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Question of the day

Wednesday, Jun 4, 2014

* I received several calls, texts and e-mails yesterday after writing about the life and death of my grandmother. I knew some of the folks who reached out, I didn’t know others. Thanks to everyone for their sympathy and for their admiration of a woman I adored, respected and loved. Many of them also shared their own stories about loss and grief and hope.

I closed comments on the post because my feelings about Grandma’s death were just too raw. I didn’t want to discuss it. I wrote what I wrote and that’s that.

But some of the replies I received yesterday were so beautiful and touching that I figured we should do something about that today. So…

* The Question: Did yesterday’s story make you think of one of your own family members? Tell us about that special person, please.

* By the way, this is Grandma’s obit in the Kankakee Daily Journal

Lucille Arnold Miller “Gramma Cuz” Cousin, 93, of Martinton, passed away Sunday (June 1, 2014) at Sheldon Healthcare.

She was born Oct. 13, 1920, in London, Ky., the daughter of George and Etta Arthur Arnold. Lucille was married to LaVerne Miller from 1938 to 1963 and Maurice Cousin from 1964 to 1965. After they were married, she farmed with her husband in Limestone Township. She retired from General Foods, Gaines Division, and had previously worked at Bear Brand Hosiery, both in Kankakee.

She loved her children and their families more than anything else. She enjoyed traveling, whether to Europe, throughout the U.S., or on the roads around the Kankakee area. She was a great storyteller, providing facts and remembrances such as staying warm under a buffalo robe in the family’s open touring car and riding her horse to school along with her brother, Welty. The details she provided made her stories come alive to those who would sit and listen, learn and remember. A good joke and a hardy laugh were her trademarks.

A lifelong Cubs fan, she tried to attend at least one game a year in Chicago. She enjoyed going to the “boats” once gambling opened up in Illinois. And, she was an expert dancer who could keep up with the younger generations until her early 80s. Her hobbies included spending time with family, reading, crocheting, talking on the phone daily and doing word puzzles.

Surviving are sons, Richard Wayne (Barb) Miller, of Geneseo, Dennis Ray (Lynne) Miller, of Bradley; daughters, Phyllis Ann (Gary Billadeau) Redman, of Kankakee, Marilyn Rose Schultz, of Watseka, Marsha Lynn (Marlon) Gersky, of St. Petersburg, Fla.; sisters, Dora, Dorothy and Mardene Arnold, all of Watseka; brother-in-law, George Wingerter, of Martinton; best friend, Pearle Peterson, of Chicago Heights; and 22 grandchildren.

Lucille was preceded in death by her parents; one son, Vernon Luther “Bill” Miller, of Martinton; two brothers, Welty (Martha) and George “Berle” Arnold, of Kankakee; four sisters, Gertrude (Everett) Martin, of Pittsfield, Tevis Wingerter, of Martinton, Edith Palmero, of Kempton, and Velma Blanton, of Crete.

Visitation will be from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Clancy-Gernon-Hertz Funeral Home, west Kankakee, where funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Thursday. Burial will be in Kankakee Memorial Gardens, Aroma Township. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to The Arc of Iroquois County.

They just had to get that Cubs reference in there.

* My Great Aunt Mardine (Grandma’s sister) has Down Syndrome and has been in an Arc of Iroquois County CILA for the past few years. They make some really cool furniture, which you can check out by clicking here. Aunt Mardine loves the programs the organization provides. You can donate to The Arc of Iroquois County by clicking here. Thanks.

* Also, I’m leaving for the wake in a few minutes, so don’t expect any posts the rest of the day. Grandma’s funeral is at 10 o’clock tomorrow, so I doubt there will be any posts Thursday, either.

- Posted by Rich Miller   48 Comments      


Fun with numbers

Wednesday, Jun 4, 2014

* AP

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton says he’s “extremely disappointed” with the private company that runs the state lottery.

Cullerton says lawmakers believed a private firm would operate the lottery better than the state. He says financial reports indicate Northstar Lottery Group “is unable to live up to its commitments.”

Reports filed with the Lottery Control Board show Northstar is projected to be $716 million short of its $3.5 billion required sales target this fiscal year. The company must make “shortfall payments” to the state when it misses targets.

* But this is also a state failure. Scroll way down in this Tribune story and you’ll see this

The firm became the nation’s first private manager of a state lottery in 2010. The selection process itself was not without controversy, prompting a scathing report from the state auditor general, which highlighted some irregularities and questionable practices. In one instance, a member of the evaluation team chosen by the governor to review and recommend a winner reportedly read nearly 2,000 pages of bid proposals in a single day. […]

Shortly after the company took over the lottery in July 2011, it began requesting that the state lower the net revenue promises set forth in the contract.

And scroll even further and you’ll see this

In an appearance last month before the Lottery Control Board, Northstar CEO Timothy Simonson defended the company’s performance. He said the lottery has brought in an additional $450 million to fund education and capital improvements and such charitable causes as breast cancer research and veteran support programs.

The increase shows the firm has grown sales at a rate of 12 percent annually, compared with the 3 percent growth the lottery experienced under state control, Simonson said.

By the state’s own estimate, it would have taken a decade to reach the net revenue figures that Northstar achieved in the first year after taking over day-to-day operations of the lottery, he said.

This bid was goofy from the start. Northstar obviously over-promised and a cash-starved state fell for it hook, line and sinker. Northstar should be punished for its behavior, but spare me the outrage because there’s also no doubt whatsoever that moving to a private manager has considerably increased state revenues.

- Posted by Rich Miller   22 Comments      


Cross wants budget veto

Wednesday, Jun 4, 2014

* Rep. Tom Cross voted against the new state budget. Sen. Michael Frerichs voted for it. Cross is now trying to make this a campaign issue in the race for state treasurer. From a press release…

Illinois State Representative and candidate for Illinois State Treasurer Tom Cross today released a letter he sent to Governor Quinn urging him to veto the unbalanced budget approved by the Illinois General Assembly. Cross also informs Quinn that should the legislature’s budget become law, and should he be elected State Treasurer by the people of Illinois, his first official will be to challenge the legality of the budget by defending the state’s constitutional requirement for a balanced budget.

Excerpts from the Letter

“The General Assembly’s inability to honestly address the budget situation has led to the passage of an unbalanced and irresponsible budget that relies heavily on borrowing, one-time revenues and delaying the payment of bills. The budget approved by the General Assembly exacerbates Illinois’ worsening fiscal condition while increasing our state’s backlog of bills and creating a multi-billion dollar budget deficit for FY16.

“I strongly urge you to use the powers given to the Governor and reject the budget as passed by the General Assembly. Now more than ever, Illinois needs a responsible and honestly balanced budget. If this budget is signed into law and should I be so fortunate to be elected Illinois State Treasurer, my first act upon taking the oath of office will be to immediately seek to protect Illinois taxpayers by asking for the courts to declare the budget in violation of the state’s constitutional requirement of a balanced budget.”

* Meanwhile, Frerichs voted to expand the sales tax to services a few years back, and he’s talking about it again

Frerichs says he would work to create a more fair revenue stream… in part by pushing to expand the sales tax to include services, while lowering the overall rate to make it a more progressive tax.

* Frerichs’ campaign supporters basically say [changed because the campaign isn’t actually saying that, but some supporters are - I was moving too fast when I wrote it] three things…

1) Illinois is a “blue” state

2) Statewide Democrats who outspend Republican opponents never lose

3) Frerichs has outraised Cross and will outspend Cross

Except that ever since Cross voted against the state pension reform bill that he helped negotiate, there’s been rampant speculation that Cross essentially traded that vote for bigtime monetary support from Team Rauner.

- Posted by Rich Miller   25 Comments      


Today’s number: 0

Wednesday, Jun 4, 2014

* Bob Starks, a professor emeritus at Northeastern Illinois University….

I’ve been watching, with great interest, Bruce Rauner’s TV ads, and it certainly creates the impression that he places a high value on diversity. Several African-Americans, Latinos and women appear in the ads. […]

So I reviewed GTCR’s website, the private equity firm founded by Rauner in 1980, and from which he retired in 2012. By my count, of the 51 people on the GTCR staff website, http://www.gtcr.com/who-we-are/, I found:

    ▪ 0 African Americans
    ▪ 1 Latino
    ▪ 3 Asians
    ▪ 6 Women

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller   56 Comments      


Caption contest!

Wednesday, Jun 4, 2014

* Failed gubernatorial candidate Tio Hardiman has more delusions of grandeur…


- Posted by Rich Miller   36 Comments      


Smith “hounded for weeks” by federal mole

Wednesday, Jun 4, 2014

* Sun-Times

The pile of 70 crisp $100 bills had been neatly stacked into bundles.

“One, two, three, four, five — damn, stuck together, six, seven,” the federal mole counted out loud, as he handed over an alleged $7,000 bribe to state Rep. Derrick Smith, D-Chicago.

“You don’t want me to give you yours now?” Smith replied as they sat together in his parked car on a West Side street.

“I’ll get at you later,” the mole told him, splitting without taking his cut.

Played in court for jurors Tuesday, a devastating audio recording of that March 10, 2012, conversation could land Smith in prison.

* But Eric Zorn points to this Tribune excerpt

State Rep. Derrick Smith had been hounded for weeks by a campaign worker intent on bringing him a $7,000 bribe from a day care worker who needed a letter of support to win a state grant. In secretly recorded conversations, the campaign worker – a felon named Pete who was cooperating with the FBI – had asked Smith repeatedly when he was going to write the letter and how he wanted to receive his kickback. …The recordings depicted a frazzled Smith who was trying to win his first election since his appointment to the legislature a year earlier. Many of the conversations played out over the phone while Smith was either headed to or from Springfield. He expressed disappointment and mistrust of other campaign workers and also frustration over Pete’s continued push for the letter of support, even though he hadn’t given Smith the details about the project.

That story has since been rewritten and no longer appears on the website as it is above.

* But here is one excerpt from the re-written piece along those same lines

[FBI Special Agent Bryan Butler] also acknowledged that Pete didn’t always play by the rules. He used up to five different cell phones during the investigation despite the request by agents that he use only one. Pete also met with Smith without telling agents and many conversations went unrecorded, Butler said.

Besides capturing the alleged bribe in progress, the conversations that jurors have heard offer a glimpse into Smith’s campaign. In several calls, Smith expressed disappointment and mistrust of other campaign workers and worried about the correct strategy against his opponent, Tom Swiss, whom Smith described as “white and Republican.”

But by March, Smith seemed optimistic that his campaign had gained traction and he would prevail. But in other calls, he seemed frustrated over Pete’s continued push for the letter of support even though he hadn’t given Smith the details about the project.

“This stuff is serious,” Smith said in another conversation.

Later, Smith was given a draft letter that purportedly was from the day care operator but had actually been written by the FBI. Smith balked at the lack of detail in the draft and sent it back to Pete asking for it to be fleshed out. After a second try, the FBI got it right – Smith’s office sent an email back to the day care saying his signature would be on it soon.

* Zorn’s conclusion

I’m not a lawyer but I do know enough law to realize that the entrapment defense is usually a stretch. Even still, gee, from what I read it looks an awful lot like this informant hassled Smith until Smith yielded to the temptation of some easy “cheddar.”

Look, Smith probably deserves whatever he’s gonna get.

But Zorn does have a point. When is enough enough? Don’t the feds have more important things to do than repeatedly dangle cash in front of somebody over a period of several weeks until he finally takes the bait?

- Posted by Rich Miller   27 Comments      


Tribune: Meh

Wednesday, Jun 4, 2014

* Not surprisingly, considering the source, the Chicago Tribune editorial board rules that Bruce Rauner has plenty more time to talk about specifics

Quinn wants Rauner to issue an austere budget plan so Quinn’s plan isn’t the only politically perilous one on voters’ radar.

Rauner plainly sees no reason to oblige for now. He’s surely relishing last week’s projection by the political numbers geeks at FiveThirtyEight.com: Early polling suggests that Quinn has a 25 percent chance of winning — and a 75 percent chance of losing — on Nov. 4. Of all the states with elections for governor this year, only Pennsylvania now has a higher likelihood than Illinois of switching parties.

Rauner will have to get more specific about his spending priorities. Voters aren’t paying much attention in June to an election to be held in November. But come fall, if Rauner doesn’t get into the dirty details, he’s going to invite comparisons to 1968 and Richard Nixon’s so-called secret plan to get the nation out of the Vietnam War.

So, because Rauner has a good chance of winning and voters aren’t paying much attention yet, he doesn’t have to say what he’ll do if elected.

Check.

* But about that projection. Here’s what FiveThirtyEight.com recently published

Illinois’s Democratic governor, Pat Quinn, has trailed in nearly every single early poll against Republican businessman Bruce Rauner. This is one state where early polling may not be telling the whole story. Almost all the polls in Illinois have been conducted by automatic dialers that use a recorded message, which tend to overstate the GOP position (though the only live-interview poll we have also had Quinn down). Moreover, Quinn managed to win in 2010, despite trailing in most surveys during the campaign; it was probably the biggest general election polling blunder of the past six years.

The website back then had Quinn with almost no chance of winning because it made the very same mistake that many pollsters did. Instead of asking voters about all the candidates running, most pollsters cheaped out and just asked about Quinn and Bill Brady. But it turned out that third party candidate Scott Lee Cohen was taking more votes away from Brady than from Quinn. Garbage in, garbage out. The blunder wasn’t in the polls, per se, it was that the pollsters tried to short-cut the process and FiveThirtyEight failed to see what was going on. So, in the end, it was as much a blunder by the famed prognosticator and his computer program as it was by the pollsters. And now they’re trying to rewrite history.

Gov. Quinn has also been trying to rewrite history by repeated pointing to FiveThirtyEight’s horribly wrong prediction in 2010 as proof that he’ll be fine this year. But I wouldn’t be too sure of that if I were him. The website was wrong because the pollsters made a huge mistake and it didn’t catch that mistake, and still apparently doesn’t realize how badly it screwed up.

- Posted by Rich Miller   27 Comments      


Cubs, WGN Radio split after 90 years

Wednesday, Jun 4, 2014

* Cub games are moving to WBBM after appearing on WGN Radio since Calvin Coolidge was president

The move to CBS marks the end of a 90-year relationship with WGN-AM 720. The Tribune Co.-owned station reportedly was losing money on the broadcasts and chose to exercise an option to reopen its radio contract with the team last fall. Station executives cited low ratings after losing 197 games over the last two seasons as contributing to revenue declines.

The previous deal was valued at $10 million, according to earlier reports in the Tribune. WGN had the right to match the new CBS offer, but chose not to, according to sources.

* More on the ratings decline and WGN’s losses

WGN has faced cutbacks because of broad industry changes and fewer advertising dollars rolling in for poor Cubs baseball.

Advertisers typically pay for ads before a season starts based on the most recent ratings, but they can claim free air time when stations don’t live up to promised ratings. That has decimated WGN’s margins for airing Cubs games.

* Can Ricketts be more of a disaster as an owner? Well, yeah. Sam Zell was pretty darned awful, too

The deal made by former Tribune Co. chairman Sam Zell when he sold the Cubs to Tom Ricketts in 2009 has been a financial disaster for WGN, which has lost $6 million a year, according to some estimates. “The economics of the deal that we inherited did not make business sense,” [Jimmy deCastro, president and general manager of WGN] told me. […]

“The economic terms just don’t make sense for us,” deCastro said. “So it’s really not us saying we don’t want them anymore. It’s the Cubs saying that the economics they need are much greater than what we think they’re worth or what we’ll pay. They chose to go another way economically and made a decision to move on.”

* WGN TV is also dumping Cubs baseball from its national cable broadcast, so fans who’ve moved away will not be able to watch their team. And the fate of the Cubs on the local station is also up in the air

The Cubs last year opted out of their TV deal with the network, giving it a chance to either pay more for broadcasting rights beginning in 2015 than it currently does or lose the games to a rival network.

Those negotiations continue while the team shows few signs of promise on the field and while local TV ratings remain in a slump.

* Related…

* Wrigley rooftops go on offense, say Ricketts has ‘buyer’s remorse’

- Posted by Rich Miller   78 Comments      


Quinn: Rauner “too timid, too fearful” to lay out budget plan

Wednesday, Jun 4, 2014

* Gov. Pat Quinn in the Sun-Times

“I’m the only one running for governor who has a plan to invest in education,” Quinn said. “The other people have nothing. It’s a sham. I think it’s time we call those folks out.”

At the news conference at Jane Addams Elementary School, Quinn added: “The other person is too timid, too fearful to lay out a plan.”

Quinn said he and staff are still going through the budget lawmakers sent his office and promised that education for this fiscal year would not suffer.

That could not be promised in future years without the help of the extension of a temporary income tax hike, which Quinn unsuccessfully pushed in his budget proposal.

“Now to be honest, if we don’t have the resources, in future fiscal years, we’ll be in trouble,” Quinn said. “So it’s important we win this battle.”

* But

While Quinn criticized Rauner for failing to make his positions clear, the governor refused to say what he’d do with a bill that would put in place changes for portions of City Hall’s pension systems. The proposal is backed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who has said he would seek a property tax increase to pay for the extra $250 million the city would have to make in pension contributions over five years. […]

Quinn refused to say if he’d sign the city pension bill, which he must act on by Monday. He also declined to discuss whether the 911 fee measure could be a viable alternative to a property tax increase, therefore making him more inclined to sign off on the pension measure. […]

The governor also demurred on whether he’d sign the budget lawmakers sent him, which he has described as “incomplete.” Quinn said he’d have to review it carefully, but may consider making a few changes.

Thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller   64 Comments      


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