A five-page memo, marked confidential and obtained by the I-Team, reveals that Burr Oak’s chief executive, Slivy Cotton, feared in 2003 that there was a grave selling plot underway.
According to her memo, workers had “discovered bones” and “human remains” and claimed “former owners routinely buried over or cleared out old graves for new business. The memo states executives feared that “old remains were dumped” in a back lot.
There’s a whole lot more in that internal cemetery company memo besides what Goudie reported tonight. I have it as well, but was unable to confirm its authenticity this evening. Click here to read it. It’s mind-boggling.
* What the comptroller’s office didn’t know before or even after that earlier disclosed 2003 meeting with Burr Oak Cemetery CEO Slivy Cotton was that Ms. Cotton already figured the company had some very serious problems on its hands. According to the confidential memo, when cleaning up the back end of their property, the company made a startling discovery…
(W)e discovered the remnants of a corner of a very old casket and some bones that we believe to be human remains. It was believed that these remains had never been buried, however, it was not possible to tell. [emphasis added]
She also reported to the company that on “several occasions” they opened what were supposed to be empty, pre-sold graves “only to discover that there were wood and bone fragments in the graves.” They suspected that the fragments were over 50 years old.
So, they started asking the groundsmen, and one of them spilled the beans…
[The groundsman] had heard that the former owners believed that if a grave was more than 50 years old, they could reuse it. They would often dig up any leftover fragments and dump them in the back.
The bottom line, according to the internal memo, is that Perpetua apparently suspected in 2003 that a grave reselling scheme may have been in operation for years…
We believe that the former owners routinely buried over or cleared out old graves for new business. We believe that they sold Pre-Need to families in sections they knew were full with the expectation that people would continue to be double buried in these old graves
Those former owners included John Johnson, the legendary African-American publishing magnate.
The cemetery company had an impending crisis on its hands, because the Illinois Department of Transportation was using Eminent Domain to claim a section of the property in the back, where some remains had allegedly been dumped…
I have held the Department of Transportation off for a while trying to negotiate a higher price for the property they want to claim, but they will want to proceed soon.
That section was apparently part of the property which the company’s CEO told the comptroller’s office a little bit about in 2003.
And the company had another big dilemma. Their outside attorney, Dick Phelan, was close to Hynes, both personally and politically…
Foley and Lardner has chosen to deai only with the facts. I think going any further will pose a Conflict of Interest for them. In addition to working on his Senatorial Campaign, [Dick] Phelan and the Comptroller are personal friends. I am not sure he wants to bring anything to the Comptroller that could be unpleasant.
They were also clearly worried that David Foley at the comptroller’s office would find out what was going on…
If any attorney is to advise us, then they should advise us on how to handle any follow-up questions from David Foley. If Foley doesn’t “dig” into the situation, I believe we still would have to tell him that we suspect that there are other remains in the back. I suppose we could just decide not to use the land in the back, but I think we are exposed if what we suspect is true. If the Department of Transportation doesn’t get our approval, they will sue us to use the land they have claimed.
In other words, this grave-switching scheme allegedly goes back decades, according to the memo. It’s apparently nothing new at all. And the story they gave to the comptroller’s office in 2003? Well, it appears, to me at least, to be an innocent-sounding cover story to avoid any further investigations.
* Back to Goudie, who caught up with Gov. Quinn at an event tonight…
“The Burr Oaks Cemetery scandal is the worst scandal…in American history. Grave robbing going on and there was information about that in 2003. Why didn’t the comptroller know about it? He’s in charge of that office and they have a duty, he does, under law to make sure things are done right,” said Quinn.
Quinn says the lack of action by the comptroller’s office in this scandal is a question of competence.
* I don’t usually promote stuff like this, particularly something so close to Ricketts Park, but it’s for a great cause and I hope you all can make it. Plus, I promised I’d do it before I found out where it was…
WHAT: Skate for Haiti
WHEN: Saturday, January 30, 2010
8:30am – 10:30am
WHERE: Corner of Clark and Addison Streets, Chicago
This Saturday, U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (D-IL) and the Rink at Wrigley will host a fundraiser to benefit victims of the earthquake in Haiti. The outdoor event is open to the public and sponsored by Congressman Quigley, who will match all donations to the American Red Cross. […]
OTHER INFO: Suggested donations: $20 for individuals / $40 for families
All proceeds will benefit the American Red Cross’ relief efforts in Haiti and will be matched by Quigley.
Parking and ice skate rental will be available on site for no charge.
The rink is also easily accessible by public transit.
* Comments will not be closed this weekend because of Tuesday’s election, so please try to behave. But let’s do a video anyway…
It sure been a cold, cold winter
My feet been draggin’ ‘cross the ground
And the fields has all been brown and fallow
And the springtime take a long way around
Comptroller Dan Hynes’ office was informed in late 2003 about the essence of the problem and that Hynes’ top cemetery official even held a meeting about human remains being discovered at Burr Oak.
[Hynes’] cemetery assistant attended a meeting on November 19, 2003 concerning human remains that had been discovered at Burr Oak.
According to a follow up letter from Hynes’ office to cemetery owners the next February, his now director of cemetery care stated, “I am writing in response to our meeting with you in November regarding the discovery of human remains at Burr Oak Cemetery.” The letter written on official comptroller stationary and signed by Percy Lucina, Hynes’ top cemetery aide.
* Hynes’ initial reaction was not exactly full and complete…
“The conversation you’re talking about was the fact that the cemetery wanted to create a mausoleum and they wanted to know what to do if there was a disruption of remains or burial grounds and we said our office doesn’t regulate the burial grounds.”
But emails provided by the comptroller’s office late Friday afternoon confirm that they were told human remains had been found at Burr Oak, not that cemetery officials were simply concerned they might be unearthed during future construction.
* I talked to Hynes tonight about his comments and here’s what he said…
“I think I just misspoke. What I was trying to get across was, not the possibility of finding [the remains], but the inadvertent discovery of them…
“What I’ve learned throughout the week is that they came to us and they disclosed to us that they were building this mausoleum and when they started excavating they discovered these bones. And they said ‘What do we do about this?’… We started researching it, and were perplexed by it… It’s consistent with what I’ve said all along, we don’t regulate burial grounds…
“I think what’s being attempted here [by the Quinn campaign] is to turn this into something where [the cemetery owners] revealed to us that there was a major scandal going on, [instead of] that they had unmarked graves and they were trying to deal with it.
“This smoking gun that Chuck Goudie thought he had was, in my opinion, validating what I’ve been saying all along. That they came to us, and we said we don’t deal with burial grounds…
“We don’t have the benefit of hindsight. [At the time it appeared that this was] a one hundred year old cemetery and they came upon some remains…”
The Quinn campaign put out a news release earlier this evening about the ABC7 report…
“This is an outrage against every family who has ever watched as someone they loved was laid to rest in a cemetery,” said Quinn for Illinois Communications Director Elizabeth Austin. “Comptroller Hynes was happy to send out dozens of news releases boasting about cleaning up weeds at pioneer cemeteries in downstate communities. But when he had to confront a real problem affecting real families, he turned his back on his official duties – and on the families who were counting on him.” […]
So why, in testimony to Governor Quinn’s Cemetery Oversight Task Force Hearing on Sept. 10, 2009, did Hynes insist: “Not only did we do our job, but we took immediate action in the situation of Burr Oak. We immediately moved to revoke the license.”
Even after more than five years, 22 separate complaints, and 12 different staff visits by Hynes employees to the cemetery site, Comptroller Hynes claimed his office had no indication that there was any problem at Burr Oak Cemetery.
Ms. Austin said this tonight after seeing the comptroller’s comments…
“It is incorrect for Hynes to say that he had no oversight over cemeteries.
“Comptroller Hynes also has claimed the Governor’s Cemetery Oversight Task Force has cleared him of any responsibility for what happened at Burr Oak. On the contrary, the Task Force specifically said the Comptroller’s powers were ‘comprehensive’ with respect to cemetery oversight.”
Here’s part of the first comptroller’s office e-mail, which was sent the day before the office met with Sllvy Cotton, the CEO of Perpetua Corp., which owned the cemetery. It’s from David Foley, who was a political hire in Hynes’ office…
I am uncertain if [Sllvy Cotton’s] request to meet with me concerns a consumer case I have been working on. Perpetua has not been specific as to why they want to meet with me.
And here’s the follow-up e-mail from the director of the comptroller’s cemetery care and burial trust division…
This is an update on our meeting with Sllvy Cotton, CEO, Perpetua Corp., who owns Burr Oak Cemetery and Cedar Park Cemetery. The reason for her meeting yesterday was simply for guidance/advice from our office re: construction plans for Burr Oak Cemetery. The main problem they are encountering is the discovery of human remains while they were in the process of cleaning/excavating a portion of land where the majority of their construction will occur. Before they proceed any further, they would like us to enlighten them on their ext step in the process.
Since this sounds complicated and may have some legal implications we mentioned to her that we would follow up with her after we discussed this issue with our legal staff. Please let me know if you need any further information and we can discuss this on Monday as I am out of the office tomorrow.
[Percy Lucina, director of the comptroller’s cemetery care and burial trust division]
And here’s the follow-up letter from Director Lucina to the cemetery company’s CEO…
Dear Ms. Cotton:
I am writing in response to our meeting with you in November regarding the discovery of human remains at Burr Oak Cemetery.
The Cemetery Care division of the Office of the Comptroller only handles the licensure and regulation of cemeteries and those businesses (usually cemeteries and funeral homes) selling pre-need merchandise and services throughout the state, however, we would like to provide you with additional resources for your request to excavate and/or build.
Since this cemetery is possibly over 100 years old, we suggest you contact the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. It is possible that this agency may grant you permission to proceed, this Office cannot do so. If not done so already, you should also contact the ICFHA [Illinois Cemetery and Funeral Home Association] for further guidance. The following is contact information…
Percy W. Lucina
Deputy Director, CCBT
Illinois Office of the Comptroller
The comptroller’s people say that the Historic Preservation Agency had the legal authority over this situation.
* Hynes has a point about hindsight. The Quinn campaign has a point about inaction. ABC7 was at an event tonight with the governor and asked for his response. Expect a full-court press over the next few days while the governor and his campaign attempt to force this into the media bloodstream. The story was reportedly shopped around this week and nobody else bit, so we’ll see what happens. When the governor says something, most reporters usually report it.
There may also be much more to this story. The bad practices at that cemetery are said to go back a very long way. And I’m not sure yet that the cemetery owners were being totally up front with the comptroller’s office back then. That meeting may have been a probe to see what the comptroller’s office would do about their discovery. But since the comptroller’s office did nothing, we didn’t find out about the problems at Burr Oak until Sheriff Tom Dart made his fateful discovery.
* Alexi Giannoulias’ campaign says it’s running a new TV ad whacking David Hoffman. I’m not sure how many points are behind this thing, but it’ll reportedly run over the weekend. Rate it…
From his press release…
The ad features a Hoffman appearance in November on ABC-7’s News Views program where he voices support for taxing health plans of individuals making as little as $61,000. In responding to a question by ABC-7’s Alan Krashesky about health care, Hoffman said “It seems fair to be taxing plans that are very, very high-end lucrative plans that are being held by people with very high salaries.”
Krashesky correctly countered that many so-called Cadillac plans actually cover union workers who make modest incomes. Hoffman responded by only limiting taxing those plans of people making $60,000 or less, opening up many teachers, police officers, firefighters and other union workers to a tax on health care benefits.
“Someone who is making $50,000 or $60,000 a year that has a solid healthcare plan, that shouldn’t be taxed.” said Hoffman.
Giannoulias opposes taxing such employer-provided insurance plans because it would result in higher costs for moderate-income workers and encourage businesses to offer less comprehensive health care plans that would lead to higher deductibles and co-payments.
*** UPDATE 1 *** An impeccable source in a different statewide campaign says their Wednesday-Thursday tracker had Giannoulias ahead by 20. It was 37-17, with Jackson in third, I’m told. Take it for what it’s worth.
[ *** End of Update *** ]
* President Obama answered questions at a gathering of congressional Republicans today. Rep. Peter Roskam asked more than a two-minute question partly about Obama’s lack of bipartisanship. The full question and Obama’s complete answer are here. I’ve clipped the most relevant part for us.
Obama joked about how Sen. Kirk Dillard is being whacked in the GOP primary for “saying nice things about me… Poor guy.” Watch…
Ironically enough, if the Illinois media picks up on this, Dillard is probably gonna be hurt badly right before the primary.
* In other developments, a group of black ministers endorsed Dan Hynes, Roger Ebert tweeted that he’s voting for Raja and Tony Peraica is tweeting about some weirdness that could - if anyone picks up on it - suck all the air out of the rest of the political world for the next few days. Oy.
Gov. Pat Quinn endorsed Joseph Berrios for Cook County Assessor in next Tuesday’s Democratic Primary.
“I am proud to have Gov. Quinn’s endorsement and thankful for his friendship over many years,” Berrios said today. “I look forward to making the Cook County Assessor’s office the most responsive it’s been to taxpayers.”
An A-1 filed by Quinn’s committee this week shows that Billy Marovitz catered a Quinn fundraiser. Who’s next? Dick Mell? Oh… wait.
By day, Joseph Berrios is the longest-serving member of the three-man board that holds the power to cut the property tax bill for any parcel in Cook County. By night, Mr. Berrios is a master fund-raiser, bringing in about $3 million in political contributions over the last decade from the same lawyers who ask him and the board to give tax breaks to their clients.
* Speaking of Cook County, the talk for months has been about extremely low voter turnout because of the February primary, but suburban Cook’s early voting is way up from the 2006 campaign, according to the clerk’s office.
This year’s early voting totaled 34,839, more than double the 15,609 before the March, 2006 primary. It’s off from two years ago, of course, because that was a presidential year with Obama at the top of the Democratic ticket. 2006 was the first year for early voting, so it’s natural there would be an increase, particularly after so many people voted early in ‘08.
There also doesn’t appear to be any significant movement towards either party this year, apparently. From the clerk’s office…
During Early Voting, 68 percent of suburban Cook County voters selected Democratic ballots, 31 percent voted Republican and less than 1 percent voted Green Party or Non-partisan.
In the 2006 and 2002 gubernatorial primaries, 67 percent and 65 percent, respectively, voted Democratic (including early voters in 2006). […]
Voters age 65 and older represented about 44 percent of all early voters… More suburban women than men were early voters. About 54 percent of all early voters were women and 46 percent were men.
Early voting percentages by party are not available from the clerk’s office for 2006, I’m told.
The busiest four sites — Orland Park Village Hall; Centennial Park in Wilmette; Northbrook Village Hall and Wheeling Township Hall in Arlington Heights — accounted for about 10,000 of the total votes cast during Early Voting. The downtown Chicago site, 69 W. Washington, was the fifth most popular location with more than 1,600 voters.
There’s that 10th CD primary up North, which is surely driving some of the turnout. Not sure what’s driving early voting in Orland Park, other than all the hot races on the ticket, including a legislative primary down there.
Wasn’t a fan, at first. Thought it too tightly compressed the campaign season (which, really, for all practical purposes, didn’t start until after New Year’s Day when people started paying attention) and didn’t give enough time for citizens to get to know particularly unknown candidates.
Now I’m all for it. Have come to believe that a month is plenty of time for anyone who cares even a little bit about politics to get familiar with the candidates, weigh their positions and their ads and cast a sensible vote. And that, if anything, shorter campaigns help level the playing field by giving less of an advantage to those with enough cash to bombard the airwaves with messages for months.
On Thursday, Dorothy Brown — claiming her reputation has been stained — filed a $1.25 million slander suit against opponent Terry O’Brien for a television ad declaring “ethically challenged Dorothy Brown forced employees to give her cash gifts.”
Brown, clerk of the Cook County Circuit Court, has raised eyebrows after published stories about accepting cash birthday gifts from employees, something she has not denied.
But there has never been an allegation that employees have been coerced, said Brown’s attorney Adam Lasker. […]
Brown’s campaign has also sent a letter to television stations asking them to stop airing the commercial. O’Brien, head of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, sands by the ad.
Brown’s suit doesn’t ask the court to halt the ads.
* Link battles for lieutenant governor spot in state
Former Chicago Ald. Ed Vrdolyak’s probation-only sentence for fraud has been overturned by an appellate panel, meaning he could face prison time when he is re-sentenced.
Vrdolyak had pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the $15 million sale of a Gold Coast building belonging to the former Chicago Medical School, now called the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science.
Vrdolyak schemed with school board member Stuart Levine to split a $1.5 million kickback from the sale of the building to Smithfield Properties Development.
U.S. District Judge Milton Shadur sentenced Vrdolyak to probation last year— leading to headlines of “Fast Eddie Walks” that played off the former alderman’s nickname.
A judge is not permitted to have his own rules of admissibility—to say for example that “[i]n my court no exceptions to the hearsay rule will be recognized.” As we shall be emphasizing throughout this opinion, our concern is not with the leniency of the defendant’s sentence as such but with procedural errors committed by the judge en route to the determination of the sentence.
The judge’s refusal to listen to the evidence of the potential buyers was an egregious error because the evidence was corroborated.
The court ordered that a new judge preside over Vrdolyak’s new sentencing hearing. Reading the opinion shows why. The majority claimed that the judge had gone into the sentencing hearing determined to cut Fast Eddie some major slack…
One cannot read the 168-page transcript of the sentencing hearing, and the two memoranda attempting to justify the sentence that the judge issued after he had announced the sentence at the conclusion of the hearing, without sensing that the judge had committed himself irrevocably to a noncustodial sentence for the defendant. He pretty much announced this at the outset of the hearing…
The judge’s errors in calculating the guidelines range are indicative of an idée fixe that the defendant was not to receive a custodial sentence, even (as the government urged in the alternative) home confinement.
And here is why Vrdolyak may finally wind up behind bars…
The zero loss found by the district judge created a guidelines sentencing range of zero to six months in prison; the correct loss figure of $1.5 million (which incidentally was within the range that the defendant agreed in the plea agreement was the intended loss attributable to his crime) ups the sentencing range to 33 to 41 months. [emphasis added]
If Eddie wants to stay out of prison, he’d better start talking… Fast.
* Alexi Giannoulias has apparently never heard the phrase “Go to ground.” Granted, the Democratic US Senate candidate did the right thing by holding a press conference yesterday to discuss his family bank’s troubles, but he wasn’t prepared for at least one line of questioning and the AP got him but good…
Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias refused to provide details Thursday about whether his decisions contributed to his family bank’s financial problems, saying five days before the election that those questions can wait for another time.
“If I’m fortunate enough to make it out of the primary, we can have that conversation,” the Chicago Democrat told reporters.
After the news conference, a spokeswoman clarified that Giannoulias doesn’t know which loans may have contributed to the bank’s problems because he hasn’t been involved in the bank’s day-to-day operations since he left.
He could’ve said that during the event. Why he didn’t is anyone’s guess.
David Hoffman is doing his best to tie the news into his campaign theme….
“The reason that this Broadway Bank story and revelation is of such significance now is because it goes to the heart of matters of job performance and character,” Senate candidate David Hoffman said at a news conference.
Actually, tying it to his theme isn’t hard at all. The big question about Hoffman is whether he is spending enough money to get himself over the top. Right now, I’m not so sure.
“If you go to a large bank like the Bank of America or the Northern Trust, you will find not hundreds but thousands of people with felonies or misdemeanors in their past but who make their loan payments on time,” Giannoulias earlier told the Sun-Times editorial board. Those banks also gave loans to convicted influence peddler Tony Rezko, he said.
Giannoulias also wouldn’t say whether his family would put money back into the bank to help recapitalize the institution. Sheesh.
Partial headlines are superimposed over images of one of Giannoulias’ opponents as a narrator clucks about negative campaigning. The Tribune masthead flashes once, then again, and again and again. That’s fair game. The campaign is citing Tribune news stories.
But just in case you saw the ad and thought it meant the Tribune editorial board was in love with this guy and frowning on his opponent, let’s be clear: The Tribune has endorsed David Hoffman in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate.
As the Feb. 2 primary nears, Gov. Pat Quinn is embracing the power of incumbency, cutting a swath of ribbons and announcing millions worth of construction projects all in the name of the office he ascended to a year ago.
So far this week, he’s opened a children’s center and announced $10.3 million for Northern Illinois University building renovations, including more than $8 million for Cole Hall where the 2008 student shootings took place.
The governor, in the heat of a primary race, also recently announced state funding for Loop road improvements, remodeling a veterans’ home and a grant for a Chicago-based charter school to purchase an additional building. […]
“I wouldn’t say it’s an abuse. It’s an illusion. He’s cutting ribbons for buildings that don’t exist,” Hynes said.
At the news conference Wednesday, Quinn read the names of those killed in the shooting, including Dundee-Crown High School graduate Ryanne Mace. The reminder of those who lost their lives cast a solemn shadow over an announcement that might otherwise have been laughable for its timing.
This news conference was seven months in the making, its substance a predetermined largesse, a déja vu declaration of a $31 billion capital projects measure Quinn signed into law last July.
So why all the fanfare for the announcement’s sequel? Surely we’re not so cynical as to suggest it has anything to do with a primary election that’s days away, are we?
Let’s face it, there’s not much political hay to be made in mid-July, when the capital bill was passed. Besides, there was no money available then. Now that money’s available because of a bond sale, and now that ballot booths are being dusted off, the incumbent can come to the rescue with promised money. […]
But only about $2.3 million is being released for renovation of NIU’s Stevens Building, far less than the $22.5 million highlighted for that purpose in the capital bill. Then again, the November general election is only nine months away.
* Meanwhile, the Sun-Times puts yesterday’s WVON debate in context…
Hynes stared down a political buzzsaw by agreeing to appear on “The Cliff Kelley Show” as Quinn and the former alderman-turned-talk-show-host took turns pummeling the three-term comptroller. Kelley, part of Washington’s City Council coalition, interrupted Hynes repeatedly in springing to Quinn’s defense.
The comptroller wanted to appear with Quinn on the station, which has a significant following among black voters, with some other host than Kelley, but WVON rejected that bid, representatives from both campaigns said.
Hynes relented instead of boycotting Kelley’s 38th-ranked afternoon drive-time show, which an industry source estimated has about 10,000 listeners. Not appearing could have been portrayed as a snub to an audience of voters Hynes covets on Tuesday.
That’s true. Not many people listen to Kelley’s show, but not going would’ve been much worse. Hynes did perform poorly, of course. This was the most cringe-inducing moment for me…
Cliff Kelley: You were in the commercial. Your father’s commercial.
Dan Hynes: Right, like I said, I support my father.
Cliff Kelley: Right. Right. But, you were in the commercials where he was attacking Mayor Washington.
Dan Hynes: Right, I was 18 years old and I love my father and I loved him then and I support him…
So far, the Quinn campaign has only been able to come up with footage of the younger Hynes in a positive TV ad with his father, not in the negative ones. Admitting he was in a negative ad was not a good move.
For his part, Quinn heaped praise on several of Rod Blagojevich’s African-American appointments, yet that got no coverage. But he did get out the best line of the day…
“I’d rather lose the race for governor than divide the people of Illinois along race,” Quinn said. “That’s what my opponent is doing.”
I’ve received three robocalls on my home answering machine this week from Gov. Pat Quinn supporters. Each message excoriates Comptroller Dan Hynes for invoking Washington’s image in a campaign ad. […]
Message one from U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. “Dan Hynes has no shame.” Message two from U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush. “As a preacher, I believe in resurrection, but this ain’t no resurrection.” Message three from Jackie Grimshaw, a former Washington operative. “Legacy hijacked.”
You can hear anger in all of their voices. .
Progress Illinois has posted a couple of long excerpts from the debate on YouTube…
Quinn, who has received $416,000 in campaign contributions from organized labor, also got [AFSCME] to cut and delay a scheduled pay raise. But he had to promise not to lay off any more workers until the middle of next year.
Dan Hynes, Quinn’s Democratic opponent in the Feb. 2 gubernatorial primary, was invited to speak at a small get-together in North Lawndale Thursday. He has his own tight relationship with organized labor. He has received $350,000 from organized labor and released a new TV ad trumpeting his endorsements.
What? Gov. Quinn has received about $1.6 million from SEIU alone. Hynes has reported at least $375,000 from unions this week.
* Not feeling well this morning, but trying to soldier through. So, while I get my act together, let’s do a question based on the fact that today is the one-year anniversary of Rod Blagojevich being removed from office…
* The Question: Outside of his arrest, removal and possible conviction - and all the hooplah surrounding it - what will Blagojevich’s legacy be in Illinois?
…Adding…No snark, please. Try to take this seriously.
* Quincy unemployment rates dips slightly, but news continues to be bad for area counties
* Rep. Monique Davis will return Chicago State statue
She said that her boyfriend took the artwork with permission from a CSU administrator after learning it was being warehoused, and that she kept it in her office because she believed she could protect it.
* Chicago Rep. Monique Davis: I’ll give back university’s missing statue
* Attorney general backs bill protecting consumers in debt
The legislation would cap fees at 5 percent of the savings resulting from settling a debt, rather than a percentage of debt enrolled. It also would allow cancellation of a debt-settlement contract at any time and require prompt refund of fees; prohibit companies from advising consumers to stop payments to creditors; ban deceptive marketing practices and require companies to be licensed through the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Marlow H. Colvin (D-Chicago).
Daley said Thursday he’s coming after businesses in the Pacific Northwest, emboldened by what he considers Oregon’s head-scratching decision to approve higher taxes on big corporations and big wage-earners.
“What happened in Oregon is not good news for Oregon. They believe that anybody who makes $125,000 or more [annually] or businesses or anyone who makes $250,000 — they’re gonna start taxing them. They call them ‘rich people,’ ” the mayor said.
The City Council could now vote as soon as Feb. 16 on the proposal by Midwest Gaming and Entertainment LLC to build the betting palace on 21 acres at the northwest corner of Devon Avenue and Des Plaines River Road.
* [Decatur] presents ‘Five Year Plan’ for funds to tackle social issues
* Compensation or perk? Depleted funds lead to school board debate about health insurance
* Officials hope to receive funds for local transportation center through TIGER
There’s no money for the planned uptown transportation center in Illinois’ $1.2 billion share of federal high-speed rail funds announced Thursday, but officials still are hopeful other federal money will come through for the project.
“We never looked at the $8 billion high-speed rail initiative to include the train station,” said Normal Mayor Chris Koos.
Rockford Housing Authority residents will be required to perform community service if they’re not working or in a job-training, life-skills or education program, and to make sure their kids get to school as part of new lease agreements.
* Biden will speak in Peoria at Partners in Peace event
A portion of the $2,500 ticket price can be used as a tax deduction because it will be donated to the not-for-profit Washington Area Community Center Inc., one of five entities that operate Five Points.
Dan Hynes should get credit for showing up. The moderator, Cliff Kelly, is an unabashed supporter of Pat Quinn.
Hynes absolutely had to go to that debate. If he skipped out, he would’ve been universally bashed for not showing up. Hynes lost that round, but he didn’t make any big mistakes which could hurt him in the closing days, so it wasn’t disastrous. Quinn did a great job. If he governed and campaigned the last year as well as he performed today, he’d be 30 points ahead right now. I’m not saying it was too little, too late, but the the ticking by the countdown clock is deafening.
* I don’t know if Mayor Daley was thinking about Dan Hynes’ income tax proposal or not when he spoke to the press today, and I’m not gonna try to guess, but the mayor’s statement was quite interesting…
Chicago has been playing defense lately because of the exodus of trade shows at McCormick Place. But it looks like Mayor Daley is preparing to make the switch to offense.
Daley said Thursday he’s coming after businesses in the Pacific Northwest, emboldened by what he considers Oregon’s head-scratching decision to approve higher taxes on big corporations and big wage-earners.
“What happened in Oregon is not good news for Oregon. They believe that anybody who makes $125,000 or more [annually] or businesses or anyone who makes $250,000 — they’re gonna start taxing them. They call them ‘rich people,’ ” the mayor said.
“I’ve always thought America stands for [rewarding success]. You finish high school. You work hard, go to college and you hope to succeed in life. I never knew it’s a class war—that those who succeed in life are the ones that have to bear all the burden. I never realized that. It will be a whole change in America that those who succeed and work hard [that] we’re gonna tax ‘em more than anyone else.”
Daley’s words will come back to haunt the Statehouse if - if - Hynes wins the primary and tries to push through his constitutional amendment for a graduated income tax. The idea polled well here a couple of years ago (well over 70 percent support), but the political watchword for this year is: Terrified. Daley opposition would be disastrous. More on that another time.
Cook County Board hopeful Dorothy Brown is fighting mad about a statement made in an opponent’s campaign ad – and she’s taking the matter to court.
Brown, who is running for board president, announced she’s pressing a lawsuit that accuses Metropolitan Water Reclamation District President Terrence O’Brien of slanderering her in a campaign ad earlier this week.
The suit, filed today in Cook County circuit court, targets O’Brien, his campaign committee, and the committee’s chairman Tom Caplice. It seeks $250,000 in actual damages and $1 million in punitive damages, says attorney Adam Lasker, who represents Brown.
The O’Brien campaign sought to center attention on reports of funny business at the clerk’s office, saying in a statement, “Stories about Clerk Brown pocketing cash from her employees have been in the headlines for years now. Frankly voters are fed up with political corruption and they need to know that Clerk Brown cannot be trusted to clean up Todd Stroger’s mess.”
* As with Rasmussen’s gubernatorial poll, I don’t put a whole lot of stock in any survey with just 300 respondents, and you shouldn’t either. It’s OK for a tracking poll, but not a stand-alone. Anyway, here are Rasmussen’s latest results, with PPP’s results followed by the Tribune’s results in parentheses…
Giannoulias 31 (32, 34)
Hoffman 23 (20, 16)
Jackson 23 (18, 19)
Some other candidate 9 (N/A)
Not sure 24 (27, 13)
Besides the low respondent numbers, it’s the height of absurdity to ask about “some other candidate” at this point in the campaign. Just give respondents the names, for crying out loud. The “other” candidates were polling at one and two percent in the PPP and Trib polls. That questioning screws up the results. This poll is just not reliable.
* Media coverage of the Giannoulias bank troubles is starting to heat up a bit. AP…
Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias (jeh-NOO’-lee-us) won’t provide details about whether his decisions contributed to his family bank’s financial problems.
The Chicago Democrat says there will be plenty of time for that conversation later, although the primary election is just five days away.
After today’s news conference, a spokeswoman said that Giannoulias doesn’t know which loans may have contributed to the bank’s problems because he hasn’t been involved in the bank’s day-to-day operations since he left.
Giannoulias quickly organized the news conference to answer criticisms raised by U.S. Senate rival David Hoffman, who earlier highlighted the consent order Broadway reached with Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
Hoffman said the consent order raises questions about Giannoulias’ experience and what he described as Giannoulias’ inability to accept responsibility for his actions.
“(Broadway Bank’s) decisions, including the decisions at the time he was there as the chief loan officer, are the reason that the bank is in such trouble,” Hoffman said.
Cheryle Jackson has spent months trying to appeal to women as the lone female candidate in the Democratic U.S. Senate race, and today she picked up a major endorsement that could help her along those lines if she can get the word out.
Jackson’s campaign sent out a fundraising email to supporters authored by Lilly Ledbetter, the now-retired supervisor of a Georgia tire manufacturing plant who sued because her pay was not the same as male supervisors. Almost a year ago, Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
No offense meant, but who? Yes, I know who Ms. Ledbetter is, but how many others do?
Even though several members of the Illinois GOP delegation are backing state Rep. Beth Coulson in the 10th district GOP primary, businessman and first-time candidate Bob Dold appears to have the momentum heading into Tuesday’s balloting.
“I think it’s between Bob Dold and Beth Coulson,” said one well-placed Republican in Washington.
Coulson was the early favorite of national Republicans, who viewed her moderate-to-liberal political profile in the state Legislature as in the mold of Rep. Mark Steven Kirk. But poor fundraising has hampered expectations for Coulson, as she has been outraised and outshined by two businessmen in the race — Dold and Dick Green — who have amassed copious amounts of money.
* As I told you earlier, Gov. Quinn and Comptroller Hynes will be on Cliff Kelley’s always entertaining WVON talk show today at 4 o’clock. Topics will surely include Hynes’ Harold Washington TV ad and his Barack Obama mailer. Listen live on your computer by clicking here.
WVON’s Webcasts have had overload problems in the past, so if you’re in Chicago, tune your radio to 1690 AM. We’ll need your help live-blogging in comments if the station’s Intertubes overload. And even if they don’t.
Commenter live-blogging has been some of the best stuff we’ve done here in a while. So, have some fun.
…And here we go. The ads and news appear to be over. Have at it, folks.
…We’re done. Consensus in comments and by me is that Hynes got his clock cleaned. A really poor job. Yes, it was an unfair debate situation, but he surely knew that going in. I did. We’ll see what sort of coverage this gets.
Hynes didn’t just do badly, Quinn did very, very well. Where has that Pat Quinn been for the last six months?
* I’ve been thinking about and quietly discussing this scenario for at least a week, pondering what might happen during the upcoming session and after. It’s still too early to go too far into it, but “disaster” is a word that has crossed my mind…
If Gov. Pat Quinn winds up losing the Democratic primary on Tuesday, it will be more than just a stinging political defeat for him. It means Illinois would be stuck with a lame duck governor for the next year.
Losing the election would significantly weaken Quinn’s leverage over lawmakers and make it harder for him to get things done.
Democratic state Rep. Lou Lang says that could be dangerous given the state’s financial problem. The budget deficit could reach $13 billion, requiring a tax increase, painful budget cuts or both.
To take a page from Gov. Quinn and quote Abe Lincoln…
“The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time.”
The Civic Committee of the Commercial Club announced that it is buying ads in major publications (including Crain’s), setting up a Web site — IllinoisIsBroke.com — and taking other steps to build pressure for big state pension changes.
Ads to appear on Friday and over the weekend in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Daily Herald and other publications urge voters “to keep in mind” that the state budget, by its estimate, currently is at least $14 billion in the hole. […]
“The state is headed for a huge financial disaster, which will affect everyone in the state,” said Jim Farrell, the retired chairman and CEO of Illinois Tool Works Inc., who is helping coordinate the campaign. “We’re trying to get the politicians to focus on this issue.”
This late in the election process, the ad won’t have much of an impact — particularly since it doesn’t urge a vote for or against any single candidate. But it is an indication that, as soon as the General Assembly resumes session, the group will step up lobbying and other activities in a campaign that committee President R. Eden Martin said could exceed $1 million.
* Anyway, on to something else. Simon Edelman, that young, underpaid, overworked Quinn campaign staffer, has produced yet another marvelous Internet video for his boss that, unfortunately, only a few of us will see. Watch it…
* According to a press release I just received, US Sen. Dick Durbin will do a fly-around with Gov. Quinn tomorrow to tout the new federal cash for high speed rail. Durbin and Quinn will appear together in Chicago, Alton and Bloomington. Mayor Daley will be at the Chicago event. Nice press pops before the election, for sure.
* These two gentlemen have been going at each other for years. I don’t think there’s a bigger in-district war between legislators of the same party than the 5th Senate, except for maybe the age-old Jacobs-Boland war in the Quad Cities. When Rep. Turner decided to run for lt. governor, so did Sen. Hendon. And, therefore, it’s no surprise that they’re bickering today…
State Sen. Rickey Hendon once rented an apartment from state Rep. Art Turner, and neither lieutenant governor candidate disputes that. But the two West Side Democrats don’t agree on why Hendon left.
“He has the unique distinction of being the second person I’ve ever evicted,” Turner said.
“It’s just simply not true,” Hendon said. “I lived in one of Art’s buildings [in North Lawndale]. I moved from there to an apartment on Lake Shore Drive. Clearly, I can afford rent.
“I didn’t even stay there two months — rats and roaches, that kind of thing.”
Fliers comparing Ald. Toni Preckwinkle to Aunt Jemima are being distributed in the South Side.
The fliers, designed to resemble parking tickets and placed beneath windshield wipers, are addressed to “Registered Voters and Concerned Citizens of Chicago” and include a photo of the 4th Ward alderwoman captioned by the phrase “Aunt Jemima On the Meter Box.”
* Rep. Suzie Bassi is under fire for her “Present” votes, and rightly so…
The flyer states Bassi, 64, voted “present” 1,198 times between 2000 and 2004, more than any other legislator in Illinois history to Morrison’s knowledge. Bassi vehemently denies the claim, saying her official voting record shows she cast 161 “present” votes.
The discrepancy stems from the number of votes the House may cast as a single bill progresses. Bassi’s count reflects her official record, which tallies only final votes. The 34-year-old Morrison’s figures - released by Bassi opponent Pat Sutarik in 2004 - include votes on early versions of a law.
My goodness that’s a lot. And it seems fair to me that her opponent is counting all the votes, not just final passage.
* You can’t just rip off somebody’s song and not expect problems…
The campaign manager for 8th Congressional District candidate Joe Walsh said the campaign will not stop using a music video that rock star Joe Walsh’s lawyers have said is a flagrant copyright violation.
“We’re not taking it down,” Walsh campaign manager Jim Thacker said Wednesday.
Thacker said that attorney Peter Paterno, who wrote the letter concerning the music video, talked to candidate Walsh and indicated the letter was “tongue in cheek” and that he would ask Eagles’ guitarist Joe Walsh “if he really cared” about the music video.
But Howard King, of the Los Angeles law firm of King, Holmes, Paterno & Berliner LLP, said Wednesday the letter demanding that the Republican candidate stop using the song and video was anything but a joke.
* Sun-Times political reporter Abdon Pallasch has a funny story on his Facebook page…
I’m saving this message from my editor Scott Fornek. Set-up: I’m sitting on the operating table waiting for the happy juice to kick in so they can straighten the clavicle the fencepost smashed while I was sledding and I confirm Bob Schillerstrom is dropping out of the governor’s race to endorse Jim Ryan. Despite computer problems, we post the story before the Trib, prompting my editor’s message: “Are you planning on filing any stories during surgery?”
Abdon is a real trooper, man. He also has a story today about a judicial race…
Judge Jim Epstein takes an unusual step in his race for Illinois Appellate Court Tuesday. He runs a television ad with a photo of one of his opponents. That photo of Judge Jim Ryan fades away as Epstein clarifies that he’s “a little different” from the other candidates in his race.
Epstein is highly rated by the bar groups and is a former president of the Illinois Judges Association. Judge Kathleen Kennedy, another candidate in the race, also got high ratings. Their three opponents did not.
Epstein said he doesn’t want voters to confuse his opponent Ryan, 43, former general counsel to Sheriff Michael Sheahan, with Jim Ryan, 63, the former attorney general running for governor in the Republican primary.
“In judicial races, people go in without a clear idea of who’s running, and they see a familiar name — that name may get a vote whether it’s attached to the person they think it is or not,” Epstein said.
* Speaking of reporters, the Cook County Board passed a resolution this week praising the late, great CLTV political reporter Carlos Hernandez Gomez. Typically, though, the goofs at the county board screwed something up. Emphasis added for obvious reasons…
…in this position, he displayed his trademark energetic and irrelevant style
Idiots. I’m sure Carlos would’ve gotten a chuckle out of it, though. See the whole thing for yourself by clicking here.
* More controversy and a roundup…
* Monique Davis: I’ll give back university’s missing statue - Chicago rep says she’ll return $25,000 bronze of African slave to Chicago State
* GOP tries to keep Hebda campaign official: Republican Cynthia Hebda will stay off the primary ballot for the suburban 59th District legislative seat despite a late-campaign attempt to keep the Vernon Hills trustee in the race.
* Sente says robocalls about her stance on guns are lies
* Jim Ryan and Joe Birkett are holding a presser about Andy McKenna. Watch it live and, if you’d like, live-blog in comments…
* Birkett claims that Andy McKenna “refused” to ask questions posed to him by the state GOP during the party’s internal investigation of McKenna’s ordering a statewide poll that included his name. Birkett also wants the party to release the transcript of the interview and accuses McKenna of trying to “buy” the election and ducking questions, which he says means that the Democratic Party will “eat him alive” in the fall.
* “Who actually is Andy McKenna?” Jim Ryan asks rhetorically. “Why shouldn’t Andy McKenna not be held accountable?… It’s not fair to Illinois voters… It’s not something that should be brushed over lightly… I want to know what there is about Andy McKenna other than his money… He doesn’t show up, he doesn’t answer questions… He doesn’t even answer questions from (the state GOP’s) ethics committee…. Voters have been fooled before and we’ve got to move on… If Andy McKenna won’t answer any questions, if he won’t answer your questions, then he should step aside…. We’ve had enough of this in our state.”
* Ryan was asked whether this controversy makes it impossible for him to endorse McKenna if he wins the primary. “Well, it’s problematic,” he said. That really undercuts his demand that McKenna fess up or withdraw.
* The feed has conked out. But, what was available is saved, so you can replay the whole thing if you like.
* And here’s your roundup…
* Dillard has crucial edge — best field operation — Edgar says
* Grasping for a lead, Republicans in governor’s race debate their records
Gov. Pat Quinn and his Democratic primary opponent Dan Hynes are taking their contentious campaign to the radio.
Quinn and Hynes are scheduled to debate Thursday on Chicago’s WVON-AM. The two will square off on the Cliff Kelley show.
Kelley talked about Hynes’ Harold Washington ad to Crain’s last week…
“It’s sort of ironic for Hynes to bring it up,” WVON-AM talk-show host Cliff Kelley told me in a phone chat. “If it were up to Hynes and his father” (Tom Hynes, who left the Democratic Party to run as an independent against Mr. Washington in 1987) “Harold never would have been mayor.”
U.S. Sen. Roland Burris, the first black man ever elected statewide, on Wednesday called a recent campaign ad invoking deceased Chicago Mayor Harold Washington “an abomination.” […]
“I thought it was an abomination that Dan Hynes would do that,” Burris said. “But be that as it may, it’s called politics and all is fair in love and war. But it hit the community. Especially the African American community has really let him know that it was not in good taste.”
As I told you yesterday, the two campaigns are now fighting over Hynes’ use of President Obama in a mailer on middle class tax hikes.
We’ll have to live-blog that show later today. The festivities begin at 4 o’clock. WVON’s Internet live stream is often easily overwhelmed on days like this, so you greater Chicagoland area folks need to get your radios tuned in advance.
“Remember the typewriter?” asked State Rep. LaShawn Ford (D-Chicago) during a gathering of lawmakers for Hynes in Chicago. “The typewriter was kind of slow and antiquated. So we got to the computer and Dan [Hynes] is our computer. We got somebody that’s a typewriter right now.”
* This new PPP poll was taken before yesterday’s revelations about the Giannoulias family bank, and that issue (among many others) will certainly be in play this fall. Still, this ain’t insignificant. From a Public Policy Polling survey of 1,062 Illinois voters from January 22nd to 25th with a margin of error of +/-3%…
In a reminder that contested primaries can be a good thing Alexi Giannoulias has jumped out to a 42-34 lead over Mark Kirk in the race to be Illinois’ next Senator. When PPP last looked at such a match up in April the two were tied at 35.
The reason for Giannoulias’ ascent is that where he was winning 60% of the Democratic vote last spring he’s now at 72%. As his party’s voters have become more familiar with him over the course of the primary campaign his support from them has increased. Right now he leads 72-7 with Dems while Kirk is up 76-5 with Republicans. Kirk also has a 33-27 lead with independents. It’s close to impossible for a GOP candidate to win statewide in Illinois without at least a double digit lead among independents and a double digit level of crossover support, and right now Kirk isn’t there.
Kirk does lead the other two Democratic candidates, currently trailing Giannoulias in primary polling, by small margins. He’s up 38-36 on Cheryle Jackson and 37-36 on David Hoffman.
These numbers could change a lot between now and November, as none of the candidates are particularly well known yet. Giannoulias and Kirk each have around 50% name recognition, with favorability spreads of 31/19 and 27/22 respectively. Jackson and Hoffman are each known to a third of the electorate or less with breakdowns of 16/17 and 16/11 respectively.
One key thing to look at when Republicans try to win in blue states like Illinois is how the moderates are voting. Scott Brown won their votes in Massachusetts last week, something that has become a very rare occurrence for GOP candidates in the past few election cycles. Right now Giannoulias is ahead of Kirk 45-25 with them. Kirk will have to make some significant in roads there if he’s going to win this fall.
It’s a long way until November, one of the quirks of the Illinois election calendar. But in a month when most of the news for Democrats has been bad this poll stands out as a rare ray of sunshine for the party’s hopes in the Senate.
* Blagojevich lawyers return to court with complaint list
* City snuffs out 4th of July Grant Park fireworks to save money
nstead, the city will count on three simultaneous July 4 lakefront fireworks displays to satisfy spectators’ desire for a light show. One will be held at Navy Pier, another at a yet-to-be-disclosed South Side lakefront spot and the third along the north lakefront.
The fireworks show, which ends a three-decades-plus run, joins the South Side Irish Parade, Venetian Night and the Outdoor Film Festival as major community events that have gone by the wayside in the last year, victims of budget woes or public safety concerns.
Yes, it costs some money to do this stuff — reportedly up to $1 million for the fireworks. But those fireworks draw at least a million people downtown, and they spend far more than that on food, transportation, parking and the like
If unions don’t OK deal, service cuts will start Feb. 7
* Daley claims strides in cleaning up hiring, but critics voice doubts
Since FBI agents raided City Hall in April 2005 and uncovered a massive hiring-fraud scheme anchored in the mayor’s office, Daley has promised reform. The city since August 2005 has paid more than $6.2 million to lawyers and consultants, including $4.2 million to the court monitor, to clean up its hiring….
The court monitor and investigators have alleged in a string of reports since last summer that a handful of politically connected truck drivers received “disproportionate amounts” of overtime, that the city has been reluctant to discipline workers who violate hiring rules, and that more than one top Daley aide has deliberately misled investigators looking into hiring abuses.
* Daley ethics aide accuses Chicago’s inspector general of unfairly attacking him
Anthony Boswell, head of the mayor’s Office of Compliance, hired a private lawyer to challenge an inspector general report urging Daley to suspend Boswell and a top deputy for allegedly mishandling a sexual harassment complaint.
Illinois Wind Energy Association (IWEA) director Kevin Borgia tells us that AWEA may have low-balled the numbers in estimating that the Prairie State is now churning out 1,547 megawatts of wind power. By his count, Illinois produces roughly 1,800 megawatts, which would bump the Prairie State’s production ranking up two spots in the AWEA ranking.
* Keller Gifted Magnet parents object to moving school out of Mount Greenwood
Parents of Keller Gifted Magnet students Wednesday blasted a proposal to kick the second-highest-scoring elementary school in the state out of its Mount Greenwood home to solve overcrowding at a neighborhood school.
…Huberman insisted Keller would not be relocated this fall, and its parents would be included in discussions on overcrowding solutions.
Sneed hears former Cicero President Betty Loren-Maltese, who has been living in a Las Vegas, Nev., halfway house since being released from federal prison last August, is now being transferred back to Chicago.
* Some Midlothian residents still on fence about home rule