Friends of Eckhart Park will bring neighbors together at a happy hour Nov. 5 at Bow & Stern Oyster Bar, 1371 W. Chicago Ave.
The event features oysters, appetizers and a silent auction to raise some funds for Eckhart Park's fitness center. For more information, visit the event's SquareUp page.
As the public process for the reconstruction of North Lake Shore Drive continues, the demand for biking, walking and transit improvements throughout the corridor is becoming increasingly clear.
Last week the reconstruction project team released an updated timeline and a list of the top 20 ideas raised during in public comments at the July meeting and submitted online through the project website and email address.
The top 3 ideas match the priorities we identified based on conversations with members, community residents and longtime trail advocates:
1. Separating people biking and walking on the trail.
2. Improving transit service throughout the corridor.
3. Improving east/west walking and biking connections to the lakefront.
More than 260 commenters mentioned separating people biking and walking to make the trail safer for everyone. Just last month a crash between someone biking and someone running on the trail left a Chicago woman seriously injured, raising the issue of creating a separate trail once again.
Mayor Emanuel also addressed trail congestion and safety at a recent press conference for a new park on the lakefront.
Improving transit service was featured in more than 180 comments while more than 130 commenters talked about improving east/west access. The transit comments mostly focused on implementing a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line to move more people through the corridor.
The project’s study area is not limited to just the lakefront path itself, but also includes the surrounding intersections and adjoining city streets, which are crucial to addressing current safety and connectivity issues.
The project is still in its conceptual stages with the next public meeting expected to be held in summer 2015, and construction will likely not begin until 2019.
You can leave a comment in support of a top 20 priority or give feedback regarding where you think an improvement is needed on the project’s online comment form. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to receive future email updates on the project.
This blog post was written by Roxanne Bertrand, Active Trans' Advocacy Intern
Tawnee McCluskey was arrested for distributing meth in Michigan City, Ind. when she was 22 years old. A struggling addict with a five-month-old son, she’d become caught up in a 40-person drug ring to feed her habit. She was charged with a felony and spent three years in prison.
Tawnee McCluskey turned her life around through a welding program at the Jane Addams Resource Corporation.
When she got out of prison, she struggled to find a job and pay the bills.
“It was overwhelming, and I had a lot of anxiety [when I was first applying for jobs],” says McCluskey. “The first time you’re walking out, it’s like you’re saying [to employers], ‘Hi, I’m a felon.’"
Things began to turn around, however, when she found out about Jane Addams Resource Corporation (JARC), a Chicago nonprofit that offers job training and workforce development programs.
McCluskey enrolled in classes at JARC, honing her welding skills, working on job readiness and developing her resume. JARC provided income support so she could afford to buy bus passes and move into an apartment. Financial coaches cleaned up her tainted credit score.
Today, the 27-year-old is a welding supervisor at Dudek and Bock, a Chicago spring manufacturer. "My success shows that there are people out there who make mistakes, but they can come back from them and do well in the community," says McCluskey.
Of course, McCluskey is far from alone. There are 20 million Americans out of work or underemployed, and many lack the basic skills needed for a career. Although economists debate how much the skills gap contributes to unemployment, there’s little doubt that it’s a factor. A recent Congressional Budget Office report says skill mismatches and erosion of skills among the long-term unemployed contribute a percentage point to unemployment.
President Obama recently signed into law the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, an amendment and reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act of 1988. The goal is to streamline the $18 billion spent each year on workforce development; right now, only a small percentage of people who graduate from these programs end up with the skills they need to get jobs. When it comes to closing the skills gap, however, there are successful models.
Welding is one of the many workforce programs offered by JARC.
JARC is effective because it helps people develop basic skill sets, graduate from training programs and find good jobs. About 97 percent of its graduates find full-time jobs with benefits, a starting wage of $13 per hour and opportunities for advancement.
“For low-income workers, a job alone tends not to be enough,” says Seung Kim, Program Officer for Family Income and Wealth Building with Local Initiatives and Support Corporation (LISC), a national group that funds bridge programs at financial opportunity centers. LISC's mission is to help community residents transform distressed neighborhoods. “Even if they’re getting full-time employment, it’s often not enough to sustain their household. By integrating financial coaching with work support, we’re building an integrated services platform.”
Creating a career ladder
To be successful, low-income workers need a career pathway: skill building, training programs and a good job with opportunities for advancement. Those jobs are out there – right now, there are about four million unfilled jobs across the U.S. Employers often express frustration about how hard it is to find qualified workers.
LISC’s bridge programs are operated by Financial Opportunity Centers (FOCs) across the country. Center staff are closely connected with local employers and understand which jobs are in demand and the skills that are required. They work with skills training course providers to learn what trainees need to do to prepare for these programs.
It's neither simple nor easy. “The reality is that many of our clients don’t actually qualify for these programs,” explains Kim. "We have clients testing at 4th-6th grade reading and math levels despite having a high school diploma or GED. Beyond academic readiness, there are financial instabilities, family and social issues, and stresses related to poverty.”
Bridge programs are very intensive, but they tend to get results. Classes run for 3-4 months, and many are held in the evenings so that participants can work during the day. Students may be required to attend class for four hours a night, five days a week, learning basic Math and English and, for immigrant groups, English as a Second Language (ESL).
Yet success rates are northward of 85 percent, says Kim. The cohorts are relatively small – an FOC bridge program may only serve 50 people a year. That’s because the programs require a lot of staffing, with one student being aided by up to 15 services. Coaches help with everything from financial planning to interview prep to resume writing.
Although there are no official numbers, evidence from JARC and other centers suggests that the prevalence of bridge programs may be growing, in part due to the success of these existing models in helping low-income workers find family-supporting jobs.
Building basic skills first
Bridge programs tend to focus on the things that many employees take for granted: What should I do if my child care falls through? What if I need to take a day off? What if my car breaks down? If I have a problem at work, who should I ask for help?
Beyond work readiness, these programs also advance basic math and reading skills. This is essential, because even though there are openings in advanced manufacturing, many low-skill workers don’t qualify because they don’t know how to read blueprints and use basic measuring tools. Bridge programs train people in these areas so they can apply.
According to Regan Brewer, Associate Director of Programs for JARC, one reason that bridge programs are so successful is because the learning is contextualized. “You’re actually teaching some of the basic manufacturing skills alongside math and reading,” she says. “When it comes to measuring, you’re sitting down and using micrometer gauges, instead of having them do problems adding and subtracting decimals.”
“You know all this math you thought you were never going to use? Actually, in manufacturing, there is a use for trigonometry, fractions and decimals,” she adds.
The long-term goal of bridge programs is to help workers find family-supporting jobs. Ricardo Estrada, Vice President for Education and Programs with Instituto Del Progreso Latino in Chicago, says his organization does not stop with basic skill building. Instead, it strives to help workers finish college and even graduate school and land a good job. For instance, workers who become registered nurses can earn from $33-36 per hour.
Such programs are really only successful if they hold trainees accountable. If workers come into a JARC program late, they receive a verbal warning. If it happens again, they get a written warning, and consequences escalate from there. “It’s like showing up to a job,” says Brewer, noting that there’s a "whole village" making sure participants stay on track.
Can success be replicated?
Although intensive bridge programs only enroll a small number of people each year, they’re an important component of our country's workforce development strategy, says Fred Dedrick, President of the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, a nonprofit organization.
JARC alumni celebrate their hard-earned skills.
“We find that a lot of folks we work with don’t have preparation to succeed at advanced training," he says. "Bridge programs like these help to make sure that people who get into training programs are more likely to be successful.”
Unfortunately, with limited training dollars available, bridge programs are hard to develop and sustain. “It’s very hard to get funding for a program that puts people on a longer journey,” Dedrick explains. “There’s almost no funding for these programs in the Workforce Investment Act. There’s only training for putting people into jobs.”
In fact, most bridge programs are funded by foundations or other philanthropic efforts, not government funding. For example, LISC’s work in this area has been funded by the Kellogg Foundation, the Eleanor Network at the Chicago Foundation for Women, Accenture and Walmart. There are still relatively few bridge programs around the country – in Chicago, for example, there are only a handful of programs like JARC.
Bridge programs are expensive, Dedrick says. However impressive the success stories, politicians would prefer to spend tax dollars getting faster results by training skilled workers. “There’s not enough money for these programs, and money for workforce development has continued to decline,” he says, citing the lack of champions in Congress as one reason.
Kevin Jordan, Senior Vice President for Programs at LISC, says that bridge programs do offer a replicable model, however. They offer hope that forgotten workers who are being left behind can climb out of poverty, no matter how low their skill levels or how dire their circumstances.
“What we realized is that we needed to help people get into better jobs by getting better skills, that you can become a good money manager, but $9 an hour only goes so far,” says Jordan. “Programs like this are hard to implement in terms of cost, but they definitely have the biggest impact on wages. That’s a gap that has been missing for a long time.”
This story is part of a series on community transformation underwritten by Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), a national organization dedicated to helping community residents transform distressed neighborhoods into healthy and sustainable communities of choice and opportunity. It was originally posted on the Issue Media Group website.
It's Member Drive season here at Active Trans!
We're looking for 200 new and renewing members to help strengthen our work in advocating for safer, more convenient travel for bicyclists, pedestians, and transit users alike.
Your membership funds important programs and initiatives that:
- Build more trails, bike lanes, sidewalks and transit options
- Win legislation that supports safe, orderly streets that are friendly for biking and walking
- Encourage more people to bike, walk and use public transportation
- Educate thousands of people of all ages annually about safe bicycling
Members also get extensive benefits, including discounts at over 100 bike shops and businesses, Active Trans’ 2013 seven county Chicagoland Bike Map, event discounts, a $10 discount on a Divvy bikeshare membership and more!
But wait, there's more! All new or renewing members are entered to win a brand new bicycle, courtesy of Village Cycle!
Are you an existing member? You can enter your name in the raffle by referring a new member – just have them mention you on the transaction page.
To add your support, visit our Member Drive page here!
UberX Partner Recruitment Job Fair!
HOSTED BY Teamwork Englewood and Chicago Commons
Join the many high-earning uberX partners in Chicago!
Thursday, November 6th
at 10:00 AM
• Must be 21 years of age
• Background check required
• Up to $25 per hour
FOR REGISTRATION OR QUESTIONS PLEASE CALL (312) 768-4728
Learn more about the issues and judges on the ballot in the November 4th election. Hear from retired judges, The Cook County Bar Association and others.
Englewood Votes! is a nonpartisan alliance of community organizations and residents who seek to increase voters participation.
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Laying out a new vision for Chicago and its neighborhoods, LISC Chicago Executive Director Susana Vasquez used her October 16 speech at the City Club of Chicago to describe the “civic infrastructure” necessary to build a stronger city.
Susana Vasquez, LISC Chicago's executive director, at the City Club on October 16.
Photos by Gordon Walek
“The Chicago we seek – the Chicago we will be proud to call home – requires a new commitment to strengthening neighborhoods by investing in civic infrastructure,” Vasquez said. “Once established, it provides a platform of relationships, knowledge and trust that enables investment, innovation and greater impact.”
Vasquez spoke to a sold-out room at Maggiano’s Banquets on Grand for one of the forums on civic and public affairs held by the City Club, a non-partisan organization founded in 1903. The audience was a mix of elected officials, members of the business community, community leaders, philanthropists and others.
“Susana did a fantastic job,” said Cook County Commissioner Jesús “Chuy” García. “And I appreciated that she noted how diverse it was for a City Club forum, with people from so many different groups and parts of the city.”
Vasquez painted a clear-eyed picture of the challenges faced by organizations working to improve city neighborhoods, and acknowledged the hard work it takes to create change. But the heart of the speech was a focus on new methods and tools that build on road-tested programs by LISC and its community partners.
“So what will it take to move Chicago forward?” she asked. “It will require new forms of civic engagement and planning that place neighborhoods at the center of the discussion. It will require local knowledge and robust data to provide a better understanding of the assets and challenges facing neighborhoods. And it will require thinking differently about what is a community organization.... Finally, it will require fresh thinking about the many roles of a community development organization.”
"It was pitch perfect. It celebrated local leaders and work that are so essential to a vibrant city but often go unrecognized," said Deborah Bennett, a senior program officer at the Polk Bros. Foundation. “The speech didn't sugarcoat the work, though, it conveyed that it is nuanced and time-consuming.”
Underlying Vasquez’s remarks was an appreciation that digital technology, the economy, and the field of community development are all undergoing transformational changes.
As part of the Big Data movement, she said, the public and private sectors are exploring new ways to take massive amounts of information and use it to advance economic growth and the enterprise of government.
Lori Healey, the chairman of LISC Chicago's board of advisors, was among the sold-out City Club audience who heard Vasquez's speech.
That data provides a clear lens on another trend – the growing disparity in our communities, where, she said, “the neighborhood where you live is a woefully strong predictor of your chances of getting shot, and whether or not you live next to someone who wakes up in the morning and goes to work, and of who dies young or lives to retirement age.”
It’s all causing what Vasquez dubbed a “Kodak moment” for community developers. In the 1970s, she explained, Kodak had nearly cornered the market in both cameras and film. But the company’s inability to adapt to the digital era left it bankrupt by 2012. “That’s called confusing the product for the outcome,” she said, pointing out that community developers and their funders have sometimes been too focused on plans and projects – and not enough on the outcome of better communities.
Vasquez identified three key issues that are “disrupting” community development: technology and data, financial models, and scale and systems change. Each is challenging how the field works and how effective it can be, she said, but each also offers great potential for innovation and growth.
Vasquez came to Chicago from Ecuador as an infant, and she and her two older siblings moved frequently as her single mom looked to find affordable housing and a safe community to raise her young family.
That experience, Vasquez said, is why she knows that young people are “one good education, one stable home, one after-school program and one mentor away from being powerful contributors to our city.” The point hit home – with a wave of applause for the importance of opportunities and support for the city’s youth.
Throughout her speech, Vasquez touched on the important lessons learned from hard-won experience – from Jane Addams’ pioneering efforts at comprehensive community development to Jane Jacobs’ understanding of cities as “complex adaptive systems.”
She said the “little things” done each day by community partners are the building blocks of stronger neighborhoods, noting, for instance the youth mentoring via a summer basketball league in South Chicago and the job referrals made by the Center for Working Families at Safer Foundation. Recent developments like the ribbon-cutting for Shops & Lofts in Bronzeville and the announcement of a new 79th Street Metra Station in Auburn Gresham show how community development organizations can get big things done, too.
Members of the audience nodded in agreement – and in some cases cheered their approval – as she cited the examples of important work being done around the city (although the biggest response from the knowledgeable crowd might have been when she said that complex and interconnected issues can’t be solved “with a one-year grant with only 10 percent administrative costs”).
Vasquez pointed out that the fundamentals of LISC’s New Communities Program – engagement, planning, acting, communicating, evaluating, and repeating – are now LISC’s core approach, “because we’ve found it works.”
Vasquez with Francia Harrington, the president of the Lurie Childen's Hospital Foundation.
She also highlighted ways that LISC is confronting community development’s Kodak moment: investing in digital skills and digital access, helping to launch the University of Chicago’s Civic Leadership Academy, and supporting a website that is taking the city’s Large Lots program to an unprecedented scale.
Such work can’t be done alone. Allies for these programs range from the Chicago Department of Planning to World Business Chicago, from the Civic Consulting Alliance to LISC Chicago’s longtime partner, the MacArthur Foundation.
In closing, Vasquez said that, as a mother of three young children, she reads a lot of stories, including a superhero book that she can’t help but interpret as an allegory for community development. In this tale, Bizarro, the opposite of Superman in every way, pulls up a tree to protect it from a cat stuck and crying in its branches.
“In our community development world, we encounter this Bizarro fellow fairly often,” she said to laughter from the crowd. “It may seem obvious, but community development depends on engaging community residents… but in Bizarro land, this essential step is often skipped, and sometimes people from the outside end up saving trees that did not need to be saved.”
LISC is prepared to advance a broader vision for Chicago and build the civic infrastructure to implement that vision, Vasquez concluded. “At LISC, we are seeking out new collaborations that will help us build this civic capacity,” she said, “in new communities and with new forms of planning “