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Afternoon roundup

Wednesday, Mar 22, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Illinois is apparently last in the nation for opportunity zones…

I’ve asked the administration for an explanation.

* A bit of good news for Decatur

Tillamook Creamery plans to expand its operations in 2024 by opening a new ice cream manufacturing facility in Decatur, Illinois, the Tillamook County Creamery Association announced on Tuesday. […]

The proposed Decatur plant was previously owned and operated by Prairie Farms, which used the location for ice cream production prior to closing the facility in 2022. TCCA said that it will spend the next 18 to 24 months upgrading the facility and bringing it up to its manufacturing quality standards.

* Center Square on the ComEd 4 trial

State Rep. LaShawn Ford, D-Chicago, said while he never felt intimidated by Madigan, he’s glad he’s not been asked to testify. He said the “ComEd Four” trial is on the top of mind of all legislators at the Illinois statehouse.

“And it’s a real life experience being played out to teach all of us a lesson,” Ford told WMAY.

Ford contends things have changed under new Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside.

“Speaker Welch is a collaborator. He works with his caucus and he does everything to get input and consensus on issues,” Ford said. “Madigan, he worked for consensus too, but … there were some things where he probably just persuaded and wanted it to happen because it was in his estimation time for it to happen.”

State Rep. Wayne Rosenthal, R-Litchfield, who is back in the legislature after eight years away, remembers Madigan always having somebody else being the messenger. He hopes the revelations from released tapes and the criminal cases bring changes to how the people’s business is handled in Springfield.

“When people look at that and they know that that gets highlighted, then maybe it changes their way of doing business,” Rosenthal told The Center Square. “We won’t know for sure for a while, but I think it’s got the opportunity to do that.”

* Crain’s

Mayoral candidate Paul Vallas reported another big fundraising haul above $1 million just a few days after reporting a similarly big haul, extending his contribution domination in the runoff.

According to the latest A-1 report filed by Vallas For Mayor this morning, the campaign reported over $1.4 million in contributions from a long list of investors, unions, political action committees and individual contributors. It also further solidified Vallas as the choice of Chicago’s business leaders.

Dude can’t walk down the street without people throwing money at him these days.

* Brandon Johnson campaign

Brandon Johnson, the real Democrat for mayor, today released a new TV ad –– “The Difference” –– highlighting the stark choice for Chicagoans this election. In the new spot, Johnson touts his public safety plan and how he will invest in a stronger Chicago without raising property taxes by making wealthy corporations pay their fair share.



I’m Brandon Johnson, the real Democrat for mayor, and here’s the difference.

I’m the only candidate for mayor with a plan to make Chicago safer by finally going after the root causes of crime.

And I’m the only candidate for mayor who won’t raise your property taxes.

My plan invests in our neighborhoods by making wealthy corporations pay their fair share.

The difference is real.

I’m Brandon Johnson, asking you to vote for a better Chicago.

* Sierra Club Illinois…

Today, Sierra Club Illinois announced a lawsuit against Prairie State Generating Co. (PSGC) for operating the Prairie State Energy Campus (PSEC) without a permit. Sierra Club’s lawsuit urges PSGC to cease operations until it obtains a lawful CAAPP (also known as a Title V) permit required by the Clean Air Act. The Prairie State coal plant is one of the dirtiest and deadliest plants in the United States.

“No plant is above the law, especially one that is among the most polluting coal plants in the country,” said Christine Nannicelli, Senior Campaign Representative for the Beyond Coal Campaign of Sierra Club Illinois. “PSEC’s owners, like the Illinois Municipal Electric Agency (IMEA) and the Northern Illinois Municipal Power Agency (NIMPA), are actively pursuing federal taxpayer subsidies and investors to install carbon capture technology at the plant. Prairie State should instead be focused on complying with basic environmental laws like the Clean Air Act, not pushing for more taxpayer subsidies for risky, expensive technologies.”

In 2021, Prairie State exceeded federal limits on mercury emissions for a month, prompting a Violation Notice from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA), which was issued in January 2022. In 2022, Prairie State emitted almost twice as much carbon dioxide as the next biggest greenhouse gas polluter in the state, and has been the number one contributor in Illinois to ozone-forming nitrogen oxide pollution for the last six years. Soot pollution from the plant contributes to 76 premature deaths each year, making it one of the deadliest coal plants in the country, according to a recently released study on soot pollution from coal plants by the Sierra Club, which used triennial emissions inventory data.

“Prairie State is now on notice that it can no longer operate in violation of the Clean Air Act,” said Megan Wachspress, Staff Attorney with the Sierra Club Environmental Law Program. “A Title V permit is a fundamental operating requirement for major stationary sources under the Clean Air Act. These permits include limits on how much mercury, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, and carbon monoxide a plant is permitted to emit and impose monitoring and reporting requirements. The people of Illinois must also have the opportunity to comment on the terms of the Title V permit to ensure the IEPA protects their health from Prairie State. By filing this lawsuit, Sierra Club aims to protect Illinoisans and our environment from the Prairie State coal plant’s egregious, decade-long mismanagement and deadly pollution.”

The Prairie State coal plant is owned by nine utilities that serve 277 municipal utilities and rural electric cooperatives across eight states. The plant owners signed contracts directly or indirectly committing themselves to paying off the $5 billion price tag to build PSEC.

…Adding… From Prairie State…

The statement below should be attributed to Alyssa Harre, Vice President of External Affairs & Organizational Strategy for Prairie State Generating Company:

“Prairie State, a not-for-profit owned energy campus, is operating legally under a Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) permit from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA). To comply with this permit, Prairie State installed and has maintained more than $1 billion in state-of-the-art emissions control technology and continuous emissions monitoring system.

This action by the Sierra Club’s California-based Environmental Law Program is a politically motivated attempt to circumvent the Illinois regulatory process, the consequences of which will bring instability to our electric grid to the detriment of the consumers we serve.

Prairie State remains committed to working with the IEPA to maintain compliance with environmental regulations and will not let this lawsuit distract from our mission of providing value to the communities served through the continued production of reliable and affordable power, all while providing jobs and maintaining economic prosperity for hardworking men and women across downstate Illinois.

As the lawsuit was filed today, March 22, Prairie State is currently reviewing the Sierra Club’s complaint and will respond through the appropriate channels.”

* Illinois State Board of Education press release…

The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) has highlighted Illinois as a national leader in advancing students’ mental health using Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds set aside for state use. The national education organization featured the Resilience Education to Advance Community Healing (REACH) Statewide Initiative, which is a collaboration between the Illinois State Board of Education and the Center for Childhood Resilience at Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and other key partners, at its legislative conference in Washington, D.C., on March 21. The annual conference convenes state education agency leaders from all 50 states and additional U.S. territories to highlight best practices.

* Press release…

Governor JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) today announced $175 million in available grant funding through the Back to Business (B2B) program. Following state recovery for businesses totaling nearly $1.5 billion, the latest American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) -funded opportunity is designed to provide additional support for the hardest-hit sectors, including restaurants (B2B Restaurants), hotels (B2B Hotels), and businesses or organizations in the creative arts sector (B2B Arts). To provide hands-on support and raise awareness about the program, the State has mobilized a network of more than 100 community navigators across Illinois.

“In the three years since COVID-19 brought our state, our nation, and our world to a standstill, Illinois businesses have come back swinging—in part thanks to our Back to Business program,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “My administration is committed to helping small business owners move past survival and onto long-term success—and this latest investment of $175 million in B2B grants does exactly that.”

As outlined in statute, B2B Arts and B2B Restaurants grant award amounts will be determined by revenue declines, as reflected on tax returns, and funding for hotels will be allocated by number of rooms. Applications are open from April 5 through May 10, 2023 and awards are expected to be made several weeks after the deadline date. All eligible applicants will receive a grant as long as the business meets eligibility requirements and submits proper documentation and attestations.

The program design is based on legislation establishing the Restaurant Employment and Stabilization Grant Program ($50 million), Hotel Jobs Recovery Grant Program ($75 million) and the Illinois Creative Recovery Grant program ($50 million). The funding is designed to offset losses and support job retention in the hardest-hit industries. […]

DCEO has enlisted a robust network of more than 100 community navigators to conduct outreach and provide technical assistance in the hardest hit communities. Community Navigators will be conducting outreach, hosting webinars, and supporting prospective applicants to prepare before the application opens on April 5, 2023. This is in addition to available small business support available through Illinois’ network of Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs).

In order to manage a high volume of applications in a timely manner, DCEO has enlisted a program administrator – the National Community Reinvestment Coalition Community Development Fund (NCRC CDF) – to support with application review, provide technical portal support for applicants, manage the development of the application portal and provide support in processing payments.

* Isabel’s roundup…

    * Fox 2 | Illinois strengthens regulations on health insurance companies following Blue Cross Blue Shield investigation: Under the new rules, health insurance companies will need to clarify the distance a doctor is from a patient in their directory in two ways. One listing includes the distance between the patients address and the provider if a straight line was drawn between the two. The other is the distance and time it takes to drive to the provider’s office from the patients house. Before these new rules, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois was only including the former on their directories.

    * Fox 2 | 2nd Illinois prison guard sentenced: According to the release, the government presented further evidence that Sheffler, as the lieutenant and senior officer to co-defendants Hedden and Banta, not only participated in the assault but had a duty to intervene to prevent it. The assault resulted in serious bodily injury to Earvin, including multiple broken ribs, a punctured mesentery (tissue in the abdomen), and other serious internal injuries, and resulted in Earvin’s death in June 2018.

    * HuffPost | Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker Takes Swipe At Chicago Mayoral Candidate Paul Vallas: Pritzker campaign spokesperson Natalie Edelstein replied with a statement that both defended Pritzker’s conduct and took a subtle jab at Vallas, homing in on his affinity for right-wing talk radio. “Throughout the pandemic, Governor Pritzker spent every day fighting to save people’s lives and livelihoods,” Edelstein said. “He did it by following the advice of the nation’s best virologists and epidemiologists, many of whom are at Illinois’s world-class research institutions and hospitals.” “Leadership requires making tough choices and not pandering to the loudest voices driven by politics,” she added. “The next mayor of Chicago may be called upon to lead in a similar type of emergency and residents deserve to know if their next Mayor will listen to experts or instead to right wing talk show hosts when making decisions about people’s lives.”

    * Tribune | Naperville stopped ticketing students at school. But it’s still pushing a 3-year-old case about AirPods to trial.: Her attorneys asked the judge at the end of February to dismiss the case, noting that the original ticket accused her only of having the classmate’s AirPods, not of intentionally taking them, which is required to prove theft. In response, prosecutor Joseph Solon Jr. updated Naperville’s allegation to state that Harris had “knowingly” taken the classmate’s AirPods. Judge Monique O’Toole set a hearing for next month to give Harris’ attorneys time to formally respond.

    * Crain’s | State Farm nearly matches last year’s record pay for CEO despite deep losses: Unlike most companies its size, State Farm doesn’t pay its executives in stock as well as cash. As a mutual insurer, it’s technically owned by its policyholders and doesn’t have publicly traded shares to distribute to execs. So in recent years, State Farm has dramatically increased cash payouts to execs. In 2019 Tipsord’s total compensation was $10 million. That soared to about $20 million in 2020 and then $24.5 million in 2021, a record-setting payday for a State Farm CEO.

    * Bob Seidenberg | ‘Neither solicited, nor requested,’ candidate says, turning back two large donations: Second Ward City Council member Krissie Harris said earlier today she has already taken steps to return a pair of $6,000 donations — the most allowed individuals under election law— that critics have maintained were being used to buy influence in Northwestern University’s stadium project. … Harris said the donations came in at a time when she had gone to the hospital for medical treatment, with members of her campaign team holding off notifying her about the money.

    * AP | Federal Reserve raises its key rate by a quarter-point: At the same time, the Fed warned that the financial upheaval stemming from the collapse of two major banks is “likely to result in tighter credit conditions” and “weigh on economic activity, hiring and inflation.”

    * Tribune | Chicago’s runoff election: Everything you need to know about races for mayor and aldermen: April 4 is the date of the runoff election and the deadline for a mail-in ballot to be postmarked in order for it to be counted. April 18 is the last day that mail-in ballots (postmarked by April 4) may arrive at the offices of the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners to be included in the count.

    * WGEM | New initiative to reinvent grocery stores in rural, poor Illinois communities: Pritzker said the budget for 2024 includes $20 million to launch the initiative, with an additional $2 million going towards purchasing healthy, nutritious food from Illinois farmers.

    * Tribune | Emergency injunction filed Tuesday to prevent imminent vendor lockout at Little Village Discount Mall: But for merchants, there’s a glimmer of hope, however temporary: They are now waiting on the Cook County Circuit Court to schedule an emergency hearing on their motion for a temporary restraining order. If vendors are locked out of the mall, the complaint filed Tuesday states, they would potentially face irreparable harm and suffer the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars of merchandise and goods, given that they operate on small margins and day-to-day sales.

    * AP | 119K people hurt by riot-control weapons since 2015: The vast majority of the data comes from cases in which a person came to an emergency room with injuries from crowd control weapons and the attending doctor or hospital staff made the effort to document it, said the report’s lead author, Rohini Haar, an emergency room physician and researcher at the University of California School of Public Health in Berkeley.

    * WSJ | Job Listings Abound, but Many Are Fake: Hiring managers acknowledge as much. In a survey of more than 1,000 hiring managers last summer, 27% reported having job postings up for more than four months. Among those who said they advertised job postings that they weren’t actively trying to fill, close to half said they kept the ads up to give the impression the company was growing, according to Clarify Capital, a small-business-loan provider behind the study. One-third of the managers who said they advertised jobs they weren’t trying to fill said they kept the listings up to placate overworked employees.

    * Tribune | Fast-food giant McDonald’s named founding promotional partner of the NASCAR Chicago Street Race: The televised Cup Series event on July 2 will feature a 12-turn, 2.2-mile racecourse, with top NASCAR drivers navigating Grant Park on closed-off streets lined with temporary fences, grandstands and hospitality suites. McDonald’s will have branding on a section of the course, at the start/finish line in front of Buckingham Fountain and additional locations throughout the event’s footprint.

    * Sun-Times | Dare I say it? The White Sox get more media attention in town than the Cubs do.: The Sox have been much more interesting than the Cubs for several years. Now, my definition of interesting and your definition of interesting might be completely different, especially if you fall heavily on the Cubs side of the Cubs-Sox demarcation in Chicago. Many Chicagoans do. But from a newspaper writer’s perspective, it’s not even close. The Sox are compelling. The Cubs aren’t.


  1. - Steve - Wednesday, Mar 22, 23 @ 2:42 pm:

    -by making wealthy corporations pay their fair share-

    What exactly does Brandon mean by this? A corporate head tax? A higher tax rate on corporations? Brandon must have heard of remote work in corporate America so exactly how are you going to get more money out of corporate America?

  2. - City Guy - Wednesday, Mar 22, 23 @ 2:49 pm:

    I have spoken to a few people regarding OZs. They complained in Chicago the eligible census tracts are in a checker board pattern that spreads out the impact in an odd way. Additionally, the bulk of the properties were in the most depressed neighborhoods, not in ones that were marginal with potential. And for the ones that were in areas they would consider, the property owners increased the price of the property to capture as much upside as they could. Its interesting because the place they said did it right was Arizona which shows up as 4th highest in investments. There they concentrated efforts in marginal neighborhoods. Obviously other factors and public policy decisions are in play.

  3. - MikeMacD - Wednesday, Mar 22, 23 @ 3:05 pm:

    Advertising for jobs that they have no intention to fill is a deliberate deception that wastes people’s time and effort. And they seem to not be concerned. “Let them eat cake”???

    Pretty despicable in my view.

  4. - Donnie Elgin - Wednesday, Mar 22, 23 @ 3:06 pm:

    ” Illinois is apparently last in the nation for opportunity zones”

    That may be a good thing…

    “Important new resea­­­rch by economists Patrick Kennedy and Harrison Wheeler adds to a growing volume of evidence that opportunity zone tax breaks, created as part of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), are costly and poorly targeted and do little to create jobs or improve conditions in poor communities. Instead, opportunity zones provide massive tax benefits to wealthy investors ”

  5. - Lucky Pierre - Wednesday, Mar 22, 23 @ 3:12 pm:

    For starters, Brandon will make sure the corporations owned by billionaires have not removed any toilets to get unfair tax benefits.

  6. - Larry Bowa Jr. - Wednesday, Mar 22, 23 @ 3:18 pm:

    “exactly how are you going to get more money out of corporate America?”

    The proposals I recall CTU offering were a city income tax and a “LaSalle St” tax on financial transactions which, as you know, generally do not need to occur at any physical location.
    I don’t think they’ve thought through the limitations of Chicago being a city within a state within our federal system, as opposed to a city state.

  7. - Friendly Bob Adams - Wednesday, Mar 22, 23 @ 4:16 pm:

    Today’s treadmill count (3-4pm): 7 Vallas ads, all negative; 3 Johnson ads, 2 positive 1 negative.

    Vallas has the money and he’s spending it.

  8. - Quigley Prep South - Wednesday, Mar 22, 23 @ 4:28 pm:

    Victor Reyes escaped indictment in the Sorich trial in 2005. Funny how all his buddies go down: Ald Huels, Zurich and al sanchez . . . all go away

    And now his QPS friends are going away: Sandoval, acevedo, burke and madigan.

  9. - Corruption Committee - Wednesday, Mar 22, 23 @ 5:07 pm:

    @Steve There is no current head tax and when we last had one under Mayor Richard M. Daley, it was $5/month/employee. Brandon Johnson wants reporting streamlined and is seeking $4/month/employee.

  10. - Tim - Wednesday, Mar 22, 23 @ 5:17 pm:

    The head tax lasted until the Emanuel administration, at which point it was phased out. It was $4/month in the first half of 2012, then cut in half for two years, then ended.

  11. - We've never had one before - Wednesday, Mar 22, 23 @ 6:54 pm:

    >>>>the real Democrat for mayor

    Which is why the election is non-partisan…

  12. - sulla - Wednesday, Mar 22, 23 @ 7:25 pm:

    Here is the real story with Illinois’ Opportunity Zones:

    When the program rolled out at the federal level in 2017, Illinois put DCEO in charge of the program’s implementation. Local communities were asked to submit paperwork outlining the preferred qualifying census tract(s) for designation as an OZ. Remember, that the governor could only designate 1/4 of eligible census tracts as OZs. We were told by the state to think carefully about what we submitted for our tracts. Myself and a whole bunch of other economic development people around the state diligently prepared our applications with our chosen census tracts. A lot of us had identified specific economic development projects within those census tracts (which is a common requirement for federal programs like New Markets Tax Credits). It should have been a slam dunk. “Award us the OZ for these specific tracts and these specific projects will move forward.”

    Long story short: DCEO completely ignored the local requested census tracts and just awarded opportunity zones for whatever tracts DCEO considered to be the “highest need” areas. For communities like mine, these tracts were residential areas that had very little chance of seeing new private development for which OZ would be useful. Other colleagues found out that the census tracts DCEO chose were actually the areas where colleges and universities were located in their communities. Again - very little chance of private development on University-owned land. Apparently, whatever metrics DCEO used to select tracts was biased towards low-income earning students or something.

    I complained to the state to no avail. I even got ahold of someone at the US Treasury Dept. who was overseeing the OZ program, but I was quickly told that there was no mechanism established to change the census tract once OZ designation was awarded by the governor. We were stuck with what we got.

    So anyway, what should have been a once-in-a-decade shot at using a new federal economic development tool was completely squandered by DCEO.

  13. - Amalia - Wednesday, Mar 22, 23 @ 10:15 pm:

    Quigley Prep South, preach….. it’s almost like he has immunity.

  14. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Mar 23, 23 @ 7:21 am:

    ===>>>>the real Democrat for mayor

    Which is why the election is non-partisan…===

    Then why is Vallas so intent on being “seen” as a Democrat?

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

* Reader comments closed for the weekend
* Isabel’s afternoon roundup
* Feds to provide more migrant funding... Just $19.3 million for Illinois
* Question of the day
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