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Judge rules Bring Chicago Home referendum should be struck from ballot (Updated x2)

Friday, Feb 23, 2024 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The Sun-Times has edited its story, so I updated my headline and here’s the revised version

A Cook County judge Friday ruled that a referendum question funding homelessness prevention in Chicago via a real estate transfer tax increase should be struck from the March primary ballot, dealing a major political blow to the measure’s biggest proponent, Mayor Brandon Johnson.

The ruling represents a big win for the real estate industry and development groups that sued to block the ballot measure.

Judge Kathleen Burke also rejected the Chicago Board of Elections’ efforts to dismiss the case and she also denied a motion by the city to intervene in the case.

While the referendum question was in flux, voters were already weighing in through mail ballots and in-person early voting. A spokesman for the Chicago Board of Elections previously said the results of any votes already cast would not be made public if the referendum question were to be struck down. […]

The suit asserted the referendum measure is a “textbook example” of a time-honored legislative tactic known as “log-rolling” — combining a politically unpopular proposal with a popular one to sugar-coat and, therefore, convince voters to swallow the bitter pill.

I assume there will be an appeal, but the clock is ticking.

…Adding… Daily Line…

…Adding… Crain’s

A Cook County judge ruled today that votes on the March 19 city ballot measure to increase the real estate transfer tax on properties over a $1 million will not be counted.

Even so, the measure’s proponents are still telling voters to go to the polls.

Cook County Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Burke ruled in favor of the Chicago Building Owners & Managers Association, who sought to block the Bring Chicago Home initiative, which would have used revenue from the higher transfer tax to fund programs for homeless people. As a result of her ruling, the question will remain on the ballot but the votes will not be counted.

Burke did not elaborate on her reasoning and abruptly left the court after a two-hour session. Advocates for the transfer tax proposal, dubbed Bring Chicago Home, say they plan to appeal.


Live coverage

Friday, Feb 23, 2024 - Posted by Rich Miller

* You can click here or here to follow breaking news. It’s the best we can do unless or until Twitter gets its act together.


Isabel’s afternoon roundup (Updated x2)

Thursday, Feb 22, 2024 - Posted by Isabel Miller

* Darren Bailey going up

…Adding… This is a $60K buy over ten days in Paducah.

…Adding… Here it is

* Sun-Times

Former Chicago Ald. Edward M. Burke asked Wednesday for a new trial or acquittal in spite of a federal jury’s resounding verdict late last year finding him guilty of racketeering and other crimes.

That jury found Burke, 80, guilty in December of 13 charges that included racketeering, bribery and attempted extortion. The panel also found that Burke committed racketeering acts in all four schemes outlined in his sweeping May 2019 indictment. […]

Burke’s lawyers pointed Wednesday to commentary by Kendall, who described the Field Museum scheme at trial as “an extremely odd attempt extortion count.” They argued her skepticism was well-founded, insisting that the law requires an attempt to extort “property.”

“There was no property here, only a potential job interview with the museum, and one which was never requested by Mr. Burke,” the defense attorneys wrote.

* A new challenger to Bring Chicago Home

* Tribune

A charity organized by Dolton Mayor Tiffany Henyard has been told by the Illinois attorney general’s office to stop soliciting or accepting contributions, and that it must register with the state.

Separately, a law enforcement source confirmed federal authorities, including the FBI, are conducting an investigation targeting Henyard. The course said the probe has included recent interviews by investigators both inside and outside of Dolton, but is in the early stages and no charges have been brought.

The attorney general’s letter, dated Wednesday and sent by certified mail, notes the Tiffany Henyard CARES Foundation is not in good standing and states the attorney general has sent multiple letters advising, among other things, that it is not registered with the state.

However, the foundation hasn’t responded “and we have not been advised why there has been a delay,” according to the recent letter, sent by Pasquale Esposito, deputy bureau chief of the attorney general’s Charitable Trust Bureau.

* Jon Seidel

* Here’s the rest…

    * WBEZ | U.S. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García faces a Democratic primary challenge from the right: Even as he identifies as a “deep-blue Democrat,” Chicago Ald. Raymond Lopez appears frequently with some of the country’s most popular right-wing cable TV news hosts — who count on him to share their views and loudly criticize his fellow Democrats. On Fox News in December with host Jesse Watters, Lopez said, “Most of the Democratic voters feel as though this party no longer represents them, that it’s been lurching too far to the left.”

    * SJ-R | Board members allege racism in Springfield school district after principal is reassigned: Current and former Springfield District 186 board of education members hurled accusations of racism after a Black principal was moved from Matheny-Withrow Elementary School and given a different job.

    * WBEZ | Eileen O’Neill Burke says she’s running for state’s attorney because ‘our justice system is not working’: O’Neill Burke is aiming for voters unhappy with Foxx’s leadership and convinced the county needs to pursue a more traditional approach to prosecutions in order to combat crime. It’s a message that is resonating with more conservative voters and donors. But O’Neill Burke’s Democratic primary opponent, Clayton Harris III, and other critics have said she is seeking to move the prosecutor’s office backward to a time of soaring incarceration rates and wrongful convictions. Harris won the Cook County Democratic Party’s endorsement in the race to replace Foxx.

    * Tribune | FOP seeks extension of moratorium on moving CPD disciplinary cases through police board: The FOP argues that a handful of officers currently facing serious disciplinary charges will be “irreparably injured” if the Feb. 25 deadline is not extended, according to the motion presented to the judge Wednesday. “Because the City Council voted once again to reject the Arbitration Award, Police Officers represented by the (the FOP) are continuing to be denied their statutory right to grievance arbitration to resolve disciplinary disputes,” the union wrote in its Tuesday motion. “If the Court does not continue the current stay of Police Board proceedings and instead allows it to expire on February 25th, these Officers will be irreparably injured by being forced to proceed before the Police Board.”

    * Tribune | ‘All hell was breaking loose’: Mystery deepens in case of Highland Park man accused of $400 million crypto hack on FTX: Powell was also believed to be involved with a violent Indiana-based gang known as the “ChoppaBoyz,” whose founding members were under indictment in a drug-related home invasion in South Bend and also were accused of robbing two of Powell’s associates in Utah as they carried a quarter of a million dollars in fraud proceeds back to Indiana, the affidavit stated. But the only charge that ever surfaced against Powell was a misdemeanor gun count filed in Lake County.

    * Block Club | Devastated By Floods And Confused By FEMA, West Siders Form Their Own Recovery Group: The volunteer-run group advocates for neighbors, organizes crews to help with cleanup, helps people connect with repair companies and much more. Their work is particularly urgent due to the negative impacts mold can have on people’s health, especially since many flood victims have now been exposed to it for months as it spread through their homes.

    * South Side Weekly | Sidewalk-Plowing Pilot Planned for Next Winter: Despite the North Side having the most complaints, a preliminary analysis of city data shows a higher concentration of snow clearance fines imposed on the South Side. The Weekly obtained documents from the Department of Administrative hearings that shows eight of the ten community areas with the most hearings for fines per capita are on the South Side. Englewood, which ranks forty-ninth in 3-1-1 complaints, had the most administrative hearings per capita since 2019, and the highest amount of fines levied. Lincoln Square, which ranks first in 3-1-1 complaints, was twenty-second in administrative hearing dockets per capita.

    * Block Club | Unsanctioned Building Next To Puerto Rican Museum To Be Demolished Next Week: The demolition is a “giant step in the right direction” said neighbor Kurt Gippert, who has been vocal in his opposition to the unsanctioned construction. Gippert and his wife started a petition two years ago calling for the demolition of the structure on public land and for more community transparency. The petition received over 2,000 signatures.

    * Sun-Times | Metra to buy first battery-powered trains as part of effort to provide more frequent all-day service: The commuter rail agency’s board voted Wednesday to pay $154 million for eight two-car, zero-emission trains from Stadler U.S., of Salt Lake City, Utah. Metra can pay an additional $181 million for eight more two-car sets and up to 32 unpowered trailer cars. They could be combined to make three- or four-car trains.

    * Tribune | R. Kelly’s appeal argument calls reasons for long sentence too vague, but court warns he could wind up worse off: Much of the brief hearing was dedicated to discussing whether Kelly should be resentenced. But in the end, Kelly’s lead attorney Jennifer Bonjean noted, his fate really hinges on what happens on appeal in his New York federal case, a racketeering conviction that got him a whopping 30 years behind bars. “That’s his life sentence,” Bonjean said during the 30-minute hearing at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse. “If that sentence sticks, he will probably die in prison.”

    * Crain’s | From Daytona Beach, NASCAR offers post-mortem on ‘incomplete’ Chicago Street Race: “Our work is incomplete,” said Julie Giese, president of the Chicago Street Race. After more than a decade working at the Daytona International Speedway, Giese now lives in Chicago and is focused entirely on organizing the summer event. “There’s a lot that we wanted to do in Chicago, and the weather prevented us from doing a lot of it.”

    * SJ-R | New look, but familiar feel: Springfield bar reopens following renovations: Brewhaus Bar is breaking open the shelves once again, opening for the first time since renovations shut down the business last year. Owner John O’Riordan held a soft open Monday, Feb. 12 for the establishment, opening the doors and inviting patrons back into the bar they know and love, with a new atmosphere to it.

    * WBBM | Chicago accused of failing to protect migratory birds: ‘We’re frustrated’: The Bird-Friendly Chicago Coalition is expressing its frustration with the city of Chicago over its failure to act on bird-friendly design requirements for new construction. […] They’re frustrated, in particular, with the Department of Planning and Development. New York City is among those who have already done this.

    * Sun-Times | New White Sox TV voice John Schriffen is ready for inevitable scrutiny: “Nothing comes easy,” Schriffen said. “Chicago is a hard-working town where people have to earn everything they get. And that’s how I grew up. Both my parents were teachers, working-class family. Everything I’ve gotten in my life I’ve had to earn the hard way. I don’t want it to be any different here.”

    * Block Club Chicago | How Chicago’s Black Steelworkers Struggled, Thrived And Survived The Industry’s Rise And Fall: While many Black workers spent years in the toughest positions, Hardy and his coworker William “Bill” Alexander were exceptions. Known as “Ramjet” for his speed and efficiency, Hardy moved from laborer to oiler to bridge operator at Interlake/Acme with relative ease before being drafted for the Vietnam War in 1967, he said. He returned to Chicago in 1969 and was back at the mill within a few weeks. He was soon promoted to a bridge, or overhead crane, operator. His coworkers — many of whom also served in Vietnam at various points — “really gave me respect” as a combat veteran, he said.

    * AL | Woodfin says if anti-DEI bill passes, he would urge athletes to leave Alabama: Senate Bill 129, sponsored by Sen. Will Barfoot, R-Pike Road and filed on Tuesday, resembles 2022 and 2023 proposals sponsored by Rep. Ed Oliver, R-Dadeville. The bill would forbid public schools from affirming “a divisive concept,” with such examples as teaching that “slavery and racism are aligned with the founding principles of the United States” and that “fault, blame, or bias should be assigned to members of a race, color, religion, sex, ethnicity, or national origin, on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, ethnicity, or national origin.”

    * WBEZ | The new frontier for Chicago brewers? ‘Mellow’ weed drinks that don’t resemble beer: With enthusiasm for craft beer leveling off, Chicago’s Hopewell is on the vanguard of local breweries cutting red tape and venturing into THC-infused drinks that are more like sports drinks than ale.

    * Bloomberg | AT&T says most of mobile network restored: The federal government is investigating whether the outage was caused by a cyberattack, according to two US officials familiar with the situation, who requested anonymity to discuss sensitive information.


Reinsdorf now says new Sox development would require $2 billion in subsidies (Updated)

Thursday, Feb 22, 2024 - Posted by Rich Miller

* White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf sat down with Greg Hinz and talked over lunch. From the article

• Said financing the stadium would require not only $1.1 billion in subsidies from an existing tax on Chicago hotel rooms but also up to $900 million in infrastructure work that already has been authorized but not funded by a tax-increment financing district that covers The 78 property. Such a move, however, will require legislative and possibly City Council approval.

• Indicated he’s on a fast track, hoping to begin preliminary construction work later this year and play in the new stadium by the 2028 season.

• Conceded that the Sox and the Bears may be competing for the same public-revenue source, the hotel tax, to pay for new Chicago arenas, but said the two family-owned teams are trying to work out a mutually beneficial deal. One thing that’s off the table: sharing a stadium. “It doesn’t work,” Reinsdorf said. “You end up having a stadium that is no good for football or baseball.”

• Said he’s unsure what will happen to Guaranteed Rate and adjoining parking lots if the Sox move downtown. Constructing hundreds of new housing units and retail space is one possibility, and converting the stadium itself into a smaller home for the Chicago Fire soccer team is another possibility, he said.

* Reinsdorf also told Greg that the project would generate tax revenue of $200 million a year - except he also wants to capture all the sales taxes generated. From an earlier Crain’s article

Reinsdorf is also seeking to create a tax-overlay district surrounding the proposed stadium that would capture the state’s portion of sales taxes generated in the area — estimated at roughly $400 million over an undisclosed period — to be set aside to subsidize the stadium and back the new bonds.

…Adding… Good point in comments…

By the way, how much of that $200mm in tax revenue is offset by the closing of Comiskey?


Meanwhile… In Opposite Land (Updated x2)

Thursday, Feb 22, 2024 - Posted by Isabel Miller

* Starting off in Alabama via the New York Times

Alabama doctors are puzzled over whether they will have to make changes to in vitro fertilization procedures. Couples have crammed into online support groups wondering if they should transfer frozen embryos out of state. And attorneys are warning that divorce settlements that call for frozen embryos to be destroyed may now be void.

Throughout Alabama, there is widespread shock, anger and confusion over how to proceed after the state Supreme Court ruled Friday that frozen embryos are people, a potentially far-reaching decision that could upend women’s reproductive health care in a state that already has one of the nation’s strictest abortion laws. […]

Interviews with physicians and attorneys in Alabama, as well as advocates on both sides of the issue nationwide, paint a confusing path forward for IVF clinics trying to interpret the ramifications of the ruling. Although physicians hope the Alabama legislature will limit the impacts of the ruling, they warn that the most dire consequence of the ruling is that some Alabama IVF clinics may be forced to suspend their operations.

“Under the current Alabama ruling, patients nor physicians nor IVF labs are going to be willing to have frozen embryos,” said Mamie McLean, a physician at one of the state’s largest fertility clinics, Alabama Fertility Specialists. “So if we are faced with two potential embryos that need to be transferred, modern practice would say transfer one and freeze one. But under this ruling, it may not be safe to freeze embryos so we will be forced to transfer two embryos … which increases the lifelong health risks to both mothers and children.”

* Illinois Treasurer Michael Frerichs’ op-ed in the Tribune

The new battlefield over abortion rights centers on the use of in vitro fertilization. It’s a battle that is highly personal for me and my wife, Erica.

Last summer, we became the parents of twin sons Max and Theo. For this blessed event to happen, we needed reproductive health care. Erica has endometriosis, a condition that makes it difficult to conceive a child naturally. It affects an estimated 11% of women in our country, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In vitro fertilization made it possible for Erica to conceive and for us to start a family.

Now Alabama, Florida and Missouri want to take away a woman’s right to use IVF to have a child, emboldened by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 disastrous Dobbs decision that took away the constitutional right to abortion.

After the Supreme Court overturned Roe, the “personhood” debate took center stage, with Republicans attempting to define a fertilized egg or embryo as a legal human entity. During IVF, a doctor collects eggs from a woman, sperm is used to fertilize the eggs outside the body and one fertilized egg is implanted at a time.

For Erica, a doctor collected eggs during four rounds. Five days after fertilization, we had four embryos. After testing, only one of them was viable. “Personhood” laws would consider the unviable collections of cells people, and doctors or their patients would be considered to have committed a crime by disposing of them.

* Indiana

After [the Indiana Attorney General’s office] consistently heard from student, parents, and teachers about objectionable curricula, policies, or programs affecting children, we launched the Eyes on Education portal.

Our kids need to focus on fundamental educational building blocks, not political ideology - either left or right.

Eyes on Education is a platform for students, parents, and educators to submit and view real examples from classrooms across the state.

The Office of the Attorney General will follow up on materials submitted to the portal that may violate Indiana law using our investigative tools, including public records requests, and publish findings on the portal as well.

To view examples or submit to the portal, select the school corporation and name of the school and upload your documents.

Upon submission, someone from our office may contact you for additional information or clarification.

Submissions to the portal will be reviewed and published regularly.

* Tennessee

Last week, Tennessee state lawmakers passed HB 878, which states “a person shall not be required to solemnize a marriage.”

In Tennessee, only certain people can “solemnize” the “rite of matrimony,” including state notary publics, government officials, and religious figures, according to state code. […]

Camilla Taylor, deputy legal director for litigation for Lambda Legal, an LGBTQ legal advocacy group, said that the law is an effort to “roll back recent progress by the LGBTQ community.”

“Tennessee House Bill 878 would be patently unconstitutional,” Taylor said in a statement to CNN. “Public officials don’t get to assume public office and then pick and choose which members of the public to serve.”

The governor signed the bill into law yesterday.

* Moving on to the Lone Star State

Two dozen protesters gathered near a Texas superintendent’s home on Wednesday to support a Black teen who has been suspended for most of the school year over the length of his dreadlocks.

Hairstylists, children and activists filled a neighborhood entrance in Baytown, about 26 miles east of Houston, chanting “Justice for Darryl George” and carrying signs with hashtags like #DoesMyHairOffendYou and #MyHairIsNotAThreat.

They gathered near the home of Barbers Hill Independent School District Superintendent Greg Poole, one day before a judge is set to hear arguments to determine whether the district can continue to punish George for refusing to change his hairstyle. George and his family have refused to cut his hair, setting off a months long battle between the family and the school district. […]

Janaie Roberts, a loctician, set up a salon chair during the demonstration and styled protesters’ dreadlocks in a show of support. “I’m an advocate for natural hair. This is how we express ourselves, so it’s not fair for us to be held back,” she said. “Just like we have freedom of speech, we have the freedom to be ourselves.” […]

George, a junior at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu, has been in in-school suspension or at an off-site disciplinary program for most of the school year. His ordeal started in August, when school officials said that George’s hair, which he wears in neatly twisted dreadlocks away from his face and neck, violates a district dress code regulating the length of boys’ hair.

UPDATE Texas Judge rules in favor of the school district. NBC

After just a few hours of testimony in Anahuac, state District Judge Chap Cain III ruled in favor of the school district, saying its ongoing discipline of George over the length of his hair is legal under the CROWN Act. For most of the school year, George has either served in-school suspension at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu or spent time at an off-site disciplinary program.

“We appreciate the court giving clarity to the meaning of the CROWN Act,” said Sara Leon, an attorney for the school district.

The school district did not offer any witnesses to testify before the ruling, instead only submitting evidence that included an affidavit from the district’s superintendent defending the dress code policy.

End of update.

Sen. Mike Simmons’ Jett Hawkins Law took effect in 2022. The law prevents school boards, public and charter schools from banning hairstyles historically associated with any race or ethnicity.

…Adding… From Sen. Simmons….

“It’s well past time for the state of Texas to let go of the past and respect Darryl George, a 17 year old Black youth who is wearing his hair authentically and doesn’t need harassment from school officials. That harassment is also now against Texas own laws under the new CROWN Act, so I hope the trial underway delivers justice to Darryl and millions of Texans of African descent and respects the intent of the CROWN Act. It’s time to turn the page in this dark and ugly chapter, just like we did in Illinois in 2021 when we passed the landmark Jett Hawkins Act.”

* More from Texas

When disabled Texans used to visit abortion clinics, staffers would remember them. They may have needed in-clinic accommodations or American Sign Language Interpreters, and they appeared infrequently. Still, they came.

But more than a year since performing abortions became illegal in the state of Texas, disabled people have become a “missing population” at the clinics still providing abortions out of state, said Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, an abortion provider.

“We’re not seeing them traveling over the border,” Miller said. “They just represent a group of people that are falling through the cracks.”

Other than the internal statistics of some abortion providers, abortion fund groups that help pay for the procedure or its transportation costs, and advocacy groups, there’s no central data tracking how many disabled Texans have sought abortions.

* Texas

This year 35 states will participate in a $2.5 billion federal nutrition program that will help low-income parents buy groceries for their children when free school meals are unavailable during the summer months.

But Texas, which has 3.8 million children eligible for the program, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has opted not to join this national effort. If it had, qualifying families would have received $120 per child through a pre-loaded card for the three summer months. The USDA calculated that Texas is passing on a total of $450 million in federal tax dollars that would have gone to eligible families here.

The reason for the pass is simple, according to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. When the USDA notified HHSC officials of their new Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer, or EBT program on Dec. 29, that gave the nation’s second largest state only six months to get it up and running and that’s not enough time, said Tiffany Young, a spokesperson for the state agency.

Although the summer program would involve two other agencies as well – the Texas Education Agency and the Texas Department of Agriculture – HHSC would have to bear the brunt of the work because they would have to coordinate and direct the distribution of the preloaded cards to qualifying families.

* Florida

Newsmax has joined the legions of conservative media outlets and figures who have trashed a pair of Florida GOP bills that ostensibly aim to curb so-called “liberal media” by loosening the definition of defamation.

“Newsmax strongly opposes both bills and any proposed law that makes it easy to sue media companies,” Chris Ruddy, Newsmax’s CEO, said in a statement to The Daily Beast. “Free speech and a free press are the most fundamental of our constitutional rights and must be zealously safeguarded.” (Newsmax maintains a headquarters in Boca Raton, Florida, and Ruddy is a West Palm Beach native and a friend of former President Donald Trump.)

The bills—House Bill 757 and its Florida Senate companion, SB 1780—would lower the threshold for defamation in Florida, allowing public officials to sue journalists and media outlets if an anonymous source says something the official believes to be false. The bills passed out of a Florida House committee on Wednesday in a 14-7 vote, and it is next headed to a Florida House vote.

Whatever the right-wing legislative effort’s intentions, these conservative critics say, it would be an affront to the First Amendment and would ultimately harm right-of-center media.

* Utah

The Utah State Board of Education could conduct a hearing on whether a school library book or other materials should be removed statewide under a compromise between state lawmakers that led to final passage of HB29 on Wednesday.

The House voted 52-18 to approve the compromise legislation.

A conference committee of Utah Senate and House of Representatives members agreed to language that gives the state school board the option of holding a hearing after three school districts or two school districts and five charter schools determine the materials are pornographic or indecent, which under HB29, triggers removal of the materials statewide.

The board could decide not to hold a hearing, which means the book or materials would be removed from collections statewide.


Live coverage

Thursday, Feb 22, 2024 - Posted by Rich Miller

* You can click here or here to follow breaking news. It’s the best we can do unless or until Twitter gets its act together.


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