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*** UPDATED x1 - Berrios campaign responds *** Kaegi sends cease and desist letter to Berrios over TV ad

Thursday, Dec 14, 2017

* I don’t know if I’ve ever told you this story, but when I was in 6th Grade I lost the county spelling bee because I misspelled the word “assessor.” I knew how to spell it. I had seen a billboard with a candidate running for the office. I was just too embarrassed to spell a-s-s in front of a bunch of people during an event broadcast live on the radio. I got to a-s and then froze. I could feel my face getting beet red. After what seemed like forever, I spelled it a-s-e-s-s-o-r. And that was the end of that. So, quite often when I write about this topic I flash back to my first public humiliation.

Anyway, maybe now that I’ve told my horrific story I can start healing myself. /s

The background on this press release, including the Berrios ad, is here. From the Kaegi campaign…

In response to the recent television commercial created by current Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios’ re-election campaign, progressive Democrat Fritz Kaegi’s campaign served Assessor Berrios and his campaign staff with a cease and desist letter demanding an immediate removal of the allegedly defamatory ad. Rebecca Reynolds, Kaegi’s campaign manager, issued the following statement:

“The Berrios campaign claim that Fritz Kaegi personally managed investments in private prisons is a malicious lie intended to mislead voters and deflect from Berrios’ history of incompetence, corruption and pay-to-play practices as Assessor. Assessor Berrios’ campaign and its allies continue to spread lies in the public sphere. Therefore, in order to set the record straight, and hold Berrios accountable for his actions, our team has no alternative but to seek legal remedy.

“The notion that Fritz personally managed investments in the prison-management sector is a complete and utter fabrication - one that could easily be discovered with minimal effort. The Berrios campaign points to Columbia Acorn Fund holdings as of March 31, 2017. But Fritz was not a portfolio manager on the Columbia Acorn Fund at this date. He provided notice of his resignation on February 28, 2017, and stepped down from the funds he managed on March 13, 2017. Fritz would not have allowed such an investment, not only because those companies operate in a way that he finds morally reprehensible; but also because they tend to make for a poor investment.

“While misleading voters to attack Fritz is shameful on its own, the fact that Berrios is politicizing an issue that continues to cause so much pain within the very communities he himself is preying upon is beyond the pale. We demand that Assessor Berrios discontinue this fallacious attack ad immediately and issue an apology to Mr. Kaegi.”

I’m having some trouble uploading the file, but I’ll post the cease and desist letter when I can. UPDATE: Click here for the file.

*** UPDATE *** Berrios campaign…

Today, our campaign office received a cease and desist letter from Fritz Kaegi requesting that we take down our television ad that demonstrates that while he was employed at Columbia Wagner Asset Management, where he designed and implemented investment strategies.

As a senior portfolio manager of Columbia Acorn Fund (ACRNX), Fritz and his fund managers invested in companies with bad track records. Most notable are:

    $29 million invested in the Corrections Corporation of America, a private prison operator that lobbied for legislation increasing incarcerations in the U.S. Such policies have been shown to unfairly target African Americans, Latinos, and undocumented immigrants.
    $44 million invested in DeVry University, which was sued for false advertisements that target lower-income communities
    $41 million invested in Celanese Corp, which was Accused of contaminating water with cancer-causing chemicals in 2014
    $21 million invested in Centene Corp, Health insurer criticized for refusing to cover surgery for infant with brain tumor
    $19 million invested in Navigant Consulting, a consulting firm accused of charging Long Island Port Authority exorbitant fees while assisting with response to Hurricane Sandy
    $196 million invested in MB Financial, bailed out by federal government
    $52 million invested in TransUnion, Credit tracking agency that settled claims from New York Attorney General that it failed to properly respond to consumer complaints about mistakes in credit reports

Shame on Fritz Kaegi for using Wall Street tactics to run from his record of bad investments that hurt working families, African Americans, Latinos and the undocumented community. He cannot run away from his record and voters have a right to know Fritz Kaegi’s lack of values.

I’m kind of impressed by the Berrios campaign’s speed and its harshness. I thought he’d be helming an old steam ship. Nope.

- Posted by Rich Miller   21 Comments      

After being hit from the right, Hutchinson about to get hit from the left

Thursday, Dec 14, 2017

* From Emily Miller’s Golden Horseshoe Award nomination of Sen. Toi Hutchinson yesterday

IPI and their loyal followers came after her hard after the budget votes. They attacked her via hateful social media posts, and even drew a nasty, racist cartoon about her where she, a black woman, was portrayed forcing a white working class man to literally carry the revenue increase on his back by tatooing it on. This did not lead her to shrink away. She continues to stand up for what she believes in and fight for the people of Illinois. She recently proved her bravery and composure again in recounting her experience with sexual harassment in Springfield– something that is very difficult for women to be honest about. She inspires women and supports women. We really need more of that.

* Well, Sen. Hutchinson is about to get hit from the other side. This blast e-mail was sent earlier in the week by Reclaim Chicago, which describes itself as a “people-led movement devoted to getting corporate interests out of municipal government and reclaiming government as a means for ensuring justice, promoting equality and improving the lives of ALL people”…

The GOP’s disastrous tax bill will have a particularly devastating impact on Illinois’ working people, but we know there is money in Illinois. That’s why we shut down LaSalle St in front of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange this past Monday. Now it is time to take our protest directly to the Illinois Senate Revenue committee chairperson, Sen. Toi Hutchinson.

If the Democrats in Springfield had the bold progressive vision to support a state Financial Transaction tax (known as the LaSalle Street Tax or LST) the state could fund free higher education for all, public schools, health care, senior services, services for the disabled, create jobs and so much more. The LST is a very tiny tax on the trading that takes place on LaSalle Street and could raise more than $10 billion annually for Illinois.

As the Chairperson of the State Senate Revenue Committee Senator Hutchinson could request that legislation for a Financial Transaction Tax be assigned and heard in her committee. While Sen. Hutchinson says she’s a progressive, she believes that demanding that LaSalle Street pay their fair share is asking too much. So, we need to make Senator Hutchinson prove she is the progressive she says she is and support a tax on LaSalle Street!

Phone bank for passage of the LaSalle Street Tax in Illinois
Thursday, Dec 14th, from 4:30-8:30p

There are two locations:

Chicago at National Nurses United’s office […]


DuPage County […]

Please bring a laptop and a cell phone with you and dinner will be provided.


Amanda Weaver, Reclaim Chicago

The LaSalle Street Tax is going nowhere in Springfield. Bombarding Sen. Hutchinson with angry phone calls from people who don’t live in her district isn’t gonna change that.

- Posted by Rich Miller   28 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 *** Pritzker apologizes for language he used to describe American Muslims Council in 1998

Thursday, Dec 14, 2017

* From a publication called Suburban Chicagoland

Arab Americans in Illinois called on gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker Wednesday to publicly apologize for insensitive comments he made in which he accused a Muslim American group of being “terrorists” when he ran for Congress in 1998.

Arab American Democratic Club President Samir Khalil said the comment has never been properly addressed by Pritzker and raises a concern that he remains “anti-Arab” and anti-Muslim.”

Pritzker ran unsuccessfully for the Illinois 9th Congressional seat in 1998 against rival State Senator Howard Carroll. During the campaign, Pritzker accused Carroll of accepting funds from a Muslim donor who he alleged had “ties to terrorists.” Jan Schakowsky won the Democratic nomination succeeding Congressman Sidney Yates.

“J.B. Pritzker is now running for another important position, as governor of the State of Illinois and he must clean the slate of his past comments,” Khalil said. […]

Pritzker accused Carroll of accepting money from leaders of the American Muslims Council, which is one of the state’s most reputable Islamic organizations.

* More

The Arab American Democratic Club represents Arab American voters in Chicagoland and in Illinois and had previously invited Pritzker to address the group to outline his campaign platform on standing up to anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigotry and discrimination.

But Pritzker refused to attend. Later, the AADC formally endorsed gubernatorial candidate Christopher Kennedy for governor.

“Mr. Pritzker’s refusal to address our members was an insult on its own. But it is compounded by his failure to set the record straight and publicly address the issues of Arab American and Muslim American rights,” Khalil said.

* From the Pritzker campaign’s Jordan Abudayyeh…

JB apologizes for the language he used almost 20 years ago and has demonstrated throughout his life a commitment to civil rights and justice. When Donald Trump tried to ban Muslims from entering the United States, JB was at O’Hare protesting. JB has said if Trump tries to institute a Muslim ban he would encourage everyone to register as Muslim. JB also ran the Illinois Human Rights Commission and has made it clear that as governor, Illinois will be a welcoming state for all.

* While waiting for the Pritzker campaign’s response, I did a little Googling and found this old Mike Royko column about Arab American Democratic Club President Samir Khalil

A man named Samir Khalil is unhappy with columns I’ve written recently about terrorism, Israel and other related subjects.

Khalil, who runs the SKI insurance agency in Chicago, dropped me a line that said: “Your columm is a pile of (obscenity). Your true color has shown, racism, close-mindedness and dumbness.”

He’s not alone in feeling that way. A staggering number of people have written or phoned to call me names, especially because of a column I wrote that, in effect, supports Israel’s right not to be destroyed by it’s large, oil-rich, heavily armed neighbors.

In a way, I enjoy hearing from them because it’s educational. It tells me how many people in this country have deep streaks of anti-Semitism and how many would enjoy seeing Israel obliterated. Quite a few, quite a few.


*** UPDATE *** MrJM posted this link in comments. The American Muslim Council of 1998 had some real problems. From the Washington Post in 2004

In addition to the first generation of groups aimed at consolidating the U.S. Islamic community, a second generation arose to wield political and business clout.

One such group was the American Muslim Council (AMC), launched in 1990 to urge Muslims to get involved in politics and other civic activities. One of its founders was Mahmoud Abu Saud, who 58 years before helped Banna expand the Brotherhood, and who later became a top financial adviser to governments from Morocco to Kuwait, according to documents provided by the SITE Institute, a Washington terrorism research group that has written reports critical of the Brotherhood. The AMC folded in 2003, and a more moderate group has assumed that name.

One leader of the former AMC was Abdurahman Alamoudi, who U.S. officials and Islamic activists say is a Brotherhood associate. In July he pleaded guilty to moving funds from Libya, which was illegal because the United States at the time considered that country a sponsor of terrorism. Federal documents in the case say he is a Hamas supporter. Alamoudi also was identified by U.S. officials in June as a participant in a plot hatched by Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi to assassinate the Saudi head of state, Crown Prince Abdullah.


- Posted by Rich Miller   21 Comments      

AG Madigan will appeal FCC repeal of net neutrality rules

Thursday, Dec 14, 2017

* AG’s office…

Attorney General Lisa Madigan today announced that she, along with other state attorneys general, will appeal the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) action to eliminate existing net neutrality rules that prohibit internet service providers (ISPs) from discriminating among consumers and content providers.

The FCC’s Restoring Internet Freedom Order, which was approved today in a 3-2 vote over the objections of Madigan and attorneys general from around the country, eliminates existing prohibitions that allow people to have sole discretion over their internet usage. As a result of today’s vote, internet service providers will be allowed to interfere with customers’ use of the internet by blocking or slowing down access to content. Providers will now be able to favor their own content over third-party sites by slowing down access, or charging content providers for priority treatment or access to an internet ‘fast lane.’

“Today’s Commission vote undermines the public interest by putting our free and open internet at risk,” Madigan said. “In taking this action, the Commission disregarded the overwhelming view of the public and ignored the legal precedent upholding the existing net neutrality rules.”

Earlier this week, the Attorney General urged the FCC to delay its vote in light of widespread reports that millions of comments received by the FCC in the current rule-making process were submitted under fraudulent or stolen identities. Madigan also called upon the FBI to investigate the sources of the fraudulent comments to uncover how they were submitted and to require the FCC to protect the reliability of its public comment system.

Madigan also joined a coalition of 17 other state attorneys general urging the FCC to delay its vote, stressing the importance to the rulemaking process of public participation. The attorneys general encouraged the FCC to cooperate with investigations by law enforcement agencies.

In July, Madigan led a coalition of 14 attorneys general in submitting comments to the FCC opposing the proposed rollback of the critical net neutrality protections. Madigan argued that the FCC must ensure open access to the internet and the continued equal access to all content providers, which can only be upheld through the principles of an open internet or net neutrality.

* The CWA lays it out pretty well…

The Communications Workers of America opposes the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to abolish rules that have helped maintain a free and open Internet for all Americans.

“By eliminating the bright-line rules first introduced in 2005 and codified by subsequent Commission votes, the FCC today has eliminated essential safeguards that ensure fair Internet access to all users.

“A new survey by the University of Maryland showed that 83 percent of Americans — including 75 percent of Republican respondents — reject the FCC plan on net neutrality that will allow some companies to speed up some websites, and slow down or block others.

“We need clear, enforceable rules to protect a free and open Internet, with FCC authority to enforce any violations. Instead, the Republican majority’s plan seems to rely on a “trust me” approach that will be ineffective and meaningless.

“The FCC is turning enforcement of Internet freedom over to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Because the FTC lacks authority over broadband providers that are also common carriers, pending the outcome of a case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, there is no agency at this time with authority to protect an open Internet from abusive practices by cable or telecom companies.

“The FCC’s action also eliminates its jurisdiction over mobile broadband, an increasingly important way that people, particularly low-income consumers, access the Internet, and preempts critical state authority over broadband networks.

“The three bright-line, common sense rules of no blocking, no throttling, and no favorable treatment to some websites and applications over others have worked to protect a free and open Internet. It is unfortunate that Chairman Pai and the Republican majority have chosen to move in the wrong direction, jeopardizing the technology that millions of Americans rely on.”

…Adding… JB Pritzker…

“Net neutrality is vital to free expression, online innovation, and public safety and today’s vote is a direct attack on those values,” said JB Pritzker. “For the past decade, I’ve worked to make our state a hub for technology innovation, helping to create thousands of good-paying jobs in Illinois. Today’s vote jeopardizes that work and undermines not just the tech community, but all of our families who rely on an open and free internet. We need a leader in Springfield who will protect Illinois from Donald Trump’s FCC, not stay silent as he attacks the jobs, entrepreneurship, and basic democratic principles that net neutrality fosters. I have a record of being that leader and I promise to bring that passion to the governor’s office.”

…Adding… Jesse Ruiz…

The FCC’s vote to dismantle net neutrality will hand over our online freedom and privacy to a handful of giant, greedy corporations, and it must not be allowed to stand.

When Donald Trump chose Ajit Pai – a former Verizon executive – as the FCC chair, he was putting a fox in charge of the henhouse. We cannot let Donald Trump and his kleptocratic administration of corporate shills and Goldman Sachs refugees destroy this crucial platform for the free, democratic exchange of ideas.

This wrongheaded decision will have enormous consequences for all of us. Students will lose access to educational materials, and small businesses and start-ups won’t be able to reach their customers – all while big telecommunications companies rake in record profits.

This has been a shady process from the start. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has found that almost 2 million fake comments were sent to the FCC supporting rollback of the Obama Administration’s net neutrality rules, which were designed to protect our equal access to the internet. Even worse, those fake comments were submitted under the names of real people, falsely using their identities without their consent.

I commend Attorney General Lisa Madigan for joining the multi-state lawsuit challenging today’s action, so we can protect Illinois consumers and fight back against this threat to our online freedom.

…Adding… Pat Quinn…

“The F.C.C.’s vote today to repeal net neutrality rules on a party-line vote is a blow to consumers everywhere. Today’s decision will allow broadband providers to decide what information people can access on the internet and how they are allowed to communicate with one another online.

“The internet is how families stay in touch with one another, how job searchers find opportunities, and how students learn about the world around them. Allowing big corporations to censor content they don’t want you to see or charge fees to access certain information hurts everyone in Illinois. I applaud Attorney General Lisa Madigan for her decision to appeal the F.C.C.’s action.”

…Adding… Sen. Kwame Raoul…

3 years ago, President Obama stated that “an open Internet is essential to the American economy, and increasingly to our very way of life.” Today’s ruling by Donald Trump’s FCC prioritized big corporations over every day Americans and will send shock waves throughout the American economy.

Without net neutrality internet service providers (ISPs) will be free to jack up prices, block content and slow down the internet for sites that they don’t want consumers to visit. This is wrong.

I stand with Attorney General Madigan and attorney generals from across the country who are appealing the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) action to eliminate existing net neutrality rules that prohibit internet service providers (ISPs) from discriminating among consumers and content providers.

…Adding… Sen. Daniel Biss…

“I am deeply disappointed by today’s vote by the FCC to repeal net neutrality laws. This is another example of how Donald Trump’s administration is prioritizing corporate profits over middle-class families and working people. The Internet should be free and open to all people and we should hold internet providers accountable to that standard. Our state regulations must align with that standard. That’s why I will use our state’s purchasing power to lead the fight for net neutrality in Illinois when I’m governor.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   25 Comments      

Just a friendly reminder to bring a toy to Monday’s speech

Thursday, Dec 14, 2017

* If you’re planning to attend the City Club’s “Christmas with Rich Miller” on Monday, please remember to bring a toy or two (or ten) for kids ages 2-5. Don’t wrap them. Your toys will be donated to Lutheran Social Services of Illinois.

If you aren’t planning to attend (and it’s way too late to get tickets now) you can always click here to donate to LSSI. You’ll also be able to watch the speech live at the City Club’s website.

A big thanks to everyone who bought tickets. The City Club just told me Monday’s event will be its biggest of the year. Pretty cool. Glad I got a haircut this week.

* You can use this post as an open thread.

- Posted by Rich Miller   6 Comments      

Question of the day: Golden Horseshoe Awards

Thursday, Dec 14, 2017

* The 2017 Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Illinois State Senator - Democrat goes to Sen. Andy Manar

When was the last time a targeted Democratic lawmaker delivered on a sweeping policy so meaningful that the incumbent Republican governor had to embrace it as not just a good idea but the crowning accomplishment of his own time in office? That happened with school funding.

There was also automatic voter registration and instead of resting and bragging, Manar’s out touring health care facilities focusing on needs/neglect in downstate/rural communities.

Just try keeping up.

The voting was nearly unanimous.

* The 2017 Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Illinois State Senator - Republican goes to former Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno

She tried to move heaven and earth to get a budget. Wasn’t her fault her party’s own governor sawed that branch off behind her.

Rauner would’ve had a much better deal if he had just signed on to the last Grand Bargain version. But, hey, then he would’ve had to own something.

* OK, on to today’s categories…

* Best government spokesperson

* Best campaign staffer

It’s not an election year, so we won’t have campaign staffer categories for each legislative caucus this time around. However, since campaigns have been up and running all year, I thought I’d give you an opportunity to name your favorites. In this instance, a campaign staffer can be a spokesperson.

As always, explain your answers or they won’t count and try to nominate in both categories.

- Posted by Rich Miller   42 Comments      

Ives says too many school districts are too small, some too big

Thursday, Dec 14, 2017

* Daily Herald

Small school districts with big budgets are sucking up taxes across Illinois and should be consolidated, Republican candidate for governor and state Rep. Jeanne Ives said Wednesday.

“First thing, every school district should be a unit district,” Ives of Wheaton told the Daily Herald editorial board. “No more high school districts, no more elementary districts.” […]

For example, Ives suggested, Glenbard High School District 87 serving northeast DuPage County communities could absorb elementary school districts that feed into it. […]

“Elgin (Area Unit District 46) and Chicago (Public Schools) are too big, actually. They need to be downsized,” she said.

“At the same time, you cannot have ‘zombie schools.’ You can’t have 140 kids in a high school and think that you’re going to have a good result and have the resources to provide for them.”


- Posted by Rich Miller   107 Comments      

Tribune looks at home health care businesses, finds lots of problems

Thursday, Dec 14, 2017

* Tribune

A Tribune investigation reveals that Illinois public health regulators proved unprepared for a surge in new home health care companies, doling out too many home health licenses too fast and failing to provide meaningful oversight.

Even today, most anyone can own a home health care business for a $25 license fee — no criminal background check required.

Consequently, the Chicago metropolitan area is a hot spot for fraud, deemed among the most corrupt regions nationally. In the last five years, federal investigators estimate, area home-health agencies have improperly collected at least $104 million of public dollars. […]

An analysis of federal court and enforcement files since 2012 shows that thousands of patients have been subjected to unwarranted procedures, therapies and tests; some were prescribed unneeded and powerful drugs.

Most victims were unaware that their medical histories were hijacked by swindlers — there is no legal requirement to notify or warn patients when fraud is uncovered, or when providers are convicted of crimes.

* A big part of the problem here is lack of federal resources to investigate this stuff

At least 357 active home health companies in the Chicago area have been linked to potential financial fraud by federal investigators but never charged, the Tribune found. […]

In 2014 congressional testimony, Gary Cantrell, a deputy inspector general for U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, acknowledged, “Since 2012, we have closed over 2,200 investigative complaints because of lack of resources.”

Go read the whole thing.

- Posted by Rich Miller   7 Comments      

*** UPDATED x3 - Berrios, Orr, Kennedy respond *** Groups file lawsuit against Cook County Assessor alleging racial discrimination

Thursday, Dec 14, 2017

* Press release…

Two community organizations based in Chicago’s southwest and northwest sides, the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council and Logan Square Neighborhood Association, have filed a lawsuit in circuit court alleging that the office of Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios conducts assessments that systematically and illegally shift residential property tax burdens from Whites to Hispanics and African-Americans and from the rich to the poor. The community organizations are represented by a team of lawyers from Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym, and Miner, Barnhill & Galland.

According to the complaint, property owners in majority-Hispanic and majority-African-American neighborhoods are twice as likely to be over-assessed, by a rate of 20 percent or more above market value, when compared with majority-White neighborhoods. The complaint further alleges that as the percentage of White residents in a census tract increases, the ratio between the assessed values and actual market values decreases.

“It is fundamentally unfair that families in this community are required to pay artificially inflated taxes for their homes and bear a disproportionate share of the tax burden in Cook County,” says Patrick Brosnan of Brighton Park Neighborhood Council.

According to the complaint, 46 percent of residential properties that sold between 2011 and 2015 in Brighton Park were over-assessed by at least 20 percent; and 7 percent of residential properties were assessed at more than double their market value. Moreover, the Cook County Assessor’s office performs its assessments using methods that it refuses to disclose to the public, allowing the office to engage in “taxation without explanation.”

“What I find so dishonest and unfair is that if you’re a property owner just looking at your own tax bill, there’s no way to tell that you’re being under-charged or over-taxed based on the demographics of your neighborhood,” said Nancy Aardema of Logan Square Neighborhood Association (LSNA). “That’s why this outrage has gone on for so long.”

Hermosa, a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood served by LSNA, is the third most over-assessed neighborhood in the county. Data regarding homes sold between 2011-2015 shows that the Hermosa neighborhood properties were over-assessed by 24 percent on average and that even following individual homeowner appeals, the neighborhood was still over-assessed by 23.5 percent on average. In contrast, properties in the predominantly-White Lakeview neighborhood were 11 percent under-assessed on average before appeals and 15 percent under-assessed on average after appeals.

“What we see in this case is the perpetuation of a system that disproportionately impacts communities of color and continues to strip capital from already struggling neighborhoods,” said Aneel Chablani of Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights.

“It’s the same type of institutional racism that gave rise to Chicago’s extreme housing segregation through racial steering, discriminatory zoning and restrictive covenants.”

The complaint asks the court to declare the Cook County Assessor’s assessment system unlawful, and to order Berrios’ office to adopt and implement a fair, accurate, transparent, lawful, and nondiscriminatory system. It also seeks the appointment of an independent monitor to oversee the process. [Emphasis added.]

The lawsuit is here.

Chris Kennedy, among others, has been claiming this for a while now.

*** UPDATE 1 *** Kennedy campaign…

Logan Square Neighborhood Association (LSNA) and the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council had the courage to do what our elected officials and Democratic Party leaders refuse to do: condemn a system run by Joe Berrios that protects the wealthy and well-connected but hurts homeowners, communities of color and students. Political candidates and elected officials must follow the lead of these organizers and advocates and stop protecting our discriminatory, rigged property tax system.

*** UPDATE 2 *** Cook County Clerk David Orr…

An explosive lawsuit filed this morning in Cook County Circuit Court alleges, among other items, that Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios “systematically and illegally shifts residential property tax burdens in Cook County from property owners in majority-white neighborhoods to majority-Hispanic and majority African-American neighborhoods” as well as from the rich to the poor.

We saw this coming.

As Cook County Clerk, my office plays a major role in the calculation of Cook County property taxes. I remain frustrated at the blatant secrecy, lack of transparency and direction from the Assessor’s office regarding residential, commercial and industrial property tax assessments and why this ongoing issue has not yet been appropriately addressed.

Experts have already spent countless hours studying the assessment process and developing stronger models, so we know what the problems are. Three substantive studies have already been conducted: a 2011 study by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy; a University of Chicago analysis commissioned by the Assessor in 2014 and funded by the MacArthur Foundation; and the Chicago Tribune investigation.
Berrios’s office acknowledged the problems several years ago, and in 2015, publicly touted a model he claimed would fix the regressivity issues.

We now know that was not true.

The new model was either partially or never implemented. No one outside of the Assessor’s office truly knows for sure because they have refused to tell the public what assessment model they are using.

Meanwhile, the Assessor has already completed all assessments for the 2017 tax year, subject only to review by the Board of Review, laying the foundation for the 2017 tax bills.

Assessment decisions lay the foundation for property taxes. The Clerk calculates tax rates for hundreds of taxing districts each year based on equalized assessments located within each district and the amount of revenue requested by those districts. The only key factor that is “fluid” is the assessment. Our calculations are transparent and mathematically precise.

As an elected official with a fiduciary duty to calculate tax rates and amounts included in tax bills issued by the Treasurer, it is difficult and painful to execute those duties based on flawed assessments.

*** UPDATE 3 *** Berrios campaign…

This lawsuit is politically motivated and coordinated with other efforts to support the candidacy of Assessor Berrios’ Wall Street-connected opponent. There are two sides to this story.

The main focus of today’s lawsuit stems only from claims in articles in the Chicago Tribune. Those claims are not based on any research or studies conducted by assessment, appraisal or real estate professionals. The Tribune articles were replete with errors, misleading comparisons and conclusions based on information the Tribune had but knowingly omitted.

Long before media attention turned to property assessment, the Berrios Administration has been proactive in improving the system to make assessments fairer. Cook County and the Assessor’s Office hired Tyler Technologies to work on identifying improvements in the property assessment system at every level — a process that is still ongoing, as improving any 40-year-old system cannot be accomplished overnight.

Fixing the 40-year-old system which Assessor Berrios inherited has been his top priority since taking office, after thirteen years of mismanagement by previous assessor Jim Houlihan, who allegedly violated the law and Cook County policies - resulting in a major lawsuit against the County which has dragged on for years.

Assessor Berrios has been proactive in addressing problems in the system which he did not create. He is cooperating fully with the current study of property assessment being conducted for Cook County by the Civic Consulting Alliance (CCA). He has committed to implementing whatever changes and improvements are recommended to make the system even fairer and more equitable.

Joseph Berrios continues to stand up for the taxpayers of Cook County. He has saved them tens of millions of dollars every year by completing the assessment cycle on time, billed more than $47 million in would-be lost revenue from erroneous exemptions and opened up the appeal process.

We are confident that when all facts ultimately come to light and all the technical aspects of this complicated matter are presented by actual assessment and appraisal experts in court and elsewhere, the Assessor’s Office will be found to have done a fair and equitable job.

*** UPDATE 4 *** Fritz Kaegi…

“The lawsuit filed today amplifies the many voices who see the tragic and unjust consequences of Joe Berrios’ shameful practices as Assessor. This lawsuit, filed by neighborhood and civil rights organizations, is yet another sign that Joe Berrios cannot be trusted to be our Assessor. The harmful effects are disproportionately felt in lower income neighborhoods and communities of color, and it is urgently necessary to fix this broken system. Joe Berrios and his cronies should not play politics with our homes–our most treasured and important investments.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   35 Comments      

*** UPDATED x2 *** Pritzker’s money, pros and cons

Thursday, Dec 14, 2017

* Brian Mackey has a story today about some local react to JB Pritzker’s wealth

“I don’t begrudge people being millionaires,” [Linda Green] says [during the Sangamon County Young Democrats’ Obama-Simon Breakfast].

But there are those, like Daniel Coultas, who think Democrats ought to be led by someone a little closer to the working people who are supposed to be the party’s base.

“It seems like it’d be hard for that person to relate with the challenges that a lot of ordinary people face from day to day,” Coultas says.

But I ask him: Isn’t there a benefit to having a candidate who can support not only himself, but other Democrats, too?

“You could frame that as a benefit or maybe you could frame it as a problem,” Coultas says. “And too much power concentrated in one individual’s hands, I think that’s, you could argue, what we’ve seen on the Republican side.”

And therein lies the promise — and peril — of the J.B. Pritzker candidacy.

I would only caution people that personal anecdotes are not data. Remember all those Alabama US Senate campaign stories about how African-American voters weren’t enthused about the Democratic candidate and then they turned out in droves?

* Anyway, it appears that the Pritzker campaign is trying to turn this story a bit into how he’s using his money for the public good. Bernie

Pritzker, a billionaire, is worth more than Rauner, who is at least a several-hundred millionaire. And the activity of their foundations reflects the holdings. The Rauner foundation made donations of more than $7.8 million from 2013 to 2015, tax records show. In the same period, the Pritzkers’ foundation gave away more than $50 million.

“J.B. and M.K. are proud to have supported numerous charities throughout Illinois and the United States,” said Pritzker campaign spokeswoman GALIA SLAYEN, “particularly those that focus on early childhood education, mental health, and expanding the availability of health care.” […]

— More than $2.7 million to the Jewish United Fund of Chicago, whose work includes a variety of social services for Jews and others in need, as well Jewish community building, advocating for Israel, and supporting Jewish life on campuses and elsewhere.

— Nearly $3.4 million to the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

— More than $390,000 to the Erikson Institute in Chicago, which helped bring a program, created with designers of an organization called Calm Classroom, to Chicago Public Schools to better meet needs of children dealing with high levels of trauma and toxic stress, according to the Pritzker campaign.

The full list is here. It’s really long. Some, however, can certainly be seen as strengthening “elite” institutions, like the $2 million to the Latin School.

*** UPDATE 1 *** This was actually reported to the State Board of Elections on Tuesday night, but it’s become so commonplace that nobody wrote about it until today

Billionaire Democratic governor candidate J.B. Pritzker is up to $42.2 million in self-funding his campaign after his latest $7 million deposit was reported to the State Board of Elections.

Pritzker has made six contributions of $7 million each to his campaign — in April, June, August, October, last month and now Dec. 6, records show.

An heir to the Hyatt Hotel fortune, entrepreneur and investor, Pritzker broke the self-funding record for a Democratic candidate in Illinois with his Nov. 3 donation. That topped the $28.6 million that Blair Hull put into his failed 2004 Democratic primary bid for the U.S. Senate.

Rauner put $27.6 million of his wealth into his 2014 victory over Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn. In December, he gave his re-election bid $50 million.

*** UPDATE 2 *** Biss…

- Posted by Rich Miller   81 Comments      

Pritzker wants Rauner to release veterans’ home documents

Thursday, Dec 14, 2017

* I’ve seen the Pritzker campaign’s FOIA request and would suggest they amend it to include communications from the governor’s current chief legislative liaison Darlene Senger, the GOP comptroller candidate who sent an e-mail last night advising the administration to try to tie this Illinois Veterans’ Home scandal to US Sen. Tammy Duckworth…

Today, the Pritzker campaign announced that it will submit Freedom of Information Act requests to Governor Rauner’s office to seek details surrounding Rauner’s fatal mishandling of Legionnaires’ disease at the Quincy Veterans’ Home. JB Pritzker is also calling on the Rauner Administration to release all communications responsive to the FOIA request.

The FOIA requests will seek email correspondence between the Governor’s office, Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA), and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that reference the disease. It will also seek the public release of the $5 million contract to upgrade the Quincy facility’s water system, including the metrics required to show its successful completion, and all DVA and CDC reports, protocols and evaluations relating to the multiple outbreaks.

“While an independent investigation must be launched, Illinois families and those who lost loved ones deserve immediate answers and transparency from their governor on his mishandling of the Legionnaires outbreak in Quincy,” said JB Pritzker. “It shouldn’t take a FOIA request to get answers for this unconscionable negligence, so I’m calling on Bruce Rauner to immediately release all requested communication about the Legionnaires outbreak. Despite Rauner’s attempts to minimize the severity of this crisis, brave heroes lost their lives year after year and it is time for those responsible to be held accountable.”

…Adding… DGA…

Yesterday, WBEZ/NPR released a heartbreaking story about the death of 13 people at the Quincy Veterans Home due to Legionnaires’ disease. WBEZ recounted how Governor Bruce Rauner’s administration was slow to notify the public about a major outbreak in 2015. Despite Rauner promising his administration has a handle on the disease, outbreaks have occurred the past three years in a row contributing to the death of someone this year.

This is not the first time Rauner’s failed the state’s veterans. In 2015, Rauner halted construction of residential veterans’ home in Chicago due to budget constraints. Brown of the Chicago Sun-Times reported that the closest facility to Chicago has a three-month waiting list, a gap this building was supposed to bridge. Now, some 30 months later construction has not restarted.

In 2016, Rauner bragged that he had cut $800 million in “wasteful spending” from the budget. On that list? The Chicago veterans’ home.

“Bruce Rauner has it wrong – caring for veterans is not wasteful spending,” said DGA Illinois Communications Director Sam Salustro. “Rauner’s misplaced priorities put political talking points ahead of fulfilling the pledge made by Illinois’ citizens to veterans. Rauner’s administration failed to care for Illinois’ veterans, but he’s too concerned with dodging responsibility than to show leadership on the issue. Now is the time for Rauner to step up.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   28 Comments      

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Illinois Veterans’ Home timeline raises even more questions

Thursday, Dec 14, 2017

* Last night, I went through the WBEZ story about the 2015 Legionnaires’ disease outbreak at the Illinois Veterans’ Home in Quincy with the idea of putting together a timeline to make it easier to understand. But I quickly found that I needed even more information outside of the story.

What I’ve come up with is admittedly incomplete, but it still gives you an idea of what’s out there in the public domain. Dates with hyperlinks contain information outside of the WBEZ story. Those without links are from the WBEZ story, which, if you missed it, you can read by clicking here

July 24: Earliest known case of Legionnaires’ disease at the Illinois Veterans’ Home in Quincy, according to a report issued later by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

August 21: Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs Director Erica Jeffries later claims that on this date, her department “shut down the water, we removed aerators from all the showers, we shut down our fountains, we started issuing bottled water” because of the outbreak.

August 21: Illinois Veterans’ Home resident Melvin Tucker develops a fever. He is given Tylenol.

August 23: Illinois Department of Public Health notifies CDC of “five laboratory-confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease among residents and staff.”

August 24: Adams County Health Department Director of Clinical and Environmental Services Shay Drummond claims this is the date when “environmental control and mediation” actually starts

August 24: In an email, a state Veterans’ Affairs spokesman alerted the governor’s press staff about the Legionnaires’ test results, saying, “We have a situation at the Quincy home.” The spokesman went on to say he did not intend to publicize details of the test results that day unless “directed or in the case of wide media interest.”

Aug. 26: There are now 28 Legionnaires’ disease onsets, the CDC reports later.

August 26: Three days after CDC was first notified of the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak, and 2-4 days after remediation efforts began, Gerald Kuhn, 90, is given Tylenol for a fever that reaches 104 degrees. Kuhn asks to go to the hospital and tests positive there for Legionella.

August 26: Last day Dolores French is seen alive. Her military veteran husband lives in another section of the complex.

August 27: “The Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) today announced eight confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease in residents at the Illinois Veterans’ Home - Quincy. There have been no known deaths related to this outbreak.”

August 27: After six days with a fever, Melvin Tucker is still not on any kind of antibiotic and hasn’t yet been tested for Legionnaires’, despite the CDC being notified four days earlier of an outbreak and the state announcing eight confirmed cases that same day.

August 28: “Two residents of an Illinois veterans home have died of Legionnaires’ disease, the Illinois Department of Public Health said Friday…. [both] had underlying medical conditions. Both were among 23 residents of the facility who had earlier been diagnosed with the disease.”

August 29: Dolores French is found dead and her body was decomposed. Her only underlying medical condition was deafness.

August 30: IDPH formally requests Epidemiologic Assistance (Epi-Aid) from the CDC.

August 31: Melvin Tucker and Gerald Kuhn die, bringing the death total to four.

August 31: Three CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service Officers and one environmental health specialist arrive at the veterans’ home.

September 1: “The Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) today announced the deaths of a total of seven residents at the Illinois Veterans’ Home-Quincy. The seven residents, all of whom had underlying medical conditions, were among the 39 individuals who had been diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease to date.” [Dolores French’s only underlying medical condition was deafness.]

September 9: Adams County health officials report 2 more deaths.

September 14: Another resident dies, bringing the death toll to 12 out of 54 who have by now contracted the disease.

The most important takeaway for me when doing this post is that they knew they had a disease problem, yet aged men who were displaying symptoms were given Tylenol and neither tested or given antibiotics. Look, hindsight is 20/20. I get it. But this is just appalling.

Besides that, there are a ton of unanswered questions here. Why did state officials wait so long to notify the CDC, the governor’s office and the public, including the residents and their families ? When did the cleanup really start? Why did they wait so long to request a CDC Epi-Aid (click here for an explanation of what that is)? Why did they emphasize the claim that all of those who died had underlying medical conditions?

And here’s something else to ponder: On August 12, 2015, the Tribune reported that an inmate at Stateville Correctional Center in Joliet was diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease. How does IDOC stop an outbreak among prisoners at the same time that IDVA is badly bungling the care of military veterans?

- Posted by Rich Miller   52 Comments      

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