Tag Archives: chicago

Illinois Moves to Legalize Police Drone Surveillance of Public Gatherings

Chicago, IL – Although Illinois passed legislation in 2013 requiring police to attain a warrant before using drones for most surveillance purposes, legislation reportedly backed by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel would eliminate that restriction and allow the government to monitor large gatherings, rallies and protests using drones.

The proposal— SB 2562— by state Sen. Martin Sandoval (D-Chicago) would allow Illinois police departments to use drones for any “legitimate law enforcement purpose.”

“I don’t want Chicago to be the next Las Vegas-style outdoor terrorist attack. But I also don’t want drones to be surveilling everyone’s every move,” Sandoval said Thursday. “This legislation clearly is limited to drone usage for providing safety.”

Sandoval claimed the proposal would limit police drone use to large public gatherings.

“An individual’s private event, on their own property, would not fall under the exception for law enforcement for the use of a drone,” Sandoval said. “The bill states that large scale events are events that take place at a sports or entertainment area, a stadium, a convention hall, a special event center, an amusement facility, or an event open to the public on government property.”

Despite Sandoval’s assertions, the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois has come out against the legislation, claiming that the change in law could allow for police to take pictures, record video, and even use facial recognition technology against peaceful protesters.

“Given Chicago’s history of surveillance against protestors and social justice advocates … the Chicago police should not be able to use this new, powerful tool to monitor protestors near silently and from above,” said Karen Sheley, the director of the ACLU Police Practices Project. “The legislation also ignores sweeping surveillance tools currently available to the police.”

Chicago police have a long history of surveillance of activists. Gizmodo reported that Mayor Emanual’s office objected to several additions suggested by the ACLU, including banning face recognition and banning weaponized drones. Additionally, Gizmodo noted that “the amendment includes no language barring drones from biometric data collection, nor does it include guidelines on how long such data is stored or who it’s shared with. Most troublingly, Sheley says the amendment opens a loophole that weakens the restrictions on drones equipped with weapons like tear gas or rubber bullets.”

“If this bill is passed, as drafted, during the next large scale political rally, drones could identify and list people protesting the Trump administration,” Sheley said. “The sight of drones overhead, collecting information, may deter people from protesting in a time when so many want to exercise their First Amendment rights….This is too much unchecked power to give to the police—in Chicago or anywhere.”

Reason reported that “the bill requires regular reporting of when police use drones and says any data collected must be deleted after 30 days unless it’s connected to a ‘criminal matter.’ It also forbids arming the drones with any sort of weapon, but only for this particular addition to the surveillance rules. Sheley worries that this new bill therefore creates a loophole that would allow police to arm drones for use in other circumstances.”

While drones can be an invaluable resource for law enforcement, critics are wary of agencies using them to monitor political activism. “The way it stands under this bill, if it’s passed, there’s a cheap tool to monitor First Amendment activity,” Sheley said, “and to collect information about who’s in the crowd and make lists of the people [attending].”

The Illinois Senate approved Sandoval’s drone rules, 36-2; the measure will now move to the House for a vote.

Police Tactics Questioned after Chicago Officers ‘Accidentally’ Kill Grandmother

Chicago police officers responding to calls about a domestic disturbance early Saturday morning shot and killed Quintonio LeGrier, 19, along with Bettie Jones, 55, who lived in a neighboring apartment.

Police were initially called by Quintonio’s father, Antonio LeGrier, who claimed that his son began banging on his locked bedroom door around 4:15 a.m. Saturday morning, and then left and went downstairs to the apartment where Jones lived.

LeGrier told the Chicago Sun-Times that his son, a student at Northern Illinois University, was a “whiz kid” who had emotional problems from growing up in foster care, and that he was prescribed medication in November.

LeGrier said that in addition to calling police, he also called Jones to warn her, and he said Jones claimed she saw Quintonio standing outside her door with a baseball bat.

LeGrier began to run downstairs when police arrived, but that he stopped when he heard gunfire, followed by one officer saying, “F—, no, no, no. I thought he was lunging at me with the bat.” However, LeGrier told the Times he believes that the officer “knew he had shot blindly, recklessly into the doorway and now two people are dead because of it.”

The official statement from police described Quintonio LeGrier as a “combative subject,” which resulted in “the discharging of the officer’s weapon which fatally wounded two individuals.” Jones was shot at least once, and LeGrier was shot seven times.

The statement said Jones, a mother of five and a grandmother, was “accidentally struck and tragically killed.”

During a news conference on Sunday, Jones’s friend Jacqueline Walker questioned why police “have to shoot first and ask questions later,” calling current techniques “ridiculous.”

Sam Adam Jr., a lawyer representing Jones’s family, claimed that “shell casings were found some 20 feet away,” which he said raises “questions about whether police could have perceived LeGrier as a threat at such a distance.”

While the Chicago police department has not said how many officers were involved in the shooting, it did issue a statement claiming that the officers involved “will be placed on routine administrative duties for a period of 30 days.”

[RELATED: Under Federal Investigation, Chicago PD Releases Controversial Videos of Officer Conduct]

This shooting comes at a time the Chicago police department is already under a federal investigation by the Department of Justice, which was launched after a Chicago police officer was charged with first degree murder for the first time in 35 years.

Breaking: Chicago Police Shooting Video Released, Officer Charged First Degree Murder

Chicago- It is a video that has taken over a year to be released.  A white Chicago police officer shooting and killing a black teenager.  That teen, seventeen-year-old Laquan McDonald was shot 16 times by police officer Jason Van Dyke, who emptied his gun and prepared to reload.

This is the dashcam video of that shooting which was only released because of a court order.


Tuesday, for the first time in 35 years, a Chicago police officer was charged with first-degree murder.  Officer Van Dyke was also denied bond by the judge.

Van Dyke has had 20 misconduct complaints made against him during the past 4-1/2 years, none of which led to any discipline from the Chicago Police Department.

McDonald was reportedly holding a knife with a three-inch blade when police spotted him and pulled over.  McDonald was on foot at the time.   Officer Van Dyke was not among the first officers to attend.

There were no words spoken by McDonald during the incident. He said nothing in response to numerous verbal commands to drop the knife, police said.

The first responding officer said he did not see the need to use force.

But an officer armed with a Taser was requested to attend and deal with the situation but none arrived.

Officer Van Dyke, who arrived in a patrol car with a partner, was at the scene for less than 30 seconds before he started shooting. He was out of his car for approximately six seconds before he opened fire.

Officer Van Dyke shot the teenager 16 times. The 16 fired cartridge cases police recovered at the scene were all from his weapon.

McDonald was lying on the ground for 13 of these seconds as the shots were fired. Officer Van Dyke was preparing to reload when his partner, who could hear McDonald struggling to breathe, told him to hold his fire.

The prosecutor said the teenager still had a pulse when paramedics arrived but was declared dead at the hospital.


Tax on Streaming Services Takes Effect in Chicago, Netflix, Spotify Prices to Rise 9%

A new interpretation of Chicago’s amusement tax by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration has officially taken effect as of July 1, and, as a result, starting in September, consumers in the city will be required to pay 9% more for their subscriptions to streaming online services like Netflix and Spotify.

The new tax, which has been referred to as a “cloud tax”, comes not through legislative action but by way of a ruling by Chicago’s Department of Finance, which re-interpreted an existing amusement tax on tickets to concerts and sporting events as applying to streaming online subscription services used within the city. The 9% rate increase is also expected to affect subscriptions to online games. However, sales of downloads of movies, games, music, and other content will not be taxed under the ruling.

The city expects the June ruling to bring in about $12 million each year in the latest example of Mayor Rahm Emanuel relying on boosting various smaller fees and fines to try to help close the city’s yawning budget hole,” noted the Chicago Tribune.

Russell Brandom of the technology magazine The Verge explained, “Chicago’s new tax is actually composed of two recent rulings made by the city’s Department of Finance: one covering ‘electronically delivered amusements’ and another covering ‘nonpossessory computer leases.’” He added, “The first ruling presumably covers streaming media services like Netflix and Spotify, while the second would cover remote database or computing platforms like Amazon Web Services or Lexis Nexis.

A client alert letter by the law firm Reed Smith criticized the ruling and said, “There are strong arguments that both rulings run afoul of provisions in the Federal Telecommunications Act, the Internet Tax Freedom Act, and federal and Illinois constitutional limits on taxation. In addition, the rulings gloss over many details of applicable federal law and how telecommunications and computer networks operate, and assume the simplest factual scenarios that do not realistically comport with how many providers and their customers transact business.

The Department of Finance’s ruling indicated that “the amusement tax will apply to customers whose residential street address or primary business street address is in Chicago, as reflected by their credit card billing address, zip code or other reliable information.” Though the amusement tax is a tax on consumers, it is expected that service providers will collect the tax through the billing process. Active enforcement of the provision has been delayed until September of this year to grant companies time to make preparatory system changes.

In an environment in which technologies and emerging industries evolve quickly, the City periodically issues rulings that clarify the application of existing laws to these technologies and industries. These two rulings are consistent with the City’s current tax laws and are not an expansion of the laws,” read a statement by Elizabeth Langsdorf, a spokesperson for Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration.

Illinois GOP Rep.: Let Chicago Public Schools Go Bankrupt

By Eric Owens

A member of the Illinois General Assembly has proposed a bill that would allow Chicago’s deeply troubled public school system to solve its massive projected budget deficit of $1.1 billion by declaring bankruptcy.

The House member is Ron Sandack, a Republican from the pleasant Chicago suburb of Downers Grove, according to WLS-TV.

“This knee jerk reaction to always say ‘let’s just raise taxes,” Sandack told the ABC affiliate. “That’s where a bankruptcy can actually be helpful.”

Sandack’s matter-of-fact recommendation comes as Chicago Public Schools, the third-largest taxpayer-funded school system in the nation, faces a grave and immediate financial crisis.

The bulk of the $1.1 billion deficit is a mammoth $634 million pension payment which will come due on June 30.

Chicago Public Schools doesn’t have enough money to make the payment. It also has no reserve fund.

Sandack’s legislation would allow Chicago Public Schools and other cash-strapped school districts across Illinois to seek Chapter Nine bankruptcy protection. Federal bankruptcy judges could then order debt restructuring, which could include partial or full release from pension obligations.

“We can’t tax our way out of this problem,” Sandack told WLS. “We need additional, broader relief.”

“Some restructuring of that obligation I believe can occur at the federal level under a Chapter Nine construct,” the GOP state congressman added.

Chicago’s powerful teachers union opposes Sandack’s bill.

“Financial crisis is no reason to go back on what basically was a promise made to people who taught the last generation of school children,” Chicago Teachers Union vice president Jesse Sharkey told the station. (RELATED: Chicago Teachers Union Chief Faults ‘Rich White People’ For City’s Education Mess)

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is also against the massive national embarrassment that would surely result from the bankruptcy his city’s public school system.

“We should not allow the finances to undermine all the educational progress our principals and teachers are making,” Emanuel told WLS. “Because what you don’t want to do is put the system into a process that could actually distract away from the educational things.” (RELATED: Mayor Rahm Was A SHIRTLESS BADASS Who Took On The Nazis In The Summer Of ’78)

The fate of Sandack’s bill awaits a decision by a House committee.

Meanwhile, early Tuesday evening, a couple thousand Chicago Teachers Union members took to the downtown streets of the Windy City — as they frequently do — shouting, hoisting signs and snarling traffic in an effort to get their way in their latest contract dispute. (RELATED: Chicago Teachers Union Blasts Mass Firings Dictated By Post-Strike Contract)

“You have to remember that what you’re fighting for is not just a fair contract, it is the history of fair contracts,” teachers union president Karen Lewis told protesters outside the hideous, 1970s-spaceship-looking Thompson Center,according to the Chicago Tribune. “And if we have a chance, this is it. This is the time where you have to stand up and tell ’em all ‘No, we’re not going to take that.’” (RELATED: Karen Lewis: Improving Failed Schools Full Of Black Kids Is RACIST)

“There’s a lot of money on LaSalle Street, and Chicago claims to be broke,” union delegate and elementary school teacher Adam Geisler told the newspaper, alluding to the banking and legal offices lining the street.

The rally showcased the Chicago Teachers Union’s new slogan: “CPS: Broke on purpose.”

Chants included: “Education is our right. That is why we fight!”

In May 2012, members of the Chicago Teachers Union authorized a strike which occurred in the fall of that year, forcing the city’s children to miss seven days of school.

The bond rating of the Chicago Public Schools has steadily deteriorated over the last decade. For example, while Standard & Poor’s gave CPS an A+ rating in 2006, that rating is now A-. Moody’s Investor Services gave the district an A2 rating in 2006 but the Moody’s rating is now Ba3.

This Moody’s rating of Ba3 means investing in Chicago’s public schools is “speculative” and “subject to substantial credit risk.”

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Activist Groups To Rally Against Chicago’s Reported Interrogation Headquarters

Chicago, IL- As news has spread exposing an alleged interrogation facility in Chicago known as “Homan Square” where suspects are reportedly detained, abused and denied Constitutional rights, several activist groups have come together to increase awareness of the facility and the due process violations occurring there.

Earlier this week, The Guardian interviewed attorneys, law enforcement agents, and a former detainee of Homan Square in its exposé of the closely guarded building where few are allowed access.

Groups including PANDAA, Cop Block, The Anti Media, Police the Police, Anonymous and The Free Thought Project are organizing calls to action online and in Chicago to push for the reported interrogations at the warehouse to end. A “Twitter Storm” instructing people to send tweets using the hashtag #Gitmo2Chicago has been announced and is set to begin on Friday night at 7 p.m. Central. There has also been a protest scheduled for Saturday, February 28th at 3 p.m. Central to take place at 3379 Fillmore St in Chicago.

Benswann.com will be keeping a close eye on developments regarding Homan Square and other “black sites”.


h/t: The Free Thought Project

Chicago City Council approves minimum wage hike

An ordinance brought before the Chicago City Council to raise the minimum wage to $13 an hour was overwhelmingly approved Tuesday by a vote of 44-5.

Currently, the minimum wage in Chicago is $8.25, and under the new ordinance this will rise to $10 an hour by next July and continue to rise by fifty cents every year until 2019.

The ordinance cites the rising levels of inflation for the need to raise the minimum wage.  Specifically, the ordinance says, “rising inflation has outpaced the growth in the minimum wage, leaving the true value of lllinois’ current minimum wage of $8.25 per hour 32 percent below the 1968 level of $10.71 per hour (in 2013 dollars).”

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said, according to the Chicago Tribune, the minimum wage increase is “part of an economic strategy to make sure that work pays … and not only that work pays — simple — but no parent that works should raise a child in poverty.”

While some groups such as the Raise Chicago Coalition applauded the raising of the wage, others said the approval of the ordinance is a mistake.

Tom Tunney, a restaurant owner in Chicago, said, according to the Huffington Post, “How do you go from $8.25 [an hour] to $13 overnight?  You know what you do? You raise the prices and you’ve also got to find ways to do it with less help. That’s what’s going to happen.”

Alderman Bob Fioretti, however, said the ordinance does not go far enough and the minimum wage could be raised to $15 an hour.  “While I’m proud to support today’s increase in the minimum wage, we can’t stop fighting now,” said Fioretti.  “The chant in the streets here and nationwide has been ‘show me $15,’ not ‘show me $13 by 2019.'”

Crime Rates in Chicago Plummet After IL Implements Concealed Carry

Gun rights activists have often held up Chicago as an example of the failures of gun control. The city has historically had some of the strictest laws against gun ownership while also suffering under some of the worst crime rates in the US. In 2012, Chicago surpassed New York as America’s murder capital. However, after the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit struck down Illinois’ ban on concealed carry in December of 2012, a concealed carry program was implemented in the state this year, finally and for the first time allowing law-abiding Chicago residents to arm themselves in public against the city’s seemingly-perpetual crime wave.

According to The Washington Timesnow that citizens in Chicago can legally defend themselves, the city’s historically disastrous crime rates have begun to plummet precipitously. Police department crime statistics note that, in the first quarter of 2014, the homicide rate in Chicago has dropped to a 56-year low. In 2014 so far, burglaries are down by 20%, auto theft rates have dropped by 26%, and robberies leading to arrests are down by 20%.

The Chicago Police Department wasted no time in declaring victory and claiming credit for the drop in crime, but Illinois State Rifle Association executive director Richard Pearson told The Washington Times, “The police department hasn’t changed a single tactic — they haven’t announced a shift in policy or of course — and yet you have these incredible numbers.” He feels that the drop in crime can at least in part be attributed to the implementation of concealed carry in Illinois. Said Pearson, “It isn’t any coincidence crime rates started to go down when concealed carry was permitted. Just the idea that the criminals don’t know who’s armed and who isn’t has a deterrence effect.”

So far, Illinois has issued 68,549 concealed carry licences. 28,552 Chicago residents have requested a permit. Permit holders must pay around $600 in fees and attend 16 hours of classes on gun safety.

It is also worth noting that Washington DC, another city which once featured stricter gun control laws, experienced a dramatic drop in crime rates after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of DC residents’ gun rights in the 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller decision. 2008’s Heller decision also legalized gun ownership in the home for Chicago residents, and the Windy City experienced a similar drop in its murder rate following that landmark case. Now that the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has struck down Illinois’ ban on concealed carry, gun rights in the state have expanded further than just the home, allowing permit carriers to defend themselves in public. Though it is too early to conclusively determine exactly what is causing the reduction in crime, the shift in policy favoring gun rights appears to correlate with a sharp drop in Chicago crime rates.

Rev. Wright Blasts Obama During Controversial Speech In Chicago


President Obama’s former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, gave a controversial speech to the Chicago Teachers Union on Wednesday.

Although cameras were not allowed at the event, those in attendance claim that Wright vehemently attacked President Obama. This came as a surprise to many, since Wright and Obama were once very close.

One CNN correspondent managed to record a small portion of Wright’s speech:

Wright allegedly said, “We need to teach the truth about our politicians, from Bush to Barack. Because very clearly it is not about the person, it is about the policies of this government. King said ‘I have a dream.’ Barack said, ‘I have a drone.'”

In response to an attendee’s comment, Wright said of Obama, “That’s not the man of peace that you just talked about. That’s a man controlled by government.”

The preacher went on to discuss Obama’s alleged kill list, which the White House checks “every Tuesday” and “decides who they’re going to kill this week.”

According to FOX reporter Griff Jenkins, who was present at the event, Wright only said negative things about Obama.

Appearing on Greta VanSusteren’s FOX show, Jenkins said, “No, there were no complimentary remarks whatsoever. We haven’t seen Reverend Wright in a while. He is back and he is just the same as always, fired up, very incendiary.”

Wright certainly did not hold back. He also attacked Abraham Lincoln. The preacher said, “Abraham Lincoln liked to tell darkie jokes. He liked to hear darkie jokes and he used the N-word incessantly.”

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E-Cigarettes To Soon Be Banned In Chicago Restaurants & Bars


Electronic cigarettes, usually called “e-cigarettes,” are battery-powered devices meant to simulate tobacco smoking. They work by vaporizing a liquid solution — some contain nicotine but many simply release a flavored vapor. E-cigarettes have become increasingly popular with Americans who wish to ween themselves off of normal cigarettes. At this time, there is no scientific evidence that vapor emitted from e-cigarettes is dangerous. In other words, there is no proof that the electronic devices can cause harmful secondhand smoke.

But that doesn’t stop Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanual, who is moving to ban electronic cigarettes from being used indoors.

The mayor’s plan, which was recently advanced by City Counsel members, would require electronic cigarette users to smoke outside of Chicago restaurants, bars, and other buildings, along with regular cigarette smokers. Emanuel is attempting to push the new rules through the Clean Indoor Air act.

Supporters of Emanuel’s proposal claim that the ban must apply to both e-cigarettes loaded with nicotine and those with other liquid solutions. They say this is necessary since many restaurant and business owners are unable to tell the difference between e-cigarettes that use nicotine and those that do not.

Ald. Rey Colon, 35th Ward, does not support the proposed rules. He said, “It is a ban, because you’re making people go outside, you’re treating it just as you would an analogue cigarette or tobacco cigarette. You’re lumping it together in the same category even though you don’t really have any proof that it has any harm. You’re saying ‘We’re going to regulate first and ask questions later.’”

Ald. Brendan Reilly, 42nd Ward, agrees with Colon. Reilly said, “I’m certainly not here to defend Big Tobacco. They’re done enough harm in this country. But I do have friends and family members who are using (e-cigarettes) to quit, to get away from combustible tobacco that kills people.”

Emanuel’s plan also requires the electronic smoking devices to be sold behind store counters. Supporters of the rules claim this will make young people less likely to start smoking e-cigarettes. The Chicago Tribune pointed out that the “cartridges that can be loaded into the e-cigarettes can be bought in candy-like flavors that critics say are enjoyable for kids who then get hooked on conventional smokes.”

What do you think of Emanuel’s plan — is it a good idea, or merely another step towards a true nanny state?

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Video: Ben Swann on RT America “Guns Are Not Driving The Violence In Chicago”

A federal judge Monday overturned Chicago’s ban on handgun sales and transfers within the city. The ordinance, passed by the city council in 2010, “goes too far in outright banning legal buyers and legal dealers from engaging in lawful acquisitions and lawful sales of firearm,” US District Court Judge Edmond E. Chang wrote. The law outlawed gun shops and prohibited gun owners from taking firearms outside their homes. RT’s Ameera David talks to investigative journalist Ben Swann about what the ruling means for Second Amendment rights going forward.

Federal Judge: Chicago Gun Sale Ban Is Unconstitutional

344142_Chicago gun ban

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Edmond Chang ruled that Chicago’s ban on licensed gun stores is unconstitutional. In his ruling, Chang concluded that the city could not prove that banning the legal sale of guns helped reduce violence.

He wrote, “The stark reality facing the City each year is thousands of shooting victims and hundreds of murders committed with a gun. But on the other side of this case is another feature of government: certain fundamental rights are protected by the Constitution, put outside government’s reach, including the right to keep and bear arms for self-defense under the Second Amendment.”

“Chicago’s ordinance goes too far in outright banning legal buyers and legal dealers from engaging in lawful acquisitions and lawful sales of firearms,” Chang continued. “…the flat ban on legitimate sales and transfers does not fit closely with [Chicago’s] goals.”

Chang delayed his ruling from taking effect — this way, the city has time to appeal.

Roderick Drew, a spokesman from Chicago’s Law Department, said on Monday that Mayor Rahm Emanuel “strongly disagrees” with the new ruling. In a statement, the city said, “We need stronger gun safety laws, not increased access to firearms within the city.”

But Todd Vandermyde, a spokesman for the National Rifle Association (NRA), does not believe the city will be successful in its appeal. He said, “The city is going to have to allow retail gun shops to operate and they are going to have to allow individuals to transfer firearms in normal transactions. So the question now is: How much more money does Rahm (Emanuel) want to spend fighting it?”

Eugene Kontorovich, a constitutional law professor at Northwestern University, said that since citizens have the right to own a gun, they also have the right to obtain one. Kontorovich said, “This is part of a broader package strategy to slow-walk gun rights… They could have been a lot smarter and said we will allow gun sales but we’re just going to regulate the heck out of it.”

Here is the bottom line: If gun control were effective, Chicago would be the safest city in the country. Prior to 2013, Illinois was the only state where carrying a concealed weapon was illegal. In December 2012, federal judges struck down the ban, ruling it unconstitutional. Despite a history of strict gun policies, Chicago is one of the nation’s most violent and deadly cities. In 2012, there were over 500 gun-related deaths in Chicago. That is up over 10 percent from the rate in 2005. Gun control is clearly not working there.

Houston is similar to Chicago in socioeconomic factors like population, density, and racial segregation. Both cities are plagued with drugs and human trafficking. Chicago and Houston are America’s third and fourth most populous cities, respectively, each with between 2 and 3 million residents. Non-whites make up 50-60 percent of the population in both places, and the poverty levels in each city are almost identical at just under 30 percent. Yet in 2012, there were only 217 murders in Houston — less than half of Chicago’s death toll. A major difference between the two cities: Houston has very few gun laws. Criminals there know that many citizens are well armed for self-protection.

Gun control supporters have good intentions — but good intentions do not always yield the desired results. When will politicians in Chicago stop thinking with their hearts and start thinking with their heads?

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