* Before we close for the week, Mark Denzler asked that we mention this to those of you in the 217 this weekend…
Our annual Kentucky Derby Party benefiting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is coming up on Saturday, April 26 at Panther Creek Country Club in Springfield. This is my final year as co-chair of the event and we’re hoping to make this the best yet!
It’s a fun night for an outstanding cause great food, awesome Derby fashion, and fantastic auction items. Our silent auction includes a case of Duckhorn wine, four tickets to the Jimmy Buffett concert in Chicago, Cards, Cubs & White Sox tickets, and even a very cool private tour of the vault at the Lincoln Presidential Library and more. Buy a raffle ticket for the chance to win 4 box tickets to the 2014 Kentucky Derby!
I’m hoping that you may consider joining us for the night.
Thanks for your consideration.
* It seems like everytime I close comments for the weekend there is a late, fairly significant press releasse distributed that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Between the Twitter feed below and the “Afternoon updates” post, that’s not going to happen this time.
Enjoy the weekend! It’s May in Illinois, which means long debates and even longer nights are ahead of us all. Rich will be back on Monday, so I will see you on the rail, or at the bar, or both. Here’s some Mouse…
Well fads they come and fads they go
And God I love that rock and roll
Well the point was fast but it was too blunt to miss.
Life handed us a paycheck, we said, “We worked harder than this!”
Both State’s Attorney Jerry Brady and Peoria Police Chief Steve Settingsgaard said nothing was done out of the ordinary last week when a handful of police officers searched a Peoria home in response to a complaint by the mayor over a fake Twitter account parodying him.
Many online and at a city council meeting earlier this week have blasted the search, saying it was heavy-handed and showed preferential treatment to Mayor Jim Ardis. But Brady and the chief said that wasn’t the case. Rather, they both said, due process was followed and everything was done to preserve the rights of those people who were behind the fake account, @peoriamayor.
We didn’t treat this any differently, but we, the law enforcement arm of Peoria, would not have done anything without getting the OK from the boss. Do they have to get an OK from the Mayor everytime they are going to execute a warrant or arrest?
While upset that his investigation, which lasted about a month, resulted in no charges, he said he was also glad because it showed the process worked.
But, you see, it’s not their fault Peoria has become a national laughing stock…
Chief puts "embarrassment" of people involved in #peoriamayor case on media. PPD never named who was involved.
In a case with implications for the upcoming legal battle over pension reform, an Illinois appellate court in Springfield ruled that constitutional protections prevent the state from reducing mandated payments to county treasurers.
The pension protection clause of the Illinois Constitution, which says that workers’ retirement benefits can’t be diminished, is at the heart of lawsuits challenging statewide pension changes enacted late last year.
While the county treasurers’ case relies on other language in the constitution, the appellate court’s decision yesterday is analogous, using the same legal arguments and precedents that teachers and other state workers are pressing in court against pension reform.
“It supports the arguments we have been making and will continue to make,” said John Fitzgerald, partner in Chicago law firm Tabet DiVito & Rothstein LLC, which represents retired teachers and school administrators, both active and retired, in a suit challenging the pension law.
Under Illinois law, county treasurers are supposed to get an annual $6,500 stipend from the state. The treasurers sued when their annual stipends were reduced to $4,196 in the year ended June 30, 2010.
The state even pointed to a shortage in the General Assembly’s appropriation, but that argument didn’t get them anywhere.
* A pension round-up…
* Sun-Times: Reject firefighter staffing bill: Why then, we can only wonder, is the Illinois Legislature seemingly so eager to get behind a bill that would give labor unions more say in how many firefighters and paramedics a town must hire? The bill would take hiring decisions, in part, out of the hands of those best positioned to decide right — elected officials, village managers and other professional staff. And the bill would drive up costs for dozens of already cash-strapped suburbs and towns. (Want to guess how often the firefighters union in a typical town thinks there are enough firefighters?) The bill in Springfield — already passed by 63-44 in the House and headed for Senate — would make firefighter staffing levels part of labor contract negotiations. The Senate should pour water all over this one. Drown it.
“In general, I don’t support term limits, and do support Rauner,” Kirk said. “I think he’s the right guy for the state.”
Illinois House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) and Illinois Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) have introduced a separate proposal to amend the state constitution to limit the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, comptroller, and treasurer to two terms in office.
But Kirk said if people want to fire their elected officials, they can vote them out of office.
“If you want to fire your legislator, just vote against them,” Kirk said.
While prospects for achieving a three-fifths vote of senators in the Democratic-controlled chamber are considered good, getting the same super-majority in the Democratic-led House is believed questionable at best. Earlier this week, Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan said the proposed constitutional amendment was “significantly short” of the 71 votes needed to put it on the Nov. 4 ballot.
The House sponsor of the plan, Rep. Christian Mitchell, D-Chicago, said he couldn’t say whether he had the required support needed for passage “at the moment.” Vote counts, he said, “are dynamic and ever changing.” Harmon, however, said he was “confident I have the votes in the Senate.”
In an effort to make the proposal more politically palatable, Harmon and Mitchell have proposed separate state legislation that would replace the state’s current 5 percent personal income tax rate, which is set to revert to 3.75 percent in January, with a three-bracket income tax. The first $12,500 in income would be taxed at 2.9 percent, income on top of that to $180,000 would be taxed at 4.9 percent, and all income above $180,000 would be taxed at 6.9 percent.
* Speaking of taxes, take a look at these opposing guest editorials concerning the motor fuel tax. The first is from Doug Whitley…
User fees are a fair and practical funding source for transportation infrastructure. It ensures that those who drive more — and therefore place more wear on our infrastructure — would pay more. Thanks to greater fuel efficiency and no motor fuel tax increases, today’s motorists contribute much less to support highway construction than in prior decades.
We cannot let our transportation networks deteriorate and become our next crushing problem like pensions and education. We need a better way forward that assures a reliable, predictable and stable funding stream to support our mobility and prosperity. We must accept the responsibility to be good stewards of our present and future transportation needs, and that time is now.
Clearly, the state needs to maintain its infrastructure, but we need to get behind the wheel and stop this push for higher fuel taxes. Illinois Auditor General Bill Holland released a report in 2013 that found Illinois spent less than half of its dedicated road fund dollars directly on road construction costs in eight of the prior 10 fiscal years.
Taxpayers should be outraged. Gas station owners and convenience store retailers are opposed to any plan that would have Illinois drivers paying more to fill-up their gas tanks.
There have been no votes in the Illinois General Assembly on specific proposals to raise the motor fuel tax in 2014, but there is a concerning amount of conversation about the possibility.
That possibility has at least been raised over in the House where the Revenue & Finance and State Government Administration Committees have been working towards a package of tax code changes.
* And here is a budget and state government round-up. Notice the re-appearance of a few doom and gloom stories…
* Minimum wage workers, state lawmakers clash on fair pay, taxes: If the state were to adopt this structure lawmakers would set the new rates. That brings up concerns for opponents. “There’s no limit on that which means they can raise it to whatever level they want and it’s going to be middle class families that get hurt the most.” -says 35th District State Senator Dave Syverson.
* Illinois lawmakers suggest abandoning resort: In a hearing to discuss the Illinois Department of Natural Resources budget Thursday, state Rep. Kelly Burke, D-Evergreen Park, asked whether agency officials had considered giving up on the 25-year-old state-owned Eagle Creek Resort south of Findlay. “Why don’t we get rid of it?” Burke asked. Natural Resources Director Marc Miller did not dismiss the idea, telling a panel of lawmakers that the state faces challenges when it comes to making Eagle Creek financially viable. The 138-room lodge has been closed since 2009 because of an outbreak of mold. A Decatur company brought in to repair the damage in 2010 walked away from the job earlier this year because of a dispute with the agency.
Rauner’s campaign said Quinn’s visit was a campaign maneuver that featured a recycled idea. Rauner’s camp noted that Quinn launched a similar program, called Illinois Home Start, in 2009, and Quinn’s predecessor, Rod Blagojevich, launched a similar program called the I-Loan Mortgage in 2005.
Shortly after the Governor was wheels up in Marion after hosting a similar event there, Rauner hit him again for the Shakman suit…
“After claiming he would bring transparency to state government, Pat Quinn is blocking the public from learning the truth about his administration’s Blagojevich-style state job patronage scheme,” he said in an emailed statement.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner is calling on Gov. Pat Quinn to release documents related to a federal complaint alleging improper hiring in the Illinois Department of Transportation.
Rauner told The Associated Press Thursday that Quinn should keep promises of transparency by making public documents supposedly detailing hiring issues. He says Quinn is continuing Illinois’ history of corruption and cronyism.
Rauner tells AP he hasn’t hired friends, family or allies.
The Governor’s camp has yet to give a strong response to the hits he has taken from the Republican challenger over the last couple of days. In the absence of a response, the media is feeding on Rauner’s attacks and the Shakman case…
IDOT says it stopped hiring “staff assistants” after questions were raised last year, and 50 positions were reclassified as nonexempt after an audit of job responsibilities. “Moving forward, these re-classified positions will be hired through the Rutan process.”
That’s not good enough. Not even close.
Why should workers get to keep jobs that they obtained by clout, without regard for qualifications, and at the expense of those who applied through legal channels?
The bigger question: How many of them are there — not just at IDOT, but throughout state government?
The governor ought to be demanding some answers. Instead, it’s Shakman.
“Chicagoland” depicts the city we know, beautiful but with warts and broken places. And throughout, there is drama and conflict, from the painful closing of public schools to the senseless gang wars. There are heroes in it and there are failures.
There is even a death. The monitors beep at the county hospital, the doctors say “charge” and then “clear” and then nothing. You see bloody dressings on the floor at the surgeons’ feet. The camera bores in. You see a close-up of a man as he grows still.
But make no mistake: This is Rahm Emanuel’s story, his re-election campaign vehicle. This is the boss of Chicago selling his heroic narrative to American voters.
I’m in no position to judge the series. Whenever I have seen it listed in my cable guide, I click it only to find more MH370 coverage. That said, it wouldn’t totally surprise me if this were about politics. Coincidentally, or not depending on your cynicism levels, Supt. McCarthy played a central role in the Brick City miniseries that chronicled then-Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s struggle with that city’s murder rate.
Question:What is your take of the Chicagoland series? Did it accomplish anything for the good? What would you have done differently?
* This happened at the Lorimor household more than once over the past two weeks…
Welcome to the second Friday of this spring break, CapFaxers…
* Why Bill Daley’s New Hedge Fund Gig Surprises No One: In his new role, Daley will work to expand Argentiere’s U.S. business from his Chicago home base. The nascent fund, which boasts $500 million in assets, was launched in Switzerland last year by JPMorgan trading alums. (Daley has professional ties to the bank: He was JPMorgan’s Midwestern chairman from 2004 up through his Chief of Staff appointment.)
* NLRB grants Northwestern’s request for review of union decision: The union vote still takes place Friday but ballots will be impounded until the board issues a decision affirming, modifying or reversing the regional director’s decision, according to a NLRB statement. There are 76 players eligible to vote. A majority of the actual votes cast is required to authorize a union, said university spokesman Bob Rowley.
* Sun-Times: How to improve graduation rates: Systemwide, ninth-grade pass rates, or “on-track” to graduate rates, have skyrocketed, from 57 percent in 2007 to 82 percent 2013, suggesting that the surge in graduation rates won’t be limited to the 20 studied schools.
* Lawyers for men charged in NIU hazing death challenge law: “It contains no definition, no limits, no parameters, and doesn’t even cite examples of what (such acts) might be,” Donahue argued at a hearing Thursday before DeKalb County Associate Judge John McAdams. “We should all know what a crime is.”
* You Paid For It: Illinois State University President Residence Remodel: WMBD dug into records of how the university prepared to welcome Flanagan to Central Illinois, because you paid for it. Eleven thousand dollars for a fence, more than $1,000 for a microwave shelf, a master bedroom and bathroom remodel cost nearly $109,000, and $2,000 for four “private property” signs. This is how Illinois State University got ready for a new president to move into the university residence. “The Bowmans were there 10 years,” says ISU Chief of Staff Jay Groves. “He didn’t leave a lot, didn’t want a lot done when we were there. So, we saw this as an opportunity from May 15th to August 9th when Flanagan moved in to do a major remodeling project because it really needed it.” Groves says there are reasons why some of the costs we found are high. Our investigation shows workers were paid nearly $90 an hour to install and paint dry-wall.
* IDPH warns of rising STDs in Illinois: DPH officials say 20 million new sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including 50,000 HIV infections, occur in the United States each year. Nearly half of those cases are found in people between the ages of 15 and 24.
* Ride-sharing ordinance passes key hurdle: Under the ordinance, companies whose driver workforce averages more than 20 hours per person each week would face stronger oversight, including a requirement that all their drivers obtain chauffeur’s licenses. But the proposed ordinance targeting companies such as Uber X, Lyft and SideCar leaves it to the ride-share companies to police drivers in terms of how many work hours are logged.
* Ride Service May Pose Risk to Passengers: NBC5 Investigates went undercover, hiring UberX drivers to take us to some of Chicago’s most popular landmarks — and found not a single driver knew his way around the city. NBC5 then ran background checks on each of the drivers and discovered ticket after ticket — for speeding, illegal stops and running lights. One driver had 26 traffic tickets, yet still passed Uber’s background check.
* Ride-Sharing Regulations Passed By City Council Committee: Mayoral Policy Chief Michael Negron says the new administration proposal would create a transportation network provider license with tougher requirements for drivers working more than 20 hours a week. “Our goal is not to protect any one company or any one industry from competition. Our focus is on protecting consumers,” said Negron.
* Downtown (Peoria) Caterpillar project being studied: “We’re continuing to study it. It’s not a small project. When we have more decided, there’ll be more communicated,” said Brad Halverson, the company’s chief financial officer and a group president.