the skill level of our workforce. This situation is not helped by the fact that the City Colleges have scaled back on remedial courses.

What we have learned over the past 16 years is that, regardless of what policies CPS puts in place, schools will only truly improve when the community begins to value education again. Most importantly, we must take responsibility for our children’s education. Then, we must hold CPS accountable to educate all children, regardless of what school they attend, or their skill level.


1) While tests are important indicators of performance, schools should stop teaching to test and focus on truly educating students. When students graduate high school, they should be prepared for the rigors of college or the global workforce.

2) Parents and guardians need to be more involved in their children’s education. Students whose parents or guardians are engaged in their education are more likely to perform well in school.

3) Community leaders must engage CPS and local citizens in public discussions around education policy. Communities that exhibit higher levels of civic engagement tend to have higher quality schools that serve their needs.

4) There should be increased quality in the local community high schools, with strong support from the feeder schools.

5) There should be a wide array of high quality after school programs geared to reinforce lessons learned in school, while providing outlets for leadership development and organized recreation.

6) Schools should regain their status as the center of community, and provide activities for parents, students and local residents during after school hours. This could include evening classes at the high school and junior college level; vocational education and job training, etc.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The City's 2011 Budget and the Least of These

Here's an article that I wrote regarding the City's 2011 budget and reporting process.
The City of Chicago-Budget and the Least of These

Wanted: Walkers and Talkers

Wanted: Walkers & Talkers
For canvassing and phone banking

• Saturday, October 16, 2010
• Saturday, October 30, 2010
• Saturday, November 13, 2010

Carey Tercentenary AME Church
1448 South Homan Avenue
9:00 A.M.-12:00 Noon

Each session will include an overview of the issues, an update on Valerie’s campaign, training for petitions and phone banking, followed by 2 hours of gathering signatures and making phone calls. Valerie will bring donuts & coffee.

Optional: Bring a copy of your resume to be included in the Job Exchange bulletin board immediately (no strings attached), and to be considered for community development committees when Valerie is elected. Contact Valerie if you have questions about the bulletin board.

For further information contact Valerie at 773-521-3137, or Visit the campaign website at Visit the campaign blog at Follow Valerie on Facebook, MySpace, Scribd, and Twitter.

Feel free to download a copy of the flyer and pass on to your networks.

Flyer-Canvassing and Calls

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Last Day to Register to Vote for the November Election is October 5, 2010

The following information is for anyone who needs to register to vote; needs to change his/her name on his/her voter registration card; whohas moved and needs to register to vote at his/her new address; who needs to vote absentee; interested in early voting,or would like to be an election judge. The following information is from the Chicago Board of Elections website

Voter Registration

To register to vote, you must:
-- be a U.S. citizen;
-- be at least 18 years of age by election day;
-- live in your precinct at least 30 days before the election;
-- not be in prison/jail serving time for a conviction; and,
-- not claim the right to vote elsewhere.

In Chicago, voters may register or change the address or name on their registrations:

-- by submitting this mail-in form to register / file a change of address/ file a change of name.
-- in person at 69 W. Washington St., Sixth Floor.
-- at any Secretary of State's office where driver's licenses and state IDs are issued.
-- through an active deputy registrar affiliated with a local organization, such as a political party, ward office, business, etc.

After the form is processed, we will mail a new voter card.

Tues., Oct. 5, 2010 is the deadline to register to be eligible to cast a ballot in the Nov. 2, 2010 General Election.

Early Voting

On Monday, October 11, Columbus Day, Early Voting will be offered only at these three locations:
-- 69 W. Washington St., Lower Level, 9 am - 5 pm
-- 22nd District Police, 1900 W. Monterey, 9 am - 5 pm
-- Welles Park, 2333 W. Sunnyside, 9 am - 5 pm

All other Chicago Early Voting sites will open Tuesday, October 12.

By law, Early Voting for this election will end Thursday, October 28.
Go to the Board of Elections website for more information about early voting.

Absentee Ballot Application for the Nov. 2, 2010 General Election

By law, the first day that voters may apply to cast an absentee ballot is Sept. 23, 2010. By law, voters cannot submit applications by fax or email unless the voter is in the military or living overseas.

The following provides information on absentee voting for persons who choose to vote by mail.

What is Absentee Voting?

Voters are allowed to cast their ballots prior to Election Day -- either in person at an Early Voting site or by mail through Absentee Voting.

Who Qualifies for Absentee Voting?

All persons registered to vote in Chicago are eligible to cast absentee ballots. The voter must file a completed and signed request for an absentee ballot by the legal deadline.

- Applications from voters in the United States must be received at the Election Board by close of business on Oct. 28. NOTE: Original forms must be submitted by mail, certified courier or in person. Forms from civilians in the United States cannot be accepted by email.

- Applications from military and civilians overseas must be received at the Election Board by close of business on Oct. 22.

Go to the Board of Elections website to download an absentee ballot and see frequently asked questions regarding absentee ballots.

Become a Judge of Election

What are Judges of Election?

Judges of election are the officials who are responsible for the conduct of the election in the precinct polling place. The judges of election are the backbone of the electoral process. Their jobs are challenging, interesting and personally rewarding.

In each precinct, the judges share in responsibilities, duties and authorities that include:

(1) Opening the polling place and setting up voting equipment at 5 a.m. on Election Day;
(2) Conducting a fair and impartial election in the precinct polling place, allowing voting from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
(3) Tabulating the vote totals for the precinct and transmitting them to Election Central after the polls close at 7 p.m.

The Judge of Election application for the term that ends with the 2012 Primary is available here. (NOTE: This form may not be used for those participating in the High School Student Judge program. See instructions on that program below.)

Be sure to include your:

-- Name
-- Home Address
-- City/State/ZIP
-- Phone
-- Home Ward

The Democratic or Republican committeeperson in each ward has the ability to assign qualified judges for their respective parties for each precinct in that ward. Judge of Election applications without the signature of a committeeperson will be considered: (1) if there are vacancies not filled by the local committeeperson; (2) if the prospective Judge of Election is willing to work in another precinct if all of the judge positions are filled in his or her home precinct.

Mail completed forms to:

CHICAGO IL 60602-3006


Judges of Election are paid $170 only upon completion of training and service on Election Day.

Extra compensation is also paid to judges who:

--­ Pick up the Election Judge key envelope on either the Saturday or Sunday prior to Election Day;
-- ­Allow the use of the judge's cell phone (by all judges within the polling place) on Election Day;
--­ Return the election materials to a receiving station on election night (to be determined by all judges on Election Day.)

Training & Materials

The Judge of Election Handbook for the Nov. 2, 2010 General Election will be available at training sessions. The contents of the handbook are also available here: (You need to go to the Board of Elections website to download this information.

What's New For This Election / Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Voting Equipment
Chapter 2. Important Information About Judges of Election
Chapter 3. Who's Allowed in the Polling Place
Chapter 4. Check Election Supplies/List of Supplies/Illustration of Supply Carrier
Chapter 5. Setting Up the Polling Place
Chapter 6. During Voting Hours: Who May Vote; Provisional Ballots; Issuing Ballot Scan Ballots; Issuing Provisional Ballots; Issuing Touchscreen Voter Cards; Split Precinct Instructions; Spoiled Ballot Procedure; Assistance for Voters with Disabilities
Chapter 7. Closing the Polls
Election Terms
Forms Index
Troubleshooting Instructions. Ballot Scanner; Touchscreen Voting Unit; Voter Card Activator; Emergency Ballot Scanner Instructions

High School & College Student Judges of Election

The Board of Election Commissioners for the City of Chicago is proud to lead the United States in hiring high school and college students to serve as judges and to provide technical support. In the 2008 elections, more than 4,500 students helped administer elections in Chicago.

High School and College Student Judges of Election hold the same responsibilities and receive the same pay as other Judges of Election. Students may begin to serve as early as their junior year in high school, even before they are registered to vote, so long as they have a 3.0 grade-point average, sign-off from a parent/guardian and sign-off from a principal/college advisor.

Go to the Board of Elections website for more information on Judges of Election and High School and College Student Judges of Election.

Survey Reveals That Majority of 24th Ward Voters Believe the Ward is Headed in the Wrong Direction and New Leadership is Needed

24th Ward Public Opinion Poll

Friday, October 1, 2010

Chicago's Pension Funds Are in Trouble

Chicago's pension funds are in trouble. According to this report, it will take over $710 million a year, and an increase in employee contributions just to begin to address the issues. The next Mayor and the City Council will need to make tough decisions regarding the City's finances.

CSCP Final Report Vols1-2

Illinois Senior Internet Adoption Coalition and Congressman Danny K. Davis to Announce Federal ARRA and Illinois Jobs Now! Grants

Illinois Senior Internet Adoption Coalition and Congressman Danny K. Davis to Announce Federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and Illinois Jobs Now! Grants for Broadband Adoption Project

I am very pleased to announce that a project for whom I provided technical assistance through the Illinois ResourceNet has received state and federal funding to provide computer training, equipment and high speed internet service for seniors in 23 publicly-funded senior buildings throughout northern Illinois. Illinois Senior Internet Adoption Coalition Congressman Danny K. Davis will be holding a press conference on Monday, October 4, 2010, at 10:00 a.m. at Habilitative Systems, Inc. (HSI), 425 South Kilpatrick, in Chicago. More details are found in the press release below. I hope to see you there.

September 30, 2010

Contact: Ira Cohen (office of Rep. Danny K. Davis)

The Illinois Senior Internet Adoption Coalition and Congressman Danny K. Davis will announce federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and Illinois Jobs Now! grants for broadband adoption project to help Illinois low income seniors and people with disabilities cross the digital divide

Press Conference
10:00 a.m.
Monday, October 4, 2010
415 South Kilpatrick
Chicago, Illinois 60644

The Illinois Senior Internet Adoption Coalition and Congressman Danny K. Davis — a group of nine Illinois public housing authorities, five private providers of affordable housing and other partners — will announce that its program to get Illinois low income seniors and people with disabilities across the Digital Divide has won awards worth $5.9 million from the federal and Illinois governments. MyWay Village, Inc., the grant awardee, will be responsible for the implementation of the program at 23 rural, suburban and inner-city sites in Illinois over the next 24 months.

“Senior citizens and people with disabilities need adequate, affordable access to the tools of the 21st century,” said U.S. Congressman Danny K. Davis. “This project represents a powerful way to close the digital divide by increasing computer training and high-speed Internet availability in our Illinois communities.”

The program will fund new computer equipment, Internet access and Connected Livingr training programs to over 3,000 residents of low income housing in Northern Illinois as well as to residents in surrounding neighborhoods. Connected Living by MyWay Village is a comprehensive technology adoption program that combines simplified technology with engaging training content and curriculum delivered by Ambassadors who are expert at getting first-time users online.

Low Income seniors and people with disabilities will gain new computer skills, improved communications with family and friends and better access to valuable information, education and health services. Trainees who pass a basic computer proficiency test will receive a highly discounted computer and Internet service. The program will collect adoption data, evaluate best practices and disseminate learning to affordable housing managers through a series of conferences and online tools.

“Low income seniors and affordable housing communities in Illinois deserve equal access to technologies that can deliver better health and economic opportunity,” said Sarah Hoit, CEO and Co-Founder of MyWay Village. “Over the last three years, we have connected thousands of seniors with our `high-tech and high-touch’ approach which has proven to be a winning combination.”

The partners in the Illinois Senior Internet Adoption Coalition include:

o Atmosphere Communications
o The Benton Foundation
o Bethel New Life (Chicago)
o BMA Management
o Housing Authority of the County of DeKalb
o DSSA Strategies
o Grundy County Housing Authority
o Habilitative Systems (Chicago)
o Housing Authority of Henry County
o Housing Authority of Joliet
o Kankakee County Housing Authority
o Moline Housing Authority
o MyWay Village, Inc.
o Oak Park Housing Authority
o Rockford Housing Authority
o Rock Island Housing Authority
o Sankofa Safe Child Initiative (Chicago)
o Senior Lifestyle Corporation

More than $4.7 million in federal funding was awarded competitively through the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). More than $1.2 million in Illinois Jobs Now! public works funding provided the financial support needed to secure the federal award for Illinois, and coalition partners are contributing and additional $0.9 million in matching funds to bring the total project value to $6.8 million.

About MyWay Village, Inc.

MyWay Village, Inc. is a Quincy, MA based social impact company. The Connected Livingr program currently serves thousands of seniors residing in communities managed by such thought-leading organizations as Brookdale Senior Living, Emeritus Senior Living, Benchmark Senior Living, Beacon Communities and the Atlanta Housing Authority. For more information, visit, call the Connected Living Center at 800.223.5080, or view our YouTube channel (

Ira Cohen
Director of Issues and Communication
Representative Danny K. Davis (IL07)