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This just in… Governor finally takes action on budget - Medicaid, School Transportation, Regional Superintends are cut

Thursday, Jun 30, 2011

* 8:00 pm - I’ll post the files in a minute. This is from a Gov. Pat Quinn press release…

“Line by line, I have carefully examined the budget passed by the General Assembly and identified areas for improvement and reduction. I also re-prioritized government spending to protect our state’s core principles.

“The first step in this process was a technical review of the numbers. In assessing each line-item, I discovered and eliminated double-appropriations by more than $336 million. Next, I reduced bureaucracy costs by more than $11 million.

“I then evaluated the proposed spending against last year’s levels. The state will maintain current spending levels for school transportation by reducing the General Assembly’s proposed amount by $89 million, and returning to the amount that was spent in fiscal year 2011.

“Finally, state government must continue to address its Medicaid obligations. Neglecting our bills today only creates bigger problems tomorrow. With this in mind, I implemented a line-item cut to Medicaid in the amount of $276 million.

“From day one, I have stressed the need to invest in education by reducing high administrative costs and reallocating those funds to the classroom, particularly in early childhood education. Implementing a budget is not a one-day event, but rather a year-round process filled with robust debate and difficult decisions. Today, I enacted a fiscal year 2012 budget of $32.987 billion. Overall, I reduced the budget passed by the General Assembly by $376 million. With these reductions, I am implementing smart efficiencies that support Illinois on its continuing path to fiscal and economic recovery.”

* These are the bills he altered…

Line Item Vetoed

HB 117 AN ACT concerning appropriations

HB 123 AN ACT concerning appropriations

HB 132 AN ACT concerning appropriations

Reduction and Line Item Vetoed

HB 327 AN ACT concerning appropriations

Reduction Vetoed

HB 3717 AN ACT concerning appropriations

* 8:06 pm - Of those $376 million in vetoes Quin touted, $276 million comes from Medicaid via “cost savings through a rate cut for hospitals to reduce Medicaid liability.” The General Assembly had put off over a billion dollars in Medicaid payments without reducing rates for hospitals. Gov. Quinn added that “Expedited hospitals, which include ’safety net’ hospitals, would not be affected by any payment cycle increases resulting from this reduction.”

* Another $89 million is from school transportation, to make it level with the current fiscal year. Quinn cut transportation funding last year. Legislators tried to restore it.

* And over $11 million was cut from the regional schools superintendents, zeroing them out. The governor claimed these lines “can be funded from other state funds.” Quinn has been trying to get rid of the regional school superintendents all year.

* The rest of the vetoes, totaling more than $336 million, were for double-appropriated items contained in two separate bills. Click here to see the complete list.

- Posted by Rich Miller   13 Comments      


Question of the day

Thursday, Jun 30, 2011

* Governor Pat Quinn has a new Twitter account

Acccording to the Associated Press, the governor’s office has launched an official Twitter feed and Flickr photo page, which they say the governor will use to get feedback from people around the state. His office says that when the governor tweets, his missives will be marked with “-GOV.”

Quinn’s inaugural tweets Wednesday evening included a shout out to the Biotechnology Industry Organization, a national biotechnology group that presented Gov. Quinn with its “Governor of the Year” award in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday.

He also thanked U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) for his welcome to the online community. Sen. Durbin launched his own Twitter feed in early March.

The governor’s account is here. I went through the list of people he’s following and noticed that his first follow appeared to be, um, me.

* The Question: Any Twitter advice for Gov. Quinn? Snark is encouraged, of course, but in the spirit of things, try to keep your anwer under 140 characters.

- Posted by Rich Miller   52 Comments      


Crime and punishment

Thursday, Jun 30, 2011

* A few weeks ago, an Arlington Heights man received worldwide attention for being a Good Samaritan

A 54-year-old Chicago-area man who found and returned more than $17,000 in cash credits his deceased parents for teaching him right from wrong.

Robert Adams of Arlington Heights says he was waiting to use an ATM in Rolling Meadows when he noticed a clear plastic bag containing mostly $20 and $100 bills.

Adams tried to return the bag with “Chase” written on it to a nearby bank branch, but employees said it didn’t belong to them. Police determined it was under the care of Loomis, an armored truck company.

Alas

A man who told Rolling Meadows police he found $17,000 cash outside a bank ATM was arrested Wednesday for allegedly lying about where he found the loot.

Authorities say Robert J. Adams found the bag of cash near an ATM in a Walgreens store in Midlothian.

On June 6, police responded to 2641 Kirchoff Road in Rolling Meadows, where Adams told them he found about $17,000 outside the Chase Bank ATM, Rolling Meadows police said.

Oops

The truth — ferreted out after an investigation that took hours of police work (“Too many,” Chief Scanlan says) and a security camera recording from the Midlothian Walgreens — is that Adams took that bag of money in Midlothian.

“I see it. I picked it up. I walk out in the parking lot,” Adams says. “It’s pretty obvious I’m on security cameras. … Of course, 20-20 hindsight, I should have gone back into Walgreens and turned it in.”

Instead, “I started thinking like the 54-year-old man I am,” Adams says, explaining how, even though he is single, he didn’t want to explain that he had taken half a day off work in a failed hope to visit a much younger woman in Midlothian. “As to why I didn’t just go back in and turn it in, I don’t have the answer for that.”

He blames the heat, the traffic, his poor judgment and “the one side of my brain” that’s “a little Blagojevich-like.”

He may have a Blagojevich-like brain, but at least he wasn’t charged with multiple felony counts. He wound up paying a $500 fine, which is half what a former Gov. Pat Quinn employee was hit with

A state ethics panel slapped a former top aide to Gov. Pat Quinn with a $1,000 fine for doing campaign work for the governor while on state time.

The Executive Ethics Commission posted its sanction this week against Carolyn Brown Hodge, a former deputy chief of staff in Quinn’s office who resigned after the Chicago Sun-Times brought her potential ethics violations to light in 2009.

Between January and June 2009, Hodge “on multiple occasions … used her state-issued computer to send a series of emails of a political nature, either from her state email account or from her private email account,” the ethics panel noted.

Hodge’s correspondences occurred during the state work day and were sent to a top operative in the Quinn campaign and to an official in the Illinois Democratic County Chairmen’s Association.

* Speaking of discipline

Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford said today that he is reviewing possible disciplinary action against an employee who sent an email to fellow workers giving early notice about a contribution-matching program for the Bright Start college savings program.

Rutherford said it was “inappropriate” and “wrong” for the employee to tell colleagues about the promotion before there was time for the general public to receive notice about the program, which quickly ran out of funds.

“It was a mistake. I’ve taken responsibility for it,” Rutherford said following an appearance before the City Club of Chicago. “We are going through the disciplinary actions and hopefully we can have this thing rectified the way it should be.” […]

Rutherford said he has not yet met with the employee who sent the email, but said he believes the intention was not to give insiders an unfair advantage but rather spread the word about the promotion. Rutherford would not discuss specifics about potential disciplinary action, saying he is reviewing options with attorneys and the agency’s ethics officer.

* Back to Blagojevich for a moment. Patrick Collins is now counting on the public to clean things up

“I don’t think you can indict your way to reform,” said Patrick M. Collins, a former federal prosecutor who was appointed by the current governor to lead an Illinois Reform Commission soon after Mr. Blagojevich’s career began to unravel. “There still is a structural ethics deficit in Illinois that won’t be cured by indictment or legislation. Ultimately, the long-term solution for Illinois is a more engaged public who steps up and demands better government before the next scandal develops.”

* And this is rich

A Rod Blagojevich spokesman says a Florida-based airline’s new ad that pokes fun at the impeached Illinois governor’s convictions is “in poor taste.” Low-budget carrier Spirit Airlines’ website ad touts “F-ing golden” low fares.

Poor taste? Rod Blagojevich’s PR guy actually claims that something is in poor taste? I have no words for this.

* Related…

* Illinois likely to see fierce battle over gun control

* Registry of freed killers proposed for Illinois - Legislation to list murderers for 10 years after their release goes to Quinn

* Editorial: Make DCFS follow the law: Is the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services going to be allowed to brazenly disregard the law? In 2007 state legislators passed a bill that required DCFS to make public its files if a child under its care died. So when 3-year-old Joseph Schoolfield died in 2009, DCFS should have released his entire case file except for some exempt items such as medical reports. Instead it recently released a report that condensed hundreds of pages of records into an 11-page summary.

* Dana-Thomas House targeted by copper thief

* UIS spends $31,000 to fight SJ-R lawsuit

* City gives rationale for not disclosing Cahnman report

- Posted by Rich Miller   38 Comments      


Quinn heading to Asia

Thursday, Jun 30, 2011

* Gov. Pat Quinn said yesterday that he’s planning to lead a trade mission to Asia this September

The itinerary includes stops in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Tokyo, he said.

Mr. Quinn met with State Department officials earlier [yesterday] to discuss the trip, which will run from Sept. 16-28, according to an aide.

The governor mentioned the trip when he was asked what initiatives his administration was planning to help the biotechnology industry in Illinois. But an aide said the trade mission is aimed at helping a broad spectrum of Illinois businesses. The state hasn’t started lining up companies to participate yet, the aide said. […]

In January, Illinois signed an agreement with the Beijing International Brand Management Center to promote Illinois products and services in China. China is the state’s third-largest export market, and Illinois is one of the top five agricultural exporters to China.

Gov. Jim Thompson made several productive visits to Asia. Gov. Jim Edgar also traveled to China in 1996. I’ve already put myself on the press list for the excursion, although I’m not sure I’ll be able to do any live-blogging if I do decide to make the trip. A friend told me last year that the Chinese blocked access to this website during his trip. I’m not sure why. I guess I’ll have to check on that if I go.

* In other news, the governor received a major business award yesterday

A national biotechnology group has named Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn its “governor of the year.”

The Biotechnology Industry Organization presented the award to Quinn on Wednesday in Washington, D.C. The award recognizes leadership and support of the biosciences industry.

The group cites Quinn’s support for tax credits for investment in new business ventures and for small businesses that create jobs.

A whole lot of companies are at that convention, billed as “the world’s largest gathering of the biotechnology industry.” The group has 1,100 corporate members, so I understand why Quinn went. I just hope he was working on the budget during the plane ride.

Also, so he’s now Governor BIO as well as Soy Boy? OK.

* Closer to home, this corporate siting decision will be interesting to watch

Ready-mix concrete company Ozinga Bros. is considering building a cement plant on Chicago’s Southeast Side, but it also has been wooed by Indiana officials to locate the plant in that state.

Building the $250 million plant would create almost 100 jobs and secure a more reliable supply of cement for Ozinga, Marty Ozinga IV, executive vice president of the company’s Chicago division, said Wednesday.

Construction of the plant could start sometime next year, but Mokena-based Ozinga Bros. is waiting on approval of its plans from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

The plant would be off Torrence Avenue at Lake Calumet. The site, which was a former Cargill grain elevator, was bought by Ozinga Bros. in 2004, Ozinga said.

Ozinga ran for Congress as a Republican a few years back. He was soundly thumped by Debbie Halvorson.

* This is a typical DC maneuver, but it has an Illinois twist

A billion-dollar “technical revision” added to a patent bill passed by the House last week could provide huge financial benefits to one pharmaceutical company and a law firm.

On the surface, the barely noticed amendment simply clarifies a process by which the Food and Drug Administration approves a patent for a brand-name drug, and gives the manufacturer 60 days to apply for an extension with the U.S. Patent and Trade Office.

In reality, the measure could give a New Jersey drugmaker, The Medicines Co., 2½ more years of patent protection for its lucrative blood thinner Angiomax. It would also save the law firm WilmerHale $214 million it would owe the drug company under a malpractice lawsuit if a generic alternative is sold in the United States before June 15, 2015. […]

The company sued [after it missed a patent extension deadline by one day], and last August a federal district court ruled in its favor, ordering the patent office to recognize The Medicines Co.’s application as timely and saying the FDA and the patent office need to better coordinate their rules. APP Pharmaceuticals LLC of Illinois, which wants to market a generic brand of Angiomax, has appealed that ruling.

So, guess who persuaded the US House to reopen the vote on the bill? Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr.

The House on Thursday had originally voted against the amendment to the patent bill, only to have the vote reopened after Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) protested that Members were still voting when it was gaveled down.

Yep. Jackson went to bat for a New Jersey company and a DC law firm at the expense of an Illinois pharmaceutical manufacturer with more than 1,800 employees. Heckuva job, Jesse.

* And while this isn’t exactly a business recruitment story, it is a quality of life story, so they’re closely related

Illinois beaches along Lake Michigan have the sixth-worst water quality in the country, a study released Wednesday by the Natural Resources Defense Council found.

* But this may help

A report on Illinois beaches released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council suggests that the use of border collies to harass gulls has helped reduce water contamination levels at area beaches.

The annual NRDC assessment says the difference was most apparent at 57th Street and 63rd Street beaches, where the first use of collies in 2008 coincided with significantly smaller percentages of days on which water contamination exceed state standards.

What’s more, the following year, when collies were not used, contimination levels climbed, and in 2010, when the collies were used again, levels fell again.

* Related…

* Private manager takes over Lottery operations Friday: Illinois’ private lottery manager takes over operations Friday, with both the company and the state envisioning greatly increased sales and more money for state coffers.

* Job-seeking public finds fewer online job postings: The number of online advertised job postings in Illinois fell 5.6 percent in June from May, but rose 15.5 percent from June 2010, a report released by the Conference Board Wednesday showed. There were 167,600 online advertised job vacancies this month, down from 177,500 in May and up from 145,100 in June 2010. Online advertised job vacancies nationally dipped 2.2 percent from May to 4.37 million and were up 20.9 percent from 3.62 million in June 2010.

* Bill Clinton kicks off U.S. jobs confab in Chicago

* Grease from Taste of Chicago to become biodiesel fuel

* Navy Pier to keep Children’s Museum under latest plan: The plan foresees a major expansion of the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, with construction of a distinctively shaped new building, sources said. The proposal also calls for increased green space and upgraded landscaping, more restaurants, and improved retail offerings at Navy Pier.

* Losing Bears games to lockout could wallop Chicago’s economy: Players and owners bickering about how to divide an estimated $9  billion in annual revenue aren’t the only ones who stand the lose if a deal to end the NFL’s ongoing labor impasse doesn’t end soon. Chicago’s already fragile economy would suffer another late hit. It won’t just be football-starved fans with something at stake. Everyday Chicagoans will find themselves stuck in the middle. While this labor feud appears to be between millionaire players and billionaire owners, they are far from the only ones with fur in this fight.

* Illinois farmers optimistic about corn, soybeans

* Vista breaks ground on Lindenhurst medical office building

* Amazon ends deal with 25,000 California websites

- Posted by Rich Miller   24 Comments      


Expect budget action today

Thursday, Jun 30, 2011

* One way or another, the governor has to act on the budget today

The fiscal year ends at midnight Thursday, so Quinn will want to have a new budget in place before that.

The Democratic governor isn’t a fan of the budget lawmakers sent him. He says it shortchanges education, human services and other critical needs.

But there is little Quinn can do. He has the power to cut appropriations but not to add to them.

Major spending increases would require blocking the entire budget and telling lawmakers to start over, which isn’t likely to happen.

Whatever he does, expect an attempt at making a big splash, although it will not include a public appearance. The governor’s schedule includes no planned events.

* Meanwhile, the pain continues unabated

The state has finished the fiscal year owing Knox County around $795,000 as Springfield’s financial woes continue to pressure local governments.

The new state budget year begins July 1 but the state is still four months behind in its distribution of income taxes to the county for the current fiscal year, leaving a $255,000 hole in the county’s general fund.

Also in arrears are salary reimbursements for the state’s attorney, supervisor of assessments and public defender. The state is six months or more behind in payments for each of those salaries, with the total amount outstanding close to $140,000. […]

The county has had to use creative methods to compensate for the delays in state funding, including shifting money from the county’s landfill account to its general fund to make up for the loss. Some county employees took lower raises than were agreed in their union contracts.

I know I’ve said this countless times already, but the state continues to be one of the biggest problems in Illinois’ economy.

* And while state budget cuts are obviously needed, they create yet another drag on the economy. From the Wall Street Journal

Weakness in the state and local government sector has been a drag on the recovery, as governments of states, counties, school districts and other entities cut spending and jobs amid diminished revenue. The state and local government sector subtracted 0.5% from U.S. gross domestic product growth in the first quarter—one factor behind the sluggish 1.9% quarterly growth rate, adjusted for inflation.

Despite the improved tax revenue, the government sector is expected to continue weighing on growth. That’s because the estimated $135 billion in federal stimulus funds that states have used to balance their budgets through the recession is now gone, which explains in part why states continue to cut services despite growing tax collections.

“With more employment cuts on the horizon, the sector will continue to exert a large drag on the U.S. economy,” Gregory Daco, an economist with research firm IHS Global Insight, wrote in a note to clients.

* I don’t know whether this is just bureaucratic incompetence or a lack of money, but one local economy is suffering because the state hasn’t replaced a sewer pump

Work to get the campgrounds and concession stand at Illini State Park reopened may begin within days — but it still may be “several weeks” before the project is completed.

A faulty sewage pump has kept the campgrounds, showers and flush toilets closed since May 2 and prevented C.P.’s Ice Cream from opening for the summer season.

The shutdown also has cut sharply into critical summer revenue from campers and visitors for many Marseilles businesses. […]

A petition drive earlier this month organized by the Illinois River Area Chamber of Commerce garnered 2,133 signatures, including many from out of town.

The petition, which urged prompt action on the pump repair, was sent on June 17 to Gov. Pat Quinn, with copies to Mautino, state Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, and state Rep. Pam Roth, R-Morris.

Hey, IDNR, it’s almost July.

* And the lack of a signed gaming expansion bill is causing cutbacks at Fairmount

Fairmount Park will end its live racing meet three weeks early this season — on Sept. 9 — after the Illinois Racing Board on Tuesday approved a request from Fairmount president and chief executive Brian Zander to reduce the schedule because of a shortage of money… The board had originally awarded the track 75 racing days last September on the hope that the Illinois Legislature would pass a gaming expansion bill.

* Related…

* Property tax appeal board could get extra money

* Naperville chamber hears from Quinn’s budget guru: “In this last session, we saw the committees going deeper into the works, larger parts of committees actually working, asking questions, making suggestions, making changes,” Vaught said. “And I think that’s a significant process improvement.”

* Highway Districts On State Chopping Block

* Quinn makes no commitment to casino bill during Rockford visit

* Civic group urges cutting City Council, privatizing Midway

- Posted by Rich Miller   11 Comments      


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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Behind the screaming headlines

Wednesday, Jun 29, 2011

* The Associated Press often acts like a giant blogger by repackaging stories into little briefs. Too often, though, those briefs skew the story. For instance, this story is headlined: “Insiders got early notice of college savings deal”

People with connections to the Illinois treasurer’s office got early notice of a limited offer that added cash to college savings accounts, giving them an edge over thousands of people who were shut out of the deal.

Treasurer Dan Rutherford tells the Chicago Tribune that early word was sent out solely as a promotion because officials weren’t sure the new offer would be popular. Rutherford says it was a mistake that won’t happen again.

The offer was for the Bright Start savings program. People could deposit up to $250 and have that money matched by the firm running the program.

* You already know the back story. Bright Start’s administrator, Oppenheimer Funds, sent out 100,000 letters to the college savings program participants on May 31st offering to match their next $250 contribution. Trouble is, the offer was limited to the first 2,500 people and about 8,500 people took up the offer by going to the plan’s website. But the website wasn’t changed to reflect the fact that the money had dried up until a day after all the cash was spoken for, which left some folks quite angry.

* The Tribune reports that Rutherford’s office sent its workers an e-mail the same day Oppenheimer mailed the letters from New Jersey, giving Rutherford’s employees a clear head start on everyone else. That was obviously a bad move. The e-mail encouraged the employees to forward the offer to their friends and family. Not good, either.

* However, Rutherford’s employees were not eligible for the matching funds, according to the Tribune’s report. That little factoid was buried deep within the Trib’s story, which was headlined “Family, friends got head start in Bright Start match - Treasurer’s office employees were sent email about $250 program before general public received letters.”

The workers’ friends and family were eligible, of course, but the Tribune could only find “about 25 people” who were forwarded the e-mails from state accounts. Not great, but hardly a gigantic scandal.

The Tribune also noted that the Bright Start website announced the program on May 27th - days before anybody was notified by e-mail or snail mail.

And, despite what the AP claims, Rutherford himself was never quoted by the Tribune as saying “early word was sent out solely as a promotion because officials weren’t sure the new offer would be popular.” That comment was attributed by the Trib to an official at his office.

* Whether this was just another stupid bungle or something more nefarious, this whole thing has become a PR disaster for Rutherford, who obviously thought the stunt would be popular

Doran Phillips, who has a savings account for his 31/2-year-old son, said he still hasn’t received the promotional letter and feels cheated out of $250.

“It was just a screw-up, but still it had a bad consequence,” said Phillips, of Palos Park. “They are giving away this money and couldn’t give it away in a fair and responsible manner. They devised a method of giving it away that was totally unfair unless you happen to be one of the lucky people.”

The $625,000 for the promotion came from Oppenheimer Funds, which manages Bright Start, as part of its contract with the state to pay for scholarships. Oppenheimer was responsible for mailing the letters and updating the website, treasurer’s office officials have said.

The promotion was open to existing account holders who made a one-time special contribution. Account holders who coincidentally made a donation at the beginning of the month, even if it was unrelated to the promotion, received the match.

Unfortunately for Rutherford, the TV ads about this will write themselves.

- Posted by Rich Miller   25 Comments      


Question of the day

Wednesday, Jun 29, 2011

* With all the negativity sparked by the Blagojevich verdict, I thought we’d try to balance that out with a little positivity. So…

* The Question: In your opinion, who was the best Illinois governor of the modern era? I define “modern era” as the period since the new state Constitution was drafted. Take the poll and then fully explain your answer in comments, please.


- Posted by Rich Miller   85 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 *** More grim budget news

Wednesday, Jun 29, 2011

* The grim state budget situation is being felt all the way through the system

Inmates in at least one state prison are being forced to wear the same used underwear for several days in a row because of a clothing shortage.

The situation, says a prison watchdog group, is not only icky, but could potentially lead to illness. And it isn’t limited to just one facility.

In a recent report, the John Howard Association says a visit to the Taylorville Correctional Center found inmates wearing dirty, threadbare clothes that are only being washed twice a week.

Since the minimum-security prison only issues two pairs of boxer shorts to inmates, that means they must wear them for at least half of the week. Or, the group suggests, some inmates could decide to forgo wearing underwear altogether.

* Oy

With the start of a new budget year just two days away, thousands of Illinois businesses are still waiting for state income tax refunds dating back to 2009.

The Illinois Department of Revenue said Tuesday it would end the fiscal year June 30 still owing about $620 million in business income tax refunds. As of June 21, the department still owed 7,572 business income tax refunds, although spokeswoman Sue Hofer said the number by the end of the month would be lower because some since have been paid.

The oldest of the overdue refunds goes back to April or May of 2009, she said. The average amount of the refunds owed is $104,000. Hofer said refunds less than $5,000 have been paid.

The average is $104K? Wow. Yet more evidence that state government is one of the biggest drags on Illinois’ economy.

* Speaking of taxes, the Illinois Department of Revenue didn’t do so well in a recent state audit

In the agency’s Chicago and Springfield tax-processing offices, full- and part-time employees who handled confidential tax returns were permitted to carry personal cell phones equipped with cameras, Holland found.

Holland also found sensitive tax records on desks, open shelving areas and tables in areas where visitors had access and, in one instance, stored in an open bin in a readily accessible hallway within a tax-processing area.

Holland also disclosed instances where uncashed taxpayer checks turned up in the desk drawers of employees who no longer worked for the Department of Revenue and faulted the agency for not performing background checks on state workers who had access to the department’s taxpayer-information database.

“I don’t think we proved instances of identity theft,” Holland told the Chicago Sun-Times. “But I’d tell you, when you have so many people with so much access to so many records, it’s only a matter of time until something bad happens.”

* Turning to the city’s budget woes, the mayor is ending the furlough program

Mayor Rahm Emanuel vowed Tuesday to defuse a financial time bomb left behind by former Mayor Richard M. Daley — without unpaid furlough days and with or without union help.

“Furloughs have not worked out economically or for morale — and I’ve heard it directly from the workers. I also know that it’s not worked out for the taxpayers — the people I represent … It hasn’t been the panacea” it was purported to be, Emanuel said.

“June 30 … the furloughs will end. … The city work force will get their vacation days and their full work week in. The taxpayers will get that as well. … But, I’m committed to seeing through the $30 million in savings [generated by unpaid days off required of the entire city work force]. Make no mistake about it.” […]

On Tuesday, the mayor said he’s poised to wield his budget ax at midnight Thursday, presumably by sending out layoff notices.

And while he’s still holding out hope that organized labor will help bridge at least part of the gap, he’s prepared to act unilaterally if they don’t.

*** UPDATE *** From the Tribune

Mayor Rahm Emanuel today revealed that he’s offered City Hall labor unions a choice: Agree to $20 million in savings through work-rule changes or face 625 layoffs.

“If you don’t, that will be the choice left to me on behalf of the taxpayers,” Emanuel said at a news conference to announce Walgreens will add 600 jobs in Chicago over the next two years.

Labor leaders will take 10 days to two weeks to put together their own package of proposed cuts, the mayor said. He would not say whether he will issue the layoff notices in the meantime. “I’m not just going to sit here and wait. I’ll make certain decisions,” he said

* Related…

* Regional school chiefs await final state budget: According to information from Franklin-Williamson Regional Superintendent Matt Donkin, the state budget includes $2.2 million for program costs in the 2012 fiscal year, down from $4.4 million in 2011. The $4.4 million this year was 43 percent of the 2003 budget allotment.

* Illinois Lottery cut corners in rush to choose private manager: state auditor

* CTA cuts 54 jobs, details $15M in savings

* ISU golf course gets Quinn’s OK to sell liquor

* Consolidation could be survival option for struggling towns

* Decades after Council Wars, Burke’s bodyguards questioned - Finance Committee chairman kept police protection in racially charged era; now critics doubt need in tight budget times

* Chicago convention officials prepare new moves to tout tourism

* Allscripts ready to double Chicago workforce, add conventions here

* Walgreen to add 600 city jobs: In a news conference at a South Side Walgreen store, Mr. Emanuel and company officials announced the huge drugstore chain will add food products to roughly 40 additional stores in so-called food deserts, up from 11 currently that sell a wider range of groceries.

* Mines in 10 states, including Illinois, cited for safety violations

* Ready for Reform: Illinois bill draws looks from other states

- Posted by Rich Miller   25 Comments      


Jury didn’t buy the act that charmed the rest of the state

Wednesday, Jun 29, 2011

* The jurors in Rod Blagojevich’s trial saw through the hokum

Jury forewoman Connie Wilson, 56, of Naperville, said she thought she recognized what Blagojevich was up to when he started picking and choosing details from his personal history. The details appeared to mirror personal information that came out when the judge questioned the jury pool before testimony began, she said.

“I said, ‘Do you remember what he talked about . . . [while testifying about his home] library?’ ” Wilson said she told other jurors during their deliberations. “He pointed to something in the library that pertained to almost everybody on the jury.”

She said jurors started piecing it together.

Over his seven days of testimony, Blagojevich mentioned books, targeting a librarian on the jury; pointed out an interest in music, directing the comment toward Wilson, the former choral director at Holy Spirit Catholic Community in Naperville; and discussed the importance of education, to connect with a teacher, Wilson said. “He even brought out at one point something about Boston, and of course our gentleman was a huge Boston fan,” she said with a laugh, remembering the male juror’s many Boston-themed T-shirts.

Know hope.

* Speaking of hope, a commenter pointed out this recent New York Times story about how Bernie Madoff’s judge decided to go with the ultimate max in his sentencing order

Judge Chin said he quickly rejected the idea of a 12-year sentence for Mr. Madoff, but pondered whether 20 to 25 years might be acceptable. He ultimately concluded that even that “would have been just way too low.”

“In the end, I just thought he didn’t deserve it,” he said. “The benefits of giving him hope were far outweighed by all of the other considerations.”

Judge Chin would impose a term of 150 years on Mr. Madoff, perhaps the most stunning and widely discussed sentencing in the history of American white-collar crime. In doing so, he seemed to find a way to translate society’s rage into a number.

And New York legal analyst Jami Floyd makes a prediction

You will recall that many of the experts who are now predicting a ten-year sentence for Blagojevich also predicted a ten-year sentence for Bernard Madoff. Madoff was older (71). He was also convicted in federal court and the sentencing guidelines in that case suggested a 13-year term. Instead, Madoff was sentenced to 150 years and will never see the light of day. I predict a slightly kinder, gentler sentence for Blagojevich; something in the order of 20-25 years.

* More legal analysis. This time, about the appeal

Veteran appeals lawyer Joel Bertocchi said that in his experience, broad-based claims of unfairness don’t usually work.

“He needs to show specifically how (the recordings) would have helped and how the defense was seriously injured by the inability to play them,” he said. […]

Another obstacle to a successful appeal could be Blagojevich’s own testimony, Bertocchi said. Many of the judges on the appeals court were once trial judges themselves, he said, and they know that once a defendant testifies, that’s more or less the ballgame.

The jury either believes you or, as in Blagojevich’s case, it doesn’t.

…Adding… Oops. I forgot to post this important piece of the puzzle

Where will Rod Blagojevich serve his time?

It may depend on how much time he has to serve.

It’s up to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to place a prisoner, but experts say that the length of Blagojevich’s sentence could be a key factor in deciding whether the former governor is in a place with guards and bars or in a place with khakis and cards.

Defendants who are sentenced to more than 10 years in prison typically don’t get a spot in the more-desired prison camps, said defense attorney Jeffrey Steinback, who is regarded as an expert in federal sentencing and who has testified before the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

…Adding More… I missed this one

Rod Blagojevich won’t likely ever set foot in a courtroom again as a practicing attorney thanks to the sweeping corruption convictions a federal jury handed down.

The top lawyer for the Illinois Supreme Court’s Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission, the legal panel that polices lawyer misconduct, said it is a virtual certainty Blagojevich will be disbarred as a result of his convictions.

* Bizarre

Joe Scarborough and Willie Geist were both upset by the decision. “It is a miscarriage of justice. They can’t prove it,” said Scarborough. Geist lamented, “I grew up in a country where you only had to stand trial once for a crime. Didn’t they already go through this once? Nothing stuck.”

Scarborough laid his law degree on the table: “Here’s the deal. I don’t want to talk about it a lot, but I am a lawyer. And I can tell you, I didn’t have to go to law school to learn about a little concept called double jeopardy…The entire weight of the government leaning down on him. The jury goes, “no, we see nothing wrong with this man except perhaps his hair cut.” And then he wins and then they throw the entire weight of the federal government on him again twice. I’m sorry. That’s just not the America I grew up in. “

What Scarborough forgets (or never learned) is that the Blagojevich case is not subject to double jeopardy. The Fifth Amendment protection against double jeopardy is designed to protect the acquitted from multiple and repeated prosecutions, and only applies to cases in which a verdict has been reached. Because 23 of the counts against Blagojevich were declared mistrials, no judgment had been reached. According to Chicago defense attorney Ava George Stewart, “if the jury had decided that Blagojevich was not guilty, then the government could not retry him, as they have already indicated they intend to do. In this case, Double Jeopardy is inapplicable.”

* National pundits were wrong again. No surprise, since most don’t bother to do even basic fact-checking and just repeat pre-approved talking points

Last fall, when Rahm Emanuel left his post as White House chief of staff, some political analysts warned that his dealings with Blagojevich could doom his chances to be elected mayor of Chicago.

But Emanuel easily won. And while he testified briefly at Blagojevich’s second trial, he was never accused of any wrongdoing. In fact, on the charge directly involving Emanuel — that Blagojevich tried to shake down Emanuel for a fundraiser — jurors were unable to reach a verdict.

What the clueless pundits deliberately failed to realize was that Blagojevich had predicted that Emanuel could clear him. He was actually right on one point. The juror failed to convict the former governor on charges that he had attempted to extort a campaign fundraiser from Emanuel’s brother in exchange for releasing grant money to a school in Emanuel’s congressional district back in 2006. Emanuel testified that he was never told of any proposed deal.

* And Jon Stewart was pretty darned funny last night


And


* Roundup…

* Lawmakers move to cut off Blagojevich’s pension

* Airline Ad Plays Off Blagojevich Conviction in Promoting ‘F-ing Golden’ Low Fares

* Only one Blagojevich juror from Chicago

* Naperville woman was reluctant to be Blagojevich jury foreman: “Some of the women actually said, ‘I’m sure we’re going to be characterized as the typical woman who talks ad nauseam,’ and you know, it really wasn’t that way,” she said. “Everybody was very much trying to find ‘innocent until proven guilty,’ and that’s what everything’s based on, and we would go back to that premise very often.”

* Tinley Park juror: Blago ‘really cheated the people of Illinois’: “He really cheated the people of Illinois, or tried to. He took an oath to do what was best for the people of Illinois and he didn’t do it. So we’ll have another governor in jail,” she said.

* Lone ‘gentleman’ juror doesn’t feel sorry for Rod Blagojevich

* Jurors at Blagojevich retrial say they used communication techniques, tried to stay in harmony: Wilson put her choir-directing skills, perfected at Naperville’s Holy Spirit church, to use in trying to track how the group was interacting and whether some jurors were out of sync. “With a choir, you’re looking for trouble spots in the music and going back,” she said. “I was listening to all the jurors, understanding where they were, then adjusting, go back.”

* Aurora juror finds relief as Blagojevich trial ends: Bennett said she was warned that Monday’s press conference after the verdict was handed down would not be the end of the media’s interest in her and other members of the jury. While some jurors were hesitant to talk to the press, Bennett said she felt it was part of her duty. She gladly sat down with a host of reporters on Tuesday to answer questions and give insight into what went on behind closed doors over the last couple months.

* Juror: ‘Most interesting thing I’ve ever done … And the most boring’:

* Juror from first trial praises Blago jury

* CityRoom video: Inside the media pit at the Blagojevich verdict

- Posted by Rich Miller   33 Comments      


Caption contest!

Wednesday, Jun 29, 2011

* Gov. Pat Quinn did a fly-around yesterday to sign the workers’ compensation bill into law and appeared at Kraft Foods in Champaign. As part of the festivities, he was presented with a box of Kraft’s Macaroni & Cheese with his photo on it. It was a fun little presentation

There’s no word yet on whether the governor also received a personalized truck during yesterday’s visit to Navistar.

Thanks to our friends at BlueRoomStream.com for the clip.

* And here’s a close-up shot of the box [updated with a high-rez photo from a good pal]…

Have fun.

- Posted by Rich Miller   93 Comments      


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