MEDIA WATCH: Another Chicago Tribune hatchet job... Tribune chooses Martin Luther King Jr. holiday to attack Monique Davis, a state legislator who has always supported public schools and the teachers' union

It's no surprise that the news columns of the Chicago Tribune are devoted to propaganda on behalf of the pet projects of Chicago's ruling class. During the past five years, the Tribune has devoted ten times the "news" space to hailing the unproven claims of one Chicago charter school ("Urban Prep") than tracking the real successes of the thousands of successful high school graduates who have emerged from Chicago's Whitney Young, Walter Payton, and Northside Prep high schools combined. The Tribune's editorial biases, however, extend to slandering those Illinois politicians who support public education and the Chicago Teachers Union.

One of the more grotesque examples of the Tribune's biases came on January 17, 2011, when the Tribune, using as a source Chicago Public Schools attorney Patrick Rocks, attacked State Rep. Monique Davis, who had just returned from Springfield where she provided support to the Chicago and Illinois teachers who successfully blocked "Performance Counts," the billionaires' school reform bill.

But Substance readers, who have been canceling their Tribune subscriptions lately, can read the Tribune's version of the news from Martin Luther King day and judge for themselves.

Chicagoans with long memories will remember that when Martin Luther King Jr. was alive, the Tribune regularly published "news" reports attacking King based on unnamed sources, one of whom later turned out to be FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover. Usually published under the by-line of a Tribune reporter named Ron Koziol, the slanders added to the right wing attacks on King as a philanderer and reprobate and helped fan the flames of racism that led to King's April 1968 assassination.


Unpaid rent, bills add up as legislator, CPS feud, By Joel Hood, Tribune reporter, 3:37 AM CST, January 17, 2011

Taxpayers could be left holding the bag in a legal feud involving the Chicago Board of Education, Cook County and state Rep. Monique Davis over more than $1 million in unpaid rent, taxes, interest and penalties.

In a recent filing in claims court, the city's Board of Education alleges that Davis has not paid rent to Chicago Public Schools for eight years, failed to pay taxes on her lease with the county for more than 20 years and has time and again fought eviction from a South Side office building that has housed her legislative offices since 1988.

The Board of Education is suing the state and Davis, seeking $617,683, a tally that includes more than $100,000 in unpaid rent, compounding interest, penalties, utilities payments and court costs. Meanwhile, the Cook County treasurer's office last week referred Davis' case to the state's attorney in an effort to recover about $456,000 in overdue leasehold taxes, fines and interest dating back to 1988.

The county's actions are the latest twist in an unfolding legal drama between the city's cash-strapped school district and the state representative who was just sworn in to her 13th term.

Each side says the other is to blame. Davis maintains that the school district was slow to respond to previous efforts to work out a new lease agreement, while school officials say she has been uncooperative with recent attempts to negotiate a deal that might have forced her to pay back rent, taxes and fees.

With a courtroom battle on the horizon, Davis is defiantly holding her ground, saying she will remain in the office without paying rent or taxes until the case is settled.

"I'm not embarrassed. I'm not ashamed by this," said Davis, D-Chicago, whose 27th District includes parts of the city's Southwest Side and the suburbs of Blue Island, Alsip and Palos Heights. "The people I represent know me, and they know I've never accepted a handout my whole life."

A year ago, Davis was at the center of another controversy when a statue depicting a life-size slave went missing from Chicago State University, only to turn up inside Davis' legislative office. Davis said her boyfriend had taken the $25,000 sculpture with a school administrator's permission after learning it was being housed in a warehouse.

Days later, Davis returned the statue to the university, which placed it on display inside the school's library.

Patrick J. Rocks, an attorney for the Board of Education, said the controversy over unpaid bills goes far beyond a simple misunderstanding.

"We have been asking her to vacate the building for some time, sign a new lease for some time, pay back rent for some time," Rocks said. "She has declined to leave."

Even if a judge determines Davis is responsible for the back payments and penalties, it's unclear whether she would have to pay any of it out of her own pocket, officials said. Legislative offices for state senators and representatives are paid through the state comptroller's office, and so the Board of Education has asked the judge that any money collected be paid out of "current or past appropriations by the Illinois General Assembly."

Taxpayers typically pay for office space rented by elected officials. But this case could also force taxpayers to pick up the tab for years of unpaid rent and taxes, as well as hundreds of thousands of additional dollars in fines accrued during the squabbling. The Board of Education also has allocated $15,000 for an eviction specialist to assist in the case.

The Board of Education initially sued Davis in November 2009, claiming the state representative had gone seven years without paying rent for her CPS-owned office space inside a small, single-story brick building in the 1200 block of West 95th Street. That office has been home to Davis' legislative affairs since 1988.

Between 1988 and 2002, Davis rented the office space on a series of two-year leases. But when the district discovered in 2002 that Davis had not paid taxes on the property for the previous 14 years, it informed her that the unpaid bills were worth more than the building itself and declined to extend her lease, Rocks said. Davis was told to vacate the property by July 1, 2002.

She never did, and over the next several years the two sides spoke infrequently and failed to reach an agreement on a new lease. By fall 2009, CPS had had enough and tried to forcibly evict Davis through the court system.

The initial case, filed in the Circuit Court, was dismissed because it wasn't the proper jurisdiction, Rocks said. The case was refiled a year later in claims court.

The Davis case was buried in a lengthy annual report issued this month by the school district's inspector general, who determined both sides were at fault for letting the unpaid bills escalate for so long.

One sticking point in reaching an agreement on a new lease, Rocks said, is that Davis would be required to pay the back rent and penalties assessed by the Board of Education. Davis said she's been unwilling to do so, prompting the board to continue the eviction process.

As the two sides move further apart, that's not as unlikely a scenario as it once seemed, Rocks said. And frustration is mounting.

"All of our efforts to try and resolve this have been unsuccessful," Rocks said. "So we're moving ahead with the latest step."


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