PI Original Aricka Flowers Friday February 22nd, 2013, 7:19pm

The PI Week In Review

The week that was in Illinois news and politics (February 16 - February 22).

City and County News

It was an atmosphere reminiscent of a basketball game, with a cheering crowd packing the bleachers of a gymnasium donning the purple and gold colors of their favorite school. But the rallying cry that came from those who attended Saturday’s Chicago Public Schools’ public hearing had nothing to do with rooting for their team to win, but rather it was a plea to officials to not shut down any one of the four schools still being considered for closure within the Ravenswood-Ridge Elementary Network.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel enlisted the support of all Chicagoans Tuesday to fund the expansion of a community basketball program. Partnering with NBA Hall of Famer and native Chicagoan Isiah Thomas along with the Chicago Park District, Emanuel hopes to raise $480,000 to create new teen basketball leagues for at-risk youth at 10 parks across the city.

In an effort to increase access to healthy environments in Chicago’s underserved communities, and create approximately 200 new jobs, Mayor Rahm Emanuel also announced a partnership with Planet Fitness Tuesday to build 10 additional gyms across the city by 2015.

Chicago’s export businesses may see a boost via a new partnership between the City of Chicago and the Export-Import Bank of the United States. Mayor Rahm Emanuel made the announcement Tuesday, while also revealing plans for a new 1,200-room hotel near McCormick place to accommodate Chicago’s convention and trade show visitors.

It may have been bitter cold outside, but the tension was boiling Tuesday night at a Galewood community meeting over plans for a fifth pawn shop along a half-mile stretch of North Avenue near the Oak Park border. Progress Illinois was there and has more on the community debate over the controversial shop.

Residents of the Judge Slater Senior Housing complex at 42nd and Cottage Grove Ave. filed allegations of mismanagement against the building’s property manager, Woodlawn Community Development Corp. The company manages the building for the Chicago Housing Authority.

At Wednesday's meeting for the Chicago Firefighters Annuity and Benefits Fund, two of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's motions failed; one on duty disability reform, which collects $27 million a year in taxpayer-funded duty disability pay for firefighters and paramedics, and the other to divest $173,000 in stock with Smith & Wesson, an assault weapons manufacturer.

Allstate Insurance CEO Tom Wilson has agreed to co-chair a new fundraising campaign by Emanuel, and make the first payment of $5 million, in the hopes of eventually raising $50 million over five years from Chicago’s business community to benefit troubled teens.

A recent report from the University of Chicago revealed that after intervention in Chicago Public Schools, despite rising test scores, the student body and staff saw considerable changes in demographics, prompting the Chicago Teachers Union to further question the CPS model for education reform.

Emanuel is struggling with a tanking approval rating by both Illinoisans in general and Chicago voters, according to a Crain's/Ipsos poll.

The Chicago mayor did come through, though, on a campaign promise Thursday to expand recycling to 340,000 households across 19 wards in Chicago. According to Emanuel, he maintained “managed competition” between city employees and private contractors for the plan, which will be conducted in four phases and completed by fall.

Aiming to hold strong on a promise to be as equally tough on privately run charter schools as she is on neighborhood schools, the Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett announced Thursday that the district will recommend to the Board of Education that two charter high schools be closed this year due to poor performance.

State News

Eleven candidates vying for former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.'s seat in the 2nd Congressional District debated before an audience Monday at the Victory Apostolic Church in Matteson. Brought together by the AARP, Social Security and Medicare took focus during the wide-ranging debate.

In a February report called 'Closing the Medicaid Coverage Gap', Voices For Illinois Children announced its support for the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion.

During a four-hour House Judiciary Committee gun safety hearing in Springfield Tuesday, a top lobbyist from the National Rifle Association (NRA) said, under the new concealed carry law, guns should be allowed on trains and buses or on crowded platforms. The Illinois House Judiciary Committee's second public hearing on gun safety is took place in Chicago Friday. Progress Illinois live tweeted from the hearing, check it out by following us @ProgressIL. Progress Illinois also produced a full report on the hearing that included testimony from lawmakers, Chicago Police Department's Supt. Garry McCathy, the NRA and residents from across the state.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's petition to the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on the concealed carry decision has been denied.

House Speaker Michael Madigan has called for a “weekly order of business" (PDF) for Tuesday, February 26 on gun legislation.

Chicago workers braved frigid temperatures and a strong wind Tuesday to make their voices heard by downtown businesses offering low wages and the impact that has on the violence plaguing their communities.

To solve Illinois' $97 billion pension crisis, State Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) has introduced a proposal that would make the 2011 state income tax increase, which raised the state’s individual tax rate from 3 percent of income to 5 percent, permanent with the receipts dedicated to pension payments.

Although the Chicago are saw a year-over-year decrease on homes with negative equity, there were still almost 645,000 homeowners that owed more on their mortgages than their homes were worth at the end of December, according to Zillow, an online real estate database.

A poll released Thursday by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University revealed that Illinois voters support a higher retirement age for public workers, but are split over whether to change state employee retirement benefits.

National News

State Sen. Toi Hutchinson (D-Olympia Fields) ended her campaign for former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.'s seat in the 2nd Congressional District last weekend and endorsed former State Rep. Robin Kelly.

More than 250 advocates and immigrant workers, including approximately 60 members from the Latino Union of Chicago, met in Washington D.C. last week to make their voices heard by legislators and push for a moratorium on deportations while a deal on immigration reform is being hashed out.

In front of a more than 600-person audience, former speaker of the house and Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich sat down for a 90-minute conversation with former White House senior adviser, President Obama’s 2012 campaign manager, and new MSNBC correspondent David Axelrod at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics Tuesday night. Progress Illinois was there for the candid discussion.

Unsuccessful congressional candidate David Gill has partnered with a Washington-based group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, in a lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to ban certain tax-exempt organizations from spending millions of dollars to run political ads.

Jesse Jackson Jr. plead guilty Wednesday morning to misusing campaign funds and is set to be sentenced in June. "I am guilty, your honor," Jackson Jr. told U.S. District Court Judge Robert L. Wilkins.

Former Chicago 7th ward alderman Sandi Jackson plead guilty that afternoon to one charge in connection with conspiring with her husband to illegally spend some $750,000 in campaign funds.

Chicago's 9th ward Alderman and candidate in the 2nd congressional district race Anthony Beale released a new TV ad Wednesday blasting New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's superPAC, Independence USA, for its activity in the race, while touting his own record on violence prevention and gun control.

President Barack Obama is experiencing an approval rating that is at a three-year high, while Republicans' favorability is hitting an all-time low, according to a Bloomberg poll.

Thousands of Chicago's teachers and students are invited to McCormick Place February 28 for a visit from First Lady Michelle Obama. She will be back in the Windy City for her "Let's Move!"campaign to fight obesity and improve the health of children.

Saying it “weakens a corporation’s governance” and can “harm shareholder value,” overseers of government worker pension funds have alleged that one person sharing the role of chief executive officer (CEO) and chairman of the board at JPMorgan Chase is a conflict of interest.

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