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Dwindling away

Monday, Nov 23, 2015

* Sigh…

- Posted by Rich Miller   59 Comments      

Question of the day

Monday, Nov 23, 2015

* Can anything be done about the Bears?

- Posted by Rich Miller   43 Comments      

He’s ba-ack!

Monday, Nov 23, 2015

* After a brief flirtation with moderate rhetoric, our old buddy Richard Goldberg reverts to form. All emphasis in original…

From: Richard Goldberg, Deputy Chief of Staff for Legislative Affairs To: Members of the General Assembly
Date: November 23, 2015
Subj: Contingency Planning for HDEM Refusal to Compromise

On November 6, 2015, in response to a request from the Speaker’s Office, the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget (GOMB) sent the Speaker’s Office a list of Fiscal Year 2016 “Other State Funds” appropriation items that the Governor would support as an amendment to HB 4305 in order to protect public safety and avoid the first state debt default since 1842.

On November 8, 2015, GOMB followed up with specific appropriations language to support that objective. Had the General Assembly enacted HB 4305 with our compromise proposal, a wide range of “Other State Funds” and federal pass-through funds would already be available, including funds to:

    * feed our veterans;
    * feed state prisoners;
    * feed individuals with mental health issues;
    * feed individuals with developmental disabilities;
    * keep state troopers on the road;
    * salt state roads and plow the snow;
    * support community college programs;
    * avoid defaulting on the state’s civic center bond debt;
    * distribute Motor Fuel Tax, video gaming and 9-1-1 money to local governments; and
    * pay lottery winners.

Notably all of these line-items come from “Other State Funds” or federal pass-through accounts – and most must be paid regardless of the final budget outcome.

Unfortunately, House Democrats decided not to consider our compromise proposal when the House convened on November 10, 2015. Moreover, rather than moving HB 4305 as an amendment to a Senate vehicle bill (to expedite enactment of funding for local governments and the lottery), House Democrats passed a brand new House bill that would constitutionally require three days of readings in the Senate – and then immediately placed a procedural hold to stop the bill from even going to the Senate. In short, not only did House Democrats reject a compromise to fund key public safety concerns, they decided to hold hostage all other funds for local governments as well.

Now with the first snow storm of the season behind us and a debt payment looming, we cannot assume House Democrats will return to Springfield in December to consider a compromise “Other State Funds” and federal pass-through funds bill that helps local governments, protects public safety and avoids a debt default without adding General Revenue Funds that would lock in a $5 billion budget deficit. Indeed, if past is prologue, we might expect more shenanigans that put politics over the needs of our citizens. Therefore, our administration will move forward with contingency financing options to protect the citizens of Illinois.

As always, our administration stands ready to compromise with any member of the General Assembly to enact structural reforms that turnaround Illinois alongside a balanced budget. We urge House Democrats to embrace the compromise we have offered on HB 4305 – a compromise that will defend the safety and security of our citizens without impacting the larger budget debate.


- Posted by Rich Miller   73 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 *** A LaQuan McDonald primer

Monday, Nov 23, 2015

* Carol Marin on the death of LaQuan McDonald, who was shot 16 times by a Chicago police officer last year

The teenager was killed in a tumultuous time. Ferguson, Missouri, had recently jumped off in riots after a police shooting of a young man, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel was entering a tougher-than-expected re-election battle.

The police department and the police union both quickly put out stories about how McDonald continued to approach the officer and therefore was shot. The story would have disappeared had it not been for an anonymous city employee telling freelance journalist Jamie Kalven and University of Chicago civil rights attorney Craig Futterman that video would tell a very different story.

But it took until five days after Emanuel’s April election victory for the City Council to learn about the incident, when it was asked to give the McDonald family $5 million without the family ever filing a lawsuit.

* Carol Marin on the missing video

Chicago police officers deleted footage from a security camera at a Burger King restaurant located fewer than 100 yards from where 17-year old Laquan McDonald was shot and killed, according to a Chicago-area district manager for the food chain. […]

The 86-minutes of missing video runs from 9:13 p.m. to 10:39 p.m., according to the lawyers for McDonald’s family. He was shot at approximately 9:50 p.m.

The Burger King sits at 40th and Pulaski and has a series of outside security cameras. On the night of the shooting, McDonald was trailed by Chicago police officers through the Burger King parking lot after a call about a man with a knife, according to attorneys for the McDonald family. […]

After the shooting, according to Jay Darshane, the District Manager for Burger King, four to five police officers wearing blue and white shirts entered the restaurant and asked to view the video and were given the password to the equipment. Three hours later they left, he said.

The next day, when an investigator from the Independent Police Review Authority asked to view the security footage, it was discovered that the 86 minutes of video was missing.

* There’s also missing audio, according to Marin

Video captured by an in-camera squad car on the night a Chicago Police officer shot and killed 17-year-old LaQuan McDonald does not contain audio, according to attorneys for the McDonald family, who have viewed the tape. […]

“There’s no audio so we can’t hear the number of shots,” Neslund said. “My understanding is that there are two audio microphones in every CPD Tahoe that are supposed to be charged up, in fact the officers are supposed to be wearing them clipped to their uniform. But there is no audio from any of these vehicles as far as we know.”

* What the police said the day after the shooting

A “preliminary statement” from the police News Affairs division, sent to the media early the next morning, said that after he had refused orders to drop the knife, McDonald “continued to approach the officers” and that as a result “the officer discharged his weapon, striking the offender.”

* Daily Beast

The McDonald story begins on Oct. 20 when police were called to an industrial area in the Chicago Lawn neighborhood. There, the teen was reported by police to have been behaving erratically. Officers requested back up because they weren’t equipped with the Tasers they should have used to take McDonald down and arrest him.

McDonald was put down without the Tasers, anyway.

Van Dyke and four officers followed McDonald in their squad cars as he wandered, high on the PCP that was later found in an autopsy, waving a four-inch blade. The teen eventually teetered into the street from the side, prompting the need for officers to react, the police union spokesman Camden said. Van Dyke and other officers reportedly ordered McDonald to drop the knife.

When he didn’t comply, Van Dyke and his fellow officers tried to box McDonald in with their squad cars. McDonald responded by puncturing a tire.

What came next depends on who you believe, which is why so many have called for the release of the video that may answer the questions that have persisted since Oct. 20

* Mary Mitchell

Attorney Jeffrey Neslund is barred from releasing the dash-cam video he obtained from the city under conditions of a $5 million settlement expected to be approved Wednesday by the Chicago City Council.

But Neslund described the images to me.

Laquan McDonald, 17, is walking west in the middle of Pulaski Road at 40th Street. He has a knife in his right hand.

He is not running.

He is not lunging.

He is walking.

Two Chicago Police officers jump out of a Tahoe with their guns drawn.

McDonald is still walking west toward the sidewalk with a full lane of traffic separating him from one of the officers.

When the officer begins shooting, the first shots spin McDonald around. The officer continues to fire from a distance of between 12 and 15 feet.

McDonald falls.

The only movement is the puffs of smoke coming from the teen’s torso and his head.

The police officer comes into view and kicks the knife out of the boy’s right hand.

The autopsy report is here.

The silent dashboard video will be released by Wednesday.

* The officer’s attorney

Van Dyke’s attorney, Daniel Herbert, reiterated Friday that the officer feared for his life and the lives of other officers at the scene. He said the video doesn’t capture the entire incident.

“I can’t speak why the (other) officers didn’t shoot,” Herbert told reporters. “But I certainly can speak to why my client shot, and it is he believed in his heart of hearts that he was in fear for his life and that he was concerned about the lives of (other) police officers.”

* The officer who was alleged to have fired his weapon 16 times into the teenager had been hit with 15 citizen complaints about his work, but was never disciplined.

From July

A Chicago investigator who determined that several civilian shootings by police officers were unjustified was fired after resisting orders to reverse those findings, according to internal records of his agency obtained by WBEZ.

* New York Times

In 18 years with the Chicago Police Department, the nation’s second-largest, Jerome Finnigan had never been disciplined — although 68 citizen complaints had been lodged against him, including accusations that he used excessive force and regularly conducted illegal searches.

Then, in 2011, he admitted to robbing criminal suspects while serving in an elite police unit and ordering a hit on a fellow police officer he thought intended to turn him in. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison. “My bosses knew what I was doing out there, and it went on and on,” he said in court when he pleaded guilty. “And this wasn’t the exception to the rule. This was the rule.”

Mr. Finnigan is one of thousands of Chicago police officers who have been the subject of citizen complaints over the years but have not been disciplined by the department, according to data released this month by the Invisible Institute, a nonprofit journalism organization, and the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic of the University of Chicago Law School. Such information is rarely made public and has come to light in Chicago only after a decade-long legal battle by the institute and the clinic.

* Sun-Times

Chicago Police officers were disciplined in only 3 percent of more than 56,000 misconduct complaints filed over a 12-year period, according to a new analysis. […]

Only 10 percent of the officers were accused of misconduct 10 or more times, but they accounted for 30 percent of the complaints.

And those “repeater” officers saw fewer of their complaints sustained than other officers. […]

Black Chicagoans accounted for 60 percent of the complaints, but less than 25 percent of the sustained complaints. Black cops were found guilty of a higher percentage of offenses than white cops and they were punished twice as often.

*** UPDATE *** CBS 2

A source close to the investigation believes a Chicago police officer who fatally shot a teenager last year will be indicted on Tuesday.

The exact nature of the charges from State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez were not immediately known.

CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports that Mayor Rahm Emanuel held a conference call on Monday with key civic leaders, urging calm once a video of the shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald is released.

In the call, the mayor called the shooting “hideous.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   49 Comments      

Rauner speaks with White House on refugees

Monday, Nov 23, 2015

* From the governor’s office…

Readout of Governor Rauner Calls with WH Chief of Staff and Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security

CHICAGO – The following is a statement attributed to Lance Trover, Director of Communications:

“Governor Rauner and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough spoke by phone late Friday about the governor’s unanswered requests for information related to the Syrian refugee program. The Governor affirmed his commitment to be a partner with the federal government on the resettlement of refugees and noted a growing frustration over the federal government’s refusal to address specific security concerns and requests for information. Mr. McDonough offered to have Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas call the Governor to address his specific concerns. Governor Rauner and Deputy Secretary Mayorkas late Friday spoke by phone in follow-up to the Governor’s discussion with the White House Chief of Staff. Deputy Secretary Mayorkas expressed his interest in helping address the Governor’s requests for information about Syrian refugees coming to Illinois but said privacy concerns may preclude the federal government from sharing such information. Deputy Secretary Mayorkas agreed to assemble a team to address the Governor’s questions and would follow-up with the Governor’s Office to schedule a briefing time.”

Additional Background:

The Governor’s requests for information are as basic as it gets: who’s coming and when? As of today, the federal government refuses to provide prior notification to state officials before resettling Syrian refugees in that state and refuses to share the security background check vetting information conducted by federal intelligence agencies with that state’s law enforcement officials. While federal and state law enforcement work closely on a range of security issues, the federal government refuses to cooperate with states on information relating to Syrian refugees.

- Posted by Rich Miller   32 Comments      

Be smart about it for a change

Monday, Nov 23, 2015

* From a Champaign News-Gazette editorial

State Rep. Jack Franks, a Democrat from Marengo, has long been critical of the EDGE program. He’s said that he doubts “the EDGE credit programs works,” and he may well be correct.

* Full quote in the Tribune

“I don’t think the EDGE credit program works,” said Franks, who sponsored the 2003 corporate accountability law and co-chaired a House study last year on state tax policy. “I think it’s a loser, a dead-bang loser.”

As I’ve said many times, I’m not a huge fan of corporate giveaways, but the EDGE has had some significant successes

Among the first firms approved for a special EDGE deal was Ford Motor Co., which said it is collecting more than $25 million in tax benefits for the last five years and could qualify for an additional $20 million over the next four years after upgrading plants in Chicago and Chicago Heights.

Ford officials said EDGE was among the factors that helped secure jobs at the Chicago-area plants, where it agreed to keep 2,600 workers but said the local payroll now approaches 5,500.

And the new UAW contract means Ford will soon be investing a billion dollars to upgrade that Chicago plant.

That looks like a rousing success to my eyes.

So, the idea should be to reform the program and, as Rep. Franks has often demanded, do something to help small businesses as well.

* As far as the reform part, the governor has been working on it

Gov. Bruce Rauner is halting a practice that let dozens of companies collect millions of dollars in tax breaks for creating jobs at one office while eliminating a greater number of jobs at another location.

Though it is common for large companies to operate from multiple locations, the state’s flagship jobs program long allowed companies to treat every location, division or subsidiary as an independent operation. […]

His latest initiative will prevent companies from signing up repeatedly for deals and turning what was supposed to be a 10-year incentive into a long-term subsidy.

* But Todd Maisch at the Illinois Chamber urges some caution

In addition to insisting on job creation rather than rewarding job retention, the new rules would require that companies add jobs relative to their total number of workers in the state instead of at just one location. Some past deals rewarded companies for adding workers in one location while they cut elsewhere.

Maisch argues that taking away the retention credits is a mistake since other states that still do it will have an advantage.

“I do think it weakens our hands,” he said. […]

“There needs to be a bipartisan consensus around what happens when (Wisconsin Gov.) Scott Walker comes to town and really does a good job of convincing an employer from, say, Lake County to come,” Maisch said. “I imagine we’ll be talking with (Rauner’s) office very quickly.”

This from the same guy who went all-in on the state’s gridlock, urging the governor to “hang in there.”

Considering how bad this state’s business reputation is (most of it self-inflicted, but a good part of it due to the constant and very loud bad-mouthing by people like Rauner and Maisch), unilateral disarmament may not be a great idea. Yeah, it’ll make some people feel good, but I don’t know if cutting off our noses to spite our faces is ever a wonderful plan.

We should definitely be more discerning and stingier about these corporate subsidies. We need to make sure that the process is much more open. We also need to do something significant to help small businesses. But killing off all these subsidies is about as “smart” as killing off all labor union protections. Meat axes aren’t smart.

- Posted by Rich Miller   18 Comments      

Caption contest!

Monday, Nov 23, 2015

* From SEIU Healthcare Illinois & Indiana’s Facebook page

Are you fed up with Rep. Ken Dunkin’s alliance with Gov. Rauner that’s torpedoed key legislation for Illinois working families, most recently SB 570 to reverse Bruce Rauner’s extreme child care cuts?

Meet Juliana Stratton, who is challenging Dunkin to represent the 5th district! Stratton is a true force for change – who has pledged to stand up to Bruce Rauner’s extreme agenda – not enable it.

We helped circulate petitions for Juliana over the weekend, and if you’d like to help too, please contact our Member Resource Center at 866-933-SEIU.

* The accompanying photo…

Stratton appears to be holding the same pledge card that Rep. Dunkin signed a while back.

- Posted by Rich Miller   33 Comments      

Dueling press releases

Monday, Nov 23, 2015

* Press release…

Today, Raja Krishnamoorthi filed over 400% of the required petitions to qualify for Illinois’ 8th District Democratic primary ballot in March and released an inside look at his grassroots campaign by the numbers.

In addition to establishing what observers have called a “huge head start” and “commanding financial lead,” Raja’s campaign already mobilized over 100 volunteers and contacted thousands of primary voters throughout the 8th District. In addition, Raja personally knocked on 1,126 doors.

Responding to the news, Raja said, “I am flattered by the outpouring of support and activity throughout the 8th District. It is clear that our message of helping working families reach and hold on to economic security is resonating with voters, and puts our campaign in a position to win. I’m happy to say that we’re just getting started.”

So far, Raja’s campaign has:

    Called 11,897 voters
    Knocked 10,116 doors
    Activated 110 volunteers
    Earned 106 grassroots endorsements
    Held 13 coffees and open houses
    Opened 1 office and 2 staging locations
    Canvassed for 2,775 petition signatures

* From state Sen. Mike Noland…

Today the Noland for Congress campaign officially submitted 2,117 signatures to the Illinois State Board of Elections. By submitting these petitions and a statement of candidacy, Noland officially becomes a candidate in the Democratic Primary for Illinois’ 8th Congressional district.

“I am so humbled by the outpouring of support from voters across the northwest suburbs. Throughout this process I have had the opportunity to meet voters at their homes, at train stations, and at community events.” said Noland, who personally collected over 679 signatures from voters. “Voters are ready for change; they are tired of the same old Washington politics. Voters are yearning for effective goverment and I am the only the candidate in this race who has a record of creating change through the legislative process.”

Noland is currently the front-runner to replace Democratic Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, who is vacating her seat to run for the United States Senate. A recent poll conducted by one of Noland’s opponents showed him with a seven-point lead over his two challengers, and after voters are provided more information about the candidates, Noland’s lead expands. His campaign has earned the support of over a dozen labor organizations, Kane County Democrats, Northside Democracy for America, and over 75 elected officials including Senate President John J. Cullerton and former Senate President Emil Jones Jr.

* That poll was indeed interesting and I never got around to posting it, so here it is…

October 13, 2015

To: Interested Parties
Fr: Brian Stryker / Kevin Akins
Re: Summary of Democratic Primary Voters in Illinois CD-08

With less than six months until the primary, the race to become the Democratic nominee in IL-CD-08 is up for grabs. None of the three announced candidates has a defined brand throughout the district, and 41% of voters are undecided. Deb Bullwinkel trails initially, but voters quickly warm to her in the poll. If we have the financial resources to tell our story,Bullwinkel can win.

The Democratic primary to replace Tammy Duckworth is wide open.

• No candidate is known to move voters (Noland 36% name ID / Krishnamoorthi 34% name ID / Bullwinkel 17% name ID).

• As a result, the race for Congress is yet to be determined. The largest share of voters is undecided (41%); Mike Noland holds a small lead in the race (Noland 29% / Krishnamoorthi 22% / Bullwinkel 8%).

In an “informed vote” where voters hear more information about all three candidates, Bullwinkel gains the most vote share and tightens the race.

Information given to voters:

Deb Bullwinkel is the Mayor of Villa Park. Bullwinkel worked as a journalist out of college, covering our communities. She’s a small business owner who will fight for fair wages, she mentors students in Villa Park, and she worked at mental health nonprofits to help families get the health care they need. As Mayor she invested in infrastructure, creating hundreds of good paying middle-class jobs. Bullwinkel will go to Congress to fight for the middle class,working to bring good jobs here and make it easier to afford to raise a family.

Mike Noland is a Navy Veteran and State Senator from Elgin who says he’s the only proven progressive running and that he’s stood up against Republicans in Springfield. Noland will fight for universal health care and tax reform to help the middle class.

Raja Krishnamoorthi runs a small business in Schaumburg that creates renewable energy products. He also served as Deputy Treasurer for Illinois where he helped revamp the state’s unclaimed property system and ran a technology fund that created hundreds of good-paying jobs. Raja served as issues director for Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate campaign and was an advisor to his Presidential campaign. Raja wants to bring common sense problem solving to Washington, not partisan politics based on ideologies.

    • After voters hear positive information about each candidate, Bullwinkel gains +16 points (twice what Noland gains and four times what Krishnamoorthi gains). She moves within the margin of error of Raja (37% Noland / 26% Krishnamoorthi / 24% Bullwinkel).

    o Krishnamoorthi’s lack of vote growth in this exercise suggests that his fundraising advantage will be muted by his less-compelling narrative.

    • More people pick Bullwinkel as their second choice than the other two candidates (32% Bullwinkel / 29% Noland / 27% Krishnamoorthi), suggesting more expansion potential for Bullwinkel as voters get to know her better.

    • The largest share of voters (41%) is currently undecided, and Bullwinkel wins them in the informed vote (32% Bullwinkel /28% Noland / 13% Krishnamoorthi).

Anzalone Liszt Grove Research conducted N=400 live telephone interviews with likely March 2016 Democratic Primary voters in Illinois’ Eighth Congressional District. Interviews were conducted between October 8-11, 2015. Respondents were selected at random, with interviews apportioned geographically based on past voter turnout. Expected margin of sampling error is ±4.9% with a 95% confidence level.

I don’t know much about Bullwinkel’s campaign yet, but those ain’t bad numbers if she can raise some cash. The takeaway on Noland is that if he raises enough money to get his message out he might be more competitive than some folks think.

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      

The Sun-Times exodus continues

Monday, Nov 23, 2015

* Before long it’ll just be Mark Brown and some interns over there

Esteemed Chicago journalist Carol Marin is stepping down after 11 years as a columnist for the Sun-Times to join the faculty of DePaul University this spring.

The university announced Monday that Marin and her longtime producer, Don Moseley, will become co-directors of the new Center for Journalism Integrity and Excellence and will teach investigative reporting classes in the College of Communication.

Marin, 67, will continue as political editor at NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5 and a regular contributor to “Chicago Tonight” on public television WTTW-Channel 11. […]

The Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, president of DePaul University, said in a statement: “DePaul has an opportunity to shape the next generation of journalists and media professionals with the highest standards of ethics and quality. We are thrilled that the Center for Journalism Integrity and Excellence will be led by two journalists who embody the ethical commitments we hope to teach.”

Carol and I have been friends for years. I wish her nothing but the best.

- Posted by Rich Miller   22 Comments      

Voting with their feet

Monday, Nov 23, 2015

* Sun-Times

[Pastor Corey Brooks of the New Beginnings Church on Chicago’s South Side] said Sunday that shortly after he endorsed Rauner, who needed help courting black voters, membership at his church began to decline.

His congregation has since dwindled from about 1,250 people to about 650, Brooks said Sunday. Donations have also fallen by about half. And Brooks used to hold two Sunday services. He now holds one.

Both men insisted there were no strings attached to endorsement.

And while Rauner appointed Brooks to the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority board in July, Brooks said Sunday that he has not benefited from the relationship. He’s paid $31,426 a year for the part-time job.

“I donate every penny of that [tollway board] salary to a not-for-profit called Project Hood to build a community center on the South Side,” Brooks said.

The governor was at the church handing out free turkeys this weekend.

- Posted by Rich Miller   82 Comments      

SEIU files restraining order over health insurance

Monday, Nov 23, 2015

* AP

A labor union representing Illinois home health care workers has filed legal action to force government payment of health insurance costs.

Service Employees International Union Healthcare Illinois filed suit in St. Clair County Circuit Court on Friday seeking a temporary restraining order against Gov. Bruce Rauner and Comptroller Leslie Munger.

The union contends that they have refused to pay the government’s portion of health insurance costs despite a contractual obligation. It says the state owes $1.5 million from last year and $11.8 million since July. The union says if the state doesn’t pay up, the workers will lose insurance after Dec. 31.

* From an SEIU press release

Despite a contract between home care workers in Illinois’ Home Services Program requiring the State to contribute health insurance benefits for workers, Gov. Rauner has refused to pay the State’s contribution to the workers’ health fund. Rauner’s administration owes the health fund $1.5 million from fiscal year 2015, as well as approximately $11.8 million for work already performed for the months of July through October in fiscal year 2016.

By violating the State’s legal obligation to make payments to the health fund, nearly 5,000 low-wage personal assistants are on the brink of losing their health insurance just as the Holiday Season begins. Most personal assistants are only given limited or part-time hours and make on average $15,000 to $18,000 annually.

To prevent this devastating harm to home care workers and to preserve the continuity of the workforce to provide services, SEIU Healthcare Illinois filed its Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order to protect the health insurance of its members.

If the State fails to honor its contractual obligations to continue health contributions for home healthcare workers, the workers will lose all of their health insurance after December 31st, 2015.

* I asked the governor’s office for a response…

Hi, Rich –

The state has no appropriation authority to pay the program because the majority party in the legislature has refused to pass a balanced budget.


- Posted by Rich Miller   29 Comments      

The Credit Union Difference

Monday, Nov 23, 2015

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      

About that letter

Monday, Nov 23, 2015

* From Friday’s letter to President Obama signed by several governors, including Gov. Bruce Rauner

Our country has long served as a welcoming beacon to individuals and families who seek safety and refugee status within the borders of the United States. For years we have been proud to welcome refugees into our communities in their pursuit of a better life and future.

Yes, we have. They’ve come from all over the world, including some of the worst hot spots like Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Lebanon. About 800,000 have arrived since 9/11/2001 and not a single terrorist among them.

* More

However, we are deeply concerned that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria may have exploited the generosity of the refugee system to carry out Friday’s terrorist attack in Paris.

There is some disagreement over whether or not any of the Parisian terrorists posed as refugees.

But people are using the same terminology for completely different types of refugees.

Europe has been dealing with waves of refugees flooding across its many porous borders. These are obviously not vetted refugees.

There has been no similar Syrian mass migration event to the United States. Instead, the Syrian civil war refugees we’ve let in so far (a very tiny number, by the way) have been vetted for up to two years. Unlike what’s happening in Europe, this is a controlled process. It’s not perfect by any means because it’s a human system. But it’s not even close to being completely and totally chaotic like in Europe.

So, anyone who equates the European refugee crisis with the intensely bureaucratic, slow-moving American refugee process is either ignorant or deliberately lying.

Not to mention that it’s a whole lot easier to enter the US through other means. Most of the Paris attackers had European passports. As long as they weren’t on the no-fly list, they could’ve boarded a plane to this country without effort. And that’s not to mention our home-grown terrorists, who are a much bigger problem than you’d think, particularly if you include street gang members.

In other words, if you are really worried about ISIS terrorists and not just interested in jumping on the latest bandwagon, then there are far more likely avenues to defend against than the glacially slow refugee vetting process.

* Back to the letter

While the tragic event was a direct assault on the European Union’s refugee system, the potential for this situation to arise in the United States is escalated by information revealed by the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, James Comey. In testimony before Congress, he admitted to certain inadequacies in the system that would prevent the thorough vetting of the 10,000 refugees your administration has pledged to admit into the United States.

This was inded a “direct assault on the European Union’s refugee system” because the system was totally overwhelmed with waves of people flooding across borders that essentially no longer exist.

So again, the only way for “this situation to arise in the United States” is if hundreds of thousands of Syrians started flooding into our country uncontrolled and unvetted the way they’ve been flooding into Europe. That just ain’t gonna happen, so it’s a completely false equivalence.

* However, Director Comey did, indeed, admit to inadequacies. He’s right.

But as I’ve said many times, no human system is ever perfect. If you want the government to guarantee your safety every minute of every day, then you’re living in a childish fantasy world, or you’re pandering to those who are.

We can talk all day about whether we should or shouldn’t be involved in helping the Syrian refugees, but I think Phil Kadner has the best analogy I’ve yet seen anywhere by anyone

Would you have had the courage to open your door to shelter people running through the streets of Paris during the recent terrorist attacks in that city?

The brave souls who did exactly that did not know if they might be shot, if terrorists would pursue their targets into their homes or if the very people they were sheltering were the gunmen. They saw people in trouble and offered to help.

* Back to the letter

As governors, we are charged with ensuring the safety and wellbeing of our citizens.

Has Gov. Rauner spoken this often and this publicly about the killings on Chicago’s South and West Sides? I don’t ever remember seeing his plan to confront that violence, or even his thoughts about what’s going on. The last time I checked, Chicago was still in Illinois, and so as governor he’s most definitely “charged with ensuring the safety and wellbeing” of those citizens. Where’s his plan?

* Their conclusion

In order to adequately fulfill this duty, we request that you immediately review the process by which you conduct background checks on all individuals applying for refugee status and address the gaps acknowledged by your director of the FBI.

In the wake of this recent tragedy, and until we can ensure the citizens of our states that an exhaustive review of all security measures has been completed and the necessary changes have been implemented, we respectfully request that you suspend all plans to resettle additional Syrian refugees.

I actually don’t disagree with the first paragraph of this conclusion. It’s smart to reevaluate systems in the wake of attacks, even attacks thousands of miles from our shores. The Obama administration has not done nearly enough to assure people that this is happening. I get the frustration and the anger.

But I would also very much like to see our governor perform “an exhaustive review of all security measures” for residents of crime-ridden Illinois neighborhoods and “necessary changes” implemented, and perhaps a look at what we can do about the huge concentration of state parolees on the city’s West Side before the governor sticks his nose into US foreign policy. And I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

* Also, now that David Vitter has lost the Louisiana governor’s race after blatantly exploiting the Syrian refugee issue, perhaps the RGA, which claims to have recruited Gov. Rauner, can finally take the brick off the tempest-tost and we can all move along.


* Related…

* Some want to outlaw Islam: On Monday, The [Ottawa, IL] Times posted the Associated Press story on Gov. Bruce Rauner’s decision to stop accepting Syrian refugees in Illinois. The story attracted 167 comments and 792 “likes,” far more than most of our Facebook items. Those 167 comments don’t include the hundreds of replies to specific comments. One man wrote, “Islam should be outlawed in America. It is not conducive to assimilation and poses a threat to national security.” That comment alone drew 125 replies, many of which took him to task. Thirty-three people liked his posting. I didn’t take part in this debate, but here’s my response: This person needs to read the First Amendment, particularly the clause, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” What’s ironic is that this would-be prohibitionist of Islam “likes” the Facebook pages for the Constitution Party and the Federalist Papers, and he claims to be a conservative that opposes big government. Yet how much bigger can a government get than one that tells its citizens what it can and cannot believe?

* Kerry tells Rauner Syrian refugees face extensive screening

- Posted by Rich Miller   54 Comments      

The price of delay

Monday, Nov 23, 2015

* Chris Kaergard and Nick Vlahos

Does anyone remember one of the central themes of the Illinois governor’s race last year?

We were told during campaign commercials and stump speeches that taxes were too high, the burden on Illinoisans too crushing. Residents were fleeing the state, businesses were atrophying or decamping for lower-cost pastures, startups were stymied.

Gov. Bruce Rauner has now talked up a tax freeze, and a two-year version of it has been advanced by the state Senate.

What’s the result of that discussion been? Well, look to the city of Peoria, raising tax rates in part to hedge their bets against a tax freeze (as well as pay for long-neglected road repairs). Peoria School District 150 is talking about a tax hike, just so they aren’t frozen out of new revenue.

Chillicothe’s Park District voted on an immense increase in its rate — nearly 70 percent — to the consternation of citizens in a taxing district that, many don’t realize, reaches into Far North Peoria as well. East Peoria is mulling a hike to preserve a stream of income.

Some smaller taxing bodies that fly under the radar — think library districts and their ilk — have weighed the same during their budgeting process.

Short of hanging a “Mission Accomplished” banner, there’s not much tax freeze proponents like Rauner can do to highlight the questionable success of their effort so far. In fact, the tax burden on some in central Illinois — both of your columnists included — is about to be higher than ever.

And meanwhile, what those local governments really say they need — getting rid of costly unfunded mandates that eat up taxpayer money — hasn’t come to pass. A task force working to identify those may have a report soon, which starts a fight throughout the next year or more.

- Posted by Rich Miller   18 Comments      

Biss formally announces withdrawal

Monday, Nov 23, 2015

* From a campaign email…

Dear Friend,

I wanted to let you know that I’ve decided not to run for Comptroller in the 2016 special election.

Many many people put an extraordinary amount of effort into this campaign, and I’m more grateful than you can know. Thank you very, very much.

As you might imagine, this was a very hard decision for me. Let me explain how I arrived at it.

I began the campaign early last spring, convinced that the Comptroller’s office was the best place from which I could advocate for sane, sustainable, progressive fiscal policies and push back against Governor Rauner’s radical anti-worker agenda. I was honored that many of you agreed, and the campaign began to gain steam.

Not too long after, Susana Mendoza, Chicago’s City Clerk, joined the race. Susana and I come from very different political backgrounds, but I consider her a friend. We also have similar positions on many issues, and we have a lot of allies in common. Plenty of those allies supported me, and lots supported her. As time went on, Susana was able to secure the support of many of the most powerful entities in Illinois Democratic politics.

This left me frankly quite uncertain about our chances of success, but one thing was very clear to me: in order to win, I’d need to wage an extraordinarily expensive, very divisive campaign. It was a sure-fire recipe for all sides to squander resources and generate ill will.

As this situation developed, something else was happening. Illinois was locked in an unconscionable budget stalemate with cruel and tragic consequences for many of our citizens. In order to even discuss the budget, Governor Rauner continued to insist on radical policies that would reshape the economic fabric of Illinois, weakening workers precisely at the moment that the middle class is in a uniquely precarious position.

Given all that, it seemed like the last thing the state and the Democratic party needed was an expensive and divisive campaign for Comptroller. This is a moment when we need to be united, and we need to be focused on solving problems and winning the existential battles that the governor has created.

That’s why I’m withdrawing from this race and offering Susana Mendoza my full support in her campaign for Comptroller.

This is not only about dropping out in recognition of our need for unity. It’s also an acknowledgment that what’s happening in Springfield right now is critical for our state’s future. By stepping aside, I can now focus all my attention on what must always be the most important goal: enacting progressive and sustainable public policies, and breaking down the power structures that cause Springfield to work for economic and political elites rather than the people on behalf of whom government is supposed to exist in the first place.

The Comptroller’s race isn’t the place I’m going to do that work, but the work goes on. Thank you for your friendship, your support, and your commitment to this vital project. I’m lucky to count you as a friend, and our democracy is lucky to count you as a citizen.


- Posted by Rich Miller   57 Comments      

Divided they could fall

Monday, Nov 23, 2015

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

Earlier this month when the General Assembly was in Springfield, House Speaker Michael Madigan called Senate President John Cullerton six different times to ask him to move the child care program restoration legislation once it passed the House.

Yes, you read that right. Six times.

The man is most definitely single-mindedly persistent.

As you probably already know, the deal cut with Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office by state Sen. Toi Hutchinson, D-Olympia Fields, and others to mostly restore the draconian Child Care Assistance Program cuts Rauner made this past summer involved not voting on a bill which would’ve fully restored the governor’s cuts.

Madigan wanted that bill to pass, however, and apparently believed through much of the day that his chamber would pass it, even though it seemed obvious that Rep. Ken Dunkin, D-Chicago, had once again jumped into the political bed with the GOP governor. Some House Republicans were talking about voting for the bill, though, and that kept Madigan’s hopes alive.

Because he thought it still had a shot, Madigan would not relent on Cullerton. And while the constant calls reportedly irritated Cullerton to no end, they didn’t work. Cullerton backed up his member’s deal and the Speaker was politely refused. Six times. The bill died in the House when all Republicans and Dunkin voted against the Speaker.

Madigan’s pressure on Cullerton was pretty darned ironic since Madigan is sitting on several Cullerton bills that the Speaker has long refused to move. Cullerton’s chamber has twice passed minimum wage increase bills which have gone nowhere in the House despite the fact that Madigan pushed a referendum last year to raise the minimum wage. Cullerton also passed a property tax freeze bill which provides more money for Chicago Public Schools and kills off the state’s ancient school funding formula. But that hasn’t moved in the House, either.

Cullerton has sent four appropriations bills to the House, but instead of using one of those as a vehicle to fund municipalities, 911 call centers, Lottery winners, etc., the Speaker refused the governor’s requests for additional items and stuck everything he wanted on a House bill, which he then froze in place with a parliamentary hold after his chamber passed it with a huge bipartisan majority.

Madigan’s move not only upset local mayors, who really want their money, but also agitated Senators in both political parties.

Because Madigan put a hold on the bill, Cullerton couldn’t start the legally required process of “reading” the legislation for three days, which means he now has to bring members back for more than a single day if they return in December.

OK, that doesn’t sound like much, and it may not be of concern even to people who do this for a living. But we’re in the holiday season, so getting legislators back to Springfield isn’t as easy as you’d think, not to mention that if members have to return, they would rather not be in Springfield longer than a single day. Again, it’s not the worst problem in the world, but it has aggravated the rank and file to no end.

One of the biggest reasons why Madigan was angry with Cullerton for allowing the child care funding deal to happen is that Madigan just doesn’t trust the governor to keep his word.

Madigan didn’t believe that Rauner would keep his promise to fund the child care program and will instead once again use the program — which helps move tens of thousands of parents off of welfare and into work and college — as a hostage for whatever else Rauner wants sometime down the line.

So, when the Department of Human Services’ top lawyer testified last week about the governor’s new administrative rules to fund the program, the House Democrats attempted to get him on record that the Department would indeed be restoring the full program once a budget deal is in place, which was the deal cut by Rauner and rank-and-file legislative Democrats. The attorney refused to say either way, and House Democrats saw that as yet more proof that Rauner can’t keep his word.

Even a statement by the governor’s office later in the day assuring everyone that the deal stood as made didn’t satisfy the House Democrats, who are still obviously upset with the Senate.

There has probably been tension between the House and the Senate since 1818, when the state was founded. And it has certainly been far worse, like, for instance, when Emil Jones was Senate President and openly warred with Speaker Madigan, who repeatedly returned the favor.

But things are not good right now.

Like we need even more bad news in Illinois.

- Posted by Rich Miller   27 Comments      

*** UPDATED x2 *** Candidate filing day!

Monday, Nov 23, 2015

* Click here and watch the list grow, then tell us what you see.

*** UPDATE 1 *** SJ-R

Staffers for Illinois House Democrats were first in line, having had volunteers outside the door since Thursday. They carted in petitions for more than 100 candidates, said Tim Mapes, chief of staff to House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, and treasurer of Democratic Majority, a committee that helps elect Democrats to the House.

The House GOP campaign operation also was on hand, with staffers in line since Saturday. They were filing about 100 sets of petitions Monday. […]

Incumbents Reps. John D’Amico, D-Chicago, and Michael McAuliffe, R-Chicago, each joined their respective staffs before 7 a.m. Monday. […]

McAuliffe said that when collecting signatures, he didn’t hear much about the budget standoff, though some people said, “’I want to get my lottery money,’ or ‘I can’t buy a lottery ticket,’” because many payouts are on hold due to the impasse.

*** UPDATE 2 *** Lynn Sweet

Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton is running Illinois delegate slates packed with some of the best-connected political figures in the state the Sun-Times has learned. […]

In Illinois, the delegate selection process was led by two diehard Clinton allies, Kevin Conlon, the president of Conlon & Dunn Public Strategies, and attorney Kevin O’Keefe. […]

A sampling of the Chicago-area Clinton delegate slates shows among the elected officials: Cook County Board President Toni Precwinkle, Chicago Treasurer Kurt Summers, state Sens. Kwame Raoul, Mattie Hunter, Jacqueline Y. Collins and Terry Link, state Reps. Sara Feigenholz; Jack Franks, Linda Chapa Lavia, Lou Lang, Mary Flowers and Barbara Flynn Currie, and from the City Council, Ald. Leslie Hairston.

Among activists and operatives are Lauren Beth Gash, Anna Valencia and Rick Garcia.

Among the wives of elected officials are Caroline Rush, the wife of Rep. Bobby Rush; Soraida Gutierrez, wife of Rep. Luis Gutierrez; Aesook Byon, the wife of Rep. Bill Foster, and Shirley Madigan, wife of Illinois House Speaker and state Democratic Party Chairman Michael Madigan.

- Posted by Rich Miller   68 Comments      

Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today’s edition of Capitol Fax (use all CAPS in password)

Monday, Nov 23, 2015

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

* Question of the day
* Home Services Program workers to finally receive legally mandated pay raises
* What do you do with all that money?
* The other pension bomb
* Poll: Graduated income tax might be a squeaker
* Flooding a "dress rehearsal for the main event"
* They can afford to do their own cheerleading
* It's just a bill
* When Illinois women vote, Democrats win
* A slow return to a semblance of normalcy
* "I'm just not a believer in the test situation"
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Supplement to today's edition and an event list
* Caption contest!
* A question of trust, or the lack thereof
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today's edition of Capitol Fax (use all CAPS in password)
* Yesterday's stories

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