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Reader comments closed for the holidays

Friday, Dec 22, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* I’ll be back in the new year. By popular demand, the 2017 Wordslinger Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Commenter goes to its namesake: Wordslinger. Here’s commenter Arthur Andersen

I’m on Team Wordslinger this year. Word has been on top of his game all year, with incisive, focused, and sometimes superbly snarky comments on all of our events of the day. The guy doesn’t miss a trick. He can distill an issue into fewer words than AA usually takes just to get going.

Honorable mention to my CMS homie RNUG and to the inimitable, irreplaceable Oswego Willy.

Agreed on all counts, including the honorable mentions, although I would add MrJM to that list.

* As is our tradition, we end the year with my mom’s three favorite holiday videos. Suzy Snowflake

* Hardrock, Coco and Joe

* And Frosty The Snowman…

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Kennedy calls out Democrats for lack of action on gun violence

Friday, Dec 22, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* ABC 7

Democratic candidate for governor Chris Kennedy stood outside Stroger Hospital Friday to call for change to deal with the violence that has once again pushed Chicago’s homicides over 600 for 2017.

“It’s not just the wounded who come here to Stroger Hospital, but it’s the brother and sisters, the family members, entire communities that suffer from urban post traumatic stress disorder,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy blamed state and local leaders for failing people.

“Here in Illinos in 2017, we should already have bump stock legislation signed into law. Here in Illinois in 2017 we should already have a gun dealer licensing bill signed into law,” said Ra Joy, Kennedy’s running mate.

* The Trace

A top contender for the Democratic nomination for governor of Illinois said that state elected officials, including members of his own party, haven’t done nearly enough to combat gun violence.

In an interview with The Trace in his campaign office in downtown Chicago, Chris Kennedy, a son of the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy, questioned the commitment of lawmakers after measures intended to fight gun crime failed earlier this year in the state Legislature. One of the bills would have banned bump stocks, the gun accessories that mimic machine-gun fire which were used by the killer in the Las Vegas massacre in October. It was defeated in the House after lawmakers, including Democrats, criticized it for being too broad.

“I don’t know how you could have that many Democrats in the House and Senate and not get something done,” Kennedy said. “I think the party has lost its way.”

Kennedy also called for a reform of the state’s property tax system, which he said shortchanges public schools, underfunds police, and has led to drastic cuts in social services — all of which he said have contributed to persistent gun violence.

That bump stock bill was intentionally drafted by the House Democrats to lose. They could’ve easily passed a clean bump stock ban, but the HDems wanted a political issue.

* Meanwhile

The population at the Cook County Jail has fallen below 6,000 inmates, its lowest point in decades, sheriff’s officials said Thursday.

Cara Smith, chief policy officer for Sheriff Tom Dart, said the number has been declining for some time in part because of a drop in arrests, but the biggest change came some three months ago when criminal court judges were ordered to set bail only in amounts that defendants could afford to pay.

Since the order took effect Sept. 18, the jail population has dropped to 5,909 inmates as of Thursday, down by more than 1,500, Smith said.

Authorities credited the recent drop in the jail’s population largely to an order by Chief Judge Timothy Evans requiring judges to set affordable bail amounts for defendants charged with nonviolent felonies. […]

Of the approximately 2,000 felony defendants released in the two months after the order took effect, about 93 percent had not committed a new offense by Nov. 30, Milhizer said. Nine out of 10 had appeared for all their scheduled court dates, he said, though he noted that the numbers involve a short time frame.


Today’s number: $2.5 million

Friday, Dec 22, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Buried in today’s “Morning Spin”

Gov. Rauner’s campaign on Thursday reported a $2.5 million political contribution from Illinois’ wealthiest person, records show.

The donation from billionaire hedge fund founder Ken Griffin adds to the $20 million he gave the governor in May.

Griffin, the founder and CEO of Citadel, has been Rauner’s largest donor outside of the governor himself. It was almost exactly one year ago that the governor reported putting $50 million into his campaign fund.

* So, yep, it seems almost tiny now…


Question of the day: Golden Horseshoe Awards

Friday, Dec 22, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The 2017 Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Statewide Officeholder goes to Comptroller Susana Mendoza

The Comptroller has been tireless since taking office last December, both in her official work and in her public outreach. She not only successfully managed the impossible task of handling the state’s bills, she also fought and won decisively a battle with the governor over important reform legislation for her office.

The voting was nearly unanimous.

* The 2017 Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Statehouse Insider goes to Dave Sullivan

Yeah, he wins these awards all the time. But he wins because he’s the best. Deep relationships on both sides of the aisle, really has his pulse on what is going on, but, more importantly, maintains his integrity and ethics. Great guy, great lobbyist, great insider.

Dave received a bunch of very strong nominations, and deservedly so.

* Let’s move on to our final category…

* The Wordslinger Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Commenter

This is always our most popular award, but explain your nomination fully or it won’t count. I’m shutting down the blog for the holidays around 4:30 or so today and will announce the winner at that time.


*** UPDATED x1 *** Did Illinois lie to the CDC?

Friday, Dec 22, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Press release…

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) has posted two Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports addressing the Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks at the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy (IVHQ). CDC generated the reports after two visits by environmental health and infectious disease specialists to IVHQ. IDPH requested Epidemiologic Assistance (Epi-Aid) from the CDC after confirming an increase in Legionella cases in August 2015, and again in 2016. The CDC also visited IVHQ earlier this month and a summary of that visit is pending. These reports address the complexities of a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak and how the State of Illinois has taken appropriate action.

The CDC describes the State’s diligent response and efforts to help protect the health and safety of veterans and IVHQ staff and visitors, noting:

    • IVHQ has a well-established clinical infection surveillance and prevention program in place.
    • From the identification of the outbreak, IVHQ clinical staff performed checks on all residents in skilled care every four hours, and twice daily for all residents in independent living. Per established IVHQ protocol, any resident developing symptoms consistent with a lower respiratory infection had a chest x-ray performed immediately for pneumonia diagnosis.
    • Since the 2015 outbreak, significant remediation efforts undertaken by the Quincy Veteran’s Home have substantially reduced the presence of Legionella in the potable water system.
    • Based on observations during the Epi-Aid investigation, the water management program was fully implemented, followed, and continuously reviewed by the water management team to optimize the water systems.

Emphasis added because there’s significant contrary evidence. The full report is here.

* Let’s go back to the original WBEZ report

Dolores French, a native Chicagoan and lifelong Cubs fan who was 79, had only one health malady: deafness. Otherwise, she was in good health and was allowed to move into the veterans’ home with her husband of 57 years, Richard French Sr., because he was a U.S. Army veteran who served during the Korean War.

She was assigned to an independent living unit at the facility, Steve French said, while her husband was placed in another residential building at Quincy because he needed care for his worsening Parkinson’s disease. Typically, French said, his mother would walk to her husband’s room and spend eight hours a day with him.

When the phone call about Legionnaires’ at Quincy arrived, Steve French said he immediately wanted to check on his parents’ well-being and tried calling his mother, who had a device that translates phone calls into text. He got no response. He tried the desk in her building and also got nothing. The next call went to the facility’s administrative offices.

“I said, ‘This is Steve French. I heard the news. I’m just checking on my dad and mom,’” he recalled. “And she just said that they’re OK, that if something happens, we’ll get a call.”

That was Friday, Aug. 28, 2015.

But it wasn’t until the next morning, as French was contemplating making the drive to Quincy from Springfield to check on her, that he was notified by the home that his mother’s neighbors had reported her missing, and staff wanted permission to enter her room, he said.

Within 10 minutes, as the Frenches sat in their basement, another call came from Quincy to report his mother had been found on the floor in her apartment, dead.

As the news began to sink in, yet another call arrived, this time from the Adams County Coroner’s Office. French’s wife, Deann, took the phone.

“He said, ‘We found Mrs. French, and this is going to be difficult for me to tell you, but she has been dead for a significant amount of time,’” Deann French remembered. “So I’m processing that, and I said, ‘Do we know what happened to her? What happened?’ At this point, I’m not thinking Legionnaires’. I just wasn’t. And he said, ‘No, she was found on the floor in front of her recliner, pretty badly decomposed.’”

Within another hour or two, the coroner called back with confirmation that he suspected Legionnaires’, and that state law required an autopsy because an outbreak had been declared at the home.

According to the CDC’s report referenced by IDPH, the identification of the outbreak occurred on August 21, 2015. Mrs. French was found dead on August 29th in a state of decomposition. Yet, the state told the CDC they were checking on independent living residents twice a day starting August 21st.

I asked IDPH for comment yesterday and haven’t heard back.

* Again, the state supposedly identified the existence of an outbreak on August 21st. From the timeline I put together the other day

August 21: Illinois Veterans’ Home resident Melvin Tucker develops a fever. He is given Tylenol.

August 26: Gerald Kuhn, 90, is given Tylenol for a fever that reaches 104 degrees. Kuhn asks to go to the hospital and tests positive there for Legionella.

August 27: After six days with a fever, Melvin Tucker is still not on any kind of antibiotic and hasn’t yet been tested for Legionnaires’, despite the CDC being notified four days earlier of an outbreak and the state announcing eight confirmed cases that same day.

August 31: Melvin Tucker and Gerald Kuhn die, bringing the death total to four.

But, according to the CDC’s report, the state claimed to the CDC that Legionella urine antigen test samples “were collected from any resident with an elevated temperature.”

*** UPDATE *** From the Kennedy campaign…

This applies to the multiple stories out today about Bruce Rauner neglecting our most vulnerable — and lying about it:

Examples of neglect and deceit continue to mount under Bruce Rauner’s administration. He’s overseeing a system that lies, that manipulates data, that destroys the health of our seniors, our veterans, and the developmentally disabled and the mentally ill. It’s a horrifying display of mismanagement and, even worse, it’s inhumane. Not only do we need a new governor, but we need leaders in both parties to stop protecting a system that’s crushing the most vulnerable communities in Illinois.


*** UPDATED x1 - IDHS responds *** IDHS abuse and neglect allegations soar for developmentally disabled and mentally ill

Friday, Dec 22, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* AP

Allegations of abuse and neglect of developmentally disabled and mentally ill residents under the care of the Illinois Department of Human Services have increased by half since 2010 and the time it takes to investigate them has grown, too, an audit released Thursday found.

The report by Auditor General Frank Mautino discovered that abuse and neglect complaints jumped to 3,698 in the year that ended June 30, compared with 2,468 seven years earlier.

The audit also found that the agency’s Office of the Inspector General did not complete investigations into the complaints within the 60 working days agency rules require. Cases were closed in a timely manner 50 percent of the time in the year ending in June. In 2010, 85 percent of the cases were closed on time. […]

The increase is sharper among community agencies. During the period, the state moved swiftly away from large institutions to community-living settings. Mautino’s audit determined that abuse and neglect claims at community agencies overseen by Human Services jumped 81 percent during the seven-year period, to 2,714 last year. […]

The report indicates that nearly 13,000 residents lived in centralized developmental and mental health centers in 2010, compared with 7,000 this year. Human Services also has oversight over 421 community agencies operating 4,500 program sites, such as group homes or day programs. That’s a 31 percent increase from 2010

More info is here.

These are some of our most vulnerable people and we as a state are obviously failing them. Merry Christmas.

*** UPDATE *** From IDHS…

Each and every allegation of abuse or neglect reported to IDHS OIG is taken seriously. It is our goal to dedicate the appropriate amount of time and resources to each investigation. We are committed to ensuring safe and therapeutic care for individuals with disabilities and mental illnesses in both the community and at our state developmental and mental health centers.

2,295 more people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are now living in community integrated living arrangements (CILAs) compared to 2010, which is a 19% increase. The increase of individuals living in CILAs has increased the amount of allegations of abuse and neglect in these facilities. Since fiscal year 2011, the rate at which these allegations are substantiated has remained around 16%.

In the past two years, we have more than doubled staff and streamlined many previously manual processes. The larger workforce and new processes are already having a positive effect on investigation thoroughness and timeliness. Since fiscal year 2016, the number of days to complete an investigation has decreased by 15%. IDHS will continue to examine our investigation processes and staffing levels to determine any additional improvements that we can make.


Colorado college recruiter explains why she’s successful at poaching students

Friday, Dec 22, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Daily Chronicle

Two years of a budget impasse in Springfield that included cuts to state universities made the state’s graduating high school seniors a tempting target for out-of-state universities.

In that time, Northern Illinois University saw a decline in undergrad enrollment of 5 percent, and most state universities have suffered similar or greater declines in enrollment. At the same time, a network of recruiters in Chicago works to recruit Illinois’ best and brightest to other schools.

Tiffany Dallas, a Colorado State University admissions recruiter based in DeKalb, said a lot of the students she recruits from Illinois – specifically the area around Chicago – leave because it’s Colorado, although the uncertainty in state higher education plays a factor.

“Colorado is absolutely amazing and blows the state of Illinois out of the water,” Dallas said. “But the next step is the students don’t feel like their education is necessarily stable here. They’re just sick of hearing, ‘Yeah, there’s no budget; we don’t know if we have money; we have to cut programs.’ ” […]

The Chicago Area Regional Representatives, a professional group for college recruiters in the Chicago area, has more than 90 member schools and more than 100 recruiters in its ranks, and includes schools from across the country and Illinois.

More on that group is here.


Silverstein accuser drops out of House race

Friday, Dec 22, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From Denise Rotheimer’s Facebook page

I am publicly announcing my decision not to pursue my candidacy for State Representative of District 62. Since testifying at the hearing on SB402 to prohibit sexual harassment in the Ethics Act I have been overwhelmed with re-living the experience I suffered while working with senator Silverstein and figuring out how to participate in the process of going forward on my complaint. Had this issue not come up, I would have been 100% committed to my campaign–but, there were several consequences from testifying that I could not foresee at that time. I have done my best to get through this process which I feel progress has been made because of the efforts the legislative inspector general made to accommodate my participation and my request to present a victim impact statement to the legislative ethics commission. I do hope that this case and all the attention that it has received, including the progress that I have made by providing the complainant with some level of having a voice in this process will be of benefit to others. At this point, I want to focus on other aspects of my life, particularly on areas where I can do good and meaningful work that not only improves the quality of life for others but also for myself. With this being said, I wish the other two candidates good luck and again, please do not forget to vote in the primary election on March 20, 2018.

She was running against two other Republicans for the right to take on Rep. Sam Yingling (D-Grayslake). She never set up a campaign committee and she filed 517 petition signatures, just barely above the required 500 and her petitions were challenged. She told me she couldn’t make herself gather signatures after her public testimony against Silverstein. She essentially got out before she was kicked off.

* Meanwhile, Sen. Silverstein’s campaign committee has reported just three contributions since he was accused of sexual harassment. The Chicagoland Operators Joint Labor-Management PAC gave him $7,000 in mid-November. The Realtors gave him $1,200 and the Trial Lawyers gave him $1,000 in late November. He has reported nothing since then.


Ford County GOP upset with Sen. Barickman for backing legal marijuana

Friday, Dec 22, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From the Paxton Record

The Ford County Republican Central Committee met last Saturday and erupted when the legalization of marijuana came up for discussion.

Noting that state Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, put out a memo earlier in the week in support of legislation to legalize recreational marijuana, many comments and questions arose among precinct committeemen and the public.

Many voiced their objection to Barickman’s position, stating that marijuana is an addictive gateway drug that will lead to using other illicit drugs. Since its use for medical purposes, many factions have been pushing for legalizing the drug for recreational use.

That caused one participant to ask what such use would do to DUI violations, or the use by teens.

“How accessible will it become for younger people?” the person said.

Already, there is no significant penalty for possession or use of small amounts of marijuana in Illinois. And the court system has not worked well in preventing use.

Barickman postulated that its legalization would raise money for the state.

“Addictive gateway drug.” It’s like we’ve stepped back in time.

Also, it’s easier for a teenager to buy weed than beer and has been for decades. Criminal drug dealers don’t check ID cards.

Sen. Barickman voted for gay marriage. He survived. He’ll survive this, too. The world will not end when we stop putting people in prison for inventing, growing, selling and consuming marijuana products.


*** UPDATED x1 *** Kennedy, Kass blast Pritzker on property taxes, Berrios

Friday, Dec 22, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Kass

“We have people running for governor who won’t criticize the most important issue — the rigged property tax system — and that itself is disqualifying,” Chris Kennedy, also running in the Democratic Party primary, told me Thursday.

Kennedy has long made the property tax system, and the corruption in it, a feature of his campaign. He has called on Berrios to resign. Pritzker and his ally Mayor Rahm Emanuel would rather change the subject and talk about the guy in the White House.

“Pritzker talks about things that aren’t really the issue. He talks about Donald Trump, but he skirts the issue of using Joe Berrios’ office to call political supporters. Pritzker’s locked in with those guys.” […]

“As J.B. has made clear throughout the campaign, he believes we need to reform our flawed and inequitable property tax system, and it will be a top priority for him as governor,” said Slayen.

“Like (Democratic gubernatorial candidate) Daniel Biss, J.B. believes that voters should have the ultimate say on if Mr. Berrios deserves another term, and J.B. remains focused on beating Bruce Rauner and repairing the damage he has done to Illinois,” Slayen said.

Fair enough. But Pritzker isn’t running against Rauner now. He’s not running against Donald Trump either.

He’s running for the Democratic nomination against Chris Kennedy, and property taxes will be the issue. And they will be the issue in the general election.


*** UPDATE *** Good questions…


“C’mon, man. That was just an accusation”

Friday, Dec 22, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* You gotta read this entire story. It’s a real hoot

A Republican running to become the top law enforcement officer in the state took tens of thousands in campaign contributions from companies in the Cayman Islands, a restaurant whose owners are named in FBI mafia investigations and another group whose owners were jailed on federal fraud charges.

DuPage County Board Member and former Burr Ridge mayor Gary Grasso admits he has made some “first time mistakes” in his fledgling campaign for Attorney General. Twice, the State Board of Elections has rebuked him for accepting donations above the individual and corporate contribution caps.

Grasso reported a $25,000 campaign donation from Yorkville Investment I, LLC, on October 27th, which not only exceeds the corporate limit of $11,100, but state records show the business was registered as a foreign entity and is no longer open for business. Asked about the illegal donation, Grasso said he planned to give back $14,900 to bring the contribution within compliance.

“Contributions over the limit are not appropriate and those rules should not be circumvented,” said Sarah Brune, the Executive Director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.

State records show Yorkville Investment I uses the same Wheaton address as 60 Degrees Group Ltd, another foreign firm based in the Cayman Islands. 60 Degrees Group gave Grasso’s campaign $2,800 on December 7th. JR Marital Trust is also registered at the same address in the Caymans, and sent Grasso $11,100 on the same date.

Go read the rest of it.


* Reader comments closed for the weekend
* After being charged with grooming and possessing images depicting child sexual abuse, Nicholas Kachiroubas to be ousted from ICCB (Updated)
* Isabel’s afternoon roundup
* You reap what you sow
* Coverage roundup: US Supreme Court upholds domestic violence gun law (Updated x2)
* US Attorney's office files blistering motion supporting Haymarket Center's discrimination lawsuit against Itasca (Updated)
* Uber Partners With Cities To Expand Urban Transportation
* It’s just a bill
* Stop Illinois From Making Credit Cards Hard To Use
* Question of the day
* Open thread
* Isabel’s morning briefing
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