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Pritzker “outraged” over “gross mistakes” by “irresponsible” DCFS contractor: “These children are our children”

Friday, Mar 22, 2019

* Background is here if you need it. Gov. JB Pritzker was asked today at an unrelated event about the apparent murder of 2-year-old Ja’hir Gibbons by her mother’s boyfriend. The child was supposed to be under the protection of DCFS

First, let me say that this is a tragedy. A tragedy that could be prevented. But, as you have seen, when you don’t invest in caseworkers, when you don’t invest in reducing the case load, when you don’t invest in the social services that are so necessary for the families, and you’re not recruiting foster parents enough, then you’ve got a system that’s overloaded and where children can fall through the cracks.

Now, the additional issue here is that there’s an individual and an agency that have made gross mistakes. And the investigation that’s ongoing now is intended to make transparent what those challenges were and how we should address them.

In terms of how I am going forward, not just on this case and on the previous case that were a result of this underfunding and the terrible condition that the state agencies have been left in, hollowed out, is I’ve tried to put back into the budget in the coming year 126 new DCFS case workers, so that we can reduce the case backlog and we can make sure we’ve got fewer cases being handled by any individual in DCFS.

And then we’ve got to look into the agencies that are being handed cases to follow to make sure that there’s oversight and that we don’t have contracts with agencies that are not following through on their responsibilities.

The safety and security of children under the care of the state of Illinois is paramount to me. These are the most at-risk of the most at-risk kids. The kids who need us to watch everything for them, to keep them safe. And that’s going to be my responsibility, that is what my responsibility is today.

I spent 20 years, more than that now, in early childhood focused on at-risk kids. And I just feel that the state for too many years, with 12 agency heads over 10 years, the turnover has been terrible. And add to that the underfunding, the lack of resources that came from two years of a budget crisis and two more budgets that really didn’t put it back. We have got to make a big change in the way state government treats our children. And it’s not just those kids who need foster care and who need to be watched by DCFS, but also in everything that effects the families. Job availability, skills training, the social services that they need. And that’s what I’m focused on.

* Pritzker was then asked how these ongoing DCFS tragedies made him feel as a father, or as a person

I’m outraged. I’m outraged first that the children have this situation where they have no parent who can responsibly care for them. Then the situation of they’re left in the care of the state of Illinois and for years, neglected.

And here we have people who are responsible being irresponsible. Maybe even filing false reports.

These children are our children, they are our state’s children. And we should be standing up for them like we do for our own children.

He talks a very good talk. Better than any governor I’ve ever covered when it comes to this particular topic. But talking is just… talk. We’ll see how he governs as the months go by.

* Back to Pritzker

I have met with caseworkers just in the last couple of weeks. They are inundated. They have got cases that they almost can’t manage. They are doing the very best that they can. The people that I spoke with are working overtime, they’re doing everything that they can with fewer resources than ever before.

* He said other governors tell him this is the most challenging thing that governors do and said the private agency that handled Ja’hir Gibbons’ case is now “under review”

Agencies that are not fulfilling on their responsibility, on their contractual responsibility, on their moral responsibility, on their legal responsibility will not get contracts with DCFS going forward. […]

It is intolerable to me that someone is able to file a false report, is able to change a report after they’ve already reported on a situation to go back and try and change it, to cover their tracks. And that’s something that we’ve got to go back and look at all of the files to make sure we’re finding where anybody has ever done that… We have got to make changes in the way we oversee these agencies, these outside agencies.

* Meanwhile, DCFS issued a timeline about its own involvement in the case. Click here for that.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

Reader comments closed for the weekend

Friday, Mar 22, 2019

* We’ll talk again Monday

And I know, and I know
I don’t want to stay at all

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Judge knocks down Deerfield assault weapons ban

Friday, Mar 22, 2019

* ABC 7

A Lake County judge blocked north suburban Deerfield’s ban on assault weapons with a ruling on Friday.

Last April, the Deerfield Village Board voted unanimously to ban some semi-automatic firearms. The amendment to the village’s gun ordinance would restrict firearms that village leaders define as assault weapons, such as AR-15s. The ordinance would also prohibits high-capacity magazines.

* Tribune

Citing a spate of recent mass shootings with high death counts, Deerfield trustees voted in April 2018 to ban possession of certain firearms such as the AR-15, AK-47 and Uzi under their home rule authority to protect public health, safety, morals and welfare.

Local gun owners and gun-rights groups were quick to file lawsuits claiming the village had missed its opportunity to ban assault weapons in 2013. The Illinois legislature had given municipalities until July 19 of that year to regulate assault weapons before a new Illinois Concealed Carry Act and an amended Firearm Owner’s Identification Card Act eliminated their ability to do so.

Deerfield officials said their 2018 ban was an amendment to an ordinance pertaining to assault weapons enacted within the permitted time frame. That ordinance defined assault weapons and required safe storage and transportation within the village.

In the ruling, Berrones found Deerfield’s measure to be a new ordinance and therefore preempted by state statute.

* Illinois State Rifle Association Executive Director Richard Pearson

“This is a big win for the 2nd Amendment,” Pearson said. “The Village of Deerfield had an opportunity to pass a ban in 2013 and failed to do so. Their ordinance is a clear violation of Illinois’ concealed carry law which was passed into law precisely because of the Supreme Court’s ruling on what municipalities could and could not do in terms of establishing their own gun laws. Today’s ruling reaffirms the US Supreme Court’s ruling and makes it clear that communities do not have the authority to enact more onerous gun laws than what is already codified in state statute. This is a very good day for those of us who put a premium on the 2nd Amendment freedoms afforded to us in the Constitution.”

* NRA…

“The NRA is proud to have supported this challenge to Deerfield’s ban on commonly owned firearms and magazines,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director of NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action. “This ruling affirms that every law-abiding Deerfield resident has the right to protect themselves, their homes, and their loved ones with the firearm that best suits their needs.”

The court found that Deerfield’s attempt to amend an existing firearm ordinance was a violation of state law. The ordinance would have allowed local authorities to confiscate and destroy semi-automatic rifles and standard capacity magazines possessed within village limits.

The challenge was originally filed in 2018 by Guns Save Life with support from the NRA.

“Deerfield’s senseless ban on popular firearms and magazines imposed a major burden on the right of law-abiding Illinois citizens to defend themselves but did nothing to disarm criminals,” said John Boch, Executive Director of Guns Save Life. “We are relieved that under today’s ruling, Deerfield residents will continue to be able to keep their firearms and magazines at home.”

“The Illinois General Assembly was very clear that it would not allow local governments to adopt a confusing patchwork of gun regulations under the guise of banning so-called ‘assault weapons,’ ” said David H. Thompson of Cooper & Kirk, PLLC, an attorney for the plaintiffs. “Deerfield’s ordinance plainly violates Illinois law, and we are pleased that the Court agreed.”

* Deerfield

The Village of Deerfield and our legal team are closely reviewing the ruling entered today and all options available, including the right to appeal the decision to the Illinois Appellate Court. On the positive side, the judge denied the plaintiff’s claims of a takings violation and of a wildlife statute violation.

With respect to the remainder of the decision, it appears that the judge focused less on Deerfield’s actions and more on the actions of the Illinois State Legislature back in 2013. The judge took issue with the way in which the State Legislature drafted the State statute, and he read into the statute a complete preemption of home rule authority to regulate assault weapons. This unprecedented interpretation of State legislative action and intent make this case ripe for appeal.

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      

Question of the day

Friday, Mar 22, 2019

* Do you think Illinois marijuana legalization is moving too fast, too slow or just about right? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please…

find bike trails

- Posted by Rich Miller   38 Comments      

Pritzker appoints 5 new SIU trustees

Friday, Mar 22, 2019

* Daily Egyptian

The SIU Board of Trustees will see five new faces after Gov. JB Pritzker chose to not reappoint trustees Randal Thomas, Shirley Portwood and Joel Sambursky. Pritzker has also dismissed trustees Marsha Ryan and Tom Britton, who were never formally approved through the Illinois Senate.

Filling the five trustee positions, upon Senate confirmation, are Subhash Sharma, Roger Tedrick, Edgar J. Curtis, Ed Hightower and John Simmons. […]

Simmons is a chairman of the national law firm Simmons Hanly Conroy. He is a 1991 graduate of SIUE, receiving his degree in political science. The namesake for SIUE’s Simmons Baseball Complex, Simmons worked to send SIUE Athletics to full NCAA Division I status. He previously served as a member of the SIU Board of Trustees from 2004 to 2013.

Hightower’s and Simmons’ appointment raises concerns to some after Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Collinsville, introduced legislation in 2013 attempting to split the system.

Then-president Glenn Poshard said then-Gov. Pat Quinn’s choice to not reappoint three Metro East trustees – John Simmons, Ed Hightower and Mark Hinrichs, “caused the feelings of separation to reignite, saying SIU Edwardsville is well loved and some feel the campus is not getting the respect it deserves.”

* The Southern

Tedrick, an SIU Carbondale graduate, is the president of Tedrick Insurance, based in Mount Vernon. He was raised in Carbondale and has served on the boards of the SIUC Alumni Association and SIU Foundation. He served on the board of trustees from 2004 to 2011, including as board chairman. […]

Ed Curtis, a newcomer to the board, is the president and chief executive officer of Memorial Health System of Springfield, a network of Springfield-area hospitals that works closely with the SIU School of Medicine.

Curtis received his Bachelor of Science in Nursing from SIU Edwardsville, and began his career as a registered nurse, according to his executive biography. […]

Another newcomer to the board, Subash Sharma received his doctorate degree in statistics from the University of Kentucky in 1983, then began a long career as a professor in the SIU Carbondale Department of Economics. He became chair of the department in 2010 and is now listed as an emeritus faculty member on the department’s website.

So, SIUC loyalists appear to be Sharma and Tedrick. SIUE folks are Simmons and Hightower. Curtis is a SIU Springfield person from SIUE.

- Posted by Rich Miller   8 Comments      

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Friday, Mar 22, 2019

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“It’s a car in a very small tunnel”

Friday, Mar 22, 2019

* The Tribune editorial board recently expressed some disappointment that Elon Musk’s O’Hare to downtown tunnel project appeared doomed

From the start, skepticism has hounded Elon Musk’s bid to build a subterranean superhighway that would connect downtown Chicago with O’Hare International Airport. A vision dismissed by many as a pipe dream now appears to be a dashed dream.

Neither contender in the April 2 mayoral runoff election, former federal prosecutor Lori Lightfoot nor Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, is a fan of Musk’s $1 billion plan to create a high-speed transit link between the Loop and O’Hare. We’ll admit, the idea has some eye-catching sparkle. The billionaire innovator said he could develop technology that would send passenger pods zooming through tunnels at speeds of up to 150 mph. A one-way trip would take as little as 12 minutes. […]

The ride, which would be called “the X,” would be pitched to business travelers willing to pay a bit more to get to O’Hare faster and more comfortably. The anticipated price would be $20 to $25, about the cost of a ride-share cab. The Blue Line gets you from downtown to O’Hare on a $2.50 fare, and from O’Hare to downtown for $5. Would enough travelers switch over to “the X” to make it worthwhile?

With Mayor Lightfoot or Mayor Preckwinkle, maybe we’ll never know. We like the bold spirit of innovation that suffuses Musk’s vision. In this cutthroat global economy, cities that distinguish themselves by making business easier to conduct — travel improvements included — stand to profit.

* Virginia Mercury

Virginia transit officials flew out to California earlier this year to check out a tunnel dug by Elon Musk’s Boring Company and, well, they think the state should stick with traditional railways and roads for now.

“It’s a car in a very small tunnel,” Michael McLaughlin, Virginia’s chief of rail transportation, told members of the Commonwealth Transportation Board’s public transit subcommittee on Wednesday. […]

“I think there’s a lot of show going on here,” said Scott Kasprowicz, a Commonwealth Transportation Board member who made the trip with McLaughlin and public transit chief Jennifer Mitchell.

“I don’t mean to suggest that they don’t have a serious plan in mind, but I don’t consider the steps they’ve taken to date to be substantive. They’ve purchased a used boring machine. They’ve put a bore in the neighborhood where they developed the SpaceX product, and they’ve taken a Model 3 and put guidewheels on it and they’re running it through the tunnel at 60 miles per hour.

“None of that, I think, is really significant from a standpoint of moving this process forward.”

* Jalopnik’s Aaron Gordon

It’s a car in a very small tunnel is both a rote, factually accurate description of what the tunnel is and also one of the sickest burns of the entire Boring Company hubris to date.

- Posted by Rich Miller   18 Comments      

Illinois Family Institute calls legislator a “feticidal maniac”

Friday, Mar 22, 2019

* Remember yesterday when the Illinois Family Institute was criticized for comparing Democrats to Nazis? Well, the group doubled down and reposted the article with a different headline

Here’s the critical question: What will the rest of us do? Will we follow in the footsteps of the average German citizen during WWII? Most of them shut their eyes, closed their ears, and sang a little louder in church when the cattle cars full of Jews on their way to the concentration camps rolled by. Will we do the same? Will we simply allow this to blow over in a few weeks, or will we learn something from history and resist?

The Democrats have crossed a terrible line. They should hear us roar. Will they?

* And then they posted this on their Facebook page

Quote ‘o’ the Day from lesbian and feticidal maniac State Rep. Kelly Cassidy in response to an IFA article suggesting some points of correspondence between the Democrat-endorsed holocaust and the Nazi Holocaust:

“[IFI]is a group promoting violence and hate speech and they have people on the payroll wearing badges bypassing security [at the Capitol] walking in and out of this building every day. And I think that should be examined.”

A maniac is “a person who has an excessive enthusiasm or desire for something.” Cassidy has a clearly demonstrated and arguably excessive enthusiasm and desire to promote the legal right of women to exterminate their unborn children (i.e., feticide) without restriction.

I checked with the Secretary of State’s office and was told they have no legal authority to force a registered lobbyist to pass through Statehouse metal detectors. And the statute doesn’t appear to address this sort of thing.

…Adding… Actually, they do have the authority to search anyone they want. From the Illinois Register

All persons and vehicles entering into the Capitol Complex and its buildings may be subject to search, including, but not limited to, inspection of vehicles, trunks, parcels and packages, metal detector screening, X-Ray scans and inspection of bulky personal items brought into the Capitol Complex. […]

Public access to any building or area of the grounds may be restricted, if it is determined by the Director of the Department of Police that a situation has arisen that threatens the security of persons and buildings within the Capitol Complex.

* Press release…

Members of the Illinois Legislature’s Jewish caucus are demanding action in response to a pattern of hate speech and imagery posted by Illinois Family Action and its parent organization, Illinois Family Institute, on its website and social media pages.

On March 20th, Illinois Family Action posted an article comparing Democrats to Nazis. Under pressure to remove the post from its website, a second post appeared the next day, with even more hateful language comparing reproductive rights to the Holocaust. A third social media post unleashed a vicious attack on state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, a member of the Jewish caucus, and an openly gay state representative who is a strong supporter of a women’s right to choose.

“We consider an attempt to use Nazi imagery and a genocidal equation on matters regarding a legal right to health care service, clear cut hate speech,” said state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz. “This pattern of hateful actions are exactly what ignites a call to action for violence.”

“We call on the Illinois State Police to do a full investigation of these incidents,” said state Rep. Jonathan Carroll. “These two organizations maintain full credentials as lobbyists to freely move throughout the Capitol complex.”

“We can’t ignore the horrors of recent synagogue and mosque shootings. They are fresh in our minds,” said state Sen. Laura Fine. “Words matter. Words such as these incite hate speech and lead to violence.”

“Dr. Barnett Slepian was murdered in cold blood in his home by sniper fire while celebrating the Sabbath with his children and wife,” said state Rep. Yehiel Kalish. “He was gunned down because he provided a full range of reproductive health care to his patients.”

The Jewish caucus will be filing a joint resolution to make clear the Illinois General Assembly objection to this hate speech and encourage an investigation.

The members of the Jewish caucus in the House are Jonathan Carroll, Kelly Cassidy, Daniel Didech, Sara Feigenholtz, Robyn Gabel, Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, Will Guzzardi, Yehiel Kalish, and Bob Morgan. The caucus also includes state Senator Laura Fine.

…Adding… Sun-Times

The group’s executive director David Smith called Cassidy’s reaction “predictable,” while accusing progressive of using “unethical efforts to enjoin the force of government – to silence the expression of political views and moral assumptions with which they agree.”

Smith called calls for the Illinois State Police to investigate “nothing short of intimidation and harassment.” Smith said the group’s freedom of speech is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

- Posted by Rich Miller   50 Comments      

DCFS contract caseworker under investigation

Friday, Mar 22, 2019

* This makes my blood boil

Last weekend, a caseworker visited Brittany Hyc to make sure her two small boys were doing all right in a home where there had been repeated allegations of abuse and neglect.

The worker, on contract with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, reported back that 2-year-old Ja’hir Gibbons and his 5-year-old brother were both safe, according to the agency.

Two days later, Ja’hir was brutally beaten to death. The following day, the worker filed another report saying only the older brother was at the Chicago home at the time of the visit and that the worker never saw the 2-year-old at all, the agency disclosed late Thursday.

The caseworker has been barred from having any contact with children or families the agency serves as the conflicting reports are investigated.

“Falsifying records will not be tolerated,” DCFS Interim Director Debra Dyer-Webster said in a statement. “DCFS will pursue all available discipline, including termination, if records were falsified.” [Emphasis added.]

* CBS 2

“The victim’s abdomen, torso and arms were covered in new and old bruises,” said Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy. “The victim’s face was covered with bruises and abrasions. The victim also had bruising on his forehead, hindquarters, and legs. ” […]

“He got mad at the victim and struck him multiple times with his hands and a rolled up shirt,” Murphy said. “Defendant Waters said that after striking the victim, the victim began foaming at the mouth.” […]

“There are certainly a lot of red flags in this case,” said Charles Golbert, the acting Cook County Public Guardian. “They were not doing a very thorough or aggressive job.”

* Sun-Times

The toddler’s body was covered with new and old bruises when he was brought to Comer Children’s Hospital on Monday, according to authorities. […]

An autopsy found Ja’hir had rib fractures that were at various stages of healing and a new wrist fracture, Murphy said. Ja’hir had also suffered lacerations to his liver and a contusion to the lung. To suffer those injuries, the boy would have been subjected to “significant blunt force trauma,” Murphy added. […]

DCFS has been involved with the family since 2010 due to allegations of neglect and abuse of Ja’hir siblings, according to agency spokesman Jimmie Whitelow. Prosecutors said DCFS was most recently in contact with the family following an incident in August.

Hyc had taken Ja’hir to a doctor for a possible bite mark to his abdomen and doctors found additional bruising on the boy, which Hyc blamed on the boy’s daycare facility. In October, a DCFS worker went to the home and heard what they believed was Waters striking the boy. The worker called the Child Abuse Hotline and another agency employee was assigned to follow up, prosecutors said.

Police were called to the home in February after a neighbor reported a possible domestic disturbance. Hyc told officers at that time that everything was fine, but the same neighbor later noticed Ja’hir walking with a limp, prosecutors said. [Emphasis added.]

Um, why does a DCFS worker have to call a child abuse hotline?

* Related…

* On Camera: Governor responds to DCFS deaths: “Governor, kids are dying in DCFS care. What are you doing to stop it, governor? Governor, kids are dying in DCFS care, what are you going to do to stop that governor,” Reporter Ana Espinosa asked. “We have to work hard to not only change the leadership at DCFS but also to focus on the safety and security of these children. That’s our job in the state government,” Governor Pritzker said. “What are 126 caseworkers going to do?” Espinosa asked. “We have to go,” said Governor Pritzker’s press secretary, Jordan Abudayyeh. “It is just the beginning. It’s absolutely just a beginning,” Governor Pritzker said. “Can you promise me there is going to be change for these children?” Espinosa asked.

- Posted by Rich Miller   10 Comments      

It’s just a bill

Friday, Mar 22, 2019

* This bill has been assigned to a subcommittee and there were no votes held after the testimony

Local government leaders testified Thursday in favor of legislation that would help them raise money through a variety of sources, including a tax on streaming and satellite services.

Conrad Kiebles, village administrator of suburban Orland Hills, appeared before the House Revenue and Finance Committee in support of House Bill 3359, which would impose a tax on video services delivered through the internet and satellites, much like how local governments already get a piece of residents’ television cable bills.

The tax would amount to 5 percent of a video provider’s gross revenues from its subscribers.

“It offers the most equitable way to add an additional $200 million in revenue into our coffers and adds parity to competing services in our local communities,” Kiebles said. “With a 50-50 split between local governments and the state, we could each collect $100 million for charging a fee for these three competitive services.”

* Onward

A measure one Illinois lawmaker says will give non-home rule communities the ability to pay for storm sewer maintenance is being called a rain tax by another.

State Rep. Anthony DeLuca, D-Chicago Heights, said House Bill 825 is a natural extension of existing state law.

“What it would allow is non-home rule municipalities the ability to charge a fee to maintain their stormwater sewer system,” DeLuca said.

The measure passed a House committee this week.

State Rep. Allen Skillicorn, R-East Dundee, said the measure would allow rain to be taxed by, as the bill states, allowing “stormwater utility charges to offset the cost of owning, maintaining, and improving local stormwater infrastructure.”

“And it’s a fee, so it’s not tax deductible,” Skillicorn said. “It’s also something a church would have to pay, businesses; it’s also unlimited, so this theoretically, ten, fifteen years from now could be the biggest tax hike Illinois has ever seen.” […]

DeLuca said Skillicorn misrepresented the bill. He said that right now home-rule municipalities can charge a fee to maintain stormwater sewer systems. He said his bill would allow non-home rule governments to do the same.

Infrastructure costs money.

* This bill has been sent to subcommittee

State Rep Theresa Mah is pushing a plan to end sub-minimum wage pay for disabled workers in the state. Mah said about a dozen other states have already made the change.

“It’s important that we take a proactive step,” Mah said. “Rather than be forced to do it under a consent decree or some kind of lawsuit.”

State law allows some companies to pay disabled workers less as a way to get more disabled people working.

But advocates say that law, which allows for 14(c) certificate, sometimes pays disabled workers less than a dollar-per-hour.

* Related…

* Bill would protect banks from state regulation, but federal rules still apply: A state Senate committee voted unanimously Wednesday to advance a bill that would prevent state banking regulators from punishing banks or credit unions that do business with the state’s medical marijuana industry.

* Illinois lawmakers debate consolidating downstate pensions: IMRF Executive Director Brian Collins also urged lawmakers proceed with caution. “IMRF is one of the highest funded plans in the country,” he said. “It got that way for a lot of reasons. There’s a very delicate balance. When I think of a large consolidation that would happen, I immediately worry we could throw any of those things out of balance.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   7 Comments      

College Illinois bailout will cost state $501 million

Friday, Mar 22, 2019

* Steve Daniels at Crain’s

It will cost an estimated $501 million to bail out what at the end of the day was a relatively small-scale effort, begun in the late 1990s, to help parents pay for college at what was designed to be no cost to taxpayers, according to the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, which has administered the program since its inception. ISAC officials have struck a deal with state lawmakers to bail out the program while closing it to future participants.

More than 73,000 have been or are beneficiaries of contracts to attend state schools since College Illinois was launched, according to ISAC documents.

The $727 million fund backing the contracts is projected to begin running out of money in 2026. Without taxpayer help, more than 2,000 contract beneficiaries would be at risk of being stiffed.

Technically, the bills don’t start coming due for the state until then. But, ISAC spokeswoman Lynne Baker emails, “We have suggested to policymakers that it would be best to start funding the obligation sooner rather than later.”

What had been a $308 million unfunded liability now has mushroomed to more than $500 million thanks to the decision to end the program for all but existing contract holders. The need to more quickly liquidate the fund will reduce the return ISAC can hope to achieve from its investments, draining the fund more quickly, according to a December actuarial update.

Ugh. This state has truly sucked at governing.

* Meanwhile

Gov. J.B. Pritzker pledged during a visit Thursday at Richland Community College in Decatur that his proposed budget will lead to more funding for Illinois career technical education programs like the ones offered at the college.

More investment in higher education was a key aspect of the budget plan he proposed in February. He said faculty members have left Illinois universities for other states because of a 10-year lack of proper funding and students worry about uncertain financial aid.

“My grandfather once said ‘It takes a lifetime to build a reputation and about five minutes to screw it up,’” said Pritzker during a meeting with The Pantagraph’s editorial board. “In the last four years in Illinois, I would argue that our colleges’ and universities’ reputations got damaged significantly … If you want to fix that problem, you’ve got to make the investment in universities and community colleges.”

Pritzker’s proposed budget unveiled Feb. 20 calls for adding $375 million to the school funding formula — $25 million more than the state is required to fund. It also proposes a 5 percent increase in funding for public universities and community colleges and a boost to the Monetary Award Program that assists low- and moderate-income students.

- Posted by Rich Miller   15 Comments      

After Sterigenics shutdown, EPA testing shows “a pretty rapid drop” in cancer-causing chemical emissions

Friday, Mar 22, 2019

* ABC 7

New testing by the U.S EPA shows there’s been a rapid drop in a cancer-causing chemical days after the closure of the Sterigenics plant in DuPage County.

The medical supply sterilization company, which has been in Willowbrook since 1984, was forced to shut down last month after testing showed dangerous levels of ethylene oxide in the air in a radius around the Sterigenics plant. […]

Since then, the most recent tests show ethylene oxide levels were at least 50 to 90 percent lower after the shutdown.

Thursday, Sterigenics released a statement claiming the results also prove there are other sources emitting ethylene oxide besides its facility. […]

However, Congressman Dan Lipinski’s (IL-3) office also issued a release Thursday stating “Sterigenics is clearly the culprit,” and persists the plant remain shut down.

* Tribune

Average levels of ethylene oxide after the shutdown were at least 50 percent lower at each of the 10 monitors, the documents show, and more than 90 percent lower at the testing locations closest to Sterigenics.

“We’re seeing a pretty rapid drop since the seal order,” Lewis Weinstock, an EPA official overseeing the agency’s testing, told residents Thursday during an online seminar, referring to the legal term for the action taken by the Pritzker administration.

Federal officials plan to keep collecting samples through the end of March, in part because unexplained concentrations of ethylene oxide continue to be detected at some locations even though Sterigenics isn’t releasing it into the air. Possible sources include other upwind facilities or lingering emissions from Sterigenics, Mike Koerber, associate director for policy at the EPA’s Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards, said during the seminar.

Based on information the agency already has collected, Koerber said, EPA scientists are conducting a more detailed evaluation of cancer risks in Willowbrook and surrounding suburbs — a document expected to be released to the public before a community forum in late May.

The full Sterigenics statement is here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   6 Comments      

Moylan’s “go slow on pot” resolution reaches majority support

Friday, Mar 22, 2019

* As the Tribune reports today, Rep. Marty Moylan’s resolution calling on the General Assembly to “slow the process of legalizing recreational marijuana in Illinois” now has 60 sponsors and co-sponsor, giving it a majority

Tim McAnarney, lobbyist for Healthy & Productive Illinois, a nonprofit group opposed to legalization, said sponsors thought they could rush it through while potential tax revenue from marijuana is already being “promised 10 times over.”

“They thought it was a slam-dunk, but it’s not,” McAnarney said. “They need to slow down.”

But state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, a Chicago Democrat and chief sponsor of legalization in the chamber, said the issue has been debated for years, with four public hearings, 11 town hall meetings, more than 100 stakeholder meetings, with many more to come. Sponsors recently began meeting with the staff of Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who supports legalization, to hash out details of the issue.

“There’s nothing rushed about this at all,” Cassidy said. “This has gotten way more attention and scrutiny than pretty much anything I’ve ever seen worked on here.”

In reality, McAnarney doesn’t want it slowed down, he wants it stopped, as do many of Moylan’s co-sponsors.

The opposition is using a “go slow” argument when nothing whatsoever has been fast about this bill’s process.

- Posted by Rich Miller   38 Comments      

Chicago isn’t the outlier, Downstate is

Friday, Mar 22, 2019

* Rep. Terri Bryant (R-Murphysboro) on WJPF

The state of Illinois is not a left-leaning state. It just happens that we have Chicago, who mixes in with our votes when it comes to statewide elections. This state is middle- to right-leaning.

I’m not trying to pick on Bryant here because this is a common thing said by others.

But the reality is that Downstate, particularly the southern region, is now the outlier in Illinois. They are the odd ducks, if you will, who are skewing the state’s politics.

* Take a look at the poll results released so far by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute. The poll found that 81 percent of Chicagoans support a $15 minimum wage, as did 71 percent of suburbanites, while just 48 of Downstaters supported the plan.

President Donald Trump’s job disapproval rating is 76 percent in Chicago and 60 percent in the suburbs, but more Downstaters approve than disapprove, 50-46.

Sen. Dick Durbin’s job approval numbers are above water in Chicago and the suburbs, but he’s underwater Downstate, 42-48.

* Downstate no longer has a powerful suburban ally like it did when DuPage County’s Chicago-bashing conservative Pate Philip ran the Illinois Senate. DuPage now has just one Republican state Senator. Few suburban Republican legislators openly bash Chicago these days.

Lake County’s board has a Democratic majority for the first time ever.

An African-American woman named Lauren Underwood not only defeated incumbent Republican Congressman Randy Hultgren, but beat Hultgren in McHenry County, of all places.

* And, of course, Downstate is a net state tax eater while the suburbs and Cook County are net state tax payers.

All of this rhetoric is just red meat for the locals, but it’s not based in reality. Garbage in, garbage out as they say.

Do better.

- Posted by Rich Miller   62 Comments      

Dueling arguments

Friday, Mar 22, 2019

* Catholic Conference of Illinois’ statement on a Senate committee vote to repeal the state’s parental notification of abortion law

Since this law went into effect, the incidence of abortions among minors has dropped 57 percent in Illinois.

Why would anybody vote for legislation that effectively removes parents and guardians of minors from a major decision that is known to have significant physical and mental after effects?

Current law makes it illegal for minors in Illinois to use an indoor tanning bed; buy cigarettes, alcohol or lottery tickets; or vote in an election. Are we to believe abortion is somehow less consequential than getting a tan?

* Zorn on Illinois’ parental notification law

Supporters of the law often point out that parental consent is required for most major medical procedures performed on minors, from appendectomies to nose jobs. And that abortion is a more profound procedure than routine surgeries.

But childbirth is also profound, and it’s about 14 times riskier than abortion. Yet minors aren’t required to inform their parents when receiving obstetric care.

Sexual activity is also profound. Yet, as I’ve noted, minors aren’t required to inform their parents when obtaining birth control.

Supporters also point out that when girls with unwanted pregnancies come from dysfunctional or abusive families, the law allows them to petition a judge to waive the notification requirement. […]

What’s particularly telling is that of the 400 pregnant girls who have petitioned for the waiver in Illinois since 2013, only one has been denied, according to the ACLU, which cited attorney-client confidentiality in declining to disclose details of that case.

Discuss, but be respectful of others or you’ll be banned for life or worse. I’m not gonna tolerate any over the top nonsense today like we had earlier this week.

- Posted by Rich Miller   57 Comments      

Another self-own

Friday, Mar 22, 2019

* So, the Preckwinkle campaign itself ginned up the possibility of an Obama endorsement without knowing for sure it was going to happen? Oh, man, that’s silly

After pulling one rabbit out of the hat — from Chance the Rapper — Toni Preckwinkle was trying desperately to secure two more endorsements that could have been game-changers: Barack and Michelle Obama.

But the former president and first lady decided to remain on the sidelines and avoid alienating a mayor whose support they need to deliver the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park.

Thursday’s announcement by Obama’s office is another blow to Preckwinkle, who yanked her television commercials off the air for at least part of the crucial home stretch. […]

On Thursday, before the Obamas declared their intention to stay out of it, a Preckwinkle strategist was asked whether he considered the Chance the Rapper endorsement to be a game-changer.

“No. But the next two will be.” Asked if he was referring to the Obamas, the strategist said: “I hope so.”

* The “nope” from the former president was just one story counteracting the Chance the Rapper endorsement

For her part, Preckwinkle used Chance’s endorsement to deflect questions about her campaign’s viability as it has stopped airing television ads during the final two weeks before the April 2 runoff election.

Moderator Phil Ponce opened the debate by asking Preckwinkle about her lack of presence on the airwaves.

“This has been a really good day,” Preckwinkle said, immediately changing the subject. “I’m grateful for the support that I received from Chance this morning.”

Preckwinkle ducked the question when Ponce asked it once more, noting she’s received endorsements from West Side aldermen, including Walter Burnett and Jason Ervin. Asked about it a third time, she said, “TV ads aren’t all there are to campaigns. We’re working hard to meet voters at their doors and in their homes” to talk about important issues.

When Phil decides to press a topic, Phil does not easily give up.

…Adding… I didn’t realize that Preckwinkle wasn’t even at the Chance presser. How does that even happen?…

* Meanwhile…

The campaign has spent less than $100 on that FB ad.

* Related…

* Meet Chicago’s next mayor: In-depth profiles of Lori Lightfoot, Toni Preckwinkle

* Lightfoot, Preckwinkle Clash on Campaign Cash: The back-and-forth was the latest in a series of contentious public appearances between the two runoff candidates, though the tone Thursday was more civil. Both candidates agreed on many policy points, including a push to create a civilian police oversight agency that would have the power to hire and fire the police superintendent. Both said they support a version of the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability (GAPA) ordinance that would create such a commission.
* Lightfoot to Preckwinkle: Put donors’ money where your mouth is: “President Preckwinkle, I’m really surprised you keep going down this path,” Lightfoot said on WTTW’s “Chicago Tonight” program, noting that Preckwinkle’s campaign has accepted $19,000 in donations from Lightfoot’s law partners, as well as $1,000 from Lightfoot herself. “If you’re so offended by that, give the money back. Give it back. I’ll give you the address,” said Lightfoot, then gave an address as the two candidates started shouting over each other. “Give the money back.”

* How mayoral candidates Lori Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle have ducked details on Chicago’s financial woes: As a result, when Preckwinkle and Lightfoot are asked about what they’d do to tackle the city’s financial challenges, they mostly speak in generalities.

- Posted by Rich Miller   36 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 - Daniels responds *** Strip club manager’s “fears” are unfounded

Friday, Mar 22, 2019

* Illinois News Network

A national adult film actress known for alleging an affair with the president of the United States will be in the state’s capital city Friday, when she’s expected to protest a surcharge on strip club entries.

Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, will be at adult entertainment venue Deja Vu in Springfield to sign books Friday afternoon, and she is expected to perform that evening.

Before that Daniels’ is expected to take part in an event at the state capitol protesting the Live Adult Entertainment Facility Surcharge Act.

The originator of the tax in 2014, state Sen. Toi Hutchinson, said the revenue is meant to help centers for battered women. Hutchinson, D-Olympia Fields, said it doesn’t suppose that everyone going to a strip club abuses women, just as everyone who goes to a casino doesn’t have a gambling problem. […]

Duane Patterson, general manager of Deja Vu in Springfield, said he fears the money that is being collected isn’t being appropriated correctly, worrying most is going into administration costs.

“It’s a good cause but it was not done the right way,” Patterson said.

* As often happens with these state taxes/fees, the law allows for a small two-percent skim of the tax revenues for administration, but that’s hardly “most” of the money.

The Department of Human Services distributes money collected from the tax. I reached out to DHS yesterday and asked if any of the money is used for administration purposes. The department’s response…

IDHS has a $600,000 appropriation from the Sexual Assault Services and Prevention Fund and all of the appropriation goes directly to the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault (ICASA). None of these funds are used for IDHS administrative costs.

But what about ICASA?

* From Carrie Ward at the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault…

ICASA’s DHS contract includes $600,000 from fees resulting from the Live Adult Entertainment Facility Surcharge Act. The Act was effective 1/1/13; however, it took some time for funds to begin to accumulate in the account. ICASA began allocating funds in FY15. Contrary to Mr. Patterson’s statement, the funds are being appropriated correctly and are not used predominately for administration. Approximately 85% of contracted funds are allocated to ICASA rape crisis centers throughout the state of Illinois for the purpose of providing prevention and crisis intervention services; 15% is retained by the ICASA Administrative Office for training and administration.

Though there will be $600,000 in the fund to meet this year’s budget, this has not been the case every year. While ICASA is contracted to receive a maximum of $600,000 each year, the actual amount we receive is dependent on funds collected. If less than $600,000 is collected, we receive the lesser amount.

These funds are essential to ICASA’s provision of statewide rape crisis services and are consistently used as designated in the act for the purpose of providing community-based assistance to victims of sexual assault and for activities concerning the prevention of sexual assault.

We reached out to Stormy Daniels’ representatives earlier this week in hopes of providing information on how funds are used in Illinois to support rape crisis centers, but we were unable to connect with them.

*** UPDATE *** The tax is an entrance tax, not a tax on performers…

- Posted by Rich Miller   8 Comments      


Friday, Mar 22, 2019

* Follow along with ScribbleLive

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comment      

* Pritzker "outraged" over "gross mistakes" by "irresponsible" DCFS contractor: "These children are our children"
* Reader comments closed for the weekend
* Judge knocks down Deerfield assault weapons ban
* Question of the day
* Pritzker appoints 5 new SIU trustees
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Fundraiser lists
* "It’s a car in a very small tunnel"
* Illinois Family Institute calls legislator a "feticidal maniac"
* DCFS contract caseworker under investigation
* It's just a bill
* College Illinois bailout will cost state $501 million
* After Sterigenics shutdown, EPA testing shows "a pretty rapid drop" in cancer-causing chemical emissions
* Moylan's "go slow on pot" resolution reaches majority support
* Chicago isn't the outlier, Downstate is
* Dueling arguments
* Another self-own
* *** UPDATED x1 - Daniels responds *** Strip club manager's "fears" are unfounded
* Yesterday's stories

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