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Afternoon roundup

Monday, May 13, 2024 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Jason Meisner at the Tribune

Less than two weeks after AT&T Illinois’ bill to end mandated land line service became law in 2017, the utility’s then-president, Paul La Schiazza, allegedly received a request from a relative of House Speaker Michael Madigan to sponsor a non-profit event.

The unidentified relative said the idea came “at the suggestion of our good friend, Mike McClain,” a former lobbyist and Madigan’s longtime confidant, according to a new prosecution filing. La Schiazza forwarded the request to a colleague in the legislative affairs department on July 12, 2017, writing “this will be endless,” according to the filing.

“I suspect the ‘thank you’ opportunities will be plentiful,’” the colleague allegedly emailed back, referring to the recent passage of AT&T’s coveted landline legislation expected to save to company millions of dollars.

“Yep,” La Schiazza allegedly responded. “We are on the friends and family plan now.”

The email exchange, which was disclosed for the first time in a recent court filing, gets to the heart of the bribery case against La Schiazza, who is set to go on trial in September on charges he approved a scheme to funnel payments to a Madigan associate in exchange for the speaker’s help passing legislation important to the company.

* These are becoming all too common

A ransomware attack has forced hospital group Ascension’s computer systems offline and diverted ambulances away from some of its emergency departments, including one in the Chicago area.

The hospital group that operates Ascension Resurrection in Chicago, St. Alexius in Hoffman Estates and Alexian Brothers in Elk Grove Village said it was a victim of a “cybersecurity event” after noticing “unusual activity” on its computer network on Wednesday.

It confirmed Saturday that it is recovering from a ransomware attack and is working with cybersecurity experts and the FBI. Ascension did not say when its computer systems would be restored.

* Press release…

Governor JB Pritzker joined Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) Director Lizzy Whitehorn, Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Dulce Quintero, and other leaders today to celebrate the success of the campaign to keep eligible Medicaid customers enrolled in coverage during the yearlong unwinding from the federal Continuous Medicaid Coverage Requirement.

During this yearlong process, nearly 3.8 million individual Illinois Medicaid customers went through care redeterminations for the first time since March 2020. Redeterminations are an annual verification to ensure customers remain eligible for Medicaid benefits before their coverage is renewed for the next year.

Throughout this unwinding process, Illinois has consistently been among the leading states in its effort to keep eligible customers enrolled in Medicaid. Roughly 73% of Illinois Medicaid customers have retained their coverage throughout this process according to the latest data available from HFS, which administers the Illinois Medicaid program. […]

According to a Kaiser state redetermination data tracker, Illinois is among the 10 states with the lowest percentage of customers terminated for procedural reasons, such as unsubmitted redetermination forms or lack of a response to a request for more information to verify eligibility before the deadline. HFS is now returning to the regular practice of conducting redeterminations annually for all Medicaid customers in the state.

* Crain’s

The story is the same, although the details differ, in a half-dozen small Midwestern cities. A house in Fond du Lac, Wis., sold swiftly and closed at $10,000 over its asking price. In Racine, a house went on the market on a Friday, got a full-price offer, and was under contract to a buyer by Sunday. In Champaign, a seller boosted her asking price by $25,000 just before her house went on the market and still got a full-price offer the first day.

Home prices are rising so fast in those and three other small cities in Illinois and Wisconsin that this swath of the Midwest dominated the National Association of Realtors’ May 8 report on U.S. home price increases during the first quarter of the year. […]

The other five Midwestern cities in the top 10 were No. 2 Kankakee, where prices are up 22%; No. 3 Rockford, 20.1%; No. 4 Champaign-Urbana, 20.0%; No. 6 Racine, 19.0%; and No. 8 Bloomington, 18.5%. Cities in Tennessee, New York, New Jersey and Maryland filled out the rest of the top 10.

Prices in those cities are rising at more than twice the speed of Chicago. The median price of Chicago-area homes sold during the quarter was up 8.8%, according to the same report.

The national median price was up 5 percent from a year earlier.

* Letter to the editor from Madison County Board Chair Kurt Prenzler, who got clobbered 62-38 in the March primary

Four years ago, we were in lock down and on May 2, 2020, I wrote a letter to Gov. J.B Pritzker, requesting that our county be allowed to re-open. Hearing nothing, the county board voted 26 to 2 to re-open, according to our own schedule.

Later, the county board passed resolutions encouraging school districts to let parents make decisions regarding masks (July 2021) and opposing employer-mandated covid shots (January 2022).

During the past four years I wrote letters to the editor, encouraging people to think for themselves regarding the covid shots.

What did we learn? […]

Is there a way for us to hear alternate views?

Yes, may I suggest X / Twitter, purchased by Elon Musk in 2022. The platform now allows a variety of views, which are often banned from main stream and other social media.

* Did you see it?…

*** Feds ***

* Ex-Loretto Hospital exec charged with helping embezzle $500,000 amid COVID crisis: A former high-level executive at Loretto Hospital has been hit with federal charges alleging she helped embezzle nearly half a million dollars from the small safety-net facility on Chicago’s West Side at the height of the COVID-19 crisis. Heather Bergdahl, 37, who currently lives in the Houston area, was charged in a criminal complaint made public Monday with embezzlement from a federally funded program. Bergdahl was arrested on Thursday night shortly before a scheduled flight to Dubai. She’s scheduled to have a detention hearing in U.S. District Court in Houston on Monday, court records show. An attorney for her was not listed on the docket.

*** Chicago ***

* U. of C. study shows cops at high risk of misconduct also at elevated risk for off-duty trouble: The study, which examined 10 years of Chicago Police Department data as part of implementing the federal consent decree, found that police misconduct was predictable based on an officer’s history of complaints. It suggested that a relatively simple system of tracking past complaints to prevent future incidents could have a public value of “infinity,” considering the potential to avoid costly lawsuits that result from high-profile incidents of officer misconduct.

*** Infrastructure ***

* DigitalBridge CEO: Data Centers To Run Out Of Power In 2 Years Or Less: Data centers are going to be starved for power in as little as two years, according to DigitalBridge CEO Marc Ganzi, who offered a warning for the industry during the company’s first-quarter earnings call last week. “Power is really the constraining factor” for industry growth, Ganzi said. “And that’s going to become more evident to you and to the rest of the investor community over the next two years.” Ganzi said he told investors two years ago that data centers would run out of power in five years. “Well, I was wrong about that,” he said. “We’re running out of power in the next 18 to 24 months.”

* Press release: Rebuilding Springfield: Rails and rest stops highlight another historic construction season: Entering one of its busiest construction seasons ever, the Illinois Department of Transportation announced today that major projects in the Springfield area are planned or underway, fueled by Gov. JB Pritzker’s historic, bipartisan Rebuild Illinois capital program. Six major projects combined represent a total investment of nearly $103 million, improving safety and mobility while sustaining and creating good-paying jobs throughout the region.

* From ho-hum to 6 levels: New parking lot at O’Hare’s Terminal 5 hits milestone: The new structure will provide 2,600 spaces, more than twice the amount currently available. It will also offer real-time guidance on the number of available spots and charging stations for electric vehicles.

* Johnson offers relief to home, business owners soaked by high water bills tied to underground leaks: The City Council’s Finance Committee on Monday unanimously approved the mayor’s two-year plan to offer nearly $2.4 million in financial relief to homeowners and business owners drowning in water bills tied to leaks in underground service lines repaired on or after Jan. 1, 2023. The measure could be passed by the full Council next week.

* ‘Right now, it’s almost a nightmare’: After years of crashes, IDOT eyeing fix for exit ramp in Elgin: Elgin resident Christopher Hilton’s wish is simple — a yard without careening cars. After years of screeching tires and hawklike vigilance when his three kids play outside, his wish may be granted. The Illinois Department of Transportation is considering closing an exit ramp from Route 20 to Route 25 by way of Illinois Avenue, where Hilton lives with his wife, Cassie Ross.

* ‘Tis the Season: Repaving starts on DuSable Lake Shore Drive: From Lawrence Avenue to Hollywood Avenue, the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) has started repaving North DuSable Lake Shore Drive. It marks the first phase of a project that is expected to continue until late June.

*** Suburbs ***

* Embattled Campton Hills trustee resigns: Saying he is tired of fighting efforts to remove him from office, Campton Hills village Trustee Timothy Morgan has resigned. Morgan was elected last year, but a 2002 felony DUI conviction in Michigan dogged his ability to keep his seat. Kane County State’s Attorney Jamie Mosser warned Morgan not to take his seat because the conviction made him ineligible. Morgan said he resigned at Tuesday’s village board meeting, a day before he was scheduled to be deposed on civil litigation brought by Mosser’s office aimed at removing him.

*** Downstate ***

* Metro-east city named among the ‘cheapest, safest’ places to live in US. Here’s why: Edwardsville made the list for its grocery prices, crime rate and cost of living. The metro-east city had the highest crime rate of any locality on the list, but was still “relatively low” at 5.5 per 1,000 residents. The average cost of groceries is $431 per month in Edwardsville, according to the analysis. Lake in the Hills, Ill., also made the list and had the lowest crime rate of the 15 cities. Mundelein rounded out the three Illinois towns in the ranking with one of the lowest housing costs.

* Feral cats are a problem in this central Illinois county. Here’s how they’re handling it: Tazewell County Animal Control now addresses feral cat nuisance issues through trapping and humane euthanasia. The Tazewell County Board last month passed a resolution approving the launch of a new “Trap-Neuter-Return” program for feral cats.

*** Business ***

* Kraft Heinz explores a sale of Oscar Mayer: The Chicago-based food maker has enlisted the help of Bank of America and Centerview Partners to test the waters of a potential sale of the hot dog and deli meat brand, the report said, emphasizing that it remains possible no transaction actually materializes.

* Here’s how Boeing delivery delays are hitting Chicago ahead of busy summer travel season: Southwest Airlines is slashing the number of flights it will offer out of O’Hare by 33% this summer, according to data from aviation firm Cirium, as it deals with delays getting planes from Boeing and weak financial results. Boeing delays also caused American Airlines to suspend a flight from O’Hare to Paris, and prompted United Airlines to offer pilots voluntary time off in May and June. O’Hare will ultimately have more scheduled flights from May to August than it did last year, according to Cirium, including from the airport’s two main carriers, American and United.

* Peoria distillery earns two medals in ‘prestigious’ spirits competition: Two Peoria-made products were awarded medals at the 2024 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. BLACK BAND Distillery’s Straight Wheat Whiskey earned gold, while its Peoria Bourbon secured a silver medal. “(Getting) a nod from San Fran World Spirits Competition at any level – meaning like of any medal – (is) fantastic,” said Chris Ober, founder and principal distiller at BLACK BAND. “So, we’re really happy with the outcome this year.”

*** National ***

* Canadian wildfire smoke chokes upper Midwest: At least some smoke could drift as far south as Iowa and Chicago, leaving skies looking milky by late Tuesday or early Wednesday, said Rafal Ogorek, a meteorologist in the National Weather Service’s Chicago office.

* Tennessee woman denied abortion after fetus’ ‘brain not attached’ slams state ban: A Tennessee woman who was denied an abortion despite a severe abnormality that meant her fetus would die during the pregnancy says the state’s anti-abortion laws resulted in her losing an ovary, a fallopian tube, and her hopes for a large family. “The state of Tennessee took my fertility from me,” Breanna Cecil, 34, told The Independent. State lawmakers “took away my opportunity to have a family like my own biological family because of these horrible laws that they put in place.”


  1. - milkdud - Monday, May 13, 24 @ 3:11 pm:

    the friends and family comment would be funny, if it wasn’t so pathetic. madigan and his “unnamed family members” were shaking everybody down, and everybody knew it. just unbelievable.

  2. - Dirty Red - Monday, May 13, 24 @ 3:25 pm:

    = Edwardsville made the list for its grocery prices, crime rate and cost of living. =

    And they did it all despite the crushing oppression from Chicago warranting the secession referendum this fall.

  3. - Grandson of Man - Monday, May 13, 24 @ 4:17 pm:

    The wildfire smoke from Canada is supposed to reappear in northern Illinois. Yes, this now possibly annual event may negatively affect health, span many miles and impact millions of people, but is it as threatening as a library book about two penguin dads raising a chick? Priorities. /s

  4. - ZC - Monday, May 13, 24 @ 4:55 pm:

    The Loretto story is insane. The exec living in Trump Tower is the chef’s kiss.

  5. - Proud Papa Bear - Monday, May 13, 24 @ 5:40 pm:

    I know a retired social studies teacher who is living off a very generous pension who is obsessed with saying that Illinois is hemorrhaging residents.
    I could show him the Realtor study but every time I point to articles like these, he insists his anecdotes are more fact-based than data.

  6. - Big Dipper - Monday, May 13, 24 @ 6:16 pm:

    Probably a good thing he isn’t teaching that subject anymore.

  7. - Excitable Boy - Monday, May 13, 24 @ 6:50 pm:

    - the friends and family comment would be funny, if it wasn’t so pathetic. -

    It is funny in that statehouse types used to revere the skill and cunning of the Madigan operation, while in reality he had Bozo the clown as a top lieutenant committing crimes via e-mail and engaging in corny jokes about said crimes.

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