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The “Give them Distance” campaign aims to keep highway workers safe
Other
Wednesday, May 23, 2018  |   Commentary  |   WTAX 1240
Tollways (91b)
Joey McLaughlin talks with the Illinois Tollway Executive Director Liz Gorman about a new highway worker safety campaign called “Give them Distance.” http://wtax.com/podcasts/the-give-them-distance-campaign-aims-to-keep-highway-workers-safe/

Child welfare agency again quits just before neglected child dies
Belleville News Democrat
Wednesday, May 23, 2018  |   Article  |   By the BND Editorial Board
Child welfare (30) , DCFS (30)

"Justice for Kane" is an illusion. No one can create justice from a situation that took the life of a 2-year-old boy.

Justice should have come long ago when the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services was first called about neglect. Kane Friess-Wylie lived in filth. Trash on the floor, spoiled food left out and the heat about to be shut off.

DCFS repeatedly helped his mom with housekeeping.

“By April 2016, the mother had been more consistent in maintaining the home, but often avoided the worker, not responding to calls, being gone for scheduled visits and shortening unannounced visits,” according to a report detailing the agency's involvement before the death of Kane and 103 other Illinois children.

Contrast that to what the mom, Lindsey Friess, said about DCFS involvement: "I didn't know what to do. I called 40 times a week. They failed my family," Friess said.

We can agree on failure.

Two reports of neglect, ample evidence that the household was in chaos and then refusal of help, except when that help was for free food, housing and maid service. What possible reason would DCFS have to walk away from this family when all these red flags were waving?

And to top it off, no caseworker knew or saw clues that Friess was allowing her children to live with a drug dealer?

Close the case in February 2017. Kane is dead in April 2017.

The story is all too familiar, because even when multiple rooms were filled with trash DCFS kept cajoling the Elkins family into doing right rather than grabbing the kids and saving baby Matthew from suffocating on a grimy mattress.

Justice for Kane. Please. Justice for neglectful adults — those who are the targets of, and the employees of, DCFS.


Progressive taxes higher? Give me a break — on my taxes.
Belleville News Democrat
Wednesday, May 23, 2018  |   Commentary  |   BY JOE HUBBARD - Joe Hubbard is the founder of Catholic Urban Programs based in East St. Louis, IL.
Taxes, Graduated/Progressive , Taxes, income (86)
There is a dangerous rumor going around Illinois, and it’s time we address it directly and correct this misinformation.

This rumor, spread by deep-pocketed special interest groups interested in protecting their friends and donors, is that implementing a much-needed graduated income tax will mean raising income taxes for all Illinoisans.

I’d like to nip this in the bud once and for all.

The truth is that a graduated, or “fair,” income tax would give the vast majority of everyday Illinoisans a tax cut, while at the same time generating revenue for the programs on which most of us rely.

That’s because a fair tax is exactly what it sounds like — fair. Currently, Illinois’ outdated flat tax structure makes all citizens, regardless of income, pay the same exact rate. This means that people who can afford to pay the most end up paying less, leaving the rest of Illinois’ working and middle-class families to pick up the rest of the tab. Moreover, these families are hurt on multiple levels, because our inadequate revenue system means that our state dangerously under-funds the things our communities need to thrive, such as schools, hospitals, roads, human services, and universities.

Currently, an average Illinois family faces the second-highest effective income tax rate in the Midwest, while a millionaire’s tax rate is the second lowest. Now that’s an unfair tax.

A fair tax would help equalize our tax structure and result in a cut for most taxpayers. Recently, the nonpartisan Center for Tax and Budget Accountability provided a model for a fair tax structure in which 98 percent of Illinois taxpayers will see tax relief while raising $2 billion for vitally needed services.

The argument that a fair tax is somehow bad for business is also unjustified. Illinois is one of only eight states that still have a flat income tax. Aside from Indiana, we are the only state in the Midwest.

There’s a reason that most states have adopted a fair tax: it helps working people and the economy by putting more money into pockets and supporting the services most citizens need.

It’s no secret that Illinois has been devastated by a record-long budget impasse, and businesses have taken notice. Our budget woes have made our state unstable and unpredictable, and thus less competitive. A fair tax will help stabilize our state so that businesses can plan and can depend on key services and an educated workforce.

Super-rich corporations, big bankers, multimillionaires, and billionaires have gotten a lot richer thanks to changes to our federal tax code. They seem to think that the wealthy are the only people who deserve a tax break, and they’re going to fight tooth and nail to preserve the unfair advantages currently granted to them under Illinois’ tax system.

We cannot let a few voices amplified by cold hard cash drown out the interests of everyday Illinoisans. It’s past time to strengthen our state and support our middle class. We need a fair tax now.


Judge: IDOC must comply with prison mental health plan
Bloomington Pantagraph
Wednesday, May 23, 2018  |   Article  |   Edith Brady-Lunny
Corrections (74) , Mental Health (64)

PEORIA — A federal judge on Tuesday soundly rejected a proposal from the Illinois Department of Corrections to address serious flaws in mental health care for 12,000 state inmates.

The IDOC faces an injunction in federal court that forces its compliance with a 2016 settlement agreement that called for significant improvements to the state's mental health care in response to a 2007 lawsuit filed by inmates in U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois.

In April, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Mihm ruled the state had violated prisoners' constitutional rights and shown deliberate indifference to their conditions. 

At a hearing Tuesday, Mihm was blunt in his assessment of the state's plan to address the deficiencies in caring for those who are in crisis and in segregation units. 

Assistant Chief Deputy Attorney General Douglas Rees recommended a two-step plan to identify and provide additional care for inmates at the highest risk for harm.

"It's not a plan. It's nothing, really," responded Mihm, noting that the most seriously mentally ill were identified long ago during the decade the lawsuit has been winding its way through federal court system.

Mihm reminded the state numerous times Tuesday about accounts he heard from inmates who have testified about how the lack of care has affected them.

Mihm said he will issue a final ruling Friday that may be appealed by the state.

Failure to meet the terms of the agreement could eventually lead to the appointment of a receiver to oversee the mandated improvements.   

The legal teams for both sides reviewed the plan with Mihm to draft a final plan for relief that will be part of the judge's final order.

Mihm agreed with Rees' concern that the inmates' proposal contained too many specific requirements that could interfere with IDOC control over its sprawling prison network of 41,000 inmates in more than two dozen facilities, including prisons in Pontiac, Lincoln and Decatur.

"The department remains committed to the settlement agreement. We believe with each passing month it gets better," said Rees.

As examples of how things are improving Rees cited no delays at 15 facilities in initial evaluations for inmates referred for mental health services and only four facilities reporting delays of 60 days.

The state also is making headway in its reduction of backlogs in psychiatric evaluations, said Rees.

The state's use of a private health care provider to deliver medical and mental health care complicates the issue somewhat, but does not lessen the state's obligation to ensure adequate and constitutional care, said Mihm.

Under the state's contract with Wexford Health Sources, the responsibility for hiring sufficient staff to provide care rests with the company. The state still struggles with the chronic challenge of hiring and retaining enough trained mental health workers.

"If there is one thing that stands out, it's a lack of staff," said Mihm.

"The inadequate number of psychiatrists and mental health professionals simply makes the job the department is constitutionally required to perform impossible," said the judge.

Mihm also opposed a state request for more flexibility in how existing staff is assigned within the mental health system. 

A court-appointed monitor testified earlier this year that the state has hired about half of the 65 psychiatrists needed for the mental health caseload.

Currently, the state has 1,100 individuals in segregation, with 900 of them diagnosed with a mental illness. A new unit recently opened at a state facility in Elgin is expected to provide care for about 40 seriously mentally ill inmates held in segregation.

Contact Edith Brady-Lunny at (309) 820-3276. Follow her on Twitter: @pg_blunny


: Court ruling that legalizes sports gambling opens door to trouble
Chicago Sun Times
Wednesday, May 23, 2018  |   Article  |   Rick Telander
Gambling, Gaming

I’m sure you’ve heard the U.S. Supreme Court recently set the table for states to legalize sports gambling. The justices voted 6-3 to strike down a 1992 federal law that barred sports gambling in most places.

 

Yeah, you always had Nevada to fill your point-spread jones, and the sports books in the desert — and, to a limited extent, Delaware, Montana and Oregon — aren’t going anywhere. But the gravy train of open and taxed sports betting is soon to be available just about everywhere. Maybe on your block!

 

Does this make you happy? It disgusts me.

 

Call me old-school, behind the times, stuck in the tar pit of past sensibilities. But don’t say I don’t love and respect sports, discipline, hard work, coaching, teaching, fair competition, winning for winning’s sake, the splendor of games played at every level by everyone of every creed, color, gender and skill set, with the joy of achievement, teamwork and physical freedom being the ultimate reward.

 

Money? Sure, that’s nice for those who earn it as pros. But the games themselves are the pure things. They have to be. If we don’t believe that, then we might as well believe in pro wrestling and magicians who make elephants ‘‘disappear.’’

 

Hustle or go: White Sox manager Rick Renteria keeps enforcing only way to play

 

Abruptly, some folks in black robes in our nation’s capital think our many states can say it’s dandy to gamble on whether little Jimmy’s peewee basketball team can beat little Johnny’s. With a spread, too.

 

Of course, official betting lines aren’t going to descend to the grade-school level. That never will be covered by state-run gambling parlors and online books, right? They’re just kids, right?

 

Ginning up taxes for a broke state doesn’t mean stooping so low that we’d exploit juvenile innocence. Or high school athletes. Or even college student-athletes.

 

Oops. Those college student-athletes (the NCAA loves that term!) are already part of this money grab. How big can the Big Dance of March Madness go now that you soon will be allowed — encouraged, even — to bet huge on that allegedly amateur sport?

 

Of course, new laws will be conjured up to enforce the ‘‘integrity’’ of this government-sponsored vice. And those laws and their enforcement should be fun things. It’s OK to gamble on anything that moves, throws, hits, runs, swims or tackles, but just up to a point, citizens.

Here’s one thing for sure: The NCAA and all four major pro leagues were against the Supreme Court ruling. It’s guaranteed unpaid college football and basketball players are going to want a cut of the millions to be bet legally on their games. NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball pros are going to demand bumps for their services, too.

 

There was this opposition, too: When people gamble, players will cheat. We’ve seen tennis and soccer gambling scandals, and we get college point-shaving affairs from time to time. (Does anybody recall that proud Northwestern is still the only university to get nailed for football and basketball point-shaving in the same school year?)

 

With big sums bet legally, the money to influence athletes grows. Greed and shortcuts are the passwords of too much of what is called business these days. Athletes are human, as — we’ll assume — big-time gamblers are.

 

So what happens when we can’t trust sports to be clean and fair? Pro wrestling happens, folks.

 

The Illinois Lottery began in July 1974, and that was a con job from the git-go. The money from vice taxation was all going to education funding. I’m not sure how long that lasted before the cash went elsewhere, but a New York minute comes to mind.

 

Is playing the lottery gambling? In 2017, the odds of winning the Powerball lottery were calculated at one in 292 million.

 

This is the state where we sold our parking meters to pay massive debt or, rather, massive interest on massive debt. We still own our light poles, drinking fountains and sidewalks — for now. But don’t blink.

 

Listen, I’m not naive. The American Gaming Association estimates that Americans illegally bet about $150 billion on sports each year, so legalizing what we already do makes a kind of sense.

 

But what we’ve found is that our morality — and, hence, our outrage — is fluid and for sale.

 

If sports betting is legal, why isn’t marijuana legal everywhere? And prostitution, the oldest profession? And pornography? (Oops, it is.)

 

If everything is OK, then nothing is taboo. Sure, mores evolve. But humans also need anchors, stones to cling to.

 

Gambling used to be bad — like, yesterday. Now?

 

Hey, according to VegasInsider.com, Northwestern is 350-to-1 to win the NCAA football championship next winter.

 

Might want to get some of that, children.

 

Sun-Times sports columnists Rick Morrissey and Rick Telander are co-hosts of a new podcast called “The Two Ricks: Unfiltered.” Don’t miss their candid, amusing takes on everything from professional teams tanking to overzealous sports parents and more. Download and subscribe for free on Apple Podcasts and Google Play or via RSS feed.


‘Retaliation’? — State rep says questioning Madigan on harassment cost her job
Chicago Sun Times
Wednesday, May 23, 2018  |   Article  |   Tina Sfondeles
Cassidy, Kelly--State House, 14 , Madigan, Michael--State House, 22

A North Side Democrat says she was forced to resign from a part-time job in the Cook County Sheriff’s office as political payback for her criticism of Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan’s handling of sexual harassment allegations — a claim the sheriff’s office vehemently denies.

State Rep. Kelly Cassidy — who has worked part-time in the sheriff’s office since January 2015 — said Madigan’s chief of staff Tim Mapes called the sheriff’s office in February to check on her employment, within days of her vocal opposition of Madigan’s handling of harassment claims.

“It was very chilling, … It felt like a warning, very clearly,” Cassidy said of the employment check-in.

And last week, Cassidy said state Rep. Bob Rita, a Madigan ally, questioned how she could oppose a bill supported by her “boss,” Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.

“It was clear to me that this would be the first of an unlimited number of shots at me, and I respect the sheriff [Tom Dart] too much and the work they do. But I felt like the only way that I could bring an end to this is to come out,” Cassidy said.

Cassidy said she resigned, but believes what happened is a clear form of “retaliation.”

“My speaking out is about wanting to be safe from retaliation in this workplace, and I believe that the only way to do it is to take this public,” Cassidy said. “What kind of an example am I setting for my kids if I allow myself to be silenced in this way?”

“You don’t get to get to sit on the executive committee without being loyal,” Cassidy said of Rita’s allegiance to the speaker.

Cassidy was among the first to call for an independent investigation into how Madigan’s political operation had handled sexual harassment claims.

“The slow and steady drip of accusations and dismissals has turned into an endless cycle of lather, rinse, repeat, highlighting the culture of harassment in the legislature and political campaigns,” Cassidy said in a statement in February. “I am calling for an independent investigation into this culture that appears to pervade the organizations led by Speaker Madigan.”

On Monday, Cassidy said she endured retaliation by the speaker because of her vocal opposition, leading to her resignation in the Cook County Sheriff’s office. Cassidy had worked part-time in the sheriff’s office since January 2015, working with a small group on jail-related and other criminal justice issues, the sheriff’s office said.

Cara Smith, spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office, said Cassidy resigned from her part-time post because she opposed a bill the sheriff’s office had been strongly pushing — a measure that would place inmates on the sex offender registry upon release if they expose themselves or masturbate in front of female staffers more than two times.

The measure cleared the Senate last month, but has stalled in the Illinois House. Cassidy co-chairs the Judiciary-Criminal committee, which the bill was assigned to.

In a statement, Smith said Cassidy opposed the bill, leading to her resignation.

“Based on this philosophical difference, she submitted her resignation which we accepted,” Smith said in the statement.

Smith acknowledged she spoke with Rita to “discuss the bill and strategies to advance it.”

“He raised a concern of Kelly not supporting the bill and shared that he had worked for other elected officials and that if he didn’t support their priorities, he wouldn’t have a job,” Smith said. “It was just a statement of fact from him, his position. I didn’t interpret it as anything other than his surprise that Kelly did not support the sheriff’s bill.”

Smith confirmed that Mapes called, but said: “It seemed to me just a routine question,” asking to “confirm whether Cassidy worked for us.”

Asked about possible retaliation against Cassidy, Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said “it would be normal for a number of us to talk to the sheriff’s office.”

Rita did not immediately respond to a call for comment Monday afternoon.

Rita has also figured in the criticism Madigan has faced on harassment issues.

The powerful House speaker backed Rita when the Blue Island Democrat was first elected to the state House in 2002, after an ex-girlfriend had accused Rita of attacking her in her Evergreen Park home. Rita was acquitted the following year of domestic violence and criminal trespassing charges.

But the 16-year-old case resurfaced earlier this year when Rita’s Democratic primary challenger held a news conference with the ex-girlfriend, Liz Hogan, who accused Madigan of deliberately ignoring the domestic violence complaint.

Madigan’s spokesman said the speaker had no memory of a meeting Hogan said her father had with Madigan in 2002. And Rita stood by the jury verdict, saying Hogan’s accusations were “false then and are false today. “


Is the speaker hearing the ‘message’? Or just mouthing the words?
Chicago Sun Times
Wednesday, May 23, 2018  |   Article  |   Tina Sfondeles
Sexual Harassment (96)

Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan on Tuesday moved quickly to quash the latest scandal spattering his operation, directly disputing an allegation of retaliation and calling for an investigation into his own chief of staff and a key legislative ally.

The powerful Southwest Side Democrat vowed to cooperate fully with any probe conducted by Legislative Inspector General Julie Porter into state Rep. Kelly Cassidy’s charges that Madigan’s allies retaliated against her after she criticized the speaker’s handling of harassment complaints. But Cassidy dismissed Madigan’s denials as the “discredit-the-target portion of the program.”

And while some lawmakers deemed his efforts genuine, others noted the longest serving statehouse speaker in the U.S. might be experiencing a wake up call that may move the #metoo movement further along in the state.

ANALYSIS

“Men of his age, I think that it’s in some ways still surprising. I think that he is seeing, I hope, that he is seeing how serious women are about the fact that we’re not just going to tolerate being treated differently, being intimidated, harassed,” state Sen. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake, said. “That we’re going to stand up. The #metoo movement was a really powerful movement, and women are not going to go back. I think that it appears to be that the speaker is responding to that message.”

Is Madigan, who turned 76 last month, ready for a full investigation of his own operation? Or is he just going through the motions for political cover?

The speaker has faced down serious trouble — and called for investigations — before.

In 2013, he requested a report from the executive inspector general as controversy brewed over former Metra CEO Alex Clifford and a giant severance package he received. The Sun-Times called it “perhaps the greatest ethics quandary he’s faced in more than a decade” and a “bombshell” that threatened damage to Madigan’s brand.

But the case was closed with the inspector general concluding that there was “no violation of any law.”

Madigan’s frenetic day began on Tuesday morning when he hand delivered a letter to Cassidy, denying retaliation against the North Side Democrat, who was among the first to criticize the speaker’s handling of sexual harassment allegations.

“I have no idea why you feel that I am somehow retaliating against you as a result of your criticisms, particularly given that I agreed to your requests for an outside counsel and an independent review,” Madigan wrote.

And within hours, Madigan, sent another letter, this one to Legislative Inspector General Julie Porter, both asking her to investigate Cassidy’s claims and vowing to cooperate.

While “heartened” by the speaker’s request for Porter to investigate, Cassidy questioned the independence of the investigation.

“She [Porter] doesn’t have true independence. She can’t subpoena without the permission of the members,” Cassidy said. “There’s no transparency at all. The process is rather byzantine and ripe with dead ends.”

Despite Madigan’s denial, Cassidy said she’s receiving an outpouring of support.

“I can’t walk five feet without someone, a staff member, a lobbyist, another member, grabbing me, hugging me and saying, ‘Thank you for doing what we can’t do,’” Cassidy said.

The Illinois Senate Women’s Caucus in a statement vowed its public support for Cassidy and an independent investigation into her claims.

“Rep. Cassidy had the courage to come forward and discuss her experiences. We stand in support of Cassidy,” the caucus said in a statement. “The Capitol must not be a place for retaliation, harassment or intimidation of any kind.”

Democratic members of the Illinois House are also working on holding a meeting with Cassidy about her allegations, Cassidy said.

Cassidy, who worked part-time for the Cook County Sheriff’s office, went public Monday with allegations that she endured retaliation — with an employment check-in from Madigan’s chief of staff Tim Mapes just days after she criticized the longtime speaker.

Cassidy also said state Rep. Bob Rita, a longtime Madigan ally, questioned how she could oppose a bill supported by her “boss,” Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart. The sheriff’s office has said Cassidy resigned because she opposed a bill the sheriff’s office had been strongly pushing — a measure that would place inmates on the sex offender registry upon release if they expose themselves or masturbate in front of female staffers more than two times.

But in a letter given to Cassidy on Tuesday, Madigan wrote that he didn’t take actions to “interfere” with her employment — saying he also didn’t direct anyone else to do so.

“As for Representative Rita’s bill, no one in my office had discussed this specific bill with him, so I cannot comment on his concerns about your opposition to the legislation,” Madigan wrote in the letter, which was also sent to all House Democratic members.

Cassidy called the denial the “discredit-the-target portion of the program.”

She said the letter is “missing the forest for the trees.”

“The point is not my opposition to the bill, which was no secret to them and certainly wasn’t a problem for them until Bob Rita did this,” Cassidy said. “He took the bill to come after me. He doesn’t care about the sheriff or this bill. He doesn’t work in that arena. He doesn’t do criminal justice stuff. I think the more we focus on that, the more we miss the reality.”

Cassidy said it doesn’t matter whether the speaker directed actions, but it is representative of a culture within his organization.

In February, a lawyer for political consultant Alaina Hampton sent a “cease and desist” letter to a man whom the believed was trying to find “dirt” on Hampton — the woman whose sexual harassment allegations led Madigan to fire a longtime aide who is the brother of the ward’s alderman. Jack Hynes, the man in question, called it a “casual conversation” and denied that he acted on behalf of anyone, especially the speaker or his staff.

But Cassidy said “this is how this works.”

“This is what happens. People close to him take action. We’ve seen it time and time and time again,” Cassidy said. “So for him to say that he didn’t do it, I think is irrelevant.”

Hampton tweeted that she was thankful women legislators were supporting Cassidy “the way they haven’t supported me,” noting Cassidy stood with her “when no one else would.”

Speaking to reporters in Springfield on Tuesday, Rita denied that he was trying to intimidate Cassidy. He also said he didn’t speak with Madigan about the bill in question.

Meanwhile, the Democratic candidate for governor, J.B. Pritzker, praised Kelly for coming forward, while calling for an independent investigation.



It’s always the guns and never the mess we’ve created
Chicago Sun Times
Wednesday, May 23, 2018  |   Column  |   Phil Kadner
Guns and Gun Control, FOID, Concealed Carry (46)

Focus on the guns. If we can just keep everyone’s attention on the guns and the homicides, we don’t have to think about all the children whose lives have been destroyed in Chicago by drugs.

All we have to do is get rid of assault weapons. That’s it. And maybe outlaw bump stocks.

OPINION

Focus on the guns and you don’t have to think about all the children on the streets whose parents are sitting in prison cells, which may actually be better for the kids than living with them.

Of course, some of these parents are only children themselves. They were 14, 15, 16 or 17 years old when they had their babies. High school dropouts. Gang members. Drug addicts.

Or just lonely, neglected children looking for love when they got pregnant.

Really good kids, some of them, forced to raise their brothers and sisters because Dad was gone, and Mom was working two jobs, or dead.

Kids. Babies. Parents.

Gang bangers.

Drug dealers.

Assassins.

Better not to think about them. Guns. That’s the problem.

There was a child in a courtroom many years ago accused of shooting other children who had been sitting on the steps of a Chicago park district fieldhouse. The killer didn’t know them. But he shot them because the gang he wanted to join told him to do it.

He had a baby face. Sweet. Innocent. And his eyes were dead. Vacant. He registered no emotion as the assistant state’s attorney described how he took his gun out and murdered a young girl.

Other than his public defender, there were no adults sitting near the defendant in the courtroom. In fact, the only person in the visitor’s gallery was me, a newspaper reporter who just happened to wander in while a Chicago congressman was on trial elsewhere in the courthouse. The kid was alone. That didn’t seem to bother him. He likely had been alone since the day he was born.

Born dead.  No chance at a life. He was going to prison now where he could be with others like himself.

He might be mentally ill, like many of the people awaiting trial in Cook County Jail. The government doesn’t care much about the mentally ill. The clinics and hospitals to treat them are gone. Closed to save money.

So the streets of Chicago are littered with the mentally ill. And then someone with a mental problem shoots a bunch of children in a school and everyone says we have to do something.

Have a moment of silence. Say a prayer. Pass some gun laws.

That’s the way it has been for decades.

There are 10 people who say they are running for mayor and none of them will accept responsibility for any of this. Not the former police chief, not the former schools chief and certainly not the current mayor seeking re-election.

I can’t blame them. No one’s willing to take the blame.

But they know where to place it. Guns!

The government has done nothing to help. Federal, state and city.

Police officers and teachers, some of them try. Some of them are part of the problem.

Community leaders and preachers shout and chant and march.

Parents? Well, we all know they’re to blame.

Talk about child neglect.

Did I mention guns?

We can’t do anything about the drugs, can’t do anything about the schools, can’t do anything about the gangs and the child abuse.

Let’s all focus on the guns.

The public schools have been a mess for decades, failing generations of children. Now they’re actually a filthy mess.

Keep the focus on those guns. It makes us feel better about ourselves while the lives of so many children slowly rot.


Lessons from Chicago’s sorry decision to close 50 schools at once
Chicago Sun Times
Wednesday, May 23, 2018  |   Editorial  |   Editorial Board
Chicago--Schools (18)

We told you so.

Parents, community activists, teachers, education experts and this editorial page all warned City Hall back in 2013 that closing dozens of schools in one fell swoop was a bad idea.

And if Mayor Rahm Emanuel still didn’t get it, plenty of research sounded the same warning: School closings can really set kids back, academically and socially.

So the neon signs were all flashing “STOP” when Emanuel and Barbara Byrd-Bennett, who was the CEO of the public schools, decided to close 50 elementary schools on just three-months’ notice.

EDITORIAL

We were not opposed to school closings in general, nor were most other skeptics; sometimes an under-enrolled and poorly performing school just has to be shut down. We also never doubted Emanuel’s good intentions, though others did. This was a mayor who sincerely believed he had to go bold, moving hard and fast, to make the school district more financially efficient and — he felt certain — boost the quality of education.

And he wanted it all behind him well before the next election.

But Emanuel could have listened a little more. He could have taken to heart the advice of those who urged him to slow down, close fewer schools over a longer period of time, and do much more planning beforehand.

Because uprooting 11,000 kids over a summer was just too much, too soon.

We’re not surprised, sad to say, that University of Chicago researchers have confirmed those predictions. The closings, a new report has found, fell far short of the mayor’s pledge to give kids stuck in failing, under-enrolled, schools a “brighter future” elsewhere.

The Consortium on School Research study — the most definitive study yet, on the largest mass school closing in the country — found ample evidence that can’t be denied. 

Textbooks and other materials were lost during the transition. Some of the welcoming schools weren’t cleaned and rehabbed before the new school year. Tension and conflict cropped up as schools tried to bring together the displaced children with existing students.

On average, the children who were uprooted — most of them low-income, African-American kids — did worse academically after the closings.

And let’s not overlook another lousy outcome: Some of the closed school buildings are still, five years later, vacant or unsold. People in the affected communities, which already had a glut of boarded-up buildings, warned the city about that, too.

The study concludes that closing large numbers of schools quickly might seem smart and responsible, but if we’re talking about really helping kids, it’s not. And, by the way, we’re still waiting on solid figures to prove that there was a financial savings.

So now what?

The district can’t undo the damage. But it can avoid repeating past mistakes. That’s crucial, given that more schools are slated to close, and even more will have to be closed if CPS enrollment continues to decline.

Above all, for heaven’s sake, City Hall had better make sure that any child displaced by a school closing lands in a better school.

CEO Janice Jackson has promised to heed the lessons of past mistakes, and that’s nice to hear. The district now, for example, will phase out four under-enrolled high schools in Englewood, rather than closing them all at once.

But here’s another suggestion: If the Chicago Public Schools really believe in “school choice,” CPS should give future displaced kids the pick of any other school, bar none — including selective and charter schools.

Don’t let test scores or application deadlines be a barrier. Make it happen. Embrace the research that shows that putting students in an academically challenging environment can motivate them to rise to the occasion. 

Let’s put kids before politics every time.

Send letters t letters@suntimes.com.


Madigan denies retaliation; Cassidy says it’s an effort to ‘discredit’ her
Chicago Sun Times
Wednesday, May 23, 2018  |   Article  |   Tina Sfondeles
Sexual Harassment (96) Cassidy, Kelly--State House, 14 , Madigan, Michael--State House, 22

In a hand-delivered letter, Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan on Tuesday denied retaliating against State Rep. Kelly Cassidy who was among the first to criticize the speaker’s handling of sexual harassment allegations — a move Cassidy says was done to try to “discredit” her.

 

Despite Madigan’s denial, the North Side Democrat said Tuesday she’s receiving an outpouring of support.

 

“I can’t walk five feet without someone, a staff member, a lobbyist, another member, grabbing me, hugging me and saying, ‘Thank you for doing what we can’t do,'” Cassidy said.

 

Cassidy, who worked part-time for the Cook County Sheriff’s office, went public Monday with allegations that she endured retaliation — with an employment check-in from Madigan’s chief of staff Tim Mapes just days after she criticized the longtime speaker.

 

Cassidy also said state Rep. Bob Rita, a longtime Madigan ally, questioned how she could oppose a bill supported by her “boss,” Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart. The sheriff’s office has said Cassidy resigned because she opposed a bill the sheriff’s office had been strongly pushing — a measure that would place inmates on the sex offender registry upon release if they expose themselves or masturbate in front of female staffers more than two times.

 

But in a letter given to Cassidy on Tuesday, Madigan wrote that he didn’t take actions to “interfere” with her employment — saying he also didn’t direct anyone else to do so.

 

“I have no idea why you feel that I am somehow retaliating against you as a result of your criticisms, particularly given that I agreed to your requests for an outside counsel and an independent review,” Madigan wrote.

“As for Representative Rita’s bill, no one in my office had discussed this specific bill with him, so I cannot comment on his concerns about your opposition to the legislation,” Madigan wrote in the letter, which was also sent to all House Democratic members.

 

Cassidy called the denial the “discredit-the-target portion of the program.”

 

She said the letter is “missing the forest for the trees.”

 

“The point is not my opposition to the bill, which was no secret to them and certainly wasn’t a problem for them until Bob Rita did this,” Cassidy said .”He took the bill to come after me. He doesn’t care about the sheriff or this bill. He doesn’t work in that arena. He doesn’t do criminal justice stuff. I think the more we focus on that, the more we miss the reality.”

 

Cassidy said it doesn’t matter whether the speaker directed actions, but it is representative of a culture within his organization.

 

In February, a lawyer for political consultant Alaina Hampton sent a “cease and desist” letter to a man whom the believed was trying to find “dirt” on Hampton — the woman whose sexual harassment allegations led Madigan to fire a longtime aide who is the brother of the ward’s alderman. Jack Hynes, the man in question, called it a “casual conversation” and denied that he acted on behalf of anyone, especially the speaker or his staff.

 

But Cassidy said “this is how this works.”

 

“This is what happens. People close to him take action. We’ve seen it time and time and time again,” Cassidy said. “So for him to say that he didn’t do it, I think is irrelevant.”


Pritzker’s plan to legalize pot could benefit relatives invested in the industry
Chicago Sun Times
Wednesday, May 23, 2018  |   Article  |   Tom Schuba
Candidates--Statewide (12)

Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker has claimed that his proposal to legalize marijuana would create between $350 million and $700 million in revenue for the state, but the plan could also advance the business interests of certain family members who are deeply invested in pot-centric ventures.

 

Joseph “Joby” Pritzker, his second cousin, and his father, former Hyatt Development Corporation CEO Nicholas J. Pritzker, run a San Francisco-based firm called Tao Capital Partners that invests in a range of companies, including Tesla, SpaceX and Uber. The group headed by the father-son duo, who both previously lived in Chicago, has also poured money into a pair of cannabis-related ventures, PAX Labs and MJ Freeway.

J.B. Pritzker has no ties to Tao Capital or the companies Nicholas and Joby Pritzker have invested in. The candidate hasn’t spoken to the family members about marijuana policy or anything else “in a long time,” according to Galia Slayen, a campaign spokeswoman.

 

PAX Labs, which began simply as a vaporizer company in 2007, developed the wildly popular JUUL e-cigarette, which has since spun out into a separate entity. Last year, PAX unveiled its Era model, a vaporizer that’s used to puff on “pods” of cannabis oil sold exclusively by the company. This marked a concerted shift from merely selling products used for vaporizing cannabis to actually selling the drug.

 

The vaporizer model and its hash oil “pods” are currently available in 50 of the state’s 54 registered marijuana dispensaries, according to the company’s website.

 

PAX has received over $100 million in funding from venture capital firms, including Tao Capital, according to Crunchbase, a database that tracks startups.

 

A spokeswoman for PAX declined to comment, citing the company’s status as a private corporation.

 

Tao Capital has also invested heavily in MJ Freeway, a Denver-based company that deals in proprietary compliance software and point of sale systems used by 40 percent of cannabis businesses, according to the company’s website.

 

MJ Freeway has raised $11 million in funding from investors, including Tao Capital, according to Crunchbase.

 

State governments have contracted MJ Freeway to track cannabis inventories using the company’s Leaf Data system, which has been affected by multiple hacks, according to Forbes. Following a series of breaches, the state of Nevada, which has legalized marijuana for recreational use, ended a five-year contract with MJ Freeway last November after less than two years.

 

The company’s work for the state of Washington — another place with a legal pot law on the books — has also been marred by a data breach since it took on a government contract in February, according to the Seattle Times.

 

That contract was previously held by Fort Lauderdale-based BioTrack THC, a company that currently holds a contract with the state of Illinois to handle seed-to-sale compliance matters.

 

The state’s contract with BioTrack, which went into effect in 2015, is set to expire in August, according to Jack Campbell, the director of Illinois’ medical cannabis pilot program. The deal can potentially be renewed for a total of four years beyond that. The state spent $230,000 to contract BioTrack, plus continuing yearly fees of more than $41,000 for maintenance and hosting.

 

Under state law, individual dispensaries can use whatever software they choose to personally inventory sales as long as they have entered necessary information into the statewide system maintained by BioTrack, Campbell said. It wasn’t immediately known how many Illinois dispensaries use MJ Freeway’s software, if any.

 

MJ Freeway didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.

 

Kristin Celauro, a Tao Capital spokeswoman, said the private firm doesn’t disclose information about its investments, personnel or operations.

 

Both MJ Freeway and PAX could seemingly benefit financially if marijuana were legalized for recreational use in Illinois. The number of marijuana dispensaries that could potentially use MJ Freeway’s software and services would skyrocket, and there would be more opportunity to sell Pax hardware and cannabis products.

 

According to his 2017 financial disclosure, J.B. Pritzker hasn’t invested in Tao Capital, PAX or MJ Freeway.

 

J.B. and Nicholas Pritzker are only financially connected through Hyatt stock holdings and family trusts, which the Democratic candidate doesn’t control, Slayen said. The majority of J.B. Pritzker’s Hyatt shares have been sold off since he announced his candidacy for governor last April.

 

Members of J.B. Pritzker’s policy team met earlier this year with representatives from the Marijuana Policy Project, the largest organization in the country focused on changing marijuana laws. Joby Pritzker serves as the organization’s board chairman.

 

The non-profit’s mission statement outlines plans to increase support for “non punitive, non-coercive” marijuana policies, change state laws to reduce penalties for cannabis use and gain influence in Congress.

 

“We change laws,” the organization’s tagline boasts

The meeting happened April 3, weeks after J.B. Pritzker won the Democratic gubernatorial primary, according to Slayen and Chris Lindsey, a spokesman for the MPP.

 

Lindsey claimed the conversation centered around Senate Bill 2275, a measure that would have placed a non-binding resolution about marijuana legalization on the November ballot. The window to pass SB 2275, which was approved by the state Senate in March, has since expired.

 

“From our perspective, while it sounded promising on the surface, it could change the dynamic of the legalization effort in the state, likely making it somewhat more complicated, and had the potential to make it far more expensive,” according to Lindsey, who added that Pritzker’s candidacy for governor wasn’t discussed at length during the meeting.

 

Lindsey said the MPP wanted to “lay out those considerations and see where [J.B. Pritzker’s] team was in its thinking” based on the Democrat’s support for legislation proposed last year to legalize recreational marijuana statewide. At the time of the meeting, Pritzker had already outlined his own plan to legalize pot in Illinois.

 

“J.B. believes that legalizing marijuana will not just bring tax revenue to the state, but it will help reform a broken criminal justice system that has disproportionately harmed communities of color for far too long,” Slayen said. “J.B. knows we can legalize marijuana in a safe way that will benefit communities across Illinois and he is ready to do that as governor.”

 

The MPP doesn’t endorse political candidates, Lindsey said.

 

Colin Williams, policy director at the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, said the meeting doesn’t raise any ethical red flags, although the familial ties “add a little bit of complication in there, but not especially.”

 

Given that marijuana legalization is a hot topic in Illinois politics, it’s not unusual for campaigns to discuss the issue with organizations like the MPP, according to Williams, who added that it wasn’t particularly unusual for J.B. Pritzker’s interests to intersect with those of “well-connected” family members involved in the public sector.

 

“The bigger issue is transparency with the relationship,” Williams added. “As long as the Pritzker campaign or, if J.B. wins in November, the Pritzker administration keeps the relationship between his organization and the Marijuana Policy Project transparent and above the board, that’s kind of a standard relationship that a group would have with a member of government if they want to affect policy that relates to their work.”


Rauner should support bipartisan bill to reduce gun violence
Chicago Sun Times
Wednesday, May 23, 2018  |   Letter to Editor  |   Daniel Pupo
Guns and Gun Control, FOID, Concealed Carry (46) , Rauner, Bruce

Once again, Gov. Bruce Rauner refuses to take action on bipartisan gun legislation, saying it is “political grandstanding, grabbing for headlines rather than trying to get real improvement for the people of Illinois.” In typical Rauner fashion he lays the blame at the feet of House Speaker Michael Madigan.

For his entire term, Rauner has blamed Madigan for everything short of the Fort Dearborn Massacre and the Great Chicago Fire. He sits in the governor’s mansion and pontificate as if he were the only one who has the cures to Illinois’ ills, and yet he has done absolutely nothing to cure them and in some cases made them worse.

As in the case of this gun bill, Rauner would rather do nothing than take even the smallest step to remedy the gun problems our nation faces. It’s interesting to note that when the governor makes these claims he almost always does so Downstate —  where he expects to draw the vast majority of his support in the November election. I guess where you do your grandstanding makes a difference.

Daniel Pupo, Orland Park


What if millions of parents pulled their kids out of school to force better gun laws?
Chicago Sun Times
Wednesday, May 23, 2018  |   Article  |   Peter Cunningham
Guns and Gun Control, FOID, Concealed Carry (46)

When the number of American students killed in schools this year outnumbers the number of American soldiers killed in war, these are drastic times.

When the number of Americans killed by guns in the last 50 years outnumbers the number of Americans killed in all wars in America’s entire history, these are drastic times.

OPINION

As the old saying goes, drastic times call for drastic measures, which is why I sent out a tweet last week after the school shooting in Texas that claimed 10 lives suggesting that parents consider pulling their kids out of school until Congress passes gun safety laws. My friend and colleague Arne Duncan, the former U.S. secretary of education, retweeted and it went viral.

This comes just a few months after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people, prompting massive student marches and zero action from Congress.

The fact is, Congress has ignored the public will on this issue despite horrific massacres in schools, churches, outdoor concerts, nightclubs and other places where people gather. The gun lobby is simply too powerful and the politicians are too cowardly.

So, could a parent-driven boycott work — even if it was just a day or a week or two weeks in the fall, just before the midterm elections? Would Congress get the message and do something? Or would we continue to have unproductive debates about every other factor driving gun violence besides easy access to guns?

No one denies that mental health is an issue for some of these shooters, but mental health is generally not fatal to other people unless guns are in the equation. Few of us are arguing against beefing up school security measures, but the schools in the last two mass shootings – Parkland and Santa Fe — had armed guards. It wasn’t enough.

There aren’t enough police in the world to protect schools, stores, churches, parks and other public gathering places. The notion that armed citizens will discourage people bent on mass violence is false. Texas and Florida have millions of armed citizens and concealed-carry laws gun laws. It made no difference to Nikolas Cruz and Dimitrios Pagourtzis.

It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to think of what could go wrong if we begin arming teachers. An everyday school fight could escalate to shooting. A student could steal a teacher’s gun and use it to settle a score. Police could show up at an active shooter situation and end up accidentally killing an armed teacher.

If millions of parents, especially those living in swing districts where politicians who oppose gun control are at risk of losing their seats, decided to pull their kids out of school on the first day after Labor Day and took a stand, Congress just might act. At a minimum, it would send a message that gun safety is a voting issue and with the midterms right around the corner, the politicians would start paying attention.

Obviously, some parents would not participate, either because they can’t due to work obligations or because they don’t agree with policies restricting gun access. Every parent must make their own decision.

Teachers and other school employees also have a stake in the outcome. If a boycott happens, I would encourage teachers and other school personnel to come into work to serve the kids who come into school.

But parents are the key. Parents are the voters, they have the power and the incentive. No parent, including a gun-owner, wants to live with the fear that their child’s life is at risk.

School is supposed to be a safe place for children and for many it is. But school shootings are taking a psychological toll on children all across America. Gun safety laws won’t eliminate all shootings but they are a needed step in the right direction.

Peter Cunningham is the executive director of Education Post and former assistant secretary of Education in the Obama Administration.

Send letters t letters@suntimes.com.


A Supreme Court ruling for Janus would be judicial activism at its worst
Chicago Tribune
Wednesday, May 23, 2018  |   Commentary  |   Robert Bruno
Unions, labor (55)

Should courts have the power to impose wage cuts, shrink the economy and require private organizations to deliver costly services for free?

Most people would probably say no. Yet this is what could happen when the U.S. Supreme Court issues its ruling in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, expected sometime in June.

At issue in Janus — a case that originated here in Illinois — are state laws that require public sector workers represented by unions to share in the cost of collective bargaining over their wages, benefits and working conditions through the payment of what are called “fair share” fees.

“Fair share” fees are not union dues and cannot be used for politics or lobbying. They are limited to the direct cost of negotiating and enforcing employment contracts.

The legality of “fair share” laws — which currently affect 5 million teachers, firefighters, nurses and other public sector workers in 23 states and the District of Columbia — was established by the court more than four decades ago.

Ever since, a network of well-funded interests has sought ways to reduce worker earnings by weakening the bargaining power of employees. Setting aside the income inequality that such an agenda accelerates, these interests have also had some success in convincing several Midwestern states to eliminate their fair-share fee payer laws.

In Janus, a right-leaning Supreme Court is expected by one vote to nullify the laws of those 23 states, which could invalidate wording in thousands of state and municipal contracts. The change would be an extraordinary act of judicial lawmaking irreconcilable with conservative principles that publicly shame “judicial activism.”

But what could this decision mean for 5 million affected workers, the economy and the labor movement?

To answer this question, I recently partnered with the Illinois Economic Policy Institute to assess the potential impact of the court’s expected Janus ruling.

This research, based on U.S. Census and Labor Department data, confirmed that public sector wages are universally lower in states without fee payer laws and unions are much weaker. In fact, wages in public service occupations already lag behind comparable jobs in the private and nonprofit sectors; Janus would exacerbate that pay penalty. And changes to laws related to public sector jobs disproportionately impact African-Americans, who are more likely to work in state and local government and more likely to be union members.

The study concludes that if the court strikes down fee payer laws, the loss of bargaining power for 5 million affected public sector workers will translate to an average wage cut of about $1,800 per year. The corresponding loss of consumer spending could shrink the national economy by as much as $33 billion — and by more than $2 billion in Illinois alone. And union membership in affected states would drop by more than 725,000.

But there are likely to be other effects.

Labor unrest is chief among them. The school walkouts that have recently come to West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona and North Carolina — and the poor pay and working conditions that precipitated them — each occurred in states without collective bargaining laws for public sector employees permitting fee payer provisions.

Ultimately, we don’t require lawyers, doctors, accountants or large corporations to provide services for free. We don’t forbid them from using the fees they do collect for political purposes. Yet when it comes to unions, the courts apply a very different standard.

Janus could take this double standard to an entirely new level by effectively forcing wage cuts on 5 million workers and shrinking our nation’s economy.

If that’s not judicial activism at its worst, what is?

Robert Bruno is a professor of labor and employment relations at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and serves as director of the University’s Labor and Education Program and the Project for Middle Class Renewal.


Madigan under fire again over handling of sexual harassment claims, asks for watchdog investigation
Chicago Tribune
Wednesday, May 23, 2018  |   Article  |   Monique Garcia
Sexual Harassment (96) Madigan, Michael--State House, 22

House Speaker Michael Madigan asked the legislature’s top watchdog to investigate allegations that his allies retaliated against a Democratic lawmaker, a move that could provide him some insulation as he remains under fire over sexual harassment claims in his political and government organizations.

Madigan’s request came hours after he sent a letter to North Side state Rep. Kelly Cassidy denying she was pressured to resign from a part-time job in Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart’s office. Her accusations could renew a party rift that emerged earlier this year and played out in the Democratic primary race for governor.

“I have never taken any action to interfere with your outside employment, and I have never directed anyone else to do so,” Madigan wrote to Cassidy. “I have no idea why you feel that I am somehow retaliating against you as a result of your criticisms, particularly given that I agreed to your requests for an outside counsel and an independent review.”

Cassidy has said she felt targeted by Madigan’s associates after she called in February for someone outside of Illinois to lead an inquiry into misconduct claims in his organizations. She said she did not believe an independent review could be conducted by a law firm the longtime speaker hired.

On Tuesday, she again questioned the ability of anyone within Illinois government and politics to operate with “true independence.” Legislative leaders including Madigan signed off on the appointment of Legislative Inspector General Julie Porter, who would conduct the investigation Madigan requested. Lawmakers approved her for the post after victims rights advocate Denise Rotheimer alleged that she was harassed by state Sen. Ira Silverstein. Rotheimer said her complaints went unanswered for nearly a year, a time when the inspector general post was left unfilled.

Porter’s contract originally ran through June 30, but it has been extended through the end of the year to provide time for a nationwide search for a replacement.

Cassidy said Madigan’s denial “really misses the forest for the trees,” saying the speaker doesn’t have to order people to intervene on his behalf because “this is the way the operation works.”

“We’re back to what I said back in February: lather, rinse, repeat,” she said. “This is the process, and if you stand up to him, if you speak out, someone will take care of it.”

Cassidy said Madigan chief of staff Tim Mapes called her supervisor at the sheriff’s office to inquire about her employment status in February. Cara Smith, Cassidy’s former supervisor in Dart’s office, confirmed that Mapes reached out. But she said she didn’t think it was unusual because they talk “from time to time.”

Cassidy said she believes the situation escalated when state Rep. Bob Rita, a Democrat from Blue Island, picked up sponsorship of a bill backed by Dart that would require inmates who repeatedly expose themselves while in custody to register as sex offenders. Cassidy, who opposes the bill, said it was unusual for Rita, a key ally of Madigan’s, to get involved so directly on criminal justice issues.

Smith said she also talked to Rita, who told her that Cassidy’s opposition was problematic in his efforts to pass the measure. Smith said Rita commented that if he worked for a politician but didn’t support that officeholder’s initiatives, “I probably wouldn’t have a job.” Smith said she viewed it as Rita “stating his experience.”

In his letter, Madigan wrote that no one from his office discussed that specific bill with Rita, “so I cannot comment on his concerns about your opposition to this legislation.”

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Rita denied raising Cassidy’s employment during discussions about the bill.

“I never had those conversations, what she is saying,” Rita said. “It was all limited to how do we get (the bill) through the criminal justice committee.”

Rita added that he was “surprised” Cassidy didn’t back the legislation, “seeing as it was a top legislative priority of the sheriff’s office and for women in the workplace.”

Cassidy’s latest allegations reopened questions about how Madigan has handled complaints of harassment that have surfaced amid the #MeToo movement that’s put a focus on sexual misconduct in the workplace.

After Madigan parted ways with two aides accused of harassment earlier this year, some Democrats called on him to step down from his post as head of the Democratic Party of Illinois. Madigan rejected those calls but told House Democrats he shoulders “responsibility” for failing to do more to ensure equality in the statehouse and on the campaign trail.

Madigan was overwhelmingly re-elected chairman of party last month. Afterward he said the outcry over sexual harassment in the workplace was a positive and “will make a better society.” Asked what he’s learned by talking to government and campaign employees about the political culture in Illinois, Madigan said: “Treat other people the way you want to be treated.”

On Tuesday, state Sen. Daniel Biss of Evanston took to Twitter to say the people of Illinois owe Cassidy “a huge debt of gratitude for having the guts and integrity to speak out.”

 

“And yes, the story is slightly complicated and you have to look carefully to see a smoking gun,” said Biss, who lost the Democratic nomination for governor to businessman J.B. Pritzker. “That’s by design and that’s how it always works. There’s a reason Madigan’s held on to power for so long.”

A Pritzker spokeswoman said in a statement that he believes Cassidy “must be heard and that there should immediately be an independent investigation.”

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, who is Madigan’s chief political nemesis, said Cassidy’s situation was “unacceptable.”

“This kind of corruption is what I fight every day,” Rauner said on Twitter.

Cassidy said it proves “things aren’t better” despite promises of change.

“I have a lot of privilege here. I have the safety of coming forward, and I have lost count of how many people have come to me and shared their stories and fear of coming forward because they fear retaliation. And here I stand, Exhibit A. And that’s not right,” Cassidy said.

Chicago Tribune’s Bill Lukitsch contributed.

mcgarcia@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @moniquegarcia


Morning Spin
Chicago Tribune
Wednesday, May 23, 2018  |   Editorial  |   Editorial Board

Chicago’s City Council meeting promises to draw a big crowd Wednesday, with the police union calling on members to descend on City Hall to protest and the Barack Obama Presidential Center proposal drawing both backers and opponents.

Aldermen also are set to consider using some of the $106 million from the sale of a city maintenance lot near Goose Island to help pay for a new $95 million police academy on the West Side. It’s a plan Mayor Rahm Emanuel and most aldermen support, but activists have repeatedly protested it, saying the money should instead go toward job training or childhood education programs.

Also on the agenda will be a measure to require the Council Office of Financial Analysis to do reports on the impact of ordinances that would affect the city’s bottom line, and aldermen are set to consider instituting fines and possible jail time for getting caught with weapons near nursing homes.

The council will vote on re-upping for a year a pilot program to legalize people selling clothing and other goods out of trucks, and the mayor’s office is set to introduce an ordinance to allow restaurants and bars to give Chicagoans the gift of winter al fresco drinking through 12-month sidewalk café permits. A group of aldermen will propose renaming Balbo Drive, too.

Plus, it’s the final council meeting for veteran Southwest Side Ald. Michael Zalewski, 23rd, who’s stepping down.

But the scene at City Hall could be the story.

The Fraternal Order of Police put out a letter last week urging off-duty officers to come to the meeting “to demand that Mayor Rahm Emanuel back the police.”

The Obama center plan for Jackson Park is set to come up for a vote, after hundreds of people packed into a Plan Commission meeting last week to testify for and against it.

And a small but vocal group of protesters against the police academy was removed from a council committee meeting Tuesday. (John Byrne)

What’s on tap

*Mayor Emanuel will preside over the City Council meeting.

*Gov. Bruce Rauner will have a morning news conference about safe driving.

*The Illinois House and Senate are in session.

*The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners will hold a hearing about the new automatic voter registration law.

From the notebook

*Auditor general’s previous campaign funds back as a dispute: Illinois’ Springfield-based Fourth District Appellate Court on Tuesday ruled that the State Board of Elections must reconsider issues involving the former campaign fund of state Auditor General Frank Mautino.

Previously, an elections board hearing officer found the former Democratic lawmaker “willfully” violated an order that he provide more information about his legislative committee’s spending — in particular more than $247,000 on fuel and car repairs over a 16-year period and other expenditures from a local bank.

Mautino faced a $5,000 fine, and his fund also was subject to a federal investigation. Mautino declined to testify during the board’s previous hearing process. His attorney contended that Mautino’s campaign committee was dissolved and no longer had records to back up the expenses.

But following an appeal brought by the Liberty Justice Center, the legal arm of the conservative Illinois Policy Institute, the Appellate Court ruled that the State Board of Elections “did not address or issue rulings” on some of the claims made in the complaint to the lack of specificity in Mautino’s campaign finance reports. The court sent the case back for further consideration. (Rick Pearson)

*Quick spins: Gov. Rauner’s campaign sent out a fundraising email based on Democratic candidate J.B. Pritzker’s “Blue Wave” fundraising pitch from the day before. “Illinois can’t afford a Blue Wave and we're working hard everyday to challenge the status quo and fight against the Madigan Machine — but Pritzker’s $5 million check is going to be tough to match.”

What we’re writing

*Madigan denies retaliating against Democratic lawmaker, asks for watchdog investigation.

*Aldermen advance plan setting threshold for City Council proposals requiring financial analysis.

What we’re reading

*After R. Kelly is a no-show in court — and his attorneys quit — Chicago judge tosses lawsuit.

*Wisconsin Supreme Court blocks concrete company from digging up American Indian burial mounds.

*Mike Ditka to speak at benefit for shuttered Indiana college that used to host Bears preseason camps.

Follow the money

*Third-party governor candidate Sam McCann reported a $100,000 contribution from the International Union of Operating Engineers’ political committee.

*Track Illinois campaign contributions in real time here and here.

Beyond Chicago

*Trump says North Korea summit could be delayed.

*Congress votes to roll back some banking rules.

*Immigration debate threatens Ryan.

*EU leaders grill Zuckerberg.


My college-educated sons had to leave Illinois to find good jobs
Chicago Tribune
Wednesday, May 23, 2018  |   Letter to Editor  |   Lori Lagerlof
Employment, Jobs (40)

I’d like to thank the Democratic leadership for all they have done to ensure a bright future for my children.

In 2012 my son graduated from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville and did not find a career-type first job in Illinois. Yes, retail or service industry positions were available, but he didn’t spend four years getting an international business degree for that purpose. Thankfully, we have family in Denver, and he stayed with them starting in January of 2013. Within three weeks he had a career-type job and in six months was in his own apartment. Two years ago, he met the woman he married on May 5. Career-wise, he is on his third position, making close to six figures, and has no intention of moving back to Illinois.

Is he an isolated case? No. My other son, graduated with honors from Valparaiso University in 2011, found work in Illinois, but was laid off in 2013. He joined the Army and became an officer. In 2016, he left the Army as a first lieutenant, found a career position in Indianapolis, and is doing very well with a salary in the high two figures. After moving, he noticed that most company parking lots were full of cars with Illinois license plates. He too has no intention of returning to Illinois.

I have several friends whose children have left Illinois and all are doing well. All are working as business professionals or in the medical field, in IT or as physicians. None will be returning.

I guess the grass really is greener on the other side of the fence.

— Lori Lagerlof, Springfield


Watchdog report: Rauner administration mismanaged patronage positions
Chicago Tribune
Wednesday, May 23, 2018  |   Article  |   Kim Geiger
Rauner, Bruce

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration was scolded by a top state watchdog for “serious mismanagement” that allowed seven state employees to hold patronage positions when their duties did not justify the special job titles, according to a report released Monday.

The Republican governor’s office also was reprimanded for providing incomplete information to executive inspector general investigators.

The report resulted in the two-week suspension of a manager and elimination of the positions at issue. A top Rauner aide who had been in charge of the Department of Central Management Services at the time of the improper hiring and employment took responsibility for “a general management failure” at the agency, according to the report. That former CMS director, Michael Hoffman, is now Rauner’s point person on the Legionnaires’ disease crisis at the Quincy veterans home.

The use of exempt positions long has been controversial. In 2014, a state ethics investigator found that then-Gov. Pat Quinn had presided over hundreds of improper hirings of politically connected workers at the Department of Transportation. Then-candidate Rauner made it a campaign issue, calling Quinn a “phony reformer” and vowing that he would work “to root out Pat Quinn’s patronage and corruption.”

The probe focused on positions within the state’s Bureau of Property Management that were given a special classification that made them exempt from rules that are designed to keep politics out of state hiring. Such positions are valuable because they allow the governor to hire people who are aligned politically to develop and carry out policies.

The watchdog found that seven employees who were hired as “regional client managers” were not performing work that would justify their special job descriptions, and that their direct supervisors were unaware of the situation.

The report called it “shocking” that “for years no one at CMS identified this issue, brought it to anyone’s attention, or took any action to fix the problem.” While noting that it “did not find evidence that Governor’s Office staff placed individuals into exempt positions knowing they would not be doing exempt work,” the watchdog said it did find that the governor’s office “did not prioritize this issue and believed it was someone else’s responsibility.”

A deputy director who was supposed to be the direct supervisor to the employees told investigators that he was unfamiliar with their job duties and had never met with most of them. He was suspended for 14 days without pay, and “formally counseled on his responsibilities,” according to a letter the governor’s office sent to the inspector general in response to its report.

Hoffman, took responsibility for the problem. “Had I known about the situation earlier, I would have taken action at that time,” he wrote in a letter to the executive ethics commission.

The governor’s office acknowledged that the workers were improperly employed and said that it had acted quickly to eliminate the positions once it became aware of the problem, according to the report.

The positions were eliminated at the end of 2017, and six of the seven workers have left state government. The seventh was informed that his position will be eliminated once a suitable replacement can be found, the governor’s office said in its letter to the inspector general.

The report highlighted “an underlying issue that requires further attention: a sense from many individuals interviewed, including individuals in key personnel functions, that it is not their responsibility to ensure that State employees are performing the duties in their job descriptions, to revise job descriptions that are inaccurate, or to identify when (an exempt) position is unwarranted or improper,” the letter said.

kgeiger@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @kimgeiger


When Chicago schools close: How to help students thrive
Chicago Tribune
Wednesday, May 23, 2018  |   Editorial  |   Editorial Board
Chicago--Schools (18)

Chicago Public Schools leaders closed about 50 elementary schools five years ago and scattered nearly 12,000 students to other schools. Ever since, one question has loomed large: How did those students fare academically?

Remember, CPS’ aim was not just to close underenrolled schools but to transfer students to higher-performing “welcoming” schools, where they’d benefit from a better education.

On Tuesday, the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research released a large-scale study on the performance of those students and their classmates at welcoming schools. The researchers focused on changes in attendance, suspensions, core GPA and test scores.

Our takeaway: Despite dire warnings from union leaders and other opponents, most students adjusted well. But there were bumps.

The key points:

  • The move didn’t affect students’ attendance or suspension rates. That’s important. Some educators had worried that truancy would soar and that new students would be suspended at higher levels because they had difficulty fitting in to a different school or because they feared crossing dangerous territory to get there.
  • Reading and math standardized test scores for displaced students were up, but lower than expected. Reading scores have rebounded, but math scores remain slightly lower than expected even after four years. Researchers aren’t sure why.
  • The impact on students already in the welcoming school was minimal. Their reading scores dipped lower than expected for a year but quickly recovered.

Closing that many schools quickly, while making sure students are dispatched safely to new schools, is a formidable task. The study suggests that uncertainty and anger around closing schools distracted many students, teachers and parents. Student test scores likely reflected that anxiety.

School staffers told researchers that CPS’ planning process was too “chaotic,” leaving them feeling unprepared for the big move. Because of that, “administrators and teachers end up spending too much time unpacking, looking for the right materials, and cleaning and fixing up the building space so that it is ready for the start of the school year, rather than on focusing on instructional planning and creating optimal learning environments for students,” Molly Gordon, the study’s lead author, tells us.

We’re sure many Chicagoans hope that the 2013 school closings are the last. Unfortunately, they aren’t likely to be. The district’s enrollment continues to decline. Too many schools, including high schools, are half-empty or worse. Money follows students. That’s one reason many near-abandoned schools aren’t able to offer students a full, robust curriculum.

This report, and its companion from 2015, provide CPS leaders a blueprint for how to help students thrive when schools close. One key: Focus on making sure displaced students go to much better schools, not just marginally better ones. Many of the displaced students in 2013 didn’t go to the best CPS schools because there wasn’t enough space in them or because parents decided a longer trip to a higher-quality school would be onerous or dangerous.

In response to the report, CPS CEO Janice Jackson said in a statement, “The district has no plans for large-scale school closures.”

That’s not a surprising pronouncement close to a mayoral election. Shuttering a school is wrenching for neighborhood residents — and for students and teachers. Multiply that by 50, and the odds for disaster grow. Fortunately, that didn’t happen with thousands of students in 2013.

But closing schools shouldn’t be a massive, once-in-a-generation event. Closures should be managed carefully — in smaller numbers — every year, as long as many schools struggle to fill seats and offer a high-quality education to students.


Gambling on our future
Daily Herald
Wednesday, May 23, 2018  |   Letter to Editor  |   Bob Ory
Gambling, Gaming

It's not millions of dollars that's bet illegally each year on sporting events in this country it's billions, with a "b." And furthermore those same dollars go completely untaxed.

But now that the Supreme Court has made it possible for every state in the union to collect these tax dollars, it's time for Illinois to step up and pass legislation to make it possible. Not tomorrow mind you, but today -- if not sooner.

And while people will argue that there are already plenty of state-sponsored gambling opportunities the fact remains that these illegal wagers are being placed anyway (and not always in the safest venues).

Like the naiveté that accompanied the concept of Prohibition or the legalization of pot, it's time to stop thinking in terms of what is or isn't virtuous and begin to comprehend our state's dire financial situation.

If placing a few additional betting windows in casinos, racetracks and betting parlors means more revenue for our underfunded educational system or crumbling infrastructure, why not?

Bob Ory

Elgin


Time to get serious about protecting our kids in schools
Daily Herald
Wednesday, May 23, 2018  |   Editorial  |   Editorial Board
Education reform (38)

In the wake of yet another school shooting, it is an embarrassment even to frame the rhetorical question: How many of our children must die before we will act to make them safe at school?

The lives of elementary and high school students have become caught up in the drive to protect the sanctity of a constitutional amendment and society's inability to reconcile cultural habits and behavioral controls. Yet, we refuse to believe that fear for the security of our children is an unavoidable cost of freedom. And, we refuse to accept that there is hope to be found somewhere in the present strategy of combined argument, insult, statutory cosmetics, political pretense, platitudes, thoughts and prayers. We need action from many fronts and we surely must not delay further.

Why then do we on the Daily Herald editorial board find ourselves calling for the creation of a statewide task force on school security? The "blue ribbon task force" is a process that often is used to stall, rather than stir, action on an important issue and to produce ideas that politicians ignore while pretending to show concern. But that does not have to be, and if any issue cries out for urgency and clarity of objectives, it must be the deaths of eight students and two teachers in Santa Fe, Texas, along with all the deaths, injuries and disrupted lives that preceded them in schools across the country.

In that spirit, we urge Gov. Bruce Rauner and state leaders not to waste a minute to produce effective, manageable strategies for protecting our children at school. We have, presumably, a summer's respite before we will again begin handing our children over to institutions whose abilities to protect them have been proven inadequate time and again. We must use that time to find something better.

We can find something better by bringing together the best minds of our state, the most experienced security experts and top administrators, teachers, social scientists, counselors, activists and community leaders, then assigning them this task:

By the end of August, review the available research on mental health, social media, gun violence and school security measures from around the world and make specific recommendations in two formats -- one, addressed to schools, describing specific safety measures that all schools should implement to minimize the chance for a school shooting event and to respond effectively if one occurs; and two, addressed to lawmakers, describing gun controls and other laws that data and experience elsewhere show to be effective.

This is, we know, a lot to ask in a short amount of time in the tainted environment of a statewide election campaign. But we also know that nothing of value is accomplished without a deadline and any deadline beyond the start of the next school year could be too late. We need to set politics aside and apply unwavering focus on finding solutions. Citizens and leaders of true goodwill can find a way to do that.

In the meantime, if schools aren't already planning such an activity, they should spend the summer conducting a safety audit to review the procedures they have in place now. They should prepare to start the next year with clear guidelines and practices that are well-publicized to students, parents and the community and fully ingrained in the staff and all personnel. They should identify physical structures, security personnel, floor plans, doorway policies and any other physical conditions they can control to protect against an armed intruder.

The best safety strategy Illinois' political leaders can come up with at the moment is a highly politicized pretense of concern managing the licensing of gun dealers. Every speed bump that slows down a potential mass killer has some value, of course, and as we have long advocated, an ultimate solution will require some regulation of gun ownership and handling. But we need more than speed bumps, and we already have exhausted too much valuable time quarreling over where to find the perfect balance between one person's right to own a gun and another's right to live.

Indeed, that very conversation has devolved into a caustic and ineffectual exchange of insults. We cannot allow that to continue. We must reshape the conversation about guns to recognize that, regardless of how firmly we oppose or support gun control, our common interest is in the joys, growth and safety of our children and our communities. We must concentrate on the actions we can take to protect them. Governor, state lawmakers, school leaders ... we must wait no longer.

Let's get the wheels in motion for producing real solutions and set the timetable for putting the solutions in place. Let's put behind us once and for all the need for further embarrassing questions about our commitment to the safety of our kids.


Other View: Don't turn back the clock on death penalty in Illinois
Effingham Daily News
Wednesday, May 23, 2018  |   Column  |  
Death penalty (27a) , Rauner, Bruce

Sauk Valley Media

Illinois has not executed anyone in almost 20 years. We don't need to bring the practice back now.

That's what Gov. Bruce Rauner has proposed, however, in his amendatory veto of a gun-control measure that would require a 3-day waiting period before a person can purchase an assault rifle. Rauner wants the death penalty reinstated in Illinois for people convicted of heinous crimes such as killing police or multiple murders.

To Rauner's credit, his proposal appears to be a legitimate attempt at compromise with Democrats who control the state Legislature. Not only is Rauner willing to agree to the extended waiting period, his rewrite of the bill proposes a ban on bump stocks, which can simulate automatic fire. It also calls for a process allowing police to seize the weapons of people who are deemed dangerous.

Reopening death row in 2018 would be impractical and expensive, and would put Illinois on the wrong side of the trend around the country when it comes to executions.

Although it is still permitted in a majority of states, more states are abandoning capital punishment. Illinois is one of 6 states to abandon the practice since 2007. Others, such as Washington and Delaware, have seen executions halted, much as they were in Illinois for years before capital punishment was formally abolished.

Those states that still impose the ultimate penalty are having a harder time doing it. The state of Alabama had to settle with a man it tried to execute in February after failing to kill him after almost 3 hours trying. The state also had to abandon plans to execute him.

Oklahoma botched an execution in 2014, causing a man to writhe in pain for about 20 minutes because the lethal injection drugs didn't work. The condemned man later died of a heart attack.

Drug companies have protested the use of their medicines for lethal injection purposes. The lack of supply has led to delays in executions in states such as South Carolina.

The death penalty, as it is applied in 2018, usually involves repeated appeals. It provides more publicity for sinister people convicted of despicable crimes. Sometimes, it ends with the state killing in the name of the people.

That's only provided it can get its hands on the drugs needed to kill, and the procedure can be performed properly.

None of that is guaranteed, nor is it guaranteed that the person executed will actually be guilty of the crime for which they are paying an irreversible penalty.

Illinois removed itself from this situation years ago. There's no need for the state to go back to executing people.


Residents take aim at sanctuary resolutions
Effingham Daily News
Wednesday, May 23, 2018  |   Article  |  
Guns and Gun Control, FOID, Concealed Carry (46) , Local Government (60)

An Effingham County resident and others took aim Monday at the county's recent sanctuary resolution and another that is being proposed.

Funkhouser resident Lindy Schmidt read a statement during the Effingham County Board meeting that criticized the board's recent resolution declaring the county a sanctuary for gun owners, as well as the proposed resolution to make the county a sanctuary for the unborn.

"Whereas, the Effingham County Board has many important responsibilities to our community, including setting and collecting local taxes, overseeing the county budget, maintaining our roads, and negotiating contracts on our behalf; the current county board instead chooses to spend its limited time and resources on issues over which it has no regulatory authority. Perhaps it is time for a new county board," the statement reads.

Schmidt said the intent of the statement representing herself and others applied to both resolutions and declined further comment.

The gun resolution was reinforced by a speech from Iroquois County Board Member Chad McGinnis during the meeting. He crafted the resolution that Effingham County used as a model. The sanctuary county element was added by Effingham County State's Attorney Bryan Kibler and drew national attention.

McGinnis said he wrote the resolution after hearing complaints from residents and business owners, added to by his concern. He said the decision to use a resolution was based on a study of government policies.

"That's how lower talks to higher," he told the Daily News, adding it's a way for downstate counties to have their voices heard.

McGinnis' resolution targeted four bills he thought were fundamentally flawed. The bills appeared to be introduced entirely for show, said McGinnis, but were taken seriously by the Chicago block of legislators.

One of the bills would make it illegal for those under the age of 21 to own "assault weapons."

"People were afraid it would make their kids instant felons," he said.

That would mean his 18-year-old daughter would be an instant felon for continuing to own an AR-15 and there is no mechanism for surrendering a weapon, he said.

McGinnis said his board has been asked to become a sanctuary county for gun owners, but is holding back until more pressure is needed on state legislators.

In another matter Monday, the board discussed the unexpected early retirement of Effingham County Treasurer Steven Dasenbrock.

Dasenbrock did not seek re-election this year and planned to retire when his term ended in December. He is currently employed at a local company and instead intends to retire by June 30, which is during one of the busiest times of the office. He suggested staying on until Sept. 22 at the latest.

"There is no door No. 3," he told the board.

Dasenbrock would like his chief deputy Mary Behl to take over. However, that could be a complication, according to Effingham County Clerk Kerry Hirtzel. The election code requires an appointee to be of the same party. Although Behl is a Democrat, she voted Republican in the last election to support primary candidate for treasurer, Paula Miller. Miller, chief bookkeeper and longtime employee in the office, won the primary. A replacement for an elected position is typically recommended by the outgoing person's party.

The plan for his replacement was referred to the legislative committee for additional consideration.

One employee who recently retired was thanked for her service Monday.

Joyce Worman served as the county board's office administrator for 15 years.

"I think I speak for all previous county boards when I say you were the glue that holds us together," said Effingham County Board Chairman Jim Niemann.

Worman worked for 22 different board members during her time there and her departure was repeatedly lamented by board member Rob Arnold.

"In spite of some challenges, it was really fun working here," Worman told the Daily News.

She said in her time the county has become more focused on transparency.

In other business, the county board approved money for signage at TREC Trail that will make it easier for first responders to respond to an emergency on the trail.

Shumway Fire Protection District approached the 911 telecommunications board as a result of problems with response to emergency calls to people on the TREC Trail. The problem was that people did not know where they were with enough accuracy to assist first responders in locating them.

The paths on the trail are now named, with a color assigned to each path. The signs will designate the name, color and distance of each path, allowing for a more accurate response. The board approved paying $2,380 for the signs, which are to be attached to existing signposts in the system.

Also Monday, the board approved a $764,100 project to resurface 1775th Road, south of Teutopolis, beginning at Illinois Route 33 and ending about 1.5 miles north at East State Street. There has been severe rutting, hydroplaning and other problems on the road, said Effingham County Engineer Greg Koester.

Due to the bulk of the project being federally funded, the county's portion is estimated at $16,920.


Lincoln foundation turns to GoFundMe to save historic collection
Illinois Watchdog.Org
Wednesday, May 23, 2018  |   Article  |   By Benjamin Yount
Libraries/literacy (80c)


Lincoln GoFundMe
Image courtesy of GoFundMe

Good news, Illinois' Abraham Lincoln GoFundMe page is the top earning Lincoln project on the fundraising site. 

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation has raised almost $7,000. That's more than the $260 raised by Abraham Lincoln School No. 6 in Garfield, New Jersey. And more than the $0 that a Lincoln impersonator has raised. 

The head of Illinois' Lincoln foundation said the GoFundMe page, which aims to raise almost $10 million, is a serious effort. 

Foundation CEO Carla Knorowski said people can chuckle if they like, but she said the foundation is looking everywhere that it can to find the money to pay off its debt. 

"We wanted to give the opportunity for all people to access this campaign, and be a part of saving these artifacts. However they can access that," Knorowski said. "And in some cases that's GoFundMe."

Knorowski said the foundation has already raised $13 million from donors, but needs to raise $9.7 million more to pay off a 2007 loan. That loan was used to buy a collection of Lincoln artifacts including a top hat worn by the president, his White House china and locks of Lincoln's hair. 

If the group can't come up with the money, Knorowski said the foundation may be forced to sell some Lincoln artifacts to cover their debt. 

"If we allow even one artifact to leave," Knorowski explained. "Can we hold our heads up high and call ourselves the Land of Lincoln?"

Knorowski said the foundation's loan is due in October 2019. The foundation raised nearly $7,000 in the first week of the campaign. 

GoFundMe charges a 2.9 percent payment processing fee plus a 30-cent charge per donation. That means it would cost the foundation nearly $280,000 in fees to raise the full amount.


Madigan calls for investigation after fresh accusations of retaliation from Chicago Democrat
Illinois Watchdog.Org
Wednesday, May 23, 2018  |   Article  |   By Greg Bishop
Ethics, Campaign Reform, Transparency (12a) , Sexual Harassment (96) , Whistleblowers (12a) Cassidy, Kelly--State House, 14 , Madigan, Michael--State House, 22 , Rita, Robert "Bob"--State House, 28
House Speaker Michael Madigan has asked the Legislative Inspector General to investigate claims from a Chicago Democrat who said she felt pressured to quit her part-time job at the Cook County Sheriff's Office after she publicly questioned the handling of harassment complaints inside the speaker's legislative and political operations.

State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, was critical of Madigan’s handling of sexual harassment, retaliation and intimidation claims in his political and statehouse operations in February. She had called for “an independent investigation into this culture that appears to pervade the organizations led by ... Madigan.”

“The slow and steady drip of accusations and dismissals has turned into an endless cycle of lather, rinse, repeat, highlighting the culture of harassment in the legislature and political campaigns,” Cassidy said in a statement after Madigan detailed some of the claims brought against his organizations.

Former political aide Alaina Hampton accused Madigan's allies of covering up her internal complaints about repeated unwanted advances by her direct supervisor during the 2016 election campaign. Only after the story was set to appear in the Chicago Tribune earlier this year did Madigan fire the supervisor. Hampton has a federal case against Madigan’s operations pending in court. She also filed an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint.

Cassidy was critical of how the situation was handled back in February. She said it all came back to Madigan, who is chairman of the state’s Democratic party in addition to being speaker of the House.

Cassidy said a call from a Madigan operative to her supervisor at the Cook County Sheriff’s Office regarding her employment status shortly after her criticism of Madigan was chilling. She said her colleague, state Rep. Bob Rita, D-Blue Island, then asked how she could oppose a bill that would help her boss.

Rita denied trying to intimidate Cassidy. He also denied saying that to Cassidy, but said “her opposition in learning that she’s working for the sheriff and this being a top legislative priority really surprised me.”

Cassidy said the two instances showed a pattern.

“What I realized was that those two events combined were very clear to me that this was the point of leverage,” she said. “This was the weapon they had to use against me for having the audacity to speak out.”

Cassidy took that weapon away by quitting her part-time job. She blamed Madigan.

“Because the message is very clear: Speak out against the speaker and people very loyal to him will come after you,” Cassidy said.

Madigan’s office declined to comment directly on Cassidy’s claims, but the speaker denied the claims in a letter to Democratic members of the House. Cassidy confirmed receiving the letter, but said she doesn’t buy it.

“It really misses the forest for the trees,” she said.

Cassidy said Madigan called her in to a meeting earlier this year and denied having anything to do with a dirt-digging operation that Hampton spoke about publicly.

“‘I 100 percent believe you,' ” she said she told the speaker, “‘You didn’t order [it] because you didn't have to. This is the way the operation works and I know that you believe that that one step removal is enough, but it isn’t enough anymore. You own this.’ ”

“He owns this too,” she said.

Later Tuesday, a spokesman for Madigan's office shared a letter with reporters that Madigan sent to Julie Porter, the special legislative inspector general, which handles allegations of wrongdoing against state lawmakers. 

"I am writing to ask that you investigate recent allegations of possible sexual harassment and retaliation," Madigan wrote. "The allegations center around two events: (1) an inquiry about [Cassidy's] outside employment made by my Chief of Staff, Tim Mapes, and (2) Representative Bob Rita's sponsorship of legislation and his comments to her and Sheriff (Tom) Dart. Myself and my staff will cooperate with any investigation into this matter." 

Cassidy said she had been getting encouragement privately from people who feel they can’t speak out at the capitol.

“As I walk through the building today I can’t go very far before I run into a staffer or a lobbyist or someone who pulls me into a hug and whispers ‘thank you for saying what I can’t say,’ and that’s heartbreaking,” Cassidy said. “And that’s heartbreaking but I stand here as Exhibit A that they’re right to be cautious.”

Asked if Madigan should continue to serve as speaker of the House, Cassidy said that was a matter for another time.

“We’ll see what happens in January. That’s not a question for today,” Cassidy said. “For today I want to get through the rest of session and do my job … in peace and with the freedom to represent my constituents in the best way that I can.”


Wednesday hearing to focus on other Rauner public safety proposals
Illinois Watchdog.Org
Wednesday, May 23, 2018  |   Article  |   By Greg Bishop
Governor (44) , Guns and Gun Control, FOID, Concealed Carry (46) Carroll, Jonathon -- State House, 57
The Illinois House is set to hear testimony about a slew of measures Gov. Bruce Rauner has raised to enhance public safety, and among them is freeing up money for armed school resource officers.

The House heard the governor’s plan Monday to bring back the death penalty for cop killers and mass murderers, but other issues the governor injected in a bill he changed with his amendatory veto are slated for a Wednesday hearing.

Rauner said Monday his plan will increase the safety of school children and all citizens.

“Seventy-two hour waiting period for all guns, not just handguns,” Rauner said.

The bill Rauner changed, House Bill 1468, increased the waiting period for certain semi-automatic rifles and shotguns to 72 hours, not 24 hours. Handguns already have a 72-hour wait period. Rauner’s amendatory veto would increase that to 72 hours for all guns HB1468 didn’t include, such as bolt action rifles.

“Making sure we have truth in sentencing and there aren’t plea bargains that let dangerous violent offenders back on the streets too early,” Rauner said of another element he proposed.

Rauner also wants to ban bump stocks.

Another policy he proposed would be to free up school facility money to be used for certain personnel.

“Highly trained, highly skilled professional security in schools to protect the students and teachers, but also mental health professionals that could be counseling students and hopefully identifying issues before they develop into larger problems,” Rauner said.

Last week, Rauner praised Dixon High School resource officer Mark Dallas, who shot and injured a school shooting suspect before the suspect could injure any students at the school who were rehearsing for graduation.

The sponsor of the bill Rauner changed, state Rep. Jonathan Carroll, said he’s open to the conversation.

“There’s some very important stuff in there,” Carroll, D-Buffalo Grove, said. “I’m about public safety. I’m about the process of public safety, so let’s talk about these issues.”

Asked if he’ll file legislation to separate things like wait times for purchasing guns or freeing resources for school resources officers from something like the death penalty for cop killers and mass murderers, Carroll said he’ll wait and see.

“We’re going to hear the testimony and we’ll see where we go from there,” Carroll said.

The hearing for Rauner's changes to HB 1468 and for Senate Bill 2580 – House Floor Amendment 1, which mirrors the governor’s AV language, is expected Wednesday.

 


Illinois Democrats grill Rauner aide on death penalty plan
Joliet Herald News
Wednesday, May 23, 2018  |   Article  |  
Death penalty (27a) , Rauner, Bruce

SPRINGFIELD – Democratic legislators grilled a top aide to Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner on Monday over a compromise plan to reinstate the death penalty in exchange for even stricter gun restrictions than the ones the Legislature approved.

Rauner used his veto powers last week to insert the capital punishment language, along with measures that include extending the waiting period on all guns from 24 to 72 hours, into a bill both chambers approved with veto-proof majorities. The original bill would impose the restriction just for assault-style weapons.

The prospect of returning capital punishment is a long shot in Illinois, where executions were halted in 2000 when then-Gov. George Ryan warned of “the demon of error.” While 12 men were executed in Illinois after death sentences were re-established in 1977, 13 were freed because of errors or insufficient evidence.

The House Judiciary-Criminal Committee hearing included an impassioned plea to retain the prohibition on executions from Karen Yarbrough, the Cook County recorder of deeds, who as a state representative sponsored the abolition legislation. Committee Democrats closely questioned Illinois State Police Director Leo Schmitz and David Risely, Rauner’s director of criminal justice and public safety policy, who argued that Rauner’s plan is “specifically crafted” to remedy past problems.

In the amendatory veto, the first-term governor added a provision to restore capital punishment for mass murderers and those who kill police officers. It would apply only in cases where a jury finds guilt beyond all doubt – not just “reasonable doubt,” as is the current criminal standard.

Lawmakers can accept Rauner’s changes with a simple majority vote in both chambers, reject them and enact the original bill with a three-fifths majority, or do nothing, which would kill both versions. Rep. Jonathon Carroll, the Northbrook Democrat who sponsored the initial waiting-period legislation, would not say what path he would take next.

Rauner had assigned a task force to study the matter of gun violence but didn’t wait for its recommendations before unveiling his own plan, another point of irritation for Rep. Kathleen Willis, who sponsored a gun-dealer licensing bill that Rauner vetoed earlier this spring. She called Rauner’s amendatory veto language a “poison pill.”

“Instead of sitting back and being like a punching bag for critics, he wanted to lay on the table what he was for, affirmatively, instead of just playing defense, and so this was the manner in which he chose to do so,” Risely said.

Besides the longer waiting period for all guns, Rauner’s plan would ban bump stocks and trigger cranks, which speed up firing rates – another action preferred by Democrats. It also would authorize confiscation of weapons for those deemed dangerous, find local money for police and mental health officers in schools and require judges in violent gun cases to explain their rationale for approving plea agreements which result in reduced sentences.

Rob Warden, who has spent years exposing wrongful convictions as a journalist and academic, told lawmakers that even a “limited” death penalty is ripe for lawmakers’ expansion. When Illinois restored capital punishment in 1977, there were six “aggravating factors,” or legal determinations that, if met, could warrant a death sentence, Warden said. When it was abolished, there were 20.

Warden said 19 states have eliminated capital punishment and 21 that have it haven’t executed anyone in five years.

“Restoring the death penalty in Illinois would put us squarely on the wrong side of history,” Warden said.


Letter: Lessons learned from death of Sema'j Crosby
Joliet Herald News
Wednesday, May 23, 2018  |   Letter to Editor  |  
Children, Teens (19) McGuire, Pat--State Senate, 43
ditor's note: Sen. Pat McGuire issued a correction for this letter. McGuire referred to Sema'j Crosby's death as a murder in error, according to a news release from his office.

To the editor:

Lessons learned from the April 2017 murder of 17-month old Sema’j Crosby motivated recent General Assembly action to protect children.

The Illinois Senate on May 17 passed House Bill 4885, which make children under five in families receiving Department of Children & Family Services (DCFS) Intact Family Services automatically eligible for the state’s childcare program. HB 4885 also makes these children who are under age three eligible for Early Intervention, the state program to identify and address disabilities and developmental delays. 

This legislation benefits families investigated by DCFS in three ways:

Children will receive quality childcare from trained professionals in approved settings; Children will receive treatment as necessary for behavior, movement and learning problems;

Parents will be able to devote their days to parenting classes, physical and behavioral health treatment, and other supportive activities.

HB 4885, of which I am the Senate chief sponsor, earlier passed the Illinois House. It now awaits the Governor’s signature to become law.

Sincerely,

Pat McGuire

State Senator, District 43


Local state senators and representatives to hold joint town hall meeting
Joliet Herald News
Wednesday, May 23, 2018  |   Article  |  
Bertino-Tarrant, Jennifer--State Senate, 49 , Manley, Natalie--State House, 98 , McGuire, Pat--State Senate, 43

If you’re a taxpayer in Will County or surrounding communities and want to know about what’s going on in state government, you can hear directly from your representatives at a town hall meeting next month.

State Sens. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant and Pat McGuire, along with state Reps. John Connor and Natalie Manley, will hold their joint annual meeting to discuss 2018 legislative issues at 6:30 p.m. June 12 at the Fountaindale Library in Bolingbrook. The library is at 300 W. Briarcliff Road in Bolingbrook.

The joint town hall meeting is open to the public, and anyone with questions or concerns can join the senators and representatives.

The senators’ and representatives’ districts include these communities in Will County: Joliet, Plainfield, Bolingbrook, Romeoville, Shorewood, Crest Hill, Channahon, Elwood, Rockdale, Ingalls Park, Preston Heights, Fairmont and Naperville. Bertino-Tarrant’s district also reaches into parts of Kendall County in communities such as Oswego, Boulder Hill, Montgomery and Aurora.

The issues capturing headlines in Springfield as of late include the Senate passing a new gun-dealer licensing plan to regulate firearms dealers and Gov. Bruce Rauner proposing to reinstate the death penalty for mass killers and people who kill police officers.

For information or to submit questions ahead of time, contact Bertino-Tarrant’s Plainfield office at 815-254-4211.


EPA pollution testing on lawns in La Salle
LaSalle News Tribune
Wednesday, May 23, 2018  |   Article  |  
Environment (41)

Contractors for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency measure a tree May 15 at a residential property in the 1000 block of Marquette Street, La Salle.

Based on preliminary results from samples taken earlier this year, the EPA is drawing designs of properties that might require cleanup near the Matthiessen and Hegeler Zinc Co. Superfund site.

The EPA has received access agreements from more than half of property owners in an area that is roughly eight-by-nine blocks. Replacement of contaminated soil is expected to start next year, according to the EPA.


Illinois cuts back on boating regulations with June 1 law changes
LaSalle News Tribune
Wednesday, May 23, 2018  |   Article  |  
Natural resources (23) , Rivers (23)

Every single one of the 140 canoes at Ayers Landing had a new water usage stamp placed on it at the beginning of the boating season.

But by June 1, the stamps will be useless.

Illinois has repealed the “Water Usage Stamp” required for all non-motorized watercraft (canoes, kayaks, etc.) effective at the start of next month.

The stickers cost $6 plus a 50 cent agent fee.

“We’d already bought (the stamps) before they told us we won’t need them,” said Bickett, who owns and operates Ayers Landing, a canoe rental spot on the Fox River near Wedron.

Bickett said the state still required the stickers before June 1 this year or boaters would be at risk of a ticket. But he said the law change would be more convenient in the future.

“It will save us money,” he said.

Along with the water usage stamp, Illinois has a few new changes to boating laws, which take effect in June.

More on usage stamps

At Debo Ace Hardware in Peru, sales of the water usage stamp have been very slow leading up to its final days of existence.

“We’ve sold a couple of them,” said Dana Debo-Kuhne. “It was never a very popular item to begin with.”

In 2016, Illinois sold about 58,000 of the stamps, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources latest annual boating report.

But if the stamp is no longer needed, what do kayakers or canoers have to do to get on the water?

The answer is nothing — unless they want to.

“It is recommended to register your boat, just in case something were to happen,” said IDNR spokesman Ed Cross.

He said registering a kayak or canoe with the state shows proof that the craft is yours, which can be helpful in the case of loss, theft or accidents. However, it is not a requirement.

Nic Keegan, a partner with Hennepin Marine, said the lack of record keeping could end up problematic if a boat owner does need to be located by IDNR.

“Now we’ll have boats that have no ID other than the hull number,” he said.

That is why both Cross and Keegan recommended the registration process.

Cross said three year registration is $18, which would be a similar price to purchasing the water usage stamp each year.

The state made the change to the stamp provision because it had issues sticking to boats and fading in the sun, Cross said.

“We received a lot of complaints from folks about the stamp,” he said.

+1 
DSC_0028.JPG

Jin Guo of Chicago stretches to get in his boat after launching at the Starved Rock ramp Tuesday morning. 

No title necessary

If your boat is under 22 feet in length, you will no longer need proof that you own it.

One change affecting boaters of both motorized or self-propelled boats is they will no longer need a certificate of title if the watercraft is not more than 22 feet long.

“That does affect a lot of our boat owners,” Keegan said. “But we’re going to continue to title these boats. And we encourage all boat owners to do the same thing.”

Again, Keegan said the certificate of title is a good thing to have because it shows proof that you are the owner.

“And it’s a minimal cost,” he said, adding that is a $10 charge.

Longer expiration dates

The final change to the Illinois Boat Registration and Safety Act is the expiration date change for Illinois watercraft registrations. The date change is simply pushed back from June 30 to Sept. 30. For example, all watercraft owners who renew their three-year registrations that are expiring June 30 will have a valid registration until Sept. 30, 2021, according to IDNR.


Mautino campaign flap back to Elections Board
LaSalle News Tribune
Wednesday, May 23, 2018  |   Article  |  
Auditor General (21) Mautino, Frank--State House, 76

Frank Mautino’s campaign spending dispute isn’t finished after all. An appeals court ruled Tuesday that the Streator man who questioned Mautino’s records didn’t get a fair shake from the state Board of Elections.

The 4th District Appellate Court in Springfield agreed to send the Mautino case back to the Elections Board and further gave the board two instructions.

First, the board is to revisit and rule on Streator resident David Cooke’s claims that Mautino’s former election committee violated the election code with respect to overspending for services and his use of vehicles.

Second, the appeals court directed the board to amend last year’s order showing Mautino’s committee violated the campaign disclosure requirements.

“Obviously, I’m happy with the appellate ruling,” Cooke said this morning when reached for comment. He deferred additional comment to attorney Jeffrey Schwab of the Liberty Justice Center, who argued the Springfield appeal and who could not be immediately reached for comment.

A Mautino spokesman said there would be no immediate comment. A lawyer for the state Board of Elections also did not return calls before press time this morning.

Cooke had raised a complaint over many years’ of Mautino campaign expenditures, all from when the Spring Valley Democrat served in the Illinois House of Representatives.

Most complaints took issue with fuel and auto service receipts valued at more than $200,000. Last year, the elections board found enough reporting problems that a $5,000 fine was leveled against Mautino’s elections campaign. The fine was never paid; the campaign was disbanded, leaving no entity to pay the fine.

Unsatisfied, Cooke appealed. Cooke argued in part that the case is precedent-setting and there needed to be a fuller and clearer response from the Elections Board. Mautino’s lawyers argue in turn Cooke won and persuaded the board to level a fine (even if nobody paid it) and that should be the end of it.

The 4th District sided with Cooke. In a 32-page ruling, the court agreed there were procedural errors that demanded a fresh look by the state Board of Elections.

“Here, it is clear the Board did not address or issue rulings on Cooke’s claims (about the vehicles) following the closed preliminary hearing,” the board said.


Democratic lawmaker says she quit side job because she felt pressure from Madigan allies
State Journal Register
Wednesday, May 23, 2018  |   Article  |   Monique Garcia, Chicago Tribune (TNS)
Cassidy, Kelly--State House, 14

A Democratic state lawmaker has resigned from her part-time job at Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart’s office, saying she felt pressured to leave after speaking out about how claims of sexual harassment were handled at the Capitol.

 

Rep. Kelly Cassidy, a Democrat from the North Side, said she submitted her resignation last week because she felt allies of House Speaker Michael Madigan were targeting her position. The sheriff’s office, though, contends Cassidy left amid a “philosophical difference” over legislation Dart is pushing to increase penalties for inmates who repeatedly expose themselves while in custody.

 

In February, Cassidy called for an independent investigation of harassment claims lodged against Madigan’s government and political operations, questioning Democratic lawmakers’ abilities to conduct a fair probe. Cassidy said Madigan chief of staff Tim Mapes called the sheriff’s office to inquire about her employment status shortly after she spoke out.

 

“It felt like a warning,” Cassidy said.

 

Attempts to contact Mapes on Monday were unsuccessful. Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said he was not aware of details of Cassidy’s allegations.

 

Cara Smith, Cassidy’s former supervisor in Dart’s office, confirmed that Mapes reached out but said she didn’t think it was unusual because they talk “from time to time.”

Cassidy said she believes the situation escalated when Rep. Bob Rita, a Democrat from Blue Island, picked up sponsorship of a bill backed by Dart that would require inmates who repeatedly expose themselves while in custody to register as sex offenders. Cassidy said it was unusual for Rita, a key ally of Madigan’s, to get involved so directly on criminal justice issues.

 

Cassidy, who sits on a House Judiciary committee, opposed the bill. She said she informed Dart’s office that the legislation would have a tough time winning approval because many Democratic lawmakers from the city oppose raising criminal penalties without proof that doing so would deter crime. She said Rita called her into a meeting last week to ask her how “you can get away with opposing your boss’ bill.”

 

“It was very, very clear to me that this was the second shot across my bow. That this job was their point of leverage with me and it was going to continue unless I did something about it,” Cassidy said, adding that she stepped down in order to keep Dart from being “dragged into this petty nonsense.”

 

Rita did not respond to messages seeking comment.

 

Smith said she also talked to Rita, who told her that Cassidy’s opposition was a key hurdle to passing the bill. Smith said Rita commented that if he worked for a politician but didn’t support their initiatives, “I probably wouldn’t have a job.” Smith said she viewed it as Rita “stating his experience.”

 

“I can’t speak to what Kelly thinks,” Smith said. “I can speak to the fact that she opposes the bill and her opposition was a problem. She has a philosophical difference to the sheriff’s office and a chief sponsor, who was raising that as a significant problem.”

 

Cassidy worked on social justice initiatives for the office, which were aimed at creating new policies for how detainees were treated.

 

In an email to Smith announcing her resignation, Cassidy said that “the events of the last few days have clearly been difficult for all of us.”

 

“While I am certain that my role in the office is not the reason the bill is not being advanced, it is very clear that my role has created a handy excuse and weapon to use against both of us,” Cassidy wrote. “I can not bear the idea that my presence in the office might distract from that mission.”

 

Cassidy said she has also been slighted in other ways by Madigan, saying he did not respond to a meeting request to discuss legislation she is backing to legalize recreational marijuana.

 

Cassidy said her situation proves “things aren’t better” despite promises of change in the wake of the #MeToo movement.

 

“I have a lot of privilege here. I have the safety of coming forward, and I have lost count of how many people have come to me and shared their stories and fear of coming forward because they fear retaliation. And here I stand, Exhibit A. And that’s not right,” Cassidy said.

 


Guest View: Illinois needs to keep Abraham Lincoln’s legacy from being auctioned
State Journal Register
Wednesday, May 23, 2018  |   Article  |   Carla Knorowski
Abraham Lincoln, Presidential Library and Museum (50)

There is a burgeoning threat to President Abraham Lincoln’s legacy.

As has been reported, his presidential seal, stovepipe hat, locks of his hair, gloves he carried with him the night of the assassination — stained with the very blood he spilled that this nation might have a new birth of freedom — could regrettably be moving closer to the auction block.

President Lincoln’s iconic image, which is in the public domain, is recognizable and widely used. He has been used to sell everything from perfume to carpeting, automobiles to insurance. And yet few who profit off him spend money to advance or protect his legacy.

Money does make the world go ’round — yes, even the Lincoln world — and without it the world stops turning.

In 2007, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation, a private foundation that exists to protect and enhance Lincoln’s legacy, was asked by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum to purchase a privately held collection of Lincoln artifacts that otherwise would have been sold to one or more private collectors. The collection would broaden the museum’s holdings and once purchased, would be made available to the public in perpetuity.

At the time, the museum and foundation were less than a decade old and neither had the financial ability to purchase the collection outright. Financing was obtained and the $25 million collection was purchased. Since then, foundation staff and volunteer board members have raised more than $15 million in private donations to retain the collection. The remainder is due in just 20 months.

As private fundraising continues, an opportunity exists for corporate leaders, private individuals and our elected officials to help — at a time when it is most needed. The many who have already contributed wonder and wait, even as they contribute once again. But where are those who haven’t?

All of us today, who, because of Lincoln, experience a more free and just society, must rise up, contribute and ensure justice for him.

If a single Lincoln artifact goes to auction, taken from the public realm, then we, as a nation are collectively diminished and must look ourselves in the mirror and take responsibility. It is not any one individual’s or group’s responsibility to bear; it is all of ours to bear.

What would Lincoln do if faced with this problem? He would solve it and not let us down. In that same vein, we must solve it and not let him down. We should, posthaste, set our hearts, minds and yes, money to the task we have before us.

We are duty bound to do so and we should, as Lincoln said, dare to do our duty as we understand it ... to be dedicated here to the unfinished work we have before us.

The clock is ticking. The time is now.

Carla Knorowski is the chief executive officer of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation in Springfield. She wrote this for the Chicago Tribune.


Help us protect the internet
State Journal Register
Wednesday, May 23, 2018  |   Article  |   Kevin Rademacher
Internet, Social Media (98) Butler, Tim--State House, 87

We need State Rep. Tim Butler’s help in protecting the internet. Net neutrality, which guarantees a free and open internet, has been in effect since the beginning of the internet. Net neutrality was a key element that enabled the Internet to grow exponentially. Without it, the internet would not have been the success it is today.

Federal net neutrality rules expired last month and are set to officially end June 11. With prospects for a reversal on the federal level uncertain, Illinois must take action.

Half of the states in our country are taking their own actions to preserve net neutrality. In Illinois, that effort is House Bill 4819.

Polls overwhelming show the public’s support for net neutrality. It protects open access to the internet, protects free speech and benefits small businesses. So why hasn’t this bill passed already?

This should be a very simple question for my state legislator, Rep. Tim Butler: Do you stand with powerful, corporate interests, or do you stand with your constituents’ right to open and free access to information?

Rep. Butler, if you do stand with your constituents, then please support House Bill 4819 and protect net neutrality in Illinois.

Kevin Rademacher


IFT: Expert solutions to Illinois’ teacher shortage
State Journal Register
Wednesday, May 23, 2018  |   Article  |   Dan Montgomery
Education--Educators/Administrators

Recently, we’ve been seeing headlines about a teacher shortage. This inability to fill teaching positions isn’t a new problem, but it has grown into a full-blown crisis.

When I started out, I pursued the job I dreamed about — being a high school English teacher. I wanted to help students, the profession seemed respected, and I felt I could earn a decent living and a secure future.

But something changed dramatically around 2001 with No Child Left Behind. It was packaged as “school reform” and pushed by many who hadn’t spent time in a classroom since they graduated.

It brought an overemphasis on standardized testing, biased teacher evaluation systems, a narrowed curriculum, loss of professional autonomy, and reduced funding for professional development. It established school accountability systems based heavily on student test scores, without any consideration for inequities in resources and opportunities.

And it made attacking teachers and our unions fashionable.

Sadly, Gov. Bruce Rauner has turned it into an art form. Under his leadership, teacher prep programs and MAP grants for needy students have been underfunded, reducing the number of students who are able to pursue higher education. In addition, implicit cultural bias in eligibility tests has kept many people of color out of the teaching profession.

Teachers and school staff have been asked to do more with less and blamed for things outside of our control, as we continue to make sacrifices for our students.

It shouldn’t come as any surprise, then, that many people are leaving the profession and potential teachers are choosing other careers.

Despite these challenges, there are ways to meaningfully address the teacher shortage, and the solutions fall into three categories: recruitment, retention and equity.

First, and this may sound obvious, but if we’re going to recruit more teachers into the profession, we must guarantee a livable wage. State law only requires a school district to pay a teacher (with a master’s degree) a minimum annual salary of $10,000. State Sen. Andy Manar has introduced a bill that increases the minimum to $40,000 per year. That would be a start.

We must also support and fund “grow your own” type programs that increase opportunities for paraprofessionals, parents and students to get teaching degrees and stay to work within their own communities. Unfortunately, the state is reluctant to fund this program.

Secondly, if teaching is to remain a lifelong career and not a short-term job, we must support new teachers and encourage them to stay. Research shows that new teachers who aren’t mentored have lower retention rates. My union has long run a new teacher professional mentorship program. I never would have survived those first years without it.

And, we must show teachers more respect by reforming the Performance Evaluation Review Act to focus on teacher learning and support, fixing the unfair Tier II and Tier III pension systems that make retirement security unattainable for new teachers (who get no Social Security benefits, by the way), and providing supportive school environments with smaller class sizes, support personnel, and diverse programming like the arts and vocational courses.

Finally, we know that education policies have unfairly penalized people of color for decades and that students benefit academically from a diverse school workforce. Illinois should prioritize equity by funding programs that recruit applicants from low-income communities, supporting sustainable community schools to address the effects of disinvestment, and providing professional development to increase teachers’ cultural competency.

It’s also worth taking another look at the tests that prevent minority candidates from entering the profession and the teacher evaluation systems that push them out.

These are steps in the right direction and entirely feasible — but only under a governor who believes in the promise of public schools and treats teachers with respect. Bruce Rauner has failed in this.

I believe in the potential of our state’s teachers and students, and I believe together we can stabilize Illinois’s education system, making it possible to attract and retain the excellent educators our children deserve.

Dan Montgomery is the president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers.


Illinois Supreme Court considers law that allows hospital property tax exemptions
State Journal Register
Wednesday, May 23, 2018  |   Article  |   Dean Olsen
Hospitals, Health Facilities Planning Board (48) , Taxes, property (87)

A 2012 state law violates requirements in the Illinois Constitution by creating an easy path for nonprofit hospitals to receive property-tax exemptions without first requiring that the hospitals be used exclusively for charitable purposes.

That claim was made Tuesday by an attorney for a Cook County woman during oral arguments in front of the Illinois Supreme Court as part of the woman’s challenge of the law.

If the law is struck down in a high court ruling expected this fall, not-for-profit hospitals around the state might have to revert to the previous, less-predictable system for securing millions of dollars’ worth in annual property tax exemptions from officials at the county level and the Illinois Department of Revenue.

Area hospitals that could be affected include Springfield’s Memorial Medical Center and HSHS St. John’s Hospital, as well as hospitals in Jacksonville, Lincoln, Taylorville, Litchfield, Carlinville, Hillsboro and Pana.

“There’s no hook in this statute that says a constitutional test should be applied,” Chicago lawyer Kenneth Flaxman told Supreme Court justices on behalf of his client, Constance Oswald, who didn’t attend the court hearing.

But lawyers for the state and the Illinois Health and Hospital Association, trying to secure a definitive ruling from the court on the law’s constitutionality, said references in the statute clearly imply that hospitals must satisfy the Constitution’s charitable requirement.

“The context of this statute makes that clear,” assistant attorney general Carl Elitz told the justices.

Added Steven Pflaum, attorney for the IHA, “The General Assembly knew exactly what it was doing.”

Unlike previous cases that have reached the Supreme Court on the issue of whether Illinois hospitals deserve to avoid paying property taxes, the Oswald case doesn’t focus on the tax exemption of a particular hospital.

Oswald, a property taxpayer, contends that the law should be struck down because the statute appears to substitute the Constitution’s charitable requirement and previous court rulings with language in the 2012 law.

That law says hospitals “shall be issued a charitable exemption” if the value of qualifying services and activities listed in the law exceeds what the hospital would expect to pay if its property were on the tax rolls. Qualifying services include charity care, subsidies for health-care services for the poor, the difference between the cost of care and what Medicaid pays, and community education programs.

Lawyers for both sides said questions from justices during oral arguments gave them no indication of how the court might rule.

If the law is struck down, the potential loss of property tax exemptions would create dire situations for some hospitals, Pflaum said.

“We have a lot of hospitals that are operating either in the red or very close to it,” he said. “So now having to shoulder millions of dollars in property tax liability would be a significant problem for many of our hospitals.”

No hospitals lost tax exemptions as a result of the 2012 law.

Previous Supreme Court rulings have established that hospitals don’t have to provide a significant amount of free care to qualify for a charitable exemption under the Constitution, Pflaum said. A not-for-profit hospital satisfies the charitable-use requirement if it provides care for all patients without regard for their ability to pay, he said.

Oswald’s challenge of the law was denied by a Cook County Circuit Court judge and by the 1st District of the Illinois Appellate Court, which ruled the law constitutional in December 2016.

The Supreme Court last year declined to throw out the law after an appeal of a 2016 decision in which the Springfield-based 4th District Appellate Court ruled the law unconstitutional.

Supreme Court justices said the Appellate Court lacked “appellate jurisdiction” to review a Champaign County court’s 2014 summary judgment in favor of Urbana’s Carle Foundation Hospital.

The Carle case was sent back to Circuit Court, where it remains pending.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that another Urbana hospital — then called Provena Covenant Medical Center — didn’t provide enough charity care to deserve a property tax exemption in 2002.

But IHA officials have said the 2010 ruling didn’t make it clear how hospitals could satisfy the Constitution and previous court rulings to receive future exemptions. The 2012 legislation, signed into law by former Gov. Pat Quinn, was an attempt to inject more certainty and predictability into the exemption process, IHA officials said.

— Contact: dean.olsen@sj-r.com, 788-1543, twitter.com/DeanOlsenSJR.


Madigan denies retaliating against Democratic lawmaker, calls for investigation
State Journal Register
Wednesday, May 23, 2018  |   Article  |   Brenden Moore
Cassidy, Kelly--State House, 14 , Madigan, Michael--State House, 22

House Speaker Michael Madigan on Tuesday denied retaliating against state Rep. Kelly Cassidy for her vocal criticism of his handling of sexual harassment allegations within his political and governmental organizations.

Madigan has also asked state legislative inspector general Julie Porter to investigate Cassidy’s claims, saying “myself and my staff will cooperate with any investigation into this matter.”

On Monday, Cassidy said she felt pressure from allies of the powerful House Speaker that led her to resign her part-time position in the Cook County Sheriff’s Office.

She said Madigan Chief of Staff Tim Mapes called her supervisor in February to confirm that she was still employed, which she called a “chilling” warning sign.

Then, state Rep. Robert Rita, D-Blue Island, picked up a bill that was high on the sheriff’s priority list, which Cassidy opposed. She said Rita, a close Madigan ally, called her into his office and questioned how she could “get away with opposing her boss’ bill.”

Not wanting to drag Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart into the situation, Cassidy said she simply resigned.

In a letter addressed to Cassidy on Tuesday, Madigan said “I have never taken any action to interfere with your outside employment, and I have never directed anyone else to do so.”

But Cassidy said Madigan’s denial “really misses the forest for the trees,” as the organization Madigan built over the years can take such retaliatory steps without involving the speaker.

“The message is very clear: speak out against the speaker and people loyal to him will come after you,” Cassidy said, pointing to former political worker Alaina Hampton, who accused a top Madigan aide of sexual harassment, as another example. ”... Lather, rinse, repeat. This is the process.”

Madigan also denied coordinating on the specific bill with Rita, who said he was “surprised (Cassidy) wasn’t supportive of the bill seeing it was a top legislative priority of the sheriff’s office and for women in the workplace,” but that his only conversations with her pertained to getting the bill out of committee.

Cassidy said her opposition to the bill only became an issue when Rita brought it up. And, given its committee assignment, she said it would not have passed even if she had sponsored it.

“This bill was dead,” Cassidy said. “As dead as dead gets — we were just in Judiciary Committee where we just had a conversation about our moratorium on sentencing enhancements. That’s on public record over and over again that we have this moratorium in this committee.”

Cassidy said she has had several aides, lobbyists and others come up approach her and thank her for speaking up. She has also found wide support among her colleagues.

The Senate Women’s Caucus also called for Porter to conduct an independent investigation, writing that “the Capitol must not be a place for retaliation, harassment or intimidation of any kind.”

Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker, who has been criticized in the past for the perception of being too cozy with Madigan, said he stood with Cassidy.

According to Pritzker spokeswoman Galia Slayen, the candidate “believes (Cassidy) must be heard and that there should immediately be an independent investigation.”

But still, acknowledging how difficult it can be for many to tell their stories, even in the age of #MeToo, Cassidy said she is speaking out for those who can’t.

“I know that I have a great deal more freedom than a lot of people,” Cassidy said. “I represent a very progressive district that insists that I be true to my values. Not everybody here has that security. And so we need to create space where it’s safe to come forward.”


Rauner should not bring back death penalty
State Journal Register
Wednesday, May 23, 2018  |   Letter to Editor  |   Michael B. Metnick
Death penalty (27a) , Rauner, Bruce

What in the world is the governor thinking in reinstating the death penalty?

Several years ago, following the rash of wrongful convictions and after strong debate, the Illinois General Assembly voted to abolish the death penalty.

Now, to bring it back by a governor fiat will be a tremendous slap in the face to all Illinois citizens. Keep the current law, as recognized by our legislature and Supreme Court, in effect.

Governor, don’t make a change.

Michael B. Metnick

Springfield


Support equal rights for all citizens
State Journal Register
Wednesday, May 23, 2018  |   Article  |   Roz Stein

Reading Frank Tureskis’ letter “Stop the ERA - Again” in the May 16 edition of the SJ-R, I couldn’t get the connection of his premise that giving equal rights to women will lead to legal abortion of fetuses.

Taking similar perspective, do we not also need to take away men’s rights, or lessen them? It’s plain to see that men, while having full rights, allowed themselves to indiscriminately impregnate women who many not have wanted to have their children, thus leading to abortions. The initial cause of men with excessive rights who have been negligent is the real initial responsible culprits. That is: Men, being primarily instrumental in the process, are thus the original cause of abortion.

This reminds me of another similar failure to take responsibility, and shove responsibility off on women. Another embarrassment in the history of equality in the United States is men not paying child support and not helping rear their children, or not caring if single mothers have adequate resources (good-paying jobs, affordable housing, health care, transportation, child care, education, etc).

I feel real indignation that any man would imply that my having equal rights will cause harm to any stage of human life — fetus, infant, preschooler, elementary child, adolescent, teenager, young adult or adult.

If you really want to protect our country — our people, our children and our future — stop twisting what is right. Make use of the full potential of every individual.

Roz Stein

Springfield


Their View: Put Obamacare on the November ballot; support candidates who want to fix it
State Journal Register
Wednesday, May 23, 2018  |   Editorial  |   Editorial Board
Obamacare, Affordable Care Act

With the Pennsylvania primaries behind us, voters should take a hard look at what congressional candidates on the ballot in November are going to do to fix our expensive health-care system. Its fate will be on the line in the general election.

The debate over the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, became a wake-up call for both voters and elected officials just a year ago, when a new repeal-and-replace bill passed the House and many feared they would lose coverage. But the bill ultimately didn’t make it past the Senate.

Take the case of U.S. Rep. Tom MacArthur (R., N.J.), who offered an amendment that helped move the GOP plan out of a deadlock and closer to passing, which would have caused many to lose coverage. At a MacArthur town hall meeting in Burlington County, hundreds of angry voters came to protest. Democrats saw enough blood in the water that they ran a candidate against him this year, instead of sitting on the sidelines like they did in 2016.

MacArthur certainly wasn’t the only Republican to face criticism at a town hall, and by the time the Senate released its bill in the summer, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) couldn’t muster the votes to move it forward.

The GOP plan would have denied affordable health insurance to 23 million by 2026, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. It allowed insurance companies to discriminate against people with preexisting conditions, charge people over 50 more than younger customers, and let states eliminate coverage for maternity and mental health care.

The bill also let people escape the individual mandate, which forces customers to either purchase health insurance or pay a fine. Insurance companies correctly argue that when healthy people aren’t buying insurance, the companies are unable to smooth out costs by adjusting the rates paid by healthy and sick people.

These ideas aren’t dead, however. They’re laying low, waiting for the right time to resurface.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) announced last week that he’s going to continue to push a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.

To be sure, there are still problems with Obamacare. Premiums and medical costs are too high. It doesn’t help that the Trump administration continues to undermine it.

For example, the administration cut payments to insurance companies that help lower consumer costs (called cost-sharing). In Pennsylvania, state officials had predicted Obamacare premiums would increase by about 7.6 percent from 2017 to 2018. But with the cutbacks in federal payments, that jumped to 30.6 percent for 389,081 people for 2018.

The health debate has shifted to one about cost, according to a poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation, and drug prices seem to be at the center. Although Trump recently gave a speech on drug costs, he gave few hints on how he’d lower them. But he will have to come up with something. Insurers will be announcing 2019 rates in the coming months, and they’re expected to go up, in part because of those higher drug prices.

Voters should make affordable, good quality health care an issue in the fall election. Ask candidates to detail just how they are going to lower your premiums and guarantee good care.

The Philadelphia Inquirer