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CTU says 95 percent voted to strike

Monday, Sep 26, 2016

* Tribune

Chicago Teachers Union members have approved a strike, the union said days before its leaders could set an actual walkout date.

The CTU did not disclose the total number of signatures collected after it spent three days distributing petitions to members last week.

Instead, the union announced Monday that about 90.6 of its members voted and that about 95 percent of those voters supported a strike.

State law requires at least 75 percent of CTU members authorize a strike.

* Sun-Times

“This should come as no surprise to the board, the mayor or parents because educators have been angry about the school-based cuts that have hurt special education students, reduced librarians, counselors, social workers and teachers’ aides, and eliminated thousands of teaching positions,” the union said in a press release.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comment      

Video gaming could be a huge revenue generator for state, Chicago

Monday, Sep 26, 2016

* The Southern

According to the Illinois Gaming Machine Operators Association, and reports from the Illinois Gaming Board, video gaming has generated about $785 million in state and local tax revenues since the first machines went live in September 2012.

In the beginning, there were only 13 establishments throughout the state with about 60 machines, and now there are more than 24,000 machines and more than 5,600 restaurants, bars, fraternal clubs and other businesses with liquor licenses.

The association says the state brings in more than $22 million a month in taxes from gaming that is meant to support capital infrastructure projects. […]

A study by the operator’s association found video gaming tax revenue could grow to about $500 million a year if the about 150 municipalities that don’t allow video gaming jump in the game. The association said that number doesn’t include the city of Chicago, which doesn’t allow video gaming. It says, with the largest city in Illinois, the numbers could reach $700 million a year.

So video gaming for Chicago would generate $200 million a year in tax revenues? And it would tend to benefit the city’s hundreds of small, family-owned taverns and restaurants instead of just a few rich folks if they put a big casino downtown?

Why not do both?

- Posted by Rich Miller   1 Comment      

Let’s tone it down a little

Monday, Sep 26, 2016

* Belleville News-Democrat

The Independent Maps initiative seems to be dead and buried, murdered by Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan and his four Democratic cohorts on the Illinois Supreme Court. There was an autopsy, but the results were withheld so that no one had a chance to learn anything from the death.

The gang of four that killed the will of 563,974 registered Illinois voters by tossing the Independent Map Amendment off the Nov. 8 ballot also refused to rehear the case. Their additional crime is their silence about why they refused to rehear the case.

A rehearing, or an opinion about why they refused a rehearing, would have been the four justices’ chance to explain themselves. They interpreted the Illinois Constitution very narrowly, saying that the petition for a maps amendment was not constitutional because it created duties for the state comptroller as well as made changes to state legislators’ powers and duties.

Under the justices’ interpretation, there are no conditions under which voters could petition to force lawmakers to give up the power of drawing their own districts. The justices had a duty to explain how a voter initiative ever could pass constitutional muster.

They met their duty with silence.

No hyperbole at all, though, which is nice.


* Let’s hope this isn’t related

A suspicious package found Sunday at the Illinois Supreme Court building did not contain explosives, officials said.

The package was found on the steps of the Court building, Second Street and Capitol Avenue. Around 6 p.m., police blocked Second Street in both directions, Capitol Avenue near the Third Street railroad underpass and Jackson Street. People were also not allowed on the grounds in front of the state Capitol along Second Street.

* From the Secretary of State’s office yesterday…

This evening a suspicious package was discovered on the steps of the Illinois State Supreme Court. The Secretary of State Hazardous Device Unit (HDU) responded. They took X-rays of the package, which were inconclusive for the presence of an explosive device. Subsequently, the package was remotely opened with an HDU robot confirming no explosives were inside the package. The area is now clear. The Secretary of State Police worked in conjunction with the Marshall’s Office of the Supreme Court.

* And in other news

A shooting in the loop, near Millennium Park, left a man in critical condition.

Police say the violent encounter stemmed from an altercation on Michigan Avenue, CBS 2’s Lauren Victory reports, and a witness says it was an argument about politics. […]

One witness said he saw the victim fall and it took a few minutes for him to understand what happened.

“There was a couple ladies, that I guess were with the gentleman that was shot, and they were hysterical. They said some guy on a bike shot him in the head twice and that he rode off. there was a political discussion going on,” Marques Wilson said.

The CBS 2 reporter told me that another witness mentioned a racial slur. The Chicago police initially believed the argument was about a woman.

…Adding… The victim has since died.

- Posted by Rich Miller   8 Comments      

Safe Roads backers begin TV blitz

Monday, Sep 26, 2016

* The News-Gazette rips into the transportation lockbox proposal

Our legislators, once again, have sold out the public interest to the highest bidder.

Much of Illinois state government has descended into a sham and farce, so it should be no surprise that legislators have put a constitutional amendment on the fall ballot that also is a sham and farce.

Readers, meet the “Safe Roads Constitutional Amendment” brought to you by cash-rich building contractors and labor unions who want state dollars set aside for their exclusive benefit at the expense of public schools, social service agencies, higher education, law enforcement and just about every other meaningful state program.

Of course, that’s not how the proposal is being sold. Selfish political insiders hope the proposal’s surface appeal will persuade voters to cut their own throats on Election Day.

They even throw in Speaker Madigan for maximum effect.

* Proponents are now airing TV ads. Press release…

Illinois voters have the chance to take back control in Springfield this November and provide more money for transportation needs without raising taxes, a new statewide TV ad campaign argues.

Citizen to Protect Transportation Funding – a coalition of business, labor and construction groups – today announced a $1 million ad buy for a 30-second spot titled “When,” as part of its aggressive statewide public education campaign for a constitutional amendment on the Nov. 8 ballot that will protect Illinois’ investment in its critical transportation infrastructure.

Featuring images of vehicles traveling over crumbling roadways filled with potholes and stark statistics about the high number of bridges and roads needing improvements in Illinois, the ad emphasizes that for too many years, Springfield politicians have shifted road funds to other expenses while the infrastructure decays – and the price to fix it climbs.

“Vote to require politicians to spend those transportation fees on transportation only. We can fix our roads without raising taxes. It’s not a matter of if disaster will strike, but when. Vote yes on the Safe Roads Amendment,” the ad’s narrator says, as a graphic on the screen says: Fix Roads. No New Taxes.

Lawmakers in the Illinois House and Senate in May approved House Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 36, which calls for Illinois to put transportation funding in a lockbox. A study by the advocacy group Transportation for Illinois Coalition, whose members are driving this ballot initiative campaign, found more than $6.8 billion in funds earmarked for transportation were swept out of the state’s Road Fund and used for non-transportation spending over more than a dozen years – including more than $500 million in transportation dollars just last year.

* The ad

* From the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform last week

The top donation this week went to Citizens to Protect Transportation Funding, the ballot initiative committee supporting a Constitutional Amendment to create a transportation lockbox on the November ballot. The committee received $975,000 yesterday from an organization called the Fight Back Fund. Another $25,000 donation from the group on September 20th led to a total of $1 million from the Fight Back Fund to Citizens to Protect Transportation Funding this week.

Little information is available on the Fight Back Fund. State Board of Elections data shows a political committee by the same name from East Moline that went inactive 10 years ago. However, there does not appear to be a connection between the two organizations. The Illinois Secretary of State’s Corporation database shows that the group is filed as a 501(c)4 or 501(c)6 nonprofit organization, and lists Marc R. Poulos of Joliet as its head. Poulos is the Executive Director of the Indiana-Illinois-Iowa Foundation for Fair Contracting and an advocate for the transportation lockbox amendment.

Unlike political committees, these types of nonprofits are not required to report their donors. Data from the Illinois State Board of Elections shows that yesterday’s $975,000 donation was the 7th largest individual donation of 2016. The other six donations were from SEIU, Governor Rauner, and GOP donors Richard Uihlein and Ken Griffin. 501(C)4 and 501(C)6 nonprofits like the Fight Back Fund are able to participate in political activity as long as it constitutes less than half of their overall activities. This organization alone accounts for 40% of Citizens to Protect Transportation Funding’s $2.5 million in cash on hand. ICPR is in the process of drafting and promoting legislation designed to bring transparency to this area of campaign finance.

Poulos is Local 150’s guy in Springfield.

- Posted by Rich Miller   4 Comments      

Kasper speaks

Monday, Sep 26, 2016

* Claire Bushey at Crain’s Chicago Business managed to convince Mike Kasper to consent to an interview. The whole thing is worth a read, but here’s his defense of his battle against remap reformers

Kasper’s opponents in the redistricting fight sought to take the process out of the sole control of legislators and spread the power among the state auditor general and members of the Supreme Court.

“I happen to believe in the apparently blasphemous proposition that people who draw maps ought to be accountable to the voters who have to live under them,” he says. “The process that we have today is a democratic one—democracy with a small ‘D.’ “

* And this is a good insight into how the game works

Election law doesn’t pay the bills for any political lawyer, Kasper included. After all, there are only two elections a year, notes Burt Odelson, a veteran in the field. The key is to leverage the relationships it builds into more lucrative work. The 21 attorneys at Odelson & Sterk in Evergreen Park represent 13 municipalities, 11 school districts and a couple of park districts, winning the work “on the back of election law as an ‘in,’ getting into these towns.”

“I can take a pretty darn good guess that (Kasper) makes almost no money in election law, same as me,” Odelson says. “If I can get a few bucks for doing petitions, OK. But if it could lead to a potential big client, then I usually donate my services, just like Mike.”

Fletcher O’Brien Kasper & Nottage boasts big-name lobbying clients, including Uber, Airbnb, Advocate Health Care, Arlington Park racetrack and the Wrigleyville rooftops that overlook Wrigley Field. Public records show Kasper handled $5.1 million in contracts to lobby the city in the last four years. He declines to provide the firm’s total annual revenue.

Interesting that Odelson would freely admit to using campaign legal work as leverage to obtain government work. But that’s how it goes here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   5 Comments      

The transformation is almost complete

Monday, Sep 26, 2016

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

Since his inauguration, Gov. Bruce Rauner has consciously aped Washington, D.C.’s notoriously noxious battle to “win” the daily media spin cycle. The Republican has a set base of talking points based on tried and true poll-tested topics, and he rarely if ever deviates.

While Chicago suffered through its most violent summer in decades, the governor routinely focused his public comments on term limits - a not so subtle dig at the horribly unpopular Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s decades-long tenure, but an issue without hope of passage and irrelevant to some very serious and immediate crises, like the one pummeling our state’s largest city.

More bad economic or fiscal news? Rauner reliably trots out a vague promise of “reforms”— swearing that the Democratic leaders have promised to take them up just as soon as the campaign is over, even though his reforms would mean eviscerating the Democrats’ chief political allies (labor unions and trial lawyers) and Senate President John Cullerton has denied any such offer was ever made.

The nuclear dumpster fire that is the presidential campaign? The governor says he is simply too focused on reforming Illinois to care, or even to share who he might be voting for.

And now one of Rauner’s closest allies, the far right Illinois Policy Institute, is producing a campaign-style “documentary” about Madigan, just like similar dark money groups in D.C. have been nauseatingly churning out for years.

It’s no surprise that this movie fits in neatly with Rauner’s entire campaign strategy. Since early June, the Republicans have aired millions of dollars’ worth of television and radio ads and sent out countless mailers all designed to tie Democratic legislators and candidates to Madigan. Almost every dime of their funding for those attacks has come from Gov. Rauner (and yet, Rauner has repeatedly insisted that he’s not involved, other than to write a few checks).

It’s all one big thing. All Madigan, all the time.

And while Gov. Rauner has brought Washington’s never-ending campaign to Illinois’ executive branch, he also has a similarly tiny list of accomplishments to show for it. His administration has so far been little more than a frantic exercise in treading water until his chief nemesis can finally be vanquished, or at least brought to heel.

But this isn’t a completely new development. We’re already familiar with some of this in Illinois.

Speaker Madigan has been doing something similar for years, albeit on a much smaller, less obviously dramatic, less technologically advanced and less expensive scale.

His House chamber’s agenda is almost entirely organized around making sure that Madigan gets his more vulnerable incumbents reelected. And those vulnerable members are advised to take whatever positions are necessary to win reelection (including fanning the already intense flames of hate against Madigan’s home town of Chicago). There was a time when Madigan had a specific “theme” for each legislative week, only voting on bills that matched the weekly issue. He even at one point tried his hand at (ahem) publishing a Statehouse newsletter.

Madigan has refused to discuss any significant deal on the governor’s Turnaround Agenda, sticking closely to his talking points that Rauner is “operating in the extreme,” even though Madigan has often supported legislation in the past that unions didn’t love.

Madigan won’t budge this time because Rauner’s overt hostility has sent all those unions running to the speaker with wide open checkbooks and huge lists of precinct workers. There’s simply no political advantage to compromise, unless Rauner’s gamble pays off and he successfully makes Madigan the big issue of the year and Madigan loses a bunch of seats.

Otherwise, we may not see a deal during the “lame duck” session after the election and the impasse will likely drag on. If there is no progress, Rauner will undoubtedly make his entire 2018 reelection campaign about Madigan. But next time, it won’t be a few tens of millions of dollars like this year. It’ll be real money. Maybe $100 million.

And, unless Hillary Clinton manages to lose the presidential race, the governor’s reelection campaign will occur during yet another Democratic midterm election, which will make it that much easier to get his anti-Madigan message through to voters. (One of Rauner’s many valid and understandable reasons for refusing to give any overt public aid or comfort to Trump is that a Trump win would devastate Rauner’s reelection chances.)

This battered, much-maligned state shouldn’t have to endure this agony, but here we are, like it or not.


- Posted by Rich Miller   6 Comments      

Caps off in comptroller’s race

Monday, Sep 26, 2016

* Scott Kennedy…

* Mendoza campaign…

“By loaning herself $260,000, Leslie Munger has now broken the campaign finance limits and now can take unlimited money from Governor Rauner, either directly from him or laundered through the Republican Party that he bought with over $20 million in personal contributions. Either way, Leslie Munger will continue to be a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Governor, not the independent financial watchdog Illinois desperately needs.

This is unprecedented — no comptroller in Illinois history has broken the limits and accepted potentially massive contributions from the very officeholder she is supposed to watch over. Judy Barr Topinka didn’t do it. Shelia Simon didn’t do it. Even by Illinois standards, this is beyond the pale.”

* More

The individual contribution limit in Illinois is $5,400. It’s $10,800 for a corporation or labor group and $53,900 from a political committee. Under state election law, dollar limits for state office seekers is lifted for all candidates in the race if one of them accepts a contribution of $250,000 or more. Rauner himself blew the caps in his successful bid for governor, ultimately spending the bulk of his $60 million campaign become the first Republican governor in Illinois in a dozen years. […]

“Susana Mendoza has proven herself to Speaker Madigan by delivering ten years of votes for his unbalanced budgets, tax increases and pension holidays. In return, he has ensured she has the special interest resources she needs for her campaign,” the Munger campaign said in a statement. “With this contribution, Comptroller Munger is balancing the playing field and demonstrating her complete commitment to standing up for Illinois taxpayers.”

At the end of the second quarter of fund-raising, Munger, a Republican, closed out her campaign account with just about the size of her loan — $281,600 in all. Mendoza ended that same period with $1.13 million.

- Posted by Rich Miller   9 Comments      

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* CTU says 95 percent voted to strike
* Video gaming could be a huge revenue generator for state, Chicago
* Let's tone it down a little
* Safe Roads backers begin TV blitz
* Kasper speaks
* The transformation is almost complete
* Caps off in comptroller's race
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