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Rep. Chris Welch outlines a way forward

Monday, Jun 1, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From this morning’s subscriber edition

So, I will make this offer: I will reserve as many blog posts as necessary for any and all Illinois Legislative Black Caucus members who have a plan. The posts will be unfiltered and unedited. They’re all yours, and you’ll have my audience’s full attention. The idea will be to construct a dialogue about how this state moves forward.

Illinois has a real opportunity to be the first state to step up to solve this seemingly intractable problem.

I want to help make this happen and I am all ears.

I am still planning to shut down the blog the rest of this week. But I will post these proposals as soon as I can get to them.

* From Rep. Chris Welch…

Dear Rich,

First I would like to thank you for your thoughtful column today. You asked for policy recommendations from the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus to meet this moment of pain and heartbreak. I don’t purport to speak for the caucus. I speak as a black legislator who led on equity measures like representation of black people on corporate boards and payment for black student athletes in the NCAA. I speak as a black father who had difficult conversations with my young son and daughter on what is happening.

But since you kindly committed to print words from black caucus members, here are my thoughts:

George Floyd was murdered by policemen in broad daylight as onlookers pleaded for humanity. Only one of the four policemen involved has been charged. And now our country is in flames and our City of Chicago is in flames. Of course I don’t think it’s right to burn cop cars, bust out windows, break into stores, hurt innocent police officers and reporters who are just doing their jobs. Some of the violence and destruction is coming from provocateurs and opportunists, and some of it is a violent expression of rage and hurt at the lack of justice and equality in our Country. Have you read the names of all of the black men and women killed by the police in the past 10 years, often on film? Did you watch the videos of the shooting of Laquan MacDonald and the killing of George Floyd? How would anyone expect a black person to feel about that?

The police violence, the disproportionate numbers of African Americans dying of the COVID 19, and the economic devastation in Black communities during this economic crisis are a poisonous stew. Can we finally address some of the underlying issues? Is this the moment?

In Illinois we have good, decent political leaders who deeply want to address underlying issues. Let us begin with police reform, economic redevelopment, healthcare, and education.

    1. Statewide system where bad police officers can be held accountable for the deaths of unarmed black men and women.

    2. Create a pipeline to advance black students at community colleges, State colleges and private Universities. We have some of the nation’s top institutions of higher education but the representation of black students is pathetic.

    3. Rebuilding Illinois and Capital funds must include African Americans in these well paying infrastructure projects.

    4. Healthcare equity so hospitals like Westlake serving poor black people are not first on the chopping block.

    5. Release 80% of the hundreds of millions of contact tracing dollars to black nonprofits not universities. Take this moment to strengthen the infrastructure of our black communities to stop black deaths, contain the spread of the virus and create jobs.

    6. Business relief and equity for black businesses by releasing the nearly 400M small business grants and technical assistance funds to save black businesses. Absent immediate and targeted intervention, what happened this weekend will be a final nail in their coffin,

    7. Provide real and immediate economic relief to people who are unemployed and can’t get through the flooded IDES system. Our community needs immediate stimulus checks so that people can feed and clothe their families; and

    8. Provide mortgage and rental assistance immediately to stop foreclosures and evictions in our communities.

We also need the people protesting in this country to go to mycensus2020.gov and fill out the census. Finally, people protesting need to vote in the upcoming Presidential Election, vote in the upcoming local elections for Mayors who appoint police boards and police chiefs, and run for office yourselves.

I am heartbroken by black bodies piling up and black businesses burning. But the question for all of us is this finally the time to address underlying causes?

Chris Welch

State Representative, 7th District

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33 Comments
  1. - Downstate - Monday, Jun 1, 20 @ 11:16 am:

    Great ideas. I might add one more….

    9. Allow for school choice in those communities with poor testing performance. While some families might not be able to escape the challenges of their neighborhood, at least they can choose a school in which the majority of parents have education as a priority.


  2. - frisbee - Monday, Jun 1, 20 @ 11:19 am:

    Welch is a class act and these are a great place to start. Let’s see if Illinois can make something positive from this opportunity, I am cautiously optimistic.


  3. - NotMe - Monday, Jun 1, 20 @ 11:19 am:

    Hey Downstate - the point of this exercise is to listen to the members of the ILBC, not tell them what they need to think.


  4. - Bob Loblaw - Monday, Jun 1, 20 @ 11:20 am:

    The only mention of police reform is a nebulous reference to a “statewide system,” whatever that means. No suggestions for community oversight, reductions in funding, laws providing mechanisms to actually hold bad actors responsible, laws protecting good cops who come forward, nothing on the extreme militarization of police, nothing about training or deescalation or the proper use of chemical weapons.


  5. - SSL - Monday, Jun 1, 20 @ 11:24 am:

    This is a very thoughtful approach. JB and Mayor Lightfoot can get behind this. It would be great to see a small committee established to begin the hard work of moving forward. Start with those points deemed most critical and show real progress.


  6. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 1, 20 @ 11:26 am:

    ===No suggestions for===

    How about focusing on the ideas at hand instead of offering up whatever happens to pop in your brain?


  7. - JB13 - Monday, Jun 1, 20 @ 11:27 am:

    I pledge to listen.

    The solutions, however, need to be more than “Vote Democrat.” Illinois and Chicago already mastered that step.


  8. - Donnie Elgin - Monday, Jun 1, 20 @ 11:28 am:

    Great plan support it with just one concern - getting contact tracing up and “Commonplace” is key to Phase 4 so hopefully, his proposal for 80% of dollars going to black nonprofits won’t hold up implementation with red tape.


  9. - Chris - Monday, Jun 1, 20 @ 11:35 am:

    “ Statewide system where bad police officers can be held accountable for the deaths of unarmed black men and women.”

    I, of course, understand why this was directed the way it is, but it’s not nearly far enough. We need to be able to hold “Bad” police accountable for any injuries they cause to people—armed and unarmed, black, Latin, Asian, white.

    This problem is *definitely* worst for the black community, but reining in the police violence is something that should be done for all people—and just because someone is armed (gun, knife, bat, 2×4) does NOT automatically mean that the use of force protocol should allow the police to kill them. Yes, a drawn, raised gun should always be sufficient cause, but LaQuan was “armed”, Philandro was “armed”, Quintonio was “armed”. In NONE of those cases was deadly force warranted. NONE. A new policy that allows that use of force to continue abated will be ineffective to help (nevermind solve) the issue presented.

    Think about this: if the consequences only applied to “unarmed” people, wouldn’t that just encourage more planted weapons and more BS “I saw a gun” testimony? We can’t effect real change on this without eliminating that as automatic justification.


  10. - Bob Loblaw - Monday, Jun 1, 20 @ 11:41 am:

    ==focusing on the ideas at hand==

    The ideas at hand seem like decent if small bore economic programs that may provide opportunities for disadvantaged communities. I think it’s safe to say decades of data shows economic opportunity doesn’t prevent racist policing, so id like to see more specifics on police reform. Sorry, I didn’t realize I couldn’t add my own thoughts for protecting my community


  11. - notsosure - Monday, Jun 1, 20 @ 11:41 am:

    Rich, this post and what will hopefully be many more like it from the BC gives me hope. Thank you for suggesting it, and many thanks to all of our thoughtful and hard-working leaders trying to solve the underlying problems. Time alone does not heal all wounds.


  12. - dbk - Monday, Jun 1, 20 @ 11:48 am:

    Dear Rich and Rep. Welch,

    Thank you so much to Rich for his offer to host proposals, and to Rep. Welch for being the first to respond.

    I hope many of your BC colleagues will likewise respond, and really look forward to the ensuing dialogue.

    Illinois for many reasons is both uniquely positioned and morally obligated to step up and show the nation the way forward.


  13. - BigVig - Monday, Jun 1, 20 @ 11:49 am:

    Downstate and JB13 - How about offering constructive criticism and not spewing partisan ideas? If CPS was properly funded, the straw-man of ’school choice’ wouldn’t exist. Voting Democratic is just as legitimate a solution as voting Republican.

    A “[s]tatewide system where bad police officers can be held accountable” is something people have been asking for due to officers get fired for bad behavior and just head to the next suburb over. It is a step along with training, proper funding and holding officers accountable.


  14. - City Zen - Monday, Jun 1, 20 @ 12:00 pm:

    ==Rebuilding Illinois and Capital funds must include African Americans in these well paying infrastructure projects.==

    How about African Americans in leadership roles within the trade unions working on those infrastructure projects?


  15. - Urban Girl - Monday, Jun 1, 20 @ 12:02 pm:

    Rich, I read this blog enough to believe your intentions are good, but this is not the way.

    We as Black people have borne the physical and emotional burden of racism in the country for 400 years. Your offer is asking us to continue to educate and to solve this problem. White people need to educate themselves, educate other white people, and come up with and act on solutions.

    You are already seeing the result of this offer. A Black Caucus member will take the time and effort, all of which are at a premium right now, to post something thoughtful, and folks will criticize it for not being “perfect.”

    We are exhausted. White people have to do the work to end racism if there is ever going to be progress.


  16. - Downstate - Monday, Jun 1, 20 @ 12:03 pm:

    BigVig,
    I’m involved in education across four states. I’m not “spewing” partisan ideas. It’s what I’m seeing on a daily basis. As I’ve written before, I’ve been in schools on a weekly basis, as part of a mentoring program for at-risk youths. I’ve been in their homes and socialized with the family. I’ve got some perspective beyond “partisan ideas”.


  17. - Doc Anonymous - Monday, Jun 1, 20 @ 12:11 pm:

    I think Representative Welch’s #5 deserves to be highlighted. Full disclosure: I work at a university. But I absolutely agree with him that we should not be steering the vast majority of testing and contact tracing resources to universities in order to preserve the “on-campus experience” for the relatively privileged students attending residential universities. And that is precisely what will be required if universities reopen this fall to their full student bodies while promising to test all students once or even twice before they arrive on campus.

    Testing and tracing has to be used will it will do the most good for public health, and we all know that the Black and Hispanic communities have borne the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic.


  18. - Merica - Monday, Jun 1, 20 @ 12:11 pm:

    Even a State Rep can’t speak freely about what needs to be done. The police hold too much power. We need take back
    civilian control of our police departments.

    1. End collective bargaining for police departments. Create a fixed statutory rate of salary and benefits.

    2. Minimum qualifications: people with a law degree or masters in psychology jump the line.

    3. All disciplinary records are public and easily searchable
    online and can never be deleted.

    4. Statutory requirement that officers must live in the geographical boundary of their police governmental unit.

    5. body cameras, GPS tracking of vehicles.

    6. Performance bonuses. Officers that avoid complaints and engage get huge bonuses.

    7. Civil rights judgments are paid from police pension funds and pension benefits are adjusted accordingly.

    8. officers must give their social media, personal cellphone and email info upon request. Officers who associate with the 3 Percenters, Antifa, Oath Keepers, immediately fired


  19. - Just Me 2 - Monday, Jun 1, 20 @ 12:18 pm:

    Is Welch’s list for all Black Caucus priorities or just ones to solve police brutality?


  20. - bowwow - Monday, Jun 1, 20 @ 12:20 pm:

    I respect Rep. Welch’s attempt to start dialog. But I also agree with the expansion of charter schools. Any private school can educate students with the per-pupil average spent on students. But these schools have to be run by people from the community in which the children reside. African- American educators and leaders in the community have to be put in charge to set up and run the schools. When something needs fixing, they need to have the power to get it fixed ASAP. No extra layers of administrators. The schools must be free of intervention by CPS. I don’t believe throwing money at the problem alone will fix poor schools. Additional funds may be necessary but the funds must be directed to help the communities most affected.


  21. - Anyone Remember - Monday, Jun 1, 20 @ 12:22 pm:

    Downstate -
    Those “choice schools” going to be mandate to comply with ADA?


  22. - Earnest - Monday, Jun 1, 20 @ 12:22 pm:

    Thank you Representative Welch for your thoughtful, specific and achievable proposals. Special thanks for for highlighting the seemingly basic but critical individual responsibilities to fill out the census and vote.

    #1 resonates the most for me. Getting better at addressing bad apples has come up in discussions on this site before. I believe there are better examples, but here’s a quick one I found on google: https://capitolfax.com/2018/09/11/a-different-sort-of-1-percenter/


  23. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 1, 20 @ 12:24 pm:

    ===White people have to do the work to end racism===

    This is about proposing concrete steps for moving forward. One step at a time. It’s what the legislature is supposed to do. If you want to take a back seat in that endeavor, you’re gonna wind up with the same ol’ same ol.


  24. - ANON - Monday, Jun 1, 20 @ 2:15 pm:

    Educational opportunities for Chicago’s public school students must be offered well before college–CPS is a such a failed school system–spending more per pupil than most districts with shortest school day and the union is always there to protect the poorest performing teachers. Chicago’s school kids should be allowed choice on where they seek their educational opportunities. Would be great to see BC push for meaningful CPS reforms.


  25. - Boone's is Back - Monday, Jun 1, 20 @ 2:57 pm:

    Great starting points by Rep. Welch. Thanks for sharing and thank you to Rich for the offer to let the blog serve as a platform, really cool and concrete idea.

    I would like to add two thoughts. I would love to see an IL requirement (followed by a nationwide movement) of one year of community service. This could be in the military, national guard, working in a community non-for-profit, engaging in local government/ politics, the peace corps, etc. This would start mixing people of different communities and backgrounds together and foster a greater sense of civic duty and community. Israel already does this and I think it’s great.

    I also think that we need to strengthen our civics lessons in IL public schools (particularly around race and the longstanding history of justice movements). I would like to see a stronger focus on students learning our institutions, our rights, our supposed values, and why this nation was founded. A majority of Americans can’t name the three branches of government and that needs to change.


  26. - Jocko - Monday, Jun 1, 20 @ 3:08 pm:

    For Derek Chauvin (and his three accomplices) to have behaved so brazenly, they had to know there would be no consequences. As much as I defend unions, they have to ask more of their members.

    Sadly, having John Catanzara as the newly appointed president doesn’t fill me with confidence.


  27. - A Jack - Monday, Jun 1, 20 @ 3:27 pm:

    What about Ariel Roman of Chicago? Unless you want to discuss all police shootings of unarmed citizens, you can count me out.


  28. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 1, 20 @ 3:34 pm:

    ===What about===

    First mistake.


  29. - Pelonski - Monday, Jun 1, 20 @ 3:42 pm:

    I’m with Urban Girl. This is not a Black Caucus issue; it is an issue for everyone that wants fairness and equality for all. Since whites have the majority of votes, whites need to be active in solving the problem.


  30. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 1, 20 @ 3:46 pm:

    === Since whites have the majority of votes, whites need to be active in solving the problem===

    White legislateors need to step back and listen for a change to what black legislators propose to do. We don’t expect Chicago legislators to vote on bills to benefit small towns unless they’ve first listened to small town legislators. This is an integral part of how the process works. Punting to the white powers that be is not an acceptable option.


  31. - n-t-c - Monday, Jun 1, 20 @ 4:15 pm:

    I wish Rep. Welch would elaborate on the “pipeline to advance black students at community colleges, State colleges and private Universities.”

    What can the state do for black students that would be legal and would not come at the expense of students from other groups historically under-represented in higher education?


  32. - Elmer Keith - Monday, Jun 1, 20 @ 4:16 pm:

    Rep. Chris Welch is one of my personal heroes. He understood the danger of the Duty to Inform w/criminal penalties that NRA lobbyist Todd Vandermyde negotiated with the IL Chiefs of Police in Brandon Phelps concealed carry bill, and he questioned Vandermyde about the DTI when Elaine Nekritz took the house judiciary hearing on the road in downtown Chicago.

    Making the DTI an arrestable offence means any cop not in uniform or off-duty can kill any citizen he claims made a fast move, like Philando Castile in Minnesota. Cops don’t have to disclose to other cops that they are police, much less that they are armed. These killings of citizens by police have piled up because the police unions have been writing the bills in Illinois. Police cannot police themselves- ever.


  33. - Comma Chameleon - Monday, Jun 1, 20 @ 5:24 pm:

    -n-t-c-,

    Most people of color from the working class who want to go to college have to deal with obstacles that middle class White students, and even a lot of stable working-class White families, never have to face. These involve jobs, families, and other stresses. The first semester I taught at a respected open-enrollment college I saw the differences in outcomes between, for instance, a young black man who was literally the sole support of his sick mother, as contrasted with some from the wealthier North Shore suburbs. No matter how intelligent and motivated the students from working-class minority backgrounds were, the entire educational system was set up in such a way that it operated to create a series of trip-wires for minority students from the working class, while the students with familial and financial resources had buffers that let them float over the same structural challenges. Add to this that the minority students often had to attend schools that offered sub-standard educations, so even if they were intelligent, motivated, and cooperative they had a lot of catching up to do, in contrast to those North Shore suburbanites. But the people who could benefit the most from intense cultivation had the least amount of time to focus on catching up, due to the other responsibilities laid on them. College teachers who refuse to take all this into account in their teaching practices turn out to be little more than social class filters. All my teaching career I have tried to find ways to be more than a social class filter, but it has been hard because there isn’t enough structural support for alternatives. So what we could do is offer students enough financial support and targeted supplemental training to let them develop their minds without having to worry about whether they will get fired if they have to call off another shift at their place of employment to make sure the car is working well enough to drive one of their relatives to a doctor’s appointment. There are race- and ethnicity- neutral ways of structuring the programs that will, because of historical inequities, still end up serving more working-class students from minority groups than those who are already well cushioned. That’s what we could do.

    And by the way, the half-baked, half-implemented, half-funded initiatives we see at a lot of the public colleges and universities are not very successful, because they are only half-measures. They provide the illusion of opportunity, without much of the real substance, because they don’t deal with the issues I just described.


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