* I suppose this happens when the President travels, but, man, the lack of any information about his speech this week has been frustrating…
Five days ahead of President Barack Obama’s visit to Springfield, residents were awaiting to hear details of when exactly he’ll address the Illinois General Assembly and what else he might do during his stop in the capital city. […]
The only activity [White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest] listed for Wednesday is the appearance before the legislature in Springfield.
“Now in the final year of his second term, the president looks forward to addressing the Illinois General Assembly about what we can do together to build a better politics, one that reflects our better selves,” Earnest said.
On Wednesday evening, Obama is scheduled to fly to the San Jose, California, area, where he’ll spend the night.
* I was able to get some information this afternoon, however.
The Capitol Building will be closed from 7:30 am until 10 am. But don’t even think about trying to get in early. They want an empty building.
The tunnels in the Capitol Complex will be closed from 7:30 until President Obama leaves.
The President will speak in the House chambers. There’s word that Obama might - might - do some sort of thing in the Senate afterward.
*** UPDATE *** The House Speaker’s office just sent out some more information…
* The Illinois State Museum closed last fall. The GA passed a bill to reopen it, but didn’t provide revenue. The governor rewrote the bill and announced he was all for it opening, but with private funding.
Governor Bruce Rauner issued an amendatory veto today on SB 317 to reopen the Illinois State Museum while developing a model for funding that does not rely solely on state support.
The current bill as written is an unfunded mandate with no appropriations to support the Museum or its branch sites. The Governor’s amendatory veto instructs the Museum to partner with public and private third-parties to invest in the Museum’s mission.
In addition, the Governor’s changes to the bill authorizes the Director of Illinois Department of Natural Resources to establish entrance fees. Many of Illinois’ neighboring states charge admission at their respective museums.
I hereby return Senate Bill 317 with specific recommendations for change to develop a sustainable fiscal model for the continued operation of the Illinois State Museum.
The Illinois State Museum preserves and showcases the proud history of Illinois. The Museum helps educate Illinoisans of all ages on their unique heritage. As a research institution, the Museum is a leader in the advancement of not only Illinois, but U.S. and natural history. I support Senate Bill 317’s fundamental purpose of opening the Museum to the public again.
However, despite the good the Museum does, its operations are not fiscally sustainable. The State invests more than $6 million per year, despite attendance of only 200,000 visitors per year. When the General Assembly failed to pass a balanced budget for Fiscal Year 2016, our Administration was required by the Illinois Constitution and our responsibility to taxpayers to take whatever steps we could to cut non-essential costs. While the State is in the midst of a crisis caused by decades of fiscal mismanagement, as long as this bill fails to offer any plan to help the Museum become self-supporting, it is just an empty and broken promise to the taxpayers of Illinois.
But there is a path to sustainability. I propose not merely re-opening the Museum while continuing its status quo, but re-energizing its operations and partnering it with other public and private entities to make it truly self-supporting and to relieve the fiscal burden to taxpayers.
* Decades of fiscal neglect did far more damage than Gov. Rauner did, but his comments sure didn’t help…
The Chicago Public Schools paid more to borrow less because of Gov. Rauner’s continued talk of bankruptcy — and if that was the governor’s intention, it’s “shameful,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Friday.
“The governor is well-versed in finance, coming out of private equity and the financial world. His comments weren’t helpful. … It affected certain things. … If it was intentional, it’s shameful. Only he can answer whether that was the purpose,” Emanuel said, two days after CPS was forced to pay an 8.5 percent interest rate. […]
“The state under his leadership … is now up to $7 billion in unpaid bills and growing. That’s not exactly who you would turn to for financial stewardship and leadership,” Emanuel said of the governor’s threat to take over Chicago Public Schools.
Emanuel defended the costly borrowing — and the $100 million in budget cuts that helped reassure skittish investors — as essential to keeping the school doors open until the state school aid formula can be rewritten, as state Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) has promised to do with Rauner’s help.
* Meanwhile, in related news, I received this e-mail the other day…
Rich, hope you’re well. Wanted to run something by you that might be of interest for the blog. We were researching some of Sheriff Dart’s advocacy during his days in the General Assembly and stumbled upon his floor speech from the 1995 CPS battle, which of course resulted in reforms that many believe to be responsible for today’s CPS fiscal crisis.
Starting on Page 89, it was interesting to see how prophetic Dart was about the ramifications about the bill. Looks like a few others had similar messages as well. But below are a few choice quotes from him during the floor debate. We found it particularly interesting since history is sort of repeating itself, with Republican legislators outside of Cook County introducing a sweeping bill meant to “save” CPS.
“That is one of the hollowest, lamest definitions of collaboration I have ever heard in my life. This is what was…should be called was foisted on people. There was not one, absolutely one, not one elected official from the City of Chicago invited to one of these closed door meetings. Not one. Our children are at stake here, not yours.”
“You’ve set up a system that’s going to fail and you know it.”
“I am so terribly touched by all of your concerns. This is outrageous. You know it, I know it. You are forcing this on the people of the City of Chicago so you know, what do we have here? We have a plan, a very flawed one, that was drafted by you, not us. Drafted by Republicans. There was not one Chicago elected official invited or present during any of these meetings, This was drafted behind closed doors.”
“I have been so sick and tired of hearing you and your garbage over there about the Chicago public schools. Well guess what, the years of that are over. The years of hearing about the dropout rate and the reading scores, they aren’t our problem anymore. The years of hearing people making such irresponsible statements about this being a sewer are over because guess what Representative, it’s your sewer now. You’re the one that drafted this plan. This is your plan, not ours and so the problems are sitting at your doorstep, not ours, so get used to it. We are giving you time, you’ll have your four years, but don’t come to us and complain about our schools now because this is your plan and your sewer as you like to call it. So enjoy living in it.”
Spread the word. Folks should refuse to take this phony poll. Below is a sample of a phone call received from a Local 31 member:
Call from a local leader re phone survey she believed came from the Governor’s Office:
just received a call from I believe Rauners office asking me about the union informing me about contract negotiations. He wanted to know my stance on paying dues, am I for unions and will I strike. He wanted to know how do I feel abou medical & merit comp. He asked a lot of personal questions and wanted to know my name which he already knew and asked to speak to me by my full name.
He asked me how much of my salary was I willing to go without.
It is recommended that you do not answer these questions.
President, Local 51
* A reader forwarded me that e-mail and said he had also received the call. I asked for details…
Received a call at 6:13 pm yesterday from a [redacted] number. I’m in [redacted], so I answered. They confirmed my name, that I was a state employee, and represented by AFSCME. I assumed it was a poll commissioned by AFSCME, since they had all this information. I agreed to answer their questions believing it was an AFSCME poll (dumb, I know). The first few questions regarded opinion of the Governor (very unfavorable), opinion of AFSCME (favorable), opinion of state finances (very dire), etc. They then asked about my willingness to strike (refused to answer), how much money I would be willing to give up for a strike (refused to answer), how often do I hear updates from the union (once a week), do I believe the union is representing me well (yes). They then confirmed my name, which I found odd because they stated my name at the beginning of the call. They asked my “position”.
When I started getting suspicious (around the time of the strike questions), I asked who the poll was for. The poller stated that he didn’t even know who it was for. I confirmed that my name would not be used with my answers, and he agreed. The call lasted 9 minutes. Needless to say, I became more and more uncomfortable as the night wore on and wish I had refused to answer any of the questions.
I convinced myself that the Governor’s office wouldn’t share my personal information (phone number) with a polling agency for political reasons. Now I’m not so sure.
Shortly after receiving the call, I started going through the comments on yesterday’s AFSCME posts on the blog looking for anybody mentioning something similar, but found none.
Then I received the forwarded email this morning. Crap… Hopefully we’re just paranoid….
PHONY POLL: Company tied to the Raunerites is using a phony “poll” to pressure state employees to make negative statements about our union. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO TAKE THIS CALL. If you get it, you can just hang up immediately.
Anyone else get this call?
*** UPDATE *** From the governor’s office…
The administration is not aware of this survey and has nothing to do with it.
* From a reader…
This may or may not be a coincidence. I am a county official, and received this FOIA request at the end of January.
From: Research Policy [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Wednesday, January 27, 2016 3:19 PM
Subject: Illinois Policy FOIA 1.27.2016
To whom it may concern,
This is a request for information under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (5 ILCS 140).
I am seeking documents related to the number of and names of (redacted) employees who are union members with the name of their affiliated union and residential zip codes.
As I am a researcher acting in the public interest, I ask that you waive any fees. Please notify me by telephone at 217.528.8800 or by email if you have any questions regarding my request. If possible, please forward the requested document(s) by e-mail.
I will expect to receive your response within five business days, as required by the statute (5 ILCS 140/3(d)).
Thank you very much for your assistance.
Illinois Policy Institute
I’ve asked the Illinois Policy Institute about this. Stay tuned.
After delaying the sale when some investors balked, the district issued 7 percent debt for as little as 84 cents on the dollar, signaling that investors have doubts they’ll be repaid in full. No municipal borrower — not even cash-strapped Puerto Rico — has had to offer such a steep discount on a bond deal of that magnitude since at least the 2008 financial crisis, data compiled by Bloomberg show.
“The only time you’re going to see this big of a discount is when it’s a distressed situation,” said Burt Mulford, a manager of tax-exempt funds in St. Petersburg, Florida, at Eagle Asset Management, which oversees $2.5 billion of munis. He said he didn’t buy the bonds. “The ultimate buyers want to minimize the pain if it stops paying interest, so if they have the bonds at a discount, that would help offset that.” […]
The discounted price on the securities increased the yields — which measure the return after interest payments based on the full face value — to as much as 8.5 percent, about 5.8 percentage points more than top-rated securities. That gap was half a percentage point more than Puerto Rico paid in March 2014, when it sold $3.5 billion of bonds in a last-ditch attempt to stave off insolvency. The island’s bonds have since slipped from 93 cents on the dollar to about 70 cents as it edges closer toward defaulting on the government-guaranteed debt.
With distressed debt, buyers tend to focus more prices because of the risk that interest or principal payments won’t be made.
Juliana Stratton, who’s challenging state Rep. Ken Dunkin of Chicago in the Democratic primary, announced support from Secretary of State Jesse White, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union.
Stratton is the union-backed challenger to Dunkin, who has created controversy by siding with Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner on several initiatives that have denied Democrats their 71-member veto-proof majority in the House.
Allies of Rauner are helping to fund Dunkin’s re-election. But Democratic opposition to Dunkin is coalescing. Stratton also is getting the backing of several aldermen, including Brian Hopkins, 2nd; Pat Dowell, 3rd; Leslie Hairston, 5th; Rod Sawyer, 6th; Michelle Harris, 8th; and Brendan Reilly, 42nd. The Rev. Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Catholic Church also is backing Stratton.
Subcribers have video of the event as well as other stuff.
In announcing his support for Stratton, White said Dunkin has failed to represent his district by opting not to vote for a bill to restore funding for childcare for low-income families. […]
“I always say when you take on a job, you take on the responsibility for everybody,” White said. “In the case of Ken Dunkin, he has been a big disappointment to me and to his constituents, to the people of the state of Illinois and to the people of the 5th District. The message is they can no longer afford Ken Dunkin.” […]
“When Juliana saw Rep. Ken Dunkin continuously side with Republican Bruce Rauner, she knew she had to stand up to speak for all of us,” [Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle] said.
Others questioned whether Dunkin is still a Democrat: “We did not elect Ken to go and represent the Republicans,” said Ald. Michelle Harris, the 8th Ward alderman who is running for Cook County Circuit Court Clerk. “Now if he wants to wear the shirt, I think he needs to change his seat.”
Others at the event to endorse Stratton included Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th), Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd), the Rev. Father Pfleger and representatives from AFSCME Local Council 31 and SEIU Healthcare.
Today, I watched one of my political patrons join the political mob to lynch one of his own political children to make Madigan happy. The same Madigan that ran a Republican (McCarthy) against him when he first ran for office. Funny how time flies, but I guess with time and age we start to forget things.
So for all the years that I never said anything about the fact that there is not one Black contractor at the Secretary of State’s office, for all the years I wondered why a Black person could never get a supervisor’s job on the 5th floor besides being clerical, for all the years I defended him in the Black community from people who attacked him…
To see him stand up and participate in this attempted lynching one of our own, one that he raised, one that was a loyal member of the organization, one that helped put his kids through school! I am thoroughly disappointed and heartbroken. Whether he agreed or disagreed to allow Madigan to make you stick a knife in the back of one of our own organization members in unconscionable! And then he won’t even stand with you!
Did the Speaker ever say anything bad about John Bills? Then why you running to the front?
The State’s first-ever Employee Engagement Survey was a huge success, with 19,386 employees responding. State workers not only evaluated the State’s performance on workplace issues, but also provided suggestions on how we might improve training opportunities, the work environment, and other areas.
The Department of Financial and Professional Regulation had the highest response rate, with 73% of their employees providing input.
Over the next few weeks and months, we will be reviewing those ideas and implementing them where feasible. It is our hope that the results of this first survey will provide a baseline that we can improve upon in future years.
Thank you to all participating employees for making our first survey a resounding success.
The Tribune gives Ferro a bigger base from which to build the digital platform that would allow content creators to make more money for their efforts, something he’s long talked about, and tried, without success, to create at the Sun-Times.
But nearly everyone else wonders whether Ferro’s 16.5 percent stake in Tribune lays the groundwork for a final chapter in the consolidation of the daily newspaper market that has occurred elsewhere but left Chicago among a handful of two-paper towns.
“My hunch is these (papers) are soon to be consolidated—it’s just a matter of time,” says Chris Geier, partner-in-charge of Chicago-based Sikich Investment Banking. “They always tell everyone they’re going to operate autonomously. At the end of the day, though, they’ve got to capture the economies.”
– A costly newspaper app was ordered up that for months sucked time and talent into its making. It was quickly dismantled once it was discovered it couldn’t make money.
– Launched Grid, a business publication, insisting it was produced in print format as well as online. It was quickly dismantled.
– In a soul-crushing move, the entire photo staff was suddenly fired with management citing budgetary issues and movement into a new era of digital content. Small but talented video staff remained on board.
– Small but talented video staff laid off.
– Suddenly reversed a policy of no political endorsements in the middle of the gubernatorial campaign to endorse just one person in one race — a former investor.
– Sun-Times launched Early & Often, a political website which had sponsors, new ad content, sold-out political events and … it was dismantled. New sports and breaking news portals were also dismantled just weeks after cost was put into their development.
In the wake of Sun-Times owner Michael Ferro’s purchase of the largest single share of the Chicago Tribune’s parent company for $44.4 million, the Sun-Times’ staff gathered in the lunchroom and met the new chairman of our board, Bruce Sagan, who explained what the purchase means for us.
“The people involved in the last Sun-Times purchase believe in two newspapers,” he said. “There it is, a second voice.” […]
The Tribune is $400 million in debt, Sagan said. The Sun-Times has no debt.
“They took the deal because they needed the money,” said Sagan, the longtime publisher of the Hyde Park Herald, who used the money he made there to invest in the Financial Times, the New York Times, where he started the Chicago News Cooperative, and the Sun-Times. “If you are going to bet on something, better bet on us. They’re in disarray. He left us a growing institution.” […]
Someone asked about our web site. Sagan said it was terrible. Publisher Jim Kirk said it would be fixed soon. Someone asked about the Sun-Times’ future.
“If I have my way you’ll be here forever,” Sagan said.
Thank goodness that somebody over there has finally admitted the CS-T website is an abomination. Yes, it’s gotten a bit easier to navigate, but if you’re a content provider and you only display a few stories on each page, you’re not providing content. Stuff just disappears into the ether on that site. And years of stories are no longer available.
Addressing Tribune Publishing employees during a webcast Thursday, Ferro gushed over his new investment and outlined his vision for helping Tribune Publishing reverse years of industrywide revenue declines.
“It’s not as simple as one may think,” Ferro said. “It’s not about digital subscribers or print. Some of the biggest companies in the world are using our data and making billions of dollars on it, and we need to find a way how we tap into that so that our journalism remains stronger than ever.
Democratic lawmakers and Springfield insiders try to spread the blame for the state’s condition. Complacent Republicans are to blame. The Great Recession that ended in June 2009 is to blame. Rauner is to blame. It’s not the longtime speaker’s fault, they say.
But that’s malarkey. It’s in writing.
I don’t know any Democratic lawmakers or insiders who say the Speaker is not at fault and bears zero blame for any of this state’s past or current problems.
OK, except maybe Steve Brown.
Are Democrats defensive these days? Heck, yes they are. Do they not blame Madigan enough? Some do, but many are so angry at the governor right now that they’ve retreated to a very tight partisan corner and aren’t thinking clearly. Not making excuses, just passing along observations. I don’t at all think they’re right, I’m just sayin’.
* I have heard other folks try to blame everything on Madigan, and those same people do not want to admit that the governor has some fault here, too.
He’s been governor over a year, after all. He’s the state’s top elected official, not just some innocent bystander. And he made no bones about what he planned to do years before he was elected - and what we see all around us right now is pretty much what he said he was going to do.
It’s also been my experience that if you counter their “Blame it all on Madigan” argument with some basic facts you’re accused of somehow holding Madigan blameless, which is completely ridiculous and if it wasn’t such a childish retort would almost be McCarthyesque.
* Also, y’all really need to tone down the personal stuff in comments, particularly when it comes to the author of the above piece. You can disagree without being so darned disagreeable. Stick to the issues and the facts, please. Thanks!