<Commissioners Murphy and Sims, the same ones who wanted exempt hiring status for the Commissioners, now they want a 27% increase. The voters in their districts better being paying attention to these two ladies, and vote appropriatley. Of course as I would expect Commissioner Earlean Collins, no surprise, and freshman Commissioner Schneider pleasant surprise how well he is doing, not favor this hike.
Cook County Board members get 27% hike for offices
October 30, 2007
By Steve Patterson
Enough of the belt-tightening, already - it's time to spend some money again.
That's what some Cook County commissioners said Monday in defending what is a 27 percent increase in spending for their offices and new jobs for each one of them.
Board President Todd Stroger is proposing the hikes as part of his 2008 budget, and while some say they won't take it, others say they want it and more.
"I'm not going to cut any staff - I'm just not going to do it," said Commissioner Earlean Collins, the only commissioner to defy demands last year to cut 17 percent from her office budget.
Commissioner Tim Schneider said he never asked for, nor will he take, the $90,000 in extra salaries Stroger is offering his office, saying the county's "in dire straits" and the board should "keep county government at the most efficient level we can" by giving back extra money.
Commissioner Joan Murphy said "maybe (Schneider) doesn't do the amount of work the rest of us do."
"Feel free, if you want, to give yours back, but I'm keeping mine," she said.
Murphy later apologized to Schneider for the verbal attack.
Commissioner Liz Gorman said adding so much to the budget "defies logic."
But Commissioner Deborah Sims suggested that after a year of cuts and holding the line on spending, the board needs even more employees, especially for those who lead committees or who have far-reaching or poor districts.
"I thought all of us were in this together, trying to help the county's bottom line," Commissioner Tony Peraica countered. "It appears some are helping the bottom line more than others."
The board has the option to cut any budgets, including their own, before a final budget is passed.
Stroger is proposing raising the sales, gas and parking taxes to pay for the increases, along with other hikes, that make up a $3.2 billion budget.
Letter from CTA President Ron Huberman
Dear CTA Customer:
On November 4th -- less than one week from today -- the CTA will be forced to cut service and
raise fares as a result of insufficient state funding. All of us at the CTA understand the hardship
that these service cuts and fare increases will cause you. We do not want to make these cuts, and we
have been fighting for funding to avoid making them.
I ask that you take the time to prepare for next week's commute. If you currently use service that
will be eliminated, go online to transitchicago.com, or call 1-888-YOUR-CTA, to identify
alternative service options. Try to use this alternative service at least once this week so you are
familiar with it.
We are asking all of our customers to avoid the rush hour whenever possible by leaving early or
late. With the reduction in bus service, we anticipate greater crowds on remaining buses and trains
as customers seek different ways to get to work. Customers should expect longer travel times.
This is a crucial time to contact the Governor and your state legislators to tell them how
important mass transit is to you. The Illinois General Assembly still has not acted to pass legislation
that would guarantee the CTA's fiscal health and ensure that there are no more "doomsdays." Without
action from the General Assembly, the CTA is required by law to balance its budget, forcing these
service cuts and fare increases. Visit transitchicago.com, or call 1-888-YOUR-CTA, for
information on how you can easily send a message to your state legislators.
With your support, we are hopeful that we will finally get a long-term solution to the CTA's
funding shortfalls and put future "doomsdays" to rest. If the State enacts pending legislation before
November 4th, the service cuts and fare increases will not go into effect.
Labels: Todd Stroger
For more than a year, newspaper columnists and political enemies have snickered at Cook County Board President Todd Stroger, saying he resembles the nerdy character Steve Urkel from the old ABC sitcom “Family Matters.”
When an interviewer hinted at the reference today, Stroger tackled the issue head on.
“Oh, I know what you’re talking about, Urkel,” Stroger said during a taping of WBBM-AM’s “At Issue” program.
“As I told people during the campaign,” Stroger continued, “Urkel was smart, Urkel was honest and Urkel always tried to help people. So, I don’t mind that one.”
Stroger, who was elected last November, claimed that personal attacks in general don’t affect him.
<“I’ve been in the news at this point for about 18 months, there’s nothing that’s going to bother me anymore,” Stroger said.
The comments came during a wide-ranging interview in which Stroger hinted that he might be willing to compromise on his tax proposals, echoing comments he made after he unveiled his 2008 budget on Oct. 17.
The program airs at 9:30 p.m. Sunday and archives usually are available by Monday here.
For the record, the show's host, Craig Dellimore, was the one probing on the Urkel issue
Todd Stroger, lost in the dessert
WLS AM 890 has posted this short audio clip from Cook County Board Chairman's speech to the City Club of Chicago Wednesday as an object lesson to politicians: If you can't write your own speeches, at least read them before you deliver them. Money quote:
In recent years, economic experts have coined the phrase "food dessert" to support their concern for a lack of quality grocery shopping options for people living in poor neighborhoods. Well, I'm concerned that without Provident Hospital and with Michael Reese and other hospitals having problems, Chicago's South Side might become a hospital dessert. Ooops! I should say "desert."
Hear it for yourself, the President of the second most populous county in the United States Speaks. This is a classic to listen to, oh my, he must be taking lessons from George Bush.
Really it's a special treat to listen to this one, this speech has Donna Dunnings written all over it, the Toddler needs to go back and let Lance Tyson write for him again, my advice.
No new appeal for ex-Gov. Ryan
October 25, 2007
By Mike Robinson
Former Gov. George Ryan, convicted of corruption more than a year ago, took a step closer to prison today after a federal appeals court rejected his request for a new hearing.
Ryan has been free on bond since a jury convicted him in April 2006 of racketeering and fraud for steering state contracts to cronies, using state money to run his campaigns and killing an investigation of drivers license bribery during his terms as governor and secretary of state.
The husky-voiced Republican known for his opposition to the death penalty was sentenced to 61/2 years.
“We agree that the evidence of the defendant’s guilt was overwhelming” at the trial, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in its 15-page opinion turning down Ryan’s request for a rehearing by all actively sitting judges on the court.
A three-judge appeals panel already had turned down the appeal by Ryan and co-defendant Larry Warner. Warner, a businessman and Ryan ally, also was found guilty at the trial.
Ryan had been under orders to report within 72 hours of any failure of his appeal, but the appeals court said he could remain free on bond while his attorneys tried for the new hearing.
Whether Ryan now must report to prison within 72 hours or might find some other way to delay the start of his sentence was not immediately clear.
One of his attorneys, former Illinois Gov. James R. Thompson,also former U. S. Attorney Northern District of Illinois, had said weeks ago that Ryan’s legal team would fight the case “all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court” if necessary.
Thompson’s office said it had no immediate comment on Thursday’s appellate court ruling.
Ryan’s home phone number rang busy, while a message left on his cell phone was not immediately returned.
Thursday’s order from six majority judges was just one paragraph long and gave no explanation for their refusal to hear the case.
But in a 15-page dissent, three judges said a so-called “en banc” hearing of the entire court should be held on Ryan’s appeal.
The three minority judges said they understood the majority believed any problems in the jury room were “harmless.”
“But harmlessness is not the test of reversible error when a cascade of errors turns a trial into a travesty,” the three judges said.
Ryan’s request for a new hearing, filed with the court Aug. 28, argued the questioning of jurors about tumultuous deliberations made them afraid of the government and thus destroyed their impartiality.
Two jurors were dismissed and replaced with alternates after eight days of deliberations and one juror brought an unauthorized legal document into the jury room, ignoring instructions to the contrary from the judge.
As Pallmeyer sought to understand what was happening in the jury room, jurors were brought in and questioned by the judge and the attorneys.
Prosecutors scoffed at the notion that jurors were intimidated by the questioning.
The snowy haired Ryan had been accused of steering state contracts to Warner and other political friends in exchange for benefits ranging from free vacations in Jamaica to a free golf bag.
Ryan also was accused of killing an investigation of bribes paid in exchange for drivers licenses and using state money and employees to wage his political campaigns. The eight-year investigation began after six children in one family were killed in a highway disaster involving a truck driver whose Illinois license allegedly had been purchased with a bribe.
Ryan was secretary of state at the time. Prosecutors later traced thousands of dollars in bribes to the Citizens for Ryan campaign fund.
The eight-year investigation known as Operation Safe Road resulted not only in the conviction of Ryan and Warner but dozens of other state officials and lobbyists.
The Associated Press
Labels: George Ryan
On October 10th the voting period for the Partners in Preservation Chicagoland Initiative ended. Congratulations to the winner, the On Leong Merchant Association/ Pui-Tak Center!
Earlier this year American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation selected twenty-five sites of historical, cultural and aesthetic significance in Chicagoland as candidates for the Partners in Preservation program.
For a period of five weeks, you had the opportunity to cast one vote each day online for the sites that you care about, with the winning site, the On Leong Merchant Association/ Pui-Tak Center, guaranteed funding from a $1 million preservation fund.
American Express, the National Trust and an Advisory Committee comprised of local Chicagoland dignitaries are now reviewing your votes, along with each site's monetary needs, to determine how best to distribute the $1 million in preservation grants.
Grants will be calculated according to the financial support required to fulfill preservation and restoration projects at the chosen sites. Not all sites will receive funding. The final list of sites to be awarded grants will be announced in Chicago and on this website on November 13th 2007.
Partners in Preservation thanks you for your participation and encourages you to continue exploring our site and to spread the word about preservation in your community.
House approves 6 new national heritage areas, including 1 in Illinois
Associated Press - October 24, 2007 9:34 PM ET
HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) - The U.S. House of Representatives has included a section of central Illinois in a bill that would create six new national heritage areas.
The House approved the bill today. It now goes to the Senate.
The Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area would consist of 42 Illinois counties. According to the bill's language, the area would recognize and interpret the role the region played in shaping Lincoln's life.
The bill also would create national heritage areas in parts of 8 other states and extend for 15 years the authorization of 9 existing heritage areas set to expire in 2012.
The bill is H.R. 1483
I was watching a Toddler interview, when Eddie Aruza, one of our very own cuties, was interviewing the Toddler and, Eddie asked him, "Why he is going to add almost two thousand jobs back?". The Toddler replied, "It was a court mandated order, and if it's not followed someone will probably go to jail, and that would be me." I could just imagine Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart personally going to pick the Toddler up and escort him to the Cook County Jail, where Cook County State's Attorney Dick Devine will be anxiously awaiting to personally prosecute him. Ok, so we can dream, right? We can only hope there is a lot of media coverage and media footage should such an event occur.
Another note, Dr. Simon is not happy about Commissioners Peraica, Claypool, and Quigley saying negative things against him. Dr. Simon, my suggestion is you can still make half of your $600,000 salary just by doing one job, yes your position of overseeing the ER at Rush University Medical Center just east accross Wood Street from Stroger Hospital, and you won't have to worry about these three Commissioners having to say you are doing a poor job as the Interium Bureau of Health Chief at Cook County. Does anyone know if Dr. Simon is doing his job very well at Rush? How could he do these two positions, and do both well? OK, so he is/was Daddy Stroger's personal physician. And how is Daddy Stroger doing? Dr. Simon? We were all lead to believe he was going to recover from his stroke.
Daley still salivating over Chicago getting a Casino
Daley's Casino Royale
By Doug Dobmeyer
Editor's Note: Doug Dobmeyer is the spokesperson for the Task Force to Oppose Gambling in Chicago. He sent this along this morning.
House Hearing on a Chicago Casino
(October 18, 2007, Chicago, IL . . . ) The House Gaming Committee held a six-and-a-half hour hearing on a proposed Chicago casino.
Paul Volpe, Chicago's Chief Financial Officer, pled the case for Mayor Daley. Volpe claimed that thousands of jobs would be created (1,800 construction and 1,900 casino jobs) in addition to 6,700 jobs at the services that work with the casino. Volpe made it sound fantastic. He did not tell how many of the construction and non-casino jobs would exist anyway.
Volpe asserted the city would only take on a casino if it was "profitable." The meaning of profitable remained undisclosed all day. He did state that the estimated $800 million license fee would not make the venture profitable. Later he stated that even one dollar was too much. That extreme statement left people feeling Chicago was being arrogant. Later it was thought a private operator might pay $ 2 billion for a license to operate a Chicago casino.
Volpe also said the 50 percent tax was not feasible for Chicago to make a profit. (This is the level of taxation when the adjusted gross revenues exceed $200 million) When asked what level of AGR would be needed, Volpe left people gasping. He claimed a Chicago casino would yield one billion a year in AGR. This would be a very tall order.
Illinois in 2005 with nine riverboats yielded $1.7 billion in AGR. By 2006 that number climbed to $1.9 billion. Riverboats varied between $39 million in Rock Island and $430 million in Elgin. Chicago is slotted for 4,000 gambling positions (slot machines or spaces at card games such as 21).
Volpe once again stated that Chicago would only have a world-class casino. Later in news media interviews he stated that Chicago is now a world-class city. One pitch point of the Daley Administration is a casino will make Chicago a world-class city. It is unclear how much more of a world-class city Chicago wants to be.
The issue of eminent domain came up. Eminent domain exists to allow government to acquire property for the common good - such as roads. It was not specified how much power of eminent domain the city may have in building a casino and ancillary services.
The City would not rule out future property tax increases to Chicago homeowners because a casino existed.
Volpe weighed in on casino AGR leveraging other funds. He contended that each $100 million in AGR can launch a one-billion dollar capitol plan.
The city said they did not have anyone in mind to manage the casino. They expect to pay 30 percent of the AGR for a management fee.
A number of horse racing owners (tracks and horses) testified. They said taxes on slot machines at tracks could yield $180 million in taxes to Illinois.
Tom Swoik of the Casino Operators Association, representing eight of the nine existing riverboats in Illinois said there was no consensus among owners on approval of a Chicago casino. Chicago would become the giant among Illinois casinos and siphon off business from area suburban boats.
Swoik also raised the possibility of a Chicago casino over-saturating the Chicago market.
Unanswered Questions: There are many, too numerous for this list. Several include:
1. Is Chicago getting a sweetheart deal at a lower cost than a private operator?
2. Does Chicago have the management capacity to protect the integrity of the investment?
3. Will the state provide the funds to the Illinois Gaming Board to do its job of policing and regulating a Chicago casino along with the other ten in Illinois?
4. Have the proponents (the city) oversold the product?
5. Will the resulting income be worth the social costs?
6. Will a referendum be held to let the people of Chicago have a say on locating a casino in the city?
These and other complex questions will take more than a hearing to unravel.
As The Casino Turns:
State's economic future bleak
BY ANDREW WALTERS
DEER GROVE - The future of the state's economy is looking bleak, one Illinois business association leader told the audience at Rep. Jerry Mitchell's annual business leaders' breakfast Friday at Deer Valley Country Club.
Jeff Mays, president of the Illinois Business Roundtable, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group that studies and makes recommendations on public policy, was the keynote speaker at the event, which drew dozens of business leaders from the Sauk Valley, as well as several state and national candidates in the 2008 election.
Mays, a Republican state representative from 1980 to 1990, said he can not remember a time when the climate in Springfield was this combative.
"We have all read with some sort of concern, the antics going on in Springfield," Mays said. "Old guys like me can remember days like this, but I can't remember it ever being quite so vitriolic."
Illinois has fallen behind other Midwestern states, and the nation as a whole, when it comes to employment and job creation, he said.
"Since 1990, Illinois has languished in job creation. Because of that lag, there have been millions of dollars in jobs lost," Mays said.
The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability completed a study last month comparing the Illinois economy with surrounding Midwestern states. Some of the findings paint a bleak picture for Illinois business, he said.
For example, Illinois unemployment has been one of the highest in the country over the last 30 years, and been higher than the national average 70 percent of the time since 1997.
The jobs that are being created are often lower-paying service industry positions versus the manufacturing positions that have been leaving the state, Mays said.
Mitchell also is frustrated with the last year's worth of business in Springfield. The budget has still not been signed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who is insisting on an expensive health care program that many don't see as financially viable, Mitchell said.
"It is unbelievable to me what has happened. We didn't get it done on May 31, June went by and we didn't have a budget. July came and went with a temporary budget, which was just enough to hold the state together," Mitchell said. "It is a sad state of affairs, because we are not done (with the budget) yet."The Sad truth
Behind the great tax push
By Bob Secter | Tribune staff reporter
October 21, 2007
There's an old political maxim in Illinois that speaks volumes about why it's so hard to put governments on a diet.
"If you can't get a meal, at least take a sandwich," officials like to say as they cut deals with taxpayer money that can lead to bigger programs and payrolls and, sometimes, political fiefdoms.
But suddenly, it might seem, some of the state's most powerful political leaders have wearied of budget snacks and are headed for the all-you-can-eat buffet.
Eye-popping new budget plans from Mayor Richard Daley and Cook County Board President Todd Stroger ask taxpayers to pony up nearly $1.2 billion in new taxes and fees. Meanwhile, the CTA and other transit agencies are pushing for a regionwide one-quarter percent sales tax increase.
And this all follows Gov. Rod Blagojevich's failed attempt to raise $7 billion in business taxes.
Civic Federation president Laurence Msall calls it a "tsunami of tax increase proposals," but the question is, why is all this happening now?
The answer isn't simple or singular, but there is at least one common thread running through the recent tax hike frenzy that sounds flip in the telling. Political leaders are pushing big ticket increases partly because they can.
Little risk of election rejection
Stroger, Daley and Blagojevich are all in the first year of new terms, and any voter outrage the tax plans may stir has a long time to dissipate before the next election.
'Tax everything that you can'
Daley's spending plan for next year would jump property taxes more than in his previous 18 years in office combined. Stroger wants to triple the county's share of the sales tax, bump up the gas tax and add more than 1,100 new jobs to a payroll that critics have long claimed is larded with cronies and inefficiency. Blagojevich's proposal to apply a gross receipts tax to most business transactions was so massive it collapsed under its own weight. It would have been used largely to bankroll new spending initiatives instead of fixing the state's chronic budget woes or making a big dent in a crushing multibillion dollar pension debt.
"Critics, and they are easy to find, say the tax proposals stand out both because of their titanic dimensions and because they are not in sync with any national trend.
"We are seeing tax cuts at the state and local level in a lot of other places, but not here in Illinois," said J. Thomas Johnson, president of the Taxpayers' Federation of Illinois.
In Johnson's view, bureaucratic tunnel vision is only contributing to an impression that taxpayers are being piled on, especially by the city and county.
Driving a hard bargain
In his budget address to the City Council earlier this month, Daley said that revenues from the sales, fuel, parking and cigarette taxes have been down and that the "dramatic slowdown" in the housing market has depressed real estate transaction tax revenues.
"The cost of government continues to rise faster than inflation and our tax base," he said. "The cost of personnel wages, pension and health care makes up over 80 percent of our city's budget and continues to grow." For emphasis, he repeated the same sentence.
Stroger makes a similar argument, saying county finances are hemmed in by declining federal Medicaid dollars as well as ever-increasing personnel costs largely driven by generous union contracts agreed to before he succeeded his ailing father, John Stroger, as board president last year.
But it was the Daley and John Stroger administrations which signed off on those deals. Just in August, Daley announced new 10-year labor agreements with 33 city worker unions that should guarantee labor peace through the 2016 Olympics that the city is bidding to host.
Daley's new spending plan includes a $108 million property tax hike, which the mayor justified by saying the money was to needed to build new libraries and run the old ones.
When he was running for election to his first full term last November, Todd Stroger pledged not to raise county taxes for his first year in office.
"There was a lack of credibility to come in and ask for taxes when you first move in," Stroger told the Tribune editorial board last week. But Stroger's next budget will be his second. The pledge has been fulfilled and new revenue is now a must, he said.
Shooting for the moon?
It's hard to tell what the endgame of Stroger and Daley might be, but economist J. Fred Giertz said they could simply be shooting for the moon so the public will be more willing to accept scaled back versions of the tax plans.
Daley, you are going to loose all your votes, the South Siders vote for you, and your brother who is a Cook County Commissioner on the South Side, and this is where all the Daley votes come from. Don't get your South Siders fluffed up. Let Rosemont have their Casino, they have all the Hotels, the Roads, they are close to O'Hare Airport. Just keep this Casino away from the South Side. The abandoned Steel Mills site is perfect for the Children's Museum. This is a great way to keep it out of Grant Park where it does not belong, and put it in the best side of town.
Daley keeping his cards close regarding casino
by Amy Lanier Wolf
Oct 16, 2007
Mayor Richard M. Daley maintained his poker face during questioning on Tuesday about the proposed Chicago casino.
The Illinois Senate passed in September a bill to add three casino licenses in Illinois, including one in Chicago that would be city-owned. The proposal is pending in the House. Gov. Rod Blagojevich is a proponent.
In reaction to the Chicago Crime Commission’s announced opposition to the plan on Tuesday, Daley said the decision was not his.
“We don’t have any decision making in regards to casinos. I want to point that out. The state basically regulates all [casino] contracts,” Daley said.
Daley said if a casino were to come to Chicago, it would likely not have an impact for several years and it would face competition.
“It takes two or three years to get any type of casino going. It’s very controversial. You have the present casinos ... whether in south suburban Rosemont, in Waukegan, Rockford. You have a lot of things at play,” Daley said.
The mayor reacted to other hot-button issues on Tuesday
This is really sad news, just give Rosemont the Casino it has been fighting for, like forever
But why did the Toddler pick Dr. Simon to be the Interum Bureau of Health Chief? Isn't he Daddy Strogers personal physician? Ok, 1st mistake.5 comments Posted by Third Generation Chicago Native at 10/16/2007
By Judith Graham and Deborah L. Shelton | Tribune staff reporters
October 16, 2007
As the Cook County Board mulls a tax increase to plug a $300 million budget hole and shore up its clinics and hospitals, a growing number of critics are saying it's time for someone else to run the county's struggling health system.
The $810 million system -- the medical safety net for hundreds of thousands of people -- is currently operated by the County Board under the direction of the president's office. Critics say the arrangement invites political meddling and has become dangerously dysfunctional.
Such complaints have percolated for years, and any proposal for sweeping change is sure to encounter resistance. The health system is the second-largest unit of county government, a source of thousands of jobs and tens of millions of dollars in annual contracts.
But the issue has reached a boiling point recently as board President Todd Stroger and his hand-picked health chief, Dr. Robert Simon, have pushed through deep cuts in services, provoking a rising sense of alarm over the system's future.
On Tuesday, the issue will be in the spotlight as a blue ribbon committee appointed by Stroger delivers a report to the board that reportedly will call for professional health-care management at the system and improved governance.
The Institute of Medicine of Chicago, meanwhile, is circulating a petition in the local health-care community asking the county to shift control of the system immediately to an independent board charged with reversing what the institute calls a "precipitous decline" in services. And two county commissioners, Larry Suffredin and Gregg Goslin, are preparing proposals on the issue.
"We have to find a different way of running the health system," said Goslin. "The place is just a mess."
Among the symptoms of perpetually poor financial stewardship, critics say, is lack of revenue collection: The bureau failed to generate bills for nearly $250 million in medical services last year.
The perception of mismanagement also has threatened key support from the state's representatives in Washington. Several sources say privately that U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.,) has made it clear that he will not seek additional federal financial support for the county health system unless Stroger and the board pay close attention to the panel's suggestions.
To be sure, a change in governance in and of itself will not solve the health system's many problems, notably the rising tide of uninsured patients, soaring health-care costs and shrinking government support, experts caution.
Yet critics cite evidence that county officials' response to these problems -- cutting services without developing a well-thought-out strategic plan -- has significantly weakened the health bureau's infrastructure and endangered public health by reducing access to care.
In their defense, Stroger and Simon repeatedly have said they have kept services running without interruption while adapting to an extremely difficult financial situation. Among the accomplishments they cite are new pharmacies, upgraded capacity to deliver urgent care, and the consolidation of major departments such as public relations and finance.
But there is precedent from other parts of the country for change. In Phoenix, the public health system has split off from Maricopa County, becoming a separate entity with a dedicated board of directors. Denver's public hospital has turned a yearly profit since becoming an authority independent from the city a decade ago.
In Minnesota, the legislature in 2005 passed a law creating a new public corporation to run Minneapolis' public hospital. And in Dallas, a seven-member board of managers runs the public hospital district, which is a separate legal entity with a dedicated funding stream.
In each of these cases, managers said public hospitals needed to free themselves from bureaucratic constraints and gain the flexibility to hire and fire medical staff, contract for medical equipment and supplies, develop ways of boosting revenues and respond flexibly to changing market conditions.
Suffredin wants the County Board to cede control to an independent trustee with substantial experience in operating a major public health system. The model is the board's recent agreement to transfer control of the juvenile temporary detention center to a nationally respected expert, he said.
"We need someone to come in and build up this system, not tear it down," Suffredin said.
In Cook County, however, many are skeptical of calls for change. Some note the controversial track record of a commission created in 1969 to operate Cook County's hospitals and disbanded 10 years later.
"We've had an independent commission once before, and where did it get us?" asked Commissioner Jerry Butler, who chairs the county's Health and Hospitals Committee.
"If we're not going to do juvenile detention and now you're saying we're not going to do the hospitals, then what is the board going to do?" he said. "If they keep taking pieces out of the job, pretty soon you won't need commissioners either."
Many of the bureau's problems predated Stroger, including the lack of billing. But even though new managers are addressing deficiencies, the health bureau estimates revenues will fall $88 million behind projections this year. Bureau spokesman Sean Howard attributes that to "a lack of staffing and a horrible lack of resources."
The previous administration also failed to come up with a strategy for dealing with sharp in supplemental Medicaid funds mandated by new federal laws. The county lost $139 million in these "intergovernmental transfer" funds in the last two fiscal years, and further reductions of $68 million are expected this year.
Still, it appears that Stroger's primary response to these problems, cutting the health bureau's budget, has alienated medical providers and created difficulties for patients.
New data from the county show notable declines in the number of patients seeking care at its facilities. Overall, as the county closed 12 community clinics, outpatient visits dropped 17 percent in the year ended July 30 compared with the prior year. It's not clear whether patients are getting care elsewhere or forgoing it.
Pediatric visits and visits for women seeking OB/gynecological care both plunged 24 percent. Primary care services at the Fantus Clinic across from Stroger Hospital fell 8 percent.
Both Stroger and Simon have cited the addition of a dozen screening rooms at Ambulatory Screening Clinic as a significant improvement. The ASC, as it's known, delivers mostly urgent care at the Fantus Clinic.
But visits at the ASC have plummeted 39 percent, with 37,189 visits recorded for the year ended July 30 compared with 61,327 visits the year before, according to county data.
Meanwhile, patients say the closing of community clinics and staff cutbacks have led to agonizingly long waits for care.
On a recent cold, gray morning, Newton Harris, a diabetic, arrived at the ambulatory screening clinic at Stroger Hospital at 6:30 hoping to beat the crowd. But two dozen people were already waiting.
Six hours and five lines later, he walked out without the insulin syringes that he desperately needed. About 50 people were queued up ahead of him when he finally got to the pharmacy to drop off his prescription. He was too tired to wait.
Harris, 51, faces standing in at least two more lines before he finally gets the syringes. For now, he's borrowing syringes from his diabetic mother.
Delores Brown understands Harris' frustration. She recently spent four hours in the waiting room of a Cook County outpatient clinic and never reached the exam room.
Brown, who suffers from diabetes, high blood pressure and osteoarthritis, was in too much pain to wait any longer and her medical van had arrived to pick her up, she said. She vows never to go back.
"Physically I can't do it," said Brown, 58, who uses a walker and takes insulin and nine medications for her ailments. "If something's not right, if the doctor can't tell me what to do over the phone, I'll go to the emergency room," she said.
Some county patients said they won't sit idly by and watch the clinics they depend on get scaled back or closed.
Earlier this year, the county-run Woodlawn Clinic where Robert Hart gets his care was slated for closing. He circulated petitions, attended meetings and wrote letters to legislators trying to save it. The clinic survived, but it wasn't left unscathed, Hart said.
"We used to get appointments every three months," said Hart, 69. "Now they stretch them out four months, sometimes five months."
Hart has started to collect signatures for another petition, this one calling for the County Board to refrain from making further cuts.
"We want to make sure that the system will be there for everybody," said Hart, who serves on the Woodlawn Clinic advisory board. "If it's gone, where are people going to go?"
Another note, if they add another Casino in this State as Daley wants one in Chicago, please don't put it on the South Side of Chicago, thanks! City too corrupt for a Casino
Silliness abounds in Springfield
Blagojevich isn't only one who has done goofy things
By Rich Miller
There is no shortage of goofiness at the Illinois Statehouse these days. Some players are goofier than others, but Gov. Rod Blagojevich usually gets most of the coverage.
Blagojevich has the top job, so he naturally gets the attention, and many of the things he's done this year certainly qualify as goofiness, from his silly lawsuits against the House speaker, to his truly gigantic tax hike proposals, to his numerous false claims about his accomplishments, to ... well, you read the papers, so you know the story all too well. The point is, Blagojevich is definitely not alone.
For instance, it's no secret that Republican state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington wants to run for governor in 2010. He ran for governor last year and lost the GOP primary, and ever since he's attempted to set himself up as a top Republican critic of Gov. Blagojevich.
Brady is a popular, well-liked legislator, but he has had his goofy moments this year.
During debate on the state budget bill last summer, Brady said he hoped that the governor would veto the bill. Then, a few minutes later, Brady voted for the very bill that he said he wanted Blagojevich to kill.
But that's not all. After Gov. Blagojevich did actually veto part of the budget bill, Sen. Brady began agitating to have the General Assembly override those vetoes.
Now, it's not as simple and clear-cut as it looks. The governor's vetoes were blatantly political and in many cases harmful and hypocritical. But Brady has jumped around more on this thing than an espresso-chugging frog.
Sen. Chris Lauzen, R-Aurora, like Brady, is trying to move up the political ladder with a run for U.S. Congress. Lauzen voted against the budget bill when it came up last summer, but last week he was calling for a veto override. If that doesn't make sense to you, then you're not alone.
The House Republicans have been hemming and hawing for months about how to pay for what's known in Springfield as the "capital bill." What we're talking about here are construction and repair projects on things like roads, bridges, schools, etc.
The House GOP leaders say they're for the multibillion dollar capital program favored by Gov. Blagojevich, and claim they can support more gambling to pay for the projects, but they've refused to actually climb on board a single gaming proposal in months, even though the Senate Democrats, the Senate Republicans and the governor have all endorsed a specific proposal. Instead, they appear to be waiting for Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan to come up with something. Lots of courage there.
Then there's Speaker Madigan. The House's uber leader was infuriated when Senate President Emil Jones broke his word and refused to allow a Senate vote to override the governor's budget vetoes. Jones had promised to support the budget right down the line, no matter what. But Jones blamed Madigan for interfering with his chamber's attempt to pass a completely separate bill for an earlier capital plan and used that as an excuse to back away from his budget agreement.
Last week, Speaker Madigan used Jones' actions as an excuse to refuse to pass two bills that were part of that overall budget agreement. Without those bills, schools won't receive hundreds of millions of dollars in aid this year, the State Police and Secretary of State may run out of cash for operations in January and not-for-profit agencies that care for the developmentally disabled won't receive a crucial injection of state funds. But, hey, what's so wrong with threatening widespread misery when there's a political fight at hand? Oy.
Still, though, nothing says "goofy" quite like Rod Blagojevich.
A couple of weeks ago, Blagojevich announced that he was using some of the money he vetoed from the budget to pay for free mammograms for Illinois women. The money really wasn't coming from the vetoes, which I've already told you before, and there is already lots of money for mammograms in the state budget.
What I didn't tell you before was that Blagojevich actually vetoed a $40,000 appropriation to a group called Sisters Embracing Life. The money was supposed to be used to provide breast exams for minority women. Perfect.
Moment of silence required in Illinois Schoolsthat schools will be required to observe a moment of silence, after both houses of the Illinois Legislature overrode Gov. Rod Blagojevich's veto of a bill mandating it. Schools were already allowed to observe a moment of silence, but it was not required.
Most superintendents said the law won't mean a big change in the school day, and most will use time already set aside for the Pledge of Allegiance.
"We certainly intend to follow state law," Culver said.
He plans to talk with principals to determine the appropriate duration for the "brief" period of silence now required by Illinois law. He said it will likely be about 15 to 20 seconds in the Champaign schools.
And the battle continues in Springfield
It's almost certainly the most expensive personality conflict in Illinois history: billions of dollars in construction grants, school funding, local projects and other spending held up in Springfield, because of a personal grudge-match between two of the state's top Democratic leaders.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich and House Speaker Michael Madigan have been at it all year. The fight is ostensibly about Blagojevich's quest for a health care initiative, and Madigan's insistence that the state can't afford it.
But it's clear the conflict also encompasses the different backgrounds, political styles and personalities of two powerful men who need one another to run the state, but who (many believe) can't stand each other.
"It's palpable. Any time those two guys are in the same room, you can feel it," says state Rep. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, echoing a common observation in the Capitol. "The hatred, the venom, the seething. … It's real."
The current conflict began as a policy dispute. Blagojevich wanted a major new business tax to fund his health care initiative. Madigan opposed it. It turned personal, in part, because of the two men's very different styles.
The atmosphere ultimately became so poisoned that, when the Blagojevich administration recently fired a state employee who happens to be the spouse of a top Madigan staffer, few doubted it was the governor's latest salvo. (The administration denies the firing was politically motivated.)
"This is absolutely all about personalities. … It's never been worse than this," said state Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Highland. The Legislature adjourned Friday. It will probably reconvene later this month. Without agreement on several remaining budget issues, the state will be unable to send millions of dollars to schools next month or launch a state infrastructure package worth billions.
Daley's side of all of this
A letter to the Toddler from Commissioners, Claypool, Quigley, Suffredin and Schneider
Out of the new Commissioners, Commissioner Schnieder had impressed me the most, and I have been surprised, since he is Republican, he has worked on things he believes, and feels will help the county. He is always paying attention at meetings and bringing attention to valid points. On the other hand the other new Commissioners, Beavers and Steele....well they are there to to support the Toddler and fight with any Commissioners that don't agree with him.
Bill Beavers Girlfriend files a complaint
The nephew of a former Northwest Side congressman on Thursday emphatically denied making racist and sexist comments to co-workers at the city's Department of Transportation and said he was falsely accused -- and fired -- for cracking the whip against unproductive city inspectors.
Joseph Annunzio, a nephew of the late Rep. Frank Annunzio (D-Ill.), said the woman who filed the bogus complaint is the girlfriend of Cook County Commissioner William Beavers, a former alderman.
Annunzio charged that Patty Young "never wrote any citations, hardly did any work and spent most of her time in the office just walking around." Annunzio said when he "called her on it numerous times," Beavers sent county board liaison Frank D'Amato to deliver a message to Annunzio's father, an aide to Ald. Tom Allen (38th): "Tell your son to leave Beavers' girlfriend Patty Young and her friends alone."
Annunzio charged that Patty Young "never wrote any citations, hardly did any work and spent most of her time in the office just walking around." Annunzio said when he "called her on it numerous times," Beavers sent county board liaison Frank D'Amato to deliver a message to Annunzio's father, an aide to Ald. Tom Allen (38th): "Tell your son to leave Beavers' girlfriend Patty Young and her friends alone."
"I am a white supervisor in a position of authority who's holding people accountable to do their jobs and stories are being made up so they don't have to do their jobs," Annunzio said.
"I made people work eight hours a day. They were held accountable for writing citations, inspecting road construction, working with utility companies on street openings and meeting with aldermen to resolve complaints. Everybody was charted on a graph. Most of those with allegations against me were either at the bottom of the chart or have been suspended by me."
Beavers could not be reached for comment. Young acknowledged she's dating Beavers but denied her boyfriend stuck up for her -- or sent an emissary to order Annunzio to back off.
More on Patty Young, a.k.a. the "Hog with big Nuts" girlfriend.
Suffredin said that possibility ended with news of the administration giving a job to the girlfriend of Commissioner Bill Beavers -- Todd Stroger's chief ally on the board.
"I am just shocked that while we were meeting last week (to consider raising taxes) that they were hiring Beavers' girlfriend," Suffredin said.
After the Chicago Sun-Times inquired about the case, the administration let the woman go -- just two days after hiring her.
Suffredin did still leave open the possibility that he will support some other tax to cover the $113 million more in expenditures he voted for by giving state's attorneys and public defenders cost-of-living salary increases.
Rumors are true, Lance Tyson got an attitude with Commissioner Maldonado.
With Suffredin opposed to a sales tax, Stroger must now woo Commissioner Roberto Maldonado, who is angry with Stroger's chief of staff, Lance Tyson, for threatening to kill a pro-immigrant measure Maldonado succeeded in passing. Tyson did not deny the threat.
To pass the sales tax, Stroger also needs the vote of Commissioner Earlean Collins, who has been non-committal about the sales tax, but said she supports some form of revenue increase.
Northwest suburban Commissioners Tim Schneider, Gregg Goslin and Liz Gorman all oppose the sales tax hike.
In case anyone didn't notice the Steeles are everywhere, Mom was Commissioner,then interum CC President, she handed down her Commissioner seat to son Robert, while son Brian is working for the city of Chicago department of transportation I agree the South side needs a lot of Road repairs, and I am happy to see US 41 get much needed repairs. This by the way is in Jackson's ward, and I am glad to see something good come of USS South Works site, even if it means being able to get around better initially then maybe development later.
Chicago to rebuild U.S. 41 on SE Side
October 6, 2007
BY GUY TRIDGELL Staff writer
The crooked route of U.S. 41 on the Southeast Side will get straightened starting next week.
The first stage of relocating and improving U.S. 41 between 79th Street and Ewing Avenue is set to begin Monday.
Chicago Department of Transportation spokesman Brian Steele said the goal is to eliminate U.S. 41's zigzag pattern on residential streets in favor of a new road.
"It goes on roadways that, in a lot of places, are one lane," Steele said. "It is not designed to handle any large traffic volumes."
The improved U.S. 41 will run on a new road between 79th and 87th streets. South of 87th Street to Ewing Avenue, U.S. 41 will be on a rebuilt Avenue O.
Plans call for building two lanes in each direction along the entire stretch, with landscaped medians and dedicated bicycle lanes.
The project will take until 2011 to complete, costing between $50 million and $60 million, Steele said.
The initial phase involves moving utility lines and grading the site. The impact on traffic will be "next to nothing," Steele said.
The finished U.S. 41 will cross over the old U.S. Steel's South Works plant, preparing the property for redevelopment.
Last year, the city reached a tentative agreement with Lakeside Development LLC to convert the old factory property into a residential and commercial development.
Labels: CC Budget
Toddler gets away with a slap on the wrist
Enormous pending fines against Cook County Board President Todd Stroger's campaign committee are likely to be greatly reduced in two weeks - and possibly whittled to almost nothing.
A state hearing officer is recommending that Stroger - initially slapped with a $255,816 fine for failing to immediately report as many as 78 campaign contributions - pay just 10 percent of that.
• Stroger's huge campaign fine may be cut sharply
And though the initial fine was among the highest recommended for campaign finance violations in Illinois history, it's standard to reduce the amount to 10 percent for first-time offenders, officials said.
The Illinois State Board of Elections is set to vote on Stroger's fine at its Oct. 15 meeting.
But Stroger campaign attorney Burt Odelson said he's going to argue for an even smaller fine than $25,582 because "there were ambiguities in the law, and the worst that can be said about us is we were overzealous in our attempts to make sure we didn't accept checks from county employees or vendors, and that vetting process took some extra time."
Last month, the Internal Revenue Service slapped a federal tax lien on the campaign for failing to withhold income taxes from some employees.
The contributions stem from Stroger's November election victory over Republican Tony Peraica, a county commissioner from Riverside
Labels: Todd Stroger
Stroger pressing for sales tax increase
by Glenn Reedus
October 4, 2007
In case you haven't noticed, Chicago has developed a season between summer and fall; it's tax season.
The city and county are running deficits and the top finance people at both places maintain they've looked in between and under all of the sofa cushions and still can't come up with the money to put their operations in the black.
They've come up with identical strategies to raise revenues - taxes, more taxes.
While the mayor and the city is looking at slapping a tax on bottled water, gasoline, SUV stickers and a host of other products; the county's approach is much simpler - tax nearly whatever folk buy.
Unfortunately for Cook County residents, there have been no presentations on why we should support this increase. While no one is disputing there is a looming budget shortfall, many want to know what will be done with the new revenues generated by a sales tax.
Another pressing question for county officials is whether this has to be a tax that paints everyone with the same broad brush. The question becomes can some exceptions be made to how the new tax is applied. Although there are some exceptions to what will be taxed, groceries, motor craft, cars, motorcycles, pharmaceuticals, eyeglasses, contact lenses, and dentures; the tax will have a greater proportional impact on the poor more so than the affluent.
A family in Lawndale, with no convenient major department or means of accessing one, pays $75 for a child's winter coat. The same size family in Beverly pays $66 for the same item. It is readily apparent that the 2% bump in price disproportionately affects the family least able to cope with it financially.
Families in economically depressed areas are already paying more for their basic goods compared to those in sectors of the community that are faring better. Families in economically depressed areas aren't consistently spending money on life's fineries such as Jet Skis, all-terrain vehicles, $70 bottles of wine and $40 cigars.
Maybe the county's best approach is to have a tiered tax increase that will exempt some items beyond basic goods, and assess even more than 2% per cent to others. The county also could help itself enormously by first putting in place and distributing a proposed budget to commissioners and the general public. Currently, everyone is being asked to support an increase with no concrete assurances of where the dollars from the increase will go.
Skeptics undoubtedly are believing many of the new dollars will find their way into the general fund. It's incumbent upon County Board President Todd Stroger and each of his financial sharpshooters to detail where the money will go and how it will be spent. Letting residents know that the money will be used for more than healthcare services is another truth that needs to be given more attention.
Because commissioners opted not to vote on the initial sales tax proposal, the county will be required to wait until April before it is able to collect on the 2 per cent increase if it is approved later this month.
A successful proposal would need to be submitted to state for review and approval.
Like the county, The City of Chicago is staring at an enormous deficit - $193 million. But unlike Stroger, Mayor Daley is pushing a shopping cart of options at the city legislators.
Daley unabashedly says he wants to punish Chicagoans who prefer the comfort of their own vehicles to public transportation. His strategy to spur use of mass transit is a five-cents-a-gallon tax increase. He seems unfazed by the fact Chicagoans are already paying more for gas than anyplace else in the country.
If the mayor has his way, city residents can look for an increase in property taxes - enough to raise about $108 million. Much of that according to Daley, would be spent on new libraries - one of the legacies of his six terms. One has to wonder however, with the dropping prices of personal computers, the growing number of Internet users, and online innovation after innovation, are libraries the wisest choice for city dollars.
Another item in the mayor's shopping cart is a tax on bottled water. With the average American drinking 14 gallons of bottled water annually, the 10 cents tax levies will add up in a hurry. Eating in a restaurant and ordering bottled water will mean a double whammy as the mayor is proposing a 0.25 percent bump in the restaurant meals tax.
Throw in additional taxes on liquor, lease transactions and parking; and a night on the town has gotten expensive. Tourists are likely to be the major supporters of some of these taxes, but will the taxes be a deterrent for their return visits.
The pressing question for the county and city leaders is how soon will they be back again reaching into our pockets.
Taxes, taxes, and more taxes.
Daley: Pick your tax hikes
October 2, 2007
BY Fran Spielman Special to the Daily Southtown
Mayor Richard Daley on Monday served up a pick-your-poison menu of tax increases - including the largest property tax increase in Chicago history - and asked aldermen to chose enough of them to fill a $193 million budget gap.
The $108 million property tax increase would cost the owner of a $200,000 home about $57 more a year.
• Pick your poison
The impact on Chicago property owners would be compounded by a $40.8 million increase in water and sewer rates and a new $9 million tax on water consumption. The water tax alone would cost the average homeowner $10 a year.
"The mayor is not going to get everything he wants. If he asks for a real estate tax (increase), there's going to be a war," said Ald. Bernard Stone (50th), chairman of the city council's buildings committee.
"The first people who get whacked are always property owners. I've been in the city council for 25 years, and I've never voted for a property tax increase. I don't intend on voting for one now," said Ald. William Banks (36th), one of Daley's staunchest supporters.
To finance rising personnel costs and declining revenue tied to the housing slump, city budget director Bennett Johnson also talked about imposing a 10-cent tax on bottled water, doubling both the nickel-a-gallon gasoline tax and the 0.25 percent tax on restaurant meals and raising taxes on parking, liquor and lease transactions.
The entire menu would raise $319 million. The city needs $193 million to fill a gap that's now $24 million lower than initial estimates, officials said.
Daley also threw in a few new initiatives to appease aldermen and their tax-weary constituents: Hiring 50 more police officers at a cost of $4.1 million; spending $1 million to install 100 more surveillance cameras in high-crime areas; and expanding suburban-style curbside recycling from 80,000 to 211,000 households at a cost of $6.7 million.
The proposed property tax increase would be accomplished without lifting the city's self-imposed property tax cap by separating the tax levy earmarked for library operations and construction from the city's main operating fund.
In 1992, Daley tried to raise property taxes by $48.6 million, but a city council rebellion forced him to cut the increase in half. The same thing could happen this time.
"I'm happy we're getting new police officers. I'm happy about expanded recycling. But I'm not happy about the property tax increase. And I'm very concerned about some of the other taxes that are nickel-and-diming people," said Ald. Joe Moore (49th).
Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th) said she's all for doubling the gas tax, but only if the Chicago Transit Authority gets the money.
"I don't think we're going to get the help we need from Springfield. (CTA funding is) a critical issue for me, and I don't see anybody paying attention," she said.
Ald. George Cardenas (12th) said he could swallow the large property tax increase if it's earmarked for library operations and construction.
"It comes out of the same pocket. But (the tax revenue is) not going for waste and mismanagement," he said.
Rumor has it that Lance Tyson, the Toddlers Chief of staff got an attitude with Maldonado, and he was the deciding vote, well until Lance came along
Cook County commissioners postponed a vote on a proposed sales tax today after decided they didn't have enough support to pass it.
The County Board may take up the issue again Oct. 16.
Dozens of witnesses offered their opinions on the issue at a public hearing that stretched for several hours.
Maldonado talks about tax increase Photo
Sales tax hike vote postponed Video
More than 100 people were on a sign-up list to testify. Many union members who are county workers, as well as county doctors, told the board the county health system needs new revenue and cannot survive further cuts like the ones made earlier this year.
Business groups and restaurant owners came out strongly in opposition to a sales tax increase, saying it would damage the local economy.
While the testimony was going on, County Board members on both sides of the issue were trying to count votes on the 17-member board, which was meeting first as the Finance Committee. Board President Todd Stroger had called a special meeting of the County Board to convene immediately after the Finance Committee to take up the tax increase if it passes.
Commissioner Joan Murphy (D-Crestwood), who sponsored the plan to raise the county portion of the local sales tax from 0.75 percent to 2.75 percent, had said she would not call for a vote today if the support is not there. But some opponents were hoping to force a vote to reject the tax increase.
Commissioner Roberto Maldonado—a potential swing vote—said today that he would not support any sales tax increase, accusing the Stroger administration of trying to strong-arm him to vote in favor of it. The board is sharply divided on the proposal, and any vote is expected to be close.
If approved, the combined rate for the sales tax in the city of Chicago would jump to 11 percent, among the highest in the nation.
An increase to 2.75 percent would generate an extra $750 million a year for the county. Stroger is looking to close a projected deficit of $307 million for the 2008 budget year, which begins Dec. 1. Opponents of the tax plan have criticized Stroger for advocating a tax increase even before releasing his proposed budget, which he has said he will do this month.