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Unclear on the concept

Thursday, Nov 7, 2013

* Tribune

In most other large cities, officials seek voters’ permission on building projects before issuing general obligation bonds, which are backed by property taxes. But that’s not how it works in Chicago. Illinois law allows Chicago’s leaders to borrow with abandon.

That wasn’t an editorial, by the way. It was a “straight” news piece.

* From the Illinois Constitution


    (a) A County which has a chief executive officer elected by the electors of the county and any municipality which has a population of more than 25,000 are home rule units. Other municipalities may elect by referendum to become home rule units. Except as limited by this Section, a home rule unit may exercise any power and perform any function pertaining to its government and affairs including, but not limited to, the power to regulate for the protection of the public health, safety, morals and welfare; to license; to tax; and to incur debt.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - thomas - Thursday, Nov 7, 13 @ 12:07 pm:

    This Tribune series is actually pretty good. But it is loaded with editorial-like comments as Rich pointed out, proving that the line between opinion and news is often blurred at the Tower.

  2. - Anonymous - Thursday, Nov 7, 13 @ 12:38 pm:

    1) Sometimes it needs spelling out. The reason Illinois is so messed up is because our LAWS are so messed up, when compared with other states’ laws. And really, where’s the editorializing?

    2) Senor Miller, if you want to talk about journalistic ethics/practices, every time you post something negative about the Trib perhaps you should remind your readers that your syndicated column is carried in the Sun-Times. Oh, right, the rules don’t apply to you.

  3. - wordslinger - Thursday, Nov 7, 13 @ 12:40 pm:

    – In most other large cities, officials seek voters’ permission on building projects before issuing general obligation bonds, –

    Huh? What cities?

  4. - Soccermom - Thursday, Nov 7, 13 @ 12:47 pm:

    This is just insane. Ask Rockford what happens when you get rid of home rule powers.

  5. - Soccermom - Thursday, Nov 7, 13 @ 12:49 pm:

    And the “most other large cities” thing is flat-out wrong. I realize that fact-checking is a thing of the past, but this one if just over the top.

  6. - Dirty Red - Thursday, Nov 7, 13 @ 12:50 pm:

    = every time you post something negative about the Trib perhaps you should remind your readers that your syndicated column is carried in the Sun-Times. =

    He always prominently posts the Sun-Times name when he has a column, “Anonymous.”

    How does that Clapton song go? Oh yeah, “Before you accuse me take a look at yourself.”

    Not to mention most of the readers here are well aware of who Rich Miller is and who he writes for. They are generally well informed readers unlike the anonymous drive-by commenters you Tribbies are used to and mimic.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  7. - Soccermom - Thursday, Nov 7, 13 @ 12:52 pm:

    Here’s a pro tip: If you want to talk about things like “most large cities,” call these folks. They know about this stuff.

  8. - wordslinger - Thursday, Nov 7, 13 @ 12:58 pm:

    Soccermom, the statement is just weird. Pulled out of thin air. No basis in reality.

    Who would keep reading?

  9. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Nov 7, 13 @ 12:58 pm:

    ===And really, where’s the editorializing?===

    “Borrow with abandon,” is the phrase I excerpted. There’s plenty more in that piece.

    If you can’t see it, you must’ve written it.

  10. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Nov 7, 13 @ 1:00 pm:

    Also, my syndicated column doesn’t appear in the Sun-Times. I write a special column for the Sun-Times.

    And if you think I dinged the Tribune because the Sun-Times pays me less than the amount of my monthly car payment, you’re a paranoid moron.

  11. - Chicago taxpayer - Thursday, Nov 7, 13 @ 1:08 pm:

    Thanks Rich for noting the Tribune’s habit of editorializing in “news” articles. Its now become standard fare in their paper. Reporters feel at liberty, without fear of editor admonishment, to slant and skew, to subtly and directly present opinion as objective news.

  12. - Formerly Known As... - Thursday, Nov 7, 13 @ 1:15 pm:

    It appears the concern resides not necessarily in what Illinois law “allows” Chicago’s leadership to do, but more so in the manner which Chicago’s leadership uses and abuses that “permission”.

    I’m not a digital plus member though, so it’s impossible to read the full story.

  13. - West Side the Best Side - Thursday, Nov 7, 13 @ 1:18 pm:

    Rich - Now don’t be a bully and violate your own guidelines - while “paranoid moron” may well be factually supported and moderated, “paranoid eejit” would be more proper in polite society.

  14. - grand old partisan - Thursday, Nov 7, 13 @ 1:34 pm:

    “Ask Rockford what happens when you get rid of home rule powers.”

    limiting something and getting rid of it are two entirely different things. If anything, what’s at issue here is not Chicago’s ability to issue these bonds, but the process by which it approves them (council vs. referendum)

  15. - Just Observing - Thursday, Nov 7, 13 @ 1:51 pm:

    === This is just insane. Ask Rockford what happens when you get rid of home rule powers. ===

    Rockford is not a mess because voters chose to abandon home rule… the vast majority of Illinois municipalities are non-home rule and they haven’t all turned into Rockford. Illinois home rule powers are among the most liberal in the nation… to the detriment of Illinoisans.

  16. - wordslinger - Thursday, Nov 7, 13 @ 2:17 pm:

    If you want a good belly laugh, read Kass’ take on this story.

    Some way, some how, he takes this story and manages to diss Obama, the University of Chicago and the “Eastern Media Establishment,” among others.

    Oh, and Chicago’s another Detroit. Duh.

    Surprisingly, he forgot to include the commie plot to sap and impurify our precious bodily fluids.

    Does anyone know this guy? Is his act a gag, or does he believe this stuff? It’s unhinged.

  17. - Soccermom - Thursday, Nov 7, 13 @ 2:29 pm:

    Here’s the thing — I actually find this kind of appalling: “Less than a third of the money went to capital improvements, the Tribune found.”

    The idea of these bonds is that the long-term payoff schedule is for long-term improvements. (That’s right, isn’t it 47th?) And if the Trib had stuck with this, that would be a story I’d read with interest (pardon the bond joke…) Instead, they add a bunch of crap that completely undermines any forceful argument.

    Geez. Can’t nobody here play this game?

  18. - wordslinger - Thursday, Nov 7, 13 @ 2:43 pm:

    Soccermom, I’m with you.

    It’s hardly news, or a secret, that the great white hope, Richie M., was a fiscal disaster, aided and abetted by a lap dog city council, cult-of-personality-worshipping Civvies, and the groveling Tribbies.

    But that was the price of “stability,” (white dude), which the Civvies and Tribbies valued above responsible governance.

  19. - RNUG - Thursday, Nov 7, 13 @ 2:55 pm:

    Not just Chicago. Even in places like Springfield, where they voted down a referendum on a convention center, they still went ahead, built the PCCC, and continue to tax for it.

    And let’s not forget the games some school districts play, having learned how to manipulate new building projects so they can be classified as life/safety improvements that fall outside the limits.

  20. - Formerly Known As... - Thursday, Nov 7, 13 @ 2:59 pm:

    Well said, @Soccermom.

    Meanwhile, citizens get to pay off the interest on all 100% of that borrowing, not just the 33% that went towards its designated purpose.

  21. - A guy... - Thursday, Nov 7, 13 @ 3:08 pm:

    Not that Rich needs any extra protection here, but his well written (poorly compensated for) column does appear in the Editorial pages. It’s not just the Trib though. All of the papers have too much editorializing in columns these days. It’s a somewhat natural instinct for writers to want to do it. The breakdown is at the editor level. It’s been deteriorating for at least 10 years.

  22. - 47th Ward - Thursday, Nov 7, 13 @ 3:55 pm:

    Mom, if you’re asking me, I’d say yes, cities issue bonds for capital construction purposes, not operating purposes. And whatever you spend the proceeds on should last longer than the repayment schedule for the bonds (don’t buy computers or vehicles with 30-year bonds).

    But I suspect the Tribune is looking at some very complicated deals and trying to simplify them for their audience, which makes it hard to tell the story accurately and still generate sufficient outrage.

    In the case of Millennium Park, IIRC, there was supposed to be a private fundraising effort to endow the park so that revenue generated by the endowment would pay for maintenance and other operational expenses. I believe some of the original bond proceeds were used to finance the first few years of maintenance/operations while private donors were tapped to build the endowment.

    Obviously that plan didn’t work out, and taxpayers are stuck with the bill plus interest. Looking back on it, yes, it was a really dumb thing to do. In the moment though, I can see how they made the decision.

    The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

  23. - Precinct Captain - Thursday, Nov 7, 13 @ 4:10 pm:


    Also, if you can Google/Bing the article title and come to the Trib site through search engines you can read the digital plus stories such as this one.

  24. - whetstone - Thursday, Nov 7, 13 @ 5:43 pm:

    @wordslinger: Yeah, I don’t know about most cities. But Oklahoma City has had considerable success bringing bond referendums to the voters (and pay-go projects as well). They’re pretty well regarded in urbanist circles for what they’ve done with the city in a very conservative state.

    As for Kass, I think he’s just throwing out chum.

  25. - wordslinger - Thursday, Nov 7, 13 @ 5:50 pm:

    Whetstone, the Tribbies are just making stuff up now so they can play the victim.

    To be sure, Richard M. Daley was a disaster as a fiscal steward. A lot of folks howled about that in real time.

    But the Civvies and the Tribbies were his biggest backers, always. They’re not victims, they were ennablers.

  26. - Formerly Known As... - Thursday, Nov 7, 13 @ 8:11 pm:

    @Precinct Captain - much obliged. Thanks for taking the time to share that.

  27. - DuPage - Thursday, Nov 7, 13 @ 8:57 pm:

    No problem. Rahm can get the money by taking some more pension holidays.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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