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Governor’s office staff member tested positive, had no close contact with Pritzker

Monday, Apr 12, 2021

* Jordan Abudayyeh…


During routine COVID testing today a member of the Governor’s Office staff tested positive for COVID-19.

    This employee was NOT in close contact with the Governor today or in previous days.
    All staff members identified as a close contact will follow CDC protocol for quarantine.
    The positive employee had recently received their first dose of vaccine.

The Governor’s Office continues to follow COVID-19 safety protocols including testing staff multiple times per week, weekly deep cleaning procedures, mask wearing, social distancing, and limiting the number of staff reporting to the office for in person work.


- Posted by Rich Miller   2 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 *** Republicans want to hear Pritzker’s remap thoughts while Democrats push back against GOP plans

Monday, Apr 12, 2021

* The governor has been quite silent and the Republicans want to hear his thoughts…

Representative Elizabeth Hernandez
Chair, House Redistricting Committee
109 Capitol Building
Springfield, IL 62706

Senator Omar Aquino
Chair, Senate Redistricting Committee
627 Capitol Building
Springfield, IL 62706

Dear Chairs Hernandez and Aquino:

Comments from Members of the Democratic party during hearings on the 2021 redistricting process lead us to believe that the majority fully plans to enact new maps for both the Legislature and U.S. House of Representatives through a process that includes Governor Pritzker signing legislation by June 30, 2021.

To date, not a single House or Senate hearing has included testimony from the Governor or anyone representing his office.

We request the Governor, or a high-level member of his office, testify at our only scheduled joint House-Senate hearing on Monday, April 19, 2021, 5:00 p.m. in East St. Louis.
In March of 2018, then-candidate JB Pritzker said that without a constitutionally-implemented independent commission, “I would urge Democrats and Republicans to agree to an independent commission to handle creating a new legislative map”.

On January 30, 2020, Governor Pritzker stated “we should have compact, contiguous districts as best we can.” Additionally, the Governor added “I am going to veto any unfair map that gets presented to me.”

On January 5, 2021, the spokesperson for the Governor reiterated the position by saying the Governor “has been clear he will veto a partisan map.”

Given the Governor’s numerous stated positions in favor of fair mapping, as well as a commission process for redistricting, it is vital that both the people of Illinois and our Committees hear directly from the Governor in a public hearing as to his views and plans for redistricting.

We ask that you immediately invite and confirm the Governor’s presence at the April 19 hearing so plans can be made accordingly.


Senator Jason Barickman
Spokesman, Senate Redistricting Committee

Representative Tim Butler
Spokesman, House Redistricting Committee

Frankly, I wouldn’t mind seeing that, either. I’ve asked Pritzker’s office for comment.

*** UPDATE *** Jordan Abudayyeh…

As the Governor has said, he believes legislative maps should reflect Illinois’ gender, racial, and geographic diversity, along with preserving the Voting Rights Act decisions that help ensure racial and language minorities are fully represented in the electoral process.

* Meanwhile, I went over this topic with subscribers earlier today…

The statement below can be attributed to Sen. Omar Aquino, D-Chicago, Chair of the Senate Redistricting Committee, and Sen. Elgie Sims, D-Chicago, Vice Chair of the Senate Redistricting Committee:

“As Republicans nationwide seek to silence Black and Brown communities, Democrats in Illinois remain committed to the creation of a fair map that reflects the great diversity of our state. We have invited communities of interest across Illinois to participate in this process, including establishing an online portal that allows anyone to draw and submit their own proposed maps. Meanwhile, Republicans are presenting the public with a false choice by promoting legislation that is legally unsound. They know a bill cannot supersede the Illinois Constitution, which requires the General Assembly to undertake the redistricting process every ten years. Democrats are focused on inclusion, not legally questionable distractions.”

* Related…

* Tom Kacich: Will Illinois Democrats opt for inferior data in map-making?

* Aurora hearing gives residents chance to speak out on redistricting

* Who Draws The Line? - Northern Illinois Residents Discuss Redistricting During Recent Hearing

* Elected officials, witnesses debate best ways to redraw legislative districts at CLC hearing

- Posted by Rich Miller   15 Comments      

An unintended, but likely forseeable consequence of over-cautious policies

Monday, Apr 12, 2021

* Chicago never opted in to legalized video gaming, so those gray-market sweepstakes games have popped up all over. The same sort of thing is now happening with the slow rollout of cannabis dispensaries and on-site consumption

A growing number of Chicago businesses are now exploiting a loophole in federal law that appears to allow the unfettered sale of a trendy hemp byproduct called Delta-8-THC, which has commonly been described as “marijuana-lite” or “diet weed.”

Retailers across the city have started selling a variety of Delta-8 products in settings that resemble licensed cannabis dispensaries but aren’t subject to the same stiff regulations. Many sell everything from edibles to vaping cartridges, as well as smokable hemp flower sprayed with Delta-8 extract.

Some places are dosing food and drinks with Delta-8 and allowing customers to consume it on site. That flies in the face of a hard-fought provision in the state’s marijuana legalization law that tightly regulates on-site consumption, which isn’t allowed in Chicago yet. […]

Pam Althoff, a former state senator who now serves as the association’s executive director, said Delta-8 sellers are increasingly cropping up in “cannabis deserts,” where licensed pot shops haven’t opened.

* Related…

…Adding… This could turn into whack-a-mole, but we’ll see…

Rich -

Saw your “An unintended…” post. Wanted to flag that my legislation (expecting it to be voted out of the House this week, bipartisan support and supported by the IL Department of Agriculture and IDPH) would provide regulatory authority for the first time to the Illinois Department of Agriculture to oversee and regulate CBD and Delta 8 products.

Happy to provide further explanation/comment as well.

Bob Morgan
IL State Representative (58th Dist.)

- Posted by Rich Miller   9 Comments      

COVID-19 roundup: Lawsuit filed over LaSalle Veterans’ Home death; IDOC resuming in-person visitation; Hotel revenues plunged 80 percent

Monday, Apr 12, 2021

* Press release…

Attorneys today filed suit on behalf of the family of 90-year-old Richard Cieski, Sr., a Korean War veteran who died in November 2020 following exposure to the novel coronavirus at the LaSalle Veterans’ Home.

The facility was negligent in failing to protect their husband and father from the virus, the family says, citing the facility’s apparent lack of precautions or preparation from the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020 to the start of the November outbreak that ultimately resulted in the death of 36 residents.

Mr. Cieski died on November 15, 2020, having been exposed to the virus during that outbreak.

Media reports at the time said that many staff members attended an off-site Halloween party that could have led to the outbreak. Other reports indicated that staff members were given 3-day tests for the virus and continued to work at the facility during the 3-day period while they awaited results. The state’s Department of Veterans Affairs has admitted that hand sanitizer used at the facility was found ineffective against the virus, and has identified multiple, systemic failures at the facility including improper symptom screening, staff members not practicing social distancing, and staff touching residents without performing hand hygiene or disposing of gloves in between use.

According to state records, it took 12 days for a representative from the Illinois Department of Public Health to go to the home and investigate the November outbreak. Several Illinois legislators are calling for an independent investigation and State Senator Sue Rezin is sponsoring a bill that would require IDPH and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to make on-site visits within one business day of when an outbreak is identified.

Levin & Perconti, a law firm nationally renowned for its work representing victims in nursing home abuse and neglect cases, launched multiple investigations on behalf of families whose loved ones died from COVID-19 following exposure at the LaSalle Veterans’ Home and has already filed suits on behalf of COVID victims in a dozen private nursing homes across the state. The Cieski family’s suit is believed to be the first against an Illinois veterans’ home.

“After seeing what was happening with outbreaks at facilities nationwide, LaSalle Veterans’ Home had plenty of time to order enough PPE and properly staff the home to care for the residents,” said Levin & Perconti partner Michael Bonamarte. “Richard Cieski’s death could have been avoided had LaSalle taken appropriate precautions.”

“By November, CDC protocols and Illinois Department of Public Health guidelines were clear and well-known,” added Levin & Perconti partner Margaret Battersby Black. “There were standards in place that should have been followed and practices that could have been enforced. An appropriately fast and comprehensive response to potential staff exposure to the virus could have saved lives, but, instead, the outbreak spread for 12 days before anyone from the state of Illinois even arrived to investigate it. This suit is about holding officials accountable for that failure and ensuring that it never happens again.”

* Let’s do a roundup. Another press release…

The Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) is resuming in-person visitation at its correctional facilities, affording incarcerated people the opportunity to see their loved ones for the first time in more than a year. With most people in IDOC custody now vaccinated, the Department’s Office of Health Services and Operations Unit worked closely with the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) to develop a multi-phase plan for resuming in-person visits in the safest manner possible. To prevent the potential for COVID-19 infection spread, IDOC, after consultation with IDPH, suspended visitation on March 14, 2020. East Moline Correctional Center is now accepting visitors and the Department’s remaining correctional facilities are preparing to reopen their visiting rooms over the next few weeks.

Visitation Start Dates

    April 12, 2021: East Moline Correctional Center

    April 19, 2021: Graham, Taylorville, Jacksonville, Dixon, Centralia, and Stateville Correctional Centers; Stateville Northern Reception Center; Fox Valley, Crossroads and North Lawndale ATCs; Elgin Treatment Center

    April 26, 2021: Pinckneyville, Sheridan, Big Muddy River, Pontiac, Shawnee, Vienna, Hill, Lawrence, Illinois River, Robinson, and Vandalia Correctional Centers; Joliet Treatment Center; Peoria ATC; Kewanee and Murphysboro Life Skills Re-Entry Centers

    May 3, 2021: Southwestern Illinois, Decatur, Logan, Lincoln, Western Illinois, Danville, and Menard Correctional Centers

“Maintaining family connection is a vital component of an incarcerated person’s mental and emotional well-being,” said IDOC Acting Director Rob Jeffreys. “Because of the aggressive measures the Department has taken to mitigate COVID-19 within our facilities, IDOC is one of the few correctional systems in the nation now reopening to visitors.”

Everyone who enters an IDOC correctional facility is symptom screened, temperature checked, and provided a surgical mask. Plexi-glass barriers have been installed on visiting tables, which are spaced apart to allow for proper social distancing. Visiting rooms and restrooms are deep cleaned between visits. IDOC is utilizing an online system to schedule visits and limit the number of visitors permitted at one time. More information on the resumption of in-person visitation is available on the Department’s website.


Hotels in Illinois suffered 80% revenue losses during “devastating” pandemic closures, and occupancy rates and the price of hotel rooms lag behind rivals in other states where restrictions have been lifted, an industry lobbyist said.

“We’ve already lost business to states like Florida, Indiana, Wisconsin, Missouri, that have been opened up quicker,” Michael Jacobson, president & CEO of the Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association, said on Capitol Connection. “Illinois is certainly lagging. And many states that have had these restrictions in place are definitely lagging compared to states that have reopened quicker.”

“We’re hopeful — especially with that bridge phase announcement, and eventually advancing into phase five — hopeful that this summer that we’ll be in a position to host those larger gatherings come later this year and into 2022,” he said. “So we’re hopeful that we’ll be in a position to be able to bring those people back and that we’ll be able to start rehiring our workers. The question becomes, ‘are we going to be in a position to just hold on that long while we wait for those large events to come back next year?’”

Jacobson urged the state to provide $250M in grant funding for a ‘Hotel Job Recovery Program’ that he says would allow hotels to rehire staff laid off during the pandemic.

* Press release…

The Illinois Department on Aging (IDoA) and Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) have distributed over 1,100 connectivity and assistive devices to older adults and persons with disabilities who have been disproportionally affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, after receiving $1.7 million from the federal Administration for Community Living in May 2020.

Specifically, the funding was used to purchase technology devices; including iPads, tablets and internet / Wi-Fi / hotspot access to combat social isolation and loneliness among older adults and individuals who are disabled. The devices have applications like FaceTime, Zoom, mental stimulation and others so individuals can connect with family members and friends. Devices were distributed throughout Illinois beginning in August. Personal accounts of how these devices truly Made Connections, can be viewed here.

* Sun-Times live coverage blog

CPS ‘firmly committed’ to reopening high schools next week despite CTU’s threat to stay remote

CTU members vote to work remotely starting Wednesday if high school reopening agreement isn’t reached

After Kamala Harris visit, business jumps at Brown Sugar Bakery on Chicago’s South Side

The state has also seen an increase in coronavirus hospitalizations over the last month. As of Saturday night, 1,834 beds were occupied by COVID-19 patients — up 23% from last week. Of those, 409 were in intensive care units and 173 were on ventilators, officials said.

* Related…

* The Pandemic And Hunger In Illinois

* US colleges divided over requiring student vaccinations

- Posted by Rich Miller   2 Comments      

Question of the day

Monday, Apr 12, 2021

* I need to run to the Stratton and get tested for session. Since we haven’t chatted in a while, let’s do a wellness check. How are you and yours getting by these days?

- Posted by Rich Miller   41 Comments      

Legislator pay ruling should not be a surprise

Monday, Apr 12, 2021

* Dan Petrella at the Tribune

The state of Illinois must pay two former Democratic state senators salary hikes they voted to reject while in office, a Cook County judge ruled late Thursday.

The ruling stems from a lawsuit Michael Noland of Elgin and James Clayborne of Belleville brought against Democratic state Comptroller Susana Mendoza’s office. The senators argued that laws freezing legislative salaries from 2009 to 2016 violated the Illinois Constitution, which prohibits lawmakers from changing their pay during their current term.

Noland, now a Kane County judge, sued in 2017 seeking back pay for himself and “all others impacted” by the eight bills lawmakers passed to give up the annual cost-of-living raises they are automatically granted under state law.

The lawsuit, which Clayborne joined as a plaintiff in 2018, also takes issue with unpaid furlough days lawmakers approved for themselves each year from 2009 through 2013.

Then-Cook County Judge Franklin Valderrama ruled in July 2019 that the state constitution is “unambiguous” in prohibiting such action.

* AP

Comptroller Susana Mendoza pledged to appeal the decision and called the former lawmakers “shameless grifters” pursuing a “brazen money grab.” […]

The decision Thursday applies only to them, not other lawmakers who were in office, because they filed the lawsuit as individuals, not public officials, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Noland could get about $71,000, while Clayborne is in line for $95,000.

Ironically, Clayborne voted in favor of turning down the raises. Noland voted against the legislation only once, the Tribune reported.

* Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie on the day of the ruling…

“Today’s court ruling, which essentially allows legislators to cast politically popular votes refusing pay increases and then, by judicial fiat, receive those pay increases anyway, is yet another vivid example of why Illinois citizens do not trust their state government. Illinoisians are growing increasingly weary of politicians saying that which is popular, while at the same time finding a path to benefit themselves and harm taxpayers.

“The votes of past General Assemblies to refuse pay increases were policy decisions, and not decisions into which the courts should intervene. I call upon the Attorney General and the Comptroller to immediately and vigorously pursue an appeal of this ruling, and continue to fight for a reversal until the taxpayers are vindicated.”

The court is right. The Constitution is clear. Legislator pay cannot be reduced during a legislator’s term of office. It’s the same sort of thing with pension reductions. Legislators were playing games, just like they did last year when they didn’t appropriate legislator pay raises even though legislator pay is subject to continuing appropriations. That’ll wind up in a lawsuit some day as well.

One day, maybe they’ll figure out that this stuff always catches up to them.

- Posted by Rich Miller   12 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 *** 2,433 new confirmed and probable cases; 18 additional deaths; 1,998 hospitalized; 418 in the ICU; 4.4 percent average case positivity rate; 4.9 percent average test positivity rate; 132,188 average daily doses

Monday, Apr 12, 2021

* Remember that Sundays generally have lower numbers, particularly deaths, because locals aren’t filling out the forms. Hospitalization numbers are generally accurate, though…

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) today reported 2,433 new confirmed and probable cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Illinois, including 18 additional deaths.

    - Cook County: 1 male 20s, 1 male 40s, 1 female 50s, 1 male 50s, 1 female 60s, 2 males 60s, 3 females 70s, 2 males 70s, 1 female 80s, 1 female 90s, 2 males 90s
    - Kane County: 1 female 90s
    - Vermilion County: 1 female 90s

Currently, IDPH is reporting a total of 1,282,205 cases, including 21,523 deaths, in 102 counties in Illinois. The age of cases ranges from younger than one to older than 100 years. Within the past 24 hours, laboratories have reported 53,115 specimens for a total of 21,225,122. As of last night, 1,998 individuals in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 418 patients were in the ICU and 177 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators.

The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity for cases as a percent of total test from April 5-11, 2021 is 4.4%. The preliminary seven-day statewide test positivity from April 5-11, 2021 is 4.9%.

The total number of COVID-19 vaccine doses for Illinois is 9,001,105. A total of 7,243,383 vaccines have been administered in Illinois as of last midnight. The seven-day rolling average of vaccines administered daily is 132,188 doses. Yesterday, 64,772 doses were reported administered in Illinois. The Illinois National Guard has administered more than one million doses of COVID-19 vaccines at state-supported vaccination sites around the state.

*All data are provisional and will change. In order to rapidly report COVID-19 information to the public, data are being reported in real-time. Information is constantly being entered into an electronic system and the number of cases and deaths can change as additional information is gathered. For health questions about COVID-19, call the hotline at 1-800-889-3931 or email

*** UPDATE *** Tribune…

In the 20-county region that stretches from Kendall and Grundy counties to the Quad Cities, the seven-day average of available intensive care beds has dipped below 20% for four straight days beginning Thursday.

The percentage of available staffed ICU beds was one of the bench marks used to trigger tighter restrictions under Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s reopening plan. Health officials recently have said they’re reevaluating those criteria, which were developed before vaccines were available.

The test positivity rate is also rising in the region, home to Peoria and Bloomington-Normal, reaching a seven-day average of 7.2% as of Friday, up from 6.5% a week earlier.

Under the rules that were enforced during the fall surge, a rolling test positivity rate of 8% or higher for three consecutive days triggered tighter restrictions.

In suburban Cook County, where officials have been warning since last week that stricter rules could be coming if trends don’t reverse, the seven-day average for ICU bed availability was 20% Sunday for the second straight day.

- Posted by Rich Miller   12 Comments      

More like this, please

Monday, Apr 12, 2021

* Dean Olsen

With a new nationwide poll showing Republicans three times more likely than Democrats to avoid getting COVID-19 shots, a Central Illinois congressman and loyal member of the GOP said Thursday he wants to reduce vaccine hesitancy regardless of political affiliation.

“I want to encourage everyone that this is safe,” U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, said during a visit to the COVID-19 mass-vaccination site operated by the Sangamon County Department of Public Health and Illinois National Guard at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield. […]

“Putting a political litmus test on the vaccination process is something that I’m trying to warn against,” Davis said. “We, right now, have to believe in our scientists that actually do the clinical trials and the private-sector ingenuity that has allowed us to get safe and effective vaccines.

“And if you’re worried about the vaccines being safe, I will tell you, I don’t feel a computer chip in my arm, and also, hundreds of thousands of people right here in Central Illinois have safely gotten all three of these vaccines,” Davis said. “It’s safe. It’s effective. Go get it done.”

The latest NPR/Marist poll shows that 46 percent of Republican men say they won’t be vaccinated. That’s in line with its previous polling which had the “No” answer at 49 percent. 40 percent of Donald Trump voters also say they won’t be vaccinated.

Meanwhile, just 22 percent of Black respondents said they wouldn’t take the shot and a mere 9 percent of Democratic women are also refusing the vaxes.

* As NPR points out, we can’t get to herd immunity until more folks like those Republican men are vaccinated. Ironically, many of those same folks were insisting last year that the all-important herd immunity could be reached if the virus was simply allowed to run its course. That argument didn’t hold up so well when more than half a million people died. But now that there’s a real chance to reach herd immunity with vaccines, too many are balking.

More Republican Party leaders need to step up here like Davis did. Some have, but many more need to follow the lead of Black politicos and set a very public example, especially now that positivity rates are on the rise. Effingham County’s positivity rate, for example, is now 7.4 percent, as is McHenry County’s.

- Posted by Rich Miller   20 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 *** State Board of Elections calls special meeting to discuss Sandvoss situation

Monday, Apr 12, 2021

* Let’s start with this surprise press release on April 5…

On Monday, the eight members of the Illinois State Board of Elections voted unanimously to place Executive Director Steve Sandvoss on administrative leave after he reported being the victim of an online extortion attempt last week. Director Sandvoss reported the attempt to the Illinois State Police, which has begun an investigation.

Based on Director Sandvoss’ description, the attempted extortion scheme appeared typical of many such online scams.

However, because this attempt targeted a top official at the Illinois State Board of Elections, and out of an abundance of caution, the board has taken the cautionary step of placing Director Sandvoss on administrative leave. The board authorized Assistant Executive Director Bernadette Matthews to assume directorship at this time.

The board also authorized the agency’s Chief Information Security Officer, Jeremy Owens, to cooperate fully with the law enforcement investigation, as well as conduct an internal assessment of all SBE devices to which Director Sandvoss had access and ensure the security of the Board’s systems.

At this time, there is no reason to believe that any election data or information has been compromised. All further questions regarding the investigation should be addressed to the Illinois State Police at

If you read the release closely, it looks like the board doesn’t believe that Sandvoss’ problems were state-related. But the probe is in the hands of the Illinois State Police, so the board isn’t 100 percent certain of what exactly happened. I-Team

However, what prompted the alleged extortion attempt they will not disclose, nor will they discuss the nature of the communication, what was being demanded of the state election director, whether it was made on a state computer or Sandvoss’s personal device, or what they are referring to by describing the attempted extortion as typical of many such online scams.

The Illinois State Police are investigating to determine who was behind this alleged extortion attempt, and how and why Sandvoss apparently became targeted.

State police officials told the I-Team that their investigation of the reported extortion “remains open and ongoing.”

* Anyway, the board has called a special meeting for this afternoon at 3 o’clock. Their only agenda item is an executive session. By law, the board has to summarize what went on during the executive session, so we’ll likely know more later today.

Somebody’s personal business is their own personal business, but Russian hackers targeted the board in 2016 and Sandvoss apparently has a security clearance, so he’s held to a much higher standard than if a low-level state worker got catfished, or whatever. Hopefully, the board clears this up today.

Sandvoss has been with the board since 2004.

*** UPDATE *** I was logged on to the Zoom meeting just in time to hear them adjourn. I asked Matt Dietrich what happened…

The board took no action today. So Steve remains on administrative leave.

What you got in the Zoom conference is exactly what I got.

- Posted by Rich Miller   9 Comments      

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Monday, Apr 12, 2021

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*** UPDATED x1 *** Big teachers union wins prompt grumbling

Monday, Apr 12, 2021

* Thread…

That Chatham race was quite something. Tiffani Saunders, Andrea Rediger and Ann Strahle all won seats on the board and campaigned on progressive platforms.

* Daily Herald

Numerous incumbents in DuPage County’s most contentious school board races appeared to hold onto their seats Tuesday, fending off a flood of opposition candidates in an election largely seen as a referendum on COVID-19 restrictions and the pace of reopening classrooms.

Unofficial results indicated voters seemed to favor experience over new blood as many districts shifted to return to in-person learning after spring break while navigating a possible pandemic resurgence in DuPage.

From Naperville to Glen Ellyn, sitting board members fought off challengers who focused their campaigns on expediting school reopenings.

The debate sparked protests across the suburbs as frustrated parents called for their children to return to classrooms while school leaders said they were following the advice of health experts. It also made for clear fault lines in large fields of candidate

Lots more in there.

* More Daily Herald

Janice Krinsky, school board president in Elk Grove Township Elementary District 59, appears to have been ousted by the political strength of widespread teacher opposition.

Krinsky, of Arlington Heights. had lost the backing of the faculty because of her previous support for departing Superintendent Art Fessler, the subject of controversy among teachers partly because of how he introduced a new currciulum.

Teachers instead backed the other four candidates in the race: longtime incumbent Mardell Schumacher of Elk Grove Village, incumbent Roberto Mancilla Jr. of Arlington Heights and challengers Daisy Espino of Mount Prospect and Joseph Sagerer of Elk Grove Village.

* Jeanne Ives…

When only 15% of voters show up to vote, expect more tax hikes, more indoctrination at your school with less learning, more public debt, overly generous public employee contracts, and more wokeness from your school boards.

The teachers union - who has kept your schools closed and property taxes high - cleaned up in the suburbs because many people didn’t care to vote.

For those of you who did show up - THANK YOU!

* Ives is not alone, however

The Illinois Education Association’s local union chapters vetted and endorsed candidates in 38 school board and college trustee races statewide. Of 132 union-backed candidates, 107 were elected, according to unofficial results.

Additional union-endorsed candidates could prevail once all votes are counted, including provisional ballots and late-arriving mail votes, IEA President Kathi Griffin said Friday.

“Some of the races are quite close,” Griffin said. “Basically, we have about 81% (of candidates) currently successful, as of yesterday.” […]

Political groups trying to influence local school board elections is cause for concern, say leaders of the nonpartisan League of Women Voters.

“It changes the game,” said Heidi Graham, president of the League of Women Voters of Arlington Heights, Mount Prospect, Buffalo Grove and surrounding areas. Graham said the league supports getting special interest money and influence out of local nonpartisan elections.

While Graham opposes political parties in local elections, teachers unions also should get out of the business of endorsing candidates, she said.

Or, they could move these elections to presidential/governor years.

* Related…

* Slowik: Integrity squeezed as politics creeps further into south suburban public higher education

*** UPDATE *** John Kass on March 12

Suburban parents are rightfully angry. They pay among the highest residential property taxes in the nation and most of it goes to the public schools.

And they’ve agonized as parochial and private schools have been mostly open through the pandemic while their public schools have been closed and their children waste away on remote learning. […]

Elizabeth Bauer is a writer for Forbes and a suburban mom running for the District 214 board in the northwest suburbs. The district includes John Hersey High School and schools in Mount Prospect, Buffalo Grove, Elk Grove Village, Rolling Meadows and Wheeling. Bauer knows how to read a budget. She’s well-known on Twitter as @JanetheActuary. I respect her.

The other day Bauer wrote a superb op-ed in the Tribune asking parents to run for school board seats. The headline: “Want to reopen schools and hold them accountable? Run for office.” […]

“I suppose this is a test, in my own small way, to determine if Illinois is broken at all levels,” Bauer said. “I guess we’ll find out.”

Bauer finished in 5th place. She has questions about why she lost

if I hadn’t lost a weekend of door-knocking due to the emotional hit of the board-meeting blindside?

if the Daily Herald editorial board hadn’t endorsed the incumbent slate despite their admission that they operate behind the scenes?

if the union hadn’t sent out its postcard using the D214 logo to imply endorsement, and the Superintendent hadn’t refused to comment?

if the Superintendent hadn’t timed the full reopening to coincide with the election?

if an unrelated personal matter hadn’t taken much of my time and energy in an unplanned way?

if I hadn’t been navigating the strategy and trying to work out, from scratch, how to best get my message out, and if I hadn’t been learning as I went along, about what my key concerns were, as I watched the academic year play out and researched the board’s actions?

- Posted by Rich Miller   52 Comments      

Center Square network gets grant to offer “an alternate perspective to legacy media’s unfair coverage of individuals who disagree with state shutdowns”

Monday, Apr 12, 2021

* Politico last week

Conservative activist John Tillman, founder of the Illinois Policy Institute and other right-leaning groups, has started a new project aimed at electing Republicans in 2022, the Washington Post reports under the headline “stealth persuasion machine.”

The American Culture Project uses data collection and digital ads to target potential voters. That’s a standard practice in politics these days.

But what’s unusual about the American Culture Project, experts tell the Washington Post, “is how it presents its aims as news dissemination and community building. It touts transparency and civic engagement using an online network whose donors remain private — part of a bid to shape public opinion as local news outlets crater and social networks replace traditional forums for political deliberation.”

Simply put, the organization creates programming and ad messages around conservative issues but is able to skirt campaign finance laws because it’s a nonprofit. It doesn’t disclose its donors nor whether it pays federal income taxes, reports the Post.

The group is already active in five states, including Illinois, Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Virginia. It is seeking to expand to six more: Arizona, Iowa, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin.

* Buried in the WaPo article is something you also might find interesting

Tillman’s assets extend well beyond a handful of Facebook pages focused on battleground states. In addition to the American Culture Project and the Illinois Policy Institute, tax filings identify him as chairman of the Franklin News Foundation, a nonprofit media company that draws revenue from DonorsTrust, a donor-advised fund that backs conservative causes and allows its contributors to remain anonymous.

The news foundation recently received a $50,000 grant from DonorsTrust for a coronavirus-related news project. “This program will offer an alternate perspective to legacy media’s unfair coverage of individuals who disagree with state shutdowns as radical or heartless and will be republished around the country in state and local newspapers, which are starved for local covid-19 news content,” states the announcement from DonorsTrust, which did not respond to a request for comment.

The news network, which publishes articles on a website called the Center Square, concentrates its coverage on 36 states, with a particular focus on some of the Midwestern states where the American Culture Project is seeking an online foothold. Arise Ohio and other pages in Tillman’s network often post stories produced by the Center Square.

You gotta wonder if the newspapers that run those stories know who’s paying for it.

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      

Moody’s: New Chicago firefighter pension law is “credit negative”

Monday, Apr 12, 2021

* Sun-Times

A Wall Street rating agency that alone gave Chicago a junk bond rating on Friday branded as “credit negative” a bill Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed over Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s objections boosting pensions for thousands of Chicago firefighters.

“The legislation is credit negative for the city of Chicago,” said the advisory from Moody’s Investors Service, “because it will cause the city’s reported unfunded pension liabilities, and thus its annual contribution requirements, to rise.”

With pension contributions consuming 17% of the city’s operating revenue and total liabilities pegged at $46.6 billion in 2019, pensions are the “largest credit challenge facing Chicago,” Moody’s said.

Pritzker signed the bill on Monday, arguing the new law “creates a system that gives all firefighters certainty and fair treatment.” But Lightfoot, who had urged the fellow Democrat not to sign it, blasted it as a “fiscally irresponsible” law typical of Springfield’s “back room deals.”

Moody’s on Friday gave Lightfoot more ammunition.

Governors who veto bills that pass with veto-proof majorities tend to get rolled. It would also have helped if the mayor had convinced at least one Senator from the city’s delegation to vote “No” back in January. But the mayor was apparently very angry…

* Moody’s did have other things to say about the new law…

House Bill 2451 eliminates a formula based on birth date that provided lower pension COLAs to certain retired firefighters. As a result of the new law, all retirees that are considered “Tier 1” members of the FABF will now receive a 3% COLA annually on their pension, with no cumulative cap. Before House Bill 2451, retired firefighters in Tier 1 would have received a 1.5% COLA, subject to a 30% cumulative cap, if born on or after January 1, 1966. Members of the FABF receive Tier 1 benefits if hired before January 1, 2011, while those hired on or after January 1, 2011 receive less generous Tier 2 pension benefits.

One potentially advantageous effect of House Bill 2451 is that it forces immediate recognition of 3% COLAs for Tier 1 members. The state law governing Chicago firefighter pension COLAs has been amended on several occasions in the past to alter the birth date that would determine eligibility of a Tier 1 retiree for a 3% COLA versus a 1.5% COLA. The most recent such change occurred in 2016, when the law was updated to provide a 3% COLA to all Tier 1 firefighters born before January 1, 1966, compared to January 1, 1955, before the change. That change, in addition to several other provisions, triggered a roughly $227 million (4.5%) increase to the actuarial accrued liability reported by the FABF as of the December 2016 actuarial snapshot.

Since increases to benefit provisions generate new unfunded liabilities that must be amortized over time, shifting to 3% COLAs with periodic changes to state law would produce a more backloaded contribution pattern for the city, compared with an immediate recognition of the higher benefit levels. That said, now with House Bill 2451 signed into law, the flexibility to forego expanding the number of Tier 1 firefighters receiving 3% COLAs is no longer available. Whether the state will enact similar legislation for any of Chicago’s other retirement systems is uncertain. For example, the law governing the city’s retirement system for police officers contains similar birth date related COLA distinctions.

* From Pritzker’s press release…

Building on efforts to protect Illinois’ first responders and frontline workers, Governor JB Pritzker today signed legislation that codifies longstanding benefits in the Chicago firefighter pensions system. House Bill 2451 ensures firefighters are treated fairly by fulfilling promises made to firefighter pensioners.

“I’ve always believed that hardworking men and women who have earned their pension shouldn’t pay the price for local or state budget challenges,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “HB 2451 creates a system that gives all firefighters certainty and fair treatment. And to make sure that the city can meet its obligations, my administration is working to sell the James R. Thompson Center, which will return to the city’s property tax rolls and is projected to generate $45 million annually for the city and its sister agencies.”

“By signing this bill, Gov. Pritzker has once again demonstrated his commitment to fiscal responsibility and protecting future generations of middle class Chicagoans from massive tax increases,” said State Senator Robert Martwick (D-Chicago). “If we ever hope to right our financial ship, we must finally put an end to the irresponsible behavior that put us here in the first place. This law simply ensures that the city confronts the true costs of its pension obligations and makes the difficult decisions it needs to make today.”

HB 2451 addresses disparate pension benefits among Chicago firefighters. Currently, employees eligible for a pension in the Firemen’s Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago (FABF) who were born after January 1, 1966 are granted a 1.5 percent COLA. However, firefighters who may have started on the force the same day, may unfairly receive different benefits based on their dates of birth. The legislation addresses this discrepancy by adjusting the COLA for these firefighters from 1.5 percent to 3 percent.

The legislation eliminates the 30 percent cap on cumulative COLA adjustments. For employees eligible for a 1.5 percent COLA, they would have hit the cap at 20 years. The reforms made in this legislation provides firefighters the ability to plan for themselves and their families.

HB 2451 is effective immediately.

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* Governor's office staff member tested positive, had no close contact with Pritzker
* *** UPDATED x1 *** Republicans want to hear Pritzker's remap thoughts while Democrats push back against GOP plans
* An unintended, but likely forseeable consequence of over-cautious policies
* COVID-19 roundup: Lawsuit filed over LaSalle Veterans’ Home death; IDOC resuming in-person visitation; Hotel revenues plunged 80 percent
* Question of the day
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* *** UPDATED x1 *** 2,433 new confirmed and probable cases; 18 additional deaths; 1,998 hospitalized; 418 in the ICU; 4.4 percent average case positivity rate; 4.9 percent average test positivity rate; 132,188 average daily doses
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* *** UPDATED x1 *** Big teachers union wins prompt grumbling
* Center Square network gets grant to offer "an alternate perspective to legacy media’s unfair coverage of individuals who disagree with state shutdowns"
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