A lot of us CTA users recieved this email today. Like myself, many of us bought the Chicago Card Plus to save money on CTA. The Chicago Card for CTA, like the Illinois tollway which if you don't have a transponder that is prepaid and deducts tolls, you pay more if you pay cash.
Dear Valued Chicago Card Plus Customer:
Due to insufficient state funding, the Chicago Transit Authority Board recently approved a contingency plan which includes changes to CTA service and fares. Without additional funding, this contingency plan will take effect on September 16, 2007. Customers who pay with cash or Transit Cards and use the CTA weekdays will pay higher fares at rail stations and on buses (depending on the time of day they ride). Fares will also increase for customers who use Chicago Card® and Chicago Card Plus®. Visit www.transitchicago.com to learn more about CTA's 2007 fare changes.
Under this plan, beginning September 16, the fare for Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus customers will increase from $1.75 to $2.00 per ride, and 25Â¢ for a transfer (which allows two additional rides within two hours of issuance), regardless of the time of day. However, the bonus structure currently in place will remain, providing a $2 bonus for every $20 of Pay-Per-Use value added to an account. The cost of a 30-day unlimited Chicago Card Plus card will also increase from $75.00 to $84.00.
If the fare change goes into effect on September 16, the new $2.00 fare will be deducted from your Pay-Per-Use Chicago Card Plus account. Those who use the Chicago Card Plus 30-day unlimited ride pass, and whose reload occurs on or after September 16, will be charged the new rate of $84.00 on their accounts.
Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus offer the best value for traveling on CTA. Thank you for choosing Chicago Card Plus as your fare payment option.
Governor sueing State House SpeakerIll. governor sues House speaker over special sessions
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - The arguments over a state budget are escalating again, with Gov. Rod Blagojevich suing the speaker of the Illinois House.
Blagojevich is angry that Speaker Michael Madigan has defied his proclamations requiring the Legislature to meet in special session.
In some cases, Madigan has told lawmakers not to bother showing up. He has also convened sessions at different times of day than Blagojevich had ordered.
Blagojevich announced Monday that he filed suit against his fellow Democrat last week in Sangamon County court.
He wants Madigan to hold sessions at specific times and require members to attend. A state budget has passed, but Blagojevich says other related issues still require attention.
Legislators argue the special sessions are just for show. They note the governor usually doesn't submit proposals for lawmakers to consider.
Governor OKs most of state budget,Blagojevich cuts $463 million in 'pork' projects
August 24, 2007
By Christoper Willis The Associated Press
SPRINGFIELD -- After 23 days, Illinois finally has a state budget -- or most of one.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed the roughly $60 billion budget into law Thursday, except for $463 million that he called "special pet projects and other spending that we simply can't afford."
The Democratic governor also renewed his promise to add government health programs that legislators had refused to support. He plans more than $400 million in new or expanded services despite questions about whether he has the money or the legal authority.
Approving the budget means the state will start delivering school aid, worker's compensation, health care payments and other checks that were halted when the state's old budget expired July 31. The portions he vetoed go back to the General Assembly.
9 percent increase for schools
The new budget includes an increase of $597 million, or 9 percent, for elementary and secondary schools. It depends largely on natural growth in state revenues during the coming year, as well as ending a handful of tax breaks for business.
It does not have any major tax increases or gambling expansions, two of the many ideas discussed in the long months of bickering over the budget. Blagojevich signed the spending plan despite arguing earlier this month that it was perhaps $1 billion out of balance.
His signature largely resolves the most contentious issue of a bizarre legislative session marked by bitter disagreements among Democratic leaders and a record-breaking overtime session.
But the disagreements likely are to continue as officials try to come up with money for roads, bridges and mass transit.
Projects cut, projects spared in State Budget
A former superintendent of the Cook County Forest Preserve District was found dead Friday in the flooded basement of his Inverness home, police said. Arthur Janura, 87, possibly died as a result of electrocution
The official cause of his death had not been determined as of Friday night. An autopsy was scheduled for Saturday, a spokesman for the Cook County medical examiner's office said.
Janura, who served as the general superintendent for 27 years, had hooked up a sump pump generator in the basement, according to his son, retired Associate Cook County Judge Arthur Janura Jr. "We don't know exactly what happened," he said.
Former Chicago Police Superintendent, Phil Cline resigned due to Chicago Police misconduct now the State Police have issues.
Besides budget problems in this State, we now have State Police Problems
Madigan acts to bar release of ISP report
Asks court to quash subpoena in suit against Springfield
Yet another agency is objecting to release of the 2,300-page Illinois State Police report about alleged misconduct at the Springfield Police Department.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, whose office monitors compliance with state Freedom of Information laws, filed a motion to quash a subpoena seeking the report from the Illinois State Police in a pending federal lawsuit against the city of Springfield.
The attorney general’s office is representing state police in the case, in which a Springfield man, Larry Washington, and his girlfriend are suing the city and six former or current police officers. The plaintiffs claim their civil rights were violated when Washington was arrested on cocaine charges in March 2005.
The Washington case is just one of several forums in which lawyers, aldermen, members of the news media and others are seeking disclosure of the full Illinois State Police report.
Madigan’s motion states the subpoena should be thrown out because “it seeks privileged information pursuant to the law enforcement investigatory privilege.”
It also contends that the report is off limits because it is part of an ongoing investigation of criminal charges filed against one of former city police officer.
And a new Chicago Police incidentPolice fatally shoot teen; neighbors say he didn't have a gun.
There was hardly a hint that a man was killed by police hours earlier.
About midnight, Gresham District tactical officers tried to stop 21-year-old Johnny Goodwin at 82nd and Morgan streets to talk to him, but he ran into an alley and jumped over a fence into a back yard, where he ducked into a darkened stairwell, police said.
When Goodwin came up, he had a gun pointed at police and refused to drop it, causing officers to shoot him to death, police spokeswoman Monique Bond said. A .38-caliber handgun was recovered at the scene, she said.
The initial investigation into the shooting indicated it was justified, Bond said.
Just a few blocks away, at 83rd and Morgan streets in the Auburn Gresham community, Goodwin's mother stood in her doorway, leaning on the doorjamb for support. Janet Goodwin said her son did not carry a gun or keep one in their home -- and the cops had no reason to shoot him.
"I know he didn't have a gun,'' his mother said. "He was the type to fight with fists.''
Her reaction echoed comments from relatives and neighbors of Aaron Harrison, an 18-year-old who was shot and killed by Chicago police two weeks ago.
Johnny Goodwin was the 26th person this year to be shot by police, officials said. He had been arrested nine times on charges that included aggravated assault, gambling and drug possession. Court records show he had one conviction for soliciting an unlawful business.
Latest from Springfield
Thursday, Aug 23, 2007
* 11:39 am - The governor has finally filed his veto message on the budget. The line item and reduction veto message is 79 pages long and not posted online yet. Stay tuned.
* 11:54 am - LIS has updated the bill status to reflect the vetoes, but the veto message is not yet available.
* 11:59 am - Press release from the guv’s office. Without seeing the message itself, it looks like he didn’t touch the Senate Democrats’ pork…
In the budget the Governor signed today, he cut a total of $463 million in spending:
$15.8 million reduced from constitutional office budgets for personnel and other grants;
$141.3 million reduced from legislative add-ons; and
$306 million reduced in other agency spending.
Many of the legislative add-ons that were eliminated had little to do with the core mission of state government, such as funding for:
o outdoor volleyball court improvements
o an international dance exhibition
o a foreign delegation for a sister city program
o a drill team
o an elevator for event catering at a private cultural center
o parking lot and gymnasium improvements for private schools
o beautification project for a national railroad company
o planning funds for an Arboretum
Last week Gov. Blagojevich announced his plan to use his executive rule-making authority to bolster state healthcare programs and give 500,000 more Illinoisans access to affordable health coverage and services, including;
o Every uninsured woman in Illinois will be eligible to get screened and treated for breast and cervical cancer, greatly improving cancer outcomes and saving lives.
o Poor adults who are not eligible for Medicaid will have the chance to see a doctor regularly and get the prescription medications they need.
o More working and middle-class uninsured parents will receive access to health coverage at affordable rates through the Family Care program.
o Children in the All Kids program who have pre-existing conditions will continue to have access to affordable health insurance up to age 21.
o Families struggling with the high cost of health insurance premiums will be able to apply for yearly subsidies worth 20% of their annual premiums, up to $1,000.
Somehow I don't think all truckers obey this speed limit, I have been passed up by many trucks....well when I may have gone slightly cough, cough over the car speed limit. Appropriate to the truck story a piece on Ryan, when he was Secretary of State you could buy a CDC licence. And I wonder what does Patrick Collins do cartwheels over?
So I am not a trucker, but I have been on Illinois Highways and Tollways enough to wonder...Do they only go 55? Speaking of trucks it was buying truck licences at the DMV when former George Ryan was then Secretary of State that first kicked off the investigations?
Blagojevich vetoes truck speed limit bill
By Times Staff | Wednesday, August 22, 2007
SPRINGFIELD — Despite widespread support among Illinois lawmakers, Gov. Rod Blagojevich has again put the brakes on a plan to raise the speed limit for truckers.
Without comment, the governor vetoed legislation Monday that would have allowed large trucks to go a maximum of 65 mph on rural interstate highways, up from the current limit of 55 mph.
This spring marked the third time the General Assembly had sent the proposal to Blagojevich since he took office. It received 90 of 118 “yes” votes in the House and was approved in the Senate by a similar margin.
Supporters say Illinois roads would be safer if cars, which can go a maximum of 65 mph, and trucks had the same uniform speed limit. The proposal would reduce tailgating and eliminate the need for cars to weave around slower trucks while changing lanes, backers say.
In the past, however, Blagojevich has argued that faster-moving trucks compound the likelihood and severity of accidents.
— Times Springfield Bureau
Ex Gov Ryan staying strong?
Ryan 'staying strong'
August 22, 2007
Former Gov. George Ryan's conviction on corruption charges was upheld Tuesday but the once-powerful Republican got a reprieve from having to report to prison -- for now.
A federal appellate court late Tuesday allowed Ryan and his co-defendant, Larry Warner, to remain free for at least two more weeks as it weighs a further appeal from the former governor.
Tuesday began with a three-judge panel from the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals turning down Ryan's and Warner's request for a new trial by a 2-1 decision.
» Click to enlarge image
Three judges agreed former Gov. George Ryan could remain free until the full court takes up the matter.
(Scott Stewart/Sun-Times file)
CAST YOUR VOTE
Do you think former Gov. George Ryan should have been granted a retrial?
• George Ryan loses appeal, but remains free
• Brown: Ryan case is getting old
• Sneed: Ryan: 'I still believe'
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• Ryan's 1st choice for prison would pay him 12 cents an hour
• Ryan Trial: Complete coverage
The law firm of Winston & Strawn has spent an estimated $20 million defending former Gov. George Ryan. Yes, a juror did bring improper outside information into deliberations at Ryan's trial and "there is no doubt this should not have happened," the two-judge majority wrote. The judges also acknowledged that the sudden removal of an outspoken juror after eight days of deliberations was irregular.
"The trial may not have been picture-perfect," the two judges wrote in the majority opinion.
Dissenting Judge Michael Kanne called that "a whopping understatement by any measure." The jury deliberations were "dysfunctional" and U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer was "irresolute," he wrote, concluding that Ryan and Warner did not get a fair trial.
"The obvious -- but onerous -- way to address this situation was a mistrial," he wrote.
Former Gov. James Thompson, one of Ryan's lawyers, held out hope Kanne's "powerful dissent" might spark a rehearing of the case before all nine of the appellate court's active members.
"This case -- in terms of the management of the jury and the substitution of jurors after eight days of deliberation -- is unprecedented," Thompson said. "No court anywhere has ever deprived a defendant of his life and liberty under these circumstances."
Initially, it looked as if Ryan might have to report to prison by Friday morning. But his fortune changed by 5 p.m. when the three judges agreed he could remain free until the full court takes up the matter.
Ryan could eventually take his case to the U.S. Supreme Court, but experts hold out little hope. "He's not going to win there -- this was his best shot," said DePaul University law Professor Len Cavise.
Some jurors in the case praised the upholding of Ryan's conviction last year for using his office to shower rewards on friends and family.
"What I want to know is: How many judges will it take for Ryan and his team to find out that nothing was wrong?" Juror Jim Cwick asked. "Judge Pallmeyer ruled we didn't do anything wrong. Now you've got the appeals court saying nothing was wrong. I think it's time he start serving his sentence."
But juror Evelyn Ezell, whose ouster from deliberations was a focal point of Ryan's appeal, called the ruling unfair. "The bottom line was that George was railroaded for pardoning blacks and other minorities," she said, referring to Ryan's historic decision to clear Illinois' Death Row. "There is no way that you can say that jury was not flawed."
Lead prosecutor Patrick Collins, now in private practice, said the majority opinion was right: "I think what this opinion states is, while it was not a perfect trial, Judge Pallmeyer gave George Ryan a fair trial.
"I'm not here doing cartwheels," Collins added. "On a human level I feel bad for Mr. Ryan and Mr. Warner. I don't wish them ill."
Isn't this the same Mayor a couple of days ago worried about all the foreclosures and wants to do something about it
Daley inching toward property tax hike
August 21, 2007
By Fran Spielman Special to the Daily Southtown
Chicago Mayor Richard Daley hates raising the city property tax about as much as Chicago homeowners despise paying it.
Part of Daley's concern is political backlash. The other is a pragmatic desire to leave the door open for the Chicago Public Schools to tax to the max, as the school system has done in 10 of the 13 years since Daley took over the city schools.
But with a $217 million budget shortage and the next election nearly four years away, it looks like Daley may have no choice but to bite the bullet this time. That's even after crusading for property tax relief to soften the blow of reassessment increases.
He can either raise the property tax by the $30 million maximum allowed by the city's self-imposed cap or lift that ceiling.
Chicago property owners also face higher water and sewer rates to finance the costly switch to automatic meter readers. An array of other tax and fee increases are in the cards as well.
"I think he'll go to the cap. It'd be foolish not to," said a city hall source, who asked to remain anonymous. "They need every nickel they can find. He should have done it a long time ago. The more you wait, the worse it gets."
Another source argued Daley would have been far better off raising the property tax by $10 million or $15 million a year all along to keep pace with rising personnel costs.
Instead, he has cut property taxes twice -- in 1990 and 1999 -- and raised the city's overall levy by just $92.7 million in 18 years. That's less than 1 percent a year.
None of the city's $713.4 million annual levy (the total amount raised via the property tax) is available for day-to-day operations. It's largely eaten up by pension obligations.
"How do you go on like that while giving police and fire pay raises every year and with pensions and health care going off the charts? They're all afraid of the headlines. But take the polls and stuff 'em. You need to govern," the source said.
In a recent interview, Daley repeated his mantra that raising the property tax is a "last resort." But he also said, "You can't rule anything in or out. If you do, then basically you're kidding yourself. You leave all options open."
Last month, Daley followed two rounds of mid-year budget cuts with an alarming announcement: Chicago's $5.6 billion preliminary 2008 budget has a $217.7 million hole, the second-largest in a decade.
Some aldermen reacted with a promise to steer clear of the dreaded property tax. Sources said that aldermanic door-slamming angered Daley, prompting some to conclude that the mayor intends to raise the tax that everyone loves to hate.
"Does that mean everybody (on the city council) will go for it? No way. The Tom Allens, Brian Dohertys and the rest of the Northwest Side (bloc) won't go for it. But (Daley will) have (the needed) 26 votes," a city hall source said.
Here is Judy Baar Topinka's arrogant article written and published in the Chicago Tribune. Judy Baar Toninka who worked closely with the former Governor Ryan, who is still free on appeal, Judy Baar Topinka in a Blue State where no GOP hold any high office, who unsuccessfully ran for Governor of this State, and she wonders why we have had it with her. It's art Judy, have you ever seen anything like this before? It's Unique, it Art, get over it Judy. The Miro, right accross from Daley Plaza with the fork thing on it's head is kind of strange, the plastic white piece with black trim in front of the State of Illinois, a.k.a. Thompson Center is unique, the Picasso at Daley Plaza is certainly different, so is the Flamingo accross from the Dirksen Building. What is Art to some may not be to others
Spindle in need of a tow truck
No town wants to be known for 'public art' that would be more at home in an auto graveyard, writes Judy Baar Topinka
Judy Baar Topinka is a former treasurer of Illinois and represented the west suburbs in the legislature
August 3, 2007
It has solid bungalows and beautiful Victorian homes. It is great for commuting because of the Metra and its location between two major expressways. It has great ethnic restaurants. And finally, it has good, community-oriented citizens.
But what is it known for? It is the "Burrrrr-wyn" of "Svengoolie," and the site of a vertical, auto graveyard known as "Spindle."
Yes, the "Spindle" did put Berwyn into the movie "Wayne's World." But no other community is bucking to be in something as spoof-oriented and goofy as that film. You don't see Hinsdale or Bolingbrook or Riverside seeking something like the "Spindle" to get notoriety. No community of standing wants to be known for having something better placed in a used-car lot.
Yes, tourists come with cameras and pose in front of the stack of deteriorating cars. These photos are probably sent to homes around the world. And what is the message? That Berwyn prides itself on having a pile of junk cars as its claim to fame. How disrespectful of all that is good and worthy in Berwyn to shout about.
In my days as a reporter and as an Illinois legislator, I received numerous complaints about the "Spindle" and some of the other alleged works of art at Cermak Plaza. People recognized that the "Spindle" was just plain junk. But it was not as bad as "Big Bil-Bored." That piece of expensive garbage, facing busy Harlem Avenue, was a three-story concrete pork-chop-shaped "sculpture" with pieces of landfill trash stuck into it. What a commentary it and the "Spindle" were about Berwyn, sort of a one-two punch.
I spoke to David Bermant, the now-deceased owner of the plaza, when these "works of art" first started appearing there. I noted that there were complaints, especially that the artworks encouraged bird droppings and provided a breeding ground for mosquitoes. An elderly, rather acerbic gentleman, Bermant was not put off by the complaints or my comments. In fact, he said I was representative of the "rednecks" who inhabited the area. If anything, he was going to show us what good art was. He was going to "educate" us, if you will, to appreciate art.
There was no way to get at the junk legally since it was on private property, and I certainly did not want to limit what people could put on their lawns. And so, the "Spindle," "Big Bil-Bored" and other assorted alleged artworks plagued Cermak Plaza until they fell apart on their own or were removed when plaza ownership changed.
The "Spindle" is all that is left, eight cars shish kebabed one on top of another as they rust and rot.
Walgreens wants to put a drugstore on the spot, giving the cars their just reward -- a spot in the auto graveyard where they can disintegrate out of public view.
Sure, the "Spindle" has its supporters, and they are circulating a petition to save it in some way. But to what end? The cars are old and falling apart. Where would the "Spindle" go? Remain at the plaza? Be relocated to the front yard of a school or by the south Berwyn train depot? Do we really want this thing?
The "Spindle" was a pipe dream of a gentleman who felt he could impose his taste in art on others. All he did was to trivialize a great community like Berwyn.
Berwyn deserves better.
Daley to target home foreclosures
Tribune staff report
August 19, 2007
CHICAGO - Speaking about the increasing number of home foreclosures in Chicago and in the nation, Mayor Richard Daley said Saturday that the city hopes to compile a list of people who lost their homes to foreclosures, in an effort to try to help them.
"We have to take a list of all of them, get all the mortgage companies and have to try to build their lives," the mayor said at a news conference announcing a new principal at Harper High School in West Englewood. He did not specify what the city would do with the list.
Chicago had 34,818 foreclosures, or one filing for every 88 households, for the first half of 2007, according to RealtyTrac, which publishes foreclosure information.
The mayor said the increase in foreclosures is a national problem and faulted the federal government for not regulating the issue.
"Where was the federal government on this?" he said. "They completely failed."
Parents are able to check their children's driving recordsGov. Rod Blagojevich signed the proposal into law earlier this week. It goes into effect Jan. 1. Secretary of State Jesse White applauded the effort.
"By giving adults access to these driving records, we are giving them a tool to keep them more involved in their teenagers' driving patterns as they proceed through the graduated driver licensing program," White said in news release.
This is just one of several laws targeting new drivers. If approved, those laws would require teens to spend more time behind the wheel to qualify for a license and then restrict when they can drive with it and how many other teens can be with them.
This is the state's second shot at trying to make parents aware of their child's driving habits. Under Illinois law, there's nothing requiring that parents be notified when a new driver begins racking up violations.
Prodded by Buckner's situation and others like it, lawmakers created a pilot program in the late 1990s that was supposed to send out notices to the registered owner of the vehicle so, in theory, parents would know when their children get tickets. But the experiment met with resistance because of the amount of work put on the counties and lack of funding from the state.
The latest effort attempts to remedy that by turning to the Internet. The Illinois House and Senate approved it this spring without a vote of opposition.
Buckner believes parents will do an effective job self-
State Senate Leader ganging up with Governor against House Speaker Mike Madigan
Jones, the Senate president, says he is supporting Blagojevich's idea of spending more on health while vetoing parts of the budget. He promises to block any Senate effort to override the vetoes.
Jones again blamed Madigan for the situation. He says any budget agreement among the legislative leaders was broken by Madigan conspiring with Republicans to derail Senate efforts to approve a new Chicago casino that would provide money for state construction contracts.
"He's not a man of his word. Keep his nose out of the Senate business, period," Jones said.
The governor doesn’t have the legal authority to enact his new health insurance plan, House Speaker Michael Madigan said Wednesday.
In his first public comments since Gov. Rod Blagojevich announced he would veto $500 million from the proposed state budget in order to finance an expansion of health care, Madigan said it is not possible for the governor to take money from one part of the budget and spend it on something else without legislative approval.
“I still think he needs some authority, somewhere,” said Madigan, D-Chicago.
Madigan called Blagojevich’s latest move “contrary to the Constitution.”
A picture of the inside of Marshall's Fields, aka Macy's where most of the embezzled money went
County worker allegedly took $169,000
August 15, 2007
BY ERIC HERMAN Staff Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
Prosecutors charged a former employee of the Cook County Assessor's office Tuesday with stealing nearly $170,000 -- and using the money to shop at department stores and cover her daughter's college costs.
Joyce Pierce, 51, allegedly raided an account kept for handling Freedom of Information requests, according to prosecutors. If convicted, she faces up to 15 years in prison.
Pierce managed the Freedom of Information department in Assessor James Houlihan's office. When the office levies charges for documents, those funds go into a bank account, sources said.
According to assistant state's attorney John Carey, Pierce "withdrew for her personal benefit approximately $169,000 from the Cook County Assessor's account" at Chase Manhattan Bank. Pierce, an eight-year employee, made the multiple withdrawals from November 2002 through November 2005, he said.
A source in Houlihan's office said the theft went undetected because the county stopped doing audits every year. But a law enforcement source said "there was really no oversight." The theft came to light after a periodic audit, which revealed documents had been altered.
"We take the public trust very seriously and are cooperating fully with the investigation," Houlihan said in a statement. "We have taken steps to make sure this sort of problem doesn't happen again."
Pierce bought money orders and used them to pay off credit card bills and, on one occasion, to pay $750 to the University of Pennsylvania, Carey said. Pierce's daughter, 21, attends the school, a source said.
The credit card expenditures included purchases at Marshall Field's, Nordstrom and Saks, Carey said.
Pierce, of Chicago's Roseland community, pleaded not guilty Tuesday. Her attorney, Neil Cohen, said she is likely to plead guilty later.
"Our hope is we can avoid jail time," Cohen said.
Judge Clayton Crane set bond at $110,000.
Blagojevich will cut budget, expand health care
August 14, 2007
By Christopher Wills
SPRINGFIELD -- Rejected by legislators, Gov. Rod Blagojevich said today he will go around them by taking $500 million from the state budget they approved and spending more on the health care programs he favors.
The Democratic governor said he would cut $200 million in "pork" projects and $300 million from unspecified places elsewhere in the budget. At the same time, he plans to expand state health programs to serve an additional 500,000 people.
• Ill. officials get raises; schools, hospitals miss out
Blagojevich refused to answer any questions about the maneuver, which he announced in a brief appearance outside his state Capitol office.
"In short, I am cutting pork and special-interest spending and in its place I'm using the legal authority that I have to expand health care to more than 500,000 people," he said before turning and walking away. "I believe that's the right thing to do."
The cuts he wants to make would have to go back to the Legislature to be accepted or overridden.
Senate President Emil Jones, D-Chicago, joined Blagojevich at the announcement and said he supports the governor's cuts and would not allow any Senate effort to override them.
"Case closed," Jones said.
Senate Minority Leader Frank Watson, R-Greenville, questioned whether Blagojevich has the legal authority to make such a dramatic change in the $59 billion budget that lawmakers approved last week.
"I think it's unprecedented," Watson said. "To have a governor just totally disregard the legislative process with this type of initiative, I think creates more problems in the process."
The governor's announcement is just the latest twist in a remarkable legislative session that has left the state without a budget.
In March, Blagojevich proposed the largest tax increase in state history to fund an ambitious agenda on health care, education and debt reduction. That launched months of bickering with lawmakers, who did not share his fervor for health care or his interest in a major business tax.
Unable to agree, officials let the old budget expire July 31. State paychecks are still going out, thanks to a court order, but the impasse is blocking payments to schools, Medicaid providers and companies doing business with the state.
Jones gave little or no warning to his Senate members that he would help the governor eliminate the local projects they wanted, from fire department computers to street improvements to dance-related community programs.
Several seemed surprised by the governor's plan.
"God bless him, he was going to get health care no matter what," said Senate Majority Leader Debbie Halvorson, D-Crete. "That's one way to do it."
Nice cost of living increase in budget
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - The governor and legislators will get bigger paychecks soon, but Illinois schools and hospitals may be out of luck.
A new law signed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich gives top officials a roughly 10 percent cost-of-living increase.
It also promises $1.2 billion to hospitals and $150 million for school construction, but officials said Tuesday that delays in passing the measure and signing it into law have created technical problems that will block the money for hospitals and schools.
"It's outrageous that these funds are not going to be released," said Ben Schwarm, associate executive director of the Illinois Association of School Boards. "We think it's a legal obligation. It's an ethical obligation."
Lawmakers sent the spending measure to the governor on June 14, two weeks before the end of the state's fiscal year. Blagojevich took no action for two months, then signed it late Monday night _ just before it would have taken effect without his signature.
His aides say it's now too late to provide the hospital and school money, for two different reasons.
The hospital money is part of an effort to capture more federal matching funds and funnel them to hospitals that serve lots of poor people. The first step in that money shuffle is for the state to take out a short-term loan.
Cook County State's Attorney Dick Devine won't run for re-election
By Associated Press
Posted Friday, August 10, 2007
Dick Devine says he won't run for a fourth term as Cook County state's attorney.
The 64-year-old says he loves the job and will miss it very much. But he says it's time to move on.
Devine was elected as the county's top prosecutor in November 1996 and took office the following month.
He has personally prosecuted several recent high-profile cases, including the conviction of Juan Luna in the Brown's Chicken and Pasta massacre.
Devine says he plans to continue to run the office, which has more than 900 prosecutors, until his term ends.
A very interesting Cook County State's Attorney election ready to start
Richard Devine's announcement Friday that he would not seek re-election to a fourth term next year touched off a scramble by hopefuls who will be vying for the job in what for now looks like a wide-open field. 'No matter who we endorse, some of these people have already said if they don't get endorsed they're going to run anyway,' said Joseph Berrios, chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party. 'It's going to be a free-for-all when it's all said and done.'
The Democratic primary election Feb. 5 is shaping up to be the most competitive since Daley beat Ald. Edward Burke in 1980 to win the party's nomination. Daley went on to upset Bernard Carey in the general election.
More than a half-dozen Democrats are publicly proclaiming interest in the job, a mixture of well-known political names and behind-the-scenes career prosecutors from within the office.
But the state's attorney's job is one office where Republicans can't be so easily written off in heavily Democratic Cook County. Carey (1972-80) and O'Malley (1990-96) each held the office for two terms. County Commissioner Tony Peraica (R-Riverside), who has worked to build his profile in recent years, is gearing up for a shot at the office.
Peraica, who waged a vigorous campaign for county board president last fall but lost to Todd Stroger, is expected to announce his candidacy next week. He said public corruption should be an important issue in the campaign.
'Any Democrat that is backed by the regular Democratic machine in the County of Cook is going to be a caretaker and a person that will be expected to toe the line, sweep these things under the rug and not do anything controversial,' Peraica said.
A number of prospective Democratic candidates said Friday they would not shy from investigating legitimate allegations of public corruption, but some stressed that the office is about more than handling one issue.
Ald. Howard Brookins (21st), Ald. Thomas Allen (38th) and County Commissioner Larry Suffredin (D-Evanston) have said they are in the race.
Other Democrats who are considering a run include: Sheriff Tom Dart, Treasurer Maria Pappas, County Commissioner Mike Quigley, Board of Review Commissioner Larry Rogers Jr., attorney Tommy Brewer, and top Devine aides Bob Milan and Anita Alvarez.
August 10, 2007
Gov. Blagojevich opens 2007 Illinois State Fair
Governor’s and First Lady’s tents open today
SPRINGFIELD – Keeping up with Illinois State Fair tradition, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich, along with First Lady Patricia Blagojevich, today cut the ribbon at the Main Gate of the Fairgrounds to officially open the 10-day event. The 155th Illinois State Fair began today and runs through Sunday, August 19th. The theme of this year’s Illinois State Fair is “Celebrate and Educate.”
“The Illinois State Fair is a summertime tradition that my family and I look forward to every year. With top notch entertainment, fantastic food, and fun rides, the Fair has something for everyone in the family to enjoy,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
The Governor’s tent is located near the main entrance of the Fairgrounds on the corner of Main Street and Brian Raney Avenue, and it highlights many of the administration’s initiatives and accomplishments in healthcare, economic development, and public safety. Displays highlight the healthcare programs currently available through the state, the ways Illinois is tackling global warming, prescription drug programs available to seniors, the $1 billion FutureGen clean coal-to-energy project, and feature films that have been brought to Illinois.
The First Lady’s tent focuses on women’s and children’s health through a variety of interactive and informational displays. In the tent, visitors can find information on ICHIP, a state program that provides an insurance-like benefit for Illinois residents who qualify; members of the Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization will offer information on their free services for breast cancer patients; and the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) will provide blood pressure screenings and offer information about child safety seats.
The First Lady’s tent also features interactive and informational activities provided by the DuPage Children’s Museum, Kohl’s Children’s Museum of Glenview, the Chicago Children’s Museum, and the Discovery Center Museum in Rockford, including a small plane painted to appear like a giant fish that children are able to climb into. And, Prevent Blindness America will provide information on common childhood vision disorders and the four major adult aging eye diseases.
The Governor’s and First Lady’s tents are open daily from 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.
State fair open
Other interesting news, Dick Devine, Cook County States Attorney is not going to run again, so we have a lot of interested Cook County Commissioners ready to run, Larry Suffredin -D, Mike Quigley - D and Tony Peraica -R, but will they be able to focus on running Cook County as they run for States Attorney? Rumor has it even Sheriff Tom Dart -D may run.
Devine won't run again, cites economic reasons
By Mickey Ciokajlo | Tribune staff reporter
1:39 PM CDT, August 10, 2007
E-mail Print Single page view Reprints text size: Saying it was time to "turn a page," Cook County State's Atty. Richard Devine announced today that he will not seek re-election next year.
Devine, 64, said economics weighed heavily in his decision and that he will be looking for a job that could help him provide more financial security for his family than his $167,000 salary provides.
Devine, a Democrat, worked in the private sector for more than dozen years before winning the office in 1996 by beating incumbent Republican Jack O'Malley. Devine plans to complete his term, which ends in December 2008.
"I doubt that whatever I do, anything will be quite as rewarding and challenging as the years I've spent as state's attorney," Devine told reporters at a press conference.
Calling it "kind of a melancholy day," Devine told reporters of his decision shortly after a meeting during which he informed his top staff.
"It's time to turn the page and begin a new chapter, whatever chapter that is," Devine said. "It's essentially an economic decision. I am 64. I have not over the years salted a great deal away."
Devine said he "feels great" and he's working as hard as he ever has, but then added, "Who knows how many years of that are left and you have to provide a little bit of security down the road for yourself and your family."
Devine said he didn't have a job lined up, joking, "I don't even have lunch lined up."
"I'm just going to see what comes down the road," he said, adding with a laugh, "I suppose I could go out and be a first-year associate at a big law firm and earn more than I do now."
Devine spoke of his admiration for the men and women who work in his office. He cited a number of prosecutions, from his cold-case team's work on the Brown's Chicken Massacre to public corruption investigations such as the one that led to the conviction of Thomas Ryan, the former Sauk Village school superintendent.
When pressed about why he wouldn't stick around for another term, Devine said the office is bigger than him.
"The reality is that a place like the state's attorney's office goes on," Devine said. "It's bigger than any individual and no one should ever stand here and think that they're not replaceable."
More than a half-dozen local Democratic politicians are expected to jockey for Devine's job.
Ald. Howard Brookins (21st) has announced he will run for the post, but the rest of the contenders were waiting to hear a decision from Devine, who is closely allied with Mayor Richard Daley.
Among the list of potential Democratic contenders are Sheriff Tom Dart, Ald. Thomas Allen (38th), County Commissioners Mike Quigley and Larry Suffredin, and Board of Review Commissioner Larry Rogers Jr.
Devine's two top aides in the office, Bob Milan and Anita Alvarez, are also interested if Devine retires.
On the Republican side, Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica is expected to announce his candidacy next week. Peraica lost to Todd Stroger in last fall's election for County Board president.
Devine, the former first assistant to Daley when he was the state's attorney in the 1980s, was in private practice for more than a decade before he was elected to the office in 1996, upsetting Republican Jack O'Malley. He has had only nominal opposition in the two elections since.
Shortly after becoming mayor, Daley appointed Devine to be president of the Chicago Park District Board, where he served from 1989 to 1993.
Earlier this year, Devine personally led the prosecution of Brown's Chicken and Pasta killer Juan Luna, who was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison.
Just last week, Devine won a big pay raise for the prosecutors in his office following months of negotiations with Stroger.
Anyone who did business with Stuart Levine should be really nervous, especially since he had been doing a lot of talking6 comments Posted by Third Generation Chicago Native at 8/08/2007
Vrdolyak enters not guilty pleas
August 7, 2007
A former Chicago alderman accused of scheming to get a $1.5 million kickback in a real estate deal pleaded not guilty Tuesday to fraud and bribery charges.
Edward Vrdolyak, a powerful Democratic alderman in the 1980s, already had pleaded not guilty in May to four counts of fraud and bribery.
A superseding indictment released last month added four more counts of wire fraud, and it was those counts for which he entered the plea during Tuesday's brief hearing. The next status hearing in the case was set for Sept. 20.
Vrdolyak was chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party and alderman of the 10th Ward who led the Chicago Machine forces that battled the late Mayor Harold Washington. He switched parties and ran for mayor unsuccessfully as a Republican.
The indictment accuses Vrdolyak of plotting with millionaire political contributor Stuart Levine to get money from a developer that wanted to buy a building on Chicago's Gold Coast.
Levine -- chairman of the board of Chicago Medical School, which owned the building -- sought to freeze out rival buyers in favor of Smithfield Properties, which wanted to redevelop the building for condos, the indictment said.
Vrdolyak allegedly told Levine that Smithfield was interested in the property. The two discussed a $2 million cash payment by Smithfield to a charitable trust from which Levine benefited personally, according to the indictment.
They settled on a scheme under which the payment would be $1.5 million, or 10 percent of the $15 million sale price, and Vrdolyak would receive a cut for his services as a middleman, according to the indictment.
But a federal investigation called Operation Board Games intervened and the money never changed hands. Neither the medical school nor Smithfield are charged with wrongdoing.
Levine already has admitted he used his membership on two state boards to pressure contractors for kickbacks and pleaded guilty to fraud. He has been helping federal prosecutors in corruption investigations in hopes of obtaining a lighter sentence.
Rezko's $50 mil. Iraq deal
IRAQ CONTRACT | Gov's staff offered to let firm train 150 power-plant guards in western Illinois, but now plan's in limbo
August 7, 2007
BY TIM NOVAK AND CHRIS FUSCO Staff Reportersemail@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Two years ago, Iraq's Ministry of Electricity gave a $50 million contract to a start-up security company owned by now-indicted businessman Tony Rezko and a onetime Chicago cop with a checkered financial past.
Within a month, an Iraqi leadership change left the deal in limbo.
Now the company, Companion Security, is working to revive its contract to train Iraqi power-plant guards in the United States.
Companion found support last summer from Gov. Blagojevich, whose staff offered to let the company lease a military facility in western Illinois. Since then, Companion has been lobbying officials from Washington to Baghdad about its Iraqi deal, according to documents obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.
Blagojevich's offer to assist Companion came as a federal investigation into Rezko's state-government dealings was heating up. A former top fund-raiser for the governor and other politicians, Rezko was indicted on corruption charges in October -- four months after Blagojevich's homeland security
The governor's spokeswoman said state officials didn't know Rezko had ties to Companion until the Sun-Times began asking questions. Blagojevich and his staff also didn't know that Companion's chief executive, former cop Daniel T. Frawley, had a history of financial problems, she said.
It's unclear if Frawley and Rezko remain partners. They declined to comment.
After the state found a proposed training site, Frawley went to Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) last August.
Obama's staff declined to help.
"The Senate staff had two meetings, one conference call, and sporadically e-mailed with representatives of Companion Security about their request for Sen. Obama to write a letter introducing the company to senior officials in the Iraqi government," Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt said. "That is not the kind of action Sen. Obama usually takes for individual companies, and our staff concluded on that basis to decline the requested assistance."
LaBolt said Obama's staff was unaware Companion had any ties to Rezko, who has raised campaign donations for Obama.
Companion beefed up its lobbying efforts in March, hiring a Washington attorney who has contacted the U.S. State and Commerce departments. Frawley wants U.S. officials to persuade the Iraqi government to honor the contract he signed on April 18, 2005, when Aiham Alsammarae, another friend of Rezko's, ran Iraq's electricity agency.
Iraq's current electricity minister has balked, saying Frawley's contract is too expensive, according to a U.S. Embassy official in Baghdad.
As Frawley has sought to revive the deal, he's been facing lawsuits:
A man and his nephew are trying to find Frawley to make him pay a $28,444 judgment they won in a civil case in which they claimed Frawley physically attacked them.
Frawley, 56, was a Chicago cop for seven months in 1977. He has owned businesses that sell resins to make plastic bags. He is a friend of Rezko's former business partner Daniel Mahru, an attorney for Companion when it got the Iraqi contract.
Frawley and Rezko owned Companion, according to two sources.
"Frawley originally had two other partners; one of them was a guy named Tony Rezko,'' said security consultant Patrick Goodale. Under the contract Frawley signed, Goodale is to coordinate training of the Iraqi power-plant guards.
Rezko, 52, is fighting federal charges that he solicited kickbacks from companies seeking state business under Blagojevich. Sources in December told the Sun-Times the feds are investigating Rezko's dealings in Iraq, where Rezko once had a contract from Alsammarae's agency to build a power plant.
Alsammarae, who lives in the Chicago area and was a college classmate of Rezko, is a dual U.S.-Iraqi citizen. He left his post as Iraq's electricity minister in May 2005, about a month after Companion got the contract. Alsammarae was accused of financial corruption by Iraqi authorities and jailed in Iraq last year before escaping and returning here.
Companion's contract called for it to fly 150 Iraqis to the United States for police-type training. Among the subjects: how to shoot AK-47 rifles.
As Frawley sought to revive the contract in spring 2006, Blagojevich's chief of staff, John Harris, directed the state's homeland security adviser, Jill Morgenthaler, to find "a military site for the training of Iraqi police forces,'' Morgenthaler wrote in an April 26, 2006, e-mail. She wrote the letter in June 2006 offering the Savanna site.
Two months later, Frawley sought help from Obama, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who is now running for president. Frawley met with Seamus Ahern, who runs Obama's Moline office. Frawley and Ahern discussed the proposal over a period of about six months.
Obama and Blagojevich viewed Frawley's efforts as a chance to create jobs in the Quad Cities area.
Blagojevich's spokeswoman, Abby Ottenhoff, said state officials assume Frawley's contract has "gone away" because they haven't heard from Companion since last year.
"We never got far enough along in the process to determine whether their plan was a good one," she said. "We only had preliminary discussions with them."
$100K, guns stolen — or were they?
Companion Security lists its headquarters as a small house in La Grange that was the site of a bizarre burglary last year.
It’s the home of Companion owner Daniel T. Frawley’s sister, Maureen Frawley, a Forest Park police officer. She claimed someone broke in on April 27, 2006, and stole $100,000 in cash from her laundry room and three guns.
She told police the money belonged to her older brother, Daniel.
He “became defensive about questions relating to when, where and how he obtained the money,’’ according to a La Grange police report.
He told police he had withdrawn the money — $100 bills in bundles of $5,000 — from a Chicago bank, and his sister was supposed to have put the cash in a safe-deposit box.
Four days later, Maureen Frawley reported that the money and guns weren’t missing any more. She told police someone rang her doorbell, and when she answered, the cash and guns were on her porch, but no one was there. When police arrived, the money was gone again. Maureen Frawley told officers her brother had taken it to his lawyer, George E. Weaver. Weaver told police the money had been “legally obtained by Daniel Frawley through real-estate transactions.’’
Other Blagojevich news, offering loans to schools since we still don't have a state budget
Unless a state budget passes by Wednesday, they could be left without a paycheck.
Henry Sutton works for the Department of Rehabilitation and takes care of patients with health care issues. He's one of 49-thousand workers paid by the state...But for how much longer? If a state budget isn't passed by August 8th, he may not get a paycheck, and doesn't even want to think about what happens if that's the case---
If a budget isn't passed in the 11th hour, essential programs like the department of corrections, state police, and emergency response teams would remain open.
But programs that governor Rod Blagojevich declares non essential could have a closed sign in the window...Like this drivers license facility. Health care programs that help the elderly or children could be also be affected. State legislatures say they're remaining optimistic.
"The word is that we'll be voting on the budget either Tuesday or Wednesday."
Koehler says the hold-up comes from ongoing philosophical differences between Blagojevich and the leaders of the house and senate.
"13:38:15 the big issues are of course education funding, capital bill, and health care bill."
Lawmakers say state workers will eventually get pay or backpay if a budget doesn't pass... It's just a matter of when.
I am sure that all of our State legislatures will be down in Springfield for the State fair Maybe even for the haunted walk with Lincoln for Halloween?
Time runs out on state budget as deadlock drags on
August 1, 2007
BY CHRISTOPHER WILLS Associated Press
SPRINGFIELD, Ill.---- State employees will come to work. State parks and drivers license offices will be open. State police will patrol the highways.
But they'll do it without a state budget to pay for all that work. If the governor and lawmakers don't come up with a budget soon, some services might begin to shut down.
Officials say the first key date is Aug. 8, when the state processes payments to employees and school districts.
The governor and others have for days stressed that expiration of the temporary budget should not cause an immediate crisis.
That's because most vital expenses, such as employee paychecks and payments to schools, aren't due until later in the month. The state should be able to keep running for at least a few days without major problems, leaders argue.
But for how long is a mystery.
Blagojevich said at a bill-signing Monday that his office has been making preparations for months. ''We're prepared to meet whatever contingency is necessary,'' he said.
He didn't elaborate on what those preparations are, and his staff could answer few questions about how the state will operate without a budget.
They also won't discuss when services, such as state parks, police patrols and highway operations, might be affected by the budget impasse. They insist that's not going to happen right away.
Billing contractors get another shot at hospital deal
July 31, 2007
Staff writer Jonathan Lipman
A contractor who could have brought in millions for cash-strapped Cook County was booted out of Stroger Hospital today by commissioners who wanted to let other firms — some of whom are major campaign donors — another crack at sharing the work.
The decision infuriated hospital officials who said the contract was vital to boosting revenue at the county hospital system, which is already projected to finish the year $50 million in the hole.
The county health bureau’s chief operating officer, Tom Glaser, said it was clear commissioners were influenced by competing companies angry about not getting a share of the work.
“The other contractors were sitting right behind (the commissioners) and passing them notes,” Glaser said.
Board members in July approved a $4 million contract for Chamberlin Edmonds to do on-site billing work at Stroger Hospital.
Chamberlin is one of four companies working for the county under similar contracts to do what’s called “patient eligibility.” The companies get county patients approved for federal programs, such as Medicaid, allowing the county to bill those programs every time they treat the patient.
As reported in the Daily Southtown, Board President Todd Stroger’s new hospital management team believes one of those contractors, Great Lakes Medicaid, was getting a greater share of the work under past administrations because of “personal relationships” between former hospital staff and the company.
Chamberlin was able to get patients qualified for federal programs about 15 percent of the time; Great Lakes succeeded about 9.5 percent of the time.
“These are objective reasons we picked them,” health bureau chief Robert Simon said. “We have no relationship … with any of these companies.”
Great Lakes and its owners have donated at least $21,900 to the campaigns of county politicians since 2000, according to state records. Chamberlin Edmonds has donated nothing.
Canceling the contract will force the hospital to dedicate more of its finance workers to billing tasks, Simon said.
Glaser said canceling the deal will lose the county somewhere between $1 million and $10 million this year.
That wasn’t good enough for the county board, which voted 12-4 to overturn their previous vote and cancel the contract.
“This whole contract blindsided the other vendors,” Commissioner Elizabeth Gorman (R-Orland Park) said. “We’re looking for some kind of fairness.”
“What we’ve been hearing from some of the vendors is that they’d be willing to work for a quarter of this,” Commissioner Joan Murphy (D-Crestwood) said. “Vendors who have been faithful to us deserve an opportunity.”
Glaser said all four contractors a chance to apply for the new, expanded contract and only Chamberlin made a reasonable and feasible offer.
“I strongly disagree that this was not fair,” Glaser said. “Everyone was around the table and got the same information".
Cook County Prosecutors and other non-Union employees get a pay raise approvalThe Cook County Board today approved a pay raise for prosecutors, but several commissioners made it clear they oppose a tax increase for the 2008 budget.
“I will not support a tax increase,” said Commissioner Tim Schneider (R-Bartlett). “This county needs to go on a diet.”
Board President Todd Stroger today again tried to tie the wage increase for prosecutors with the need for more taxes in 2008.
To give all county employees a promised 4.75 percent pay raise next year would cost $113 million, Stroger said.
“There’s no way you can talk about that without talking about a tax increase,” Stroger said. “There’s no way you can raise fees enough to close that gap.
“There’s not going to be a way to cut enough without seriously damaging the government.”
The deal approved today ends a contentious several weeks between Stroger and State’s Attorney Dick Devine. Devine’s staff had made vague threats about walkouts or mass resignations if prosecutors were not given raises to match public defenders.
Prosecutors got an 8 percent raise retroactive to 2004, while other non-union county workers got a 3 percent raise retroactive to the start of this year.
Commissioner Deb Sims complained county workers were being unfairly portrayed as overpaid.
“I wish everybody could get the raise they’re entitled to,” said Sims (D-Chicago). “My staff hasn’t had a raise in, I believe, six years. Some people in this county work hard.”
County budget records show Sims’ three staff members earn between $50,016 and $83,323, and saw their salaries increase between 11.5 percent and 31 percent between 2002 and 2007.