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A very bad omen *** UPDATED w/ Response from governor’s office ***

Tuesday, Apr 28, 2009

*** UPDATE 3 *** An e-mail to me from Ms. Ridgway of the governor’s press office…

It is the Governor’s intention that transit projects will get started this construction season.

Construction season ends in, what, November?

*** UPDATE 2 *** Greg Hinz at Crain’s has shared the original e-mail response he received from Katie Ridgway of the governor’s PR staff…

With a statewide unemployment rate of 9.1%, the Governor, working with the General Assembly, believed it was crucial to pass Jump Start Capital Plan to get shovel ready road projects going in May so we can start putting people back to work. The Jump Start Capital Plan relies on dollars from the Road Fund to support $640 million in road projects.

The funding source for the bonding to support $1 billion in transit projects is GRF; we are working with the General Assembly to pass revenue enhancements to support the GRF spending on the bonds. The purpose for including transit in the Jump Start Capital Plan was to allow transit agencies time to take action necessary to get projects into the “ready to go” phase. [emphasis added]

They are not working with the GA on passing revenue enhancements for transit. Nobody in the GA was ever told about this.

*** UPDATE *** The governor’s office is claiming that the Crain’s story which this post is based on is all just a misunderstanding. Here are some notes from a conversation with a top dog…

Out of context. There’s a significant cash flow problem right now so there’s no money at this moment for the bonding. We’re not trying to impose a new condition.

We’re trying to pay off Medicaid bills by end of May. We don’t have any intention to not issue the bonds. If governor’s budget passes, it puts more money into GRF because of the income tax hike. We have no intention of stalling or withholding any money. It’s a matter of economics. Easier with an income tax hike, but it’s not a condition.

[ *** End of Update *** ]

* Gov. Quinn is apparently reneging on a promise to pay for transit fixes

What’s happened is that, after signing a bill on April 3 to issue $3 billion for bonds for roads and public transit work, Mr. Quinn’s office has agreed to release money only for roads.

The $1-billion portion that was supposed to go for new buses, train repairs and related items will have to wait, at least for now, flabbergasted transit leaders were told in a meeting with Jack Lavin, Mr. Quinn’s chief operating officer. […]

But the transit work is different, according to the governor’s office. It requires the Legislature to pass “revenue enhancements” to pay off the bonds, and that has not yet occurred, the spokeswoman says. The transit agencies can use the time to get their projects shovel ready, she says.

That’s just not true.

The transit bonding was supposed to be funded by GRF. There was nothing said about any revenue enhancements for that portion of the transit bill. Period.

“The agreement that passed was based on a $28-billion revenue stream that already exists,” said [House Speaker Michael Madigan’s spokesman], referring to the state’s General Revenue Funds, which were supposed to finance the transit bonds. “There was an agreement between the administration and the Legislature to pass this capital plan.”

I’d venture a guess that the bond houses weren’t all that thrilled with the idea of using a bombed-out General Revenue Fund to pay off these bonds. But, again, there was nothing said whatsoever about funding the transit program with any sort of revenue increase.

I’m sure Mayor Daley will also be pleased as punch.

This is an absolutely horrible way to start off the budget negotiations.

…Adding… Wordslinger notes in comments…

Actually, the bond houses like this single revenue source the best. It’s a General Obligation bond, basically; the GRF produces many times the coverage needed for debt service

True. In retrospect, this looks more like a budget office walk-back, which is what happened all the freaking time under Blagojevich. Not good at all.

- Posted by Rich Miller   30 Comments      


Reform report - Read it all, watch the video *** UPDATED x1 ***

Tuesday, Apr 28, 2009

*** UPDATE *** I just noticed this in the commission report

Require exclusive employment for the Senate President and Speaker of the House positions with compensation commensurate with Illinois Supreme Court Justices.

In other words, no outside income for legislative leaders.

[ *** End of Update *** ]

* You can read the final report of the governor’s reform commission by clicking here. The press release is here.

* They want term limits for legislative leaders

A state government reform panel appointed by new Gov. Pat Quinn today proposed term limits for powerful legislative leaders, cutting back on lawmakers’ private meetings and overhauling a patronage-riddled hiring system.

“The nation’s eyes are upon us, they are watching what we do here. Will we get meaningful reform?” said Patrick Collins, the former federal prosecutor who chaired the commission. “The question for our state at this time in our history is what will be our response to this unprecedented crisis of integrity that we face.”

But not for governors

The Commission’s research suggested that gubernatorial term limits would produce only minor substantive effects in Illinois.

Speaker Madigan responds

House Speaker Michael Madigan, who I caught in an elevator a few minutes after Quinn’s press conference, was more reserved. “We view it as an honest effort to generate ideas,” said Madigan, who has ruled the House for most of the past 26 years. He went on to imply that the notion of limiting legisaltive leadership tenure is un-democratic.

* The commissioners were split on recall

As with general elective term limits, the Commission
was unable to make a unanimous recommendation regarding the direct recall of elected officials. While Commissioners acknowledge the merit of making elected officials more accountable to the voters, Commissioners were concerned about the potential unintended consequences of a reactionary endorsement of the recall power.

* They also want far more bills brought to the House and Senate floors

While the Commission applauds the recent Senate efforts to increase full committee hearing of proposed legislation, the Commission recommends modifying the process even further. To ensure due consideration of pending legislation, the Commission recommends that the House and Senate adopt rules requiring that each bill introduced to the Rules or Assignment Committees, as applicable, be subject to a
full committee vote if the bill has a minimum of sixteen sponsors in the House or eight sponsors in the Senate. The Commission believes that this will allow for consideration of all bills that have a reasonable chance of success, while preventing the waste of time that consideration of every single bill might engender.

* More

The commission urged… an overhaul of the way the state budget gets voted on by breaking it into pieces and holding public hearings on each piece, and de-emphasizing the power of the House and Senate Rules committees, which historically have been chokeholds on major pieces of legislation.

* More

The commission wants to make government more transparent by applying the Open Meetings act to the Illinois General Assembly and making state government approve more Freedom of Information Act requests.

* Gov. Quinn didn’t sign off immediately on the commission’s procurement reforms, saying he hadn’t had a chance to read them yet…


* The governor also said he’d be open to public financing for more than just judicial races…


More on that topic…

Quinn said Tuesday he wants voters to have the power to recall corrupt officials. That’s something the reform commission did not support. […]

The Chicago Democrat also says voters should be able to hold referendums on key ethics issues, so that lawmakers aren’t the only ones making decisions.

* The guv kinda waffled a bit on whether the GA ought to pass the reforms as is, right now…


* More videos from the guv’s presser are here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   36 Comments      


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Tuesday, Apr 28, 2009

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Enter your password to view comments      


Question of the day

Tuesday, Apr 28, 2009

* The setup, from ABC7

One last question for Roland Burris: Will you run for a full term as U.S. senator in the February, 2010, Democratic primary?

“I basically say I’m not going anywhere,” Burris said.

What do we take from that?

“I’m not going anywhere,” said Burris.

How should we take that?

“You can take it as you see it.”

* The Question: Do you think Burris runs for the Senate next year? Explain fully, please.

- Posted by Rich Miller   46 Comments      


Make a difference in our kids’ lives: END SCHOOL OVERCROWDING

Tuesday, Apr 28, 2009

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

Forcing children to be bussed out of their neighborhood school in order to alleviate overcrowding is no solution to this problem. Neither is creating makeshift classrooms out of storage rooms, science labs or computer rooms; nor structuring the school year on a multi-track schedule. Yet in 2009, Chicago Public School (CPS) students still endure these obstacles to a quality education.

According to a new report commissioned by the United Neighborhood Organization (UNO), these burdens are being borne largely by Chicago’s Hispanic children and families.

This school year, 64 neighborhood elementary schools meet CPS’s definition of overcrowding and do not serve the needs of their communities. 70% of these schools are predominantly Latino. The worst example is at Lee Elementary which serves a student body that is 94% Latino and is at 179% of capacity. Overall, there are almost 63,000 students attending an overcrowded neighborhood elementary school, of whom, 79% are Latino.

It is clear that there is no issue more pressing for the Latino community of Chicago and in Illinois than providing a quality education in non-overcrowded classrooms.

It’s time for the state legislature to step forward and support the #1 Latino priority: new school construction for Chicago’s overburdened families.

Call your state legislator today and demand an end to school overcrowding.

Read more at www.uno-online.org or here .

- Posted by Capitol Fax Blog Advertising Department   Comments Off      


Campaign 2010 roundup

Tuesday, Apr 28, 2009

* More from Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky’s pollster…

To: Interested Parties
From: Lake Research Partners
Subject: The 2010 Democratic Primary for U.S. Senate in Illinois
Date: April 24, 2009

Findings from a recent survey of likely Democratic Primary voters in Illinois show a wide open race for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Senator Roland Burris, with Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky holding a narrow lead over all candidates, including the incumbent Senator. In addition, when voters learn more information (positive and negative) about the candidates, Schakowsky expands her lead over the field. Schakowsky’s message resonates strongly with a Democratic electorate hungry for progressive leadership that will once again provide Illinois families a chance at the American Dream.

Congresswoman Schakowsky owns a slight lead in a race that is wide open at this early stage. In an initial three-way trial heat, Schakowsky takes nearly a quarter of the vote (24%), narrowly edging out State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (22%). Senator Roland Burris draws just 18% of the vote – a striking indicator of his vulnerability. The intensity of support also narrowly favors Schakowsky (16% strong support), followed by Giannoulias (15%) and Burris (10%). Still, with over one-third (36%) of the Democratic Primary electorate undecided, this seat is up for grabs.

After voters hear positive statements about the candidates, Schakowsky posts a double-digit lead. Schakowsky’s lead grows from 2 points in the initial ballot to 16 points after voters hear more about the candidates (see text of statements on following page). She leads Giannoulias on the three-way ballot, 38% to 22%, with 21% undecided. C.E.O. Cheryle Jackson attracts 17% of the vote.[2]

Notably, the percentage of voters who support Schakowsky strongly on the informed ballot (23% strong support) outnumbers the tot al percentage of voters who support Giannoulias (22% overall support).

Even after voters hear negative information about Schakowsky and the other candidates, Schakowsky retains a solid lead over the field.

That last paragraph is key for Schakowsky. Lots of people believe her husband’s imprisonment kills off her chances. As I told subscribers today, her poll doesn’t show that at all - at least, not in her mind. We’ll see what happens when the real race kicks in.

More…

Even more impressive , Schakowsky’s lead is not a function of superior name recognition, which actually belongs to Giannoulias. Voters have a slightly more informed opinion of Giannoulias, and both candidates are viewed positively. Despite Giannoulias’ advantage in name recognition, however, Schakowsky leads throughout.

Bottom Line: At this early stage in the race, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky is the strongest candidate in a wide open race for the Democratic nomination for Illinois’ U.S. Senate seat. Schakowsky’s lead on the initial ballot against incumbent Senator Roland Burris and several other serious candidates is impressive, and once voters learn more about each of the candidates they coalesce around her candidacy in significant numbers.

Even after hearing a strong attack on Schakowsky, the Congresswoman retains her lead.

Again, check that last sentence.

* If I wasn’t sick yesterday, I would’ve scooped Sneed on this one, but whatever. The Kennedy’s are her beat anyway…

Sneed has learned Chris Kennedy, son of the late U.S. Sen. Robert Kennedy, may be this/close to entering the U.S. Senate sweepstakes from Illinois.

• • To wit: “Right now, it’s an 85 percent chance Chris is going to do it,” a top Kennedy source tells Sneed.

• • Poll ‘em: Sneed is told Kennedy, who runs the Merchandise Mart, has commissioned Obama pollster John Anzalone — and has talked to media consultants Larry Grisolano and John Kupper, who now run the firm once headed by David Axelrod, President Obama’s senior adviser.

• • Translation: The poll, which is expected at the end of the week, “will give him a better lay of the land in this ever-changing race,” the source said.

* And Greg Hinz has more about the big losses in Alexi Giannoulias’ Bright Start program

One: Mr. Giannoulias’ office was informed last April that Core Bond had heavily invested in mortgage-backed securities, far beyond what its benchmark specified. But he kept putting new Bright Start money into the fund for another seven months.

Two: Core Bond wasn’t the only Oppenheimer fund from which Mr. Giannoulias abruptly pulled Bright Start funds late last year because of investment losses. But he hasn’t disclosed that. Morningstar did.

Three: State Sen. Chris Lauzen of Aurora, the GOP co-chair of the Legislature’s audit commission, says he may soon call for a full review of how Illinois families lost something more than $85 million in what were supposed to be safe, protected investments.

It would be nice if we could get one clear, concise story about why this is important. As it is, nobody but the Republicans are picking up on it.

* Meanwhile, Gov. Quinn says he’ll probably run for a full term and reveals how much he’s raised so far

Quinn said he has raised about $250,000 for his gubernatorial campaign.

Every journey begins with a first step, I suppose.

* Related…

* ‘Senior’ moment from Roland Burris

* Burris slips up introducing Durbin on Biden tour

- Posted by Rich Miller   50 Comments      


The most important reform of all

Tuesday, Apr 28, 2009

* As most of you know, I am a big proponent of throwing out the way Illinois draws its legislative and congressional maps. A recent Tribune editorial had this interesting tidbit…

In November’s election, incumbents got more than 75 percent of the vote in 25 of the 40 state Senate districts that were in contention, and 72 of the 118 House districts.

More than 75 percent of the vote. Because incumbents are beloved? No. Because Illinois gerrymandering — the drawing of districts for raw political gain — is a legalized protection racket. Who gets protected? Not you.

* How important is redistricing to legislators? A New Yorker story from last year, which included an observation about the day after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, might just turn your stomachs

For many Illinois state legislators, September 11th was not an event that required much response. The attacks occurred just before an important deadline in the redistricting process. John Corrigan, the Democratic consultant in charge of redistricting, told me that he spent September 12th talking to many legislators, Obama not among them.

“It was like nothing had happened,” he said. “Everybody came in and all they cared about was their districts. It wasn’t any one particular legislator from any one particular community. I learned a lot about state government. Their job was not to respond to September 11th. They were more worried about making sure that they had a district that they could run in for reëlection.”

On September 12th. Sheesh.

They’ll never let that one go without a gigantic fight, but a fight must be fought.

* Yet, this sort of “all or nothing” attitude in a legislative environment is just plain counter-productive

The head of Gov. Pat Quinn’s anti-corruption commission looked into the eyes of the legislature’s top leaders at the Illinois Capitol and said nothing less than a sweeping victory on a package of good-government proposals is necessary to clean up a state notoriously not ready for reform.

Removing government secrecy, overhauling campaign financing, removing politics when awarding contracts, changing the way elections are held, enforcing strong penalties for misbehavior — every one of these reforms must be approved or “there will be a hole, there will be a trap door, there will be room for the next scandal,” former federal prosecutor Patrick Collins told the leaders.

I can’t help but wonder if Collins won’t try to use this commission as a springboard to something else. I hope I’m wrong, but my potential candidate radar is strongly activated by this man.

* My syndicated newspaper column kinda got buried in Mike’s massive MS yesterday (thanks to Mike for taking over while I was in bed with flu-like symptoms). So, here’s another excerpt…

By far, the most ironic aspect of this entire post-Rod Blagojevich push to reform Illinois has to be the last paragraph of Gov. Pat Quinn’s much-praised reform commission report.

“All constitutional officers should issue executive orders, comparable to George Ryan’s Executive Order No. 2 (1999), prohibiting their campaign funds from accepting contributions from state employees under their control.”

Former Gov. Ryan issued that executive order because his crooked campaign fundraising operation at his old secretary of state’s office had triggered a federal corruption probe and he was looking for some political cover. That investigation, of course, eventually put Ryan in prison.

Gov. Quinn’s reform commission chairman Pat Collins - who presided over the insertion of that rare Ryan praise into the commission report - was the chief prosecutor at Ryan’s trial. Ryan’s executive order didn’t prevent Collins’ feds from also convicting his campaign committee.

A few years before he issued that order, Ryan pushed through widely hailed reforms of the state’s lobbyist registration and disclosure laws in the run-up to his successful 1994 re-election campaign against noted reformer… Pat Quinn. Several of Ryan’s lobbyist pals got caught up in his federal prosecution.

The irony just never stops in this state.

The lesson from this ought to be that passing new laws, no matter how enlightened and reasonable and strict, will not stop the bad guys from being bad guys. They are what they are. George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich are living proof of that hard-and-fast law of the universe.

Obviously, though, we’ve got a real problem here in Illinois, and some changes have to be made. But making those changes - and making sure they actually work and don’t break something else in the process - isn’t nearly as easy as the newspaper editorial boards and some of the reformers always make it sound.

* Related…

* Ill. Reform Commission to release final report

* Durbin: Fitzgerald will stay as prosecutor

* Rod Blagojevich defense lawyers ask judge to tap campaign fund

* Rod Blagojevich’s lawyers seek access to $2 million in campaign funds for legal fees

* Blago’s brother wants to use campaign money for defense

* Attorney Allan Ackerman may join Blagojevich legal team

- Posted by Rich Miller   20 Comments      


Pretty spin

Tuesday, Apr 28, 2009

* I keep seeing this quote from Republicans, and nobody ever challenges them on it. Here’s House GOP Leader Tom Cross in the Southern Illinoisan…

To increase revenue ignores the root problems, Cross said. With that in mind, he suggested the state’s budget woes can’t be solved overnight.

“It’s a hole that took six years - or more - to get into,” he said. “I think you can take a year or two (to get out of it).”

Since Illinois can’t print money and has a balanced budget clause in its constitution, the only way to put off dealing with the deficit for “a year or two” is to borrow. You can borrow on the bond markets or “borrow” from state vendors by further delaying already horribly late payments. Borrowing beyond the end of the fiscal year will require GOP votes, and they haven’t said they’d be willing to do that as of yet.

It’s a really nice line, and seems quite reasonable. But there’s far more to this than they want reporters (and their readers) to think.

* Meanwhile, the SJ-R doesn’t quite come out and say they’d support a tax hike without exemptions as long as the state increased the Earned Income Tax Credit. Instead, they completely dodged the final issue

In proposing his tax increase plan, Gov. Pat Quinn also called for increasing exemptions to lessen the pain on many taxpayers. Illinois Senate President John Cullerton has advocated a much lower tax increase without increasing exemptions. Obviously, there is ample middle ground here that will be negotiated in the coming weeks.

We hope a discussion of increasing the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit finds its way to the table.

One wonders what the editorial board would do to a legislator who came into the room with that dodgeball language.

* And Kurt Erickson sums up why voting for tax hikes without any big new programs (or much more school funding) won’t go over well out in Voter Land

Citizen: Why did you raise my taxes?

Lawmaker: So we could keep the status quo.

Citizen: Wow. That kind of stinks.

Lawmaker: Can I expect your support on Election Day?

Citizen: Um. Why?

* Rep. Dave Winters (R-Shirland) says what’s on a lot of minds about House Speaker Michael Madigan and the capital construction program…

I’ll give you a leading indicator,” he said. “Does (Attorney General) Lisa Madigan pull the trigger and run for governor? If she does, you won’t see a capital plan because the speaker won’t allow it. If she doesn’t, then I think we’ll see a capital plan.”

I’m not quite sure what’s behind that logic, since killing the capital bill yet again could harm Ms. Madigan’s standing with labor unions, so maybe somebody can explain this more fully.

* Speaking of Lisa Madigan, Eric Zorn reprints a couple of memos from Bob Arya, who used to work for Rod Blagojevich. In this excerpt, he talks of a Blagojevich plan which I wrote about numerous times in the past…

Rod let me and others know that the goal was to “Damage the Madigan brand.” This meant doing all we could to make the Speaker look bad and make him look like the bad guy.

The goal was removing Speaker Madigan from his state party chairmanship and preventing Lisa Madigan from running for governor.

* Related…

* Kristen McQueary blasts the RTA for proposing a fleet of “express coaches” from the far southwestern suburbs to downtown Chicago: But here’s my problem: If you move to the far southwest suburbs, particularly west of Interstate 355, and you work in downtown Chicago, a longer and more complicated commute is the price you pay. You want another hour per day with your family? Move closer to your job.

* ‘Not a lot of pretty scenarios’

* Jones calls for state to cut back in budget

* Stimulus dollars help local schools - for now

- Posted by Rich Miller   27 Comments      


Morning shorts

Tuesday, Apr 28, 2009

Constitutional Officers

* Illinois attorney general demands shutdown of Craigslist’s erotic services section


IL Congressional Delegation

* Is that a drug in your water, or are you just happy?

The symptoms above are just some of the side-effects of drugs that have been detected in our drinking water. Many of those drugs probably are expelled from human bodies in the normal way and just don’t get filtered out by sewage plants. A few may be the result of farm animals. Some people toss unwanted prescriptions into the toilet.

But before the fear can begin, we need to know what to fear, and even if we have anything to fear.

“How do you screen for it and filter it out if you don’t know what to get rid of?” says Congresswoman Melissa Bean, a Barrington Democrat. “Until we really know what’s there and what harm there is, we don’t know what the next step would be.”

A proposal sponsored by Bean and passed in the House by a 413-10 vote last week aims to push the government to study our drinking water, identify the trace amounts of drugs and chemicals in it, determine if they cause problems, and figure out what to do about it.


GA


The Crestwood Fallout Continues

* Proposed law aims to prevent another Crestwood

* Rush urges probe of tainted Crestwood well

* IEPA needs to step up to the plate


Medical Marijuana Picking Up Some Steam?

* Religious leaders back medical marijuana

* Patients deserve right to medical marijuana


Other GA Related Stories

* Howe Center fate: State panel will weigh in on disabled-care center’s future

* Forcing public schools in Illinois to measure up

Written by Jim Edgar and William M. Daley


Budget/Capital Plan

* Capital plan a long way from lead-pipe cinch

Quinn is the anti-Blago, so that means we’ll get that capital plan, right? Well, don’t fire up the asphalt machines just yet. Legislative leaders and Quinn must agree on whether Illinois can afford a massive spending plan while raising taxes to reduce an $11.6 billion budget shortfall.

“We’re continuing to work with Quinn and Cullerton to try to get something on the books. There’s no argument about the need,” he said. Finding an appropriate way to fund it “will require cooperation. We’ll use whatever mechanism that is legitimate and will get the job done. Two years ago, a lot of time was spent on gaming. Now, the gaming industry has pretty well collapsed, so I don’t think you can expect them to be participants.”

Brown said Madigan could support a plan to raise the gas tax by 8 cents a gallon, “but the governor has said he will oppose something like that. We’ll try to get a plan done. In the House we need bipartisan cooperation.” Brown said gas tax money can’t be used for nontransportation capital spending, “so we’d have to find another way to fund that.”

Madigan’s first priority is passing a budget. “Funding operation of government … is task No. 1. I’d say a capital bill, along with various government reform issues we’ve been talking about, is in the next tier.”


Economy


Pontiac Phased Out of GM Line

* Fans hurt to see General Motors phasing out Pontiac

General Motors on Monday announced plans to cut 21,000 U.S. factory jobs by next year and phase out its storied Pontiac brand — maker of the iconic Trans Am.

* Pontiac fan buys 1968 GTO … again

* Valley dealers look to life after Pontiac

* UAW leaders recommend Chrysler deal

* Editorial - Down, but not defeated


Tribune Hurting Bad, Sun-Times Outlook Surprising

* Sun-Times circulation shows ’strong results’

The Sunday Sun-Times saw its paid circulation rise by 2.8 percent, to 254,379.

Saturday’s Sun-Times average circulation grew 0.9 percent to 227,311.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Tribune reported its paid circulation dropped 7.4 percent weekdays to 501,203, and fell 4.5 percent on Sundays, to 858,256.

* Trib circulation down 7.5%; Sun-Times dips slightly


Other Economic Sotires

* Workers accuse Abbott Laboratories of creating firm to slash retirement benefits

Now she’s among former Abbott employees accusing the health care products company of cheating them out of their retiree benefits in a class action lawsuit trial under way in Chicago that affects more than 8,000 former Abbott employees.

The lawsuit stems from Abbott Laboratories’ 2004 spinoff of its hospital products unit into a separate company, Hospira, which is also named in the suit.

Workers claim they’d been assured by Abbott they’d have a comparable benefits package at Hospira, but that’s not what they got.

Nauman, 53, estimates she’ll be receiving $5,000 to $6,000 a month less in pension benefits and will have to shell out at least $1,000 a month to get retiree health coverage when she retires due to improper action by Abbott and Hospira. She said she worked for Abbott 20 years before being shifted to Hospira.

* Komatsu Predicts 50% Loss

Caterpillar’s main competition, is also feeling the pinch of the recession.

Japanese manufacturer Komatsu, the world’s second–biggest construction–equipment maker, is forecasting its profits will be down over fifty percent.

Komatsu Monday reported a first quarter loss of about $360 million.

It’s the company’s first reported quarterly loss since 2002.

* Northern Trust raising $1.25B to redeem TARP shares

* Boeing can weather current storm: CEO

* ComEd to lose president, CFO

* Window Company Counts on Federal Stimulus

* Target opening store downtown – for three days

The temporary store, called Bullseye Bazaar, will open May 7 to May 9 in the former McCormick Freedom Museum at the Tribune Tower at 435 N. Michigan Ave.

The pop-up stores are aimed at generating buzz and exclusivity, much like nightclubs that move every weekend to locations known to the “in” crowd.

* I-Go car operator one of two Chicago area nonprofits to get MacArthur grant

The Center for Neighborhood Technology and the Chicago Community Loan Fund will receive $650,000 and $500,000, respectively, as winners of the MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. They are among eight nonprofits getting the awards, which the Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation will announce today.

The Center for Neighborhood Technology develops programs promoting sustainability and economic health of urban areas. Its project include the I-Go car sharing program.

* Poshard says SIU tuition increase in works

* Springfield schools face deficit in largest fund

Reserves likely to be used for $7 million gap

City Hall and The Heat gets Turned Up on Stroger

* Chicago schools exec resigning

A high-ranking Chicago Public Schools executive is expected to resign Thursday as part of a management shake-up under new Chief Executive Officer Ron Huberman.

Huberman is in the process of restructuring the district’s organization and paring its administrative office in an effort to address an estimated $475 million deficit in next year’s school budget, district spokeswoman Monique Bond said.

Hill Hammock, 63, the district’s chief administrative officer, sent an e-mail to his staff recently notifying them that he had tendered his resignation, Bond said. Hammock served with the district for two years.

* Art Institute: Old ordinance may force more free days at Art Institute of Chicago

Ramping up his campaign against the Art Institute of Chicago’s pending 50-percent general admission increase, Ald. Ed Burke (14th) is trying to compel the museum to increase its free hours by enforcing an ordinance that is more than 100 years old.

Burke said Monday that city lawyers believe the 1891 agreement between the Art Institute and Chicago remains valid even though the museum has long since moved to the Park District’s jurisdiction. The 1891 contract, which established that the Michigan Avenue building would be erected for the city’s use during the 1893 Columbian Exposition before being taken over by the museum, specified that the Art Institute would offer free admission on Wednesdays, Saturdays and a half-day on Sundays.

* Spokesman: Stroger administration subpoenaed

The Cook County state’s attorney has subpoenaed both the Stroger administration and the former county employee at the center of a hiring scandal.

The subpoena, delivered to the jailed ex-employee, Tony Cole, indicates the investigation is being handled by the county’s financial crimes division, part of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s special prosecutions bureau, the department that investigates public corruption.

* Todd Stroger hiring scandal targeted

Law enforcers are looking into the scandal surrounding Cook County Board President Todd Stroger’s hiring of a troubled steakhouse busboy, whose brief county tenure sparked a patronage controversy that led Stroger to force the resignation of his cousin, the county’s chief financial officer.

Laura Lechowicz Felicione, a top Stroger lawyer, confirmed the county had “received subpoenas” when asked whether there had been such inquiries involving Tony Cole, the former busboy. She declined to elaborate, for fear that any further response “would impede [the] investigation.”

Other county sources said the state’s attorney’s office opened a probe, which Sally Daly, spokeswoman for State’s Atty. Anita Alvarez, would not confirm or deny.

County officials last week said the county inspector general was looking into the matter, and federal housing officials said Monday that they, too, are looking into Cole, but their inquiry touched only remotely on his county job.


Swine Flu: Just How Big of a Deal is it for IL?


First, here are some stories that are more focused upon eduactiong as to what Swine Flu is and what individuals should know to protect themselves.

* What you need to know about swine flu

Q: How easy is it to catch this virus?

A: Scientists don’t yet know if it takes fairly close or prolonged contact with someone who’s sick, or if it’s more easily spread. But in general, flu viruses spread through uncovered coughs and sneezes or - and this is important - by touching your mouth or nose with unwashed hands. Flu viruses can live on surfaces for several hours.

Q: Is swine flu treatable?

A: Yes, with the flu drugs Tamiflu or Relenza, but not with two older flu medications.

* Swine Flu Facts

The symptoms for Swine Flu are the same as the common form of flu but the Swine Influenza cannot be treated with the flu vaccine you may have received at the beginning of flu season.

“Swine flu is a respiratory disease. It can be a form of the same flu virus that pigs get and it mutates to infect humans,” said Sara Sparkman with Tazewell County Health Department.

There are treatments for the symptoms but no vaccine.

Health officials say it’s important to be aware. That way you can tray to prevent yourself from getting the Swine Flu. Cover your mouth when you cough, and wash your hands. You can use the alcohol based hand sanitizer.


Keep in mind there is no need to panic. IL state agencies, local authorities, schools, hospitals and even some businesses are taking the necessary precautions. But don’t take my word for it. Here are a plenitude of stories that lay out just how seriously IL is taking this potential danger

* Officials ‘fully expect’ swine flu

“There’s no need to panic at this point,” said Dr. Damon Arnold, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The U.S. has declared a national health emergency amid concern about a flu virus that may be responsible for more than 1,995 illnesses and 149 deaths in Mexico. There are 40 confirmed cases in the U.S., where people complaining of harsher than normal cold symptoms tested positive for swine flu - many who recently visited Mexico.

So far, Illinois is free from swine flu. Seven people displaying symptoms were tested but turned out to be negative for the disease.

Arnold said the state is “over-prepared.”

* State officials say swine flu no cause for panic

“We must remain clam,” said Dr. Damon Arnold, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health. “There is no need to panic at this point. This is something we will get through.”

Arnold urged anyone who feels sick with flu-like symptoms to stay home, use over-the-counter remedies and limit contact with other people. Additional medical treatment should be sought if the symptoms become severe. “We don’t want to have a surge on the medical system,” he said.

He also recommended frequent hand washing.

* Illinois: Don’t panic about swine flu

* Illinois Public Health Chief: We’re Ready for Swine Flu

* Swine flu: High level of vigilance, but no cases yet in Illinois

* Illinois ready for swine flu

* ‘No need to panic’: Local agencies plan for swine flu

* Swine flu update

* Central Illinoisans adjusting travel to ward off swine flu

* Local schools, hospitals, businesses make plans for swine flu

* School taking steps to fight swine flu

* Local schools have plan to deal with flu

* ISU keeping eye on swine flu, following procedures

* CAT Responds To Swine Flu Crisis

* Swine flu prompts Cat restriction on travel to Mexico


I do not take the danger or possible consequences lightly, because there is some cause for concern as Swine Flu is spreading.

* Swine flu spreads to Middle East, Asia-Pacific

* Dangerous swine flu likely in Chicago

“I think it’s entirely likely we will find cases” in Chicago and the region because of the amount of international travel through the city’s two airports, Dr. Michael Vernon of the Cook County Department of Public Health said.

* Swine flu outbreak inevitably headed to Chicago, health officials warn

Officials here say it’s only a matter of time before Illinois - and the Chicago area because of its international travel hubs - reports its own cases.

“Because we’re in this enhanced surveillance mode, we’re very likely to find it,” said Dr. Michael Vernon, the Cook County Department of Public Health’s director of communicable disease. “It’s a very worrisome situation, I must say.”

Yet, the CDC cautioned the crisis could get worse.

“I would fully expect we’ll see a broader range in severity of infection,” Besser said. “You don’t know going into an outbreak what it will look like in the end.”

* Rise in swine flu reports anticipated

* Swine Flu May Test Baxter

* O’Hare Passengers Concerned About Swine Flu

* Local Mexican community ‘a little bit worried’ about swine flu

* Disease could mean new threat to U.S. economy


Having said all of the above. I feel comfortable saying that I think the media has blown this whole thing way out of proportion and has produced a heightened and unhealthy level of fear. I am all for being prepared, but the media should make sure that in our attempt to educate the public, we do not drum up a panic. Case in point, check out these PSAs from the 1970’s Swine Flu scare that John Patterson found.

* Illinois swine flu update coming …


The truth of the matter is that there is a lot we don’t know.

* Flu and fear

We really don’t know how many swine flu cases are out there, or what the death rate is among those infected. That’s an important piece of the puzzle for researchers. A typical flu bug kills only a tiny fraction of those who are infected, around one-tenth of 1 percent. But if the flu is more deadly, it may kill 1 percent or more. It is believed that the infamous 1918 flu killed about 2.5 percent of its victims. But scientists say that even if such a virus were to sweep the country, the death rate would likely be lower because of advances in medical treatment.

We don’t know why people are dying in Mexico but not in the U.S. Moreover, the strain in Mexico appears to be killing young adults, which resembles what happened in the 1918 pandemic. That’s why researchers are so worried about this virus, which has been identified as a pig version of a human flu virus. Why would such a virus be lethal to otherwise healthy people? The theory: A virus essentially new to humans triggers a huge overreaction in healthy immune systems, creating what is called a “cytokine storm.” If that happens, the lungs can fill with fluid and you can essentially drown “from the inside out,” in the gruesomely memorable phrase of a reviewer of a 1999 book about the 1918 pandemic.

We don’t know how long this version of swine flu has been circulating. There have been a smattering of cases in Europe and the U.S., too. The same virus as the Mexico City killer? Don’t know. But because the illness is mild in many patients, it is possible it has been circulating undetected for a while and is only now being noticed because of the mysterious deaths in Mexico.


But what we do know is that Swine Flu has not proved fatal so far in the U.S. and the disease does respond well to treatment. At least on our side of the boarder. True, 40 cases without a fatality is not a large enough sample size to sound the all clear. But it does give me some optimism. We should certainly be prepared, but I think it may have gone beyond that.

* Dave Granlund Cartoon

My sentiments exactly


Other Interesting Stories

* ‘I pity the fool’: Mr. T on jury duty

* C & E Bulls fans

Then some killjoy shuts down the party with this line: “I just can’t get into the Bulls without Michael Jordan.”

Every Bulls fan knows someone who talks that way. Or a lot of someones. They’re like the Christmas-and-Easter Catholics, the ones who sleep in on Sundays unless there’s a baby Savior or a Resurrection to celebrate. They don’t know what they’re missing.

- Posted by Mike Murray   5 Comments      


Morning video

Tuesday, Apr 28, 2009

* Background on the Bears’ third round draft pick…

Third-round DT Jarron Gilbert has excellent athleticism and all the physical tools. His athleticism has been displayed on YouTube since last summer when he jumped completely out of the shallow end of a pool.

“Our strength coach had told us that he heard a story of Adam Archuleta jumping out of a pool, and everybody went crazy and thought it was unbelievable,” Gilbert said. “I went out there and tried it and got it on the first try. Then I had to put it on film.”

* The video…


Any thoughts on the Bears draft picks?

- Posted by Rich Miller   13 Comments      


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Tuesday, Apr 28, 2009

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