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Thursday, October 18, 2018

Rauner and Pritzker tout government transparency while blocking access to records

Posted By on 10.18.18 at 02:08 PM

J.B. Pritzker and Governor Bruce Rauner debate earlier this month in front of the Sun-Times Editorial Board. - RICH HEIN/CHICAGO SUN-TIMES
  • Rich Hein/Chicago Sun-Times
  • J.B. Pritzker and Governor Bruce Rauner debate earlier this month in front of the Sun-Times Editorial Board.

This story was originally published by ProPublica Illinois.

Since he first entered politics as a candidate five years ago, Illinois governor Bruce Rauner has pledged his commitment to open government.

As he put it during a debate last week with challenger J.B. Pritzker before the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board: "Transparency is great."

As he fights for reelection, making the declaration is a great move on Rauner's part—and an easy one. Voters are demanding more and more information about what their governments are doing with their tax money, and every candidate at every level is wise to speak in favor of sharing it with them.

But what Rauner means when he vows to be transparent isn't so clear, given his administration's habit of fighting against the release of information. The governor's office won't even disclose how often it blocks the release of records sought by the public.

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Monday, September 17, 2018

With Bill Daley running for mayor, it’s good to remember what happened the last time we turned Chicago over to the Daleys

Posted By on 09.17.18 at 01:09 AM

  • James Foster/Sun-Times
  • Bill Daley

Just when I thought the mayor's race couldn't get any weirder, into the fray jumps a Daley.

William M., to be exact. As opposed to—well, I'll get to the Daley clan in a bit.

There were already 11 announced candidates when, on September 4, Mayor Emanuel dropped a "Rahm-Shell," as the Sun-Times headline put it, announcing he wouldn't seek reelection.

Now 20 or so relatively high-profile pols—including Toni Preckwinkle, Susana Mendoza, and Jesus "Chuy" Garcia—are talking about running.

If this keeps up, the Tribune may have to rewrite its recent story about how tough it is to run Chicago. If being mayor is so "grueling," how come so many want to do it?

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Thursday, September 13, 2018

Pro tip for mayoral hopefuls: Don't govern by press release, do sweat the small stuff

Posted By on 09.13.18 at 06:00 AM

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel speaking about gun violence in Washington, D.C., 2013 - SAUL LOEB/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
  • Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
  • Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel speaking about gun violence in Washington, D.C., 2013

This story was originally published by ProPublica Illinois.

The day after Mayor Rahm Emanuel rocked the city's political establishment by announcing he wasn't running for reelection, Chicago police officer Ray Tracy opened the September community meeting for police beats 815 and 821 the way he does every month, by going over the good news and bad news in the area's recent crime statistics.

It was just hours after jury selection began in the first murder trial of a Chicago police officer in decades. Although neither of those topics came up at the meeting, it was held not far from where CPD officer Jason Van Dyke shot and killed teenager Laquan McDonald four years ago—a case that continues to roil Chicago and surely contributed to Emanuel's decision.

Tracy noted that crime in the two beats, which make up much of the Archer Heights and Brighton Park neighborhoods on the city's southwest side, remains relatively low.

But the totals had ticked up in a number of areas, Tracy told the 20 residents gathered in a Catholic school classroom, many sitting in kid-size chairs. Several garages had been burglarized. And in the second half of August, there had been three shooting—none fatal, though still troubling.

"We're on it," he said.

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Monday, August 27, 2018

Governor Rauner vetoes a tax break for Englewood while offering billions to Amazon

Posted By on 08.27.18 at 06:00 AM

The Gary Comer Youth Center helps to develop a former industrial property at 7270 S. Chicago Ave. into an urban farm. - JASMIN SHAH
  • Jasmin Shah
  • The Gary Comer Youth Center helps to develop a former industrial property at 7270 S. Chicago Ave. into an urban farm.

Back in July, Governor Rauner's pals from the National Black Chamber of Commerce gave him a lifetime achievement award for helping foster minority businesses.

I didn't think he deserved the award in the first place. But given Rauner's recent veto of state rep Sonya Harper's urban agricultural zone bill, I say the chamber should snatch it right back.

Because that veto shows the governor has a twisted double standard toward economic development when it comes to helping poor black communities as opposed to rich white ones.

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Monday, June 11, 2018

Could Dems survive without Michael Madigan at the top?

Posted By on 06.11.18 at 07:49 AM

  • Seth Perlman/AP Photo
  • Michael Madigan

As one sexual harassment horror tale after another emerges from Springfield, I'm coming face-to-face with the heretofore seemingly unthinkable: It's only a matter of time before Michael Madigan is forced to step down from his positions of power.

That would include giving up being chairman of the state Democratic Party and maybe even speaker of the house.

I've got mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I've never been a big Madigan fan.

Didn't like his style—too autocratic.

Didn't like the obvious conflict of interest between his profitable property tax appeal law firm—specializing in winning tax breaks for downtown property owners—and his influence in selecting the judges and assessors involved in the process.

Thought he was too wimpy on key issues like progressive taxation— especially in 2014, when Dems may have had the votes to implement it.

Really didn't like how he let Mayors Daley and Rahm get away with anything so long as they left him alone to do his statehouse thing.

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Thursday, May 24, 2018

Why did Carlos Ramirez-Rosa get kicked out of the City Council’s Latino Caucus?

Posted By on 05.24.18 at 05:00 PM

Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, 35th Ward alderman - JEFFREY MARINI
  • Jeffrey Marini
  • Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, 35th Ward alderman

At one time or another over the years, the City Council's been inhabited by drunks, philanderers, cokeheads, bribe takers, wire wearers, and various other miscreants of every race, creed, and color. But in all those years no alderman's been exiled from his own brood—until now.

On Wednesday, without fanfare or warning, the council's Latino Caucus voted to boot Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa from its ranks. He still gets to represent the 35th Ward—hey, the caucus doesn't have that much clout. It's just its way of letting him know he's out of the club.

"The knives are out," says Ramirez-Rosa. "Without notice, they voted to expel me. Never even a warning."

There are two explanations for his removal. The members of the Latino Caucus say he was bounced because—well, you can read their statement: "We have repeatedly informed Aldermen [sic] Rosa that the mission of the caucus is representing the best interests of Latino community and that the only way to accomplish this is to have robust partners that participate in the caucus' initiatives. After two years in office, he refused to engage our caucus in a meaningful way so that we could do the important work of addressing the issues in our community together."

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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Gadfly George Blakemore, Cook County Board's biggest nightmare, wins spot on November ballot

Posted By on 03.22.18 at 03:42 PM

George Blakemore - JEFF MARINI
  • Jeff Marini
  • George Blakemore

Fed up with the Cook County Board of Commissioners? Looking for a way to stick it to them? If you happen to live in the county’s weirdly gerrymandered Third District, you’ll have an opportunity in the fall election to present that august body with its biggest nightmare: "Chicago’s most concerned citizen," George Blakemore.

Blakemore, a teacher turned Maxwell Street vendor turned city’s most diligent watchdog (he’s been a vocal presence at county board and other local government meetings for years), emerged victorious in this week's primary elections as the Republican candidate for the Third District seat on the county board.

You might chalk that up to the fact that he ran unopposed. But in a district that generally votes about 95 percent Democratic, he managed to score nearly 2,000 votes (1,946, to be precise).

Who's to say that's not the beginning of a movement?

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Monday, January 8, 2018

Obama Center will not park cars on the Midway Plaisance, after all

Posted By on 01.08.18 at 06:25 PM

  • Eric Allix Rogers

The Obama Foundation, which in recent weeks has reaffirmed its plan to build an aboveground parking garage on parkland at the east end of the Midway Plaisance, did an about-face today, announcing that it "has heard" the voices of protest and will now put the Obama Presidential Center garage underground on land it has already acquired in Jackson Park.

The foundation had argued that the aboveground garage would still be parkland because it was to have been covered with grass.  Among those questioning that claim were Save the Midway, Friends of the Parks, the Cultural Landscape Foundation, and Jackson Park Watch.

Here's the foundation's statement, e-mailed by a spokesman for the foundation:

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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

It must be campaign time in Illinois, ’cause someone ‘blew the cap’

Posted By on 03.29.17 at 11:16 AM

Illinois gubernatorial candidate Chris Kennedy contributed more than $250,000 to his own campaign Monday. - ASHLEE REZIN/SUN-TIMES
  • Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times
  • Illinois gubernatorial candidate Chris Kennedy contributed more than $250,000 to his own campaign Monday.

Over the years, I've come to recognize the annual rites and rituals that indicate the start of a new season.

For instance, come April, the Sox and the Cubs have their openers, meaning spring weather can't be too far away.

And in January, folks line up to get their Forest Preserve picnic reservations, a sure sign that summer will arrive one of these days.

Finally, there's the lifting of the cap on campaign contributions, which rings in the true start of any political campaign. For the 2018 Illinois governor's election—still more than a year away—that occurred last week, thanks to Chris Kennedy, the well-to-do businessman running in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.

The cap lift is courtesy of an election reform passed in 2009, proving, once again, that when it comes to reform, you can usually expect Illinois lawmakers to take a bad system and make it worse.

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Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Chinese company at the heart of the proposed Kushner deal has ties to Michael Madigan

Posted By on 03.16.17 at 11:18 AM

Jared Kushner, left, with President Donald Trump in February - GETTY IMAGES / SAUL LOEB
  • Getty Images / SAUL LOEB
  • Jared Kushner, left, with President Donald Trump in February

As soon as I saw the story about a Chinese political/real estate dynasty looking to cut a deal with its U.S. counterpart, I went looking for the local angle. I figured an arrangement this "creative" just had to have some sort of Chicago connection.

If you missed it, Anbang Insurance Group—a major Chinese real estate company—is negotiating to buy the Kushner Companies' stake in a Fifth Avenue high-rise, according to an article in Wednesday's New York Times.

Anbang is run by Wu Xiaohui, who's married to the granddaughter of Deng Xiaoping, the former chairman of the Chinese Communist Party and leader of the People's Republic of China.

Kushner is the family real estate firm of Jared Kushner, who's married to President Donald Trump's daughter, Ivanka.

And you thought Chicago was rife with nepotism.

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