Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Articles about the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus

They have been in the news a lot in the past few days. If you have been checking out my del.icio.us links, I've had a few articles about them. So what is up, you may ask?

Well today James Meeks co- chairman of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus talked about how blacks need to be better served in the job market.

Money is flowing in for economic development; it's just not going to the right places: That's the conclusion of a study by a Washington-based watchdog, and it's the basis for hearings by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus.

The caucus co-chairman is State Senator James Meeks of Chicago.

"I think there has to be somebody who is a point person, and there must be a plan that is in place to attract economic development to areas where we have the highest unemployment. And I think the governor, as the head official of the state of Illinois, it is his responsibility to make sure that these individuals also are taken care of."

A spokesman for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity says the state is working to help the unemployed, and he calls the study "flawed."
From the Sun-Times talking about basically the same thing. This time saying that the state of Illinois' economic subsidies are going to those place where they're needed the least...

"There's a disconnect between the work that the department is doing and the finances in under-served communities," said Sen. James Meeks, joint chairman of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus.

"Why is it in every year there is no improvement in the job rate in certain areas? If it's true that the state is focused on those areas, we ought to see some changes. We never do," Meeks said.

A report looking at $1.2 billion in subsidies provided by the state from 1990 to 2004 found Chicago received only about 15 percent of the subsidies, though it's home to 38 percent of the region's population.

The report, released in January by Washington D.C.-based watchdog Good Jobs First, also found relatively few subsidy deals going to Chicago communities that are predominantly African-American.

Roughly $198 million in subsidies went to the Northwest corridor around O'Hare Airport, an area that was already an attractive place for companies to relocate, the report noted. That was more than the $177 million received in all of Chicago.

DuPage County, with about 11 percent of the state's population, got 18 percent of the subsidy dollars, and Will County, with less than 5 percent of the state's population, got over 11 percent.

The report concluded, "subsidies are going to the places that need them the least, while the struggling areas of Chicago and its inner-ring suburbs are getting less than their fair share."

Meeks said caucus constituents point to jobs as their No. 1 concern. He said he will likely sponsor jobs-funding legislation with a specific dollar amount that targets the neediest areas by zip codes.

"We keep voting for, and our governor keeps coming out with, initiatives dealing with health care, KidCare, universal health insurance," Meeks said. "We're not against any of those things. But if I have a decent job, I can get my own health insurance. What our community needs is jobs.

Well jobs are important issues for sure. Now Rev. Meeks is talking and while I could say no one should have to ask Gov. Blagojevich for anything, he should take a leadership role in this. The question is will he? For right now I may not see that.

Here's the last one...

The head of the state commerce department spotlighted the state's 4.6 percent unemployment rate at a hearing here Monday, but black state lawmakers were more focused on the 20 to 33 percent rates found in some largely black Chicago neighborhoods.

The hearing was called by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus to look for means to ensure economic development and work force development dollars are going to communities that need them the most and that they are providing pathways to good-paying jobs.

In addressing the group, Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Director Jack Lavin noted since January 2004 the state has added more than 166,000 jobs, more than any other state in the Midwest. He also pointed to programs including the state's critical skills shortage program, which focuses on ensuring workers are trained for jobs for which there is high demand; the challenge grant program, which has provided funds to 446 businesses in the state -- 180 of them in the Chicago metropolitan area and 30 percent of which went to African-American-owned businesses.

He said federal rules dictate how federal work force investment funds are distributed statewide and noted local work force investment boards oversee how those funds are allocated, although the state plays a monitoring role.

Chicago Urban League Policy and Research Director David E. Thigpen told legislators that as unemployment rates across the state have fallen, they refuse to budge in many African-American communities, where the unemployment rate for blacks averages about 12 percent, more than double that of whites, and ranges between 18 and 33 percent in communities including Austin, Robbins, North Lawndale and Washington Park.

He noted graduation rates, which in some communities lag the state average by 30 points, "are sending a steady stream of young people out in the communities with low skills and extremely bleak employment prospects."

Some 39 percent of the eligible population of African Americans in the state have, for one reason or another, given up looking for work, he noted.

It just ran into another issue that deserves attention. Not just economic development but education. Giving those people better skills to get better jobs. This is something worth working on.

Hmm, I think this should go onto Illinoize.

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