* One of the better responses I’ve seen to this Thomson prison situation was from state Sen. Tim Bivins (R-Dixon)…
Bivins said much more information is needed before a decision is made.
“At the briefing and tour Monday … I asked the Governor’s (Pat Quinn) chief of operations Jack Lavin if there is a plan in place for using the proceeds from the sale of the prison (to the federal government. His response was, ‘I think we are getting ahead of ourselves,’ ” Bivins said in a news release. “I responded that I thought we should get ahead of ourselves before making a decision of this magnitude.”
…Bivins recommends taking some of the proceeds from the sale of the prison and putting that money toward helping the state’s overcrowded corrections system. Some 1,600 inmates could be housed at Thomson, requiring 800 to 900 employees.
“Compare that to the prison in Dixon with 2,200 inmates and fewer than 600 employees,” he said.
And then there is the small matter of the big debt. Bivins said the state still owes $80 million on the Thomson prison. The village floated about $12 million in bonds for a new wastewater treatment system, which still needs to be paid.
“We need to look at the entirety of the situation,” the senator said. “We should open up the process. If we are going to sell Thomson, let’s get the best possible price for it. Are there any other bidders out there?”
So, there’s about $90 million in outstanding debt still owed on Thomson. If the state sells the prison for cost, Illinois is gonna clear just a few million dollars. That would be very stupid.
And Sen. Bivins is right about the state’s current prison system. Selling Thomson means dumping our most modern prison facility, and not having anything to replace it.
* I guess this statement by Gov. Quinn depends on how you define the word “swift“…
Gov. Pat Quinn said Monday he expects swift action on a proposal to sell a northwestern Illinois prison to the federal government to house Guantanamo Bay detainees […]
Quinn is pushing hard for the federal government to take over the Thomson facility, promising that it will help create jobs in a struggling area. Critics question the economic impact.
“I think this will move along rather quickly,” Quinn said.
One reason why this won’t move as fast as Quinn is implying is because of something Senate President John Cullerton told the AP last week. It doesn’t appear that the AP really knew what it had because it buried the important part…
The president of the Illinois Senate says state lawmakers have no formal control over whether terrorism suspects wind up being housed in the state.
President John Cullerton says lawmakers can’t take an official vote allowing or blocking the plan. The Chicago Democrat said Thursday that the only role for lawmakers is to have a committee review the idea and take an advisory vote.
I checked with Cullerton’s press secretary on this, and the “committee” Cullerton referred to was the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability’s role in implementing the State Facilities Closure Act. Here’s how a state facility is defined in the law…
“State facility” means any facility (i) that is owned and operated by the State or leased and operated by the State and (ii) that is the primary stationary work location for 25 or more State employees. “
Before a State facility may be closed, the State executive branch officer with jurisdiction over the facility shall file notice of the proposed closure with the Commission. The notice must be filed within 2 days after the first public announcement of any planned or proposed closure. Within 10 days after it receives notice of the proposed closure, the Commission, in its discretion, may require the State executive branch officer with jurisdiction over the facility to file a recommendation for the closure of the facility with the Commission. In the case of a proposed closure of: (i) a prison… operated by the Department of Corrections… the Commission must require the executive branch officers to file a recommendation for closure. The recommendation must be filed within 30 days after the Commission delivers the request for recommendation to the State executive branch officer. [Emphasis added.]
After that, the governor must wait at least 50 days to close the facility. So, this could go on for a few months after the feds approve it - and the president has said that the final plan isn’t imminent. So, I guess it’s “swift” for government work.
The commission, by the way, is bipartisan. It contains six members from each party and a co-chair from each party. Two statewide GOP candidates, Sens. Bill Brady and Matt Murphy, sit on the commission. Sen. Dave Syverson, who is close to visceral Thomson opponent Congressman Don Manzullo, also sits on the commission. GOP Rep. Raymond Poe, a commission member, is a co-sponsor of HR 762…
Urges Governor Patrick Quinn and his administration to immediately halt all negotiations or contacts with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and all other relevant federal offices and departments, relating to the proposed transfer of the Thomson Correctional Center to the federal government for purposes of a Military Commissions Act of 2006 detention facility, until they initiate consultations with the Illinois General Assembly and receive their consent to undertake this move.
Expect a slow-walk.
* Meanwhile, Congressman Mark Kirk is trying to repair the damage he’s done to his reputation by walking back his hysterical tirade over Thomson…
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kirk turned down the rhetoric [yesterday] on Democratic-backed plans to use the largely vacant Thomson Correctional Center to house suspected terrorist detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, saying he wants a “dispassionate and specific” discussion of the issue.
“The key point is, is this a necessary risk?” asked Kirk, a five-term congressman from the North Shore. “And in my judgment, it’s not a necessary risk. But then I’m practical. I’m from the Midwest and I understand when a deal has been cut. So then the question is, if we are to move forward, then how do we move forward?” […]
[Kirk’s] previous comments have warned that the Chicago area could become “ground zero for Jihadist terrorist plots, recruitment and radicalization.” He’s questioned the safety of O’Hare International Airport, the Willis Tower and a nuclear power plant near the Quad Cities.
Kirk said much of his earlier rhetoric had to do with the fact that the federal interest in Thomson was “a rather surprise announcement” and that he was “going with the information that we had available.”
So, he admitted that he was caught off guard, didn’t have all the facts, but went ahead and jumped the gun anyway with his dire warnings that we were all gonna die.
One of Kirk’s earliest backers was former Gov. Jim Edgar, who, unlike Kirk, waited to react until he had seen some facts…
The two-term Illinois governor said he understands the concerns, but probably wouldn’t worry about safety too much.
“I can appreciate folks may not want these people in their backyard, but they’ve got to go someplace, it appears,” Edgar said during a visit to the Capitol. “And I’m sure that will be an extremely secure prison. I wouldn’t worry about folks breaking out.
“If the right safety guarantees are there, then I would say that it makes sense just to create some economic opportunity in that part of the state.”