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Morning Shorts

Wednesday, Dec 3, 2008 - Posted by Kevin Fanning

* U.S. Steel to idle Granite City Works steel mill

Lower demand for steel used in the automotive and construction industries is leading United States Steel Corp. to temporarily idle the Granite City Works steel mill and two others, the company said late Tuesday afternoon.

As of mid-November, the Granite City plant employed more than 2,100 hourly workers and salaried employees. U.S. Steel would not say Tuesday how many of the area workers would be laid off but said about 3,500 workers across the three plants would be affected.

Few other details were available Tuesday evening.

Neither the company nor United Steelworkers Local 1899, which represents workers at Granite City Works, could say how long workers would be laid off.

* Making sense of crime during a recession isn’t so clear-cut

In Chicago, property crimes are up more than 3 percent and robberies even more so, in excess of 9 percent.

In fact, crime rates across the country have gone up in every recession since the 1950s, said Richard Rosenfeld, a criminology professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Still, other factors could be at work. An increase in the population of males between 17 and 25—the gender and age of typical offenders—can be a contributing factor to a rise in crime.

* Attorneys for Bensenville claim proposed O’Hare expansion is unconstitutional

* Milwaukee neighborhoods could print own money

It’s not a new concept—experts estimate there are at least 2,000 local currencies all over the world—but it is a practice that tends to burgeon during economic downturns. During the Great Depression, scores of communities relied on their own currencies.

And it’s completely legal.

* Radio static: Stroger takes on Claypool

What followed was the first unofficial broadcast debate between Stroger and Claypool 14 months before their highly anticipated — but not yet confirmed — showdown for board presidency in the 2010 Democratic primary.

* Stroger, Claypool take feud to radio

* Press Release: Citizens’ Lawsuit Challenges $62 Million Dollar Uptown TIF

* Tax relief could keep many in their homes

Cook County Assessor James Houlihan has come up with a temporary, yet well considered, solution to ease the pain. Under a plan he has proposed, if the property taxes you pay exceed 5 percent of your household income, you would get a one-time relief check, up to $700.

* FBI: Police officers, jail guards were muscle for ‘drug deals’

* Where corrupt officials learn to share

* Harvey cop allegedly suggested where to do drug deals

“The best spot for ya’ll to do that, believe it or not, is the train station,” Stallworth allegedly said. “Fast-food places, that’s where we be looking.”

* 15 officers caught in FBI drug sting

* Ex-cop convicted of conspiracy

* Giannoulias: Pension proposal worth fight

* Giannoulias: No estimate for layoffs under pension plan

* State Capitol Q&A: State government jobs

* Justin Oberman latest name in 5th District race to replace Rahm Emanuel

* Marin: Carpenters Union Shafts Members?

But Prate fought back. And gathered evidence. And went to court. And ultimately into binding arbitration.

If you want to read the decision of arbitrator James P. Martin, it’s a great read. Martin, who is 82 and has 44 years of experience arbitrating more than 3,000 cases without ever being reversed, wrote the following:

“Mr. Prate would be a very unlikely candidate for work as an adviser to a charm school. . . . However, his record in this matter is truly impressive: years of fighting the union, at great cost and with little success, and an indomitable determination not to be walked upon.” Martin found “Mr. Prate to be true and honest,” with a mound of evidence to back him up. The union leadership, he determined, “vindictively makes Prate unequal” to other companies.


  1. - Pat Collins - Wednesday, Dec 3, 08 @ 9:14 am:

    print their own money

    Well, no. What they are doing is in essence making the equivalent of mall gift certificates.

    Everybody takes money. Only the participants take the local certs. But it gets you to read the story :)

  2. - Wumpus - Wednesday, Dec 3, 08 @ 9:26 am:

    I want my picture on Milwaulkee Money. Is that a way to avoid taxes?

    Any word on who sponsored those guards?

  3. Pingback Why bother bailing out Detroit? This is why… « Illinois Reason - Wednesday, Dec 3, 08 @ 9:56 am:

    […] (h/t Kevin over at CapFax; emphasis added) […]

  4. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Dec 3, 08 @ 10:20 am:

    Houlihan’s proposal makes no sense. A responsble person isn’t supposed to buy a home worth more than twice their income. E.g., a person making $100K shouldn’t buy a home over $200K. In Chicago, the property tax bill usually works out to about 2% of the actual market value (forget the assessed value, which is always under the 16% “goal”; more like 10%). In my example, about $4K, or 4% of income. So Houlihan is saying, if you were a goof and got a mortage you couldn’t afford, say to buy a $300K home, with a tax bill of $6K, all other taxpayers should help bail you out by kicking in $700, because $6K is more than 5% of your income. What sense does that make?

  5. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Dec 3, 08 @ 10:49 am:

    ===a person making $100K shouldn’t buy a home over $200K===

    That’s just goofy. Have you checked Chicago-area home prices in the past, oh, decade?

  6. - Phil Collins - Wednesday, Dec 3, 08 @ 11:06 am:

    Some people think that recessions usually cause crime, but that’s incorrect. During the Depression, the U.S. poverty rate was higher than it is now, but the crime rate, for almost every type of crime, is higher now. Crime is caused by a lack of morals.

  7. - MOON - Wednesday, Dec 3, 08 @ 11:10 am:

    Anon’s analysis is no more goofy than Houlihans proposal!

    Example: A guy making $400,000 and has a home worth $800,000. He is fired , has substatial investments, but, they are illiquid or non-income producing. This guy would be eligible under Houlihans proposal.

    Houlihan should cease his “smoke and mirror” programs.The answer is cut government spending and you can reduce taxes. The trouble is Houlihan does not have “the stones” to take on Daley, Blago, etc. This guy is a fraud!

  8. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Dec 3, 08 @ 11:21 am:

    Moon, my opinion is that Chicago residential property taxes are so low relative to the rest of the state that nobody should be complaining.

  9. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Dec 3, 08 @ 11:28 am:

    I’ve never seen the 2/1 home value to salary ratio before. Where did that come from? It’s certainly inoperable in most of the country and I suspect always has been.

  10. - MOON - Wednesday, Dec 3, 08 @ 11:44 am:


    I do not know whether or not Cook’s taxes are lower than the rest of the State. I do know that the overwhelming majority of homeowners think taxes are to high.

    The real issue is that Houlihans proposal shifts the burden to others. The answer is less government spending, or pay the piper!

  11. - South Side Mike - Wednesday, Dec 3, 08 @ 1:25 pm:

    I’ve heard 2.5:1 house price to income ratio. Depending on interest rates, you have to stay in that range to meet most lenders’ 28%/38% (give or take a few % on each side) ratios for mortgage/total debt payments to gross income standards.

    Part of the cause of the housing bubble was that lenders ignored this ratio, or lent with the payments based on interest-only coverage. And buyers were more than happy to nab up McMansions that they couldn’t afford, thinking they could always flip it down the line for more money.

  12. - Secret Square - Wednesday, Dec 3, 08 @ 1:51 pm:

    The rule about not buying a house worth more than twice, or 2.5 times, your annual income is one I heard back when I shopped for my first house back in the late 80s. This was the prevailing rule back in the days when you pretty much had to have a 20 percent down payment to obtain any kind of decent mortgage.

  13. - Secret Square - Wednesday, Dec 3, 08 @ 1:52 pm:

    Of course, interest rates were higher then too (my first mortgage was 8.4 percent, and that was with a special first-time buyer break; the prevailing rate at the time was about 9.5 percent.)

  14. - UptownNeighbor - Wednesday, Dec 3, 08 @ 4:12 pm:

    I wonder if the Uptown TIF lawsuit mentioned above is going to be part of a larger trend - there was an article in the Chicago Reader a few months back about a similar suit in Bellvile in which the court basically gave ANY taxpayer standing to sue about a TIF. You have to think with the economy in the crapper, there’s going to be pressure in Chicago to stop diverting property tax dollars to cronies of whichever aldermen happen to currently be in Mayor Daley’s good grace.

  15. - smej - Wednesday, Dec 3, 08 @ 5:16 pm:

    RE: Citizens’ Lawsuit Challenges $62 Million Dollar Uptown TIF

    This lawsuit deserves statewide attention, as the outcome can potentially impact taxpayers throughout Illinois. Hopefully folks will pay close attention to this lawsuit and demand TIF oversight or this kind of abuse can happen in your own neighborhood.

  16. - anon - Wednesday, Dec 3, 08 @ 6:46 pm:

    Good for the Uptown citizens. TIFs have long been used for nothing more that mayoral/aldermanic slush funds.
    Should ask Lisa Madigan, “Why have you been asleep at the switch?”

  17. - Chi-town new comer - Wednesday, Dec 3, 08 @ 6:49 pm:

    TIF is new to me but I’m told something like $500M are diverted to these funds. True?

  18. - Uptown Girl - Wednesday, Dec 3, 08 @ 7:02 pm:

    At last, the citizens are going after the Daley/Shiller tax abuses. Good job Molly and friends. We are all behind you. Let’s make city government transparent and honest.

  19. - Anonymous - Thursday, Dec 4, 08 @ 12:43 am:

    A responsble person isn’t supposed to buy a home worth more than twice their income. E.g., a person making $100K shouldn’t buy a home over $200K

    Anonymous 10:20: What do you propose we do then with the majority of the homes in the US? Leave them vacant or knock them down?

    According to your definition of responsibility, do you realize that even a younger attorney or an MD would be living in a charming shoe box that needs alot of TLC in a “developing” neighborhood for a good portion of his life?

    Do you perhaps own ALOT of rental property that’s vacant right now, or do you feel that sharing a two bedroom home with eight people is supposed to be our next great aspiration?

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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