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Friday, Feb 26, 2016

* Happy birthday, Johnny Cash

Where God’s redeemed, their vigils keep

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

Rauner appoints Cross to head IBHE, names new press secretary

Friday, Feb 26, 2016

* From the governor’s office…

Governor Bruce Rauner has appointed former State Representative Tom Cross as the Chairman of the Illinois Board of Higher Education. Cross’s experience as a state legislator and fiscal reformer will be an asset to the board.

Cross served in the Illinois General Assembly for 22 years and was the House Republican Leader from 2002-2013. He is currently a distinguished fellow at Aurora University where he promotes innovation in STEM education programs and a senior consultant at Culloton Strategies. Cross is also an attorney and a former prosecutor in the Kendall County State’s Attorney’s office.

Cross earned his bachelor’s degree from Illinois Wesleyan University and his law degree from Samford University. He lives in Oswego. […]

Andrew Flach has been named a Press Secretary in the Office of the Governor. Flach brings more than 10 years of communications experience in both state and federal governments to the position.

Most recently, Flach served the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) as the Chief of Staff. He oversaw the communications, legislative and advocacy offices, and took an active role in the development of the Department’s Pay-for-Success program. He also spearheaded a partnership with the Cook County Sheriff’s Department in the Child Recovery Unit.

Prior to his work at DCFS, Flach was the communications director for U.S. Representative Rodney Davis. He has also worked for the Illinois Senate and House Republican Caucuses and as communications director for U.S. Representative Randy Hultgren and U.S. Senator Mark Kirk.

Flach earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois. He lives in Chicago.

There may be no higher ed institutions left for Cross to oversee not long from now, but Cross will do a diligent job in the meantime.

And a flack named Flach. Fitting. Heh.

- Posted by Rich Miller   20 Comments      

Question of the day

Friday, Feb 26, 2016

* This is the second Friday in a row that I forgot to post a question, so for the second Friday in a row we’ll just have to do an Oscar the Puppy pic…

- Posted by Rich Miller   22 Comments      

WIU announces $20 million in cuts

Friday, Feb 26, 2016

* Press release

As a result of the budget impasse and probable reductions to state appropriated funding for higher education, Western Illinois University President Jack Thomas announced today (Friday, Feb. 26) the University plans to cut $20 million over the next two fiscal years (Fiscal Year 2017 and 2018).

Various strategies to conserve resources will be implemented in Fiscal Year 2017 including reducing contracts from 12 to 11 or 10 months for select administrative positions; closing and/or combining select offices/units; reducing 100 personnel (faculty and staff) across divisions; implementing a hiring freeze (effective immediately); and reducing the hours of various offices/units.

“We are making decisions that will preserve the educational enterprise,” Thomas said.

To date, for Fiscal Year 2016, the University has made appropriated budget reductions of approximately $5 million. However, in an effort to meet operational expenditures for July and August, the institution plans to further reduce its FY’16 expenses by an additional $4 million by June 30. Without a state budget and additional reductions across divisions, payroll obligations will be difficult to meet for July and August.

As part of the immediate cost-saving reductions for FY’16, the University will limit spending to essential needs only and travel is restricted. In addition, mandatory furloughs will be implemented for all non-negotiated personnel (both administrative/non-academic and civil service personnel not covered by unions) beginning April 1. Full details regarding the furlough program will be released next week.

“Because there is not a present path toward ending the budget impasse, we must move forward with plans to put furloughs into place for non-negotiated personnel. Additionally, we have upcoming contractual salary increases scheduled with collective bargaining units, and thus, we must move forward with further FY’17 reductions to protect our ability to implement these increases,” Thomas said. “We must brace for the difficult times ahead. We must protect the cash resources of the University in order to continue to provide services to our students and prepare for Fall 2016.

“Without these reductions, we risk jeopardizing the entire enterprise. Furloughs and reductions in personnel and programs are necessary to protect the overall University and this community. We are committed to protecting as many jobs as possible,” he explained. “We will continue to do what is best for this institution to ensure a strong and viable university that exists to serve students and its host communities for decades to come. Our hope is our governmental leaders will end this unprecedented impasse and recognize that our public universities need our state funds to operate and continue to support our students.”

* Meanwhile

Parkland College’s president says it will lay off about nine employees after Tuesday because of the state budget deadlock.

- Posted by Rich Miller   33 Comments      

Two bipartisan electoral reforms worth consideration

Friday, Feb 26, 2016

* Here and here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   8 Comments      

Dunkin grabs mic after CSU presser

Friday, Feb 26, 2016

* ABC 7

Immediately after Chicago State University officials announced to reporters that layoffs were looming due to a lack of state funding, state Rep. Ken Dunkin unexpectedly took over the platform to discuss his bill to fund the state’s public universities.

During the impromptu press conference, Dunkin, a Chicago Democrat who is running for re-election, called on residents to urge their lawmakers to approve his proposed HB 6409.

CSU officials, who attempted to stop him, said Dunkin’s press conference was not approved.

You gotta do what you gotta do, I suppose.

* Meanwhile, from Public Radio

At a South Loop debate last night, Dunkin asked his opponent how she could be for criminal justice reform but still hammer him on a mug shot from his past.

“If that’s all y’all have to talk about, keep bringing it,” Dunkin said. “And I thank you for it, by the way. And you’re gonna have to answer to God, too, young lady.”

His opponent, Juliana Stratton, said that mug shot is relevant to the campaign.

“We’re looking at issues of aggression toward women,” Stratton said. “We’re looking at failure to pay child support.

- Posted by Rich Miller   42 Comments      

This Just In: Exelon Announces More $$$$ For Shareholders, Higher 2015 Profits And Still Seeks Bailout

Friday, Feb 26, 2016

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

Exelon announced that its profits for 2015 were $2,270,000,000 and that it is increasing dividends to shareholders 2.5% per year for the next three years.

So you’re thinking – “The company is healthy, shareholders are getting more $$$, the power auctions provided them $1.7 billion for their nuclear plants in Illinois so they must be done asking struggling Illinois ratepayers for a bailout, right?” Nope - it’s never enough for Exelon.

“Groundhog Day was yesterday, but Exelon appears to want to keep celebrating. The Chicago-based nuclear giant is back to threatening to close nuclear plants in Illinois without financial help from the state.” – “Exelon’s Crane beats the drum again for nuke subsidies” Crain’s, February 3, 2016

To review:

  • Exelon made more than TWO BILLION DOLLARS ($2,270,000,000) last year
  • Exelon received a $1.7 BILLION WINDFALL through new capacity charges

Illinois still has no budget, the state’s finances and services are in shambles, the social safety net is being decimated but Exelon STILL wants the Legislature to pass a huge BAILOUT.


Just say no to the Exelon Bailout.

BEST Coalition is a 501C4 nonprofit group of dozens of business, consumer and government groups, as well as large and small businesses. Visit

- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      

Hopefully, Rauner will be the one to solve this

Friday, Feb 26, 2016

* Schadenfreude is an understatement

They were dubbed the “Lincoln Park Pirates” in a 1970s folk song and they’ve been exasperating Chicago motorists for more than 40 years.

But if you’ve ever been charged $150 or more for the pleasure of having your car towed by one of Lincoln Towing Service’s trucks, get ready for a dose of schadenfreude.

The state is now threatening to strip the North Side company’s towing license after a flood of complaints from consumers, pressure from two aldermen and a petition signed by more than 3,000 people.

In one recent case that led to criminal charges, a pair of Lincoln Towing employees allegedly knocked a 55-year-old worker off a 16-foot ladder as they towed away his truck, then mocked him as they left him on the ground with a broken leg. In another case that led to a police citation, an Illinois Department of Children and Family Services investigator’s car was illegally towed while he asked questions about an abuse case inside the Rogers Park District police station.

In all, the Illinois Commerce Commission’s police department has opened 166 investigations into Lincoln Towing since the ICC renewed the firm’s towing license for two years in July. Of the 75 cases so far resolved — mostly cases in which motorists claim they were towed for no reason, overcharged, or duped by insufficient signage before their car was held for ransom — nearly half resulted in Lincoln Towing being fined or cutting a deal with the motorist who was towed, according to the ICC.

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      

You gotta be kidding me

Friday, Feb 26, 2016

* What could possibly go wrong?

When Chicago officials tested household tap water for lead last year, they largely bypassed parts of the city that face greater risks of exposure to the brain-damaging metal, a Tribune analysis has found.

Of the 50 homes tested, only three were on streets where the water main had been replaced during the past five years — work that federal researchers have found can cause alarming levels of lead to leach into tap water for weeks, months or even years afterward.

Mirroring a pattern that dates to at least 2003, most of the homes tested last year are concentrated on the city’s Far Northwest and Southwest sides — areas where cases of childhood lead poisoning are rare.

The vast majority of the homes are owned by people who work for or retired from the Chicago Department of Water Management, the same taxpayer-funded agency that would be required under federal law to earmark millions of dollars to replace lead pipes if the city violated safe drinking water standards.

Emphasis added for obvious reasons.

This could be the beginning of yet another huge scandal/crisis under Mayor Emanuel.

- Posted by Rich Miller   19 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 *** Must the show go on?

Friday, Feb 26, 2016

* I love the Illinois State Fair. I always have. My secret dream is to serve as State Fair Director when I retire from this gig (which is probably never, but, hey, it’s a dream).

Last year, I had surgery during the fair, but I browbeat my doctors into allowing me to go to both Governor’s Day and Democrat Day just a few days after I was released from the hospital. I probably would’ve gone even if they had said “No way.” And, of course, I’m already looking forward to attending this year, partly to make up for lost time.

* That being said, with teen homeless and rape crisis centers closing, universities on the verge of insolvency and everything else going to heck in a handbasket, I can certainly understand why folks wouldn’t love this idea

Even without having a manager and the fact that vendors who provide services still haven’t been paid from last year’s Illinois State Fair, planning for the 2016 version is well under way, officials say.

Illinois Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Rebecca Clark said planning for the 2016 state fair, which runs Aug. 11-21, began immediately after the 2015 fair concluded. […]

“Planning is well underway for the 2016 Illinois State Fair and DuQuoin State Fair,” [Illinois Ag Director Raymond Poe] said in an emailed response to questions. “We have a fantastic staff and will soon add a state fair manager.” […]

Vendors are owed about $1.59 million from the 2015 fair, according to figures supplied by the agriculture department. The largest amount is $252,000 owed to judges, superintendents and show employees, the figures show.

I don’t see how they’ll convince vendors to return if they aren’t paid by then, but one never knows. And, hey, maybe the impasse will be over by then, so planning should definitely continue.

And there’s no doubt that canceling the fair would really hurt the Springfield-area economy. Then again, other towns are feeling the pinch already, particularly Chicago, where most of the pain seems to be (perhaps deliberately) concentrated.

Your thoughts?

*** UPDATE *** Right on cue

State officials on Friday unveiled a new organizational structure for the Illinois Department of Agriculture that promotes a longtime Illinois State Fair official and hires a staffer from Springfield’s Prairie Capital Convention Center.

Kevin Gordon becomes the new manager of the Division of Fairs and Promotional Services, which will oversee four Agriculture bureaus — the Illinois State Fair, the DuQuoin State Fair, Business Services, and County Fairs and Horse Racing. Previously, the four bureaus operated independently of each other.

“Combining these already existing bureaus together in one cohesive unit will enhance efficiencies for the state of Illinois,” acting Agriculture director Raymond Poe said in the news release. “Now all fair related activities will be centered in one division, under the leadership of one manager. These bureaus are vital to the Department, and with good leadership these bureaus will thrive.”

Gordon, 54, previously was the Illinois State Fair operations manager and has planned state fairs since 2000.

- Posted by Rich Miller   67 Comments      

New TV ads in US Senate race

Friday, Feb 26, 2016

* Press release…

The largest progressive group of veterans in America, VoteVets Action Fund, is up in Illinois with a $600,000 statewide ad buy, over the next two weeks, featuring an Illinois veteran saying that when it comes to security, the military, and veterans, he trusts Tammy Duckworth, over Senator Mark Kirk. VoteVets vowed that this would be just the first ad on the issue of security, military, and veterans, as long as Senator Kirk wants to make it into an issue.

Opening with a shot of a Blackhawk helicopter and fading to pictures of Tammy Duckworth, Michael Terranova, a Marine Corps veteran from Chicago says, “You gotta be a special kind of person to fly one of these. That’s Tammy Duckworth. After she lost her legs in service to her country, she still served ten more years in the National Guard. But now Senator Mark Kirk is attacking her, asking who do you trust? Well Senator, you voted against fixing broken equipment that keep guys like me safe in the field, and against expanding our veterans benefits when we get home. So to answer your question…I trust Tammy Duckworth and it’s not even close.”

In 2014, Senator Mark Kirk voted against a $21 billion package, supported by veterans’ groups, that would have greatly expanded veterans care. And in 2003, while in the House, Mark Kirk voted against an amendment that the Washington Post said, in part, would have allocated money “for the repair and replacement of damaged equipment” for troops in the field.

“Frankly, we’re thrilled that Senator Kirk spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to turn this election into one about security and the military,” said Jon Soltz, Iraq War Veteran and Chairman of, referring to an ad that Kirk launched this week. “If there are two political losers for Mark Kirk, they’re the issues of trust and keeping America strong and safe. As long as he wants to keep on talking about it, we’ll happily keep running ads like these, because there’s not a shadow of a doubt that Tammy Duckworth wins if this campaign is about those issues.”

* The ad is pretty good

…Adding… Kirk campaign…

“Yet another blatantly false and dishonest ad by Rep. Duckworth and her liberal SuperPac allies in an attempt to distract from Duckworth’s reckless and extreme policy of allowing 200,000 Syrian refugees into the US even though they cannot safely be screened. The simple truth is that while Senator Kirk secured a historic level of funding for veterans’ benefits, Rep. Duckworth has spent her time preparing for her April trial where she faces charges that she fired Veterans’ Affairs employees after they blew the whistle on her for not responding to veterans being abused and receiving poor care while she served as the Director.”

More here.

* Meanwhile, from the Tribune

Republican Sen. Mark Kirk’s campaign is complaining about the latest in a series of incorrect statements and advertising against the incumbent lawmaker. […]

The latest came Thursday when the Democratic-backed Senate Majority PAC attacked Kirk in a social media ad for “obstructionism” on filling the vacancy of Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.

Kirk initially took no stand on whether President Barack Obama should forward a nominee to the Senate, but then broke with party leaders and said a nominee should be considered. Kirk’s decision to break ranks came a day after Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, declared that no nominee would be considered by the majority.

All this huffing and puffing (I received 6 e-mails from the Kirk campaign) was about a single tweet pointing to a web page. Happily, the offending tweet is no longer on the Senate Majority PAC’s feed.

* And I’m told there are just 275 ratings points behind this new Andrea Zopp ad as of yesterday morning, all in Chicago

* Apparently, a TV ad touting Kay Hagan for US Senate is also playing occasionally on Chicago network TV. Somebody really messed up badly. Hagan lost her North Carolina race in 2014 and isn’t running again.

- Posted by Rich Miller   7 Comments      

*** UPDATED x2 - Wheeler responds - Killed it *** I know it’s just a bill, and it isn’t going anywhere, but what the heck?

Friday, Feb 26, 2016

* Reps. John Cavaletto and Keith Wheeler

Amends the Vital Records Act. Removes a provision concerning use of the biological father’s name on the birth certificate if not married to the biological mother. Provides that if the unmarried mother cannot or refuses to name the child’s father, either a father must be conclusively established by DNA evidence or, within 30 days after birth, another family member who will financially provide for the child must be named, in court, on the birth certificate. Provides that absent DNA evidence or a family member’s name, a birth certificate will not be issued and the mother will be ineligible for financial aid from the State for support of the child. Provides an exception for artificially inseminated mothers. Amends the Illinois Public Aid Code. Provides that a family that does not comply with the Vital Records Act provision concerning birth certificates of unmarried mothers shall be ineligible for aid for support of the child. Effective immediately.

They have an exception for artificially inseminated mothers, but not rape victims?

This is “Nanny State” legislation for the extreme right. Some folks are just convinced that the poors are wrongly reaping the benefits of luxurious freebies, which justifies this sort of governmental intrusion.

* Chicagoist

“This is a punitive and outrageous bill that would have a hugely negative impact on those most likely in need of safety net programs and support,” said Ed Yohnka of the Illinois American Civil Liberties Union.

The site also pointed out some similar logic used during the Child Care Assistance Program funding bill debate

In September of last year, there was a floor debate in the House that ultimately killed a bill that would’ve restored subsidies lost due to the budget impasse. During this debate, Ives said:

    “You need to have verifiable need. You better know who the daddy is and whether or not he can afford that child and whether or not the taxpayers should be funding that or if there’s actual child support he can provide.”

Hat tip:, but beware of foul language.

*** UPDATE 1 *** Since this post went up, the bill’s status changed

2/26/2016 House Motion Filed - Table Bill/Resolution Pursuant to Rule 60(b), Rep. John Cavaletto

2/26/2016 House Removed Co-Sponsor Rep. Keith R. Wheeler


*** UPDATE 2 *** Rep. Wheeler…


Regarding the now dead HB 6064:

The intention of HB 6064 was to provide for the long-term support of hardworking single mothers by strengthening the legal responsibilities of fathers, while also improving the rights of fathers as well as grandparents who provide care for a child in place of a parent. However, the bill as introduced has flaws that would produce unintended consequences. I have therefore chosen to withdraw my support of the bill and thank all my constituents and others who offered feedback on both sides of this issue.


Keith R. Wheeler
State Representative for Illinois’ 50th District

- Posted by Rich Miller   82 Comments      

This just in… CSU to issue “potential layoff” notice to all 900 employees

Friday, Feb 26, 2016

* Oof…

That notice will include everyone from the president on down.

- Posted by Rich Miller   82 Comments      

It’s just a bill (Part 19,478)

Friday, Feb 26, 2016

* AP

Illinois lawmakers are considering suspending late fees for license plate renewals that have caused a windfall for the state after it stopped sending reminders to residents to save money.

Not mailing the notices has caused a dramatic increase in fees. The Associated Press reported Thursday that drivers paid more than $2.7 million in fines from Jan. 1 through Feb. 22. That’s $1.2 million more than a year ago.

One proposed measure would suspend the $20 fine for motorists until the state ends its 8-month-old budget deadlock. The Secretary of State’s office stopped mailing reminders in October to save an estimated $450,000 a month on postage.

Rep. Jaime Andrade (D-Chicago) filed the bill last year. It has several co-sponsors, all Democrats.

* The Daily Herald reports that Schaumburg police are taking advantage of the situation by focusing on Woodfield Mall

Now that Illinois car owners are no longer mailed reminders from Secretary of State Jesse White’s office that their license plate stickers are about to expire, Schaumburg police are taking advantage of the communication breakdown and reminding shoppers with $50 tickets.

“I’m grateful for the reminder, but I’m not $50 grateful,” said Matt Jones, a Peoria resident whose wife’s car received a ticket in January while parked at Woodfield Mall with a license plate sticker that expired at the end of December. “I got it re-registered the next day.”

According to a Daily Herald investigation, Jones was one of 816 people whose cars were ticketed in January by Schaumburg police for violating the village’s ordinance prohibiting parking “in a public parking area or public street, highway or roadway if the vehicle does not display a current annual registration sticker.”

That’s a 23 percent increase in the number of cars ticketed compared to January 2015, according to police records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. Schaumburg police were asked to provide the location where each of these tickets was issued between December 2014 and January 2016, but they responded that the volume of tickets administered for that violation — 8,730 during that time — would make it an arduous task. However, police said the majority of tickets were issued at Woodfield Mall.

Not cool.

- Posted by Rich Miller   36 Comments      

Mark Brown helps free 44 hostages

Friday, Feb 26, 2016

* Wednesday’s Mark Brown column

Keith Drazner, a 38-year-old autistic man with the functional understanding of a five-year-old, is the latest victim of the state of Illinois’ budget lunacy.

* Thursday’s Mark Brown column

I told you Tuesday about Keith Drazner, a 38-year-old autistic man from Highland Park facing removal from the Wisconsin group home where he has lived the past 20 years.

Now meet his neighbor, Adam Rubenstein, 44, who suffers from fragile X syndrome, an inherited intellectual disability. […]

And both men are now facing expulsion because the state of Illinois, which originally agreed to send them there, has stopped paying the bills for their care due to the budget standoff in Springfield.

* Friday’s Mark Brown column

State Comptroller Leslie Munger said Wednesday that Illinois should resume paying for the care of developmentally disabled adults being housed in out-of-state group homes, and she promised to work to free the payments. […]

Munger, who has a nephew with autism and volunteers with a Lake County agency that helps developmentally disabled people, seems to have a better understanding of that problem than most and said she wants to help.

“I believe this is something that should be covered,” Munger said in a phone interview. “As soon as we receive a voucher from [Department of Human Services], we will get it paid.”

Munger said she believes the problem stems from confusion surrounding the patchwork of consent decrees and court orders under which the state continues to pay many of its bills during the budget impasse.

44 people will be helped by this if Munger can pull it off.

- Posted by Rich Miller   37 Comments      

Dart for mayor?

Friday, Feb 26, 2016

* Sneed

Sneed hears rumbles Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart is kicking the tires for a possible bid for mayor.

Word is Dart, who is now serving his third term as sheriff, is getting antsy; starting to refill his campaign coffers; revamping his website; and conducting a fundraiser Monday in Springfield — his old stomping grounds as a former state legislator.

“Tom didn’t do fundraisers last year,” a top Dart source said.

“But there is a lot of volatility going on, and he is in the process of making a decision of what to do next,” the source said. “Tom has five children and raising a big family makes Chicago an easier base.”

A history note amidst the current disenchantment amongst many black voters: In 1992, Dart won the 28th House District seat, which was 64 percent black, beating black incumbent Rep. Nelson Rice, who was backed by heavyweight African- American politicos Lemuel Austin and Bill Shaw.

That looks like a deliberately planted story to my eyes (and anyone with eyes, for that matter). He may just be trying to gin up his fundraiser turnout, but it’s become pretty clear recently that Dart is looking to move up.

- Posted by Rich Miller   31 Comments      

SEIU complains about parents being barred from event

Friday, Feb 26, 2016


Thursday morning, Governor Rauner visited Belleville East High School to give a speech. Several parents of students from the school district were cleared by the principal to attend the event. The parents, also SEIU members, were hopeful to hear what the governor had to say and to ask him why he continues to push for painful cuts to child care and home care programs. On their arrival after presenting their identification at the door however, representatives from the governor’s office denied them entry and these members – Rauner’s constituents – were forced out of the building by security.

We’ve got a House Speaker who has official “No Parking by Police Order” signs placed in front of his opponent’s campaign office and a governor who apparently bars parents from attending an event at their own kids’ school.

Yep, we’re making great progress here.

* But is it all the union says it is? At least one of those people turned away wasn’t a parent

School district officials confirmed that a small group arrived on campus after the press conference began and were asked to leave.

One woman said she was initially allowed onto campus but turned away at the media room’s door.

“It wasn’t like I broke laws, they allowed me in and then they rejected me and didn’t explain why,” said Deaundra Tunstull, a member of SEIU and a home child-care provider. Tunstull does not have a child at Belleville East, but says she was among four from SEIU who wanted to question the governor about lack of state funding for child care providers.

…Adding… From SEIU…

They were parents of the school district. Might not have been from that very school, but they knew the principal and had gotten clearance.

- Posted by Rich Miller   36 Comments      

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