Civic Work

I’m currently involved in a number of civic efforts.

TIF_Illumination_ProjectMy 13th nonprofit social venture, The CivicLab is up and running! It’s a store front space for educators and activists to meet, do research, teach and collaborate to build programs and tools for civic engagement.Visit us at 114 N. Aberdeen in the West Loop!

114 Aberdeen-croppedTake a look at this eight-minute video (excuse the shaky camera work) of a tour of the Bucketworks in Milwaukee to get a sense of the space we are creating.

I just launched a new web project, Reasons To Run (for public office) (in 2014) that will list one compelling reason for activists, progressive change agents, nonprofit leaders, creatives, artists, scientists, social workers, educators and designers to run for public office.

Mayor Emanuel wants to privatize our infrastructure. He’s not using that word, of course. The new term is Public Private Partnerships (P3). Here is the ordinance. Don’t be fooled. It’s the parking meter scam on steroids. Read this article and you’ll see why.


When I learned of this terrible news I tried to stop it. I could not gin up any interest and   Hull House, founded by social justice pioneer and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Jane Addams, went out of business. You can still sign the online petition to SAVE HULL HOUSE, though.

Illinois Citizens for Public Banking is a new coalition that is working to establish a public bank for Illinois like the 90-year old Bank of North Dakota. Let’s make our money work FOR us! Join us.

I’m helping to launch a new organization, CForward, dedicated to getting nonprofit leaders, workers and constituents active in political life. It will help elect people to office who will defend America’s nonprofits and pursue what I call a Human Agenda. Here’s a 10 minute talk I gave on November 8, 2011 at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Great Cities Institute forum on the Future of Nonprofits – calling on our colleagues to get political!
Download the text of the remarks as PDF.
You can help organize CForward in Illinois by joining this Google Group.

Watch this video on the need for CForward – “There is no profit without nonprofits.”

I’m working with a coalition of citizen activists to fight privatization and to defend the commons. Here is my assessment of the looming privatization push in Illinois. Watch a brief video explaining what is at stake…

As part of this effort, we are advocating the creation of a public bank for Illinois along the lines of the Bank of North Dakota. More information on public banking here.

I organized The Creative America Project in 2004 to inspire and elect artists, cultural workers and creative professionals to run for public office. I did training sessions in seven states. Read a summary of the speaking gigs I did and the training sessions and what participants said about them. I wrote a slim manifesto describing this work which lays out the argument for creativity as a fundamental American value and explains why I think artists and creative professionals would make excellent leaders in public life. “America Needs You!” is available as a free download here. I am now working on a documentary to
extend this work and document ten creatives who have been elected to local office across America. Here is a sample with five short profiles of such creative public servants.

Listen to this eight minute interview from 2005 where I explain what the Creative America Project is all about.

In 2010 I was the Green Party candidate for Cook County Board President. Download a PDF document with my statement of candidacy and my platform. I was even endorsed by The Southtown Star. Here is my appearance on ABC News Chicago’s NewsViews Program:

In 2009 I was a co-leader of the No Games Chicago Campaign that worked to defeat the bod for the 2016 Olympics. The games would’ve privatized the entire city for seven years, making it a fiefdom to a Swiss corporation. It would’ve bankrupted the city (the 2010 Vancouver games stuck the citizens there with a $1.5 billion bill and the 2013 London games are $10 billion over budget). It would’ve destroyed priceless city parks and disrupted the lakefront for years. It would’ve caused poor and working class families to be displaced from neighborhoods near event venues. And the kick-back cash from lucrative Olympic contracts would’ve fueled the coffers of the Machine for decades – effectively killing independent politics here for our lifetimes. You can download the text of the inside story of our work for free here.

Dear Members of the International Olympic Committee – Emails from the No Games Chicago Campaign
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