A state of emergency is looming in Illinois.

Thousands of working families who fell behind on their utility bills face disconnections. This is not the result of a natural disaster but rather the worse economic crisis since the Great Depression, which has plummeted many West Side families into deep poverty.

Take the case of Mary Ware, a blind, disabled senior citizen who lives on a fixed income. She was set to have her power disconnected by ComEd on Monday, July 18. At a press conference that morning at the Austin Senior Center, 5071 W. Congress, The South Austin Coalition urged Mayor Rahm Emanuel to hold a summit with ComEd.

The utility company has adopted a hard line on customers like Ware who are trying to negotiate reasonable partial payment plans to continue, or restore, their service, said Theresa Welch of the South Austin Coalition. Plus, the company is piling on discretionary deposits on those least able to pay.

The situation facing thousands of other families who are going to be disconnected is intolerable, cruel and inhumane, and it creates a severe health crisis-possibly life threatening-during the summer heat wave; temperatures are expected to reach well over 90 degrees this week and into the weekend.

The South Austin Coalition is requesting: 1) a three-month hold on shutoffs for low-income customers; 2) a more affordable reconnection and/or repayment plan that focuses on continuation of services, not shutoffs, and; 3) a public health hearings on the “utility shutoff crisis.”

South Austin Coalition Community Council

Larger debate needed between Africans and African-Americans

 “I feel delighted by all comments laid out in this article [Black, but not like me, July 15, 2010], and I totally agree with Ifatunji. Yet, this could be an open door to a larger debate both locally and nationally for better understanding.

Wally Columbus
Submitted at AustinWeeklyNews.com

Do not target blacks with overzealous police tactics

Two significant events have recently occurred in Chicago that has garnered the attention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The new police superintendent, Garry McCarthy, has ordered the deployment of 500 police officers into the “high crime” areas; also, groups of African American youth have allegedly robbed white victims on Chicago’s Gold Coast. Each occurrence has a dynamic which embraces our criminal justice system.

For many years the NAACP has favored the assignment of a greater number of police officers to protect the south and west sides of the city. We applaud the actions of the superintendent and his movement of an additional 150 officers.

As a result of the “flash mob” attacks on the Gold Coast, we are also concerned for the safety of those attending those areas. It appears that the alleged participants in those actions are a black/white scenario, which surfaces a racial issue. The NAACP deplores crime in any part of the city. The crime and thoughtless murder rate has certainly risen in the African-American community, with innocent individuals young and old as victims of senseless gunfire. The superintendent has vowed to escalate his effort to bring the perpetrators of the Gold Coast crimes to justice. We concur with those efforts. We hope, however, that he will approach the justice issue of the South Side with equal vigor.

On the other hand, the NAACP has an abiding concern. And that is the potential abuse of the African-American community when a mainstream search is launched throughout our community for young offenders against white victims. We are reminded of the 1982 era of the Wilson brothers. After the killing of a white police officer by two African American youths, an unbridled, indiscriminate and brutal attack was unleashed upon the homes of African American youths, by mostly white officers, terrorizing the community. The African-American residents, the NAACP and the Cook County Bar Association expressed their outrage at the oppressive tactics of the police.

Although that is an extreme example, and today’s issue does not rise to that level, it is noted as a basis for our concern when an underlying racial issue is at hand. We merely caution you to curb an overzealous approach by your officers to an inescapable challenge.

The NAACP seeks to strike a balance between justice for the public and mutual respect for the officers duties when confronting possible police misconduct. We anticipate that the additional officers on the street will mitigate the perceived necessity for excessive force. We cautiously await a successful outcome with due respect for our community. We can accept no less. We will lend our offices to that endeavor.

Rose Joshua
President of the South Side Branch NAACP

Karl Brinson
President of the West Side Branch NAACP
Submitted at AustinWeeklyNews.com