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Reader comments closed for Thanksgiving

Wednesday, Nov 27, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* I’ll be back Monday. Thanks so much for everything this year. And thanks to the skeleton crew of commenters who stuck it out all day today. I’ll talk at y’all on the flip side. Meanwhile, here is our traditional sign-off

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ISBE: Sandoval submits resignation

Wednesday, Nov 27, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* According to the Illinois State Board of Elections, embattled state Sen. Martin Sandoval (D-Chicago) has submitted his resignation effective January 1, 2020 at 12:01 pm.

That resignation date will trigger a special nominating petition filing period which, according to the Board, will run from December 3-9. The usual signature requirement will apply in order to qualify for the spring primary ballot.

The committeepersons in the district will also have 30 days after the resignation date to choose a replacement. That person will then serve until December 7, 2020, according to the board.

…Adding… The 13th and 23rd Wards have enough weighted vote combined to make the appointment on their own.

…Adding… More…

* There had been rumors that Senate President John Cullerton would also submit a similar resignation this week and therefore trigger the special nominating petition filing period. But Board spokesperson Matt Dietrich said they’ve been told this won’t happen.

If Cullerton waits until after the filing period ends, Cullerton’s replacement will effectively be the party’s nominee and won’t face the voters until November of 2020. The district is overwhelming Democratic, however, so the appointment is the replacement, barring some divine intervention.


Pearson gets to sleep in Sunday mornings

Wednesday, Nov 27, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* I am a devotee of Rick Pearson’s Sunday Spin show on WGN Radio, but I’ve never once listened to it live. I mean, 7-9 on Sunday mornings? Nope. Hard pass. I need my beauty rest (desperately, even). Instead I listen to it online at my leisure.

Maybe I’ll get my first chance at listening to it live now, except if the Bears are playing the afternoon game

The music of Ol’ Blue Eyes will air exclusively from 6:30 to 9 a.m. Sundays on WGN 720-AM, the Nexstar Media news/talk station announced Tuesday.

Starting December 8, David Plier will host the locally-produced showcase devoted solely to the classic tunes of Frank Sinatra, leading into “Dean Richards’ Sunday Morning” from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. […]

To accommodate the new addition, WGN will move “Steve Dale’s Pet World” to 5:30 a.m. Sundays and “The Sunday Spin: Politics with Rick Pearson” to 5 p.m. Sundays.


Feds blame lies to grand jury for failure to bring charges against Dorothy Brown

Wednesday, Nov 27, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Welp…

* This information was sort of cryptically revealed last week

Federal prosecutors want a judge to send a longtime Dorothy Brown worker to prison for more than two years after they said she lied to a grand jury, “threw a wrench in the wheels of justice and ground them to a halt.”

They also said the lies Beena Patel told the grand jury investigating job-selling allegations in the office of Brown, the clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County, “directly impacted the government’s ability to charge those most culpable in the illegal activity.” […]

The feds’ investigation centered in part around a $15,000 payment by Sivasubramani Rajaram allegedly to land a job at the clerk’s office. The feds say Rajaram made a $5,000 cash payment at a meeting at the Corner Bakery across from the Daley Center. But when prosecutors asked Patel about that meeting in front of the grand jury, they said Patel gave misleading answers.

“She attempted to minimize her own involvement by stating that Rajaram slid the envelope containing $5,000 in cash directly to the Clerk,” McShain wrote in Tuesday’s memo.

Prosecutors said it was Patel who accepted the cash.

…Adding… Mike Cabonargi, candidate for Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County…

The Office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County should be held to the highest ethical standards in order to foster access to justice. It should not be an office where Federal investigators spend years combing through allegations of corruption and lies, ultimately eroding the trust that should exist between the people of Cook County and the court system. It is time to usher in a new era of justice and credibility, and as a former Federal prosecutor, I’m the only candidate with a Reform Plan to do so.


*** UPDATED x1 *** Illinois makes over $40 million a year selling drivers license info

Wednesday, Nov 27, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Vice publication Motherboard

The California Department of Motor Vehicles is generating revenue of $50,000,000 a year through selling drivers’ personal information, according to a DMV document obtained by Motherboard.

DMVs across the country are selling data that drivers are required to provide to the organization in order to obtain a license. This information includes names, physical addresses, and car registration information. California’s sales come from a state which generally scrutinizes privacy to a higher degree than the rest of the country. […]

The document doesn’t name the commercial requesters, but some specific companies appeared frequently in Motherboard’s earlier investigation that looked at DMVs across the country. They included data broker LexisNexis and consumer credit reporting agency Experian. Motherboard also found DMVs sold information to private investigators, including those who are hired to find out if a spouse is cheating. It is unclear if the California DMV has recently sold data to these sorts of entities. […]

In an email to Motherboard, the California DMV said that requesters may also include insurance companies, vehicle manufacturers, and prospective employers.

Asked if the sale of this data was essential to the DMV, Marty Greenstein, public information officer at the California DMV, wrote that its sale furthers objectives related to highway and public safety, “including availability of insurance, risk assessment, vehicle safety recalls, traffic studies, emissions research, background checks, and for pre- and existing employment purposes.”

* I asked Secretary of State Jesse White’s spokesperson Dave Druker if Illinois does this. His response…

We provide information to eligible groups in accordance with the national Driver’s Privacy Protection Act and state law. Such sources include law enforcement, courts, government agencies, insurance companies and employers hiring people, especially for driving positions. All agreements are signed off by our legal department and must meet the highest standards for privacy protection, and cannot be used for commercial solicitation. The money generated goes to the state’s general revenue.

I followed up with a question of how much money this brings in…

It has generated $41 million this year, and it is expected to reach $44 million for the calendar year.


*** UPDATE *** From Druker…

Hi Rich.

Just wanted to mention on the sale of driving records, social security numbers are not made available. Having driving records allows insurance companies to know the driving history of the person seeking insurance, and in the case of trucking companies, they are required to see an official driving record before they hire someone. Enjoy the weekend.


The hollowing out of Illinois government: IEPA

Wednesday, Nov 27, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* As I’ve said before, the high point in Illinois government was around Fiscal Year 2001. After that, it’s been all downhill due to two recessions (post 9/11 and the international financial collapse) and vastly increased pension payments. Here’s Ted Cox at One Illinois..

“Protecting the Illinois EPA’s Health, so That It Can Protect Ours” was written by Mark Templeton, heading a team from the Abrams Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School, as well as former IEPA and U.S. EPA staffers Mary Gade, Doug Scott, and Bharat Mathur — all of whom took part in a media conference call Tuesday.

Templeton said the report stemmed from “mutual shared concern about Illinois EPA” and its role “to protect public health and the environment.” They cited dwindling staff and resources at the agency dating back to 2003. According to Templeton, staffing last year was down to 639, almost half of the 1,265 EPA workers on staff in 2003. IEPA staffing and budget were cut every year going back to 2003, and stood at $382 million in the current budget for the 2020 fiscal year. down from $522 million in 2003. He pointed out that all came from a fee system that hadn’t been readjusted since 2003. Gade added that Illinois is the only state in the Great Lakes Region 5 area of the U.S. EPA that doesn’t fund its state EPA through general appropriations.

Gade, who headed IEPA throughout the ‘90s, added that statewide inspections had dropped from a couple thousand a year to a few hundred. Citing the “cumulative impact of years of declining IEPA budgets,” she said the “slow, gradual decline … needs to be reversed and reversed quickly.” She said failure to adequately test emissions of ethylene oxide at Sterigenics in Willowbrook as well as firms in Lake County were one thing that had attracted much attention, but perhaps the greater danger was the smaller, unobserved “accumulating” problems in air and water statewide “that isn’t as clean as it needs to be.”

The report also cited that IEPA referrals to the Office of the Attorney General had declined from 212 under Gov. Pat Quinn in 2014 to just 78 under Gov. Bruce Rauner in 2016 before rebounding a little to 116 in 2017.

According to Mathur, there are now just four engineers in IEPA’s Chicago office, where previously there were more than a dozen, and the staffing situation was even more dire in central and southern Illinois.

The report is here.


*** UPDATED x1 *** Question of the day

Wednesday, Nov 27, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* As we’ve discussed twice before this month, the legal definition of when a contribution is received is the day it is deposited in the bank. So, we don’t know exactly when these contributions were actually made without checking with the respective campaigns or ComEd’s PAC…

* The Question: Should ComEd’s political action committee stop contributing to legislators’ campaign funds for a while? If so, for how long? Make sure to explain your answer. Thanks.

*** UPDATE *** From Kimberly Lightford’s campaign…

Both checks mentioned by Steve Daniels were written on Sept 11, well before Anne Pramaggiore’s retirement.

The checks with redactions by me…


Fun with numbers

Wednesday, Nov 27, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Center Square

A poll of Illinois residents found many think Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s progressive income tax proposal will have a negative effect on the state’s businesses, leading to layoffs or relocation in response to the higher rates.

The Illinois Business Association, a nonprofit business advocacy group, commissioned a poll by Chicago-based Ogden & Fry asking Illinois residents about how businesses will fare under Pritzker’s proposed graduated income rates, which are dependent on voters passing a ballot initiative in 2020.

Of 615 randomly sampled likely 2020 General Election voters on Nov. 15, 68 percent agreed with the statement that “Businesses will cut jobs, or relocate jobs out of state, and Illinois’ economy will suffer” under the proposed rates rather than create more jobs to grow the state’s economy.

Fifty-seven percent said they didn’t trust Illinois politicians, saying they though lawmakers would raise rates in the future beyond what was initially proposed.

Um, OK. First of all, if a pollster doesn’t disclose the percentage of landlines and mobile phone contacts, that raises a red flag, and this pollster does not do so. Robopolls can only legally contact landlines.

* Secondly, this is essentially a push poll. Here’s the setup to the first question

Q1: Governor Pritzker has proposed a new tax increase, the Fair Tax, that changes Illinois’ flat income tax to a progressive income tax that taxes higher levels of income at higher rates. It also increases taxes on corporations and small businesses. The governor says the tax increase is needed to help stabilize Illinois’ budget and grow the state economy. Opponents of the Fair Tax say that raising taxes on the wealthy and businesses will lead to job losses, jobs moving out of state, and economic stagnation.

No indication that the tax increase would be shouldered by just three percent of individual taxpayers. Big problem.

Now, here’s the question

Which of the following statements comes closest to your view, even if neither is one-hundred percent accurate?

Raising taxes on Illinois businesses is a good way to grow the state economy.

Raising taxes on Illinois businesses won’t lead to economic growth.

Um, OK.

* After two more such push questions, here’s the final question

Q4: Over the last decade, states with progressive income tax rates have seen slower growth in jobs and wages compared to states with flat tax rates or no state income taxes. In the most recent state to switch to a progressive income tax, middle class families have seen their taxes go up thirteen percent since it was enacted and the state lost 362,000 jobs. Knowing this, do you support or oppose adopting a progressive income tax?

    Support 23.3%
    Oppose 62.6%
    Undecided 14.0%

I’m surprised the support is as high as it is after all that.

* What this poll means is that if the opponents’ message has unfettered access to voters, their argument likely wins. But that won’t happen. The governor has almost unlimited money he can spend on his own arguments.


Report: More troubles at the SJ-R

Wednesday, Nov 27, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Illinois Times

Kate Schott, State Journal-Register editorial page editor turned interim editor after her predecessor was walked out of the building and a successor had second thoughts about accepting the job, has left the newspaper. Informed sources say she’s gone to work at the University of Illinois Springfield in the campus advancement office, which concerns itself with alumni affairs and raising money. […]

It’s unclear just who’s running the SJ-R since Schott departed this week. At last check, there is no editor, interim or otherwise, listed on the opinion page masthead where folks in charge are listed.

The SJ-R’s “contact page” lists only one editor, an “Illinois Editor” based at the Peoria paper.

And it may get worse. Read the rest of the piece.


Lincoln’s Proclamation of Thanksgiving

Wednesday, Nov 27, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Worth remembering

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State


Gettysburg Address displayed “with an exploding rat”

Wednesday, Nov 27, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Bruce Rushton

The inspector general’s office is at it again.

This time, gumshoes figured out that Alan Lowe, erstwhile executive director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, wasn’t up to snuff. The investigation, according to an IG report released last Friday, was sparked by a tipster who blew the whistle three weeks after I wrote a column detailing the sordid journey of the Gettysburg Address to Texas, where right-wing huckster Glenn Beck displayed it along with an exploding rat and other scrapings from his collection of stuff that includes a Darth Vader mask and a fake pair of Dorothy’s ruby slippers. If Elvis had run a thrift store, I’m guessing it would have looked a lot like the storage room at Mercury One, the Texas nonprofit headed by Beck.

Pretty much, the IG’s report parallels my January column that questioned why the ALPLM ignored protocols and entrusted the Gettysburg Address to an unaccredited museum holding its first exhibition under the supervision of a curator months removed from employment as a server at Pluckers Wing Bar. Labeling the Mercury One loan “reckless,” the IG called for Lowe’s head and said we’re fortunate that artifacts came back intact. Instead of being displayed in a gallery, the Gettysburg Address was hung in Beck’s office. To compare Beck to Ralphie unwrapping his Red Ryder BB gun doesn’t go far enough.

“It’s Christmas, come on!” Beck exclaims as the Gettysburg Address and other relics are taken from a crate. “Let’s open presents!” Lowe was absent in the video that was live-streamed while gawkers watched in person, contrary to recommendations from pros who say the arrival of valuables should be kept low key to minimize security risks. Lowe told the inspector general he was “off doing other things” when the speech and other artifacts were unpacked, and he was also busy elsewhere when relics were repacked for the return trip to Springfield. Beck, who at one point questions the need for gloves, helps carry the document valued at $20 million to a table in his office. “Come see it for yourself,” he tells his online audience. “Tickets are available at the door.”

Even after the inspector general received a complaint, Lowe played footsie with Beck, whose outfit asked to borrow more artifacts, including a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation.

But, yeah, Lowe’s ouster was all about politics. Right.

Go read the whole thing because there’s lots more.


Sherri Garrett speaks out about McQueary column

Wednesday, Nov 27, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Sherri Garrett, you will recall, accused Tim Mapes last year of alleged sexual harassment and that led to his immediate ouster as House Speaker Michael Madigan’s chief of staff. Garrett approached Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) with her story after Cassidy had spoken out about Mapes.

Garrett sent this to Rep. Cassidy last night and Cassidy forwarded it to me with permission…

Kristen McQueary’s column was upsetting for me as someone who came forward to try to stop my harassment. Making the decision to speak out was incredibly difficult–but I just wanted the harassment to stop, and I felt I had no protection. I know how terrifying it is to decide to come forward, and I fear that columns like that of Ms. McQueary may have a chilling effect for those who are afraid that they won’t be believed, that their harasser or assaulter will be proclaimed to be deserving of redemption without having actually done anything to deserve said redemption.

This has been one of the most difficult experiences of my life. The truth is, nearly a year and a half since coming forward, I am still not fine. Mr. Mapes’ abuse has left a lasting effect on my soul. An apology never came my way from Mr. Mapes or the Speaker.

I wish for complete recovery for myself. I also wish that the person who harassed me would realize his wrongs and account for them. I would then love to see him go forward in life and be a better person to everyone. I don’t believe that can be accomplished when you do not recognize your wrongs.

That so many people are spending so much time and energy worrying about the well-being of the perpetrators and if they are okay is confusing to me. I believe we should all have a chance to rebound–but you must be willing to do what is right to earn that rebound.

We discussed the column in question yesterday.

Garrett is right, by the way. John Anthony denied being a sexual harasser and disputed accounts of the allegations that led to his firing at IDOC, even though some of it was caught on videotape. He only admitted to unspecified “mistakes,” and offered no public apology. Mapes has flatly denied wrongdoing.


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Wednesday, Nov 27, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

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Wednesday, Nov 27, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

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IDOC issues new social media policy for employees

Tuesday, Nov 26, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Background is here. From Injustice Watch

Following Injustice Watch reporting last month about more than two dozen state correctional employees who participated in conversations that mocked or disclosed personal information about transgender inmates in private Facebook groups, the Illinois Department of Corrections announced a revised social media policy for its roughly 12,000 employees that goes into effect over the weekend.

The new social media policy specifically bars employees from sharing confidential information about prisoners or other staff, including details about current or past investigations and criminal or civil proceedings involving the department. The policy also prohibits any content that is vulgar, obscene, threatening, discriminatory, or disparaging based on race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity.

New employees will be taught the policy prior to beginning their service, and all staffers will undergo training on the policy on an annual basis, the policy states.

In the two private Facebook groups, posts written by by low-level officers, sergeants, lieutenants, and other correctional staffers degraded transgender women, outed other LGBTQ prisoners, alleged sexual acts and disclosed information about medical treatments prisoners received.

The policy, which goes into effect December 1, also prohibits employees from sharing a wide range of information related to their employment with the department on social media, including their rank, title or position, department seals, logos, uniforms, and name tags, without express permission from the director.

All of the corrections officers named in Injustice Watch’s reporting had publicly identified themselves on social media as corrections staffers, had posted about their specific roles or had photos of themselves in uniform online.

The full directive is here.


Question of the day

Tuesday, Nov 26, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From the governor’s office…


The Office the Governor in Springfield will undergo renovations beginning the week of December 10 with the goal of improving functionality for staff. It is expected to conclude before the end of the year. The work will take place in the Governor’s working office and in the reception area on the second floor in the capitol. The Governor will be funding the renovations himself, at an estimated cost of $40,000.


    * The administration worked with the Architect of the Capitol to ensure the modifications will not compromise the historical integrity of the office.
    * The work will be done by a union firm that uses only union subcontractors.
    * The Governor’s working office is a small office that is beside the ceremonial office, and where the Governor primarily does his work.
    * The Governor’s working office will be renovated to improve soundproofing to make the area inside and outside of it more private. In the reception area, a partition will be installed so the space can be more accessible to staff.
    * The renovations to the reception area are temporary and can be easily removed at a future date.

* The Question: As long as he’s paying for the renovations, what “cool” stuff should the governor add to his working office?


Our sorry state

Tuesday, Nov 26, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The Crain’s story by Lynne Marek entitled “Looking for solutions to a black exodus in Illinois higher education” is worth a read in its entirety. But let’s take a look at this

Tuition and fees this year at the state’s 12 four-year public universities run $15,936, on average, according to data from the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, about 50 percent more than 10 years ago and about 50 percent more than the national in-state average of $10,440, according to the College Board.

That national average of $10,440 is far lower than any public university here. The lowest are Eastern Illinois University ($12,642), Southern Illinois University/Edwardsville ($13,034), Governors State University ($13,452), Chicago State University ($13,532) and Western Illinois University ($13,665).

* Back to Marek’s story

To defray costs, Pritzker proposed an increase this year in state financial aid available to college-bound students to $450 million and aims to take it to the highest level ever by 2023.

That’s a very good thing regardless of how out of line our tuition prices are.

But there’s also a real problem with the directionals and others being priced out. I mean, SIUC’s tuition is $15,774, which is $542 higher than University Of Illinois At Chicago and just $436 lower than UIUC, not to mention $5,334 higher than the national average.


Citing improved liquidity, Moody’s upgrades CPS a tick

Tuesday, Nov 26, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* FYI, “B” ratings are still junk territory. But the trend is heading the right direction, at least with Moody’s…

Moody’s Investors Service (Moody’s) has upgraded to B1 from B2 the rating on the Chicago Board of Education, IL’s (Chicago Public Schools, CPS) general obligation unlimited tax (GOULT) debt and non-contingent lease revenue bonds backed by the district’s GOULT pledge. The outlook had been revised to positive from stable at the B1 rating. The rating applies to $3 billion in debt.


The upgrade to B1 on the GOULT debt is based on the district’s improved liquidity, which reflects a significant infusion of new state and local revenue that will stave off material cash flow pressures for at least the next two to three years. In fiscal 2018 the district began receiving increased property tax authority for its pension contributions and support for pension normal costs from the State of Illinois (Baa3 stable). The upgrade to B1 also incorporates the district’s large and diverse tax base that serves as a regional economic center for the Midwest and tight governance connections with the City of Chicago (Ba1 stable), where the mayor appoints the members of the board.

Although revenue and cash have improved, the district’s credit profile remains constrained by several factors. The district will face growing costs associated with long-term liabilities and the recent five-year contract with the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) that will likely keep reserves thin compared to revenues. The B1 rating also considers very high direct and overlapping leverage from bonded debt and post-retirement liabilities.

The B1 rating on the lease revenue bonds is the same as the rating on the GOULT debt due to the district’s GOULT pledge to make lease payments, a pledge which is not subject to appropriation.


The positive outlook reflects the possibility of continued revenue growth and expenditure adjustments that will enable the district to absorb increasing costs associated with pension contributions, debt service, and the recently-ratified union contracts. It also incorporates the expectation that the district will not materially increase its reliance on short-term borrowing or other sources of non-recurring revenue.


    - Continued and sustained growth in operating liquidity
    - Ongoing expenditure adjustments and continued growth in revenue from state and local sources, including continuation of the state to meet its funding targets under the new evidence based formula

FACTORS THAT COULD LEAD TO A DOWNGRADE (or revision of the outlook to stable or negative)

    - Declines in operating liquidity or increased reliance on short-term cash flow borrowing or other sources of non-recurring revenue
    - Stagnant revenue trends that are outpaced by the district’s growing costs

* Earlier this month…

* S&P dings CPS contract deal with teachers: The agency’s junk rating on Chicago Public Schools debt is unchanged, but it warns the $1.5 billion deal “will widen a structure gap” in school finances that already were weak.


Today’s quotable

Tuesday, Nov 26, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Bernie

Asked if federal investigation of Democrats, including some in the state Legislature, is a drag on the ticket, [US Sen. Dick Durbin] said: “Of course it is. You have to take that seriously. … Any corruption in public office is unacceptable, by either political party, period.”


$36 million computer upgrade panned

Tuesday, Nov 26, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* While new systems are almost always difficult to use, this one may take the cake

The rollout of a long-awaited upgrade to Cook County courts’ archaic case management system by beleaguered Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown’s office has caused disarray at the county’s main criminal courthouse on Chicago’s Southwest Side.

Attorneys and clerks interviewed by the Tribune since the rollout two weeks ago complained the supposed advancement has instead resulted in incomplete case information, poorly trained staff and lengthy delays in securing the most basic documentation.

One lawyer said he waited 45 minutes for paperwork that under the old system would have taken just a few moments to obtain. With some routine tasks now taking far more clicks to complete, clerks reportedly have worked late into the night to finish the same workload they routinely completed during a normal workday. […]

To the surprise of veteran lawyers interviewed by the Tribune, the new criminal case management system does not even provide for electronic filing of court documents — the standard in federal courts for years and already mandatory in many Cook County civil divisions.

Go read the whole thing. Crazy.

…Adding… Press release…

- Progressive reformer and Democratic candidate for Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court, Jacob Meister has issued the following statement about Dorthy Brown’s troubled rollout of the county’s new case management system:

“The rollout of the case management system in the criminal courts has been a disaster that many of us who regularly practice in the county courts saw coming down the road for a long time.

“Judges, lawyers and those who have to live with the clerk’s decisions were not consulted about the new system and users were not adequately trained. The system wasn’t designed to meet the realities of our fast-paced and often overcrowded court calendars, which is the second-largest court system in the country.

“The clerk’s office sufferers from a serious leadership problem, with decisions being made in secret, without transparency or an inclusive process. In order to avoid any more damage, the clerk needs to take a step back and address these issues before the case management system is rolled out in other divisions of our courts.”

…Adding… Press release…

Statement from Mike Cabonargi, candidate for Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County

“We cannot achieve access to justice by amplifying the already existing problems in an office plagued with patronage hiring, a lack of transparency, and an outdated system. The newest broken system, highlighted in today’s Chicago Tribune, does nothing to restore the trust between the people of Cook County and the Circuit Court. It would be irresponsible and a misuse of taxpayer money to expand a system that’s already proven to be a failure. The office needs leadership that’s ready to usher in a new era of credibility and reform - and it’s why I’ve released a Reform Plan to lead on day one.”


Head of proposed National Museum of American Presidents says Alan Lowe’s problems were “largely political”

Tuesday, Nov 26, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Knoxville News Sentinel

The new director of the American Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge started his new gig Monday, three days after the Illinois Office of Executive Inspector General released a report explaining why [Alan Lowe] was fired from his last one [as executive director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum]. […]

Lowe has also signed on to be the lead consultant for the quietly discussed National Museum of American Presidents that would – if financing and a number of other factors play out – be placed somewhere in downtown Knoxville.

The project has received little media attention but has been headed for nearly two decades by Knoxville’s Bruce Anderson and Danni Varlan. Recently it has picked up steam. […]

Anderson said Lowe’s issues in Illinois were largely political and will not impact his work with the proposed museum for Knoxville.

“He got permission from all the people he normally gets permission from to do those sorts of things, but apparently the board took exception that he didn’t ask them,” Anderson said. “I’ve known Alan for at least 15 years, maybe longer. I’m not worried at all that this is something that would cause me to think he still isn’t one of the best museum people in the country.”

Yeah. Largely political. Right.

For crying out loud, somebody in Tennessee needs to actually click here and read the Inspector General’s report. Anderson is just totally wrong about everything.

Hilarious comment…

Sending the Gettysburg Address by FedEx is “largely political”?

…Adding… Another one…

If “largely political” means overriding objections of qualified ALPLM historians and curators to fedex a priceless and irreplaceable document to an unaccredited museum with no experienced curatorial staff in order to obtain a small donation to pay down a $9 million debt, then guilty as charged.


Dick Lockhart’s celebration of life

Tuesday, Nov 26, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The celebration of life for longtime lobbyist Dick Lockhart will be held after the Third House holiday party on December 5th. Normandy Room in the Chicago Hilton and Towers, 720 S. Michigan from 1:45-5:45.

This is particularly fitting because Dick would often host a party at his place after the Third House event.

* Keith Sias sent me this pic the other day of himself, Joe Lyons and Dick at a Sox game. I thought you’d like to see it…


*** UPDATED x2 - Witness comes forward - “This type of journalism is why victims are afraid to come forward” *** “Are you going to glorify Kevin Quinn next?”

Tuesday, Nov 26, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Kristen McQueary last year

There certainly are stories about the Illinois Republican Party also being accused of aggressive control-freakery. But I haven’t heard nearly as many complaints from that side as I have during my 20 years of covering Madigan’s office.

So spare me the mea culpa, the “woke” moment, the grasping press releases. Democratic women running under Madigan’s political umbrella have become adept at looking the other way.

* Last night…

* Refresh your memory…


As for the incident caught on surveillance tape, an Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice employee told investigators she was walking to an exit to go smoke a cigarette when she was approached by Anthony, who put his arm around her and asked if she was a corrections employee.

She told him she wasn’t. He then allegedly told her she had “nice t—, nice a–.” Then he stepped to the side and pressed himself onto her left thigh and licked her neck, the report says. […]

Other women at the party told investigators that Anthony had been inappropriately commenting to and touching them as well.

The behavior warranted a talk by another state employee during the party, according to the records. That discussion happened after a woman reported Anthony had touched her breasts.

McQueary’s column claims that only one woman alleged groping. There were clearly others that night. And if you think that was a one-off thing, you’d be mistaken.

Video is here.

* Reaction to the column was swift and brutal…

* Emily Miller gets the last word…

*** UPDATE 1 *** Rep. Deb Conroy (D-Elmhurst)…

Hi Rich, I do not tweet but I’m just as angry.

This is just unbelievable coming from McQueary. She criticizes the women’s caucus every chance she gets when in reality we have spent our time doing the difficult work to change a culture and not chasing headlines. As a journalist she may want to work a bit harder on the other side of the story. Everyone deserves a second chance, absolutely. In this case the writer completely disregarded the women who chose out of fear to keep their story private and push through the pain. This type of journalism is why victims are afraid to come forward.

*** UPDATE 2 *** Legislative & Political Director for UFCW Local 881…


Party honcho name change takes effect this year

Tuesday, Nov 26, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Chairman and committeeman are out, chair and committeeperson are in

Thanks to a 2018 change in Illinois law, county parties statewide now use gender-neutral language. The March primary will mark the first time the updated language will appear on the ballot when voters choose Democratic and Republican ward and township committeepeople.

Jacob Kaplan, executive director for the Cook County Democratic Party, welcomed the change, saying “I think it’s a good thing anywhere it happens.” […]

Still, the “people” holding the Democratic Party posts are still mostly male — 30 men represent the 50 city wards, and 24 of 30 townships are represented by men, according to the county party’s site. And only four of the ten members of the party’s executive committee are women.

But at the helm is Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who became the first woman, and the first African American, elected Cook County Democratic chair last year.




Tuesday, Nov 26, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

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* Isabel’s afternoon briefing
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* Cannabis baron ridicules equity programs: "We’re going to give these assets to felons and people that have two heads and all this kind of stuff"
* IEPA says it won't do anything about polluting refineries
* Pritzker stands behind his messaging, claims support for candidates
* A quick Illinois history lesson
* Vallas gets out in front of attacks
* Following the money
* A massive failure
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