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Full text for Articles for Today, Friday, July 19, 2019 - 16 Articles


Addressing Gambling Addiction In The Face Of New State Casinos
Friday, July 19, 2019  |   Article  |   By Chase Cavanaugh - WNIJ/Northern Public Radio
Gambling, Gaming , Human Services (75)
The State of Illinois has several resources to assist problem gamblers. The first is directly paying for treatment through gambling tax revenue and the lottery. The current budget is $6.8 million, an increase of more than 7 times what was offered in previous years. Individual sections of state government, such as the Substance Use Prevention and Recovery Division within Human Services, doles out the funding and works on ways to get people connected with care. Assistant Secretary of Programs Kia Coleman explains.

“Ensure that services are accessible by a variety of demographics within a population at a variety of touchpoints. That’s the best to ensure that you can reach a broad number of people," she said.

Gambling disorder is a condition where someone feels a fundamental need to play games of chance and constantly place wagers. The American Psychiatric Association previously viewed it as an impulse control disorder, such as pyromania or compulsive theft.  But in the most recent edition of their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, it was re-classified as a behavioral addiction. The new definition means it shares similarities to substance abuse. Marissa Dini is an Addiction Treatment Services Manager for Northwestern Medicine. She says it’s not exactly like taking drugs.

“Similar to an eating disorder, you can’t really eliminate money like you can eliminate food from your life," she said. "So it’s kind of working with how do you manage money, similar to how you manage food if you have an eating disorder.”

Compulsive gambling can also remain a hidden diagnosis, since it lacks the outward signs of alcoholism, smoking, or drug use. Cheryl Hollembeak is a Gambling and Substance Abuse Counselor at Remedies, an addiction counseling provider based in Belvidere. She says the hidden nature of compulsive gambling means providers need to specifically screen for it.

“We’re looking for loss of control. We’re looking for increased tolerance, increased money spent, increased time spent gambling. We’re looking at people who have to rely on others for bailouts or to pay their bills because they’ve lost money gambling," she said.

Compulsive gamblers often come into treatment from a court-order, or through encouragement from their families. From there, Dini says it’s a matter of the patients accepting they have a problem, and being open to treatment.

“Are you willing to do some family therapy? Are you willing to work with a case manager on how to budget your money?" she asked.  "What are some things you can do so that one, you do have some control in your treatment and treatment options, and two, so that you feel like you are able to make some choices and not lose everything in this process?”

In group therapy environments like Remedies, the goal is to completely abstain from gambling. Also, like certain 12-step programs, those in treatment support each other during their recovery. Hollembeak says much of the therapy emphasizes avoidance. But easy access to gambling, such as the lottery and video gaming terminals, means providers like Remedies must also focus on how patients respond once they are out of treatment. 

“We teach them what happens to their brain when they’re exposed to a trigger, and that seems to speak to a lot of people, and they can recognize the importance of not dealing with a trigger directly," she said.

Coleman of Human Services says there are also self-exclusion lists.

"Those self-exclusion programs provide a way for people to voluntarily ban themselves from casinos as a way to deal with the gambling disorder,” she said.

In February of last year, the Illinois Gaming Board also established a problem gambling registry for video gaming, so that those who feel vulnerable to misuse could receive information on different treatment services.

But these programs and providers work best when groups like IDHS have up-to-date information on the problem throughout the state. State Senator Steve Stadelman believes this data hasn’t been collected for around three decades. That’s why IDHS plans to conduct a statewide “needs assessment” this year. Coleman describes the focus.

“What the scope of gambling disorders is statewide, what services we have in order to address that, who the people are that are struggling with the disorder,” she said.

IDHS is working up extensive surveys to find out who is making use of problem gambling services, which types are most helpful, and what geographical areas are most in need. Coleman says once IDHS has the data, it can better spread these services across the state.  A similar study in California took two years to complete, but Coleman doesn’t expect the Illinois version to require that much time.  

In the meantime, Hollembeak of Remedies says the opening of new state casinos will provide more triggers for existing problem gamblers. She hopes enhanced screening tools mean healthcare providers can get people into treatment sooner.

Audit shows IDOT didn’t inspect bridges, follow reporting requirements
Friday, July 19, 2019  |   Article  |   By Greg Bishop | The Center Square
Capital Development Board, Capital Construction Plan (14) , Transportation (91) McDermed, Margo--State House, 37
A state lawmaker who supported doubling the state’s gas tax to pay for infrastructure projects said a new audit could mean some planned projects won't get funded.

The audit found that dozens of bridges in Illinois weren’t inspected in a timely manner.

The Illinois Auditor General released an audit Thursday of the Illinois Department of Transportation for a two-year period ending June 2018. Among other issues, the audit found that 78 bridges that weren’t inspected on time. Twenty-eight bridges were overdue for routine inspections, some were up to 4 years overdue. Ten were listed as the responsibility of an adjacent state and five were rated structurally deficient, the audit said.

There were 27 bridges set for special inspections that were overdue. Five were overdue by more than two years. Another seven bridges were overdue for underwater inspections.

Eleven were overdue for fracture critical inspection. Two of those were over 21 years overdue.

State Rep. Margo McDermed, R-Mokena, is on a House transportation committee. She said it was important for information like that to reported on time, especially when lawmakers are planning infrastructure projects like the six-year, $45 billion capital plan that was just enacted. Lawmakers voted to double the state's gas tax to fund the capital plan.

“Now we learn that we don’t even know the entire scope of the situation because not everything has been inspected,” McDermed said. “Then the situation is even more serious."

She said she had some questions about what the audit means for the state's capital plan.

“That would have maybe made a difference in how we put together the capital bill or in what our expectations of what IDOT will accomplish in their beefed-up six-year plan,” McDermed said. “What if the beefed-up six-year plan is all sucked up by all these bridges. There’s going to be a lot of unhappy legislators that thought they were going to get some roads.”

The audit wasn't limited to bridge inspections. It also found issues with the management of IDOT property, fund transfers and how the state agency handled outdoor advertising close to the state’s highways.

The audit found that bank accounts administered by a management company had authorized signors who were not state employees, cash deposits were uncollateralized, and there was no IDOT approval of some spending.

The report also found IDOT wasn't in compliance with reporting requirements. No master plan was filed at the end of fieldwork. The department also did not publish the Multimodal Multi-year Improvement Program during fiscal years 2017 and 2018. Another report for a multi-year plan was delivered 195 days later than it was due.

A separate audit found that 20 percent of IDOT employee overtime cards tested during the audit period hadn't been properly signed to attest for accuracy. The department spending a combined $63.7 million on overtime for the two years ending June 30, 2018.

Other findings included that about a third of tested IDOT vehicle trip tickets didn’t have supervisor approval or other proper trip documentation. Yet another found that 47 percent of outdoor advertising near highways might be illegal.

"We are still reviewing the audit report released earlier today," IDOT spokesman Guy Tridgell said Thursday. "The Illinois Department of Transportation is committed to improving efficiencies and operations throughout the agency and appreciates this opportunity to do so."

IDOT spent a combined $10.4 billion in fiscal years 2017 and 2018, according to the reports. The department's employee headcount went from 4,857 in 2017 to 4,950 in 2018. In the two years that were audited, IDOT maintained or improved 180 bridges. For fiscal year 2017, 17 percent of roads were in need of repair. In fiscal year 2018, that climbed to 22 percent of roads. The audit also showed there were 2,138 traffic deaths in Illinois over those two years.

Illinois lawmakers propose property tax breaks for affordable housing
Friday, July 19, 2019  |   Article  |   By Cole Lauterbach | The Center Square
Housing (51) , Taxes, property (87) Cullerton, John--State Senate, 6 , McConchie, Dan--State Senate, 26
Illinois lawmakers are looking at capping property tax increases for apartment buildings that include low-income housing in a portion of the building.

State senators gathered Thursday in Chicago for a hearing to discuss Senate President John Cullerton’s Senate Bill 2259. It would put caps on how much assessments on apartment complexes could rise if the owner commits at least 20 percent of the building's units to be reserved for families that make less than a set income depending on the area. The caps would gradually be reduced over the course of ten years. 

New construction is typically assessed for a higher dollar value once it’s finished because it’s worth more than it was as an open lot.

Curt Bailey with construction firm Related Midwest said the program would make such projects more attractive for builders.

“You can’t build a building that has 20 percent affordable [housing domiciles] in it without the incentives outlined in [Cullerton’s bill],” he said. 

Bailey said his firm has used similar programs in other cities.

State Sen. Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorne Woods, said he worried that the incentive would push the cost of government services onto other property owners.

“Whenever we create another tax credit, we end up shifting that tax burden to others,” he said. “We do it for veterans, we do it for senior citizens, we do it for other groups.” 

The legislation would make the program mandatory in Cook County, but would require county board approval elsewhere.

Some supporters said Cullerton’s legislation didn't go far enough, adding that other bills would cap rent-controlled property assessments instead of just limiting the increase and extend the life of the subsidy to thirty years.

The bill could be voted on as soon as October when lawmakers return for the fall veto session.

Illinois Senate could vote on bill to require fingerprints for FOID card this fall
Friday, July 19, 2019  |   Article  |   By Greg Bishop | The Center Square
Guns and Gun Control, FOID, Concealed Carry (46) Willis, Kathleen--State House, 77
The Illinois Senate could take action on a measure to require Illinois residents to submit fingerprints to get a Firearm Owners Identification card when lawmakers return this October.

A Second Amendment advocate is urging police groups to oppose the bill.

Senate Bill 1966 passed the House in May. It would increase fees FOID cards while decreasing how long the cards remain valid. It would also require applicants to submit fingerprints to get the card. The card is required to legally have a firearm or ammunition in the state.

Bill sponsor state Rep. Kathleen Willis, D-Addison, said the fingerprint requirement doesn't violate the Second Amendment.

“In the [U.S. Supreme Court case McDonald v. City of Chicago] it states in the majority opinion, the state and local government can experiment with reasonable firearm regulations,” Willis said in floor debate.

Gun rights advocate Dane Harrel, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel from St. Claire County, said such measures don't stop criminals.

“It seems like the focus is on the law-abiding instead of maybe pursuing existing laws and making sure those are prosecuted,” Harrel said.

Harrel said law enforcement unions and associations should oppose the measure.

“You’re noticeably absent on the dialog,” Harrel said. “You speak out on public policy issues all the time, why not this one? And if it’s bad public policy, which won’t improve our safety, why not oppose it? What do you have to lose?”

One law enforcement group, the Illinois Chiefs of Police, publicly opposes the measure, but not because of the fingerprinting mandate. In a statement, the group said it does not want local law enforcement officers to be required to search and seize a FOID card or guns from someone whose FOID card has been suspended or revoked. The group said it considers that a state and Illinois State Police issue.

The association said it’s in talks with the Sheriff’s Association and the Illinois State Police ahead of the fall legislative session.

The Senate now has the measure and could vote when lawmakers return for fall session.

Illinois won't accept federal family planning money after abortion ban, governor says
Friday, July 19, 2019  |   Article  |   By Greg Bishop | The Center Square
Abortion (1) , Governor (44) , Health (49) McSweeney, David--State House, 52
Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Thursday that Illinois won’t accept money from the federal government for family planning centers after a federal rule barring tax dollars for centers that promote abortions.

Last month, a federal appeals court upheld President Donald Trump's so-called “gag rule.”

“The gag rule holds hostage federal funding for contraception for low-income women unless providers refuse to refer or provide abortion services along with other reproductive health care,” Pritzker said in a statement Thursday.

“While I’m committed to bringing as many federal dollars to the state as possible, I refuse to sacrifice our values and allow vital care to lapse,” the governor said. “In this state, we trust women to make their own health care decisions and will guarantee access to reproductive health care for all of our residents.”

Pritzker said the Illinois Department of Public Health will provide an estimated $2.4 million in state funding to 28 grantees. Pritzker's administration also said it’s committed to a multi-state lawsuit to permanently overturn the Trump rule.

Planned Parenthood of Illinois praised the governor's decision.

“We are glad that the Illinois Department of Public Health is joining Planned Parenthood of Illinois in rejecting the grant because the gag rule is unethical,” Planned Parenthood of Illinois CEO Jennifer Welch said.

Last month, Planned Parenthood announced thanks to its donors it will stay open in Illinois despite the federal rule. Records show Planned Parenthood of Illinois got $18.6 million from state taxpayers between 2009 and 2017.

State Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, has for years been pushing the state to capture as much federal funding as possible to help cover the state’s bills. He called Pritzker’s move a “disgrace."

“This is typical Pritzker,” McSweeney said. “Raise taxes to fund unlimited abortion to the ninth month of pregnancy. It’s an absolute disgrace. If he believes in it so strongly, he’s a billionaire and can write a check out of his own personal pocket and not stick it to hardworking Illinois taxpayers that don’t want to pay for his radical left-wing policies. If he wants to fund Planned Parenthood, he should fund it personally.”

Sham Buyout Solution For Illinois Pensions Now Being Exposed - Quicktake
Friday, July 19, 2019  |   Commentary  |   By: Mark Glennon - Wirepoints
Pensions (70)
Remember two years ago when politicians from both parties bragged about the new pension buyout plan? It would save over $445 million per year, they said, and they booked the savings into the 2019 budget.

We’ve told you repeatedly not to believe it, and now the evidence is coming in. The Civic Federation has now published an analysis. Actual results show savings to the state pensions of just $13 million for the fiscal year that just ended. For a little perspective, that’s less than two-tenths of one percent of what taxpayers contribute to pensions each year. And the buyout scheme “does not appear likely to meet the annual cost-reduction target over the next few years,” the Civic Federation says.

That’s only half of the bad news. Aside from the failed savings, you have to look at how the buyouts are paid for. The Civic Federation started to tackle that, too. To pay for the buyouts, taxpayers are on the hook for $300 million of bonds issued by the state at an interest cost of 5.74%. Of the $298.5 million in net proceeds, according to the Civic Federation, only about $50 million has gone towards buyouts. The remaining bond proceeds continue to cost the State interest, but have not yet resulted in any pension savings.

The fact is that the state never provided any honest analysis of true costs and benefits.  There were no public hearings or evaluations by pension actuaries. That’s because the savings were fake. The fake savings were stuck into the 2019 budget in May 2018.

We weren’t the only ones to question the scheme. Reuters, The Bond Buyer and The Associated Press had skeptical stories, as did the Illinois Policy Institute, all of which we published here.  Two of our favorite, honest actuaries – Mary Pat Campbell and Elizabeth Bauer, also saw through it. The “shammiest of shamtaculars,” Mary Pat called it.

Three lessons here:

First, don’t expect much from the buyout program going forward. The Civic Federation said that, and pension officials have told us the same off the record.

Second, believe nothing Illinois politicians tell you about pensions. Nothing.

Third, pension debts aren’t going away without real reforms, and that starts with a constitutional amendment that’s needed to permit real reforms.

Corrections officer charged with forging lottery ticket worth $20,000
Chicago Sun Times
Friday, July 19, 2019  |   Article  |   David Struett
Corrections (74) , Lottery (61)

An Illinois correctional officer has been charged with forging a lottery ticket worth tens of thousands of dollars.


Darrell Barry, 46, is charged in Cook County with a felony count of fraud and a felony count of violation of Illinois lottery law, Illinois State Police said in a statement.


Barry turned himself into the custody of state police on July 12 at the Chicago Police District 1 headquarters, 1718 S. State St., state police said.


He allegedly attempted to cash an altered Illinois lottery scratch-off ticket worth $20,000 on Oct. 1, 2018, state police said. It was unclear where he attempted to cash it.


State police were told of the alleged fraud on Dec. 12, and secured charges against Barry on July 17, state police said. The case was handled by the Illinois State Police division of internal investigations.


A spokesperson for the Illinois Dept. of Corrections did not reply to a request for comment Thursday evening.


Judge Mary Marubio on Thursday ordered Barry held on a $25,000 bail, according to county records.


He was scheduled to appear in court again on July 24.


Read more on crime, and track the city’s homicides.



Prison Pawsilbilities Graduation this weekend

Posted: Jul 18, 2019 10:11 PM CDT

Updated: Jul 18, 2019 10:09 PM CDT

By Elizabeth Taylor


(WSIL) -- St. Francis Community Animal Rescue & Education (CARE) in Murphysboro is hosting a special Prison Pawsilbilities Graduation ceremony this weekend.


Seven of the shelter's dogs who have trained for 12 weeks with inmates at the Vienna Correctional Center will mark the completion of their training, and be ready to head to a forever home on Saturday, July 20 at noon.


During these 12 weeks the offenders, under the supervision of a professional trainer learned how to train, groom and care for these dogs. And the dogs benefit from some much needed training to help them become more adoptable.


Bring your lawn chairs and an open heart, as a few of the soon-to-be graduates are still looking for their forever homes.


You can visit the shelter's Facebook page for more information.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot says downtown casino site could still end up in the mix for consideration
Chicago Tribune
Friday, July 19, 2019  |   Article  |   John Byrne
Gambling, Gaming

A downtown site could still emerge as a contender for landing a casino, though “noise” from tourism companies and convention operators needs to be addressed, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Thursday, a day after her administration floated a list of five potential building locations on the South and West sides.


Lightfoot — who during her mayoral campaign pointed to a potential casino as a way to boost economic development in struggling neighborhoods — said a downtown location didn’t make the initial group because of concerns about the negative impact it could have. This isn’t the final list, however.


“I think there are some concerns that we have heard, and feedback about a downtown site,” she said. “I’m not saying a downtown site is off the board. As I said, this is not the definitive list. There will be, we’ll hone that later. But there are some concerns, I think, with a downtown site, and we wanted to avoid that in this first instance.”


“There are concerns about whether or not having a downtown site will detract from tourism,” she said. “There are some tour operators, conventions that don’t want a downtown site because they feel like their conventioneers will go to the casino and not actually participate in the conventions. Rather than deal with that noise now — and it will have to be dealt with down the road — we just took other sites that are sites that are primarily ones that are controlled by the city.”


On why she released a list of sites that may not be considered in the end, Lightfoot said specific locations were needed to assess the casino project’s economic viability. “Because you have to have — you can’t do an economic analysis without tying it to a particular site,” she said. “And those are some of the sites that have been bandied about for quite a long time.”


The five sites released Wednesday surprised aldermen, and two of them said their communities don’t want casinos on the land Lightfoot’s office identified in their wards. The mayor worked Thursday to assuage jittery residents, saying she will listen to neighborhood concerns about what promises to be a massive building that will draw huge crowds.


“We’ve said consistently, and I want this to be clear, we will not have any sites that are focused on a casino without a robust community engagement process,” she said. “Starting next week, the first step in that for us is conducting two levels of survey. We’re going to reach out to people in all 77 neighborhoods to focus on what they’d like to see, what their concerns, what their issues are, so that when we later come and think about specific sites, we’ve got that data to inform how we’re going to address an eventual RFP that will go out related to a casino.”


And the mayor said her office should have given aldermen a heads-up about the five locations before the Tribune published them in an article Wednesday afternoon. The economics need to work first, though, she said.


“This is not the definitive site list. We will come to that place only after we see what the feasibility study tells us,” she said. “And if the feasibility study comes back and says you can’t, no matter where you are, you can’t fund and finance this casino because the economics don’t work, then we go again to the General Assembly and work on getting that right first. We have to get the economics right before we talk about specific sites, what the concerns are.”


At the end of its spring session, the Illinois General Assembly authorized an expansion of casino gambling to Chicago, a step the city had long sought. Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the law, part of massive expansion of gambling in the state, in late June.


Four of the five sites to be evaluated are publicly owned, and all have been discussed previously as potential casino sites, Samir Mayekar, deputy mayor of neighborhood development, told the Tribune Wednesday.


A state-hired consultant will study the economic feasibility of the sites and report its findings to the state and city.


The five are a parcel near the Harborside golf course at 111th Street and the Bishop Ford Freeway; the former Michael Reese Hospital site at 31st Street and Cottage Grove Avenue; a site near Guaranteed Rate Field at Pershing Road and State Street; the former U.S. Steel parcel, known as South Works, between 79th and 91st streets along South Lake Shore Drive; and the lone West Side site, at Roosevelt Road and Kostner Avenue.

The Spin: Home of Madigan confidant raided, plus Lightfoot tries to slam door on Preckwinkle criticism, keeps open mind about downtown Chicago casino
Chicago Tribune
Friday, July 19, 2019  |   Article  |   Lisa Donovan

The Spin: Home of Madigan confidant raided, plus Lightfoot tries to slam door on Preckwinkle criticism, keeps open mind about downtown Chicago casino

House Speaker Michael Madigan during the spring session of the Illinois General Assembly on May 30, 2019. (Zbigniew Bzdak / Chicago Tribune)

The FBI has raided the home of another close associate of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, the Tribune is reporting today.


“The raid of Mike McClain’s home in Quincy took place in mid-May, around the same time the FBI executed search warrants at the homes of two other Madigan associates — former 23rd Ward Ald. Michael Zalewski and political operative Kevin Quinn, according to a source with knowledge of the investigation,” Tribune reporters Jason Meisner and Ray Long reported.


The three raids come amid ongoing corruption probes at Chicago City Hall that to date have resulted in the jaw-dropping criminal indictment of veteran Ald. Edward Burke, who’s accused of using his City Council position to steer business to his private law firm.


Meanwhile, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot fired back at Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. Earlier this week, Preckwinkle sent the mayor a scathing letter calling on Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson to "stop misleading the public about why gun violence remains a challenging problem in Chicago” by blaming the judicial system and to address the real issue: the department’s low rate of solving crimes.


In her response, Lightfoot reminded reporters of her electoral victory this spring over Preckwinkle.


[Most read] Immigration officers at O’Hare detain 3 children who are U.S. citizens: Congresswoman calls it ‘kidnapping of children by our government’ »

And some state lawmakers are balking over the planned reopening of Sterigenics, which was shuttered over concerns it was emitting high levels of cancer-causing pollution in the southwest suburbs.


Welcome to The Spin.


Home of another Madigan associate raided

Authorities and McClain were both tight-lipped about what the FBI was looking for when agents raided his home in Quincy, which is about 100 miles west of Springfield along the Mississippi River.


“But the search warrant indicates that federal investigators are probing connections to possible criminal acts by some in Madigan’s inner circle,” Meisner and Long reported. “To obtain a search warrant, federal law enforcement must convince a judge there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed and that evidence of that crime exists in the home.” Read the story here.


Chicago Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot and mayoral candidate Toni Preckwinkle hold a news conference with the Rev. Jesse Jackson at Rainbow/PUSH Coalition headquarters in Chicago on April 3, 2019.

Chicago Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot and mayoral candidate Toni Preckwinkle hold a news conference with the Rev. Jesse Jackson at Rainbow/PUSH Coalition headquarters in Chicago on April 3, 2019. (Zbigniew Bzdak / Chicago Tribune)

Preckwinkle vs. Lightfoot

“Mayor Lori Lightfoot continued sparring with Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on Thursday over who’s to blame for Chicago’s gun violence,” the Tribune’s John Byrne reports. "After Preckwinkle sent a letter to Lightfoot this week that defended how the county judicial system treats gun offenders and called on Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson to ‘stop misleading the public about why gun violence remains a challenging

problem in Chicago,’ the mayor responded by criticizing the county’s system for tracking gun crimes and calling on Preckwinkle to publicize her statistics weekly.”


As always, timing is everything.


Preckwinkle’s scolding letter to Lightfoot came just days ahead of what’s expected to be one of the hottest weekends of the year, which in Chicago often has coincided with an uptick in gun violence. Preckwinkle complained to Lightfoot about Johnson publicly blaming the judicial system for cutting gun suspects loose so quickly, they’re quickly back on the streets committing mayhem. Preckwinkle points to a court study she says proves Johnson’s assessment isn’t accurate; the police force needs to focus on improving its notoriously low rate of solving crimes, she says.


The letter is dated July 16, when Lightfoot was on Day 2 of a fellowship for mayors around the globe in New York City; the mayor has faced some criticism for taking three out-of-state trips in the roughly two months she’s been in office. In the note, Preckwinkle mentioned that the mayor has been unresponsive to her previous overture to discuss solutions to the violence that disproportionately has affected the African-American and Latino communities.


Lightfoot, back in Chicago today, has to navigate some tricky terrain. As she has been pushing to tamp down gun violence, Lightfoot’s also pushed an agenda of police reform.


Downtown casino site could still end up in the mix: Lightfoot — While she floated five proposed sites outside the downtown core, Lightfoot said the central business district isn’t off the table. She’s also facing the music for not letting affected alderman know about her list before the Tribune published a story about it online. Read Byrne’s story in the Tribune here.


Aldermen surprised by mayor’s casino picks — Read that story here.


City inspector accused of lying to FBI about relationship with developers involved in Ald. Carrie Austin probe — Read Jason Meisner and Gregory Pratt’s story in the Tribune here.


Lightfoot’s advice to Democratic presidential hopefuls on Trump


Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday urged Democrats running for president not to rise to “this chum that (President Donald Trump) is putting out on the water every day, hoping people will bite.”


Lightfoot said the Democratic field risks allowing Trump to dominate the conversation rather than focusing on the bread-and-butter issues important to voters.


 “If we focus only on reacting to the latest outrageous racist, xenophobic, anti-immigrant thing that this president’s done, he wins, because he dominates the narrative and he blots out any discussion of the other issues that are really, actually important to people’s lives,” Lightfoot said. (John Byrne)


Five members of Illinois’ congressional delegation are immigrants or children of immigrants, report says

When President Donald Trump, a Republican, suggested four Democratic congresswomen of color who criticized the U.S. government — and his policies in particular — “go back" to their country of origin, he was speaking about U.S. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. They are all U.S. citizens; and only Omar is foreign-born. Tlaib, according to a January Pew Research report, is the daughter of immigrant parents.


During an appearance on the CBS Sunday politics talk show “Face the Nation,” Illinois U.S. Sen Dick Durbin questioned whether Trump’s comments were aimed at him, too, considering his mother is a Lithuanian immigrant.


The Pew report offers a snapshot of the immigrants and children of immigrants in Congress. (H/T to Chicago journalist A.D. Quig for tweeting the report earlier in the week.)


The report reads in part: “Immigrants and children of immigrants account for at least 13% of all voting members of the newly sworn in 116th Congress. These lawmakers claim heritage in 37 countries — mostly in Europe, Latin America and Asia — and are overwhelmingly Democrats.”


About our state: While California tops out at No. 1, the Pew report notes, “Five members of Illinois’ delegation are immigrants or children of immigrants, the second-highest total of any state.” All are Democrats and most have pushed back over Trump’s “go back” tweets and continued talking points on the subject. U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, of Chicago, immigrated as a small child from Mexico. U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, of Schaumburg, immigrated from India. Like Durbin, Illinois U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth’s mother was an immigrant, and both of Illinois U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky’s parents were immigrants, according to the report. Read the full report here.


Border Patrol Detaining Three Children Of Undocumented Parents at O’Hare: report

From WBEZ- 91.5 FM public radio: “Chicago lawyers and a representative from the Mexican Consulate are meeting with U.S. border patrol officials to find out why three American citizen children are being detained at O’Hare Airport. They’re arguing for the release of the children.” Read the story here. Mayor Lightfoot took to Twitter a short time ago stating: “I am personally engaged in the situation at O’Hare and have been in touch with all parties involved to ensure an expeditious reunion of the family.”



Mayor Lori Lightfoot


 I am personally engaged in the situation at O'Hare and have been in touch with all parties involved to ensure an expeditious reunion of the family.



3:59 PM - Jul 18, 2019 · Chicago, IL

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Lipinski heading to the U.S.-Mexico border


U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, an Illinois Democrat, is traveling to the U.S.-Mexico border Friday with a bipartisan congressional delegation known as the Problem Solvers Caucus. They’ll visit the Donna (Texas) Holding Facility – one of two detention centers Vice President Mike Pence toured last week and described by the Washington Post as cleaner than the jampacked and sweltering McAllen, Texas facility.


Former GOP governor candidate Ives now seeks Congressional seat in west, northwest suburbs


Conservative ex-state Rep. Jeanne Ives of Wheaton, who barely lost to incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner in the Republican primary last year, has officially filed papers to run for Congress in Illinois’ 6th District. It pits her against former Republican Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti - who are both aiming to unseat freshman Democratic U.S. Rep. Sean Casten of Downers Grove.


3 things to know about Sterigenics’ planned reopening

Gov. J.B. Pritzker ordered the medical device sterilization plant shuttered over concerns it was emitting cancer-causing pollution in the southwest suburbs, but an agreement has been hatched to re-open the facility, the Tribune’s environment reporter Michael Hawthorne reports, even as some elected leaders balk over the move. Read the full story here.




*"An agreement filed in DuPage County Circuit Court absolves the Oak Brook-based company of any liability with state regulators for past pollution problems," Hawthorne writes.


*"The deal also does not require Sterigenics to pay fines to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, which shut down the facility in February after air quality monitoring recorded spikes of the toxic gas in surrounding neighborhoods,” Hawthorne notes.


*The required changes would ensure the company’s pollution is “negligible and not a public health hazard,” lawyers for Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and Robert Berlin, the DuPage County state’s attorney, wrote in a memorandum filed as part of the legal settlement.


Several state lawmakers are giving the move to reopen the plant a thumbs-down; the company has denied the plant emitted pollution that endangered the community.


Goodwill rescinds decision to stop paying some workers with disabilities, after pressure from elected leaders, public

From the Tribune’s Angie Leventis Lourgos: "Illinois lawmakers expressed outrage after a downstate branch of Goodwill Industries announced plans to stop paying many of the nonprofit’s disabled employees, citing expected rising payroll costs due to the pending state minimum wage increase.


"Yet after much backlash on social media, Land of Lincoln Goodwill Industries in Springfield on Wednesday reversed its decision, with the chief executive officer issuing an apology to “our constituents, our clients and our faithful donors.” Read the full story here.


Illinois gun rights group sues over new firearms dealer law: ‘All this does is create more red tape’

From the Tribune’s Stacy St. Clair: "The Illinois State Rifle Association filed a lawsuit this week aiming to undo a new law that gives the state more authority over gun dealers.


“The controversial legislation — which was passed during former Gov. Bruce Rauner’s tenure and signed by current Gov. J.B. Pritzker during his first days in office — makes it illegal for retailers to sell guns without being certified by the state. The requirement is an addition to the obligatory license issued by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.” Read the full story here.

There will be weed, but where? Not all recreational weed dispensaries authorized in the state's marijuana bill may be open by Jan. 1.
Crain's Chicago Business
Friday, July 19, 2019  |   Article  |   John Pletz
Recreational Marijuana

With the state’s marijuana-legalization law on the books, the focus now is getting ready to have product on store shelves come Jan. 1.

Growers are confident they can produce the product, but dispensaries might lag. To meet the tight timetable, state law authorized the state’s existing 55 medical marijuana dispensaries to also sell to the public and open another 55 dispensaries.

Sen. Heather Steans, one of the authors of the legislation, says all new locations might not be open come Jan. 1.  “I suspect we won’t get to 55, but I think we’ll get close to that,” she said after speaking today at an investor conference for cannabis investors and startups hosted by Arcview at the Fairmont Chicago hotel downtown.
Under the law, municipalities have the right to adopt zoning rules that don’t allow recreational marijuana sales. Already, Naperville is indicating it will take such a step, the Naperville Sun reported. 

Companies with existing medical dispensaries also have the option to apply for an additional location, which also is subject to local zoning approval.

Charlie Bachtell, CEO of Cresco Labs, one of the largest Illinois cannabis companies, says he expects the company’s five existing medical dispensaries will be selling to consumers Jan. 1. “It’s not so much a question of those five, it’s the next 55,” he said at the Arcview conference. “(Companies) are still figuring out what the state wants to see. The municipalities are still figuring out how they want to deal with it. I don’t know how many will be open Jan. 1. We’re all pretty encouraged.”

There will be weed. With a limited number of dispensaries, “the biggest issue may be lines at the dispensaries Day 1," Steans said. "I’d advise people to wait until Day 2.”

Feds raid home of third person close to Madigan: report
Crain's Chicago Business
Friday, July 19, 2019  |   Article  |   Crain's Staff

The feds in May raided the home of Michael McClain, longtime lobbyist for ComEd and a close friend to House Speaker Michael Madigan, making him the third with ties to Madigan to receive a surprise visit.

Yet another person with close ties to House Speaker Michael Madigan had his home raided by the FBI in May.

Michael McClain is now the third close friend or political lieutenant known to have been the object of a federal subpoena, according to a report today by the Chicago Tribune. McClain, who the Tribune said retired as a Springfield lobbyist in 2016, has lobbied for years on behalf of Commonwealth Edison.

ComEd, too, has confirmed it’s been subpoenaed by the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago for information on its lobbying activities.

Earlier reports by the Tribune and WBEZ-FM along with the Better Government Association said that former Ald. Michael Zalewski and political operative Kevin Quinn, both known for years to be close to Madigan, had their Chicago homes raided. McClain’s home is in downstate Quincy.

Zalewski’s daughter-in-law, Carrie Zalewski, was appointed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker in April to chair the Illinois Commerce Commission, which is ComEd’s chief regulator.

How many other ‘Judge Cooks’ are out there?
Madison County Record
Friday, July 19, 2019  |   Editorial  |   By The Madison County Record
Courts (27) , Legal System (27) , Metro East (65)
“My 6 amendment rights was violated due to me not having a fair trial due to the fact my judge was under the influence of drugs.”

That was the claim made by Marvin Parker, who in 2011 was convicted of armed violence, aggravated battery, and attempted armed robbery and sentenced by St. Clair County Judge Michael Cook to 29 years in prison. 

Whether Parker’s constitutional rights were violated or not is yet to be determined, but the Sixth Amendment does enshrine this guarantee: “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.”

Such guaranteed rights will be upheld by the presiding magistrate, if said judge is competent and fully conscious during the proceedings. There’s the rub.

In 2013, two years after Parker’s conviction, Judge Cook himself pled guilty to heroin possession and received a sentence of two years in prison: 27 years less than what Cook gave to Parker, even though Cook was implicated in the drug-overdose death of a fellow jurist.

Fifth District appellate judges reversed Cook three times in the four months after his sentencing – twice for failing to give proper consideration to motions from prisoners claiming incompetent counsel. Circuit Judge Robert Haida overturned two murder convictions obtained in Cook’s courtroom.

Just this month, the Fifth District appellate court ruled that a St. Clair County judge must give Parker a chance to show that Cook’s heroin addiction deprived him of a fair trial.

How many of Cook’s other decisions will be challenged and reversed? How many other defendants were subjected to unjust justice? How many other “Judge Cooks” are still on the bench?

Asphalt, transportation and trucking industries thank Morris rep for Capital Bill vote
Ottawa Daily Times
Friday, July 19, 2019  |   Article  |   Marney Simon
Capital Development Board, Capital Construction Plan (14)

Local experts in the transportation industry are offering up thank yous to state lawmakers who backed the state's recent capital bill.


Todd Weist of Tri-State Asphalt, LLC in Morris said local members of the asphalt, transportation, and trucking industries came together as a group to thank state legislators who cast 'yes' votes for the bill and its accompanying gas tax increase.


"What a lot of people don't understand, with how it affects the state as a whole, is that we are the crossroads of all transportation modes throughout most of the nation," Weist said during a special event to recognize local lawmakers on Thursday. "Whether it's rail, whether it's trucks, whether it's cars, whatever it may be, we are the crossroads. And as we spend money and develop infrastructure, it brings tax revenue in, and that's what the state needs right now."


Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the six-year, $45 billion capital infrastructure plan into law in June.


The “Rebuild Illinois” plan allocates $33.2 billion for transportation, including funds earmarked for road and bridge repairs and public transit.


The most visible item for consumers is a 19-cent increase to the motor fuel tax to fund that plan, which went into effect on July 1. The motor fuel tax on regular gasoline and diesel fuel both increased to 38 cents per gallon, up from 19 cents, while an additional fee on diesel rose from 2.5 cents to 7.5 cents per gallon. The motor fuel tax increase is expected to bring in $1.3 billion in added infrastructure funding.


That money is an investment in the state that benefits everyone, said state Rep. David Welter, R-Morris.


"Adding another tax on to the folks, I know for a lot of people feels pretty difficult," said Welter, whose district includes eastern La Salle County. "I'm a conservative, I don't believe the government should be involved in every little aspect of your life. But when it comes to things we do need to be involved with, protecting our country, taking care of those who can't take care of themselves, and investing in our infrastructure are right up there at the very top. It shouldn't be a democrat or a republican issue."


Welter said the capital bill was good for the region in general, but acknowledged that the public needs to be better informed on how the money will be spent. He added that the state's "lockbox" amendment will force the money to be used only on infrastructure, and not spread around to other areas where there may be budget shortfalls.


"It's a trust issue, but this is one where we protected that, and I'm going to make sure as long as I'm in Springfield and representing this area that our money is doled out the way it should be," he said. "I would remind you that every local government, your city, your county, is receiving more motor fuel dollars."


Welter added that the capital bill was truly a bi-partisan effort in the state legislature. After this year, the motor fuel tax will increase annually by the consumer price index, capped at a 1 cent per-year increase.


The Transportation for Illinois Coalition also supported the gas tax increase. According to the coalition's website, the average driver will pay approximately $20 more per month on gas with the new tax now in effect, money that will be directly applied to address failing roads and bridges throughout the state.


Additional funding sources for the bill include a $1 tax increase on a pack of cigarettes, expected to generate about $159 million in revenue for the next fiscal year. Fee increases for licenses and registrations will also go toward funding, but do not take effect until Jan. 1, 2020.

‘I want to apologize to our constituents, our clients and our faithful donors’
State Journal Register
Friday, July 19, 2019  |   Article  |   Sharon Durbin

Land of Lincoln Goodwill has always been committed to our mission: Providing people the skills and resources to become self-sufficient through the power of work.


In the past year, Land of Lincoln Goodwill has counseled and supported over 100 at-risk youth, we have assisted 500 veterans and 1,050 ex-offenders in their transition to employment, and more than 7,000 individuals have taken advantage of our career centers and the employment training we provide there. Our Vocational Rehab program supports 50 individuals with intellectual disabilities. We have a long history of supporting people with disabilities. We have wrapped our arms around them and worked side by side with them. We have always honored their contributions and our ongoing support of their needs will always be at the heart of our mission.


The outpouring of comments regarding our decision to refocus the Vocational Rehab program and its impact on 12 program participants has caused us to take pause. While we must be good stewards of our nonprofit, we must remain sharply focused on our mission. Our recent decision regarding the Voc Rehab program and the resulting harm it might have caused falls short of living up to our mission and we apologize for this error in judgment. We are reversing the decision to realign our Voc Rehab program and those participants affected will return to their part time skills training program with pay.


As the leader of this organization, some challenges can be overwhelming to the point where the numbers, rather than those we are working to elevate, become the focus. Their challenges and their needs are personally near and dear to my heart. As the president & CEO of this organization, I want to apologize to our constituents, our clients and our faithful donors.


Moreover, Land of Lincoln Goodwill will continue to work with all stakeholders — our leadership and our legislative representatives to assure a living wage is attainable for all those willing to work. I am committed to exploring how the state’s new minimum wage law can help raise up those we serve as well as the 400 employees in our organization. Regardless

Regardless of the business and financial challenges ahead of us, Land of Lincoln Goodwill will always, first and foremost, remain true to our ideals and our mission of helping others to help themselves through the power of work.


Sharon Durbin is the president & CEO of Land of Lincoln Goodwill.

Former ALPLM staffers cited for improperly disposing state property
State Journal Register
Friday, July 19, 2019  |   Article  |   Doug Fink

Two former employees of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum improperly disposed of some property that may have had some historical value, an executive inspector general’s report said Thursday.


The property was part of a wooden desk from the old Union Station the state bought for $22,600 in February 2008. An inventory report from the Department of Central Management Services described the full unit as a “reception desk and back wall.”


The inspector general’s report said the office got a tip on Aug. 29, 2018, that someone from the ALPLM was using a saw to cut up a wooden desk that belonged to the state and came from the old railroad station. The person making the complaint said the desk could have historical value.


State regulations govern the disposal of property that is no longer needed and requires agencies to specify what they want to do with the property, whether to scrap it, cannibalize it or do something else. Personal property more than 40 years old or that has “special interest, culturally, scientifically or otherwise” has additional procedures that must be complied with.


The Department of Central Management Services had no record that the ALPLM wanted to get rid of the desk and back wall unit. In mid-October, investigators were told a desk with the inventory tag from the desk and wall unit was in the reading room of the ALPLM. But while the desk was there, the back wall portion was not.


Sam Cooper, who was then ALPLM’s director of facility services, told investigators the wall unit had been in the reading room, but that State Historian Sam Wheeler asked that it be removed. It was put in a storage area, he said, but ALPLM Director Alan Lowe and Chief Operating Officer Michael Little later decided they wanted to use that area for secure file storage.


The report says Cooper checked with other departments to see if they wanted the wall unit, but none did and there was no space to store it. That’s when the wall was cut up and tossed in a trash bin. Cooper said Lowe told him to get rid of the item. Lowe told investigators he did not give an order to get rid of the wall or destroy it but did want to convert the mailroom into a secure file storage area, which would necessitate removing the wall from the mailroom.

Little told investigators he also tried to see if the wall unit could be reused. The report says Little told investigators the wall didn’t have an inventory tag on it, and he did not know the wall was part of the desk. While Little said the wall needed to be disposed of, he said he did not know it was going to be cut up.


The OEIG report concludes that state property worth more than $100 cannot be scrapped without the permission of CMS.


“Given that the desk and wall set was valued at $22,600 as of at least 2008, it is likely that the wall unit has some significant value on its own,” the report says.


Whether the item had historical value could not be determined. Investigators spoke with Wheeler who said the desk appeared to be of more modern construction and “does not appear to be an antique or have any historic value.”


ALPLM spokesman Chris Wills said the wall was “an unneeded part of a piece of furniture. This was a modern piece with no historical value.”


“The employees mistakenly felt this unwanted part could be considered trash and thrown away,” he said. “Both employees have since left their positions at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. It has been made clear to current staff — and will be made clear to all future staff — that the rules regarding disposal of surplus property must be followed scrupulously.”


The OEIG report said both Cooper and Little were aware that the wall unit was state property and how it should have been disposed of properly. It said both improperly disposed of the property and recommended the finding be placed in their personnel files since neither works for the state any longer. The OEIG also recommended that neither man be rehired.


The report said Cooper retired on Dec. 31, 2018, not long after his interview with the OEIG.


The report said “ALPLM records reflect that Mr. Little later was permitted to resign in lieu of termination after he left a historical artifact in his custody (Lincoln’s “Minute Book”) unattended and unsecured in the state Capitol building on November 27, 2018.”


The date coincides with when the book was put on display in the Illinois House after schoolchildren in Sangamon County raised more than $18,000 in two weeks to buy the book. The book certifies Lincoln had the good moral character to practice law. The effort was led by Illinois Bicentennial Commission member Rikeesha Phelon of Springfield and former state Rep. Sara Wojcicki Jimenez, R-Leland Grove.

Land of Lincoln Goodwill CEO resigns amid layoff controversy
State Journal Register
Friday, July 19, 2019  |   Article  |   Doug Fink

A day after Land of Lincoln Goodwill Industries reversed a decision to lay off workers with disabilities because the state’s minimum wage is increasing, the organization’s president and CEO submitted her resignation.


Sharon Durbin, who had been with the local Goodwill for 13 years, quit on Thursday. She came under fire earlier this week after it was revealed 12 paid workers were set to be cut from the non-profit organization’s chain of thrift stores.


The move was made even though the organization has federal permission to pay workers with disabilities less than the minimum wage.


A number of lawmakers expressed outrage over the decision, particularly since additional money was included in the state budget to help human services organizations cope with the increased wage. Moreover, the first increase in the minimum wage doesn’t take effect until January and then is phased in over a five-year period.


Some were angered because the agency was targeting minimum wage workers while Durbin made nearly $165,000 a year and has seen a $30,000 salary increase in recent years. Durbin’s son also works for the organization at a salary of $96,747.


Responding to the fallout, Goodwill on Wednesday said it would back off the layoffs.


“Our recent decision regarding the Voc Rehab program and the resulting harm it might have caused falls short of living up to our mission and we apologize for this error in judgment,” Durbin said Wednesday. “We are reversing the decision to realign our Voc Rehab program and those participants affected will return to their part time skills training program with pay.”

Goodwill officials on Thursday did not mention the controversy in its statement about Durbin’s resignation.


Ron Culves, current vice president of finance, will serve as the nonprofit’s interim CEO.


“Land of Lincoln Goodwill’s Board is strongly committed to our mission, to our 400 employees and to those individuals with disabilities, veterans, at-risk youth, ex-offenders and those seeking job training assistance that we serve,” the board stated in a news release issued shortly before 6 p.m. Thursday. “The Board fully intends to seek out a strong, compassionate leader for our Goodwill organization who can energize our employees, expand our mission and who can provide the mission-driven leadership necessary to positively impact thousands of lives each year in central Illinois.”


State Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, said Durbin’s resignation is “good for the organization.”


“Judging from conversations with colleagues from the General Assembly, her resignation will serve the Goodwill organization well,” Manar said, reached by phone on Thursday.


Some of the decisions and comments made by Durbin, particularly about disabled workers, were “harsh and hurtful,” Manar said.


Manar was critical about Durbin’s salary and executive compensation.


Even with Durbin’s resignation, Manar said he will continue to press state agencies to review the contracts and state funding to the organization. Manar sent a letter to the Illinois Department of Human Services, the Department of Central Management Services and Gov. J.B. Pritzker asking for the review.


“I look forward to their final report,” he said.


A couple of hours before Durbin’s resignation on Thursday afternoon, Illinois’ two U.S. senators released a letter they sent to Durbin demanding information about Goodwill’s finances.


“Your actions and statements call into question your judgement, your commitment to the organization’s mission and your fitness to continue serving in your current leadership role,” read the letter from U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth. “While we appreciate the Land of Lincoln Goodwill Industries’ willingness to apologize for its harmful effort and reverse course, fixing a manufactured crisis that you created is far from an admirable effort.”