The week in politics and government (July 9-13).
Chicago and Cook County News
The heat is on Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and police head Garry McCarthy over an increase in the city’s murder rate during this calendar year, with some far South Side communities hit especially hard by increased gun violence.
Emanuel announced Thursday that he might deploy specialized police units into some neighborhoods.
The mayor also rolled out a couple of new crime fighting strategies Monday, identifying 37 “problem businesses” and working with the Department of Buildings on securing, and maybe demolishing, 200 vacant buildings.
However, we reported that building demolitions could backfire. The advocacy group Action Now said vacant buildings should be rebuilt as family homes: Demolition could create “ghost towns” out of communities with large numbers of vacant buildings.
The head of Chicago’s tourism bureau, Don Welsh, created a stir Wednesday when he told the Chicago Tribune that reports of violence could deter tourists from the city.
A group of about 50 SEIU Local 1 janitors who lost their jobs at the end of last month returned to City Hall Thursday morning with a message for Emanuel: Sign an ordinance, backed by 30 aldermen, that would provide protections for worker retention, wages, and benefits.
The Chicago Public Schools released a budget last week that almost everyone from the teachers union to fiscal conservatives panned, as the budget drains the district’s reserve fund. We looked at how the budget may yet change, thanks to contract talks between CPS and CTU.
Emanuel's cabinet does not reflect Chicago's racial diversity, with the city's black and Latino populations underrepresented, according to a Chicago Sun-Times analysis released Monday.
There were two lawsuits filed this week in Sangamon County, home of Springfield, that challenges reductions in health care payments made to state employees and retirees. Even if the lawsuits are unsuccessful, they may complicate stalled efforts to reduce pension benefits.
Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law Wednesday a bill to abolish the widely derided legislative scholarship program for which Illinois General Assembly members give college tuition waivers to people in their district.
The governor signed a bill Tuesday greenlighting $1.6 billion in transportation projects throughout the state and shepherding in the next phase of the Illinois Jobs Now capital program.
Quinn signed into law last Friday legislation that makes Illinois disclose the terms of most of its major corporate tax breaks on a state Web site. But the law only makes the Economic Development for a Growing Economy, or EDGE, tax credit program more transparent. It does not reform a somewhat convoluted tax credit program one watchdog assailed as “corporate blackmail.”
AFSCME Council 31, the state’s main public employees union, and a group of state lawmakers vowed Tuesday to undo Quinn's closing of corrections facilities, including Dwight women’s prison and Tamms supermax prison, during the fall veto session.
A group of Illinois families filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court Monday over state budget cuts that make them ineligible to receive certain expensive medical equipment through Medicaid.
Prompted by requests from State Rep. John Cavaletto (R-Salem), the Illinois Department of Employment Security checked the list of 253,000 people who collect unemployment benefits against the roster of 70,000 people in state prisons or county jails. So far IDES has turned up 420 people on both lists, or about .1 percent of the Illinoisans who get unemployment.
PI reported on growing support for the Sensata employees whose factory jobs are slated for outsourcing to China later this year. The Freeport workers continue to fight to keep the plant open. They are turning up the heat on Mitt Romney, as Bain Capital, a company Romney founded, owns the plant.
The vast majority of the state is enduring a severe drought, with towns in southern Illinois getting less than two-thirds of normal July rainfall. Quinn is supposed to address the issue Monday.
The slow July news cycle has perhaps contributed a local media obsession over the whereabouts of U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson (D-Chicago), who has been on medical leave since June 10. The Congressman’s office released a statement Wednesday night stating he was being treated for a mood disorder.
But Jackson’s office did not say where he was. A growing number of other elected officials including fellow U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez(D-Chicago) say Jackson owes it to his constituents to provide more information.
A Canadian government study (PDF) released Thursday revives fears that Asian Carp will set up a population in Lake Michigan before the federal government takes preemptive action.
LPAC is the first lesbian super PAC to jump into the political game, rolling out Wednesday after forming because "women’s equality and well-being is under attack in a way this country has not seen in decades," according to the group's Web site. Laura Ricketts, co-owner of the Chicago Cubs and co-chair of the Democratic National Committee’s LGBT Leadership Council, helped the group get started.
The June jobs report revealed a stagnant economy with just 80,000 jobs created last month and an unemployment rate of 8.2 percent.
According to the liberal Economic Policy Institute, a main culprit for the still grim unemployment rate is the loss of public sector jobs, even as the economy is supposed to be in recovery mode.
A federal hearings officer stated at the end of last week that Indiana cannot deny Medicaid funds to Planned Parenthood of Indiana because the organization performs abortions.