* And here’s an update from the Illinois Department of Public Health which just arrived in my in-box…
State Public Health Director Announces 9 Probable Cases of Swine Flu in Illinois
Proclamation issued to ensure medicine and medical supplies are readily available
SPRINGFIELD – Dr. Damon T. Arnold, Illinois Department of Public Health Director, announced there are currently nine probable cases of swine flu in Illinois: five in Cook County (all within the Chicago city limits), one in DuPage County, two in Kane County and one in Lake County. A probable case means the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) has tested a specimen and found that it is positive for influenza A, but it could not be subtyped. The Department has shipped three of the nine probable cases to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to perform final testing to confirm if the cases are positive for swine flu, and the other six will be shipped later day.
The federal government has declared a health emergency and identified a potential threat to the health and safety of the citizens of Illinois. A Gubernatorial Proclamation issued by Governor Pat Quinn Tuesday allows for the mobilization of state assets, as the Governor deems necessary, to aid in the distribution of medical supplies and other actions needed to protect public’s health and safety.
How are you feeling? I’ve been sick all week. Can’t shake it. Maybe the guv can mobilize some services my way.
There had been no confirmed deaths in the United States related to swine flu as of Tuesday afternoon. But another virus had killed thousands of people since January and is expected to keep killing hundreds of people every week for the rest of the year.
That one? The regular flu.
Since I’m pretty sure I have the “regular” flu, I am not comforted at all by the above story.
* Ill. spot for migrants vigilant about swine flu: An emergency services chief in a southern Illinois county where migrants gather each spring to work the apple and peach orchards says many there are concerned about the possible spread of swine flu linked to Mexico. But Union County’s Dana Pearson adds that there’s no need for anyone around Cobden to feel alarmed. He says the area so far only has a few families of migrants, and they’re from Tennessee and Texas.
According to a new study commissioned by UNO, 64 neighborhood elementary schools in the city of Chicago are overcrowded, nearly 70% of which are majority Latino. These schools would require a total of 16,552 new seats to resolve the problem. That’s the equivalent of 552 new classrooms or 28 new schools.
UNO is calling on the state to make significant investments in capital construction in overcrowded areas and address the direct impact this crisis is having on Latino student potential.
But because it can take new public schools as long as 5 years to open, UNO is also proposing an aggressive portfolio of new UNO school construction projects that it promises to complete in under 2 years and at half the cost of typical new public school construction.
UNO’s proposal targets new school construction in neighborhoods which currently suffer from some of the worst school overcrowding in the city. In addition to bringing nearly immediate relief to nearby public schools, UNO’s “shovel-ready” proposals promise to create over 2,000 new jobs in an otherwise tight economy.
It’s time to provide Latino communities with real solutions to overcrowding.
Visit us at www.uno-online.org
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* 11:32 am - No surprise. Democratic State Sen. Michael Bond has announced for the 10th Congressional District seat now held by Republican Mark Kirk. From a press release…
“After speaking with people in our communities, listening to their ideas and hearing their concerns, I’ve decided to run for Congress. Our country is facing enormous challenges. Decisions are being made that will affect Americans for generations to come, and it’s important to have people in Washington who will take a fresh approach to today’s problems, who will fight for what’s right and get something done.
“That’s what motivated me to first serve on the school board and then the State Senate. Because too many politicians, particularly those in Washington, forget the reason the people sent them there in the first place – to find solutions and produce results…”
A formal announcement will come in a few weeks. Kirk has yet to decide whether he’s running statewide. Bond has said he’s in regardless of Kirk’s decision, but he’ll have to give up his state Senate seat to run, so some find that hard to believe.
* Having been involved in student politics back in the day, I know firsthand that it’s usually a lot of overheated silliness, which is one reason I’ve kinda ignored a story that came to a head a few minutes ago…
After weeks of controversy, Chicago State University’s board picked Wayne Watson this morning to be the school’s next president.
The choice of Watson, who is retiring as chancellor of the City Colleges of Chicago, was met by boos from a packed audience.
“The pick of Watson puts politics, contracts and jobs above academic excellence,” said student Michael O‚Connor.
The other finalist for the post was another political figure - Carol Adams, secretary of the Illinois Department of Human Services.
“I feel that I’m at a funeral, and we are presiding over the burial of hope and change,” said Van Searcy, president of the Faculty Senate, during the period for public comment after the vote. […]
The announcement came days after the Faculty Senate took the unusual step of asking Gov. Pat Quinn to remove the trustees and stop the board from hiring a president.
Chicago State faculty and students have argued they were excluded from the search process and have criticized the two finalists as local political insiders. Earlier this month, 13 of the 15 members of the campus’ search advisory committee resigned in protest.
Chicago State was the direct benefactor of blatant political pork - the “politics, contracts and jobs” referenced above - for almost two decades. If it wasn’t for Senate President Emil Jones’ back-room machinations on its behalf, the campus would still be run-down and forgotten.
I totally understand why the campus didn’t want either of those two candidates shoved down their throats. But for the university community to ignore why they’ve found themselves in this position is inexcusable. In reality, Chicago State is a child birthed by blatant politics. All they have to do is look around them for proof. But here’s some history…
Despite strong opposition, Jones pushed through legislation to provide a percentage of revenues from a new gaming license in Illinois to go to inner-city Chicago State University rather than the more prestigious University of Illinois downstate.
He is also responsible for targeting enviable funding to Chicago State for capital improvements, scholarships and technology programs, including a new library. The school is also building a convocation center, named for Jones and his late wife, Patricia Jones.
“Senator Jones has made it possible for incredible opportunities for students at Chicago State University,” says President Elnora D. Daniel. “He has brought economic resources totaling $200 million to the university that have long been overlooked. Our students are now in position to better compete in technology and other fields the same as students do from other state-supported institutions.”
Politics is a lot like the mafia. You take their money, you follow their rules. CSU took a whole lot of that political money, and it came with a price. It shouldn’t, but it did.
I’m happy to see they want out of this endless cycle, but the university community ought to be honest with itself about how they got where they are and where they really want to go. Because if they now want to be treated like every other university in this state, that means flat funding, limited capital projects and priorities put on the back burner.
Springfield has had the same answer to budget deficits for years: cut the fat. But today, Illinois faces its biggest budget crisis ever. And the fat? It’s all but gone.
The Governor’s proposed budget includes dangerous cuts to the programs families, seniors and people with disabilities depend on:
• The Home Services Program - which provides home care for 33,000 people with disabilities - is facing a $26.5 million deficit that could mean serious cuts in care.
• The Community Care Program - which allows 51,000 seniors to receive home care - faces a $40 million deficit that will mean substantial cuts to services.
• The Child Care Assistance Program is facing a $50 million cut - threatening the care of 170,000 children. Illinois is slated to receive $74 million for child care through the federal stimulus package, but the funds cannot be used to fill budget holes. If the $50 million cut remains, Illinois will lose $74 million in stimulus funds while threatening the care of Illinois’ children.
In tough times, the right answer isn’t leaving seniors and people with disabilities on their own, or taking child care away from working parents when they need it most.
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*** UPDATE *** Apparently, the Pantagraph had it wrong. Stuff happens. The paper has now published a new story which completely contradicts its earlier story…
Illinois public health officials say there will be more, not fewer workers testing for swine flu and other diseases if the governor’s budget is adopted.
Although Gov. Pat Quinn’s proposed spending plan calls for cuts at the three labs that conduct tests, a separate line in the budget would add an additional 16 workers, said Illinois Department of Public Health spokeswoman Melaney Arnold.
Arnold said Wednesday the additional workers will be funded through a different revenue stream than the other employees, who are set to be reduced by three.
Okeedokee. I’m gonna strike out the rest of this…
* National Democrats have made a big stink about how the Republicans stripped pandemic preparedness funding out of the federal stimulus bill. Well…
Gov. Pat Quinn is proposing to cut the number of workers at state laboratories that process swine flu samples. […]
Quinn’s chief spokesman referred questions to the Illinois Department of Public Health, which did not respond to requests for elaboration.
The reductions, contained in Quinn’s budget plan that was crafted before swine flu found its ways into the headlines, also include the elimination of expenses associated with the state’s pandemic flu preparedness efforts. […]
Along with the proposed personnel cuts, the governor’s budget also would eliminate all funds associated with pandemic flu preparation, saving an estimated $57,800.
* Speaking of the budget, sometimes, no governor can win. From a Belleville News-Democrat editorial…
We objected last fall when then Gov. Rod Blagojevich swung his budget ax at Fort de Chartres, the Pierre Menard Home, the Cahokia Courthouse and other state historic sites. He likely chose them for cost cutting because he knew it would rile the public and embarrass lawmakers.
But Gov. Pat Quinn’s decision to reopen them last week didn’t make good sense, either.
We see the [proposed Illinois] tobacco tax as another step in the increasing regulation of your health. We have said it before. A government that pays for your blood pressure pills will eventually regulate just about everything that can give you high blood pressure. Some states now ban smoking in cars if minors are present. Municipalities have pondered banning smoking in rented apartments.
Schools have banned junk food. A sugar tax is being contemplated in some cities as a means of fighting obesity.
But taxing tobacco out of existence is a fairly easy call. Unlike even sugar, there’s nothing to be said for it being beneficial in moderation. Tobacco use in all forms is harmful. Cigarettes, too, are a relatively modern phenomenon. Tobacco use predated Columbus. But the modern mass-marketed machine-paper rolled cigarette is less than a century old.
Its demise will not be lamented here.
* Taxpayer group opposes Gov. Quinn’s income tax hike: The NTUI says instead, state employess should contribute more to their own pensions and healthcare funds. NTUI President James Tobin says, “Five percentage points more would reduce the pension benefit liabilities by more than 20 billion dollars.”
In the coming weeks, you’ll hear plenty of arguments against these reforms, many of which will sound perfectly reasonable. But we urge you to question those arguments and find the self-serving nonsense at their core.
How can anyone have an honest debate on the governor’s reform commission proposals with a warning shot like that?
* The Tribune, which editorialized just a few days ago against the commission’s campaign contribution caps, runs a thundering edit today entitled “Madigan, Cullerton — Act” and ledes with this…
“Half-measures will not suffice to repair our State’s troubled [governing] infrastructure or our citizens’ broken confidence. . . . This blueprint for reform will be meaningless unless the changes we have envisioned become reality.”
– “100-Day Report,” Illinois Reform Commission
The Trib is apparently suffering from a severe case of amnesia and delusion. In reality, they support “half-measures” on campaign contribution caps. So, are they part of the problem? Apparently so.
* The Post-Dispatch also includes the commission’s “half-measures” line in its editorial today and then opines…
Campaign finance is the index issue, the one from which nearly every other political evil flows. Outright bribery is rare; doing favors for big contributors is the coin of the realm. If Illinois doesn’t fix this one, all the rest of the talk about “reform” is mere conversation.
OK, but the Trib is not in favor of the commission’s caps, so it’s enabling evil, too? More from the Post-Dispatch…
We’re not 100 percent sold on all 39 of the commission’s recommendations; for example, giving the state attorney general the right to convene grand juries to investigate public corruption is an idea that seems ripe for abuse.
The P-D is also, apparently, for half-measures.
* The Bloomington Pantagraph claims: “Reform commission report already facing resistance.” Translation: If legislators say they’re not sold on a particular provision, it’s “resistance.” If a newspaper editorial board makes the exact same criticisms, well, that’s just honest and open debate.
After dedicating four months to a campaign for the Republican nomination for Governor of Illinois in 2010, I have concluded it is unrealistic to continue this effort.
I am exceedingly grateful for the encouragement and support from many individuals throughout Illinois. I am appreciative of everyone who demonstrated interest, welcomed me into communities and helped me along the way.
If you read Whitley’s entire statement, the bottom line is he just wasn’t up to the task. Running for statewide office ain’t easy, and he found that out the hard way.
According to ISBE filings, Cicero spokesman and Republican pundit Dan Proft formed a “Proft for Governor” committee on April 9, 2009 with “Zero” funds, thus adding credibility to the rumor that Proft is seriously contemplating a bid.
You can check out Proft’s statement of organization by clicking here. Since he’s formed a campaign committee, I kinda wonder what WLS Radio is gonna do about his regular commentator gig.
* Team America’s 10th District Blog speculates on the Illinois impact of US Sen. Arlen Specter’s party switch…
But, with Specter’s defection, if anything, the national GOP will renew its attempts to open up the big tent and embrace moderates to refute the notion that Specter’s defection had anything to do with policy schisms within the party. Not to mention the fact that the GOP needs to win back some Senate seats in 2010, and Kirk is widely regarded as one of the GOP’s strongest candidates anywhere.
Supporting a moderate like Mark Kirk for an important U.S. Senate race might just come at exactly the right time for the GOP.
But Mark Biver, a hard-right Illinois activist, puts it bluntly…
The problem is, unfortunately, the Republican Party nationally and especially here in Illinois has been allowing candidates to run that tepidly (to say the least) support only a few of the platform planks.
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. […]
Lauzen, who is receiving Democratic help in moving the [state party] 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.
There is no Democratic Party of Illinois,” strategist Kitty Kurth said by phone Tuesday. “When I talk to my friends at the Democratic National Committee, they say our state chair won’t return their calls.”
The Illinois Republican Party has been behind the eight ball in recent years. It has suffered from its own largely self-inflicted wounds. Then again, travel over to its Web site and there’s a discernable difference these days.
They’re using a word you might remember from another campaign.
Turn the records over. That’s what Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office has told Acting Illinois State Police director Jonathon Monken, who has refused to release reports chronicling the drunken driving arrest of Springfield parks director Michael Stratton.
Monken on Tuesday morning told The State Journal-Register, which asked for the reports, that he believes releasing the documents might even be a crime.
But a senior aide to Madigan late in the day informed Monken via letter that the reports are public records that must be released. And in an interview, another Madigan aide characterized the state police’s position as “absurd.” Click here to see a PDF of the letter
“As you are aware, compliance with the Freedom of Information Act is critical as we work to restore the public’s confidence in state government,” wrote Michael Luke, senior assistant attorney general, in a letter to Monken.
Both the number of miles of service available and the number of miles traveled by riders rose about 9 percent in those five years, the report found. The average number of annual rides taken per Chicago area resident also rose, from 69.6 in 2003 to 72.9 in 2007.
But the cost of keeping the buses and trains running rose faster than the rate of inflation, due to higher fuel, labor and health care costs. Capital funding sunk from $1.04 billion in 2007 to $345 million in 2007.
“You can see the system being stretched,” said Joe Schwieterman, a transportation expert at DePaul University.