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Friday, Jun 26, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* First, a little news from the governor’s press secretary…

Reporters—

Welcome to phase four!

We will no longer utilize a pool system for the Governor’s press conferences and will return to a normal press conference format, with masks and physical distance.

Thank you for your patience as we worked through the challenges the pandemic brought us.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Jordan

* Meanwhile, today marks an important five-year anniversary for the nation. Lady Gaga will help us commemorate it

Also, please wear a mask in Phase 4 so we don’t end up like Texas or Florida. Thanks.

  Comments Off      


857 new cases, 39 additional deaths

Friday, Jun 26, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Press release…

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) today announced 857 new confirmed cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Illinois, including 39 additional confirmed deaths.

    - Cass County: 1 male 80s
    - Cook County: 1 male 20s, 2 females 50s, 1 male 50s, 3 females 60s, 5 males 60s, 4 females 70s, 2 males 70s, 2 females 80s, 3 males 80s, 3 females 90s, 1 male 90s
    - DuPage County: 1 female 70s, 1 male 80s, 1 female 90s
    - Kane County: 1 female 60s, 1 female 70s, 1 female 80s, 1 male 80s
    - Lake County: 1 female 70s
    - St. Clair County: 1 male 70s
    - Will County: 1 female 70s
    - Winnebago County: 1 male 40s

Currently, IDPH is reporting a total of 140,291 cases, including 6,847 deaths, in 101 counties in Illinois. The age of cases ranges from younger than one to older than 100 years. Within the past 24 hours, laboratories have reported 30,425 specimens for a total of 1,490,952. The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity for cases as a percent of total test from June 19–June 25 is 3%.

Following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, IDPH is now reporting both confirmed and probable cases and deaths on its website. Reporting probable cases will help show the potential burden of COVID-19 illness and efficacy of population-based non-pharmaceutical interventions.

* Some related stories…

* Gov. Pritzker addresses antisemitism, “crisis of morality” during COVID-19 pandemic

* Naperville Park District to Dismiss Pritzker Lawsuit

* Is Illinois ready to reopen? Epidemiologist weighs in on Phase 4 risks like crowds, indoor dining

* Families: Gov. Pritzker’s Nursing Home Liability Order Strips Justice

* 911 Calls Show Nursing Home Outbreak Unfolding In Slow Motion

* A group spread face mask exemption cards on Facebook. The DOJ says they are fraudulent

* Mayor Lori Lightfoot says Chicago’s ‘not there yet’ on fans in stands at ballparks

* Sun-Times live blog headlines

Florida’s new COVID-19 cases reported Friday more than double Illinois’ highest single-day total

University of Chicago to assist with COVID-19 vaccine study

Texas shuts down bars, tubing as coronavirus cases surge

16 NBA players test positive for coronavirus as season restart approaches

‘I’ll have the Post-Pandemic Special please’

* Tribune live blog headlines

Lightfoot takes part of Chicago summer youths job program online during COVID-19 pandemic

Employers brace for a ‘PTO bomb’ as vacation-starved employees make time off requests

Longtime regulars celebrate Gene & Georgetti’s reopening – its first since an October fire – over lunch

Morning classes at Northbrook gym run a waitlist Friday as indoor workouts resume

Curtain finally rises again at movie theaters – ‘I’ve been waiting for this day’

Bowling to live, once again

Huge drop in Illinois home sales due to COVID-19 might be great for sellers, but not for buyers: ‘There’s a feeding frenzy.’

Job seekers get more options — and competition — as working from home becomes permanent. ‘If we decide we need people to come in, we can fly them in.’

Takeout still preferred at MacArthur’s as lunchtime draws customers to West Side cafeteria

Cook County court system eyes July reopening, mostly via video

YMCA reopens for indoor workouts as Illinois moves to Phase 4. ‘It’s not buzzing like it should, but it will be.’

City Colleges of Chicago have suspended athletics for the 2020-21 academic year as a precaution amid the coronavirus pandemic

Man who lost two sisters, including Illinois’ first COVID-19 victim, hopes to spare others from similar tragedy

  19 Comments      


Question of the day

Friday, Jun 26, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Greg Hinz

In what you might call a sign of the times with special meaning, a whopping 78,823 Chicagoans already have applied to vote by mail in the fall general election, even though they won’t get their ballots until late September, cast them in October and have them counted in November.

The explosion in remote voting is only expected to continue, driven by long-term trends and voters’ reluctance to mingle in crowds amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Lance Gough, executive director of the Chicago Board of Elections, more than 500,000 city residents will likely apply to vote by mail by early October. Anything close to that would swamp the 118,000 mail applications the board received for the March primary election. In the 2016 general election, about 93,000 city voters cast their ballots by mail.

Wow.

* The Question: Do you plan to vote by mail in the general election? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please…


free polls

  63 Comments      


Don’t believe everything you read

Friday, Jun 26, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Brad Weisenstein at the Center Square

Putting things on “automatic” just makes life so much easier in Illinois, at least for the state’s leaders.

No need to make politically unpopular decisions, because that state gasoline tax automatically goes up on July 1. Same for lawmakers giving themselves $1,800 raises while being able to claim: “We didn’t vote for those. They were automatic.”

And so it is for Gov. J.B. Pritzker. He doesn’t need any courage to face the state’s biggest government worker union and speak the truth about COVID-19 shutdowns blowing a $6 billion hole in the state’s revenues. On July 1 there will be $261 million in raises going to members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, automatically.

Nearly 1 in 4 Illinoisans is out of a job. Many are still fighting the state’s Rube Goldberg machine of an unemployment system to get the federal money they were promised.

So how fair is it that some of the highest-paid state employees in the nation are getting a raise that must be funded by an economically wounded bunch of taxpayers?

Pritzker dismissed the idea of delaying the state worker raises: “That’s not something that we’re currently having discussions about,” he said in late April.

But other governors, and specifically other Democratic governors, have taken action to preserve scarce cash as they deal with extra costs and crumbling tax bases thanks to the pandemic.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is canceling a 3% pay hike for some state employees and forcing one-day-a-week furloughs on 40,000 others to handle a nearly $9 billion shortfall.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo delayed raises for 80,000 state workers for 90 days, and is now considering employee buyouts. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam pushed back state worker raises, and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf stopped paying 9,000 state workers on April 11.

1) Illinois didn’t previously index its Motor Fuel Tax to inflation and as a result the revenues lost half their value.

2) The budget didn’t include legislator pay raises and the comptroller won’t pay them.

3) For the umpteenth time, the Illinois governor cannot unilaterally delay pay raises for unionized workers.

4) Washington Gov. Inslee’s press release reveals that he did cancel some pay raises for exempt employees, but the vast majority of raises (mostly union workers) will proceed. It’s still worth considering here, but that’s a drop in the bucket.

5) Washington’s furloughs were not unilaterally forced on unionized workers. Gov. Inslee negotiated with the union and 95 percent of members voted to accept the plan. Why would workers do such a thing? Because state employees will actually make more money from the furloughs. Unlike Illinois, Washington has implemented a shared work program. The state shifted costs to its unemployment system. Check this out

Heh.

6) New York merely delayed the pay raises. The largest union representing workers apparently has contract language allowing for freezes in extraordinary circumstances. The freeze reportedly won’t apply to the second-largest union, which has 56,000 members.

7) Is the Center Square praising a proposal to prematurely dump active state workers into the already over-burdened state pension system? Looks like it.

8) Virginia doesn’t have much of a state employees’ union. The legislature approved raises before the virus hit, but the governor doesn’t have to spend all the money.

9) Pennsylvania’s governor did, indeed lay off 9,000 state workers who were not essential or weren’t telecommuting. They were able to use their paid leave and kept their health insurance.

* Again, there are most certainly budget reductions that should be on the table in Illinois. But after nearly two decades of state operational reductions and those two horrible years without a state budget, there ain’t a whole lot of maneuvering room.

* Related…

* ‘Everything is on the table,’ Cook County board President Toni Preckwinkle warns as 2021 budget gap forecasted to be largest in a decade

* Cook County Finances In The Red Due To COVID-19 Pandemic; Layoffs, Tax Hike Possible

  20 Comments      


AG responds to ILGOP lawsuit

Friday, Jun 26, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Rebecca Anzel at Capitol News Illinois

State regulation of the number of people allowed at gatherings does not violate Illinoisans’ First Amendment rights, the attorney general’s office argued in a court document.

A lawsuit filed on June 15 by the state’s Republican Party alleged Gov. JB Pritzker’s executive order limiting gatherings to 10 residents or fewer was unconstitutional because it restricted the party’s freedom of speech. It also contended the order treated religious institutions and protests differently than other groups, which breaches the U.S. Constitution’s equal protections clause.

The governor’s May 29 executive order suggested houses of worship follow COVID-19 safety guidelines — limit indoor services to 10 people, for example — but did not require they do so. The GOP also pointed to Pritzker’s attendance at a Black Lives Matter demonstration as evidence he was not enforcing his order against groups he supports.

But neither allegation is accurate, the state wrote in a document filed Wednesday.

* First up, the alleged double standard on religious services

Plaintiffs’ erroneous logic regarding the treatment of houses of worship would require invalidation of numerous exemptions for religious conduct under Illinois and federal law, such as the Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act and its federal counterpart. Indeed, the First Amendment itself, which expressly elevates the “free exercise” of religion, would fail Plaintiffs’ ill-conceived test. That is not and cannot be the law.

* And what about those protests?

Plaintiffs are also wrong that the Governor’s personal participation in a protest converts the 10-person limitation into viewpoint discrimination. Plaintiffs allege no facts indicating that the Governor has selectively enforced the 10-person limitation in a way that constitutes state- sanctioned viewpoint discrimination. To the contrary: during the peak of the pandemic, the Governor did not prohibit or sanction the “Reopen Illinois” protests against his own “stay at home” orders that violated the 10-person limit on state property.

* More from the AG’s filing

Plaintiffs identify no specific instance of actual expression that they fear is prohibited under EO38. Rather, they point to types of events, such as a candidate rally and a July 4 celebration, that they claim are “barred” by EO38. […]

The 10-person limitation on gatherings is no different for First Amendment purposes than a building occupancy limit imposed by a municipal fire code. Political rallies and conventions have always had to abide by occupancy limits, even though overflow crowds (or lack thereof) may signal strong support (or the reverse) for a particular message or messenger. The act of gathering in a confined space, which increases the risk of casualties in the event of a fire, is what is being regulated, not the message being delivered at the gathering. But no one could plausibly contend that a building occupancy limit triggers First Amendment scrutiny, even if applied to a political convention. The same reasoning applies here. Yes, the numerical limit in EO38 is stricter, but only because the risk of COVID-19 transmission increases with each additional person present and the imminence and probability of harm and death from COVID-19 are far higher.

Plaintiffs have also demonstrated their ability to communicate their message to the public despite the numerical limit on in-person gatherings. Although Northwest Side GOP Club chairman Matt Podgorski declared that his committee’s “meetings have been canceled,” the group’s Facebook page indicates it hosted virtual club meetings in April and May, with a video of at least one meeting viewable online. Plaintiff Schaumburg Township Republican Organization announced it was opening its offices on May 14–16 and May 20–23 to collect signatures for a political candidate. Members of the Will County Republican Central Committee held a press conference on June 5; a video posted to the group’s Facebook page shows six people standing shoulder-to-shoulder addressing reporters. And the Illinois Republican Party hosted part of its convention online two days before filing this lawsuit, inviting the public to “gather[ ] with Republicans all across Illinois!” and join over a dozen training and discussion events.

Plaintiffs include a single sentence in their brief that could be responsive to the distinction between conduct and speech, arguing that political speech “is most effective and persuasive when delivered in person.” But the First Amendment does not guarantee a right to the “most effective and persuasive” mode of speech in the midst of a pandemic, and Plaintiffs appear to acknowledge that they can still “deliver[ ]” speech of their choice. Because EO 38 regulates the conduct of gathering in close quarters to limit the spread of COVID-19, and does not limit the content of Plaintiffs’ speech, it does not violate the First Amendment.

* The filing also claims the EO is “a reasonable, content-neutral time, place, and manner regulation.” The AG’s office says plaintiffs “cannot demonstrate irreparable harm” and that the “balance of harms weighs decidedly against injunctive relief”

Plaintiffs also turn a blind eye to a once- in-a-lifetime health crisis. As one court in this district recently found, “the balance of hardships tilts markedly” in favor of social-distancing measures; deciding otherwise “would pose serious risks to public health. … COVID-19 is a virulent and deadly disease that has killed thousands of Americans and may be poised to devastate the lives of thousands more.”

  5 Comments      


There oughta be a law

Friday, Jun 26, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From the Illinois Environmental Protection Act

In granting permits, the Agency may impose reasonable conditions specifically related to the applicant’s past compliance history with this Act as necessary to correct, detect, or prevent noncompliance. The Agency may impose such other conditions as may be necessary to accomplish the purposes of this Act, and as are not inconsistent with the regulations promulgated by the Board hereunder.

* IEPA press release from yesterday…

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has issued a construction permit to General III, LLC, along with a document responding to public comments.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Act requires the Illinois EPA to issue a construction permit to an applicant upon a showing that the proposed facility or equipment will not cause a violation of the Act or Pollution Control Board regulations. In such a case, as it is here, the Illinois EPA does not have discretion to deny the permit, but does have the authority to enhance the permit by adding special conditions tailored to the proposed operation – accordingly, such conditions have been included in this particular permit. In addition, an applicant’s past or on-going compliance issues must be addressed through the Agency’s compliance and enforcement programs. This stems from past court rulings holding that permitting and enforcement are two separate functions, that enforcement cannot be conducted through permitting activity, and that the Agency must not deny or base a permit decision upon mere allegations that a source is violating or has violated applicable requirements.

General III is a scrap metal recycling facility to be located at 11600 South Burley Avenue in Chicago. The permit application was received by Illinois EPA on September 25, 2019, and multiple extensions of the statutory decision deadline were obtained to allow sufficient time to review the application and allow for public input. The facility will receive recyclable material for shredding and processing that will be regulated and controlled through the permit’s terms and conditions.

The facility is being moved from its existing location in the Lincoln Park area to the southeast side of Chicago. The Illinois EPA has no legal role in the zoning or siting of facilities; where a facility may locate is the exclusive determination of units of local government, in this case, the City of Chicago. The move of the current General II facility comes following a deal reached in September 2019 between the City of Chicago and General Iron Industries, the owner and operator of the existing General II facility, and RMG Investment Group, LLC, the owner and operator of the new facility. The term sheet signed by those parties calls for the facility to cease operations at its Lincoln Park location by the end of 2020 in conjunction with the relocation of the facility to the new southeast side location. The Illinois EPA was not a party to this agreement. The existing General II location is adjacent to Sterling Bay’s new Lincoln Yards development.

The Illinois EPA is aware of the high level of public concern over this project. To allow for oral and written public comments while still adhering to social distancing requirements brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Illinois EPA held an afternoon and evening “virtual” public hearing to provide two opportunities for participation and also opened a written public comment period of 77 days to accept public input over the proposed draft permit. Over the two public hearings, which were accessible by video web connection, smartphone app, or telephone dial-in, a total of 21 citizens provided oral comments and 203 people participated. At the close of the written comment period, 329 people provided written statements or other submissions or exhibits.

After consideration of all public comments and further review of the permit application and proposed project, the Illinois EPA strengthened the protections afforded by the permit and fulfilled its obligations under law and to the public to create a strict, enforceable, and comprehensive permit.

The special permit conditions impose additional requirements upon General III including:

    • Limitations on emissions and hours of operation based on modeling of hazardous metallic pollutants
    • Extensive initial and follow-up emissions testing, including capture efficiency testing
    • Installation and operation of monitoring devices
    • Development and implementation of Fugitive Emissions Operating Program
    • Development and implementation of Feedstock Management Plan
    • Development and implementation of Operation and Maintenance Plan
    • Addition of LEL Monitoring System to the exhaust from the capture system associated with the Hammermill Shredder System, and associated recordkeeping and reporting requirements to prevent explosions at the Regenerative Thermal Oxidizer

A copy of the final construction permit and responsiveness summary are available on the Illinois EPA’s website. Cut and paste the below links into your web browser.
https://external.epa.illinois.gov/WebSiteApi/api/PublicNotices/GetAirPermitDocument/6380 and
https://external.epa.illinois.gov/WebSiteApi/api/PublicNotices/GetAirPermitDocument/6381

However, before the company may begin operations at the Burley Avenue location, it must also receive permits from the City of Chicago, including one pursuant to the City’s new rules for large recycling facilities. The new rules, effective June 5, 2020, implement the City’s Recycling Facility ordinance and include additional requirements that General Iron must meet in order to begin operating at the southeast side location. The City’s rules provide minimum standards for what is required in a permit application, including information to demonstrate that the facility will be designed and operated in a manner that prevents public nuisance and protects the public health, safety, and the environment. The rules also contain location, operational, and design standards applicable to large recycling facilities such as General III, including vehicle and traffic requirements, noise monitoring, air quality standards, and air emission monitoring.

The Illinois EPA recognizes the growing concerns surrounding the location and relocation of emissions sources in communities or neighborhoods that have historically been disproportionately impacted by industrial pollution, particularly areas identified as environmental justice areas. Environmental justice policies and activities should be continually evolving. Oftentimes multiple state and local entities play a role throughout the process of zoning and permitting a facility. The Illinois EPA is committed to continuing to work with legislators, environmental justice advocacy groups, municipalities including the City of Chicago, and other interested parties to identify and implement additional state and local policies to expand statutory protections for environmental justice communities.

* Tribune coverage

Mayor Lori Lightfoot is the last hurdle for a troubled but clout-heavy scrap shredder seeking to move from wealthy, largely white Lincoln Park to a low-income, predominantly Latino neighborhood on Chicago’s Southeast Side.

Brushing aside opposition from neighborhood groups and elected officials, Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration on Thursday granted General Iron Industries a permit to build a new scrap yard along the Calumet River in the East Side neighborhood.

Pritzker appointees at the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency said state law gave them no choice, despite the company’s repeated violations of federal and local health laws.

Moving General Iron would rid the city’s North Side of metallic odors and unsightly piles of flattened cars, twisted rebar and used appliances. But community leaders on the Southeast Side contend Pritzker is perpetuating environmental racism by approving the company’s new location in a neighborhood that has struggled to recover since the steel industry abandoned it during the 1980s. […]

Jordan Abudayyeh, the governor’s chief spokeswoman, said the administration’s “hands were tied” by judicial interpretations of state law. She took a swipe at “statewide or national” advocates, suggesting it was up to them to propose legislation that would address “a broader regulatory problem that most severely impacts the health and safety of low-income communities — especially those of color.”

* The company itself essentially agrees that this is environmental racism on the part of the city

General Iron and partner RMG have said that the pollution controls proposed for the facility will be “state of the art.” The “decision to build this shredding operation on the Southeast Side was prompted by political and business realities,” company officials said in a letter to Illinois EPA June 15.

“A narrative has been constructed around this operation being moved from a rich white neighborhood to a lower income neighborhood where a majority of the population comprises people of color. Those facts are not in dispute,” company executives said in their letter. General Iron “was essentially zoned out of business,” they added, a reference to the $6 billion Lincoln Yards development being built around the car and industrial metal shredder’s longtime home at 1909 N. Clifton Ave.

* Environmental advocates strenuously contend that the IEPA has too narrowly interpreted case law on denying permits. They essentially made the same argument during the Sterigenics debate. But it looks to me like the statute needs to be changed.

And there actually was legislation introduced earlier this year to address this very issue

Provides that the Environmental Protection Agency shall ensure that possible adverse economic, social, and environmental effects on environmental justice communities relating to any permit or permit renewal have been fully considered prior to publishing a draft permit or permit renewal for public comment, and that the final decision on the permit or permit renewal is made in the best overall public interest

But the bill went nowhere and none of the legislators who recently sent a letter to the governor about General Iron signed on to the legislation.

…Adding… The IEPA responded to the objecting legislators. Click here to read the letter.

  12 Comments      


Restaurant owners seeing light at the end of the tunnel, but hotel owners are gloomy

Friday, Jun 26, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Bill Wheelhouse

“We started with 594,000 people working in the [restaurant] industry at the beginning of the year and 321,000 are either on unemployment or furlough,” [Illinois Restaurant Association President Sam Toia] said. “But we’re seeing some light at the end of the tunnel here as we move into Phase Four. What we see as the governor, you know, confirms that the state is ready to safely reopen, that you have to have your tables six feet apart, social distancing is very, very important.”

The association is encouraging workers to wear face coverings and gloves and to clean hands frequently. Groups of diners will be separated by at least six feet. Toia is also asking diners to give a bit.

“So it’s very important when you go into a restaurant you have your face cover on. Then when you sit down you can take it off while you are eating, but if you get up to go to the restroom, you put your face covering back on,” said Toia.

Toia expects about 80% of food establishments to still be in business.

* The hotel industry is quite upset, however. This is from Michael Jacobson, president and CEO of the Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, hotels across Illinois have worked closely with health experts to implement new safety procedures designed to protect employees and guests. Hotels are tightly controlled environments, making it easier to mitigate risk than in other public spaces. For instance, technology can be used to limit interactions between employees and guests, our ballrooms have far greater capacity for social distancing and we utilize guest lists to assist in contact tracing, if needed.

As an early adopter of these practices, we are confident hotels can safely host larger gatherings in meeting rooms and ballrooms as Illinois enters the next phase of the governor’s reopening plan. By implementing additional protocols, including temperature checks, limiting the number of people seated at tables and eliminating buffet-style food options, we believe occupancy limits can responsibly be raised to 50% of capacity. Under Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s current plan, hotels would face a strict 50-person limit for all events until a treatment or vaccine becomes available — a prospect that could take years and jeopardizes thousands of events already booked in our venues.

Such a limit makes it nearly impossible for hotels to host weddings and business meetings in a cost-effective manner. These events make up to half of a hotel’s bottom line. Unnecessarily limiting attendance will only compound the damage hotels have already experienced, including massive layoffs and closures. In Illinois, state and local municipalities have lost out on $691.8 million in tax revenue generated by the hotel industry, according to a recent study by Oxford Economics.

No mention of how they intend to address the viral load issue.

…Adding… From a JP Morgan report…


* Meanwhile, in Texas…


  22 Comments      


Harmon to give away FOP contribution, won’t accept more

Friday, Jun 26, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Rachel Hinton at the Sun-Times

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx has signed on to a pledge urging elected officials to reject political donations from the Fraternal Order of Police, joining a slew of political leaders around the country who say they won’t take money from police unions. […]

Illinois Senate President Don Harmon received $2,000 from the police union in February.

On Thursday, the Oak Park Democrat said he’d be donating that contribution to groups helping West Side communities.

“I won’t be accepting any contributions from the FOP and I will donate the contribution my committee received earlier this year to West Side community organizations working to lift up our community,” Harmon said in a statement.

It’s not like the FOP would’ve ever given any money to Foxx anyway, but the Harmon move is interesting.

More reaction and information at the link.

  50 Comments      


Open thread

Friday, Jun 26, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Please keep it polite and Illinois-centric. Thanks.

  13 Comments      


*** LIVE COVERAGE ***

Friday, Jun 26, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Follow along with ScribbleLive


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