Sen. Duckworth, advocates push for bill to lower phone calls from prison

U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth introduced the Martha Wright-Reed Just and Reasonable Communications Act with the aim of reducing the costs of phone calls made by the 2 million people incarcerated across the U.S. and their families. The lawmaker and others pushing for the legislation, including the American Jail Association, say the current system lacks competition and results in high and unreasonable rates.

Austin celebrates first year of 5-year quality of life plan

In its first year, the campaign to improve Austin garnered $13 million in investments. That includes a record $10 million gift from BMO Bank. “It’s been a really momentous year. There’s been a lot of success,” said Darnell Shields, executive director of Austin Coming Together. The nonprofit, launched in 2010, is the driving force behind the quality-of-life plan.

29th Ward projects decided for 2020

29th Ward residents approved six out of seven projects that will be completed over the next several months. The projects include street resurfacing, community park improvements and a pedestrian crosswalk, with a safety island.

Black lawmakers push West Siders to take part in census

Traveling as part of the “Get Counted” bus tour, members of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus made a stop at MacArthur’s Restaurant to unveil a new partnership they hope will help hard-to-count areas such as Austin get an accurate count in next year’s census. The data collected every decade determines the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives and is also used to distribute billions in federal funds to local communities.

Loretto Hospital jumps in patient safety rating after new report

The hospital – which remains the largest private employer in Austin, with 624 people on staff – received an A rating for its fall report, after receiving average ratings of C’s and D’s. The Leapfrog Group, a national nonprofit based in Washington, grades hospitals across the country on factors like in-patient care, infections and practices to prevent error. Hospitals voluntarily participate, and Leapfrog releases reports twice a year.

Austin residents celebrate Veterans Day despite the cold

Veterans were honored Monday at the 29th Ward’s Veterans’ Peace Garden, 5413 W. Madison St. The event – held in the midst of falling snow and bitter winds – was sponsored by the recently formed Austin Veterans Community Organization (AVCO). The group will be meeting the third Wednesday of every month at noon at the 29th Ward Veterans’ Peace Garden when it’s warm enough to meet outside and at MacArthur’s restaurant during the winter.

Austin residents, officers meet to discuss policing strategic plan for West Side

West Side residents who attended the meeting were asked two questions: What are the key problems that you would like police to address, and how would you like the police to engage more with the community? Another community conversation to discuss the strategic plan the Chicago Police Department is developing will be held Nov. 12 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Zoe Life Ministries, 3 S. Laramie Ave.