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Chuy Garcia to Ed Burke: Drop Trump

Tuesday, Apr 17, 2018

* Tribune

Ald. Ed Burke said Monday he’s not worried about losing the seat he’s held since 1969 to a progressive Democrat in next year’s city election, but the 74-year-old City Hall power broker also stopped short of saying he’d run for an unprecedented 13th full term.

The 14th Ward alderman’s comments are the first he’s made publicly since his brother, 27-year state Rep. Dan Burke, lost in last month’s Democratic primary to Aaron Ortiz, a 26-year-old high school counselor backed by Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia. […]

Garcia has hinted he may put up another progressive against Burke in the February 2019 city election. Burke has run virtually unopposed since 1971, and if he’s worried about a challenge to his longtime reign, he did not show it at City Hall on Monday.

* Chuy set down a marker

Democratic Congressional nominee Jesus “Chuy” Garcia on Tuesday accused Ald. Edward Burke (14th) of “disrespecting” the residents of his predominantly Hispanic ward by doing property tax reduction work for the riverfront tower that bears the name of President Donald Trump.

One day after Burke declared his brother’s humiliating defeat would not alter his plan to seek re-election, Garcia made the case for ending the 49-year-reign of the City Council’s most powerful and longest-serving alderman.

It’s the same reason state Rep. Dan Burke lost to Aaron Ortiz, a 26-year-old Garcia-backed political newcomer in a race dominated by Edward Burke’s property tax reduction work for Trump International Hotel and Tower. […]

“Donald Trump began his campaign for the presidency attacking the Mexican-American community. The overwhelming number of residents of the 14th Ward are of Mexican-American heritage. It is highly disrespectful to put that aside and simply respond to self interest,” Garcia said. “It shows that he’s out of touch with the community and that the community’s concern was nowhere on his radar screen.”

Seems like a no-brainer.

However, no candidate has yet emerged.

* Meanwhile

Retiring Ald. Mike Zalewski (23rd) advised Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday to cut a deal with Jesus “Chuy” Garcia to install Garcia’s protégé, Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd), as chairman of the City Council’s Aviation Committee in exchange for Garcia’s endorsement of Emanuel’s 2019 re-election bid.

“The fact that Chuy is now going to go to Congress is obviously something that is probably gonna stop him from running for mayor [again]. If the mayor and the congressman-elect can get together, it’s gonna help both of them,” Zalewski said Tuesday. […]

“That would be uncharacteristic of why I endorse people running for office. I’m not a quid-pro-quo type of politician. Never have been. I am a progressive, movement-centered politician. That’s how I make my decisions,” Garcia said. […]

Also on Tuesday, Zalewski recommended that Emanuel appoint veteran State Rep. Silvana Tabares (D-Chicago) of Garfield Ridge to become the new 23rd Ward alderman.

Rep. Tabares’ replacement could be an interesting reveal on some of this.

- Posted by Rich Miller   25 Comments      


It’s just a bill

Tuesday, Apr 17, 2018

* Penalty enhancement bill with a Democratic sponsor that was advanced to the House floor

Illinois lawmakers are moving ahead with legislation that would harshen penalties for texting and driving. The bill will allow law enforcement to issue a moving violation on a first offense. That carries a fine of $75 for the first violation. Current law only allows a ticket to be issued on the second or subsequent stops.

State Representative John D’Amico, a Democrat from Chicago, also sponsored the original ban on texting and driving four years ago. He said everyone knows now that texting and driving is illegal.

“They don’t need to have a warning on their first stop,” said D’Amico. “They can get a ticket. Bottom line is, we want to try to continue to make the roads in Illinois as safe as possible.”

* Penalty enhancement bill with a Republican sponsor that was killed in committee because it increased a penalty

An area lawmaker says a bill that enhances the penalty for attacks on DCFS workers should have the chance to be reconsidered in Springfield.

Pam Knight, a DCFS worker from Dixon , was brutally beaten on the job last September. She later died.

State Rep. Tony McCombie of Savanna says she and Knight’s family will be in Springfield on Tuesday, with hopes of convincing certain committee members of advancing the bill in Knight’s honor.

The bill would boost the penalty for a physical attack on a DCFS worker on the job, and make it punishable by four to 15 years in prison.

* Related, with a bit of snarkiness intended on two of the links…

* Statehouse bill would protect rights of homeless

* Election-year resolutions from Illinois’ Democratic majority oppose Trump policies

* Press Release: Neo-Nazi Resolution Stalled in Tennessee House Revived – in Illinois House 

* Letter: The ERA would take away rights from women: Hundreds of good state laws would be overturned — such as sex segregated prisons, women’s shelters, and legal accommodations for pregnant women. ERA would mandate taxpayer-paid abortions and equal representation of women in military combat and selective service. Passing ERA would take away plenty of rights that women enjoy; but nothing in ERA would ever give women a pay raise or stop any sexual harassers. ERA would not be “symbolic,” but would cause real harm to real women by mandating that men and women are interchangeable in every circumstance. I am proud to continue the fight against this destructive amendment that my mother, Phyllis Schlafly, led.

* Illinois considers requiring public school textbooks include LGBT effect on history: Was Abraham Lincoln gay or straight? How about Woodrow Wilson or Robert Taft? What type of sex did they prefer - or what were their identified sexual orientations?

- Posted by Rich Miller   20 Comments      


Question of the day

Tuesday, Apr 17, 2018

* From the governor’s Twitter page: “Great first meeting here in Germany with Vetter Pharma. Got an update on their state-of-the-art facility in Des Plaines which will employ over 300 people”…

* The Question: Caption?

Also, FYI, that Des Plaines facility may not break ground until 2022, according to the Daily Herald. It got an EDGE tax deal in 2016.

[Hat tip: Jake and Steve.]

- Posted by Rich Miller   100 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 *** DCFS blasted for “unconscionable” witholding of child abuse data

Tuesday, Apr 17, 2018

* Also note the info about opioid abuse…

Today, Assistant Majority Leader Sara Feigenholtz joined child advocates to address alarming child abuse trends and to demand accountability from the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS.)

“I filed HR986 last week because the Department has been hiding child abuse data since July, 2017,” said Feigenholtz. “DCFS took a step in the right direction this morning by reversing itself and releasing data, but it took 9 months of advocacy from former Youth in Care to get that done. DCFS should be ensuring the health, safety, and well-being of the children of Illinois—not withholding vital information that advocates have used for decades to identify child abuse trends and protect children and families.”

For nine months, DCFS ignored advocates’ requests for a complete set of child abuse data, questioning their legal obligation to report the data, and suggesting that the computer systems they have used to compile the reports for over three decades are suddenly incapable or producing the reports. This morning’s data release shows that is not the case.

“The data released shows an increase in the number of children being re-abused—that number has skyrocketed by 50% since 2015,” said James McIntyre, President, Foster Care Alumni of America Illinois Chapter. “We also see a spike in opioid related calls. Services for people addicted to opioids have been cut over the last three years, and we worry that is the reason for the spike of caseloads related to opioid use.”

The alarming information contained in the released data makes it clear that more transparency is necessary to prevent child abuse in Illinois.

“This is a matter of being able to advocate for abused and vulnerable children,” said Kyle Hillman, a spokesperson for the National Association of Social Workers Illinois Chapter. “Without this data, social workers in the field haven’t had the supports they need. It was a total failure for this department to hide the data, and it was unconscionable for them to withhold it for as long as they did.”

“The Department continues to drag its feet on requests to release information related to the safety and well-being of our children, and that’s wrong,” concluded Feigenholtz. “DCFS is failing children and families across Illinois. They should step up and do the right thing all the time—not just when they are called out publicly for hiding information.”

…Adding… Pritzker campaign…

JB Pritzker released the following statement in response to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services releasing monthly child abuse data:

“It is shameful that during National Child Abuse Prevention Month, Bruce Rauner had to be talked into releasing critical child abuse information while his Department of Children and Family Services continues to fail vulnerable children,” said JB Pritzker. “Understanding child abuse trends is vital to preventing child abuse in the future. I am relieved we will again have access to data, but real damage was done because this failed governor was hiding important information from the public. We should be able to count on DCFS to fight for vulnerable children, not fight against transparency.”

*** UPDATE *** From DCFS…

Director Walker is committed to the families and children of Illinois who need the critical services offered by DCFS. During her 9 months at the Department, she has made significant structural changes aimed at protecting our clients, improving operations, and building a stable foundation at this agency. As Director Walker mentioned in the hearing, data reporting at DCFS is severely hampered by outdated technology. The old report required transporting data in pieces from one system to another, then manually entering data and putting pieces together. The new reports have information drawn directly from SACWIS (Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System). They are titled: Child Protective Services Report and Hotline Call and Intake Volume Report The new data reports can be found here, https://www2.illinois.gov/dcfs/aboutus/newsandreports/reports/Pages/default.aspx

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      


Oppo dumps!

Tuesday, Apr 17, 2018

* From one of Dan Proft’s papers

Illinois GOP Chairman Timothy Schneider was just 22, fresh out of University of Illinois and helping his father run their family’s Elgin area golf course when he was introduced to the power of politics.

Alcohol sales before noon had long been banned in unincorporated Cook County, and Schneider was trying to get the Cook County board’s permission to sell a bloody mary to “early bird” golfers so inclined.

“They simply play golf somewhere else,” Schneider pleaded in a 1979 public hearing, as reported then by the Chicago Tribune.

Four decades later, Cook County business owners make such pleas for mercy to Schneider, who is seeking his fourth term as a commissioner this November.

He, however, no longer has to be concerned with the fanciful whims of recreational golfers.

Four years after winning a seat on the Cook County board, county taxpayers bought his family’s golf course for $5.75 million.

Proft, of course, is supporting some state party central committee candidates in an effort to oust Schneider as chairman. There’s more, so go read it.

* Another Proft paper

State Rep. Tom Demmer (R-Dixon) works for a hospital, and used to lobby for one.

So when considering a bill in Springfeld last week that would have allowed Illinois surgeons to set up their own independent facilities, effectively competing with hospitals like his employer, Demmer was emphatically opposed.

That’s just like the Illinois Health and Hospital Association, which prefers that doctors be required to get permission from one of its members before performing a surgery somewhere else. The group officially opposes legislation sponsored by State Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) to eliminate that requirement, House Bill 4831.

Thoracic surgeon Raymond Dieter, of Glen Ellyn, who has founded such facilities– called Ambulatory Surgical Treatment Centers (ASTCs)– as well as hospitals over his 60 year career, said at an April 10 House Human Services Committee hearing that such regulations added needless costs and time to health care services.

Demmer and Proft are on opposite sides in the state party brawl. There is no disclosure of this in either of the stories.

- Posted by Rich Miller   8 Comments      


Our two states

Tuesday, Apr 17, 2018

* Effingham

Declaring Effingham County a sanctuary for gun owners, the county board on Monday directed its employees not to enforce any new Illinois law that would “unconstitutionally restrict the Second Amendment.”

The action is largely symbolic, according to Effingham County State’s Attorney Bryan Kibler. He said the resolution, adopted by an 8-1 vote, will not control the decision making in the sheriff’s office.

Sheriff Dave Mahon agreed that it was a county board decision and would not control his office.

Mahon said that if such a potentially unconstitutional law were to be passed by the state, he would consult with the state’s attorney and the legal counsel of the Illinois Sheriff’s Association before deciding what actions to take. […]

The resolution also opposed a number of bills currently active at the General Assembly, including one vetoed by Gov. Bruce Rauner that would have required additional registration for gun shops.

* Chicago

A prominent Chicago-area hospital and the Archbishop of Chicago called on Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner to pass tougher gun laws in the state.

Loyola Medicine officials said they’re treating hundreds of gunshot wounds every year, and that needs to change. They called gun violence a “public health issue. […]

Loyola saw 283 gunshot victims in fiscal year 2017 - a number that doubled from two years before. Cichon said that’s why he and dozens of medical staff members joined Cardinal Blase Cupich Tuesday morning to try to do something about it. […]

Cupich said the answer is Senate Bill 1657, which would require criminal background checks for all gun shop employees. The bill would also require training to help gun shop employees identify a buyer purchasing a gun for someone else.

* Related…

* Emanuel plan to get police to buy homes in more violent neighborhoods hasn’t netted many sales yet

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      


How did we get here?

Tuesday, Apr 17, 2018

* The Civic Federation is hosting a conference on pensions today. Greg Hinz wrote a preview yesterday and here’s part of it

Under a long-term plan approved when Jim Edgar was governor—he’s among the speakers at [today’s] conference—spending on pensions was to slowly ramp up, starting in 1995, so that funding would hit the 90 percent level by 2045. According to retirement system reports combined and passed on to me by former state CFO John Filan, unfunded liabilities were expected to rise from just under $20 billion in 1995 to $70 billion in 2034, before then dropping sharply in the next few years:

Reality has been far different than those original circa-1995 forecasts. The actual 2016 unfunded liability of $123.8 billion is two and a half times the predicted $50 billion under the Edgar ramp. And with another 17 years to go before the ramp is scheduled to peak, the spread between prediction and reality is only going to grow—a lot.

Why the bad projections? There are lots of reasons, but Filan puts a number on two of the largest: Assuming a return on investments of an overly peppy 8.5 percent a year—the retirement systems since generally have ratcheted that expectation down to 7 percent—has driven up unfunded liability $35 billion, according to Filan. And another $35 billion came when lawmakers failed to follow the ramp and instead spent money that should have gone toward pensions for other, more popular items. One instance of that came during Filan’s tenure, when the state issued $10 billion in pension-obligation bonds but used those proceeds to replace normal pension contributions, which were spent on other items.

* The next five years, via COGFA

- Posted by Rich Miller   43 Comments      


What can be done about Harvey?

Tuesday, Apr 17, 2018

* Sun-Times

The Illinois Appellate Court on Monday lifted a temporary restraining order that had kept south suburban Harvey from receiving $1.4 million in tax revenue as it fights its police pension board over millions in back payments.

A Cook County Circuit Court judge had blocked the cash-strapped city from collecting the money last week, a move that forced officials to lay off dozens of police officers and firefighters.

Harvey will now have access to the funds — which were collected by the state, mostly through sales taxes — as the pension board’s lawsuit continues. The suburb is saddled with $5 million to $7 million in pension debt.

* Tribune

Prior to Monday’s appellate court decision to grant the TRO, State Sen. Napoleon Harris, D-Harvey, said he was considering introducing a measure amending the state law that requires the Illinois comptroller’s office to seize a municipality’s tax revenues when a community is delinquent funding pensions.

“We need to explore options that keep Harvey on track to fund police and fire pensions without putting them in a complete financial crisis,” Harris said in a statement. “The citizens of Harvey should not be penalized or subjected to this type of situation due to missed pension payments.” […]

“What Harvey is experiencing is a contagion that has spread throughout the state,” said [Rep. Jeanne Ives], who asserted that allowing municipalities to declare bankruptcy in the face of mounting financial pressures was “the only way out.” […]

“We can say that pensions are the problem, if we know that the money is being managed correctly,” [Alderman Chris Clark, a critic of Mayor Eric Kellogg’s administration] said. “But you cannot say that pensions are the problem when there is rampant — not just mild — but rampant mismanagement. And that’s basically what this is.”

* From Heyl Royster

Under federal law, units of local government cannot petition for bankruptcy unless they have express and specific authority from the state to do so

From Chapman & Cutler

Until such time as the State of Illinois legislature provides specific authority to units of local government to petition for municipal bankruptcy, no such petition will be permitted.

* In the interim, there are two mechanisms in state law that might benefit Harvey

The Fiscally Distressed City Law allows the Governor to create an authority comprised of five directors to provide a secure financial basis for and to furnish assistance to a financially distressed city according to the guidelines outlined in the statute. The Local Government Financial Planning and Supervision Act allows the Governor to create a commission comprised of 11 members, primarily charged with developing a detailed financial plan and other recommendations to ensure proper financial accounting procedures, budgeting and taxing practices to assure the fiscal integrity of the unit of local government. The state can also provide loans and state bonding authority to assist the municipalities.

The Local Government Financial Planning and Supervision Act only applies to municipalities with populations under 25,000 and Harvey just barely qualifies.

* It’s not at all certain that legislators will want to set a precedent with Harvey

* The dollar amounts are kinda small for some of these towns, however

Thoughts? And, please, don’t just post a drive-by “Bankruptcy!” or “Pay up! comment. This isn’t Facebook.

…Adding… Amanda Kass

Out of 632 police and fire funds, I identified 71 (or 11%) in which actual contributions were 50% or less than what the Department of Insurance said the total contributions should have been during that time. Those funds are located in 54 municipalities, the majority of which (49 funds) are in Cook County or DuPage County. Among the group of 71 funds, the average amount that was contributed between 2003 and 2010 was only about 39% of what DOI said should have been paid. And 24% of the funds received no money from their respective municipality at least once between 2003 and 2010. As a group, these 71 funds are also in worse financial shape than most police and fire pension funds. While the average funded ratio for all funds in 2016 was 60% the average for these 71 is just 47%.

* Related…

* Appeals court: Comptroller can’t embargo over $1M from cash-strapped Harvey at pension fund’s request

* ADDED: Harvey fire pensioners paid $1.1M into fund, have collected $25M: Of the 42 Harvey fire retirees, 24 contributed zero to their pension fund. Those retirees have received $17.4 million in benefits over their retirements.

- Posted by Rich Miller   36 Comments      


Today’s number: 39 percent decrease

Tuesday, Apr 17, 2018

* Quincy Herald Whig

A report by the National Governor’s Association showed enrollment in bachelor’s level teacher programs in Illinois declined from 24,206 to 14,685 between 2000 and 2015, and those completing the programs dropped by an equal percentage.

Whoa.

- Posted by Rich Miller   71 Comments      


Data on traffic stops is an important tool for police and the public

Tuesday, Apr 17, 2018

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      


Pritzker hit on taxes, Rauner hit on spending

Tuesday, Apr 17, 2018

* RGA…

No one looks forward to Tax Day, but in overtaxed Illinois, it is an especially grim day - a reminder that residents in the state pay some of the highest taxes in the nation.

And if Democrat gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker gets his way, next year’s Tax Day will be even worse. Pritzker has staked his campaign on an “immediate increase” in the income tax that would hit every single Illinoisan.

But Pritzker has refused to give any specifics and say exactly how high he would hike taxes. Reporters keep asking Pritzker what his tax hike rate would be, and Pritzker keeps dodging. At the same time, Pritzker reportedly stashes cash in offshore accounts to potentially dodge federal taxes while taking massive tax breaks on his Chicago mansion by claiming it as “uninhabitable.”

J.B. Pritzker wants to hike taxes on Illinois families but refuses to pay his own. It’s time for J.B. Pritzker to end the hypocrisy, stop dodging, and tell us exactly what his proposed tax hike rate would be.

…Adding… Media advisory…

Illinois Senate Republicans will hold a press conference to discuss SR 1590.

SR 1590

States the belief that the Illinois Constitution should not be amended to permit a graduated income tax.

…Adding… Rauner campaign…

Over the last three weeks leading up to tax day, the Rauner campaign has exposed JB Pritzker’s Ploy of being a tax cheat pushing tax hikes. Check out the full collection at www.PritzkerPloy.com.

Today, on tax day 2018, Rauner campaign communications director Will Allison released the following statement:

“This tax day, Illinoisans are paying 32% more in state income taxes. If JB Pritzker has his way, everyone will be paying even higher taxes next year. At the same time, Pritzker is hiding his money in the Bahamas and using insider connections to dodge property taxes. There can be no doubt that JB Pritzker is a tax cheat pushing tax hikes. The choice is clear: Governor Rauner will fight for lower taxes while JB Pritzker will raise taxes on Illinois families while dodging his own.”
- Rauner Campaign Communications Director Will Allison

…Adding… More Rauner…



* Pritzker campaign…

Bruce Rauner’s FY19 budget proposal attempts to “balance” the budget on the backs of working people. With the General Assembly continuing to hold budget hearings this week, the Pritzker campaign is highlighting the different communities that would be hurt by this failed governor’s unbalanced budget.

After leading a three-year attack on higher education that forced universities to junk bond status, slashed spending on MAP grants, and drove college students from the state, Rauner’s proposed FY19 budget continues his same failed policies. His new budget would continue funding higher education at a 10% cut from FY15 while increasing universities’ costs by an estimated $206 million through a pension and health insurance cost shift scheme.

“Our state’s colleges and universities educate the workforce of tomorrow, but our failed governor is slashing their funding and decimating the tools students need to thrive,” said Pritzker campaign spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh. “Bruce Rauner is leading an all-out assault on higher education and leveraging our future while students and educators pay the price.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   35 Comments      


Here we go again

Tuesday, Apr 17, 2018

* Chris Kaergard and Nick Vlahos

Last week while addressing the annual Innovations in Construction, Asphalt and Transportation conference, [Gov. Bruce Rauner] uncorked one of the old classics, telling folks there (many of whom worked for or with the Illinois Department of Transportation) that the state doesn’t even have computers in a lot of departments.

We get that the state can sometimes be behind the times on its technology, but not having any computers seems … unusual.

As we’ve said, he’s offered up similar versions of this tale before, never with any specific example — like naming the department or agency and its union and bringing public pressure to bear.

So, we asked him Tuesday after his remarks which ones he was talking about.

His answer? “Haha. So, because it’s a negotiation with some of the unions, I don’t want to get into too much publicly. I’ll be walking through that list at the right time, but not right now.”

(Political columnist and blogger Rich Miller has noted several times that such a laugh at the beginning is a Rauner “tell” before a statement that may not exactly be accurate.)

* From 2015

But, as Rauner related it, the employees said [digitization] wasn’t possible. Why? Because — wait for it now — the unions won’t allow it. Specifically, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. […]

“The governor used this as an example of state government that can be streamlined and made more efficient to save money, which could then go to the state’s most vulnerable citizens,” spokeswoman Catherine Kelly said. “The project the governor mentioned is in the works, so it would be premature to provide additional details because they are in the early stages of development.”

An AFSCME spokesperson said at the time that there was no such union work rule.

* From February of this year

“Come on, guys, I heard they invented computers a couple years ago,” Rauner recalled saying. “We could actually digitize this. And they said, ‘Oh, you’d have to get permission from AFSCME.’ … I said, ‘C’mon.’” […]

I asked the Rauner administration this week if the stories were about the same visit, and if they would identify the agency. Rauner spokeswoman RACHEL BOLD did not specifically answer — instead saying the governor’s streamlining efforts “go far beyond any single agency,” and she mentioned three agencies, including the Department of Public Health, where she said “84 percent of plumbing professionals are now renewing their license online.”

Lindall was skeptical then and remains so. “Bruce Rauner lies regularly and repeats lies even when he’s been caught,” Lindall said. “I can’t imagine what he was talking about, then or now, and highly doubt it ever happened. In any event, nothing in the union contract prevents the state from purchasing computers, and it does so routinely without our knowledge or approval.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      


The coming fight over Dynegy

Tuesday, Apr 17, 2018

* Tribune

Environmental advocates on Monday told a state panel that a Rauner administration plan to change pollution rate limits for Illinois coal power plants would create health risks.

Behind the push is Dynegy Inc., which operates eight plants in central and southern Illinois. Officials with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency say changing state regulations would help keep the financially challenged coal plants running. Agency Director Alec Messina has said new state pollution standards could actually have environmental benefits and would still be tougher than those imposed by the federal government.

Opponents contend the changes would allow Houston-based Dynegy to ramp up energy production at its older and dirtier plants for the sake of increasing its bottom line.

* More info on what’s going on…

* As Dynegy New Del Com (DYN) Share Price Rose, Holder Mcclain Value Management Cut Holding: Dynegy Inc. (NYSE:DYN) has risen 79.34% since April 17, 2017 and is uptrending. It has outperformed by 67.79% the S&P500.

* Dynegy Illinois Inc (NYSE:DYN) Q4 2017 Sentiment Report: Ratings analysis reveals 57% of Dynegy Inc’s analysts are positive. Out of 7 Wall Street analysts rating Dynegy Inc, 4 give it “Buy”, 0 “Sell” rating, while 3 recommend “Hold”.

* Keep those downstate coal plants open? Buyer may have other ideas: Another issue undermining Dynegy’s case for looser environmental restrictions is that its downstate Illinois operations remain profitable on a cash-flow basis. Company executives have told the Illinois Pollution Control Board that downstate Illinois is posting operating losses. That’s true on paper, but it’s only because Dynegy has written down the value of its plants to the tune of nearly $900 million in the past two years. Those are noncash write-downs. Leave those out, and downstate has produced free cash flow of more than $100 million in each of the past two years, according to Securities & Exchange Commission filings. … The new rules would instead set a hard ceiling on the fleet’s total emissions for sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides in a year. The cap would be well above what those plants have emitted annually in recent years. Additionally, the ceiling wouldn’t account for the closure of any plants, so the operator conceivably could comply just by closing some plants.

* State EPA suffering from lack of staff: If the trend continues, they fear people will pay the price. One issue coming to a head at the EPA emissions standards, right now gas and coal company, Dynegy, which was recently bought by larger company, Vistra, out of Texas, is battling environmentalists over emission changes. The agency and Vistra say their proposal will strengthen environmental projections with stricter standards. But, others say the changes will allow for more pollution and puts public health at risk. The board held its third public hearing Monday. A decision will likely be made by June.

* Guest View: Our families can’t afford clean air rollbacks: Dynegy, Illinois’ largest producer of coal-fired electricity, now wants to weaken these common-sense standards so it can make more money. For the past year, the company has been working with the Illinois EPA to rewrite the limits, and the proposed changes would allow Dynegy’s fleet to pollute nearly double the sulfur dioxide and nearly 80 percent more nitrogen oxide than the company emitted in 2016.

* Spotlight: Dynegy’s perspective: New pollution controls make sense for Illinois: This change is needed. Since the rules were adopted more than a decade ago, the downstate generation profile has changed significantly due to reduced power prices, unit retirements and other factors. Today, under the current rules, we’re often forced to operate plants in a manner that loses money and creates more emissions, including greenhouse gas emissions. Contrary to what environmental group opponents say, the new rule would result in lower allowable emissions from the combined group of plants, with a hard cap on sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions that would be significantly below what the plants are currently allowed to emit. In some cases, plant-specific SO2 and NOx limits would be introduced. And national air quality standards that protect public health and the environment would continue to be in effect.

* Illinois’ only national scenic river named one of the most threatened waterways in US: Orange- and purple-hued muck often can be seen leaching from the banks of the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River as it meanders past a shuttered Dynegy coal plant near Oakwood, about 25 miles east of Urbana. The pollution problems led the nonprofit group American Rivers to list the stream as one of America’s most endangered rivers, adding another voice to local and national efforts intended to pressure Dynegy’s new owners to clean up the site.

* Dynegy execs snatch golden parachutes out of merger

- Posted by Rich Miller   7 Comments      


Fall campaign money match-ups

Tuesday, Apr 17, 2018

* Scott Kennedy makes my life so much easier with these tweets. Take notice of the cash on hand, although it’s a sure bet that Gov. Rauner will weigh in heavily for Erika Harold and perhaps others. Nobody knows yet what JB Pritzker plans to do to help these statewide nominees…


By the way, Raoul outspent Pat Quinn in the quarter $2.7 million to $1.98 million.

Also, the numbers above don’t include in-kind contributions (which are really expenditures). Erika Harold’s in-kinds, for instance, totaled $333K.

- Posted by Rich Miller   7 Comments      


Two different ways of looking at very big numbers

Tuesday, Apr 17, 2018

* Tribune

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner spent over four times more than state Rep. Jeanne Ives in the months before his narrow primary victory on March 20.

The first-term governor spent about $17.7 million in the first quarter, according to campaign records filed late Monday. That’s compared with about $4.3 million spent by Ives, who lost by just three percentage points.

And Democrat J.B. Pritzker spent nearly double what Rauner did, reporting $34 million in expenses this year, far more than state Sen. Daniel Biss’ $5.8 million and Kenilworth businessman Chris Kennedy’s $3.9 million.

* Sun-Times

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner dished out more than $63 million, and Democratic J.B. Pritzker spent $68 million, from Dec. 2016 until the end of March, according to expenditures filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections.

That’s $176 per vote for Rauner, and $119 for Pritzker.

Adding in the money shelled out by Rauner’s and Pritzker’s primary rivals, and the spending tops $150 million.

It’s more proof that the Illinois governor’s race is already living up to expectations that it will break a record $280 million spent in California’s 2010 gubernatorial race — and candidates have already raised more than those candidates did during that cycle.

- Posted by Rich Miller   19 Comments      


Patti Blagojevich takes to Fox News to press her husband’s case

Tuesday, Apr 17, 2018

* We talked about this yesterday

The U.S. Supreme Court announced Monday it will not hear former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s appeal, marking the end of a decadelong legal road and virtually guaranteeing he will remain in prison until 2024 barring a presidential pardon or commutation.

* AP

A Monday statement from Patti Blagojevich says she understands “the judiciary” is “no longer an option” for winning her 61-year-old husband’s release. […]

With legal avenues closed, Blagojevich’s wife says they’ll have to put their “faith elsewhere and find another way.”

* ABC 7

Following the Supreme Court decision, Mrs. Blagojevich early Monday declined interview requests. A spokesperson for a public relations firm retained by the Blagojevich family asked that news organizations “respect her privacy.” Then on Monday night, she showed up live on a Fox News national show to lobby President Trump, a regular Fox viewer, for her husband’s freedom.

* Sun-Times

Patti Blagojevich took to Fox News — the president’s favorite TV channel — on Monday night to express her disappointment in the ruling.

But she sidestepped the chance to make a direct appeal to Trump when host Tucker Carlson asked her to make her “pitch” for a presidential pardon.

“We were so disappointed today that the Supreme did not decide to take up our case and end this very dangerous conflict in we have now in the law,” Patti Blagojevich said.

“This is dangerous because it allows the FBI and power-hungry, overzealous prosecutors like [former Chicago U.S. Attorney] Patrick Fitzgerald to go after anyone that they don’t like. just because that person might be unpopular or controversial.”

* Politico

In some ways, this couldn’t be better timing for the Blagojeviches to tap into Trump’s fury with the FBI and federal prosecutors. Patti Blagojevich’s words on FOX came on the same day Trump attorney Michael Cohen appeared in court and just as former FBI Director James Comey embarks on a media blitz blasting Trump as morally corrupt. Trump knows the former governor, having had Blagojevich as a guest on “Celebrity Apprentice” before the 2010 federal trial.

While on FOX, Mrs. Blagojevich took great care to make clear that the U.S. Attorney in her husband’s case, Patrick Fitzgerald, was the same person who prosecuted I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby. Fitzgerald was appointed special prosecutor in the leak case that resulted in Libby’s conviction. Trump pardoned Libby on Friday. “This is so dangerous because it allows the FBI and power-hungry, overzealous prosecutors like Patrick Fitzgerald who prosecuted both my husband and Scooter Libby to go after anyone that they don’t like just because they’re unpopular or controversial,” Mrs. Blagojevich said. As a side note, Patti Blagojevich also gave an interview to Larry Yellen at the local FOX32 station. Yellen said his interview took place before she appeared on Carlson’s show.

* CBS 2

If the president wishes to help Blagojevich, he has two options for clemency.

“[Trump] can pardon [Blagojevich], which means the case is over, he gets out of jail. It doesn’t mean he’s innocent, but the case is over. Or he could commute the sentence,” CBS 2 Legal Analyst Irv Miller said.

By commuting the sentence, Trump could allow Blagojevich to go free sooner than his scheduled 2024 release date.

Blagojevich is no stranger to Trump. While awaiting his corruption trial, Blagojevich was a contestant on Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice reality show.

…Adding… Sun-Times editorial

Pardoning Libby was Trump’s way of emphasizing his disdain for the current Russian-collusion investigation by special prosecutor Robert Mueller. It also was his way, we suspect, of signaling to former aides and allies targeted by Mueller, such as his attorney Michael Cohen, that he’s ready to bail them out if they refuse to flip.

Trump is utterly transactional. He gives only to get.

And we can’t see what Blagojevich has got to trade.

- Posted by Rich Miller   56 Comments      


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