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Thursday, April 10, 2008 02:33 pm

Cap City

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Untitled Document A SOBERINGTASC
African-Americans were nine times more likely than whites to go to prison in Illinois in 2005. Logic dictates, then, that black people do way more bad stuff than white people, right?
Of course not — don’t be silly. Prisons in Illinois and elsewhere are bursting at the seams with nonviolent drug users. Although there’s no discernible difference in the rates of substance abuse among racial groups, minorities are far more likely to be arrested and sent to prison than whites. This discrepancy is a result of unfair government policies, says Pam Rodriguez, executive vice president of the group Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities. “In some ways, I think we’re immune to the impact that those statistics represent,” Rodriguez says. TASC has requested a $10 million budget appropriation to study racial disparities in Illinois drug laws. State Sen. Mattie Hunter, a Windy City Democrat, has introduced the legislation. “We should treat these people. Families are being decimated because of these archaic laws that we have on the books,” says state Sen. Donne Trotter, D-Chicago, who also supports the initiative.
WHEREHAVEWEHEARDTHISBEFORE? Cops complaining that their stationhouse is a “coercive” and “hostile” work environment blame a relatively new assistant chief. They complain to members of the city council, to the media, and to consultants brought in to solve the morale problem, and, when they take a vote to measure confidence, 78 percent of the badgers say they have no faith in the assistant chief. Who is it? Barbara Harris, wife of John Harris, Springfield’s chief of police from 1995 through April 2003. “Blahbara,” as her troops have tagged her, became assistant chief of police in Marana, Ariz., a small suburb of Tucson, in November 2006 and apparently PO’ed police officers by hiring a friend as a highly paid consultant, moving detectives into cubicles so she could take over their locked office space, and firing two longtime employees, who were later reinstated by the unanimous vote of a review board. On March 5, some 30 officers, their families, and their union rep appeared at the Marana Town Council meeting to ask for the removal of Harris and the top chief, according to the Arizona Daily Star. A few days later, Harris was put on paid administrative leave, “pending an internal investigation” that has nothing whatsoever to do with the patrol union’s complaints.
FLYAWAY, LITTLEBIRDWHISPERER They’re always innocent until proven guilty. Or are they? Ward 8 Ald. Kris Theilen says he’s been waiting since January for vindication in the case against the “bird whisperer,” and it seems he’s now gotten his shot. Springfield Police Chief Ralph Caldwell told aldermen on Tuesday that there is probable cause to believe that the 85-year-old James Soules has discharged a .22-caliber rifle downtown within the past three months. Even though Soules has not yet been charged with the crime, the finance committee of the City Council voted to send an ordinance terminating his $164,000 contract to next week’s no-further-discussion-needed consent agenda. That’s quite the turnaround for Theilen, who was unable to convince his fellow aldermen of Soules’ wrongdoing three months ago. “I feel that it’s open and shut,” Theilen says. “I think the facts speak for themselves.”

WHATHOUSINGCRISIS? On Saturday, April 12, TSP-Hope Inc., with the help of the Springfield Financial Institution’s CRA Council, the Capital Area Association of Realtors, the Association of Mortgage Professionals, and the Homeownership Coalition for People with Disabilities, will host a free seminar on credit and budgeting skills. The group will sponsor a second free seminar on homebuyer education on Saturday, April 19. Both events will run from 9 a.m. to noon at TSP-Hope headquarters, 1507 E. Cook St. Call 217-206-7690 to sign up.
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