The week that was in Illinois politics and government (April 16-20).
Chicago and Cook County News
The big city news this week was an unfinished debate over Rahm Emanuel’s proposed “Infrastructure Trust” ordinance – where private investors would work on public infrastructure projects selected by a mayor-appointed infrastructure board.
The City Council Finance Committee passed the ordinance 11-7 Monday, despite questions from aldermen for five hours about the public-private partnerships – many which were not clearly answered by city Chief Financial Officer Lois Scott.
Besides aldermen, some unions are cautious about the Trust, including many that represent public sector workers.
The hearing may have contributed to the mayor working with Ald. Ed Burke (14th) to defer a vote on the measure Wednesday, at a meeting of the full City Council. The full council, though, will meet next Tuesday to vote on the matter, much to the chagrin of Trust opponents who want the city to spend more time addressing their concerns about taxpayer costs, privatization, and transparency.
The City Council did pass an ordinance that will allow the city to install automated speed enforcement cameras near schools and parks throughout the city. Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein said that the city would take bids from several companies and then test their surveillance camera technologies this fall.
Also, Emanuel proposed a more traditional way to fund infrastructure: A proposed ordinance to approve up to $600 million in bonds for water and sewer repairs.
We reported this week on the Metropolitan Reclamation District of Greater Chicago getting $10 million to construct new facilities at two existing wastewater treatment plants. It is part of a state plan to disinfect wastewater discharges into the Chicago River and Chicago area waterways.
We also looked at the continued stand off between the city of Chicago and the Mental Health Movement, which has vehemently protested the city closing six of its 12 mental health clinics. Despite the continued resistance, the city appears intent on closing the clinics.
PI reported on a speech at the Chicago Council of Global Affairs by Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the former head of NATO. De Hoop Scheffer previewed the upcoming NATO summit Chicago will host May 20 to 21 – the summit could focus on how long NATO maintains its controversial presence in Afghanistan.
Lori Healey, executive director of the Chicago NATO host committee, told the Chicago Tribune that the city has the "vast majority" of promised private sector money to host the two-day NATO summit in May.
Also, this week the Tribune reported that up to 600 Illinois National Guard members will be stationed in the city to perform a number of tasks, including helping foreign dignitaries about town.
The big state news this week was Gov. Pat Quinn announcing much anticipated proposed cuts to both the state Medicaid program and public employee pensions.
PI detailed the Medicaid cuts, which came after a bipartisan working group did not give specific recommendations. Hospitals were upset with the cuts – and said that they could lead to a reduction in Medicaid services.
The idea of expanding legal gaming as a much needed source of state revenue has re-emerged – PI looked at a study released this week from a gaming advocacy group that says expanding gambling in the state means more than 20,000 jobs and $200 million in additional revenue. The General Assembly is expected to reconsider the expansion of gambling in Illlinois next month.
Ron Kurowski of MoveOn wrote an op-ed on the non-violent direct action and peaceful organization and protest training session held by the Occupy Spring Movement in Frankfort, Illinois last weekend. The training session was one of over 1,000 sessions held across the country last week.
We reported on a downtown Chicago rally Tuesday, where some of Illinois’ most prominent female elected officials advocated for Equal Pay – noting that women in Illinois earn about 78 cents for every dollar a man earns.
Longtime Dixon comptroller Rita Crundwell was arrested Tuesday for allegedly stealing some $30 million in city funds over the last six years alone. The town's yearly operating budget is between $8 million and $9 million.
The main sponsor of a bill proposing same sex marriage, State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago), told the Chicago Sun-Times Monday that a vote on the legislation is unlikely during this session.
Will Guzzardi, the Democratic challenger in March's primary race for 39th district state representative, has filed for a recount in his loss against incumbent Maria "Toni" Berrios.
Monday was Tax Day, and PI looked at a report released by Illinois PIRG that revealed 83 of the 100 largest publicly traded companies in the U.S. took advantage of loopholes in 2008, allowing them to shield revenue from taxes.
Democratic congressional candidates Tammy Duckworth, Bill Foster and Brad Schneider joined forces Monday to speak out against the records of their Republican incumbent opponents. Also, they demanded that Congress move forward with the Obama-proposed Buffett Rule, which would impose a minimum of a 30 percent tax on the incomes of individuals making more than $1 million annually.