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Reader comments closed for the weekend

Friday, Jul 26, 2013

* From my old buddy Nick Dolce…

My grandfather passed away this week and it would mean a lot to us if you closed comments with Louis Prima’s “C’è la Luna,” especially if you send it out to all the small town mayors and city council folks who give their time and expect nothing back.

Thanks,
Nick

And away we go

He’s got a cannoli in his hand

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Happy birthday, Mick!

Friday, Jul 26, 2013

* Mick Jagger turns 70 today

Paul McCartney turned 70 last year. So did Brian Wilson. Bob Dylan hit 70 two years ago. Grace Slick, Paul Simon, Jagger’s bandmate Charlie Watts — they’re all in their seventies.

Hey, BB King is pushing 90 and he’s still touring.

* But to put this into a little perspective, I’m 51. My father turns 70 next month. Mick Jagger is older than my father.

I’ve always known this, but now that the big seven-oh has hit, it kinda blows me away.

* I saw the Stones at the United Center in June. It wasn’t the greatest show I’d ever seen, and I saw more people using canes than at any other concert I’ve been to, but it did rock and I had fun and that’s all I cared about.

So, let the naysayers say what they say. Who needs ‘em anyway? Here’s hoping for many more years, for both my dad and Mick.

* From 1981 at the Checkerboard Lounge with the man who started it all


- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      


Question of the day

Friday, Jul 26, 2013

* Apparently, Poshard wanted to wait until he had matters under control before stepping down

SIU President Glenn Poshard will step down from his post next summer. The long-time administrator says it’s time for him to slow down, and he’s ready for the next chapter in his life.

Poshard says he wants to make sure there is a seamless transition as he moves out of the office, and hoped to give Trustees plenty of notice to find someone new. He says stability is important.

“We had had a succession of Presidents who had been here three, two years at a time. I’ve been here 7 ½ years, will be here 8 ½ years. I think we’ve stabilized that arena.”

Poshard also pointed to new stability on the Board of Trustees, after months of turmoil, as one thing that made his decision easier. He says Randal Thomas’ leadership as Chairman of the Board is a great asset.

Thomas passes credit back to Poshard, and thinks the transition to new leadership will be made easier because of how things have been organized.

I’m betting that Gov. Pat Quinn will try his best to make sure he has as much influence as possible on who the next SIU president is. Stay tuned. For now, though…

* The Question: Glenn Poshard’s legacy? Make sure to explain.

- Posted by Rich Miller   22 Comments      


CTU demand falls on deaf ears

Friday, Jul 26, 2013

* The Chicago Teachers Union demanded this week that Gov. Pat Quinn veto DePaul arena financing bill, which was included in a much larger economic development proposal

As part of its protest and march, the CTU says it will demand that Gov. Pat Quinn not support a bill authorizing financing for the construction of a 10,000-seat basketball arena for DePaul University. […]

[But Chicago Public Schools spokesperson Becky Carroll] said a $50 million TIF subsidy “is not going to solve our structural deficit.”

* Quinn sided with the city and signed the bill into law. The media’s focus, however, was on the 3rd airport language. AP

After decades of dispute, the possibility of a third airport in the Chicago area finally materialized Thursday as Gov. Pat Quinn signed a wide-ranging bill that’ll put state transportation officials in charge of the hub and allow them to spend $71 million on land.

Hopeful talk of a south suburban airport has dominated this economically struggling area since the 1970s and spanned the careers of numerous politicians, including former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. But movement was stalled by fights over local control, revenue and environmental impact, as well as whether it was necessary, given the metropolitan area is already served by two major airports.

* Phil Kadner has an excellent and comprehensive take on the matter. Just a snippet here, so go read the whole thing

It was Crete Mayor Michael Einhorn who brought a dose of reality to Gov. Pat Quinn’s South Suburban Airport bill-signing ceremony Thursday.

“It’s a fact-based process now,” said Einhorn, whose community is located near the proposed airport land.
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“I mean that private developers will now examine this idea, look at all the facts and determine if it’s worth investing their money,” Einhorn said.

“It’s not some politician’s dream. Can this airport plan make money? That’s what we’re going to find out.”

* The package also included an incentive for a huge fertilizer plant. As an added bonus, a young GOP state legislator previously known for not playing well with others finally learned how to play with others

A Central Illinois Republican says a new law offering tax incentives to a company looking to build a fertilizer plant in either Tuscola or Iowa shows what can be accomplished when lawmakers work together.

State Rep. Adam Brown, R-Champaign, is a key supporter of trying to lure Cronus Chemical LLC to Douglas County.

In the end, a package of tax breaks for the Delaware-based startup company was combined with a number of Democrat-backed economic development initiatives, including the construction of a third Chicago-area airport. Gov. Pat Quinn signed the legislation on Thursday.

“It’s really a shining example of what we can do when we work across the aisle,” Brown said Thursday.

Cronus has said it is looking to build a $1.1 billion production facility in either Tuscola or in Mitchell County, Iowa. Illinois’ package is worth an estimated $14.5 million.

More

A spokesman for the newly formed company said the signing of the law will start the clock ticking on a final decision.

“We expect to make a site selection within 30 days after that,” spokesman Dave Lundy said in an email.

Iowa officials have not revealed if they are offering Cronus a similar package. But state economic development officials indicated this week that they think the Mitchell County site is still an option for the company.

“We’ve not heard that we aren’t in the running,” said Tina Hoffman, spokeswoman for the Iowa Economic Development Authority.

Iowa committed a $240 million fortune to attract a similar fertilizer plant to that state last year. The Chicago Tribune editorial board used that goofy over-payment to bash Illinois, even though Illinois withdrew from the bidding when Iowa overplayed its hand, and Gov. Terry Brandstandt poked his finger in our collective eye at the time. So an Illinois win on this plant would be sweet, and relatively cheap, considering.

* Also in the bill…

Amends the property tax code so farmland property taxes are based on the income potential for the individual piece of farmland, rather than on a statewide average productivity of all farmland.

Assists with the development of the Port of East St. Louis along the Mississippi River.

- Posted by Rich Miller   23 Comments      


Nothing plus nothing means nothing

Friday, Jul 26, 2013

* The Chicago media tried to use a previously manufactured story to manufacture yet another story yesterday. It didn’t appear to work. An audio snippet from Gov. Pat Quinn’s Chicago press conference yesterday…

* Transcript…

REPORTER: You suggested the State Fair as a potential time for a special session but…

QUINN: [Laughs]

REPORTER: Suggested…

QUINN: I didn’t suggest it. You guys suggested it, I was…

REPORTER: You did, you said “maybe.” But, you know, members of the pension committee say that’s too early…

* As I’ve already told you, earlier this week Chicago reporters asked whether Quinn planned to call a special session during the Illinois State Fair…

QUINN: Well, that’s an opportunity when people come to Springfield. I encourage everyone to come to Springfield for our State Fair. It began in 1857, it’s the best State Fair in America. And if legislators would like to join the fun and also do an important job for the people of Illinois that would be an ideal time.

REPORTER: So is that a yes?

QUINN: It could be. [Loud laughter.]

Audio…

If you listen to the audio, it’s pretty clear that he was not serious about calling a special session. And his office has privately pushed back hard against these questions.

* But, yesterday, reporters attempted to use their original non-story to create a “conflict” story about pension reform conference committee members chafing at the idea of a State Fair special session.

There’s already enough actual conflict in this battle royale. I really see no need to create something else out of whole cloth. Time to give it a rest.

- Posted by Rich Miller   9 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 *** Tipping the scales against the home team

Friday, Jul 26, 2013

*** UPDATE *** Chicago Tonight’s report

[ *** End Of Update *** ]

* My Sun-Times column

While watching White Sox players embarrass themselves yet again this week, my sad eyes turned to a private club behind home plate.

The slogan “You got a guy” was plastered all over the front of the club, which is run by a Chicago ticket broker.

This being Chicago, everybody wants “a guy” to handle things. It’s who you know, not what you know. That ticket broker sure knows his target audience well, I thought, as yet another Sox player committed yet another moronic error.

A Metra employee who couldn’t get a raise last year after his supervisor recommended a pay hike turned to his guy, who just happened to be Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan. The rest is history.

Pretty much everybody who even glances at a newspaper has heard the Madigan/Metra story. But here’s a story you probably haven’t heard.

Former Illinois Attorney General Ty Fahner runs the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago. The Civic Committee is made up of top execs from the area’s largest employers. These are definitely big guys. The biggest of the big.

Fahner and his group have been pushing a public employee pension reform plan for years because the state can’t afford to meet its obligations. But initially, Fahner and his cohorts met a wall of stiff, bipartisan resistance.

Fahner was asked during a previously ignored speech why he didn’t take a more radical approach. What about trying to knock down the state’s credit rating into junk bond territory and drive the state’s borrowing costs up so high that public pressure would finally be felt, a questioner suggested.

It turns out Fahner was way ahead of the questioner.

“Me and some of the people that make up the Civic Committee,” Fahner said “did meet with and call — in one case in person — and a couple of calls to Moody’s and Fitch and Standard & Poors, and say ‘How in the hell can you guys do this? You are an enabler to let the state continue. You keep threatening more and more and more.’”

In other words, they asked their guys to tank our bond rating like you or I might call a ticket broker.

Did it work? Well, the state’s bond ratings have been falling even though Illinois approved the same sort of pension reform three years ago that won California plaudits last year and a bond upgrade this year. California is far better managed than Illinois, and our state does deserve most of the fiscal criticism it has received. But a bunch of rich and powerful people putting their thumb on the scale against their own state seems more than a little repugnant to me.

Fahner said they stopped pressuring the ratings agencies around January of this year. They didn’t “want to be the straw that broke the camel’s back,” on the state losing its investment grade status, he said in the March speech at the Union League Club. So, at least they had sense enough to back off before they helped push us over one of the worst cliffs imaginable.

Whatever happened, this was way beyond calling a guy to get a sweet seat for a Sox game, or a pay raise. Even if Fahner and his buddies played only a small role, downgrades have cost taxpayers millions of dollars in increased interest payments and have so far not led to a pension reform solution.

The White Sox may have to destroy this awful team in order to rebuild it. But a state ain’t a ball club full of millionaire players. When the state is hurt, we all get hurt, no matter the goal. And bragging about it is even worse.

WTTW’s “Chicago Tonight” did a segment on this issue yesterday, and I’ll post that as soon as the video is available.

* Related…

* $110,000 man: Madigan crony was collecting city pension when he sought Metra raise

* Legislative ethics panel to investigate Madigan’s Metra patronage request - House speaker sought inquiry

- Posted by Rich Miller   109 Comments      


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Friday, Jul 26, 2013

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