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Reilly talks up TIF changes over prop tax

Tuesday, Apr 22, 2014

Posted by Barton Lorimor (@bartonlorimor)

* From this morning’s Sun-Times…

Instead of saving the Municipal Employees and Laborers Pension funds on the backs of Chicago property owners, Reilly, vice chairman of the City Council’s Budget Committee, zeroed in on Chicago’s 154 tax increment financing districts.

(Reilly) would change Illinois’ TIF statute to dedicate as much as 50 percent of all existing and future TIF funds toward pension liabilities, providing, what he called a “steady revenue stream” to help solve the city’s $20 billion pension crisis.

Reilly’s second idea tied to TIFs would pave the way for Chicago to borrow as much as $2 billion against the future proceeds of TIF districts.

Reilly’s third and final idea calls for the Illinois General Assembly to increase the “distributive share” of the state income tax increase earmarked for local governments, including Chicago.

You might want to read the whole thing. The story is full of information.

Meanwhile…

More than two dozen Illinois mayors are set to hold a news conference, hoping to encourage state lawmakers to make changes to pension systems for local police and fire departments.

The group meets Monday. They say pension problems are “choking local government budgets” and warn some communities will have to raise property taxes or cut essential services to cover pension obligations. Those service cuts could include laying off firefighters.

More…

The International Association of Firefighters and Illinois Fraternal Order of Police blame the recession, fund mismanagement the failure of some local governments to pay their share.

“No matter how many they say it, there are no facts to support the claim that benefits are have driven this problem,” Illinois Firefighters Union President Pat Devaney said.

Brace yourselves for a lot more of that back and forth.

Related…

* Sun-Times: For sake of higher education, fix pension bill error now: What they didn’t know is that a change in the “money purchase option” could cost some employees hired before 2005 nearly a third of their retirement income. But, university officials say, unless the dating error in the bill is corrected — and June 30, 2013, is changed to June 30, 2014 — that will happen. University employees in all positions, from professors to building service workers, will be affected.

* Suburban, downstate mayors want pension relief, too

* Suburban And Downstate Mayors Call For Police And Fire Pension Reform

- Posted by Barton Lorimor        


46 Comments
  1. - PublicServant - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 7:48 am:

    Sure. Everybody is jumping on the “balance the budget on the backs of the greedy public employees” bandwagon. There aren’t any other alternatives, I tell you! Pay no attention to suggestions by anyone who isn’t serious about solving the problem like we pension cutters are! CTBA, bah! Reilly? A union toady. Rauner and the other plutocrats know how to cut into other people’s finances to get the situation under control. Plus, their way allows them to protect their finances too. But I’m sure that’s not a consideration in their truly civic-minded approach to the problem…Oh, and the union bosses who control the government will be put in their place. Err, but if they control the government, then why are we talking about this now? Well, don’t worry about that little piece of incongruity. We know what we’re talking about, and we’re serious!


  2. - RNUG - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 7:52 am:

    No surprises. The cities want the same relief they think the State and Chicago is going to get. And Chicago is looking for any pile of money they can find / divert to avoid raising property taxes. This game will go on until the ISC rules on pension reform and, most likely, then the entire house of cards built on “pension reform savings” will collapse.


  3. - Walker - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 8:08 am:

    If TIFs don’t work as intended for focused economic development, as many clearly haven’t, then they should be cancelled. That will broaden the tax base to pay for, among other things, pensions.

    These shouldn’t be slush funds for the fiscal problems of the day. That solves nothing.


  4. - Walker - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 8:14 am:

    Good morning Public Servant:

    You’re better than a strong cup of coffee.


  5. - jeffing in Chicago - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 8:19 am:

    I just did a quick review of the Wilson Yard TIF. As of 2011 it was collecting $8M a year in revenue and growing with 14 years left. They have already collected over $3OM and committed to spending a total of $30M. You can’t kill it but you could change the boundaries reducing the size of the TIF and add money to general fund today without raising anyone’s taxes.

    Why willn’t anyone even give this a second to think about? THE EAV has grown by 247% since inception drop it to 150% and watch our money problems disappear.


  6. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 8:44 am:

    Jeffing:

    All those folks telling us not to bother looking at TIFs don’t want us looking at TIFs for a reason.

    You and Alderman Reilly are on the right trail.

    What does Quinn do, now?

    Side with Rahm? Side with Reilly? Can he sign the bill and side with Reilly? Or is it time for an amendatory veto, or more likely a trailer bill.

    Tricky wicket for the governor?


  7. - Siriusly - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 8:58 am:

    A better solution to the Suburban pension crisis would be to change the law requiring them to be “fully funded” by 2040 and instead shift back to a rolling average.

    It would require cities to fund their pensions at an adequate - but more attainable level - and preserve benefits.


  8. - A guy... - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 9:12 am:

    Jeffing and YDD, I’m the last person to defend the TIF policy in the city, but it’s important to remember that even if the TIF boundaries are reduced (which might be a viable idea) the properties in the area then excluded from the TIF will return to the tax rolls and be divided by taxing district as they were prior to the TIF. The schools will get their portion, as will the City, Libraries, Park Districts, Water Districts, etc. That whole amount would not go to Pension funds. It’s hard to know if even one-third of it would. Plus, I’m not sure how you change boundaries. I think you may have to wait until the district expires and then create a new, smaller TIF district in it’s place. That would be a little risky in today’s climate and the district might disappear entirely. TIFs can be great or terribly abused. It is now just about the only economic development tool left in Illinois.


  9. - A guy... - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 9:17 am:

    The suburban Mayors are trying to be proactive. In most cases, their pension funds are funded at higher rates than the city or state. They can see that the growth in distributions is far outpacing the contributions and it won’t be long until the same crisis the city and state are facing lands on their doorsteps. They are required by statute to make their contributions, something the state shamefully has not required of itself. This is a math problem that requires a better sustainable formula to make sustainable. Municipalities can file bankruptcy. Oddly, this may be the place where a solution might be found more quickly as a more durable model for the city and state. Here’s to hoping.


  10. - 4 percent - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 9:20 am:

    I appreciate firefighters but give me a break Mr. Devaney. In Springfield, a firefighter can retire at the age of 50 and receive an initial pension of 50 percent with an annual compounding factor until it reaches 75 percent of the final salary. The 231 average firefighter earns $75,000 annually according to the city of Springfield. So pensions ballparked would be $37,500 to $56,000. Plus the union had negotiated a 5 percent salary spike on the day of their anniversary when they all retire. Today, far less than 10 percent of all “calls” are fires - most are medical emergencies where the FD gets dispatched (along with EMS/Police). So while there is an element of danger, it is far less than what it was before the advent of fire suppression systems, alarms, etc. Top it off with the fact that most firefighters have second jobs because of the job schedule and get a 3rd job when they “retire” at the age of 50.


  11. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 9:33 am:

    Daley and his lap dog city council abused TIFs to the extreme. Most of the greater Loop and the hottest neighborhoods to the north, south and west are in TIF districts. It’s a joke.


  12. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 9:52 am:

    It is ironic that unions who think that reducing pensions is “theft” would propose to pay for them by taking the money from TIFs. That too is theft. Those tax dollars should, by right, be going to all the other taxing districts in Chicago, including schools, the park district, Cook County, etc. The theory of TIFs is that the money is taken from those others and given to the City to use for economic development. When the TIF ends, the other taxing districts will then benefit from the new economic development increasing their tax base. If, instead of using the funds for economic development, the City just uses it to meet its own fiscal needs, it truly is theft.


  13. - VanillaMan - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 9:54 am:

    I don’t trust Chicago politicians to handle any costs over $100. TIFs are abused by them.


  14. - Ahoy! - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 9:54 am:

    –“No matter how many they say it, there are no facts to support the claim that benefits are have driven this problem,” Illinois Firefighters Union President Pat Devaney said.–

    I”m pretty sure COFGA could do an analysis that settle that question, then we will all know.


  15. - funny guy - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 10:02 am:

    Sell O’Hare to fund the pensions and you wouldn’t have to raise taxes. Per federal law, none of the money currently generated at O’Hare can contribute to the City’s operating budget–its not like parking meters.


  16. - Robert - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 11:07 am:

    Adding…an IMRF-style public safety pension fund would prevent local governments from skipping their police and fire pension payments.


  17. - DuPage - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 11:11 am:

    Maybe Cook County property taxes should be based on assessed valuations at the same percentages as the rest of the state. Why should they be at such a lower rate, and then expect the rest of the state to bail them out?


  18. - MOON - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 11:22 am:

    DUPAGE

    The State equalization rate adjusts the level of assessments in Cook County.

    There is no bailout by the rest of the State.


  19. - A guy... - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 11:36 am:

    ====Robert - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 11:07 am:

    Adding…an IMRF-style public safety pension fund would prevent local governments from skipping their police and fire pension payments.====

    Local munis can’t skip their payments. They don’t. Most are using their entire local share of property taxes to pay for pensions and many are now into their general funds. That’s what they’re afraid of. Other departments are facing cuts now. They’ll get around to Police and Fire soon enough. It needs fixing before it becomes unfixable.


  20. - Toure's Latte - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 12:08 pm:

    Borrowing against future TIF receipts is a terrible idea.

    The state allows muni’s to make partial contributions and call them “full payments”, and the muni’s willingly went along with the charade. Had they been required to square things up the crisis would have hit ten years ago.


  21. - DuPage - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 1:20 pm:

    @Moon11:22=The state equalization rate adjusts the level of assessments in Cook County.=
    They have a law that says something like 33% on all property statewide outside of Cook County. Does anyone happen to know what the rate is on Cook County residential property at this time? A number of years ago it was 18%. They said they were going to raise it some, but never heard anything more about it.
    If Cook County residential property is assessed at a full 33% exactly the same as collar counties, then I stand corrected.
    Bailout referred to areas in Cook County (like Chicago), that always need extra state money to assist in budgets that collar counties have to pay more of out of local property taxes.


  22. - RNUG - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 1:26 pm:

    - A guy… - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 9:17 am said: “Municipalities can file bankruptcy.”

    Not in Illinois without permission of the General Assembly. Basically, all government entities is Ilinois are prevented from filing bankruptcy.


  23. - RNUG - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 1:29 pm:

    - Ahoy! - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 9:54 am:

    I didn’t go look up it up, but from memory a number of entities, including COGFA, did such studies at the State level and concluded only 10% of the pension shortfall was the result of addiitonal benefits. The major causes were failure to fully fund and the recession of 2007.


  24. - RNUG - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 1:32 pm:

    - A guy… - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 11:36 am said: “Local munis can’t skip their payments.”

    That is only partially true. Once a municipality gets to a certain population size, they are no longer required to participate in IMRF. They can, but they don’t have to. Same for police. I’m not sure about the firefighters.


  25. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 2:08 pm:

    DuPage - you really don’t know what you’re talking about. Residential in Cook is lower than 33%. Other property in Cook is higher than residential. But that’s just the initial assessment. The State then calculates a “multiplier” that inflates all those underassessments so that the overall assessment for all property in Cook, in the aggregate, equals 33%. The purpose of the equalizer is to make sure that no County “games” the school aid formula, etc., which is calculated based on a community’s wealth, as reflected in its property base. The equalizer for most counties is near 1.0. For Cook, it was 2.8056 in for tax year 2012!


  26. - DuPage - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 3:09 pm:

    I stand partly corrected. You confirmed residential is lower then 33%. I have some concerns about the “multiplier”. I know a family in Elgin, they own a house, and each of their kids also own houses. In the same neighborhood, same schools, same police and fire departments, similar houses. Two in Kane County, two in Cook County. The ones in Cook have significantly lower taxes. Realtors have told me it has to do with the way assessments are applied, and Cook County always comes out lower.
    If the “multiplier” was accurate, how could that be? What would be the problem with making all counties give assessments at 33%?
    Please explain this so I will know what I am talking about in this matter. Exactly who at the state determines the multiplier, and what criteria is used? How do we know it is accurate?


  27. - DJDfire - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 3:09 pm:

    Local munis can’t skip their payments. They don’t….They do all the time, that is why the Police and Fire pensions are not funded like IMRF….they skip payments or fund at lower dollar amount than an actuary requires to fund.

    “Today, far less than 10 percent of all “calls” are fires - most are medical emergencies where the FD gets dispatched (along with EMS/Police).”…what is your source for this? If you are going to quote facts and numbers in data, please reveal your source for these statistics, because they are wrong. While EMS calls are increasing, fire calls are not below 10% of runs!


  28. - Cubird - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 3:17 pm:

    As for as property taxes go in Cook Co.,Gov. Quinn paid about $3200 and I paid about $5300 living downstate in a $200,000 house.


  29. - jeffing in Chicago - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 3:56 pm:

    @ a guy I spoke to the mayor of Elmhurst 10 years ago after they changed TIF boundaries to better fund schools. Extremely easy to do just file an amendment. You can’t increase but decrease is a matter of paperwork. You are right all of that money would then go into all of the different taxing authorities. But that would give the city 20% to spend on pension or whatever and 50% to CPS. Do that before you give me an increase


  30. - jeffing in Chicago - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 3:59 pm:

    @ cubird I pay $9000 in property taxes in Chicago. If my tax bill was Quinn’s I would think I could afford to pay more income taxes too. His income and my families are similar. So I pay $6000 more in property tax and spend $7000 on private grade school. How much more do you want?


  31. - A guy... - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 4:23 pm:

    ===jeffing in Chicago - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 3:56 pm:

    @ a guy I spoke to the mayor of Elmhurst 10 years ago after they changed TIF boundaries to better fund schools. Extremely easy to do just file an amendment. You can’t increase but decrease is a matter of paperwork. You are right all of that money would then go into all of the different taxing authorities. But that would give the city 20% to spend on pension or whatever and 50% to CPS. Do that before you give me an increase====

    I’d have to look, but I believe they extended a TIF and added to the boundaries by connecting them. I’m not sure. There was no requirement, but generally, State Reps and Sens would ask munis to get a letter from taxing districts not opposing TIFs. I do recall an interesting reconnoitering in Elmhurst. I’m not sure it had only to do with schools though. I thought a Senior residence or some parking issues were involved. I’ll have to look. Your points are very well taken.


  32. - A guy... - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 4:27 pm:

    === RNUG - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 1:26 pm:

    - A guy… - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 9:17 am said: “Municipalities can file bankruptcy.”

    Not in Illinois without permission of the General Assembly. Basically, all government entities is Ilinois are prevented from filing bankruptcy.====

    This is true RNUG, but inherent with not granting permission, the state is required to pick up some costs that the municipality is no longer able to pay. Do you remember a case on this? Phoenix Illinois or even a couple downstate? If you remember, I’d happily google it for more info.


  33. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 4:30 pm:

    DuPage - could I suggest you visit the Civic Federation website

    http://www.civicfed.org/civic-federation/blog/final-2012-cook-county-equalization-factor-28056

    As explained there, in Cook County, in tax year 2012, the ordinance assessment level for residential and apartment properties is 10% and 25% for commercial, industrial and not-for-profit properties. There are additional classifications for other types of property and incentive classes for redevelopment. (Of course, the actual assessment are usually below that, to lull the property owners into thinking they are being treated fairly by the elected assessor). These assessments are then inflated by the multiplier of 2.8056, which is calculated by the Illinois Department of Revenue. The effect of the classification system is to articifically raise property taxes on businesses and artificially lower it on homeowners. On average, everything is at 33%, but homeowners get a deal, compared to homeowners in other counties without classification. That’s why Rich keeps pointing out that the folks in Chicago who squeal about their property taxes don’t realize how under-taxed they are, compared to other homeowners in the state. But it’s because the businesses in Chicago and Cook County are way over the norm for the rest of the State. Which is why those folks squeal, too.


  34. - A guy... - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 4:30 pm:

    === RNUG - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 1:32 pm:

    - A guy… - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 11:36 am said: “Local munis can’t skip their payments.”

    That is only partially true. Once a municipality gets to a certain population size, they are no longer required to participate in IMRF. They can, but they don’t have to. Same for police. I’m not sure about the firefighters.===

    what’s the size? I believe Naperville still participates in IMRF. I’m guessing that number is pretty high. In listening to the Mayors, they’re all very concerned. The Mayor Conferences all over the suburbs have had this as their #1 issue in Springfield for the past several years. You can see how much more urgency there is now.


  35. - Norseman - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 4:31 pm:

    RNUG, don’t count on him Googling anything.


  36. - RNUG - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 4:44 pm:

    Norseman,

    I don’t have to look it up; I did last year. I was VERY surprised at how low a population number it is. Once they reach it, the default is to remain with IMRF unless they actively opt out; most don’t.


  37. - A guy... - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 4:49 pm:

    RNUG, How low is the number to opt out? A muni is automatically granted home rule at 25,000. Is that the number or close to it? It’s a serious question if you’d be kind enough to share what you know.


  38. - A guy... - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 4:53 pm:

    === Norseman - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 4:31 pm:

    RNUG, don’t count on him Googling anything.====

    I just googled”Norseman”:
    810,000 results and none of them interesting. Hmm

    https://www.google.com/search?q=Norseman&oq=Norseman&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l5.5603j0j8&sourceid=chrome&es_sm=122&ie=UTF-8


  39. - Norseman - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 5:04 pm:

    Dang A Guy, more evidence that you’re not a man of your word. You thought about me again.


  40. - PensionResearcher - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 5:07 pm:

    RNUG @ 1:32 pm and A guy..

    Regarding “0nce a municipality gets to a certain population size, they are no longer required to participate in IMRF. They can, but they don’t have to. Same for police. I’m not sure about the firefighters.”

    Each local government has its own police and fire pension fund, which is why there are over 600. For municipal and labor employees, the size threshold is 500,000 for cities and 3,000,000 for counties. See the headings of the various articles of the pension code: http://ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=638&ChapterID=9


  41. - PensionResearcher - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 5:17 pm:

    If the city of county reaches a population greater than 5,000 or more it has to join the IMRF unless it is already providing social security benefits. See section 7-132 of the pension code.


  42. - RNUG - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 5:19 pm:

    - A guy… - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 4:49 pm:

    OK, serious answer. Don’t nitpick it because I’m going to summarize a lot of pages.

    There are a number of variations / exceptions in the IMRF statute. Also, police are a special case I’m not going to cover.

    Generally speaking, municipalities with populations under 5,000 or over 5,000,000 are not required to participate in IMRF for their government employees. With some limitations, these non-madated entities may choose to opt in to IMRF.

    Entities between 5,000 and 1,000,000 are generally required to participate UNLESS they (already) contribute to Social Security, at which point IMRF participation is optional. This also applies to entities that grow into the 5,000+ population.

    What this means is a lot of cities that were under 5,000 population when the initial act was passed (1939 I think without going back and looking, plus it’s been amended a lot of times) and/or were contributing to SSA did not have to participate in IMRF when enacted or later. They could choose to opt in but were not required to. So you just never know who participates and who doesn’t without going and checking.

    All the details are contained in the Illinois Pension Code - see 40 ILCS 5, Article 7


  43. - DuPage - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 7:08 pm:

    @Anonymous4:30
    Thanks for the link and explanation. I read about a part of NW Cook County wanting to split off and annex to DuPage County. Then I read they were looking at some tax issues and never saw anything about that group again. They probably found they are paying less tax and decided Cook County was not as bad as they thought.


  44. - facts - Tuesday, Apr 22, 14 @ 8:36 pm:

    Seems to be a lot of confusion on this thread. Let’s be clear: municipalities can”t skip or short employer pension payments for their workers who are enrolled in IMRF because IMRF is legally empowered to intercept the town’s tax revenue if they do. But municipalities can, and most certainly do, skip and short pension payments to their individual police and fire pension funds.

    Robert @ 11:03 has it right on this issue and he also has a pretty good idea for fixing the problem.

    And DuPage, it’s pretty simple. Cook County residents pay lower property taxes than the rest of the state because Cook County businesses pay higher property taxes than the rest of the state. It has nothing to do with mythical state bail outs for Chicago and Cook.


  45. - Pacman - Wednesday, Apr 23, 14 @ 6:04 am:

    There’s been much debate in this thread about cities skipping pension payments. I am a City of Springfield retiree and I recall the city skipping police and fire pension payments back in the late 90’s or early 00’s. The state allowed home rule cities to skip or short pension payments, which Springfield took full advantage of. And lets not forget the actuarial games played by the cities.


  46. - A guy... - Wednesday, Apr 23, 14 @ 8:25 am:

    Thanks RNUG and facts, I knew the non-home rule communities were in a much tighter box than the others. Appreciate the info.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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        * Attorney general: Quinn, Rauner each should name comptrollers, then voters choose in 2016
        * Prosecutor: Chicago couple bought cars, paid son’s mortgage with grant money

        * Chicago couple convicted of stealing state grants
        * Durbin: US, Cuba diplomatic ties 'long overdue'
        * Chicago couple's $3.4 million fraud case now in jury's hands
        * Treasuries drop as Yellen says Fed is on pace to raise rates
        * Illinois employers: Don't forget income-tax rollback


        * Emanuel halts private parking on city lots near United Center
        * Durbin, Kirk split on Obama’s shift on Cuba policy
        * Unions may win  HOLLOW victory with pension suit
        * time for new course in Cuba
        * CPS move may have cost more than estimated
        * Unions may win Pyrrhic victory with pension suit
        * Chicago couple found guilty of stealing millions in state grants
        * Chicago Cubans cautious yet hopeful about historic policy shift
        * After 50 years, time for a new course in Cuba
        * Obama pardons Naperville man, Brian Sledz


        * 1 killed, 12 others wounded in shootings, including man, 18, hurt near park
        * Man found in South Side home was shot to death
        * Man arrested in 2 downtown bank robberies
        * 2 found dead in South Side home
        * Father of 3 shot to death on way home from work
        * Jury finds Chicago couple guilty in grant scam case with ties to Obama friend Whitaker
        * CPS school for special-needs kids needs full-time nurse, alderman says
        * Proposed NCAA concussion settlement denied by federal judge
        * Oak Park school district, teachers reach tentative deal
        * Chicago police captain returns to work 2 months after being shot


        * Illinois Republican: Cuba Agreement "Good First Step"
        * Obama: US re-establishing relations with Cuba
        * Obama re-establishing US relations with Cuba
        * Sangamon Auditorium: Beware Second Party Ticket Brokers
        * Real-estate developer in hot area sees bright future — and displacement
        * Worries rise in Russia as ruble falls
        * Rauner Named Nation's Most Influential Pension Figure
        * Recent incidents cast doubt on Hammond police accountability, critics say
        * Report details big problems at Illinois prison for women; state says it's safe
        * Chicago 'petcoke' handler says it'll enclose piles


        * Bernard Schoenburg: Schmidt considers challenging Sgro for park board president
        * Brian Sauder: Faithful decisions for the holidays
        * Eugene Robinson: The price of being hacked
        * George Will: A Texas-sized license plate dispute
        * Quote of the day: Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014
        * Chicago couple convicted of stealing state grants
        * Topinka remembered as tough, honest leader at memorial service
        * Illinois employers reminded of income-tax rollback
        * Quote of the day: Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014
        * Police use vacant Jacksonville site to train for worst-case scenarios


        * Here they come a-caroling
        * Upcoming Services (Dec. 18)
        * Gas prices continue downward trend
        * Official: Convicted killer slain in Illinois prison
        * Our View: Budget problem clear; answer will not be easy
        * Police Beat
        * Special delivery
        * Central Illinois man convicted in double murder
        * All is calm
        * Looking Back (Dec. 18)


        * Larkin presses on, dumps Batavia
        * WW South coach Todd remembered as 'a great guy'
        * Addison Trail makes it 2 for 2 in tournament crowns
        * Girls bowling scoreboard: Wednesday's results
        * Girls gymnastics scoreboard: Wednesday's results

        * Lipinski seeks nominations for academies -...
        * Zeldin To Co-Chair House GOP Israel Caucus...
        * Congressmen sound alarm over anti-Asian ca...
        * Ami Bera, George Holding are new co-chairs...
        * Rep. Lipinski Urges Ways and Means Committ...
        * Bera and Holding to be co-chairs of Congre...
        * Reps. Lipinski and Roskam Lead Effort to S...
        * Ami Bera, George Holding are new co-chairs...
        * Rep. Lipinski Urges Ways and Means Committ...
        * Roskam Lands High-Profile House Post After...

        * Galesburg veterans facility named in honor......
        * Durbin: US, Cuba diplomatic ties ‘long ove......
        * Reaction to release of Alan Gross, future ......

        * Galesburg VA clinic renamed after Lane Evans...
        * Why is he so upset? Because of the secret ......
        * Senate Confirms Vivek Murthy As Surgeon Ge......

        * Baseball ‘kids’ don’t live in Chicago? Why did complaints take so long?
        * Business School?
        * For Our Fallen Vigil In Chicago
        * Demands For Reparations Increase For Those Tortured Under CPD's Jon Burge
        * Memorial For Chicago Police Torture Survivors
        * Chicagoans Hold Vigil For Victims Of Violence And Police Brutality
        * How does one get to become neighborhood of the year?
        * A Thought For The Day...
        * Chicago Group Wants Quinn To Veto Eavesdropping Measure
        * Chicago Mayoral, 24th Ward Candidates Court West Side Voters At Local Forum


        * Illinois Observes National Impaired Driving Prevention Month - December designated to educate communities about the numerous risks associated with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
        * The Illinois Office Of The State Fire Marshal Promotes Fire Safety During The Holiday Season - Christmas Trees and Decorations Could Pose Risks of Fires
        * Honoring Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka
        * Honoring Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka - United States and Illinois flags at half-staff immediately until Sunset, Thursday, December 11, 2014.
        * Governor Quinn Statement on the Passing of Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka




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