The week that was in Illinois politics and government (January 16-20).
Chicago and Cook County News
The Chicago City Council approved Thursday, 41-8, a new map of Chicago’s 50 wards, just clearing the threshold to avoid a public referendum on competing maps. But the final compromise map could face legal action, as it was rushed through City Council using a parliamentary maneuver and may not uphold the “one man, one vote” rule. A legal redistricting expert on Monday, though, did tell city council members that the compromise map should pass legal muster in the likely event of a lawsuit.
The other major council news of the week was passage Wednesday of two ordinances that deal with regulating protests in anticipation of the May G8 and NATO summits. The ordinances attracted a large and passionate number of protesters outside of City Hall, who see the measures as undermining their First Amendment Rights.
There are other issues with the international summits. At a council committee hearing Tuesday, Chicago Police Department leadership acknowledged that they have pretty broad guesses about what security will be needed for the NATO and G8 summits. They aren’t sure how many people will attend the summits and who might be arrested for spontaneously protesting.
PI looked Friday at Liberate the Southside a group that seeks to place homeless families in abandoned houses big banks have foreclosed on. The group gathered near the corner of 87th and Kenwood on Wednesday to move single mother Tene Smith and her two children into a newly renovated house.
We reported that Ald. George Cardenas, chairman of the city council health committee, plans to hold a hearing to review cuts in the city’s 2012 mental health care budget. This includes the outlined closing of six of the city’s 12 mental health clinics. Cardenas’s assertion comes as the coalition Mental Health Movement released a report Thursday critical of the closings.
PI looked at an initial victory for the workers at Rolf’s Patisserie in Lincolnwood, a suburb north of Chicago, as workers announced Thursday that they belatedly received their last paycheck from working at the now shuttered bakery. Rolf’s announced they were closing in December and employees subsequently filed a class action lawsuit that sought past pay and severance.
Emanuel flew to fly in to Washington, D.C. Friday to speak at the U.S. Conference of Mayors regarding Chicago city colleges. Emanuel wants to continue Richard Daley’s push of making the city colleges more vocationally oriented.
Emanuel said Thursday that he plans to join 69 other mayors on the Mayors For The Freedom To Marry initiative, which supports legalizing same sex marriage.
Protests were held in Chicago earlier this week that evoked the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. On Sunday, a day before King’s holiday, Occupy Chicago and a coalition of African American religious leaders called on Congress to pass legislation that will create jobs and revenue as well as provide meaningful relief to homeowners who face foreclosure.
On Monday, Martin Luther King, Jr. day, the Chicago Teachers Union and advocacy group Action Now collaborated on a protest against the Chicago Public School’s proposal to close or turnaround 18 schools. Protesters marched through Lawndale – where King lived during his time in Chicago – to Herzl Elementary School, which is targeted for a school turnaround.
In other teacher union news, CTU presented proposals for its next college bargaining agreement with the Chicago Public Schools to the Chicago Board of Education Friday.
Rahm Emanuel announced at a press conference Tuesday $300 million in new improvements for the Chicago Transit Authority – all for downtown and the near downtown area.
PI looked Monday at the contentious race for Cook County Circuit Court Clerk. Twelve-year incumbent Dorothy Brown and challenger Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd) have levied hyperbolic charges and counter-charges against one another – and also discussed modernizing a circuit court that handles 2.4 million cases a year.
Cook County commissioners agreed Wednesday to hold a hearing on whether to follow federal orders to keep suspected illegal immigrants charged with a crime in jail while federal officials check their immigration status. U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement has told Cook County to keep all suspected illegal immigrants charged with a crime in jail, even if they post bail.
Gov. Pat Quinn announced Thursday that the state will shut down Tinley Park Mental Health Center in July and Jacksonville Developmental Center in October as part of a cost-saving plan to move residents from state institutions to community-based care settings. Opponents of the plan include AFSCME Local 31, the state's largest public employee union. AFSCME is furious that the state’s plan to close facilities has so far not involved public hearings or their input.
The Illinois Department of Employment Security announced Wednesday that Illinois businesses have qualified for $67 million in federal tax credits for hiring veterans, SNAP recipients, and other state residents in need of employment.
State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka says the state’s backlog of bills totals almost $8.5 billion, with many of the state’s outstanding bills from social service providers, including hospitals, community organizations and charities.
There are just two months now until Illinois’ Democratic primary, meaning an increasing number of key developments in U.S. Congressional races.
On Wednesday, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced the first-round of candidates in its “Red-to-Blue” program to identify seats that could turn Democratic in 2012. Five of these initial eighteen seats are in Illinois, including that of U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh (R-8), a Tea Party sweetheart.
Democratic candidate for the 10th congressional district John Tree picked up the endorsement of party leaders Monday, including former Illinois DNC Chair David Wilhelm. Wilhelm praised Tree’s military service and small business acumen.
Thousands of web sites, including Google, took part Wednesday in the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, Blackout by either going entirely dark or blacking out parts or all of their home page. The move was in protest of two congressional bills aimed at changing the way information is shared on the web.
Wisconsin Democrats filed more than one million signatures Tuesday in their bid to recall Republican Gov. Scott Walker. If the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board validates just 540,028 of these signatures it will be enough to force Walker into a recall election.
David Axelrod announced plans this week for life after overseeing President Barack Obama's re-election campaign – the campaign strategist will head a new political institute at the University of Chicago.