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Illinois Credit Unions: Providing Financial Literacy Training to Future Leaders

Thursday, Jan 31, 2019 - Posted by Advertising Department

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

Your high schooler is ready to graduate and move on to an exciting phase in life. You have provided them with the resources and tools to succeed in life, but have you overlooked an important part of their education? Financial literacy is a key component to the future success of our students. Lack of financial education jeopardizes and limits economic opportunities for all consumers. Credit unions address this often overlooked topic of financial literacy for teens and young professionals by offering workshops and training sessions. Credit unions are committed to providing financial education to help ensure a future success for the leaders of tomorrow. Visit for more information on the credit union difference.

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Question of the day

Thursday, Jan 31, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Washington Monthly takes a look at why the Minneapolis/St. Paul region does so well. Here’s one big reason: The Fiscal Disparities Act.

In the 1960s, local districts and towns in the Twin Cities region offered competing tax breaks to lure in new businesses, diminishing their revenues and depleting their social services in an effort to steal jobs from elsewhere within the area. In 1971, the region came up with an ingenious plan that would help halt this race to the bottom, and also address widening inequality. The Minnesota state legislature passed a law requiring all of the region’s local governments—in Minneapolis and St. Paul and throughout their ring of suburbs—to contribute almost half of the growth in their commercial tax revenues to a regional pool, from which the money would be distributed to tax-poor areas. Today, business taxes are used to enrich some of the region’s poorest communities.

No other metro region in the country has ever replicated that strategy, but in 2015 Chicago’s Metropolitan Planning Council wanted to know why Minneapolis was growing at almost five times the rate of their city. They came up with three reasons:

    The Fiscal Disparities Act
    Quality of life

Notice that both education and quality of life are largely dependent on the funding formula in the Fiscal Disparities Act.

Remember, this is growth in commercial taxes, not residential.

* The Question: What do you think of this idea?


Madigan, in a nutshell

Thursday, Jan 31, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* More from Speaker Madigan’s deposition in the Jason Gonzales lawsuit

Early on in the deposition, Peraica asked about Madigan’s political background, including his election as 13th Ward Democratic committeeman in 1969. Madigan described the drudgery of the unpaid political job, from hooking residents up with government services to preparing sample ballots to raising money to pay for such activities.

Peraica asked: “With all the other responsibilities that you have in your various roles, why would you want to continue as a committeeman for 50 years?”

“It’s a good question,” Madigan said.

“Have you figured out the answer? I’m curious,” Peraica said.

“My stock answer is to tell people that I’m rather peculiar,” Madigan replied.

“You’re passionate about that position, right?” Peraica asked.

“You want an answer to that?” Madigan said. “I’m not sure I’m passionate, but I still perform the duties.”

Go read the rest.


“This guy’s trying to destroy your soul”

Thursday, Jan 31, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The Tribune obtained depositions taken during the federal lawsuit filed against Speaker Madigan and his political organization by his 2016 Democratic primary opponent Jason Gonzales. You really need to read the whole thing

The 76-year-old speaker used the phrases “I don’t recall,” “I don’t remember,” “I don’t know” and “I have no memory” more than 100 times during a five-hour deposition that he said was the first he’d ever given.

* For instance

Peraica then asked Madigan whether he had reached out to any political allies to try to load up the ballot with candidates.

“I don’t remember that,” Madigan said.

“Is it possible that you did?” Peraica asked.

“No,” Madigan responded.

“So you’re certain that you didn’t?” Peraica asked.

“I don’t remember,” Madigan said.

* They really got into Gonzales’ head

During his deposition, Gonzales said the campaign attacks led him to seek help from a psychiatrist, who prescribed medication.

“This guy’s trying to destroy your soul,” Gonzales said of Madigan. “He just doesn’t want to defeat you. He wants to make sure that you never come back again.”

And not just in campaigns, either. Ask Bruce Rauner if he wants to be governor again.

* More

On Election Day, Madigan won with 65 percent of the vote, while Gonzales had 27 percent, Rodriguez had nearly 6 percent and Barboza 2 percent. […]

“If those candidates weren’t on the ballot,” Gonzales said under oath, “I believe I would have won this election.”

Again, go read the whole thing.

* Related…

* Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan gave his first-ever deposition. Here’s what he said: Madigan also brushed aside a Peraica question on whether he was concerned in the 2016 primary about Gonzales as a challenger, saying he was “concerned with all of the money that Bruce Rauner was going to bring into the election.” “We were going to make sure that the voters in the district knew that Bruce Rauner was on the scene and that he was supporting Jason Gonzales because Bruce Rauner is not a popular person in the 22nd District,” Madigan said.


Today’s villain is yesterday’s honest politician

Thursday, Jan 31, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Agreed…

* And to help prove Mark’s point, here is the Chicago Tribune from February 10, 2015

25th Ward: Ald. Danny Solis tells you exactly what he thinks. He’s all in on a casino for the city of Chicago. He doesn’t apologize for being an ally of the mayor. He says resolving the city’s pension crisis means that city workers “are not going to get the same deal they have now.” He defends tax increment financing and for good reason: The Pilsen Industrial Corridor TIF has helped bring hundreds of businesses and thousands of jobs to the ward, he says. TIF money has helped pay for an expansion of Benito Juarez High School, for a library and field house in Chinatown, and for sidewalks, streetlights and other improvements — “10 times what I could have done with my menu money,” he says. An impactful community organizer before he joined the council, Solis deserves credit for steady progress. He is endorsed over four opponents.

* And here’s the Sun-Times endorsement from the same year

25th Ward

Pilsen, Chinatown

Pilsen has grown to become one of Chicago’s most vibrant neighborhoods, still solidly Hispanic, but increasingly home as well to artists and young professions of all backgrounds. Daniel “Danny” Solis, who gets our nod, has been the alderman for 19 years and deserves a share of the credit. Solis’ challenge is keep the comeback going while preserving the neighborhood’s rich Latino cultural core. We appreciate Solis’ honest take on how to tackle the city’s crisis of underfunded pension systems — “Everybody is going to have to give something,” including city employees, and a property tax hike is “probable.”


Minimum wage hike roundup

Thursday, Jan 31, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* I went over this with subscribers today, so we’ll just do a roundup. Here’s the AP

Business advocates now resigned to the likelihood that Illinois will soon adopt a $15-an-hour minimum wage urged legislators Wednesday to make it a tiered approach based on geography, arguing there are vast cost-of-living differences between Chicago and more rural areas downstate.

While Illinois’ statewide minimum wage has remained at $8.25 an hour since 2010, Chicago has jumped ahead, with the minimum wage there going to $13 this year .

Rob Karr, president and CEO of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, told the Senate Labor Committee that the nation’s third-largest city shouldn’t set the wage floor for everywhere else in the state. […]

New Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who campaigned on the issue last fall, wants to sign the proposal into law before he lays out an annual budget to the General Assembly on Feb. 23, Lightford said.

The budget address is actually scheduled for February 20th, less than three weeks from today.

* Prairie State Wire

“We believe the market should determine wages,” [Todd Maisch, Illinois Chamber president and CEO] said. “For example, $15 an hour in the Chicago market may make sense, while $15 an hour in Cairo, Illinois, does not.”

Other marker factors also should be considered, Maisch said.

“Regional market wages should be considered along with additional options for seasonal, teen and training wages,” he said.

Teen and training wages are in the proposal they’re working on.

* Illinois News Network

Some legislators want to know if Illinois can mandate different minimums based on geographic boundaries.

“There’s a huge discrepancy regionally about how much money is needed in order to live a higher quality of life,” said state Sen. Linda Holmes, D-Aurora. […]

Assistant Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, will likely sponsor legislation that would increase the state’s minimum wage. She said she was open to the idea of regional minimum wages, but said there could be constitutional issues with that concept.

“It’s challenging because there are some constitutionalities that go along with a flat minimum wage,” she said. “That’s something that I know our lawyers are checking into.”

I don’t think the regional wage is gonna fly.

* Capitol News Illinois

Lightford said rate increases would be phased in, and the $15 rate would not take effect until at least 2025, although an exact timeframe for the increase is not yet defined.

Business representatives at the committee preferred a longer-term rollout. Lobbyist Mike Noonan, representing the Illinois Restaurant Association, said his industry would be OK with a seven-year rollout — $1 each year for the first six, then 75 cents the final year.

Worker rights advocates, such as Greg Kelly of the Service Employees International Union, preferred a more timely increase. He said 41 percent of all workers in Illinois make less than $15 per hour, and more of those workers are in their 40s, 50s and 60s than are younger than 25.

Kelly added that more women than men make less than $15 per hour, and 48 percent of African Americans and 61 percent of Latinos make less than $15 per hour. He said 52 percent of those making less than $15 per hour work full time, and 15 percent of Illinois working families receive food stamps.

* Finke

Chris Boyster of the Illinois Collaboration on Youth said more than 12,000 people are employed by the organization’s member agencies. Many of them are working at or near minimum wage, he said.

“These human service organizations will not be able to accommodate an increase in the minimum wage without increased financial support from the state,” he said. “Providers want to pay their workforce better. They just need the means to do so.”

The Illinois Association of Park Districts also said increasing the minimum wage would put pressure on park districts that employ teens as life guards, camp counselors and other jobs that pay the minimum wage. Likewise, the state’s nursing homes that serve large numbers of Medicaid patients would be squeezed between paying higher wages with stagnant Medicaid reimbursements, said Pat Comstock of the Health Care Council of Illinois.

Twenty-six states and the District of Columbia have a higher minimum wage than Illinois.


Food for thought

Thursday, Jan 31, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* This is good advice during any election cycle, but it’s particularly good advice during the current Chicago mayoral campaign. Lots of old friends and allies are on different sides right now and things are really heating up between them…

It’s not personal, it’s business. Or, it should be anyway.


Pritzker names IDPH, IDVA directors, U of I trustees, policy director and DC liaison

Thursday, Jan 31, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Press release…

Building on a strong team of diverse experts in their fields, Governor JB Pritzker announced the following personnel appointments:


Dr. Ngozi Ezike will serve as Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH).* Dr. Ezike is a board-certified internist and pediatrician who comes to IDPH from Cook County Health, where she has served for more than 15 years. She currently serves as medical director at the Juvenile Detention Center, the largest juvenile detention facility in the country. Previously, Dr. Ezike served as medical director for the Austin Health Center where she actively engaged with the community through health initiatives involving obesity, diabetes, and breastfeeding. She also has delivered inpatient care at Stroger Hospital as well as primary and preventive care in community and school-based clinics. Dr. Ezike is a national policy advisor on juvenile correctional health topics who has presented at numerous local and national conferences for medical professionals and youth audiences alike. She received her Doctor in Medicine from University of California at San Diego and her Bachelor of Arts in chemistry from Harvard University. Dr. Ezike also holds a management certificate from Harvard Business School and is an assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Rush University.

Jaime E. Martinez will serve as Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA).* Martinez currently serves as executive director of Illinois Joining Forces, a nationally-recognized statewide nonprofit and public-private partnership that brings services and support to veterans at the community level. A 26-year Army combat veteran, Lieutenant Colonel (R) Martinez was assigned to operational infantry units throughout his career and deployed to Panama, the Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan (twice), four of these deployments as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division. When not serving on the line with troops, he was assigned as a policy advisor in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Office of the Vice President, United States Senate and the Office of the Under Secretary of the Army. After his medical retirement from the Fort Belvoir Wounded Warrior Battalion in 2010, he has served as a staff attorney for veteran legal aid clinics, general counsel to the Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs, senior counsel to Student Veterans of America (National), supervising attorney to the Illinois Armed Forces Legal Aid Network (IL-AFLAN), and as the executive director of the Illinois Joining Forces Foundation. He received his Master of Arts in Law and economics and his Juris Doctorate from the George Mason School of Law and his Bachelor of Arts in political science from Eastern Illinois University. Martinez was also a distinguished graduate of the United States Marine Corps Command and Staff College.


Kareem Dale will serve on the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.* Dale is currently a director and senior counsel at Discover Financial Services. He previously served as special assistant to the president and associate director of the Office of Public Engagement in the Obama White House and as the national disability director for the Obama-Biden Transition and Obama for America. He founded the Dale Law Group after spending eight years representing Fortune 500 corporations and privately-held companies as a litigation attorney for Winston & Strawn LLP. Dale currently serves on the Chicago Cook Workforce Innovation Board and formerly was a board member of Access Living and board president of the Black Ensemble Theater. He received his Juris Doctor, Master of Business Administration and Bachelor of Science in advertising from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Donald Edwards will serve on the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.* Edwards is the founder and CEO of Flexpoint Ford, LLC, a private equity investment firm with $3 billion under management that focuses on health care and financial services. Prior to founding Flexpoint in 2004, he was a principal at GTCR from 1994 to 2003 and an investment banker at Lazard Ltd. During his career, Edwards has served as a director on the boards of more than 20 publicly- and privately-held companies as well as theChicago Park District, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and World Business Chicago. He received his Master of Business Administration from the Harvard Business School and his Bachelor of Science in finance from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Ricardo Estrada will serve on the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.* Estrada is CEO of Metropolitan Family Services, one of Illinois’ largest and best respected human services agencies. Since joining Metropolitan in 2011, Estrada has helped the agency double its growth in revenue and families served. Estrada has nearly three decades of leadership experience in human services, philanthropy and government. Prior to joining Metropolitan, Estrada served as first deputy commissioner of the City of Chicago’s Department of Family and Support Services (DFSS). Before that, he served as executive director of Erie Neighborhood House in Chicago. He received his Master of Business Administration from the University of Illinois at Chicago, his Master of Arts in social service policy and administration from the University of Chicago, and a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Loyola University.

Patricia Brown Holmes will serve on the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.* Holmes is a managing partner at Riley Safer Holmes & Cancila LLP and was formerly a partner at Schiff Hardin LLP from 2005 to 2016. She has practiced law on both sides of the bench in courtrooms at every level, serving as Associate Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, assistant U.S. attorney, assistant state’s attorney for Cook County, and Chief Assistant Corporation Counsel for Municipal Prosecutions for the city of Chicago. She received her Juris Doctor and Bachelor of Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Naomi Jakobsson will serve on the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.* After teaching at the Urbana School District and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign early in her career, Jakobsson went on to represent UIUC and the 103rd House District from 2002 to 2015. In the legislature, she chaired the House Committee on Higher Education and was a member of the Appropriations-Higher Education Committee. Jakobsson previously served as Champaign County Recorder for 12 years, interim director of a domestic violence shelter and the executive director of the University YWCA. She received her Master of Science in teaching English as a second language and Bachelor of Arts in history from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


Ramon Gardenhire will serve as Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy in the Office of the Governor. Gardenhire currently serves as the vice president of policy for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, overseeing AFC’s advocacy and policy work at the federal, state and local level. Gardenhire previously served as AFC’s director of government relations from 2011 to 2013 where worked to expanded Medicaid coverage for half a million Illinoisans and helped enact comprehensive sexual health education for Illinois students. Before coming to AFC, Gardenhire worked at the SEIU Healthcare Illinois-Indiana, Federation for Community Schools, Young Democrats of America, National Democratic Committee, The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the American Academy of Physician Assistants, where he worked on state level political and legislative initiatives. He received his Juris Doctorate from Wayne State University Law School and his bachelor’s degree from Slippery Rock University.

Pat Collier will serve as Deputy Chief of Staff for Federal Affairs in the Office of the Governor. Collier previously served as policy director on Governor Pritzker’s campaign. Prior to the campaign, he was the director of government affairs for the Center for American Progress, a progressive Washington think tank. Collier also spent several years as policy counsel to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on the U.S. Senate Democratic Policy Committee. He also served as a regional political director for Obama for America in 2008. He received his Juris Doctor from the Washington University in St. Louis School of Law and his Bachelor of Arts in government from the University of Virginia.

Edwards was originally appointed by Gov. Rauner to the board of trustees.

Other thoughts?

…Adding… From the U of I…

The new board members succeed outgoing trustees Timothy Koritz, James Montgomery and Patrick Fitzgerald, whose terms ended this month, and Sanford Perl. Perl was appointed by Rauner and served since last May, but had not yet been confirmed by the Senate, which allowed Pritzker to withdraw the appointment and select his own nominee.


It’s just a bill

Thursday, Jan 31, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Illinois News Network

Illinois lawmakers accidentally left a requirement for a minimum number of hours in the classroom out of last year’s education overhaul and now Democrats and teachers unions are racing to put it back.

Illinois school kids are required to be in school for 176 days. But, because of an oversight in last year’s education reforms, there’s no set number of hours for those days.

Some schools are using the new-found flexibility to let students learn from home on snow days or enroll in an apprenticeship.

Democratic lawmakers and teachers unions, however, want to enforce a minimum of five hours in the classroom.

Sean Denny with the Illinois Education Association told lawmakers Tuesday that allowing local schools to set their own calendars is making it hard for the union.

“All we’re asking for is to even out the playing board again,” Denny said. “So we can hit the reset button, and actually talk about these flexibilities in the light where there is an entire group of people who have all of the cards. And we have nothing.”

But some Republicans, like state Sen. Chuck Weaver, R-Peoria, and local school districts like the flexibility of not having a required number of hours.

* Capitol News Illinois

Introduced by State Rep. Margo McDermed of Mokena, House Bill 879 would ban lawmakers from registering as a lobbyist, or receiving or making payments as a lobbyist, for one year or the remainder of their term — whichever is longer.

“The people who spend time [in Springfield] tend to stay here,” McDermed said. “Is one year enough to break the relationships? Maybe. It’s certainly better than one minute.”

Alisa Kaplan, policy director for Chicago-based Reform for Illinois, agreed with McDermed that any amount of time is better than none. Kaplan also outlined the main concern that comes with lawmakers quickly becoming lobbyists.

“The risk is that the legislator will pay more attention to a potential employer [a lobbying firm] than they will to their constituents,” Kaplan said. “You don’t want representatives to be supporting legislation that they think might get them the cushiest job when they leave.”

I’d settle for a ban on legislators negotiating for a lobbying job while in office.

* Finke

Rep. DAVID McSWEENEY, R-Barrington Hills, who definitely does not like taxes, introduced one to make sure everyone is aware when a bill would increase revenue.

His proposal is that any bill that increases a tax or fee has to have the words “Tax Increase,” “Fee Increase,” or “Tax and Fee Increase” in the short title, which would mean that pretty much anyone would get the idea the bill raises revenue. It also requires the sponsor of such a bill to provide a statement about why the increase is needed. […]

Also on McSweeney’s agenda is a crackdown on rich people buying elections.

Of course, that’s not how his bill is worded. Rather, it puts a $5 million limit on the amount of money a person can contribute to a political committee that benefits himself or herself.


Rauner on Madigan’s “Mafia empire”

Thursday, Jan 31, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The Sun-Times caught up with former Gov. Bruce Rauner about the revelation that House Speaker Michael Madigan was taped by the FBI in his law office soliciting property tax appeals business

“It certainly would have served Illinois if this had come out 20 years ago,” Rauner said of revelations contained in a federal affidavit. “This should have come out 20 or 30 years ago.” […]

“I was on the [Civic Committee] steering committee for years,” Rauner said. “This stuff is common knowledge in the business community. This has been and is like Mafia behavior. Victims don’t talk about it because you fear retribution.” […]

“I’ve been talking about it. Everybody knows. When a business owner comes in or there’s a new building in Cook County — I don’t know how they carve up the market between [Ald.] Ed [Burke] and Mike, but one of them calls, or one of their cronies call — depends on the day — and say, ‘We do property tax appeal work and we want to work for your building.’”

“The guys are totally freaked out. ‘Holy s—. Who are you again?’ And they’re scared. And then often times one of their [people] call and say, ‘You better use their firm,’” Rauner said. “This has been going on for decades. And some guys swallow hard and say, ‘Oh s—. I don’t want the retribution,’ and never answer the phone. They use somebody else or leave the city. A lot of people are not investing in Chicago because they don’t want to deal with these guys.” […]

“[Madigan has] been in control for 35 years. He’s totally integrated in a family empire. It’s like a Mafia empire. It’s his family business and it’s totally corrupt and rife with conflicts,” Rauner said.


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Thursday, Jan 31, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

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Thursday, Jan 31, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Follow along with ScribbleLive

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Something really needs to be done about SIUC

Wednesday, Jan 30, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* I never would’ve noticed this story if the Daily Egyptian didn’t run a tongue-in-cheek column entitled “8 things more likely to happen than SIU closing campus for weather.” Here’s the all-too-real Number 3

Have an administration where the majority aren’t interim

It turns out that 42 administrators at SIU-Carbondale are listed as “interim,” from the president on down. Click here for the chart. It’s insane. And that chart was made before the hiring of SIUC Interim Chancellor John Dunn in December.

* From the paper’s November story

Southern Illinois University Carbondale currently has 41 employees in interim positions throughout administration, faculty and staff. […]

College of Mass Communication & Media Arts’ acting Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Interim Director of Graduate Studies Aaron Veenstra said one of the reasons SIU has so many interim positions for administrators is the university lacks hiring power.

If everyone who is interim wanted to hire somebody to be the head of a school, the university would be required to do a national search, Veenstra said.

“But we can’t hire anybody,” he said.

Employees in interim positions of department faculty and administrative staff hold positions that are not permanent, SIU spokesperson Rae Goldsmith said.

“Typically, interim positions are no longer than one year, although we do have a couple now that are multiple years,” Goldsmith said.

That place has lacked any semblance of stability for years. This has to come to an end one way or another.

* Meanwhile…

Southern Illinois University could establish a presence in downtown Springfield under a plan introduced in the legislature today by State Senator Andy Manar.

Manar’s plan (Senate Bill 179) would set aside $50 million in state capital funds for a grant to SIU for costs associated with the construction of a campus and public policy center. The site would have to be within 1 mile of the SIU School of Medicine at 801 N. Rutledge St.

“There is enormous potential in the idea of SIU placing a public policy center steps from the Capitol,” said Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat and chairman of a key Senate budget committee. “Coupled with a law school or something associated with the medical school, I think SIU could have a significant and lasting impact on downtown Springfield and the capital city at large.”

In March 2018, SIU officials indicated they were interested in putting a satellite law school campus in either downtown Springfield or in Edwardsville. Local officials have discussed the possibility of a higher education presence downtown, possibly on the long-vacant YWCA block just north of the governor’s mansion. The site would be a perfect location for an SIU campus, Manar said.

He also noted that the timing is right for the legislation with discussions about a potential capital bill under way.

“There should be something substantial for Springfield in the capital bill when it happens,” he said.


It’s Time To Put Our Progressive Values Into Action

Wednesday, Jan 30, 2019 - Posted by Advertising Department

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

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Forward Illinois is a coalition of leading progressive organizations representing more than 500,000 member-activists. Our work to mobilize voters around the progressive issues that impact us all didn’t end on Election Day. Now we’re taking our fight from the ballot box to the steps of our state Capitol to demand action. Learn more and join the fight at

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Mayoral candidates turn thumbs down on Elon Musk project

Wednesday, Jan 30, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Background on this crazy idea is here if you need it. From Lynda Lopez at Streets Blog Chicago

Frigid temperatures hit Chicago this weekend, but that didn’t stop people from packing the National Association of Letter Carriers Union Hall for the Transit 4 All mayoral forum last Sunday. The Transit 4 All title refers to a campaign organized by the workers’ rights coalition Chicago Jobs With Justice, meant to transform Chicago transportation. Moderating the forum was Phil Rogers, an NBC5 reporter. […]

Candidates were also asked whether they support Elon Musk’s O’Hare Express proposal. Most, if not all, do not. “If we are going to make public transit investments, it should be to CTA and Metra,” Preckinkle said, noting the need to prioritize the Red Line extension to 130th Street and the creation of a universal fare card.

Chico didn’t hold back in his disdain for the O’hare project. “It’s going to die on its own. This thing is goofy,” he said.

Ford said that the project reflects the current mayor tendency to cater to the elite, and that we should instead be asking developers to invest in the local economy to help communities. Wilson echoed this sentiment.

“I’d kill it,” said Vallas about the O’Hare project. “I can’t wait to kill it.”


Question of the day

Wednesday, Jan 30, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* SJ-R

Springfield tied a low-temperature record Wednesday morning as the thermometer at Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport bottomed out at 14 below zero.

The official National Weather Service reading, taken between 5 and 8 a.m., tied the record for the lowest temperature recorded on a Jan. 30 in Springfield. It also got down to minus 14 on Jan. 30, 2004.

The city on Wednesday is likely to break the record for the coldest high temperature ever recorded on Jan. 30. The current record is 3 degrees, set in 2004. The predicted high temperature on Wednesday is expected to be 4 below zero.

* Tribune

There’s a low of minus 8 degrees Wednesday at the South Pole, a few degrees above what suburban areas could see.

Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost town in the U.S., was about 9 below zero Wednesday morning.

Greenland’s capital Nuuk will have a high of about 18 degrees Wednesday, almost 35 degrees warmer than Chicago’s Wednesday highs of 10 to 15 below. […]

On Mars, the high will be almost 35 degrees warmer than Chicago, at around 19 degrees, according to NASA. But the low will be about 99 degrees below zero at night.

I ran the water in some of my faucets overnight, but one of my showers isn’t working, so I’m really bummed. My handyman advised me not to leave my house in case the pipe bursts, but I have session today, so I’m still deciding what to do.

* The Question: How are you and yours dealing with the cold?


After construction surge caused vacancy rates to soar, data centers now want state subsidies

Wednesday, Jan 30, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* September of last year

A surge in the construction of Chicago-area data centers has ballooned the industry’s regional vacancy rate from 2 percent to 11 percent since last year.

Pushed by businesses’ growing demand for cloud-computing storage, developers built almost 57 megawatts of capacity — enough to power more than 16,000 homes — around the metro area since last year, according to CBRE data reported in Crain’s. That’s about twice the region’s typical annual pace of data center construction.

Digital Realty accounted for the bulk of the expansion when it built a 305,000-square-foot data center in Elk Grove Village in fall 2018, adding about 29 megawatts of capacity. And ComEd broke ground last year on an expansion to its substation in Itasca, aiming to add 180 megawatts of capacity by the end of 2019.

* And now

Illinois should offer financial incentives to get companies to build big data centers here, says a report released Friday by the Illinois Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

Otherwise, it will continue to miss out as centers build in states that do — including neighboring Iowa, where Apple is getting a $208 million break on local and state taxes for a $1.3 billion facility it is building.

ICC President Todd Maisch, speaking to business and civic leaders in Aurora, likened it to the value of railroad development in the 19th century or highways in the 20th century.

“This is that important. It is a growing market. Illinois is growing in this area, but we don’t get nearly enough of what we should get based on our history and based on the economic potential of our state,” he said.

They’re already building huge data centers. The problem is the customer base.

The study, by the way, is here.

* Tribune

The only markets in the country with more data center capacity – measured in megawatts — than the Chicago area are Northern Virginia, home to many of Amazon’s data centers, and the Dallas-Fort Worth area, according to information from real estate firm CBRE. But Northern Virginia’s market is much larger and growing much quicker.

The Chicago market is 40 percent smaller than the Northern Virginia market, which grew 16 percent between June 2017 and June 2018, according to the Illinois chamber report. The Chicago market grew only 7 percent during that time.

Chicago developed as an attractive market for data centers for the same reason it became a hub for railroads: its central location. Much of the fiber optic cable the internet runs on was laid along railroad tracks, and Chicago acted as the connector between east and west. Plus, the city has reliable electricity and isn’t at risk for the hurricanes or earthquakes that threaten the coasts.


Let’s just squash this idea once and for all

Wednesday, Jan 30, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Charles Selle at the Lake County Sun

But suppose Gov. Sunbeam indeed turns Illinois around, as he has promised, in the next two years? Using new revenue enhancements, like the fees gun shop owners will pay for the new state gun licenses they will need if they want to stay in business in Illinois. Or more casinos and a marijuana tax. And, don’t forget taxing the rich and even cutting expenditures.

Dragging the Venezuela of the Midwest flush into the next decade could make Pritzker a possible presidential candidate, or at least fodder for those inside-the-beltway folks. Stranger things have happened in Illinois. Most of us know about the freshman Illinois senator by the name of Barack Obama who became presidential timber.

Already there are a half-dozen Democrats ready to take on President Trump next year. Filing for the state’s beauty contest and convention delegate candidates is set for December unless changed by the legislature. […]

By January 2020, Pritzker will have a year of governing under his belt. We’ll see if his outlook for Illinois remains bright and he becomes a turnaround specialist. If so, he could become the leader of the sizeable Democrat presidential pack.


I cannot figure out if he’s serious or if he’s setting the bar so high for Pritzker that it’ll be easier to knock the new governor down if it doesn’t happen. “Pritzker doesn’t live up to expectations - Illinois still Venezuela of the Midwest” or something.

Look, Barack Obama officially kicked off his presidential bid on February 10, 2007, more than two years after being sworn in to the US Senate. The comparable kickoff date for this presidential cycle would be 11 days from now, just 27 days after Pritzker was sworn in as governor.

Not gonna happen. Not even worth discussing. I should probably turn off comments.


The perils of specialization

Wednesday, Jan 30, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Mayor Emanuel did to City Colleges what former Gov. Rauner wanted to do to public universities

Under Emanuel’s [2011] “Reinvention” plan, each City College would become a “center of excellence” in a particular field.

Enrollment is down 32 percent.

* As the article notes, there are likely several reasons for this enrollment drop, but here’s one

When programs that used to be down the block were moved across the city, professors said many students couldn’t follow them. […]

He points to enrollment in Malcolm X’s nursing program as proof. Nursing enrollment dropped 70 percent between 2010 and 2018, from 1,218 to 376 students. Overall, enrollment dropped by 29 percent at Malcolm X, despite a new $250 million campus.

At Truman College, chemistry professor Mohamed El-Maazawi remembers a thriving nursing program. But since it moved to Malcolm X his classes have gotten smaller. Instead of following the nursing program to the Near West Side, some students told him they’ve stopped going. Some have transferred to more expensive four-year schools. He said Reinvention made City Colleges forget who community colleges are supposed to serve.


Foxconn exec: “We’re not building a factory” in Wisconsin

Wednesday, Jan 30, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Reuters

Foxconn Technology Group is reconsidering plans to make advanced liquid crystal display panels at a $10 billion Wisconsin campus, and said it intends to hire mostly engineers and researchers rather than the manufacturing workforce the project originally promised. […]

[Louis Woo, special assistant to Foxconn Chief Executive Terry Gou, told Reuters] the company was still evaluating options for Wisconsin, but cited the steep cost of making advanced TV screens in the United States, where labor expenses are comparatively high. […]

Rather than a focus on LCD manufacturing, Foxconn wants to create a “technology hub” in Wisconsin that would largely consist of research facilities along with packaging and assembly operations, Woo said. It would also produce specialized tech products for industrial, healthcare, and professional applications, he added. […]

“In Wisconsin we’re not building a factory. You can’t use a factory to view our Wisconsin investment,” Woo said.

Earlier this month, Foxconn, a major supplier to Apple Inc., reiterated its intention to create 13,000 jobs in Wisconsin, but said it had slowed its pace of hiring. The company initially said it expected to employ about 5,200 people by the end of 2020; a company source said that figure now looks likely to be closer to 1,000 workers.

OK, so how are they gonna convince all those techies to live in the middle of nowhere Wisconsin? Those folks are gravitating to cities like Chicago.

* What a mess

On Friday, The Wall Street Journal reported that the company “fell short of the minimum number of jobs it was required to create in 2018 to claim state-job creation tax credits.” The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp says that the company needed to create 260 full-time jobs, but only created 178. As a result, the company won’t receive tax credits for 2018. The WSJ cites the state’s low employment rate as a factor for the slow hiring, and notes that the company could earn $19.1 million in tax credits if it passes its hiring goal of 2,080 jobs this year. The company denied reports last November that it had been looking to bring in workers from China to bolster its workforce.

* More

First, roughly half the Wisconsin taxpayer money is guaranteed whether or not Foxconn ever hires anyone. And second, even if the company’s dramatic re-imagining of the project does shrink the total that taxpayers will pay, it will likely prolong rather than shrink the 25-year optimistic timeline for recouping the state’s expenses here, as the Milwaukee Independent explained on the one-year anniversary of the deal’s formal passage through the state legislature.

I wonder if the Tribune editorial board still thinks this was a good idea.


Schillerstrom, Brooks resign tollway seats

Wednesday, Jan 30, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Daily Herald

A pivotal figure at the Illinois tollway for the last four years has resigned amid scrutiny of the agency and a legislative push to clean house.

Chairman Robert Schillerstrom has submitted his resignation, a tollway spokesman said Monday.

Schillerstrom, former DuPage County chairman, spearheaded a massive expansion of the Central Tri-State Tollway (I-294), a controversial study of extending Route 53 north into Lake County, and the ongoing extension of Route 390 to O’Hare International Airport.

But a series of Daily Herald reports about the tollway board hiring individuals and firms with political or personal connections led to state Senate scrutiny this summer and drew censure from new Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker. […]

The Rev. Corey Brooks, a tollway director, also resigned, officials said.

You’ll recall that the General Assembly passed legislation to immediately get rid of all tollway directors. The governor has yet to sign the bill. I assume he’s waiting to line up new directors before he signs the bill.


“Prohibition plain just does not work”

Wednesday, Jan 30, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) on legalizing cannabis

The proposal would also allow municipalities to opt out of the program, which means they could prohibit dispensaries from setting up shop within city limits. They can’t restrict residents from privately using the product, though. Localities would also be allowed to add an additional tax. However, the bill would cap how high that tax can be so it does not drive residents back to an illicit market.

“When we went out to Colorado, we met with the Boulder County District Attorney and he told us a cautionary tale that we’ve carried with us ever since,” said Cassidy. “His county, relatively affluent, not a lot of fiscal pressure there, they didn’t add a local tax. And they saw their illicit market all but disappear. In neighboring Pueblo County, a community with some significant fiscal challenges, they put the maximum tax on that they could and their illicit market grew.” […]

In terms of the tax dollars, Cassidy and Steans are still negotiating the “optimal tax strategy.” Recognizing that conversations about recreational cannabis almost always include talk of added revenue for the cash-strapped state, Cassidy said they are not creating the program to make money.

“Step one is ending prohibition, undoing the harm of the war on drugs, and then there will be revenue,” she said. “Estimates are $350 to $700 million. Put a pin somewhere in the middle, let’s say $500 million. That’s nothing to sneeze at, but it’s not the ‘why.’ It’s not the reason.” […]

“If a teen is caught drinking, their license can be taken away from them until they’re 21,” said Steans. “Right now, that’s not in place for cannabis. If a teen is caught smoking cannabis, they don’t lose their license. We’re going to change that in the bill. If they are found smoking, their license will be taken away until they’re 21.”

* And Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) tells WBEZ why she supports legalizing cannabis use

When I first got into the legislature, we were just starting to debate medical cannabis programs. … As I sort of had to start studying and learning about it to decide how I was going to vote on that, it came to me that prohibition plain just does not work, and that we really should be trying to go to a different structure overall around cannabis. I don’t think prohibition keeps it out of the hands of folks. In Illinois, you have 800,000 people who use cannabis on a regular basis. Ninety-eight percent are buying it from the illegal market. You don’t know what you’re buying. … [With legalization,] you can get a safe product. You know what you’re getting, and it gets out of the hands of teens a lot better when you do it in a regulated fashion. I just think it’s better policy.


More to come?

Wednesday, Jan 30, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* I told subscribers about this earlier today, but here’s Greg Hinz

Mike Madigan says he did nothing wrong. But the news that he was taped by Ald. Danny Solis, 25th, as part of a federal corruption probe is providing another stunning shock to Illinois politics and further roiling an already unpredictable race for mayor.

In separate statements, both Madigan and his longtime private attorney, Heather Wier Vaught, dismissed allegations in a Chicago Sun-Times report that Solis arranged a meeting with a zoning applicant who needed Solis’ backing for a Chinatown hotel project. Solis reportedly told the developer that hiring Madigan’s law firm to handle property tax appeals would clear the way for the zoning approval, but though the zoning was secured, Madigan’s firm was not retained and the hotel never was built. […]

From what I’m hearing, there’s lots more to come out on the speaker. Today’s news was colorful, but arguably not incriminating. Later developments could be of more legal significance.

Stay tuned.


Sun-Times fingers mole

Wednesday, Jan 30, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Mark Brown, Fran Spielman, Tim Novak and Jon Seidel

See Y. Wong was a small-time developer with big dreams for reshaping Chinatown until his ambitious projects hit the skids in the last real estate recession.

Several projects failed. Investors lost their money. Lawsuits piled up, and some of Wong’s activities came to the attention of federal authorities.

By the spring of 2014, Wong was back with a more modest project, trying to help Chinese businessman Kin Kuong Chong build a 60-room hotel on a small patch of land on the northwest corner of Clark and Archer.

It was then that Wong agreed to co-operate in a federal investigation of Ald. Danny Solis (25th), according to a court document obtained by the Sun-Times.

Just three months later, Wong made an undercover recording of Solis with House Speaker Michael Madigan as they discussed whether the hotel developer would hire Madigan’s law firm to handle its real estate tax work. At the time, Wong was helping the developer seek a zoning change from the City Council Zoning Committee chaired by Solis, who allegedly steered them to Madigan.

Go read the whole thing.


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* Isabel’s afternoon roundup
* McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally abruptly aborts reelection bid without explanation
* Question of the day
* It’s just a bill
* Protect Illinois Hospitality – Vote No On House Bill 5345
* You gotta be kidding me
* Showcasing The Retailers Who Make Illinois Work
* Moody’s revises Illinois outlook from stable to positive (Updated)
* Open thread
* Isabel’s morning briefing
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* *** UPDATED x1 - Equality Illinois 'alarmed' over possible Harris appointment *** Personal PAC warns Democratic committeepersons about Sen. Napoleon Harris
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