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Wednesday, Sep 29, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Oops. I forgot to shut down the blog. I’m having some oral surgery tomorrow, so I’m out all day Thursday and maybe Friday as well, depending. There will be a subscriber edition tomorrow morning, though. In the meantime, turn it up

Yeah, vanish like a dream

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Question of the day

Wednesday, Sep 29, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Greg Hinz

If Lightfoot has a plan for an affordable domed stadium that would be good for the team and the city, she needs to put it on the table. If she really does have plan to create a 24/7/365 entertainment district in or around Soldier Field, let’s see it.

* From “A Home for the NFL Chicago Bears: A Case Study in Political Economy and Power”

Finally, two local well-known philanthropists, John Bryan, former Chicago-based Sara Lee CEO and Cindy Pritzker, local culture maven and member of the Pritzker family that owns the Hyatt Hotel chain and sits on boards of many of the city’s leading cultural and educational institutions, approached the mayor directly in late 2001. Their proposal, developed by well-known Chicago architect Lawrence: For the same amount of money the city and Bears were spending, they could have a new 75,000-seat domed stadium to be located on parking lots near Soldier Field and McCormick Place, thus preserving Soldier Field for a large range of civic and community activities. This would also have reserved the valuable naming rights for the Bears, increase their net revenues from the 13,500 additional seats, and would not have interrupted play so the Bears would not have had to venture downstate to play during the construction phase of the project (the 2002 season).

The Tribune quickly jumped on this new bandwagon:

    “Bryan and Pritzker aren’t the typical meddling types Daley swats aside. More than anyone, they are responsible for getting Millennium Park built. They have dug deep and forced their peers to pay up to get Millennium started and bail out the city on cost overruns and mismanagement.

    They are also symbols.

    Though retired now, Bryan still represents the will of the city’s business elite. And Pritzker, thanks to her name and personal commitment to culture, represents the best of Chicago society.

    They bravely speak while their more timid peers would allow Daley’s planned pillaging of Soldier Field to cheapen the city, its reputation for great architecture and its quality of life.”

The Bears and mayor quickly rejected the Bryan-Pritzker plan.

That’s Gov. Pritzker’s aunt, by the way.

* Another idea…

* Sen. Peters said the proposal is based on Ohio’s Art Modell Law, which worked a few years ago

After Modell sparked outrage in 1995 with his move of the Browns, state legislators passed a law trying to protect against the hijacking of sports teams. The law, Section 9.67 of the Ohio Revised Code, calls for sports team owners who use a tax-supported facility and receive financial assistance from the state or locality to either get agreement from their home town to play most home games elsewhere, or give six months’ notice of their intention to move and allow locals a chance to buy the team.

After the operator of the Columbus Crew [soccer team] indicated in 2017 that the team might move to Texas, then Attorney General Mike DeWine sent him a letter invoking the law and later joined the City of Columbus in filing a suit based on it. They outlined how the owners had received a variety of state and local financial support, ranging from $5 million for parking improvements and a property tax exemption to extending a road as well as moving water and sewer lines for Mapfre Stadium, where the Crew plays. The Art Modell Law, they said, should be enforced.

Last May, the judge in the case ordered a 90-day pause on the proceedings and set up a process to facilitate negotiations to explore a settlement. In December, he refused to dismiss the suit.

Observers credit the lawsuit for slowing down the move. Ultimately, current Browns owner Jimmy Haslam joined with the Edwards family in Columbus and arranged to buy the team, The suit was dismissed when the sale was imminent, but even while it was pending and the Crew’s location remained uncertain, Major League Soccer awarded a new expansion team in Cincinnati. The existence of the Art Modell Law did not scare off the league – illustrating that providing worker and community protections is not necessarily the obstacle to business investment that is sometimes claimed.

* The Question: What should happen now?


Putting numbers into perspective

Wednesday, Sep 29, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* We’re seeing a number of headlines this week about people quitting over vax/testing mandates, but the numbers aren’t generally being put into perspective. For instance, here’s Reuters

United Airlines said on Tuesday nearly 600 U.S.-based employees faced termination after failing to comply with the carrier’s vaccination policy.

That’s less than 1 percent of the airline’s workforce of 67,000. And some of those folks might still cave.

* Further down in the story

A company spokesperson said the airline plans to hire about 25,000 people over the next few years, and vaccination will be a condition of employment for all new hires. […]

United received 700 applications for about 400 job postings last month at a Denver career fair. Similarly, it has received more than 20,000 applications for about 2,000 open positions for flight attendants, the spokesperson said

Those 600 people are not even a rounding error.


Six firefighters in Naperville are suing the city, Governor Pritzker and Edward-Elmhurst Healthcare over COVID-19 vaccination and testing mandates.

The lawsuit is asking a federal judge to decide if the government can force a public employee to take a vaccine. Firefighters in Naperville said the mandate is a violation of their constitutional rights. […]

The firefighters allege the order violates first responders’ “fundamental right to their bodily autonomy, and to make health decisions in accordance with their beliefs and conscience.”

“Plaintiffs are a group of heroes who have risked their lives time and time again from the beginning of the pandemic through today,” an attorney for the firefighters said. “Now, the governor is trying to scapegoat these heroes, despite the consensus of the scientific community, and in violation of the law.”

The latest headcount numbers I could quickly find

Number of employees at Fire Department Of Naperville in year 2018 was 193. Average annual salary was $100,773 and median salary was $104,066.

So, 3 percent of the staff is suing. Not exactly a tsunami. And this handful of folks is taking the risk of losing their nicely paying gigs if they lose and stand by their “principles,” and those jobs probably won’t be too difficult to fill. Lots of folks want to be a firefighter.


Report: Sacks spearheading effort to combine WBEZ and Sun-Times

Wednesday, Sep 29, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Robert Feder early this morning

The Chicago Sun-Times and public radio station WBEZ 91.5-FM would combine ownership under an agreement that could be announced this week, sources said. The board of Chicago Public Media, nonprofit parent company of WBEZ, is expected to vote on the plan in a closed meeting Wednesday night. Board approval is not assured, sources said, and the deal could still fall through. Officials of Chicago Public Media would not respond to requests for comment.

Spearheading the proposal is Michael Sacks, the Chicago businessman who’s been principal investor in the Sun-Times since 2019. While continuing to cover the newspaper’s financial losses, Sacks is said to have been looking for a compatible partner to take over the company. Details of the arrangement — including whether the two newsrooms would continue to operate independently — could not be confirmed.

* Updated at 10:30 this morning

In separate emails to their staffs, the chief executive officers of the Sun-Times and Chicago Public Media acknowledged their negotiations.

“I wanted to make sure you were aware of and acknowledge Robert Feder’s column this morning that mentions Chicago Public Media,” wrote Matt Moog, interim CEO of Chicago Public Media.

“I can confirm that we are currently exploring partnerships and opportunities with the Chicago Sun-Times to strengthen local journalism in the city and our region,” he wrote. “These conversations are an important part of our commitment to serving Chicago and ensuring local news continues to thrive.”

Sun-Times CEO Nykia Wright told her staff the newspaper is “in talks with Chicago Public Media to determine if there is an opportunity to become a combined entity. It is very important to note that we are not close to any deal. Opportunities like this require a lot of due diligence.

“Please be assured that the current ownership group is committed to protecting your employment and will continue to invest in the paper with or without any potential future partnership,” Wright wrote.


Pritzker begins ramping up efforts to make Illinois a center of the electric vehicle industry

Wednesday, Sep 29, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Greg Hinz has a story about twin developments in the state’s goal of building up the electric vehicle industry here, including the supply chain. Small excerpt

A major push has begun in Springfield to lure investment from the fast-growing electric vehicle business with significant new financial incentives and other aid.

An initial bill was filed Monday evening by state Rep. Dave Vella, a Democrat from Loves Park whose district is just west of Stellantis’ huge Belvedere plant. Tens of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs potentially are on the table. […]

The administration has talked to Ford about potentially assembling electric Explorers at its South Side plant, as well as Stellantis and other producers. It also has begun coordinating with academic researchers, some of them at Argonne National Lab, which has developed an expertise in work developing better batteries.

Officials say they don’t yet know what will be in the governor’s package. But among items being discussed are lengthening the Edge tax credit period from 10 years to 20 years and building some sort of temporary relief from local property taxes.

Vella’s bill is here. The Pritzker folks told Hinz that it isn’t quite what they’re looking at doing.

…Adding… WREX

Exelon is starting to prepare for its future after Illinois Governor JB Pritzker signed the controversial energy bill into law earlier this month.

The new law will keep both Exelon’s Byron and Dresden nuclear plants open for at least another six years.

Now, Exelon announced they’re looking to fill 650 vacant positions across the state and plan on investing more than $300 million in capital projects over the next five years.


Rabine picks up Charlie Kirk endorsement

Wednesday, Sep 29, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Yes, it’s a very slow news day today so far. Press release…

Radio talk show host and Turning Point founder Charlie Kirk is endorsing Gary Rabine for Governor and is urging Illinois Republicans to rally around the candidate he says has the best chance of beating JB Pritzker in 2022.

“Gary Rabine has been there from the very beginning in helping me to build Turning Point into what it is today,” Kirk said. “He is a business builder and a true conservative who will stand up for the values we embrace. He is a true outsider who will help Illinois comeback from decades of poor policies that have put a once great state into decline. I care about Illinois, and I want to see my home state thrive. I am tired of seeing people leave Illinois for other states. I am supporting Gary Rabine for Governor because he is the best candidate and the one I know can beat JB Pritzker and as importantly, turn our state around. Gary is a dear friend who has always been there to help me, and I believe firmly in backing my friends. Gary will be a terrific Governor and has my total endorsement.”

…Adding… Kelli Duncan in February

Rabine said he was an early supporter of Turning Point – a right-wing political advocacy group geared towards young people – and did fundraising work for the organization in 2013 and 2014. He currently serves as an advisory council member.

Turning Point’s mission is to “identify, educate, train, and organize students to promote freedom,” according to their website, but the organization has been embroiled in various controversies and its leader came under fire last spring for his invention of the term “china virus.”

“What I saw this as was an opportunity to educate on free enterprise and why it’s important to the future of our country,” Rabine said of his decision to support the organization. “I’m not represented by Charlie Kirk or anybody that represents Turning Point USA. The things they say, I’m not in control of and I don’t know how they’re looked upon at all when it comes to left, right, center or whatever.”


Bears inform Chicago that team has signed Arlington Park purchase agreement

Wednesday, Sep 29, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Daily Herald

The Chicago Bears reportedly have signed an agreement to purchase the Arlington Park property in Arlington Heights, putting the storied NFL franchise closer to building the state-of-the-art suburban stadium that founder George Halas first envisioned 46 years ago.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot confirmed the deal late Tuesday night, after it first was reported by The Athletic, which said the Bears would announce the news Wednesday morning.

“Tonight, the Bears informed us that they signed a purchase agreement for the Arlington Park property,” Lightfoot stated. “We are not surprised by this move. We remain committed to continuing the work to keep the team in Chicago and have advised the Bears that we remain open to discussions.”

Reached late Tuesday, Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes declined to comment on the reported deal. When asked if the Bears might make an announcement as soon as Wednesday, Hayes said, “Well, we’ll see what happens.”

* More from The Athletic

“We are not surprised by this move. We remain committed to continuing the work to keep the team in Chicago and have advised the Bears that we remain open to discussions,” a spokesperson for the mayor’s office said in a statement to The Athletic. “However, just as the Bears view this as a business decision so does the City. This season, Soldier Field signed a major contract with the Chicago Fire and just last weekend Soldier Field hosted the Shamrock Series — both of which are lucrative for the Chicago Park District and local economy.

“These examples and others demonstrate that Soldier Field remains a very sought-after venue, and, as the Mayor has said many times, overall, the City and Park District must explore all options to both enhance the visitor and fan experience at Soldier Field year-round and maximize revenues. Therefore, we must do what’s in the best economic interests of our taxpayers and maximize the financial benefits at the important asset that is Soldier Field. As for the Bears, the Mayor has said numerous times, our door in City Hall remains open to engage the Bears.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot added in a tweet later Tuesday, “My statement still stands on the Bears: my admin remains committed to continuing the work to keep the team in Chicago. As I have said numerous times, our door in City Hall remains open.”

* NBC 5

The biggest stumbling block for any potential Bears relocation is their lease with the city of Chicago at Soldier Field, which runs through 2033. The team could opt out of the lease in 2026, with a financial penalty of more than $80 million to do so.


Open thread

Wednesday, Sep 29, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

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Wednesday, Sep 29, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

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