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Friday, Aug 30, 2019

* This is for the late, great Michael Bauer, one of the finest people-persons I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet

Are the luckiest people in the world

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


News-Gazette announces sale, bankruptcy

Friday, Aug 30, 2019

* Oy

At an all-staff meeting today, News-Gazette Media CEO John Reed announced to employees that an agreement has been signed to sell substantially all of its assets to the family-owned Champaign Multimedia Group LLC, an affiliate company of Community Media Group. The sale is expected to close in early November.

CMG, headquartered in downstate West Frankfort, owns and operates community newspapers with websites in several Midwestern states, including Illinois, Indiana and Iowa, as well as newspapers in Michigan, Pennsylvania and New York.

The acquisition of News-Gazette Media will include three radio stations: WDWS, WHMS and WKIO, serving the Champaign-Urbana, Danville and East Central Illinois areas, Reed said. The acquisition will also include weekly newspapers, free distribution shoppers and websites serving Mahomet, Rantoul, Ford County, Piatt County and Vermilion County. […]

As part of the sale process, News-Gazette Media has filed voluntary petitions for relief under Chapter 11 of the U.S. bankruptcy code. Additionally, and in accordance with the state and federal regulations under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notice Act (WARN), employees were provided with formal notice of a potential layoff planned to occur in the 14-day period beginning on Oct. 31.

However, CMG has indicated that it is developing plans for the rehire of numerous News-Gazette Media employees following the sale to Champaign Multimedia Group.

* Meanwhile, a reporter pal of mine was let go today because of this sale

Shaw Media has agreed to acquire the NewsTribune and the Illinois and Indiana AgriNews weekly publications from Catherine Miller and Miller Group Media, company leaders announced Monday.

The sale is expected to close Sunday. Terms were not disclosed.

The acquisition of the publications adds to Crystal Lake-based Shaw’s network of daily and weekly newspapers and specialty publications, which cover 15 counties across northern Illinois, as well as part of Iowa.

The company’s daily newspaper holdings include LaSalle County’s other five-day-a-week newspaper, The Times of Ottawa, as well as the Northwest Herald in Crystal Lake, The Herald-News in Joliet, the Daily Chronicle in DeKalb, the Telegraph in Dixon and the Daily Gazette in Sterling.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


*** UPDATED x1 *** Shimkus won’t run again

Friday, Aug 30, 2019

* KMOX with the exclusive

Illinois GOP Rep. John Shimkus announced Friday on the Mark Reardon Show that he will not run for reelection in 2020.

In his 12th term right now, Shimkus was reelected in 2018 with more than 70% of the vote. He has represented Illinois’ 15th Congressional District since 2013, before that he was represented Illinois’ 19th Congressional District, since 2003.

Well, he finally term-limited himself. /s

Any idea who might run for that seat now?

…Adding… Scott Kennedy fills us in

Sen. Jason Plummer has wanted that seat for a very long time.

…Adding… Keep an eye on retiring Sen. Dale Righter. Yes, he voted for the 2017 income tax hike, but he voted against the tax hikes to fund the capital bill this year. Why would he do that if he wasn’t running again and needed help for his district? Food for thought.

…Adding… From his Facebook page

As Illinois candidates begin to circulate petitions next week, now is the time for me to announce that I will not be seeking re-election.

It has been the honor of my lifetime to be asked by the people of Illinois to represent them in our nation’s capitol. Each day I have tried to do this as best as I possibly could, and my success lies squarely at the feet of my incredible staff in Illinois and Washington, DC.

I will leave the political field knowing that I have served honorably and, with the help of many, accomplished a lot for my constituents, our state, and our nation.

Serving in Congress has been a blessing, but it has also been a sacrifice for my wife Karen, and our boys. Now young men, David, Joshua and Daniel continue to make me proud. I regret the times I have been away from the four of them and thank them for their constant love and support.

My family and I thank you for allowing us the honor to serve. Our dedication to our country, our state, our church, and our community will not waiver as we embark on the next chapter of life. God bless you, and God bless America.

*** UPDATE *** Not sure what to make of this

Businessman Willie Wilson, who finished fourth in this year’s historically crowded race for Chicago mayor, said Friday he’s planning to run for the U.S. Senate next year.

Wilson, who’s been known for tapping into his personal wealth to help people pay their property taxes, said he’s going to run as an independent in hopes of unseating Illinois’ incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin in 2020.

“I’m still a Democrat and when I ran for president I still supported the Democratic Party, but this is the way to go,” Wilson told The Spin.

The 71-year-old Wilson has run for high-profile political offices before without success. He ran for Chicago mayor in 2015 and 2019, and got on the ballot in a handful of states when he ran for president in 2016.

Durbin received 53.5 percent of the vote in 2014.

…Adding… Press release…

Wilson will officially launch his campaign for United States Senator for the people of Illinois. Wilson is committed to making things better for ALL Illinoisans, but in particular minorities who feel lost and forgotten. “I am sick and I am tired of the same ol’ politicians like Senator Dick Durbin taking advantage of minorities, having not been fair and his record reflecting that… the same ol’ guard propping themselves up on the backs of minorities and selling them down the river. I MUST stand up for those who feel they do not matter or do not have a voice… for those who can’t seem to get a fair shake. His record shows he has taken the minority vote for granted and hasn’t put anything back of significance in the 20+ years he’s been a U.S. Senator. He hasn’t done nearly enough for prison reform and economic development in minority communities, but Durbin has supported sanctuary cities. Why hasn’t he given the same attention to the areas of prison reform and economic development as well as to Reparations for those of African American Descendants of Slaves? He has totally been unfair. The time has come that we all have equal access and be treated fairly, once and for all. And that is why I am running for United States Senator – to represent ALL people regardless of race, creed or color,” says a committed Willie Wilson.

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      


Question of the day

Friday, Aug 30, 2019

* Two of my brothers on Labor Day, 1971 at my family’s rural Iroquois County house…

We weren’t farmers, but my mom grew up on a farm and my parents had five sons and thought they could better keep an eye on all of us if we were living in the country. So, they rented a house a few miles from my maternal grandparents, who were farmers.

Every Labor Day, we’d decorate our bicycles and ride them in the Herscher parade. It was all great fun, from the decorating (my mom did most of the work, as I recall) to the riding. Herscher will host its 99th Labor Day parade on Monday.

* The Question: Your favorite Labor Day memories?

- Posted by Rich Miller   12 Comments      


Today’s number: 13,536

Friday, Aug 30, 2019

* Daily Herald

From 2002 to 2016, assault rates against men 60 and older are up 60% [according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]; for women, 35%. From 2010 to 2016, the murder rate of men in that age group rose 7.1%. For women, it decreased slightly. […]

According to the state’s Adult Protective Services agency, there were 13,536 reports of abuse against seniors in 2017.

Financial exploitation (8,604) made up the most cases, followed by passive neglect (6,679), emotional abuse (6,476), physical abuse (3,782), willful deprivation (2,268), confinement (1,381), and sexual abuse (765).

Victims generally experience more than one type of abuse, according to the agency. For example, financial exploitation is highly associated with emotional abuse. About 67% of victims were women, as were 51% of abusers.

- Posted by Rich Miller   3 Comments      


*** UPDATED x2 *** Lightfoot: “We can’t keep taxing the hell out of all of our people who make substantial income. That’s not right. That’s not fair. It’s not gonna work.”

Friday, Aug 30, 2019

* At one point in her Sun-Times editorial board interview yesterday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot had this to say about her idea to create a progressive rate on the real estate transfer tax, for which she’ll need Statehouse approval

Everybody pays the same amount regardless of the value of their home. We think that’s regressive and unfair. What we’d like to see is a progressive ramp that gives relief to homeowners at the lower end of the housing market value and make people upstream pay more of their fair share.

* But Lightfoot was also asked if she thought it was politically tough to get Downstaters on board for pension help for the city at the same time that the Democrats are trying to pass a progressive income tax

We have to look at the entire eco-system of what’s happening. If we don’t get help from Springfield, we have limited options. And you know that one of those options is property taxes - a huge property tax given the size of the deficit for next year.

So we have to think about the timing of that. Right? We go first. Twice. This year, next year before the voters go to the polls to approve the Fair Tax. So we have to take the long view of what that’s going to mean. And I’m also mindful of the fact that in this state the vast majority of high net worth earners live in the city of Chicago.

We can’t keep taxing the hell out of all of our people who make substantial income. That’s not right. That’s not fair. It’s not gonna work.

What I think she’s trying to say here is that if upper-income folks get hit with two big property tax hikes between now and next November, they’re gonna rebel at the polls against the progressive income tax. OK, but they’re still a minority, including in the city, and Lightfoot herself is trying to impose her own progressive tax.

And that last little bit about the poor put-upon rich people was a big political mistake. You can probably bet a lot of money that this quote is gonna wind up in a TV ad against the Pritzker graduated income tax. And you can also bet that the legislators who voted to put that tax proposal on the ballot are not going to be pleased with the mayor.

[Hat tip: Rachel Hinton

*** UPDATE 1 *** Good questions by Tina

A source close to the mayor worked quickly to walk back that statement, reasserting that Lightfoot supports a graduated income tax structure for the state. But is this Lightfoot’s power play? Get in the way of a plan the governor is spending millions on, so the city can get its needed casino and pension help?

The state-city power struggle came into full view during Lightfoot’s address, in which she tied the city’s woes to getting help from Springfield.

* Meanwhile, over at Crain’s Chicago Business

Mayor Lori Lightfoot today declared “unsustainable” the 3 percent annual compound pension COLA many city workers and retirees have been promised—and hinted she would not object if further conversations occurred about amending the pension clause in the Illinois Constitution to allow change. […]

Not only labor unions but Gov. J.B. Pritzker oppose doing that, and Lightfoot—who in other settings has said workers should not have their benefits reduced—said today that “I’m not advocating for a constitutional amendment.” […]

But a few minutes later, Lightfoot said that even if such efforts succeed, the current COLA is “unsustainable.” Asked if she’d like the constitution to be amended, Lightfoot replied that, “I’d like to put as many options as possible on the table.”

In response to another question, Lightfoot said she did not mean to imply that other pension efforts short of amending the constitution were useless, but that in today’s economy, “3 percent compounded is a tough climb.”

Pick a lane, please.

*** UPDATE 2 *** Michael Crowley at the mayor’s office…

As the Mayor has repeatedly made clear, she believes that our pension obligations are not optional. This administration is committed to finding ways to shore up the sustainability of our pension funds – including the COLA. We must secure the retirement of our working people by partnering with our allies from the State to identify progressive revenue streams. Mayor Lightfoot remains opposed to a constitutional amendment on pensions.

- Posted by Rich Miller   53 Comments      


Reick gets supervision, fines, counseling

Friday, Aug 30, 2019

* Center Square

Republican state Rep. Steven Reick will still be able to drive after he pleaded guilty Friday to DUI in Sangamon County Circuit Court. Democratic state Rep. Kam Buckner’s DUI case has yet to be resolved. Buckner has pleaded not guilty.

Illinois State Police arrested Reick for DUI in Springfield on May 2. He took a breath test that showed his breath-alcohol concentration was 0.146 percent, nearly twice the legal limit. Dashcam video showed the Republican from Woodstock stumbling and admitting that he had too much to drink.

After Friday’s hearing in Springfield, he referred questions to the initial statement he made after he was arrested.

“I made a stupid and regrettable decision last night and accept full responsibility for my actions,” Reick said at the time.

Reick’s attorney, Scott Sabin, said Friday that his client pleaded guilty.

“He’s, I don’t want to say pleased, but ‘relieved’ is a better word, that this matter is put behind him in the court process,” Sabin said. “He’s been placed under court supervision, so long as he abides by the law and stays out of trouble, this won’t appear on his record and be happy to put this behind him.”

The year-long supervision comes with more than $1,600 in fines. Reick was also ordered to complete ten hours of counseling.

- Posted by Rich Miller   6 Comments      


State open to public-private partnership on Thompson Center sale

Friday, Aug 30, 2019

* Tribune

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration is open to the creation of a public-private partnership as part of its plan to sell the Thompson Center in the Loop and relocate the state’s Chicago workforce to new office space.

That’s one takeaway from a request for proposals the state Department of Central Management Services issued Thursday as it seeks to unload the controversial Helmut Jahn-designed state headquarters. The state is seeking a project manager to oversee the sale of the 17-story, 1.2 million-square-foot building, assess the state’s Chicago real estate holdings, and plan for where state workers will move following the sale, among other services.

The document says the state is looking for a buyer that will help relocate the state’s workforce to an alternate site, which “may mean new construction on one or more sites of vacant land (owned or purchased) or renovation of a property in a Chicago neighborhood with adequate public transportation options (owned or purchased).” The Pritzker administration also wants its project manager to help negotiate an ownership stake for the state in the new site or sites, according to the 56-page document.

* From the RFP

CMS will use this expertise and assess its current asset(s) to develop and execute a strategy for an alternate delivery of project, including but not limited to Public-Private-Partnership (“P3”) and Design-Build (“DB”) delivery methods. It is the intent of the State to package the sale of JRTC and relocations of its State occupants as one project delivery method. As part of the Offer, Respondents are encouraged to provide unique ideas around project delivery methods and include relevant and past project examples.

* One Illinois

But prominent preservationist groups urged the state to include plans for retaining and repurposing the building even in the early steps toward selling it.

“Corporations continue to migrate to Chicago from suburbs and beyond, and we believe the Thompson Center presents itself as a desirable reuse option for corporate offices and many other uses,” said Bonnie McDonald, president of Landmarks Illinois, in a statement released Wednesday. “We urge the Pritzker administration to include our re-envisioning study … to ensure that the Thompson Center may shine as the one-of-a-kind postmodern marvel that it is.”

Landmarks Illinois placed the Thompson Center on its annual list of the Most Endangered Historic Places in the state in May for the third straight year. That built on a “Thompson Center Reimagined” study the group released last year, which included a proposed “new tower, with a footprint of approximately 13,000 square feet, … developed on the southwest corner with hotel uses on the lower floors and residential on the upper floors.”

Landmarks Illinois is requesting that the state at least include that study in its request for proposals to find a consultant to aid the sale, and it was backed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which included the Thompson Center earlier this year in its list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

“Millions of people visit Chicago every year to experience its diverse architectural landscape, a testament to the city’s longstanding commitment to preservation and innovative design,” said Jennifer Sandy, associate field director for the trust. “Now that many modern and postmodern buildings like the Thompson Center are at risk, Chicago can again demonstrate its leadership on a new generation of buildings worthy of preservation and reuse. Breathing new life into the Thompson Center — not throwing it away — is the right thing to do economically, environmentally, and architecturally.”

As long as it’s turned into the coolest water park in the world, I’m good.

- Posted by Rich Miller   7 Comments      


I don’t think this one’s on the GA

Friday, Aug 30, 2019

* Sun-Times editorial about the decision by Churchill Downs to shutter the Arlington track and not apply for a racino license

But nobody should be surprised. This is exactly the sort of thing that can happen when the state Legislature moves awfully darn fast on a big bill that has many moving parts. […]

For years, Arlington had sought a racino to shore up the racetrack’s bottom line, so its ownership’s announcement that it is no longer interested in one surprised pretty much everybody, beginning with Gov. J.B. Pritzker. […]

Churchill Downs says the gambling bill’s high taxes on Arlington and massive expansion of new gambling competition mean a new racino at Arlington would be “untenable” financially, rather than a lifeline. CEO Bill Carstanjen blames the requirement that part of casino earnings go to racing purses — something Arlington has, in fact, been clamoring to do for years.

Churchill Downs didn’t work against the bill. It was also at the table the whole time. As the editorial alludes to, it’s been clamoring for a racino ever since the Elgin casino opened 25 years ago so that it could share some of the gaming money with racehorse owners. Without that cut for the horse owners, the whole shebang falls apart and everyone knows it. Tracks don’t just get a racino handed to them without a requirement to use some of the money to build up the horse racing part of the equation.

So, how can the GA be blamed for giving Churchill Downs what it always said it wanted and didn’t appear to oppose?

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      


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Pritzker injury means no Japan trade trip

Friday, Aug 30, 2019

* Mark Maxwell

Governor J.B. Pritzker suffered a hairline fracture to his left leg, his office confirmed on Thursday afternoon. The injury will not require surgery, but doctors orders will keep the state’s top executive from making a trip to Japan.

The island country represents one of the state’s biggest international trade partners. Governors and state leaders from the Midwest travel to Tokyo every other year, and host Japanese officials in alternating years. Pritzker had planned to attend the meetings next month, according to sources familiar with his travel plans. It remains unclear if Illinois will send another representative in his place.

* Maxwell, by the way, walked the state fairgrounds for half an hour with Pritzker earlier this month and his injury was not apparent at all and the governor never mentioned it

* But watch this video from Tuesday…


- Posted by Rich Miller   15 Comments      


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“Spared sacrifice” or “hard truths”?

Friday, Aug 30, 2019

* Mark Brown wasn’t impressed with Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s speech last night

“Yes, some of our solutions will be hard.
Yes, they may involve putting ourselves at risk. And if it means that I sacrifice myself politically, so be it in pursuit of the right thing,” Lightfoot said.

Chicago could use a politician who says that and means it. So could the whole state of Illinois.

And when she shows she’s willing to make that sacrifice, I would like to be in her corner.

But for now, it was just a speech.

* Tribune editorial

It’s Chicago’s curse that Lightfoot had to give this speech. Decade after decade, Chicago and Springfield politicians raised taxes and fees yet raised spending even more. Mayors, aldermen, governors, legislators — the people who caused the public finance debacles in Chicago and Illinois — weren’t at the microphone Thursday night. Just a newcomer who says the downward spiral stops now.

Sensibly, she said she wouldn’t follow the old playbook of “historically large tax increases,” or “a massive borrowing scheme,” or shortchanging payments into the city’s pension system.

Our immediate takeaway from her address: What’s significant here is a matter of degree — that looming deficit ― and a new mayor who’s willing to speak hard truths and own a big share of this mess. She’s decided she has no choice but to ask all of us to help her clean it up.

So, the Trib is for making the full pension payments now?

- Posted by Rich Miller   67 Comments      


Attorney General Raoul tries to stop lawmakers from collecting back pay

Friday, Aug 30, 2019

* Rebecca Anzel

The state’s attorney general says two former lawmakers should not receive back pay for frozen cost-of-living increases and forced furlough days because they previously voted to approve the two laws and waited “for so long” to file a lawsuit challenging their constitutionality.

Those laws, a Cook County judge ruled last month, violated an article of the state’s governing document that dictates legislators’ wages cannot be changed during the terms for which they were elected.

Judge Franklin Valderrama’s ruling was a partial win for two former senators — Democrats Michael Noland, from Elgin, and James Clayborne Jr., from Belleville — who sued for lost wages. […]

The two voted “fourteen separate times over the course of nine years” in support of the statutes which their lawsuit claims are unconstitutional, the document states. It adds that Noland filed the case six months after he left office, and Clayborne joined the suit seven months after he announced his retirement from the General Assembly.

Go read the rest.

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      


Ode to Du Quoin

Friday, Aug 30, 2019

* Jamie Munks at the Tribune has written a couple of good stories about the Du Quoin State Fair. Here’s one

Each year when the parade kicking off Illinois’ second state fair winds down, fairgoers stream by the hundreds to Wanda Rednour’s lawn, which sits in the middle of the state fairgrounds.

The longtime Du Quoin resident opens her home for a lawn party to kick off the fair. If the Du Quoin State Fair, located on a sprawling piece of lush southern Illinois land, is a “park with a party in the middle of it,” as fair manager Josh Gross describes it, then Rednour’s annual bash is the party within the party in the park.

It’s the sort of thing that engenders a more intimate experience than the much larger Illinois State Fair in Springfield about 150 miles north — so much so that some regulars say it reminds them more of a county fair than a state fair.

The Du Quoin State Fair, which the state has owned and operated since 1986, was previously run by private owners. In its heyday, when it was home to the Hambletonian, the “Kentucky Derby of harness racing,” the fair would draw hundreds of thousands of people from all over the region during its annual summer run.

The fairgrounds lost that race in 1980 but soon drew the prestigious World Trotting Derby, which held court in the summer in Du Quoin for decades. It was cut in 2010, when the state Department of Agriculture’s budget was slashed, part of widespread cutbacks aimed at closing a major deficit in the state budget that year. There were some concerns locally at the time that the fair itself would cease to exist because of the state’s budget woes.

* Here’s the other

Illinois first lady M.K. Pritzker is leading a restoration effort at the governor’s official Downstate residence in Du Quoin, marking what some locals see as more attentiveness to the region than they’ve seen in years.

The Pritzkers are privately funding the work on the state-owned Hayes House and so far have spent nearly $100,000, according to the governor’s office. […]

The home sits on the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds and has served as the Downstate executive residence for Illinois governors and their families since the state bought the sprawling property from a private owner in the lost ts. […]

“It’s important, because that house needed some renovation,” [Du Quoin Mayor Guy Alongi] said. “Other governors have just came and gone and not done anything to that mansion. At least they’re doing something to it.”

* Related…

* Du Quoin State Fair food: For something different, try the wings

- Posted by Rich Miller   13 Comments      


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