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*** UPDATED x5 *** Jury reaches verdict in Ed Burke corruption case

Thursday, Dec 21, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* We’ll know more soonish…

Follow along live by clicking here.

Burke and prosecutors are now in the courtroom.

Some background on the trial is here.

*** UPDATE 1 *** One down…

He was convicted on all charges.

*** UPDATE 2 *** Burke convicted of racketeering. More in a bit.

*** UPDATE 3 *** Andrews not guilty on all charges.

*** UPDATE 4 *** Whew…

*** UPDATE 5 *** More…

* The Sun-Times story is here and the Tribune story is here. Both will be updated. The WTTW story is here.

Seidel is reporting that Burke’s sentencing hearing will be June 19.

Lori Lightfoot…

Following is a statement from former Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot on today’s guilty verdict in the federal corruption trial of former Ald. Ed Burke:

“With this jury’s verdict, Ed Burke should rightfully be remembered as a man who elevated personal ambition and greed over doing the people’s work.

“Along the way, Burke has had many, many enablers: the pernicious practice of aldermanic prerogative which, despite efforts to eliminate it, persists to this day, especially in zoning and development decisions. The other elected officials who, over the years, looked the other way as Burke systematically monetized the Finance Committee for his own personal benefit. And the party who gave Burke control over judicial nominations, so that decades of jurists became beholden to him.

“But like many before who feasted on their gluttonous power, Burke was felled because this total lack of accountability made him foolishly think he was invincible. So he grossly overplayed his hand. He dug his own grave and jumped in.

“Only time will tell if the lessons of Ed Burke’s ascent and spectacular fall will lead to desperately needed reforms begun, but not nearly finished, around transparency and accountability. But meanwhile, with this verdict, rendered by a jury of his peers, the tyranny of Ed Burke is over. I like to think somewhere, Harold is smiling.”

* Leader McCombie…

House Republican Leader Tony McCombie released the following statement after former Alderman Ed Burke, the longest-serving Chicago City Council member, was convicted on numerous criminal charges, including racketeering and extortion:

“Illinois has weak ethics laws and House Republicans have been pushing for significant reforms for years. Democrats’ complacency with the status quo continues to cheat and take advantage of Illinois families by the very government who says it is there to protect them. House Republicans have filed common sense proposals and are more than willing to have bipartisan discussions to close loopholes and enhance penalties for those who violate the public’s trust.”

* BGA…

Former Chicago alderperson Ed Burke was today found guilty by a jury on 13 out of 14 charges, including racketeering, conspiracy, extortion and bribery. Co-defendant Charles Cui was also found guilty of bribery, while Burke’s longtime aide Peter Andrews was acquitted.

In response to the verdict, Better Government Association President David Greising stated, “The jury’s verdict is a clear warning to elected officials: Illinois residents will not put up with government corruption, and we are willing to stand up and hold public officials accountable. While Burke’s corruption is another sad chapter in Chicago’s history, the jury’s action also is a step forward and an affirmative statement that the bad old days are coming to an end.”

* Mayor Johnson…

Elected officials are responsible for serving with honesty and integrity, with a moral responsibility to their constituents to uphold and abide by the law. In the case that they fail to do so, it is imperative that they are held accountable. That is what the jury decided today.

* US Rep. García…

Congressman Chuy García released the following statement regarding the conviction of former Alderman Ed Burke.

“Today, a long history of corrupt Chicago politics righted itself. A man who abused his position of trust for over 50 years, who manipulated the public for his personal gain, was rightfully reproached,” said García.

“The trial of former Alderman Ed Burke and conviction on corruption and racketeering charges highlighted the culture of impunity that allowed him to govern for more than half a century. I strongly condemn his gross abuse of power and emphasize the need to dismantle systems that perpetuate unequal representation.”

“Throughout my career, I have been committed to creating an environment that rejects such politics and strives for genuine representation. For 40 years, I battled against his politics. I am certain that we will achieve a government that reflects our communities’ diversity and values, ensuring that individuals, like former Alderman Burke and others trying to carry his legacy, who use their power to gain greater status and personal enrichment have no position of influence in our communities.”


“Alderman Burke’s conviction is just the latest example of prominent Illinois Democrat corruption at the highest levels of government,” ILGOP Chairman Don Tracy said. “Years of machine electioneering, pay to play politics, insider dealings, and catering to special interests have driven working families out of Chicago and Illinois, increased the tax burden and regulations on those of us who have stayed to fight for a better state, and hugely benefited the powerful few. As the latest prominent Illinois Democrat to be convicted of official corruption, Alderman Burke will finally be held accountable much like Democrats Senator Sandoval, Senator Link, Governor Blagojevich, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr, and the 38 other Chicago Aldermen convicted in the last 50 years as we await Speaker Madigan’s corruption trial.”

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Reader comments closed for the holidays

Wednesday, Dec 20, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* As I write this, we have raised $57,524 since the week after Thanksgiving to buy Christmas presents for foster kids. That’s just amazing. It means we’ve helped Lutheran Social Services of Illinois buy 2,301 presents. Wow. Thank you so very much! And, hey, if you’re a procrastinator, you can always click here at any time to donate. Even if it’s after Christmas, LSSI will use your donation to help those foster kids.

* Isabel and I will be back on January 8. We will try to update with any truly big news, but you will of course have our Live coverage and Live Ed Burke trial coverage posts to rely on, as well as all the feeds on the right side of the page if you need a news fix.

* And now it’s time for our annual tradition of Christmas songs loved by my mother when she was a child. Mom always gets a kick out of this. Here’s Frosty the Snowman, Suzy Snowflake and Hardrock, Coco and Joe

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And the winners are…

Wednesday, Dec 20, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The 2023 Wordslinger Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Commenter goes to JS Mill

JS Mill’s insights on education issues have provided us with a much needed dose of expertise to understand those often complex issues from the front line. Plus, his keen insights are not limited to just education but spill onto a multitude of other issues. I often find myself learning something new after reading comments by JS Mill.

Same. And the voting was not close.

* Congratulations to everyone who won this year…

    Best Place to Gather for Dinner During Session Weeks: Maldaner’s

    Best Place to Gather for Drinks, Etc. During Session Weeks: Boone’s

    Best Senate Democratic Legislative Assistant/District Office Manager: Lacey Stauffer

    Best Senate Republican Legislative Assistant/District Office Manager: Barb Frobish

    Best House Democratic Legislative Assistant/District Office Manager: Liz Moody

    Best House Republican Legislative Assistant/District Office Manager: Karla Dirks

    Best Democratic State Senate Staff Member: Selena Gorman

    Best Republican State Senate Staff Member: Brad Carlson

    Best Democratic State House Staff Member: Kendra Piercy and Kylie Kelly

    Best Republican State House Staff Member: Jen Passwater

    Best Government Spokesperson/Comms: Jason Rubin

    Best Statehouse-Related Public Relations Spokesperson: Monique Garcia and Becky Carroll

    Best Democratic Illinois State Representative: Rep. Lance Yednock

    Best Republican Illinois State Representative: Rep. Norine Hammond

    Best Democratic Illinois State Senator: Sen. Cristina Castro

    Best Republican Illinois State Senator: Sen. Sue Rezin

    Best Contract Lobbyist: Liz Brown-Reeves and Dave Sullivan

    Best In-House Lobbyist: Mark Denzler and Jen Walling

    Best Do-Gooder Lobbyist: William McNary and Nita Kelly

    Best Legislative Liaison: Allison Nickrent and Wendy Miller Butler

    Best State Agency Director: Heidi Mueller

    Best Statewide Staffer: Emily Miller and Andy Manar

    Lifetime Achievement: Susan Catania

    Best US Representative: Nikki Budzinski

    Best Statewide Officer: Gov. JB Pritzker

    The Wordslinger Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Commenter: JS Mill

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*** UPDATED x4 *** Isabel’s afternoon roundup

Wednesday, Dec 20, 2023 - Posted by Isabel Miller

*** UPDATE 1 (by Rich) *** Hmm…

And here’s update 2…

Update 3…

Today, the 82nd District Representative District Committee selected Nicole La Ha as the new State Representative to fill the vacancy of Lemont Mayor John Egofske.

“I am honored to serve as the State Representative for the 82nd District,” La Ha said. “My experiences in public service and advocacy have prepared me for this role, and I am eager to work collaboratively to address the diverse needs of our community. Together, we can create positive change and build a more inclusive and vibrant future for the 82nd District.”

Nicole’s time in public service began in 2020 when she was elected to the Village of Homer Glen Board of Trustees. During her tenure, she demonstrated a strong commitment to lower property taxes and financial responsibility. Nicole is also Mrs. America 2022 and has a history of impactful advocacy for community accessibility and inclusive parks for children with disabilities. As one of the founders of the Ability Awareness Committee in Homer Glen, Nicole showcases her dedication to promoting inclusivity and education within the community.

Nicole’s personal experiences as the mother of a differently abled child have fueled her commitment to inspire a more inclusive world. She has actively participated in leadership roles supporting initiatives such as inclusive shopping carts and education programs for individuals with disabilities.

“Nicole La Ha brings an exciting blend of passion, dedication, and leadership to the 82nd District,” said House Minority Leader Tony McCombie. “Her commitment to children, public safety, and advocacy for inclusivity is inspiring and she will be a great addition to the House Republican Caucus. Nicole is a problem solver and will work toward solutions that will bring positive change and economic growth to the 82nd District.”

Nicole resides in Homer Glen with her husband, Dr. Christopher Zwiercan, and their two children, Cristiano and Ashlynn.

Update 4

Brandun Schweizer on Thursday was selected by the 104th Representative District Committee to fill the vacancy of retiring state Rep. Michael Marron, R-Fithian, in the Illinois House of Representatives.

“I am honored to be the new representative for the 104th District and serve the residents of Champaign and Vermilion counties,” said Schweizer. “Serving our community as state representative will allow me to prioritize real relief for taxpayers, entice businesses to build and grow here, and work to rebuild trust in government.”

[ *** End Of Updates *** ]


Texas emergency management officials chartered a private plane and flew 150 migrants to Chicago Tuesday evening, the first time a private plane has been used by the state to bring migrants to the city from Texas. […]

After the plane landed without warning to Chicago officials, airport officials called the Chicago Police Department, according to a report shared with WTTW News. The flight originated in El Paso, Texas, and records link the plane’s tail number to the Texas Division of Emergency Management, according to the police log of the incident.

Two people, identified as “handlers” in the police log, fled the plane and “jumped into an Uber” before they could be questioned by officers, according to police.

* Crain’s

With the city’s finances strained and a controversial tool meant to spur economic development set to shrink over the next decade, Mayor Brandon Johnson’s administration is looking at borrowing more than $1 billion to fund affordable housing and development projects.

The move would be a remarkable shift in how the city pays for and subsidizes development projects. The bond issuance would begin the process of Chicago weaning itself off the special tax districts created in the last three decades to incentivize development.

With dozens of tax-increment financing, or TIF, districts expiring over the next decade — potentially returning hundreds of millions annually to the city’s tax base — city officials have been pitching the City Council on a plan to divert a chunk of that anticipated revenue to pay for the new debt created by the borrowing plan.

* Daily Herald

McHenry County’s electoral board ruled Tuesday that Bob Nowak can stay on the March primary ballot, overruling his opponent’s objection to his candidacy.

Nowak, of Algonquin, is running for McHenry County Board in the District 3 Republican primary against incumbent Eric Hendricks of Lake in the Hills. Nowak previously held the seat but lost to Hendricks in 2022.

Hendricks filed an objection to Nowak’s candidacy last week, claiming Nowak ran as a “Republian,” omitting the “c” in Republican and putting a zip code in an incorrect field.

In Tuesday’s hearing, Hendricks cited case law to support his argument that Nowak should be booted from the ballot.

“It probably should have been rejected from the offset,” Hendricks said.

* As subscribers know, Coburn withdrew a week ago. SJ-R

Kelvin Coburn, a Republican candidate running in Illinois House District 95, is ending his campaign after not receiving sufficient signatures.

Kelvin Coburn has ended his campaign for Illinois House District 95.
Required to collect between 500 and 1,500 signatures, Coburn received 561 per records shared by the Illinois State Board of Elections but several filing errors reduced that number below the minimum. Coburn, a Department of Transportation employee from Chatham, was challenging incumbent state Rep. Mike Coffey, R-Springfield, in the Republican primary.

Objectors to his nomination papers included Patty Meyer and Collins Pieper, both Republican precinct committeepersons also seeking reelection. Their objections filed with ISBE and going public Tuesday, centered on the papers including non-genuine signatures and signatures from outside the district.

Coburn said Wednesday that some of his signatures did come from the Illinois House District 108, which includes portions of Chatham.

* Release the bloopers!…

* More…

    * Block Club | Bond Reform Has Reduced Jail Population, But State Data On Pretrial Detention Is 18 Months Late: The data will reveal how bond abolition affects pretrial detention, but most courts have never tracked this information. State officials are also struggling to streamline a system dominated by paper records. … Circuit courts use at least 17 different case management technologies that need to feed into the new state system, and most counties have never analyzed pretrial outcomes, Smith said. The vast majority of Illinois courts still use paper-based records, which is a serious hurdle to streamlining the data into a single system, Smith said. That makes it especially difficult to plug each county into a statewide system, she said.

    * WTTW | ‘It’s a Human Dignity Issue’: Data Reveals Racial, Economic Disparities in Access to Quality Nursing Home Care Across Chicago: An analysis by WTTW News and the Hyde Park Herald/South Side Weekly found that the disparity between access to quality nursing home care for Black and White Chicagoans is stark: Three of the city’s five-star homes, as rated by Medicare, house majority White residents and are concentrated on the city’s North Side. There is another five-star home on the North Side that did not submit demographic data for 2021 to the Illinois Health Facilities & Services Review Board (HFSRB), the agency that collects this information.

    * ABC Chicago | UIC under federal investigation for discrimination by Education Department : The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was added to the list of schools a few weeks ago. Other newly added schools include Springfield, IL Public Schools District 186, MNIT, UC Davis and Drexel University.

    * Capitol News Illinois | High court says unless pavement markings or signs are present, cyclists are merely ‘permitted’ users: That distinction means the city of Chicago is not liable for damages sustained by a bicyclist who was injured after he hit a pothole on a city street that had no such signage.

    * Patch | Rosemont Medical Co. Accused Of Filing False Claims Settles For $14.7M: BioTelemetry Inc., headquartered in Malvern, Pennsylvania, and its subsidiary, LifeWatch Services Inc., based in Rosemont, will pay more than $14.7 million after being accused of violating the False Claims Act, authorities said. “Diagnostic companies, like other providers, are expected to bill federal healthcare programs only for medically necessary services,” Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian Boynton, head of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Division, said in a news release. “We will hold accountable those who misuse taxpayer-funded programs for their own enrichment.”

    * AP | Some state abortion bans stir confusion, and it’s uncertain if lawmakers will clarify them: [A] provision included in a law enacted by Congress in 1986 and signed by Republican President Ronald Reagan said abortion must be available when a pregnant woman’s life is at risk during a medical emergency. But a lack of clarity over how to apply that rule and other exceptions in state laws has escalated the trauma and heartache some women experience while facing serious medical issues but unable to access abortion in their home states.

    * Billboard | Mitski, Father John Misty & More Artists’ Online Shops Affected After Merch Company SCP Shuts Down: SCP Merchandising, an Illinois-based merch company used by artists including Mitski, Father John Misty and Carly Rae Jepsen, has shut down, according to a member of SCP leadership still on-site after the company laid off its staff over the weekend. Based on accounts from multiple former SCP employees on LinkedIn, the company’s employees were abruptly laid off on Sunday evening (Dec. 17).

    * ABC Chicago | Xfinity hack could impact 36 million customers: Xfinity concluded on Dec. 6 that usernames and passwords for some customers were stolen along with names, contact information, last four digits of social security numbers, dates of birth and/or secret questions. The company says it is still taking a complete stock of what was stolen.

    * Reuters | Tesla blamed drivers for failures of parts it long knew were defective: Wheels falling off cars at speed. Suspensions collapsing on brand-new vehicles. Axles breaking under acceleration. Tens of thousands of customers told Tesla about a host of part failures on low-mileage cars. The automaker sought to blame drivers for vehicle ‘abuse,’ but Tesla documents show it had tracked the chronic ‘flaws’ and ‘failures’ for years.

    * NYT | How College Football Is Clobbering Housing Markets Across the Country: “College athletics, in particular college football, have become so enormous in this country, particularly in the Southeast, that it has caused this phenomenon of short-term rentals,” said Adrien Bouchet, director of the DeVos Sport Business Management Program at the University of Central Florida. “On one hand it creates value, but on the other hand, it definitely hurts people that have lived in and around the university for a long time.”

    * Good Morning America | Chicago Christmas market shoppers find unclaimed money: ABC News’ DeMarco Morgan heads to the city’s Christkindle Market with members from the Illinois State Treasurer’s office to help holiday shoppers see if they have any unclaimed money.

    * Sun-Times | Chicago may get a ‘moist’ Christmas, but snow unlikely: forecast calls for rain, temps in the 50s: The forecast is likely to be “mild and moist,” according to Todd Kluber, a meteorologist with the NWS. The good news is weather probably won’t cause travel woes for those staying in the Midwest. “Temperatures are fortunately gonna be well above freezing through Christmas,” Kluber said. “Freezing precipitation is not an issue for us for that holiday period and around that holiday travel time.”

    * Dave Joachim | Great Outdoor Recipes For Christmas, Hanukkah And New Years: Nibble and nosh your way to New Year’s Eve with appetizers like homemade Boursin cheese spread. When it’s chilly, sip on hot Southern Comfort cider. And when it snows, make maple taffy on snow! The holidays are the best time to invite friends and family over for a get-together and celebrate the many blessings that you have.


Another population ‘estimate,’ another Krishnamoorthi response

Wednesday, Dec 20, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* An absolutely ridiculous story from the Center Square

Illinois has lost 549,000 people in the past decade when adding up the annual population estimates from the U.S. Census, prompting some to look for policy changes to reverse the trend.

The latest numbers released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau shows Illinois’ 10th year of annual losses. In 2013, Illinois’ annual population estimate showed an increase of 12,700. The following year began the decade of decline. In 2014, the state lost an estimated 10,700. In 2015, that more than doubled to 25,000 lost in one year. Another 37,900 were estimated lost in 2016.

The losing trend continued in 2017 with Illinois having 41,800 fewer people than the prior year. In 2018, there were 55,200 fewer people, 57,700 fewer in 2019, 79,500 fewer in 2020, 100,000 fewer in 2021 and more than 107,800 fewer in 2022. For 2023, the U.S. Census shows Illinois lost an additional 32,800 for the year ending July 1, 2023.

Oh, for crying out loud.

* The actual 2010 Census full count showed Illinois had 12,830,632 people. The full 2020 Census count showed Illinois had 12,812,508. Therefore, on its face, those annual estimates were wildly wrong to the point of absurdity, even though they were loudly trumpeted every single year by the Illinois Policy Institute and its fellow travelers, including the Chicago Tribune editorial board.

And then, you’ll recall, this happened in 2022

Following a review of 2020 U.S. Census Data, the U.S. Census Bureau announced today that Illinois was undercounted by nearly 2%. This means that Illinois’ population grew by nearly 250,000 people and is now above 13 million people for the first time in Illinois history.

* As you know, US Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi has been pestering the US Census Bureau for nearly two years about its inane annual estimates. I sent Krishnamoorthi the Center Square story and asked for a response…

The Census Bureau’s latest population estimates (and the opportunistic bashing of our state) only raise the question of why the Census Bureau’s own analysis in 2022 found that its projections had been wrong, and Illinois’ population actually grew to a new high. We continue to be interested in the answers because until we can figure them out, we will be left without a proper accounting of what went wrong in the 2020 Census, and how Illinois can get a fairer share of federal resources.


Some cause for concern, but hospitalizations are significantly lower than a year ago

Wednesday, Dec 20, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* CBS 2

Respiratory viruses are spreading quickly right now and with more holiday gatherings in the next week, the Chicago Department of Public Health is urging people to get vaccinated. […]

On Wednesday, local nurses called on Governor JB Pritzker and the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health to require masks again at all healthcare facilities.

Nurses from several groups planned to speak in front of UIC Hospital on Wednesday.

The group said last week the Illinois Department of Public Health recommended using masks in healthcare settings because of rising RSV and COVID cases.

The governor no longer has the authority to order masks at the healthcare facilities because his COVID disaster declaration is expired.

And if you click here and then click the Hospital Visits tab, you’ll see that emergency room visits and hospitalizations are lower than they were at this time last year (with COVID hospitalizations just a bit more than half of that mid-December 2022 number). The online data hasn’t been updated since Saturday, but hospitalizations were definitely trending downward at that time.

That being said, I know a whole lot of people who have COVID right now, but none are in the hospital.

* Here is what IDPH told me today…

IDPH has been in close communication with our healthcare partners in recent weeks and months as we have seen seasonal viruses increase across the state. Our goal is to monitor conditions and ensure that healthcare facilities have the capacity to deal with any increase in demand.

On December 14 we issued a health alert to hospitals and long-term care facilities recommending they take precautions to reduce the spread of viruses and protect their patients, staffs and visitors.

The alert shared CDC’s recommendation for facility-wide masking at healthcare facilities that are in counties rated at high level for COVID-19 hospitalizations or per facility discretion in areas where data shows elevated transmission of other respiratory viruses such as flu and RSV, even if COVID-19 hospitalization levels are not high in those areas.

We applaud the many healthcare facilities around Illinois that have already put in place masking and other proactive mitigation measures as we contend with this seasonal surge in illnesses.

We will continue to closely monitor the health data and provide additional guidance to healthcare facilities if it is warranted.

More here.

* Meanwhile, in Springfield via Steven Spearie at the SJ-R

Memorial Health has implemented temporary visitor restrictions at its five hospitals, including Springfield Memorial Hospital, to curb the spread of respiratory illnesses.

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) recommended temporary visitor restrictions due to a statewide increase in respiratory illnesses including COVID-19, influenza, and Respiratory Syncytial Virus, or RSV.

Memorial Health requires that hospital visits be limited to two visitors per patient and that all visitors be 18 years of age or older and show no signs of illness.

Masks are encouraged but not required at this time. Disposable masks are available for visitors upon entry.

Hospital Sisters Health System, which includes HSHS St. John’s Hospital in Springfield and HSHS St. Francis Hospital in Litchfield, is recommending there be a limit of two people visiting a patient at one time.


Chicago temp casino performing way below expectations

Wednesday, Dec 20, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Jennifer Shea at the Bond Buyer

When casino developers were clamoring to run Chicago’s first casino, then-Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration all but promised a windfall. City leaders predicted a “material improvement to revenues” from the Chicago casino, the result of 2019 legislation that grew Illinois gambling by nearly 50%.

And when Rhode Island-based Bally’s Corporation won the coveted casino license, Bally’s CEO Soo Kim estimated the finished River West casino would generate $200 million per year in tax revenue, with $50 million per year flowing from the temporary location opened on Wabash Ave. in the meantime.

The city did not budget for any revenue from the casino in 2023. But current Mayor Brandon Johnson’s 2024 budget plans for $35 million in local tax revenue from the casino. To meet that target, the temporary casino – now located in the Medinah Temple, right off the Magnificent Mile and just north of the Chicago River – would have to bring in roughly $2.916 million per month.

Since the venue opened Sept. 9, the temporary casino has brought in between $694,913 and $778,964 per month in local tax revenue, according to Illinois Gaming Board data — about a quarter of what it needs to generate to keep up with budget projections, and a fifth of Kim’s more ambitious target.

* According to Illinois Gaming Board data, in November alone, video gaming machines produced $186,224 in tax revenue for Decatur, which was one of the highest in the state.

Chicago is about 38.5 times as large as Decatur. So, if Chicago had video poker machines, it had the possible potential of raking in almost $7.2 million in taxes during November.

* Joliet, which has two full-blown casinos in the area, pulled in $135,116 from video gaming taxes that same month.

Chicago’s population is almost 18 times that of Joliet. Extrapolating that out, Chicago could be expected to reap as much as $2.43 million in taxes from casinos in November.

Figure it’s somewhere in between. If so, that would likely cover the city’s budget for the coming year.

That somewhere-in-between number might possibly still be lower than the projections for Chicago’s temporary casino and would be much lower than the projections for the permanent casino site. However, are those Chicago projections realistic?

Well, Joliet’s two casinos generated $980.097 in tax revenues during November. Extrapolated out, that could be $17,641,738 for Chicago, or something like $212 million for the year, which is about what Bally’s projected.

* But, so far, Chicago is just sputtering along. And this is from the Civic Federation in October

The Civic Federation has long had concerns over the City of Chicago’s proposed reliance on casino revenues as a major funding source for its Police and Firefighter Pension Funds. While a casino may generate some budgetary relief, gaming revenues can be unreliable, particularly over the long run, and should be budgeted with caution. Further, the State of Illinois currently has 15 casinos and thousands of video gaming locations. With six additional casinos enabled by the 2019 gaming expansion including the Chicago casino, the legalization of sports gambling and a growing number of video gaming locations, not to mention nearby casinos in neighboring states, there is greater potential for market saturation.

As noted, that money is supposed to shore up the first responder pension funds. If that doesn’t happen, the General Assembly could be asked to step in yet again.

* Back to the Bond Buyer

This comes against the backdrop of a national slowdown in the growth of the gambling industry over the past five years, according to Gros. Georgia and Texas are now the only big states without casinos, he said, and growth at the others has been “incremental” and driven by a preoccupation with tax revenues rather than sustainability.

* The added bonus to local video gaming machines is that the drinking establishments are mostly (not all) locally owned.

I don’t gamble, I don’t encourage gambling and I don’t have any financial interest in casinos or video poker or anything else like that. But the bottom line here is that the city has left a ton of tax revenue on the table since video gaming was legalized in 2009. And it might have done better than an actual casino going forward. I guess we’re going to find out.


It’s just a bill

Wednesday, Dec 20, 2023 - Posted by Isabel Miller

* 25 News Now

National data shows a growing mental health crisis among children and young adults that was only made worse after the COVID-19 pandemic.

In response, Illinois State University Student Body President Eduardo Monk Jr., launched an initiative to get a state law on the books giving university students five mental health days. It mirrors a law already in place giving the same rights to K through 12 students. […]

Senator Dave Koehler is sponsoring the bill in the Illinois Senate. Representative Sharon Chung will sponsor the bill once it reaches the House of Representatives.

While Koehler was not able to speak on camera, the bill is in its early stages. As of right now, it is waiting in an executive committee. Currently, staffers are ironing out the details of the law and making it work around different attendance policies at different universities.

* Rep. Bob Morgan’s HB4282

Amends the Genetic Counselor Licensing Act. Provides that application for licenses shall be made to the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation in writing or electronically (rather than in writing) as prescribed by the Department. Provides that all applicants and licensees shall (1) provide a valid address and email address to the Department, which shall serve as the address of record and email address of record, respectively, at the time of application for licensure or renewal of a license; and (2) inform the Department of any change of address of record or email address of record within 14 days after the change either through the Department’s website or by contacting the Department’s licensure maintenance unit. Provides that no association, limited liability company, professional limited liability company, or partnership (rather than no association or partnership) shall practice genetic counseling unless every member, partner, and employee of the association, limited liability company, professional limited liability company, or partnership who practices genetic counseling or who renders genetic counseling services holds a valid license issued under the Act. Provides that every application for an original license under the Act shall include the applicant’s Social Security Number or individual taxpayer identification number. Removes a provision that authorizes the Department to maintain rosters of the names and addresses of all licensees and all persons whose licenses have been suspended, revoked, or denied. Defines “email address of record”. Changes references from the “American Board of Medical Genetics” to the “American Board of Medical Genetics and Genomics”. Makes conforming changes. Makes grammatical changes. Amends the Regulatory Sunset Act to provide for the repeal of the Genetic Counselor Licensing Act on January 1, 2030.

* Rep. Travis Weaver’s HB4285

Amends the Child Labor Law. Provides that a minor 14 or 15 years of age may work at an otherwise prohibited workplace if none of the minor’s job duties: (1) require any education, formal training, certification, or license; (2) involve the use of any equipment or machinery that poses a substantial risk of causing any serious bodily injury or death; (3) involve the use of or proximity to hazardous materials; or (4) require the minor to work hours past curfew. Provides that every employer of minors between the ages of 14 and 16 years shall record the name of the parent or guardian who gives the minor permission to work. Provides that any employer, upon termination of the employment of a minor, shall immediately send by certified mail notification to the parent or guardian on record that the minor’s employment has been terminated. Defines terms.

* HB4283 from Rep. Kevin Schmidt

Creates the Gun Crime Charging and Sentencing Accountability and Transparency Act. Provides that in a criminal case, if a defendant is charged with an offense involving the illegal use or possession of a firearm and subsequently enters into a plea agreement in which the charge will be reduced to a lesser offense or a non-weapons offense in exchange for a plea of guilty, at or before the time of sentencing, the State’s Attorney shall file with the court a written statement of his or her reasons in support of the plea agreement, which shall specifically state why the offense or offenses of conviction resulting from the plea agreement do not include the originally charged weapons offense. Provides that the written statement shall be part of the court record in the case and a copy shall be provided to any person upon request. Provides that in a criminal case in which the original charge is or was for an offense involving the illegal use or possession of a firearm, if a defendant pleads guilty or is found guilty of the original charge or lesser offense or a non-weapons offense, in imposing sentence, the judge shall set forth in a written sentencing order his or her reasons for imposing the sentence or accepting the plea agreement. Provides that a copy of the written sentencing order shall be provided to any person upon request.

* HB4289 from Rep. Ryan Spain…

Amends the Lobbyist Registration Act. Specifies that, as used in the Act, “official” includes specified officials of a unit of local government. Modifies “lobby” and “lobbying”, as used in the Act, to add illustrative examples and to provide that a person has not communicated for the ultimate purpose of influencing a State or local governmental action solely by submitting an application for a government permit or license or by responding to a government request for proposals or qualifications. Changes the definition “lobbyist”, as used in the Act, to mean a natural person who, on behalf of any person other than himself or herself, or as any part of his or her duties as an employee of another, undertakes to influence or lobby for any executive, legislative, or administrative action for State government or a unit of local government, and includes illustrative examples of lobbyists.

* Rep. Dan Caulkins’ HB4291

Amends the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act. In a provision permitting 2 or more mandated reporters from the same workplace to designate one reporter to make a single report concerning the group’s shared belief that a child may be abused or neglected, provides that the report made by the designated reporter shall include the name, business address, and telephone number of the mandated reporter; the capacity that makes the person a mandated reporter; and the information that gave rise to the knowledge or reasonable suspicion of child abuse or neglect and the source or sources of that information. Provides that the report shall also include, if known, certain information on the child, the child’s parents and guardians, and the person or persons who the mandated reporter knows or reasonably suspects to have abused or neglected the child. Requires the designated mandated reporter to make a report even if some of the required information is not known or is uncertain to the reporter. Removes the requirement that the report include the names and contact information for the other mandated reporters. In a provision permitting any other person who is not a mandated reporter to make a child abuse or neglect report, provides that the Department of Children and Family Services shall ask the reporter to provide in the report his or her name, telephone number, information that gave rise to the knowledge or reasonable suspicion of child abuse or neglect, and the source or sources of the information that gave rise to the knowledge or reasonable suspicion of child abuse or neglect. Provides that if the reporter refuses to provide his or her name or telephone number, the Department shall make efforts to determine the basis for that refusal and advise the reporter that the identifying information will remain confidential.


Question of the day: 2023 Golden Horseshoe Awards

Wednesday, Dec 20, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The 2023 Golden Horseshoe Award for Best US Representative goes to Nikki Budzinski

US Rep: the freshman phenom, Nikki Budzinski. She was everywhere in her district during the summer recess. Pretty sure she attended when my daughter had a wedding for her Barbie dolls. She’s also been laser-focused on issues that matter for her district, even though they’re not part of the DC culture wars- the farm bill, veterans affairs, and labor. Her team is top notch and Republicans couldn’t get a real challenger for her. If she survives for a few more terms, I expect to see her make a play for leadership.

Some of that was snark, of course, but Budzinski had a ton of nominations that couldn’t be ignored even though she’s just starting out. Let’s hope she can live up to the hype.

* The 2023 Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Statewide Officer yet again goes to Gov. JB Pritzker

I hate repeat winners, but it’s gotta be JB Pritzker. JB had a flurry of announcements this year- new businesses, new jobs, new investments. Basically, everything Rauner wanted to do, but could never pull off. It’s been a great demonstration that we don’t need to kneecap labor or defund social services to expand the economy in the state. This is JB Pritzker’s state right now.

We may have to retire this category until his poll numbers tank. /s

* On to our final 2023 category…

    The Wordslinger Golden Horseshoe for Best Commenter

Remember to explain your nomination or it won’t count. Thanks.

…Adding… The winner will be announced at 4:30ish today, so get your nominations in now, please.

* I expressed doubt yesterday that we could raise a total of $55,000 by the end of the day to buy Christmas presents for foster kids. Instead, we surpassed $56,000. That’s so great! Thanks!

This is our final day of fundraising. I haven’t spoken with the folks at Lutheran Social Services of Illinois for at least a couple of weeks, but I have to believe they’re thrilled with your generosity this year, because I sure am.

Because of you, LSSI can buy presents for 2,256 foster children in Illinois. You done really good, folks.

But we still have time to help more kids. LSSI serves a total of 2,530 foster children. So, if you haven’t yet done so or if you have a few extra bucks available ahead of the holidays, please click here. Thanks! Merry Christmas!


More new laws

Wednesday, Dec 20, 2023 - Posted by Isabel Miller

* NBC Chicago

The state of Illinois is implementing a series of new laws designed to make changes to the way certain industries do business, and it could have an impact on consumers throughout the state.

One such law will come in the form of HB 2269, which will require that estate-planning documents be made available for electronic preparations. Previously, only wills were included in that list, but now the definition will expand under the legislation.

Speaking of the internet, licensed new and used car dealerships in Illinois will now be authorized to conduct sales activities over the internet, giving them an even playing field against online car merchants and sales sites.

Renters will also be protected by a series of new laws, including HB 1628, which will keep landlords from requiring their tenants to pay their rent via electronic fund transfers, including such transactions that are automatically debited from accounts.

* Sen. Loughran Cappel…

Reconstructive surgeries for trauma survivors and vaginal estrogen will be covered by insurance starting Jan. 1 thanks to two new laws sponsored by State Senator Meg Loughran Cappel.

“We can’t let residents continue to be buried by health care costs,” said Loughran Cappel (D-Shorewood). “People in Illinois should have access to the care and medication they need, regardless of cost.”

House Bill 1565 requires individual policy accident and health insurers to cover vaginal estrogen when it is medically necessary. The measure prohibits insurers from imposing a higher deductible, co-payment or any other cost-sharing requirement on vaginal estrogen than it would for a treatment for erectile dysfunction. […]

Loughran Cappel also sponsored House Bill 1384 which requires HMOs, Medicaid and individual and group health insurance policies to cover medically necessary reconstructive surgeries to restore a person’s physical appearance following trauma. […]

House Bill 1384 and House Bill 1565 take effect Jan. 1, 2024.

* QC Times

HB 2100 says that anyone who takes advantage of an elderly person or a person with a disability financially is guilty of a Class 1 felony if the elderly person is 70 years of age or older, instead of “over 70 years of age”, and the value of the property is $15,000 or more. […]

HB 2389 says no vehicle can be stopped or searched only because of any objects placed or suspended between the driver and the front windshield that may obstruct the driver’s view. […]

HB 3326 outlaws the use of automated license plate reader data to enforce laws that interfere with a person’s right to obtain lawful healthcare services, including reproductive health care, or permit the detention/investigation of a person based on their immigration status.

HB 3396 says that a person who, with the intent to interfere with, obstruct, or impede a picket, demonstration or protest or places any object in the public way, is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $2,500, and a prison sentence of less than one year.

* Sen. Morrison…

Illinois is one step closer to becoming smoke free thanks, in part, to a new law from State Senator Julie Morrison set to take effect on Jan. 1 that bans e-cigarettes inside public places.

“E-cigarettes, in all of their many forms, continue to be one of the most addictive products readily available for purchase in gas stations, vape shops and online,” said Morrison (D-Lake Forest). “We have made solid progress toward de-normalizing the perception of tobacco, and I am proud that on Jan. 1, e-cigarette usage will be banned indoors.”

Passed in 2007, the Smoke Free Illinois Act prohibited smoking in most public places and within 15 feet of entrances, and required “no smoking” signs to be posted. However, this law took effect when people primarily smoked cigarettes and cigars.

In recent years, the use and popularity of e-cigarettes, or vapes, has increased – especially by middle school children – according to recent reports, leading Morrison to add such products to the Smoke Free Illinois Act through the passage of House Bill 1540, signed by Governor JB Pritzker on July 28, 2023. […]

House Bill 1540 takes effect Jan. 1.


Also coming in 2024, a signed Illinois bill will allow non-U.S. citizens to become police officers.

“The goal of the bill is to allow DACA and permanent residents that are already able to work in this country legally well to apply to become police officers,” says Illinois State Representative Barbara Hernandez.

The bill’s sponsor says she hopes it’ll help remedy police office shortages.

Starting January 1 in Illinois, veterans will have easier access to adopting a pet. State legislators passed a bill requiring animal shelters to waive adoption fees for veterans living in the state.

“This gives our vets who have sacrificed so much, just an opportunity to have that extra support that extra comfort, that camaraderie that friendship with that we have and with our animals, with our pets that you know, become part of the family,” says Illinois State Senator Meg Loughran Cappel.

* Sen. Preston…

A law championed by State Senator Willie Preston requiring the Secretary of State to provide previously incarcerated individuals with an Illinois ID upon their release goes into effect Monday, Jan. 1, 2024.

“We are offering a lifeline to individuals who have paid their debt to society,” said Preston (D-Chicago). “Access to valid identification isn’t just about a card; it’s a key to unlocking opportunities, restoring dignity and rebuilding lives. This law ensures individuals aren’t faced with unfair barriers while reentering our communities.”

The new law requires the Secretary of State to provide individuals committed to the Illinois Department of Corrections or the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice with a valid ID after receiving the individual’s birth certificate, social security card, photograph and proof of residency upon discharge.

The corrections agencies are required to help the individual obtain a certified copy of their birth certificate and social security card. If, for any reason, an individual does not receive an ID, they must be provided with information on how to obtain an ID at least 45 days prior to their discharge.

* Sen. Preston…

Taking a step forward to ensure the safety and well-being of employees and incarcerated individuals, State Senator Willie Preston’s law addressing indecent exposure in correctional facilities goes into effect Monday, Jan. 1.

“We must ensure a safe and respectful environment for every individual held or employed in correctional facilities,” said Preston (D-Chicago). “Indecent exposure within these facilities is a violation of human dignity and a blight on our justice system. Women, especially, are targets of this inappropriate behavior. Through this law, we will be able to address and eradicate these gender targeted incidents, fostering a secure environment for employees and individuals in the state’s care.”

This law amends the Criminal Code of 2012 to create the offense of “lewd sexual display in a penal institution,” making it a Class A misdemeanor for incarcerated individuals to expose themselves with the purpose or effect of intimidating, harassing or threatening someone. Repeat offenders face more severe penalties, with subsequent violations being considered Class 4 felonies. The provisions will also allow for thorough review of annual reports provided by the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority in 2028.

Brought forth by the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, the new law mirrors penalties for public indecency but changes the penalties given the context and motivation of the crime. It excludes juvenile detention facilities, individuals under the age of 18 and those living with a behavioral health issue.

House Bill 1399 goes into effect Jan. 1, 2024.


A new state law will allow Illinois to start building small nuclear reactors in 2026. Democrats and Republicans hope the new technology can address the demand for energy with downstate coal and gas plants shutting down.

Illinois will start a new chapter by lifting the 1987 moratorium on nuclear construction on January 1, 2026. Democrats, Republicans and manufacturers want to take advantage of the new carbon-free technology. […]

The new law will allow the state to build 300 Megawatt reactors throughout central and southern Illinois. Sponsors know the Biden administration supports micro-nuclear projects and the U.S. Department of Energy is already trying to get small reactors online.

“Some people predict 5 or 10 years is when they’ll be rolled out in the commercial market,” said Sen. Dave Koehler (D-Peoria). “It’s important because right now is when people are making decisions on the future direction of their energy needs.”


Open thread

Wednesday, Dec 20, 2023 - Posted by Isabel Miller

* What’s going on in your part of Illinois?…


Isabel’s morning briefing

Wednesday, Dec 20, 2023 - Posted by Isabel Miller

* ICYMI: Officials investigating death of migrant child staying at Chicago shelter. Tribune

    - The parents of Jean Carlos Martinez Rivero are devastated, said Matt DeMateo, executive director and pastor at New Life Centers.
    - Health care specialists have questioned both the conditions and coordination of care not only in the warehouse at 2241 S. Halsted St., but in the entire 27-shelter system.
    - Jean Carlos had been sick for a couple of days prior to his death, his parents told police.

* Related stories…

* Isabel’s top picks…

* Here’s the rest of your morning roundup…

    * Shaw Local | Weitzel to discuss pros and cons of the SAFE-T Act at January forum: “There is no argument about the act. The Illinois Supreme Court has upheld it, it is the law and we must deal with it. During the public forum, I plan to discuss the SAFE-T Act, how it came to be and its effects on police operations and overall public safety. I strongly advocate for having an independent auditor monitor the SAFE-T Act bond procedure in the court systems in Cook County and throughout the state.”

    * Patch | 20 New Illinois Laws That Could Change Your Life In 2024: Employees of any local government entity, board of election commissioners or any private employer in Illinois with 51 or more employees will receive up to 10 days of paid leave in any 12-month period to serve as an organ donor. (HB 3516)

    * Tribune | High schools in Blue Island, Crestwood embrace solar energy. Will it be as advertised?: Now, south suburban Chicago is reaping more benefits. The two schools in High School District 218 are in their first month of relying on solar energy following a monthslong installation process provided through the program. […] While yet to be seen, the transition to solar comes with the promise that such a move will reduce the schools’ energy bill by 90%.

    * WTTW | Chicago’s Natural Gas Pipeline Project Halted Amid Push for Cleaner Energy Investments: “The ICC defied federal safety regulators, their own engineering study, and all common sense when they put a sudden, complete halt to construction work that everyone agrees is needed for the sake of safety and reliability in Chicago’s heating system,” says Marc Poulos, executive director of the nonprofit Indiana-Illinois-Iowa Foundation for Fair Contracting.

    * Sun-Times | Chicago police supervisor retires while facing demotion for failing to respond to fatal crash involving off-duty cop: Despite the serious — and potentially criminal — nature of the crash, Melean didn’t show up to assume control of the scene as required by a departmental order, according to law enforcement sources. That means he didn’t notify the Bureau of Internal Affairs, so no one from the department came to administer a Breathalyzer test to the other officer.

    * WBEZ | Two former lifeguards sue the Chicago Park District, saying they suffered sexual abuse when they were minors: The cases filed in Cook County Circuit Court on Monday could add to the legal tab from the sexual misconduct scandal for the park district — which already has paid out nearly $2 million to three other female lifeguards who have sued or threatened to take the taxpayer-funded agency to court.

    * Capitol News Illinois | Capitol News Illinois, ProPublica to continue award-winning reporting partnership: ProPublica announced the addition of five new partner newsrooms and local journalists to its Local Reporting Network, including another two-year partnership with Capitol News Illinois. Through the partnership, CNI reporter Molly Parker will serve as an LRN fellow, co-publishing investigations with the two news outlets.

    * AP | Thousands of lights at Chicago Botanic Garden illuminate tunnels, lilies and art: More than 22 light installations by various local and international artists light a path through established gardens that snake around the Great Basin in the core of the garden’s 385 acres. Highlights of the experience include passing through the “Electric Ribbon Tunnel” created by Culture Creative; “Sea of Light,” created by UK artist Ithaca, which has 4,800 individually controlled balls of LED light; “Lilies,” by UK artist Jigantics, with 22 illuminated 5-foot (1.5-meter) lilies that float in and around the darkness of the Great Basin; and “Laser Lake,” projecting a rainbow of light dancing across the Great Basin.

    * Tribune | Thursday is the shortest day of the year. Here’s what the winter solstice means for Chicago.: “The winter solstice has a pretty firm connection to astronomy,” said Hunter Miller, public observing educator at the Adler Planetarium. “There’s a whole lot of stuff going on out in space to explain what’s happening here on Earth.” The winter solstice is the moment the Northern Hemisphere is tilted farthest from the sun at about 23 degrees, Miller said. It’s easiest to understand, he said, if you imagine looking at Earth from far away and there’s a big stick that goes through the North and South poles.

    * Sun-Times | Popular MeTV horror movie host Svengoolie brings on sidekicks (and possible successors): Rich Koz, who’s been keeping the grandly eccentric tradition of the horror movie host alive on the Chicago TV fixture “Svengoolie” for decades, needed a hand — preferably an undead one. Koz, who plays the wisecracking, endearingly cheesy horror host, was tasked with filling 30 extra minutes of airtime when executives at Weigel Broadcasting’s flagship station MeTV expanded his show from two to two and a half hours.

    * AP | Minnesota panel chooses new state flag featuring North Star to replace old flag seen as racist: The star echoes Minnesota’s state motto of “Star of the North.” The commission’s chairman, Luis Fitch, said that to him, the light blue represents the Mississippi River, “the most important river in the United States,” pointing to the North Star. But he acknowledged it could mean other things to other people. Symmetry and simplicity won out over other versions, including ones that included a green stripe for the state’s agricultural heritage.

    * AP | States are trashing troves of masks and pandemic gear as huge, costly stockpiles linger and expire: A New York state-run veterans’ home was so deluged by PPE deliveries in early 2021 that it stashed them under tarps in a parking lot. By the time a warehouse was arranged four months later, between $560,000 and $1.6 million of supplies were too damaged to use — and cost another $21,000 to incinerate, according to a state inspector general’s office report. Another $779,000 in expired items have been discarded.


Live coverage

Wednesday, Dec 20, 2023 - Posted by Isabel Miller

* Live coverage is back, sorta. This will be different than the old Scribble Live feed because Twitter broke itself and almost everything else it touched. These new feeds do not update instantly. There’s a bit of posting lagtime, but it’s much better than nothing. We are also limited to just 20 Twitter sources. The service may also not last long. We just can’t give you any guarantees about this. You can still click here or here to follow breaking news the way we’ve done since Twitter stopped Scribble Live from working…


Live Ed Burke Trial Coverage

Wednesday, Dec 20, 2023 - Posted by Isabel Miller

* These new feeds do not update instantly. There’s a bit of a lagtime and you have to refresh the page every now and then. The service we’re using may also not last long. We just can’t give you any guarantees. You can still click here to follow the Ed Burke trial on Twitter. Posts without a Twitter author name below them are from online news sources via Bing


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