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Friday, Sep 13, 2019

* RIP Eddie

We’re gonna disappear

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More post-Mapes cleanup by Madigan

Friday, Sep 13, 2019

* Tina Sfondeles

Weeks after a former inspector general blamed former Mike Madigan chief of staff Tim Mapes for ruling through a culture of fear and intimidation, the powerful speaker has told his staff and Democratic primary candidates “no person should be pressured” into volunteering for a campaign. […]

“I am writing to remind you that no person should be pressured into or made to feel as if they are required to engage in political activities or that their public employment may be contingent upon assisting a candidate or political committee,” Madigan wrote Thursday in an email to Democratic primary candidates. […]

The letter comes weeks after former inspector general Maggie Hickey issued a scathing report about workplace culture in the speaker’s office with a very large focus on Mapes, who also served as the executive director of the state Democratic party and clerk of the House.

Most of those interviewed, Hickey wrote, “agreed that Mr. Mapes commonly threatened people’s jobs or reminded them that they were dispensable.”

* From the letter

In keeping with the Democratic Party’s goal of ensuring safe and supportive workplaces, our political committees have implemented many changes since the last election cycle. […]

Every staff member and volunteer serving in a supervisory role will be required to participate in a training program prior to receiving an assignment, and resources will be available for all staff and volunteers throughout the campaign cycle.

In addition, every candidate receiving assistance from the Democratic Party of Illinois, Democratic Majority, or Friends of Michael J. Madigan will be required to participate in a training program and adopt workplace harassment policies.

The goal is to create a culture where staff and volunteers feel comfortable to work issues out among themselves, knowing there is a supportive and fair system in place when they cannot. Whether you are an employee or a volunteer, you are entitled to a working environment free of coercion, discrimination, harassment, or intimidation, and I am committed to providing that environment for all persons working with our campaigns.

* From a letter Madigan sent to all Democratic primary candidates this week

With the 2020 election season approaching, candidates and political committees will be actively seeking volunteers and paid staff to perform political activities. I am writing to remind you that no person should be pressured into or made to feel as if they are required to engage in political activities or that their public employment may be contingent upon assisting a candidate or political committee. […]

(E)very candidate receiving resources from the Democratic Party of Illinois, Democratic Majority or Friends of Michael J. Madigan will be required to take training on workplace harassment and have their own policies in place. The goal is to create a culture where candidates, staff and volunteers feel comfortable to work issues out among themselves, knowing there is a supportive and fair system in place when they cannot.

That should be the policy in both parties and all four caucuses, IMHO.

* From a Madigan letter sent last week

Dear Employee of the Office of the Speaker:

With the 2020 election season approaching, candidates and political committees will be actively recruiting volunteers and paid staff to perform political activities. As we work together to improve our workplace, I want to remind you that you should not be pressured into or made to feel as if you are required to engage in any political activity, or that your role within the Office of the Speaker is influenced by your political participation.

Those who chose to take time off work or volunteer for a candidate or political committee should do so only if it is their personal choice. You have a First Amendment right to engage in political speech, but it should be your decision whether to participate in political activities on your own time.

As a reminder, you are expressly prohibited from engaging in prohibited political activities while on State time or using State resources, and members of the General Assembly are prohibited from requiring you to engage in such activities. […]

I want to reiterate that your personal decision regarding participating in political activities will have no impact whatsoever on your role within the Office of the Speaker.

- Posted by Rich Miller   9 Comments      

“80 percent of success is just showing up”

Friday, Sep 13, 2019

* Rockford Register Star

It took five years and three governors, but Chicago Rockford International Airport finally has the check it was promised from the state of Illinois.

Mike Dunn, executive director of the airport, confirmed last week that the $14.7 million check was in hand.

A big thank you to Gov. JB Pritzker for delivering. Pritzker has been bullish on Rockford. It’s not just the airport. He helped the city get its long-sought-after casino, money for rail, and more money for Rockford University, Rock Valley College, RAMP and the Boys & Girls Clubs. Rockford Mass Transit District did well in the state budget and there was $250,000 for the Rockford Art Museum.

Other governors have talked about how critical Rockford is to the state’s overall economy and did little or nothing to help. Pritzker has shown us that Rockford’s future is more than a campaign talking point. He has acted.

Not only has he come through with much-needed dollars, he’s visited the Forest City a number of times and has been to the airport at least three times. Rauner never visited the airport, according to Dunn.

Wow. That’s quite a smooch.

* Southern Illinoisan

Thumbs up to the success of the 2019 Du Quoin State Fair. According to figures released by the fair, Grandstand ticket sales were up 26 percent from 2018. The State of Illinois reports that overall revenue was up 37 percent. About $350,000 was generated by Grandstand attractions this year, an increase of $90,000. In more good news, state officials reported attendance at this year’s fair was 124,000, up from 100,000 in 2018. And, in a related thumbs Up, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has pledged continued support of the fair. “My administration has invested in improving the Du Quoin fairgrounds, and I’m committed to making this historic fair successful for decades to come, so that this economic engine can continue to benefit not only Du Quoin, but all of Southern Illinois,” Pritzker said. After the fair and fairgrounds have been neglected for so many years, real support from Springfield would be a definite plus.

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Madigan creates 20-member gun violence task force

Friday, Sep 13, 2019

* Speaker Madigan letter to the House Clerk

Dear Mr. Clerk:

Pursuant to House Rule 13.5, today I am establishing the House Firearm Public Awareness Task Force, which will review the issue of gun violence and make recommendations designed to reduce violence. The number of majority and minority appointments for the task force is indicated below. These majority appointments are effective immediately.

Each caucus will be allowed to appoint ten members. It’s not as big as the property tax task force, but it ain’t small, either.

* Here are the Democrats

Representative La Shawn K. Ford, Chair
Representative Monica Bristow
Representative Sonya M. Harper
Representative Barbara Hernandez
Representative Yehiel Kalish
Representative Stephanie A. Kifowit
Representative Theresa Mah
Representative Martin J. Moylan
Representative Aaron M. Ortiz
Representative Kathleen Willis

Rep. Ford said he requested the task force be created.

* From the House Republicans…

We look forward to appointing members to this task force and working in a bipartisan manner to address this issue.

- Posted by Rich Miller   18 Comments      

Looking on the bright side

Friday, Sep 13, 2019

* Highwood is, um, living up to its name

The state of Illinois will commence the sale of cannabis on January 1, 2020 and the City of Highwood is working to be proactive in the early implementation. […]

“Highwood’s innovative entertainment district is thriving and this newly legal industry is an opportunity to continue retail growth. Being an early adopter would have advantages including identifying the best business partner for the community and giving Highwood early market share,” says Scott Coren, Highwood City Manager. “We look forward to welcoming a business to Highwood that is equally invested in this opportunity.”

* This will be a relatively short drive from my house

While Springfield city leaders debate whether or not to allow recreational marijuana sales and cultivation within city limits, the capital city’s lone medical marijuana dispensary is closing in on a second location for recreational pot sales on the city’s East Side.

Chris Stone, the founder and CEO of HCI Alternatives, confirmed Thursday that the company is “in the final negotiations” to lease the former Outback Steakhouse, 3201 Horizon Drive, nestled between Dirksen Parkway and Interstate 55 near the Crowne Plaza. […]

Stone said the site, which has been vacant since the Australian-themed restaurant relocated last year to the city’s West Side, offered the company several advantages: easy highway access, a strong transient customer base with its proximity to several major hotels and an opportunity to provide jobs to an economically struggling side of town.

* I’m betting there will be a long line

Canton’s medical marijuana dispensary, which is one of the first businesses in the state to receive both state and city approval to sell recreational marijuana, will start selling to all adults first thing on New Year’s Day.

Scott Miller of Salveo Health & Wellness Dispensary said Salveo will be ready to sell recreational marijuana at 7 a.m. Jan. 1, the day it will become legal in Illinois.

He said Salveo is being expanded into a 4,000-square-foot facility that will feature state of the art technology.

* Elgin

The Elgin City Council had its first discussion about whether to allow recreational marijuana sales in town, and a majority of members said they are inclined to say “yes.”

City staff members will draft ordinance proposals addressing zoning, regulations and taxes regarding the sale of marijuana. The process will entail a public hearing before the planning and zoning commission and a final vote by the city council. […]

Councilman Terry Gavin said he read a lot about marijuana legalization across the country, in addition to the extensive research done by city staff members, and agreed that allowing marijuana shops is reasonable.

“We’ve been fighting this war on drugs for decades. It’s not working very well,” he said.

* Tribune

The new cannabis course at Oakton Community College is far from the blow-off class one might imagine. Students don’t touch marijuana inside the classroom in Des Plaines. No one grows a plant, rolls a joint or smokes a bong. Instead, they learn about molecular biology, drug laws and treating terminal illness. […]

Students who complete the seven-course curriculum will be trained as cannabis dispensary and patient care specialists, designed to qualify them to work in either medical or recreational settings. Of the first 100 students taking the course, about 20 hope to complete it this semester, in time to start working in the field when commercial marijuana sales become legal under state law in Illinois on Jan. 1, 2020. […]

Budtender jobs average around $14 per hour in Illinois, while a dispensary manager averages around $53,000, according to job site Reese hopes that hourly workers will become salaried employees as the field expands and professionalizes.

* Related…

* Illinois Women In Cannabis Is Looking For Entrepreneurs

* Green Thumb Industries (GTI) to Open Rise Hermitage, the Seventh Rise™ Cannabis Store in Pennsylvania, on September 19: Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, GTI has 13 manufacturing facilities, licenses for 95 retail locations and operations across 12 U.S. markets

* Marijuana at the airport: That part of your packing list might not fly: The city has plenty of examples to consider when crafting its own policy. At some airports, police won’t interfere as long as travelers are of legal age and in compliance with quantity limits. But other airports say even a legally purchased stash doesn’t fly.

* Tight-knit female lawmakers behind legal marijuana have new nickname

* Iroquois County board approves tax on cannabis

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Friday, Sep 13, 2019

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Seeing what they want to see

Friday, Sep 13, 2019

* Brett Rowland, Illinois editor of The Center Square

[Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago] should follow Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s lead and call for a change to the constitution to end the pension-protection clause.

That’s a demonstrably false statement.

* December 12, 2018

Chicago mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot released the following statement in response to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposal to amend the the state constitution on pensions.

“I disagree with Mayor Emanuel’s attack on working families and retirees because pensions are a promise—no exceptions,” said Lightfoot. “I grew up in a steel town, and when the steel industry failed, workers and retirees lost their pensions. From that experience, I know how Chicago families, just like families in my town, plan their lives and budgets around the pension promises we’ve made. These families have already paid their fair share—we’ve got to honor that commitment as well.”

* Lightfoot’s Facebook page on March 1

Just a reminder—pensions are a promise. No exceptions.

* August 30

One proposed solution is to amend the Illinois Constitution to revamp the current pension clause, which the courts have ruled protects the 3 percent compounded annual increase in pension benefits many non-police/fire government workers receive even though inflation lately has been running around 1 percent a year.

Not only labor unions, but Gov. J.B. Pritzker opposes 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, “I’d like to put as many options as possible on the table.” […]

2:15 p.m. update: It looks like Lightfoot caught some heat since her comments went live. Her office now has issued what it calls a “clarifying” statement: “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   50 Comments      

Question of the day

Friday, Sep 13, 2019

* Albany, New York Times-Union

A national group that lobbied against legislative efforts to legalize adult use of marijuana is seeking to keep its funding sources confidential.

The state Joint Commission on Public Ethics is scheduled to hear a disclosure exemption request Tuesday from the New York chapter of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), which contends its donors could be harassed and their livelihoods adversely affected if they are publicly identified.

The group spent more than $84,000 on lobbying during the recent legislative session, according to financial disclosures with the state. […]

In New York, social welfare organizations that engage in lobbying are required to disclose their sources of funding unless they can prove there is a “substantial likelihood” of harm or reprisals for publicly revealed donors. The requirement is to ensure the public is informed about efforts to influence governmental decisions, according to JCOPE.

* The Question: Should Illinois also require 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations to disclose their funding sources if they lobby? Make sure to explain your answer.

- Posted by Rich Miller   34 Comments      

It comes down to trust

Friday, Sep 13, 2019

* The Tribune editorialized today against a CTU strike. Here’s part of it

We understand Chicago Teachers Union leadership is pushing to codify into the contract staffing increases for school nurses, social workers and case managers. You need more of them in your schools. No dispute there. But Lightfoot needs flexibility to phase in those expenses and keep the positions outside the terms of a contract, as the independent fact-finder also recommended. She publicly has committed to adding 250 nurses and at least 200 social workers during the next five years, and adding caseworkers during the next three. That’s reasonable.

* I reached out to Kyle Hillman with the National Association of Social Workers to ask about the cost of the CTU demand for more social workers. His reply…

I am not at the negotiating table, so I can’t speak to where CTU is at this point. I am not even sure if there is an additional cost but rather a desire to see it in writing so it actually happens. For example, last year CPS committed to hiring 160 social workers, by the end of March they still hadn’t hired 125 of them. They are also one of the first staff to go (if they aren’t locked to IEP [individualized education program] mandated hours) – so in writing – is the only assurances that social workers won’t be CPS’s easy chopping block. When you consider the level of trauma experienced by CPS students – it is shocking social workers would even be considered discretionary.

If CPS even filled the slots they have already promised in the media, that would get them only half way to the recommended standard. The district needs about 1200 social workers to address the size of the school district - they have roughly 410 (they have committed in the media to get to 671 over 5 years). I would be shocked if they even met their media commitment of 671.

- Posted by Rich Miller   27 Comments      

Simple solutions are usually neither

Friday, Sep 13, 2019

* NewsTribune

A Peru Republican is entering the 76th District primary for a chance to compete for the seat held by state Rep. Lance Yednock, D-Ottawa, in the 2020 election.

Jason Haskell, a Peru resident who works as a project manager for a construction company, plans to vie for the Republican nomination against Travis Breeden, R-Utica, who announced his plans in August to run. […]

Haskell also believes the state needs to freeze public-sector hiring until the state workforce shrinks by 11.5%.

“Shrinking the payroll by 11.5% saves taxpayers at least $839 million in payroll cost, allowing Illinois to start working down the size of the unfunded pension liability,” Haskell said in a news release.

That all sounds nice until you actually look at what you’re cutting. Eliminating 313 current DCFS jobs can be done, of course, but the agency is already sorely under-staffed. So, if you think DCFS will be able to adequately perform its mission with even more payroll cuts, you’re dreaming.

- Posted by Rich Miller   42 Comments      

Pritzker wants “actionable scenario” from agencies on potential cuts, other reductions

Friday, Sep 13, 2019

* I told subscribers about this memo a few days ago. Here’s Illinois Public Radio

State agencies are getting a warning from Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s budget office: Be prepared to make significant cuts next year.

A memo orders agencies to include a scenario in which 6.5 percent of current year funding would go away. They’re to find the savings through “operational efficiencies.”

The document was issued under the names of Deputy Gov. Dan Hynes and Budget Director Alexis Sturm, who say the current-year budget is still balanced. […]

“I understand the fiscal realities, but to be thinking about taking this backwards step when we’re still trying to get out of the danger zone is discouraging,” [the Illinois Collaboration on Youth’s Andrea Durbin] says. “And I hope the General Assembly and this administration are able to come together and find ways to avoid that.”

* Here’s the memo

To: All Governor’s Cabinet Directors
From: Dan Hynes, Deputy Governor, Budget & Economy
Alexis Sturm, Director, Governor’s Office of Management and Budget
Subject: Fiscal Year 2021 Spending Efficiencies Proposals
Date: September 9, 2019

Although the spring legislative session produced a successful balanced budget for fiscal year 2020, Illinois continues to face significant financial challenges, and we must continue to be wise fiscal stewards of the limited resources of State government. The State’s backlog of unpaid general funds bills that were left behind by the previous administration remained in excess of $7 billion as of June 30, 2019, and the extensive bill payment delays continue to strain the State’s network of providers and translate into millions of dollars of unnecessary interest costs.

In that context, it remains essential that agency leadership continue to evaluate current operations and procedures and set parameters for operational expenses in all agencies. Directions regarding submissions of fiscal year 2021 budget requests will be forthcoming in a few weeks from GOMB; however, even now, agency directors – working in conjunction with their Deputy Governor and GOMB staff – should be prepared to:

    1) Propose in your annual submission to GOMB an actionable scenario that includes operational efficiencies reflecting a 6.5% reduction from an estimated maintenance level of fiscal year 2021 operations funding across all appropriated funds (additional details will be forthcoming in GOMB’s budget submission request forms);

    2) Conduct a review of boards and commissions within your agency’s purview and propose elimination of statutorily created boards and commissions that would lead to a 10% reduction of them;

    3) Identify at least two significant efficiency and savings ideas for consideration in the fiscal year 2021 budget. Ideas could include (but are not limited to) items such as elimination or consolidation of duplicative programs, reduction in funding for underutilized or inefficient services, or improvements in service delivery that streamline costs. Reviews of agency audits from the last few years can provide ideas for cost savings for fiscal year 2021.

Your proposal will need to be submitted with your fiscal year 2021 budget request to GOMB. Agency directors should be prepared to implement any ideas submitted in the fiscal year 2021 budget requests. We and our staffs are available to discuss this memo and answer any questions you may have.

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Friday, Sep 13, 2019

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In super-rare move, two aldermen sponsored tax break resolutions worth millions for Burke’s clients

Friday, Sep 13, 2019


In a sharp break with City Hall convention, two Chicago aldermen fronted measures for now-indicted Ald. Edward Burke that steered millions of dollars in property tax breaks for Burke’s law clients in his Southwest Side ward.

The half-dozen measures found by the Better Government Association allowed Burke to skirt city conflict-of-interest rules. And some of the resulting tax break measures came even as federal agents quietly built their abuse-of-power case against him, the longest-sitting alderman in Chicago history.

In two instances, Burke’s name and ward number were scratched off official city resolutions and the other aldermen’s names and ward numbers were penciled in as sponsors of the measures.

Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson, 11th, and Ald. Michael R. Zalewski, who represented the 23rd Ward until he retired last year, sponsored the six tax break resolutions since 2011. The measures were for industrial businesses in Burke’s 14th Ward whose owners also were clients of Burke’s property tax law firm, Klafter & Burke.

Aldermen rarely sponsor resolutions that don’t involve their own wards, especially tax breaks for businesses. Of the 123 industrial tax incentive resolutions filed since 2011, all of them were sponsored by the local alderman except the ones identified by the BGA in Burke’s ward.

Go read the rest. Good stuff in there.

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Friday, Sep 13, 2019

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Friday, Sep 13, 2019

* Follow along with ScribbleLive

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* Reader comments closed for the weekend
* More post-Mapes cleanup by Madigan
* "80 percent of success is just showing up"
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Fundraiser list
* Madigan creates 20-member gun violence task force
* Looking on the bright side
* *** UPDATED x1 *** SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Another update to today's edition
* Seeing what they want to see
* Question of the day
* It comes down to trust
* Simple solutions are usually neither
* Pritzker wants "actionable scenario" from agencies on potential cuts, other reductions
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Update to today's edition
* In super-rare move, two aldermen sponsored tax break resolutions worth millions for Burke's clients
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Supplement to today's edition
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today's edition of Capitol Fax (use all CAPS in password)
* Yesterday's stories

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