PI Original Matthew Blake Friday May 4th, 2012, 4:58pm

The PI Week In Review

The week that was in Illinois politics and government (April 30- May 4).

Chicago and Cook County News

Despite months of protests by the Mental Health Movement coalition, the city of Chicago shut down four mental health clinics Monday, fulfilling its pledge to close six of what had been twelve city mental health clinics.

Mental health advocates and patients spent the day protesting the closings, including visits to President Barack Obama’s campaign headquarters, Gov. Pat Quinn’s Chicago office, and, finally, City Hall. Advocates were arrested for trying to enter Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office to discuss the closings.

While the city has not budged on its plan to transition mental health care services, they did agree to open a satellite office in the Woodlawn neighborhood.

Ald. Willie Cochran (20th) would like the City Council to re-examine the clinic closings, if only to get a better idea of what the city’s transition plan means to mental health patients and health care workers.

We examined Thursday the stand off between Emanuel and the city’s Inspector General office. Emanuel has not fulfilled campaign pledges to empower City Hall’s top watchdog. In fact, the city is in a battle over IG subpoena powers that made its way to the Illinois Supreme Court.

Edison International announced Wednesday that the Fisk and Crawford coal-fired power plants will each close in September, ahead of the timeline set by company subsidiary Midwest Generation and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Chicago Housing Authority head Charles Woodyard said Tuesday that the agency will do away with its strict "third-third-third" rule where CHA projects feature one-third market rate condos, one-third affordable rentals, and one-third public housing.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel took questions from the public during a Facebook “Town Hall” Tuesday evening.

Democrats will be at the top of the ballot in Cook County for the November 6 elections, according to Clerk David Orr – the Democratic party won a lottery Wednesday morning.

State News

This is probably the busiest month of the year in Springfield, as lawmakers work to pass a budget by May 31, and consider several other important matters, including major proposed cuts to Medicaid and pensions.

On Medicaid, PI reported Tuesday on the strategy of advocacy groups opposed to Gov. Pat Quinn’s proposed $2.7 billion in cuts. Advocates plan to be in Springfield over the next month, meeting with individual lawmakers and holding rallies outside the capitol building.

A panel of bipartisan state lawmakers recommended against Gov. Pat Quinn's plan to close six state facilities, including the controversial Tamm's supermax prison. The cuts are a major part of the governor’s balanced budget proposal.

The state House is debating whether it will follow the Senate and pass a bill to subsidize a coal-to-gas power plant operated by the Tenaska energy company in Taylorville. Jack Darin, director of the Sierra Club, Illinois chapter, wrote an op-ed Wednesday, against the plant. Darin argued that it will cause too much air pollution, and that subsidies to Tenaska will be passed on as costs to consumers.

We looked Friday at a few legislative items that have flown under the radar, including proposals to raise the minimum wage and reinstate an early release program.

On Thursday, the Illinois Senate voted to ban the maligned legislative scholarship program, for which state lawmakers award scholarships to students in their district that attend an Illinois public university.

The Illinois House Executive Committee unanimously passed a bill Wednesday to end the state government paying public employee health insurance premiums upon their retirement. Labor unions decried the bill, stating such cuts should be made at the collective bargaining table.

Cook County board officials are pushing Springfield lawmakers to pass pending legislation that would allow counties to go after residents for back property taxes owed due to undeserved exemptions.

The state's main way to track firearms owners allowed people to get guns who should not be eligible to have them, according to a report released Thursday by the Illinois Auditor General.

Will Guzzardi conceded this week in his 39th District State Representative race against State Rep. Maria Berrios (D-Chicago), opting not to challenge his March 20 Democratic primary defeat in Cook County Circuit Court. The campaign had suggested voting irregularities from the Berrios campaign.

State Rep. Derrick Smith (D-Chicago) was arraigned Monday on federal bribery charges – Smith has professed his innocence amid calls to resign from Democratic Party leadership.

National News

The U.S. economy added just 115,000 jobs in April, which is essentially the number of Americans who typically enter the workforce each month. In another bad sign for the economy, a growing number of people have given up looking for work.

With all the talk of the NATO summit May 20-21, another summit will come to Chicago soon – the National Latino Congresso of Latino leaders across America will convene in Chicago this year, May 17-19. At a preview of the conference Wednesday, speakers lamented Latino economic struggles and strategized ways they could make a difference in this year’s elections.

Democratic candidate for Congress Tammy Duckworth kicked off her 'American Dream Tour' Thursday night in Hoffman Estates. The challenger to U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh (R-McHenry) will discuss issues pertinent to voters in the 8th Congressional district, which lies just northwest of Chicago.


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