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Blog, Featured: At Awards Night, Young Writers Do Justice to Poetry and Prose

by Adrienne Kirshbaum

What would you say if you were asked to write about “Justice,” about what the word means to you and how it has impacted your life?  That was the assignment given to the more than 200 high school students who entered Tenth Dems Community Connection’s 6th Annual Poetry and Prose Competition.  And on Thursday evening, April 21, at the Ramada Inn Waukegan/Gurnee, a sizable audience made up of family, friends, and members of the community were privileged to hear readings of original poems and essays by a dozen or so of these bright, sensitive students.DSC06043

Competition participants attend Waukegan, North Chicago, Zion-Benton, and Cristo Rey St. Martin de Porres high schools.  They are freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors.  They wrote about their own lives, the lives of others, things they’d seen, historical events, and events they’d only imagined.  Their writings revealed a social conscience and sophistication far beyond their years.

A panel of published authors judged the entries blind i.e., stripped of author identifiers.  There were separate competitions for poetry and prose, with first, second, and third place prizewinners in each category awarded $150, $100, and $50, respectively.  Prizewinners also received framed certificates, as did six students who earned honorable mentions, three in each categories.  At Awards Night, all participants also received a book bag and water bottle.DSC05960

The evening’s emcees, Dulce Ortiz and Hon. Marc Jones, invited the young authors to the podium to read their works.  Both were so warm and friendly that even some of the students who at first were reluctant to read to the audience were won over and decided to take part.  In a decorated with flowers, banners, and famous quotations about “justice,” these young people stood at a podium and read with poise and feeling.

Both volunteer emcees are lifelong residents of Waukegan with long and impressive records of service to their community.  Both are members of the Latino Coalition of Lake County, and Dulce Ortiz serves on the organization’s board.  Marc Jones, who serves as a Waukegan Park District Commissioner, has the distinction of being only the second African-American elected to the board in the Park District’s 99-year history.

The volunteers who judged the students’ work also have impressive backgrounds.  Lois Baer Barr, Associate Professor of Spanish at Lake Forest College, has published works in both Spanish and English.  Lois has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize for both fiction and poetry.  Shanica Bell is a Christian minister and author, she edits a magazine and hosts an Internet radio show, and she is the CEO of a media marketing firm.  Herb Berman is a lawyer and labor arbitrator and co-founder of the Library Poets, a poetry workshop sponsored by the Deerfield Public Library. His poems have been published in many literary journals.  Mary Jane Gabrielsen is also a co-founder of the Libray Poets and an editor for East on Central literary journal.  Her poetry is published in The Avocet, and she has most recently collaborated with five other writers on a progressive novella due out in May.DSC05919

The judges were invited to read original works during the course of the evening, and those who were able to attend gladly complied, to the delight of the audience.  Judy Kaufman, Editor-in-Chief of East on Central literary journal and a longtime judge of past Community Connection Poetry and Prose competitions, gave opening remarks.

But the night belonged to the student authors.  One by one, they came to the podium and read their works.  The audience couldn’t help but be moved by their performances.  It was clear that these young people had talent and intelligence, and that the theme of “Justice” had inspired them to write great things.DSC05936

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Blog, Newsletter Articles: Post-Primary Wrap-Up: The 10th District’s Democratic Candidates in the November 2016 Election

10th District – Districtwide
State Senate
State Representative
Lake County
Lake County Judge
Cook County
Judges Elected From Cook County

We now know that Tammy Duckworth and Brad Schneider are the Democratic candidates for the Senate and the House in the 10th Congressional District, and soon we’ll know whether Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders will be the Democratic presidential nominee.  Then the fall campaigns will be underway.

It’s imperative that we support our Democratic candidates from the top to the bottom of the ballot.  Today’s state legislator may be tomorrow’s governor; today’s county board member may be tomorrow’s Member of Congress.

Following is a list of our candidates. statewide and locally, throughout the 10th District.  In the coming months, look for articles that will provide deeper insight into these Democrats, their records, the issues they are running on, and the challenges they face in the fall and beyond.


Senator – Tammy Duckworth is running against incumbent Republican Mark Kirk.


Illinois Comptroller – Susanna Mendoza is running against the Republican Gov. Rauner appointed following the death of Republican Judy Baar Topinka.


10th District – Districtwide

Member of Congress – Brad Schneider is running against incumbent Republican Bob Dold.


State Senate

District 28 – Laura Murphy, who was appointed to the state senate in October 2015, after Dan Kotowski resigned, is facing her first election.


District 29 – Julie Morrison seeks reelection.


District 31 – Melinda Bush is seeking reelection.


State Representative

District 17 – Laura Fine is seeking reelection.


District 18 – Robyn Gabel is seeking reelection.

Robyn Gabel

District 57 – Elaine Nekritz is seeking reelection.


District 55 – Marty Moylan is seeking reelection.


District 58 – Scott Drury is seeking reelection.


District 59 – Carol Sente is seeking reelection.


District 60 – Rita Mayfield is seeking reelection.


District 61- Nick Ciko will be challenging an incumbent Republican State Representative.


District 62- Sam Yingling is seeking reelection.


Lake County – Countywide

State’s Attorney – Matt Stanton won his primary race to earn the right to face the first-term incumbent Republican in a race that probably will focus on the issue of justice and preventing wrongful convictions in Lake County.


Circuit Court Clerk – Attorney Erin Cartwright Weinstein faces a first-term Republican incumbent as she fights to bring needed improvements to the Clerk’s Office.


Recorder of Deeds – Mary Ellen Vanderventer is seeking reelection.


Coroner – Michael Donnenwirth won the Democratic primary after challenging and disqualifying the nominating petitions of current Democratic Coroner Dr. Tom Rudd. Dr. Rudd has launched a campaign to obtain a spot on the ballot as an Independent.



North Shore Water Reclamation District

Ward 1 – Preston Carter is seeking reelection.


Ward 2 – Stephen  Drew is seeking reelection.


Lake County Board

District 2 – Diane Hewitt is seeking reelection.


District 4 – Retired federal officer and current forest preserve officer John Idleburg faces a Republican incumbent.


District 5 – Gloria Charland is seeking election to an open seat.


District 7 – Mary Turley faces a longtime incumbent Republican.


District 11 – Paul Frank is running for an open seat left following the retirement of Democrat Steve Mandel


District 13 – Sandy Hart is seeking reelection.


District 14 – Audrey Nixon is seeking reelection.


District 16 – Terry Wilke is seeking reelection.


District 18 – Gerri Songer faces a longtime incumbent Republican.



19th Judicial Circuit, 4th Subcircuit, Judgeship A

Appointed Associate Judge Mitchell Hoffman is seeking election to his first full term.


Cook County – Countywide

State’s Attorney – Kim Foxx, who won the Democratic primary, is seeking election.


Clerk of the Circuit Court – Dorothy Brown is seeking reelection.


Recorder of Deeds – Karen Yarbrough is seeking reelection


Metropolitan Water Reclamation District

MWRD President Mariyana Spyropoulos and MWRD Vice President Barbara McGowan are seeking reelection to six-year terms.



Urban planner Josina Morita emerged from the primary with the right to seek election to a six-year term.


A business representative for a union local, Martin Durkan is seeking election to a two-year term.


Board of Review

{no candidate nominated}

2nd District –Michael Cabonargi is seeking reelection.


Appellate Court Judges

Eileen Burke


Bertina Lampkin


Circuit Court Judges

John Lyke, Jr.


Rossana Fernandez


Allison Conlon


Aleksandra Gillespsie


Carolyn Gallagher


Mary McHugh


Brendan O’Brien


Maureen Hannon


Suzanna Ortiz


Daniel Patrick Duffy


Patrick Joseph Powers


9th Sub Circuit

Jerry Esrig


10th Sub Circuit

Eve Marie Reilly


12th Sub Circuit

Marguerite Quinn


Janet Mahoney


Carrie Hamilton


James Hanlon


Blog, Newsletter Articles: Here We Go Again – Another Religious Liberty Law

By Steven Ganmarriage
A Personal Perspective

Ever since marriage equality became the law of the land in June 2015, easily more than a dozen states have responded by enacting some kind of religious liberty law so that people who hold sincerely religious beliefs can use that law as justification to refuse to do business with a person or people who identify with the LGBT community.

Of course, right off the top, I’d bet you no florist, baker, photographer, caterer, or any other service retailer would deny services to any straight person or opposite sex couple getting remarried after having been divorced. No, the law is supposedly “to facilitate” those individuals from having to do business with any LGBT person because, let’s be honest, two people of the same sex who are getting married (or remarried) is just too foreign a concept to them—in a way that goes far beyond their religious beliefs. In short, it’s plain old unadulterated state government-sponsored discrimination.

Georgia has become the latest state to strongly entertain religious liberty legislation. On March 16, the Georgia state legislature passed a religious liberty bill that has to be signed by Georgia’s Republican Governor Nathan Deal to become law. Deal has made it very clear that he will not sign any bill that allows discrimination, and as a Southern Baptist himself, he feels the bill is not in line with Christian beliefs. At least he has a backbone.

The present version of the bill heading to Gov. Deal’s desk would enact the following main provisions:

  • Religious leaders are not required to perform ceremonies against their beliefs.
  • No one is required to attend a ceremony they don’t want to.
  • No business is required by the government to be open on Saturday or Sunday.
  • Faith-based organizations are not required to lease facilities for events that are objectionable to their beliefs.
  • Faith-based organizations are not required to provide “social, educational, or charitable services” that violate their beliefs, except under a government contract.
  • Faith-based organizations are not required to hire someone whose beliefs they do not like.
  • The government may not “substantially burden” a person’s exercise of religion unless there is a compelling government interest.

Each of these main provisions can be easily construed to eventually discriminate against gay individuals and couples. For example, a photographer who provides wedding photos for opposite sex couples has to physically attend their wedding to do so. However, under provision 2, “No one is required to attend a ceremony they don’t want to.” The photographer would now have a legal loophole to dive through in order to refuse to shoot a same sex couple’s wedding.

Many businesses with a huge presence in Georgia, including large corporations such as Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Apple, and Nike have opposed this bill throughout its long journey through the Georgia Legislature. The Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce restated its opposition to the revised law in a statement to the Atlanta JournalConstitution, “This legislation is in conflict with the values of diversity and inclusion that Georgians hold dear and could erode Georgia’s hard-earned status as the No. 1 state for business – and would harm our ability to create and keep jobs that Georgia families depend upon,” the statement said. Apparently agreeing, on March 28, Gov. Deal vetoed the law.

But even when the “religious liberty legislation that plainly encouraged discrimination against the LGBT community has been either greatly modified or vetoed, it’s discouraging to see the Republican state legislatures in Georgia and elsewhere dominated by religious conservatives who continue to wage a misguided fight to trample the rights of millions of LGBT Americans. And it is equally discouraging that the North Carolina legislature just passed a law that would eliminate all local ordinances that prohibit LGBT discrimination.

Blog: Local Luminaries to Emcee Poetry Prose Awards Night April 21


On April 21, Tenth Dems will host our 6th Annual Community Connection Poetry Prose Competition Awards Night at the Waukegan Ramada Inn, 200 Green Bay Road, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.  Admission to this event is free.

MarcJonesDulce Ortiz, Lake County Latino Coalition, and Marc Jones, Waukegan Park District Commissioner, have agreed to serve as this year’s emcees.

More than 200 high school students from Waukegan, North Chicago, and Zion have submitted poems and short prose pieces prompted by this year’s topic—Justice.  Volunteer judges, themselves published poets, will select first, second, and third place award winners in poetry and prose, respectively, as well as three entries in each category for honorable mention.  First place winners will receive $150, second place $100, and third place $50.

The judges are reading the student entries stripped of any information that would reveal any personal characteristics of the author.  Every submission has been coded so that the judges have only a number by which to identify them. Names, schools, and communities are all in a separate file maintained by Tenth Dems volunteers.

On awards night, which is open to the public, every student who has submitted a poem, story, or essay will be invited to read his or her work aloud.  In addition, each of our judges also will read an original work.

For more information, to RSVP, or to volunteer to help out, email or call 847-266-VOTE (8683).

Blog, Newsletter Articles: We Must Demand Public Service, Not Lip Service

By Barbara Altman

After a hard-fought primary, Democratic candidates for all offices but President have been nominated.  We 10th District voters know who will be running against Bob Dold in the House and Mark Kirk in the Senate.  As those of us who supported Democratic primary candidates who did not prevail start working our way through the stages of mourning, I offer two very recent reminders of why we, as Democrats, must unite behind our candidates.

Our Democratic candidates share our core belief that government must work for all the people, not just the well-off and powerful.  And because we believe that government must work, period, we reject the obstructionism and refusal to compromise that has become the hallmark of today’s Republican Party.

Two otherwise unrelated current events, the ongoing public health emergency in Flint, Michigan, and the President’s effort to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of Antonin Scalia, illustrate for me the shameful consequences of current Republican ideology.

Flint, Michigan: Republicans Create a Public Health Crisis and Blame the EPA  flint-water-top-compressed

Republican Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan, like our own Governor Bruce Rauner, captured office by promising to run government “like a business.”  Since the goal of business is to make a profit (as opposed to the goal of government, which is to provide services), Governor Snyder moved forward quickly when presented with a way to save money on water in Flint, Michigan.

We all know how that turned out:  For nearly two years, the faucets in Flint— a city where 40 percent of the population lives below the poverty line—have spewed toxic water that is polluted with lead and other dangerous contaminants.

How did it happen? First, the Republicans who control Michigan’s legislature, while giving lip service to the primacy of local government over state and federal bureaucracies, reenacted an Emergency Manager law that the state’s voters had repealed in a 2012 referendum.  So much for government by the people. With the law back in effect, Gov. Snyder appointed an Emergency Manager for Flint.

The Emergency Manager had the power to take action without the concurrence of Flint’s elected mayor or city council.  So the Snyder appointee overruled Flint’s mayor and city council and in April 2014 severed Flint from the Detroit water system and switched the city’s water source to the Flint River.

Prematurely implementing the switchover, the Snyder-appointed Emergency Manager rejected experts’ recommendation that a chemical be added to the water to coat the pipes to prevent corrosion.  After all, this additive would have cost the government $50,000 per year.

Within weeks, Flint residents were complaining about the color, odor, and taste of the water.  In August 2014, samples of the water tested positive for E. coli bacteria.  In October 2014, General Motors stopped using Flint water in its plant, because the water was corroding newly-manufactured auto parts.

Still, in February 2015, a state-hired consultant told the public that the water in Flint was safe to drink. Later that same month, the US. Environmental Protection Agency advised state officials that lead was leaching into the water.  Lead, as we know, is highly toxic and causes longterm mental and emotional disabilities, especially in children.

But it took until April 2015, a full year after the switchover for the Snyder administration to tell Flint’s residents their water was unsafe to drink.

So Gov. Snyder saved the state $50,000, thousands of people were sickened with legionnaire’s disease and worse, and lead poisoning will destroy the lives of a generation of Flint children.

Fast forward to March 17 of this year, when the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing to question Gov. Snyder and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy about what happened in Flint.  The focus on the hearing was not how to fix the problem, but how it happened.

Loath to blame one of their own for creating a public health crisis, Republican committee members went after Ms. McCarthy.  “Why didn’t the EPA invoke the Safe Drinking Water Act sooner?” they asked, greeting with derision Ms. McCarthy’s response that the law obliges the EPA to defer to and work with the state and the state was misleading the EPA about its own response to the crisis.

How ironic to hear members of the party that wants to shrink the federal government, that has placed the EPA on its hit list of agencies to abolish, and that calls President Obama a dictator and worse when he uses federal powers excoriate the EPA for not rushing into Flint and immediately seizing control of its water delivery system from the Michigan state government.  How indecent that to save money the Michigan state government exposed caused an entire population to polluted and lead-laced drinking water for more than two years.

And the crisis isn’t over.  Although Flint’s water no longer comes from the Flint River, the city’s now-corroded pipes continue to leach lead.  The public health emergency will not be abated until those pipes can be resealed or replaced, at a cost more than a thousand times the $50,000 that the corrosion-prevention additive would have cost in the first place.

Meanwhile, the human cost is ongoing, and incalculable.

A Supreme Court Vacancy: Republicans Say They Venerate the Constitution, Ignore Its Mandates

The Republican rationale for resolving to leave a Supreme Court vacancy open for more than a year? Why, President Obama is a “lame duck.”  The problem is, up until Scalia’s death, a president’s “lame duck” period was understood to be the time between the election of a successor and the expiration of the current officeholder’s term.  For Barack Obama, that would be from the day after the election, November 9, 2016, until Inauguration Day, January 20, 2017.  To conclude otherwise would be to condemn a President to lame duck status the minute he was sworn in for his second term.  Four years as a placeholder President?  Is that what was intended by the 22nd Amendment?

But, the Republicans respond, “the people” should decide on the next Supreme Court Justice by electing a new President in November.  But isn’t that just what “the people” did when they elected Barack Obama in 2012?

So much for GOP lip service paid to strict adherence to the Constitution.

And we shouldn’t be fooled into thinking Democrats would play the same game were the circumstances reversed.  No matter what Republicans would have us believe, even Robert Bork got his hearing—and his up-or-down vote.  It just so happened that Bork’s vote was down (and not on party lines).  Merrick Garland deserves the same consideration that was given Robert Bork —interviews with senators, a committee hearing, and an up-or-down vote.