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A very bad omen *** UPDATED w/ Response from governor’s office ***

Tuesday, Apr 28, 2009

*** UPDATE 3 *** An e-mail to me from Ms. Ridgway of the governor’s press office…

It is the Governor’s intention that transit projects will get started this construction season.

Construction season ends in, what, November?

*** UPDATE 2 *** Greg Hinz at Crain’s has shared the original e-mail response he received from Katie Ridgway of the governor’s PR staff…

With a statewide unemployment rate of 9.1%, the Governor, working with the General Assembly, believed it was crucial to pass Jump Start Capital Plan to get shovel ready road projects going in May so we can start putting people back to work. The Jump Start Capital Plan relies on dollars from the Road Fund to support $640 million in road projects.

The funding source for the bonding to support $1 billion in transit projects is GRF; we are working with the General Assembly to pass revenue enhancements to support the GRF spending on the bonds. The purpose for including transit in the Jump Start Capital Plan was to allow transit agencies time to take action necessary to get projects into the “ready to go” phase. [emphasis added]

They are not working with the GA on passing revenue enhancements for transit. Nobody in the GA was ever told about this.

*** UPDATE *** The governor’s office is claiming that the Crain’s story which this post is based on is all just a misunderstanding. Here are some notes from a conversation with a top dog…

Out of context. There’s a significant cash flow problem right now so there’s no money at this moment for the bonding. We’re not trying to impose a new condition.

We’re trying to pay off Medicaid bills by end of May. We don’t have any intention to not issue the bonds. If governor’s budget passes, it puts more money into GRF because of the income tax hike. We have no intention of stalling or withholding any money. It’s a matter of economics. Easier with an income tax hike, but it’s not a condition.

[ *** End of Update *** ]

* Gov. Quinn is apparently reneging on a promise to pay for transit fixes

What’s happened is that, after signing a bill on April 3 to issue $3 billion for bonds for roads and public transit work, Mr. Quinn’s office has agreed to release money only for roads.

The $1-billion portion that was supposed to go for new buses, train repairs and related items will have to wait, at least for now, flabbergasted transit leaders were told in a meeting with Jack Lavin, Mr. Quinn’s chief operating officer. […]

But the transit work is different, according to the governor’s office. It requires the Legislature to pass “revenue enhancements” to pay off the bonds, and that has not yet occurred, the spokeswoman says. The transit agencies can use the time to get their projects shovel ready, she says.

That’s just not true.

The transit bonding was supposed to be funded by GRF. There was nothing said about any revenue enhancements for that portion of the transit bill. Period.

“The agreement that passed was based on a $28-billion revenue stream that already exists,” said [House Speaker Michael Madigan’s spokesman], referring to the state’s General Revenue Funds, which were supposed to finance the transit bonds. “There was an agreement between the administration and the Legislature to pass this capital plan.”

I’d venture a guess that the bond houses weren’t all that thrilled with the idea of using a bombed-out General Revenue Fund to pay off these bonds. But, again, there was nothing said whatsoever about funding the transit program with any sort of revenue increase.

I’m sure Mayor Daley will also be pleased as punch.

This is an absolutely horrible way to start off the budget negotiations.

…Adding… Wordslinger notes in comments…

Actually, the bond houses like this single revenue source the best. It’s a General Obligation bond, basically; the GRF produces many times the coverage needed for debt service

True. In retrospect, this looks more like a budget office walk-back, which is what happened all the freaking time under Blagojevich. Not good at all.

- Posted by Rich Miller   30 Comments      


Reform report - Read it all, watch the video *** UPDATED x1 ***

Tuesday, Apr 28, 2009

*** UPDATE *** I just noticed this in the commission report

Require exclusive employment for the Senate President and Speaker of the House positions with compensation commensurate with Illinois Supreme Court Justices.

In other words, no outside income for legislative leaders.

[ *** End of Update *** ]

* You can read the final report of the governor’s reform commission by clicking here. The press release is here.

* They want term limits for legislative leaders

A state government reform panel appointed by new Gov. Pat Quinn today proposed term limits for powerful legislative leaders, cutting back on lawmakers’ private meetings and overhauling a patronage-riddled hiring system.

“The nation’s eyes are upon us, they are watching what we do here. Will we get meaningful reform?” said Patrick Collins, the former federal prosecutor who chaired the commission. “The question for our state at this time in our history is what will be our response to this unprecedented crisis of integrity that we face.”

But not for governors

The Commission’s research suggested that gubernatorial term limits would produce only minor substantive effects in Illinois.

Speaker Madigan responds

House Speaker Michael Madigan, who I caught in an elevator a few minutes after Quinn’s press conference, was more reserved. “We view it as an honest effort to generate ideas,” said Madigan, who has ruled the House for most of the past 26 years. He went on to imply that the notion of limiting legisaltive leadership tenure is un-democratic.

* The commissioners were split on recall

As with general elective term limits, the Commission
was unable to make a unanimous recommendation regarding the direct recall of elected officials. While Commissioners acknowledge the merit of making elected officials more accountable to the voters, Commissioners were concerned about the potential unintended consequences of a reactionary endorsement of the recall power.

* They also want far more bills brought to the House and Senate floors

While the Commission applauds the recent Senate efforts to increase full committee hearing of proposed legislation, the Commission recommends modifying the process even further. To ensure due consideration of pending legislation, the Commission recommends that the House and Senate adopt rules requiring that each bill introduced to the Rules or Assignment Committees, as applicable, be subject to a
full committee vote if the bill has a minimum of sixteen sponsors in the House or eight sponsors in the Senate. The Commission believes that this will allow for consideration of all bills that have a reasonable chance of success, while preventing the waste of time that consideration of every single bill might engender.

* More

The commission urged… an overhaul of the way the state budget gets voted on by breaking it into pieces and holding public hearings on each piece, and de-emphasizing the power of the House and Senate Rules committees, which historically have been chokeholds on major pieces of legislation.

* More

The commission wants to make government more transparent by applying the Open Meetings act to the Illinois General Assembly and making state government approve more Freedom of Information Act requests.

* Gov. Quinn didn’t sign off immediately on the commission’s procurement reforms, saying he hadn’t had a chance to read them yet…


* The governor also said he’d be open to public financing for more than just judicial races…


More on that topic…

Quinn said Tuesday he wants voters to have the power to recall corrupt officials. That’s something the reform commission did not support. […]

The Chicago Democrat also says voters should be able to hold referendums on key ethics issues, so that lawmakers aren’t the only ones making decisions.

* The guv kinda waffled a bit on whether the GA ought to pass the reforms as is, right now…


* More videos from the guv’s presser are here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   36 Comments      


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Tuesday, Apr 28, 2009

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Enter your password to view comments      


Question of the day

Tuesday, Apr 28, 2009

* The setup, from ABC7

One last question for Roland Burris: Will you run for a full term as U.S. senator in the February, 2010, Democratic primary?

“I basically say I’m not going anywhere,” Burris said.

What do we take from that?

“I’m not going anywhere,” said Burris.

How should we take that?

“You can take it as you see it.”

* The Question: Do you think Burris runs for the Senate next year? Explain fully, please.

- Posted by Rich Miller   46 Comments      


Make a difference in our kids’ lives: END SCHOOL OVERCROWDING

Tuesday, Apr 28, 2009

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

Forcing children to be bussed out of their neighborhood school in order to alleviate overcrowding is no solution to this problem. Neither is creating makeshift classrooms out of storage rooms, science labs or computer rooms; nor structuring the school year on a multi-track schedule. Yet in 2009, Chicago Public School (CPS) students still endure these obstacles to a quality education.

According to a new report commissioned by the United Neighborhood Organization (UNO), these burdens are being borne largely by Chicago’s Hispanic children and families.

This school year, 64 neighborhood elementary schools meet CPS’s definition of overcrowding and do not serve the needs of their communities. 70% of these schools are predominantly Latino. The worst example is at Lee Elementary which serves a student body that is 94% Latino and is at 179% of capacity. Overall, there are almost 63,000 students attending an overcrowded neighborhood elementary school, of whom, 79% are Latino.

It is clear that there is no issue more pressing for the Latino community of Chicago and in Illinois than providing a quality education in non-overcrowded classrooms.

It’s time for the state legislature to step forward and support the #1 Latino priority: new school construction for Chicago’s overburdened families.

Call your state legislator today and demand an end to school overcrowding.

Read more at www.uno-online.org or here .

- Posted by Capitol Fax Blog Advertising Department   Comments Off      


Campaign 2010 roundup

Tuesday, Apr 28, 2009

* More from Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky’s pollster…

To: Interested Parties
From: Lake Research Partners
Subject: The 2010 Democratic Primary for U.S. Senate in Illinois
Date: April 24, 2009

Findings from a recent survey of likely Democratic Primary voters in Illinois show a wide open race for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Senator Roland Burris, with Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky holding a narrow lead over all candidates, including the incumbent Senator. In addition, when voters learn more information (positive and negative) about the candidates, Schakowsky expands her lead over the field. Schakowsky’s message resonates strongly with a Democratic electorate hungry for progressive leadership that will once again provide Illinois families a chance at the American Dream.

Congresswoman Schakowsky owns a slight lead in a race that is wide open at this early stage. In an initial three-way trial heat, Schakowsky takes nearly a quarter of the vote (24%), narrowly edging out State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (22%). Senator Roland Burris draws just 18% of the vote – a striking indicator of his vulnerability. The intensity of support also narrowly favors Schakowsky (16% strong support), followed by Giannoulias (15%) and Burris (10%). Still, with over one-third (36%) of the Democratic Primary electorate undecided, this seat is up for grabs.

After voters hear positive statements about the candidates, Schakowsky posts a double-digit lead. Schakowsky’s lead grows from 2 points in the initial ballot to 16 points after voters hear more about the candidates (see text of statements on following page). She leads Giannoulias on the three-way ballot, 38% to 22%, with 21% undecided. C.E.O. Cheryle Jackson attracts 17% of the vote.[2]

Notably, the percentage of voters who support Schakowsky strongly on the informed ballot (23% strong support) outnumbers the tot al percentage of voters who support Giannoulias (22% overall support).

Even after voters hear negative information about Schakowsky and the other candidates, Schakowsky retains a solid lead over the field.

That last paragraph is key for Schakowsky. Lots of people believe her husband’s imprisonment kills off her chances. As I told subscribers today, her poll doesn’t show that at all - at least, not in her mind. We’ll see what happens when the real race kicks in.

More…

Even more impressive , Schakowsky’s lead is not a function of superior name recognition, which actually belongs to Giannoulias. Voters have a slightly more informed opinion of Giannoulias, and both candidates are viewed positively. Despite Giannoulias’ advantage in name recognition, however, Schakowsky leads throughout.

Bottom Line: At this early stage in the race, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky is the strongest candidate in a wide open race for the Democratic nomination for Illinois’ U.S. Senate seat. Schakowsky’s lead on the initial ballot against incumbent Senator Roland Burris and several other serious candidates is impressive, and once voters learn more about each of the candidates they coalesce around her candidacy in significant numbers.

Even after hearing a strong attack on Schakowsky, the Congresswoman retains her lead.

Again, check that last sentence.

* If I wasn’t sick yesterday, I would’ve scooped Sneed on this one, but whatever. The Kennedy’s are her beat anyway…

Sneed has learned Chris Kennedy, son of the late U.S. Sen. Robert Kennedy, may be this/close to entering the U.S. Senate sweepstakes from Illinois.

• • To wit: “Right now, it’s an 85 percent chance Chris is going to do it,” a top Kennedy source tells Sneed.

• • Poll ‘em: Sneed is told Kennedy, who runs the Merchandise Mart, has commissioned Obama pollster John Anzalone — and has talked to media consultants Larry Grisolano and John Kupper, who now run the firm once headed by David Axelrod, President Obama’s senior adviser.

• • Translation: The poll, which is expected at the end of the week, “will give him a better lay of the land in this ever-changing race,” the source said.

* And Greg Hinz has more about the big losses in Alexi Giannoulias’ Bright Start program

One: Mr. Giannoulias’ office was informed last April that Core Bond had heavily invested in mortgage-backed securities, far beyond what its benchmark specified. But he kept putting new Bright Start money into the fund for another seven months.

Two: Core Bond wasn’t the only Oppenheimer fund from which Mr. Giannoulias abruptly pulled Bright Start funds late last year because of investment losses. But he hasn’t disclosed that. Morningstar did.

Three: State Sen. Chris Lauzen of Aurora, the GOP co-chair of the Legislature’s audit commission, says he may soon call for a full review of how Illinois families lost something more than $85 million in what were supposed to be safe, protected investments.

It would be nice if we could get one clear, concise story about why this is important. As it is, nobody but the Republicans are picking up on it.

* Meanwhile, Gov. Quinn says he’ll probably run for a full term and reveals how much he’s raised so far

Quinn said he has raised about $250,000 for his gubernatorial campaign.

Every journey begins with a first step, I suppose.

* Related…

* ‘Senior’ moment from Roland Burris

* Burris slips up introducing Durbin on Biden tour

- Posted by Rich Miller   50 Comments      


The most important reform of all

Tuesday, Apr 28, 2009

* As most of you know, I am a big proponent of throwing out the way Illinois draws its legislative and congressional maps. A recent Tribune editorial had this interesting tidbit…

In November’s election, incumbents got more than 75 percent of the vote in 25 of the 40 state Senate districts that were in contention, and 72 of the 118 House districts.

More than 75 percent of the vote. Because incumbents are beloved? No. Because Illinois gerrymandering — the drawing of districts for raw political gain — is a legalized protection racket. Who gets protected? Not you.

* How important is redistricing to legislators? A New Yorker story from last year, which included an observation about the day after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, might just turn your stomachs

For many Illinois state legislators, September 11th was not an event that required much response. The attacks occurred just before an important deadline in the redistricting process. John Corrigan, the Democratic consultant in charge of redistricting, told me that he spent September 12th talking to many legislators, Obama not among them.

“It was like nothing had happened,” he said. “Everybody came in and all they cared about was their districts. It wasn’t any one particular legislator from any one particular community. I learned a lot about state government. Their job was not to respond to September 11th. They were more worried about making sure that they had a district that they could run in for reëlection.”

On September 12th. Sheesh.

They’ll never let that one go without a gigantic fight, but a fight must be fought.

* Yet, this sort of “all or nothing” attitude in a legislative environment is just plain counter-productive

The head of Gov. Pat Quinn’s anti-corruption commission looked into the eyes of the legislature’s top leaders at the Illinois Capitol and said nothing less than a sweeping victory on a package of good-government proposals is necessary to clean up a state notoriously not ready for reform.

Removing government secrecy, overhauling campaign financing, removing politics when awarding contracts, changing the way elections are held, enforcing strong penalties for misbehavior — every one of these reforms must be approved or “there will be a hole, there will be a trap door, there will be room for the next scandal,” former federal prosecutor Patrick Collins told the leaders.

I can’t help but wonder if Collins won’t try to use this commission as a springboard to something else. I hope I’m wrong, but my potential candidate radar is strongly activated by this man.

* My syndicated newspaper column kinda got buried in Mike’s massive MS yesterday (thanks to Mike for taking over while I was in bed with flu-like symptoms). So, here’s another excerpt…

By far, the most ironic aspect of this entire post-Rod Blagojevich push to reform Illinois has to be the last paragraph of Gov. Pat Quinn’s much-praised reform commission report.

“All constitutional officers should issue executive orders, comparable to George Ryan’s Executive Order No. 2 (1999), prohibiting their campaign funds from accepting contributions from state employees under their control.”

Former Gov. Ryan issued that executive order because his crooked campaign fundraising operation at his old secretary of state’s office had triggered a federal corruption probe and he was looking for some political cover. That investigation, of course, eventually put Ryan in prison.

Gov. Quinn’s reform commission chairman Pat Collins - who presided over the insertion of that rare Ryan praise into the commission report - was the chief prosecutor at Ryan’s trial. Ryan’s executive order didn’t prevent Collins’ feds from also convicting his campaign committee.

A few years before he issued that order, Ryan pushed through widely hailed reforms of the state’s lobbyist registration and disclosure laws in the run-up to his successful 1994 re-election campaign against noted reformer… Pat Quinn. Several of Ryan’s lobbyist pals got caught up in his federal prosecution.

The irony just never stops in this state.

The lesson from this ought to be that passing new laws, no matter how enlightened and reasonable and strict, will not stop the bad guys from being bad guys. They are what they are. George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich are living proof of that hard-and-fast law of the universe.

Obviously, though, we’ve got a real problem here in Illinois, and some changes have to be made. But making those changes - and making sure they actually work and don’t break something else in the process - isn’t nearly as easy as the newspaper editorial boards and some of the reformers always make it sound.

* Related…

* Ill. Reform Commission to release final report

* Durbin: Fitzgerald will stay as prosecutor

* Rod Blagojevich defense lawyers ask judge to tap campaign fund

* Rod Blagojevich’s lawyers seek access to $2 million in campaign funds for legal fees

* Blago’s brother wants to use campaign money for defense

* Attorney Allan Ackerman may join Blagojevich legal team

- Posted by Rich Miller   20 Comments      


Pretty spin

Tuesday, Apr 28, 2009

* I keep seeing this quote from Republicans, and nobody ever challenges them on it. Here’s House GOP Leader Tom Cross in the Southern Illinoisan…

To increase revenue ignores the root problems, Cross said. With that in mind, he suggested the state’s budget woes can’t be solved overnight.

“It’s a hole that took six years - or more - to get into,” he said. “I think you can take a year or two (to get out of it).”

Since Illinois can’t print money and has a balanced budget clause in its constitution, the only way to put off dealing with the deficit for “a year or two” is to borrow. You can borrow on the bond markets or “borrow” from state vendors by further delaying already horribly late payments. Borrowing beyond the end of the fiscal year will require GOP votes, and they haven’t said they’d be willing to do that as of yet.

It’s a really nice line, and seems quite reasonable. But there’s far more to this than they want reporters (and their readers) to think.

* Meanwhile, the SJ-R doesn’t quite come out and say they’d support a tax hike without exemptions as long as the state increased the Earned Income Tax Credit. Instead, they completely dodged the final issue

In proposing his tax increase plan, Gov. Pat Quinn also called for increasing exemptions to lessen the pain on many taxpayers. Illinois Senate President John Cullerton has advocated a much lower tax increase without increasing exemptions. Obviously, there is ample middle ground here that will be negotiated in the coming weeks.

We hope a discussion of increasing the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit finds its way to the table.

One wonders what the editorial board would do to a legislator who came into the room with that dodgeball language.

* And Kurt Erickson sums up why voting for tax hikes without any big new programs (or much more school funding) won’t go over well out in Voter Land

Citizen: Why did you raise my taxes?

Lawmaker: So we could keep the status quo.

Citizen: Wow. That kind of stinks.

Lawmaker: Can I expect your support on Election Day?

Citizen: Um. Why?

* Rep. Dave Winters (R-Shirland) says what’s on a lot of minds about House Speaker Michael Madigan and the capital construction program…

I’ll give you a leading indicator,” he said. “Does (Attorney General) Lisa Madigan pull the trigger and run for governor? If she does, you won’t see a capital plan because the speaker won’t allow it. If she doesn’t, then I think we’ll see a capital plan.”

I’m not quite sure what’s behind that logic, since killing the capital bill yet again could harm Ms. Madigan’s standing with labor unions, so maybe somebody can explain this more fully.

* Speaking of Lisa Madigan, Eric Zorn reprints a couple of memos from Bob Arya, who used to work for Rod Blagojevich. In this excerpt, he talks of a Blagojevich plan which I wrote about numerous times in the past…

Rod let me and others know that the goal was to “Damage the Madigan brand.” This meant doing all we could to make the Speaker look bad and make him look like the bad guy.

The goal was removing Speaker Madigan from his state party chairmanship and preventing Lisa Madigan from running for governor.

* Related…

* Kristen McQueary blasts the RTA for proposing a fleet of “express coaches” from the far southwestern suburbs to downtown Chicago: But here’s my problem: If you move to the far southwest suburbs, particularly west of Interstate 355, and you work in downtown Chicago, a longer and more complicated commute is the price you pay. You want another hour per day with your family? Move closer to your job.

* ‘Not a lot of pretty scenarios’

* Jones calls for state to cut back in budget

* Stimulus dollars help local schools - for now

- Posted by Rich Miller   27 Comments      


Morning shorts

Tuesday, Apr 28, 2009

Constitutional Officers

* Illinois attorney general demands shutdown of Craigslist’s erotic services section


IL Congressional Delegation

* Is that a drug in your water, or are you just happy?

The symptoms above are just some of the side-effects of drugs that have been detected in our drinking water. Many of those drugs probably are expelled from human bodies in the normal way and just don’t get filtered out by sewage plants. A few may be the result of farm animals. Some people toss unwanted prescriptions into the toilet.

But before the fear can begin, we need to know what to fear, and even if we have anything to fear.

“How do you screen for it and filter it out if you don’t know what to get rid of?” says Congresswoman Melissa Bean, a Barrington Democrat. “Until we really know what’s there and what harm there is, we don’t know what the next step would be.”

A proposal sponsored by Bean and passed in the House by a 413-10 vote last week aims to push the government to study our drinking water, identify the trace amounts of drugs and chemicals in it, determine if they cause problems, and figure out what to do about it.


GA


The Crestwood Fallout Continues

* Proposed law aims to prevent another Crestwood

* Rush urges probe of tainted Crestwood well

* IEPA needs to step up to the plate


Medical Marijuana Picking Up Some Steam?

* Religious leaders back medical marijuana

* Patients deserve right to medical marijuana


Other GA Related Stories

* Howe Center fate: State panel will weigh in on disabled-care center’s future

* Forcing public schools in Illinois to measure up

Written by Jim Edgar and William M. Daley


Budget/Capital Plan

* Capital plan a long way from lead-pipe cinch

Quinn is the anti-Blago, so that means we’ll get that capital plan, right? Well, don’t fire up the asphalt machines just yet. Legislative leaders and Quinn must agree on whether Illinois can afford a massive spending plan while raising taxes to reduce an $11.6 billion budget shortfall.

“We’re continuing to work with Quinn and Cullerton to try to get something on the books. There’s no argument about the need,” he said. Finding an appropriate way to fund it “will require cooperation. We’ll use whatever mechanism that is legitimate and will get the job done. Two years ago, a lot of time was spent on gaming. Now, the gaming industry has pretty well collapsed, so I don’t think you can expect them to be participants.”

Brown said Madigan could support a plan to raise the gas tax by 8 cents a gallon, “but the governor has said he will oppose something like that. We’ll try to get a plan done. In the House we need bipartisan cooperation.” Brown said gas tax money can’t be used for nontransportation capital spending, “so we’d have to find another way to fund that.”

Madigan’s first priority is passing a budget. “Funding operation of government … is task No. 1. I’d say a capital bill, along with various government reform issues we’ve been talking about, is in the next tier.”


Economy


Pontiac Phased Out of GM Line

* Fans hurt to see General Motors phasing out Pontiac

General Motors on Monday announced plans to cut 21,000 U.S. factory jobs by next year and phase out its storied Pontiac brand — maker of the iconic Trans Am.

* Pontiac fan buys 1968 GTO … again

* Valley dealers look to life after Pontiac

* UAW leaders recommend Chrysler deal

* Editorial - Down, but not defeated


Tribune Hurting Bad, Sun-Times Outlook Surprising

* Sun-Times circulation shows ’strong results’

The Sunday Sun-Times saw its paid circulation rise by 2.8 percent, to 254,379.

Saturday’s Sun-Times average circulation grew 0.9 percent to 227,311.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Tribune reported its paid circulation dropped 7.4 percent weekdays to 501,203, and fell 4.5 percent on Sundays, to 858,256.

* Trib circulation down 7.5%; Sun-Times dips slightly


Other Economic Sotires

* Workers accuse Abbott Laboratories of creating firm to slash retirement benefits

Now she’s among former Abbott employees accusing the health care products company of cheating them out of their retiree benefits in a class action lawsuit trial under way in Chicago that affects more than 8,000 former Abbott employees.

The lawsuit stems from Abbott Laboratories’ 2004 spinoff of its hospital products unit into a separate company, Hospira, which is also named in the suit.

Workers claim they’d been assured by Abbott they’d have a comparable benefits package at Hospira, but that’s not what they got.

Nauman, 53, estimates she’ll be receiving $5,000 to $6,000 a month less in pension benefits and will have to shell out at least $1,000 a month to get retiree health coverage when she retires due to improper action by Abbott and Hospira. She said she worked for Abbott 20 years before being shifted to Hospira.

* Komatsu Predicts 50% Loss

Caterpillar’s main competition, is also feeling the pinch of the recession.

Japanese manufacturer Komatsu, the world’s second–biggest construction–equipment maker, is forecasting its profits will be down over fifty percent.

Komatsu Monday reported a first quarter loss of about $360 million.

It’s the company’s first reported quarterly loss since 2002.

* Northern Trust raising $1.25B to redeem TARP shares

* Boeing can weather current storm: CEO

* ComEd to lose president, CFO

* Window Company Counts on Federal Stimulus

* Target opening store downtown – for three days

The temporary store, called Bullseye Bazaar, will open May 7 to May 9 in the former McCormick Freedom Museum at the Tribune Tower at 435 N. Michigan Ave.

The pop-up stores are aimed at generating buzz and exclusivity, much like nightclubs that move every weekend to locations known to the “in” crowd.

* I-Go car operator one of two Chicago area nonprofits to get MacArthur grant

The Center for Neighborhood Technology and the Chicago Community Loan Fund will receive $650,000 and $500,000, respectively, as winners of the MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. They are among eight nonprofits getting the awards, which the Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation will announce today.

The Center for Neighborhood Technology develops programs promoting sustainability and economic health of urban areas. Its project include the I-Go car sharing program.

* Poshard says SIU tuition increase in works

* Springfield schools face deficit in largest fund

Reserves likely to be used for $7 million gap

City Hall and The Heat gets Turned Up on Stroger

* Chicago schools exec resigning

A high-ranking Chicago Public Schools executive is expected to resign Thursday as part of a management shake-up under new Chief Executive Officer Ron Huberman.

Huberman is in the process of restructuring the district’s organization and paring its administrative office in an effort to address an estimated $475 million deficit in next year’s school budget, district spokeswoman Monique Bond said.

Hill Hammock, 63, the district’s chief administrative officer, sent an e-mail to his staff recently notifying them that he had tendered his resignation, Bond said. Hammock served with the district for two years.

* Art Institute: Old ordinance may force more free days at Art Institute of Chicago

Ramping up his campaign against the Art Institute of Chicago’s pending 50-percent general admission increase, Ald. Ed Burke (14th) is trying to compel the museum to increase its free hours by enforcing an ordinance that is more than 100 years old.

Burke said Monday that city lawyers believe the 1891 agreement between the Art Institute and Chicago remains valid even though the museum has long since moved to the Park District’s jurisdiction. The 1891 contract, which established that the Michigan Avenue building would be erected for the city’s use during the 1893 Columbian Exposition before being taken over by the museum, specified that the Art Institute would offer free admission on Wednesdays, Saturdays and a half-day on Sundays.

* Spokesman: Stroger administration subpoenaed

The Cook County state’s attorney has subpoenaed both the Stroger administration and the former county employee at the center of a hiring scandal.

The subpoena, delivered to the jailed ex-employee, Tony Cole, indicates the investigation is being handled by the county’s financial crimes division, part of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s special prosecutions bureau, the department that investigates public corruption.

* Todd Stroger hiring scandal targeted

Law enforcers are looking into the scandal surrounding Cook County Board President Todd Stroger’s hiring of a troubled steakhouse busboy, whose brief county tenure sparked a patronage controversy that led Stroger to force the resignation of his cousin, the county’s chief financial officer.

Laura Lechowicz Felicione, a top Stroger lawyer, confirmed the county had “received subpoenas” when asked whether there had been such inquiries involving Tony Cole, the former busboy. She declined to elaborate, for fear that any further response “would impede [the] investigation.”

Other county sources said the state’s attorney’s office opened a probe, which Sally Daly, spokeswoman for State’s Atty. Anita Alvarez, would not confirm or deny.

County officials last week said the county inspector general was looking into the matter, and federal housing officials said Monday that they, too, are looking into Cole, but their inquiry touched only remotely on his county job.


Swine Flu: Just How Big of a Deal is it for IL?


First, here are some stories that are more focused upon eduactiong as to what Swine Flu is and what individuals should know to protect themselves.

* What you need to know about swine flu

Q: How easy is it to catch this virus?

A: Scientists don’t yet know if it takes fairly close or prolonged contact with someone who’s sick, or if it’s more easily spread. But in general, flu viruses spread through uncovered coughs and sneezes or - and this is important - by touching your mouth or nose with unwashed hands. Flu viruses can live on surfaces for several hours.

Q: Is swine flu treatable?

A: Yes, with the flu drugs Tamiflu or Relenza, but not with two older flu medications.

* Swine Flu Facts

The symptoms for Swine Flu are the same as the common form of flu but the Swine Influenza cannot be treated with the flu vaccine you may have received at the beginning of flu season.

“Swine flu is a respiratory disease. It can be a form of the same flu virus that pigs get and it mutates to infect humans,” said Sara Sparkman with Tazewell County Health Department.

There are treatments for the symptoms but no vaccine.

Health officials say it’s important to be aware. That way you can tray to prevent yourself from getting the Swine Flu. Cover your mouth when you cough, and wash your hands. You can use the alcohol based hand sanitizer.


Keep in mind there is no need to panic. IL state agencies, local authorities, schools, hospitals and even some businesses are taking the necessary precautions. But don’t take my word for it. Here are a plenitude of stories that lay out just how seriously IL is taking this potential danger

* Officials ‘fully expect’ swine flu

“There’s no need to panic at this point,” said Dr. Damon Arnold, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The U.S. has declared a national health emergency amid concern about a flu virus that may be responsible for more than 1,995 illnesses and 149 deaths in Mexico. There are 40 confirmed cases in the U.S., where people complaining of harsher than normal cold symptoms tested positive for swine flu - many who recently visited Mexico.

So far, Illinois is free from swine flu. Seven people displaying symptoms were tested but turned out to be negative for the disease.

Arnold said the state is “over-prepared.”

* State officials say swine flu no cause for panic

“We must remain clam,” said Dr. Damon Arnold, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health. “There is no need to panic at this point. This is something we will get through.”

Arnold urged anyone who feels sick with flu-like symptoms to stay home, use over-the-counter remedies and limit contact with other people. Additional medical treatment should be sought if the symptoms become severe. “We don’t want to have a surge on the medical system,” he said.

He also recommended frequent hand washing.

* Illinois: Don’t panic about swine flu

* Illinois Public Health Chief: We’re Ready for Swine Flu

* Swine flu: High level of vigilance, but no cases yet in Illinois

* Illinois ready for swine flu

* ‘No need to panic’: Local agencies plan for swine flu

* Swine flu update

* Central Illinoisans adjusting travel to ward off swine flu

* Local schools, hospitals, businesses make plans for swine flu

* School taking steps to fight swine flu

* Local schools have plan to deal with flu

* ISU keeping eye on swine flu, following procedures

* CAT Responds To Swine Flu Crisis

* Swine flu prompts Cat restriction on travel to Mexico


I do not take the danger or possible consequences lightly, because there is some cause for concern as Swine Flu is spreading.

* Swine flu spreads to Middle East, Asia-Pacific

* Dangerous swine flu likely in Chicago

“I think it’s entirely likely we will find cases” in Chicago and the region because of the amount of international travel through the city’s two airports, Dr. Michael Vernon of the Cook County Department of Public Health said.

* Swine flu outbreak inevitably headed to Chicago, health officials warn

Officials here say it’s only a matter of time before Illinois - and the Chicago area because of its international travel hubs - reports its own cases.

“Because we’re in this enhanced surveillance mode, we’re very likely to find it,” said Dr. Michael Vernon, the Cook County Department of Public Health’s director of communicable disease. “It’s a very worrisome situation, I must say.”

Yet, the CDC cautioned the crisis could get worse.

“I would fully expect we’ll see a broader range in severity of infection,” Besser said. “You don’t know going into an outbreak what it will look like in the end.”

* Rise in swine flu reports anticipated

* Swine Flu May Test Baxter

* O’Hare Passengers Concerned About Swine Flu

* Local Mexican community ‘a little bit worried’ about swine flu

* Disease could mean new threat to U.S. economy


Having said all of the above. I feel comfortable saying that I think the media has blown this whole thing way out of proportion and has produced a heightened and unhealthy level of fear. I am all for being prepared, but the media should make sure that in our attempt to educate the public, we do not drum up a panic. Case in point, check out these PSAs from the 1970’s Swine Flu scare that John Patterson found.

* Illinois swine flu update coming …


The truth of the matter is that there is a lot we don’t know.

* Flu and fear

We really don’t know how many swine flu cases are out there, or what the death rate is among those infected. That’s an important piece of the puzzle for researchers. A typical flu bug kills only a tiny fraction of those who are infected, around one-tenth of 1 percent. But if the flu is more deadly, it may kill 1 percent or more. It is believed that the infamous 1918 flu killed about 2.5 percent of its victims. But scientists say that even if such a virus were to sweep the country, the death rate would likely be lower because of advances in medical treatment.

We don’t know why people are dying in Mexico but not in the U.S. Moreover, the strain in Mexico appears to be killing young adults, which resembles what happened in the 1918 pandemic. That’s why researchers are so worried about this virus, which has been identified as a pig version of a human flu virus. Why would such a virus be lethal to otherwise healthy people? The theory: A virus essentially new to humans triggers a huge overreaction in healthy immune systems, creating what is called a “cytokine storm.” If that happens, the lungs can fill with fluid and you can essentially drown “from the inside out,” in the gruesomely memorable phrase of a reviewer of a 1999 book about the 1918 pandemic.

We don’t know how long this version of swine flu has been circulating. There have been a smattering of cases in Europe and the U.S., too. The same virus as the Mexico City killer? Don’t know. But because the illness is mild in many patients, it is possible it has been circulating undetected for a while and is only now being noticed because of the mysterious deaths in Mexico.


But what we do know is that Swine Flu has not proved fatal so far in the U.S. and the disease does respond well to treatment. At least on our side of the boarder. True, 40 cases without a fatality is not a large enough sample size to sound the all clear. But it does give me some optimism. We should certainly be prepared, but I think it may have gone beyond that.

* Dave Granlund Cartoon

My sentiments exactly


Other Interesting Stories

* ‘I pity the fool’: Mr. T on jury duty

* C & E Bulls fans

Then some killjoy shuts down the party with this line: “I just can’t get into the Bulls without Michael Jordan.”

Every Bulls fan knows someone who talks that way. Or a lot of someones. They’re like the Christmas-and-Easter Catholics, the ones who sleep in on Sundays unless there’s a baby Savior or a Resurrection to celebrate. They don’t know what they’re missing.

- Posted by Mike Murray   5 Comments      


Morning video

Tuesday, Apr 28, 2009

* Background on the Bears’ third round draft pick…

Third-round DT Jarron Gilbert has excellent athleticism and all the physical tools. His athleticism has been displayed on YouTube since last summer when he jumped completely out of the shallow end of a pool.

“Our strength coach had told us that he heard a story of Adam Archuleta jumping out of a pool, and everybody went crazy and thought it was unbelievable,” Gilbert said. “I went out there and tried it and got it on the first try. Then I had to put it on film.”

* The video…


Any thoughts on the Bears draft picks?

- Posted by Rich Miller   13 Comments      


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Tuesday, Apr 28, 2009

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Morning Shorts: Extended Edition

Monday, Apr 27, 2009

Hey all. Hope your weekend was eventful. Rich is sick as a dog today and is taking the day off. So here is a long, and hopefully thorough, Round-Up of the weekend’s top stories.


Quinn Round-UP


Quinn took some heat over the weekend for predominately hiring his friends and colleagues since becoming governor. Also Quinn took some criticism for firing some Blago appointees,while allowing others to continue their work. These stories seemed news worthy enough to merit this additional distinction.

* New governor turns to old friends, colleagues. This article focuses on both issues raised above. First…

Since taking office Jan. 29 after Blagojevich’s impeachment, Quinn has made about 20 major staffing decisions, from the person who handles his daily schedule to the head of the Transportation Department.

Fifteen of the people he hired have previously worked for him, either in the lieutenant governor’s office or the treasurer’s office. Others are longtime friends or, in the case of new Transportation Secretary Gary Hannig, a state legislator Quinn has known for years. Only two could be considered unfamiliar to Quinn: general counsel Theodore Chung and state police director Jonathon Monken.

So far, Quinn has given most of the top jobs to white men.

Seven of his hires are women, racial minorities or both. They include Quinn’s general counsel and policy director, but most are in second-tier jobs such as deputy chief of staff or scheduler.

And also…

Despite his fierce criticism of Blagojevich, Quinn is making use of his predecessor’s personnel.

Jack Lavin, head of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity under Blagojevich, has been named chief operating officer under Quinn. Another DCEO executive under Blagojevich has been promoted to run the agency, and most other agencies still are being run by the people Blagojevich appointed.

Quinn also is taking advice from two of the architects of the Blagojevich budgets that helped destroy the state’s financial health. John Filan, Blagojevich’s former budget director, is a longtime Quinn friend who is advising the new governor. And Blagojevich’s last budget director, Ginger Ostro, has kept her job under Quinn.

He defended using Blagojevich’s budget team, saying they weren’t the ones setting policy.

* Blagojevich hires suited him

Christopher Corcoran eventually took Blagojevich up on the offer, but his lucky break turned sour late last week when new Gov. Pat Quinn fired him and several other holdovers from the last administration. Another victim of the political purge was a friend of Patricia Blagojevich.

But the man who handled both of the Blagojevich hires is still working for the state. Jack Lavin, a former agency director under Blagojevich, was promoted by his longtime friend Quinn to be the state’s chief operating officer.

Maher-Salzman said she believes she was fired because the Quinn administration thought her previous relationship with the ex-first lady could be embarrassing. Her bosses knew she had spoken to a Tribune reporter about her job and her relationship with the former first family, she said Friday.

“It feels like scapegoating,” she said. “What exactly does that mean that they are going in a different direction when I was fighting for equality for women in business?”

* IDOT personnel manager fired

The Associated Press has learned that an Illinois Department of Transportation administrator who was among a dozen employees to receive hefty raises in the final weeks of the Blagojevich administration has been fired.

* Midnight raises should be investigated


Here are the Rest of the Quinn Stories

* Will Gov. Quinn run to keep job? ‘Yeah,’ he says

* Is anybody listening?

Dozens of others, though, filed complaints with Swanson’s office. But Voight couldn’t get anywhere, either. So on Thursday, Swanson sent a letter — including more than 70 pages of documentation — to Gov. Pat Quinn, acting Tollway Director Michael King and tollway Inspector General Tracy Smith. To make sure they got the message, she helpfully copied it to the media.

The letter asked the tollway to stop mailing tickets to Minnesotans until it can ensure that its system relies on vehicle registration data that is up-to-date, to rescind the tickets issued to Minnesotans who can show they didn’t commit the violation, and to name a liaison to work with her office on behalf of Minnesotans. She asked it to instruct its collection agency to lay off those bogus threats about getting Minnesotans’ licenses suspended.

* Work isn’t over with reopening of historic sites

The Legislature recently approved a $1.6 million supplemental appropriation for the historic sites which is allowing them to reopen.

But that money is only good through the end of the fiscal year, June 30. Gov. Pat Quinn and lawmakers are still working on the Fiscal Year 2010 budget.

* Gov. Quinn backs project to green 3 schools

Gov. Pat Quinn backed a project on Friday to retrofit three Illinois public schools to make them greener buildings.

Work on each school is expected to cost between $35,000 and $40,000 and could include improving school ventilation, increasing the use of outdoor light and better landscaping, said Joseph Clair, chairman of the local Chicago chapter.


Blago: the Gift that Keeps on Giving for the Media

* Blagojevich still looking for TV stardom

* Blago goes Hollywood

On Friday, Illinois’ ex-governor was filmed suspended in midair, flying before a giant green screen.

Blagojevich was in Los Angeles Friday promoting “I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here,” an NBC reality TV show that a judge said he couldn’t join. That’s because the series will be filmed in Costa Rica and the charged ex-governor cannot leave the country due to bond restrictions. But on Friday, Blagojevich’s PR agent released a statement saying that actor Stephen Baldwin was willing to fly to Chicago and ask a judge to “Leggo my Blago.” (Or, ask U.S. District Judge James Zagel’s permission to go to Costa Rica.)

“I would love for Blagojevich to be on the show,” Baldwin said in a statement. “He would add intensity and spice.”

* Blagojevich Promotes Reality Show He Can’t Be On

* The Blago beat

Not! Although embattled former Gov. Rod Blagojevich was in L.A. on Friday promoting the “Survivor'’-type reality TV show he can’t join, he has no paying gigs lined up.

* Blago: Legal predicament `sucks and it’s scary.’

* PJStar: Blagojevich needs honest reality, not the TV kind

* Blagojevich’s next trick, wearing his bathrobe to court?

It would appear that this man, who just a few months ago was in charge of America’s fifth largest state, has been reduced to little more than a cheap stunt artist.

* Leonard Pitts: Rod is hardly a ‘celebrity’

* Bernard Schoenburg: ‘Pay to Play’ a fascinating read

You can tell by the title that it’s not a book of his creation. “Pay to Play: How Rod Blagojevich Turned Political Corruption into a National Sideshow,” is the quickly produced book by ELIZABETH BRACKETT, who got a leave of absence from the PBS station in Chicago, WTTW, to do the writing. She is also a longtime correspondent for “The NewsHour with JIM LEHRER.”

* Spinoff of Reality Rod is thriving over at Second City


Constitutional Officers in the News

* Keep business in public eye

We wonder how many investigations the Illinois attorney general has to do before Roscoe officials understand that village government isn’t a make-it-up-as-you-go-along thing. It belongs to the people.


IL Congressional Delegation


First, here are stories regarding 2010 Congressional Hopefuls

* Will He Run On Empty?

If embattled Illinois Sen. Roland Burris hopes to hold onto his seat in the 2010 election, he’s off to a rocky start. According to a report filed with the Federal Election Commission, Burris raised just $845 from January to March for a potential campaign. That’s a staggeringly low amount by Washington standards, where the average expenditures in a U.S. Senate race in 2008 was more than $8 million. By comparison, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who filled Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s vacated seat, raised $2.3 million over the same period toward her 2010 race.

What’s going on with Burris? “Fundraising was just not on his radar,” Delmarie Cobb, Burris’s political adviser, tells NEWSWEEK. Indeed, Burris remains under a legal cloud because of his ties to ousted Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, who faces federal corruption charges, including allegations that he tried to sell the Senate seat once held by President Obama. Burris, who was appointed to the seat by Blagojevich late last year and had to fight his way through the front door on Capitol Hill, has denied any wrongdoing but is under investigation by both Illinois officials and the Senate ethics committee. On his FEC filing, Burris reported more than $111,000 in debt—money owed largely to strategists he hired to help him win the Senate appointment. According to Cobb, Burris’s legal bills top $400,000, and under Senate rules he is not allowed to use campaign funds to pay them. He has asked the Senate for permission to organize a legal defense fund, but the request has yet to be approved.

* Schakowsky for Senate?

Rep. Jan Schakowsky is stepping up her interest in running for the Senate in 2010 — a poll she took shows her in good shape to win a Democratic primary over Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and Sen. Roland Burris.

Schakowsky told me Sunday she will decide by June 8 whether she will run for the Senate or another term in the House. “The next part is the gut check,” she said.

* IL-10 Dance Card Filling up Quickly, At Least for the Dems

As we have been reporting for some time now, the race for the Tenth Congressional District in Illinois has already gotten very interesting, mostly because 5th term incumbent Congressman Mark Kirk has been flirting with running for either U.S. Senate or perhaps even governor. Kirk’s decision on what to do is expected by the end of this week, but meanwhile a bunch of Dems are already lining up in hope and anticipation (did I mention hope?) that they could run for an open seat and not have to face Kirk. We’ve already told you about State Senators Michael Bond and Susan Garrett, and of course, there always seems to be perennial candidate Dan Seals lurking in the background.

However, the up-and-coming bloggers at LakeCountyEye uncovered yet another stealth candidate on the Dem side, a Highland Park Attorney named Elliot Richardson.


Here are the Remaining Congressional Stories

* Congressman’s Campaign Funds Raise Eyebrows

Luis Gutiérrez chairs a House subcommittee that oversees consumer credit. He’s taking the lead on a payday-lending reform bill.

It’s softer than what he’s proposed in the past. That has irritated some consumer groups.

A study by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington found Gutiérrez 11th among Congressional recipients of campaign donations from the payday-loan industry. The study says Gutiérrez accepted $18,500 dollars from the industry during the last election cycle.

* Halvorson speaks on women in politics, the airport, energy

* Paying 27 percent on a credit card

“I’ve talked to people about the potential impact of a credit crisis, and while some experts believe it could happen, others seem to think that even if it does it won’t have as big of an impact on the economy because the loans aren’t for as much money,” said U.S. Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-3rd), of Western Springs. “But I worry that some banks may now be in such bad shape that it wouldn’t take as much to tip them over.”

Lipinski supports a credit card bill of rights that recently passed out of a House committee. While he said it’s unlikely that Congress ever would set a ceiling on credit card interest rates, there are some things it can do to help consumers.


GA Round-UP


Existing Tensions between IL GOP and Sen. Lauzen over SB 600 have Spilled over into the 2010 Campaign Discussion. (The story below first deals with the 2010 campaign and then discusses general tensions over SB 600. I divide the block quotes for copy right purposes.)

* Illinois GOP leader critical of Lauzen

Illinois’ Republican national committeeman said that state Sen. Chris Lauzen of Aurora should “take a deep look” to see if he wants to say in the GOP and shouldn’t make another bid for Congress in the far west suburbs.

Pat Brady, who last summer became Republican National Committeeman from Illinois to replace the controversial Bob Kjellander, also said he expected a GOP primary contest next year for nomination to the 14th Congressional District seat won last year by freshman Democrat Bill Foster of Geneva.

And on SB 600…

Brady’s comments reflected the continued effort by top Republicans to counter a push by Lauzen to change the way that the GOP selects its top governing panel with balloting by primary voters rather than selection among the party leadership. Top GOP officials have threatened to file suit if Lauzen’s bill becomes law.

Lauzen, who is receiving Democratic help in moving the governing change through the legislature, has attacked leading GOP opponents as “domineering parasites” and “self-serving, officious, lying, arrogant thugs.”

Lauzen is “someone I think that needs to take a deep look and see if he still wants to be in the Republican Party,” said Brady, who is from St. Charles and lives in the 14th Congressional District.


Sen. Syverson Bucks Local Officials from his District over Proposed Capital Projects

* Morrissey, Syverson split on West State plan

Mayor Larry Morrissey spent Wednesday and Thursday lobbying House Speaker Mike Madigan, Gov. Pat Quinn and others to consider the city’s infrastructure priorities in the upcoming budget and proposed, $26 billion capital plan. For years, dating back before Morrissey’s administration, the city has sought state and federal money to improve and beautify the main arteries that bring people into town. If the capital dollars are to be spent according to population, Rockford and Winnebago County deserve about $500 million, Morrissey said.

A key corridor is West State Street. It is without doubt the most forlorn of the city’s gateways. Mayor Ben Schleicher lived on West State. The neighborhoods on both sides of the street began deteriorating in the late 1960s, when the Fairgrounds Valley housing project was built and the middle class headed to the east side, the northwest side and to Winnebago.

The West State plan is supported by the Rockford-Winnebago County Better Roads Association, but there’s one problem: State Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, is not on board. Syverson is a persistent critic of the project because of its price tag: Morrissey estimates it will cost $36 million.

“I could do 10 projects for what they want to spend on West State,” Syverson said when we talked at the State of Winnebago County luncheon on April 16. In the past, Syverson has told me that spending so much money in that neighborhood isn’t a wise use of taxpayers’ money.


Crestwood Fallout Prompts the GA to Take Action, also Related Crestwood Stories

* Illinois to plug holes in water pollution law

In response to the Tribune’s investigation, Quinn and others vowed last week to ensure that state and local officials follow through on the intent of the law. They also are moving to make it a felony to mislead the public about the source of its water.

“You would expect them to tell their constituents what’s in the water they’re drinking,” said Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago), who sponsored the right-to-know measure. “If we need to amend the law to make it clear people should be notified, that’s what we’ll do.”

* Woman’s pursuit of truth admirable in water scandal

It should not have taken a dogged mother years of work to uncover what appears to be intentional abuse of Crestwood’s water supply. But Tricia Krause’s tireless work should be recognized as a true public service.

The crux of what was done with Crestwood’s drinking water supply for 20 years is so banal that it takes reflection to realize how stupid and preposterous and perhaps even evil it was.

The village was told by state officials in 1986 that its well was polluted by cancer-causing dry-cleaning solvents. But Crestwood continued to send the well water to its 11,000 residents for 20 years.

* Crestwood toxic well: Mayor tells upset Crestwood residents that village water is safe

* Well-known attorney may take case

A Naperville environmental attorney who won a $10 million settlement in 2002 on behalf of 186 Lisle families with contaminated drinking water is considering taking the case in Crestwood.

Shawn Collins, who lives in the Will County portion of Naperville, said about 50 current and former Crestwood residents have asked him to investigate their cases. Some have family members who died of cancer. They want answers.


Pending Legislation and Related Stories, Policy Based Editorials, and GA Members in the News

* Legalize civil unions

* A Very Civil Editorial (Written by Rep. Fritchey)

Nothing in HB2234 requires anybody to approve of homosexual couples if they choose not to. Rightfully, nothing in the bill imposes any requirements or restrictions upon any religious institutions or entities. Rather, in a modern-day version of the civil rights struggles of the 60’s, the bill simply extends equal legal rights to a class of people that some people would prefer didn’t have those rights. The bill should be passed. Now.

* Stacking the deck on gay marriage

Oh, Iowa can provide recognition to gay marriages under all its laws and policies. But that’s a surprisingly small part of what marriage encompasses. Under federal law, there are more than 1,100 rights and privileges that go with being a husband or wife. And none of them is available to married same-sex couples.

* Medical marijuana should be an option for the seriously ill

* Lawmakers take aim at drug-resistant staph bacteria

* Illinois lawmakers giving up on trying to soften the smoking ban

* No salary increase for state legislators

That’s what House Republicans tried to do last week. Their attempt to get the measure voted on immediately was rebuffed by Democrats (save for three, including Jack Franks of Marengo). Democrats complained that the Republicans were trying to short-circuit the process. They weren’t going to allow that, no sir.

See, voters don’t care about the maneuvering that takes place in Springfield. They care about results. Democrats should have realized that. That is, if they are seriously planning to vote down the automatic salary increase to their $67,833 a year salary. (Leaders make close to $100,000)

State Rep. Paul Froehlich, a Schaumburg Democrat, quickly e-mailed staff writer Dan Carden after Carden wrote about the failed move by Republicans.

“… When a bill does come up for an actual up or down vote, all the Democrats from my area will be sponsors of the bill and will cast enthusiastic yes votes,” Froehlich said.

* PJStar: Give bill rejecting state lawmakers’ raises a vote

* Charter-school cap, safety measures top lawmaker’s talk

Illinois has a self-imposed cap limit of 60 charter schools: 30 in Chicago, 15 in the Chicago suburbs and 15 in the rest of the state.

Rockford recently had three charter proposals approved by the Illinois State Board of Education, and two more are pending. Only five more charter licenses remain for the state. School Board member David Kelley said he would like to see the state raise the cap, if not remove it.

Kelley was one of 10 people to voice their thoughts Friday to State Rep. Chuck Jefferson, D-Rockford, during Jefferson’s advisory Education and Public Safety committee meetings held in the Zeke Giorgi Building.


IL Ethics Reform


First, here is Rich’s South Town Star Column from Today

* Lobbying reform can have unintended consequences

B y far, the most ironic aspect of this entire post-Rod Blagojevich push to reform Illinois has to be the last paragraph of Gov. Pat Quinn’s much-praised reform commission report.

“All constitutional officers should issue executive orders, comparable to George Ryan’s Executive Order No. 2 (1999), prohibiting their campaign funds from accepting contributions from state employees under their control.”

Former Gov. Ryan issued that executive order because his crooked campaign fundraising operation at his old secretary of state’s office had triggered a federal corruption probe and he was looking for some political cover. That investigation, of course, eventually put Ryan in prison.

Gov. Quinn’s reform commission chairman Pat Collins - who presided over the insertion of that rare Ryan praise into the commission report - was the chief prosecutor at Ryan’s trial. Ryan’s executive order didn’t prevent Collins’ feds from also convicting his campaign committee.

A few years before he issued that order, Ryan pushed through widely hailed reforms of the state’s lobbyist registration and disclosure laws in the run-up to his successful 1994 re-election campaign against noted reformer… Pat Quinn. Several of Ryan’s lobbyist pals got caught up in his federal prosecution.

The irony just never stops in this state.

The lesson from this ought to be that passing new laws, no matter how enlightened and reasonable and strict, will not stop the bad guys from being bad guys. They are what they are. George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich are living proof of that hard-and-fast law of the universe.

Obviously, though, we’ve got a real problem here in Illinois, and some changes have to be made. But making those changes - and making sure they actually work and don’t break something else in the process - isn’t nearly as easy as the newspaper editorial boards and some of the reformers always make it sound.

For instance, last week, some members of the governor’s reform commission testified to the General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Government Reform. The focus of the testimony was the commission’s proposal to revamp state procurement laws.

Stories are legion of how Blagojevich and his goons shook down state contractors for campaign contributions. Besides the really hinky stuff, they allegedly did things like delay final contract decisions to at least make it appear as though a contractor might not get the job and then put the arm on nervous and otherwise honest business people. Those who had won new contracts reportedly received phone calls from campaign higher-ups demanding tribute, with the implication that this might be the last contract they ever got.

See, you don’t always need to steer a contract toward somebody to make out like a bandit. You just have to make it look like you can give it to someone else.

That’s a big reason why the state needs a far more open, transparent and fair contracting system. If the system looks and feels clean to contractors and the state employees who run it, the goons will have a tougher time gaming it.

The problem is getting there without harming the underlying system.

The governor’s reform commission found out last week that while their ideas might address one problem, they could make another problem worse.

Their proposal to centralize and insulate procurement directors was hammered by one business consultant as a waste of money and effort because it could exacerbate the far more pressing problems of bottlenecks and gross inefficiencies in the system itself. The further procurement officers get from the agencies, the less they may understand the urgency or importance of certain contracts. And because the state lets $7 billion in contracts every year, this is a hugely vital function of government that can’t be trifled with.

The reform commission’s proposal to headquarter independent contract monitors in the auditor general’s office was thoroughly shot down by Auditor General Bill Holland, a man of unquestioned integrity. Holland said the plan would drag his office into policy-making, and that would directly contradict his constitutional role in the auditing process.

Holland also took a shot at the commission’s procurement centralization proposal by reminding everyone that Rod Blagojevich had once “reformed” the system by centralizing procurement officers under one roof.

“The process does not corrupt the process,” Holland said. “People corrupt the process.”

Still, it’s beyond clear that we need a new process here. Just keep your fingers crossed that the “fix” doesn’t break something else.


Here are the Rest of the Ethics Stories.

* Mike Lawrence: How much reform can lawmakers stomach?

* State ethics commission holds last public meeting at Morris Library

* Reform commission says computers, not hacks, should draw districts

* First, save the incumbents!

Who’ll win the right to set legislative boundaries after the 2010 federal census? This we know, little voter: It won’t be you. The cliché is a cliché because it’s maddeningly correct: In Illinois, lawmakers choose their constituents, not the other way around.

This isn’t criminal corruption of the types that ended our last two governorships. It is, though, a key reason we live in The Incumbent State. The power to map lets party leaders keep their Senate and House members in line.

In November’s election, incumbents got more than 75 percent of the vote in 25 of the 40 state Senate districts that were in contention, and 72 of the 118 House districts.

More than 75 percent of the vote. Because incumbents are beloved? No. Because Illinois gerrymandering — the drawing of districts for raw political gain — is a legalized protection racket. Who gets protected? Not you.

* Taking politics out of justice

There shouldn’t be. Let’s take the politics out of judicial elections. A non-partisan system of electing judges would go a long way toward eliminating the control that political parties have over the judiciary.

We would create a Judicial Evaluation Commission for each of those districts and circuits. Cook County, because of its size, would have a separate commission for each Supreme and Appellate seat.

The commissions would have eight members, two each appointed by the four legislative leaders of the Illinois General Assembly. The commissions would be equally balanced as to political party.

* Blagojevich, just the latest in a long line of corrupt Illinois politicians


Budget: Quinn’s Budget has Failed to Gain Momentum, and Though Quinn is Still an Ardent Supporter, his Income Tax -at the Moment- Appears to be Dead in the Water

* Few friends for Quinn’s budget

Then there are several budget ideas that were holdovers from the dreaded Blagojevich era, including an attempt to close several corporate loopholes. Quinn says they would generate $287 million for the state. Yet these concepts went nowhere in recent years. So, with less than 40 days to go before a May 31 deadline to get a budget in place, we can count a half-billion reasons why lawmakers remain far from hammering out anything close to a balanced budget.

* Quinn standing by state tax hike

Gov. Quinn says he’s willing to compromise to get a state budget, but he held firm Friday to his proposal to increase Illinois’ income tax rate even though lawmakers have indicated it doesn’t have the necessary support to pass.

With the clock ticking to get a new budget before the legislative session ends May 31, Quinn said backing off his proposed 50 percent increase in the income tax rate isn’t a good idea.

State Senate President John Cullerton, a fellow Chicago Democrat, has said there isn’t enough support for Quinn’s budget proposal as is. Senate GOP leader Christine Radogno wants to first consider budget cuts and government efficiencies.

Another GOP lawmaker, state Sen. Matt Murphy of Palatine said Friday he doesn’t think the Democratic lawmakers who control the General Assembly want to cut the budget to avoid an income tax increase.

* Gov. Pat Quinn Says Only One Option: Income Tax Hike

* Pension reforms, health-care costs key to state budget

* Mark Sanford: Don’t spend money we don’t have

These dangers are common to all states, but given the specific needs and differences of each state, why shouldn’t we also tailor the stimulus I am not fond of to our individual states? Why doesn’t it make sense to make lemonade out of the lemon that I believe the stimulus ultimately represents? Washington experts are wrong in suggesting that we just do as Washington says.

For these reasons, we’ve proposed taking about 10 percent and applying it to paying down our state’s high debt. If a prudent family won the lottery they wouldn’t spend every dime; they would set some aside to pay down the mortgage or credit cards — and to me there is nothing political about asking government to be just as prudent.


Economic Stories

* Buried in bills: Wages are down, costs are up

The cost of a typical auto insurance policy nationwide will jump 4 percent to $875 this year, on top of a 3 percent increase last year, according to the Insurance Information Institute, a trade group based in New York.

The average homeowner’s policy will jump 3 percent, to $841, according to institute data. And term life insurance rates are increasing 4 percent to 6 percent — worse for many others — after several years of declines.

Chicagoans are facing an average 8.7 percent increase in medical insurance premiums, according to Hewitt & Associates.

Illinois insurance shoppers are lucky because the state has one of the least-regulated environments in the country, insurance experts say. Illinois ranks No. 30 among the 50 states for average homeowner’s premiums, at $674 on average, and No. 28 in auto premiums, at $740 on average, according to data from 2006, the most recent available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. No such statistics were available for term life insurance.

* Health plans taking toll in cost, coverage: ‘I am stuck’

* 32% of U. of C. redirected patients are poor, uninsured

Nearly 7 percent of the patients cleared from the U. of C. emergency room and then transported and admitted to Mercy have no health insurance coverage, according to an eight-month period of data provided to the Tribune from U. of C., analyzing 396 patients. On top of that, 25 percent of patients transported by ambulance 5 miles north to Mercy were covered by the Medicaid health insurance program for the poor, which is known for paying hospitals low rates, particularly in Illinois.

At other Illinois hospitals, the number of uninsured and those covered by Medicaid is 26.4 percent, according to the most recent statistics from the state Department of Public Health. Of those, 3.7 percent are “charity patients” with no insurance, and 3.2 percent are “private pay,” who generally have no coverage or pay out of pocket. Medicaid covers 19.5 percent of admissions to Illinois hospitals, state figures show.

* When will Chicago area economy recover? Maybe by late 2012

The Chicago area isn’t expected to get back to peak employment until the third quarter of 2012.

“It’s a very big economy, and it’s taking big losses in areas like manufacturing and professional business services,” said Bob Tomarelli, associate economist with IHS Global Insight. “Those are going to need to rebound strong for Chicago to come back to where it was before the recession hit.”

He noted the professional and business services sector and manufacturing combined comprise about 23 percent of the area’s total employment.

* Home sales in Chicago area start to show more signs of life

Suburban counties seeing among the largest month-over-month sales increases were Lake County, 65 percent; Kendall County, 51 percent; and Cook County, 38 percent.

Realty agents are taking pains to not get too giddy. After all, that 38 percent one-month gain in sales in Cook County translated to 2,409 properties sold. In March 2008, 3,432 homes sold in Cook County.

* Worried about job market? Go ahead, buy that house

Layoff-insurance policies, which apparently were birthed in late winter in the car industry and spread to other commercial endeavors such as men’s clothing retailers, are starting to pile up in housing.

* Evicting the foreclosed: It’s a different ballgame

“One thing you always have to tell yourself: Never be judgmental. Never think, ‘This couldn’t happen to me,’ ” Vick said. “We have seen people who had great jobs. You do want to ask them, ‘What happened to you?’

“For the grace of God, it could be you or me. You’re working one day, the next day you’re not.”

* In a dead job market, unemployed bide their time in gyms

* The Daily Journal launching JobFinder search service on May 4

* Biden to Visit Chicago, Window Factory, Daleys

Vice President Joe Biden is coming to Chicago Monday. It’s his first trip to Illinois since the inauguration.

Biden will visit what’s become a symbol of America’s credit crunch: the former Republic Windows and Doors factory on Chicago’s North Side. Workers staged a sit-in there last fall, arguing for severance pay the company insisted it didn’t have. Now the factory’s got a new owner, and has hired back some of the workers. Biden will plug the reopening as a direct impact of spending from the federal stimulus plan.

* Argonne’s new director plans to focus on energy, recruiting top talent

* The last days of the war with O’Hare

* Changes in Bensenville, Elk Grove Village leave lawyer who has fought O’Hare expansion in limbo

Karaganis, the lead lawyer against the expansion, says he plans to keep fighting the war he has fought for more than 20 years, to keep airport pollution and construction from hurting the people in the western suburbs.

* Daily newspapers reinvent selves almost daily as economy, market forces press on them


City Hall

* Daley, parents speak out against gang violence

* Let’s slow the rush to privatization — a little

The city says it already briefs aldermen, but it’s clearly not doing enough.

We’re stuck with the city parking meter deal for 75 years.

Next time around, let’s do this right.

* Honorary street signs have gone too far: alderman

* Ron Huberman: Raising the bar on charter schools

“Drawing a line in the sand is a good way to describe it,'’ Huberman told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Charters have been touted as engines of innovation by President Obama and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Huberman’s predecessor as CPS chief. The schools were envisioned as a way to give public schools some of the freedoms private schools enjoy — such as avoiding teachers union work rules or certain public school policies — in exchange for “charters” agreeing to specific outcomes.

Yet four Chicago charters have fallen subject to federal rules about “restructuring,” the ultimate sanction under the No Child Left Behind law. In Illinois, restructuring can range from replacing staff to instituting a new, proven curriculum.

Also from the above article, here is a table with some interesting data

Percentage of schools that did not make “Adequate Yearly Progress” under the No Child Left Behind law:

CPS Chicago charter New York Los Angeles
At least 1 year 67 50 11 39
At least 5 years 42 32 0 0
Source: Illinois State board of Education data about Chicago Public Schools; New York City public schools; Los Angeles Unified public schools. 1-year percentages based on schools with 2008 tests; 5-year percentgages based on schools with 2004-2008 tests. Counts CPS charter schools with multiple campuses as one school

* More Chicago schools adopt year-round schedule

* Huberman Looks to Prevent Swine Flu in Chicago Schools

* No swine flu cases reported in Illinois

* CTA mulls safety shields for bus drivers

About 10 offenses occur each month in which bus drivers are the victims, according to CTA union officials.

About 500 of the CTA’s roughly 2,000 buses are equipped with the plastic shields made of Lexan, officials said. A decision is pending on whether to outfit all buses with the devices, which cost about $800 each to buy and install, officials said. So far, about $400,000 has been spent on the pilot project.

* Autism, police beating: After autistic boy’s beating, Chicago police superintendent waits for officers’ version of how autistic teen was bloodied

Chicago Police Supt. Jody Weis asks public to not rush to judgment on officers

* Family claims Chicago police officer beat autistic teenager

* Art Institute’s new wing a modern test of the times

Millennium Park, however, is free, while the debut of the $283 million, 264,000-square-foot Modern Wing comes just a week before the Art Institute raises its general admission price from $12 to $18 — all while the country is mired in a deep recession, and museums nationwide are retrenching.

So the new Modern Wing — and, really, the new Art Institute, because everything is being reinstalled — presents a test case. Is this lavish offering, to be unveiled at a May 9 gala, a misreading of the times and people’s willingness to pay a premium to view great art in a stunning new building?


Stroger’s Troubles and Cook County Governance

* Dear Todd: A few words to the unwise

For taxpayers, the most important part of this story is that in a crushing economy, when just about everyone is feeling strapped, we still have the willful hiring of unqualified patronage workers at excellent wages on the whim of a politician who can’t be straight with us. Cole is hardly the only example of the Stroger “Friends and Family” employment plan. Remember Ronald Burleson, working at the East Bank Club, where the president plays basketball, who got a $99,000 health department job until the Trib reported it? Stroger was forced to demote him, but on “Chicago Tonight” he improbably added: “That doesn’t mean he wasn’t qualified.”

President Stroger would do well to consider the words of Cassius in Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”:

The fault, dear Todd, is not in our stars but in ourselves.

* Felon In Stroger Hiring Scandal Got Free Housing

* Daley suggests Stroger explain patronage scandal

* Suffering Suffredin

Geovanis, trying her best to put some positive spin on an unspinable situation, tried to engage Suffredin in a point-counterpoint debate, but Suffredin would have none of it.

“I don’t talk to the hired help,” said Suffredin, walking off.

At best, the comment could be viewed as a frustrated Suffredin refusing to let Stroger shift accountability to his minions (whose statements can always later be denied by Stroger).

At worst, though, the comment — which was captured on multiple television cameras — will come back to haunt him during campaign season as an elitist indication of his true opinion of the working stiffs he claims to champion.

* Cook County’s overtime time bomb

If Joseph Lafata were to retire anytime soon from his job as a maintenance supervisor with the Cook County Highway Department, he’d have a nice cushion to take with him into retirement: a $60,000 payout for more than 1,000 overtime hours that he has accumulated — hours that, in theory, he’s supposed to take as paid time off.

County highway workers have amassed mountains of what’s called “time-off overtime” — TOOT, for short — a Chicago Sun-Times review of county records shows, with Lafata piling up more overtime than anyone else.


Other News Worthy Stories

* Bulls Outlast Celtics for Game 4 Win

* Sun-Times staffers win 9 Lisagors for journalism

* Jackson plans Iran trip to seek release

The Rev. Jesse Jackson is heading to New York this week in an attempt to secure visas to Iran so he can seek the release of journalist Roxana Saberi. Jackson hopes to travel to Iran with some journalism students from Northwestern, Saberi’s alma mater.

* I-55 traffic stop yields 237 pounds of cocaine

Authorities say approximately 237 pounds of cocaine were found during a traffic stop on Interstate 55 in central Illinois.

The drugs are worth between $2.1 million and $3.7 million.

* Braidwood nuclear plant unit back in service

* Peoria County climbs toxic rankings

Community ranks 14th nationally with 35.3 million pounds of toxic chemicals

But the high ranking is primarily due to the Peoria Disposal Co. hazardous waste landfill near Pottstown. It accounts for nearly 25 million pounds of the 35.3 million pounds the county contributed to the TRI list.

* Grant to bring new technology to local 911; Southern Illinois to serve as pilot program

Several Southern Illinois counties were chosen to participate in the launch of the nationwide pilot program aimed at testing advancements in the methods for which dispatchers can receive 911 calls and information, including text messaging, picture messaging and streaming video.

“You can get a lot more information to a dispatch center than you previously could,” Felty said. “You can take a picture of a house fire and see it is more than just smoke and pass that along to your responders. This generation of young adults’ and children’s world is surrounded by text messaging.”

The project will be funded through the National Emergency Number Association, through partners with Next Generation 911 and will include a $600,000 federal grant.

- Posted by Mike Murray   45 Comments      


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* State avoids contempt citation... for now
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* *** UPDATED x1 - Quinn's office responds *** Art returned after police report filed
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* Message synergy
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* Running on empty and can't fill the tank
* Attorneys: Providers still not being paid
* Moody's: Illinois ratings will be based on whether state can deal with revenue problems and show it can make required pension payments
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        * 7 dead from Legionnaires' disease at Quincy veterans home
        * Lawsuit: U of Illinois retaliated over sex harassment claim
        * Illinois House gears up for override of union-strike veto
        * Scott Air Force Base unit might lost 51 jobs to Virginia
        * Custody fight to focus on Illinois mom's role in 2003 deaths
        * Judge declines to hold Illinois in contempt on payments
        * Manhunt in northern Illinois prompts school lockdown
        * EXCHANGE: Sycamore family ponders future after loss of barn
        * HUD approves loan guarantee to Rockford for hotel project
        * Marion trailer park pays $75K to settle discrimination probe

        * Illinois House faces crucial vote on union arbitration bill
        * United Way advance keeps Helping Hands shelter open as state budget impasse continues
        * House faces crucial vote on union arbitration bill
        * LIHEAP program delayed by state budget impasse
        * United Way advance keeps Helping Hands shelter open as budget impasse continues
        * Judge declines to hold Illinois in contempt on payments
        * State, Teamsters agree on new contract that includes four-year wage freeze
        * State, Teamsters agree on new contract
        * Rauner signs law toughening penalties on drunken drivers
        * Illinois State Museum is latest target in political fight

        * George Lucas, Mellody Hobson unveil new Lucas Museum design
        * Illinois House gears up for override of union-strike veto
        * Illinois could get Jeep Cherokee production
        * Lurie Children's to staff pediatric services at Mercy Hospital
        * McDonald's to roll out all-day breakfast


          * Shootings leave 6 injured including boy, 16, across city
          * Manhunt continues in Lake County as Fox Lake mourns slain police officer
          * Crystal Lake cops search for man after police surround home
          * Hillary Clinton emails include chats with old Chicago friend
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          * Pope Francis enables priests to forgive women after abortion
          * Pope Francis enables priests to forgive women after abortion
          * Emanuel calls on Rauner to reconsider child care cuts
          * How Chicago girl got to sing for Pope Francis


          * James Skibo: Museums are treasures worth saving, not destroying
          * The Rev. Alexander Sharp: Gov. Rauner's desire for criminal justice reform in question
          * Michael Gerson: Donald Trump declares war on demography
          * E.J. Dionne: Iran and the case for realism
          * Illinois House faces crucial vote on union arbitration bill
          * United Way advance keeps Helping Hands shelter open as state budget impasse continues
          * LIHEAP program delayed by state budget impasse
          * Judge declines to hold Illinois in contempt on payments
          * Todd Maisch: National labor board's decision a real jobs killer
          * State, Teamsters agree on new contract that includes four-year wage freeze


          * UPDATED: Dick's/Field & Stream aiming for October opening in mall
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          * Illini roundup: Anderson, Ram triumph
          * Tuesday's prep highlights: Fisher/GCMS posts shutout
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          * Police hunting for 3 suspects after Fox Lake cop shot dead
          * Fox Lake-area districts cancel Wednesday classes as hunt for suspects continues
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          * Governor Announces Appointments
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