City Monitoring

There could soon be a way to monitor things like air quality and vehicle traffic in the city of Chicago.  Thanks to the Array of Things project, real-time data on a city will be assembled to make this happen. With scientists, government officials and just lay people from the community, this data will be formulated for predictions on current environmental fluctuations.

The project is being navigated by the University of Chicago and Argonne’s Urban Center for Computation and Data director, Charlie Catlett who is seeking to install 500 sensor nodes around the city. The plan ultimately is to install a network worldwide to “improve living and working in the city.”

Catlett added:

“We talked to people in the city of Chicago to understand what their challenges are. And we found from talking with them and from our own work there’s a lot of data that’s missing, that should be able to be measured, and that requires data analytics, it requires data integration infrastructure, and it requires a measurement strategy.”

Workers Compensation

Rep. Laura Fine, D-Glenview just proposed a Bill (H.B. 4595) for the establishment of an (Illinois) state-sponsored insurance company.  If it becomes law, it would result in the creation of the non-profit Illinois Employers Mutual Insurance Co. providing local workers compensation in situations in which companies where they work cannot afford to do so.  The Illinois Workers Compensation Commission Operations Fund would provide a $10 million loan to get this going.

While this seems necessary, last year, Gov. Bruce Rauner – also of Illinois – attempted H.B. 2622 which was vetoed.  Indeed, a recent study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine found that Illinois mine workers who are the victims of injuries and illnesses are less likely to report these to tracking federal agencies

Ferocious Fioretti (De)feats?

Alderman Robert Fioretti received a slew of endorsements from law enforcement unions (including the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police) for his upcoming battle against Toni Preckwinkle, current President of Cook County Board.

Fioretti – who has represented Chicago’s 2nd Ward since 2007 – believes that this shows “people who believe in law and order” want change:

“For me to win the FOP’s endorsement is an acknowledgement that something is wrong with our system. To have the sergeants and to have the other organizations that have endorsed me sends a message to those that have been complicit with a system that has let down our communities.”

Fioretti is definitely able to cope with a fight.  When he took office in 2007, it was against 14-year incumbent Madeline Haithcock and he managed to get the most votes, forcing a run-off with the incumbent.  He then went on to defeat her by an almost two-to-one margin and was then re-elected in 2011 to a second term.

Good News for Illinois Economy

Measuring in at 104.6 on the Flash Index for February, there was optimism abound in Illinois at the economic status.  This was an increase of a fifth of a point from January, according to the University of Illinois’ economic gauge. And, according to economist Fred Giertz, this figure is the highest it has been since May 2017. With it, the unemployment rate of 4.9 is low too. He said:

 “The Illinois economy is doing very well, especially compared to years ago, when we had the recession and major slow-down. But we’re not doing as well as the rest of the country.”

Giertz added that in general, the trends in the Illinois economy is positive, pointing out that this is proof of “an upward trajectory. Unemployment has been going down, but we haven’t move as fast as the national economy. It’s probably not going to propel the economy and the stock market upward in a kind of rapid expansion that seems to be true or what people thought the last couple of months or so.”

In addition, assistant vice president and economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, William R. Emmons said that the Midwestern Illinois economy is at “peak performance.  In fact, if anything we may be a little bit past peak performance. The unemployment rate is at the level that is close to ideal, that’s not zero necessarily, there is always some unemployment as people move between jobs.”

Community, Business and Development

Woodfield Mall’s Microsoft Store has earmarked February as Entrepreneurship Month.  Offering workshops, seminars and mentors from Score Chicago, the idea is to help individuals in the region gain insight into how start and run a business, as well as other related subjects. Community Development Specialist at the Woodfield Mall’s Microsoft Store Paula Brkich explained: Several of our business workshops feature knowledgeable speakers from SCORE Chicago, industry partners and more, who bring tremendous value to our customers” For information and to register visit: www.microsoftstore.com/Woodfield.

If you missed that though, in conjunction with the University of Chicago, President Bill Clinton and Chelsea Clinton are hosting the (11th) annual Clinton Global Initiative University meeting.  To be held at the University, the event is expected to attract over 1,000 students nationwide and worldwide.  Topics discussed will be “some of the most pressing social, economic and environmental challenges facing the next generation.”  The idea ultimately is for these discussions to result in “commitments to action,” ultimately bolstering local communities worldwide.  Thus following the initial two days of workshops etc., the third day will be one of action whereby students will work with faculty and administrators on a priority project in one of the surrounding neighborhoods.

Talking of entrepreneurs, Chicagoan Mark Thomann is intending to bring back the drink Slice that was popular – and owned by Pepsico – in the 1990s.  Via his companies Spiral Sun Ventures and Dormitus Brands, he is hoping to have the drink in stores by the end of next year.  One of his changes is to make it healthier though as he explains that it will have less sugar, less calories and sweetened with “real – possibly organic – fruit juice.”  Thomann added that it will be “pleasantly familiar to people of a certain age.”

Business Collaboration and Growth

Last month saw the launch of a regional economic development initiative to bolster partnership within various public sectors. It is hoped that this endeavor – the Chicago Regional Growth Corporation (CRGC) – will create growth, be mutually beneficial to participating organizations and in general boost the work of northeastern Illinois businesses.

CRGC can be used by locals for creating and developing Chicago’s identity, bolstering economic development and centralize programming. ultimately it is hoped and expected that the endeavor will fortify the economy, develop networks and connections and provide greater economic opportunity. As founding executive director of CRGC Tom Hulsman said:

“The economic growth of cities, from neighborhoods to suburbs, is highly interdependent. We have a huge opportunity to capitalize on our resources and bring all of the players to the table to set an economic development agenda that works for the entire region, with a strong emphasis on inclusive economic growth throughout all of CRGC’s programs and initiatives.”

Over in Matteson, Mayor Sheila Chalmers-Currin, discussed with locals about her mission to “feed the economy” there. People are very excited for this and as the Mayor pointed out, it should be “a great opportunity to share what we have in our focus for the Village and the Southland region. I’ve lived here for 35 years and I’ve seen the village grow from 10,000 to over 20,000. We’ve had some positive events and we have had some challenges,”

Chicago: Tax Time!

Taxes are due pretty soon.  What does this mean for Chicagoans and how can they get assistance if needed?

There are various organizations and websites offering help.  Ladder Up representatives went to Olive Harvey College to offer free tax filing assistance a couple of weeks ago at the beginning of the Tax-A-Thon. As well as a tax problem-solving workshop, representatives from John Marshall Law School’s Fair Housing clinic were on hand to give tips too.

The aim of Ladder Up is to get the entitled tax deductions and refunds for everyone.  Anyone whose income is less than $30,000 (families $55,000) can get free tax preparation assistance.

There is also this article written in The Chicago Tribune that provides guidelines and tips as well as this one from NBC Chicago.

For pet owners in Chicago, there are various tax breaks you can get.  Examples include: guard dogs, cats used for pest control, pets used in hobbies (sometimes, such as dog shows in which they could be seen as a hobby income), foster animal care (with Schedule A in charitable deductions), moving expenses (if you have to transfer your pet to a different home).

Triumphant Women of Chicago

Women are Chicago are strong, authoritative and successful.  This has been the  message across the different industries in business recently.  First, there was The Women’s March on 20 January whereby 250,000 women “marchers [came] together in downtown Chicago at the intersection of Congress and Columbus to celebrate the spirit of the resistance efforts over the past year and unite to focus on the 2018 elections and beyond.”

But that was not just a stand-alone event.  Prior to the march, there was a rally that took place between 11 a.m and 12:30 p.m. between Congress Parkway and Columbus Drive, featuring local speakers who discussed:

  1. women’s rights,
  2. getting women in more powerful official/government positions,
  • DACA recipients and Dreamers – deportation issues
  1. the ongoing struggle need for equality and fair representation of all citizens in the electoral system.

Speaker Asha Binbek of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, denounced President’s Trump’s platform of ‘Mak[ing] America Great Again,’ arguing that

Our different backgrounds, should be celebrated. Our race, our gender, our sexual orientation, our religion, whether you were born on this soil or sought refuge here or a future being able to come here to celebrate each other and support each other’s causes. This, THIS, is what makes America great!” Our need to be civically engaged has never been more important than it is now!”

At the end of last year, EvolveHer was launched.  Two factors are of note here in terms of timing: a) the #metoo campaign and b) the Women’s March.  While the concept of a co-working space exclusively for women is not a new one, it has been welcomed in Chicago.  With 5,000 square feet in office space, there are standard office amenities (kitchen, lounge, phone booths, etc.) and also those specific to women (milk pumping rooms, make up areas etc.). Women-related workshops are also held on subjects such as “finding your purpose,” and it is hoped that in the future 7-14 year old girls will be offered basic business classes. As Alicia Driskill, company founder pointed out:

“We have such great women’s groups and female entrepreneur vibes in Chicago, but there’s really no place to centralize it and bring us all together. We really wanted to create community, and be community driven, so that women can get to know each other and really elevate each other and support each other on the business front.”

The space can hold approximately 100 people working at once and the networking potential for these already powerful women is amazing.

Illinois Economy: Slow and Steady

Measuring in at 104-point-one at the end of last year, the Flash Index from Illinois University’s final reading supports a ‘slow and steady’ prediction for the region’s economy.  The figure – a decrease of one tenth of a percent from November – is still on a growth spurt as anything more than 100 is indicative of an escalating economy.

However, despite this, Fred Giertz, an economist with the University of Illinois, thinks the growth is actually slower than the rest of America’s economy.  This could in part be due to Illinois’ “unsettled politics and finances.”  He believes that:

“The bad news is it could have been a lot better and the good news is it could have been a lot worse. So, I think we’re moving along all right and maybe things will start growing faster in the New Year.”

Meanwhile, specifically in Chicago, the city’s “post-recession rebound” is much greater than its neighboring suburbs.  In 2017, the number of private sector jobs there got to the highest ever level in more than two-and-a-half decades.  According to preliminary data published by the Illinois Department of Employment Security there was a 16.6 percent increase in 2017 since 2010 (during the Great Recession), way above the national 15.7 percent average growth.