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Pritzker uses old Rauner slam on Quinn to attack the governor on veterans’ home deaths

Thursday, Dec 21, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Pritzker campaign…

In the 2014 campaign, Bruce Rauner issued a searing indictment of his opponent, saying he was responsible for failings at a state agency, leading to tragic deaths on his opponent’s watch:

    “Yes,” Rauner said when asked by reporters if the deaths of 95 children with past contact with the Department of Children and Family Services from 2011-2013 were attributable to Quinn.

    “Pat Quinn is, in the end, responsible for the failings at the Department of Children and Family Services. If it was a one-year problem or a temporary problem you could say, ‘OK, maybe, there was, it’s not really his responsibility.’ But he’s been governor for six years. He’s had a revolving door of failure at Department of Children and Family Services for years and years,” Rauner said.

Fast forward to today, and Bruce Rauner has refused to take any responsibility for his own mismanagement of Veterans Affairs, leading to a Legionnaires crisis in Quincy that has taken the lives of 13 people.

“Bruce Rauner’s gross mismanagement and neglect led to 13 deaths at the Quincy Veterans’ Home, devastating countless Illinois families,” said Pritzker campaign spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh. “Like Rauner said in 2014, the governor needs to take responsibility for the state agencies he runs and the tragedy that has resulted from his mismanagement.”

…Adding… I told the Rauner campaign after their guy slammed Quinn on DCFS that Rauner would live to regret those words. The same thing will happen to Pritzker if he wins. A short-term hit that guarantees long-term pain.

…Adding… There’s a video now…



Circular firing squad holiday battles

Thursday, Dec 21, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Leader Durkin dropped another $48K on cable TV to fend off his Dan Proft-backed GOP primary opponent through Christmas…

* The ILGOP also has a holiday themed mailer blasting Durkin’s rival Mickey Straub…


* On to the other side. In the 53rd House District Republican primary to replace retiring GOP Rep. David Harris, Dan Proft is backing Katie Miller over Eddie Corrigan. The Democrats have a strong candidate (one of our active commenters, former Rep. Mark Walker) and the Republican powers that be are worried that Miller could lose the seat

* Two Republicans are vying to challenge Rep. Deb Conroy (D-Villa Park). Proft is backing Dr. Jay Kinzler against Roger Orozco

* And in the 110th House District open seat race to replace retiring GOP Rep. Reggie Phillips, Proft is backing Chris Miller against Terry Davis in the Republican primary


Accelerated population loss could mean Illinois loses two congressional seats

Thursday, Dec 21, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Election Data Services took a look at the new US Census Bureau numbers yesterday (click here) and came up with some bad news for Illinois

The Bureau’s 2017 total population estimates shows that now 12 states will be impacted by changes in their congressional delegation if these new numbers were used for apportionment to- day. The state of Colorado joins the previously indicated states of Florida, North Carolina, and Oregon to each gain a single seat while the state of Texas is now shown to gain a second seat with the new data. The states of New York and West Virginia joins the states of Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and Pennsylvania to lose a seat in Congress using the new data.

The new numbers, however, reflect subtle changes taking place across the nation in birth and death rates and resulting total population numbers that become magnified when the information is projected forward to coincide with the taking of the 2020 Census on April 1 that year. A short-term projection method, utilizing the change in population in just the past year (2016- 2017), would trigger a second seat lost to Illinois [Emphasis added]

So, if Illinois keeps losing population at this clip we wind up losing two seats

2016-2017 – Lost 33,703
2015-2016 – Lost 26,325
2014-2015 – Lost 20,387
2013-2014 – Lost 7,965
2012-2013 – Gained 11,909

* And check out where the big losses are…

According to the Census Bureau, Chicago has added only about 10,000 people since 2010. If Gov. Rauner wins reelection and the GOP wins the Abe’s hat drawing for the right to draw the new maps, Chicago could lose a seat as well.


Lipinski to speak at annual March for Life in midst of Democratic primary

Thursday, Dec 21, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Press release

March for Life, the world’s largest annual pro-life demonstration, is proud to announce their initial list of speakers for the 45th annual March for Life held in Washington, D.C. on January 19th, 2018. This year’s impressive lineup will include NFL/MLB star Tim Tebow’s mother Pam Tebow, former NFL player Matt Birk and his wife Adrianna, U.S. Representatives Dan Lipinski (D-IL)…

* From NARAL…

The anti-choice group March for Life has announced that Illinois Congressman Dan Lipinski, a Democrat, will headline their annual march on Washington D.C. in January of 2018. Lipinski has made no secret of his right-wing agenda, which includes more than a decade of voting to curtail the rights of women, immigrants, and LGBT Americans. Billed as the world’s largest anti-abortion gathering, the annual March for Life supports banning abortion nationwide.

“Lipinski is doubling-down on his bid to ban abortion and subjugate women to second class citizens. Despite the ‘D’ next to his name, Lipinski consistently pushes an extreme right-wing agenda that couldn’t be more out-of-touch with the needs of hardworking Illinois families,” said NARAL Pro-Choice America’s States Campaigns Director, James Owens. “Luckily, Illinois voters can choose a true pro-choice champion to represent their values in Congress. Marie Newman will fight to ensure that women and families always have equal opportunities and equal representation.”

NARAL endorsed Marie Newman in November and has been a powerful force to help elect a true progressive to represent women and families across the 3rd district. NARAL launched a Let’s #DumpDan campaign including a website and TV ad as part of their larger plan to unseat the anti-choice incumbent.

As Co-chair of the Democrats for Life and co-sponsor of over 50 bills in Congress that restrict a woman’s right to choose, Lipinski has made restricting a woman’s right to control their own bodies and futures a hallmark of his political career.

…Adding… As a commenter points out, this is certainly an “interesting” Democratic primary strategy…

…Adding More… Press release…

“Dan Lipinski is no Democrat — just this past Monday, he was hamming it up with Paul Ryan and Donald Trump in the White House as they celebrated raising taxes on working families and giving a giant tax cut to big corporations and the rich. It’s yet another line in his long record of siding with Republicans against working families and consistently undermining the rights of women, immigrants, and the LGBTQ community. That’s not what the voters of Illinois’s 3rd district want or need — they need a progressive champion like Marie Newman who will fight for them in Congress. The people of Illinois deserve a real Democrat and progressive leader who will side with them — not with Wall Street.” — Marissa Barrow, spokesperson, Progressive Change Campaign Committee

* Meanwhile, in a different Democratic congressional primary…

Today, Sol Flores announced that she has received the endorsement of EMILY’s List.

Flores said, “I am honored to receive the endorsement of EMILY’s List. Women around the country are stepping up demanding a seat at the table. We must have more women in Congress who will fight for a livable wage, affordable health care, reproductive rights and fair taxes for the middle class. I have spent my life helping the most vulnerable families and youth of our community. We need their voices, their stories, and their ideas in Washington now more than ever. They want and need to be heard.”

Flores is up against Chuy Garcia and several others. She’s the only woman in the race.


Raoul pressed again on tobacco contributions

Thursday, Dec 21, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Some background is here. CBS 2 has a story about Sen. Kwame Raoul’s AG campaign taking $100,000 in $10K increments from companies owned by local tobacco mogul Don Levin

“It’s improper because there’s a case pending before the attorney general, and it’s seeking to influence someone who would be attorney general,” said Jesse Ruiz, an attorney general candidate. “I think you have to stand up and show ethical behavior now, even before you ask voters to elect you to that office.”

Illinois’ attorney general is seeking millions from Levin’s company, in a dispute over payments to the state from tobacco settlements. Raoul insists Levin’s donation isn’t a conflict.

“I’ve known him for years. He’s contributed to me before, and all my votes have been anti-tobacco. I’m not for sale,” Raoul said.

* From Maze Jackson’s Facebook page

I often tell the story of when I lobbied in Springfield, about the time heroin was changed from a crime to a sickness. I also talk about that being the turning point for me because at the same time we passed that law, we also passed a bill to ban flavored blunt wraps specifically, which was owned by a pair of Black businessmen.

I thought it was extremely odd that the the bill’s sponsor Senator Kwame Raoul attacked flavored blunts (which contained no tobacco and were essentially wrapping papers) but made a specific carve out to protect menthol flavored wraps. I will never forget the after the bill passed, the two Black men asking me why their business was targeted specifically.

Fast forward a few years and it all comes to light that Raoul was operating in the interests of Don Levin (a billionaire tobacco magnate) who makes his money selling tobacco products in the Black Community, essentially killing us. Additionally, I thought the Attorney General was supposed to fight Big Tobacco not work FOR them. So for ten contributions of $10,000 our potential AG candidate is willing to support Big Tobacco?

Well, at least he didn’t go cheap…


* I remembered when the flavored wraps language was added to the heroin bill, so I Googled it and found this story

An Illinois House committee Tuesday approved a ban on flavored cigar wraps despite concern from lawmakers that it unfairly favors one company over another. […]

Tony Abboud, a lobbyist for National Tobacco, said the two provisions were combined for political convenience, because similar bans on flavored cigar wraps have failed twice already.

Abboud said the bill is anti-competitive. National Tobacco makes chocolate chip and cotton candy flavored cigar wraps, while other flavors, such as menthol and tobacco, are specifically exempted. National Tobacco’s competitor, Republic Tobacco, makes those flavors.

“If you believe it is drug paraphernalia, why in the world would you leave unflavored wraps on the market?” Abboud said. “It is entirely and inherently inconsistent.” […]

Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, said the menthol and tobacco-flavor exemptions were requested by the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, which pointed out that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s ban on flavored cigarettes specifically exempts menthol and tobacco flavors.

Emphasis added, because as Greg Hinz reported this week, all ten of the Don Levin contributions to Raoul were companies with the same address as Levin’s holding company, Republic Group. Republic Group owns Republic Tobacco.

* On a side note, when I used the Google, this came up…

Clicking the link takes you to a post I wrote this week about Raoul and the contributions.

Obviously, I’m not running ads attacking Raoul, but somebody sure is. And that somebody is doing it in a way that avoids disclosing who is paying for it. Google shouldn’t allow that to happen, but somebody out there is violating state law.

Whoever it is, please leave me out of your little dirty trick. Thanks.


Legislative Inspector General finds 10 of 27 backlogged complaints “warrant further consideration”

Thursday, Dec 21, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The Legislative Ethics Commission has just sent a letter to all Illinois legislators summarizing a report the commission received from interim Legislative Inspector General Julie Porter about the 27 requests for investigations over the past few years. Click here or on the pic for the full letter


November jobs down 1,100

Thursday, Dec 21, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Press release…

The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) announced today that the unemployment rate was unchanged at 4.9 percent in November and nonfarm payrolls decreased by -1,100 jobs over-the-month, based on preliminary data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and released by IDES. October job growth was revised up to show a larger gain (+9,300 jobs) than initially reported (+3,400 jobs).

November’s monthly payroll drop kept over-the-year job growth well below the national average. While Illinois job growth has had its ups and downs since the beginning of the year, the 3-month trend shows average gains of +100 jobs per month from September to November, while the six-month trend shows an increase of +800 average monthly job gains from June to November. The 3-month was better than reported last month, though the 6-month change showed less strength.

“Illinois employment growth saw a lot of over-the-month ups and downs this past year.” said IDES Director Jeff Mays. “But payrolls overall have increased by about a half-percent over the year to date, which is an additional 23,900 jobs.”

“Our focus remains on creating a business-friendly environment that is conducive to opportunity,” said Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Director Sean McCarthy. “While we are still growing slower than the nation, Illinois is seeing the benefits of a pro-business administration that is committed to fostering innovation, attracting investment and creating jobs.”

In November, the three industry sectors with the largest gains in employment were: Professional and Business Services (+6,300); Manufacturing (+2,200); and Construction (+2,100). The three industry sectors with the largest payroll declines were: Government (-2,800); Financial Activities (-2,200) and Other Services (-2,100).

Over-the-year, nonfarm payroll employment increased by +25,900 jobs with the largest gains in these industry sectors in November: Financial Activities (+13,600); Professional and Business Services (+9,500); and Education and Health Services (+7,400). The industry sectors with the largest over-the-year declines include: Government (-8,000); Leisure and Hospitality (-1,800); and Trade, Transportation and Utilities (-1,400). Illinois nonfarm payrolls were up +0.4 percent over-the-year in sharp contrast to the nation’s +1.4 percent over-the-year gain in November.

The state’s unemployment rate is +0.8 percentage points higher than the national unemployment rate reported for November 2017, which held at 4.1 percent. The Illinois unemployment rate is down -0.9 percentage points from a year ago when it was 5.8 percent. At 4.9 percent, the Illinois jobless rate is -0.8 percentage points lower than January 2017.

The number of unemployed workers dipped -1.0 percent from the prior month to 313,800, down -16.2 percent over the same month for the prior year. The labor force increased 0.3 percent over-the-month and declined by -0.9 percent in November over the prior year. The unemployment rate identifies those individuals who are out of work and are seeking employment. An individual who exhausts or is ineligible for benefits is still reflected in the unemployment rate if they actively seek work.

…Adding… Illinois Working Together…

Today, the Illinois Department of Employment Security announced the state lost over 1,000 non-farm payroll jobs last month while the job growth rate was just 0.4% over-the-year, far below the national job growth rate of 1.4%. This news comes a day after the U.S. Census announced Illinois has lost nearly 34,000 people since mid-2016, the worst outmigration for any U.S. state.

In his 2014 inaugural address, Gov. Bruce Rauner said, “People are leavin’ to find jobs, or because they run companies, and they’re takin’ their jobs with `em.” Nearly three years into his term as governor, Rauner not only has failed to reverse Illinois’ economic stagnation leading to population loss, he’s made things much, much worse.

“Bruce Rauner promised to ‘bring back Illinois,’ but instead, we’ve gotten the Rauner two-step: stagnant job growth and record-high outmigration,” said Illinois Working Together Campaign Director Jake Lewis. “Instead of providing the economic stability needed to grow new jobs and attract new residents, Rauner’s failed leadership continues to drag Illinois’ economy down and push Illinoisans out.”


*** UPDATED x1 - Berrios spox says Tribune story “extremely unbalanced and, typically, unfair” *** ILGOP, Kaegi react to new Tribune story on Berrios

Thursday, Dec 21, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The story referenced below is here. From the ILGOP…

“There’s a reason why J.B. Pritzker is silent on his allies’ use of patronage - Pritzker has been on the receiving end of Blagojevich patronage himself. If elected, J.B. Pritzker would use state government to dole out patronage jobs to his allies and cronies of Madigan’s Chicago Machine. Illinois taxpayers can’t afford J.B. Pritzker’s tacit approval of patronage and corruption.” - Illinois Republican Party Spokesman Aaron DeGroot

Two weeks ago, ProPublica Illinois and the Chicago Tribune published their latest installment in a bombshell report exposing the incompetence and corruption of Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios. The report said Berrios “failed” at his job and allowed political allies like Mike Madigan to profit from faulty assessments.

Now, ProPublica Illinois and the Chicago Tribune are out with yet another extensive investigation into Joe Berrios’ office. This time, it’s exposing his use of patronage, favoritism, and nepotism. From the investigation:

    Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios has never made any secret of his affinity for old-school politics that put a premium on loyalty and favors.

    … The monitors’ reports, reviewed by the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica Illinois, reveal a persistent pattern in Berrios’ office of improper hiring and firing, arbitrary staffing decisions and resistance to change. The pace of reform has been slow and the assessor’s commitment often tepid, records and interviews show.

Berrios, who is backing J.B. Pritzker for governor, isn’t the only Pritzker supporter who has a problem with patronage. Pritzker supporters Jesse White and Mike Madigan both have been accused of a “pattern of patronage” in their offices and using state agencies to put loyal precinct captains in plum state jobs.

But why is J.B. Pritzker silent on his allies’ use of patronage?

Because he’s dabbled in their same corrupt system himself. Pritzker was on the receiving end of Blagojevich’s patronage, receiving a state appointment and attempting to get another. If elected, J.B. Pritzker would use state government to dole out patronage jobs just like his crooked allies - Blagojevich, Madigan, White, Berrios, and more.

* Kaegi campaign…

Following is a statement from Fritz Kaegi, the progressive Democrat running against embattled incumbent Assessor Joe Berrios in the March 2018 primary election, in response to the latest Chicago Tribune and ProPublica investigative report on nepotism and political patronage in the Cook County Assessor’s Office.

“Reports that Joe Berrios continues to operate in flagrant violation of the Shakman Decree confirms what many have known for years–that the current Assessor is only concerned with lining the pockets of his family and connected political allies while the taxpayers of Cook County continue to pick up the tab.

“When we began our campaign, I committed to fully implementing all Shakman requirements– and going beyond them to give the taxpayers of Cook County the confidence they deserve in a property tax assessment system that is fair, equitable and transparent for all. Cook County’s is the largest assessor’s office in the country, and needs staffers that are qualified and committed to reforming the assessment process. Cook County has the diverse talent needed to fix this problem and we are committed to building a diverse, qualified workforce that reflects our communities and protects our values. Berrios’ corruption, nepotism and patronage places an unbearable economic burden on working families already struggling under the Trump and Rauner administrations’ backward economic policies.”

*** UPDATE *** From the assessor’s office…

The writers of this Tribune story selectively omitted many key facts. These facts were given to one of the writers as part of approximately 27 emails and 11 phone calls over seven weeks.

The important information the Tribune did not present to readers includes that the court-appointed Monitor for Shakman accepting the Assessor’s Office Employment Plan four years ago (11/22/13). A new Monitor later decided to change that acceptance and start virtually from scratch.

The result was another year-and-a-half before implementation of the plan. Clearly, that lengthy delay was not due to the Assessor’s Office being “slow” to comply.

This story also states that the Assessor’s Chief of Staff was “rarely involved” in Shakman compliance efforts but it fails to note we hired a new Chief of Staff nearly three years ago. Three years. This new Chief of Staff has ordered complete compliance with Shakman.

Further, a new human resources chief was hired nearly three years ago. The current HR chief has also been aggressive and thorough with the goal of complete Skakman compliance and we are now at the point of full material compliance; only technical points remain. Most of what the Tribune wrote about is years-old.

Numerous references were made to the firing of the Director of Compliance (DOC), Deborah Ellis, but the Tribune failed to mention that the Shakman Monitor agreed to that change. It would not have happened without Shakman’s consent. A new DOC was hired nearly two years ago.

The Tribune’s choice to include none of these facts made the story extremely unbalanced and, typically, unfair to Assessor Berrios. It is also unfair to the Assessor’s Office HR Director, HR personnel and Shakman-specializing attorney who have brought us to near-completion of our goal of full Shakman compliance.

Tom Shaer, Deputy Assessor for Communications
Cook County Assessor’s Office


Question of the day: Golden Horseshoe Awards

Thursday, Dec 21, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The 2017 Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Legislative Liaison goes to Mike Mahoney

He served as the governor’s top legislative liaison for the first seven months of this year. His determination, affability and old-school grit held the House and Senate GOP caucuses together longer than anyone ever imagined. Mike was the glue that held the caucus together and kept Jim Durkin sane all the way to the end. Rauner never understood and never appreciated how much Mahoney did to keep him in the game for additional months. Along the way, he helped broker major criminal justice reforms and a laundry list of agency initiatives that Rauner now takes credit for. Mahoney also should win this year hands down for the integrity and class he demonstrated during the Great Purge - walking out in solidarity with people he respected and doing so with grace. And even after all of that, Mahoney saved Rauner’s behind during veto session, devoting his every minute to keeping GOP members off the right to work bill. Effective, determined, creative, loyal and courageous. He is someone we should celebrate during this holiday season - a bright spot in an otherwise depressing year.


Honorable mention goes to Eric Lane with the Comptroller’s office. I’ve generally been looking for nominees who had discernible accomplishments this year, so both fit that bill.

* The 2017 Golden Horseshoe Award for Best In-House Lobbyist goes to Steve Selcke and the rest of AT&T’s Statehouse team

Straight-forward, honest, and always has an answer. This year he successfully navigated (well, almost there right now) the telecom rewrite, 911 issue, and the small cell bill. Some big lifts indeed.


* OK, on to today’s categories…

* Best Statewide Officeholder

* Best Statehouse Insider

As always, please explain your votes or they won’t count and do your very best to nominate in both categories. Thanks.


Sun-Times wants Rauner apology to WBEZ

Thursday, Dec 21, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The Sun-Times editorial board says Gov. Rauner owes WBEZ an apology for claiming that it canceled his monthly interview show over partisan politics. The paper also picked up on this recent Rauner quote

What’s frustrating to me and many people around the state is how biased a lot of the media is around Chicago, around the state. Biased for the status quo. Biased for, you know, against the changes that we’re recommending. The bias is, is hard to overcome.

The paper opines

We stake our livelihood, as journalists, on the notion that facts matter, but an awful lot of people don’t seem to agree. The president’s constant harangue about “fake news” — when the news is anything but — has gotten serious traction. It’s even become an American export, used by brutal strongmen around the world to deflect any honest criticism.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, and a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, among others, have all in recent months complained of “fake news.”

Does Gov. Rauner really want to go down that low road?

There is a reason the charge of “fake news” sells in countries where democracy goes to die.

Seems a bit dramatic.

Either way, the governor really needs to stop whining and deflecting blame about almost everything under the sun. It’s just so tiresome.


Tribune does its own top 10 list

Thursday, Dec 21, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From the Tribune’s “Top 10 Illinois political stories of 2017″

1. Republicans break with Rauner as Madigan leads major income tax hike, ends budget impasse. The effects of this blockbuster development that unfolded over Independence Day weekend are still reverberating, an event that reframed Illinois politics both for the rest of the year and likely for 2018 as well. […]

2. Lisa Madigan won’t run again, sets off crowded race to succeed her. Once considered a lock to run for governor, Madigan surprised the Illinois political world by announcing she wouldn’t seek a fifth term, a month after she said she’d go again at the state fair. The pent-up political ambition on the Democratic side was evident, as eight Democrats filed to run the March 20 primary election.

3. J.B. Pritzker enters governor race, quickly consolidates support, sets Democratic self-funding record with $42.2 million. The billionaire Gold Coast Democrat has been on TV all year introducing himself to voters and attacking Rauner. Kenilworth businessman Chris Kennedy held the early lead in public opinion polls, but Pritzker has overtaken him.

4. State school funding formula revised for first time in decades. School districts missed state aid payments as the budget lawmakers passed was contingent on a rewrite of the state funding formula also becoming law. Rauner spent months criticizing versions of the bill as a CPS “bailout,” and he even vetoed one that lawmakers put on his desk. But desperately needing a win as he mapped a re-election bid and needing to avoid taking blame if schools started shutting down without state funding, Rauner cut a deal with Democratic legislative leaders. He listed it as his No. 1 accomplishment this week.

Your own nominations?


Ives says Democrats are all running on pot, taxes and spending

Thursday, Dec 21, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Tom Kacich

Ives insisted that she could win a general election with her fiscally and socially conservative agenda.

“Yes, I can absolutely win the general election,” she said. “Look, the Democrats have destroyed the state and the people know that. And what are all the Democratic candidates selling you? Recreational marijuana, higher taxes, more spending.

“Is anybody buying that shtick? Anybody? No, and that’s the entire agenda of those folks.”


*** UPDATED x1 *** Mentally ill prisoners subjected to medieval “treatment”

Thursday, Dec 21, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Bruce Rushton

The inmate was mumbling. Shaking. Clearly in a psychotic state and whispering about a black hole.

The black hole had already demanded, and received, his blood once, the inmate told Dr. Pablo Stewart, a psychiatrist who visited Pontiac Correctional Center last fall to determine whether the state was abiding by a settlement agreement crafted to improve care for mentally ill inmates. Now, the inmate told Stewart, the hole wanted more blood. Stewart says that he turned from court-appointed monitor to clinician, attempting convince the inmate that the black hole wasn’t real.

After a few minutes, the inmate was returned to his segregation cell, where mentally ill inmates who misbehave spend as many as 23 hours a day locked up alone, Stewart testified this week in U.S. District Court in Peoria. It could be worse. Inmates deemed seriously suicidal are sent to crisis cells where they are restrained to beds without mattresses, legs spread and shackled down, Stewart testified, their arms shackled and extended above their heads, as if stretched out on medieval torture racks.

“You get cramps and charley horses,” said Corrie Singleton, a Pontiac inmate who testified that he’s been so restrained seven or eight times for as long as 72 hours at a stretch since September. Once every two hours, guards loosen restraints, one limb at time, for eight minutes, Singleton said. He always picks his left arm. His right arm, Singleton explained, is dislocated, and so it is strapped down near his side instead of pinned down over his head, next to his left arm.

Testifying telephonically and fresh from a straitjacket, Singleton said Tuesday that he has been on suicide watch for six days after swallowing batteries. He had been allowed a shower and a chance to brush his teeth just once during that time, he testified in a flat voice, blinking little as he stared into the camera. He said he last had a one-on-one session with a mental health counselor in September. […]

Singleton is the face of a mental health disaster in Illinois prisons, according to attorneys for inmates who’ve been battling in court since 2007, attempting to force improvements. Inmates in 2015 agreed to abandon a consent decree, hoping that Gov. Bruce Rauner’s offer to settle the case without a decree would result in faster change. That, according to the plaintiffs, hasn’t happened, and so they’re back in court hoping for a judicial order to enforce the settlement agreement.

An inmate identified only as Tyler committed suicide in October after unsuccessful attempts in April and July that resulted in no significant change to his written treatment plans, which contained no mention that he had attempted to take his own life, according to Stewart’s testimony and court exhibits. Entire pages of the treatment plan form describing Tyler’s condition and what should be done to help him were left blank, and that’s typical, Stewart testified.

“This isn’t an outlier,” testified the doctor, who told the court that treatment plans routinely contain boilerplate language that doesn’t change from inmate to inmate.

Approximately 900 of the 1,100 inmates in segregation in state prisons are mentally ill, according to court records. Mental health professionals who check on mentally ill inmates must shout at them through small openings in cell doors that preclude inmates and those who are supposed to help them from seeing each other, Stewart testified. It’s a vicious cycle, with segregation cells making sick inmates even sicker, which prompts more misbehavior, which results in more segregation time. They cut themselves and smear their bodies with feces. The state last spring began giving mentally ill inmates more time out of segregation cells by shackling them to chairs in front of big-screen televisions that show movies, which Stewart acknowledged is progress.

Go read the rest.

*** UPDATE *** IDOC director John Baldwin…

The Illinois Department of Corrections has taken considerable steps to enhance the delivery of care for offenders who are on the mental health caseload. The Department remains focused on fully complying with the terms of the Rasho v Baldwin settlement agreement. It should be pointed out that, at a recent hearing, Dr. Melvin Hinton was called as an adverse witness. The vast majority of the questions he was asked required “Yes” or “No” answers. In other words, there were very few opportunities for him to explain the many accomplishments the Department has made in the 18 months since the Agreement was signed. It is important for the public to know the following:

    · While recruiting qualified mental health professionals has been a challenge, the Department has added hundreds of new staff members since 2015 to address the mental health needs of its offenders.
    · Department staff continues to receive ongoing training, including National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) training and Verbal Judo, which equips them with the knowledge to deescalate situations and meet the unique needs of its mentally ill population.
    · The Department has reduced segregation time by 44% since 2015 and has drastically increased out of cell time for offenders who are housed in segregation.
    · The Department has implemented additional programming for offenders who are on the mental health caseload.
    · Currently, there are seriously mentally ill residents receiving residential treatment level services at Joliet Treatment Center and the residential treatment units at Logan and Dixon Correctional Centers.
    · Additionally, the IDOC enlisted the services of an engineering firm to develop a state-of-the-art, 200 bed mental health and general medicine treatment unit for seriously mentally ill offenders.

The safety of our staff, the offenders in our custody, and the public are our top priority. The Department continues to make adjustments in its day to day operations that balance safety, security, and the needs of our mentally ill population. The Department remains committed to ensuring that mentally ill men and women receive the treatment that is essential to their wellbeing, rehabilitation and reentry into society.


Is an appointed school board all about the CTU?

Thursday, Dec 21, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The Chicago Reader takes a look at the arguments for and against the city’s appointed school board

Proponents argue that having the mayor appoint the board increases accountability—if you don’t like the board’s actions, elect a new mayor. But this is sort of like blaming Toyota if your Uber is late. There are no checks and balances on the board’s tax decisions. Neither the mayor nor the City Council can veto those votes.

Just to put a fine point on how insane this is: We elect members of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District board, but not the school board. We vote on something like 30,000 judges every election, but not the people responsible for the stewardship of, among other things, special education dollars for the kids who need it most.

And an elected school board isn’t exactly a fringe idea. According to education advocacy group Illinois Raise Your Hand, 94 percent of school boards around the country are elected, and Chicago’s is the only one in Illinois appointed by law. Several nonbinding referenda over the last few years have shown again and again that Chicagoans want to elect their boards. So what’s the argument for having the board appointed by the mayor?

Supporters of an appointed board say it removes politics from the board’s composition. If you ignore for a second that Chicago has run on patronage since its inception, this still makes very little sense. An elected school board would represent the diverse viewpoints of members’ constituencies the same way any legislative body does. But an appointed board only represents one point of view: the mayor’s. What the politics-free argument truly is after is a board that will oppose the Chicago Teachers Union.


The cover-up always gets you

Thursday, Dec 21, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* There are two parts to the latest WBEZ story on Legionnaires’ disease at the Illinois Veterans’ Home in Quincy. One is the six-day period between August 21 of 2015, when Illinois Public Health Director Nirav Shah claimed the administration “realized that the situation was the beginning of an epidemic,” and August 27 of 2015 when the Rauner administration issued its first public notice about that epidemic

In the email, Shah underlined “six days” for added emphasis, but it is not clear why. His reference to a “typical reporting protocol” also is not fully explained, with a spokeswoman on Wednesday saying there is no “hard and fast rule” about when the public must be notified about an infectious disease outbreak. […]

One of the nation’s top infectious disease experts said it’s “mind boggling” that the state would wait six days to notify the public about the initial outbreak at the Illinois Veterans Home.

“I think it’s really inexcusable,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Center for Health Security in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland. “It takes you six days from seeing an epidemic to tell people that you’re seeing an epidemic? That’s six days that you’ve allowed that disease to spread in a manner that probably wouldn’t have happened if you would have known earlier because people would have been taking action. People would have been asking questions.

“If you know there is an epidemic, you need to tell people immediately,” Adalja said.

Keep in mind that Legionnaires’ is not typically passed from person to person. So, it wasn’t an “epidemic” in the way, say, measles can be. But by not informing the public, facility residents and their families couldn’t take precautions against the epidemic - like getting tested if they showed symptoms, or even temporarily moving out.

What’s worse to me is that top government officials knew what was going on and apparently didn’t order testing of everyone showing symptoms and then people died as a result.

* The second revelation in today’s story is about more Legionnaires’ cases this year that were not previously disclosed to the public

Meanwhile, Illinois public health officials are now telling WBEZ that five residents and one employee at the Illinois Veterans’ Home in Quincy were sickened by Legionnaires’ in 2017. That outbreak included one fatality, an 88-year-old Korean War veteran from west suburban Lisle in early November.

As recently as two weeks ago, the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs, which manages the Quincy home, had confirmed just three cases to WBEZ and disputed that Legionnaires’ caused the veterans’ death last month. But the coroner in Adams County confirmed Legionnaires’ as a cause of death on the resident’s death certificate.

In late October, when the state confirmed two cases of Legionnaires’, including the fatality, WBEZ explicitly asked a state Veterans’ Affairs spokesman whether there had been any additional cases. The spokesman responded by email saying there had not been. In a Dec. 6 interview with WBEZ, Jeffries also cited three cases.

But this week, after learning more cases did exist in 2017 beyond those two — and a later case in November that the state disclosed — WBEZ was told by state public health authorities that, in fact, six Legionnaires’ cases have been logged this year at the Quincy facility.

Arnold, the state Public Health spokeswoman, said on Wednesday that one case occurred in March, another in May, another in September, two in October, and one in November. She did not provide any other details about those cases.

What the heck is going on over there?

* Meanwhile

Rauner defended his administration’s handling of the problem of Legionnaires in the water at Quincy Veterans’ Home in downstate Illinois which has led to 13 deaths since a major outbreak in 2015.

However, are demanding details and accountability.

“If he’s in charge he definitely bears responsibility, but you have to ask him if he’s in charge,” said state Sen. Tom Cullerton, chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee.

Cullerton said he hopes to get answers during a hearing next month. The joint Senate and House hearing on the Quincy situation is set for Jan. 9 in Chicago.

“Who knew what, when they knew it, why the families weren’t there, what the long term goal is, what the CDC’s going to do going forward,” Cullerton said.

…Adding… Pritzker campaign…

“Bruce Rauner’s willful negligence is coming into focus as reports expose significant delays in releasing information and a failure to report all confirmed Legionnaires’ cases,” said Pritzker campaign spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh. “This administration hid information from Veterans, their families, and the public as Rauner let a health crisis spiral out of control and our nation’s heroes died on his watch.”

…Adding… Ives campaign…

“The Governor has a moral responsibility to those who are served by the state. He must ensure that services are delivered efficiently, meet the highest standards possible, and that they are, ultimately sustainable. When it becomes clear that the state is not living up to those responsibilities, the Executive Officer must then respond with urgency.

“Since his election in 2014, it become clear that Governor Rauner is very cavalier with other people’s lives. While Rauner plays his blame-shifting game with other IL ruling class pols, veterans died. Preventable deaths aren’t prevented when no one is in charge. Sweeping issues under the rug and breaking promises has become a common theme. This is another inexcusable betrayal of our veterans and the benefits they earned protecting our freedoms. Wasn’t Bruce Rauner the guy with business savvy who was going to make state government more efficient and responsive? He is AWOL and Illinois veterans are being short-changed as a result.”

…Adding… DGA…

“Bruce Rauner failed Illinois veterans and now he’s failing the public by not being honest,” said DGA Illinois Communications Director Sam Salustro. “So far, there’s been no accountability from Rauner’s administration for its bungled response to the Quincy outbreak. Rauner needs to stop hiding information, and start being open and transparent about what his administration knew and how it failed the veterans at Quincy.”

* Related…

* Drink water at vets’ home linked to deaths? ‘Absolutely,’ Rauner says: Gov. Bruce Rauner on Wednesday defended his administration’s response to a deadly outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease at a state veterans’ home, saying he’d “absolutely” drink the water there. “Absolutely, absolutely,” Rauner said when asked by a reporter about drinking the tap water at the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy, where 13 residents have died from Legionnaires’ disease since July 2015.

* CDC: How It Spreads: After Legionella grows and multiplies in a building water system, that contaminated water then has to spread in droplets small enough for people to breathe in. People can get Legionnaires’ disease when they breathe in small droplets of water in the air that contain the bacteria. Less commonly, people can get Legionnaires’ disease by aspiration of drinking water. This happens when water “goes down the wrong pipe,” into the trachea (windpipe) and lungs instead of the digestive tract. People at increased risk of aspiration include those with swallowing difficulties.


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