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Rick Nielson’s Rockford casino gambit pays off

Monday, Sep 30, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Register Star

[Rockford] Mayor Tom McNamara said that he recommended to the City Council Monday that Hard Rock Casino should receive the city’s only casino license.

McNamara said Forest City Casino’s application for a far east side casino has uncertainties and Gorman and Co. had no casino operator for a downtown site.

Hard Rock Casino Rockford will be located at the former Clock Tower Resort property on 25 acres at 7801 E. State St. Giovanni’s Restaurant & Convention Center, 610 N. Bell School Road, would house a temporary casino until the Hard Rock Casino is built.

Hard Rock International is proposing a casino with 1,500 slot machines and 55 table games, a Hard Rock Café and 1,600-seat Hard Rock Live entertainment venue at the I-90 exit. […]

“It’s going to be cool,” [Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen, an investor in the Hard Rock Casino Rockford project] said.

Hard Rock has pledged a minimum $7 million payment to the city every year. The Illinois Gaming Board still has to sign off.


Wait. What? Oh. Nevermind. Carry on, carry on

Monday, Sep 30, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* So, I was skimming through this press release today

Building on a strong team of diverse experts in their fields, Governor JB Pritzker announced the following individuals have agreed to serve in his administration:


Nothing really stood out at first. And then I scrolled down to the fifth name on the list

Martin Sandoval

I almost choked. What the heck? Are they insane???

* Then I kept reading

Martin Sandoval, C.P.A., will serve as a Business Administration Expert on the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum Board of Trustees. With over 25 years of experience in business, strategic planning and financial management, Sandoval is the founding partner of Compass Associates. He previously was a Director of Corporate Development of Sara Lee Corporation and did similar work for organizations such as the McDonald’s Corporation and Arthur Andersen. Sandoval is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Illinois CPA Society, and he has also served as Vice President for the National Museum of Mexican Art, Treasurer of the Little Village Chamber of Commerce and Vice Chair of the Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement. Sandoval earned his Master of Science in Business Administration and Bachelor of Science in Commerce from DePaul University.

Anyway, if you want to see the latest ALPLM Board appointees and a couple of new WIU trustees, click here.


Sterigenics to close plant

Monday, Sep 30, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* This will be cause for rejoicing in some circles…

* Press release…

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) released the following statement on the news of Sterigenics not re-opening their Willowbrook facility:

“Sterigenics got the message that we were never going to let them reopen their doors and poison our communities again.”

Earlier this year, Leader Durkin introduced the Matt Haller Act which created the strongest restrictions on ethylene oxide in the nation.

When the courts approved the consent decree on September 20 to allow Sterigenics to re-open, Leader Durkin introduced House Bill 3885 that would authorize any municipality in the state of Illinois to implement a local ban of the use of ethylene oxide within its boundaries. If a local municipality chooses to adopt this authority, any sterilizing companies would be prohibited from using ethylene oxide. This bill has the support of the village of Willowbrook.


* Press release…

Sen. Curran statement on Sterigenics leaving Willowbrook

“This is tremendous news for the people of Willowbrook and the surrounding communities. The risks involved with this facility re-opening were simply too great to the public health. This announcement from Sterigenics is the direct result of the tireless advocacy of Stop Sterigenics and other community organizations who have proven once again that when we all work together, we will not be stopped. Now it is our job to remain vigilant in continuing to protect the health of those we serve,” said State Senator John Curran (R-Downers Grove).

* Congressman Dan Lipinski…

Today’s news marks a victory for everyone who lives in the vicinity of Sterigenics!

This decision by Sterigenics to shut down their Willowbrook plant shows what can happen when public officials on all levels work together along with concerned citizens to protect the health and safety of our communities. This fight has been going on for more than a year and has taken a tremendous amount of work by scores of people, but it was worth it to protect families from further exposure to this dangerous cancer-causing agent. Although this particular fight is over, I will continue to press for a strong federal ethylene oxide standard to protect the health and safety of those who live near EtO-emitting facilities around the country.

* Congressman Bill Foster…

Sterigenics’ decision to permanently close its Willowbrook facility is best for all concerned. From the beginning, the company’s handling of this situation has been insufficiently respectful of the sincere concerns raised by people who live and work in Willowbrook and the surrounding communities. I will continue to work in Congress to make sure the EPA has the resources it needs to protect the health and well-being of all our communities.

* Important point in the Daily Herald story

The company also was unable to reach an agreement to renew the lease on the building it uses on Quincy Street in Willowbrook.

* U.S. Representative Sean Casten…

Illinoisans should have confidence that the air they are breathing is safe. Unfortunately, the actions of Sterigenics made it impossible for those who live and work in Willowbrook and the surrounding communities to have that peace of mind. For that reason, I support Sterigenics’ decision to close their Willowbrook facility. It is a credit to the hard work of the community for coming together to voice their opinion. Moving forward, I will continue to urge the U.S. EPA to do their job and communicate about the potential risks posed by ethylene oxide emissions, as well as the FDA to ensure a robust medical supply chain that will not endanger patient safety.

* Rep. Deanne Mazzochi (R-Elmhurst)…

The Matt Haller Act recognized that ethylene oxide sterilization involves a chemical process requiring the utmost care and trust to control emissions. Sterigenics’ behavior these many months destroyed that trust. We also had to repeatedly fight the Illinois EPA’s rubber-stamp approach and efforts to denigrate community members who just wanted truthful answers from the agency who by its very name is supposed to protect them. When legislators and community activists repeatedly found flaws in the scientific evidence; permit standards and other building requirements, the Administration and Illinois EPA repeatedly ignored them to favor Sterigenics. While today’s announcement can be viewed as a solid victory for residents of Willowbrook and surrounding communities, we are prepared to go further to make sure the Illinois EPA ends these lax oversight practices. The state as a whole will benefit from an Illinois EPA that does its job correctly to ensure that the air we breathe is safe.

* Rep. Sam Yingling (D-Grayslake)…

The closing of the Willowbrook Sterigenics facility is long overdue. Sterigenics finally saw the writing on the wall that we in Illinois place the health of our citizens over the profits of greedy corporations. I will always fight companies that look to harm our communities for their own financial gain, and today was a significant step in moving towards that goal.

With Sterigenics finally closed, we must now turn our attention to the two factories in Lake County that continue to poison our residents for their own profit. There is still more work to be done when it comes to keeping our air clean from toxic chemicals such as ethylene oxide, and going forward, companies need to prioritize the health of our communities over profits.

* Jen Walling, executive director of the Illinois Environmental Council…

Companies that give people cancer should be put on notice that Illinois is not a welcoming business environment. While it does not cure those who have been made sick due to exposure to ethylene oxide, those living and raising families in the Willowbrook area will finally have peace of mind going forward now that Sterigenics is ceasing operations. This announcement marks a victory for this particular community and the surrounding areas, but more must be done to protect other communities still threatened by ethylene oxide emissions.

The Illinois General Assembly must take action to protect all communities across the state from this cancer-causing chemical. We are hopeful that with the continued leadership of Gov. JB Pritzker and those in the legislature, House Bill 3888 will pass during the upcoming veto session and be signed into law in short order.


Open thread

Monday, Sep 30, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* I have some important errands to run today. I should be back late this afternoon. In the meantime, please be nice to each other and, in these trying national times, do your utmost to keep the conversation as Illinois-centric as humanly possible. Thanks.


Question of the day

Monday, Sep 30, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* AP

Defying the NCAA, California’s governor signed a first-in-the-nation law Monday that will let college athletes hire agents and make money from endorsements — a move that could upend amateur sports in the U.S. and trigger a legal challenge.

Under the law, which takes effect in 2023, students at public and private universities in the state will be allowed to sign deals with sneaker companies, soft drink makers or other advertisers and profit from their images, names or likenesses, just like the pros. […]

The new law applies to all sports, though the big money to be made is in football and basketball. It bars schools from kicking athletes off the team if they get paid. It does not apply to community colleges and prohibits athletes from accepting endorsement deals that conflict with their schools’ existing contracts.

The NCAA, which had asked Newsom to veto the bill, responded by saying it will consider its “next steps” while also moving forward with “efforts to make adjustments to NCAA name, image and likeness rules that are both realistic in modern society and tied to higher education.”

Rep. Chris Welch filed a similar bill today.

* The Question: Should Illinois pass a similar law to California’s? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please…

bike tracks


Here we go again with more IDOT excuses

Monday, Sep 30, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* We’ve talked a couple of times about Rep. Jaime Andrade’s futile effort to shoo the multitude of pigeons and their giant piles of guano out of the CTA’s Irving Park Blue Line station. We’ve discussed how a local woman is making things more difficult by feeding the pigeons. But there’s a jurisdictional issue and some bureaucratic resistance as well

Complicating any clean-up effort is the CTA station’s location under the Kennedy Expressway, which is controlled by the Illinois Department of Transportation. The sidewalk, however, is controlled by the Chicago Department of Transportation. So responsibility is divided among different agencies with their own budgets and approaches to the problem. […]

CTA riders interviewed outside the Irving Park station described the pigeon situation as “gross” and “terrible” and wondered why more netting couldn’t be put up in more areas of the bridge. Illinois Department of Transportation spokesman Guy Tridgell said the agency can’t do this because it needs to have the area open for inspections and other maintenance.

“We’re happy to continue discussing and meeting with all interested parties to see if there’s some solution,” Tridgell said.

Andrade disagreed with IDOT’s explanation, saying netting could easily be removed for inspections. “The problem comes down to who is going to pay,” he said.

It seems like IDOT is always explaining why it can’t do something, or why it’s taking so much time to do something. The whole place needs an attitude adjustment.

This is a public health hazard, for crying out loud. Find a way to fix it. Then move on to the next problem.

I mean, seriously, do they expect me to believe that if Acting Transportation Secretary Omer Osman used that CTA stop every day this would be allowed to continue? No way.


Gone in 30 seconds

Monday, Sep 30, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Pretty sure we’ve discussed this before, but it’s worth repeating every now and then. From Finke’s column

The National Conference of State Legislatures recently took a look at rainy day funds, money state’s put aside to help cushion the blow in the event of an economic downturn.

The organization said only two states don’t have an official rainy day fund, although one of them, Colorado, has a “required reserve” fund. That leaves only Illinois without one, NCSL said.

That’s a bit misleading. Illinois has a “Budget Stabilization Fund,” which is essentially a rainy day fund under a different name. Right now, it has $60,000 in it, which the comptroller’s office said will pay less than 30 seconds worth of state bills.

Rest easy.

*Hard sigh*

…Adding… As noted in comments, it makes little sense to establish a large rainy day fund while the state has so much debt. However, building in a bit of fiscal flexibility would still be a decent idea.


There’s a reason why CPS appears to be “daring” CTU to strike over certain issues

Monday, Sep 30, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* NBC 5

One day after Chicago Teachers Union members announced they voted to authorize a strike, union leaders began bargaining sessions with the Chicago Board of Education in an effort to keep teachers from walking off their jobs.

Negotiations began around 10 a.m. Friday, continuing for several hours before coming to an end before 4 p.m.

The CTU said negotiations were expected to resume Tuesday. The union is calling for more staffing and a cap in class sizes.

“It’s almost as if they’re daring us to strike over these issues,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said in a press conference Friday.

Except, a state law passed in 1995 makes things like class size and staffing levels optional bargaining items for CPS. Union members cannot strike over the topics.

* From the statute

If, after a reasonable period of bargaining, a dispute or impasse exists between the educational employer and the exclusive representative, the dispute or impasse shall be resolved exclusively as set forth in subsection (b) of Section 12 of this Act in lieu of a strike under Section 13 of this Act. [Emphasis added.]

* The union’s public position seems to be that the law is unjust and shouldn’t be followed…


Vallas billed almost $900K for those infamous campaign texts

Monday, Sep 30, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Heather Cherone at the Daily Line

On his way to a ninth-place finish in the race for Chicago mayor, Paul Vallas racked up bills totaling $885,357 sending unsolicited text messages to Chicagoans touting his campaign, according to documents filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections.

In addition, when the former Chicago Public Schools CEO closed his Paul Vallas for All Chicago campaign committee on Sept. 11, he still owed Link2Tek — the Asheville, North Carolina-based firm that sent the messages — $535,357 after paying the firm $350,000, according to state records.

Along with the outstanding debt, Vallas’s defunct campaign committee faces an ongoing lawsuit that claims the text messages violated federal law. […]

The class-action lawsuit, filed by attorney James Vlahakis on behalf of Chicagoans Jake Campbell and Jeff Klueh, alleges the system used by Link2Tek is an autodialer “dressed in sheep’s clothing.”

I just never did understand what he was trying to accomplish with the over-reliance on text messaging. I’m pretty sure he didn’t, either.


The Statehouse doors don’t open by themselves

Monday, Sep 30, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* We’ve discussed this issue before. Mayor Lightfoot hasn’t yet filled in state legislators about what she wants in the fast-approaching veto session. Here’s Team Tribune

State Rep. Mike Zalewski, a Riverside Democrat who chairs the House Revenue Committee, said Lightfoot has “been pretty forthright and honest about the challenges she faces.” Nevertheless, lawmakers don’t want to wait until her budget speech to find out what she wants from Springfield, Zalewski said. […]

“Something that everyone will have to take into consideration is just what the appetite is for more major actions,” said House Democratic leader Greg Harris of Chicago. Harris said he hasn’t met with the mayor’s office or seen any specific requests. […]

Senate Republican leader Bill Brady hasn’t heard from Lightfoot’s office about proposals that would help address Chicago’s budget deficit, spokesman Jason Gerwig said Wednesday. […]

“The governor wants every city in Illinois to succeed, and he is committed to helping them thrive,” Bittner said in a statement. “The administration continues to have productive conversations with the mayor’s office, and we are hopeful that her requests will receive a warm welcome in the General Assembly.”

Part of the problem here is that the mayor hasn’t yet settled on what she wants.


EIU’s enrollment comeback isn’t all it seems

Monday, Sep 30, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Eastern Illinois University posted a 10 percent enrollment increase last year and a 4 percent increase this year. But, as Gabriel Neely-Streit reports, there’s a catch

Over at least the past two years, the university has begun to include high schoolers enrolled in dual credit courses and dual enrollment programs in its total enrollment count.

The young programs have been very popular, adding over a thousand students to EIU’s overall headcount, and helping the university build strong relationships with high schoolers across the state.

They have also allowed EIU to claim enrollment increases despite a declining on-campus population, possibly muddying the true picture of the university’s size and health. […]

The “dual enrollment” courses are taught by EIU faculty over videochat and online learning platforms at 10 high schools within 60 miles of the university, explained Professor Rebecca Throneburg, Chair of EIU’s Department of Communication Disorders and Sciences, who co-led the university’s early dual credit efforts. […]

Dual credit students don’t pay full EIU prices, she said, yet the university must pay faculty salaries.

Go read the whole thing.


Sandoval’s the one under the gun now

Monday, Sep 30, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

At about the same time last week, Chicago-based investigators with the FBI and the IRS swooped into Democratic Sen. Marty Sandoval’s district office, Statehouse office and home residence, removing boxes of documents and seizing computers.

Last November, the feds launched a simultaneous raid of super-powerful Chicago Ald. Ed Burke’s city and ward offices, but they didn’t raid the man’s house.

So, yeah, this is definitely serious stuff. Imagine the evidence the feds had to provide to the Justice Department headquarters and to a federal judge in order to pursue and then obtain a sweeping warrant like that one. You don’t get permission to do all that for a simple fishing expedition, or because the target’s kid got a job or merely to convince the dude to flip on somebody else.

The Tribune reported that Sandoval may have steered business to “at least one company in exchange for kickbacks.” The coordinated federal raids didn’t exactly surprise many Statehouse types. One lobbyist said he was with seven colleagues the day of the raid, and they all claimed to have an unsavory Marty Sandoval story. Another was with 17 colleagues, and all but two had a story about Sandoval, um, “asking” them for various things in exchange for helping them with their legislative agendas.

Officials with the Senate Democrats and the Illinois Secretary of State said they did not have copies of federal warrants, which would be helpful to figure out what the feds were after. That’s somewhat surprising because the Secretary of State controls the Statehouse and the Senate Democrats control their own office suites. Senators themselves do not technically control their offices. The federal agents reportedly showed their warrant to the SoS police when they arrived at the north entrance and then presented it to an employee near or in Sandoval’s unlocked, open office, but no copy was apparently kept.

Nobody knows whether the raids were an outgrowth of current investigations or whether somebody flipped on him or if an irate civilian lodged a complaint. Ald. Burke, for example, got in trouble partly because he allegedly tried to shake down a regular guy who took umbrage.

Sandoval is not only the Senate Transportation Committee chairman, but he is also a member of leadership as the majority caucus whip.

Senate President John Cullerton has refused to remove Sandoval from either position. He’s even said nobody is sure whether the feds are really after Sandoval (which is kind of preposterous because, while the feds can definitely display a mean streak, they’re not gonna raid an elected official’s offices and home because they’re going after another person).

Sandoval hasn’t been charged with anything yet, and we don’t even know what the feds were really after here. They’ve since raided or visited three small towns in Sandoval’s district.

But Cullerton’s stance is not going over well with several members of his caucus. Cullerton has elected as many suburban PTA types as he could over the years, and those folks tend to be squeaky clean people who ran for office to do squeaky clean things. They most definitely did not come to Springfield to defend this kind of stuff.

Sandoval has been on the outs with House Speaker Michael Madigan and his team for years. The feud reached a fever pitch last year when Madigan sided with Congressman Chuy Garcia’s organization and successfully backed Alma Anaya against Sandoval’s daughter Angie for Garcia’s Cook County Board seat.

Madigan’s “general,” 13th Ward Ald. Marty Quinn, reportedly wanted to take Sandoval himself out, but that plan was nixed. Even so, after last year’s conflict and the resulting extreme bad blood, people close to Madigan’s organization figured Sen. Sandoval would eventually be placed on the Garcia/Madigan hit list.

Sandoval prepared for that impending battle partly by raising lots of money and launching a massive play for publicity.

Among other things, Sandoval placed himself at the center of this spring’s effort to pass an infrastructure bill, holding high-profile hearings around the state and making impossible-to-ignore comments to locals about how they needed to get behind specific tax hikes if they wanted their project money. He’s reported raising $263K in campaign contributions since July 1. But a recent fundraiser got him more publicity than he bargained for when a photo was posted online of an attendee “shooting” a tequila “gun” at a person dressed as President Trump.

And now he’s the one under the gun.

* Related…

* Editorial: Before Illinois spends $45 billion on highways and bridges, Sandoval should hit the road

* Here a raid, there a raid, everywhere there’s a fed raid

* Investigations begin to touch Illinois House Speaker Madigan’s confidants


Report: “Illinois Asphalt King” Mike Vondra raided by feds

Monday, Sep 30, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

[Bumped up from late Friday afternoon for visibility and comments opened for discussion.]

* I heard several credible reports about this last night, but then the Chicago FBI refused to confirm this morning, so I figured people closer to the scene would eventually figure it out. Here’s WBEZ

Federal investigators have raided the northwest suburban offices of a politically connected company headed by a longtime, major campaign contributor to state Sen. Martin Sandoval, WBEZ has learned.

Multiple sources said the raid took place Tuesday at the Bartlett offices of Bluff City Materials Inc., one of several companies owned by Michael Vondra, a construction and asphalt magnate with deep political ties in state government.

For decades, Vondra has been one of the biggest players in Illinois’ asphalt and construction industries.

The law enforcement activity in Bartlett came on the same day FBI agents raided the Cicero and Springfield offices of Sandoval, a high-ranking Democrat who has been a state senator since 2003 and is chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. […]

But the sources who spoke to WBEZ on the condition of anonymity said that Bluff City Materials was among multiple non-governmental locations also raided during one of the most dramatic weeks in the recent, corruption-riddled history of Illinois.

Vondra has quarries in McCook and Lyons, towns which were both raided yesterday. He also plays a major role in Sen. Sandoval’s annual golf outing. The two men are very close allies.

(Headline explained here.)


*** UPDATED x1 - ACLU warns that February may be too soon *** State delays Medicaid managed care transition for foster kids

Monday, Sep 30, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

[Bumped up from late Friday afternoon for visibility and comments opened for discussion.]

* The directors of DCFS and the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services sent a letter late this afternoon to the Child Welfare Medicaid Managed Care Implementation Advisory Workgroup. Excerpt

The Department of Healthcare and Family Services and the Department of Children and Family Services are committed to ensuring that our state’s most vulnerable children and young adults have access to high quality healthcare. They and the families who care for them deserve coordinated, whole-person healthcare and wrap-around services to help them navigate a complex system and lead them to healthy adulthood.

There is nothing more important to us than getting this transition right, and after listening to stakeholders across the state, HFS and DCFS have decided to extend the start date for these programs from November 1, 2019 to February 1, 2020. This delay will help ensure a smooth transition and allow HFS and DCFS to engage further with families, providers and other stakeholders and to monitor the managed care organizations more closely.

This decision comes in the wake of Cook County Public Guardian Charles Golbert’s harsh criticism of the transition, which will impact 36,000 kids. Legislators and stakeholders have also sharply criticized the move.

*** UPDATE *** Heidi Dalenberg, Director of the Institutional Reform Project, ACLU of Illinois…

We welcome the decision by DCFS to delay the process of forcing the children under their care - our clients - into managed health care. But make no mistake, the announcement of February as a new target date for beginning this process remains arbitrary and aspirational.

Rather than focusing on a date certain, we encourage – and will be making this case directly to State officials – that the emphasis be on assuring that children in the care of DCFS do not suffer disruptions and terminations of critical health care services as the providers and insurance companies figure out this process.

Let’s make sure that we have the process in place and then roll out the launch. There is a long way to go and we are not convinced, based on careful analysis, that it is possible to be fully prepared by February.


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Monday, Sep 30, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

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Monday, Sep 30, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Follow along with ScribbleLive

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Reader comments closed for the weekend

Friday, Sep 27, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* One of our greatest American songwriters will play us out

If my words did glow with the gold of sunshine
And my tunes were played on the harp unstrung
Would you hear my voice come through the music
Would you hold it near as it were your own?

It’s a hand-me-down, the thoughts are broken
Perhaps they’re better left unsung
I don’t know, don’t really care
Let there be songs to fill the air

Ripple in still water
When there is no pebble tossed
Nor wind to blow

Reach out your hand if your cup be empty
If your cup is full may it be again
Let it be known there is a fountain
That was not made by the hands of men

There is a road, no simple highway
Between the dawn and the dark of night
And if you go no one may follow
That path is for your steps alone

Ripple in still water
When there is no pebble tossed
Nor wind to blow

You who choose to lead must follow
But if you fall you fall alone
If you should stand then who’s to guide you?
If I knew the way I would take you home

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Illinois groups suing to overturn New Jersey’s new dark money law

Friday, Sep 27, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From June

[New Jersey] Governor Phil Murphy today signed into law legislation sponsored by Senator Troy Singleton and Senator Linda Greenstein that will require independent advocacy committees to disclose their donors, bringing greater transparency to organizations that work to influence the political process. The new law will require the so-called “dark money” groups to make public their expenditures and donors.

* From one of the law’s Senate sponsors

None of us expected the opponents of this legislation – some well-intentioned, some not – to just go away quietly. However, I was disappointed and dismayed earlier this month when I read about the groups bringing legal challenges against the law. One group involved in the litigation, the Illinois Opportunity Project, is particularly concerning.

The Illinois Opportunity Project is a “free-market” conservative group out of Chicago, Illinois, who has announced their intent to try to influence public policy here in New Jersey. In Illinois, this group is actively trying to silence the voice of voters through its efforts to have the legislative maps redrawn. It also hasn’t gone unnoticed that they are represented by the Liberty Justice Center, which led the charge in the Janus v. AFSCME decision. This group worked diligently to silence the voice of workers through its legal actions. The Janus decision effectively undermined the organizing rights of workers to create better conditions in their workplace.

Now, the Illinois Opportunity Project wants to undermine New Jersey’s voters. It has turned its focus on our effort to achieve a more open and transparent political process. It is complaining that under New Jersey’s new dark money law they “would be required to register and disclose its donors to the Commissioners and its sponsorship of certain messages.” Well, that’s exactly the point.

But, New Jersey’s dark money law is not this group’s only target. The Illinois Opportunity Project is trying to undo campaign finance laws in Montana that require greater disclosure for businesses seeking state contracts.

The Illinois Opportunity Project “team” includes Dan Proft, Matthew Besler and Pat Hughes. The Liberty Justice Center is a project of the Illinois Policy Institute. Their complaint is here. From their rationale

Illinois Opportunity Project is concerned that compelled disclosure of its members and supporters could lead to substantial personal and economic repercussions for its contributors. Across the country, individual and corporate donors to political candidates and issue causes are being subject to boycotts, harassment, protests, career damage and even death threats for publicly engaging in the public square. Illinois Opportunity Project fears that its members and supporters may also encounter similar reprisals if their donations are made public, while supporters of union and business organizations are protected from the same scrutiny.


Ray LaHood: Avoid impeachment “like the plague”

Friday, Sep 27, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Press release…

U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), at a Select Committee on Modernization hearing, discussed impeachment with former congressman and Obama transportation secretary what advice he would give members of Congress who want to get legislation passed in the midst of impeachment. Then-Congressman Ray LaHood, who chaired impeachment proceedings of former President Bill Clinton in 1998, told members of the committee to avoid impeachment “like the plague.”

LaHood was also recently named by Governor JB Pritzker to serve as chairman of Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum’s board of directors because of his experience and ability to get things done. […]

Below is a written transcript of the exchange on impeachment between Davis and LaHood at the hearing.

    Davis: You had a job to do during the last impeachment proceedings — you chaired the proceedings in the House…

    LaHood: Yes..

    Davis: You and I have had conversations before about how that impeachment process impacted the ability to get things done…

    LaHood: Right.

    Davis: Can you give us any examples of how we as the Modernization Committee can offset the inaction and how can we lead to still put good policy forward in the midst of this?

    LaHood: Look, impeachment is, um, probably the most controversial, volatile thing. It’s gonna turn this place upside down. If I were where you were, I would avoid it like the plague. This place will never be the same if you go down that road and all of your work will have to come in the next Congress. It will not come in this Congress.

…Adding… His son is taking much the same approach

“There’s a lot of anxiety and frustration out there in the ag community,” U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Peoria, said. “We need a win when it comes to trade. We’re suffering under the trade war with China because we’re not allowed to sell our soybeans and products to China, which is a huge market.”

LaHood said impeachment talk has taken up all the oxygen in Washington.

“And [U.S. House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi needs to put aside partisan politics and instead of being worried about giving the president a win, let’s worry about giving the American worker a win,” LaHood said. “And this will help the workers and it will help the economy here.”


Question of the day

Friday, Sep 27, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From the Jeanne Ives campaign…

Ives Release New Digital Ad: Meet Paul Hall

Sean Casten’s next door neighbor, Vietnam veteran and four-time Purple Heart recipient Paul Hall knows who Sean Casten is. He knows Casten’s extreme agenda doesn’t represent him or his neighbors.

Paul wants everyone to know: He is ‘All In’ for Jeanne Ives. The veteran knows that Ives will do what Casten won’t: represent him and his neighbors in government, rather than pushing a radical, big government agenda at the neighborhood block party and across the district

* The digital ad

* Script…

Meet Sean Casten’s next door neighbor, Paul Hall.

He is backing Jeanne Ives for Congress.

Paul fought against oppressive government in Vietnam and he knows more government doesn’t equal more freedom.

It isn’t very neighborly of Casten to vote for reckless spending and more debt - especially for those who are retired.

That’s why he is ‘All In’ for Jeanne Ives!

[Hall]: I’m supporting Jeanne Ives for Congress because she’s here for the people and not for the government.

* The Question: Your rating? Don’t forget to explain. Thanks.


Breen says he’s running again

Friday, Sep 27, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From former Rep. Peter Breen’s Facebook page

Today, Peter Breen, two-term Illinois State Representative (R-Lombard) and former GOP Floor Leader, announced that he is going back to Springfield. Breen, a champion of taxpayer rights, is returning to the legislative arena to fight the 21 excessive tax and fee hikes that Chicago Democrats have heaped upon Illinois residents this year.

“The General Assembly demands more and more money from Illinois families, with no end in sight,” Breen pointed out. “There’s never any talk of restraining spending, truly balancing budgets, or dealing with our mounting debt. The only concern voiced by Springfield politicians is how much more of your hard earned money they can take from you.”

“I’m going back to Springfield to put a stop to this madness and end the exodus of people and businesses from our state. Illinois government is out of touch and costs its residents way too much,” he added. “I will fight the politicians who keep hiking your taxes while refusing to rein in spending.”

This election presents a clear choice. As a State Representative, Breen led the fight against Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan and his spending and tax hikes, while Breen’s opponent, Terra Costa Howard (D-Glen Ellyn), has repeatedly backed them. Costa Howard’s first act as a state representative was to break her campaign promise to be independent of Mike Madigan: immediately after taking the oath of office, she gave the 48th District’s vote to Madigan, making him Speaker of the House. She then proceeded to do his bidding, voting for his graduated income tax hike, which she had previously promised to oppose, and his plan to spend tens of billions of dollars, over budget, on capital projects – spending paid for by over $250 in new gas and vehicle taxes on every Illinois household.

After thousands of District 48 residents reached out to Costa Howard asking her to oppose radical late-term abortion legislation, she ignored them. Instead, Costa Howard championed the most liberal abortion policies in the nation, including abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy and the removal of Illinois’ parental notice requirement prior to performing an abortion on a minor child.

Breen notes that Costa Howard’s record is “out of step with the families of the 48th District.” He continued, “My opponent has been dishonest with the people of our district. She promised to be ‘independent’ of Mike Madigan and a ‘moderate,’ but instead, she’s ramming through an aggressive liberal agenda, repeatedly hiking taxes and spending, while ignoring the sincere moral beliefs of our neighbors and friends. She can’t and won’t stand up to the corrupt Democrat machine that’s destroying Illinois.”

Breen and his wife, Margie, are the proud parents by adoption of Matthew, age 3, and James, age 1. Those young children are the primary reason for Breen’s recent founding of, an effort to put a “Fair Maps” constitutional amendment on the 2020 Illinois ballot, and his own return to elected office.

“Our families, especially young families, deserve effective and efficient government – one that provides necessary services and respects their needs,” stated Breen. “But now, many of our children face a future where they will have to move to other states in order to find opportunities to hold decent jobs, own homes, and raise families. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can turn Illinois around by adopting Fair Maps, to put a stop to gerrymandering and break the hold of Madigan and his cronies on our state government,” he declared.

Breen served as an Illinois State Representative from 2015 to 2019, and as Floor Leader from 2017 to 2019. Recognized as a defender of families and community businesses, Breen passed 32 bills into law, more than any other two-term representative. His legislation saved millions of dollars for Illinois’ small businesses and non-profit organizations, protected seniors from estate-raiding scams, and halted pension spiking in local government.

From 2011 to 2014, Breen served on the Lombard Village Board, and he served as Acting President of Lombard after the untimely death of its long-time Village President, Bill Mueller. In those roles, he cut half a million dollars in excess spending, eliminated the village vehicle tax and sticker, froze property taxes for the first time in 20 years, and led efforts to revitalize downtown Lombard.

In 2018, during the national “blue wave,” Breen lost a tight reelection. In that contest, Costa Howard accepted over $2 million in campaign cash from Madigan, while misleadingly promising voters that she would be independent of him.

Breen is nationally known for his work as a constitutional attorney with the Thomas More Society, where he focuses on First Amendment issues. An Eagle Scout, he holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Vanderbilt and a law degree from Notre Dame.

Breen lost to Costa Howard last year by seven points, 53.5 to 46.5. Donald Trump lost that district in 2016 by 17 points. And he’ll likely be on the ballot again next year.


Our sorry state

Friday, Sep 27, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* This problem needs fixing. Millions of people visit that state park every year and they’re wearing it out

You can’t hike into Tonti Canyon anymore. The trails are so badly eroded that officials at Starved Rock State Park decided they’re unsafe to tread.

Pam Grivetti fears the park’s remaining major trails also are on borrowed time. She decided somebody needed to get Springfield’s attention and pump some money into the state park — and fast.

Grivetti is president of the Starved Rock Foundation, and she went on a letter-writing blitz to Springfield. She wants every lawmaker and state agency attached to Starved Rock and Matthiessen state parks to know: Starved Rock is headed for a tipping point and desperately needs help.

“The No. 1 goal of the Department of Natural Resources is to preserve and protect the resources of the state of Illinois,” Grivetti wrote. “The DNR has been losing the battle at the busiest park in the state and one of the busiest state parks in the nation. […]

[Sen. Sue Rezin] championed a bill to charge a $5 parking fee, with funds allocated for infrastructure and safety. Senate Bill 1310 stalled, however, over a fee exemption for La Salle County residents. Rezin said recently she plans to reintroduce the measure in 2020, though not in the veto session beginning Oct. 28.

Take out the exemption and get it done.


Looking on the bright side

Friday, Sep 27, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Effingham County, people. Effingham County

The Effingham County Board in a special meeting Wednesday passed a 3.5 percent cannabis retailers’ occupation tax in anticipation of recreational marijuana legalization, which takes effect Jan. 1.

The tax passed 6-2, with board Vice Chairman Dave Campbell and board member Lloyd Foster voting ‘no’.

Board Chairman Jim Niemann said in a recent United Counties Council of Illinois meeting, the consensus among county representatives was to pass a tax to offset the expected cost of enforcement when cannabis becomes legal for recreational use in the state.

“The statistic was they figured each user was going to cost the government about an average of $4.50 a year in added enforcement,” Niemann said. “At the advice of the UCCI, (local governments) are going to legalize it in the towns because they know residents are going to go to a neighboring town and buy some, bring it back, use it, and they’re going to have the cost associated with that.”

I seriously doubt that enforcement costs will rise much, if any. So many people refuse to admit that lots of their constituents are consuming the product now.

* This development was far more expected

The city approved the move of MedMar Lakeview medical marijuana dispensary to a larger spot less than half a mile down the road in the Wrigleyville neighborhood.

Marijuana company Cresco Labs, which owns the medical dispensary, needed to move it to accommodate a growing patient count and demand for medical marijuana, said spokesman Jason Erkes.

“The patient count in Illinois has really been skyrocketing and we don’t have the capacity to accommodate those patients in an appropriate and confidential way,” he said.

The dispensary will go into the space occupied by John Barleycorn tavern.

* Yet another reason why legalization is the way to go

Seeking answers, NBC News commissioned one of the nation’s leading cannabis testing facilities to test a sampling of THC cartridges — 18 in all — obtained from legal dispensaries and unlicensed dealers. […]

Of the three purchased from legal dispensaries in California, the CannaSafe testing company found no heavy metals, pesticides or residual solvents like Vitamin E.

But 13 out of the other 15 samples from black market THC cartridges were found to contain Vitamin E.

CannaSafe also tested 10 of the unregulated cartridges for pesticides. All 10 tested positive.

The products all contained myclobutanil, a fungicide that can transform into hydrogen cyanide when burned.

Hard pass.

* Related…

* Gov. J.B. Pritzker taps state Sen. Toi Hutchinson to oversee pot rollout: “She has thoroughly impressed me with her drive, insight and ability to get big things done,” Pritzker said. “I couldn’t be more proud that she has agreed to join my administration and bring her leadership to our effort at keeping equity at the forefront of the state’s new adult-use cannabis industry.”

* State’s new cannabis czar faces a challenging to-do list: Hutchinson’s involvement is likely to be more critical after Jan. 1, which is when the first new licenses will be awarded for dispensaries, transport companies and “craft” growers. As one of the key legislators on the weed bill, she knows that its social-equity provisions were crucial to getting the bill through the Legislature.

* State Sen. Toi Hutchinson appointed as Illinois’ pot czar: In her new role, Hutchinson will be tasked with publishing a study by March 2021 that probes possible discrimination in the cannabis industry and its effects on the state. The study will include recommendations to the Illinois departments of agriculture and financial and professional regulation “for reducing or eliminating any identified barriers to entry in the cannabis market,” according to the legalization law. Further, Hutchinson will suggest and promote methods to ensure diversity in the industry, coordinate the cannabis-related efforts of various state agencies and make recommendations for policy and rule changes.


Again, governor, what’s the rush here?

Friday, Sep 27, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Hard to argue with this

Cook County’s public guardian asked a federal judge to stop state officials from changing the health care coverage for 36,000 Illinoisans currently or formerly in foster care, saying the move would violate a decades-old consent decree designed to improve care for the state’s most vulnerable kids.

Cook County Public Guardian Charles Golbert on Wednesday sent a letter to U.S. District Judge Jorge Alonso, alleging the coming transition of 17,100 foster children and 18,800 former youth in care from traditional fee-for-service Medicaid to Medicaid managed care on Nov. 1 would violate a 1991 federal order governing the Department of Children and Family Services. […]

Golbert said a too-fast rollout of the transition would be “in bald violation of DCFS’s promises to the children under the consent decree.”

“It is clear that DCFS’s scheme to precipitously dump tens of thousands of children and youth into the MCO on November 1 is being done without adequate thought or planning,” Golbert wrote. “It is equally clear that this dump will result in wholesale violations of the children’s rights to health care under the consent decree.”

I just don’t get the rush to do this. Thank goodness for Hannah Meisel’s reporting.


Illinois poverty rate finally returned to pre-recession levels last year

Friday, Sep 27, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Heartland Alliance

The poverty rate for the United States was 11.8% in 2018, a decline of 0.5 percentage points from 2017. There were 38.1 million people in poverty nationwide.

In 2018, 1.5 million Illinoisans were in poverty—a rate of 12.1%. Additionally, 2.0 million Illinoisans are near poor and economically insecure with incomes between 100% and 199% of the federal poverty threshold.

This year marks the first time that the U.S.poverty rate is below pre-recession levels; Illinois lags behind this trend, with its poverty rate just returning to pre-recession levels.

More here.

…Adding… One Illinois

But the Census Bureau also reported that a key measure of income inequality rose to the highest level ever recorded in the United States. The Gini index measures income inequality on a scale from 0 to 1, with 0 being a totally equitable society where everyone has the same and 1 being a society where all wealth is concentrated in one household. The U.S. Gini index rose “significantly higher” from 0.482 in 2017 to 0.485 last year, according to a U.S. Census Bureau news release. When the bureau began compiling the Gini index in 1967 it stood at 0.397. Last year, no European nation had an index higher than 0.38.

The bureau didn’t give a state-by-state breakdown on the Gini index, but reported that most states, including Illinois, saw little or no increase last year. It worsened in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Kansas, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Texas, and Virginia. Overall, income inequality tended to be worst on the coasts, including California, Connecticut, Florida, Louisiana, New York, the District of Columbia, and in Puerto Rico.

* Related…

* Former Alexander County Housing Authority Director James Wilson still hasn’t made any payments on $500K he owes the feds

* ADDED: Jobs report shows unemployment rate down in all 14 metro areas


A few additional tidbits from yesterday’s federal activities

Friday, Sep 27, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* We hit the high points of the coordinated federal raids/activities yesterday. Let’s look at a few more tidbits today. WBEZ

In a statement to WBEZ, a representative for the Internal Revenue Service declined to talk specifics about the raids, but said the “IRS Criminal Investigation [unit] was out on search warrants today in some villages near Chicago.”

A criminal defense lawyer representing Sandoval said the FBI’s activities in the three suburbs Thursday did “not directly” pertain to his client and called the law-enforcement action an “excessive use of federal money.”

He did not elaborate on any possible direct or indirect connections to Sandoval.

“You’d probably have to ask those folks,” attorney Craig Tobin said, referring to the FBI. “The issue is whatever I would know, I can’t disclose to you.”

* Sun-Times

An FBI spokesman described the visit to McCook, Lyons and the insurance agency as “authorized law enforcement activity,” but he drew a distinction in Summit, calling the visit there “investigative activity.” FBI agents took no records in Summit but interviewed village employees about contracts and licensing, a source said. […]

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office said the governor is concerned about the reports of federal activity.

“No elected official in Illinois should use their office to personally profit, and these reports are deeply concerning to the governor,” said spokeswoman Emily Bittner. “The governor expects elected officials to uphold the highest ethical standards, and for anyone who fails, they should be held accountable to the fullest extent possible.”

* Tribune

Gary Perlman, village attorney for McCook, said Thursday that FBI agents executed a search warrant “very early in the morning before the building was even open,” and removed files and other materials.

The warrants were seeking information about several individuals and entities, including contractors that do business with the village, Perlman said. He declined to specify what was being targeted, saying village officials were “still reviewing (the warrants) ourselves.” […]

Meanwhile, a clerk at the Summit village hall said the mayor was not available and she was not aware of any FBI activity there Thursday.

“Just a quiet, ordinary day,” she said.

* ABC 7

Some residents said the federal action is long overdue.

“We were just hoping for the feds to come in at some point, and now they have,” said Lyons resident Earl Johnson.

After hearing the news of the FBI raids here at McCook Village Hall and in the Village of Lyons, he says the FBI is sending a message.

“To not be a dirty politician. To be a clean politician, serve your constituents and you work for the people, not for yourself,” he said.

* Crain’s

“Cook County is a Democratic county and there are thousands of elected officials, a handful have been raided,” said Preckwinkle, who’s also chair of the Cook County Democratic Party. “It’s painful to hear this. However, the assumption in our criminal justice system is innocent until proven guilty. This is a raid, it may or may not go any further than that.”


State historian: “No evidence” that infamous hat belonged to Lincoln

Friday, Sep 27, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* $6.5 million down the drain

Illinois’ state historian says he can’t confirm whether a stovepipe hat that was once the crown jewel of Springfield’s Abraham Lincoln presidential museum actually belonged to the nation’s 16th president.

That previously undisclosed assessment by the now-fired executive director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Alan Lowe, was made in a June email with a senior aide to Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker.

The documents, recently obtained by WBEZ, shed the first light on the workings of state historian Samuel Wheeler, who last year was asked by Lowe to research the hat as questions mounted over its shaky tie to Lincoln.

State emails turned over by the Pritzker administration through an open records request show Wheeler and his associates pored through the vast collection of the Illinois State Archives and through the papers of the hat’s ex-owner, an early 20th century downstate lawmaker.


AG Raoul’s grand jury subpoenas more Quincy documents

Friday, Sep 27, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* This is the first time in about a year that we’ve heard anything out of the grand jury, which was taken over by Attorney General Lisa Madigan last year

The criminal investigation into more than a dozen Legionnaires’ disease deaths at the state-run Quincy veterans’ home appears to be focusing, in part, on the errant release of stagnant water into the facility’s hot-water system, new records show.

A criminal grand jury in downstate Adams County, where Quincy is located, issued a subpoena in late August to the Illinois Department of Public Health. It asked for a series of documents pertaining to the mistaken discharge of what a former state public health official characterized as a “broth of Legionella” – a mistake that may have caused the first deadly Legionnaires’ outbreak in 2015.

The document, which the state agency provided WBEZ on Thursday in response to an open-records request, also sought information about the state’s delay in installing special faucet filters first recommended in 2015 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Go read the whole thing.


State strike law is 0 for 2

Friday, Sep 27, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Remember when the state passed a law requiring 75 percent of Chicago teachers to vote in favor of authorizing a walkout before a strike could happen? It didn’t stop the CTU in 2012, when 90 percent of teachers and 98 percent of those who cast ballots voted to authorize a strike, and it didn’t stop the CTU this time, either

The Chicago Teachers Union voted in overwhelming numbers to authorize a strike, union officials announced late Thursday. The union is planning to set a strike date next Wednesday. Teachers likely will walk out in mid-October if no deal is reached by then.

CTU leaders said 94% of members had voted in favor of a strike, surpassing the 75% threshold required by law. Some 90% of the ballots had been counted Thursday night.

* Sun-Times

The earliest the union’s 25,000 teachers could strike is Oct. 7, though indications from the CTU are that a walkout would come closer to mid-October. […]

With the vote, the CTU joins more than 7,000 members of SEIU Local 73 who already voted in favor of a strike. SEIU represents school support staff workers at CPS who include special education classroom assistants, bus aides, security guards and custodians. Park District workers have also authorized a strike, possibly putting a dent in the city’s usual plan during a teachers’ strike of sending the about 300,000 students at district-run schools to Park District buildings. […]

“We’ve had a very successful launch of the start of school,” the mayor told reporters at a South Side event. “Our kids are involved and engaged in their extra-curricular activities. They’re bonding with their teachers. Having a strike would be catastrophic for the learning environment for our kids. We can’t lose sight of that.

* Tribune

“In our schools, there’s lots of different pieces that go into making that ecosystem the kind of learning environment where our kids can be successful and thrive. Of course teachers are a big part of that but, fundamentally, we’ve got to focus on our kids and keeping them in school,” Lightfoot said. “We know that kids who stay in school are much less likely to be victims of crime and much less likely to be perpetrators of crime, so putting 360,000 kids on the street when a deal is right here at our fingertips, how does that make sense? It doesn’t.”

Davis Gates challenged the mayor, saying the city doesn’t adequately fund after-school programs.

“To immediately go to crime and to try to shift blame to teachers for crime and to label our students as perpetrators is absolutely irresponsible,” Davis Gates said. “… She is out of line and she needs to apologize to our members for making such a gross offensive statement, and she needs to apologize to our students and our families for labeling them as criminals.”

…Adding… Five presidential candidates support the CTU…


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