One Cause At a Time – Archive

An Archive of Chicago Now One Cause at a Time Posts

Archive for May 2018

Red Alert: 48 Crucial Hours for Net Neutrality

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With a potential Congressional vote to end Net Neutrality, it is imperative that people contact their Representatives to urge them to vote against the FCC’s recommendations. (And you can learn more via

But why should we support Net Neutrality? You may be thinking…and here are some good reasons:

Still unsure? Here’s a recent conversation about issues surrounding Net Neutrality:

If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out via Facebook or e-mail.



Meet Your Neighbor: Chris Scott of Opulent Credit Builders

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Red light cameras have become an example of how technology can negatively impact the community. Initially, these cameras were installed to alleviate traffic concerns, bring income to the city, and ensure public safety. However, red light cameras are also forcing many Chicago residents to file for bankruptcy…and Chris Scott, Founder and Chairman of Opulent Credit Builders is providing assistance for people adversely affected by mounting debt due to auto tickets, impacting their jobs, housing, and credit rating.

In a recent conversation with Chris, it was noted that red light cameras are more frequently located in specific Chicago neighborhoods. Those who are adversely affected by red light camera ticketing tend to be people of color, as well as have relatively low income. Once a resident receives a ticket (costing at least $150), that person has two weeks to pay it without penalty. (Many Chicago residents – including Chris’ clients – have difficulty coming up with that amount; many part-time and low-income workers do not have available cash.) After two weeks, the amount doubles to $300 and often results in a choice between either paying the traffic ticket…or putting food on the table. Or a roof over their head. For many families of color, this can eventually result in filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. According to recent articles from ProPublica, that African-Americans are filing for bankruptcy at a disproportionately higher rate and experiencing severe consequences because of ticket debt.

(Before anyone cites that people are “breaking the law” when caught by a red light camera…like any other technology, red light cameras are due to failure. After a city ordinance removed the requirement of a second notice, this kind of action forces people who are already in dire financial straits even further. A recent lawsuit cited how many people were “wronged” through inappropriate and selective enforcement. According to ProPublica, fees from red light camera ticket accounted for approximately seven percent of Chicago’s total 2016 budget, or approximately $264 million in revenue. Given these facts, red light camera tickets feel like a desperate money grab by the City of Chicago. As a former resident of St. Louis, I understand how some small municipalities often rely on municipal fees for funding. Yet the State of Missouri managed to place some limits on collecting municipal fees. With Chapter 13 bankruptcy affecting many Chicago residents’ ability to find good jobs, adequate housing, or other needed resources, this seems like an unduly harsh and punitive policycredit-book by the City.)

As Founder and Chairman of the city’s sole MBE certified credit repair company, Chris Scott is providing credit repair and financial literacy services through Opulent Credit Builders. Clients will be given assistance in finding and reading their credit report, examining what items are impacting their credit score, and taking action to have certain items removed. (Yes, many people can do this themselves, but it is a time-consuming process; as Chris Scott clarified to me, the totality of the experience can be daunting and intimidating). Clients also receive a copy of Chris Scott’s book, Credit. What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You. This philosophy of “helping rather than hurting” people is a great rationale for Opulent Credit Builders to take a stand and provide these services (and yes, there is a fee).

But ultimately, technology should always be done in service of the community. Red light cameras were initially installed for the purpose of relieving traffic issues and bringing revenue to the city. Unfortunately, in some Chicago neighborhoods, they are providing an additional strain on residents and creating a financial burden rather than financial relief. Thankfully, Chris Scott and Opulent Credit Builders are taking steps to start moving Chicago residents forward.

Your thoughts? Please feel free to leave them below or reach out via our Facebook page. If you wish to contact me directly, please use this e-mail form.

And as always, thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

May 13, 2018 at 3:52 pm

Paschen: Building The Future Through Their Scholars

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As a resident of the Beverly neighborhood, I was excited to hear about the opening of the south terminal of the 95th Street Red Line stop. Along with plans to renovate the north terminal, as well as possible Red Line expansion all the way to 130th Street, this has excited many Southside residents. Although conversation always steers around “community development” and “community investment”, many don’t know the “story behind the story”…because for FH Paschen, a local construction and consulting firm, the 95th Street station is more than just another project…it’s part of their effort to invest in the greater community, both through its direct work and through the Paschen Scholar program to foster the next generation of engineers and STEM professionals.

According to Chuck Freiheit, COO of Paschen, diversity and inclusion are strong, consistent values within the organization. Partnering with Milhouse Engineering on the project, Paschen took their efforts a step further. Citing the city and CTA’s “good program for diverse hiring”, Paschen worked with the Urban League to find local WIOA-qualifying workers for the project. (The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act provides small stipends for “dislovated or disadvantaged” employees; I’m proud to say that I received WIOA funding for marketing training through DePaul Kellstadt ). But Paschen also worked with local community organizations, as well as sought opportunities from local neighborhood businesses where possible in moving this project forward. (To put it simply, every day was “Shop Local Saturday” for the 95th Street Terminal Project).

Although the completion of the South Terminal is the first part of a two-part project, there are “always lessons to learn on projects” as Chuck Freiheit put it. One of the great advantages to this project was that it was daunting to construct a new terminal over an active railroad. Not only has this project enabled Paschen to engage their overall mission of diversity and inclusion in their transit projects, but their willingness to outreach and engage the greater South side community have built on the company’s legacy. Several key lessons for the 95th Street Red Line Terminal project include consistent communication with all partners, minimizing the impact to local residents as best as they can, and maintaining appropriate traffic flow/station operations. Collaborating with partners and the delivery method of the project are not always simply…but Paschen is ready to face the challenge.

But it’s another Paschen-based community-minded program that really impressed me…because it’s not just a one-time investment, but a commitment to expanding opportunities and access for underserved communities. 95th Street Dan Ryan Red Line Station

In 2015, Paschen initiated a partnership with Westinghouse College Prep focusing on engineering and STEM-related fields. The Paschen Scholar program is a three-year internship program focused on supporting students exploring the engineering, construction, and architecture fields. Every year, six students enter the program and receive guidance and insight. But this isn’t just another structured program…

For Ramon Quinto, a Gage Park resident and one of Westinghouse’s Paschen Scholars, it has been a great experience. Although he was always interested in math and science, Ramon explained that he was never sure what he could do with those interests until he applied for the program thanks to a class speaker, With a combination of classroom instruction and field experience during the summers, Ramon was introduced to various aspects of construction. This involved actual site visits (including the 95th Street Terminal project) but also learning the “nuts and bolts of construction”. Ramon not only gained insight into the various types of engineering (like chemical engineering, architecture, and electrical), but also into the actual breakdown of projects (including budgeting, bidding, and other processes). It’s more than just revealing a worksite to a student; it is a rare chance to “peek behind the curtains” to see how the construction field works.

And what has been the end result for Ramon Quinto? He’s now preparing for college and is taking AP Calculus, Physics, and Engineering. Other experts are coming to his school, and he is excited about pursuing a career in engineering. (He’s not sure yet what kind of engineering will be his professional specialty…but he’s thinking about it). He credits the Paschen scholar program with helping him apply leadership and project management skills to class projects: identifying roles, building collaborations, and knowing how to work with others. Ramon also credits the Paschen Scholar program with helping him discover and know his options, and that he is aware of his possible directions and motivating him to explore a field that he enjoys. In addition, Ramon also enjoys his involvement with Paschen because it “benefits society in the future”.

That quality makes Paschen and its work worth highlighting – they take the ideas of community engagement and community investment to a higher level. Their work is not just about building a pool of potential hires or “getting a project done”, but also focuses on the greater good. Encapsulating all of my notes and insights from my conversations with Chuck Freiheit and Ramon Quinto into one single blog post is a daunting task, but one thing remains: FH Paschen is working hard to ensure that they are a “good neighbor” within the community, working in a place where social enterprise and private industry intersect and providing services that benefit the larger Chicago community.

I don’t think I can put it any simpler than that….and they’re a neighbor worth knowing.

(Special thanks to Chuck Freiheit of FH Paschen and Ramon Quinto of Westinghouse College Prep for their time and insight)

Thanks for reading! Please feel free to make a comment below, or join the conversation via our Facebook page. If you wish to reach out to me privately, please use this contact page.