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Chicago teachers pension trustees to review investments in arms companies, beginning with Smith-Wesson

Trustees of the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund have begun a review of the fund's $10 billion investment portfolio with an eye towards divesting from corporations that manufacture and sell assault weapons and ammunition clips that can contain dozens or more rounds for rapid-fire.

Above, CTPF Vice President Lois Ashford (left) chairs the committee meeting that discussed the pension fund's divesture of investments in companies that produce assault weapons and high capacity bullet magazine. Left to right: Lois Ashford, Jay Rehak, and Joe Burns. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The first discussion of the proposal took place on December 27, 2012, at a meeting of the CTPF's pension law and rules committee. That committee is chaired by the fund's vice president, elementary school teacher Lois Ashford. During the discussion, Pension Fund President Jay Rehak and Vice President Ashford discussed the need for more gun control based on both the recent massacre at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown Connecticut and the regular shootings and killings in Chicago. CTPF staff presented a preliminary review of arms companies in which the fund has holdings. The largest is Smith and Wesson, of which the CTPF owns $400,000 worth of Smith and Wesson stock.

Rehak noted that the review was prompted by the recent massacre of children and teachers at Sandy Hook elementary school. Ashford reminded the trustees that children of the same ages are dying regularly in Chicago because of guns in the hands of criminals. She cited a particular example from her own experience teaching elementary school in Chicago. Rehak later remembered a student at Whitney Young High School (Class of 2007) whose murder was remembered during the school's graduation ceremonies that year.

Trustee James Ward, who represents retired teachers, noted that when the issue of apartheid in South Africa came before the fund a quarter century ago, the trustees were able to vote to divest from corporations doing business with the white supremacist regime that at the time ruled the country and was keeping future Noble Prize winner Nelson Mandela in prison.

The issue will be on the agenda of the fund's regular meeting in January.



Comments:

December 28, 2012 at 12:47 PM

By: Al Korach

Divesture

AT THIS TIME IT'S HARD TO DISAGREE WITH DIVESTURE FROM COMPANIES THAT MAKE AUTOMATIC WEAPONS. I HEAR THAT THEY ARE SHAKING IN THEIR BOOTS AT THIS NEWS. WE DIVESTED FROM TOBACCO AND ALCOHOL AND WE ARE STILL SMOKING AND DRINKING WITH HIGHER PROFITS.DIVESTURE IS ONE WAY BUT THE WEAPONS WILL STILL BE BOUGHT AND SOLD. THE PROBLEM IS WITH OUR SOCIETY AND CULTURE. WE SEEM TO REFUSE TO BELIEVE THAT WE HAVE BECOME A VIOLENT CULTURE.ON TV YOU CAN WATCH THE "OCTOGON" AND SEE TWO INDIVIDUALS BEAT THEMSELVES ALMOST TO DEATH BEFORE THE REFEREE PUTS A STOP TO IT. I BELIEVE THAT IT'S UTAH WHERE TEACHERS ARE GIVEN CLASSES IN GUN HANDLING. GOING UP AGAINTS THE 2ND AMENDMENT FOR MANY IS LIKE GOING AGAINST GOD. AS I HAVE SAID BEFORE,"HOSTESS TWINKIES WILL BE ON THE SHELVES BEFORE ANY MEANINGFUL GUN LEGISLATION IS PASSED." DIVESTURE WILL NOT STOP GUN VIOLENCE BUT IT'S A START.

December 29, 2012 at 10:03 AM

By: Jay Rehak

$400,000 in Gun Investments

Well written piece except to note the CTPF appears to have approximately 400,000 (four hundred thousand) dollars in investments in such weapons manufacturers NOT 400 million. As noted, the divestiture issue will be brought to the full board in January.

My colleague, Lois Ashford made a very compelling argument that the gun issue is a very local issue, in that our Chicago streets are far too violent and have cost us too many of our students. We grieve for anyone, man, woman or child who is a victim of gun violence, and recognize that it's not just the national news making "massacres" that need to be stopped. Children are dying and being wounded in Chicago every day. Families are destroyed by these actions every day. Communities and schools are impacted by such violence every day. Lois noted that she has lost a student to gun violence as have I. How such violence impacts those who survive (classmates) is difficult to quantify, but one never forgets such incidents.

We need to work to stop the violence as a society. Many on the CTPF are looking at what can be done to be part of the solution.

December 29, 2012 at 7:20 PM

By: George N. Schmidt

Whoops. Correction made in the story.

Thanks for the correction, Jay. Four hundred thousand is definitely four hundred thousand too much. But a far cry from what I misreported.

December 30, 2012 at 8:16 AM

By: John Stewart Whitfield Cutler

Right thing to do, divest in arms investments

In my initial yesrs with CPS, when Harold was still alive, as he had been re-elected, I was going between Otis Elementary and Carpenter schools teaching ESL. I had the pleasure of meeting AL Raby in the Otis cafeteria, who worked in communications for Harold. We briefly spoke about our Peace Corps experiences in Ghana and Costa Rica. I hadn't realized who I had met until after Raby had passed. At Carpenter I spoke up when Jackie Vaughn visited, and reminded her about the investments in Apartheid in South Africa. She said, "yes, and people like you should keep speaking up." Like the recent strike, divesting in South African's racist system back then was the right thing to do, as we all know. And this issue is equally important, needless to say. It can do nothing less than help to soften the gun lobbys stand, which already seems to be taking place. Like the ridiculous trade embargo policy against Cuba, when Cuba wants to buy Virginia apples, and Illinois farmers want to trade corn and beans with that island, some things inevitably must change. No country wants to be known as the mass murderer nation.

December 31, 2012 at 9:43 PM

By: Anthony Smith

Chicago Politicians and the guns they own

Consider the arrogance of Trotter, who thus lost his shot at Jesse Jackson Jr.'s congressional seat, because he was getting on a flight and "forgot" that he had a weapon, anybody believe that one?

I wondered how many of our politicians carry guns, have body guards, extra police details around their homes and families, and bullet proof cars that are all paid on the taxpayers dime? Just wondering?

January 1, 2013 at 6:14 PM

By: Bob Busch

Ideas about killings

There is a short four minute video on u-tube which I think everyone who is genuinely concerned about violence should watch.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k1SZurGArxE

After the first movie star makes his pitch for gun control the video cuts to him slaughtering six different people in his various movie roles. For each star after that the same thing is done. Finally the video says guns kill people but where do they get the ideas.

January 1, 2013 at 9:26 PM

By: Anthony Smith

'Impressionable Youth' -- or Society's Failure?

In regards to Ideas about Killings I know that I read a lot of books, comics, listened to music, watched television, and saw movies that were action oriented, violent, and had death in them. I also hung out with some very bad characters in my youth.

I didn't allow that to influence my decisions in life. In fact I admired the heroes and heroines in these venues and filtered that with my mom's values and society's values as well as my own. Many of my generation did the same.

Many children today are able to see even more violent television and films and play violent video games in there respective countries and they don't have the level of gun violence and homicides that we do.

So I would like to blame our politicians for the level of violence that we have today.

Why you ask? Because they make the laws, have the control, have the money, and have the connections. So I would like to lay the blame squarely on their shoulders.

Do they deserve this blame? I don't know. Is it logical? I don't know. Are our politicians using logic in their decision making process?

Doesn't seem like it to me. I do know that our politicians like to blame everyone else for everything when it goes wrong.

They like to blame working class people for the pension crisis. While they make their pensions fatter and far easier to get for themselves their family members and their friends and financial associates.

They like to blame the elderly for living longer and taking more social security and medicare benefits. While they have the best health care money can buy on the taxpayers dime and these are lifetime benefits after a short term in office!

They like to blame teachers for not having students perform better on standardized tests. Without taking into consideration that many of our students come from underprivileged backgrounds and may have a lot of of obstacles to overcome meanwhile they send their kids to the best schools money can buy.

They like to blame the teachers union for wanting to keep open more public schools. While they open up 2 charter schools next to a very healthy and viable public school, siphon off students and then declare that that school is underutilized, rinse, repeat,

They like to blame police officers for not reducing the murder rate. While they lie about the statistics for such murders (many homicides are still "pending" and lying about the number of police officers on the street and the numbers that we actually need.

They like to blame firefighters for having too many on a crew. Meanwhile they would expect the best should a fire hit their home or business and would want as many firefighters as they could get for that.

I do know that our politicians don't like to take the blame, even when it points directly at them. So that is why I blame our politicians for today's violence in our society. Not necessarily because it is logical but because I feel like it.

Just like our politicians. They do what they like, as they like, when the feel like it.And since I am learning from their behavior and actions and their "role model" status perhaps our youth are as well.

Perhaps they are learning that they are being scapegoated for our politicians own purposes. Perhaps they realize that they are rolled out for press conferences but that they are tossed aside as soon as the cameras stop rolling and the reporters stop asking questions.

So I blame our politicians for our level of violence in our society. How do we change that you ask? I suggest we change it by changing our politicians regularly and often until they get it right.

Happy New year one and all.

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