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Morning shorts

Thursday, Oct 30, 2008

* NEW: Thomson needs costly work before replacing Pontiac

The prison that will replace the soon-to-close Pontiac Correctional Center isn’t yet ready for inmates, according to a review of state purchasing orders.

Documents show that in the past 10 days, the Illinois Department of Corrections hired at least three companies to upgrade or repair the Thomson Correctional Center, which is set to replace Pontiac when the agency closes the 137-year-old facility Dec. 31.

In addition, the agency has hired a company to make upgrades to Lawrence Correctional Center in Sumner, which is being switched to a maximum-security facility as part of the closing of Pontiac.

In all, the last-minute construction work related to closing Pontiac and opening Thomson will cost taxpayers at least $424,000 — or more than 10 percent of what prison officials initially said would be saved by closing Pontiac.

* NEW: Cabdrivers threaten to strike over fares

Furious that Chicago taxicab fares are going down — not up — cabdrivers on Thursday gave Mayor Daley a two-week ultimatum: Support a 16 percent fare increase that takes effect Jan. 1 or risk a strike that could “paralyze” the city.

* Madigan Faces Pressure Again to Examine Alleged Torture Victim Cases

Attorney Flint Taylor has spent the last 20 years representing some of the alleged victims. Taylor says Attorney General Madigan and other government officials haven’t adequately handled the cases of about two dozen men.

TAYLOR: We call on Lisa Madigan to agree to prompt hearings for all torture victims who remain in prison as a result of confessions allegedly tortured from them by Burge and his men.

In an email statement, Madigan says she is reviewing cases individually to determine the most appropriate next step.

* Illinois Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan sues distributor of Simplicity-brand bassinets

* In Chicago, Trump hits headwinds

So far, Mr. Trump has lined up buyers for a bit less than $600 million of condo units and condo-hotel units in a residential market that has virtually seized up. Yet he owes lenders as much as $1 billion when the loans are due, according to public records and several people familiar with the project. He has closed around $200 million in sales so far, with roughly $380 million still in contract. The retail portion of the giant building is for sale, at a time of rising vacancies for retail space in Chicago and one of the worst eras for retailers in years.

* MillerCoors signs 15-year lease for headquarters

* Durbin vs. Sauerberg is drawing little interest

“It’s a heck of a sleeper,” said political scientist Brian Gaines of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois. He said he was involved in a recent Illinois poll in which respondents weren’t even asked about the Senate race because “it wasn’t interesting enough.”

* Governor seeks to ease Pontiac’s pain

Pontiac mayor says governor’s task force nothing more than “political fluff”

* Blagojevich hopes task force can soften the blow of prison closure

* The Hidden costs of Collective bargaining

* Garbage collection cuts could be deep

Mayor Daley wants to shrink the size of 80 more garbage collection crews — to one laborer on a truck instead of two. But he might not stop there.

The Streets and Sanitation Department is conducting a field test this week with a $200,000 truck that requires no laborers. It has a mechanical arm that picks up carts and dumps the trash in the side of the truck.

“If the guy has to get out of his truck, move cans into position, then pick ‘em up, time-wise it could be very ineffective,” O’Connor said.

He added, “It’s not new technology. It’s just whether our geography is amenable to this type of pick-up. Part of the thing in the city is having sanitation workers be able to pull the cart out of its enclave and get it to where it can be put into the truck. I’m not sure this articulated arm gets into all of those places.”

* Cell phone fines can now be settled out of court

Chicago motorists caught yakking on cell phones while driving — and committing no other violation — will soon be able to hang onto their driver’s licenses and avoid the Traffic Court headache.

On Wednesday, a City Council committee traded the sledge hammer for a felt hammer, in hopes of increasing fines and reducing driver aggravation.

* Daley doesn’t want to lose schools chief to Obama

* Daley not keen on Duncan going to D.C.

* O’Hare blames delays on N.Y.

* Help Save the World by donating to World Music Company

- Posted by Kevin Fanning        

  1. - wordslinger - Thursday, Oct 30, 08 @ 9:20 am:

    Streets and San going from a two-man to a one-man truck like the rest of the world? My, that’s progress.

    Reminds me of a story in Royko’s “Boss.” Richard J. was asked why Chicago, at that time, had three-man trucks while the rest of the world was converting to one-man trucks.

    To paraphrase Richard J: “You need one man to drive the truck, one man to get the garbage and one man to look out for the little kids playing in the alley.”

    Seriously, major cuts in Streets and San will be a behind-the-scenes Battle Royale, given its history as a patronage and Outfit dumping ground.

  2. - Cal Skinner - Thursday, Oct 30, 08 @ 9:22 am:

    I can’t remember ever seeing two men on a garbage truck in Crystal Lake.

  3. - Wumpus - Thursday, Oct 30, 08 @ 9:22 am:

    So the nation’s schools will be like Chicago’s? Wonderful! I know Bush, Clinton etc brought their homeboys and I guess some people from Chicago beat Arkasnas anyday. But I wouldn’t let Mayor Daley’s lapdog Duncan be the janitor at a school (no offense ot Janitors), let alone be secretary of education!

    What’s next, Todd Stroger as Secretary of Commerce?

  4. - DzNts - Thursday, Oct 30, 08 @ 9:29 am:

    There are hundreds of reasons why Pontiac CC should not be closed, but none in my opinion more relevant than the fact that it appears to be an obvious constitutional circumvention of the legislative intent. The GA appropriated funds in the budget to operate Pontiac CC for FY09. By closing the prison through junior-high level tactics and without any legislative authorization, would this not be considered an example of misfeasance of office?

    It’s ironic that Senator Rutherford has stated he will do everything legally and ethically possible to keep the prison open. The irony is that Blagojevich has seemingly done everything illegally and unethically to close it. Note I said seemingly; I’m not a lawyer but what he is doing to not only Pontiac, but to 500+ families and secondary beneficiaries of the prison, should be considered prima facie evidence of the an incompetence to govern.

    Blagojevich deserves much worse than the impact his ill-fated decision will have on the families in Livingston County and other counties who work at Pontiac.

    I’m not even from Pontiac, but this sitaution and the entire DoC efforts to systematically dismantle and transfer inmates across the state will not result in anything good. It’s dangerous. It’s entirely political. I just hope it’s proven to be illegal.

  5. - wordslinger - Thursday, Oct 30, 08 @ 9:31 am:

    I suspect there will not be as many Illinois types getting top federal jobs as is bandied about here. Cabinet and sub-cabinet positions, ambassadorship, have to be spread around a lot of geography and constituencies.

  6. - Bill - Thursday, Oct 30, 08 @ 10:23 am:

    I agree. While Arne may be qualified to be a janitor he does not posess the academic credentials or experience needed to teach kindergerten in Illinois, let alone be Superintendent.
    He should be fired for the mess he presides over. There are more hacks making six figures at the CPS than there are in the Dept. of Ed. in DC and none of them ever teach a class.

  7. - Leroy - Thursday, Oct 30, 08 @ 10:37 am:

    There’s not nearly as much garbage out in Crystal Lake as there is in Chicago, Cal.

  8. - Heartless Libertarian - Thursday, Oct 30, 08 @ 11:00 am:

    Great, Miller-Coors in Chicago. Just to let everyone know, there are already some great breweries based in Chicago and the surrounding area. i.e. Goose Island, Two Brothers, Three Floyds, and about 20 or so brewpubs that make far superior beer. So before you get all excited about Miller-Coors being a Chicago beer, try a few of the others.

  9. - Jim Rockford - Thursday, Oct 30, 08 @ 1:22 pm:

    Is it now possible to pay a cell phone fine with a cell phone?

  10. - Doggone - Thursday, Oct 30, 08 @ 1:34 pm:

    The cost saving generated by closing Pontiac and opening Thomson should not be measured over a year, but rather over the life of state-of-the-art $140 million facility.

  11. - DzNts - Thursday, Oct 30, 08 @ 3:15 pm:

    If the General Assembly, in their wisdom and reflecting the majority will of the people of the state of Illinois vote to withold funding for the Pontiac Correctional Center, I have no problem with that. But let’s not confuse or distort the argument based on the life-span of a $140M facility. The argument in this case is whether or not the Governor exceeds his constitutional authority to unilaterily close a state facility in the absence of legislative authority.

    The state’s own independent study showed no cost savings. If the Governor was truly concerned about public safety, he would find the money to fully fund Thompson and Pontiac. He would hire NEW correctional officers to staff Thompson and create new economic growth. This decision to close Pontiac is nothing short of redistribution of political capital. It’s Obama-style economics and Representative Lisa Duggan’s comments about the similarities with the aborted prison in Pembroke should get more attention.

    I know the Pembroke area and Rod thumbed his nose at the plight of that economically devastated area. He opted to put political capital elsewhere and, as a result, people in that area still have shacks, sand roads (I’m not making that up) and in some cases no running water or sewer systems. That’s the kind of economic promise Rod Blagojevich represents. The people in Thomson should be very, very afraid.

    If he pulls the plug on Pontiac, he can (and has) pulled the plug on any other facility based on nothing else but political winds.

    This is not about pro-rated cost savings one bit. It’s about egregious abuse of power.

  12. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Oct 30, 08 @ 3:18 pm:

    ===I know the Pembroke area===

    That’s an excellent point. I know that area as well. Lots of bright, shiny promises after he nixed the prison and then no real follow-up or progress whatsoever.

  13. - DzNts - Thursday, Oct 30, 08 @ 4:04 pm:

    What’s truly unfortunate is that the Pembroke example, as excellent an example as there probably is, will end up being just another bullet in some talking points or, at best some testimony in the GA.

    When you start adding up Pembroke, Rochester, Lincoln Development Center, Vandalia, DOT Traffic Safety, Pontiac, Carterville… all south of I-80, all promises made and broken, no economic growth, false promises of help, and the result is what? Consistent failure to lead.

    I wonder though, is it possible for the Attorney General to halt prison closures that are not authorized by the General Assembly or are the hopes an entire area of central Illinois waiting on the decision of the AFSCME lawsuit challenging the closure? It won’t matter anyway. Blagojevich will just say the court ruling is advisory. Can anyone short of Patrick Fitzgerald stop him from inflicting any more harm than he’s already created?

  14. - Six Degrees of Separation - Thursday, Oct 30, 08 @ 4:14 pm:

    Rich and DzNts-

    Please give IDOT a little credit for fixing up several miles of township roads in the area. Otherwise, you are right that the promise of the Hopkins Park correctional facility, when that rug was pulled out, was largely empty.

  15. - DzNts - Thursday, Oct 30, 08 @ 4:54 pm:

    Duly noted. I haven’t been east of Wichert in a few years, but I do appreciate the work IDOT did out there.

  16. - In the Sticks - Thursday, Oct 30, 08 @ 8:43 pm:

    There is the same kind of spending happening to house the residents displaced by the Howe/Tinley Closing. Take a look at the CDB emergency projects at Murray, Madden, Shapiro (and probably a few others). All emergencies because it takes so long to make any decisions or plans at DHS. The agency knew that Howe/Tinley was to close for over a year, but the necessary work wasn’t requested until October.

  17. - DzNts - Thursday, Oct 30, 08 @ 9:09 pm:

    Great example, In the Sticks. The pattern of incompetence, lack of strategic planning, and “emergency expenses” are breathtaking. It’s like doing a press release announcing they are going to build a new car for $500, then suddenly realize they have to order steel and install tires and a transmission. Then, blame the cost overruns on the Speaker or someone else.

    All flash and no film.

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