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*** UPDATED x1 *** 911 tapes show Senator tried to use clout to convince cops to ignore husband’s call

Wednesday, Sep 28, 2011

*** UPDATE - 5:38 pm *** Statement from Sen. Schmidt…

“Christmas, 2010 was the beginning of what has obviously become a very emotional period in my 31-year marriage. Information I discovered recently filled me with deep sadness. On the 911 call, I identified myself – but I never intended to inappropriately use my title. However, I apologize if any of my comments during this very emotional time seem inappropriate. I am taking the appropriate steps to deal with these issues. It is a very difficult, personal family matter that I would like to deal with privately. In the meantime, I remain committed to serving the citizens of my district.“

I’m not sure that’s gonna be enough.

[ *** End Of Update *** ]

* The details of the alleged domestic violence are in dispute, but this is not good at all

State Sen. Suzi Schmidt mentioned being a former Lake County Board chairman and her “connections” on a December call asking a 911 dispatcher to ignore her husband if he summoned help, according to a recording released today. […]

“Hi Allison, this is Suzi Schmidt. I was the Lake County Board chairman for 10 years,” she said on the 911 recording. “Listen, I’m having a little problem with my husband right now.” […]

“If he calls, Bob Schmidt, you can ignore him. Of course, I just caught him with another woman, so that’s why I’m a little upset,” she said. […]

“He might (call), except he’s kind of afraid of me because he knows I have connections,” she said while on the line with the emergency dispatcher.

Oy.

Using her connections to stop a police call is going to haunt her for a long time. This ain’t the old days.

Also, it’s been known by a few of us for some time that her husband’s alleged infidelity was behind the repeated domestic disturbance calls to the house (four in all on three different dates). But now everybody’s gonna know.

Audio…

* During Sen. Schmidt’s December phonecall, her husband called 911 to complain that he was locked out of the house on a cold day without a jacket…

* Then came Mr. Schmidt’s August 16th call

The recordings released today include a 911 call that Robert Schmidt made on Aug. 16 claiming his wife rammed her 2000 black Cadillac into his 2000 tan Chevy Malibu three times after the two argued. He told police she drove her Cadillac head-on into his, then backed up and rammed the Malibu two more times.

“No, don’t need an ambulance. I’m a little shaky right now,” Robert Schmidt tells the sheriff’s dispatcher. “She just plowed into me like two or three times and then a little bit harder the next time and then she really rammed me the next time.”

Sen. Schmidt denied ramming her husband with her car, then told police that maybe she did.

Audio…

* And, finally (although, maybe not), came the September call

In that incident, Robert Schmidt called police from the couple’s Lake Villa home and claimed the state senator struck him with a cellphone, bit his arm and scratched him.

During his 911 call, Suzi Schmidt is heard in the background denying she bit her husband, but then later saying, “You bet I did.” […]

Prosecutors have declined to file charges in any of the incidents, though a prosecutor acknowledged this week that “there was apparently mutual combat between Suzi Schmidt and her husband” Monday evening.

This is, by far, the most dramatic audio of the bunch…

- Posted by Rich Miller   45 Comments      


Ease up a little, Axe

Wednesday, Sep 28, 2011

* There’s no doubt that Tammy Duckworth is a war hero who has given a lot for her country. I, for one, am in awe of her service and her toughness. But this fundraising e-mail from David Axelrod kinda rubs me the wrong way. Emphasis is in the original

Like you, I can’t wait to see Tammy Duckworth walk down the aisle on those titanium legs and stand in the well of the U.S. House, a woman with a spine of steel who has always done her duty, exhorting the Republicans in Congress to do theirs.

That’s a bit much, if you ask me, but nobody did.

* Debbie Halvorson says she will announce her decision next week

Former Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson says she’ll announce by the end of next week whether she’s running again for the U.S. House. She would challenge U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., in the Democratic primary.

Halvorson lost her seat in Congress to Republican Adam Kinzinger last year. But when political boundaries were redrawn, her home was swallowed by the district held by Jackson, a fellow Democrat but longtime adversary of Halvorson’s.

“I’ve decided I didn’t want to keep everybody waiting,” Halvorson said Tuesday. “I want to make my decision by this weekend,” with a public announcement “absolutely” coming the following week.

* After comparing the budget fights to “Fort Sumter in the Civil War,” Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger is now complaining that the Democrats are unfairly using a potential government shutdown in the latest budget argument

U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Manteno, on Tuesday said Democratic leaders are using the threat of a government shutdown as a “nuclear bomb” and that a deal on government spending for the next two months is likely.

* Over in the 10th, one of Republican Bob Dold’s potential Democratic opponents has just picked up a couple of endorsements

Brad Schneider, one of the Democratic candidates in the new north suburban 10th Congressional District, has pulled in a couple of big endorsements.

Two state senators who had been wooed to run, Jeff Schoenberg, D-Evanston, and Susan Garrett, D-Lake Forest, Tuesday formally threw their backing to him. […]

The endorsements sure will help Mr. Schneider in his goal to take on GOP incumbent Robert Dold. But they also are a tacit sign that the Democratic field in the district is pretty set.

* Dold, by the way, was recently whacked in HuffPo for duplicity

An ardent opponent of the federal stimulus plan showed up Monday in Winnetka, Ill., to smile and cut the ribbon at a ceremony unveiling a local project funded by that very stimulus.

“Originally built in the 1940s, the [train] station not only got a facelift but three heated platform warming shelters, two new elevators and a new pedestrian bridge to allow commuters to wait in the station and then quickly cross over the tracks to the Chicago-bound platform,” Winnetka-Glencoe Patch reported Tuesday morning.

* Whatever else you can say about him, Joe Walsh is almost always pitch perfect when he speaks to his base

Walsh then told an audience filled with concealed carry advocates exactly what they wanted to hear in pledging to be a “cheerleader” for gun rights in Congress.

“We are an embarrassment (in Illinois),” Walsh said. “We are the last state standing when it comes to concealed carry. There’s no issue when it comes to freedom that matters like this, like the Second Amendment. The most important amendment in that Bill of Rights is the Second Amendment. It protects every other amendment. It is the last line of defense between us and our government.”

Walsh said Congress should move to cut off all funding to the United Nations as well as any exploration of restricting gun manufacturing or arms trading through the U.N.

“There’s no way the United States should be restricted by any international law,” Walsh said. “It amazes me that we’re even looking into it.”

* Related…

* Freda Manzullo honored at capitol

- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      


Question of the day

Wednesday, Sep 28, 2011

* Sun-Times

Emanuel disclosed Wednesday that he plans to revive the most controversial idea he raised during his campaign: reducing the city’s portion of the sales tax from 1.25 percent to 1 percent, but broadening the base to include an array of services not now covered. […]

“I have to go to Springfield to do that,” Emanuel said at an unrelated news conference Tuesday. “ … I’ve talked to both the Speaker and the Senate President about lowering the sales tax by expanding what is, in fact, taxed because we tax too few things and … the working families of the city carry the burden and it’s one of the highest sales tax rates in the country.”

He added: “I wanted to do exactly what I think is the right thing: close loopholes, lower the rate, make sure other people are carrying the burden — not the working families of Chicago.”

* Crain’s

CME Group Inc. has received tax proposals from multiple states looking to lure it from Illinois, but so far, not one from its home state, CME Executive Chairman Terry Duffy said.

Nonetheless, Mr. Duffy said the Chicago-based company, which operates the biggest futures market in the country, aims to reach an agreement on a corporate tax revision with Illinois officials before the Legislature’s October veto session, or for consideration during a special session this year. […]

“I pay the most in state taxes,” Mr. Duffy said during a question-and-answer session following a speech Tuesday on business ethics at Xavier University. “Why is that? Because I don’t have a loophole. I don’t want a loophole. I want what’s fair and equitable.” […]

Mr. Duffy said he doesn’t want to set a deadline for reaching an agreement with Illinois officials because he doesn’t want to put pressure on them. But he thinks it isn’t unfair to expect an agreement to be reached within a year of starting negotiations, which began in January.

* The Question: What sorts of state tax reform could you support? Explain.

- Posted by Rich Miller   35 Comments      


Live: Ozzie Guillen press conference

Wednesday, Sep 28, 2011

* The festivities begin at noon.

* BlackBerry users click here. Everybody else can sit back and watch the liveblog…

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 *** It ain’t all bad

Wednesday, Sep 28, 2011

* Without a doubt, the “Smart Grid” bill was one of the most controversial pieces of legislation passed by the General Assembly this past spring. Gov. Pat Quinn’s veto of the legislation has been lauded far and wide. But this issue isn’t as cut and dried as it too often looks. As I’ve already told you more than once, I’ve been a proponent of a smart grid for several years. Modernizing our infrastructure gives us a leg up on the competition, both regionally and internationally.

Yesterday, a group of business leaders held a press conference to discuss the benefits of the technology, which is often lost in the shuffle

At a news conference held at S&C Electric Co. in Chicago, which makes smart-grid technology, John Estey, the company’s president and CEO, demonstrated how “self-healing” electrical lines promised by a smart grid would work in the case of an outage.

Today, he said, the power goes out, residents call ComEd and the company rushes trucks out to find, isolate and fix the problem, a process than can take hours or days.

With a smart grid, he said, the problem can be resolved in seconds. The system automatically isolates the outages and figures out a way to run power from substations that are still working to homes with outages, while ComEd runs trucks to fix the problem. The result, he said, is that outages don’t become widespread.

“It’s not bleeding-edge technology,” he said. “This stuff really works.”

We have a semi-smart grid in Springfield. My power went out Sunday morning. I called CWLP and was informed that the utility already knew my power was out and that a fix was underway. But a real Smart Grid might’ve meant that my power would’ve remained on the whole time.

* One of the business owners who spoke at yesterday’s press conference said his company was being wooed by Michigan to relocate out of Illinois. Michigan is, indeed, ramping up its Smart Grid technology

On Monday, utility Consumers Energy announced it will work with SmartSynch to roll out cellular-based smart meters for 1.8 million customers in Michigan. Consumers Energy says that it will start deploying the network in August 2012 and will continue until 2019.

SmartSynch says Consumers Energy is the largest utility to embrace cellular for smart meters. Earlier this year Duke Energy also indicated it would put a large emphasis on cellular networks for its smart grid roll-out, too.

* There are the usual complaints from Luddites

According to a Vancouver Sun news report, local politicians have expressed a repeated theme that their ratepayers have concerns about potential health impacts from the radio frequency (RF) emitting devices.

* But almost totally missed by most reporters who write about this proposal is that the Sierra Club is also a major supporter. Jack Darin, the group’s executive director, wrote this not long ago..

This Spring, the General Assembly passed the Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act. The core of the legislation, Senate Bill 1652, aims to build a smarter, stronger grid for the future. Building up the grid is great, but just as important is breaking down the barriers to clean, renewable energy that makes service more reliable and the air cleaner. SB 1652 does just that by allowing large rooftop owners to benefit by installing solar and windpower on their roofs.

f these big box stores, office parks, warehouses, parking garages, and other large rooftop owners install clean energy on the roof, they would get the same incentive homeowners currently have – on days when they make more electricity than they use, putting the extra back on the grid, they get a credit for that power against their electric bill. In addition, utilities would be required to buy some of the power they sell to us from small renewable systems like these. The combined effect of these two incentives will be turning empty roofs into job sites, with electricians, equipment operators, carpenters, laborers, and others installing pollution-free power systems.

The bill makes another fundamental reform that will reduce the cost of power by harnessing market forces to spur new energy efficiency businesses. SB 1652 will change the way the Illinois Power Agency (IPA) and our utilities buy our power. In addition to buying nuclear, coal, solar, and wind power, the they will now also buy power from entities that reduce energy use if it is cheaper than generation. This will provide a market- ‐based mechanism that will save consumers money and create jobs and economic growth.

Still, even Darin has reservations about the bill’s lack of consumer protections

With added protection for consumers to go along with needed grid upgrades and new energy technologies, the forecast can look a whole lot better in the years ahead.

There are real problems with this bill. That’s to be expected, since ComEd basically wrote it. The General Assembly really dropped the ball on that one.

* The Pioneer Press published a story recently about how one man is using his smart meter to save big bucks

Since buying a smart meter in July 2010, Russell has combined this information with the price-per-kilowatt data he finds on ComEd’s website to produce his savings. ComEd’s electricity rates change by the hour (a formula guided by how much power it has to generate during the day versus how much leftover juice it has sitting in its grid at night), and it reaches its lowest prices around 2 and 3 a.m.

Through site monitoring, Russell has found that, sometimes, in the middle of the night, ComEd has so much energy to spare that it gives it away for free. Other times, its rate goes “negative,” and ComEd actually pays customers to take unwanted electricity off its hands.

“They say ‘Use it, please, please, please,’” he explained.

*** UPDATE *** Speaking of Luddites, this incredibly paranoid YouTube video has over 700,000 views

[Hat tip to a commenter.]

* Related…

* VIDEO: Imagine an electric grid that tells the power company when it is down without you having to call in the problem! John Estey, CEO of President of S&C Electric Company demonstrates how an electric smart grid works as Illinois business leaders gather to voice their support for the Illinois Infrastructure Modernization Act.

* Smart-Grid Sales in Latin America to Reach $1 Billion, GE Says

* Elmhurst council works on message to ComEd: ‘It’s time for results’

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      


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Wednesday, Sep 28, 2011

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Fun with Chicago numbers

Wednesday, Sep 28, 2011

* The Chicago Tribune almost never runs local campaign polls by any other outlet, no matter how reputable. Yet, the paper is apparently willing to publish the results of an Internet poll. Strange

A parent-advocacy group whose members have criticized Chicago Public Schools’ efforts to offer financial incentives for a lengthened school day found that most respondents to its online survey support a longer day.

Raise Your Hand leaders said 68 percent of the 1,222 survey takers, made up of parents and teachers from 230 schools, said they favored a longer day. About 43 percent said they supported a longer school year.

There was no explanation about how the respondents were recruited for the survey. And there was no explanation for what this group is or how it’s funded. The “poll,” by the way, is here.

* The easy part of being Chicago’s Inspector General is you can toss out a bunch of revenue ideas for the city that have absolutely no chance of passage and nobody blames you or even questions why you’re doing it. Why the IG would consider tax hike proposals to be part of his “mandate of promoting efficiency and effectiveness in City government” is beyond me, but let’s check out his list. Some of these aren’t bad ideas, but most ain’t going anywhere…

· Reducing the ratio of managers to non-supervisory employees in City government to save more than $100,000,000 annually
· Eliminating all Tax Increment Financing Districts to increase tax revenues to the City’s general fund by an estimated $100 million annually
· Increasing the work week of all City employees to 40 hours to save approximately $40 million annually
· Broadening the City’s Sales Tax to include more services generating an estimated $450 million annually
· Eliminating Police and Fire Duty Availability Pay that costs the City approximately $52 million a year
· Raise Water and Sewer Rates to the national average which would increase annual revenues by $380 million
· Eliminating Police Department Supervisor Quarterly Pay saving approximately $9.6 million annually
· Create a Commuter Tax estimated to generate $300 million in annual revenues
· Eliminate Tuition Reimbursement for City Employees, saving approximately $7.3 million
· Implement Congestion Pricing for vehicular traffic that is estimated to generate an additional annual revenues of $235 million
· Reducing the number of paid holidays for City workers from 13 to 10 resulting in annual savings estimated at $4.9 million
· Broadening the City’s Amusement Tax which would produce an additional $105 million in annual revenues
· Eliminate the Fire Commissary Contract for yearly savings of $2 million
· Doubling the City’s Boat Mooring Tax to generate an additional $1.3 million

* And check out the weasel wording from the inspector general’s press release…

…the inclusion of any option in this report is not, and should not be, construed as an endorsement by the IGO

In other words, “I’m not saying, I’m just saying…”

* Such a list, of course, leads to headlines like this one

Report: Chicago could charge tolls on Lake Shore Drive

Kinda misleading.

* Mayor Emanuel responds…

Across Chicago, residents, Aldermen and now the Inspector General have proposed ideas to tackle the difficult fiscal challenges ahead. Anything that will protect taxpayers and maintain the quality of services the City provides should be considered.

As I have said from the beginning, raising property taxes, income taxes or sales taxes is off the table. And asking drivers on Lake Shore Drive to pay a toll is also a non-starter.

There are a number of reforms and efficiencies in the Inspector General’s report that are promising, some of which we have already implemented and some we will give serious consideration.

* Earlier this year, Mayor Emanuel was upset about high absentee levels at Streets and San

“A 33 percent daily absentee rate has put the city in the position that it’s making choices between services it need not make. . . . That’s unacceptable to the city,” Emanuel said then.

“Residents and taxpayers and people [who] expect these services deserve better and they will get better. I ask the leaders of organized labor to be that partner in solving this problem.”

At the time, Lou Phillips, business manager of Laborers Local 1001, insisted that the daily absenteeism rate is more like 5 percent.

* Yesterday, Emanuel pretty much confirmed that the union was right, but still tried to use the numbers against the workers

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday turned up the heat on garbage collection crews he has accused of chronic absenteeism — by releasing records that he said show a pattern of abuse on Mondays and Fridays.

In the 13-month period ending on Aug. 31, an average of 40 laborers a day had “unscheduled absences” on Mondays, roughly 6.6 percent of the daily workforce of 600. That’s compared to 27 unexcused absences or 4.5 percent on Thursdays.

On Fridays, 5 percent of the workforce was on unscheduled days off.

Bar graphs posted on the city’s website show a similar pattern for truck drivers. Their absenteeism averaged 19 on Mondays and dropped to 13 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

A difference of half a point between Thursdays and Fridays doesn’t really mean much, but whatever.

- Posted by Rich Miller   21 Comments      


State: Closing prisons means 1,500 inmates packed into gymnasiums

Wednesday, Sep 28, 2011

* The Department of Corrections has filed its required report (click here) with the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability on its proposed facility closure plan. Gov. Pat Quinn, you will undoubtedly recall, wants to close the Logan Correctional Facility. It’s pretty grim

Closing the Logan Correctional Center eventually will force Illinois’ jam-packed prison system to house 1,500 inmates in prison gymnasiums around the state, the Department of Corrections said in recently filed documents.

Also, up to 180 inmates from the medium-security prison at Lincoln would be transferred to the super-maximum-security prison in Tamms. […]

“I’ve read closure documents before, but none so outrageous and irresponsible as the Logan prison plan,” said AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall. […]

The Corrections document said 1,980 inmates are housed at Logan. It said 300-350 inmates will be moved to health care units and segregation units at other prisons. The move will use up nearly all of the state’s beds in health and segregation units, the department said. […]

In the document, Corrections said that “while IDOC is prepared to face the challenges of providing mandated services in a less than ideal situation, an increased risk of legal exposure is an evident possibility. To assist in confronting these challenges, IDOC will be required to increase employee headcount at the facilities that will receive the additional inmate population.”

The problem for IDOC is that the prison system is at historic capacity right now. There’s literally no place to put these people.

* And then there’s the ripple effect of closing facilities throughout Downstate

At a time when Gov. Pat Quinn is pushing to lower the unemployment rate and boost investment in Illinois, the Chicago Democrat’s plan to shutter seven facilities as part of his budget fight with lawmakers will cost the state more than 2,600 jobs, according to figures compiled Tuesday.

Economic impact surveys show the governor’s proposal to shut down a prison, mental health centers and other state facilities in downstate communities like Lincoln, Murphysboro, Chester and Dixon will essentially strip $295.8 million out of the Illinois economy.

The surveys, conducted for the General Assembly’s Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, show that laying off 1,924 employees at the facilities will have a ripple effect on local businesses, resulting in an additional 738 people losing private sector jobs.

In Logan County, for example, laying off 356 people from the medium-security Logan Correctional Center will result in the loss of 104 other jobs in the area, causing a net $73 million blow to the local economy, the survey noted. Retail sales, hotels and restaurants are among the hardest hit sectors. Similar loss projections are outlined in reports dealing with the other facilities.

* Illinois Statehouse News has done a good job compiling all the data. From its story

Closing the Singer Mental Health Center would require local community care providers in Rockford to care for the 845 people usually treated at Singer.

But state Rep. Patti Bellock, R-Hinsdale, said that may not happen.

“I am extremely concerned that this will send people to hospitals or out (on) the street. A lot of these community providers do have group homes, but there is not enough room,” Bellock said. […]

The mental health center at Tinley Park is one of the state’s busiest, handling nearly 1,900 people a year. Those people would be sent to community care providers and local hospitals.

Bellock said community care providers in Cook County are overwhelmed and she fears the worst if a plan to transition people out of Tinley Park slowly is not available.

“For a local community to step up and pay for this kind of care, that would be impossible,” said Bellock.

* And AFSCME sent out a press release yesterday condemning COGFA for moving too fast…

The largest union representing frontline state employees is calling for greater openness and public accountability by a panel of lawmakers charged with overseeing Governor Pat Quinn’s proposal to close three psychiatric hospitals, two centers for individuals with profound developmental disabilities, a prison and a juvenile detention center.

In a letter to the senators and representatives that serve on the Commission for Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA), American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31 executive director Henry Bayer wrote:

    “[T]he Administration is intent on implementing these closures as quickly as possible with as little public scrutiny as possible. Unfortunately, it appears that COGFA is prepared to collaborate in this effort to stifle public review and input rather than seeking to provide an independent review based on the broadest possible public examination of the facts—as is the clear intent of the law.”

Specifically, the AFSCME letter cited the scheduled Wednesday, Oct. 5, public hearing on the Singer Mental Health Center in Rockford, which was announced with little more than a week’s notice, and the commission’s stated refusal to conduct the legally mandated review of the proposed closure of Tinley Park Mental Health Center. […]

“We realize that it may not be COGFA’s intent to depress turnout or stifle participation at these public hearings, but that will certainly be the result if the hearings go forward as currently planned,” Bayer wrote.

* Related…

* Study: Closing Chester Mental Health Center would cost $45 million to economy

* State-run facility shutdowns will leave nearly 2,000 people jobless

* UIC report slams Hartgrove - Findings detail violence, sex assaults of young patients at Chicago psychiatric hospital

* Editorial: Illinoisans will back those who put govt. on track

* Simon tour shines light on colleges - Lieutenant governor visiting all 48 community colleges in state

- Posted by Rich Miller   21 Comments      


Caption contest!

Wednesday, Sep 28, 2011

* I’m working on a couple of longer posts and just realized how late it’s getting, so let’s do another caption contest of a pic uploaded by Gov. Pat Quinn. The governor is returning from his Asian trip today, so this could be the last one

- Posted by Rich Miller   42 Comments      


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* Reader comments closed for the weekend
* State Journal-Register endorses Rauner "with reservations"
* *** UPDATED x1 *** Pritzker campaign lawyer hints at defamation suit, claims campaign was never served
* Rauner says he's "trying to eradicate" the Madigan machine "cancer," but the "treatments are tough"
* Question of the day
* *** UPDATED x2 - Speaker Ryan to campaign for Davis *** Trump likely coming to Illinois to boost Bost
* Musical Interlude: Try (just a little bit harder)
* Tell me another fairytale, Grandpa
* Rauner again denies any delays at Quincy veterans' home
* "Speed dating" candidates
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