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Isabel’s morning briefing

Friday, Feb 16, 2024 - Posted by Isabel Miller

* ICYMI: In last-minute reversal, former Sen. Sam McCann pleads guilty to corruption charges. Hannah Meisel

    - After taking McCann’s guilty plea, Judge Lawless set his sentencing for June.
    - McCann’s counsel, Jason Vincent, told Lawless that his client was hoping to be put on home confinement with an ankle monitor after pleading guilty.
    - Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Bass said the government’s objection to McCann’s release from custody was bolstered by a 13 minute video posted Tuesday on McCann’s social media pages claiming the government was coming after him with lies.

* Related stories…

* Isabel’s top picks…

    * Sun-Times | NW Side state Senate rematch tops batch of big money General Assembly primary races: “Just because someone brings you to the table, doesn’t mean you align to their views,” Toro said of her relationship with Martinez, who is running for re-election as circuit court clerk. “She is a moderate. I am a progressive. She has her own race. We haven’t been involved.”

    * Sun-Times | To trace the origins of busing migrants to Chicago, start with Donald Trump, Tucker Carlson and Ted Cruz: Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who says he didn’t anticipate how enormous the migrant issue would become for him and Illinois. “I did not regard it as a threat. Even when the first buses arrived, I just viewed it as a stunt and did not think this was going to be 40,000 people arriving. Because how would you know? And they certainly weren’t telling anybody,” Pritzker said of Texas officials.

    * River Bender | Jake Butcher Joins The Gori Law Firm as Of Counsel Attorney: In his previous role, Butcher managed the operations of the Senate President’s office and offered guidance to members of the Senate Democratic Caucus on bills and budget priorities. He also spent several years as an attorney in private practice, representing clients in agriculture, energy, gaming, healthcare, higher education and more. Butcher provides legal counsel on legislative proposals, litigation strategy, state and federal law effects and associated rulemaking.

* Here’s the rest of your morning roundup…

    * Tribune | Mayor Brandon Johnson cites differences on migrant response for failure to pitch in on latest state, Cook County funding plan: A source familiar with talks on the migrant response among city, county and state officials said Johnson initially agreed to provide additional funding but later backed off, a characterization the mayor bristled at during Thursday’s news conference.

    * Crain’s | Pritzker, Preckwinkle pony up $250M for migrant crisis. As for Johnson? He won’t say.: The city has since wavered on the formula, causing the state and county to move forward with their own announcement. The mayor’s office is concerned over whether the City Council would approve additional funding through a mid-year budget amendment after previously allocating just $150 million in the 2024 budget.

    * Sun-Times | City Council again rejects allowing police disciplinary hearings to be held in secret: It essentially punts the hot potato back to Circuit Judge Michael Mullen, who will decide whether officers recommended for firing or suspension longer than one year will be allowed to put their disciplinary fate in the hands of an arbitrator who might be more sympathetic to their arguments and would hold proceedings behind closed doors.

    * Tribune Editorial Board | We endorse Eileen O’Neill Burke for Cook County State’s Attorney: Central to the candidacy of O’Neill Burke, a former prosecutor, defense attorney and judge who comes off as tough and determined, is the notion that the office of the Cook County State’s Attorney is a vessel that has teetered too far to the port side when it comes to delivering justice and keeping Chicagoans and suburbanites safe. O’Neill Burke said she is dedicating to righting that high-profile ship, should she get to replace its controversial current captain, Kim Foxx.

    * Tribune | Campaign cash and accusations fly in race for Cook County court clerk: Mariyana Spyropoulos, a Democrat seeking to knock out incumbent Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Iris Martinez, loaned her campaign $875,000 on Valentine’s Day, allowing both candidates to accept unlimited campaign contributions in the run-up to Election Day. Martinez has about $128,000 in cash on hand among her three main campaign funds.

    * Sun-Times | Metropolitan Planning Council leader Darlene Hightower to step down: Hightower will leave her position March 29 “to pursue other professional opportunities,” Paul Carlisle, chair of the council’s board of governors, said in a message Thursday to subscribers of the group’s newsletter.

    * Lansing Journal | Public denied access to Thornton Township Board meeting: When asked why the board room — which typically has at least a dozen chairs available for the public and media — was unavailable, the man said, “You can have a seat downstairs, you’ll be able to see the meeting. The meeting will go on.” At 6:11 p.m., a faint audio feed of the upstairs meeting could be heard coming from the downstairs speakers. The feed was just clear enough to determine that Supervisor Tiffany Henyard was speaking, but not loud or clear enough for the public to follow what was happening. The audio feed lasted no longer than 30 seconds before it cut out completely.

    * Vandalia Radio | Rep Wilhour says Republicans need to stand strong in Springfield: The Republicans are in the super-minority in both the House and Senate in Springfield. And, Republicans hold no statewide office in the state. But, Wilhour says that’s because Republicans have not stood strong over the years.

    * AP | Rob Manfred says he will retire as baseball commissioner in January 2029 after 14 years: Speaking at a spring training news conference, Manfred noted he will be 70 years old and will have been commissioner for 14 years when his term ends on Jan. 25, 2029. “You can only have so much fun in one lifetime,” Manfred said. Manfred, 65, succeeded Bud Selig in January 2015 and was given a five-year term as baseball’s 10th commissioner.

    * AFBF | New Census Shows Alarming Loss of Family Farms : New agriculture census data released by USDA today is cause for concern as the number of farms operating in the United States and the number of farm acres have both fallen significantly. The 2022 Census of Agriculture reports 141,733 fewer farms in 2022 than in 2017. The number of farm acres fell to 880,100,848, a loss of more than 20 million acres from just five years earlier.

    * Sun-Times | Plan for underwater lakeside dump delayed over concerns:
    A plan to expand a lakeside dump on the Southeast Side that’s filled with contaminated dredged material has been paused after Illinois environmental officials raised water-pollution concerns about the project. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has withdrawn an application with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency after state officials raised multiple concerns last year about possible contamination of Lake Michigan from the stored toxic dredged material scooped from the Calumet River.

    * WBEZ | Here’s a sneak peek of the newly opened Ramova Theatre ahead of Chance the Rapper’s big show: The Ramova’s rebirth took more than $30 million, 49 investors and seven red-tape filled years, but the Spanish-courtyard-style entryway and theater are finally ready for a new era. After a soft opening on New Year’s Eve with a queer-friendly dance party, Friday brings the 1,800-person concert venue’s first big test: South Side native Chance the Rapper, an investor in the project, will play an all-ages show.

    * Block Club | The Shedd’s Newest Baby Otter Is On Display To The Public — And He’s Perfect: The pup — yet to be named — is about 20 pounds, but he’s far from fully grown: Adult sea otters can weigh 72-100 pounds, according to the Shedd. The baby is eating fish, though he’ll one day learn how to open clams and crabs so he can eat those, too, according to the aquarium. He’s also learning how to groom and forage.

    * CBS Chicago | Chicago library to digitize largest set of African American history, literature in Midwest: The Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection is the largest collection of African American history and literature in the Midwest. Thanks to $2 million from the Mellon Foundation to the Chicago Public Library, nearly 300,000 pieces from the Harsh collection and beyond will be digitized.


  1. - TJ - Friday, Feb 16, 24 @ 8:18 am:

    Preemptive good riddance to Manfred. Granted, knowing baseball, they’ll find a way to replace him with someone worse again.

    Baseball is truly a great sport to survive the morons that have run it.

  2. - Amalia - Friday, Feb 16, 24 @ 8:58 am:

    The Tribune endorsement in the Cook County State’s Attorney race is an important read even if you don’t live in the County. What goes on there affects the entire state of Illinois. The endorsement of Eileen O’Neill Burke has strong reason behind it.

  3. - Blitz - Friday, Feb 16, 24 @ 9:13 am:

    This Henyard stuff is wild, ongoing, and disconcerting in so many ways. Absolutely needs to go.

  4. - cermak_rd - Friday, Feb 16, 24 @ 9:44 am:

    Amalia, I think this race can safely be left to Cook county residents to decide. It’s a balancing act.

    I don’t want to go back to the time when a kid got a felony and a record for stealing $200 of merchandise. Nor do I want certain neighborhoods over-policed and people’s lives blighted by records for crimes that aren’t that serious. If we had an easy way for records to be cleaned, without having to beg and plead before the very authorities who consider their jobs to be tough on crime, over time that would be a different story.

    I actually liked the job Ms. Foxx did. Crime went up in Cook County, well it did all over the nation at that time. But she was focussed on making sure folks weren’t being over-charged or maximally-charged. Especially since those judgements are the most likely to be affected by class biases.

  5. - Just Me 2 - Friday, Feb 16, 24 @ 10:13 am:

    Why did McCann drag this out for so long?

  6. - Amalia - Friday, Feb 16, 24 @ 11:41 am:

    @cermak_rd who says anyone is going back to something?? I’ve read nothing that says O’Neill Burke would do that. nothing. the law is over $300 for retail theft to be charged as a felony. $200 is not a felony, unless there is a break in, which Harris says he will prosecute as a felony. And even if a felony is charged, there are all sorts of levels of penalty depending on record and more. Policing comes from the municipality not the State’s Attorney. but if you like Kim Foxx you certainly will vote for Harris who will not enforce the retail theft law as passed by the Illinois Legislature.

  7. - cermak_rd - Friday, Feb 16, 24 @ 11:50 am:

    $300 is too low. Especially when you consider inflation since 2020. The rate has gone down but that did nothing to the jump in $ from before. I think Chicago should stay in line with other major metropolitan centers in the nation. So $1000 seems good to me as a limit unless it is part of a concerted conspiracy, then all the $$ amounts of the entire conspiracy should be totaled and that used to decide.

  8. - DuPage - Friday, Feb 16, 24 @ 12:07 pm:

    @- Amalia - Friday, Feb 16, 24 @ 11:41 am:

    Question. When retail theft is given a $$$ value, do they use the retail selling price or do they use the amount the store actually paid for the items?

  9. - Amalia - Friday, Feb 16, 24 @ 12:22 pm:

    @DuPage, the statute seems to have a variety of ways the price is figured out. have not looked at it in a while. @Cermak, you will be leading a law change, right? The law in Illinois is over $300 for retail theft. there is no carve out for Chicago. I don’t know how other cities work but I know chicago is governed by Illinois law. don’t like the law, change it. but know that even if charged with retail felony it is NOT automatic prison for the offender.

  10. - Retired SURS Employee - Friday, Feb 16, 24 @ 12:44 pm:

    @DuPage: it was the retail selling price back when I was a prosecutor; but then that was in the late 1970s.

  11. - cermak_rd - Friday, Feb 16, 24 @ 1:32 pm:

    Amalia, Prosecutors and police have the ability to make decisions about what they will charge or not. I don’t believe that IL law takes away that discretion.

  12. - Amalia - Friday, Feb 16, 24 @ 2:00 pm:

    @cermak_rd police bring the cases. for retail theft it is over $300. and review goes from there as CC has felony review. that the current CCSA automatically says nope unless $1000 is not enforcing the law. automatically.

  13. - Big Dipper - Friday, Feb 16, 24 @ 4:26 pm:

    Funny Toro says Martinez is a moderate when Martinez recently texted me claiming to be a progressive lol.

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