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Question of the day

Tuesday, Jul 16, 2019

* From the Boycott Du Quoin State Fair Facebook page

Family legend has it that one of my ancestors was deployed to southern Illinois during the Civil War to put down a Copperhead rebellion. The Copperheads were so vicious that the Illinois governor called out the militia during a state constitutional convention over fears that they might try to seize control of the government.

The QAnon types are also posting on the page, as well as your run of the mill racists, and more than a smattering of separatists. A few folks who’ve spoken up against the hate on the Facebook page were shouted down.

There are now 5,488 members of the group, including former state Sen. Sam McCann.

* From a Southern Illinoisan editorial

[A boycott] would only be cutting off the region’s nose to spite its own face, seeing as we really wouldn’t be helped any to lose the economic boost the fair brings here annually. (And we can’t help but fear poor fair attendance this year could give the state reason to disinvest in it.)

* The Question: Should the state stop funding the Du Quoin State Fair next year? Make sure to explain your answer in comments.

- Posted by Rich Miller   90 Comments      


Belated Willie Wilson fact check

Tuesday, Jul 16, 2019

* From June 7th

Businessman and former candidate for Chicago mayor Willie Wilson said he’d like to talk to Governor Pritzker about the new state budget.

Willie Wilson said the increases in the gas tax and license plate fees in the new state budget hurt poor and middle class voters. He said he would like to talk to Governor Pritzker about creating a state budget that takes some of the pressure off of the working class. But right now, he said, his calls are going unanswered.

“Governor, I have sent you three or four emails, I’ve sent you a letter, I’ve called you two or three times. Your people have not responded back to me,” Wilson said.

I sent a FOIA request to the governor’s office that very day asking for any “e-mails, letters and phone log records from Willie Wilson to the governor and/or employees of the governor’s office since April 1, 2019.” The governor’s FOIA person eventually responded that she needed additional time to check the records.

For some reason, I remembered my FOIA request yesterday and fired off an email to the governor’s office asking what the heck ever happened to their response.

* Turns out, they sent it to me on June 25th and I didn’t notice it. Oops. I was in Chicago that day for the cannabis bill signing, which may have been why I didn’t see it

Re: FOIA Request # 2019-152
Dear Mr. Miller:
June 25, 2019

This letter is in response to your Illinois Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request received on June 11, 2019 seeking: “e-mails, letters and phone log records from Willie Wilson to the governor and/or employees of the governor’s office since April 1, 2019.”

The Governor’s Office conducted a search and found no records responsive to your request.

So, apparently, Mr. Wilson wasn’t telling the truth. No surprise and it means little now because so much time has passed, but I’ll remember that the next time he makes a similar claim.

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      


Whistleblower strongly disagrees with IG findings

Tuesday, Jul 16, 2019

* Tribune

A Cook County watchdog’s investigation concluded Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations against her former chief of staff was “reasonable,” but said the county needs to come up with a better way to consider complaints of improper behavior by employees when they’re off the clock.

In a summary released Monday, Inspector General Patrick Blanchard noted that the woman who accused then-Preckwinkle chief of staff John Keller of inappropriately touching her in 2016 initially was unwilling to come forward. When the woman decided to do so months later as Preckwinkle geared up to run for mayor, Preckwinkle looked into the woman’s account and took action, Blanchard added.

The woman’s “hesitancy to come forward was reasonable,” Blanchard wrote. “The president’s assertion that she would not take action against an employee based on unsubstantiated rumor is also reasonable.”

Blanchard went on to note a lack of clarity about how to handle allegations relating to county employees’ behavior outside work that could “bring disrepute on the county.” He recommended the process for such cases “be clarified so to eliminate any confusion surrounding whether a report can be filed under these circumstances and how to do so.”

A Preckwinkle spokeswoman said the office recently received the recommendations and have “taken them under advisement.” Stephanie Henson also said the county is putting in place recommendations from an anti-harassment panel Preckwinkle formed in the wake of the Keller firing.

The full report is here. The IG claimed the investigation turned up no “culture of sexual harassment or discrimination.”

* Our old friend Emily Miller helped bring this case to light and she sent out a statement yesterday…

I understand the desire to believe that the culture of sexual harassment and discrimination are pervasive everywhere other than in Cook County government, and it would be nice if that were true.

Based on my personal experience and the experiences shared with me by other women who I believe, I disagree with the finding that there is no pervasive culture of sexual harassment in Cook County government.

Unfortunately, women will continue to miss out on opportunities for professional advancement because of the culture of sexual harassment. The fact is that I could not consider accepting a position in Cook County government because it would have been dangerous for me to work for a man that assaulted my friend and harassed other women I know. If that’s not indicative of a culture of sexual harassment, we need a new measuring stick.

I look forward to the day when the process works for women and whistleblowers and will continue advocating for culture shifts. This finding is not a setback—it’s a spotlight on the work that lies ahead, and I’m ready for it.

- Posted by Rich Miller   9 Comments      


Separated at birth?

Tuesday, Jul 16, 2019

* Deputy Gov. Dan Hynes speaking at the eighth annual Brookings Municipal Finance Conference Monday night

* House Speaker Michael Madigan’s spokesman Steve Brown…

- Posted by Rich Miller   31 Comments      


Fun with numbers

Tuesday, Jul 16, 2019

* Illinois Policy Institute’s Austin Berg

Illinois motorists over Independence Day weekend were greeted with higher prices at the pump.

The driving cause? Illinois’ gas tax, which doubled overnight, making Illinoisans subject to the highest state and local gas tax burden in the Midwest. This will cost the average driver around $100 more per year. […]

Rush University Medical Center, part of a private health system with annual revenues of $2.4 billion, will receive a $14 million grant from Illinois taxpayers.

The state will send $50 million in capital plan grants to parks and recreational units for improvements, such as pickleball courts. The Chicago Park District will receive $15 million for a new field house at Jackie Robinson Park.

Taxpayers will float $5 million to Northwestern University to purchase new science equipment. The private university boasts an endowment of $11 billion.

Those are vertical projects and therefore not funded by the Motor Fuel Tax increase.

- Posted by Rich Miller   36 Comments      


Madigan has spent $1.2 million on legal fees since fall 2017

Tuesday, Jul 16, 2019

* A couple of civil suits, a sexual harassment case and a possible federal investigation can do this to you

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s principal political committee has spend a whopping $1.2 million in legal bills since fall 2017, according to state campaign finance reports.

The majority of those costs was paid to Chicago law firm Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP. The most recent quarterly financial report, filed on July 15, showed Madigan’s political committee paid that firm $140,564 for “legal fees.”

In total, Friends of Madigan paid $284,260 in legal fees between April 1, 2019, through June 30, 2019.

The actual number appears to be $1.183 million.

By comparison, a Board of Elections search found that Madigan’s personal committee reported spending no money on legal fees between 1/1/2016 and 7/1/2017. He’s spent $1.3 million on legal fees and services since December of 2002.

* Related…

* Chicago Ald. Marty Quinn says federal investigators have not contacted him, despite raid of brother’s home: ‘I know what you know’

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      


You just cannot argue with some people

Tuesday, Jul 16, 2019

* From an email…

Wait until rank and file state union members realize the new fair tax vote in Nov 2020 will also allow the state legislature to change pension details at will. ASCME leadership is very quiet on this topic so far. Now that will be fun to see hard core Democrat State workers standing with anti tax increase Republicans. Heck, that vote might even put Illinois in play for Trump. It will be like the anti gay marriage ballot feature that Karl Rove used to win six borderline states for Bush against Kerry. Illinois State Republicans will look like geniuses because Democrats are just too inept to get out of their own way. Same problem at the national level. Trump can’t losel because he is up against termites.

Um, what? The graduated income tax proposal has nothing to do with changing the constitutional protections of government pensions.

* I asked if he was insane. His reply…

So you claim the Fair Tax bill does not open the Pension System up for adjustment or you are just too lazy to research it? I’m a ASCME steward and we are starting our plan to protect our pensions from the ground up since leadership seems to be in denial. Trying to educate Media these days against their myopic, biased worldview is always eye opening but never a surprise. Have a nice pointless career.

Anyone who claims to be a shop steward and misspells AFSCME should not call anyone else lazy, particularly since they’re dead wrong about the graduated tax proposal and the pension system. I mean, click here and read it yourself. It ain’t in there.

* I reached out to AFSCME Council 31 for assistance and received this reply from Anders Lindall…

It’s understandable that years of attacks on pensions by powerful political forces have raised the level of concern and vigilance among public service workers and retirees who rely on that modest income in retirement. Even so, this is obviously a very confused person. The fair tax constitutional amendment has nothing to do with pensions and in no way affects any constitutional provision other than fixing the state’s unfair, outdated and inadequate income tax structure.

Union members and every Illinois voter should know, plain and simple, that voting YES for fair tax reform means that 97% of taxpayers will pay less or the same, rich people will pay their share and the state will raise more than $3 billion a year for schools, public services and to pay its past-due bills.

We’ll continue to educate union members on the need for fair tax reform like more than 30 other states and the federal government, where wealthy people pay a higher rate and working people a lower rate. And we’ll continue to correct any misinformation that may arise, making clear that this amendment has nothing to do with pensions or any other issue.

* I forwarded that to my pen pal and he replied this morning…

First, thank you for your efforts here. Secondly, any Constitutional language adjustment that allows a more direct change to taxing Illinois wage earners does indeed put everything on the table. It may be a 1% vale added tax for bailing out pension, it could also be rate changes at any level of the wage scale. What this bill does is open the process protected by the existing Illinois Constitution. In a more competent or less corrupt institution maybe we could roll the dice. In Illinois? No. Maybe you have witnessed something different than most witnesses to our finances since 1980? May I suggest a subscription to Crain’s Chicago Business to begin your recovery from Springfield gullibility. I have worked in Springfield handing envelopes to these dedicated drones. One who voted present and later moved into much larger job. The change in language in this bill does indeed open the options for future bodies and selected tax targets. For this staff member to state otherwise indicts him as either incompetent or a liar. Have him stand up and be identified as such. He has company down there.

#Facepalm

- Posted by Rich Miller   90 Comments      


*** UPDATED x7 *** $170K Goodwill director lays off low wage workers citing minimum wage law that doesn’t apply, but son makes $96K

Tuesday, Jul 16, 2019

* Mark Maxwell

An iconic nonprofit thrift store is crying poor in the face of looming payroll increases, and it is announcing plans to layoff disabled employees in order to take on the extra cost.

However, the 501(c)(3) organization pays no taxes, collects state funding, was awarded state contracts, and has special permission from the federal government to pay disabled workers well below the minimum wage floor.

Sharon Durbin, President and Chief Executive Officer at Land of Lincoln Goodwill, told dozens of disabled thrift store workers they would no longer receive a paycheck as a result of the state’s new minimum wage increase, and she warns future job cuts could still be coming to the last 11 remaining disabled employees still on the payroll.

Durbin runs the Central Illinois nonprofit branch that oversees 15 retail locations and more than 450 total employees. She wrote about “upcoming changes to the Vocational Rehabilitation Program” in a letter dated June 14th. Her letter said the program “is funded through the Illinois Department of Human Services,” but the funding “does not cover all of the significant costs of the program.”

The abrupt shift not only comes as disappointing news to dozens of disabled workers in the area, including some who live in group homes without their parents, but it also threatens to weaken the core promise of Goodwill’s mission statement. […]

Durbin’s son, Brian Durbin, was hired onto the Executive Leadership team and makes an annual salary of $95,747 at the nonprofit. […]

Durbin acknowledged that her group already pays the sub-minimum rate for 27 of 50 disabled workers, however, inexplicably, she says the nonprofit is “progressing away from that.” The federal formula requires employers to pay disabled workers based on a productivity scale at a rate commensurate with the work they complete. […]

The organization’s 990 tax documents from 2018 reveal Durbin takes home an annual salary of $164,849 plus another $6,145 in benefits.

Go read the whole thing.

*** UPDATE 1 *** Looks like a deputy governor and a powerful state Senator are quite displeased…



*** UPDATE 2 *** Another legislator…



Senate Majority Leader…



*** UPDATE 3 *** Ruh-roh…


*** UPDATE 4 *** This info was also posted in comments earlier today…



*** UPDATE 5 *** I followed up and was told that a committee hearing “is something we are currently reviewing”…

News that Land of Lincoln Goodwill in Springfield is laying off dozens of workers with disabilities without a valid explanation is drawing concern from State Senator Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield).

“It is disheartening that Goodwill would use false excuses to terminate the employment of reliable, hardworking staff with disabilities in Illinois,” Morrison said.

Morrison – who is chair of the Senate Human Services Committee and founder of the Special Needs Caucus – passed a series of measures this year aimed at increasing state employment of individuals with disabilities, all aimed at breaking down the barriers to employment.

Sharon Durbin, the President and Chief Executive Officer at Land of Lincoln Goodwill in Springfield, communicated to laid off employees the reason for their job loss was due to the state’s recent enactment of a minimum wage increase. Because they hire workers with disabilities, however, Goodwill is permitted by the U.S. Department of Labor to pay these workers below the minimum wage. In addition, the first increase in Illinois’ minimum wage will not take effect until January 1, 2020.

According to a recent WCIA report, Sharon Durbin’s salary at Land of Lincoln Goodwill is more than $160,000.

In 2018, Goodwill received nearly $400,000 in state grants and contracts solely to be used for workers with disabilities.

“What are these contracts going toward if not for the employment of individuals with disabilities?” Morrison said. “That is something we will be looking into. We need Goodwill to return to its mission of working to lift up those experiencing barriers to employment, especially those with disabilities.”

*** UPDATE 6 *** WMAY’s Jim Leach

This afternoon on the show: we were scheduled to talk to the CEO of the local Goodwill as a firestorm erupts about their decision to cut jobs for disabled people, but we were told moments ago that she’s now unavailable.

*** UPDATE 7 *** From Kathy Carmody, CEO of the Institute on Public Policy for People with Disabilities…

Community agencies across Illinois that support people with disabilities have had to work vigorously to develop creative and mission-driven solutions to the challenges we face in providing quality and essential services. While the pending long-overdue increase in minimum wage will have a significant fiscal impact on all social service organizations, directly impacting the very people we exist to serve should be the last place an organization goes to balance its ledger.

- Posted by Rich Miller   102 Comments      


Chance the Snapper in custody

Tuesday, Jul 16, 2019

* Always hire a professional…

CITY OFFICIALS TO PROVIDE DETAILS ON THE HUMANE CAPTURE OF THE ALLIGATOR IN HUMBOLDT PARK TODAY AT 10:00 A.M.

WHO: Leadership from Chicago Animal Care and Control, and the Chicago Park District

WHAT: Officials will provide details about the safe and humane capture overnight of the alligator spotted in the Humboldt Park Lagoon last week.

WHERE: HUMBOLDT PARK BOATHOUSE, 1301 N. Humboldt Blvd. Chicago

WHEN: TODAY, 10:00 a.m.

WHY: The Humboldt Park alligator has captured the imaginations of the entire City of Chicago and beyond and has united residents who have been following this story for the last week. The City’s top priority has been to keep residents and park patrons safe while facilitating the safe and humane capture of the alligator. Officials will inform residents about the plan that led to his successful capture and the next steps for him.

The alligator will be in attendance.

Kind Regards,

Jenny Schlueter
Assistant to the Director
Chicago Animal Care and Control

* I thought he’d be bigger…

…Adding… Florida man…



- Posted by Rich Miller   56 Comments      


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Tuesday, Jul 16, 2019

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Tuesday, Jul 16, 2019

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PREVIOUS POSTS »
* Question of the day
* Belated Willie Wilson fact check
* Whistleblower strongly disagrees with IG findings
* Separated at birth?
* Fun with numbers
* Madigan has spent $1.2 million on legal fees since fall 2017
* You just cannot argue with some people
* *** UPDATED x7 *** $170K Goodwill director lays off low wage workers citing minimum wage law that doesn't apply, but son makes $96K
* Chance the Snapper in custody
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today's edition of Capitol Fax (use all CAPS in password)
* *** LIVE COVERAGE ***
* Yesterday's stories

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