This week in wins: Chicago joins libraries across the nation in canceling overdue book fees


More wins include Georgia seeing voter registration skyrocket, and California makeing it easier for parents to run for office.

Chicago is making it easier for low-income families to use the library, Los Angeles is going to plant a whole host of trees, and a town in Iowa is resisting pressure to remove colorful crosswalks celebrating LGBTQ pride.

Those are just some of the wins this week. Here's some more good news from across the country.

Chicago libraries nix overdue fines for books

On Oct. 1, the Chicago Public Library system forgave all outstanding fines and will no longer charge fees for overdue books, becoming the largest library system in the country to make this change, the Chicago Tribune reported. The goal is to encourage low-income families to use the library more.

Research shows that fines negatively impact library patronage, and other library systems that eliminated fines saw more people borrowing books with no significant negative consequences. Patrons will still be charged a fee if they do not return a book after it is automatically renewed 15 times, but the fee will be waived if they simply return the book.

"Fines don't teach responsibility. They just reinforce the difference between people who are able to pay for a common mistake and those who aren't," Curtis Rogers, a spokesman for Washington, D.C.-based Urban Libraries Council, told the Tribune.

Newly registered voters ensure Georgia will be 2020 battleground

Georgia has seen a huge surge in voter registration this year, with nearly 400,000 residents registering, bringing the total number of voters to 7.4 million — a new state record.

In a traditionally red state that nearly elected a democratic governor in 2018 — Republican Brian Kemp defeated Democrat Stacey Abrams by a 55,000 vote margin amid credible allegations of voter suppression — the newly registered voters, mostly in left-leaning demographics, have made the state a 2020 battleground for two Senate races and the presidential election.

Iowa city will not remove rainbow-themed LGBTQ pride crosswalks

The city of Ames, Iowa, shrugged off pressure from the federal government to change pride-themed crosswalks at one of its downtown intersections, LGBTQ Nation reported Tuesday.

At a downtown intersection, two of the colorful crosswalks are in the colors of the POC-rainbow flag, one is in the colors of the transgender flag, and another crosswalk is in the colors of the gender nonbinary flag.

In September, the city received a notification from the Federal Highway Administration demanding the city repaint the crosswalk, lest drivers and pedestrians be distracted.

After consulting traffic manuals, city administrators determined that the crosswalks did not violate any statutes, and furthermore the federal agency had no jurisdiction over city streets. So the city is ignoring the letter, and Ames residents will continue to use the colorful crosswalks.

California passes bill to promote gender equality in state government

On Monday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 220, which provides explicit legal protection for candidates who use campaign funds to pay for childcare.

Assembly member Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), who proposed the bill earlier this year, said it "will help create greater gender parity among elected officials in California and more broadly help all parents with young children seek and serve in public office by allowing the use of campaign funds for child care expenses."

Previously, parents who wanted to use campaign funds to reduce the time and financial cost of childrearing had to rely on a 20-year-old advice letter from California Fair Political Practices Commission, which was legally non-blinding.

Currently, 30% of California legislators are women. Amber Maltbie, an attorney and women's activist, said she hoped the bill would move the state "to have the California Legislature look like California."

Los Angeles will plant nearly 100,000 trees over the next two years

Los Angeles is taking a stand against climate change, declining air and water quality, and freeway-generated smog. The city announced it will be planting an average of 100 trees a day until the end of 2021.

In an interview with Mother Jones, Los Angeles City Forest Officer Rachel Malarich highlighted the project's focus on lower-income and higher-needs areas in the South and East neighborhoods of the city.

She also pointed to some of the lesser known benefits of trees, like overnight cooling, capturing stormwater, and even cited research showing "they improve feelings of social cohesion in a neighborhood. And feelings of connectedness to our communities can also increase our resiliency in light of other disasters. I think that trees are a really important part of our communities, and they are hugely connected to public health."

It's now illegal in New York City to call ICE on someone 'based on a discriminatory motive'

Kindness and civility took a step forward in New York City with a new ordinance making it illegal to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on a person "based on a discriminatory motive."

The new guidance also make the use the terms "illegals" or "illegal alien" in a way to demean, harass, or humiliate another person. Violations will result in a fine, NBC News reported on Thursday.

"We take immense pride in our city's diversity and the immigrant communities that call New York City home,” Deputy Mayor Phil Thompson said about the new policy. "This new legal enforcement guidance will help ensure that no New Yorker is discriminated against based on their immigration status or national origin."

Come back next week for more good news.

Nick Vachon contributed to this report.