PI Original Matthew Blake Friday June 8th, 2012, 7:17pm

The PI Week In Review

The week that was in Illinois politics and government (June 4-8).

City and Cook County News

The Chicago Teachers Union started to take a vote Wednesday to authorize a strike as their contract expiration date of June 30 nears.

We reported that CTU asked a group of religious leaders to ensure the validity of the vote – 75 percent of union members need to vote ‘yes’ to enable a potential walkout. However, the Better Government Association contends that CTU should bring in an outside auditor to better ensure the process’s integrity.

The impasse comes as CPS reached a deal with SEIU* Local 73 regarding 5,000 workers in the public school system, including janitors, security staff, and school bus aides.

The Chicago Transit Authority made the big announcement Monday that it would suspend service on all its South Side Chicago Red Line train stations for five months next year. The otherwise disorienting news could hold a crucial silver lining: CTA may be putting its ducks in a row to extend the Red Line to 130th St.

We reported Friday that dozens of community activists and angry CTA riders protested bank deals, which they claim take money from transit agencies.

Public transit agencies pay three percent to six percent interest on loans they borrow from banks for infrastructure projects. Meanwhile, many of these banks pay just one percent interest on the 2008 bailout loans they took from the federal government.

PI reported on a City Council Finance Committee meeting Monday where Ald. Robert Fioretti (2nd) agreed to table an ordinance for 30 days that calls for a finance sub-committee to hold public hearings on each proposed Tax Increment Finance, or TIF, economic development project.

Fioretti will work with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on a substitute ordinance, as the jury is still out on whether Emanuel is serious about reforming the controversial program.

One way TIF is controversial: A report from Roosevelt University this week demonstrated how the program strips away millions of dollars from traditional Chicago neighborhood schools, while financing pricey new selective enrollment and charter schools.

The Chicago City Council agreed Wednesday to settle two lawsuits regarding arrests made during the 2003 Iraq War protests: Plaintiffs will get more than $12 million total from the city.

The Chicago Fraternal Order of Police reached a deal with the Chicago Police Department, which will allow members to receive compensation for overtime worked during the NATO summit. However, there are still outstanding grievances and lingering acrimony between the city and FOP.

The Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission, a body set up to investigate claims of Chicago police torture, lost its $235,000 of yearly funding in the state budget passed by the General Assembly last week. The commission released its first, and last, report Tuesday.

We reported Monday on a case taken up by Arise Chicago, a faith-based worker’s rights center: A bridal shop worker, who claims she was exploited then fired by her former employer, joined a group of labor-rights activists in a picket line outside of the Little Village Discount Mall on the city’s West Side Saturday afternoon.

Crain's Chicago Business reported Friday on data released by the Chicago Department of Buildings that vacant properties are concentrated in low-income, predominantly African-American communities on the far South Side.

Cook County raked in an extra $160,000 in unexpected funds from Lollapalooza ticket sales so far this year, thanks to the implementation of an amusement tax from which the festival was previously exempt.

State News

The news is no news on major state pension legislation despite Gov. Pat Quinn meeting with Republican and Democratic leaders of the Illinois House and Senate Wednesday. Quinn will reconvene the lawmakers later this month.

Despite the drumbeat of fiscal austerity that lead to other significant social service cuts, the Illinois General Assembly last week actually passed a budget for next year with meaningful increases – yes, increases – in money for key state programs to help the homeless, and those in danger of becoming homeless.

A new study gives hope that the Land of Lincoln’s future might not be as corrupt as its past. Illinois has the seventh strongest campaign finance laws in the country, according to a report released Thursday by the Center for Public Integrity, a Washington, D.C. government watchdog.

By a 4-3 vote, the Illinois Supreme Court threw out a lawsuit by Illinois Republicans that the legislative remap drawn up by the state's Democratic-controlled General Assembly violated the state constitution.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan will support lawsuits filed last week by Lamba Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which accuse the Cook County Clerk's office of discrimination for failing to give marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

National News

The big national political news this week happened just north of the border where Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker won his recall election against Democratic challenger Tom Barrett – the Milwaukee mayor who also lost to Walker in 2010.

Walker outspent Barrett a whopping seven to one, including support from a coterie of Illinois executives.

Walker emerged triumphant despite high voter turnout, about 65 percent of registered Wisconsin voters — an outcome that polls anticipated would favor Barrett.

The Democratic Party and President Barack Obama raised $60 million last month, up from the $43.6 million raised in April. Some 572,000 people contributed to the party and President's re-election campaign in May, bringing the total number of donors to about 2.2 million.

We reported Wednesday that Senate Republicans were successful in blocking the Paycheck Fairness Act, with not one member of the GOP voting for the bill in the 52-47 vote — which falls short of the 60 votes needed to move the legislation forward. The filibustered bill would require employers to prove that wage gaps between genders are based on valid factors.

PI reported Monday on the Tammy Duckworth campaign for Congress, as the Democratic challenger is traveling the 8th Congressional district. Duckworth is taking on U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh (R-McHenry) in a nationally-watched race.

* The SEIU Illinois Council sponsors this web site.


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