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Afternoon roundup

Monday, Jun 5, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Some folks went a bit kooky after the April COGFA report. May’s report has better news

General Funds revenues bounced back nicely from April’s $1.8 billion decline with growth of $677 million in May, as compared to the same month the year prior. The May increases were experienced across the board, with the most significant growth coming from the Personal Income Tax and Federal Sources. Part of the reason for last month’s extensive declines was due to April having one less receipting day in FY 2023. This “lost” day was effectively made up in May, as the extra receipting day helped bolster this month’s revenue totals.

Personal Income Tax revenues recouped a segment of its significant April losses (associated with comparatively weaker final tax payments) with growth of $367 million in May. When removing the non-general fund distributions to the Refund Fund and the Local Government Distributive Fund, the net increase was $311 million. In addition, revenue from Federal Sources, which have trailed last year’s pace throughout much of the year, rose $252 million in May helping to alleviate some of the sting from last month’s declines. […]

Year to Date

When incorporating May’s revenue gains into the FY 2023 accrued total, General Funds base revenues are now ahead of last year’s pace by $484 million with one month remaining in the fiscal year. When including the revenue gains from ARPA reimbursement funds, the overall growth for the fiscal year improves to $809 million. While this year-to-date growth figure is well below the $2.5 billion high-water mark at the end of February, it is a noticeable improvement over the meager $132 million in growth that resulted after March and April’s sizeable declines

* Gov. Pritzker spoke today about the state’s MAP grant spending

When I came in, we had about $400 million dedicated to college scholarships, MAP grants. Today it’s $750 million.

* Press release

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today joined hospital leaders and the Illinois Health and Hospital Association (IHA) to unveil the four-year reportof the Chicago HEAL Initiative. Launched in 2018 by Senator Durbin and 10 of the largest hospitals serving Chicago, the HEAL Initiative is a collaboration to address the root causes of gun violence through economic, health, and community projects in 18 of Chicago’s neighborhoods with the highest rates of violence, poverty, and health disparities. Today’s report highlights significant progress made by the hospitals in local hiring, job training and mentorship, and trauma-informed care and youth mental health activities. As part of today’s report, Durbin also announced $6.25 million in new federal funding to support these hospital-led efforts to break the cycle of violence through community programs. […]

Among other highlights, last year the ten hospitals:

    • Hired 5,390 new employees from the 18 focus neighborhoods.
    • Provided 3,639 students with summer job, pipeline, or apprenticeship programs.
    • Operated 24 school-based health clinics and mobile health units that served 11,277 students.
    • Served 17,623 individuals with violence recovery programs, including 3,028 victims with ongoing trauma-informed case management services.

* Tribune

Across the country, marshes, swamps and bogs quietly soak up flood water and filter pollutants. Ecologists agree they are one of the best natural defenses against climate change.

But after a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, more than half of the country’s 118 million acres of wetlands, according to estimates from the environmental firm Earthjustice, will effectively no longer have federal protection from developers and polluters.

Illinois, which has lost 90% of its wetlands since 1818, is among the more vulnerable states with no state-level protections for wetlands on private property. Those on public land are still protected.

In a startling precedent for environmental law, experts say, the decision in Sackett v. EPA upends more than 50 years of legal protections by limiting the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act to wetlands visibly connected to major waterways. […]

The Illinois Environmental Council is calling on Gov. J.B. Pritzker to issue an executive order protecting as many wetlands as possible until the General Assembly can consider new legislation when it reconvenes in January.

Developers and farmers have applauded the decision. But there is now a push on to provide some state protections and Gov. Pritzker was asked today about taking some sort of executive action

There’s nothing currently on the table to do that. But understand what the issue is. It’s something that a lot of communities, a lot of, particularly rural communities are very concerned about. So, you know, we’ll continue to look at it and our EPA is looking at it.

Not sure what sort of executive order he could even issue.

* The Sun-Times has an explainer on those sweepstakes machines which are at the heart of the Jimmy Weiss trial. Excerpt

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson’s campaign staff made supportive comments about video gambling before his election this year, calling it “an important revenue source for critical investments in public safety, transportation, housing and other public accommodations.”

So [Rep. Daniel Didech, D-Buffalo Grove] said he’d prefer sweepstakes machines become part of a “larger conversation about whether Chicago is going to opt in to our video gaming regime.”

Meanwhile, Fernandez told the Sun-Times that traditional video gaming devices are “much more attractive” than sweepstakes machines. The technology, he said, rivals that found in a traditional casino.

And, he said, “if there were a market where video gaming were allowed, [sweepstakes] would not survive.”

The city has left countless millions on the table while allowing an untaxed gray market to flourish. Ridic.

* Speaking of video gaming, a Cook County judge granted a rare temporary restraining order against the Illinois Gaming Board because the board can’t seem to do its job in a timely manner...

Lucky Lincoln has been a licensed video gaming terminal operator under the Illinois Video Gaming Act since 2014. On December 14, 2017, the Board filed its first complaint for disciplinary action against Lucky Lincoln (DC-V-17-226). It filed a second complaint on December 17, 2019 (DC-V-19-094). A consolidated hearing on those complaints just began on May 22, 2023, nearly five years after the first complaint.

On May 12, 2023, the Board filed a third complaint for disciplinary action against Lucky Lincoln (DC-V-23-161). The complaint attaches a “Notice of Limited Summary Suspension” issued by the Administrator

* Press release…

Today job seekers from across northern Illinois will participate in the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services’ (DCFS) inaugural “On-the-Spot Hiring” event, which connects service-driven professionals with employment opportunities in essential areas of the state’s child welfare system.

Thanks to a collaborative effort between Governor JB Pritzker, DCFS and the Illinois Department of Central Management Services (CMS), attendees interested in pursuing careers as child welfare specialists, child protection specialists, child welfare trainees and child protection trainees will be able to meet one-on-one with DCFS recruiters to learn more about the agency and the critical roles it is seeking to fill. Qualified candidates who have bachelor’s or master’s degrees in related human service, education, criminal justice, criminal justice administration or law enforcement may leave the recruiting event with conditional offers of employment. The expedited hiring process used at today’s event is a milestone for DCFS, reducing the turnaround time traditionally needed to make an employment offer by 80 percent helping the agency to fill vital public service roles without undue delay.

* Dilla was in Springfield?…

* Isabel’s roundup…

    * Sun-Times | What are sweepstakes machines? The gambling devices at the center of the latest public corruption trial: Businessman James T. Weiss is accused of paying $32,500 in bribes to then-state Rep. Luis Arroyo between November 2018 and October 2019 to promote and vote for legislation related to sweepstakes machines in the Illinois General Assembly. […] Federal prosecutors charged Arroyo with bribery in October 2019, and a grand jury indicted Arroyo and Weiss one year later, in October 2020. Arroyo pleaded guilty and is already serving a 57-month prison sentence. Weiss is set for trial Monday.

    * Tribune | Second jobs for Chicago aldermen would be restricted or even banned under proposed ordinance: Talk of barring outside employment has been floated repeatedly but never gained traction. Members of council instead passed ordinances chipping away at potential conflicts or slightly tightening ethics restrictions. The most recent reforms, passed under ex-Mayor Lori Lightfoot in the wake of a federal corruption sweep, barred aldermen from working for a client if the representation “may result in an adverse effect on city revenue or finances, or affect the relative tax burden or health, safety, or welfare of any city residents.”

    * Center Square | Illinois Supreme Court accepts challenge to downstate public safety pension consolidation: The law consolidating about 650 first responder pensions outside of Chicago was enacted in 2019 by Gov. J.B. Pritzker. All existing funds were pooled together into two separate funds, one for police and one for firefighters. Each local fund retained a separate account managing operation and the financial condition of each participating pension fund with the power to adjudicate and award retirement and other benefits from the funds.

    * Crain’s | Illinois EPA awards $12.6M to build initial wave of EV chargers: Illinois currently has 1,156 public EV-charging stations with 2,896 charging ports, according to federal data. That’s up from 900 charging stations about 18 months ago but nowhere near the 40,000 ports that experts estimate will be needed to support the 1 million EVs that Gov. J.B. Pritzker envisions on the state’s roads by the end of the decade.

    * Patch | Those Long Skirts In Hinsdale? Now You Know Why: The series, “Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets,” revealed allegations of inappropriate activity at the headquarters of the Institute in Basic Life Principles. It was at Ogden Avenue and Adams Street in Hinsdale for decades. The documentary was released Friday on Amazon Prime.

    * Sun-Times | Johnson to Chicago police graduates: ‘I will have your back’: “Know as your mayor, as your brother, I’m here to build the type of coalition that generations to come will marvel because this will be the generation that stared into the eyes of the divisive nature that’s been created by political forces that do not want the city of Chicago to succeed. But this is the freakin’ city of Chicago. The best city in the world and no one — no one — will come before us,” Johnson told the graduates in the grand ballroom at Navy Pier.

    * WGLT | Sen. Bennett liked some things in the new state budget, but said it was not transparent: Bennett said the 3,000-page budget was rushed through before lawmakers could see everything that was in it. “We’re still trying to work through what’s all in there,” Bennett said. “That whole lack of transparency, I would think, would really concern every person in the state of Illinois.”

    * Sun-Times | Vendors forced out of Little Village Discount Mall have mixed success beyond it: She hopes she’ll be able to return to the open half of the mall, but many vendors have moved on and opened conventional storefronts or turned to other malls. Others hope that those locations are just temporary stops along the way to the group opening up a new mall of their own on the Southwest Side. The space those vendors have in mind is a former Kmart at 51st Street and Kedzie Avenue in Gage Park. The owner, they say, is fixing up the space. In April, Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th), who has supported the vendors throughout their exodus, announced the city had verbally agreed to help by covering the initial cost of rent.

    * Center Square | Illinois Bacon Day will be celebrated every May 3: The idea came from state Sen. Tom Bennett, R-Gibson City, who wants to highlight the contribution that Illinois pork producers make to the state’s economy. Illinois pork farmers provide over 6 billion slices of Illinois-raised bacon every year, Bennett said in a statement.

    * Crain’s | The maker of Nutella leans on its presence here to grow Kinder Chocolate in the U.S.: Ferrero is already selling its Kinder Joy, Kinder Bueno and Kinder Seasonal lines in the US, and it plans to release Kinder Chocolate in August, according to Bertrac. That will help boost a brand that already racks up $7 billion in sales around the world every year. To support the company’s US growth, Ferrero is expanding its manufacturing facility in Bloomington and it’s also opening a new innovation center in the Loop.

    * NPR | An Anti-Vaccine Film Targeted To Black Americans Spreads False Information: When a filmmaker asked medical historian Naomi Rogers to appear in a new documentary, the Yale professor didn’t blink. She had done these “talking head” interviews many times before. […] “I was naive, certainly, in assuming that this was actually a documentary, which I would say it is not. I think that it is an advocacy piece for anti-vaxxers,” Rogers says. “I’m still very angry. I feel that I was used.”

    * Tribune | Google users to get about $95 each in Illinois biometric privacy settlement: The Google settlement is one of a number of high-profile settlements in recent years over alleged violations of Illinois’ strict biometric privacy law; other companies that have been caught in the law’s crosshairs include Facebook and Snapchat parent Snap Inc. The law prohibits companies from collecting or saving biometric information without prior consent.

    * Sun-Times | Haters can keep hating. Chicago tourists are back: Chicagoans will concede there are much more serious threats to our safety. Yet, in spite of its very real flaws — dog-whistling politicians aside, the rampant gun violence is undeniable — and the babbling naysayers, there’s no denying it. People love the Windy City.


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Monday, Jun 5, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

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Uber And ASU Are Expanding Access To Higher Education In Illinois

Monday, Jun 5, 2023 - Posted by Advertising Department

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

Since 2018, Uber and Arizona State University have provided 5000 qualified drivers and their families with 100% tuition coverage.

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Progressives, prosecutors and ISRA come together on bipartisan gun-related bill

Monday, Jun 5, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The Triibe

A Marshall Project analysis found that from 2010 to 2022, the police made more than 38,000 arrests for illegal gun possession. These arrests — almost always a felony — doubled during this timeframe. While illegal possession is the most serious offense in most of the cases we analyzed, the charges often bear misleading names that imply violence, like “aggravated unlawful use of a weapon.”

Recent research shows that most people convicted in Illinois for felony gun possession don’t go on to commit a violent crime, and the majority of those sentenced to prison for gun possession don’t have past convictions for violence. Instead, people who already committed violent crimes are more likely to do so again.The racial disparities in this enforcement are glaring. Although Black people comprise less than a third of the city’s population, they were more than 8 in 10 of those arrested for unlawful possession in the timeframe we reviewed. The number of Black people arrested could fill every seat at a Chicago Bulls game and then some; the majority are men in their 20s and 30s.

The consequences of these arrests are long-lasting. If convicted, people face a year or more in prison, depending on the charges. Even without time behind bars, those we interviewed faced damning criminal records, time on probation, job loss, legal fees and car impoundments.

Officials justify the focus on confiscating guns — even if they are not being fired at anybody — as a way of curtailing violence. But these tactics have not substantially reduced shootings in Chicago. In fact, as possession arrests skyrocketed, shootings increased, but the percentage of shooting victims where someone was arrested in their case declined.

The research report is here. It found that 72 percent of firearm convictions were for possession offenses. And just 7 percent of defendants were arrested for a violent crime involving a firearm after release from prison for firearm possession.

* Tribune

With some Republican support, Illinois lawmakers approved a measure to expand and indefinitely extend a probation program for first-time offenders charged with illegally possessing a gun.

A pilot program the Democratic-controlled General Assembly passed six years ago was limited to defendants under 21 with no prior convictions for violent crimes and was set to end in January. Under the new legislation, the age limit would be dropped, the probationary period would be shortened and the program would continue indefinitely.

“It’s one thing to have someone who’s 18 years old being caught with a firearm versus somebody who’s 55 or 60 years old, and so it just gives the judge and the prosecutor that discretion to figure out what program works best for them,” freshman Democratic state Rep. Kevin Olickal of Skokie, the main House sponsor of the legislation, said in an interview.

While the legislation is the latest example of the Democratic supermajority’s progressive stance on criminal justice, it attracted Republican support in part because of fears that the state’s strict gun laws, including a ban on many high-powered weapons, which is now tied up in court, could ensnare otherwise law-abiding citizens. […]

“This bill provides our state’s attorneys the opportunity to demonstrate leniency when the situation calls for it,” [Sen. Seth Lewis, R-Bartlett] said. […]

During the Senate floor debate, state Sen. Ram Villivalam, the bill’s main sponsor in the chamber, cited support from the Illinois State Rifle Association and the Illinois State’s Attorneys Association.

The bill passed the House 98-6 and cleared the Senate 37-16. Witness slips are here.

* Related…


It’s almost a law

Monday, Jun 5, 2023 - Posted by Isabel Miller

* Chicago Tribune

With some Republican support, Illinois lawmakers approved a measure to expand and indefinitely extend a probation program for first-time offenders charged with illegally possessing a gun.

A pilot program the Democratic-controlled General Assembly passed six years ago was limited to defendants under 21 with no prior convictions for violent crimes and was set to end in January. Under the new legislation, the age limit would be dropped, the probationary period would be shortened and the program would continue indefinitely. […]

While the legislation is the latest example of the Democratic supermajority’s progressive stance on criminal justice, it attracted Republican support in part because of fears that the state’s strict gun laws, including a ban on many high-powered weapons, which is now tied up in court, could ensnare otherwise law-abiding citizens.

There was no debate over the bill on the House floor when it was called during the early morning hours of May 27, moments after lawmakers voted to pass a $50.6 billion budget. The bill breezed through the House 98-6, with a number of Republicans voting yes. It was a tougher sell in the Senate two days earlier, passing 37-16 with just three Republicans siding with Democrats. […]

Under the legislation, which has to be signed by Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker before taking effect, the probationary program would last anywhere from six months to two years, instead of the current 18 months to two years.

* Crain’s Katherine Davis talks about new regulations put in place around the health insurance industry


With a rash of carjackings plaguing the state, the Illinois General Assembly has passed a bill requiring car manufacturers to establish a 24-hour hotline to allow police to track stolen cars.

House Bill 2245 was created in conjunction with Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart. […]

With certain Kia and Hyundai models the most at risk, Illinois has seen a 767% increase in vehicle thefts over the last year.

“Virtually every car from 2015 on has tracking capacity,” Dart said. The hotline would give deputies the ability to get tracking data on stolen cars in real-time, enabling officers to find a stolen car within 15 minutes.

* Daily Herald

In the waning days of the legislative session, state lawmakers approved a resolution that lets the Illinois Department of Transportation pursue a public-private partnership to create express toll lanes from I-355 near Bolingbrook to the Dan Ryan Expressway.

It originates from an IDOT study during Gov. Bruce Rauner’s tenure that concluded toll lanes with dynamic pricing were the best alternative to fix traffic jams on the corridor. […]

Community and environmental activists warn it would drastically increase emissions from vehicles in neighborhoods near I-55, such as Little Village, which already has high air pollution and asthma levels. […]

The ultimate decision, however, is up to IDOT and Gov. J.B. Pritzker. Neither gave a definitive thumbs-up.

“The governor looks forward to reviewing the proposal,” Pritzker spokesman Alex Gough said.

IDOT “is not pursuing these plans at this time and will be reviewing and evaluating next steps,” spokeswoman Maria Castaneda noted.

* Sun-Times

Cook County’s property tax system is confusing enough when people pay on time, but when they don’t, there’s a whole new level of bewilderment.

Properties with back taxes go into a knot of tax sales in which investors pay what’s due and then try — or maybe not — to collect the back taxes with interest from the owner. It’s a system for collecting tax revenue owed to local governments, but research has shown it doesn’t do a good job. Nor does it help with what should be a secondary goal of getting problem homes into responsible hands so they are no longer a blight. […]

A bill passed by the Illinois General Assembly in May would help community renewal by allowing local governments and agencies they work with, such as the land bank, to file tax liens earlier in the redemption process, Robinson said.

The measure, headed to the governor for final action, would allow counties to act on abandoned or vacant properties after just one failed tax sale. Currently, the land bank has to wait until properties have years’ worth of back taxes and wind up in what’s called the scavenger sale, held every two years.

Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer, who chairs the land bank, said homes typically sit vacant for seven to 10 years before her agency can get control. She hopes the legislation, if it becomes law, can cut that time in half.


A bill on Illinois Governor JB Pritzker’s desk seeks to stop price gouging on generic drugs.

It would allow the attorney general’s office to take legal action if a manufacturer bumps prices by more than 30% in a year. The same goes for 50% spikes over a three-year period and 75% increases over five years.

It would take effect January 1 if signed. The measure does exempt companies if production costs force price increases. […]

“We’re still not completely addressing one of the biggest aspects of the influence of the increase of drug prices, and that’s the claims and pricing setting that pharmacy benefit managers have in this space,” said Garth Reynolds of the Illinois Pharmacists Association.

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Question of the day

Monday, Jun 5, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Background is here if you need it. The Daily Herald’s Jim O’Donnell

When Bears President Kevin Warren met Naperville Mayor Scott Wehrli to discuss the possibility of a new Bears stadium in the giant west suburb, the password was “leverage.”

That’s a commodity the McMunchkins don’t have as they step up their campaign to strong-arm northwest suburban governmental entities impacted by any new development at Arlington Park.

The Bears want an array of “tax certainties” and other gift-wrapped concessions before ownership commits to building on approximately one-third of the 326 acres that housed Arlington Park.

From the side of a $5 billion sports entertainment company in which annual franchise profits are goof-proof, that’s a marvelous “ask.”

From the side of direct-hit communities including Arlington Heights, Palatine and Rolling Meadows, that “ask” has steadily edged toward dismissibly imperious nonsense.

A “nonstarter,” as Warren might say.

* Greg Hinz at Crain’s

Initial reaction to Friday’s news generally was along the lines that the Bears are bluffing, using Naperville to pull a better property tax deal out of officials in Arlington Heights.

That indeed may be the case. But one key figure in this drama says he’s convinced the team’s threat is real.

“This is no bluff. They’re serious,” says state Rep. Marty Moylan, D-Chicago, who is the chief sponsor of a pending bill in Springfield to slash the Bears’ property tax on the Arlington track land. The bill would also provide some cash to neighboring towns and to the Chicago Park District to pay part of the debt on the team’s current home, Soldier Field.

“The team has a product and they’re just trying to get the best deal possible,” said Moylan. “But some people have delusions of grandeur,” he added, making it clear that “some people” doesn’t refer to the team but, rather, local school officials pushing to have the team pay more taxes than it prefers.

* The Question: Bluff or no bluff and does it really matter either way? Explain.


Welch explains how his caucus avoided the city council’s divisive fight over immigrants

Monday, Jun 5, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

An often bitter, loud and racially divisive debate played out before, during and after last week’s Chicago City Council meeting where members voted to pass a temporary funding package to shelter asylum-seekers.

The debate pitted mostly older Black alderpersons and moderate-to-conservative whites against Latinos and progressives of all stripes. Much of the division also fell along many of the same council battle lines drawn during the recent campaign between Mayor Brandon Johnson and Paul Vallas.

I asked Illinois House Speaker Chris Welch how his own Democratic members avoided being dragged into the same sort of public dispute over how to deal with an even bigger issue: finding cost-saving solutions to the massive $1.1 billion projected cost growth for undocumented immigrant health care services.

Welch explained his members were able to work things out behind closed doors during private caucus meetings.

“I think caucuses are very helpful,” Welch said. “We caucus a lot.”

He added that caucus meetings “give people a safe space to have conversations.”

And while members probably wished the internal debate on the health care issue had happened sooner, Welch said, “I did think it was important that we had that conversation as a caucus, before you take it to the floor. If you had that conversation on the floor first, it can become kind of chaotic and out of control.

“You have to give people spaces to share their voice. And that’s one of the things that I pride myself on, and I think we’ve had difficult conversations this session. We’re going to continue to have difficult conversations.

“When you’re dealing with a diverse group of people, you’re going to have a diverse group of thought. You’ve got to do that in a civil and respectful way. Many times I will stand up in caucus and tell them we’re gonna have a pretty serious discussion today, and I just ask that we do it in a civil and respectful way, and the caucus abides by that. And that’s all I ask.

“And so you can’t duck and dodge issues. You have to hit them head on. And I think we did that several times this session.”

Members of the legislature can hammer things out behind closed doors ahead of public debates because the General Assembly has long exempted itself from the Illinois Open Meetings Act. So, even if large factions of City Council members wanted to caucus together ahead of meetings, they can’t by law.

State law states no meeting can be held if it’s attended by “a majority of a quorum of the members of a public body.” The City Council’s quorum is 26 of its 50 members. Therefore, only groups of 13 or fewer can meet together in private.

The Illinois House Democrats have 78 of 118 members, but they’re exempt, so they’re all allowed to meet. I’ll leave the judgment of whether that’s good or bad to others, but it was clearly an advantage for Welch’s caucus on the health care issue.

Also, Johnson had broad support among Welch’s membership during the recent campaign while Vallas’ backing was in noticeably short supply. So there wasn’t as much of a built-in conflict going into the House debate as there was on the City Council.

And partisanship can often bind legislators together in times of strife (as it clearly did here), which can’t happen as easily on the officially non-partisan City Council.

Speaking of caucus meetings, I asked Welch if his meetings had improved since state Rep. Mary Flowers, D-Chicago, was banned from attending them. Members had complained she disrupted debates, spoke at length on topics to the point where the caucus meetings endlessly dragged on, and personally insulted members and staff.

“Every single caucus meeting after I made the decision, and I stand by that decision, I think those caucuses were full of healthy discussion,” Welch said. “People were open and honest about their opinions on various topics. And I was proud of our caucus and how we carried ourselves this session. I thought those caucus meetings became a lot more productive after I made the decision, and I’m looking forward to seeing that continue to get better.”

Asked if he’d received much internal blowback for his decision, Welch said, “I haven’t seen any blowback.” Welch replaced Flowers on his leadership team late last week with state Rep. Natalie Manley, D-Joliet.


* Live Coverage * Jimmy Weiss trial

Monday, Jun 5, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Follow along with ScribbleLive


Man put on city’s “Do No Rehire” list after failing to stop harassment and abuse hired on contract by four alderpersons

Monday, Jun 5, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* This is a long post, but it’s important, so stay with me. From WBEZ in 2021

The Chicago Park District is conducting a “broad investigation” into complaints that dozens of workers at the city’s pools and beaches regularly committed “sexual assault, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, workplace violence, and other criminal acts” – sometimes against minors.

Confidential reports obtained recently by WBEZ show investigators with the park district inspector general’s office have already gathered evidence corroborating accusations against at least three male lifeguards for sexual assault, harassment or retaliatory threats against their subordinates – including one incident involving the sexual assault and attempted rape of a 16-year-old girl. The park district’s watchdog says its investigation is “wide-ranging, comprehensive and robust,” with more reports to come.

The probe began in March 2020, after the park district’s top official and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office received separate complaints from two former female lifeguards. Each of them alleged serious misconduct by “dozens of Chicago Park District employees in the Aquatics Department,” the documents show.

One of the two whistleblowers – who told the mayor’s office she had been sexually assaulted by a “more senior” employee when she was 17 – alleged “a huge incidence of sexual violence within the Park District” and said she believed there was “little support” from parks officials for those who report problems.

Last month, investigators with the inspector general’s office reported to the park district’s board and two of its top officials that one veteran lifeguard likely “committed criminal sexual assault and aggravated criminal sexual abuse” in 2018, when he forced the 16-year-old female lifeguard to perform a sex act on him, according to the documents obtained by WBEZ.

* Not long after that story appeared, a Park District official appeared before the Chicago city council…

* Sun-Times in 2022

The Chicago Park District on Tuesday fired three top executives — and apologized to female lifeguards for dropping the ball on their complaints of sexual harassment and abuse — after a blistering report that exposed a frat-house culture tolerated for decades.

Fired were: Alonzo Williams, chief program officer; Adam Bueling, manager of beaches and pools; and Eric Fischer, assistant director of recreation. All join their former boss, ousted Supt. Mike Kelly, on the unemployment line. […]

The Sun-Times reported in August that, in February 2020, an Oak Street Beach lifeguard sent 11 pages of allegations to Kelly about lifeguards’ conduct during the summer of 2019.

She said she’d been pushed into a wall, called sexually degrading and profane names by fellow lifeguards and abandoned for hours at her post for refusing to take part in their drinking parties and on-the-job drug use. […]

It says the now-former superintendent first was notified of the woman’s allegation by her parents in an email sent to him on Aug. 30, 2019. Kelly forwarded the email to Williams and said, “Take a look and let’s discuss.”

The law firm of Arnold & Porter​​ found no evidence either Williams or Kelly did anything to follow up on the parental complaint. Nor did they report the allegations to the inspector general or the Department of Human Resources, as park district rules require.

The young woman followed up on Feb. 7, 2020, sending to Kelly and separately to Fischer details of heartbreaking abuse she had suffered at work.

Still, Kelly did not report the allegations to the inspector general or to Human Resources, instead giving Williams and Fischer yet another crack at investigating the young woman’s complaints.

So, Alonzo Williams was allegedly given the opportunity to investigate a young woman’s horrific complaints and nothing was apparently done. The full investigative report is here

We found sufficient evidence that Mr. Williams violated the CPD’s Policy on Sexual Harassment by not reporting Complainant One’s allegations to HR within five days of receiving them, and he violated CPD’s Violence in the Workplace Policy by not immediately reporting potentially dangerous situations.

Young women were forced to recite a “fight song” every morning or faced retaliation. I’m not gonna post the “lyrics,” but click here and go to page 13.

* Tribune today

Four aldermen have paid more than $48,000 out of their taxpayer-funded expense accounts to a consulting firm run by a former top Chicago Park District official who was asked to resign for his involvement in the Park District’s sexual abuse lifeguard scandal and placed on a do-not-rehire list.

Payments to a firm owned and operated by Alonzo Williams, the Park District’s former chief programs officer, began less than five months after Williams’ resignation in late 2021 after he was repeatedly cited in an independent investigation as among several Park District executives who mishandled allegations of sexual harassment and abuse in the lifeguard program.

Williams was paid as an independent contractor for various consulting jobs by four City Council members: former Ald. Roderick Sawyer, 6th, and current Aldermen Michelle Harris, 8th, David Moore, 17th, and Jason Ervin, 28th. Three of the four defended paying Williams with city funds even though he was asked to resign and banned from working for the Park District again. […]

In Williams’ case, the independent report found he violated the Park District’s sexual harassment and workplace violence policies by failing to report to the district’s human resources department allegations made by a former Oak Street Beach female lifeguard and her family that she was subjected to sexual harassment, assault, hazing, bullying and retaliation.

The same day the report was released in November 2021, Williams resigned at the request of Park District CEO Rosa Escareño. But two months later, records show, Williams launched 8028 Consultants LLC, and just two months after that he received his first payment from Moore. Records show Williams was briefly employed in Moore’s ward office before he switched to being an independent contractor.

And then by two months later, Williams was being paid by Alds. Sawyer, Harris and Ervin. He also didn’t file financial interest statements as required by law, according to the Tribune.

* Yep…

Also, former Rep. Denyse Wang Stoneback.


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