Originally published in Daily Herald, December 2, 2020. 

Several state senators are calling on Gov. JB Pritzker to introduce a new moratorium on utility disconnections, as Illinois enters the dangerously cold part of the winter and the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated economic impact continue.

"We appreciate that the governor has continued his moratorium on evictions, but in Illinois, a home without heat is not a safe home in the winter," said state Sen. Laura Fine, a Glenview Democrat. "We need to ensure that everyone continues to have a safe place to live until this crisis has passed."

Fine, along with her Democrat colleagues state Senators Ann Gillespie of Arlington Heights, Adriane Johnson of Buffalo Grove, Julie Morrison of Lake Forest, and Robert Peters, Celina Villanueva, and Ram Villivalam, all of Chicago, sent the governor a letter urging him to institute a new moratorium on utility shut-offs, effective until the crisis or winter ends.

"Due to the deadly nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, and as we advocate for a much-needed stimulus package from the federal government, we need to take every action possible as a state to ensure the safety and health of our residents, including the avoidance of any utility disconnections," Villivalam said. "This will be among the most difficult holiday seasons that our families and our children will experience. Let us take one large burden and uncertainty off the table for our constituents."

Though the senators acknowledged that many utility companies have already voluntarily increased protections against shut-offs this winter, they believe that the rule needs to include all utility companies, and that this is too big of an issue to rely on voluntary compliance.

"We're seeing people struggling, especially in Black and Brown communities, and especially employees of restaurants, bars, and other service industries," Villanueva said. "While we appreciate that some companies have already stepped forward to offer more protections, we need to ensure that no Illinois family has to worry about losing access electricity or gas this winter."


Category: In The News

Originally published in Block Club Chicago, November 10, 2020.

The temporary COVID-19 testing site will open Thursday at 3333 W. Touhy Ave. in Lincolnwood.

WEST RIDGE — A temporary coronavirus testing site will help Far North Side residents. 

The free testing site is coming to the Lincolnwood Town Center parking lot at 3333 W. Touhy Ave. in Lincolnwood. The site will be open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday-Monday. 

Walkup and drive-thru testing will be conducted at the site. Nasal swab tests will be used, and results will be available in four to seven business says, according to the office of State Sen. Ram Villivalam. 

The testing site is open to all and is free, the senator’s office said. Those with health insurance should bring their cards, but insurance is not needed to receive a test. 

The testing site comes as coronavirus cases in the state are soaring, with more than 22,000 cases reported over the weekend. At the beginning of the pandemic, West Ridge had the highest concentration of positive COVID-19 cases in the city, and the area is beginning to see an uptick in new cases and its positivity rate.

Category: In The News

Originally published in India Post, October 8, 2020. 

CHICAGO: United for Peace Coalition of peace and interfaith organizations from all across Chicagoland area held a Gandhi Nonviolence Rally in Naperville, a Chicago suburb, on Oct 2, 2020, a day that has been designated as the International Nonviolence Day by the United Nations. This was in honor of Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday. The hosting organizations included United for Peace, Non Violence works, Unity Partnership, Diversity Diners & Gandhi 150 Commemorative Stamp Initiative. 

Coalition members felt that at this turbulent time in nation history witnessing increased polarization and violent clashes in cities, it is important to reinforce the principles of nonviolence and equal rights espoused by Gandhi in India’s freedom movement, and followed by Martin Luther King in his civil rights movement here. 
The outdoor event was attended and addressed by many elected representatives- Illinois State Senators Laura Ellman & Ram Villivalam, Naperville City Councilman Benny White, Aurora Alderman- Sherman Jenkins, Hanover Township trustee-Khaja Moinuddin and several others. Congressman Raja Krisnamoorthi sent a message mentioning that in honor of Gandhi he had introduced a bipartisan resolution with other members of Congress to observe this day as the International Day of Nonviolence in The US. 

Read more ...

Category: In The News

Originally published in Chicago Tribune, September 25, 2020.

On a hazy September afternoon near a willow tree, a boy with a bright red backpack spotted something slimy on the ground. “Hello, all the mushrooms,” he said, gently tapping the fungus, trying not to crush any as his small feet moved through the grass. 

A teacher asked why they might be growing in that spot. The boy thought for a moment. “Because it’s shady and wet!” That was just one lesson for the group of kids at the Chicago Botanic Garden Nature Preschool, a program that’s part of the growing field of nature-based early childhood education.

Nature preschools were increasing before the pandemic, more than doubling in the last three years, according to a report from the Natural Start Alliance, a project of the North American Association for Environmental Education. The report estimates 585 schools across the country have nature-based education at their core, meaning a significant amount of time is spent outside. Illinois is among the states with the most programs — topping 20. California and Washington, with about 50 programs each, lead the list.

Aerosol transmission of the coronavirus has raised concerns over safety of walled-off spaces, and some parents are wondering if one solution during the pandemic is as simple as stepping outside.

Read more ...

Category: In The News

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