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Friday, Jun 15, 2018

By Hannah Meisel

* Hello, please tell me you read about William Shatner’s employer building a solar-powered Bitcoin mine in Southern Illinois.

From the Trib

Captain Kirk might be able to discuss the properties of dilithium crystals and give directions to Rigel XII, but don’t ask him to explain bitcoin.

“The concept is so, I guess the word is bizarre,” Kirk’s alter ego, William Shatner, said by phone Wednesday. “You have to blank your mind and say, ‘What is blockchain, again? How does mining operate, again?’ The concepts are really strange, and yet when you begin to grasp it, it makes sense.”

Shatner is the spokesman for Solar Alliance, a Vancouver-based developer of alternative energy projects that announced plans to build a solar-powered Bitcoin mining operation in an abandoned southern Illinois factory.

Bitcoin mining harnesses computer networks to validate and record transactions that use the virtual currency, a task for which “miners” are paid in bitcoin (a single unit was going for more than $6,200 Wednesday). The process requires huge amounts of electricity, and that’s where Solar Alliance CEO Jason Bak saw an opportunity.

* I hate to do this, but…we’re going to have Cap’n Kirk himself play us out…

(in case you need a palate cleanser after that)

- Posted by Hannah Meisel   Comments Off      

DHFS interim director chosen to replace Norwood

Friday, Jun 15, 2018

By Hannah Meisel

* Press release, which stipulates a permanent director of DHFS will be named in two weeks.

CHICAGO (June 15, 2018) – Gov. Rauner announced today that Teresa Hursey has been named the interim director of the Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS). She takes over for Felicia Norwood, who recently accepted a position in the private sector.

Hursey has been with HFS since 2013, serving as the Medicaid Director prior to this role, where she oversaw medical programs that provide healthcare to one in four Illinoisans. She also coordinated efforts on the state’s 1115 waiver, contributing significantly to the development of Better Care Illinois, a sweeping initiative bringing in $2 billion in federal money to deliver improved outcomes for Medicaid beneficiaries suffering from mental health and substance abuse disorders.

“It was an honor to work under Director Norwood’s leadership to transform behavioral health in Illinois,” Hursey said. “I look forward to continuing that important work as Interim Director and with our future Director.”

Hursey brings more than 25 years of public health and budgeting leadership to the position. She graduated from Drury College in Springfield, Missouri, earning her CPA license in 1986 and Certified Fraud Examiner accreditation in 1993. The appointment is effective immediately. A permanent director will be named in two weeks.


- Posted by Hannah Meisel   3 Comments      

Blandford named Executive Mansion Curator

Friday, Jun 15, 2018

Posted by Barton Lorimor

* Press release…

Justin A. Blandford has been named Curator of the newly renovated Illinois Governor’s Mansion. His appointment was announced today by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

In his new position, Blandford will be responsible for creating and implementing the Mansion’s new strategic vision, which includes a greater focus on history, education, creative arts, and visitor experiences. As Curator, he will be the Mansion’s liaison with the Springfield historical community and ensure the Mansion’s place among the city’s historic sites.

Blandford will lead the development of events and marketing programs to attract visitors to the Mansion, which is the third oldest Governor’s mansion in use today. In addition, he will manage day-to-day Mansion operations, oversee maintenance of the grounds and the facility, and manage the Mansion’s workforce and volunteers.

“Justin’s background is a great fit for the reimagined Mansion,” said Gov. Rauner. “He’s been part of the renovation project, so he understands the mission. The Mansion is now ‘The People’s House’ to enjoy and learn from, and his entire career has been focused on bringing people in closer touch with history and historic preservation.”

Blandford has been a Historic Site Superintendent in the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR) since 2004. Most recently he directed operations at six nationally significant state-owned historic sites: Lincoln Tomb, Veterans Memorials, Old State Capitol, Lincoln Law Office, Vachel Lindsay Home, and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Dana House. The sites attract 325,000 visitors each year.

“As a museum manager and historian, I’m honored to serve as the curator of the newly restored Illinois Governor’s Mansion, with its expanded educational offerings,” Blandford said.

“During our bicentennial year, it is fitting that we are restoring this landmark as a symbol of leadership, as a relevant and meaningful history education experience, and as a place to inspire civic responsibility. We are looking forward to building partnerships and creating a world class portfolio of programs.”

The new Curator began his career in public service as a Dunn Fellow/Policy Assistant in 1999 following his graduation from Webster University in St. Louis. He worked at the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency before joining DNR. He obtained his Masters in History this year from the University of Illinois in Springfield.

Blandford will report to the Governor’s Chief of Staff and his appointment is effective June 18, 2018.

Justin has weathered through several administrations. Congratulations to him.

* Speaking of the mansion, Bernie had this to offer this morning…

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and his wife, Diana, recently moved back into the downtown building after extensive restorations still getting finishing touches. Diana Rauner has co-chaired the non-profit Illinois Governor’s Mansion Association, which has raised nearly $15 million from private donors for the work.

And, it turns out, a couple of those donors are Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker, and his wife.

“J.B. and his wife, M.K., have supported the renovation efforts,” Pritzker spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh said Thursday night. “M.K. sits on the board and has helped with fundraising.”

And given that Pritzker is running against Rauner in the November election, she added that “J.B. is looking forward to calling Springfield home when he’s elected governor.”

M.K. Pritzker was on the board long before her husband thought about running for governor, according to the campaign.

- Posted by Barton Lorimor   3 Comments      

M-E Dems back Madigan’s handling of #MeToo allegations

Friday, Jun 15, 2018

Posted by Barton Lorimor

* Joe Bustos of the Belleville News-Democrat reached out to House Democrats in southwestern Illinois to ask them if Speaker Madigan should resign as some Republicans have suggested and if he has done enough to stop sexual harassment in the Statehouse work environment. Three of them spoke on the record.

Jay Hoffman…

“The actions that have been taken by our caucus, led by many of the women in our caucus, we’re going to make sure their recommendations are put into place,” said Hoffman, who also serves as the majority conference chairman. “We’re going to make sure there is a fair process to ferret out any improprieties. From my standpoint anyway … the speaker has been willing to listen and has formed committees to do that, and we’ve moved forward to pass an historic bill this session. Now, more needs to be done, but I think that will address many issues of concern.”

LaToya Greenwood…

Greenwood said she believes Madigan has taken the right steps in forming committees and a task force.

“It’s ongoing, but it’s a start in getting us on the right track,” Greenwood said. “So I think he’s addressed it properly, to get right on it as soon as the issues came about.”

Katie Stuart…

“(He) called me to make sure I understood his choice and actions in responding to everything, and to make sure I felt that it was handled appropriately,” Stuart said. “There’s always more work to do, but what we have been doing, we’re moving in the right direction toward making sure everyone feels comfortable, safe and supported in the capitol.”

- Posted by Barton Lorimor   2 Comments      

The Cook County-est news items of the week

Friday, Jun 15, 2018

By Hannah Meisel

* First there’s this Sun-Times story (don’t miss the photo or its caption)…

Cicero town president pulled into primary rival’s election suit against Madigan

An unlikely figure is surfacing in a federal lawsuit that accuses House Speaker Mike Madigan of winning elections by recruiting “sham” candidates to dilute the opposition vote:

Cicero Town President Larry Dominick.

And it apparently hasn’t been easy for unsuccessful Madigan primary challenger Jason Gonzales to pull Dominick into the heated case.

According to a motion filed Thursday, a man who tried to deliver a subpoena to get Dominick to sit for a deposition said he wound up being arrested by Cicero Police and left shivering in a room with the air conditioning cranked up — after he had been forced to remove his shirt.

There’s a lot more weirdness deeper in the story.

* Then there are these two dispatches from the Trib’s Jason Meisner…

- Posted by Hannah Meisel   5 Comments      

Stones, glass houses, etc.

Friday, Jun 15, 2018

Posted by Barton Lorimor

* Bill Bloom, deputy GOP State Central Committeeman in the 17th District, in today’s Dispatch-Argus…

Pritzker clearly wants Rock Island County, so he is willing to try to buy it. He clearly wants to be governor, so he is trying to buy that as well with big giveaways and a “wink-wink” promise to “tax the other guy.”

While I don’t hold out much hope of the $1 million being used to pay down some of the debt Democrats have generated in the county, that isn’t really what worries me.

He is planning to buy the county with his money and with it the state election.

If you search “Rauner” in the contributions section of the State Board of Elections’s website, you would find the Governor and Mrs. Rauner have personally donated nearly $112 million to political organizations since October 2012.

- Posted by Barton Lorimor   16 Comments      

THIS JUST IN: Tabares to become to new 23rd Ward alderman

Friday, Jun 15, 2018

Posted by Barton Lorimor

* She replaces Ald. Michael Zalewski…

- Posted by Barton Lorimor   2 Comments      

P. Scott Neville, Jr. sworn in as Illinois Supreme Court justice

Friday, Jun 15, 2018

By Hannah Meisel

* Illinois Supreme Court Justice Charles Freeman announced last month he was stepping down after 27 years on the court, making him the fifth-longest serving Supreme Court justice in Illinois.

Replacing him is First District Appellate Justice P. Scott Neville, who will be sworn in at 2 p.m. in a ceremony in the Thompson Center. BlueRoomStream has live coverage here. I’m listening as I write and there’s some lively live strings music.

Neville’s appointed term will last until Dec. 7, 2020.

* Press release

The Honorable P. Scott Neville, Jr. will take the oath on Friday as the newest member of the Illinois Supreme Court, the second African American to sit on the state’s highest tribunal.

Justice Neville, an Appellate Court Justice in Illinois for the past 14 years, will be sworn in by Justice Anne M. Burke. He fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Charles E. Freeman, the fifth-longest serving justice in Illinois Supreme Court history at 27 years, six months.

“Justice Neville is an experienced and highly respected member of the bench and was a unanimous choice to succeed Justice Freeman. Through his service on both the circuit and appellate courts, Justice Neville has demonstrated his deep commitment to the principles of fairness, justice and the rule of law,” Chief Justice Lloyd A. Karmeier said. “While we shall deeply miss Justice Freeman, Justice Neville will be an outstanding addition to the Supreme Court. My colleagues and I are all looking forward to working with him.”

Justice Neville believes, like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., that the moral arc of the universe is long but it bends toward justice. Therefore, he will continue to serve the citizens of this state by ensuring that Illinois’ courts provide “equal justice for all.”

Justice Neville received his Bachelor of Arts at Culver Stockton College and his juris doctorate at the Washington University School of Law.

Following graduation from law school, Neville served as a law clerk for Appellate Court Justice Glenn T. Johnson, becoming the first African-American man to clerk for a Cook County Appellate Justice. Neville would go on to work as counsel for Howard, Mann & Slaughter and would establish P. Scott Neville, Jr. & Associates in 1981. For nearly 25 years Neville specialized in appellate, employment, civil rights and complex civil litigation. He was one of several attorneys who successfully prosecuted the 1992 Chicago Ward “ReMap” case, a case on which President Barack Obama also worked.

Neville was appointed to the bench in 1999 and elected in 2000 as a judge in the Circuit Court of Cook County. He served in that capacity until he was appointed to the First District Appellate Court in 2004. He successfully ran for election to the Appellate Court in 2012.

Justice Neville previously served as Chairman of the Executive Committee for the Illinois Appellate Court, First District and is a former member of the Appellate Court’s Executive Committee. He is currently the Presiding Justice of the Second Division.

- Posted by Hannah Meisel   3 Comments      

*** UPDATED 3x *** Rauner claims unpaid bills at $10B when he took office

Friday, Jun 15, 2018

By Hannah Meisel

* Gov. Rauner was in Moline yesterday addressing a Western Illinois University crowd at its Quad Cities campus. It was a pretty standard speech — basically the same one he’s been giving since he signed the budget last week about how it’s a good start but if only the General Assembly had enacted his proposed budget, the state would have a $1.5 billion surplus.

Anyway, at one point the governor said that when he came into office, the state’s backlog of bills was sitting at $10 billion.

“People tell me this is the most balanced budget in 15 years. I don’t know, but I know we’ve had unbalanced budgets for years. We’ve been running deficits for years. It’s the reason we have such big debt, unfunded pensions. There was almost $10 billion of unpaid bills when I became governor. We’ve had financial mismanagement in this state for a long time.”

* Thing is, the bill backlog was actually $6.5 billion in January of 2015 when Rauner took office. I know because I’ve been looking at this chart all morning for another story…

(sorry friends, cannot for the life of me figure out how to import an image and I’d rather spend more time reporting than figuring out HTML’s quirks…just click here.)

If you don’t trust Comptroller Mendoza’s accounting, here is the last backlog number tweeted from Judy Baar Topinka’s official comptroller account and the first backlog number tweeted from Leslie Munger’s official comptroller account.

* Response from Rauner spokeswoman Rachel Bold:

“Between the runup to the Governor’s formal announcement, until the time when he actually took office, the bill backlog hit $8.9 billion, which is nearly $10 billion in my book.”


* Here’s what the Rauner campaign is promoting from that stop yesterday: a Dispatch-Argus story headlined “Rauner touts higher education money during WIU-QC visit”

*** 2:51 p.m. *** - (Added by Barton)….Charlie Wheeler in comments…

Points of Information re balanced budgets

“People tell me this is the most balanced budget in 15 years. I don’t know, but I know we’ve had unbalanced budgets for years. We’ve been running deficits for years. It’s the reason we have such big debt, unfunded pensions. There was almost $10 billion of unpaid bills when I became governor. We’ve had financial mismanagement in this state for a long time.”

Gov. Rauner. June 15, 2018

The actual record:

Illinois last ended its fiscal year with a general funds budgetary surplus (GF available balance > lapse period spending) in FY2001, when the AB was greater than LPS by some $300 million.

As measured by declining GF budgetary deficits, however, Illinois last had a balanced budget (current year spending less than current year revenues) in FY2015, when the deficit declined by slightly more than $1 billion.

Starting with FY2002, Gov. Ryan’s next-to-last last budget, through FY2015, Gov. Quinn’s last budget, the GF budgetary deficit improved in eight of 14 years, meaning spending was less than revenues in each of those years.

Sources: Illinois Comptroller Reports, Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability.

Charlie Wheeler

*** 4:11 p.m. *** Comptroller Mendoza’s office wanted to respond to the post. Here’s her statement…

“The backlog number the Governor’s office appears to be citing is from 2013. When Governor Rauner took office two years later, the bill backlog was just over $6.5 billion. When the budget enacted by his predecessor expired, the backlog was down to $5.03 billion. That number more than tripled on Governor Rauner’s watch, hitting a record high of $16.675 billion. The numbers don’t lie.”

- Posted by Hannah Meisel   35 Comments      


Friday, Jun 15, 2018

Posted by Barton Lorimor

* From the Roll Call recap of yesterday’s Congressional Baseball Game…

The fifth inning brought about another pitching change for the GOP, with Illinois Rep. John Shimkus taking over for Buck, but the game quickly grew out of reach for the team after that. Throughout the inning, Democrats were able to get on base and effective steal bases off many of Shimkus’ erratic pitches. With runners on second and third bases, Richmond hit a triple, and due to an error by the Republican shortstop at third, was able to run home, giving Democrats three more runs. After giving up three more runs, Shimkus was replaced on the mound by Kansas Rep. Roger Marshall. Throughout the fifth, Democrats continued to take advantage of defensive Republican errors, extending their lead to a commanding 17–4.

In the bottom of the fifth, Richmond returned to the mound and despite a solid double by Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis, and a single by New Mexico Rep. Steve Pearce, the Louisiana lawmaker and the Democratic defense were able to effectively stifle the GOP offense.

Oh sure, Rodney gets credit for a double while Shimkus gets roughed up for his less than stellar performance, but take a look at the other half of the battery…


* Caption?

* By the way, the news out of St. Louis was not good for Team Illinois as Team Missouri won the bi-state showdown 7-4 on a hot, muggy day at Busch Stadium. However, despite his best efforts, this website’s proprietor did not fall captive to the “best fans in baseball” nor the St. Louis Metropolitan Police.

- Posted by Barton Lorimor   11 Comments      

Rauner’s office responds to flood waters questions

Friday, Jun 15, 2018

Posted by Barton Lorimor

* The Governor’s Office responded last night to my question about what information the Governor relied on when he said earlier this week the Legionnaire’s outbreak in Quincy was at least in part caused by flood waters and storms in 2015…

There has never been any attempt to lay blame. Rather, the Rauner Administration is exploring working theories on the cause, the persistence, and most importantly the remedy. We partnered with the CDC and took immediate action to remediate and improve water quality at the Quincy Veterans Home in 2015 and continue to take steps to ensure our heroes and our staff are safe.

As the CDC indicated to us and to WBEZ, multiple studies conclude there is a correlation between “an increased risk of Legionnaires’ disease with increased rainfall (including this CDC article and this one).”

On July 13, 2015, there was a severe storm in Quincy, Illinois, just over a week before the first resident at the IVHQ began experiencing symptoms. There were also five community cases that summer in individuals who had no clear connection to the veteran’s home. While the CDC has not confirmed that this weather event was the direct cause of the Legionnaires outbreak, it is reasonable to believe the weather could have been a contributing factor.

We have partnered with the CDC and continue to consult with numerous experts to enhance the water quality at the Quincy Veterans Home and understand what may compromise the system. Gaining a comprehensive understanding helps all of us move forward to ensure continued safety at the home. This is one of the primary reasons why we have partnered with the city of Quincy to build an alternate water source and switch to a groundwater system that will result in cleaner water with fewer bacterial and chemical variations. We are excited about the recent purchase of the Sycamore nursing home and look forward to building a world class facility where all veterans will continue to receive exceptional care.

* The Pritzker campaign has been citing the WBEZ story in their latest round of “failed Governor” hits. The latest of which came this morning…

“From the weather to Veterans themselves, Bruce Rauner is willing to blame anyone but himself for the Legionnaires’ crisis he let spiral out of control,” said Pritzker campaign spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh. “Thirteen Veterans and spouses died on this failed governor’s watch, but instead of taking responsibility and acting swiftly to protect our heroes, Rauner is busy wiping his hands of responsibility.”

- Posted by Barton Lorimor   15 Comments      

McCann talks supporting Trump, Rauner buying GOP

Friday, Jun 15, 2018

Posted by Barton Lorimor

* An interview of Sam McCann conducted by WEEK-TV was posted last night as the state Senator and former Republican now has less than two weeks to get his third-party gubernatorial bid on the November ballot.

McCann was asked, among other things, if he supported President Trump. Here’s a quick transcript of that part of the interview…

I definitely do. He’s our President. He’s our commander-in-chief…We’ve reached a time and a place where if we disagree with someone we vilify that person. We fight against that person. We try to bring about that person’s demise. That’s not the way it’s supposed to be because no two people have ever agreed 100 percent of the time on 100 percent of the issues.There’s a lot of folks who want President Trump to fail just because he’s a Republican or just because he’s Trump or just because of the way he Tweets or some of the things he says. I think it’s incumbent upon us as Americans to hope that our president succeeds regardless of his politics, regardless of whether we agree with him or not. You should respect him and hope that he’s successful guiding the nation, working with Congress to make it a better country, and thereby a better world. So I don’t agree with everything he Tweets. I don’t agree with how he says every single thing, but I agree with the vast majority of what he’s doing.

And part of his explanation on how the Conservative Party is different from the Republican Party…

Bruce Rauner knew a good fire sale when he saw one. He knew that to be Governor of Illinois…he was going to have to acquire one of the two parties. He knew the Democratic Party was too strong even though he had typically voted as a Democrat. That would have been the natural direction for him. He knew that there were already too many strong leaders statewide in that party, especially Madigan, and it would cost too much. He also realized that, at the time in 2012, 2013 when he was making this decision, that the Illinois Republican Party was devoid of any statewide leadership and that he could buy the party at a fire sale, and that’s what he did.

The full interview is here.

* McCann has until June 25 to muster the 25,000 signatures he needs to appear on the ballot. When asked yesterday about the status of that effort, the Senator responded, “Things are going really well. I am confident we will file with the requisite number of signatures, and then some.”

- Posted by Barton Lorimor   57 Comments      


Friday, Jun 15, 2018

Posted by Barton Lorimor

* We’re still posting updates throughout the day in the ScribbleLive feed. Follow along

- Posted by Barton Lorimor   Comments Off      

Statewide unemployment rate down

Friday, Jun 15, 2018

Posted by Barton Lorimor

* Press release…

The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) announced today that the unemployment rate decreased by -0.1 percentage point to 4.3 percent in May and nonfarm payrolls increased by +8,600 jobs over-the-month, based on preliminary data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and released by IDES. The April job gain was revised down slightly from its initial report to show a smaller gain. (+2,500 jobs versus +4,700 jobs).

Job growth stabilized in the March to May period posting average monthly gains of +4,600 jobs over this three-month period, about the same as the 6-month average monthly gain of +4,500 jobs between December 2017 to May 2018.

In May, the three industry sectors with the largest gains in employment were Education and Health Services (+3,500); Government (+2,600); and Financial Activities (+2,100). The industry sectors with the largest payroll declines were: Information services (-900) and Leisure and Hospitality (-800).

Over-the-year, nonfarm payroll employment increased by +60,200 jobs with the largest gains in these industry sectors in May: Government (+13,800); Trade, Transportation and Utilities (+11,100); and Financial Activities (+10,400). The industry sectors with the largest over-the-year declines were: Information Services (-3,900) and Mining (-300). Illinois nonfarm payrolls were up +1.0 percent over-the-year in sharp contrast to the nation’s +1.6 percent over-the-year gain in May, but it was the largest over-the-year gain in nearly a year.

…Adding…It is nice to see the numbers moving in the right direction, but…

Illinois’ African-American unemployment rate is higher than that of any other state in the nation.

And Illinois has been among the states with the highest black unemployment rate nearly every quarter since 2016.

“Nobody’s been left behind more than African-American workers. And Illinois has done about the worst when it comes to creating economic opportunities and employment opportunities for African Americans,” said Robert Bruno, a University of Illinois professor who directs the Labor Education program there.

Experts say an unequal education system bears a lot of the blame for why Illinois fares so poorly in comparison, but largely it is plain old-fashioned discrimination at work.

A bit of the issue’s history…

Bruno said that African Americans were beginning in the 1970s and early 1980s to get a share of manufacturing jobs until, he said, availability of those jobs dimished. “Everybody gets hurt when that plant moves out of town, but the people that are hurt the most would be people who had had the shortest tenure in those industries, and they couldn’t retire and they didn’t really build up a nest egg, and so that devastated African-American neighborhoods and communities.

“They have a hard time getting into these industries. When they get into the industries, they’re not paid as well and unemployment that occurs in these industries is always greater for African Americans.'’

* Related…

* Economists: B-N economy trending up

* Normal’s Fritzen: ‘State Farm Effect’ forces community to embrace change

* U.S. Steel to restart second Illinois blast furnace

* Walgreens finalizing massive lease at Old Main Post Office

- Posted by Barton Lorimor   12 Comments      

* Rauner calls on White House to end child separations at U.S. Southern border
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* *** UPDATED x4 *** Rauner claims he’s done more for black people than any other governor
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