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Question of the day

Wednesday, Jul 27, 2016

* Your own caption?…

- Posted by Rich Miller   39 Comments      

Bad news for Duckworth

Wednesday, Jul 27, 2016

* Kerry Lester

The day before congresswoman Tammy Duckworth is scheduled to deliver a major speech on the main stage at the Democratic National Convention, two women who filed a workplace retaliation suit against her have announced they’re refusing to accept a settlement offer that seemed a done deal just weeks ago.

Now, a trial set to begin Aug. 15 in downstate Jonesboro could serve as an obstacle at an inopportune time for Duckworth as she enters the home stretch of her campaign to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk in a nationally-watched race.

Plaintiffs Denise Goins and Christine Butler told the Daily Herald Wednesday that they were insulted by the Duckworth campaign’s June 24 response to the settlement, with deputy campaign manager Matt McGrath releasing a statement describing the suit as “a frivolous workplace case” that dragged on for more than eight years.

“Within an hour of leaving the courthouse, her campaign decided to swing us through the mud again,” Butler said. “So we emailed our attorney to let him know we want to proceed to trial.”

The women say they received no pressure from the Kirk campaign to reject the settlement offer.

“We are both nonpolitical people. When we initiated the very first formal complaint, we had no idea she had political aspirations,” Butler said. “We would have been happy to be done with it years ago.”

The Duckworth campaign shoulda just kept their mouths closed. They were handed a gift. Oh, well.

- Posted by Rich Miller   48 Comments      

Moody’s issues Chicago fiscal FAQ

Wednesday, Jul 27, 2016

* From Moody’s…

On Monday, July 25, Moody’s Managing Director Naomi Richman delivered a speech to the City Club of Chicago concerning that city’s credit rating, which is Ba1 with a negative outlook. We have taken her remarks and presented it here as an FAQ document. The questions and answers are divided into four sections:

    Why is Chicago rated so low? Of virtually all the 8,500 local governments across the country that we rate, Chicago has by far the highest unfunded pensions, and its debt load is also very high. The sum of Chicago’s debt and pensions is 9.4 times the city’s operating revenue, versus 2.4 times for the average US city.

    What would it take to upgrade Chicago to investment grade? The city’s unfunded pension liability would need to begin to stabilize and decline. The actions the city has taken to date have only enabled their pension problem to get worse at a slower pace.

    Why isn’t Chicago rated even lower? Chicago has a very different credit profile than governments that have defaulted on their debt. Chicago’s economy is healthy and growing, unlike other cities that have defaulted where the economies went through a long, steep decline, and where finances were in much worse shape than Chicago’s.

    What are we watching? Three key credit questions are on the horizon: how will the city propose to reform the municipal pension plan and how will that affect the pension trajectory; how will pension plan investment earnings compare to the plans’ assumed returns; and how will Chicago Public Schools (CPS - rated B2/negative) resolve its own financial problems.

* Related…

* Moody’s official: Chicago’s still got time to fix pension problem: Moody’s rates Chicago Ba1, one step below investment grade, and has a negative outlook. Right now, a downgrade is “much more likely” than an upgrade, Richman said. To get on track for an upgrade, the city needs to reverse “the trajectory of the pension problem,” Richman said. Last year, Mayor Rahm Emanuel pushed through a record property tax increase that will shore up public-safety pensions. Investors applauded the move and rallied the bonds. Still, it’s not enough, according to Moody’s. “It’s letting the problem get worse at a slower pace,” Richman said. It would cost Chicago about a $1 billion a year to make the pension smaller the following year, she said. Moody’s recognizes that Emanuel and the City Council inherited fiscal problems, and they are showing a willingness to take on those issues. Plus there are positive signs. Governments that defaulted on their debt like Detroit and Puerto Rico have real differences with Chicago, like the economy, Richman said. “While Chicago’s challenges are very real, very serious, and if pension problem is never addressed you could ultimately get to that brink, we’re not there quite now,” Richman said.

* AUDIO: City Club of Chicago: City of Chicago Finances: Are We on the Brink?

- Posted by Rich Miller   5 Comments      

More like this, please

Wednesday, Jul 27, 2016

* Last Friday, Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a couple of bipartisan good-government bills into law aimed at cutting local government costs

One new law was sparked by the reporting of Daily Herald columnist Jake Griffin and would limit spending on travel for local officials and prohibit using taxpayer money for entertainment costs.

“Illinois has the highest property taxes in the nation,” state Rep. David McSweeney, a Barrington Hills Republican, said of the plan he sponsored. “We need to make sure our tax dollars are being used wisely and we need to reduce property taxes.”

Another new law signed Friday would require counties to write a report for state lawmakers about what local governments they make appointments for. The idea is to try to identify unnecessary local agencies.

“Through our bipartisan work, we have made DuPage County a leader in government consolidation,” state Sen. Tom Cullerton, a Villa Park Democrat, said of his plan. “We know the government needs to evolve with the needs of the people.”

* More from the Daily Herald editorial board

“Illinois has the highest property taxes in the nation,” state Rep. David McSweeney, a Barrington Hills Republican, said of the legislation he sponsored in the House and that Democrat Tom Cullerton of Villa Park sponsored in the Senate. “We need to make sure our tax dollars are being used wisely and we need to reduce property taxes.”

Oftentimes, investigations that reveal frivolous spending, malfeasance or out-and-out criminal ventures start out with the little things, such as restaurant receipts (meals and booze at the Waterleaf restaurant at College of DuPage), or a simple burglary (such as the one at the Watergate Hotel).

In the process, they provide a big help for the public to better manage its money.

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      

Dueling taunts

Wednesday, Jul 27, 2016

* From this morning…


* Unrelated message from the Kirk campaign…

Duckworth has clearly decided the reform vote is not in her target universe. She defended Blago while he was under investigation and now is sticking with Madigan and his 13% approval rating.

I’m assuming that part of the accompanying video clip might make it into a TV ad

* Related…

* Duckworth: Kirk running from record as Republican

- Posted by Rich Miller   8 Comments      

Good news on workers’ comp costs?

Wednesday, Jul 27, 2016

* From Sean Stott at the Laborers Union…

The organization that issues workers compensation advisory rates just released their recommendations for 2017. The NCCI says that Illinois employers should see a 12.9% cut in their WC rates next year - the 3rd largest cut in the nation - totaling more than all of our neighboring states combined.

* The“>chart…

* The Illinois Manufacturers Association disagrees…

“Nothing in the NCCI filing suggests that Illinois is actually closing the gap when it comes to the high cost of workers’ compensation relative to other states. It is abundantly clear that states like Illinois and West Virginia experiencing significant job loss in manufacturing, construction or mining jobs have also witnessed a reduction in indemnity and medical severity costs. However, the actual cost of workers’ compensation in Illinois remains among the highest in the nation.” - Greg Baise

    · Largely as the result of the continued loss of good, high-paying jobs in manufacturing and enhanced workplace safety programs, the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) offered an advisory recommendation in Illinois with a reduction.

    · It is important to recognize that the advisory 12.9 percent reduction in the overall voluntary rate is separate and distinct from insurance company premiums.

    · In 2016, only four states including Illinois, Virginia, Kentucky, and West Virginia have received their NCCI recommendations at this time. Last year, NCCI reviewed 38 states and recommended advisory decreases in 27 states (71 percent). In Illinois, NCCI recommended no change in 2015. This year’s recommended decrease follows the national trend.

    · The advisory recommendation does not include self-insured companies and excludes 40 percent of the competitive insurance market that have large deductible policies.

- Posted by Rich Miller   18 Comments      

Obama picks Jackson Park for library site

Wednesday, Jul 27, 2016

* Sneed with the scoop

A top Sneed source says the site of President Barack Obama’s Presidential Library will be Jackson Park, rather than Washington Park, which was considered the favored site months ago.

Among the reasons for the selection of Jackson Park?

The site’s great beauty, including its closeness to the water. Also, putting the library there will help build up the museum campus nearby.

It also has a pretty good golf course. I ran into the avid golfer Obama on that course years ago, back when I was still trying to play that crazy game and he was running for US Senate.

* Tribune

Located near the Museum of Science and Industry, the lakefront and the eastern edge of the University of Chicago campus, the site allows for the creation of a museum campus in the heart of the park, accented by an existing lagoon, lush woods and greenery. The winding 543-acre park is an oasis on the South Side. The center would be a short hop to either Lake Shore Drive or to two Metra train stations, strong pulls for visitors.

Jackson Park’s western edge along Stony Island Avenue connects with Woodlawn, an impoverished African-American neighborhood but one that is beginning to gentrify. And the Hyde Park neighborhood, just north of Woodlawn and surrounding the university, already is booming. […]

The hurdles would have been higher in the neighborhood near Washington Park, where one-third of the land is vacant. Decades ago the area was central to Chicago’s Black Belt, a robust cluster of neighborhoods that drew African-Americans from the South during the Great Migration. During the past half-century the population has plummeted, and nearly half the remaining residents live in poverty in an area plagued by crime.

Washington Park had been the centerpiece of the city’s 2016 Olympic bid — the site for a massive temporary stadium and swimming venue — and many residents believed that endeavor would help turn around their impoverished neighborhood just west of the park. The bid failed in 2009, and now residents of this struggling area must live with a second major disappointment.

- Posted by Rich Miller   22 Comments      

Behind the delegation’s “unity” is some old enmity

Wednesday, Jul 27, 2016

* Tribune

Illinois Democrats cast 98 votes for Hillary Clinton and 74 votes for Sanders, with Democratic Party chairman Michael Madigan leading the delegation’s floor announcement.

Illinois is one of only a few states to be seated on the convention floor rather than in the stands. The prime real estate is a nod to Clinton’s Illinois roots, having been born in Chicago and raised in the suburbs.

The votes for Clinton were cast by Betsy Ebeling, an old friend of Clinton’s dating to their school days in Park Ridge. “I know you’re watching, this one’s for you, Hill,” Ebeling said.

House Speaker Madigan handed the mic to Ebeling and the two appeared to be friendly toward each other as Sen. Dick Durbin looked on and smiled.

* But it wasn’t always so. Clinton’s State Department e-mails included several from Ebeling, including this one

The reliably upbeat friend was dejected in writing to the then-secretary of state on the eve of the 2010 midterm elections, which proved disastrous for Democrats.

Ebeling described an Oct. 26, 2010, get-out-the-vote rally in Chicago headlined by former President Bill Clinton, who is referred to as “WJC” in the emails, for William Jefferson Clinton. Ebeling observed the Democratic campaign in Illinois “is ghostlike.”

The event, she writes, was attended by Sen. Dick Durbin, House Speaker Michael Madigan and state Senate President John Cullerton, among other elected officials.

* From that e-mail

Tuesday will be such a telling day. On paper there is a co-ordinated Democratic campaign in Illinois–however, it is ghostlike—sort of shimmering in the distance. When WJC was here the other day, they all turned out: Dubrin and “the other guy”, Speaker Madigan, President Cullerton, many electeds and all gathered to have their photos taken with him. What an assembly of power going nowhere—just finger pointing and hiding. Of course, they all smiled for WJC and said they were working hard for the party Is WJC the only one trying? Must be exhausting for him,„and you. Safe

- Posted by Rich Miller   7 Comments      

Why were Bernie’s boobirds so quiet yesterday?

Wednesday, Jul 27, 2016

* I missed most of the convention last night because I was having dinner with a friend and got home half way through Bill Clinton’s speech. But others tell me things were pretty quiet in the audience, without all the booing and heckling that happened Monday. The Daily Beast ran a story yesterday afternoon which probably gives us much of the reason

[Dave Barnhart, a consultant to the Clinton campaign] also described the “ramped up whip operation” that Clinton campaign will run on the floor of the convention hall. In addition to asking the pro-Clinton delegates to physically be on the floor to support her during the roll call and televised prime time speeches, the campaign is also planning to add additional people around the California section to supplement the delegates already there.

“We’re providing more support in the form of extra bodies and supporters to cheer, bring energy, wave signs, and show positive support both within and around the California delegation section,” Barnhart wrote.

He also said that the campaign will more actively manage anyone who disrupts the proceedings.
“We’re going to be stricter tonight about unruly individuals—anyone who is physical with delegates, rips up their signs, or outright disrespectful with other delegates,” he warned. “Protest is certainly okay, but unruliness is not—and we’re instructing whips and convention staff to tow a stricter line tonight.”

Barnhart thanked the delegates in advance and added, “Your presence would be greatly appreciated and noted.”

That California delegation was a huge problem Monday. They never should’ve been so near the stage.

* It also helped that, after Bernie Sanders moved to nominate Clinton by acclamation, he walked out of the convention hall and several of his more committed (and loudest) supporters followed suit

Bernie Sanders delegates say that he led the walkout that took place after he moved to nominate Hillary Clinton by acclamation.

“We followed Bernie’s lead and we followed him out. I was so enveloped in hope, and there doesn’t appear to be much of that and I am heartbroken as I am sure the Senator is. I have been working for him for over a year. I am tired. I am out of hope right now,” one Wisconsin delegate told of Sanders walking out of the convention hall after he nominated Clinton was widely seen in the arena and on television.

* And then there were the three early speeches about 9/11. “It’s hard to boo people talking about the biggest terrorist attack on U.S. soil,” said one Democratic operative today.

Any other thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller   24 Comments      

Budget crisis, lower tuition contributing to Wisconsin recruitment success

Wednesday, Jul 27, 2016

* This aggressive Wisconsin recruitment has been going on for several years now, but the Illinois budget crisis certainly doesn’t help matters

Three state universities in southeastern Wisconsin are aggressively turning their attention south to pull more students — and tuition revenue — from the Land of Lincoln.

Whitewater, Parkside and Milwaukee campuses in the University of Wisconsin System for years have drawn students from northern Illinois because of their close proximity to the border.

Working in their favor is the fact tuition for Illinois students to attend a UW campus is remarkably close to, or even less, than what they would pay at their own state schools. Illinois also is in the midst of a state budget crisis with lawmakers failing to approve an annual budget beyond a stopgap that only partially funds higher education.

It’s a perfect storm for recruiting Illinois students to Wisconsin, as Wisconsin campuses look to offset their own state budget cuts and enrollment stagnation. Illinois in recent years has seen a dramatic rise in students leaving the state for college elsewhere.

And check this out

Students from Illinois pay less tuition at [the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee] than they pay to attend many of their own public universities, Maldonado said. Tuition and fees last year at Illinois State University was about $14,500, and $15,630 to $20,624 at University of Illinois, depending on the campus. At UWM it was about $13,500.

That’s just crazy.

The governor and the GA need to address this situation pronto.

- Posted by Rich Miller   45 Comments      

Caption contest!

Wednesday, Jul 27, 2016

* Gov. Rauner was in Savanna yesterday campaigning for Illinois House candidate Tony McCombie, who’s up against Rep. Mike Smiddy…

Keep it clean, people.

- Posted by Rich Miller   59 Comments      

Madigan again compares Rauner to Trump

Wednesday, Jul 27, 2016

* Speaker 13 Percent about Gov. 33 Percent on WGN TV today

“I was very pleased and overjoyed to be there,” Madigan said [of Hillary Clinton’s formal nomination].

Madigan described Clinton’s nomination as a “wonderful occasion” because the Democratic Party of America has nominated the first African-American president and now, the first female presidential nominee.

“The democrats are coming together,” he said. “They are coming together against the extremism of Trump and Governor Rauner.”

Madigan discussed the need for a democratic governor in Illinois.

“Democrats are like most Illinoisans, they are not happy with the extremism of Bruce Rauner.”

* Related…

* Union leader calls Rauner a ‘jackass,’ vows to ‘take him out’ in 2018

- Posted by Rich Miller   12 Comments      

“Excellent politics” but “questionable for governance”

Wednesday, Jul 27, 2016

* The governor has been barnstorming the state about term limits this week

Standing atop a hay wagon on the property, Rauner asked an assembled crowd of citizens and local public officials to demand members of the Legislature vote during their fall veto session on putting a constitutional amendment on the ballot to impose term limits on state officials.

The Rauner plan would limit statewide officeholders to eight years in a position — two terms — and no more than 10 years in the General Assembly, either five House terms or three Senate terms. […]

“Be a regular person. … Serve for a few years, do what’s right for the people and then go back to the real world,” Rauner said.

His tour on Tuesday took him to four regions of the state — near Rockford, Springfield and the Quad Cities, and between Peoria and Bloomington — though the districts he stopped in were primarily represented by Republicans, who have been friendlier to his plans. All are represented by a Republican in the state Senate, and three out of the four stops were in districts with a Republican in the state House.

The issue polls extremely well, and he’s been firmly on-message everywhere he’s spoken so far. Also, he doesn’t need to actually be in a targeted district to make his point about the ruling party, as long as he’s in the same media market as one.

* But not everybody is enthused

State Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, differs with Gov. Bruce Rauner when it comes to term limits. […]

Brady told WJBC’s Scott Laughlin voters should be able to remove lawmakers if they want, but for the legislative leadership positions, such as the one House Speaker Mike Madigan has held for three decades, that’s another story.

“Those types of changes should be looked at when it comes to something where you have the speaker as long as he has (been in office),” Brady said. “If you want real reform, I think you ought to be talking about within the caucuses.”

Rauner said in a visit to El Paso on Tuesday wants the General Assembly to pass term limits and redistricting reform since citizen-led efforts have failed in the courts. Brady suggests with Madigan in power, that will never happen.

* And

Chris Mooney, director of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois, said [the failure of more than a dozen legislative term limit proposals in Illinois since 2015] shouldn’t come as a surprise. […]

Two state legislatures that did approve term limits — Louisiana and Utah — did so only because more restrictive measures were coming down the pike through voter initiatives, he said.

Mooney said research has shown that many claims from proponents and opponents of term limits aren’t supported by the facts. For examples, they don’t seem to increase electoral competition as proponents argue, he said, nor do they appear to concentrate more power in the hands of lobbyists as opponents claim.

The most significant impact of term limits is that they’ve resulted in an “increase in power of the executive branch at the expense of the legislative branch,” Mooney said.

“It’s excellent politics,” he said. “It’s questionable for governance.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   29 Comments      

Could be awhile before Mautino’s hearing

Wednesday, Jul 27, 2016

* Finke

Auditor General Frank Mautino did not file amended campaign disclosure reports with the state Board of Elections, setting the stage for a public hearing into his use of campaign money while serving in the Illinois House.

Board of Elections executive director Steve Sandvoss said Mautino did not file the amended reports by Monday’s deadline.

“If they did not produce documents by the time they were required to, the matter would be set for a public hearing,” Sandvoss said. “It’s hard to say at this point when the actual hearing would take place.”

Sandvoss said he hoped something could be scheduled within a month or two, but the actual timing depended on a number of variables. They include selecting a hearing officer, trying to accommodate the participants’ varying schedules and whether any preliminary motions are filed that have to be disposed of first.

- Posted by Rich Miller   19 Comments      

Poll: Durbin leads Democratic field by huge margin

Wednesday, Jul 27, 2016

* Press release…

Yesterday, on July 26, 2016, We Ask America Polls™ conducted a statewide hybrid poll (part automated/part live interview) measuring Democratic voters’ views on which potential candidates for Illinois governor would most likely receive their vote. The respondents were asked one primary question plus a short series of demographic-related questions. The primary question was this:

“There are a number of Democratic candidates rumored to be interested in running for Illinois governor in two years. We’d like to know which—if any—of the following possible candidates you would most likely vote for if they do run for Illinois governor. “

    Cheri Bustos………4.88%
    Dick Durbin……….48.87%
    Robin Kelly………..3.63%
    Chris Kennedy……4.50%
    Pat Quinn…………..9.91%
    Kwame Raoul……..1.46%
    Heather Steans……0.63%
    Someone else…….7.21%

Crosstabs are here.

I’m told that Lisa Madigan wasn’t included because she said a couple years back she wouldn’t run for governor unless her father stepped aside as House Speaker.

…Adding… More from the pollster…


    1. As expected, those with the best name recognition stood out, with a U.S. Senator dwarfing the field: Sen. Dick Durbin scored nearly 50 percent–significant especially with at least one other recent statewide office holder on the list.

    2. Former Illinois Governor Pat Quinn’s numbers paled compared to Durbin, and were within the margin of error of the generic “someone else” option: Quinn certainly enjoyed the benefit of better name recognition than most of the others, but simply couldn’t muster enough support to climb into a double-digit range of results. His extremely weak numbers downstate (5.29%) kept him below that threshold.

    3. Should Durbin decide against a run for governor, the field must be considered wide open. Former Gov. Quinn’s numbers cannot be considered a deterrent to any potential candidate. Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL-17) is a close family friend of Sen. Durbin’s and won a hotly contested race against Republican incumbent Bobby Schilling four years ago. Congresswoman Robin Kelly (IL-2) is a former state representative who also served as chief of staff for the State Treasurer. Chris Kennedy is a business executive who was the former Chair of the University of Illinois Board…as well as the Illinois anchor for the Kennedy clan; State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago) filled Barack Obama’s state senate seat when Obama left the Statehouse for the U.S. Senate and has been an active leader in Springfield; and State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) is a Princeton and Harvard-educated reformer who has championed a number of causes including nursing home and environmental reforms.

Notes & Comments

A poll this early in the process cannot be viewed as a predictor of any kind for the fall of 2018. While the list of candidates mentioned in this poll was merited by direct mention of possible candidacy in published reports, some will not run and others not listed undoubtedly will test the waters. Some candidates that many feel may possibly run were left off if they had expressed a strong enough denial. For example, Attorney General Lisa Madigan has repeatedly stated that she will not run as long as her father remains Speaker of the Illinois House–and was therefore not offered as an option.

Note that a short job related description was read about each potential candidate during the polling process. For example: “Congresswoman Cheri Bustos” - “State Senator Kwame Raoul.”

We Ask America Polls paid for this poll and was not asked to conduct it by any candidate, individual or political committee. The poll was purposely conducted during the Democratic National Convention in an effort to discuss the issue with Illinois Democrats during a time where they may be paying more attention to political issues.


This poll was conducted July 26, 2016 using both automated (recorded) and live operator-initiated calls. In all, 1,128 registered voters completed all questions on the poll. About 30% (338) of the responses came from cell phones. The voters dialed were randomly selected from a proprietary registered-voter database to assure the greatest chance of providing an accurate cross-section of opinion from the statewide sample. Weighting formulas were applied to correct any over- and under-sampling. Each respondent was asked to verify that he/she was a Democrat who planned to vote in the next Democratic Primary Election.

Our sampling methodology ensures that We Ask America poll results are “projectable,” meaning that if every resident in a given geography were dialed, the results would not differ from the reported poll results by more than the stated margin of error at a 95% confidence level (the industry standard), if the same survey was repeated. For this case, results with a margin of error of ±3.0 % at the 95% confidence level means that if the same survey were conducted 100 times, 95 times out of 100 the results would not vary in either direction by more than 3.0% in either direction.

Emphasis added for obvious reasons.

- Posted by Rich Miller   32 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 *** The Durbin timeline

Wednesday, Jul 27, 2016

* Lynn Sweet and Tina Sfondeles on Sen. Durbin’s possible gubernatorial bid decision-making timeline

[US Sen. Dick Durbin] has some priorities and they go in this sequence. He wants to first win re-election as whip.

About a week after the November election, senators vote for their leaders, including whip. Last March, Reid announced he would not seek another term. Reid anointed Sen. Chuck Schumer D-NY as his heir. Things got a bit messy for a bit when Durbin had to scramble to make sure he locked in the support from his fellow senators to retain his No. 2 spot.

Looks like Durbin is in good shape in his whip race. But it’s never a good idea to run for more than one office at a time. [Emphasis added.]

In other words, we’ll know more about this topic sometime after that whip election is complete. It’s a big decision with huge consequences, so it won’t be taken lightly.

Keep in mind, however, that Durbin will be almost 74 come election day, 2018. He hasn’t had a tough race since his first US Senate bid 20 years ago. And he’s never seen anything like the unlimited-funding Rauner attacks.

And even if he wins, he still has to deal with cleaning up the post-Rauner mess (which could be gargantuan if Madigan never cuts a budget deal). And he’ll have to find a way to get along with Speaker Madigan - who is not generally a “helpful” guy when it comes to running government and has not exactly been Durbin’s greatest fan, no matter what he says about Durbin these days.

Your thoughts?

*** UPDATE ***  CNN

Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin declined Wednesday to rule out a run for Illinois governor in 2018, saying whether his colleagues will reelect him as the Democrat’s No. 2 will factor into his decision. […]

Speculation in Illinois political circles has mounted over the past several weeks about Durbin, who is not up for reelection in the Senate until 2020, and as Democrats look for a challenger against Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner next cycle. If the influential Democrat left the Senate, it would reorder Illinois politics and create an opening in the party leadership hierarchy in the chamber.
Durbin acknowledged that whether he stays as the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat after November could weigh on his decision.

“Of course,” Durbin said when asked if the outcome of leadership elections would impact his choice. “I want to continue to serve as whip of the caucus. I think I have support within the caucus. But I am not even campaigning for whip at this point…. I have to focus on this election.”

One election at a time.

- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      

More bad news

Wednesday, Jul 27, 2016

* Pearson

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that long-term investment returns for public pension plans are poised to drop to the lowest rate of return since measuring began 16 years ago —something that could cause additional heartburn in Illinois, which has the largest unfunded state worker pension program in the nation.

The Journal reported the 20-year annualized return on investment of public pensions are expected to be 7.47 percent — a far cry from the 12.3 percent annualized return in 2001, when Wilshire Trust Universe Comparison Service began tracking pension returns.

Illinois has an $111 billion unfunded pension liability as of June 2015, based on the latest state reports available. But the lower investment returns have been factored in slightly.

The largest pension fund, the Teachers Retirement System, acted two years ago to reduce its expected investment rate of return from 8 percent to 7.5 percent. The State Employees Retirement System and the State University Retirement System acted to reduce the rate of investment returns for its funds from 7.75 percent to 7.25 percent.

* Related…

* Illinois diverts federal funds from teachers to pensions: Unlike their counterparts in other states, Illinois school districts pay a steep premium to the Teachers’ Retirement System, or TRS, if they use Title I federal money to hire teachers. Districts are assessed 36.06 percent of salaries paid with federal Title I funds, and that is set to increase to 38.54 percent for the 2016-2017 school year. By comparison, the rate for a district not using Title I money is and will remain 0.58 percent. So a district using Title I money to hire a teacher at $50,000 a year would fork over $19,270 to TRS, but the tab for a district paying a teacher the same salary out of state and local funds would be $290. To paraphrase U.S. Rep. Robert Dold, taxpayers from across the nation are pouring vast sums into Illinois’ teacher pension-debt quagmire. And the biggest losers? The very ones the Title I money is intended to aid – low-income students.

- Posted by Rich Miller   50 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 - Madigan responds *** Rauner finally talks about Sandack, but keeps mostly mum

Wednesday, Jul 27, 2016

* Twitters…

* Sun-Times

Republican state Rep. Ronald L. Sandack, a top of ally of Gov. Bruce Rauner, went to police in his hometown earlier this month to report an “Internet scam” — but a report about the incident reveals little about what led Sandack to abruptly resign his seat in the Illinois House over the weekend.

Sandack issued a statement to the Capitol Fax political blog on Sunday saying that “cyber security issues” forced him to re-evaluate his “continued public service” and that he was resigning immediately. But the three-page police report released Tuesday afternoon by the Downers Grove Police Department offers no details about what might have happened to Sandack, as virtually the entire narrative is blacked out.

Disclosing the information “would obstruct an ongoing criminal investigation,” the police said in their response to a Chicago Sun-Times Freedom of Information Act request, also noting that supplemental case reports “have not been completed as of the date of this response.”

Sandack, 52, a former Downers Grove mayor, met with an officer on July 14, 2016, a Tuesday evening, “in reference to a walk-in report of an Internet scam.” The narrative in the police report notes that the incident began on July 7, but the rest of that page and the next are almost completely redacted.

* Tribune

Asked about Sandack’s resignation, Rauner told reporters he didn’t have much to add.

“I really can’t comment much on Mr. Sandack’s situation. I heard about it yesterday morning, the same time most of you did. I am not sure what all is going on there, so I can’t comment,” Rauner said.

Asked if it was difficult to lose a top ally, Rauner repeated that he could not comment, adding that he has not talked to Sandack.

To be clear here, Sandack was Rauner’s top floor leader and one of his most persistent defenders in the House chamber and in social media.

* Zorn

The claim that some online mischief maker using tired and predictable tricks drove one of the state’s most prominent lawmakers back into private life sounds more like pretext than explanation.

But explanations are things that Citizen Sandack no longer owes us.

That’s true, but others still might owe us something.

*** UPDATE ***  The Sun-Times asked Speaker Madigan about the issue today

Asked Wednesday morning at a Democratic National Convention breakfast whether Democrats had any role in the cyber attacks that Sandack had cited in resigning, the Southwest Side Democrat replied “No. . . . I’ll let Sandack speak to what his problem is. I don’t know anything about it.”

Sandack had been facing a challenge from Democrat Greg Hose in the November election — a race that might now be more winnable for Democrats with the much better-known Sandack off the ballot.

“Again, I’d leave it up to Sandack to explain his problems,” Madigan said.

- Posted by Rich Miller   36 Comments      

Latest Legionnaires’ outbreak puzzles health experts

Wednesday, Jul 27, 2016

* AP

Gov. Bruce Rauner is scheduled to visit the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy a day after state officials reported two residents have new cases of Legionnaires’ disease.

Last year, Legionnaires’ disease sickened 53 people and led to 12 deaths at the home. The cases the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs disclosed Tuesday come less than a month after a nearly $5 million water treatment plant and delivery system was unveiled at the facility. The bacteria that cause the disease can be inhaled in water vapor.

Rauner’s schedule says the governor was to visit the western Illinois facility Wednesday morning and receive an update on water treatment there.

* But this outbreak is different than last year’s

Less than a month after unveiling a nearly $5 million state-of-the-art water treatment plant and delivery system at the Illinois Veterans Home, the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs on Tuesday announced two Veterans Home residents had been diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease.

Dave MacDonna, a spokesman for the Department of Veterans Affairs, said there have been no deaths. He would not disclose the condition of the two residents who had contracted the disease, citing health privacy laws. […]

MacDonna said water at the home will continue to be treated the same it has since the new treatment plant came online. It will continue to test for and flush any harmful bacteria from the system, something that MacDonna said happens twice per day. Hot water temperatures will be at 150 degrees.

From what I was told by the administration last night, national and state experts are dumbfounded about this recurring outbreak. There was clear evidence of the bacteria in last year’s testing. Not so this year.

* From the twitters…

- Posted by Rich Miller   11 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 *** Why did Chris Kennedy run away from reporters yesterday?

Wednesday, Jul 27, 2016

* To refresh your memory, this is what Chris Kennedy did after his speech to the convention delegate breakfast yesterday

Kennedy then walked toward a waiting elevator, but a crush of Chicago reporters followed him in, not satisfied with the nonanswer.

“This is sort of ridiculous, please,” Kennedy pleaded.

“What’s ridiculous is you don’t answer questions,” WFLD-Ch. 32 reporter Mike Flannery shot back. “You’ve run four or five campaigns in the gossip column. Are you running for governor or not?”

“I don’t have to address you. Please leave the elevator and let me go to my meeting. Please do that. Have some decency,” Kennedy responded. “What have you become? Please, please.”

A furious Kennedy then left the elevator and headed to a nearby stairwell. Chicago Sun-Times reporter Lynn Sweet then chased him into the stairwell doorway requesting to take a photograph of the businessman, who obliged with an awkwardly forced smile.

Flannery was right about Kennedy teasing us with selected leaks about possible runs that never materialized. You may not like his aggressiveness (reporting is sometimes like legislating, the sausage-making process ain’t always pretty), but somebody had to ask the guy that question.

Besides, Kennedy asked to speak. And it’s customary to talk to reporters after one of those speeches. If he didn’t know that, well, too bad. He should get better advance people.

* Kennedy talked to Mark Brown later

Kennedy said he thought his message to the delegation spoke for itself and that he refuses to participate in media scrums that are the regular stuff of politics and public office.

“People turn into animals in that environment, and they are asking ridiculous questions, acting like bullies. … It’s a b——- way to conduct each other’s business,” he said.

Kennedy said he would rather do one-on-one interviews with every reporter than one hallway press conference.

“If you don’t like that, I mean, sorry,” he said.

That might be a reason not to run.

Even Speaker Madigan, of all people, speaks to these convention “media scrums.” If Madigan can do it, so can Chris Kennedy. Brown has good advice.

*** UPDATE ***  Flannery’s report on the debacle ends with Flannery saying

You don’t want to talk to the average folks through this TV lens. Apparently, talking to the Mike Madigans of the world is good enough at this point for Chris Kennedy.

Oh, snap.

* Video

- Posted by Rich Miller   35 Comments      

*** LIVE COVERAGE *** Democratic National Convention

Wednesday, Jul 27, 2016

* Follow all the Illinois-related developments with ScribbleLive

- Posted by Rich Miller   1 Comment      

* Open thread and another LSSI reminder
* In defense of Mary Todd Lincoln on her 200th birthday
* Caption contest!
* Rauner says he'll file end of term report, clear clemency backlog
* Question of the day: Golden Horseshoe Awards
* Pritzker roundup
* Cook County Public Guardian sues DCFS: "Abject moral and human rights failure"
* Mendoza signature clearance rate is high during first round
* Your holiday season moment of Zen
* Pritzker criticized over lack of Active Transportation Alliance members on his transition committee
* Color me skeptical
* Pritzker heading to White House today
* Sen. Schimpf wants Satanic sculpture removed from rotunda as Rep. Bryant introduces condemnation resolution
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Supplement to today’s edition
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today's edition of Capitol Fax (use all CAPS in password)
* Yesterday's stories

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