The week that was in Illinois politics and government (November 6-11).
In Chicago and Cook County
Another bleak monthly jobs report, another rally from Chicago Jobs with Justice demanding a federal jobs program. PI reported on the SEIU* advocacy group staging a rally that it holds every month after the U.S. Department of Labor's monthly jobs report. The rally came after a mere 80,000 jobs were added nationally in October.
There was a sliver of good news from the Labor Department's stats: Employers did, at least, advertise more jobs in September than they have in three years.
Also Monday, more than 100 Chicago-area seniors and their allies joined Occupy Chicago protestors in an act of civil disobedience to push back against cuts to safety net programs like Medicare and Social Security. The group rallied outside the offices of U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin (D) and Mark Kirk (R) at Federal Plaza.
On Wednesday, community organizations declared city hall a crime scene due to proposed cuts to basic city services in Rahm Emanuel’s budget proposal. The mayor’s cuts to emergency response systems and mental health clinics come as he pushes a juicy tax break for financial exchanges (see our Springfield roundup).
Wednesday night health advocates and workers held a candlelight vigil in front of city hall in hopes of staving off budget cuts. The budget proposal, which city council votes on November 16, closes six mental health clinics, privatizes seven health clinics, and lays off almost 200 Family Support Service employees.
The mayor’s budget passed out of the city council finance committee Monday. One new revenue-generating item it includes is $25 million from advertising on city assets like trash compactors.
PI looked at a settlement reached last Friday between the Chicago Public Schools and Chicago Teachers Union that ends CPS’s longer school day pioneer program. The settlement prevents a possible court injunction on the 13 schools that extended their day. But it’s not clear if CPS and the teachers union are ready to bargain over a district-wide longer school day sure to be implemented in 2012-13.
Former Mayor Richard Daley accepted a fellowship Wednesday from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Daley will provide advice for newly-elected mayors.
The City Council’s Hispanic Caucus unveiled a proposed remap of Chicago’s 50 aldermanic boundaries. The map would add four super majority Hispanic seats and two Hispanic “influence” wards as a result of population gains from the last Census.
PI sat down with Rick Munoz, the 22nd ward alderman who is running for Cook County Circuit Court Clerk against 12-year incumbent Dorothy Brown. Munoz vowed to accelerate the process of electronically filing court documents and also cutting down on the number of missing files.
The General Assembly’s veto session wrapped up this week, sort of. Lawmakers will meet once more, November 29 and then likely consider legislation that gives big tax breaks to financial exchanges CME Group, Inc. and CBOE Holdings, Inc.
PI looked at the several versions of this tax package that were debated this week – and the growing opposition from community groups. One such organization is Make Wall Street Pay Illinois and Rev. Marilyn Pagan Banks of the group penned an op-ed for PI accusing the CME Group of blackmail. CME Group has threatened to leave the state unless it gets the tax break.
By the end of the week, the financial exchange tax break morphed into an omnibus package comprised of several different and unrelated initiatives: everything from a tax break for Sears to an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit.
Also, in the veto session, the Illinois House shot down a revised gaming expansion bill. Illinois Gaming Board Chairman Aaron Jaffe, the state’s gambling regulator, judged the bill, “A piece of junk.”
A speed camera bill supported by Emanuel did pass the Illinois House, after already passing the Illinois Senate. The bill will generate city revenue by issuing more speeding tickets, but, according to the Chicago Tribune, may do little to improve public safety.
The General Assembly’s Inspector General ruled Wednesday there was no wrongdoing in how the state legislature overruled Quinn’s veto of the ComEd bill.
Two Democratic Illinois senators have announced that they will not be running for re-election, State Sens. Jeff Schoenberg (D-9) and James Meeks (D-15).
The Illinois Republican party filed a permanent injunction last week on the legislative remap drawn by the state legislature’s Democratic majority. The GOP argues that Democrats orchestrated a national effort to get more seats under the legislative remapping process – to the detriment of GOP congressmen.
In other Illinois GOP news, Ron Paul won the Illinois Republican straw poll conducted last weekend.
Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s sentencing is scheduled for December 6. The sentencing was delayed because Judge James Zagel was predisposed with the trial of William Cellini, the disgraced Springfield power broker and Blagojevich co-defendant, who was found guilty last week of extortion.
The strike at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale ended Thursday and teachers went right back to the classroom. The SIUC Faculty Association says that the agreement strengthens transparency and accountability in critical ways.
MoveOn member Mike Reed, of Sheridan, wrote about protestors taking on the Bank of America in Joilet last Saturday. Protesters met peacefully at a Bank of America to speak out against the company’s mortgage policies – in irresponsibly granting loans, misrepresenting mortgage terms, and then not helping homeowners avoid foreclosure.
In regional news, Wisconsin Democrats are encouraged by the results from an election Tuesday in Ohio where voters repealed Gov. John Kasich’s anti-union law. The law curbed collective bargaining rights, health care benefits and pensions, and banned strikes by public employees.
U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh (R-8) lost his cool at a constituent event Sunday in Gurnee when asked about the conflicts of interest in Congress when it comes to big banks. “Don’t blame banks and don’t blame the marketplace for the mess we’re in right now,” the lawmaker huffed. “I am tired of hearing that crap! That pisses me off! Too many people don’t listen!”
Joilet residents say that U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger is more interested in his re-election campaign than his job – as evidenced by the lawmaker apparently touring local McDonald’s to collect signatures for ballot placement. So residents protested Kinzinger’s “McJobless Tour” at a McDonald’s Wednesday evening in Joilet.
Numbers from the Labor Department released Thursday hint at a possible improvement in the economy. Claims for unemployment benefit assistance fell last week to 390,000, according to the Labor Department, reaching a seven-month low. The number of applicants for unemployment benefits has fallen for the last four weeks. The four-week average of applicants, which is 400,000, is also at its lowest level since April. Nonetheless, economists say the weekly number of unemployment benefit applicants must be consistently below 375,000 to indicate job growth.
*The SEIU Illinois Council sponsors this web site.