Mayor Rahm Emanuel's message of safe streets, sound schools and stable finances was the focus of Federation's Government Affairs Committee Oct. 15 meeting.
Speaking to a packed room, Deputy Mayor Steven Koch said "the time to deal with the economic health of this city is right now." Although charged with overseeing the city's finances, Koch's approach to the economic health of the city is a holistic one. "Economic success relies on human capital, not only for companies to relocate and stay here, but for the employees that work for these companies to stay here and make a life here as well," he said.
The more economic opportunity provided in neighborhoods in need of economic growth, such as Whole Foods in Englewood and Method in Pullman, the more safer streets and safer schools become possible. Koch (who is a former board chairman of Federation affiliate Sinai Health System) stressed the importance of a constant dialogue between newly relocated companies and the city in order to ensure newer companies remain in Chicago for generations to come.
Felicia Davis, Director of the Mayor' Office of Public Engagement, also joined the conversation and weighed in on issues of public safety in Chicago. Although the Mayor's Office reports that the murder rate has decreased from 954 murders in 1994 to just over 400 in 2012, Davis said she is by no means implying that the city is comfortable with where things currently stand.
"Part of increasing public safety in Chicago is about changing the dialogue and viewing public safety through a different lens," she said. For example, it's about working with city departments to repair potholes, broken lights, and remove litter in a timely fashion. Public safety is not just the Whole Foods and the Methods coming to outlying neighborhoods in need, but also about sustaining and creating small businesses far south on 79th Street to far north on Wilson Avenue; and bringing the Chicago Public Schools on board to create more after-school programs; and restorative-justice programs to provide wrap-around services for families affected by violence.
With this holistic approach in mind, the city currently is in budget negotiations and will present the budget to the City Council by the end of October.
The last guest speaker, Paul Berrini, from Sinai Health System, spoke to members about the first two weeks of the roll out of the Affordable Care Act.
As strategy and planning specialist, Berrini is responsible for overseeing the implementation process for patients at Sinai. Mount Sinai Hospital, which recently merged with Holy Cross Hospital, serves patients from 27 ZIP codes in the most underserved and poorest communities on the South and West Sides of the city. Of the 1.5 million people in need of care, 300, 000 are uninsured. Sinai received both federal and state grants to educate its patients about the new health-care system.
"Most people that walk through our doors seek health insurance on the market exchange, rather than through Medicaid," Berrini said. "It's about a 60/40 split." Acting as federally subsided "navigators," Sinai staff now must explain to the uninsured how to access health care, and also reach out to uninsured in the community and be available to help customers navigate the process.
As part of the effort, Sinai has done extensive outreach to police and fire departments in the area to promote the new program. Computers are available on-site to ensure each uninsured patient can register upon entering the hospital.