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Morning shorts

Monday, Jun 29, 2009

* Mourners gather to honor Chicago broadcaster John Callaway

* Burke helped pals with city deals

Ald. Edward M. Burke wrote a letter in his official capacity that helped a client of his law firm win City Council approval to develop a blighted stretch of land near Midway Airport.

It’s the second time Burke has written such a letter so someone he’s done business with could get a zoning change from City Hall. After writing those letters, Burke abstained from voting on both cases to avoid any conflicts of interest.

* Fire city Human Resources commissoner, inspector general says

Chicago’s inspector general wants Human Resources Commissioner Homero Tristan fired for allegedly violating court-ordered political hiring rules, according to a report filed in federal court Friday.

Tristan failed to report — and later lied about — receiving a Jan. 29 request by Southwest Side Ald. Michael Zalewski (23rd) for a more favorable job assignment for one of his constituents, acording Inspector General David Hoffman’s report.

That directly violated a Jan. 2008 court order that requires the city Human Resources Department to report to the federal hiring monitor any contact it has with elected officials regarding hiring, Hoffman said.

“The commissioner’s changing stories and questionable credibility in this situation mean that it will be difficult to have confidence” future decisions will be handled in an “honest and appropriate fashion,” the report states.

* City code problems found at Daley nephew’s warehouse

“If the city knew there were code violations, why was the city operating out of the building,'’ Basselen says. “The city was utilizing a building they themselves said wasn’t up to code.'’

They have yet to correct the landscaping code violations that City Hall wanted Basselen, their tenant, to take care of.

* Taxpayers last to pay if Olympics loses cash: Daley

Mayor Daley said Saturday he wants a deal in which private insurance money would be tapped before public money if an Olympic Games in Chicago suffered any losses.

Daley previously had said he wanted a provision ensuring that $2.5 billion in public and private insurance and guarantees would be exhausted before taxpayers would be on the hook.

But that $2.5 billion already includes a $500 million guarantee against operating losses, approved by the City Council.

Now Daley is saying that the city’s portion of the $2.5 billion should be the last to be tapped.

* Daley: Chicago Olympics won’t cost taxpayers

“I would never take members of this City Council for granted, the taxpayers or anyone. I don’t know why people are trying to get this impression. I hope you stop that,” Daley said.

* Taste of Chicago Plays Role in Selling Olympics

The crowds at Taste of Chicago can meet Olympic athletes and see what the Games would look like here. Valerie Waller is with Chicago 2016.

WALLER: We’re just looking to make sure we have the opportunity to touch as many of the citizens of Chicago as possible, and talk about the bid, answer questions they might have and let them show their support for Chicago bringing the games here.

* Contractors fined for women, minority hiring failures

Castle Construction Co. — a clout-heavy firm charged with cheating minority subcontractors on city projects — has also had problems meeting hiring goals set by Mayor Daley’s Public Building Commission.

Over the years, the commission has withheld more than $680,000 as “liquidated damages” from Castle for failing to hire enough women, minorities and Chicagoans as laborers, apprentices and journeymen to build five police stations, a library and a school.

Castle has been among the commission’s most heavily penalized contractors since the mayor took office 20 years ago. Over that time, the commission says it has withheld more than $3.5 million from 54 contractors who didn’t hire enough Chicagoans, women and minorities, and $169,166 from eight contractors who shortchanged minority and women subcontractors.

* CPS needs solutions to teacher turnover

* Half of city teachers quit each five years, says report

In a study released Monday morning, U of C researchers found that while turnover in schools with “the best working conditions” averages just 10% over five years, it hit a near-total 76% in 13 high schools where teachers have little relationship with parents, may not feel safe and “do not look forward to teaching every day.”

Of the 13 high schools with chronically low stability, 11 serve predominantly African-American students, and the other two a combination of blacks and Hispanics.
Results were similar among 84 elementary schools with similar demographics.

Overall, the study found, CPS loses teachers at a rate of 20% a year, compared with 16% nationally. While the difference sounds small, “Those losses add up over time and create obstacles for sustaining new initiatives and staff training,” the consortium report says. And, the loss is concentrated among just a fraction of Chicago’s 538 elementary and 118 high schools.

* MillerCoors chief, Daley toast firm’s HQ move to town

* Metropolis 2020 may disband

George Ranney Jr., president and CEO of Chicago Metropolis 2020, said that while the group has made no final decision, “we’re looking at all the choices we’ve got,” including going out of business now or in a few years, or merging with another organization.

“We have no plan to disband at this point, but we’ve always intended to operate for about 10 years,” said Mr. Ranney, who founded the group in 1999. “We’re always mindful of that, and we’re looking to the future.”

Mr. Ranney said the group has a budget of $3 million a year, and there is no sign it faces financial difficulty.

* The slaughter rule

The dairy markets at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange are forecasting a more than 50 percent hike in wholesale milk prices by late 2010. Many analysts think prices will double over that time.

However, changes in the futures markets do not extend dollar-for-dollar to grocery shelves. Wholesale milk futures at the Merc are down about 50 percent over the last 12 months, but the Consumer Price Index has seen retail milk fall about 18 percent in that time, said Alan Levitt, an analyst who writes the Daily Dairy Report for the Merc. He said raw milk accounts for about a third of the costs to get the product to the store.

Current prices are below costs for many farmers, so expectations are that herds will be culled. The National Milk Producers Federation is paying dairies to slaughter 103,000 cows over the next few weeks.

* The Gummy Bear Index

While sales of almost everything else are tanking, candy sales are reported to be soaring. It’s not hard to guess why: People are taking refuge from the economic storm in the elemental pleasure of a Snickers bar, a 100 Grand bar or a bag of Skittles. If they can’t have a payday, they at least have a PayDay.

A quick glimpse at the Gummy Bear Index would tell you all you need to know about the country’s collective despair or joy.

* Frugal readers drive up library circulation 30%

Here’s a silver lining in the economic recession — Chicago Public Library circulation has spiked 30 percent in the past year.

“People are realizing, ‘Why should I buy my books, my CDs — I can get it free at the library,’ ” Library Commissioner Mary Dempsey said Saturday, speaking at the dedication of a new library in Beverly.

* Economic bust won’t deter July 4 booms

Central Illinoisans won’t be worried about the economic downturn — at least not while the stars and stripes burst overhead.

Even as city governments make crippling cutbacks, community groups are making sure Fourth of July festivals remain fully funded.

* For modest earners, relief repaying student loans

* 4 officers indicted in 2006 alleged inmate beating

- Posted by Mike Murray        

  1. - wordslinger - Monday, Jun 29, 09 @ 10:24 am:

    It will be interesting to see if the City Council grows a spine over the latest flim-flammery, weasel-wording, hocus-pocus dominocus Daley has been dizzingly spinning over the last week on the Olympics guarantee.

    The bottom line is that he plans to sign a document that sets the taxpayers up for unlimited liability on cost overruns. Every Olympics has severe cost overruns.

    I doubt if his signature is sufficient to enforce a guarantee, but it sets up a ton of litigation if anyone ever tried it.

    If they won’t call him on this, they’ll never call him on anything — which would be my bet.

  2. - North of I-80 - Monday, Jun 29, 09 @ 10:47 am:

    Nothing about - 9 dead, several injured in weekend shootings ? Drudge running: “Chicagoland: Six Shot Dead In 24 Hours…” top.

    I keep hearing from local, county & state police sources that there is a concerted effort to downplay Chicago violence due to 1) hope for Olympics and 2) the bad example of a gun-ban city as Presidential admin eyes ways to control guns for the country.

    The violence in Chicago certainly should have bumped your ‘library book circulation’ story but maybe that’s just me.

  3. - Secret Square - Monday, Jun 29, 09 @ 11:14 am:

    If I remember correctly, didn’t Denver back out of or turn down a Winter Olympics bid (back in the 1970s) because of concerns about the cost to taxpayers? Has any other U.S. city ever done this?

  4. - Steve - Monday, Jun 29, 09 @ 11:26 am:

    Alderman Burke is America’s most conflicted politician.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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