* Next week is the State of the State address and probably Senate votes on the chamber’s bipartisan “grand bargain” (click here for a late Friday afternoon update from the Daily Herald), so rest up, campers…
* Chicago City Treasurer Kurt Summers has floated his name for governor. Today, he lashed out at our new president by tying him to our governor…
Today, the 45th President of the United States of America was sworn in to office. I believe it is my responsibility as an elected official to respect the peaceful transition of power and do all that I can to ensure the success of the new administration. However, as Chicago City Treasurer and as a citizen, I cannot sit back and accept the behavior that has been demonstrated by President Trump and others like him, both during his campaign and leading up to today. Our city, state, and country cannot allow blatant racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination to be commonplace in our public discourse.
In Illinois, we have seen exactly what happens when our leaders prioritize divisive politics over people. Our Republican Governor Bruce Rauner, just like President Trump, wants to do away with the Affordable Care Act and leave roughly 18 million people without healthcare. Under Rauner, over one million people in Illinois have lost vital services because of the lack of a budget, and over 160,000 Illinois students have had to ask themselves if they can afford to go to college because their access to MAP grant funding has been eliminated. These partisan and political actions have placed our most underserved residents at risk, those who are working hard everyday in pursuit of the American Dream. We need leadership that focuses on a balanced budget, meaningful education funding reform and a jobs plan that works for all communities in Illinois, not just a select few. Simply stated, Illinois is no longer working for working people.
As a state and as a nation, we must unite in fighting against those who would promote hate and seek to marginalize our citizens who need us most. We must stand up to protect the important legacy of President Obama and the progress we have made as a nation over the last eight years.
One of the fundamental rights of every American is to live in a safe community. A Trump Administration will empower our law enforcement officers to do their jobs and keep our streets free of crime and violence. The Trump Administration will be a law and order administration. President Trump will honor our men and women in uniform and will support their mission of protecting the public. The dangerous anti-police atmosphere in America is wrong. The Trump Administration will end it.
The Trump Administration is committed to reducing violent crime. In 2015, homicides increased by 17% in America’s fifty largest cities. That’s the largest increase in 25 years. In our nation’s capital, killings have risen by 50 percent. There were thousands of shootings in Chicago last year alone.
Our country needs more law enforcement, more community engagement, and more effective policing.
Our job is not to make life more comfortable for the rioter, the looter, or the violent disrupter. Our job is to make life more comfortable for parents who want their kids to be able to walk the streets safely. Or the senior citizen waiting for a bus. Or the young child walking home from school.
Supporting law enforcement means supporting our citizens’ ability to protect themselves. We will uphold Americans’ Second Amendment rights at every level of our judicial system.
President Trump is committed to building a border wall to stop illegal immigration, to stop the gangs and the violence, and to stop the drugs from pouring into our communities. He is dedicated to enforcing our border laws, ending sanctuary cities, and stemming the tide of lawlessness associated with illegal immigration.
Supporting law enforcement also means deporting illegal aliens with violent criminal records who have remained within our borders.
It is the first duty of government to keep the innocent safe, and President Donald Trump will fight for the safety of every American, and especially those Americans who have not known safe neighborhoods for a very long time.
Though Chicago dwarfs New Orleans, Memphis and St. Louis in population and economic might, a weekend in any of those places drives home the missed opportunities back home. All three cities have museums dedicated to telling the music’s story; tours and branded districts where people can walk in the footsteps of legends; airports, parks and streets named in their honor, life-size statues for tourist selfies; and, of course, an abundance of live music clubs that all three cities actively help promote throughout the year.
Chicago’s failure to acknowledge seminal figures who were born or made their most influential recordings here—Muddy Waters, Curtis Mayfield, the Staple Singers, Jimmy Reed, Mahalia Jackson, Louis Armstrong, Chuck Berry, Sam Cooke, Thomas Dorsey and Benny Goodman—has become an opportunity elsewhere.
Memphis brands itself as “Home of the Blues and Birthplace of Rock ‘n’ Roll”; New Orleans claims native son Louis Armstrong with an airport and downtown park named in his honor though he made his most influential recordings in Chicago; and last year St. Louis opened the National Blues Museum, a $13 million, 23,000-square-foot institution revitalizing its downtown riverfront.
Chicago has none of that. No museum, no statues, no official tours, no markers of the vital clubs that existed on 43rd Street, 59th Street, Stony Island Avenue, West Madison Street, Roosevelt Road or Lake Street, most of which the city allowed to be razed; that includes the historic Maxwell Street Market, a fundamental endpoint for the Great Migration where musicians from the South gathered outdoors and the blues were inevitably electrified. Even the Muddy Waters home in Bronzeville is abandoned and in disrepair.
This city that boasts of a world-class image has failed to promote its best-known international attraction, says Janice Monti, a sociologist at Dominican University in River Forest who heads the school’s annual Blues & the Spirit Symposium. “European and Asian tourists come to Chicago, and the first thing they ask is where can they learn about the music, and they’re surprised there is no place to go,” she says. “We never seem to have the collective will to move any of this forward.”
Before it closed, I was a semi-regular at Lee’s Unleaded, one of, if not the last Chicago blues clubs to feature mostly black artists playing for a mostly black crowd. Man, that South Side place was something else. Interestingly enough, a lot of the musicians were from the West Side.
I went to the Underground Wonderbar for New Year’s Eve and had a blast. It’s got a very loyal (and integrated) customer base and never disappoints. They mix in some jazz, but it’s always hot. ADDING: I didn’t see this on the site when I got the link, but the Wonderbar is closing next month. This is a huge loss for Chicago. Ugh.
My brother Devin has played at Rosa’s Lounge, and I’ve seen plenty of good shows there. And there’s always Buddy Guy’s Legends and Kingston Mines, where you’ll see more tourists.
So, there are places to go, but everything is pretty spread out. The city would definitely benefit from a music district like they have in Memphis (and which, according to the above article, has helped spike tourism to a “$3.2 billion industry that attracts 11 million visitors a year and supports 20,000 jobs”). The mayor has spoken about it in the past, but he hasn’t yet made it happen.
The Illinois FILM Office today announced that Illinois’ film industry generated $499 million in estimated Illinois spending, a 51 percent increase over the same period last year. This adds to the 18 percent increase that was seen in 2015. The office worked with 345 television, commercial and film projects that generated 13,377 non-extra job hires over the course of 2016.
In addition, Chicago, Illinois was just named the #5 best place to live and work as a moviemaker in North America by MovieMaker Magazine. This is the third year in a row that Chicago has made the top-ten list.
“The film industry here in Illinois continues to grow stronger,” Illinois FILM Office Director Christine Dudley said. “Our focus on attracting innovative and diverse projects has led to an unprecedented half a billion dollars in qualified Illinois production spending. My hope is that we continue to build upon these last two years of success to show everyone that there is no better place to film than Illinois.”
A strong talent pool of cast and crew members, diverse shooting locations and a competitive incentive program attracted a wide variety of projects to film in Illinois in 2016. Primetime hits “Empire” (FOX), “Chicago Fire” “Chicago PD” and “Chicago Med” (NBC) returned to the lineup. NBC also green lit the pilot for the fourth installment in the Chicago franchise, “Chicago Justice.” The series was picked up for a full season which began production filming in September 2016. Online media services also increased their presence in Illinois with the production of original content episodic series: Easy (Netflix), Sensa 8 (Netflix) and Patriot (Amazon).
Illinois is the only state in the country to set a diversity standard for production hiring of women and minority crew members. This growing industry is a priority of the Rauner Administration, and by focusing on making it an inclusive and diverse industry, the Illinois FILM Office is creating opportunities for underrepresented groups in every corner of the state.
The Illinois FILM Office promotes Illinois as a location for film, television and advertising productions, providing assistance with everything from location scouting, hiring cast and crew to working with local unions and guilds. The Office also administers the state’s film tax credit, which has been integral in growing a competitive film industry in Illinois. The 30 percent tax credit is awarded to productions for money spent on Illinois goods and services, including wages paid to Illinois residents. The goal of the Tax Credit Act is to grow, sustain and provide economic and job opportunities for local vendors, crew and filmmakers.
Though the film office did not break down the $499 million by project, a majority of the spending came courtesy of NBC producer Dick Wolf. […]
The previous record was $358 million in 2013, according to the film office.
* As mentioned in the release, MovieMaker Magazine listed Chicago as 5th best spot to live and work in the business. The city placed behind New York and Vancouver (tied for 1st), Hollywood and Atlanta. From the magazine…
Illinois’ 30 percent tax credit has no cap and low minimum spends ($50,000 for shorts under 30 minutes, $100,000 for longer work). We particularly like Illinois’ requirement that production companies submit a plan to proactively hire diverse crew.
There’s room for improvement, of course, in “a state that flirts with bankruptcy at every turn,” notes Ray Pride, film critic for Chicago weekly Newcity. […]
Nicole Bernardi-Reis, executive director of IFP Chicago, agrees: “access to capital, decision makers—distributors, production companies, programmers, commissioning editors, etc.—and talent” can be a challenge. Yet “it has become a lot easier in the last few years,” she says, with “a number of incubator programs, angel investment groups and programs that give filmmakers the opportunity to pitch. IFP Chicago launched one last year that we’ll be expanding in 2017.”
The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) announced today that the unemployment rate in December inched up +0.1 percentage points to 5.7 percent and nonfarm payrolls decreased by -16,700 jobs over the month, based on preliminary data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and IDES. November job growth was revised down to show a decrease of -4,500 jobs rather than the preliminary figure of +1,700 jobs. The downward revision, coupled with the drop in December payrolls kept job growth well below the national average, with Illinois -52,500 jobs short of its peak employment level reached in September 2000.
“Nonfarm payrolls reflect the job market and this kind of drop is troubling, to say the least,” said IDES Director Jeff Mays. “It’s the largest monthly decline we’ve seen this year and the drop was across most sectors.”
“Another month of climbing unemployment numbers that are far from the national average,” said Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity Acting Director Sean McCarthy. “Illinois needs structural reforms and a balanced budget to attract new jobs and investment in our state. We cannot repair the damage of losing 11,000 manufacturing jobs, 9,700 construction jobs and 5,800 information and financial activities jobs over the course of just one year without real changes that create growth and opportunity in our economy.”
In December, the two industry sectors with the largest gains in employment were: Financial Activities (+1,600); and Information (+300). The three industry sectors with the largest declines in employment were: Education and Health Services (-5,400); Professional and Business Services (-3,600); and Construction (-3,200).
Over the year, nonfarm payroll employment increased by +28,400 jobs with the largest gains in two industry sectors: Professional and Business Services (+31,600); and Leisure and Hospitality (+11,900). Industry sectors with the largest over-the-year declines in December include: Manufacturing (-11,000), Construction (-9,700), Information (-2,900), and Financial Activities (-2,900). The +0.5 percent over-the-year gain in Illinois is less than the +1.5 percent gain posted by the nation in December.
The state’s unemployment rate is higher than the national unemployment rate reported for December 2016, which increased to 4.7 percent. The Illinois unemployment rate is down -0.4 percentage points from a year ago when it was 6.1 percent.
The number of unemployed workers increased +1.7 percent from the prior month to 374,500, down -6.5 percent over the same month for the prior year. The labor force was little changed over-the-month (-2,500) and grew by +0.3 percent in December over the prior year. The unemployment rate identifies those individuals who are out of work and are seeking employment. An individual who exhausts or is ineligible for benefits is still reflected in the unemployment rate if they actively seek work.
Secretary of State Jesse White has called for legislation that would allow advertisements to be printed on license plate renewal reminders.
His office is pursuing the advertisements in order to afford the cost of mailing them out. During the latter half of 2015, the renewal notices weren’t mailed due to the Secretary of State’s Office lacking the resources to do so.
SOS spokesman Dave Druker said that if the legislation gets passed, it would help the office avoid a similar dilemma.
“The state ran out of money without a budget in the fall of 2015, and we had to stop sending out the notices because we couldn’t afford it,” Druker said. “
* The Question: What advertisements do you predict will appear on license plate renewal reminders?
Kirk said he will “probably” be setting up a firm to do “strategic consulting” for large Illinois employers doing business in Washington and Beijing. He will travel to Beijing next month with other former senators on a Chinese government-sponsored trip. With Republicans in charge of the House, Senate and White House, GOP lobbyists and “strategic” consultants will be in demand.
Kirk remains outspoken. His gaffes got him in political trouble. Asked if he ever got a ride with Obama on Air Force One, Kirk said, “white Republicans really didn’t get to go on that kind of trip.”
His first client should be himself. Corporate types don’t usually dig public race jokes.
Duckworth was asked if she was concerned about Kirk setting up a consulting shop.
Duckworth, who moved up from the House, said, “I’ve always been worried about those things, and in fact, in the House Armed Services Committee I fought very hard to prevent retiring general officers from leaving the Pentagon and turning right around and coming back to be lobbyists on the Hill. . . . It’s why I voted against the waiver for General [James] Mattis, for example,” a reference to Trump’s pick for Defense secretary, who needs congressional approval for a waiver to be in the Cabinet because he has not been out of the military for the requisite seven years.
Should he reconsider? Said Duckworth, “I think Mark Kirk does want he wants to do.”
Though Gov. Bruce Rauner and state lawmakers acted to fully fund K-12 public schools despite the ongoing budget impasse, local district officials say it isn’t happening.
Each district is supposed to receive four quarterly categorical payments each fiscal year, in addition to general state aid, to help pay for transportation, special education and other expenses. Those categorical payments have been tied up for months, however, leaving districts to scramble to cover the shortfalls by moving money around, borrowing or looking to local property taxes. […]
While Illinois has been keeping up with its distribution of general state aid, which covers day-to-day operations for schools, categorical payments are sitting in a stack of unpaid bills at the state comptroller’s office that totaled nearly $10.9 billion at the end of December.
The final [GSA] payment for 2015-16 was received by most districts in December, six months past the usual deadline. So far, no categorical payments have been deposited for the 2016-17 school year.
The state owes Normal-based McLean County Unit 5 $6 million. Unit 5 Business Manager Marty Hickman said parts of his projected budget are “razor thin” or in the red, even with the assumption that some of the late payments will come through.
As far as the revenue package, the leaders said there’s still room for changes, but Cullerton ruled out an expansion of the sales tax base [to services] for the package. Both leaders also said they’re in support of taxing six-figure retirement incomes but said that measure would be hard to pass, Radogno saying politically, it’s a “third rail.” […]
And the leaders are playing coy about saying the income tax hike would be capped at 4.95 percent.
“We’re taking input,” Illinois Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno said when asked about a cap at a Sun-Times Editorial Board meeting on Thursday.
Illinois Senate President John Cullerton also refused to say whether the hike is set in stone.
“The principle here is we’d like it to be as low as possible. But the principle here is to make sure we have a balanced budget going forward for fiscal year 2018,” Cullerton said, adding he’s looking at a budget office analysis and is looking at its deficit and assumption of spending. “And we’re going to see where we are with our members on some of these other revenue provisions like the soda tax to see if we can get to the point where we have a sufficient amount of money to have cuts — but a balanced budget.”
* Sun-Times Editorial: Listen to Illinois Senate leaders and say uncle: If approved by the Senate, the budget package will move to the House, dropping right into Madigan’s lap. The Speaker might then face a defining choice: Get behind this effort or be shown up as a man who, as his critics like to say, cares about nothing but power. The grand bargain contains much that should appeal to Madigan, such as a hike in the minimum wage to $11 by 2021 and Chicago-friendly changes to how the state funds schools. But it includes a few victories for Rauner, as well, including term limits for legislative leaders, a property tax freeze and workers’ comp reforms.
* Senate leaders want to grab momentum for massive budget plan next week: Radogno said she did not consider the release of the spending estimates as Rauner trying to tamp down the Senate’s progress. “I will take the governor at his word, his public comments have been that he wants to see this process continue and see where we can get,” she said. “And those have been his public comments. Those have been his private comments to me. He has never said, ‘Don’t do this.’”
* Voice of the Southern: Thumbs down to the 550 days the state has been without a budget, and to Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Illinois General Assembly for failing to reach a budget agreement. Forging a budget is one of the basic job requirements of our elected officials. They simply won’t, or are unable, to do their jobs. Their inability to perform that basic task is hurting everyone in the state. People are leaving the State of Illinois. Those of us staying are seeing our parks crumble, our schools left without funding and our services wondering how to foot the bill. We bounce from crisis to crisis, day to day. In the meantime, bills and debt service is piling up. If the state were a business, it would have been forced to close its doors. It’s time to go to work. It’s time to get things done.
BREAKING: Senate Republican leadership is selling out Illinois taxpayers. Contact your state senator today and tell them to reject the proposal to hike your income taxes by more than 30%.
Contact your Senator now and tell them to vote “NO” on the income tax hike: http://illin.is/2iGZOb5 […]
We’ve now sent thousands of emails into state Senate offices. Tell your state Senator to reject the bogus deal that uses fake reform to mask a massive tax hike.
As of 9:47 this morning, the post had been shared almost 1,000 times.
* From the group’s Twitter feed…
It’s generous of the Illinois Senate to give homeowners two years to relocate to another state. #grandlarceny
Illinoisans don’t deserve the Senate’s terrible budget deal. They deserve structural spending, pension and economic reforms that finally bring an end to Illinois’ perpetual crises. If politicians would implement real reforms, such as 401(k)-style retirement plans, comprehensive property tax reform, a revamped workers’ compensation system, and changes in collective bargaining and Medicaid, they wouldn’t be burdening their constituents with multibillion-dollar tax hikes.
And all that will balance the budget… how?
I suppose they could kick people off of Medicaid to save some money, but even that wouldn’t be enough. Workers’ comp changes would save the state some cash, but not a huge amount. It could spur economic activity, but the governor’s own projection didn’t come up with huge amounts of state dough. 401(k)-style retirement plans won’t address the gigantic unfunded pension liability, which is what is really driving state outlays. Property tax reform won’t directly save the state cash. Paying poverty wages to state workers would save some dough, but not nearly enough.
It’s easy to kick and scream. It’s much, much harder to actually come up with a real solution.
* According to GOMB, we’ve got a projected base FY17 spending level of $39.7 billion if everything that isn’t on autopilot is appropriated and Chicago gets its pension parity payment. The projected revenue without a tax hike is $33.7 billion.
That’s a $6 billion hole and the fiscal year is more than half over.
Springfield’s budget stalemate may be claiming a major new victim: a generally well-received plan to expand capacity on the congested Stevenson Expressway (I-55) by adding two new toll lanes in its median strip.
Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration floated the plan more than a year ago and has had what it termed positive discussions with at least 18 construction groups interested in bidding to build and operate the toll lanes.
But the General Assembly has not given needed approval, and in an interview today, Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn said time is running out on the plan, which would add toll lanes on a 25-mile stretch between I-355 and the Dan Ryan Expressway.
“We are reaching the crunch point in this project,” Blankenhorn said. “If we wait much longer, it’s simply not going to happen.” […]
“We met with 17 builder groups in October, and this matter came up repeatedly in those conversations,” Blankenhorn said. The companies are worried about spending money amid “political risk.”
The holdup is Speaker Madigan, who apparently wants a more detailed plan even though five House committee hearings have been held on the project.
* According to this story by Debby Hernandez in the Southern Illinoisan, just seven legislators had opted out of the General Assembly’s pension plan in Fiscal Year 2012…
As of this week, 52 of the General Assembly’s 177 current members have opted out of the pension plan.
Meanwhile, each chamber will consider proposals in the new session to end pension benefits for future legislators.
A House bill would prohibit the retirement system from accepting future lawmakers beginning Jan 1. As part of its “grand bargain” budget package, the Senate proposes an overarching pension reform plan, including restricting the General Assembly plan from accepting any new participants after the legislation is enacted. […]
Of the 17 newly elected lawmakers this year, 12 have opted out, while five have yet to decide whether to accept legislative pensions. New lawmakers have up to two years to decide whether to participate.