* As this Sun-Times story shows, privatization often means less sunlight…
Chicago’s Navy Pier — touted as the biggest tourist attraction in Illinois — has long been a patronage haven where political insiders turned for jobs and lucrative deals to sell everything from expensive meals to gumballs.
Who was cashing in used to be a matter of public record. It no longer is, since the state of Illinois and City Hall turned over operation of the government-owned pier to a private, not-for-profit group three years ago for $1-a-year rent.
Navy Pier Inc. doesn’t have to explain how it’s spending $115 million in government bonds that were sold to pay for a face-lift for the 98-year-old pier, either. […]
(F)ormer Mayor Richard M. Daley’s handprints are all over Navy Pier Inc. Five months before Daley left office in May 2011, his former chief of staff John Schmidt incorporated Navy Pier Inc. The deal for NPI to take over control and governance of the pier was signed a month before Daley departed City Hall, taking effect in July 2011. Also, NPI’s board includes Daley’s daughter, his former campaign manager, two of his former chiefs of staff, his onetime top City Hall lawyer and civic leaders who were longtime Daley supporters. […]
Beside a roster of pier employees and salaries, Brodsky also declined to make public contracts that Navy Pier Inc. has signed with restaurants and other vendors — all public information before his group took over in July 2011. […]
On Friday, the Better Government Association, which also was denied Navy Pier Inc. records, filed suit against McPier and NPI in Cook County circuit court to get them. The watchdog group argues the not-for-profit agency was created to shield pier operations from public view.
* And as this AP story shows, sometimes it doesn’t work as originally advertised…
Illinois’ private lottery contract has never reached the lofty sales promises it used to win a bid four years ago and is expected to fall more than $200 million short of what it owes the state when the budget year ends June 30.
But Northstar Lottery Group says it’s been hamstrung by state officials, with whom they have an already frosty relationship and accuse of throwing up road blocks — from canceling games it wanted to launch to prohibiting the sponsorship of Chicago’s Pitchfork Music Festival in 2013 because of headliner R.Kelly.
Regardless, Northstar’s 10-year contract with the state details that falling short of its goals by 10 percent two years in a row is grounds for ending the partnership, no questions asked. It missed targets by almost 20 percent last year, and is on track to do the same this year. […]
When Northstar took over the 40-year-old program, it promised contributions of $1 billion to the state in the fifth year of its contract. But it has been about $400 million short since in its first three years — money that is supposed to go toward schools, charitable organizations and a $31 billion capital construction program launched in 2009.
* So, what could possibly go wrong?…
Last year North Riverside officials received a letter from a state agency ordering the village to start paying more into its underfunded pension accounts or face a financial reckoning.
The ultimatum and a shortage of cash prompted the village to consider an unusual solution — privatizing its fire department. […]
The letters, obtained by the Tribune, detail an enforcement mechanism that will allow the department to divert sales taxes and other revenue from a town’s coffers to local police and fire pension funds starting in 2016.
The mechanism was included in a 2010 law that requires local governments to pay enough toward their police and fire pensions each year to make the pensions 90 percent funded by 2040. Currently, the state requires municipalities to make annual payments but does not have the same enforcement tool.
North Riverside officials are publicizing the fire department privatization plan in advance of a Department of Insurance hearing Thursday, during which they plan to pitch the idea.