* Fran Spielman…
Mayor Lori Lightfoot acknowledged Friday she will have no choice but to raise property taxes — which were more than doubled by former Mayor Rahm Emanuel — if her agenda falls flat in the General Assembly’s fall veto session.
Lightfoot’s heavy-lift requests for a graduated real estate transfer tax and a casino gambling fix — either through city-state ownership of a Chicago casino or a revised tax structure — face long odds in Springfield amid a blockbuster corruption scandal that has spread from Chicago and the [west] suburbs to Springfield. […]
“It’ll be very difficult to avoid a property tax increase if we do not get help from Springfield. … There are limited tools that a mayor can use to generate substantial revenue. Property tax is really chief among them,” the mayor told the Sun-Times.
“It’s certainly my hope to avoid a large property tax increase. I’ve heard that message loud and clear — whether it’s people coming up to me on the street, our budget town halls, people who filled out the surveys. They don’t want a property tax increase. That has become a real sticking point for people. But if we don’t get those two things, our options are severely limited.”
There’s more so click here.
*** UPDATE *** Greg Hinz…
Mayor Lori Lightfoot is aiming at another group to help her close a yawning city budget gap: restaurants and their customers.
A few hours after unveiling a $40 million tax on rides from Uber, Lyft and other ride-sharing firms, Lightfoot’s office confirmed that she’ll also seek a $20 million new tax on restaurants.
The quarter-percentage-point levy would apply to all food and beverages sold at retail establishments. Combined with levies by other governments including Cook County and the Metropolitan Pier & Exposition Authority, the tax on restaurant bills would rise to as much as 11.75 percent.
- Posted by Rich Miller
Federal investigators are looking into allegations that Commonwealth Edison hired multiple politically connected employees and consultants in exchange for favorable government actions, including electricity rate increases, WBEZ has learned.
A source involved in the investigation said authorities believe many of the clout hires at the state’s largest electric utility got paid but did little or no work, and some of them have ties to Illinois House Speaker and state Democratic Party Chairman Michael Madigan of Chicago.
In another previously undisclosed development, agents investigating those hires are also probing the role played by Jay Doherty, a longtime lobbyist for ComEd and president of the City Club of Chicago, the source said. The City Club is a prominent public affairs speaking forum that’s a regular stop for Illinois’ top politicians. […]
On Thursday, the lobbying firm of Michael Kasper, a top legal aide and advisor to Madigan, informed the state that it had ended its relationship with John Hooker, a lobbyist with decades-long ties to ComEd.
Go read the rest.
Hooker crafted ComEd’s Statehouse comeback from the abyss with Mike McClain. He later lobbied for ComEd through Kasper’s firm. He has no other listed affiliations on the state lobbyist list.
Doherty is still listed as a registered ComEd lobbyist as of 1:58 this afternoon.
*** UPDATE *** Attorney General Kwame Raoul is scheduled to speak at the City Club next week. I asked his press office if he still planned to attend in light of today’s WBEZ report…
Yes, we still plan to speak before the City Club on Monday. We are looking forward to the opportunity to share updates from our office with attendees, as well as the media.
- Posted by Rich Miller
One of the East St. Louis fire houses was closed by city leaders and nine firefighters were given notice of layoff letters on Tuesday. […]
The city had fallen more than $2.2 million behind in contributions to the firefighter’s pension fund. The Fire Pension Board voted in September to initiate the “intercept process,” which allows Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza’s office to take money that would otherwise have been spent on things such as payroll, public safety and sanitation, and deposit it directly toward the under-funded retirement benefits. […]
Its Police Pension Board also has applied for a revenue intercept to recover a $1.79 million shortfall in its benefits fund. […]
“Unfortunately, with 100 percent of the city’s revenues being redirected to the police and fire pensions, we are faced with the difficult task of strategically reducing some services in order to meet our financial obligations for the next few months,” [East St. Louis City Manager Brooke Smith] said.
* East St. Louis is a clear outlier, but it’s a prime example why local governments had to be forced by the state to stop ignoring their funding obligations…
The firefighters pension was only 9% funded at the end of 2018, with an unfunded liability of $65.2 million, according to data from the Illinois Department of Insurance. The police pension was healthier, but still had only 31% of its needed funds and a total pension debt of $39 million.
The firefighters’ union contract ended in 2015, and the union and city have not come to terms on a new one. However, the old agreement, which both the city and union still honor, says the city must maintain 58 firefighters.
A memorandum agreement passed in 2015 allowed the department to reduce staff by 25%, but that memorandum expired in 2016.
“Layoffs are not going to be financially beneficial to the city because either way they’ll have to pay the money back because of the contract,” said Gregory, who was one of 11 firefighters rehired from a layoff after the city received a federal grant in 2011. “If you’re going to pay us you might as well have a firefighter on duty.
- Posted by Rich Miller
|Question of the day
Friday, Oct 18, 2019
* ILGOP fundraising email…
This isn’t new: Mike Madigan’s corrupt Democratic Machine has a grip on our state. For years, Madigan has taxed our families, exploited our workforce, and built a political empire with no means of control.
And his partnership with J.B. Pritzker now gives him endless funding to advance his liberal agenda at the expense of our state’s future.
So Rich: how much would you pay to fire Mike Madigan from office?
At the Illinois Republican Party, we’re fed up with Mike. And we’re taking action.
While we don’t have millions like Madigan and Pritzker, we have loyal supporters throughout the state who understand the value of donating to make a difference.
That’s why, this month, we’re offering t-shirts to prove it!
With a $25 contribution to our FIRE MIKE MADIGAN Fund, we’ll send you one of these great t-shirts to show that you’re part of the movement to fix our state.
Get a shirt today before they’re gone! We have a limited supply and lots of orders to fill.
Every dollar you chip in stops Madigan’s progress
And here it is…
Click here to order yours.
* The Question: How much would you pay to fire Madigan from office?
- Posted by Rich Miller
* The feds are gonna need a bigger boat…
A federal prosecutor says criminal charges are expected to be filed against “many” figures involved in the failure of a century-old Bridgeport bank that made tens of millions of dollars in bad loans — until it was shut down soon after the bank’s president was found hanged in a customer’s bedroom.
Many customers of the failed bank, Washington Federal Bank for Savings, had connections to the Daley family and the 11th Ward Regular Democratic Organization, run by Cook County Commissioner John Daley and his nephew, Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Netols disclosed the anticipated criminal charges over the collapsed bank during a hearing in a bankruptcy-fraud case against attorney Robert M. Kowalski. […]
“This case is part of a larger investigation,” Netols told U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall on Tuesday. “We are working toward charging . . . other individuals with the failure of a financial institution. The number of defendants would be many more.”
- Posted by Rich Miller
* Did Tribune photographer Abel Uribe capture this year’s version of the “Rahm Emanuel likes Nickelback” CTU strike sign? Judge for yourself…
…Adding… With a hat tip to Chicago Bars, here’s the answer from a candidates debate…
Marin also asked the candidates if they drink Malort, a booze that’s popular with some millennials and hipsters. None of the candidates stood up for the liquor.
“Only under duress,” Lightfoot said. “That is the worst-tasting alcohol ever.”
Sources said the two sides met for a few hours and broke for a CTU rally. The mayor’s frustrated forces were also told CTU President Jesse Sharkey had a dinner to attend and union officials had a conference this weekend.
As subscribers know, that conference would be the Illinois Federation of Teachers convention in Rosemont, which starts today.
“I’m concerned that there’s not a sense of urgency to get a deal done,” Lightfoot said Thursday in a joint interview with CPS CEO Janice Jackson on “Chicago Tonight.” Lightfoot said CTU cut short bargaining Thursday morning after about three hours.
Responding on “Chicago Tonight,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey strongly refuted that claim and others.
“I lost track of the falsehoods,” Sharkey said about Lightfoot and Jackson’s interview. “It’s riddled with things that are not true.”
Sharkey says he spent all day at the negotiating table until he left for a rally, and even then, the CTU had its “entire rank and file negotiating team working on proposals. We had our lawyers there trading proposals back and forth,” he said. “We put in a hard day at the table.”
While thousands of Chicago Public Schools teachers took to the streets Thursday to strike for a contract that meets their demands, negotiators from both sides of the table tell Playbook they’ve made progress on one important issue — class size.
CPS has agreed to identify “schools in crisis in class-size needs,” according to a source within the Chicago Teachers Union. The school district also called for a joint CPS-CTU committee that would identify class size numbers regularly — maybe monthly — in schools with a greater need. On the table is about $9 million to cover such an effort, “a drop in the drop of the bucket” of CPS’ proposed $7.7 billion budget, the source said. “It’s the beginning of a discussion… It’s huge.”
But this is from the Sun-Times…
Both sides said small steps were taken as negotiations continued through Thursday evening
* Nice touch…
But a clever riposte…
* More thundering from the man who yells at clouds…
No matter how this strike ends, and it will, eventually, the Illinois political class should read another book to the people of Chicago, its suburbs and the rest of the state:
“The Road to Serfdom,” by F.A. Hayek, about free people losing liberty to authoritarian control.
And just who are the serfs in Illinois?
The property taxpayers, who are the serfs of the new Democratic machine. Because we serfs live to serve the masters, don’t we?
* This same lone teacher crossed the one-day CTU picket line in 2016, so I’m thinking he probably wasn’t too difficult to locate. Just sayin…
* Keep up with the strike news today via these posts…
* Sun-Times Live Updates
* Tribune Live Updates
- Posted by Rich Miller
First big (and still unanswered) Q: Who are “Associate A” or “Lobbyist B” involved in the federal case that’s hanging over state Sen. Martin Sandoval? Lawmakers want to know because they might have business with the secret sources. And lobbyists want to know because they probably share clients.
Um, there is no “Associate A” listed in the Sandoval search warrant. But, yeah, lots of people are definitely wondering about this line in the warrant…
2. Items related to CW1, Lobbyist A, and/or Lobbyist B.
Please, do not try guessing their identities in comments. I have enough to do without deleting comments and banning people.
* Four unnamed Exelon officials are also listed in the search warrant. Joe Cahill takes a look at the impact of the investigation on the company…
The investigations expose the underside of Exelon’s strategy: To win the Springfield game, you have to play by Springfield rules. And Springfield rules require more than the generous campaign contributions Exelon reliably hands out. Companies seeking the big favors Exelon has sought from lawmakers need stronger bonds with House Speaker Madigan and underbosses like Sandoval. That means hiring relatives, doling out lobbying work to favored operatives and generally greasing the wheels of Madigan’s machine.
A company can get pretty greasy playing that game—not a good look when the feds are hunting down corruption. The probes already have rattled Exelon’s executive ranks. Anne Pramaggiore, head of Exelon’s regulated utilities business and a direct subordinate of CEO Chris Crane, left abruptly on Tuesday. Two weeks earlier, top ComEd lobbyist Fidel Marquez exited suddenly.
Exelon and ComEd won’t say if either departure is related to the probe. But Exelon directors set up a special committee of independent board members to oversee responses to investigators.
Pramaggiore’s move spooked investors, who sent Exelon shares down more than 4 percent on the news. They’re right to worry. Along with potential legal jeopardy, there’s also a strategic dimension to Exelon’s predicament.
Exelon’s stock price is up a tiny bit today, but the trend is not its friend here.
* I suppose when you’re hunkered down during an active federal investigation, filing state campaign disclosure reports becomes a secondary priority. That or (just speculation here) he no longer has his records…
Already under the federal microscope, McCook Mayor Jeffrey Tobolski is now facing a $200 fine for failing to file a legally required campaign disclosure report.
That number could grow by $200 every day that the report is late, with a maximum fine amount of $5,000.
The quarterly report, covering money raised and spent from July 1 through Sept. 30, was due by 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, and fines started to be assessed at midnight the next day, said Matt Dietrich, spokesman for the Illinois State Board of Elections.
This isn’t Tobolski’s first time missing a disclosure deadline, which is why the fine is that high. For a committee’s first violation, it’s $50 a day, $100 for the second, and $200 for the third.
* And we talked about this a little the other day…
Mike Madigan’s troubles a boon to lawyers — legal bills exceed $1.5 millionHouse Speaker Mike Madigan dipped into his campaign funds for more than $418,597 in legal fees over the past three months, bringing the total he has spent on lawyers since last year to more than $1.5 million.
The Southwest Side Democrat’s legal headaches heated up in February 2018 amid allegations made by political consultant Alaina Hampton that one of Madigan’s longtime political aides sent her barrages of unwanted texts.
And Madigan’s situation only worsened.
Since then, the longest serving statehouse speaker in the country has endured two federal lawsuits, the exodus of his former chief of staff and a key legislative ally amid harassment allegations, and a federal court affidavit first obtained by the Sun-Times in January revealed Madigan had been secretly recorded during a 2014 meeting with then-Ald. Danny Solis (25th) and a developer who wanted to build a hotel in Chinatown.
More than $1.1 million went to Hinshaw & Culbertson.
* And the Senate Democrats flatly denied this claim the other day…
Senate President John Cullerton repeatedly said that he wanted to make an “informed” decision about state Sen. Martin Sandoval’s leadership role before Sandoval resigned as chairman of the Illinois Senate Transportation Committee. […]
Cullerton had a lot more information than most Illinoisans, but declined to publicly sanction Sandoval in any way. In fact, Cullerton and Senate Democrats went to some length to keep information about the search warrant hidden. Senate Democrats initially released a redacted copy of the warrant. Later, after WBEZ filed a lawsuit to obtain the full warrant, Senate Democrats released the unredacted copy. It was only after that search warrant was released on Oct. 11 that Sandoval submitted a letter of resignation as chairman.
Put another way, Cullerton had a lot of information about what federal agents were looking for and did nothing. After the federal raid on Sept. 24, Cullerton played dumb.
From the Senate Democrats…
The Senate President was never shown the unredacted warrant or inventory. The FOIA officer handled those documents, and only the FOIA officer.
You may ask why? This is a firewall set up for instances like ongoing investigations.
It doesn’t appear the columnist checked in to see if what he was alleging had any basis in fact.
* Editorial: No patience for problems: At the same time, other prominent politicians here have in the past not been as concerned about appearances and pending criminal investigations. Sometimes, they are indifferent to them. Pritzker, obviously, is not, and he’s made it clear that anyone who is compromised for whatever reason will be shunted aside at least until clouds of impropriety have dissipated.
* Chicago dominates competition for most red-light cameras: Chicago currently has 309 red-light cameras in the city, according to data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. At the peak of the program in 2010, there were 394. New York City has 164 cameras. Philadelphia is third, with 30 cameras. Phoenix follows with just 12. To put it in perspective, Gurnee, Illinois, has 15 red-light cameras.
- Posted by Rich Miller
Mayor Lori Lightfoot will seek to more than triple the tax charged on most solo ride-share patrons heading in and out of downtown Chicago as part of her plan to reduce congestion and raise much-needed money to shrink a massive estimated $838 million shortfall in the 2020 budget.
Lightfoot’s plan to bring in new revenue and curb traffic congestion would hike the tax on solo riders using services like Uber and Lyft elsewhere in the city by 74%. That’s despite the fact most outlying neighborhoods don’t face nearly the heavy traffic problems seen in the downtown area.
* From the mayor’s press release…
Based on peak congestion locations and times, the City is proposing a new variable Ground Transportation Tax (GTT) structure. Under the current GTT, a flat rate of $0.60 is assessed per trip citywide, and a $5.00 flat rate is assessed per trip in special zones (the airports, Navy Pier and McCormick Place). As part of an effort to incentivize shared rides to combat both congestion and rising vehicle emissions in Chicago as well as encourage use of higher efficiency modes of like transit downtown, the City proposes the following progressive structure:
Decreasing the GTT on all citywide shared ride-hailing trips from $0.60 per trip to $0.53 per trip.
Increasing the GTT on all citywide single ride-hailing trips from $0.60 per trip to $1.13 per trip.
Assessing a downtown zone surcharge, placing an additional $1.75 per trip for single rides and $0.60 per trip for shared rides.
No changes are proposed to the current $5 special zone fee, the $0.10 per trip accessibility fee or the $0.02 per trip administrative fee. […]
Representing areas among the highest density of trips citywide, the proposed structure will target ride-hailing trips in the downtown zone, a map of which can be found attached, during the hours of 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays, when congestion is most prevalent. To ensure continued, reliable access for customers citywide—particularly for the south and west sides—the city’s progressive structure will offer a discount on shared trips in the neighborhoods. Shared trip requests on south and west sides can range upwards of 50 percent of all requests, in comparison to less than 30 percent on the north side and downtown.
The mayor’s congestion study is here.
…Adding… From comments…
“Lock Box” doesn’t interfere with putting the revenue into the general fund?
That’s a good question. Checking now.
…Adding… From a rideshare spokesperson, here are what $10 rides will look like after added fees…
Chicago Central Business District $13.00
Chicago Transit Deserts $11.25
Seattle Proposed $10.75
Rhode Island $10.70
Washington DC $10.60
Los Angeles $10.10
- Posted by Rich Miller
Visit our advertisers...