PI Original Matthew Blake Saturday August 18th, 2012, 10:14am

The PI Week In Review

The week that was in Illinois politics and govenrment (August 13-17).

Chicago and Cook County News

New data released this week showed that foreclosure filings were slightly up in the first six months up of this year, but dramatically higher in a handful of struggling, mostly black neighborhoods on the South Side.

Also, completed foreclosure auctions more than doubled in the Chicago six-county region from the first half of 2011 to the first half of 2012.

What can be done about the ongoing foreclosure crisis?

Aldermen championed a plan at a Chicago City Council hearing Tuesday that would use eminent domain so that the city can seize properties in danger of falling into foreclosure. But the plan is likely going nowhere, as Mayor Rahm Emanuel indicated his opposition.

Another idea is a countywide foreclosure moratorium. The Chicago Anti-Eviction campaign pitched the idea Monday to Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle.

A federal grand jury has launched an investigation into Chicago’s duty disability worker’s compensation system.

WBEZ reported that Chicago gas prices have jumped to $4.20 a gallon compared to the national average of $3.69 a gallon. Part of the reason behind the disparity stems from the rise in corn prices due to the Midwest drought.

PI reported Thursday on a proposed pilot project that will encourage people to bring reusable bags to retail stores as an alternative to plastic bags.

Google Inc.-owned Motorola Mobility will layoff 700 of its 3,000 employees in Chicago and Libertyville, the digital communications company disclosed Monday.

PI took a look Friday at a new report released by the Institute for Policy Studies of Washington, D.C. which found that Motorola Mobility and three other Illinois companies paid almost no federal income taxes in 2011.

On Monday teachers at 243 Chicago Public Schools returned to their job without a contract, and with the possibility that they could stage a district-wide strike.

State News

The Illinois House met for a one-day special session Friday, voting to expel State. Rep Derrick Smith (D-Chicago), who faces a federal bribery charge.

Gov. Pat Quinn hoped to use the special session as an occasion for the entire General Assembly to address pending pension legislation.

But amid lawmaker uncertainty on where to go next on pension legislation, the We Are One coalition of labor unions remained steadfast in their opposition to benefit cuts. The coalition protested outside the capitol rotunda Friday and jeered Quinn at the Illinois state fair in Springfield Wednesday.

The coalition also pitched their framework for pension legislation, which included increased contributions from current employees.

Meanwhile, AFSCME Council 31 and Quinn remain in court over several corrections and juvenile justice facilities the governor wants closed. AFSCME has sued to block the closures, and the state agreed Friday to postpone any closure-related inmate transfers August 31.

The fifteen-week strike of Caterpillar machinists in Joliet is over. Workers approved a new contract Friday, despite skepticism over the deal’s terms.

We reported Friday that a coterie of education, health care professional and environmental advocates are pushing back against downstate power provider Ameren. The company is trying to delay compliance with more stringent pollution control regulation of its coal-fired power plants.

Gov. Pat Quinn used his veto pen last Friday to scotch a coal gasification plant on the Southeast Side of Chicago. Jack Darin, director of the Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter penned an op-ed applauding the move as the environmentally responsible decision.

We looked at the idea that perhaps the future of “clean coal” and “coal-to-gas” plants is bleak: Energy companies have yet to find a way to make these proposals both economically and environmentally appealing to state government.

The Illinois unemployment rate went up slightly to 8.9 percent in July from the June figure of 8.7 percent. State and local government saw the most job losses, with 7,900 jobs lost between June and July.

National News

A historic Obama administration executive order kicked in Wednesday that would enable 1.4 million undocumented immigrants under the age of 30 to apply for a two-year reprieve from the threat of deportation. At the Navy Pier Grand Ballroom in Chicago the initial demand was overwhelming – up to 15,000 people showed up to apply at a “Dream Relief Day” organized by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) advocacy group.

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney selected ultra-conservative Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate Saturday. Republican members of Illinois' Congressional delegation were happy about the selection viewing Ryan as a uniquely serious, issues-oriented candidate. Meanwhile, concerns swirl around his desire to gut Medicare, as seen by his last federal budget proposal.

New poll results show that 10th congressional district incumbent Bob Dold (R) could be at risk of losing his seat to Democratic challenger Brad Schneider.

U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Chicago) is being treated for bipolar disorder, according to an announcement by the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota Monday. Jackson has been on a medical leave of absence since June 10.

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