PI Original Matthew Blake Friday April 13th, 2012, 4:33pm

The PI Week In Review

The week that was in Illinois politics and government (April 9-13).

Chicago and Cook County News

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Tuesday that the Chicago Public Schools will extend the school day next year from five hours and 45 minutes to seven hours - not seven hours and 30 minutes as Emanuel and the Chicago Public Schools originally proposed.

The announcement follows a coalition of parent groups questioning the evidence that a seven hour and 30 minute day is really optimal for student performance.

PI looked at a study this week showing that Chicago Public School teachers already work almost double their instruction time (currently five hours and 45 minutes) and work an average of 58 hours a week.

We reported on the arrest of protesters for a sit-in at the Woodlawn mental health clinic, one of six mental health clinics the city plans to close this month. Activists and patients promise further actions against the closings.

Another major city issue this week is that the murder rate jumped 60 percent between the first quarter of 2011 and first quarter of 2012.

One way Emanuel wants to address the issue is to have the Illinois General Assembly pass a bill that would apply federal racketeering charges to gang leaders. The mayor has blamed gangs for much of the increased violence.

We posted an in-depth examination Wednesday of Emanuel’s proposed “Infrastructure Trust” – where private investors will fund public infrastructure projects. There are worries that the trust is not publicly accountable, and questions about what – if any – major infrastructure projects can be executed through the partnership.

A city council committee Wednesday passed a controversial proposal to install speed enforcement cameras near schools and parks – despite incomplete information on changes to the proposal, especially how the city might use speeding ticket revenue.

PI looked Friday at new data that shows foreclosures are down in the six-county Chicago region, but a troubling trend has persisted: People who lost their jobs continue to lose their homes.

Chicago janitors represented by SEIU and area building owners reached an agreement Friday on a three-year contract. The contract will provide a pay increase and living wage as well as an assurance of family health insurance.

The city's Department of Streets and Sanitation has removed its 400 solar trash compactors, most of which are downtown, because they pose a security risk for the upcoming two-day NATO summit beginning May 20.

The Cook County Board’s pension committee chairman, Bridget Gainer (D-Chicago), released a report yesterday on the county’s growing pension problem – the system has endured a meteoric rise in liabilities due to years of chronic underfunding.

Housing advocates took to the streets of south suburban Harvey Monday to protest problems arising from the high number of abandoned homes throughout their community.

Cook County Commissioner William Beavers (D-Chicago) held a fundraiser Monday to help pay for legal fees as he faces federal tax evasion charges.

State News

After apparently losing his election challenge against 39th District State Rep. Maria Berrios (D-Chicago) by 125 total votes, Will Guzzardi said Monday that he would file a recount with the Chicago Board of Elections.

Illinois and 25 other states, including the District of Columbia, do a poor job of tracking whether corporate tax breaks meant to spur job growth fufill their purpose, according to a new report from the Pew Center on the States.

A report released Wednesday by the advocacy group Environment Illinois suggest the number of people affected by extreme weather events will likely increase if more is not done to curb climate change.

Bills introduced in both the Illinois House and Senate would bring back the early release prison program Meritorious Good Time, or MGT, a program that Gov. Pat Quinn suspended in 2010 while running for election.

The saga of State Rep. Derrick Smith (D-Chicago) continued Tuesday as a grand jury indicted the legislator on federal bribery charges.

Citing diminishing federal and state money, the Peoria school board voted Monday to lay off 258 employees, including 53 teachers.

National News

We looked Friday at early organizing efforts from the national 99% Spring movement, which will focus their actions on issues surrounding income disparity, home foreclosures, and unemployment. The movement hopes to mobilize 100,000 people nationally.

Rick Santorum announced Tuesday that he was suspending his campaign for president, paving the way for Mitt Romney to be named at the top of the Republican Party ticket. President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign contends that an avalanche of negative ads from Romney felled Santorum.

A poll by the centrist Democratic think tank Third Way found that independent voters in likely presidential swing states prefer Obama to Romney, 44 percent to 38 percent.

PI reported last Friday on the 17th Congressional District race between Democratic nominee Cheri Bustos of East Moline and incumbent U.S. Rep. Bobby Schilling (R-Colona), looking at the candidate’s significant policy differences on education and health care.


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