Below are some pieces written for the Loyola Phoenix during the 2019-2020 school year. Aside from writing for the Phoenix, I have also taken photos that have been used for various university stories.
By Matthew Mata
The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) represents more than 25,000 Chicago public school teachers and paraprofessionals, who are on strike over failed contract negotiations with Chicago Public Schools (CPS). This would be the second strike by CTU since 2012, and the first one under Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration. As students of Loyola University Chicago, a private Jesuit institution, it’s important to delve into the reasons why a public school strike demands our attention and action.
This is the third work stoppage since the Union led a seven-day strike in 2012 and a one-day walk-out in 2016, which is characterized as a “Day of Action.” As the strike nears a week since the Union’s House of Delegates voted to reject the latest offer by CPS and Lightfoot, it’s impossible not to see the more than 25,000 public employees on the picket lines.
Loyola’s mission encourages students to stand in solidarity with those championing social justice initiatives.
“Jesuit education strives to seek the truth and to form each student into a whole person of solidarity who will take responsibility for the real world,” the mission states. “Our students must have an educated awareness of society and culture, a sense of being interrelated and interconnected, and a commitment to act for the rights of others, especially the disadvantaged and the oppressed.”
With attending a school in a world-class city like Chicago, it’s imperative we check our privilege and understand what it means to be a part of the larger Chicago community, a community that stands together through its successes and struggles.
While Loyola offers ample resources to its students, this is not the norm for public schools across the city. While the argument can be made that Loyola’s tuition affords for resources like fully staffed libraries, computer labs and special education positions, it’s crucial to maintain humility and belief in education as a human right. Chicago’s fight for social equity requires an understanding of how our personal actions and opportunities should be used to uplift those forgotten by social inequity.
Loyola students will encounter these social inequities as they explore Chicago’s various neighborhoods. These areas inspire and drive the city’s cultural identity, which exemplifies the varying socioeconomic backgrounds from across the city.
Whether that’s visiting murals in Pilsen, having weekend dim-sum in Chinatown or walking the historic streets of Bronzeville, we need to fight for the preservation of these communities. They’ve continuously seen divestment from their public schools as they were burdened by the closing of 50 schools in 2012, according to Chicago Reporter.
The residents of these communities deserve quality public schools that include wrap-around services. Such services include a nurse and social worker in every school to deal with Chicago’s widespread gun violence or other familial troubles at home that leaves students with emotional and mental trauma.
CPS has fewer than 300 nurses to service more than 500 schools in the district, WBEZ Chicago reported. Galileo Scholastic Academy of Math and Science, an elementary school on the city’s Near West Side, is a school where a majority of the students receive free or reduced lunch. Galileo has one nurse who comes in once a week and is responsible for more than 500 students belonging to the school’s community, according to Conception Moreno, Galileo’s local school council teacher representative.
“While the school district’s current offer proposes spending $2-million over the next five years to hire additional nurses, schools like Galileo will remain at status quo in undeserving the increasing medical and social needs of its students,” Moreno said on the picket line Thursday.
Students deserve a classroom where class sizes are capped so they’re not competing for staff instruction against at least 30 classmates. Capping class sizes can allow them to properly receive the skills necessary to successfully take standardized exams. School nurses, social workers and class size are just a few of the demands the CTU wants put in its contract.
These are all issues Mayor Lightfoot campaigned on and promised the 371,863 Chicagoans who voted for her in the 2019 mayoral runoff election. She ran as a progressive candidate with a campaign centered around a culture change in Chicago which supported redistributing wealth, resources and opportunities across all communities in the city. It’s time Lightfoot is held to her promises to provide a fully resourced education to all CPS students.
With six public elementary and high schools neighboring both Loyola’s Lake Shore and Water Tower Campuses, I implore you to partake in this fight.
This starts with Loyola students visiting public schools to listen to and talk with teachers on the picket lines. This will help students gain an understanding of the issues front-line staff — teachers, aides, paraprofessionals — see as hurdles to providing a quality education to their students.
We must then hold our elected officials accountable, which involves calling our local alderperson to release tax increment funding — funds
the city sets aside from property taxes to promote investment in neighborhoods — for schools. If elected officials ignore our calls, we must recognize our duties as citizens and vote.
While some of us may only be Chicago residents for four years, Chicago is still home and it deserves our support in the fight for quality public education. Being apart of “clicktivism” culture, where students often believe retweeting or reposting is meaningful discourse, the social change needed demands our presence in the streets.
Below is an opinion piece written for the SF Foghorn during the 2016 election. This was my first byline as a college student.
By Matthew Mata
Chicago is the embodiment of the perils facing the country: gun violence, income inequality, drugs and underfunded public schools. Up until the end of the presidential primaries, both Clinton and Trump failed to properly recognize these struggles being the reason why so many Americans currently feel disaffected by the government. With the election less than three weeks away, both candidates are shifting their messages to include voters that prove crucial to a November victory: women, people of color and other minority groups. Clinton is now utilizing a long time friend — Mayor Rahm Emanuel — to ensure a certain voter demographic continues to align with her.
The black teachers of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) are one such group, who recently refused to be led under conservative union leadership. The CTU is now viewed as a union that understands how social and racial issues are incorporated into public education. Up until 2010, advocacy by the CTU was solely focused on its membership: Chicago educators. However, in 2008, a group of frustrated teachers founded the Caucus of Rank and file Educators (CORE), who sought to bring a more activist-type culture into a union that now closely aligns itself with community activism. Having over 25,000 union members, the CTU’s demographics are vital targets for politicians: teachers of color, millennials and women. The CTU continues to align itself with various community driven, grassroots organizations that have allowed them to broaden their support and allyship, becoming one of the most powerful unions in the country. With public support for Chicago teacher’s doubling that of Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, the union is now in a position to secure a contract from Chicago Public Schools that does not cut teacher benefits and school budgets. It is up to Emanuel to create a positive relationship with the CTU in order to ensure its members support Secretary Clinton.
The CTU has been in contract talks with the Chicago Board of Education for a while now. As Chicago teachers near their 500th day without a contract, Chicago prepares itself for what could be the second teacher strike under Mayor Emanuel’s tenureship. On Sept. 28, CTU’s House of Delegates voted in favor of a strike that could have started as soon as Oct. 11. However, at the eleventh hour on Oct. 10, both Chicago public Schools (CPS) and CTU reached a tentative agreement. This temporarily averted a strike until the entire union membership votes on whether to accept or decline the contract later next week. With both parties appearing to be far from an agreement over the last couple months, this eleventh-hour deal to avert the strike clearly coincides with a presidential election that is just around the corner.
Both presidential candidates are guilty of using coded language intended to trigger voters’ anxiety, which then woos voters from much needed demographics: millennials, people of color and working-class voters. Clinton’s attempt to garner these demographics is now in the hands of Mayor Emanuel, whose support was quietly ignored by the campaign during the primaries because of the negative local and national coverage of his handling of a police dash-cam video. An alarming video that showed a Chicago Police officer shooting an unarmed African-American man 16 times was believed to have been withheld from the public until after the mayoral run-off elections. Along with dozens of school closings, questionable Tax Increment Financing (TIFs) spending, and rapid tax hikes, Mayor Emanuel is unfavorable amongst Chicagoans.
Prior to being Chicago’s mayor, Emanuel was a top Clinton advisor during the 2008 election, and later appointed as Obama’s Chief of Staff. However, after the Sanders campaign weighed in, criticizing Mayor Emanuel’s handling of the police dash-cam shooting video earlier this year, and connecting that to Clinton’s relationship with Emanuel, the Clinton-Emanuel relationship is now crucial to Clinton’s success.
Emanuel’s rhetoric and handling of the teacher’s contract and possible strike can attract pro-union, racially-diverse communities, groups the Clinton campaign desperately needs. If a teacher’s strike does come to fruition, there is no doubt that both presidential candidates will be asked about the fourth largest school district’s latest strike. Clinton is then likely to acknowledge her relationship with Mayor Emanuel, affirming her confidence in him. An affirmation that can restore Emanuel’s trust amongst voters.
With the election weeks away, it is now clear as to why Mayor Emanuel avoided the publicity of a strike and settled the contract, since the votes are so crucial for Clinton. If this strike were to make national news, like it did in 2012, Clinton may lose a crucial constituency. It now validates Mayor Emanuel desire to negotiate and settle a teacher’s contract with the intention to secure votes for Clinton.
Below are a few writing and interviewing samples from my journalism classes at Loyola, where analyzing city data, obtaining records from the county clerk’s office, and submitting FOIA request were
Uneven sidewalk leads to slippery lawsuit for Loyola and the City
Illinois common law does not provide clarity as to who is liable for sidewalk accidents, municipalities or property owners, and the results can be costly.
This ambiguity often leaves settlements and payouts to reach six figures for municipalities. According to NBC Investigates, from 2008-2014, the city of Chicago spent $6 million in lawsuits for public sidewalk-related injury cases.
In 2018, Deborah “Sippy” Mauricio sued the city of Chicago and Loyola University of Chicago for an injury she claimed to sustain on July 3, 2017.
The alleged fall occurred on an uneven sidewalk surface at 822 North Michigan Ave, which left her with lacerations, contusions to the skin, fractures to four teeth, as well as other dental injuries. The dollar amount of her medical costs was not disclosed.
Lawyers for Mauricio claimed that Loyola provided an “unreasonably dangerous hazard to users” and argued that the university knew or should have known they were responsible for defective sidewalks that were in violation of city building codes. Her legal team claimed the city acted “carelessly and negligently, allowing the sidewalk to remain in an unsafe or otherwise defective condition.”
The city distanced themselves from responsibility by highlighting that, as one of the largest cities in the country, with thousands of miles of public sidewalks “to conduct inspections of public way for the benefit of the public in general,” is not per Illinois common law.
Malman Law is a Chicago-based personal injury law firm whose blog claims “Chicago seems to pick and choose which sidewalks are theirs and which are the responsibility of the property owner.”
It notes that sidewalks in high-business districts appear to get priority and repairs on the city’s dime than sidewalks in a neighborhood.
In a written affidavit, Wayne Magdziarz, Loyola’s Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Business Officer, testified that the sidewalk in question is not owned by Loyola nor has Loyola repaired, serviced or maintained that sidewalk, either before or after the plaintiff’s alleged fall.
In court filings, the city of Chicago cited Ross v. City of Chicago, which defined what sidewalk maintenance includes “acts of repairs and other acts to prevent a decline, laps, or cessation from existing state or condition”
Loyola cited an Illinois court ruling that protected property owners from “the existence of duty” by absolving responsibility if the injured was not an “invitee” of the respective property.
Tribler Orpett & Meyer, the law firm representing Loyola, argued that since Mauricio’s complaint never claimed she was an “invitee” of Loyola and admitted she was simply walking on a public sidewalk, liability is the city of Chicago’s alone.
In August 2019, Loyola Chicago and the City of Chicago filed motions to dismiss.
Mauricio’s attorney, the firm of Levin and Perconti, was contacted but did not respond in time for this story’s publication. Neither the Chicago Department of Transportation nor Loyola Chicago responded to a request for comment.
Chicago’s rat population may continue to rise as the Midwest’s climate changes
Chicago is expected to see 11 megadevelopments rise over the next decade, according to Curbed Chicago; a local news source that covers Chicago developments across the city. Over 78 acres are expected to be redeveloped, which will disrupt natural habitats and ecosystems through widespread construction.
These disturbances, matched with warmer and longer seasons, could prove a difficult road for dealing with Chicago’s rodent infestation. For the fourth straight year, Chicago was rated the “rattiest” city in America by Orkin, a national pest-control and treatment company.
The annual report is based on the number of new rodent treatments performed throughout the year and describes how urban areas, such as Chicago, can provide thriving environments for rodents, as it is a resource for food and shelter. City data corroborates Orkin’s ranking of Chicago as rodent related calls to 311 are up across the city.
While Chicago’s native rat species are a part of the city’s natural ecosystems, rapid rodent growth and infestation is fueled by climate change, according to the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). As the seasons become more extreme, habitat disruption can actually increase species richness. According to the U.S. Global Change Research Program, which projects that the Midwest’s air temperature will increase by as much as 8.5 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century, Chicago’s rodent population is expected to get worse as warmer temperatures provide for longer reproductive season for rodents. This is nearly five times the average air temperature growth the Midwest saw prior to 2010.
This drastic rise in temperature exacerbates rodent population growth, according to the USFS, as small mammals — like rodents — are a large part of diverse urban ecosystems.
According to the USFS, “most of the changes in mammal abundances and distributions resulting from climate change are expected to be in this group.”
The abundance and distribution of Chicago’s rat population correlates with the city’s weather and overall handling and protection of habitats.
According to the Chicago Data Portal, the “rattiest” times of the year in Chicago are during the months of July through September. In those periods, 119,893 complaints were called in to the 311 service request center from 2011 to 2018. That is an overwhelming 37.6 percent of total 311 rodent-related calls during that time period. January through March, the year’s first quarter, yielded the least rodent service requests, totaling 45,430, or 14 percent of total 311 rodent-related calls during 2011 to 2018.
Hailey Cox, a student at Northwestern University, who rents in the city’s 35th Ward — which covers parts of Logan Square, Irving Park, and Avondale — says she dreads anything that requires her to go into her alley, especially in the summer months.
“I’ve lived in this area since I was a kid and I’m not sure if it’s because I’m older and now noticing, but rat sightings are a regular experience,” she said.
Cox says it’s during warmer weather when she sees them the most, claiming this summer (2019) was “ratty.”
She blames the increase on street festivals and littering, making it a perfect place for rodents to seek out food.
Department of Street and Sanitation Commissioner John Tully could not be reached for comment.
Sox Fans Find Success in Tailgating
For many Sox fans, Opening Day means more than the start of baseball season, but rather pre-game rituals, where Sox fans flood the city’s south-side with the smell of brats, beer, and corn hole dust. Tailgating at Guaranteed Rate Field is a unique experience, as the White Sox are the only Chicago baseball team to offer tailgating to its fanbase.
Despite the White Sox’s struggles on the field, Hannah Sundwall – coordinator of media relations for the White Sox – said in 2018 the estimated number of tailgaters for home games was between 3,800 and 4,300 fans, which peaked over 5,000 during the team’s “home games in the summer months.”
This is roughly twenty-five percent of all attendees, as the White Sox averaged 20,110 attendees per game according to an ESPN database. Sundwall credits these numbers to the organization’s “commitment to ensure fans can enjoy every aspect of the ballpark experience.”
Tailgating is a major aspect of the White Sox experience, as it allows fans to live out the organization’s slogan of ‘passion, pride, and tradition.’
Freddy Razo, a native Chicagoan and Sox fan, has been tailgating on Opening Day for the last ten years and describes the annual tradition as one that starts early. At roughly 8:00 a.m., two hours prior to when stadium lots open, Freddy Razo met his friends at La Casa De Pueblo, a neighborhood restaurant in Chicago’s Pilsen community; just west of the ballpark.
He reveals that this is the first of two stops he and his friends make before heading to tailgate, “it’s the meal before the meal that holds us over until we get the grill going.”
The adjacent grocery store is stop two of two and is where Razo describes it as a one stop shop, “we get our carne asada (skirt steak), ice, beer, just everything I need.”
By 9:30 a.m. Razo says the day’s only challenge begins – in order for tailgaters to “reserve” spots next to their friends, all cars must enter the lot simultaneously – “it’s not impossible, but sometimes you get that jerk who cuts in entering from the other side of the street, but you know we speak to the parking attendants and it all works out.”
Having ten years of experience tailgating not only Opening Day, but games throughout the season, Razo emphasized the sense of community tailgating brings to a fanbase that has been through a rough rebuild. He highlights the culture and community that is fostered through tailgating as it is more than just setting up a grill and cracking open a beer, but rather about the memories and excitement that is build around not only baseball, but the food, music, and storytelling involved in tailgating. How the innate intimacy of parking lots allows for a recognition of familiar faces who tailgate regularly, which translates to a community where carne asada can be traded for a neighboring tailgate’s turkey leg or italian beef. Razo describes this community as one that extends beyond the parking lot adding it is not uncommon to run into tailgaters once inside the ballpark and share a beer extending the bond over the tailgate festivities, to now the game of baseball and their hometown team the Chicago White Sox.
Jake Goldwater is a lifelong White Sox fan who shares Razo’s belief that tailgating is an extension of the organization’s slogan of pride, passion, and tradition, as he says he has matured through his experiences tailgating since the age of seven. During an April 16th home-game against the Kansas City Royals, Goldwater was wrapping up a tailgate with his father, as it is their annual tradition to tailgate the first game of their season tickets. Goldwater says tailgating solidified his fandom for the Sox, as the tailgaters always showed him compassionate. He shared memories of how despite being the only child, kids from neighboring tailgates would invite him to join in on games of catch or wiffle ball. But that was not the only game Goldwater was learning, as he admits tailgating increased his baseball literacy and judgement saying, “the things you here in the parking lot are unfiltered,” but are words and perspectives that helped solidify his own; whether he agreed with what was said or not.
Goldwater expressed the influence tailgating has had on him beyond it being where he had his first beer freshman year in highschool, or where he was when the White Sox won game 2 of the 2005 World Series, but rather, “these tailgates weren’t just a social gathering but more a way of expressing and carrying on the tradition of the team. When you go to a White Sox tailgate you see people sharing in the experience and connecting on a different level…these experiences and traditions are what make the White Sox fan base a family that will ride together through the best and worst of times.”
Mayoral forum heats up as Chicagoans escape polar vortex
Published: February 2, 2019 8pm
With a month before the 2019 mayoral election, candidates packed the Chicago Temple for a forum hosted by Chicago Women Take Action alliance, a nonprofit that promotes women’s leadership and social and economic equality. This was Chicago Women Take Action’s first mayoral forum, which was moderated by Julia Stasch of the MacArthur Foundation and Angelique Power of the Field Foundation. The forum’s first panelist included candidates: Amara Enyia, Gery Chico, John Kozlar, Paul Vallas, Toni Preckwinkle, and Willie Wilson.
Candidates were asked to complete a 22-question survey prior to attending the forum that explored whether they would support full insurance-coverage of birth control and abortion, to whether candidates oppose laws and regulations that curb the right to protest, issues the alliance believes not only affect women, but their families and communities. The questions where candidates differed in opinion on, were whether they support ranked choice voting for municipal elections or if they support the Fair Wage week ordinance. An ordinance that would reduce an employer’s ability to change an employee’s posted schedule.
Candidates covered a variety of topics, which included gentrification, TIFs, police accountability, and Chicago Public Schools.
Amara Enyia focused on the need to “evaluate the selective enrollment process CPS uses,” as she highlighted the need for increased transparency across various departments and institutions in the city. She proposed the elimination of the gang database as the first step towards transparency.
Paul Vallas echoed the call for transparency as he called for term limits for all municipal elected positions and banning both outside employment as well as aldermanic privilege, which currently allows alderpeople to block city government or council’s actions towards their ward. Vallas criticized development in the city as “developing vertically and not horizontally,” and argued that ⅓ of TIFs should be put in investment equity funds for the south and west communities.
Communities John Kozlar argued would benefit from his proposed “K-10 education model,” which would allow students to graduate from high school in 2-years and have the option to explore other job training opportunities. Kozlar also advocated for 60% of Chicago Police beat officers to reside within the neighborhood they patrol.
Mariah Moreno, a resident of Chicago’s Pilsen community, attended today’s forum to hear the candidates positions on education issues as she believes, “CPS needs stability right now and I want to vote for the person who can bring that.” Ms. Moreno agrees with Toni Preckwinkle in that current CPS CEO Janice Jackson deserves a chance, “Janice went to CPS schools, so she knows best on what needs to get done and she inherited these problems from the years of corrupt CEOs.”
Both Toni Preckwinkle and Gery Chico called for the removal of Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson and the need for a “change of culture” within the police department. Chico argued he could inspire culture change though his model behavior at the top.
Jake Goldwater, of Chicago’s River North neighborhood admitted that today’s forum made his decision a little easier, “This will be my first time voting in a Chicago mayor’s race and for me hearing and reading about the amount of candidates running, I wanted to feel out their authenticity in person and better understand their policies and stances on issues.”
Whether that authenticity was found after today’s event, Mr. Goldwater said, “I came in knowing I had fourteen choices and now I have a solid four on my mind.”
Early voting for the 2019 mayoral elections begins February 11 while election day is Tuesday February 26. To see where your polling location is, be sure to visit the Chicago Board of Elections website or call-in.
Q & A: Chicago White Sox
The person I interviewed was Jake Goldwater, an avid baseball enthusiast. Linked is the unedited interview on Youtube.
National Museum of Mexican Art Supports Local CPS Schools
Below is the link to my video about a fundraising event for Galileo Scholastic Academy sponsored by the National Museum of Mexican Art.
2015 Mayoral Results – 25 Ward
The infographic below reflects the voting results for the 2015 Mayoral election, specifically in the 25th Ward. The five candidates include, incumbent Rahm Emanuel, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, William Wilson, Bob Fioretti, and William Walls.
This data is provided by Chicago Board of Elections and can be found here.