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Morning shorts

Monday, Dec 29, 2008

* State owes Peoria hospitals millions

* Illinois transportation projects sought as part of federal stimulus package

Gov. Rod Blagojevich has provided the Obama transition team with about 300 transportation projects estimated to cost $2.4 billion and put about 94,000 people to work in the state.

Concern exists that elected officials not be permitted to use any federal windfall as a substitute for coming up with a state capital-improvement spending plan for long-term projects. Illinois lawmakers have not passed a state capital program in almost a decade, leading to a backlog of deferred maintenance and delays in roadway and mass-transit capacity-expansion projects.

Projects that can have a large impact should make up the core of any stimulus package, the experts said. Examples include improving the region’s mass-transit systems by building new Metra commuter rail stations, eliminating all Chicago Transit Authority slow zones, purchasing new trains and buses and modernizing the congested rail freight network.

“The projects selected must have meaningful and lasting value” to increase economic growth, Blankenhorn said. “We only get one shot at this thing.”

* Time for tough staffing decisions

As the new year approaches, municipalities throughout the region are faced with 2009 budgets that need to be slashed in the face of declining revenue.

Ranging from the big - such as Naperville or Elgin - to the smaller communities like Antioch or Wauconda, layoffs have been ordered or at least considered as city councils and village boards decide what to do to balance the budget. Suburban governments, like so many local companies, are not immune.

* Michigan Ave. bridge to get $3.5 million facelift

* 2009 brings higher fees

CTA, parking rates to go up, but a state capital bill may help.

The state hasn’t passed a capital bill in nearly 10 years, and the CTA alone claims it needs $6.3 billion to buy new trains and buses, fix tracks and bridges and update communications. The lack of a capital bill this year has been blamed on fighting between Gov. Blagojevich and other state leaders.

* Winners, losers and the CN merger

* EJ&E sale shifts from ugly to mixed

* Report: Chicago most segregated big city

* Suburbs less segregated due to small black populations, experts say

In most areas, black populations are very small, which experts say makes it much easier to integrate. In places where the percentage of black residents is higher, there is far more segregation.

Take suburban Cook County, where about 75 percent of blacks or whites would have to switch neighborhoods to integrate perfectly, a Tribune analysis shows. Reasons for segregation mirror those in Chicago: Historical separation continued with black migration from the city and white flight to other suburbs. Personal preferences and economics influence moves by both whites and blacks.

* Tougher driving comes with DUI conviction

If new mandated sensors detect alcohol, car won’t start

* ‘Gang-related’ killings much more than that

* Study: Murders among black youths on the rise

* Festivus pole latest addition to state Capitol display

Festivus was created by character George Costanza’s father, Frank, as a sort of protest against the commercialism of Christmas. The holiday’s slogan is “A Festivus for the Rest of Us.” Its symbol is an aluminum pole with no decoration because Frank Costanza found tinsel distracting.

Michael Tennenhouse, 18, of Springfield, got permission from Secretary of State Jesse White’s office to install the pole, something he said is “kind of silly and in the name of fun, really.” But Tennenhouse also said he wouldn’t have bothered if not for the fuss generated by a Nativity scene being placed in the rotunda followed by the atheist sign protesting organized religion.

- Posted by Mike Murray        

11 Comments
  1. - Ghost - Monday, Dec 29, 08 @ 9:34 am:

    The trnasportation projects are a good example of how the Gov is hurting the people of Illinois. While he remains in office there is little chance Obama or the feds will hand over large scale dollars for projects; paticuarly since the Gov is accused of directing such construction projects in a manner designed to reward donors and punish detrators.


  2. - KeepSmiling - Monday, Dec 29, 08 @ 10:19 am:

    Unfortunately, if the decision on what gets funded gets reworked through the legislature, we are likely to see lots of little, meaningless projects scattered like member initiatives around the state.

    But Mayor Daley will never have that. This will not slip through his iron fingers. The people who are talking to the Tribune clearly are not invited to the party. While the razzle dazzle focuses us on stage left, keep an eye on stage right: O’Hare Modernization, CREATE, Circle Line/MidCity light rail (Chicago, Olympics) and ok, ok, high speed rail to St Louis (IL)… for the rest of the state.


  3. - Phil Collins - Monday, Dec 29, 08 @ 10:35 am:

    Some of the murders, of black youths, happened because of their parents. According to the Index of Leading Cultural Indicators, by William Bennett, in 1960, about 10% of American babies were born out of wedlock. In 1991, the percentages were 65%, for Blacks; 30%, for Hispanics; and 25%, for Whites. When only one parent raises a child, it’s harder to teach the kid good morals, especially since many single mothers work two or three jobs, to make ends meet. When parents aren’t with their kids, many of their teenagers become criminals. Government can’t do much to change this. Each American should be more responsible and not conceive children until they’re married. Single fathers should show that care more about their kids by paying child support and spending more time with their kids.


  4. - Excessively rabid - Monday, Dec 29, 08 @ 12:54 pm:

    A Festivus pole - I love it. It all starts with bozos who just can’t stand not having nativity scenes in public places. Where do they come from? I don’t see them in church….


  5. - wordslinger - Monday, Dec 29, 08 @ 3:13 pm:

    Phil, I understand where you’re coming from regarding two-parent homes, but let’s be a little careful.

    Making a connection between marital status and murder and crime can be a stretch. Poverty and environment certainly contribute to crime. Free will also plays a part in whether you kill someone, no matter your status (let’s not blame everything on mom, dad and society).

    The great majority of poor, middle-class and rich kids raised in single-family homes have never turned to crime, much less murder. Tom Brady and his super-model girlfriend never married and never lived together, but I doubt their kid is going to be on the corner selling crack or knocking over liquor stores.

    Careful with Bll Bennett — he just writes those books to support his gambling habit, anyway.


  6. - cermak_rd - Monday, Dec 29, 08 @ 3:46 pm:

    Another interesting fact is that children reared by a single father (as I was), do not have these negative correlations with a bad outcome. Of course, that’s likely because the sample is quite small in comparison to children reared by a single mother.

    Another factor is that many times the pool of marriageable men who are employable and not involved in crime or an ex-offender is quite small among impoverished communities. Asking a woman not to have children until she can find a decent marryable is probably asking a bit much as she may very well never find one.


  7. - Phil Collins - Monday, Dec 29, 08 @ 3:50 pm:

    Wordslinger, I agree that the majority of Americans who are raised by one parent don’t become criminals. However, I think that it’s usually better, for the children, if they’re raised by two parents, instead of one.


  8. - Chicago Cynic - Monday, Dec 29, 08 @ 5:04 pm:

    Yesterday the Sun-Times ran an editorial (”Instead of Cursing Mayor, grab a shovel?”) on the Mayor’s claim that we can’t afford salt and everyone should just chip in an shovel. I found the juxtaposition of that and the story above about $3.5 million being spent to beautify the Michigan Ave. bridge rather stunning.

    If the Sun-Times editors would read their own paper including the story above, they’d see a perfect example of why people are angry about the “Chicago can’t afford salt” nonsense. $3.5 million for decorative handrails on Michigan Ave.??? That’s 20% of our snow removal budget.

    It’s simply unbelievable what people in this town let our leaders get away with. When those parking meters become 24/7, rates quadruple and people have nowhere else to park at night, then
    maybe people will wake up.


  9. - wordslinger - Monday, Dec 29, 08 @ 5:10 pm:

    CC, you’re absolutely right. We live in Chicago, not San Diego. Plowed and salted streets are not a luxury, they’re a necessity for commerce and public safety.

    I cross the Michigan Avenue Bridge four times a day and the handrails are fine.


  10. - Chicago Cynic - Monday, Dec 29, 08 @ 5:37 pm:

    WS, I couldn’t believe the Sun-Times editorial. It was like Daley was using a Jedi mind trick on the editors…


  11. - Wumpus - Monday, Dec 29, 08 @ 5:53 pm:

    Didn’t Old Man Daley help have the city designed (the interstates, etc) to keep certain people in their place? And the tolerant folks who run the city now continue the practice of keeping people out of their neighborhoods


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