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Friday, Jun 25, 2010

* The Kankakee Daily Journal’s managing editor was upset with yesterday’s piece slamming the paper’s coverage of how a prominent local businessman was indicted on five counts by a federal grand jury.

You’ll recall that Michael J. Pinski, a bigtime Kankakee developer and owner of a major title company, was indicted for his alleged direction of a scheme to strip one of his buildings of asbestos and then dump it in an open field in Hopkins Park, a nearly all-black, totally poor town in Kankakee County.

One of the things I chided the paper for was publishing just four paragraphs on the story. They actually published a few more than that in theIR dead tree edition, but in none of those grafs is it made clear that Pinski is a major K3 wheel. The paper also provided no context at all about the dumping site’s long, sad history. The additional paragraphs are, in reality, just background material and filler. Here’s the rest of the article…

Pinski hired O’Malley in August 2009 to remove the building’s pipe insulation, which contains asbestos.

For years, asbestos was used in insulation and in fire-retardant products. However, it was discovered that inhaling the fibers is not only dangerous but can be fatal –resulting in lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis.

But O’Malley wasn’t trained in asbestos removal, according to their indictments. O’Malley then hired Mikrut to recruit and oversee the five workers who removed the asbestos between Aug. 15 and Aug. 20, according to their indictment.

Mikrut and another person, who is not named in the indictment, drove a dump truck Aug. 23 to a field in Hopkins Park and dumped about 127 large garbage bags of the asbestos insulation into a field, according to the indictment. Soil in that field became contaminated with asbestos, prosecutors contend. Mikrut and Pinski also are accused of telling a state EPA inspector in September 2009 that they didn’t know anything about the removal.

Pinski and Mikrut will be arraigned July 15. O’Malley pleaded not guilty June 11 after he was arrested, according to court records. His next hearing is July 29 in Urbana, with a trial set for Aug. 16.

Each of the seven charges is punishable by up to five years in prison and fines totaling up to $250,000.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office did not disclose the indictments until Monday, although U.S. Magistrate Judge David G. Bernthal on June 11 ordered the indictments unsealed, court records show.

Like I said, not much there. No context about Pinski or Hopkins Park. Not even a sidebar. And, since Wednesday, no follow up story, either.

I’ll be in Hopkins Park this weekend to check things out for myself. In the meantime, this one is for the K3 Daily Journal folks and all their fine, upstanding townie friends…


And it’s up against the wall, redneck mother

Too much? OK, maybe, but whatever. They are what they are.

And go Sox.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Report: Lisa Madigan investigating Lollapalooza sponsors

Friday, Jun 25, 2010

* According to Jim DeRogatis, the Illinois attorney general is issuing subpoenas and investigating the festival’s sponsors to see if they are violating anti-trust laws. The probe stems from Lolla’s “radius clauses” in musicians’ contracts. Some of those clauses prohibit the acts from playing within a 300-mile radius of Chicago for six months before and after their Lollapalooza shows…

Many local Chicago club owners and independent concert promoters have said that these radius clauses are decimating the local music community and significantly hurting their business for much of the year, and that they constitute unfair, anti-competitive practices. Lollapalooza promoters respond that the clauses are standard practice in the concert industry, and that they waive them for any artist who asks to be excused from their requirements. […]

The difference with Lollapalooza’s radius clauses is that they are some of the longest and most extensive in the business, and they affect a huge number of acts, since there are more than 120 bands performing at the mega-concert. And, unlike a concert with two or three bands on the bill, Lollapalooza does not rely on any one headliner to sell tickets. In fact, promoters consistently trumpet the sheer volume of acts and wealth of different experiences offered in Grant Park as the main draw.

NBC5’s blogger makes a good point

That means if you love a little band like The Dodos and want to see them in Chicago, you can’t pay $20 for a night at the Double Door — you have to buy a $90 one-day pass to Lollapalooza. […]

“During the summers now, you’re lucky if you have a couple of shows, and you’re just picking up the leftovers that couldn’t get into any of the festivals,” one club booker told DeRogatis.

* As always in Chicago, Lolla obtained a foothold through political connections

With a handful of notable exceptions, such as a performance by Radiohead in Grant Park’s Hutchinson Field promoted by Chicago-based Jam Productions in 2001, city officials were reluctant to allow for-profit rock concerts in the lakefront park. The Park District notoriously blocked performances by the Smashing Pumpkins, the survivors of the Grateful Dead, and other bands throughout the ’90s.

The Park District’s attitude changed in 2005 when it was presented with a proposal by C3 to reinvent Lollapalooza as a Chicago-based “destination festival” generating more than $1 million a year for parks improvements. All licenses and permits for Lollapalooza are taken out not in the name of C3, but by the non-profit Parkways Foundation, an organization headquartered inside the Park District’s offices.

In 2006, Lollapalooza signed a contract with the city to continue bringing Lollapalooza to Grant Park for five years. For that deal, C3 was represented by attorney Mark Vanecko, a nephew of Mayor Richard Daley.

- Posted by Rich Miller   32 Comments      


Question of the day

Friday, Jun 25, 2010

* The setup, from WSIL TV

With just a week before the new budget year begins, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn is calling on the state Senate to “complete their work.”

Senators left Springfield almost a month ago without making a decision about to how cover a $4 billion payment to the state pension fund. […]

Quinn is already faced with having to cut billions of dollars from the budget.

“I think [senators] have a responsibility to return to Springfield and get the job done. If they don’t, I think they’re hurting education, they’re hurting public safety, they’re hurting health care and I don’t think that’s right,” Quinn said.

* The Question: The pension borrowing bill is currently short of passage by anywhere between one to three votes. Should Gov. Quinn call a special session to try and force the Senate to pass the pension borrowing legislation? Explain.

- Posted by Rich Miller   34 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 *** The scandal that won’t ever be washed away

Friday, Jun 25, 2010

* Bill Brady stood with his former primary opponent yesterday to demand an investigation into why the Dept. of Corrections has lost track of some parolees who were part of the secret, botched MGT Push release program

A group of Illinois legislators that includes Gov. Pat Quinn’s Republican opponent want a joint committee of the Illinois House and Senate to investigate parolees who disappeared after being released early from prison.

Senators Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard and Rep. Dennis Reboletti said Thursday that they’ll seek information from Quinn’s office. Brady is running against Quinn for governor.

The legislators’ move comes after The Associated Press reported that dozens of parolees disappeared after being set free as part of a secret early release program.

This issue won’t ever go away. But Gov. Quinn tried to blame the General Assembly and, by extension, Brady for the problem.

Gov. Pat Quinn blamed an outdated computer system Thursday for his Corrections Department’s failure to keep track of all the prison inmates who were granted parole under a secret early release program.

The outdated technology makes it harder to keep track of the thousands of inmates in Illinois prisons, he said, a day after The Associated Press reported that officials don’t know the location of dozens of inmates who were released early.

The Democratic governor did not provide details of how the computer system supposedly hampers tracking parolees. The Corrections Department has not mentioned computer problems in explaining the missing parolees or what’s being done to track them.

Quinn said he asked for money to update the computer system earlier this year but legislators said no.

“I inherited this. I didn’t create it,” he said during a news conference. “I’m trying to solve a problem.”

*** UPDATE *** Brady responds to Quinn’s response

Republican candidate for governor Bill Brady says Gov. Pat Quinn should have fixed Illinois’ prison computer system before releasing criminals early.

Brady on Friday said Quinn should have used $3 billion in discretionary money last year to upgrade the Corrections Department computer system. He says then maybe dozens of parolees let out of prison early wouldn’t be missing.

[ *** End of Update *** ]

* Meanwhile, this is highly unusual, to say the least

Gov. Pat Quinn’s new chief spokesman is taking an indefinite leave of absence to pursue a spot in the General Assembly, according to an administration source familiar with the decision.

Bill Cunningham, who joined the governor’s office earlier this month, is seeking to be named the replacement on the November ballot for the Southwest Side House seat that opened up when Democratic Rep. Kevin Joyce announced he will not seek re-election.

Cunningham went on unpaid leave [yesterday] in order to avoid any conflicts of interest as he tries to get the House seat, the source said.

Kristen McQueary wrote a few days ago that Cunningham is the frontrunner to replace Rep. Joyce

Joyce’s announcement has spawned intrigue about a few possible contenders: Maureen Kelly, who ran for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Board; Fran Hurley, a trusted Rugai aide; Bill Cunningham, who worked for Sheriffs Michael Sheahan and Tom Dart and recently accepted a post with Gov. Pat Quinn; Frank Bilecki, local government liaison for Comptroller Dan Hynes; Mike Cullen, legislative liaison for the Illinois Commerce Commission; and John O’Sullivan, Worth Township Democratic committeeman.

The front-runner? Cunningham, although the timing is miserable. He accepted a job as Quinn’s chief spokesman days before Joyce announced his decision to withdraw. […]

Cunningham would be Joyce’s top recommendation, and O’Shea likes him, too. He is campaign-ready, having worked for years within the sphere of government, politics and media.

O’Shea said he will wait until June 28, the last day to apply online for the 35th District seat, before interviewing candidates. The decision will be wrenching. He carries the heaviest weighted vote based on the makeup of the district, followed by O’Sullivan and Palos Township Democratic Committeeman Sam Simone. Orland and Lyons township Committeemen Dan McLaughlin and Steve Landek represent a small piece of the district as well.

* In other campaign, um, news, SLC got himself a new iPhone yesterday

Illinois gubernatorial candidate Scott Lee Cohen was among the masses waiting in line at Northbrook Court.

“There’s no special treatment here,” said Cohen grabbing some fresh air while his two sons held their place in line. “I’m waiting my turn just like everybody else.”

The Cohens, still hours away from iPhone pay dirt, had already waited for three hours.

“I’m very fortunate to have great kids and they wanted the new phone,” said Cohen while campaigning over his old iPhone.

“The iPhone allows me to be in constant contact with my staff, with my calendar and it makes me more accessible to the people of the state.”

There’s your quote of the day.

* Related…

* Panel interviewing candidates for 60th state House seat: Link would confirm the identity of only one of the applicants: Angelo Kyle, a Lake County Board member from Waukegan who had twice unsuccessfully challenged Washington for the seat in Democratic primaries, most recently this past February.

* Questions Linger About Planned Southern Illinois Development: Leaders in Southern Illinois say a new destination development is the key to thousands of new jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in new investment. But one leader from Metro East isn’t so sure.

* Cavaletto Reacts to Signing of “Star Bonds” Legislation: Critics say it’s nothing more than corporate welfare - using taxpayer dollars to support a private developer. State Representative John Cavaletto in Salem says while Star Bonds will benefit southern Illinois - his district has their own priorities which could have benefitted from the legislation. “We’re going to keep working for our district and the 600 acres in Mt. Vernon just sitting there,” he says. “We want to promote that area and bring jobs and businesses to our area, so we’re going to be working on that in the next legislative session.”

* Quinn Signs STAR Bonds Bill in Marion: The bill may be signed, but there’s no official list of businesses that plan to build. Holland said prospective users for the site include Great Wolf Lodge, a hotel and water park, and outdoor retailers like Cabela’s or Bass Pro. He expects to break ground in about a year.

* Quinn inks STAR bond legislation: “We have a long way to go,” Quinn said. “We were dealt a blow with the Great Recession. A lot of wheelers and dealers on Wall Street … will never put us down. We’ll never give up.”

* Jobs to ‘last a lifetime”: A jubilant crowd gathered in Marion to watch as the governor signed the bill sponsored by state Rep. John Bradley and state Sen. Gary Forby into law, the first of its kind in the state.

* Holland says Cabela’s now interested

* Boosters: There’s infinite potential for entire region

* Sherman pops up at STAR bond signing: Self-described atheist Rob Sherman surprised the Benton Democrat by showing up at the gathering and asking Forby about the $20,000 grant he helped secure for Friends of the Cross, the group raising funds for the restoration of Bald Knob Cross of Peace. “Sen. Forby had declined to respond to my numerous requests to speak to him about the $20,000 grant,” Sherman said.

* Press Release: Economic Recovery Commission Presents Final Report to Governor Quinn: The Economic Recovery Commission today presented its final report to Governor Pat Quinn detailing recommendations to improve upon Illinois’ 21st-century business model and help rebuild the state’s position as a strong, expanding economic power. “I appreciate the hard work of the Economic Recovery Commission,” said Governor Quinn. “Its insights will help us work together to build on our existing assets and position our state for strong, lasting recovery as we move out of this historic recession.”

* The Chicago Politician, the Discredited Non-Profit and a Mystery Earmark

* Time for Crotty to stand on her own feet

* Illinois AG Madigan inspects E. St. Louis nursing home, finds wanted man

- Posted by Rich Miller   33 Comments      


He isn’t much of a thinker

Friday, Jun 25, 2010

* My Sun-Times column

If you’ve been keeping up with the Rod Blagojevich trial and skimmed through the transcripts of the federal surveillance recordings released so far, it’s pretty obvious that the defendant is a crook.

But it’s also clear that the guy isn’t very bright. Incredibly persistent, but not bright.

Many of us who have followed him closely already knew that, of course. The same couldn’t be said for those who jumped into the game late, particularly those silly cable news talking heads and some unmentionable talk radio morons. They were agog at his ability to recite poetry from memory, duly impressed when he dinged the establishment by appointing Roland Burris to the Senate, and delighted at how he held his own while they tossed the same, empty softball questions at him time and time again.

Typical cable TV doofus: “Why do you want all the tapes released?”

Blagojevich: “Because I absolutely, positively believe they’ll prove my innocence.”

Doofus reporter: “Fantastic! OK, now, please tell us how difficult this terrible ordeal has been on your family.”

It was like watching a hurricane victim endlessly describe how his house was destroyed and how he was forced to endure the additional indignity of fighting with the big, bad insurance company. Ridiculous.

Put him up against a real adversary, and Blagojevich was exposed for what he was.

For years, Gov. Blagojevich tried to outwit House Speaker Michael Madigan. Blagojevich came into office believing that Madigan was the root of all evil, so he was bound and determined to destroy the man.

But the competition was way too much for the governor. Time and time again, Blagojevich played checkers while Madigan played chess. He’d occasionally win a short-term victory, but he was always undone in the end.

Listen to the surveillance tapes and you’ll hear a frantic Blagojevich finally admitting that he’d painted himself into a hopeless corner. He was desperate to use the vacant U.S. Senate seat created when Barack Obama won the president’s race to extricate himself from the mess that he had made for himself with his unwinnable war against Madigan.

“I’d like to get the f— out of here,” a clearly defeated Blagojevich says at one point.

He was so frantic at times that he sounded like an about-to-be overthrown Third World dictator. And he proceeded accordingly.

The true high comedy on the tapes comes during the long, involved “strategy sessions” featuring Blagojevich and his top staff. Blagojevich tried to “war game” ways he could maneuver Barack Obama into providing him with a golden parachute.

Blagojevich exhaustively debated which specific words to say at various meetings, what concepts to bring up, whom they could trust and when he could spring this or that idea about what he wanted in exchange for filling that vacant seat.

But he was outwitted at every turn. Blagojevich initially wanted to use the president’s apparent desire that Valerie Jarrett get the Senate seat to his own advantage. But his long days of scheming were for naught. The president-elect’s people quickly figured out what he was up to and announced that Jarrett would be joining the administration. So much for that plan.

On and on it goes. Every scheme fails. Every idea crumbles. But he always forges ahead, never realizing he just wasn’t up to the task, or that the idea itself was morally wrong and even illegal.

He has been exposed as a willing, corrupt, inept Sisyphus. But the next time he is hurtled back down the mountain, it’ll be to a federal prison cell.

* Related…

* Zorn: Three little words reveal a big truth about Blagojevich

* Tribune: Corruption gets a break

* Illinois corruption defendants see opening as court narrows “honest services” law

* Witness: Blago given list of Obama favorites

* President Obama’s “B.S. list” for Senate seat: Hynes, Duckworth, Jackson and Schakowsky

* Blagojevich on Obama camp: “F— them.”; John Wyma in talks with Obama, Blago while cooperating with feds

* Blagojevich on tape: Get Obama to fund-raise from Warren Buffett, Bill Gates

* Tape: Blago, Harris talk Louanner Peters, floating rumors

* Blagojevich ponders political alliance with Jarrett but asks: “What does that do for me?”

* Blagojevich on Jesse Jackson Jr.: “He’s a bad guy.”

* Qualifications for next U.S. Senator: solve Rod Blagojevich’s legal, personal and political problems

* Prosecutors say Harris to finish Monday. Up next: Balanoff, Scofield

* Blagojevich sought Science and Technology grant for … the Cubs

* Blagojevich aide lies to then-governor about editorial board firing demand

* Rod Blagojevich wanted Senate President’s warchest: witness

* Tape: Brother Robert tries to talk some sense into Rod

* Blagojevich heard on secret recording talking about — being recorded

* Blagojevich on trial: Ex-governor has surreal moment in courtroom

* Blagojevich a Grinch when it comes to Christmas party

* Blagojevich’s honest services charges could get tossed — but trial will go on

* High-court ruling leaves Blagojevich on hook for bribery, kickbacks

* Blagojevich Trial: ‘I Got to Fix This’

- Posted by Rich Miller   40 Comments      


Morning Shorts

Friday, Jun 25, 2010

* Daley has new plan to outsource some city hiring

The latest example of Daley’s privatization frenzy will start with a request-for-proposals from firms interested in recruiting and hiring tradespeople in five city departments: Streets and Sanitation, Transportation, Water Management, Aviation and General Services.

If it works to have an outside personnel firm recruit and hire carpenters, electricians, laborers and plumbers, City Hall will move to outsource all other hiring, the mayor said.

* Daley floats new approach to get rid of patronage hiring

After years of trying and failing to rid his administration of patronage scandals, Mayor Richard Daley floated another plan Thursday: bringing in an outside firm to hire many city workers.

The latest idea comes as one of Daley’s top former operatives faces criminal retrial for allegedly rigging city hiring to strengthen the mayor’s onetime political army and as Daley struggles to end federal court oversight of personnel decisions.

For his new test program, Daley singled out five major city departments, at least three of which have been repeatedly accused of considering politics when hiring, promoting and firing — practices banned by the courts in most cases.

* Former Chicago Alderman Sentenced to 28 Months

The former chairman of the Chicago City Council’s police and fire committee has been sentenced to 28 months in federal prison for taking $40,000 worth of home improvements in exchange for a zoning change. Before sentencing, Isaac Carothers told U.S. District Judge Robert Dow he understood “the terrible damage” he inflicted on his family and the city for his illegal conduct.

* Burge Defense: They’re rats and pieces of garbage

Some of the most compelling evidence against Burge are pictures of an injured Andrew Wilson after he confessed to murdering two Chicago Police officers in 1982. Burge’s defense attorney Richard Beuke started his closing arguments saying the now deceased Wilson was in the darkest dingiest corner of hell laughing about this case.

* Accusations of lying swapped as Burge trial comes to close

* Burge case goes to the jury

* Jury starts deliberations in Burge’s torture trial

* City committee OKs Wal-Mart for Pullman Park

* Wal-Mart, unions reach deal on second Chicago store

* Zoning panel clears Wrigleyville development

* Mayoral plan would allow corporate naming rights for bridge houses

* More excesses under former Metra CEO detailed

The audit noted in 2008 Pagano received $111,000 for unused vacation time that year and for 2009, against Metra policy. It also found Pagano approved agreements giving former Deputy Executive Director Rick Tidwell and former labor relations chief Mike Nielsen $89,000 and $42,000 respectively - comprised of unused vacation and sick days payouts - for staying past their retirement dates.

* Pagano pay hikes lifted pensions

* RTA may try to recoup Metra execs’ vacation pay

* DuPage residents fight against Lake Michigan water

Only a few hours remain for residents living in an unincorporated area of the county near Lombard to object to a plan to bring them Lake Michigan water. The objection period ends Saturday.

* Sun-TImes: Carp crisis requires thoughtful, fast action

* Fate of ShoreBank rests in unanswered questions

- Posted by Barton Lorimor   4 Comments      


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* Question of the day
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